Breaking Down the Fascinating World of Manhwa

Unveiling the Manhwa Hype & its Role in the Anime Industry!

Manga and comics have both garnered massive popularity within their distinct communities. However, the South Korean wave of manhwa/manhua is taking over this sphere like a storm. With the rise of digital content, comics, and manga now have South Korean and Chinese siblings named Dongua and Manhwa.

Both of these have a unique style of their own and have managed to take the attention of the masses within just a few years of their inception. In this blog post, we will be discussing everything about the fascinating world of Manhwa and how it became a global hit transcending into popular K-dramas, movies, and anime adaptations.

Manhwa | SlushTimes

What is Manhwa/Manhua and What’s the Story Behind its Popularity?

Manhwa, a Korean term, represents the rich world of comics and graphic novels stemming from South Korea. Within the realm of Manhwa, you’ll discover a diverse spectrum of genres, spanning from action and drama to romance and fantasy.

What truly sets Manhwa apart is its unique artistic expression. Manhwa has bold lines and vibrant hues, that lend the story a unique representation. The most interesting thing about a manhwa is its capability to have extraordinary, compelling, and sometimes taboo stories that are often neglected by orthodox manga readers.

Although the manhwa industry is still influenced by its elder sibling Manga due to Japanese influence on Korea in the late 1940s, Manhwa still represents Korean culture, its myths, and sometimes its dark societal issues. Manhwa’s remarkable evolution and diversification over the years can be attributed to its unabashed nature.

In contrast to Japan’s manga scene, where certain content restrictions apply to readers’ preferences, Manhwa takes a completely different approach. It fearlessly spans an extensive array of genres – from action and romance to fantasy, science fiction, and beyond. This extraordinary diversity within its genres has unlocked doors to a broad audience, a feat that manga couldn’t quite replicate.

Manhwa Illustration | CoolWallpapers

The “Big Four” of Manhwa Kingdom

Manhwa has undeniably delivered remarkable and beloved stories like True Beauty, Cheese in the Trap, Hive, and Hell Bound. However, it’s almost impossible to neglect the monumental influence of the “big four” on the Manhwa realm.

Now, before you assume we’re about to rank them based on their popularity, NO! Instead, we are acknowledging their impact on the audience and how they became global manhwa/anime sensations. To provide you with a contextual understanding of how these stories successfully captured the attention of the anime community, let’s delve into a brief overview of each of the four most popular Manhwa.

Solo Leveling Manhwa | WallpaperCave

1. Solo Leveling

Solo Leveling also known as Only I Level Up, has left an indelible mark not only on the Manhwa community but also on anime enthusiasts. Released in 2016 by the minds of Chugong and Dabu, this piece of art revolves around a world where hunters and human warriors wield extraordinary supernatural abilities.

These two groups stand as humanity’s defenders, engaging in fierce battles against menacing monsters to safeguard mankind’s existence. Amidst this backdrop emerges Sung Jinwoo, who is known to be a weak being. But fate takes a turn and an enigmatic program known as System singles him out as its sole participant.

This distinction provides him with a rare gift of extreme power that can transform his enemies into loyal minions called shadows. The protagonist starts his quest to uncover mysteries concealed within the dungeons and unveil the true nature of his newly-found powers.

Upon its initial introduction to the Manhwa community, Solo Leveling swiftly amassed an astonishing readership of nearly 2.4 million within its very first week. Furthermore, since the announcement of its anime adaptation, it has managed to get the attention of millions of anime viewers and enthusiasts.

Tower of God Manhwa | WallpaperCave

2. Tower of God

The next one in our big four list is none other than the Tower of God. This one by far has the most interesting title and storyline. Suppose you live in a world where you and other people around you are segregated as “Regulars” and “Irregulars” by a Tower.

This shady Tower summons chosen people and promises them of granting their deepest desires. Many people get to have special powers, fame, and authority. So Basically this Tower is like Dune’s Sandworms, where people around them worship them to get what they want.

But the madness does not stop here, the Tower has its peculiar condition, “the people chosen by this tower have to reach the top of it”. Bam is a poverty-stricken boy who is known as “Irregular” and has no real knowledge of the world he lives in.

