Dating with a Tail centres around Yunha, who woke up on her 29th birthday with a stupid itch on her ass that wouldn’t stop…because she’s grown a tail. After attempts by Yunha and her grandma to yank it off result in only great pain and fur everywhere, grandma reminds Yunha about the old tale passed down in their family.
The tale is about a fox who fell in love with a woodcutter and wished to the mountain spirit to make her human so she could be with her love. It wasn’t meant to be in that life, which broke the fox’s heart. Taking pity on the fox, the mountain spirit gave her ten chances, meaning ten reincarnations, to find and marry the Woodcutter. She’ll know it’s him if a mark shows up on his chest after she kisses him.
Should she fail to marry the Woodcutter by the thirtieth birthday of her 10th reincarnation, Yunha will turn back into a fox.
Guess which reincarnation Yunha is on?
Short version: Is good. Some flaws. Go read. Bai.
There’s a lot that I enjoyed immensely about this story. It’s funny, thoughtful, and has a lot of the tropes I like stacked together:
Animal spirits that take human shape
These tropes are very typical in East Asian storytelling traditions, and this story did a great job with them. For people who are less familiar with these tropes, I think this story would be an accessible entry point. The fantasy aspects contain a lot of nuance, are consistent within the story, and aren’t very dense.
For people who are familiar with East Asian stories, there’s lots of squee and validation! Like how the story unequivocally says that fox spirits’ reputation as liver eating succubi was made up by an entitled man.
Or how an ‘alluring woman’ is probably just a person who’s popular because they’re friendly, honest, and are comfortable being themselves.
The story does this a lot: it gives me the shiny thing I wanted or a plot point I expected, only to take it in a completely different direction and give it a nice, hefty whack so the shitty parts of the tropes fall out and only the things I like are left.
Second female lead? Cardboard villainess? Don’t know what you’re talking about – but hey, how about supportive friendships between fems? Or fluidity between different systems of spirituality common in East Asia and other parts of the world? Would some biblical references interest you?
More than merely smiting the ick off my catnip, the entire story is this wonderful mix of fantastical and grounded, tropey and realistic. A decent chunk is built on the characters’ past lives, but the past lives are used as a source of tension rather than predestined fate. We see the tragic consequences of various behaviour patterns that have carried forward into the present, which imbued each moment of choice with a sense of danger and angst.
Nevermind the characters’ angst though! Sometimes I felt like I was angsting harder than them! They’re in the thick of it, trying to tell one tree from the other, while I’m seeing the whole ass forest, screaming at them, “You don’t have to do that! You can do the other thing! YOU CAN DO THE OTHER THING THIS TIME!” It’s a mark of how well the characters were developed and written: I only felt the tension because I was so keenly aware of their agency.
It’s also because the characterization is so strong that the story moves so seamlessly between different genre beats. It goes from what appears to be fluffy mystery/reverse harem to a more grounded, sometimes angsty character-driven story. The mystery of who’s who is decisively settled pretty early on, and by then I already didn’t care who the actual woodcutter was as much as what the characters are going to do.
Despite the fantastical and tropey premise, Dating with a Tail is often a slice of life story: there wasn’t really a central conflict, but more the culmination of choices and consequences. Sure Yunha might permanently turn into a fox, but it was her values, experiences, and understanding of the world that drove her, not her circumstances. And as I said, finding out everyone’s past lives added tension to their present choices rather than assigning them fixed roles. Their happiness isn’t defined by who they were in past lives, but whether they are willing to learn and grow.
I’m so glad the story did that! Yunha is a goofball and I adore her so much. It would have made me so sad if the story turned her straightforward personality into a plot paddle used to propel the story. And Yunha’s turning into a fox on her 30th birthday is a good metaphor for women being told they’ve ‘expired’ once they’re older, that they’re somehow ‘other,’ beastly even, if they haven’t married at a certain age. But just like how Yunha didn’t settle, neither should we.
And let’s discuss the reverse harem aspect of this story, and how glad I am that the story used reverse harem tropes the way it did. Kicking off with many of the usual reverse harem beats, the set up quickly evolved to clearly contrast healthy love and toxic relationships. Regardless of how deeply someone might profess to feel for a person, if they do not treat you with respect, they will not treat you with love. The story showed the reasons why someone might act as they do, but does not also condone their terrible actions.
I really appreciated the story framing things this way, because there are no perfectly good or perfectly bad people in life. You’ll meet people you get along with, or who have given you care. That doesn’t mean you don’t deserve better. It’s okay to leave. Vice versa, sometimes you fuck up so badly in your relationship with someone, you lose them. When that happens, reflect on yourself and learn, then give yourself and them freedom by letting go. Both sides were shown with such honesty and poignancy in the story.
Chuffed as I am with how dynamically it explored relationships, the story is not without its flaws. First of all, the CEO and the priest in the reverse harem are Yunha’s boss and Yunha’s priest. I get that it’s just part of the over-the-top, fantastical trope-sauce, but the power imbalance is never meaningfully addressed. I didn’t appreciate that all the characters were straight sized, there was no queer rep, it didn’t push back hard enough on how hurtful stoic parenting/mentorship style is, and I especially didn’t like how a character was framed artistically and narratively as an Inspirational Disabled Person. These are all easy fixes and the story would have been more awesome had they been spotted and addressed.
Romance wise, the central romance could have been more robust, but when I was reading it through the first time, I didn’t feel the lack. I completely bought into what the characters were feeling and got everything I needed to be invested in the relationships. It’s a small flaw for me, but if you’re looking for web comics with heavy doses of romance, what’s present in this one might not be enough to hit your sweet spot.
Dating with a Tail is available on Line Webtoon, and at time of writing is completed at 56 episodes with spin off/side stories continuing to be published. This reads a lot like a K-drama, and I think most people who like those would like this story. The art style is straightforward without a lot of embellishments, which I think suits the kind of story it’s telling. As far as reincarnation, fox spirit, reverse harem, must-marry-or-else fated love stories go, this story is a pretty grounded take.
I know! I know! How can I say that with a straight face? But it’s true!!! Either way, if you can forgive its flaws, you’ll have a pretty good ride.