My Top 5 Original Webtoons + Canvas Highlights

I’ve been reading comics on the Webtoon app for almost six years and the appeal of it hasn’t dulled since I decided to download it out of sheer curiosity from all the “Siren’s Lament” mermaid ads I saw on YouTube. I think for most of the duration of my use of the app, it’s been smooth and enjoyable. Recently, there’s been a wave of negative money-making hustles implemented everywhere into the app, but I’ll discuss that in another post.

But anyways, I’m going to be ranking and discussing my favorite Originals comics, and well as highlighting a few Canvas Comics I’ve enjoyed. Because many webtoons I’ve read have been completed over the years, I’m only going to be discussing comics that are still updating as of original publishing date.

I’ll be spoiling some things, so be warned.

1. Odd Girl Out

This wasn’t a competition. Nari is one of the most fleshed out characters I’ve ever met and her development arc rolls out in such a timely and satisfying way. It’s a genuine joy watching her go from a first-year lacking self-esteem to a second/third-year who doesn’t even blink at the bullies from her past. Her confidence, sense of humor, and kindness make her one of the most likable protagonists on the app. She goes through a barrage of challenges and comes out tougher and wiser. Her innate leadership skills are acknowledged by her own peers and she’s constantly working to better herself and her understanding of the world. She begins as a flawed character and with each weekly update, you get to grow alongside her and her amazing group of friends.

Nari’s friends are as multifaceted and fun as she is. Seonji is sweet and not exactly smart, but she’s kind and ambitious. You don’t see many female characters characterized as “pretty” admit to being too poor to take care of her hygiene, or having an IQ so low it’s a wonder she graduated middle school. She’s well-aware of her dire circumstances, and yet still manages to have a big heart and bigger dreams. It’s impossible not to root for her. She also has this subtle on-going joke about being stronger than the average female (as does Nari!) and it’s hilarious.

Mirae is the cool one everyone in the school has a crush on. Just reference the White Day episode where she’s galled by some of her classmates begging her to stay single. Mirae is mysterious upon arrival and her backstory does a exceptional job of explaining the events that led to her meeting Nari and abandoning the life she could’ve had. She has brilliant chemistry with Nari and Seonji in equal part, and her goal to become an artist is admirable as well as relatable. Her personality is laid back and she’s extremely perceptive, especially when it comes to her friends. She seems to understand the girls better than they understand themselves.

Yuna is a more complicated case. I have an ongoing theory that all the bullies Nari encountered in season one were there to prepare Nari to become proper friends with Yuna. She doesn’t seem like a good person at first. She was possessive of Nari, highly manipulative, and sometimes two-faced. It’s hard to understand why Nari is even friends with her. However, as you learn more about Yuna and her complicated history with Nari, you begin seeing events through her lens and understanding her reasoning and actions. She’s messy and that endears many readers to her. It can also be argued that she’s the cold, prickly heart of the group. To copy my own comment on one of the chapters: “You can only be friends with Yuna if you’re ridiculously forgiving (like Seonji), if you have equally thick skin and the same sharp honesty (like Mirae), or if you have a delicate balance of both (like Nari).” That’s why it’s hard for others to get close to Yuna and why this exact group of girls work in beautiful tandem.

The side characters are terrific too. Nari’s family are supportive and the others’ families are fleshed out. The webtoon gives adequate attention to the sparse group of classmates who helped Nari in season one, as well as the majority of her amazing class in season two. The villains she faces are multi-dimensional and often sympathetic (but often are not).

The art improves over time and you get to know Nari’s school and neighborhood like the back of your hand. This webtoon has consistently great writing and uses humor to its advantage. There are few things as satisfying as watching the hammer drop on someone who’s had it out for Nari. It’s even better when it’s Nari dishing out the karma. This comic is amazing and I cannot recommend it enough.

