If you love graphic novels, manga (Japanese comics), and manhwa (Korean comics), you’re probably already reading webtoons, which are online series, typically with full color episodes released weekly. Webtoons have long been a part of Korean mainstream, but their platforms (like LINE Webtoon) have since expanded to cover global artists. Since webtoons are optimized for viewing on mobile phones, you can read them wherever and whenever you are, so it’s easy to keep up with them. You can read an ep on a quick break in between online classes, or you can binge-read when you have more free time.
Life is hard enough when you’re in college, but it can be especially tough now that everyone’s caught in a weird sort of limbo because of the pandemic. You can turn to webtoons if you need a mental break while getting nuggets of wisdom along the way. Read on for some series that offer entertainment as well as great insight for navigating the issues you encounter in your teens.
The Makeup Remover by Lee Yeon
What It’s About: Yeseul grew up focusing on her studies, but when she enters college, her mom’s nagging shifts from making her study to getting her to look pretty. Pressured and confused, she gets the opportunity to learn more about what beauty means to her when she meets makeup artist Yuseong and becomes his model for a contest.
Why You Should Read It: This webtoon is a study on the pressure society puts on people to look a certain way and be considered “beautiful.” As much as we want to say “looks don’t matter,” the reality is very different. While the series’ premise might sound like a magic makeover story, it’s actually a lot more realistic than that. As Yeseul explores the pros and pitfalls of wearing makeup, she discovers that, whether they look good or bad, not everyone is as they seem.
Cheese in the Trap by soonkki
What It’s About: College student Seol believes things started falling apart for her after her first encounter with senior Jung. Everyone thinks Jung is perfect, but Seol knows there’s something else brewing under the surface. Now Jung is trying to get close to her. Are his motives genuine, or is she just falling into a trap?
Why You Should Read It: You might find that this webtoon sounds familiar because it was adapted into a K-drama, but trust us when we say nothing holds a candle to the original series (in fact, skip the K-drama). This isn’t your typical college romance, and mysterious Jung will keep you on your toes until the end. Seol’s experiences can get crazy, but they shape her into an assertive woman. The payoffs are worth it in the end.
Heartstopper By Alice Oseman
What It’s About: Openly gay Charlie hasn’t had the best experience at his British all-boys school. When he meets rugby player Nick, they instantly become friends. As their relationship blooms, the two must learn to navigate each other’s insecurities and support each other on their own journeys of healing.
Why You Should Read It: While Heartstopper’s protagonists are in high school, their experiences are universal and timeless. As the only openly gay student in his school, Charlie has gone through a lot, and he has other internal battles (we won’t mention them to keep this spoiler-free!), which the series handles with aplomb. At times poignant and heartbreaking, the story is at its best when it focuses on Charlie and Nick’s sweet relationship. Plus point: Netflix picked this up and will be turning it into a series.
Odd Girl Out by Morangji
What It’s About: Cheerful Nari is excited to enter high school after getting a makeover, but she ends up feeling unpretty when she becomes friends with the three most gorgeous girls in school. High school is tough, but she soon learns that she can get through anything with the help of her friends.
Why You Should Read It: This coming-of-age tale is guaranteed to get you emotional. Nari’s worries are so relatable, and you’ll feel like you’re growing up with her as she learns to love herself and realizes what makes her special. The still ongoing series tackles issues like starting and ending friendships, bullying, and even falling in love. Each of the characters get a turn to shine, and you’ll find yourself laughing and crying with them as you remember your own high school days.
Yumi’s Cells by Donggeon Lee
What It’s About: This is a story of how office worker Yumi lives her daily life. But behind each of her choices, there’s an army of cells in her brain running the show. With Love Cell at the helm, the cells get to work, taking care of Yumi’s love life.
Why You Should Read It: If there’s one series you should start reading before you start working, this is it. Our protagonist is in her early 30s, but we get flashbacks into her younger years and see her handling everything from her first love to her early career dreams. What makes the journey more fun, of course, is how each person’s cells affect their decisions. Think Inside Out on steroids. There’s a cell for every occasion like Fashion Cell, Naughty Cell, and even One-Step-Behind-Cell. It’s a hilarious setup, but the lessons you get from each episode are gold.