There are a number of ways to enjoy visual stories like comics and manga, with some people turning to the physical books and others preferring to read digital copies. There is also another route people can take with these stories, and that's through narratives released primarily online. Even when it comes to digital comics and manga, there a handful of different ways to enjoy them, with this article specifically focusing on webtoons.
What Is a Webtoon?
While Webtoon is the name of one of the most prominent platforms for these stories, a webtoon is also the name of the medium itself. Webtoons are visual narratives released directly online, and many are reminiscent of manga in terms of art style; however, there are also webtoons that feel similar to print comics.
Plus, they differ from traditional comics and manga -- both physical and digital -- because they are not formatted like a book. Instead of pages or horizontal strips, a webtoon is one long, vertical strip, making it easy to read on one's phone. This is ideal since all webtoons are available online, and many webtoon platforms have apps to access their stories, along with their websites.
How Are Webtoons Different From Comics and Manga?
As mentioned earlier, webtoons are released as digital comics first, which is one of the main differences between them and physical comics and manga. While some comics and manga also have digital counterparts, they are usually formatted similarly to how their books are published, with the story broken up by pages. Meanwhile webtoons are initially designed to be read on a screen first, whether it's a laptop, phone or tablet. Furthermore, webtoons are able to create a more unique reading experience because of the digital format. Some stories will incorporate animation, sound or music along with the narratives, making these stories even more immersive.
Where to Read Webtoons?
There are a few websites one can turn to for webtoons in English, and this article will focus on two of the most popular platforms, with the first one being Webtoon. The stories here are available to those with or without an account for free. If someone has an account, then they can buy coins, which gives them early access to chapters that won't be available publically until a later date. It also has daily releases for new chapters, with a schedule for what's coming out each day on the homepage.
Another prominent website is Tapas. Readers can enjoy many stories for free, but some webtoons have locked chapters, so users will have to pay for these premium chapters with Tapas ink, and the money goes directly to the creators. Along with the comics, Tapas also has prose novels available digitally.
What Webtoons to Start Off With?
There are thousands of titles between these platforms, with each website including lists of the most popular series currently available and/or a staff picks section. Along with the platforms' recommendations, here are some great series to start with.
For new readers who want something they may already be familiar with, there are a handful of webtoons that have been adapted to screen, like Crunchyroll's Noblesse and Netflix's Sweet Home, so for fans of those series, they can read the stories they're based on. These are both technically manhwa titles, but they are available on Webtoon, so they're a good introduction for Korean digital comics, as well as other webtoons available on the platform.
There are also some webtoons that have already been published physically, like Heavy Vinyl. For fans of physical media, starting with the book is a great way to see if webtoon stories are appealing, and if they are, then they can look for other titles on the platforms.
As stated earlier, many webtoons are similar in style to manga, so for fans of shonen, unOrdinary could appeal to those who love My Hero Academia given this webtoon's superpowered high school hierarchy. Meanwhile, Yuna and Kawachan is great for those in need of a monster filled apocalypse that is unlike the more edgy stories that have come beforehand.
For those looking beyond the action genre, slice of life titles like My Giant Nerd Boyfriend and Cassandra Comics are a good introduction to the more mundane yet sweet side of webtoons. There are also plenty of genre comedies that keep things low stakes while playing with fantasy. For instance, Fangs brilliantly depicts a vampire and a werewolf's love story for a modern audience, and The Little Trash Mermaid has a dark sense of humor to it as the webtoon explores the life a mermaid in the polluted ocean.
Of course there are plenty of romance titles to choose from, with Lore Olympus -- a reimagining of the Persephone and Hades myth -- being Webtoon's number one title. With so many titles to choose from, these are just a few places one could start as they explore the wide world of webtoons.