Like manga, manhwa is a medium capable of portraying a vast variety of themes, experiences and feelings through each page. We become highly invested in good stories with interesting characters and journeys; however, things are generally infinitely more interesting when the plot you thought is, simply never was, and the characters you thought you knew turn out to be completely different people. We’ve seen it several times before and we tend to relish these moments – which is why we thought to turn you to ten manhwa titles that definitely have intense switch-ups in their stories. The suspense is greater when you know there’s definitely something out there…
- Authors: Hwang Young Chan (Art), Kim Carnby (Story)
- Genres: Mystery, Drama, Horror, Romance, Psychological
- Volumes: 5
- Published: July 2014 – May 2016
Seon Jin is a boy who can never find peace. He is relentlessly bullied at school because of his quiet and unassuming nature; however, the worst of his problems is at home, because there is nothing Seon Jin fears more than his own father. While on the surface, Jin’s father is a successful businessman and an all-round good guy, in reality he is a sadistic serial killer and Jin is his unfortunate and unwilling accomplice. This continues for years, but when Jin’s father sets his sights on the beautiful transfer student Yoon Kyun, Jin must make a choice: let her fall victim to the same fate as all the others, or be the bastard child who stands against his own parent.
Kim Carnby definitely knows their way around a plot twist – mostly because of the way in which Carnby and Hwang’s stories have had their dramatic thriller-mystery element. This makes it almost necessary that the plot be set up with several loops and foils, foreshadowing and other dramatic elements in order to build tension. Ultimately, in the case of Bastard, the 5 short volumes are like a shock to the system and if you enjoy a good deception from an artistic medium, Bastard is a great manhwa with which to start.
9. I Love Yoo
- Authors: Quimchee
- Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance
- Volumes: 89+
- Published: April 2017 – ???
Yoo Shin Ae is a girl who has been plagued with pain and misfortune since she was younger and has hence decided that she wants nothing to do with people. Content with her antisocial, loveless life that’s everything short of exciting, Shin Ae’s life starts to change when she accidentally ruins an unsuspecting stranger’s clothes. Will Shin Ae go back to the boring life she lived before, or will she be inviting change?
For the most part, the backstory of the protagonist Yoo Shin Ae is quite wispy and incomplete. We know that she was bullied in middle school and the story does quite a good job of making it out to seem like Yeong Gi’s current girlfriend, Alyssa Cho, was involved. That’s to show how saturated in characterisation the story really is – there are still stories about individual characters that must be told in their entirety; however, I Love Yoo has an incredible tendency to throw curveballs both at the protagonist, Shin Ae, and at the reader. It is an emotional rollercoaster – beware!
8. Dead Days
- Authors: Dey
- Genres: Thriller
- Volumes: 3
- Published: September 2014 – December 2015
It is four days after the outbreak of a zombie virus. Yeo Jingook is a man who has been trapped in a room for those four days. Yeo is constantly plagued by dreams about zombies completely ruining his life and now those dreams have come to be an unfortunate reality. Forced into this dire apocalyptic situation, Jingook has to find a way to survive not only the zombies, but other survivors as well.
Dead Days is an approach to the zombie apocalypse plot scenario that we don’t see too often. We’re not going to go into the messy, gory details; however, this manhwa is a heavy ride of high stakes and high tension seeping through each and every page. The art is also interesting and adds to the entire experience, with interesting stills and panels spread out throughout.
7. DICE – The Cube That Changes Everything
- Authors: Yun Hyun Seok
- Genres: Fantasy
- Volumes: 255+
- Published: July 2014 - Ongoing
What would you do if you could change your fate? Dongtae is a short, timid and unattractive high school boy who has a crush on Eunjoo, the most popular girl at his school. He has always been relentlessly bullied, shunned and dehumanised by the people around him, but she… she’s different. When a transfer student named Taebin enters the fray, Dongatae’s unrequited love bites differently as the near-perfect new kid asks her out. Jealous, Dongtae decides to stalk Taebin, hoping to find something suspicious. While spying on him, Dongtae finds a strange die and rolls it. He is surprised to realise he has become a “Dicer”, a person who performs quests in order to earn dice which are then rolled and converted into points that can be used to boost one’s own attributes. Excited for the prospect of a better life, Dongtae doesn’t realise the darkness behind the cubes.
DICE seemingly starts out as a story about a teenage recluse’s growth from being bullied to being respected through the help of strange dice; however, soon after the manhwa’s first dice-related death, it becomes a complete rollercoaster. The mystery shrouding the truth about the origin of the dice, the identity of X, the nature of reality as you know it is always questionable within this universe.
6. Dr. Frost
- Authors: Lee Jong Bum
- Genres: Drama, Psychological
- Volumes: 4
- Published: December 2014 – April 2017
The genius Dr Frost believes that all human beings are inherently the same. With this belief, he runs his sessions in the consultation room of Yonggang University’s psychology department. He is incredibly skilled at reading people; however, Frost lacks empathy and emotions like love. Despite this, he uses his expansive knowledge to solve every case that comes his way. His assistant is Yoon Seong Ah, a young psychology student at Yonggang University and as the duo work together on cases, Dr Frost slowly comes to discover a part of himself.
