Hello readers and welcome to another gut-busting installment of Manga Hermit. And what an action filled column it will be! For today I’ll be reviewing the martial arts manhwa The Breaker!
Shi Woon Lee is your average high school student, one among the masses that will be back at the books once September comes. He’s quiet, shy, and secular to a fault. His looks are nothing special, and his physical aptitude makes an otaku look like a bodybuilder. He has parental units that disappear from home for such long periods of time that he’s left to fend for himself. At least he’s caught the eye of one of his school’s resident hotties, Sae Hee. Now if it wasn’t for all the constant bullying, Woon would rightly be enjoying his high school days. Instead he has to deal with Chang Ho and his posse constantly demanding money from him and the subsequent beatings. When Ho threatens Sae Hee though, Shi Woon finally fights back…and promptly gets his ass handed to him. Luckily for him the new substitute teacher (which he discovers is actually an experienced fighter despite acting like an arrogant flirt) Chun Woo Han sees his battered body and patches him up.
(Because you reap what you sow when you try to get it on while a student contemplates suicide no less than 20ft away from you.)
Realizing his inherent weakness, Shi Woon pleads Chun Woo to teach him martial arts. Yet, nobody could have foreseen the future that these two individuals would have the moment Chun Woo agreed. That decision would lead to an upheaval in the martial arts world the likes of which no one has seen in decades.
Written by Jeon Keuk-Jin, The Breaker is an action manhwa that follows master Chun Woo Han and disciple Shi Woon as their training brings them into the hidden and rigidly brutal world that is the Murim-in. Part politics, part ass-kicking, 100% foot-to-face brutality, the Murim-in and Chun Woo have no love lost between them. It doesn’t help that every action that the master and/or apprentice take are irrevocably bringing both sides to an explosive confrontation – especially when it is (predictably) revealed that Chun Woo is more than just an experienced martial artist. The story which starts out (relatively) innocently enough becomes darker and more serious as it moves to this conclusion. The lack of humor towards the end is but one of the more obvious signs that things were moving into Serious Business territory.
(Demon eyes; steam wafting from mouth; ground disintegrating with every step? Yep – shit just got serious.)
The Breaker is filled with a multitude of characters that are revealed as more of the Murim-in is introduced. The characters fulfill the traditional archetypes, with no one individual really breaking the mold. Strangely enough, the presence of the Murim-in helps to keep the characters from being forgettable, mainly because the existence of the Murim-in, and the action of its members are hinted to be more complex that what is actually perceived. Art wise, Keuk-Jin blends sharp contrasts with brutal gore to give us a world that at first seems fine, but is actually waiting to burst. I wholly recommend The Breaker and its sequel The Breaker: New Waves.