It’s an exciting time to be alive, especially if you like reading comics. If you’ve grown tired of the West’s graphic novels and Japan’s mangas, you can try Korea’s new brightly-colored digital imports.
And no, it’s not K-Pop.
Webtoons or manhwa, the Korean counterpart of manga, have finally earned their place in the comic echelons, a spot dominated by Western comic artists and Japanese mangakas.
But it isn’t a fun rocket ride: the people behind the phenomena slowly climbed up and punched a hole for the forerunners. The combination of providence and hard work finally pays off.
Whether you’re a webtoon newbie here for a sniff or a manhwa enjoyer looking for another story to binge-scroll on, here is a complete list of the best manhwa.
Table of ContentsShow
15. Black Haze
Let’s begin with Rood Chrishi, a humorous young illusionist raised by his sibling, Kielnode. Moreover, he’s hiddenly mighty. Like, one of the most powerful globally kind of mighty.
Rood is actually the famous Black Magician with the awakened name Blow. In his awakened state, he becomes a badass black-haired man engulfed in black mana.
The thing is, Kielnode has become overprotective of his little brother as a result of their shared past traumas.
As the Master of the guild, Opion, Kielnode uses his position to send Rood out on trivial missions and odd jobs, protecting him from forces who intend to disturb the Black Magician.
While the art isn’t the best in this list, and the world-building is not fully developed, the webtoon creates a likable character with funny antics and a mysterious-enough premise.
14. True Beauty
One great thing about webtoons is the vast array of popular genres.
While the manga-reading populace’s appetite is predominantly occupied by shounen and isekai, webtoons offer popular representatives of romance, horror, and even LBTQ+.
So it was no surprise that True Beauty found its way to readers’ hearts in 2018, significantly boosting manhwa’s readership at the time.
The webtoon is about Jugyeong Lim, a teenager bullied in her younger years for being perceived as ugly.
One day, she decides to binge-watch makeup tutorial videos and ends up mastering the art. Of course, it’s probably her MC powers acting up.
She uses her newfound skills to change her life, transforming herself into a famous, attractive beauty.
She forms an unlikely relationship with two of the most popular boys in the school, and yes, of course, they’re K-Pop handsome.
Similar to Jugyeong, the manhwa can somehow paint over some of its flaws in bright colors, which readers can glean later as the story progresses.
Nonetheless, the attraction is palpable, with essential themes about beauty, self-esteem, and true love skillfully blended well.
Protagonist John Doe’s name goes along well with the fake persona he initially projects: powerless and typical. But he gets fed up and shuns that, choosing to become unOrdinary.
John faces various conflicts in the school and inside himself. He suppresses a monster inside him, content to lead an everyday school life.
Circumstances, of course, won’t let him, so he decides to show off his power and claim the school’s throne.
This echoes both vibes from popular mangas My Hero Academia and Mob Psycho 100. John is an overpowered shounen protagonist who hides his actual ability.
And much like Mob, any reader can see John’s mental state through visual cues. And when he lets himself go, he uses the best deterrence: unadulterated violence.
12. Sweet Home
Take two weary sci-fi tropes and combine them into a webtoon about survival and self-realization, and you will get one of the best horror manhwas ever created.
Hyun Cha is depressed and suicidal, having gone through traumatic high school years and subsequently losing his family in an accident. If this isn’t sad enough, Hyun’s world goes through a “monsterization” apocalypse.
People suddenly turn into monsters reflecting their innermost desires. Unfortunately, Hyun isn’t an exception, and he starts showing symptoms of monsterization.
Hyun’s unpleasant experiences give him a sturdy will, and he is able to stave off the mysterious sickness. The inner monster, however, is persistent; this leads to Hyun becoming a half-monster.
Sweet Home somehow manages to use such dark themes to highlight issues about mental health, a subject many South Koreans see as taboo.
And this is where manhwa succeeds as an internet phenomenon: newcomer and veteran authors highlighting these topics without the fear of stereotype and censorship.
Kim Carnby and Hwang Young-chan, who rose to fame in the horror genre, previously made one of the top thriller manhwas ever, Sweet Home.
Bastard is a tale about Seon Jin’s endeavor to defy his wicked father. This isn’t the usual drunk, violent dad sob story. Jin’s father is a serial killer masquerading as a successful businessman and a doting parent.
