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What Is A Manhwa: A Guide

You may have heard the term Manhwa when diving into the world of webcomics, but what is a Manhwa? Well, put simply Manhwa is a comic book style developed in South Korea that naturally reads left to right.

Much like the Chinese Manhua, Korean Manhwa was developed due to the influence of Japanese Manga becoming increasingly popular in the 1980s-1990s.

Where did Manhwa come from?

If you are wondering what is Manhwa, then you may also find it interesting to know how Manhwa came to be. Most people attribute the boom of Japanese and Korean comic books to the creation of the ever-popular Astro Boy.

But many don’t know that this famous Manga was created directly after the U.S. started to occupy Japan after World War II. This is probably because with the U.S. occupation came American entertainment, which included comics!

The influx of American culture significantly influenced Japanese artists and creators, and this fusion of ideas and styles led to the birth of Manga as we know it today.

With the Japanese art boom and the rising popularity of Manga, it was only a matter of time before the comic frenzy reached their neighbors in Korea. Japan and Korea have had a rather strained relationship for as long as history can remember, but one thing they could agree upon was that the creative freedom found in comic books was something special and worth exploring.

However, Manhwa is not just a rip-off of Manga. No, they are a unique combination of Western and Eastern inspirations, built upon the desire to bring Korean art and cultural tropes to life for all the world to see.

While Manga was gaining traction in Japan, Korean artists were developing their own style and storytelling methods, resulting in a rich and diverse medium that stands on its own. The influence of both American comics and Japanese Manga can be seen in Manhwa, but the final product is something distinctly Korean, showcasing the country’s own stories, traditions, and artistic sensibilities.

What is Manhwa’s art style?

What is Manhwa if not Korean self-expression at its peak? With Western influence inspiring the use of vivid colors and Eastern influence popularizing caricatured human proportions, Manhwa has become known for its stunning art styles. The artistic style of Manhwa is often a harmonious blend of the vibrant, detailed art found in American comics and the expressive, dynamic characters seen in Japanese Manga.

But Manhwa is not just a combo style of comics and Manga. Unlike Japanese Manga, which prioritizes fast production and printed books, leading to full creative teams pumping out black and white panels as fast as humanly possible, Manhwa often takes a different approach.

Manhwa creators focus on digital formats, allowing for full-color illustrations that can be meticulously detailed. This emphasis on color and detail means that Manhwa is more often than not created by an individual or a very small team with a specific artistic vision. The lead artist’s vision of beauty is never sacrificed for the sake of speed or mass production.

Additionally, unlike American comics, which tend to have a more muscular style with bold and punchy colors to give a gritty feel and aid in the need for the fast floppy turnaround, Manhwa often features a more stylized and aesthetically pleasing art style.

The characters in Manhwa are usually drawn with expressive faces, intricate costumes, and backgrounds that can range from the fantastical to the every day, depending on the genre. This artistic flexibility allows manhwa to cover a wide range of genres and themes, from romance and drama to horror and fantasy, each with its own unique visual flair.

The art style of Manhwa is a beautiful blend of influences from both Western and Eastern comics, brought to life by the creativity and dedication of Korean artists. This combination of stunning visuals and rich storytelling has helped Manhwa gain a devoted following worldwide, making it a significant part of the global comic book and entertainment landscape.


What format is Manhwa published in?

Because Manhwa creators prioritize beautiful art over speed and print production, this has naturally led to a more modern way for fans all around the world to read them: the webcomic! The question of what is a Manhwa becomes truly apparent when thinking about its format. You, as the reader, may not have considered this, but for the creators, it’s a crucial aspect to understand.

Manhwa can be fully colored and amazingly detailed because they are, first and foremost, digital. Sure, you might find a printed Manhwa here and there, but printing is an afterthought and is usually reserved for the most popular stories. Printing a full-color book of 100 pages or more is exceedingly expensive.

In contrast, Japan can produce 200+ page Manga cheaply because they use low-cost paper and ink for black-and-white prints. U.S. comics are in full color but typically max out at 32 pages and use very low-quality paper.

If you wanted to print a full-color, manga-sized Manhwa book, it would be very costly, leading to a high selling price on bookstore shelves. So unless the Manhwa is extremely popular, most people aren’t willing to buy such expensive books.

Moreover, the format of webtoons—vertical scrolling designed for mobile devices—makes them particularly user-friendly. As more people consume content on their smartphones, the ease of access and readability of manhwa comes with significant advantages.

This mobile-optimized format sets webtoons apart from traditional comics and lends its hand to building a strong community as well as interactive aspects around the manhwa of each platform. Websites like Naver Webtoon and LINE Webtoon allow readers to comment on episodes, rate series, and even interact with the lead creators. This sense of community and engagement enhances the reader experience and fosters a loyal fan base.

Why is Manhwa becoming so popular?

Back in 2003, the terms “webtoon” or “webcomic” were not yet coined. The early creators of manhwa referred to their online creations as “web cartoons.” It wasn’t until 2005, with the advent of the Korean website Naver, that the term “webtoon” was popularized to refer to these digital comics across the internet. Over the next five years, webtoons and webcomics evolved, featuring increasingly complex narratives and deeper storytelling.

Initially, the fan base for Manhwa was predominantly Korean. However, this began to change as the digital nature of Manhwa made it highly accessible in the age of the internet. Webcomics can be read anywhere with an internet connection, and many platforms offer Manhwa for free or at low cost, broadening their appeal to a global audience.

The significant shift occurred in early 2014, when the young company LINE, now a major player in the Korean entertainment industry, introduced Manhwa to an international audience. This move was pivotal in expanding the reach of Manhwa beyond Korea, allowing it to gain popularity worldwide. It is also worth noting that LINE is a child company of Naver, and the boom of success that followed LINE Webtoon was no accident!

Manhwa and the future of entertainment

As you can see, several factors have contributed to the rise in popularity of Manhwa. One key factor is the unique and diverse storytelling found in Manhwa. Unlike traditional Western comics, which often focus on superheroes and fantasy, manhwa covers a wide range of genres, including romance, horror, drama, and slice of life. This diversity attracts readers with varying tastes and preferences from all around the world.

Additionally, the global success of Korean pop culture, known as the Korean Wave or Hallyu, has played a role in boosting the popularity of manhwa. As international audiences become more interested in Korean culture through K-pop, K-dramas, and movies, they also become more receptive to other forms of Korean entertainment, including Manhwa.

In recent years, Manhwa adaptations into other media, such as television series and films, have further amplified its reach. Popular webtoons like “Solo Leveling”, “Tower of God,” “Noblesse,” and “The God of High School” have been adapted into anime series, bringing more attention to their original webtoon versions.

In conclusion, the rise in popularity of Manhwa is not stopping any time soon due to its diverse storytelling, mobile-friendly format, strong community engagement, and the broader influence of Korean pop culture. As more people around the world discover Manhwa and enjoy it, Manhwa’s popularity is likely to continue growing, making it an integral part of the global comic and entertainment landscape.

So now that you know what Manhwa is, why not dive into the wonderful world of web comics and read one today by checking out our list for the Top 10 Adult Manhwa of 2024?