List: Dear Webtoon, Gimme Back My Heart

Once I completed watching all twelve episodes of the Crunchyroll x Webtoon collaboration project, Tower of God, that aired this past spring season, and was intrigued by the animated trailer for Said P. ‘s Seed, I had to check out the other titles in Webtoon’s collection. 

I always thought that Webtoon only hosted Korean manhwa but to my delight, it’s a great place to check out comics made by people from all over the world. In my early teens, I buried my nose in manga and manhwa, never really reading anything else (besides fictional novels, a shit ton of fanfiction, scrolling through works on Deviantart and Tumblr and laughing at the comic strips shared on my Facebook newsfeed). 

It was refreshing to spend time away from the popular anime/manga trope (isekai) during my little hiatus away from social media. I found myself drawn to stories in the thriller, horror and drama genres. 

For this listicle, I’ll be going over five Webtoon originals that stole my heart. Beware of some spoilers in the deets below. I tried my best to keep them to a minimum.

According to the tradition of Belluna’s duchy, once its heir, Theuden (right), turns twenty-five years old, a competition is held to determine his future bodyguard. Isran (left) and the other 255 competitors are given numbers and must duel the person whose number matches their own until there is one victor standing. If my drawn header didn’t already give it away, Theuden and Isran fall in love in this historical fantasy drama and I cannot wait to see what the third season has in store.

Heir’s Game is one of many LGBTQ stories found on the Webtoon platform and is a webcomic with a diverse cast including badass female characters.

For example, Sevilia, one of the competitors, is the best duelist from Eskeria. She detests wearing restrictive corsets and long hoop skirts. She loves to drink booze with friends, flirt and romance the ladies all while donning pants and a bodice. Looking at the dress in Heir’s Game, I can guess that it’s inspired by Western Europe in the late 1700s to early 1800s. Given the rigid social norms of the time period, Sevilia is an interesting character because she rejects the conventions of the “respectable” woman to be herself and despises those who humiliate women for their gender.

The drama in this webcomic wrecks my heart 100% because suspu does an excellent job of making us fall in love with her characters (who are fleshed out in personality and backstory shown in flashbacks as well as victims to the society/time period they live in) before getting us to cheer on the characters in their moments of triumph and makes us suffer terribly when things go wrong.

Shiloh is an exciting supernatural action thriller packed with large black flesh-eating monsters, demon contracts, a weird conspiracy, a hidden underground world (the catacombs) and nightmarish body horror in its first season with a second season on its way.

The webcomic follows two characters who reveal how Shiloh, a safe utopia, is not as it seems.  

Officer Chloe Callahan transferred to the Enforcement department after leaving behind a promotion at her previous position in the Corrections department where she helped reform criminals. She wants to change who is sent to her old department by being out on the field.

The Marked man a.k.a Sawyer (pictured on the header)is a member of a small band of outcasts living in the catacombs, the underbelly of Shiloh, with ties to a powerful, menacing demon.

One of Shiloh’s strengths is its format. The orientation of the panels and use of camera angles enriched my reading experience by placing me right into the action. Panels could fall into one another, zeroing into a character’s eye in an extreme close-up shot to emulate the sensation of fear throwing your nerves haywire right before you crash to the ground. The panels come in different shapes and sizes to emphasize a look of despair or a sequence of action in a cinematic way. 

Text bubbles and sound effects live within and outside the panels, swirling around in the negative space of the page. It gave me the impression of horror films and video games where you stand in complete darkness and are only able to hear whatever it is lurking within the inky blackness. 

The title, “Spirit Fingers” makes me recall one scene in that early 2000s romcom sports movie about cheerleading (Bring It On) starring Kirsten Dunst and Eliza Dushku. The cheerleading squad’s hired choreographer emphasized how to perform spirit fingers which is to properly wiggle your jazz hands with utter passion and pizzazz.

Han Kyoung Chal’s work isn’t at all related to dancing, but it is a story about how a young woman, Amy Song, discovers how to become the truest version of herself after joining the most unique art club ever, “Spirit Fingers.” 

It reminds me a little of Ai Yazawa’s Gokinjo Monogatari (the prequel to Paradise Kiss) in that the manhwa features a wholesome cast of characters who are united by art (or more specifically, drawing croquis). I really enjoyed that Han fleshed out the majority of the cast and gave the characters satisfying character development. I also think the way that Han draws colourful spreads of her characters in cool fashion poses mirrors Yazawa’s style too.

