The Breaker Omnibus Volume 1 Manhwa Review

For the first time ever, The Breaker Korean manhwa is officially available in English print. Released by ABLAZE Publishing, The Breaker: Omnibus Volume 1 captures the first 15 chapters of the action-packed martial arts series that does not shy away from school bullying, gang violence, and bloody battles. 

Written by Jeon Geuk-Jin and drawn by Park Jin-Hwan, the story follows Shiwoon “Shioon” Yi, a shy and weak high school student. As an easy target for bullies, Shiwoon tries to navigate his school life, but his lack of self esteem puts him in precarious situations. His desire to get stronger puts him in a dangerous position when his undercover substitute teacher Chun Woo, a master martial artist, takes him as a disciple. 

Image: ABLAZE Publishing

In the first volume, Shiwoon isn’t anything extraordinary as the main character. He is a soft-spoken teenager with little weight at the beginning, and comes off as almost stereotypically flat when he reacts to being bullied, being humiliated in front of his crush, and doubting Chun Woo’s actions. Audiences who are more familiar with gusty or lively protagonists might sleep on Shiwoon and pass him off as an irritable Gary-Stu character. However, it is important to remember that his timid nature as a high school student will lend to more realistic decisions and actions later on in the series when it becomes more violent. As such, Shinwoon’s  non-confrontational personality does not fully shine in volume one, but rather, he is overshadowed by Chun Woo. 

Despite being a master in martial arts and the adult-figure of the story, Chun Woo is a comical character. He may seem incompetent at first, especially with his in-class teaching methods and when he tries to flirt with the ladies, but he knows when to get serious and not be a liability. In a way, his personality is an embodiment of the series where the martial arts are “epic”, but can become goofy by the next panel. The story finds a way to add humor without lowering the seriousness of the series. 

With a strong character foundation set between the two characters, it allows for The Breaker to focus on fleshing out the perilous world Shiwoon will eventually survive in. It may seem formulaic that a weak high school protagonist has to endure the challenges of gang violence and the ominous world of martial arts, but Shiwoon’s emotional state and Chun Woo’s comedic flair so far adds a humane flair that is rarely found in shounen series of that era. . 

Artwork-wise, The Breaker is among the best of its time and perhaps may have paved the way toward more modern manhwa depictions of action. Every punch and hit in The Breaker are meticulously drawn and divided up into separate panels to demonstrate a step-by-step process of how characters move into their opponent’s range, move out to evade attacks, and counter. It is almost as if you’re watching an 80s stop-motion tutorial video from old karate sensei.  There is also a great sense of “space” being utilized in each panel, in which no space is wasted while also remaining clear enough to understand for a shounen series. s When there is a gang fight, there are close-up detailed shots to highlight specific antagonists and large-scale camera panning around the characters to depict other parties or actions taking place. Kudos to Park Jin-Hwan for executing this flawlessly. 

Even though the original Korean manhwa was released in 2007, does The Breaker stand the test of time? Absolutely. The story could have been released in today’s bounty of shounen series and still be enjoyed by many fans. If anything, the artwork and battle scenes are breathtaking and improve drastically with every release. With Volume 2 already out and more Korean comics arriving on US bookshelves, the series will cement itself a must read manhwa for English-speaking audiences.

The Breaker: Omnibus Volume 1 is available on Amazon, RightStuf Anime

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