His life quickly changes after meeting a girl named Rachel who shows him a path of understanding his surroundings. But the pretty boy loses his friend when the shady Tower chooses her as a “Regular”. Bam becomes destined to follow Rachel and gets to witness some amazing incidents which change his life and his status in the society he lives in.

This mysterious yet amazing manhwa received 1.1 billion reads worldwide and later due to its popularity it was adapted as an anime and was viewed by whopping 4.5 billion viewers worldwide.

Noblesse Manhwa | WallpaperAbyss

3. Noblesse

If you have a liking for secret organizations and undercover agents, then this one is for you. The world of “Noblesse,” revolves around Cadis Etrama di Raizel or Rai. Rai is a Noblesse who is striving to have a peaceful life. But a secret organization known as the Union is after him.

To save his life and go undercover, Rai enrolls in Ye Ran High School under the watchful eye of his devoted servant, Frankenstein. However, when this suspicious group kidnaps Rai’s friend, a dramatic turn of events forces the young noblesse to plunge into action, embarking on a mission to rescue them from meeting death.

Behind all this drama a former Union agent known as M-21 goes undercover and joins the same high school as a member of Ye Ran’s security team. We later get to know that M-12 fled from the shackles of the Union. Noblesse weaves a mesmerizing narrative that plunges readers into a world where loyalties are tested, mysteries unravel, and the pursuit of truth stands at the heart of every action.

The God of High School | WallpaperAbyss

4. The God of High School

The God of High School is unquestionably a cherished manhwa, ranking just behind Solo Leveling and the Tower of God. Within this captivating narrative, Korean high school students engage in a riveting tournament, pitting their diverse skills against one another.

Participants can use all types of combat styles such as martial arts, weapons, and strategies to gain victory over their competitors. The prize of winning this tournament is that the winner can have one wish for anything he or she wants.

Yet, beneath the surface of this seemingly straightforward high school contest, a complex plot unfurls. Shadows of intrigue deepen as a political candidate becomes enamored with the competitors and the prestigious title of the God of High School.

Manhwa | My Korean Addiction

Unapologetic Themes, Plots & Romance

A notable distinction between traditional Japanese manga and South Korean Manhwa lies in Manhwa’s open embrace of unique plots, unconventional themes, and romantic tropes. While orthodox Japanese manga creators often hesitate to draw romantic scenes. They also mindfully avoid fan service when their creation gets an anime adaptation.

But Manhwa artists integrate explicit content alongside narratives that explore not only themes of abuse and violence but also delve into infidelity. If you are new to Manhwa, you might see a huge number of popular Manhwa with adult themes that require an 18+ audience.

My Happy Marriage | Ani.Trendz

Manhwa’s Dedicated Young Female Audience

Undoubtedly, manga and anime have garnered widespread appeal among both males and females across the globe. However, the realm of Manhwa reveals an intriguing twist. Manhwa’s primary target audience isn’t young males, but rather young females.

Young girls who love to read bold romance stories or fan-made manhwa of their favorite Korean actors. This unique direction has enabled the Manhwa industry to exert a significant influence, leading to the adaptation of some of its most popular works into celebrated K-dramas and movies.

Now, if you’re an Otaku, you might be familiar with an ongoing anime My Happy Marriage. Interestingly enough, this show originated as a Manhwa, took on a new life as a movie, and has now blossomed into an anime, showcasing the remarkable journey that Manhwa can take.

Manhwa | LastStopAnime

Bottom Line

We hope that we’ve successfully peeled back the layers of excitement and mystery surrounding Manhwa and why it has held the spotlight in recent years. For those seeking insights into traditional Japanese manga and mastering the art of reading them, we recommend our guide to reading manga like a pro.

But WAIT! If you are a Shoujo fan like us, make sure to read our top picks of this season so that you don’t miss out on all the popular romance stories of summer 2023!


Zrish Khan

Zrish is a passionate critic in the world of anime, manga/manhwa, and KPop. She offers in-depth insights that illuminate the nuances of these genres with deep analysis. With a keen eye for detail, her reviews take readers on an enlightening journey through both classic and contemporary series.