Created by: BINGO (@habanera3)
WHAT IS IT?
A recently unemployed man inherits his father’s hotel, along with its dark secrets in this slow-burn boys love webtoon*.
Think Knives Out meets Downton Abbey.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
After Daniel Walker’s long-term boyfriend breaks things off to marry a rich heiress and his employer decides to close down the business, he doesn’t think things could get much worse. When a letter explaining his estranged father has passed away arrives in his mailbox, along with an unforeseen business opportunity, he decides to snatch up the opportunity to start over and heads to the quiet countryside. He’s been left the deed to the Hotel Pharus, a place he hasn't been to since his childhood, and decides to take a chance on his father’s failing business to pull himself out of his depression.
Daniel soon finds that the place is run down, its guest book is empty, and rumors of a haunted west wing drives away business. Its loyal employees are fearful that they may soon be unemployed but the new owner is determined to breathe life back into the old building. That’s when a fateful phone call signals the arrival of an important guest named Alexander Creston who harbors many secrets behind his charming smile. As the two men begin to develop a relationship, the hotel’s dark past begins to come to light and Daniel soon realizes that the dealings done behind closed doors have left behind more than metaphorical skeletons in the closets.
A major part of the charm of Hotel Pharus comes from the art and the delightful character designs. BINGO’s unique art style is expressive and wonderfully illustrated, with a painterly texture and earthy colors. Each panel is full of small details and atmospheric hues that enhance the semi-dreary and mysterious nature of the story.
This charming mystery is an absolute delight to read. It is comedic in a dry manner that compliments the seriousness of the overall story without pulling the reader out of the moment. The narrative builds upon itself with each episode, adding to the intrigue week after week and you will be easily addicted from episode one.
I love the sound effect choices in this series. The font is always dark in color and has a sketchy yet elegant aesthetic that reflects the tone of the story perfectly without obstructing or pulling your attention away from the panels.
BINGO is a master of emotion. Though the style is obviously cartoonish, small touches like the shifting of an eyebrow or the tilt of the head from panel to panel makes the emotional moments more impactful. You can feel the tension and joy radiate off of the screen and readers immediately become empathetic and drawn to the moment because of how stunning the facial designs are.
Daniel is a wonderfully realistic hero. He’s a full-on himbo and an absolute darling, with realistic struggles that anyone who has experienced a string of bad luck can empathize with. His journey of self-discovery and coming into his own takes center stage as the dark past of the hotel is brought to life and he wrestles with who he wants to become.
A true slow-burn in every sense, the romantic development between Daniel and Alexander moves at a perfect pace to accent the slow build of the mystery surrounding them. Their romance is playful and an absolute tease, making each scene of discovery and development between them feel earned and warranted.
Each character feels grounded, realistic, and has that slight air of distrust that elevates the tension and impact of the secrecy. They have unique personalities, lives outside of the hotel, and backstories of their own to uncover as the series progresses. It breathes life into the narrative and the hotel itself that helps draw readers into the mystery even further.
A small but impactful touch is the wardrobe choices for the characters. The color palettes and garments reflect their personalities, upbringing, and social statuses, as well as the time period the webtoon is set in.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
CW: Violence including several intense scenes involving guns, strong sexual themes and situations, use of alcohol and tobacco, strong language.
There is an “all-ages” version available - still listed on TappyToon as 16+ - but it isn’t worthwhile. The sexual situations are still present and the only censoring is some small cropping and hastily drawn shirts over their upper halves and even those are not consistently added. It cheapens the experience.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
This beautifully illustrated, slow-burn mystery is perfect for anyone who enjoys that niche genre of whodunnits set in small, idyllic towns in the not-so-distant past. The grand scale of the hotel, draped in shadows and questions, is an amazing stage for this narrative. It allows a unique and charming cast of characters to walk through the doors at any time and with each new person that arrives at the front door, more questions soon follow. After completing the polar opposite series Alien in My Wardrobe, Hotel Pharus cements BINGO as a creator to watch with a diverse and masterful grip on several genres in the world of webtoons.
The lingering mystery keeps readers guessing and the mixture of family drama, political and hierarchal betrayal, and romance makes Hotel Pharus a must for anyone obsessed with stories like Knives Out or Murder on the Orient Express, as well as fans of queer historical dramas. Filled with cheeky humor, sensual and passionate encounters, and dark secrecy, this long-running title is addictive and beautiful. BINGO recently noted that ep. 57 would be the finale of the main story, so you still have plenty of time to dive in and enjoy new episodes before it comes to a close. A perfect way to curl up on a rainy afternoon, this weekly webtoon series is sure to hook you in the best possible way.
HOW DO I READ IT?
The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All BINGO characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright BINGO or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
*webtoon is the term used for scrolling digital comics from South Korea, not to be confused with the platform WEBTOON.