As much as I love fangirl squealing about how adorable the main couple is and how they come to learn how communication is so important in building a romantic relationship, Amy’s journey definitely resonated with me. At the start of the manhwa, Amy is an introvert who simply goes with the flow, lacks self confidence and struggles for her mother’s love and acceptance because she’s always compared to her genius brothers.  

Drawing croquis and befriending the members of Spirit Fingers changes her thinking, pushing Amy to abandon the idea of being perfect for someone else’s sake in order to focus on herself and what she wants out of her life. 

Han’s art reflects how she is able to switch between serious and silly moments by drawing both realistic characters who can have super-deformed, highly exaggerated drawn facial expressions. It’s great.  

Your Throne looks like your average historical drama manhwa, beautifully drawn with intricate detail, but I was blown away once I read the last panel of the first chapter. 

Lady Medea Solon was to become the future crown princess of the Vasilios Empire. However, when Crown Prince Eros hosted a competition for the crown, Medea’s opportunity was snatched away and she was left with nothing. As they say, revenge is a dish best served cold and Medea’s icy heart is ready to reclaim what’s rightfully hers. What she wouldn’t expect is how she would come to take back the crown.

There’s something exciting about revenge stories where the audience is cheering on a “villainous” protagonist rather than a “genuinely soft-hearted and sweet” one.

Medea is a downright intimidating character with her killer violet glare staring down any unfortunate gossiping noble. As the series progresses, we see that she’s a strong, intelligent badass protagonist who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty to right the injustice done to her. I can definitely say that the number one reason why I’m reading this manhwa is to see her succeed.

The manhwa’s plot and its progression is exciting to read because it leads the audience through the huge predicament Medea finds herself in and her backstory with Psyche (who has taken her place as the future crown princess) to show readers that things aren’t as they seem. 

Meet Yuna (left), she’s a Japanese high schooler. Meet Kawachan (right), they’re dressed in a mascot outfit and they’re not much of a talker. Together, they’re doing their best to survive a post-apocalyptic world swarming with monstrous creatures.

What I enjoy about this comic the most is how it doesn’t try to be a horrifyingly ultraviolent gruesome story of survival but instead focuses more on the unique friendship between Yuna and Kawachan with some sprinkling of blood and bat swinging.

The character design for Kawachan was the first thing that caught my eye when I was looking for new series to read on Webtoon. According to Schmidt in her interview with Jace from The Comic Source Podcast, Kawachan’s design was based off of a video she’d seen of Chiitan the Otter, stomping around a room with a bat, preparing to smash a watermelon but who ends up falling over. 

I think it was a genius idea to create a character like Kawachan whose true identity is a mystery but is shown to be someone compassionate and brave in helping out a stranger from being mauled by a gang of monsters in the sewers. Sure, it might have been a terrible idea for Yuna to automatically trust Kawachan from the get-go, but it’s normal or comforting to cling onto something that’s familiar or similar to you in a stressful situation.

I really enjoyed the visuals of Schmidt’s comic, especially her use of eye-catching colour. When I think about what the end of the world would like, I imagine seeing a lot of cool, muted and dark greys, blacks and splashes of red to establish a feeling of hopelessness and dread.

The colours in Yuna and Kawachan don’t match the desolate situation the protagonists find themselves in. For example, a chapter in Schmidt’s comic pops off the screen with vibrant oranges, yellows, purples, reds and various shades of pink to paint the empty streets of an abandoned modern-day city in Japan during the late afternoon. By contrast, flashbacks and conversations between two characters in a panel are coloured in pastel shades including baby blues and greens.

I really like the range of stories I’m discovering on Webtoon so far.

What Webtoon series are you currently into? Let me know down below!


3 thoughts on “List: Dear Webtoon, Gimme Back My Heart

  1. I love Heir’s Game! I’m so excited to see someone else talking about it, it’s such a great series with both cool action scenes and a sweet romance at it’s centre.

    Currently, some of my other favourite WebToon series are: Lore Olympus, The Doctors are Out and Be my Villain.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Right?? It’s so great and I can’t wait for new updates.

      Lore Olympus is legit *chef’s kiss* and The Doctors Are Out is super sweet. I didn’t get the chance to check out Be My Villain, but I will soon. 🤩

      Liked by 1 person

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