Webtoon Analysis: All of Us Are(n’t) Dead

I’ve spent every spare second playing Horizon Forbidden West and I’m trying to get my A+ cert for my job but *see above*. All in all, -0/10 for productivity. Nevertheless, I found yet another way to be unproductive and finished All of Us Are Dead.

Since I haven’t uploaded anything in like 1000 years, I thought I’d blog about this.

*spoilers*

All of Us Are Dead, by Joo Dong-geun (also known as Now At Our School), is a South Korean zombie apocalypse fiction taking place in a school. The story centers around a group of students at Hyosan High trying to survive as a zombie outbreak ravages their city faster than Red Bull pulled out of Russia. There are loads of characters who’s names I’m not gonna list, but I want to contrast Nayeon/Gwinam to Suhyeok/Namra because both duos want to survive. The former solely focus on their own self-preservation and desires, whilst the latter show incredible bravery and selflessness in trying to ensure their classmates survive too. (side note: it’s also a k-drama but I don’t really watch TV so can’t comment on the quality of that)

Notably, the government is semi-effective, rapidly quarantining Hyosan to prevent the infection from spreading and even dropping a sleep bomb on the zombies despite woketavists out-woking the wokest of us by insisting zombies have human rights. I found this level of competence from the government even more unbelievable than Mr. Lee, the science teacher, leaving zombie hamsters in the middle of his unlocked classroom. My dude’s sheer stupidity caused countless of deaths because he literally couldn’t keep those Hamsters home, or in glass cages with air pockets (albeit, apparently the k-drama does fix this incredible lapse of judgment).

Anyway, it’s these zombie Hamtaros who bite one his students, Hyeon-ju, setting off a chain reaction of sickness and sending the students of Hyosan scrambling to find ways to survive.

By comparing Gwinam and Nayeon to literally any other character in this story (including various zombies), but particularly to Namra and Suhyeok, we see all four want to survive but only one duo will do so by any means necessary. While initially the students hunker down and wait for help, once they realize they’ve been abandoned by adults (most of whom are relatively useless anyway) and are unlikely to be rescued by the government, they attempt to escape themselves.

Gwinam had negative fifty redeemable traits. He uses another student as a shield, and eventually eats her but only after assaulting a different female student. Didn’t help he was somehow immune to the zombie virus, so he’d also gotten a taste for human flesh. It’s giving every story needs an additional villain in an already terrible world to make things worst for the characters energy. In contrast, Suhyeok spends most of his time aiding others, even going back out into the wild to forage for food. It’s thanks to him (in part) that the surviving students make it to roof and are able to escape out into the woods and eventually to freedom.

Similar to Gwinam, Nayeon is so focused on not becoming a zombie, she loses her humanity without ever getting bitten. Her fear of death and selfishness frankly would have been forgivable because not everyone is a hero. However, Nayeon not only accuses her classmate, Gyeong-su, of getting bitten and turning into a zombie, she intentionally infects him just to prove a point resulting in his demise. Consequently, the students realize they can’t trust her and lock her away, dooming her to a slow and lonely death. In contrast, class president Namra goes out to find food for the others. After being bitten and realizing she’s also got a taste for flesh, she manages to control herself several times until eventually, after the group escapes out into the woods, she realizes the danger she poses to others and separates herself. It’s the ultimate sacrifice really and exemplifies the verse, “no greater love has one man than this: to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

While all of the characters understandably want to live, Gwinam and Nayeon only care about themselves and as they say “[t]he attitude that comes from selfishness leads to death.” Namra and Suhyeok show immense bravery and selflessness in being unwilling to abandon their classmates and doing everything they can to ensure they survive. Consequently, they do end up surviving… so I guess all of them aren’t dead, which makes sense since the English translation appears to be whack.

Admittedly, the webtoon isn’t as thrilling and fast-paced as other monster survival tales (like Sweet Home/Shotgun Boy) and the art work is definitely an aesthetic not everyone will appreciate. But the story has a lot of heart. Like literally you will see lots of organs, hearts, and blood strewn everywhere because… zombies.