2. Eleceed

I like to say Eleceed is objectively the best manhwa on the app. It checks off almost every box there is: a charming protagonist, a funny group of supportive friends with varied personalities, an engrossing plot, fascinating world-building, incredible art, and most importantly: a vast selection of attractive characters.

I’m going to say it right now: Any of the mentors from Shinhwa or The Union. Any of them.

The only reason I’m not ranking it first is because I feel Odd Girl Out has a little more heart to it and this webtoon is solidly action-based.

The story starts with the clear introduction that super powers exist in this world and that they’re a well-kept secret. Jiwoo has always had his powers but it’s not until he meets Kayden that he starts developing them for Awakener-style combat.

I think the ensemble for this comic are insanely lovable. Anyone you hate at first is more than likely to become a favorite of yours. Jiwoo has a positive influence on everyone he meets and he brings together people who otherwise would’ve been peers at best and enemies at worst. I especially liked the introduction of the unaffiliated kids, who are in the exact position Jiwoo would’ve been had he not met Kayden. They provide an alternate perspective and give you a better idea of how the story might’ve panned out if someone else was the main character. (I think Jihye would’ve made a good MC, especially since she’s so visually similar to Jiwoo anyway).

The writing excels at pairing off characters. A favorite pairing of mine is Inhyuk and Seongha, both mentors coming from separate affiliations. They have a competitive streak but work together well and share the struggle of mentoring two hyper-active super-powered kids. Another fun, unexpected pair is Subin and Iseul, who became friends despite Subin’s merciless teasing about Iseul’s crush on Jiwoo.

Kayden (aka Casein Nitrate) is handsome, funny, and OP, an ideal combination for most webtoon readers. He’d make a standard main character, but because he’s been injured and only acts as Jiwoo’s mentor, his character development flourishes. It’s wonderful seeing him come to care about Jiwoo and even Jiwoo’s growing group of friends. The way other adult awakeners address him lets you know that we’ve only seen a fraction of what he’s capable of.

Other than the characters, what I really appreciate about Eleceed is the thorough explanation of the Awakeners’ abilities. It’s not an info-dump of facts, but rather a well-planned sequence of events that lets you learn more about what these characters can do. Compared to other action webtoon, the power-scaling remains consistent and believable. Jiwoo often beats opponents stronger than him, but only after weeks of training, using the element of surprise, and by the skin of his teeth, at times. He certainly can’t defeat any adult awakeners and even when he’s teamed up with his friends, they have to put in 100% to win against the villains. One specific fight stood out to me because although Jiwoo and his friends fought valiantly, their combined efforts weren’t even close to one of their mentor’s singular attacks, which defeated the opponent in an instant. It leaves the clear message that Jiwoo is powerful for his age but the webtoon has a lot of story left to tell of him becoming number one.

Eleceed is the kind of story that keeps you up until 3AM because it’s nonstop fun, action, and comedy. In my opinion, it’s one of the best action manhwa the app has to offer.

3. Weak Hero

Weak Hero has a very weird beginning. When I first read it, I was taken aback by how different it was compared to other comics with similar premises. First of all, the art was grittier than anything I’d seen; not unpolished, but intentionally exaggerated without concise lines, close to how artists would draw political caricatures.

Then the narration style was strange. It couldn’t be the main character speaking because the narrator spoke as if he were reading from a biography about the MC’s life in a near-scholarly diction. And speaking of diction, the actual characters used African-American Vernacular English (AAVE). It’s generally frowned upon for non-black people to use AAVE, yet the translators made the blatant (and perhaps, ambitious) decision to have these South Korean characters speak AAVE. It was as if they were trying to say “Hey, if South Korea has a hood, this school is right in the middle of it.”

These differences don’t last and the comic falls into a natural rhythm and rhyme, writing and art-wise, but I still consider these first few chapters to be some of the best, ironically. It’s a hard hook to sell, but it’s a hook nonetheless, and it got me reading. It’s really not every day you come across a webtoon that isn’t afraid to be ugly.