Highly regarded in Korea, Dr Frost even went as far as receiving a live-action adaptation of the Dr’s exploits! Seeming to match the sinewy nature of the human mind, the manhwa Dr Frost is an intense roller coaster with a beautiful artistic backdrop and a main character who grabs your attention from the word “psychology”. Dr Frost can easily be found on LINE’s Webtoon platform.
5. The Breaker
- Authors: Park Jin Hwan (Art), Jeon Geuk Jin (Story)
- Genres: Action, Comedy, Drama, Martial Arts, School
- Volumes: 72
- Published: June 2007 – July 2010
Yi Shi Woon lives a pretty unfortunate life at Nine Dragons High. He is bullied and beaten every single day, but one day, a man named Han Chun Woo witnesses one of these incidents but doesn’t help Shi Woon at all – instead he calls him a coward for not standing up for himself. Soon after that incident, Shi Woon is surprised to find out that Chun Woo is the new English teacher at his school. In an attempt to learn self-defense, Shi Woon enrolls at a martial arts school and on his way back, Shi Woon sees Chun Woo in a violent situation of his own. Chun Woo quickly dispatches his attackers and Shi Woon catches it all on camera, using the footage to blackmail Chun Woo into teaching him how to fight. Chun Woo agrees, introducing Shi Woon to the dark and dangerous world of martial arts. Will Shi Woon survive?
The Breaker is a story told over two legs – The Breaker: New Waves is a continuation of this intense action-packed, shounen-esque work that does two things amazingly well: fights and art! With a slew of mysterious and powerful characters, particularly the enigmatic Chun Woo! Underpinned by the dynamic between a powerful master and a naive rookie, The Breaker is filled with unexpected twists and turns!
4. Let’s Play
- Authors: Mongie
- Genres: Romance
- Volumes: 75
- Published: November 2017 – ???
Sam Young is a young game developer with big dreams, but life comes at you fast. Her debut game gets a scathing review from an incredibly popular streamer and her life goes into even further disarray when he moves into the same apartment complex as Sam – right next door! Sam is unable to hide her contempt for the neighbour who trampled her dreams before they even took off... but why does she still find him a little attractive? Let’s Play, and find out!
Let’s Play is an incredibly well put-together story with elements that are relatable and rooted in real life. Yet, at the same time, it manages to keep a light-hearted feel when it needs to. The art truly carries the story through with brilliant colours and nice designs; however, the thing that keeps one reading is the manhwa’s plot driven by all of its characters. Sam is surrounded by a cast of individuals who all have their own lives to live and their own problems, just like she does.
3. Tower of God
- Authors: SIU
- Genres: Fantasy
- Volumes: 3+
- Published: July 2014 – Ongoing
Twenty-Fifth Bam is a boy who has lived his entire life trapped beneath a mysterious tower, with only his best friend, Rachel, to keep him company. When Rachel enters the Tower one day, Bam manages to open a door into it, with the intent of finding his friend in the labyrinth that awaits him within. On each floor of the Tower, Bam faces gruelling challenges that could very well cause him to lose his life.
With a story that has been going strong since the very beginning, Tower of God is a LINE Webtoon with ample twists and turns along the way that will have you binging it to catch up, then salivating every week for the next chapter. Twenty-Fifth Bam’s journey to find his best friend is a well-written, well-illustrated descent into the labyrinth of the tower, a labyrinth much like the story itself!
2. True Beauty
- Authors: Yaongyi
- Genres: Drama
- Volumes: 40+
- Published: August 2018 – Ongoing
Jugyeong is a nerdy high school student with low self-esteem who decides to master the art of make-up after binge-watching beauty videos on YouTube. With her appearance improved by her make-up use, she sees her social standing rise up literally overnight, but at what cost? Will her newly found elite status be compatible with the person she is and continues to be regardless of her appearance? What if the cute boy she likes finds out the truth behind the facebeat?
The initial premise based on the concept of lookism may seem vapid to some; but the make-up centred approach to the manhwa gives it an edge it uses quite interestingly – the protagonist Jugyeong’s path to self-esteem is illuminated by her use of make-up. The manhwa presents a layered storyline in Jugeyong’s relationship with Suho and there are various turns along the way that will leave you gasping!
- Authors: Park Tae Jun
- Genres: Action, Comedy, Drama, Supernatural
- Volumes: 228+
- Published: November 2014 – Ongoing
Park Hyun Suk is an overweight and unattractive boy who is constantly bullied and abused at school and he wishes things could be different. When his mother witnesses him being bullied, she refuses to stand for it and sends him to another town, where something strange happens: he wakes up one day to find that he has a second body, one that is attractive, tall and athletic! Maybe things are finally turning around for him… but is it really that simple?
Filled to the brim with various themes and characters, Lookism is an incredibly whimsical yet dark story that goes into several different routes. The storylines are varied and interesting and concern Daniel and some of the various characters he has met. Lookism is a wild ride – from gang warfare, to abuse and bullying, to homelessness, crime and of course, the central premise of lookism, the manhwa is a sinewy blend of twists and turns every step of the way.
There are many different things that make a story good, for various reasons. Plot twists, as you can see, are one thing that truly grab and keep a reader’s attention. The ten works we’ve mentioned here are by no means the only guaranteed ride – there are so many more out there with insane twists and turns! If you know of a manhwa with great plot twists, drop a comment below and tell us all about them!