There are three types of comics from the East. We all know manga aka Japanese comics. The other ones are Manhua and Manhwa, the Chinese and Korean counterpart respectively.
Does it really make a different knowing what kind of comic you are reading? May be not for the art, story and themes are similar and if I had not told you, you will rarely notice it. Of course, names and settings do change to reflect the author’s origin.
But when someone who reads manga as much as me, you cannot help but begin to notice nuances associated with each of them like the art, in the way characters are drawn or how romance plays out between characters, the fighting scenes. You tend to develop a taste that makes it difficult for you to accept anything less than a specific standard either in art of story.
For one, I do not like Manhwa, the Korean version of manga be it 100% Perfect Girl, Love in the Mask or Full House. They are too long, boring and often miss the point despite having a decent story line. You will find plenty of manga written by Hwang Mi Ri. I have read three or four of her works and none of them satisfactory. The first one I read was Crazy girl Shinbia that follows the story of delinquent girl Shinbia who travels back in time to replace her look-alike psychic princess, who was murdered and finally marries the Emperor. It was a decent story alright except for the pace and too many distractions that takes your attention away from the main story. In the end you will be like: ‘Man when will the story end!’
That is the problem with each Manhwa I have read and I have totally given up on them.
There has been a time when I was strictly off comics written by people other than Japanese. But then The One happened. The One written by Lee Nicky was one of the best comics I have read. It follows the story of twins brothers in the world of fashion and a model. Amazing story line, jaw-dropping men and add in a little mystery, what you have got is a kick-ass page turner.
But here is the thing. When I started reading, I did not realise it was not a manga though the characters had Chinese names and the place was Taiwan. I was so absorbed into that it did not matter. Then I came across Ingenuo, another romance manga that I could not get over with. The characterisation, depth each character has and a not-so-shallow storyline made me fall in love with these Chinese comics. You could say they are on par with their Japanese counterparts.
But why are these Chinese comics not as famous as manga? The problem could be that they are too westernised. For instance, when I read manga I’m inexplicably drawn to the culture, places and history that is intertwined in the story. When you read manga you are not only getting your dose of action or romance, but also an insight into Japanese way of life, their habits, places, customs and traditions. You know that Obon festival is celebrated by the Japanese in the memory of the dead. They love girls in maid uniforms and company workers are still the most respected though that is the only life they has. Japanese love their miso soup and rice in morning and night. Hanami is an event most looked forward to. You learn about their weird habits and meaningful traditions.
Manhua misses all these things. For all I know I could be reading a story happening any part of the country and not China. It does not reveal much about the country or culture, which I wished they would.
This exactly the reason why I would choose a manga over a manhua anyday.