In the sea of source material to be adapted into anime somewhat new concept surfaced in recent years – webtoons. Webtoons are a type of digital comic, originating in South Korea and designed to be read on mobile phones/tablets. Instead of chapters, they have episodes. The term “webtoons” is often used in combination with manhwa (Korean word for comics) since most manhwa are nowadays released in webtoon format. Many webtoons are also adaptations of web novels – mirroring the practice of manga adaptations of light novels in Japan.
Anime based on popular webtoons is not a novel practice, but so far the Japanese adaptations were a mixed bag. From ReLIFE, Tower of God, to Noblesse and The God of Highschool the ratings ranged from good to less than satisfactory. However, that doesn’t mean webtoons don’t have a lot to offer in terms of anime potential. So let’s take a look at a few of that absolutely deserve anime adaptations – not just because of the popularity aspect but also because of the exciting story, unique characters, and more.
Table of contents
Solo Leveling (Only I Level Up)
Solo Leveling is probably one of the most anticipated adaptations and a subject of many rumors that have been circulating for years. Based on a web novel by Chugong that ended in 2018, the Solo Leveling webtoon with DUBU’s (Redice Studio) art was adapted by h-goon. It started serialization in 2018 and ended last year, after 2 seasons and 179 episodes. This would mean that fans and potential new viewers would get a full adaptation, without the need to wait for new content. A printed version of the novel is available in English, courtesy of Yen Press.
The fantasy webtoon with RPG elements has been licensed in English and is fully translated. Webnovel describes the plot as:
In this world where Hunters with various magical powers battle monsters from invading the defenseless humanity, Sung Jin-Woo was the weakest of all the Hunters, barely able to make a living.
However, a mysterious System grants him the power of the ‘Player’, setting him on a course for an incredible and often times perilous Journey.
Follow Sung Jin-Woo as he embarks on an adventure to become an unparalleled existence through his “Level-Up” system – the only one in the entire world!
D&C Media, the publisher for the series also has a PV up:
Who Made Me a Princess
Another webtoon that has finished its run, but in a completely different genre. Who Made Me a Princess is a romance story, with reincarnation and isekai elements. It was originally a web novel by Plutus with cover art by Spoon, who later went on to draw the art for the webtoon. It’s important to note that the web novel and webtoon differ in some story aspects.
TappyToon published the entirety of the webtoon in English and describes the plot as:
The beautiful Athanasia was killed at the hands of her own biological father, Claude de Alger Obelia, the cold-blooded emperor! It’s just a silly bedtime story… until one woman wakes up to suddenly find she’s become that unfortunate princess! She needs a plan to survive her doomed fate, and time is running out. Will she go with Plan A, live as quietly as possible without being noticed by the infamous emperor? Plan B, collect enough money to escape the palace? Or will she be stuck with plan C, sweet-talking her way into her father’s good graces?
TappyToon also revealed a short announcement trailer for the series:
Villains Are Destined to Die
Villains Are Destined to Die was a title that was well-known online even before the official license was announced. With gorgeous art and an interesting premise, it won the hearts of many. The villainess trope is quite common in webtoons (and web novels, as this is another adaptation), along with otome games, but Villains Are Destined to Die takes it to another level as it pieces together the main character’s personality. Considering the popularity of My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! (Hamefura) this title is also something that could do well with anime fans. Web novel is already done.
The webtoon that is based on a novel by Gwon Gyeoeul and adapted and illustrated by SUOL currently has 2 seasons out and is on hiatus, awaiting the continuation. Tapas is publishing it in English:
This game’s got me obsessed! It’s like it’s taken over my life… wait—HARD MODE ACTIVATED. No-no-no-no-no! It has literally taken me and thrown me into the part of Penelope Eckhart. Love is easy as the heroine, but as the hated villainess, I’m trying very hard not to die… at the hands of my brothers… the prince… a fork… every possible ending is death! This world is stacked against me, but can my wits and insider game knowledge score the affection of these male characters? Or the reset button???
A trailer is available:
A much darker story than the titles above, B*stard is an original webtoon written by Carnby Kim and illustrated by Youngchan Hwang. It follows a story of a dysfunctional family, in which the father is a serial killer. The webtoon is fully available in English on Naver’s Webtoon platform. It has 93 episodes and is not to be confused with the upcoming Netflix anime of the same name.
