Manhwa are the Korean equivalent of manga, with very different storytelling perspective and artistic expression. These days, manhwa is rapidly becoming popular as various notable stories are being brought to us by Korean authors. Like manga, manhwa is a medium which has various different stories, dealing with a vast plethora of themes. We’re here to delve into some of the more… morbid stories. We’re talking dark stories that stick with you long after we’ve read them. So prepare yourself for Top 10 Dark Manhwa.
We would just like to warn our readers that some of these works do deal with some disturbing themes and thus, this is our Trigger Warning. Please proceed with caution.
10. Dear Boy
- Manhwaka: Sgt
- Genres: Action, Drama, School
- Volumes: 75
- Published: December 2014 – July 2016
Whenever Yong Ju’s classmates were being bullied, he always used to turn his eye away from it and pretend it did not happen. However, Yong Ju soon becomes the target of brutal bullying. Frustrated, Yong Ju decides to hatch a plan to get back at them, but it goes horribly wrong. This drives Yong Ju’s older brother to set out on a path to get justice, but this justice is fuelled by a sibling’s desire to exact ruthless revenge.
After Yong Ju’s attempt to stand up to his bullies goes terribly wrong and he just ends up with a bruised and beaten face, he attempts to commit suicide by jumping from the school rooftop. The fall puts him into a comatose situation, prompting his brother to look into the people responsible. This dark manhwa shows how the teachers’ interest in the welfare of the school and not its students leaves Yong Ju and many others like him in a precarious situation. The level of violence, especially since it is at school level, is damning.
9. The Pale Horse
- Manhwaka: Choo Hye-Yeon
- Genres: Action, Mystery, Drama, Fantasy, Historical, Romance, Supernatural
- Volumes: TBC
- Published: 2010 –
France, 1835. Rose Dupre is a beautiful girl who is bullied and called the witch’s daughter. Everyone says that her mother is a witch who kills and eats other people, but for the longest time, Marie and Pierre, Rose’s friends, refuse to believe it and they decide to protect their friend. But what if… what if the things people say to Rose are not just rumours…? What if fact is truly more horrifying than fiction?
This is a story of bullying and the unbelievable cruelty that human beings are capable of exercising. Rose is often attacked and chastised by her fellow villagers because they believe her mother to have been a witch. However, villagers’ treatment of Rose and her mother are just a projection; the person who was originally thought to be the witch is supposedly dead and gone. Rose and her family suffer greatly because of the unpredictable nature of public opinion, as well as the sheer paranoia that governs the other villagers’ thinking.
8. The Flowers of Evil
- Manhwaka: Lee Hyeon-Sook
- Genres: Drama, Romance, School, Psychological
- Volumes: 7
- Published: 2006 – 2008
Se-Joon and Se-Wa are siblings with a very dark and strange relationship. Se-Wa is considered psychotic by the people around her, and she is incredibly attached to her brother. Se-Joon is all that she sees and there is nothing out there that is anything like her brother. However, Se-Wa’s incredible obsession over her brother has left very little space for Se-Joon himself to express his feelings about the whole thing.
The Flowers of Evil is a dark manhwa that deals with themes of incest and while not necessarily an indicator of the darkness of any work, it is the nature of Se-Wa’s obsession with her brother that is truly chilling. It shows how people respond to situations of unrequited love and just how much love as a concept governs our thinking. Characters in this dark manhwa also tend to be incredibly manipulative and calculating, showing the true complexity of human relationships.
7. Killing Stalking
- Manhwaka: Koogi
- Genres: Drama, Shounen-Ai, Psychological, Thriller
- Volumes: 33
- Published: 2016 –
Yoon Bum is a quiet, scrawny boy who has a crush on one of the most handsome and popular boys at his school, one named Sangwoo. Yoon Bum is completely obsessed with Sangwoo and driven by this obsession, Yoon Bum decides to do something completely off the rails: he enters Sangwoo’s home. However, what Yoon Bum sees on the inside of this house is nothing he had ever imagined.
Killing Stalking is an intensely dark manhwa which brings in several elements to its characters. It is jarring from the very beginning as Sangwoo’s character is shown to be that of a cruel, murderous madman. The level of violence and brutality shown in this dark manhwa is sometimes disturbing, and considering the fact that it is a story which began from the “romantic” feelings of the protagonist, it really places a dark spin on the ideas of romance and love – because what if the one you love is dangerous?
6. Tower of God
- Manhwaka: SIU
- Genres: Fantasy
- Volumes: TBC
- Published: 2010 –
A boy named Twenty-Fifth Bam has spent his entire life trapped beneath a strange tower. After chasing his friend, Rachel, who went into the tower, Twenty-Fifth Bam opens a door into the tower and at each floor, he is presented with different challenges which test his mettle. Tower of God is the story of young Twenty-Fifth Bam as he does whatever is necessary to retrieve his friend.
In order for a person within The Tower to ascend to the next level, they need to pass an extremely difficult test of strength and wit. This is an incredibly dangerous task and Twenty-Fifth Bam is not the only person within The Tower. Due to the fact that each character’s goal is different, this dark manhwa also deals with themes of betrayal and despair. However, it also shows the extent to which the protagonist will go to save his best friend.