Jin witnesses his dad’s cruel deed and is forced to become an unwilling accomplice. However, he keeps mum about the incident, weighing him down until his dad sets his target on pretty transfer student Yoon Kyun.
The son embraces his brewing bastardness and creates a plan to either prevent his father from doing the deed or eliminate him once and for all.
Bastard is a dark-themed manhwa, meaning it’s literally painted in all shades of gray. It might look lifeless at a glance, but the pulsing dread and adrenaline are tangible and alive on every page.
10. The Legendary Moonlight Sculptor
If Asian web fiction is a form of addiction, The Legendary Moonlight Sculptor is probably the gateway drug to many of its avid consumers, with the light novel introducing Weed’s adventures to the masses in 2007.
Weed’s tale in the VRMMORPG, Royal Road, was fraught with danger, exciting fights, and, most importantly, chances of earning money. Weed, or Lee Hyun IRL, is actually a penny-pinching god-rank gamer.
The weird part about this is that Weed’s job class isn’t exactly orthodox: he’s a sculptor. A legendary Moonlight Sculptor, to be exact.
With a set of skills not even the readers can anticipate, Weed embarks on a trail towards domination and riches, leaving behind corpses of enemies. And magical sculptures.
LMS is a distinct take on a popular “game isekai” subgenre, led by an offbeat set of main characters in an in-game world any reader and gamer would want to adventure in themselves.
9. Cheese In The Trap
If you want to try romantic manhwa but cringe at the thought of soapy scenes in dime-a-dozen stories, the OG webtoon Cheese in the Trap should be a good appetizer.
This classic manhwa follows model student Hong Seol, who returns to her studies after a long break. Unfortunately, she gets ensnared in a delicate relationship with “Mr. Perfect”, Yoo Jung.
Seol unintentionally attracts the envy and hostility of Jung’s many admirers. Complex characters and complex relationships in a college setting. Yeah, not that hard to figure out.
Cheese in the Trap is an indispensable manhwa mainstay.
The simple pre-webtoon-boom art style hides an intricate yet realistic study of college romantic relationships, class differences, and peer and social pressure.
Unsurprisingly, this well-written manhwa always finds its way into essential webtoon lists.
8. Second Life Ranker
Second Life Ranker is a top-tier revenge manhwa. You can announce this in webtoon forums, and almost everyone will nod, agree, and gush about it.
It’s a story about Yeon-woo, who inherits a hidden diary from his dead twin brother. And any journal that starts with “By the time you hear this, I guess I will be already dead….” is an ominous one.
The memoir details the mystical experiences of his twin brother Jeong-woo as a ‘ranker’ in the Obelisk or the Tower of the Sun God. In this mystical place, dimensions and universes intersect.
Second Life Ranker is not just a top-tier revenge manhwa. It’s much more than that; it’s a thriller that will silently drive you off your seat.
Of course, it’s not without flaws; SLR starts as a run-of-the-mill, somewhat slow-paced manhwa about an overpowered MC.
The story will pay the readers’ patience off with well-thought-of pacing, reasonable power scaling, and memorable twists. Of course, the fantastic art is just the delicious icing on the cake.
Catharsis takes “fighting your inner demons” literally in this horror webtoon that explores the human mind like the dark corridor it is.
Leon Mori is bored with life, a social outcast, and is somehow attracted to his teacher. Just a typical high school teenager. Leon, however, has unique eyes: he sees sounds in colors.
These eyes also see something else: abominable monsters roaming the night. It turns out these monsters, or timorems, are fears personified. And Catharsis is the organization that fights these things.
This webtoon is so damn good at showing what fear looks like; they’re legit scary.
The shift of colors also contrasts strongly—from gentle bright hues to dark, nightmarish backdrops of our fears.
Leon is also a relatable MC. He does what a high school MC is expected to do when confronting timorems—he gets frightened, runs off, screams, and faints.
Catharsis’ fear-fighting gimmick is not exactly an original idea. Sweet Home wields it well, too, but the author’s execution is a unique encounter any manhwa fan should experience.
6. Omniscient Reader
Omniscient Reader isn’t your average isekai.
While the unique approach isn’t something new, the pace and meticulously created setting and characters make Omniscient Reader a consistent occupant of best manhwa lists.
The manhwa focuses on a lonely office worker named Kim Dokja, who is passionate about web novels and has become the last reader of the oppressed “Three Ways to Survive the Apocalypse.”