However, “ugly” is the last word anyone would use to describe our main character. Gray has the face of an angel, and the brutality of a special forces agent. He’s quick, smart, and has the power of underestimation at his beck and call. I remembered really liking that he was my height and almost my build, yet still kicking ass. Gray is inspiring. You instantly root for him to handle all the goons crawling around his school and his mysterious history is an itch you can’t scratch.

The story takes you on multiple emotional roller coasters as you learn more about not just Gray, but his allies, and even his enemies. Every major event triggers a wave of actions that are all connected, even if tangentially. Someone you see in episode 12 will show up again episode 86. The writing is at peace with letting characters lie dormant until they’re necessary to the plot, yet manages to dodge the feeling of anyone being a plot device.

The main pull of this webtoon is its themes of friendship and brotherhood. Gray’s backstory is heart-wrenching and you can understand why he’d never want to make friends again, but he still does. He opens his heart to these people who had no reason to help him but chose to. Eugene is the first, being weaker than Gray but defending his deskmate although he had nothing but trouble to gain from it. Gerard is curious about his new classmate, but curiosity turned into camaraderie when they incidentally join forces with Ben and Alex. I really like that Ben didn’t wait for Gray to naturally meld into the group. He took the bull by the horns and invited Gray to hang out with them on a regular basis. It wasn’t once or twice that the group sided with Gray, but every time.

Another fun part of the webtoon is watching the people Gray defeat become his allies. The most prominent example is Teddy, who was thoroughly humiliated, but learned from Eugene what true friendship was like and made the conscious decision to help the group before they could be ambushed. That was his turning point and he’s been a highlight of the ensemble ever since.

Many fans of the webtoon are also deeply invested in The Union, which is run by Donald Na, Gray’s foil. The Union Heads are an interesting collection of thugs, each with distinct motivation as to why they chose to work under Donald. Some did it for the money while others did it for the manpower and status that comes with being a Union member. These characters are as fleshed out as the main characters and are engaging in their own way. No one in the webtoon is evil for the sake of being evil, even if it appears so at first glance.

The webtoon spans a long emotional range, from bloody fights, to dark architectural politics, to putting on goofy performances at the school festival. There’s a lot to enjoy about Weak Hero, its world, and its in-depth characters.

4. Unordinary

As one of the oldest and longest running webtoons on the platform, Unordinary has established its story and it’s not uncommon to see readers reference it in comment sections of other series. John is a compelling antagonist and Seraphina is a smart female lead. The Royals may appear to act as one decisive entity but they each have different goals they want to achieve. Who the villain is often depends on the readers’ point of view.

One of Unordinary’s strengths is that the characters are never static. They change, share opinions, switch sides, upend their entire worldview and ideologies. Seraphina really exhibits this as the comic’s deuteragonist because her decision to question why things are how they are shifts the course of the story’s events. All the Royals experience this change, however reluctantly. People who you don’t expect become heroes and you find yourself admitting that maybe this character isn’t actually a good person. During the “Tuesday” arc, the comment section got into heated debates about the motivations of each character and who exactly was at fault. There is no clear black or white villain in the story (with the exception of maybe Spectre) and the story’s stronger for it.

The artist and her team are really good at visual story telling and all fights are appropriately hype. I think everyone who’s read it since 2017 remembers the feeling of John finally admitting to having powers and snapping. The art conveyed how angry he was to be pushed to the edge and it’s uncomfortable how brutal these high school fights are. They’re casually piercing vital organs all the time; it must not be fun being Doc.

One of my favorite characters is Blyke, whom I think is John’s unsung foil. Blyke starts out as your bog-standard Royal who occasionally abuses his power, but what I really find interesting is his innate sense of justice. He doesn’t believe in punishing people but reshaping the context in which problems arose in the first place. He goes out of his way to apologize for his actions and goes as far as to take on the super hero mantle because I think that was his calling all along. I’m personally very pleased he’s on-course to become the next king of Wellston because he can finish what Rei started. If John wasn’t the main character, Blyke would be my pick.

