A shoeshiner from the slums would ordinarily not amount to anything in life, but High Society‘s Adele is determined to change her destiny. Based on the original story by Gyeonu, High Society is Manta Comics‘ latest romance series to hit its platform. If High Society can be summarized in a single sentence, it’s about turning a supposed ugly duckling into a swan.

Living in the dreary slums, Adele Vivi is a shoeshiner who finds herself in dire straits when she has to find some way to pay off her protection fee, lest she is forced to the brothels. As luck would have it, she happens across Cesare Buonaparte who is trying to get out of his arranged marriage. Adele offers herself to be married off in his stead instead, but first, she must turn herself from a shoeshiner to a lady befit of high society in three months.

Although tagged as a romantasy, a word that combines “romance” and “fantasy”, High Society doesn’t focus much on either in the first five chapters, but it’s surprisingly not a detriment. With the little hints it does drop throughout, such as the Ocean Goddess in the opening chapter and Cesare’s faint annoyance and surprise that Adele doesn’t have the slightest bit of interest in him, it’s enough to cast an air of genuine intrigue as the story continues and establishes the relationship between the characters. While the plot itself is focused on introducing the characters and their motives, the artwork leans more heavily into aspects of fantasy and also appears to foreshadow much more excitement and drama to come.

High Society Adele and Cesare
Courtesy of Manta Comics

As for the two main characters in Adele and Cesare, both have extremely strong personalities. It’ll be interesting to see how they interact and clash against each other in the next few months. Cesare is powerful and makes it clear to Adele, quite quickly in fact, that he has no qualms in throwing her out or even killing her if she does not uphold her end of the deal. She has everything to lose whereas he could easily find another girl to take her place. He’s the height of arrogance through and through. 

It’s also difficult to see just how Cesare will change over the course of the story at this early stage. A bit of his backstory is introduced, but only time will tell just how much weight it’ll have on his character development as High Society continues. 

high society cesare
Courtesy of Manta Comics

Of the two characters, Adele is the most compelling. Right from the get-go, it’s clear just how clever and quick-witted Adele is. This girl is a survivor and she will do whatever it will take to stay alive. With only a few snatches of conversation between Cesare and what she gleaned from the newspaper, Adele manages to piece together enough information to create an opportunity for her to escape her current situation by offering a deal that is simply too good for Cesare to refuse.

Adele is also not easily intimidated. When she meets Madam Flavia, the woman known for her harsh treatment of young women and whom many would immediately cower in fear, Adele doesn’t back down, staring at Flavia straight in the eyes. Adele even challenges her when she suggests Madam Flavia to “take it up with my brother” when she starts berating her lowly status. It serves a dual purpose: not only does she stand her ground and prove she can play the part of a haughty young lady from high society, even going as far as to bring her “brother” into the mix, Adele proves in subtle ways that confidence and self-respect aren’t limited by one’s class or upbringing and is more of an intrinsic quality. 

High Society Adele reveals herself
Courtesy of Manta Comics

One of the few criticisms that I have for High Society are the undertones of colorism and low-key racism in Adele’s reveal of her real appearance. Adele, as a shoeshiner, has slightly darker and bumpier skin which made sense at first, as someone who lived in the slums and who cleaned shoes for a living, she would be grimier and dirtier more often than those living in the upper class. However, when she reveals herself to Cesare in an effort to show him how attractive she was, it turns out her darker skin was some sort of mask. Once she ripped it off, she was instantly beautiful in all of the ways expected of a heroine. 

Despite its initial timeline of three months, High Society‘s pacing is done well without it feeling too rushed or plodding along. There’s an ample amount of action to balance out the constant exposition. High Society doesn’t have much fantasy in the story, which raises questions on how far the webcomic will go into that particular element (will we get more gods and goddesses or just the one Ocean Goddess, for example) and if the story will find itself bogged down by trying to simultaneously build its world and move the plot along.

For all of its inconsistencies and a poorly handled heroine transformation, High Society is a series fans of romance and strong female protagonists should look forward to. The series launches on Manta on May 18.



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