All of Us Are Dead Rating: 7/10

Webtoon Analysis: True Beauty, A True Disappointment

Spoilers ahoy!

True Beauty by Yaongi is a romantic comedy following the life of Jugyeong Lim, a relatable, young student who’s physical appearance is… well average. Jugyeong is no model, but she’s a cute lady who knows how to work the brush. Make-up brush that is. Her face painting skills allow her to ascend to the upper echelons of society, garnering her friends and male attention she previously lacked.

However, none of her friends know what she looks like without make-up, leaving her insecure and using make-up as a mask to hide her “ugliness”. Jugyeong is always on guard, afraid her carefully curated world as the hot girl summer will crumble once others discover what she looks like beneath the mask.

Then, a wild Suho appears!

A wild Suho!

Suho is conventionally attractive, smart, and sort of rude initially. A lover of horror and comics, he runs into a bare-faced Jugyeong at the comic store and the two eventually bond over their shared love of all things creepy. An interest that soon blossoms into love as Suho is drawn to her “true beauty”: the Jugyeong who’s awkward, likes horror, comics, and late night talks on benches while eating snacks in sweats. A Suho who encourages Jugyeong to be better, to study hard, and pursue her dreams. The feelings are mutual too.

True Beauty was sort of cheesy and not typically the sort of thing I enjoy reading, but it was light-hearted and had a semi-positive message: ladies, find a guy who likes the true you. A guy who shares your weird hobbies, isn’t put-off when you’re just chilling in sweats, and who pushes you to be better. But most importantly, a guy you’re entirely comfortable being yourself around.

Alas, all good things must be ruined by love triangles… and poor writing.

The story introduces Seonjun, who initially is very much your average bad boy type character, clad in jewelry and all.

A wild Seonjun!

He’s sort of a jerk to Jugyeong at first (or his friends are – birds of a feather, if you will) and Jugyeong is terrified of showing him her face. Unlike Suho, Jugyeong doesn’t really have much in common with Seojun. Nevertheless, for whatever reason, Jugyeong finds herself interested in him aided by the fact that right as her relationship with Suho was blooming, the author put him on a boat and ships him away. Literally. Suho disappears from the story entirely for vague reasons and then the reader gets what feels like a very lengthy filler episode, depicting Jugyeong’s relationship with Seojun. Suho eventually reappears, but is basically reduced to wangsting over Jugyeong.

Seojun’s introduction essentially marked the end of what little character development Jugyeong was experiencing and what little individuality she possessed too.

Episodes later, Jugyeong never develops beyond that insecure, young lady wearing a mask because she’s terrified of her natural appearance, and her relationship with Seojun seemingly makes her regress into an even more insecure individual, obsessed with looks. And while she quickly grew comfortable around Suho bare-faced, it took her some 90 episodes before accidentally showing Seojun her face. Fortunately, he’s fine with it but still. It’s a terrible way to start a relationship and an unhealthy message to young girls.

Rather than coming to understand what true beauty means, Jugyeong seems to have become a stereotypical “pretty girl”, vain and obsessed with her appearance. And whereas at least her relationship with Suho showed Jugyeong she didn’t need to be all dolled up to obtain meaningful relationships with others, her relationship with Seojun just sort of exists as a plot device to drag the story along endlessly, with no clear ending in sight.

While True Beauty’s not over (and it’s been made into a drama apparently), it should’ve ended long ago. Yaongi seems to have either lost the plot, or is dragging the story on because it’s successful (which get the bag, but personally I do appreciate authors like Carnby Kim who create very tight, well-paced plots without filler (to be fair – those are two different genres, but even compared to “Odd Girl Out”, another ongoing manwha centered around a young woman going through life, True Beauty is lacking as the Main character Nari develops tremendously throughout the story, whereas Jugyeong does not)).

In Yaongi’s defense, the Korean title seems to be “A Goddess Descends” or “The Secret Angel”, so it’s entirely possible English translators set unfair expectations for readers by naming it “True Beauty”. Even still, it lacks character development, the male leads are static, and the story’s initial, more interesting premise about a young girl learning about the meaning of true beauty seems to have ditched in favor of a more stereotypical, love-triangle-ish story about a young women obsessed with looking pretty for the sake of others.