5. After School War Activities
- Manhwaka: Ha Il-Kwon
- Genres: Action, Drama, School, Sci-Fi, Military, Psychological
- Volumes: 5
- Published: November 2012 – December 2013
Strange things appear in the sky and the slowly begins to die as a result. In South Korea, there is a notable lack of military strength. The physically capable individuals who’d be in a position to fight, such as high school and college students, have no choice but to enlist themselves to the military. This is in order to help others survive – at the risk of their very lives.
This manga paints a very dreary and terrible picture. Young people are forced to grow up faster in an unforgiving world that doesn’t give them the time to be children. People die as the military forces attempt to engage the strange purple things which now inhabit the sky but pose an incredible threat to people as well. What makes this manhwa dark is the way in which it poses the question: if the world as you knew it ceased to exist and became something that actively threatened your life, what would you do?
4. 3 Level Combination
- Manhwaka: Ha Il-Kwon
- Genres: Drama, Romance, School, Sci-Fi, Psychological, Seinen
- Volumes: 3
- Published: July 2008 – December 2008
In a distant dystopian future, robots are becoming an increasingly familiar sight. A young boy named Hogu lives in dire straits with his grandmother and sister – a situation that can only be described as near total or horrific poverty. Despite his kind soul, his classmates ostracize and bully Hogu frequently. Hogu is friendless and alone, at least until he meets a certain robot girl.
3 Level Combination is a work that takes elements from science fiction in order to create a story similar to what we are familiar with: a boy meets a robot and has to take care of her. The darkness of the story comes in when they introduce Hogu, as well as his dire home situation. In what seems like a Ha Il-Kwon theme of choice, the effects of poverty are explored by this dark manhwa. It can be hard to stomach as there are also themes of abuse in this manhwa.
3. Love Parameter
- Manhwaka: Kkun, Insane
- Genres: Adult, Drama, Ecchi, Harem, Manhwa, Mature, Romance, School life, Seinen, Smut, Supernatural, Webtoons
- Volumes: TBC
- Published: 2015 –
Young Hoon is a hopeless geek who has a terrible time with the ladies. However, one day, he receives a special pair of glasses which change Young Hoon’s life forever. The glasses enable Young Hoon to see the various parameters of the people, and the women around him. He was hence capable of seeing what makes them tick and how to approach them romantically. However, it seems like Young Hoon’s noble venture of finding a single girlfriend with the glasses’ power is much more difficult than he thought.
This one is not your average romance as it has a Murphy’s Law approach to everything regarding its main character. After obtaining the glasses, things become progressively more difficult as our protagonist runs into several women and becomes intimate with them. Everything goes very wrong as he finds himself in situations where he must lie and deceive the people around him and his relationships become blotted with lies. The story also has a storyline surrounding a rape, and there are several rapes in this dark manhwa, hence it is an incredibly dark work that not just anyone can stomach.
2. Save Me
- Manhwaka: Creator 1230
- Genres: Action
- Volumes: TBC
- Published: 2016 –
Hyeongoh, the student ranked first place in terms of academics at his school, is disabled and is forever getting made fun of by the school’s bullies. With no friends to help him and no way out of his precarious situation, Hyeongoh finds himself in a dark situation. Until somehow, at some point, he finally has someone who will stand by his side and be at his aide!
This dark manhwa is deservedly in our top 2. It is dark because of the way in which it illustrates an account of Hyeongoh – a blow-by-blow view of how Hyeongoh suffered incredible levels of cruelty from his fellow classmates because of his disability. The physical and psychological impact of this terrible treatment is thoroughly explored and we are made one with his suffering.
1. DICE: The Cube that Changes Everything
- Manhwaka: Yun Hyunseok
- Genres: Drama, Psychological, Supernatural
- Volumes: TBC
- Published: May 2013 –
If it were possible to completely reset your existence much like in a videogame, what would you do? Being at the bottom of the social pecking order in all spheres, Dong Tae accidentally finds a strange set of dice which, when rolled, enable the user to literally change their personal attributes and characteristics – much like in a videogame! After living a life tormented by bullies, perhaps Dong Tae has found something amazing… or maybe it is what will bring everything around him to ruin?
The reason why we consider this the darkest manhwa is due to the incredibly heavy content delivered in the plot. This deals with themes of poverty, depression, violence, suppression, angst, self-esteem and various other heavy elements. Dong Tae is a teenager who hates his terrible life and receives the opportunity to change his life through the dice; however, when more people are introduced to the dice, many people are given the ability to actualise their wildest dreams. Despite the dice’s good influence, things just become much, much worse for Dong Tae…
Dark manga and dark manhwa are often incredibly intense stories which often leave a lasting impression on those who read them. This is due to the fact that they tend to tackle a wider variety of themes and topics which are often neglected in other works – for good reason. These stories can greatly outline humanity’s horrible nature, others simply give us a cynical view of the world. Are there any dark manhwa that we haven’t listed? Drop a comment below and tell us all about your favourite dark manhwa!