Anime-Planet describes the plot as:
Jin has lived a tough life. One of his oldest memories is waking up in the hospital, having received an artificial heart valve, and a glass eye. And as a student, he’s relentlessly bullied for his disabilities. But Jin’s school life is nothing compared to his home life, where he’s raised by his father, a serial killer who targets young women and forces the boy to act as his accomplice. Can Jin do anything to stop his father’s reign of terror without becoming the next victim?
The trailer for the webtoon was uploaded in 2020:
There are a few titles that are as infamous for the amount of messed-up content as Killing Stalking is. The psychological thriller explores some dark themes, including abuse, Stockholm syndrome, serial killers, and mental illness. However, the webtoon has a sort of a cult following and is well known, especially among the Boys’ Love (BL) genre fans, and would make for an interesting anime adaptation, at least in terms of shock value. The downside is that it is unlikely to get one, due to the dark themes it explores, at least not by a traditional studio and in a traditional format. Koogi’s webtoon is available to read on Lezhin but the content is marked as mature and requires an account to access. Seven Seas is publishing the print version in English later this year.
Anime-Planet describes the plot as:
Yoon Bum is a scrawny, awkward man who suffers from mental illness and has an unhealthy romantic fixation with popular college student Oh Sangwoo. He’s taken to stalking the object of his obsession, even going so far as to break into Sangwoo’s home; but the horrors he discovers in the young man’s basement are beyond his darkest nightmares. His would-be prince charming is actually a serial killer, and when Bum is caught trespassing, he soon learns that breaking into a psychopath’s house is a lot easier than getting out…
Lezhin has a trailer up:
The Beginning After the End
The Beginning After the End (commonly known as TBATE) is another story of isekai/reincarnation. It is based on a novel by TurtleMe and features art by Fuyuki23. A fun fact about it is that it’s actually an OEL (original English language manga, or in this case novel/webtoon). Tapas has been publishing the novel since 2017 and webtoon since 2018. Both versions have well over 18 million views on the Tapas website, with the webtoon leading in the number of subscribers (over 376K at the time of writing). Yen Press is set to publish the printed edition this July.
Tapas describes the plot as:
King Grey has unrivaled strength, wealth, and prestige in a world governed by martial ability. However, solitude lingers closely behind those with great power. Beneath the glamorous exterior of a powerful king lurks the shell of man, devoid of purpose and will.
Reincarnated into a new world filled with magic and monsters, the king has a second chance to relive his life. Correcting the mistakes of his past will not be his only challenge, however. Underneath the peace and prosperity of the new world is an undercurrent threatening to destroy everything he has worked for, questioning his role and reason for being born again.
A trailer is available:
Lout of Count’s Family
Another villain story, but this time with a male lead. Lout of Count’s Family was also well-known before it was officially licensed, and is also based on the web novel, like most webtoons on this list. The comedy-adventure features the story of Kim Roksu, who gets transported into a novel he was reading. It is based on Ryeohan Yu’s story was written by PAN and contains art by PAN4. The webtoon is still ongoing and might make for an exciting anime adaptation, perfect for isekai fans.
TappyToon is publishing it in English:
Kim Roksu has one life motto: “Let’s not get beat up.” But after dozing off somewhere midway through the novel “Birth of a Hero,” he wakes up as Cale Henituse – one of the minor villains in the novel who gets the beating of a lifetime from soon-to-be hero Choi Han. Only time will tell how much longer he has before that dreadful encounter. Can Kim Roksu change the course of this story so he can enjoy a long and lavish life free of the soon-to-be hero?
CopinComics also offers the webtoon in English and also has a trailer available:
Light and Shadow
Another web novel adaptation and another romance story. However, this one is a slightly mixed bag when it comes to romance, considering how the love story begins. The novel was written by Ryu Hyang and is one in a line of similar stories that are mainly aimed at female audiences. The female lead stands out, as she fights to find her place under the sun and tries to find love in her marriage that starts out in an abusive way. The story is done and a sequel is currently ongoing.
Hee Won provided art for the webtoon which is available to read on TappyToon:
It’s a rude insult when lowly and headstrong servant Edna comes to marry Duke Eli, instead of the noble daughter he expected. But the ambitious maid hides an even bigger secret behind her obvious ruse – one that could change the kingdom’s very history. Can the two find freedom, redemption – and love – without drawing their swords on each other?
A trailer showcasing the art is available:
Webtoons and Anime: Exciting Possibilities Await
We will certainly be seeing more webtoon anime adaptations, not because Japan is running out of manga but because webtoons are a growing market, filled with many titles that have a decent fan following. Hopefully, they will be slightly better than the ones we got so far and more accepted by the fans of the source material.