We have already mentioned three terms that you might or might not know the definitions of: manga, manhwa, and webtoon. You might get even more confused when you come across manga vs manhwa vs manhua! The easiest way to know their differences is through the origin country.
Manga are comic books made in Japan, while manhwa are made in Korea. Specifically, the manhwa available to the public are from South Korea. There are also manhwa from North Korea, but they are usually not accessible to English-speaking readers. Though our main focuses are manga and manhwa, it is essential to know that China also has its comics called manhua.
Manga and manhwa have different approaches, cultural influences, and histories, so it is never correct to use manga as a term for all types of East Asian comics. And though different, the two have parallel narratives. On the one hand, the modern format of manga that we all know now was developed after World War II. This was when the Godfather of Manga, Osamu Tezuka, emerged as a creator.
On the other hand, the modern manhwa is rooted in political and social commentary. They were political cartoons! And during the Japanese occupation of Korea, they were suppressed along with newspapers. The government definitely shaped manhwa’s landscape, content, and influence.
Now, apart from the origin countries, what else makes manga and manhwa different from each other? Manhwa is read from left to right, top to bottom, while manga is read from right to left, top to bottom. The two give entirely different reading experiences! Moreover, manga is drawn in black and white. Yes, there are full-colored manga, but they tend to be rare.
Colored illustrations are usually for introductory pages. They highlight a popular title or debut launch, and then the rest of the book comes in black and white. Manga is also serialized in weekly or monthly magazines, printed on cheap paper. Later on, chapters are collected into volumes, the format most recognized in North America.
The manga industry is shifting toward digital distribution. We now have access to manga apps, but the experience with reading in volumes is still more remarkable. However, it is a different case with manhwa. Unlike manga, manhwa is quite fast in adopting digital technology. This is where webtoon comes in.
Generally, webtoons are animated cartoons published on the Internet. With this, manhwa as webtoons are designed for reading on mobile phones—long and vertical with panels arranged for continual scrolling. Since webtoons are made for digital reading, they are mostly in full color.
Note: Some webtoons have embedded music tracks. Unfortunately, there are apparent artistic level differences between webtoons and printed manhwa. Still, enthusiasts enjoy the accessibility of webtoons, and more companies are taking advantage of its growing popularity worldwide.
Korean manhwa vs Japanese manga–there is no need to choose! Manga’s worldwide success is seen to continue, especially when it is already digitally available, too. What you can explore now is the future of Japanese webtoon translation, which brings various exciting Japanese webtoon series to webtoon enthusiasts. How did the webtoons industry in Japan start, and where is it now?