Webtoon vs. Manga: Which is More Popular in 2022?
As the Korean Wave (also known as the Hallyu Wave) sweeps across the globe, we’re seeing specific elements of Korean culture gaining more popularity on the international scale. Things like Korean dramas, K-pop, and webtoons—also known as manhwa—have gained the attention of people across the world, making them leading factors for the Hallyu Wave.
With the rise of Webtoons in recent years, it’s sparked a debate between readers. Webtoon vs. Manga, which is better? Though they’re not exactly the same, they are similar enough that many who read webtoons began as manga readers. But which is more popular now that technology has been integrated into society more? And why do we even have this debate?
Webtoon vs. Manga: What’s the difference?
While webtoons and mangas are similar enough for readers to switch between them, they each have their own unique characteristics. From the way they’re read to the genres the encompass, they are both great in their own ways.
What are Webtoons?
In the most basic definition, webtoons are digital/web comics. They originated in South Korea around the 1990s/2000s as computers and smartphones started gaining traction.
Because of their digital nature, webtoons are designed specifically with scroll-related features. They have vertical layouts, adaptability for various devices, and appealing colors. They’re most often read from top to bottom, left to right. Some incorporate music to listen to while scrolling, but not all of them do.
To read webtoons, you can visit various websites or apps through your computer and phone. The most popular websites for Korean-language webtoons include KAKAO Webtoon and NAVER Webtoon. For translated versions or webtoons in the English language, you can check out the Line Webtoon app or website (a worldwide service from NAVER—it translates webtoons into various languages, not just English). Other popular sites for English translated webtoons include Tapas and Lezhin Comics.
Many have said that webtoons tend to stick to similar themes and genres. Though this isn’t completely true—there are webtoons for nearly every genre, including Action, Comedy, Romance, and more—there does seem to be an overarching feeling to webtoons that mangas don’t delve into. There’s almost a lightheartedness to them; most end up the way you expect them to and they stick to a lot of themes that gain views and likes. This doesn’t mean they’re repetitive, though, each webtoon dives into a theme in their own unique way. It’s just that they’re not always that surprising to read.
What are Mangas?
Compared to webtoons, mangas take on a very different visual appearance. Most often, mangas are black and white—very rarely will you see them made with color—and they are read right to left. They are also most often found as physical books.
Though they have a long history dating back to the 12th century, the term manga itself originated in Japan around the 18th-19th centuries. It refers to the cartoon, comics, and animation style that these specific books held. Further, in Japan, they also use manga to refer to anime—which is a term most international countries refer to television adaptations of mangas. But manga is a general term used to describe it all.
As mentioned, mangas are typically read as physical books. You can find manga sections in many bookstores around the world, showing that mangas are one of the largest industries for Japan. You can also find mangas translated into multiple different languages depending on where you live. Further, as the world gets more technology-based, mangas have taken to the internet more—though they do stick to the traditional black and white. One of the largest web-based manga sites is Pixiv, a place where manga readers and artists can share their love for mangas. The site has millions of members and is available in multiple languages.
Though mangas have such a distinct style, many have switched from reading mangas to reading webtoons because of those features. Some find it more appealing to read stories in color while others enjoy the ease of scrolling through a story rather than flipping pages of a book.
The Growth of Webtoons in Recent Years
As technology continues to be the leading industry for the world, we’re seeing webtoons flourish under that attention. More and more, the webtoon industry is being talked about around the world. Some webtoons have taken to the international stage, gaining so much attention around the world it’s hard not to know about them.
But why is this? How did webtoons become so popular?
1. The Hallyu Wave
One of the biggest influences for the webtoons industry growth is the Hallyu Wave itself. As mentioned, the Hallyu Wave refers to the growing popularity of Korean culture and Korean entertainment across the world.
Most noticeably, K-pop has grown immensely popular internationally. As more fans are learning about the Korean culture in order to know more about their idols, they’re stumbling into other aspects of the Hallyu Wave (such as webtoons). Additionally, many idols and other famous Korean figures have spoken about webtoons they enjoy reading. Because of this, their fans have learned about certain webtoons and have even looked further into that industry.
As South Korea gains more attention from the Hallyu Wave, it only makes sense that webtoons gain that same amount of attention. With the availability of translations and adaptability for various devices, they have reached even the furthest corners of the world. And as long as the Hallyu Wave continues, webtoons will only reach more people.
2. Webtoon to K-Drama Adaptations
Another possible reason for webtoons popularity on an international scale might have to do with Korean dramas. Since K-Dramas have quite literally exploded into the film industry across the world—thanks to Netflix’s dedication to the K-drama industry—there has been an influx of K-drama adaptations of popular webtoons. In 2022, there are tons of webtoons being made into K-dramas, including popular ones like All Of Us Are Dead and Business Proposal. You can find our list of 2022 webtoon to K-Drama adaptations here.
Even more than the webtoon industry, the K-drama industry is absolutely massive throughout the entire world. There are millions of watchers, thousands of dedicated fans, and even more discovering K-dramas every day. As fans take to researching the backstory of K-dramas, many end up reading the webtoons they were inspired by. Most especially enjoy reading the webtoon to see the differences between the K-drama adaptation and the actual story itself.
Such highly watched K-dramas—like True Beauty and Itaewon Class—were able to introduce more people to webtoons. This helped spread webtoons even further. And readers of webtoons enjoyed watching their favorites being adapted into K-dramas, driving more and more adaptations being made. Truly, the K-drama and webtoon industries really help each other out.
So… Webtoon vs. Manga, which one is more popular?
That’s a pretty tough question with no right or wrong answer. Generally speaking, both are pretty popular in their own way. It’s mainly up to the reader to decide which one they prefer reading—though many do read both still.
With how long manga has been around, there’s really no “taking over” popularity from it. Manga has already set its roots deep into the hearts of readers and it’s not going to lose that any time soon. Especially since mangas were the start for a lot of comic/cartoon-based content. Webtoons wouldn’t be what they are today if there weren’t any mangas.
On the other hand, webtoons will only pick up more attention from here. With the continuous Hallyu Wave, the K-drama adaptations, and the accessibility around the world, the webtoon industry is only going to get more readers along the way. And, thus, the debate of webtoon vs. manga will continue pretty indefinitely.
Still, though, we won’t be able to truly say one is more popular than the other. It will mainly be discussions on which you prefer.
Webtoon vs. Manga: Which Do You Prefer?
Between webtoons and mangas, do you have a preference? Do you like the ease of scrolling, the colors, and the web-based factor? Or do you prefer the classic black and white, more diverse genres, and physical books?
If you’d like to learn more about webtoons, feel free to check out our Webtoon Category! You can even check out this specific blog we wrote introducing the world of webtoons. And see this list of 2022 webtoon to K-drama adaptations! Maybe one of your favorite webtoons will be getting a K-drama this year.