From Manga to Manhwa

Speed Racer:by ryanhartkopf, flickr

Japanese geek offerings have been popular American culture since the days children learned to say ‘Speed Racer.’ Among the well known, well loved offerings from the Land of the Rising Sun are manga imports. This comic art  style  features a plethora of genres and characters  for the discerning geek to embrace alongside their sushi.  Carried by companies like  Tokyo Pop and Dark Horse, these guilty pleasures have been translated in to English and are snapped up at book stores and conventions across the United States.  In fact, manga characters are as identifyable as Captain America and Batman.  Who doesn’t know Fruits Basket, Sailor Moon, and Cowboy Bebop?  For the lovers of all things Asian, there’s no need to stop at one island in the Pacific. Journeying over just to the Asian mainland can bring out a whole new offering in the style known as manhwa, another branch in the Asian comic book tree.  Manhwa is the style of comic book art from Korea, and on our side of the world it pertains mostly to selections that come from South Korea.

Star Project Chiro, a manhwa offering: Udon Entertainment, Seoul Cultural Corporation

Manhwa has much to offer the reader already familiar with an array of manga offers.  The art  packs fluidity and collection worthy content.   Modern times have impacted the art form heavily.  Genre options are rich, diverse, and feature enjoyable story telling. How can you tell the difference between manwha or manga?  Are there any?  For the curious here are a few distinctions:

1.) Presentation: Instead of the right-to-left style of mangas, manhwa’s are left-to-right because the original language can be written like English. This makes introducing a newbie to an Asian manga that much easier!  For the established graphic novel reader, it’d be like picking up an English offering. One can follow the panels of dialogue in the same way that’s already known.

2.) Art:  The Korean style features exaggeration in facial features (such as the eyes) while keeping people at realistic proportions in height. Artists employ more use of screen tone as well.

3.) Korean Language:  The artists’ names, names of characters, and the untranslated sound effects in the panels are distinct entities that are identifying markers given they are different from their Japanese counterparts. Linguists may be aware of Korean names having syllables that don’t exist in Japanese.

Beyond the tech specs, why pick up a manhwa?   A country’s popular art is a great way to get introduced to history, customs, and mythology.  By viewing a reflection of modern times through another’s eyes, you can see how time passes and travel to a place you might not otherwise go.  You’re introducing yourself to a new experience and helping to expose others in turn when you share!

A great place to start could be to check out the offerings from the publishers listed above and also UDON Entertainment‘s manwha area, the Grim Peddler review, and as a special treat for cross-geekery goodness?  Go enjoy the manhwa  graphic novel version of Twilight, adapted and illustrated by Young Kim!

Twilight, the Graphic Novel: Stephenie Meyer, Adapted by Young Kim

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