But as is, John is a case study in writing a complex main character. For one, his surname is…telling. He’s easy to like but that isn’t a staple of his character. His relationships with other characters vary and he lets his past control much of who he is. He doesn’t forgive, nor does he forget. He lets his feelings sit until they blow up and that can either be cathartic or frustrating.

Unordinary has rich, multi-layered characters with strong motivations, and a power-system with overall conflict you can get hooked onto.

5. Jackson’s Diary

Jackson’s Diary is one of many series I’ve read since its Discover/Canvas days. Back when I read it, it had roughly 5K subscribers. Now, it’s one of the most popular sci-fi Original webtoons and I feel proud to see how far it’s come. So, without letting my knowledge of its original iteration affect this review, I want to detail what makes people love this webtoon.

One of the biggest catches is its art. Its distinct Saturday morning cartoon-style and high school setting make it feel immediately familiar. The colors are vibrant and the patterns on the characters’ clothes are bold, yet they pull it off magnificently (Brenda especially!). It’s set in the 80s and their fashion is especially attractive, putting together the best outfits of that era. And for the hawk-eyed, there are lots of 80s references to spot, from cult classic movies to popular songs.

The comic also has an awesome cast of characters. Again, you can’t shake the feeling of know exactly where it’s going, except mixed with the anticipation of knowing there’s magic in the water. Jackson’s prologue is somber but as he enters school for the first time, you hope everything turns out okay because we all know what it’s like to be the new kid. Unfortunately, not all is well at this new school because that’s when we meet Exer: the other main character.

The author does a good job at immediately letting you know Exer is the popular guy and that he knows it. He has the fashion, the swagger, and the all-inclusive ability to make even the school bullies cower. Oh, and, he has magic. If Jackson’s step into a new adventure hadn’t convinced you to keep reading, Exer’s glowing green eyes would. It’s even better once you connect the dots and realize these two are connected in a way more powerful than the friend group that revolve around them.

Speaking of friend group, the side characters are delightful. David, Exer’s best friend, is perfectly excitable, cheeky, and funny all at once. He has a big heart and a crush the size of Montana. Brenda, David’s twin sister, contains remarkable amounts of mom-energy. She’s asking concerned questions, laughing big, and spreading warmth and sunshine everywhere she goes. As a plus, she’s also the reigning popular girl alongside Exer.

It’d be easy to describe Ronald as the himbo character, but he’s much more than that. He’s perceptive, accepting, and forgiving. And his aesthetic is to die for. In the same vein, Pamela has a lot of empathy and I think most people in the comment section want to raid her closet. She’s developed relationships with the other characters that surprise me, but in a positive way. In the story, she’s gone through troubles but never stops trying to make amends with people.

Jackson’s detention buddies were such a fun addition to the second season. I was cold on Ken before (because I thought it was mean of him to make fun of Jackson out the gate) but he’s now one of my favorite characters, my favorites being him, Brenda, and Ronald. The whole gang has great chemistry and the story of how they got lumped together in detention is so funny and very telling of who they each are. I like how willing they are to give Jackson a chance, as well as the so-called “Reds”, who they almost laughably moon over at getting the chance to talk to. Getting all the characters in one room at once is an explosion of angst, excitement, and pent up feeling.

You want good things for these kids, and the magic adds a marvelously balanced tint of fantasy into the mix. The art is superb and well-suited for the plot, and it’s easy to get attached to this story.

Canvas Highlights

The Little Trashmaid

This webtoon is incredibly cute, heartwarming, and funny. The whole point of it is to bring awareness about ocean pollution, but it doesn’t get too wrapped up in messaging and instead focuses on bringing readers cute stories about Tidy and her human friends, as well as her mer-family. The author is talented at using simple conflicts to give each character a personality and development. I really enjoy how Ricky is a flawed character but still tries hard to do the right thing. Spencer is just adorable and a perfect addition to the trio. Neat (the mer-boy) and Tidy’s father both answer and bring up a lot of questions about what other mer-people exist. However, the story doesn’t rush details and lets you learn as you read more, which I appreciate. The art and comedic timing in this webtoon is fantastic and its following is highly deserved.