As the novel’s author posts the epilogue, Dojka receives a congratulatory message. And mayhem ensues as the protagonist finds himself in a familiar scene: the novel’s opening paragraph.
Dokja unwittingly enters the novel’s story and becomes the only person who knows that the world will end.
Drawing enthusiasm from eager fans, the vibrant webcomic panels brought to life the familiar characters and settings from the widely-loved online novel “Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint”.
The manhwa’s idea is captivating to a reader who enjoys thinking. The exciting journey will capture your attention and make you support Dokja and his group of survivors.
After sleeping for 820 years, vampire guardian Cadis Etrama Di Raizel, also known as Rai, wakes up to a world he barely knows.
Now, this isn’t your usual vampire story.
Rai may be the typical vampire MC: distant, mysterious, and charismatic. But he’s not the murderous immortal who had long shed his compassion for the innocent.
Rai finds his loyal servant, Frankenstein, who blends in with the mortals as a high school principal.
The emotionless super-vampire then decides to become Korea’s oldest high schooler to learn the modern world’s values and trends.
Rai’s foray into the high school world is filled with silly antics, intriguing twists and turns, and explosive fight scenes.
As one of the webtoon’s Big 3, Noblesse deserves its rightful place in the hearts of fans. Earning an anime adaptation thanks to Crunchyroll is just a matter of course.
Although many fans noticed the plot quality drop in the later chapters, that didn’t stop them from accumulating more than 400 million views on Webtoons alone.
4. The Beginning After The End
The Beginning After the End is another representative of isekai manhwa. Just like the others in this list, this is also a rare beast of a story.
King Grey is an orphan who becomes a king in a martial world where the respect you are afforded depends on how big your fist is. Yet, despite his reaching the top, Grey feels lost and lonely.
You could say that his assassination via poison is the emancipation his soul longs for.
Grey reincarnates in a magical world, as Arthur Leywin. Moreover, Arthur is very different; he was born into a loving family and is surrounded by people.
The former king restarts his adventure with renewed goals and dreams.
TBATE works because Arthur isn’t overwhelmingly powerful. Instead, he is talented and intelligent and uses these traits to become more powerful.
He forges relationships with every encounter, and these bonds strengthen him emotionally.
In the story, one sees an overall growth of a great character. Not just an already-OP character who is mysterious and defeats bad guys for the heck of it.
Grey feels how heavy the head that holds the crown is; how lonely it is at the top.
Hence when he reincarnates as Arthur, he develops a new sense of purpose—a will to live his life to the fullest.
Truly a beginning after the end, where you can’t help but follow his story as you cheer him on.
3. The God of High School
If you miss classic fighting mangas, say no more. Here’s a manhwa all about fighting, where the main characters talk less and fight more.
And it centers on fighting tournaments. You can practically feel your favorite childhood fighting anime jump out of your memory.
Webtoon-favorite The God of High School evokes that familiar feeling, like how Dragon Ball Z once made an entire generation watch its fights.
TGOH is a story about a 17-year-old martial artist Mori Jin, who gets recruited to fight in a martial arts tournament called “The God of High School.”
And much like DBZ, the opponents the lead characters face upgrade from low-level to world-level to even realms beyond the scope of human prowess.
But what separates TGOH from the beloved old anime is the introduction of borrowed powers from the world’s known supernatural beings.
Basically, this manhwa is a Korean love letter to both Dragon Ball Z and East Asian culture. And it’s the kind of love letter only a real fan could do.
The God of High School makes fighting stories fun again. Every fighting chapter is well-made, with combat scenes executed well. And with great art, to boot.
These scenes were even better when the anime by Crunchyroll Originals came out, garnering TGOH more readers who can’t sit still and learn more about Jin’s adventures.
2. Tower Of God
Besides the No. 1 on this list, the anime announcement of this isekai manhwa is one of the most anticipated. Of course, who wouldn’t want to see this story come alive?
Tower of God revolves around the boy named Twenty-Fifth Bam and his feats inside the mysterious Tower. This enigmatic structure isn’t simple: it houses more than just beings and trials.
The manhwa’s plot is something of a marvel itself.
The Tower is a Pandora’s box of mysteries; the immense detail bestowed upon the story is so exciting that the subpar initial art style doesn’t do it justice.
