My fellow nerds;
Anime and Manga, Western Animations, Comic Books and more, have been standard fare. Classics exist as far back as the 1950s, a veritable Akashic Record of fantastic series to catch up on; and you know them well. From the Western superheroes like Batman and Superman, to the Eastern classics of Cowboy Bebop and Fist of the North Star, these stories have ingrained themselves into their respective nerdy cultures.
However, in 2014, a new service would burst onto the scene, providing easy access to stories for anyone with a smartphone, making its own mark on the landscape of story-telling and story-consuming for a whole new generation. WEBTOON, from South Korea, would provide millions of people a new way to consume stories, to the point where many people I know today are avid readers – and honestly, with how busy life is, webtoons today are how many people get their fix for stories.
But let’s say you are new to the scene, as I was about four years ago. What webtoons could you start reading to dive into the unique worlds they have to offer?
Before we get started; I just want to let you know that every webtoon listed here will have a link directly to the website, so you could check it out for yourself! You will need to download the app on your phone to fully experience some of these, if you do not have it already, if you haven’t already. And with that said…
1. Yumi’s Cells
To start off, I’ll recommend the Webtoon that got me reading Webtoons consistently.
Yumi’s Cells tells the story of the titular chacter, Yumi, and the emotions she feels on a day-to-day basis, anthropomorphized as a host of people–cells–that live in her head. Whether she’s happy with her current relationship, struggling to figure out whether or not to buy a new bag, or with making the difficult decisions in life, you can bet that there’s a lot that goes on inside in her head; and her cells will always have a lot to say.
This webtoon has a style akin to many Western comic strips, with square panels that move left to right, which may have been the reason why I got into it in the first place, but beyond that, it’s just a cute story. I hestitate to classify it as a rom-com, because, despite the various elements of both romance and comedy, it’s more about a person’s daily life than anything else. It’s cute, it’s creative, and with that in mind, I think it’s a great webtoon to get into with the mindset of having a fun, daily story to read–and one that showcases a common trend among webtoons, where you can appreciate how the artist grows over time.
You might like this story if you enjoy that type of daily fun with some legitimate dramatic and romantic ties here and there. Otherwise, you might find some daily enjoyment from the other recommendations here; with varying degrees of comedy, romance and sincerity along the way.
If Yumi’s Cells was the summer rom-com you watch with friends for a good laugh, Omniscient Reader is the blockbuster.
Dokja Kim is just your average worker, living an average life. He gets on the subway to go to work, does his job, and goes home. The only thing that he does in the meantime; his one real hobby, is read serialized webnovels, and he wonders at times, what if one day, he could be the protagonist of his own life?
Then that one day comes; a day where the web novel Three Ways to Survive the Apocalypse finishes, and appears in reality. Dokja finds himself as the one man in the world who has read this novel, thrust into a world which suddenly operates by very different rules; it is time to kill or be killed, and Dokja alone has the keys to excel. How then, will he live in this new world of monsters, gods, and demons?
Can he become the protagonist?
Omnsicient Reader is a fantastically action-packed story, with just the right amount of character depth and emotion to really hook you along for the ride. Dokja is an interesting protagonist, and it is intensely interesting to follow along with him as he figures out for himself the rules of the new world he lives in; all while he exploits the system to overcome obstacles far bigger than him. If you enjoy stories with some thrilling action set-pieces, then Omniscient Reader’s got it covered.
Oh…also, if you couldn’t tell, Omnsicient Reader’s art is BEAUTIFUL.
You’ll like this story if you’re all about action, if you can appreciate some fantastic art, or, surprisingly enough, if you’re into mythologies and legends of different cultures, from Korean to Greek to even Christianity. The other stories here are of a similar nature, full of character-driven action that takes place both in the real world, and in very sci-fi inspired environments, and I’ll let you know, some of that character-driven action is beautiful in its own right.
And now, to something completely different.
The Archduke of Axias, Prince Killian, is known as bloodthirsty, cold, and unforgiving; with a seeming eye for the women whereever he goes. He is a smart man, and one that people don’t dare to cross. And so, when, by happenstance, he comes across one Rieta Tristi, a ‘temptress’ doomed to death, and asks to take her, there is no argument.
But the look in her eyes does not seem that of a temptress; rather, they seem like those of a women who is half dead already. What kind of history does she have? And what kind of man is the Archduke really, to offer her this second chance at life?
Romance and fantasy on Webtoon often go hand in hand, to varying extents, and this is…probably the most clear example. With that being said, this webtoon in particular is a masterful display of all the elements that makes both genres great, with fantastic character development and a very intriguing world that plays into the themes of the plot very well. Reading Like Wind on a Dry Branch transports me into a different world entirely, helped along by the subdued yet great-looking art style, elegant conversastion that feels like it came out of a classic fantasy novel, and some cute (sometimes steamy) elements that keeps my attention hooked.
…Hey, it’s a webtoon with romance elements. Some comedy and some eye candy can surely be allowed.