Lemon Soda and Coffee

The writing in this one is really good! Axel and Mei feel like real people with real lives and problems. They have fully-fleshed out backstories and even their families and coworkers have interesting lives and relationships with the main characters, as well as with each other. (Lloyd and Axel’s dad are radically different from Axel and it’s very entertaining any time either of those two are in an episode). The romantic build up between Mei and Axel makes you want them to get together as quickly as possible. Axel slowly becoming part of Mei’s life and learning to let go of the things and people that make him unhappy is an emotionally-fulfilling journey. The author introduces darker themes seamlessly and the world these characters live in feels well-loved and precisely thought out. The story is nicely paced and the art is bright, sunny, and unapologetically cute. This one is worth checking out!

Shark Girl Umi

This is one I always get excited for when it updates! First of all, Gale and Umi are drop-dead adorable. I want them to be together so badly. Umi’s introduction really sets the tone for the rest of the webtoon and the writing gets me in stitches laughing. Umi herself is an upbeat, fun protagonist with cheerful energy and good depth. Gale, who is actually the main character, provides an outsider’s view on coming to a different school, meeting Umi, and making new friends. He’s the only regular person in the group and his reactions to everything are priceless. I love that when he realizes he has feelings for her, he panics and starts wondering about the mechanics of whether he’s crushing on a cute girl or a cute shark. I laughed for days. The side characters are a lively bunch bursting with personality and it’s refreshing to see high school kids do regular high school things. The only “weird” thing is that Umi is half-shark but the story that uses it to its advantage in multi-layered ways. Highly recommend this webtoon for cute interactions and a good laugh.

Honorable Mentions (Originals/Canvas):

Tacit– Fascinating post apocalyptic world and strong multi-dimensional relationships, especially Rovan and Bevrian’s. It’s rare you care more about the regular adults in the stories than the super-powered kids. Very unique art style and visual story-telling.

Lost in Translation– Jaewon is a lovable main character and the beating heart of the story. It’s not afraid to get into pretty dark themes, but Jaewon’s idol group mates and his coffee shop friend, among others, keep it enjoyable.

My Dud To Stud Boyfriend– Sia is quintessentially flawed and almost unlikable. But her resolve, eventual empathy and willingness to change gives this cute story emotional layers and her project turns into more than a chase for clout. Plus, Minho is darling.

After School Lessons For Unripe Apples– Mi-ae and Cheol are polar opposites, reluctant, and perfect for each other, even though they’d both rather die than admit it. The slice-of-life style paneling wonderfully works with the pace of the story and it has an authentic feeling of nostalgia.

Emmy the Robot– I don’t think I’ve ever read a story that’s had such an impending sense of doom and uncertainty while simultaneously projecting the energy of a 1970s vacuum commercial. The art style especially enhances that, but still maintains a touch of the author’s personality. It’s an intriguing reading experience overall.

Space Boy– A lot of love and care was put into this story. The sci-fi world-building is some of the best I’ve seen and the art is superb, especially going forward. The two main characters are compelling and the conflicts they work through are heart-wrenching but makes you appreciate their resilience even more.

That’s my current ranking of the best webtoons I currently read! However, this is far from an exhaustive list and I encourage everyone to go on the app (or the site) and explore both Originals and Canvas series to find their favorite webtoon. And don’t sleep on completed series either because “Spirit Fingers“, “Your Letter“, and “Yumi’s Cells” all had amazing runs and deserve to be appreciated past their update period. Additionally, if you can, make sure to visit your favorite author’s social media/patreon/online stores and support them there too!

Thank you for reading and I hope you have fun discovering new series you’ll grow to love.

weak hero banner credit: izzzy


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