True Beauty Rating: 6.5/10

Webtoon Reviews: Lookism Is a Mess

Major Spoilers.

Lookism, by Park Tae-joon, is an ongoing manwha that chronicles the woes of Daniel Park, who’s name is actually Park Hyung-seok but apparently webtoon thinks we can’t read Korean names.

Daniel is fat, “ugly” (he wears glasses), bullied relentlessly by his “peers”, and is low-key a jerk to his mother. He moves schools, moves homes, is still treated badly but bam! He wakes up one day with a second body aka Hot Daniel – taller, muscular, naturally athletic – perfection. When he falls asleep, he wakes up in his fat body (or whichever body isn’t awake).

Lookism | WEBTOON

Lookism began as a really interesting commentary on, well, lookism in Korean society. How people are treated vastly differently solely because of their looks. This is seen clearly in how Hot Daniel rapidly obtains friends, benefits, friends with benefits, expensive clothes, even gets a job as a model solely because of his immense hotness. All things his portlier self struggled to obtain. Not only is he attractive, but his natural, athletic abilities and fighting skills allow him to curb stomp the very bullies who once tormented him.

Author Park Tae-joon does a good job letting Fat Daniel grow as a character too and not just side-lining him. Fat Daniel also levels up; he begins working out, eating well, gets a job, realizes how poorly he treated his mother. Rather than begrudge the fact his more attractive version is treated better by society, he uses his time as Fat Daniel to better himself physically and socially, and consequently gains some of the things he always wanted (admiration of Zoe, his own harem of amigos).

Then, there was the added mystery of why is Daniel waking up in a different body? Where did this body come from? T’was a nice touch of the supernatural in a story that was very much grounded in reality.

However, at some point Lookism went from being a critique of lookism to seemingly a critique of Korean society as a whole to a fight manwha. We get an arc on the perils of social media, an arc on stalkers, an arc on cults, multiple references to bullying and drug usage, a Hostel arc dealing with youth homelessness and human trafficking, yet until Jiho’s arc (which is really a critique of the jail system) the story managed to maintain some semblance of it’s original premise.

When Hot Daniel was put on a boat after Jiho tossed him out a window, Lookism became too overly focused on side characters who should’ve been spin-offs or something (Jiho, Jake, Johan) and descended into something like a typical, fight manwha revolving around gangs, money, and turf wars with Daniel nowhere to be seen. The quality of the story is still high – but the plot is seemingly very far off from it’s original premise and those who were drawn to Lookism because of it’s focus on lookism would probably lose interest.

Anyway, here’s how I’d fix it.

1.) Remove the long arcs featuring other characters

Jiho, Jake, etc. While these arcs were good, they feel like filler episodes in the overarching plot. The two big questions are why is Daniel waking up with another body, and where did that body come from? And while I’m not fully caught up on the story, having stopped about ep. 340, we seem no closer to resolving these issues than when the story first began.

These side characters should’ve been side stories or spin-offs, not part of the main storyline.

2. Have tighter POVs

The story began pretty tightly from Daniel’s point-of-view and mostly stayed that way save for occasionally focusing on Daniel’s friends (like the cult arc, Zoe’s balloons, or Jay and his pups) to focusing on tons of side characters, usually for very lengthy periods of time.

Limiting the POVs in the story to a handful of characters would help the plot seem less messy. Again, it’s not that these characters aren’t interesting, it’s just that Jane Kim isn’t the reason I began reading Lookism.

While overall I’ve enjoy Lookism for what it is (an interesting critique of various facets of Korean society + I honestly like seeing people beat each other up), it’s beginning to read like a fanfiction of itself and I often find myself waiting for the story to progress a bit before picking it up again. Ultimately, it was the original, simpler premise that drew me to the tale of Daniel Park. In the absence of that, it’s become a much more generic story about gangs fighting one another over money, rather than a poignant commentary on lookism.

Lookism Rating: 8.5/10