You’ll probably like this if you are to any extent familiar with the fantasy romance genre, but beyond that, if you like simply good character development with defrosting characters, as well as appreciate the art of the slow burn, then you’ll love this one. That said, the other recommendations I have here share many similar elements, to varying degrees. Your Throne is intensely and precisely dramatic, The First Night With The Duke brings shoujo-esque charm and humor, and overall, if you want any strong fantasy story with strong female protagonists I’ll let you know that I’ve got you covered with these webtoons.
…Where do we begin with this monstrosity of a story?
Jaeho Hwang is a monstrous, powerful man, trained to be an MMA fighter by his father, with a smile that would make a baby cry. But of course, he’s a regular guy, like anyone else, and so, when the hit MMORPG game “New World” hits the market, with the promise of massive entertainment, of being able to do anything, and become anyone, it’s clear what a normal guy like Jaeho would do.
Pursue his dream of opening a flower shop.
The Strongest Florist is among the rare “parody” stories I have come to love, drawing readers in first and foremost with the lure of intense, deliberate, and hysterical trope subversion. It makes no dang sense sometimes; it is ludicrous in premise, and even more ludicrous in execution, but man, it is just too fun of a ride to miss out on. It draws you in with a mix of drama, cute characters, great art, but always, at the end of the day, it reminds you, at its core, why we love it; because of just how ridiculous it is. Mind you, the world it sets up is engaging, the characters are indeed fun, and Jaeho is fantastic to follow, so don’t underestimate the strength of its other merits; it’s just that it’s such a fun story, I’d be remiss not to mention it amongst other parody stories.
I mean…just look at this. It’s straight-up comical.
You’ll like this if you appreciate works of fiction that parody other tropes, if you’re familiar with video game mechanics, and, in general, are looking for a good time. Think One Punch Man meets…I dunno. The good parts of Sword Art Online. Otherwise, +99 Reinforced Wooden Stick can scratch that itch too, and so too can ‘God, Please Make Me a Demon!’ if you’re looking for a more cutesy, rom-com coat of paint.
5. The Horizon
Of course, we have to have a few serious hidden gems on the list.
Boy meets girl in a post-apocalyptic world, where death is the only constant. Ever-present. Everlasting. Implacable. In such a world, what is there to do? Cry? Scream? Lie down and die?
No, they walk. Walk to the horizon, the end of the road, whatever it may be; or perhaps, just maybe, there is none to be found, and they can walk forever.
After all, the world is round, right? Surely, they can keep walking.
The Horizon is probably amongst the most intensely emotional short stories you can read on WEBTOON, with deeply depressing, violent, and disturbing themes for some that can really take you aback if you stumble upon it looking for a good time. However, in my opinion, it is fantastic that such stories can exist upon Webtoons, as it shows that it really is a platform that provides easy access to a whole variety of stories with a whole variety of views and messages; if you can find them. This one in particular shines for its powerful themes, intense imagery, and unique art style, and, although there are other stories with slightly less intensity, I wanted to recommend this one for those of you who are looking to be challenged in your thoughts and emotions.
You will like The Horizon if you profess to like anything I have just described; strong themes, intense emotions, challenging of the meaning of life…so on and so forth. It’s a dark, post-apocalyptic work, so if that’s up your alley, go for it. That said, there are also explorative works on the sweeter, rather than the bitter side, with Winged, Your Letter, Taste of Illness, and Subtle Disaster; each with their varying degrees of optimism and meaning, but all with a unique style that I simply cannot explain with words.
People often say that life has many seasons, and in those seasons, there are times to be happy, to be sad, to be angry, and everything else that comes with life. However, one must not forget something that can be found in every season; love.
Youth is full of wonderful, beautiful things, but we all have different stories to share. Such is the case in this webtoon, zooming in on a set of students that go through their own struggles; from the big to the small, from the innocuous and cute, to the traumatic and powerful. We join different characters in these different seasons of their life–Bomi Yun, Hamin Lee, and Gaeul Jin–and understand for ourselves who they were, who they are, and who they are going to be.
On a similar note as the prior work, WEBTOON is full of down-to-earth, character-driven romances and dramas that showcase the best and worst of what life has to offer; and Season’s Blossoms is an exemplar of it. This one in particular is a heartwarming romance that I personally love for its depiction of far more than just that. It’s full of old traumas, strong character growth, and an overall, optimistic message that I can’t help but love.
You’ll like this story, first and foremost, if you enjoy cute school romance. It’s pretty simple; but beyond that, if you’re looking for an emotional ride that can remind you of the best of your high school memories, your old high school friends, and all the drama and self-exploration that that entails, then Seasons of Blossom will absolutely appeal to you. Or heck, maybe you just want to live vicariously through these protagonists, rooting for them to have their happy ending; in any case, I can guarantee it’s a story that will deliver on that simple, slice-of-life drama. (A slight oxymoron, I suppose; but you get what I mean)!
