Animated: Webtoons to keep an eye out for

Every night, I look forward to the release of the latest episode of my favorite webtoons. It’s a routine that gets me through each day. Whenever I want to take a break between assignments, I turn to webtoons, wanting to know what happens next to the woman who has been transmigrated into a romance novel or the unravelings of a conspiracy. 

For those who aren’t familiar with webtoons, Regina Kim at “TIME Magazine” describes them as “a type of digital comics optimized to be read on mobile devices.” The medium has become popularized thanks to the South Korean companies that have published them and contributed to their growth. Yet, while webtoons are associated with South Korean culture, the nature of their popularity is global. 

Readers can read webtoons from locations around the world, and creators can upload their own webtoons to accessible digital platforms as well. As Kim mentions, webtoons have also become an incredibly rich source for entertainment. 

Just the other day, I started watching “Lookism,” the recently released Netflix animated series based on a webtoon. Centered on a bullied boy who is able to transform into a conventionally attractive student at certain times, the storyline offers an important message about how we treat and judge others based on superficial factors. 

Despite the relevance of its message, I didn’t end up finishing “Lookism,” mostly because I felt it started to drag in later episodes. While “Lookism” may not have been worth my time, I was able to learn from that experience. My takeaway was that webtoons have so much power and possibilities for adaptation. The evidence? All of the popular K-drama adaptations of webtoons that currently exist: “A Business Proposal,” “What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?” and more. 

More personally, webtoons can be a form of escapism, especially for those who want to temporarily consume fiction without delving too deeply. The episodic format is easily engaging, with one or two episodes fitting neatly into an occasional study break. 

Of all the different webtoon platforms out there, the one I use the most is Manta. It’s the most optimal for my budget, as you can access all the episodes and webcomics available on the app for a small monthly subscription fee of $4.99. I’ve found this business model more cost-effective for me dabbling in different genres (which I prefer over purchasing to read selected episodes, as is the system for some other webtoon platforms). 

For those who are just getting into webtoons but don’t know where to start, I highly recommend Manta to sample a wide variety. If you don’t know where to start, I’ve listed a couple of my favorites below: 

Finding Camellia

Think “Mulan,” but if the tale was transplanted into a historical French-esque setting, complete with beautiful ballgowns and political turmoil. This webtoon centers on Camellia, a young girl who is forced to live as a boy in an aristocratic family after the only son of the family becomes ill. Wanting to preserve the family’s power and lineage, the matriarch abducts Camellia to live as “Camellius,” a son of the family — and another possible heir. Having just finished its first season, “Finding Camellia” is an adaptation of the digital novel of the same name. It’s a thrilling webtoon about what it means to find your true self in a world where your identity has been suppressed.

Check In to My Heart

In typical rom-com fashion, Ajin, the intern at the hotel and Seolmin, the hotel’s CEO, make an agreement to help each other: her with his pursuit of a beautiful hotel employee and him to let her live in his hotel. Although the webtoon’s not yet completed, the often awkward interactions between the two have already foreshadowed the burgeoning romance. It’s a satisfying buildup, and the trope of contractual obligations is nearly always a great one.

The Stairway of Time

This webtoon is my absolute favorite of all the completed webtoons currently available on Manta. Yuna can’t forget her past love in high school, Jihoon, who died in a tragic accident. When she’s given the opportunity to travel back in time through a stairway in the school, Yuna resolves to save Jihoon and correct the mistakes of the past. This is a tearjerker with a premise reminiscent of hit Taiwanese drama “Someday or One Day” that teaches audiences about valuing the past in determining one’s future. 

These are just a few of the webtoons I’ve found to “illustrate” the powers of visual storytelling. Whatever genre you like, I’d say that there’s a webtoon for everyone — why not enjoy the scroll?

Valerie Wu is a senior writing about animation and digital arts from a contemporary perspective. Her column “Animated” runs every other Thursday.