Korean comics and graphic novels (manhwa) are gaining more and more attention. The Boxer hooks you with the speediness of Yu’s supersonic jabs. It’s a boxer origin story that might be light on comedy but heavy on action and drama. The Boxer Volume 1 shows an arc for three characters and explosive illustrations that make you feel you have ringside seats. Few with zero interest in sports will anticipate enjoying a story about boxing this much. 

Those Eyes In The Boxer Volume 1 Tell You What’s Up

You know this person can destroy your whole existence from the cover alone. Fighters in anime and manga often fall into two camps: those who love to fight and those who do not care. Essentially, an inferno versus an arctic freeze. The former chase their opponents with fiery excitement. The latter freezes your blood because they feel nothing; no anger, no pain, nothing at all. It leaves a sensible opponent worried about the outcome should they fight back. Both types are present and colliding in The Boxer, created by JH with translation by Webtoon and lettering by Adnazeer Macalangcom.

The Yen Press manga has a boxing coach, K, who is at a gym searching for talented fighters to train. He sees a promising teenager, white-haired Baeksan Ryu, who can dodge easily and deliver powerful punches. K views him as a natural talent. But when K stops a trio of bullies beating up a black-haired kid, Yu, with lifeless eyes, he realizes something is different about this teenager. Yu does not react, dodge, or fight back. There’s more response in punching a sack of flour. But when K throws a dangerous punch, Yu dodges quickly. K offers to train him, but Yu has no interest. 

Lessons Learned The Hard Way

The Boxer Volume 1 has three characters go through an arc within the first volume. That is surprising and amazing in itself. Besides Ryu and Yu—who attend the same school—there is Injae, a classmate of Yu and a victim of Ryu’s bullying. We’re talking about using Injae’s back as a chair bully type. Yu is off Ryu’s radar. Once an incident puts Yu on Ryu’s radar, the situation escalates for all three. Their collision sets them all on a path that leads to the same destination despite their differing routes.

The Boxer Volume 1 manga cover of half of Ryu's Face
The Boxer Volume 1 manga cover.

Injae’s the first person to grow in this volume. He goes from a weak victim to someone willing to stand up. Yu, who cares about nothing, now has an interest in fighting. Bully Ryu learns as great as he is at combat, he is not unbeatable. All that’s missing from the trio is their backstories. But however they got there, they all have a common thread too. They want to become boxers. 

Full-Color Illustration And Chapter Titles Are Perfect

The full-color illustrations bring interactions alive and make each character even more distinct. Ryu’s smile is extra evil because he looks so happy hurting others. Yu looks like he would not even jump if a bomb dropped beside him. Injae’s internal struggle with his external situation stands out with every color panel. When they fight in The Boxer Volume 1, it feels like a battle is in motion before your eyes, thanks to JH. JH masterfully uses illustration to convey what a hit feels like, leaving readers clamoring for more. 

Chapter titles—or “episodes” as the manga labels them—emit a sense of tension to the point of an explosion, awakening, or both. It’s as though you are witnessing something not seen before, just like K. Even the term “episode” instead of chapter befits the characters’ interactions. It foreshadows unforeseen events on their horizons. And the final chapter’s name is a crafty reversal of the first. You read the chapter’s name and ask “who” or “what happened” every time. 

The Boxer Volume 1 descends into mayhem immediately. Through dialogue and fights, you see where the characters start versus where they wind up. With color illustrations amplifying an already stunning story, The Boxer Volume 1 is a top-tier recommendation. Manga that takes you through a range of emotions is difficult to come by, so pick this one up. Nothing more dangerous or compelling than a character who gives zero f–ks.

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