So, I’m starting this entry with the full awareness that I know very little about Korean comics, and the truth is, I’m hoping it will lead to a flood of recommendations and information so that I can remedy that. Everything I say here will be based on the very small amount of manhwa I have read, almost all of which was provided by publishers and given to me to review at Manga Recon. I hadn’t really formed an opinion about manhwa as a whole, but as I was thinking about it recently, I realized that out of the five or so titles I’ve reviewed (most of them multiple volumes), I’ve liked all of them. This makes me want to know and read more.
Soyoung Jung, VP of NETCOMICS, has been quoted as saying that she considers manhwa to be more “poetic” than Japanese manga. I don’t have enough background to necessarily say the same, but I can speak to one genre and the titles I’ve read in it, and that would be boys’ love. Most of the manhwa I’ve reviewed so far has been BL manhwa (and by “most” I mean “three”): Let Dai and Totally Captivated, both from NETCOMICS, and One Thousand and One Nights from Yen Press. All of these are good-sized series (two of them complete at this time), and they definitely have some things in common.
First of all, they all tend to be pretty violent and somewhat melodramatic. This is obviously not the draw, though, as these are the two things (aside from bizarre female fantasy versions of gay men) I’m most likely to complain about in a BL review. So what is the draw? You know, they are all freakin’ epic. They are epic, plotty, multi-volume stories with complicated characters, and that’s the thing I want from comics in general that seems so hard to find in BL. I mean, even while these three Korean series are busy being melodramatic and violent, they are also getting really deep into the characters’ minds and hearts–all their strengths, weaknesses, and contradictions–great, small, ugly, beautiful–and that’s what makes these stories so compelling. It’s also what I’ve been missing in most of the Japanese BL I’ve read. Again, these observations are based on a pretty small sample of books, so there is no way I can claim any of it as Certifiably True, just true to my experience. And judging from my experience only, it wouldn’t be ridiculous to conclude that I like Korean BL more than Japanese BL, which I think I might, and indeed I might describe it as “more poetic.”
Of the other manhwa titles I’ve read so far, only one includes multiple volumes, and that is Yen Press’ series, Comic, which I talked about here. So far it has grabbed me a little less than the other manhwa series I’ve reviewed, but enough to happily anticipate the next volume.
So, what fantastic titles am I missing? There must be loads! What should I know about Korean comics that I’m not going to find out from wikipedia? Talk to me, friends! Teach me about manhwa!