Fantasy beats reality.
That’s something I used to believe, until I saw reality through fantasy.
We have a myriad novels, movies and shows doing that, but I gotta admit that my heart is stuck with webtoons.
A webtoon, for me, has never been a one sided story but rather a conversation, a close connection between the artists and the viewers through the comic medium, where both art and stories collide, to illustrate a universe beyond our imagination.
Here’s to the webtoons, helping us make reality better.
(Spoiler Alert: This article may contain instances from the Webtoons listed below)
1. Freaking Romance: Darkness isn’t Love, Light is
Inside a tiny, not as often visited cupboard, tucked away clandestinely in a side drawer underneath the soft fabric of love hides toxic behavior.
What does one understand about love when instances of physical and mental abuse are often disguised as ‘disciplining’ those we care about, as acts of love meant for their ‘good’?
Caught in a parallel space, she is introduced to a different definition of love, something she has never experienced before. Love that has nothing to do with conditions, orders, toxicity.
Tutored ‘romance’ by the cinnamon roll soft boi Zelan, Zylith, who has messed up ideas of love etched into her brain gradually begins to find light amidst darkness.
We see love in the form of Zelan, Zylith and Verose. Love is Zelan, guiding Zylith up to the way of light while falling selflessly and endlessly for her.
Love is Verose, standing up to support Zylith, staying beside her and being that friend all of us deserve. Love is Zylith and her commitment to her art, challenging her reality to create another one of her own.
And love, is Aidyn and the angler army, lighting it up for one another.
The glowing elements incorporated throughout the art style can be read as the existence of light, peeking through chinks and creaks.
Exploring love in a parallel space can be seen as a reminder that an alternate reality can be created.
Aidyn, despite not liking romance, invested time and study into writing something he despised, which to his surprise began to be liked by so many. In a way, he created an alternate reality for himself and aligned it with his dream, paving his way to freedom.
Freedom, for him is his upcoming project, Kill Me After Lunch, a dream ready to take up the form of reality. In a way, this too has been achieved by love – his love for creating stories and communicating his excellence through his characters and webtoon.
2. Sirens Lament: Holding on can be self-destructive
People. Emotions. Feelings.
Some things are hard to forget, to let go of. You can try to find escape through momentarily distractions, but once you’re done hanging out with friends and getting over with your everyday routine, you find yourself back to square one with thoughts sailing in an endless ocean, trying to make sense of ‘ifs’ and ‘could have beens’.
Hits close to home, right?
Siren’s Lament by Miso is a webtoon where we see reality through the foggy lens of fantasy. The perfect mix of two is what makes this webtoon help readers connect with the characters.
What I’ve learned from this webtoon is that we’ve been doing it all wrong – looking for something to be happy about, be it our family, our friends, our hobbies or anything else.
It’s due to this holding onto others that we slowly dissipate from the inside, similar to the symbol of seafoam in the webtoon.
Let go. You can feel what is needed, but don’t hold onto it for too long, because it can be self-destructive. We cannot always bring back people, relationships, bonds and things. But that doesn’t mean we have to lose ourselves too.
It’s this parallel drawn between Lyra and Ophelia that makes readers realize how two similar people can have a different ending.
The curse of sirens is nothing but the reflection of Ophelia holding onto her pain. Through this curse, she’s not living on forever, but living in misery. The metamorphosis of humans into sirens is not a rebirth, but repression of pain and memories, the ultimate result of which is a new life which lacks emotion and a sense of identity.
And while these sirens are lost, and ‘free of pain’, there’s something which glows within which is represented through glowing hearts. What is this but hope hiding in a chamber, something which they don’t know exists?
What I love apart from symbolism in the webtoon is the art. The soft strokes are a mirror of Lyra’s heart, Shon’s genuine nature and the smiles shared by the trio. It’s this valuing of family, friendships and love which runs throughout. And while they all love each other, Miso always hints subtly that it’s just as important to love yourself too, something that is clearly shown as a contrast between Lyra and Ophelia.
It’s self love which saves Lyra and the lack of it which destroys Ophelia. Her curse is a reflection of an inner self which has broken to the point beyond repair, all of which is a consequence of not letting go.
Through this webtoon where realism is shrouded by fantasy, Miso imparts an important message – reinstate your belief in yourself, you are more than enough.
3. Mom, I’m Sorry: Value People and Things While They Last
‘Mom, I’m sorry. Please don’t die.’
Death is inevitable, but regret can be avoided, or at least minimized.
Our problem, as humans, is taking people and things for granted. While Mom, I’m Sorry is a webtoon filled with light-hearted humor, cute characters and an interesting plotline, there’s a serious underlying message.
It’s Henry’s regret of being selfish and mistreating her mom while she was alright that brings us to the realisation how lightly most of us take our parents, without giving much thought to all the things they sacrifice for us, putting in all that they have selflessly.
Where Henry gets the choice to save his mother through trading his lifespan for her, this is not something that we will probably ever come across.
Through this humorous spin where Olivia has been brought back to life, now younger than his son, we learn just how important it is to value people because moments and people, once gone, cannot be brought back. They only live through our memories and sometimes, regrets.
We don’t pay enough attention to actions and words. And while it might be a joke to you, something that you’ll forget in a split second can sit back with others for life.
This webtoon is a reminder to reflect on our words and actions, be kind and gentle to people and express our gratitude.
After all, that’s what we’ve been fundamentally wired for.
4. Odd Girl Out: We’re a Single Story, Narrated Differently
How easy things would have been, had I been born as another person?
Do you often wish that you lived in someone else’s body, with a specific kind of a face, body, or maybe had a career and lifestyle like theirs?
Odd Girl Out is a webtoon with a similar theme. We often think people have it easy because of a certain appearance or lifestyle, failing to realize how each of us lives a complex life.
Nari, who wants to blend in, stands oddly out of her circle of friends because they’re beautiful, a contrast to how she perceives her appearance.
When you will read the webtoon at first, it seems like a fun story but as you proceed, there’s this sonder that resonates from deep within.
While she assumes that life is easier for her friends, she gradually begins to face the reality that despite meeting conventional standards of beauty, her friends are no different.
The webtoon is a lesson that we’re connected through our shared experiences and complexities of our lives.
5. Snailogy: There’s Light at The End of a Tunnel
Snailogy is another masterpiece by Aidyn. In his own words, it is “a lighthouse for lost souls with social anxiety, depression, gender dysphoria…and more.”
Through this webtoon, Aidyn presents his own thoughts and life with a world grounded in reality, represented through fantasy. The webtoon is quite close to magical realism, in an illustrated format.
Capturing moments, life and its complexities with a twist of occasional wit and humor is Aidyn’s signature style. In Snailogy, he shares glimpses from his life, his self-exploration and personal dilemmas. It’s amazing how well-connected the readers, or the angler army are to him and his stories.
We see instances of the angler army in his basement. The basement can be thought of as the dark attic, with a reverse narrative. It can be seen as a space of development from a chamber where he hides his inner demons to a place lit up by stories and anglers.
He often coats meaningful conversations and deeper exploration of the self through his wit and humor. On the other side of these jokes, we see life through his lens.
It’s interesting to see how Aidyn devises symbols of a snail, light and angler army throughout the webtoon. I find his personification of abstract concepts, especially Life, very close to how complex they actually are. The fight between him and his conflicts mirrors how life is for most of us.
And while there are a lot of bleak moments, light exists. Like anglers to Aidyn, he too is the ‘light of our dark hours’.