Images provided by author. Top: Solo Leveling poster.
Korean entertainment is taking over the world. There are Korean movies like Parasite or Train to Busan gaining wide international recognition and there’s K-pop idols like BTS shaking the music scene. There is also, however, one form of literary entertainment in Korea that’s growing in popularity internationally, and that is manhwa.
Manhwa is the Korean translation of manga, a term many teens are familiar with, though the two aren’t quite the same. One difference is that manhwa is always fully colored compared to the usual black-and-white of manga—something everyone who reads manhwa really appreciates. Another trait of manhwa is that it has its own genre called Murim, which is basically the martial arts world usually set in medieval times, combined with spiritual magic. This is similar to how manga has its own genre, Isekai, where someone gets transported to another world. A starter manhwa that’s completed that many readers start with is the power fantasy Solo Leveling by Chugong. Jaden Flores, a junior at Washington High School, rates the show a 7.5, stating, “the story is tame, the ending was mid.” While the story is basic compared to others, as said by Jaden and the online manhwa community, most can agree that the pacing of the story, its action scenes, and the art are what make the series so entertaining. Part of the series’s synopsis reads, as provided by official English licenser Tappytoon, “In a world where awakened beings called ‘Hunters’ must battle deadly monsters to protect humanity, Sung Jinwoo, nicknamed ‘the weakest hunter of all mankind,’ finds himself in a constant struggle for survival. One day, after a brutal encounter in an overpowered dungeon, wipes out his party, and threatens to end his life, a mysterious System chooses him as its sole player.”
If Solo Leveling isn’t to your taste, then there are a wide array of manhwa titles to enjoy. Beware a Villainess is a great read for romance fans with a completed story involving a strong female aristocrat taking on her destiny as the villainess of the world she’s in, and an enjoyable cast of characters. From the Grave and Back (ongoing) is a title for more mature readers but is still very enjoyable as the story revolves around a member of the capitalist elite coming back from the grave to take on the financial world that robbed him of his old life. God of Blackfield (ongoing) is also a mature title though it’s more on the thriller side, as it tells the story of a man from French special forces reincarnating as a Korean high schooler and facing all sorts of challenges in his new setting.
Anime and manga were small at the beginning, but now are mainstream. Manhwa is following the pattern and is becoming popular with manhwa titles being created in larger quantities than ever. Solo Leveling is even getting its own show and game due to its popularity. It will be a matter of time until more manhwas explode into the spotlight with even new show adaptations that’ll be shown all over the world!