The other recommendations have their own varying messages as well, with a similar feel to this, even if some are slightly more serious than others. Special mention goes to Winter Woods and Crumbs, which each have their own, slightly more fantastical settings, but still have that same level of character drama that is oh-so-good.
7. Lore Olympus
The Greek Pantheon isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it is a world all its own, filled with gossip, slander, power struggles, and a whole host of issues as mythological creatures and gods interact with each other on the plane beyond the mortal realm. And in this world, the God of the Underworld, Hades, sees a goddess out of her depth; Persephone, the Goddess of Spring. But he doesn’t kidnap her, of course not. Rather, he helps her; and in doing so, ties the strings of their fates together in a way that will change Olympus, and the Underworld, forever. More importantly though, is the struggles these gods face, in love and life, and how they can grow to overcome all sorts of struggle, large and small, inside and out.
Amongst all the stories recommended here, this is the most popular by far; and honestly, there’s good reason for it.
And no; not just because this art style is absolutely striking with its coloring, shading, composition, etc.
I wanted to end off on this story because it is unique in how it utilizes the medium Webtoons provides. It is a story with an artstyle you won’t see anywhere; not in a comic strip, not in manga or anime, or even most western animations. It utilizes music beautifully, using the up-to-down sliding format to great effect, with a fresh take on Greek mythology which is simply inspired. There’s a lot to enjoy with this story; whether it is because of the burgeoning romance (not like the original myth, by the way; learn that on your own time) of Persephone and Hades, the unique interpretations of the Greek Pantheon in a modern context, and its informational, positive, and powerful messages on abuse, mental health, and overcoming trauma. With all this said, Lore Olympus, despite its massive popularity, is a story I can wholeheartedly recommend.
I would normally recommend other stories like it at this point, but to be honest, I don’t think I can recommend too many other stories that are like it–it’s just that unique.
However, that’s part of the appeal that Webtoons have, at least to me. And so, instead of categorizing more recommendations based upon broad genres and types of stories, I’ll recommend other stories that I think are must-reads on the platform for various reasons. These stories…do have similarities with other webtoons, but I want to recommend these as exemplars of their respective genres, showcasing some of the best of what Webtoons has to offer.
Other Strong Recommendations
Ardhalis City; a place where the criminal organization, the Phantom Scythe, runs amok, flying in the face of the King, and the Ardhalis Police Department which can do nothing to stop the killings and crimes they perpetuate. Haunted by her own traumas, and seeking only the chance for revenge, officer Lauren Sinclair, gifted with the ability to detect lies, feels like she must take this group down; and when the only person who appears to be willing to give her a chance is the esteemed assassin, the Purple Hyacinth…
Well, killer or no; she’ll do what she must.
Purple Hyacinth is a uniquely steampunk, film-noir esque detective thriller that I hestiate to compare to any other story on the platform. Beyond this unique genre mix, however, I must praise this story’s cinematic feel, being cool and classy without jumping to the line of implausibility. Beyond this, its consistently beautiful artwork, fitting music, and lovable, relatable characters, make Purple Hyacinth a must-read webtoon; and with a 9.91 rating out of 10, with more than 1.5 million subscriptions, it seems many people agree.
If you could remember all your past lives, what do you suppose you would do? Use all your experiences to stand on top of the world? Make a name for yourself? Or maybe…just find love?
This is the dilemma that Jieum Ban has had for 18 lives now; but one fateful repetition, she runs into someone she finds an interest in–at least, until the accident that ended her life right in front of him. Now, she has a goal for her 19th life; to find Seoha Mun, and be with him. In spite of her
Dani and Dorian Wytte; witch sister and brother, off to school; but they missed the bus! What’s a pair of magical siblings to do…but find a mentor? And so, the journey begins; setting into motion a series of events that threatens the entire kingdom and the fragile balance of power between witches and normal folk, all centered around a single family and the decisions they’ve made.
This is not the most popular series on the list, but it is absolutely one of my favorites. There’s not much else to say, other than the fact that the sheer sincerity of this story shows through every single aspect of it. The art, although starting a bit rough, is always unique, and ends up, throughout the course of the story, becoming one of the most crisp and distinct styles on WEBTOON. Its characters have some of my favorite set of developments in any webtoon, are beyond lovable, and feel so loved and cared for that, honestly, the entire story just feels warm, even in the darkest moments.
It’s hard for me to describe, but I really, really love Hooky; and although it is comparatively, in many ways, a more simple adventure than the likes of Purple Hyacinth or See You In My 19th Life, it is so dang sincere I can’t help but love it, and thus, I recommend it to any of you who have not already read it.
And with that, I’m finished here. Like the post if you liked any of the webtoons here; I do this in my off time with as much passion as I can put into it, as I am now becoming a teacher, so any input would be great to have. Also, of course, please let me know by commenting what other webtoons would be good to read! I’m always on the lookout for new recommendations myself; so leave a comment and let me know!