Trigger warning: bullying
The Boxer is one of the latest titles from Ize Press originally released as a web comic and then published in a print volume.
It starts when the lives of three high school students—a bully, the one being bullied and the one who doesn’t care about anything—become entangled.
Yu, is an high schooler, but he’s apathetic. He doesn’t care what life throws at him. He’s bored. Legendary boxer trainer, Coach K witnesses Yu getting beaten up by a group of guys, but Yu’s eyes are what attracts his attention, and Coach K doesn’t ignore his instincts. He has raised five world champions, so he knows talent when he sees it. And when he decides to test Yu, Coach K feels something that he has never felt before—fear.
Baeksan is good at fighting, and he knows he has talent. He has not lost yet, and he takes down every opponent. Nobody can stop him, and nobody can stop him from bullying Injae. Injae is weak. He knows it, and he hates it. He wants to change and does his best to do so. His father was a boxer, and Injae wants to become as strong as his father was during his boxing days. And when Baeksan changes his sights from him to Yu, it’s time to show what he has learned. He’s not going to give up, no matter how hard Baeksan hits. However, it is this defining moment that shows Yu that life can be entertaining.
This manhwa is dark and gloomy, not just in terms of the storyline but also the illustrations. The characters so far are all high-school students who also happen to be in the same class. And, of course, there are the ones who are at the top of the food chain and the ones at the bottom. Yu is definitely the main character and together with Baeksan has the least amount of growth in this volume. Yu starts thinking that life doesn’t have to be boring, but we are way too early in the series to see if that’s how the story will go. Will Yu start appreciating life and enjoy being a boxer? I think so, but with only one volume out it’s too hard to predict. Baeksan, on the other hand, experiences his first defeat, and Coach K’s instincts were proven to be spot-on—whoever is at the end of Yu’s punch will experience fear and defeat.
The Boxer is a manhwa in full colour. The illustrations are simplistic, almost like a washed-down version that is a mix between The Breaker by Jean Geek-Jin and Park Jin-Hwan and The God of High School by Yongje Park. They are all gloomy, especially the representation of Yu. He’s the main character, but unless you know the story, his close-ups would make the reader feel he’s going to be the villain. Although this style of drawing is not my favourite, The Boxer has had more than 166M views on Webtoon, and received many positive reviews. This is not the usual art style that many manga and manhwa aficionados are used to, so maybe that’s what attracting the attention of so many readers.
Once we pass the stage feeling like Yu might turn out to be the villain, The Boxer becomes an underdog story. We still don’t know how much Injae and Baeksan will be involved in the rest of series, or if we’ll see more of them at all. As this is Volume 1, it serves as more of an introduction to the characters, so not much happens yet. And although the manhwa is in full-colour, the colour palette is mostly black and white. This also helps to give the manhwa that gloomy appearance. I’m curious to see if the artist will keep the same art style and colour palette throughout the full series, or it will change the more that Yu grows. It makes sense to use neutral colours while Yu doesn’t care about anything. Bright colours would attract attention and wouldn’t fit into what the author and illustrator are trying to show.
Although I love a good underdog story, I didn’t find the characters that relatable. The bullying is extreme. It’s not something that would be accepted in any school and there would be serious repercussions. Yes, that’s the catalyst that starts Yu’s journey toward becoming a boxer (hopefully), but it seems forced as if there isn’t any other way for Yu to be interested in something.
The Boxer by JH is released as a print edition by Ize Press with the English translation by Webtoon. It started as a webtoon on the homonymous website, Webtoon, and although the manhwa is marked as finished digitally, its print counterpart still needs to be fully released. Volume 1 came out in December 2022, and Volume 2 is slated for released in April 2023.