The good thing is author SIU doesn’t also slack one bit in improving his art. As readers go on, the change becomes noticeable. The latter chapters are manhwa eye candy.
While SIU isn’t exactly Eiichiro Oda, the massive world-building integrated into the storyline is reminiscent of One Piece. And the plotlines are well-written and, most importantly, resolved.
No wonder it has 1 billion views in Webtoon alone.
1. Solo Leveling
A few among the other manhwas in the list can compete with Solo Leveling for the top place, but there’s no denying the impact made by this beloved webtoon.
Any underdog story, especially great ones, will always be highly addictive for the manhwa- and manga-consuming denizens. And Solo Leveling is one damn good underdog tale.
The manhwa is about Sung Jinwoo, a rank E hunter dubbed as ‘humanity’s weakest.’ Jinwoo climbs up the strength ladder and becomes humanity’s hope.
In a world where spatial disturbances called Gates have appeared all over the world, bringing in monsters from other realms, the weak Jinwoo is forced to entertain danger to pay for his mother’s medical bills.
He gains a fortuitous event of a lifetime when he becomes the Player of the System, giving him the power to level up continuously through quests and Gate expeditions.
The story was already an addictive classic tale of a hero when it was released as a web novel. But, when DUBU came in and gave life and color to the fans’ imagination, Solo Leveling’s fortune changed.
It attracted fans from all over the world and, in turn, new fans to the webtoon industry. Of course, great story plus eyegasmic art? This popularity is well-deserved.
Ever imagine how to make a shadow character look cool? DUBU has given life to Jinwoo’s sentient Shadows, giving them a look more badass than a fan can visualize.
With a Netmarble RPG game deal plus a 2023 anime coming in, Solo Leveling is unstoppable, much like its protagonist.
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The most popular webtoons of 2023 (so far)
Although it ended in 2022, The God of High School remains the top webtoon in the world - coming in with double the traffic of its nearest competitor, and accounting for roughly 20% of Webtoons' total traffic.
As expected, Solo Leveling is the all-time favorite manhwa of fans as the series has a record 334,977 user votes on the MyAnimeList.Is there an anime based on manhwa? ›
Of all the anime based on manhwa, Noblesse is easily among the most popular. Due to its incredible popularity, Noblesse was adapted to anime in 2020, after which the series' popularity soared even more. The series is available to watch on Crunchyroll for international fans.What are the big 3 webtoons? ›
What Webtoon's Big 3 Are (& Their Shonen Manga Equivalents) The Big Three of Webtoon are finally getting their own anime. Here's what you should know about Noblesse, The God of High School, and Tower of God.What is the most viewed webtoon ever? ›
About the webtoon: Lore Olympus is one of the most popular romance webtoons to exist and has around 1.2 billion views and 6.1 million subscribers as of November 2022.What is the oldest manhua? ›
The first successful manhua magazine, Shanghai Sketch (or Shanghai Manhua) appeared in 1928. Between 1934 and 1937 about 17 manhua magazines were published in Shanghai. This format would once again be put to propaganda use with the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War.What is manhwa anime called? ›
Manhwa (Korean: 만화; Hanja: 漫畵; Korean pronunciation: [manhwa]) is the general Korean term for comics and print-cartoons. Outside Korea, the term usually refers to South Korean comics. Manhwa is greatly influenced by Japanese Manga comics. Modern Manhwa has extended its reach to many other countries.What was the first Korean anime? ›
First animated feature, Hong Gil-dong (홍길동), was produced by Segi Company and animated by Shin Dong-heon in 1967.What is a Korean anime called? ›
Korean anime is called "Manhwa." Manhwa is a term used to refer to comics and graphic novels created in South Korea.Is Webtoon getting more popular? ›
Webtoons are becoming more popular globally, with almost 30 percent of respondents in a survey conducted in various countries stating that webtoons were very popular. Webtoons are South Korean online comics that can be consumed using the service's website or mobile application.
Parents need to know that WEBTOON - Find Yours is a platform for reading and commenting on user-submitted comics/serial graphic novels. The terms of service stipulate that users must be 13+ and that users who are younger must have supervision from an appropriate adult (i.e., parent or guardian).What is the most popular webcomic? ›
XKCD, a darkly funny stick figure comic is #1, showing,once again, that people like to laugh. The big winners: Alexa and Compete agree on the top three webcomics: xkcd, Cyanide and Happiness and Penny Arcade.