By: Il-Kwon Ha
First of all, a special shout out to the blog, Thoughts on Anime. Sindar wrote a great blog post on Annarasumanara. I told Sindar that I was also working on a post about this webtoon because it is one of my favorite. And BAM!, HERE IT IS! 😀 There is so much to say about it, ranging from the art all the way to the various metaphors within the storyline.
Annarasumanara is a short Korean webtoon by Il-Kwon Ha. Yun Ai has a difficult life. Her mother abandoned the family when she was young, and her father is running away from debt collectors that keep knocking at her door every night. She has to work part-time to support her sister, while still maintaining good grades. She faces so much hardship. Until one day, she meets a magician at an abandoned amusement park. He calls himself, L, and he changes Yun Ai’s view on life.
This webtoon is illustrated mostly in black and white, which in my opinion, captures each character’s darkness and struggles, such as Yun Ai’s poverty and Il-Deung Na’s dealings with academic pressure from his parents and teachers. Yet, there are moments when Il-Kwon Ha uses colors that pop out from the black and white art. These color bursts usually occur when there is a moment of high, intense emotion or to emphasize dreams and creativity. For example, in this scene, L asks Yun Ai if she has an interest in magic, but she avoids answering the question and runs away. Just before she leaves, L shows Yun Ai something mesmerizing; in which he lights up the whole amusement park with a redish-pinkish light and butterflies.
From this picture, you can see how the redish-pinkish light stands out from the black and white, which makes the whole scene enchanting. I think the use of the redish-pinkish color is to escape from reality. Deep down, Yun Ai is denying that she has any interest in magic. She runs away because she realizes being surrounded by magic isn’t going to help her problems. However, L creates a light display, which allows Yun Ai to forget about her worries, and she is able to enjoy the moment and recall her dreams of being a magician.
In addition, Il-Kwon Ha does a great job in making the webtoon three-dimensional. 3D isn’t something one usually sees in a webtoon, but for this one, it actually works out. It creates illusion and perspective. It seems like Il-Kwon Ha is making a statement that in all angles and perspectives, you can’t escape reality. The impression I got is, “We have to accept our situation and problems as it stands. The only thing we can do is push forward.”
Il-Kwon Ha seems to be sharing some important thoughts and values about reality and dreams through Annarasumanara. We can observe these thoughts through the characterization of the main characters. Like I said before, Yun Ai lives with poor and unfortunate circumstances to the extent that she can’t even afford new stockings for school. However, she believes that the key out of poverty is education; thus, she studies hard for her exams in hopes of getting into a good university under a scholarship. Yun Ai doesn’t let unrealistic dreams blind her from a more practical future. When she was younger, Yun Ai desired to be a magician, but she realized that a career in magic won’t make a lot of money, and right now, she is in need of money to get out of poverty. In fact, she thought about dating Il-Deung Na out of comfort and ease rather than love because he is from a rich family, and can support her. I think Yun Ai is a character that we can all relate to. We share the same realistic ideals in regards to our futures. For example, I know a handful of people who pursue practical careers (S.T.E.M) because of the money as oppose to following their passions. We usually take the practical outlook on life because it is safe and logical. We don’t put ourselves in a gamble where there is a high chance of failure.
Similarly, Il-Deung Na has a logical view of the world. He is Yun Ai’s classmate and they compete against each other to get the top grades in school. Eventually, he falls in love with her. Il-Deung follows what L calls, “the asphalt road,” which means that Il-Deung follows the path created for him by his parents. He obeys his parents’ authority and doesn’t rebel against them. All Il-Deung ever does is study and get good grades. His obedience to authority is shown through the shape of his head. His head is elongated like his parents, as if it is a pathway or an asphalt road.
However, it is when he starts learning magic that Il-Deung begins to think for himself, and begins to question his presence on “the asphalt road.” When L is accused of robbery, everyone in the neighborhood thinks he is the culprit. However, Il-Deung defends him. As a result, his asphalt-shaped head transforms into a normal round head. This signifies that Il-Deung has finally let go of his parents’ expectations, and is able to follow his own dreams and passions. Like Il-Deung Na, I think we can all relate to him to the extent that our parents have expectations for us, and we are scared to let them down. Il-Deung represents our struggle of finding that middle ground of meeting our parent’s wishes as well as creating our own pathway and pursuing our own interests.
The magician, L, lives in his own fantasy world of dreams and creativity. He lives in an abandoned amusement park tent, and is labeled as the crazy person in the neighborhood. With this type of reputation, he is isolated from the rest of society. A long time ago, L had the same persona as Il-Deung Na; in which he followed the “asphalt road” his parents built for him. However, he separated himself from those expectations, and followed his magician dream. In one perspective, someone could argue that L couldn’t handle the pressure from his parents and teachers, and that is why he became “mentally insane.” However, I think otherwise. I don’t see L as “mentally insane” instead I see him as the hyperbolic symbol of our dreams and imagination. Society didn’t want to accept him, so instead, he made his own world within that amusement park. He is the symbol of what we want to be when we don’t want to comply with society’s expectations and pressures.
One of the statements constantly repeated in Annarasumanara is, “Do you believe in magic?” On the surface, L is just asking Yun Ai if she believes that he is a real magician. However, if you dig deeper into the words, he seems to be asking, “Do you believe in your dreams?” At one point in time, Yun Ai wanted to be a magician, but she picked a more practical career route. Yet, after meeting L, she begins to pursue that magician dream again. In a sense, the question, “Do you believe in your dreams?” may refer to, “Do you believe in yourself, and are you capable of pursuing your dreams despite the criticism from others?”
Annarasumanara is a fantastic webtoon that I highly recommend to young adults. We shouldn’t let our dreams and passions die due to society’s expectations.