Expressions are beautiful.
And comics are another medium of expression which are not given enough recognition. They’re often judged as ‘cartoon-ish’ or something meant only for kids.
While we have comics which are meant only for the younger age group, not all comics are made the same way.
The Japanese mangas and the Korean manhwas having garnered a massive community of readers prove that there’s a large number of comics produced just for adults.
Below is an introduction of some manhwa concepts which will surely make you drop what you’re doing to take up reading manhwas.
1. Doctor Elise (Queen with a Scalpel)
And what if you’re not given one life, but three?
Dr. Song, a professional from the College of Medicine in Korea is living the peak of her career when she is met with an accident and wakes up in her old life, as Princess Elise.
Doctor Elise is a manhwa with a plot revolving around repentance and reincarnation.
An abusive, brutal princess who is executed in her first life as an outcome of her behavior is given another life centuries later, only to be restored back to her first before she can actualize her dreams.
With her knowledge of the medical and technological advancements, she is now on a journey to heal an empire. This is her chance to pay for her mistakes and mend her old relationships.
The concept of the mahwa is interesting, where we see a blend of both the old world and the new. I like how the author has incorporated a lot of details and facts about the history of her fictional universe. We also get to see the political and economical dynamics of the setting which are quite intriguing.
Elise, back in the empire gently hints at the idea of karma and raises the question whether she’ll be met with the same fate again.
The idea of second chances is emphasized upon and while it’s interesting to see the plot develop, it’s just as natural to question the unfair nature of chances being offered to those who don’t deserve them.
The manhwa hasn’t been concluded so we’re yet to find answers to our questions and judgements.
2. Winter Woods
An alchemist who has lost his family is compelled to create one so this modern day Victor steals corpses to build his monster, his family and while he manages to construct this human-like creature, he fails at one thing – making his heart beat.
Winter Woods is very close to Frankenstein re-imagined as a manhwa, except here we get to witness Winter, the creature learning to adapt himself into the human life once he is released from the lab.
The setting of the manhwa is eerie and is enough to give you chills. There’s a sense of loneliness which is carried throughout the length of the manhwa, almost as if you can hear the sounds of creaking wood, feel the uncomfortable silence and the tension. It almost makes you get involved with Winter and feel bad for him.
It’s this feature of Winter Woods which makes me like to read it, that you are truly pulled in, to get involved using all of your senses. You’re not only going to read it or scroll through the art, but also hear and feel, or atleast try to.
Cleanse. Purge. Release.
Catharsis, derived from Greek is essentially related to emotional release or spiritual cleansing. I particularly like this definition from Merriam Webster:
This is what happens in this manhwa called Catharsis, where we see an organization which goes by the same name aimed at helping people to fight their fears.
But what’s more interesting isn’t this organization, it’s Leon, our protagonist and his ability to see ‘voices in colors’, which he uses to identify people.
As we read further, we get to see glimpses of his nightmares, which then turn into reality. His encounter with these scenes is just where the story takes its form.
The symbols and motifs are amazing, truly the best from what I’ve read till date. Seeing voices as colors can be understood as variety of people, moods and personalities.
Another intriguing part of this manhwa are Timorem, the fear feeding monsters. As these monsters, Leon and Catharsis cross paths, we see the plot taking up its true form, with the internal and external forces clashing against each other.
4. Duty After School
An unusual invasion causes the military to recruit high school students. With this massive destruction, we see characters who seem to be lost in this manhwa called Duty After School.
Unlike other manhwas, this one does not have any main protagonists, we see their world in sort of a documentary format, with everyone having their own struggles and characterisation.
This larger world conflict and portrayal is what I like the most. No main character also means that all the characters are just as important and it’s through their issues and stories that the plot is connected to the entire setting of the war against these unknown creatures.
I like how the art style or the way the characters are illustrated mirror the mood of the manhwa. There’s a void, a sense of nothingness yet the world continues to carry on. This invasion, although a fantasy concept, has been taken care of through quite a creative yet realistic examination.
The plot is an amazing blend of psychology and horror. It’s safe to say that from the art and the story to the pacing and the paneling, everything is perfect.
5. My ID is Gangnam Beauty
The world is driven by societal constructs, obsessed with made up mannerisms and outward appearances.
We’re becoming more engaged with what is superficial, just lightly brushing upon the surface of things and people, without actually getting to know them. And it is through all these things that we have successfully managed to build a world that is ruled by our insecurities.
There are several webtoon concepts which have taken up the theme of lookism. My ID is Gangnam Beauty is manhwa which revolves around a similar theme where we see what bullying pushes people to do, but more than that, there’s a strong emphasis on character development which most manhwas miss to cover.
While it does begin with Kang Mirae’s transformation through plastic surgery making her the ‘Gangnam Beauty’, we don’t see the plot getting obsessed with tangible beauty. Instead, we come face to face with self awareness and inner beauty.
The author draws a parallel between the tangible and the the unseen through a recurring symbol of ‘scents’, exposing how society perceives beauty.
The scent of perfumes is a proof that beauty does not have to be seen to be felt. It is a form of beauty which exists but lacks an appearance.
I like how the author has tried to keep the manhwa light hearted but never fails to slip in important messages. The development of Kang Mirae’s character is crucial to the progression of the plot. She goes from a character who opted for transformation to save herself from bullying to a woman who realises what beauty really is and shatters the societal ideals.