I was looking through old reviews when I found out something shocking; I hadn't done a review on one of my most recommended Webtoons of all time. Wow. So here I am, rectifying my mistake!
Status: Complete (28 episodes)
Summary: Yun Ai wanted to be a magician when she was little. But now in reality, she is a high school student who cannot even afford new stockings. Since the day she met a real magician at a fair, she desperately wants to follow her dream.
Story: 4.5/5: This is equal parts drama, slice of life, psychological and something else that I can't quite put my finger on. It's about Ai Yun, a girl whose mother is out of the picture, and whose father has abandoned her and her sister. She has become cynical and jaded, and only wants to be an adult as soon as possible. But this changed when she meets the magician, a man who is rumored to be insane, as he lives at the nearby amusement park and always asks, "Do you believe in magic?" This starts off similar to a Disney movie; poverty-stricken girl is swept into a world where fantasy and reality blend into one, all while finding her old dreams and realizing their worth. But it starts to feel more like a Ghibli movie as it goes on, as reality sinks into the dream and brings it down to earth.
Themes dealt here are dreams, societal expectations, how those expectations affect different individuals (particularly students), mental health, and magic. They can be pretty heavy, but it is dealt with in a manner that makes it less depressing than it could be. Overall, this story invokes a sense of hope throughout, rather than pure hopelessness. So while this can get sad, no doubt about it, it can also be incredibly beautiful. This can ring true to a lot of people; it can become incredibly realistic and relatable at times. I honestly feel like this could (and should) be required reading at schools; it's just that realistic to students' problems. But this isn't a read just for students; this can ring true to people at any time in their lives.
Annarasumanara may seem like a typical story at first, but as reality seeps into the fantastic, dream like world, the plot becomes amazing and almost painfully realistic at times. It's beautiful, strange, unique, sad, bittersweet, and overall, magical. I can't describe this story to give it justice.
Characters: 5/5: There are only three characters who truly are developed, but they're incredibly well written. Two side characters are also given some development too.
Ai Yun is the main character; she starts off as cynical and dispassionate, yet it's for an actually good reason; she and her sister, Yui, have been left alone. So Ai is desperate to grow up as soon as possible. But once she meets the magician, she begins to find her old dreams and starts to believe that maybe they aren't as worthless as she thought, and starts to become less jaded and uninspired by the world. She's intelligent and practical, as well as tough skinned. She is able to grow to find wonder and magic in a bittersweet world and to grow past societal pressure.
The Magician, or L, is an amazingly written character. Our perception of him can change in a moment, and he is definitely more than meets the eye. He can be charismatic, insecure, lonely, whimsical, charming, and unstable, sometimes all in one scene. He is also very mysterious, and raises a lot of questions. His influence on Ai is complex too; is it good, bad, or both? Is he impacting her well, or badly? And most of all, is he a real magician? Is his magic real, or fake? He isn't portrayed as good or bad, but as human. It's sometimes painful to read about him, he's so complex.
Ildeung, a classmate of Ai's, may have the best character development, however; he starts off as being so irritating, but eventually becomes incredibly sympathetic and likable. He's first portrayed as rather snobby and competitive when it comes to grades, doing whatever it takes to become the first of his class. But it's shown that he isn't following his own desires; he's been following his parent's expectations of him his entire life and feels rather trapped.
Beauty, L's parrot, causes laughs and tears, and even Yui, Ai's little sister, is an enjoyable character.
Writing: 5/5: The writing is beautiful. Each line, each quote, each twist, is amazing. The lines have a certain magical, modern fairy tale vibe about them without sounding corny or contrived, which is an impressive feat alone. Not everyone can write modern fairy tail lines without sounding dumb or unrealistic.
But it's the way the story develops that makes this some of the best writing I've seen: it begins as a fairytale, like a Disney movie. Yet as it progresses, reality creeps in. It's like waking up from a dream, but if the dream was a part of the real world.
As it turns out, dreams and reality sometime mix, but other times they don't. This reality includes school life, social life, and family life. Ai's world and the magician's world nearly feel like two different stories, and the way they mesh together is heartbreaking. The magician's world is affected by the real world, by mental health and laws and accusations and even death. The twists never feel out of place; they can be shocking, but they work and feel real, even if we don't want them to be.
But as sad and painful and moving as it becomes, Annarasumanara never becomes depressing, overly bleak, or hopeless. It still has a sense of hope and beauty throughout. That's what makes it so magical; it's bittersweet and realistic, yet incredibly inspiring.
Art: 5/5: I would give this a 100/5 if I could. While the character design isn't my favorite, there is no doubt that this is some of the best art on Webtoons. The art was stunning and innovative, totally different than most Webtoons. The author incorporates real objects, like paper, cotton balls, and the occasional photo into the drawings. Each of these things can be interpreted as symbolic or metaphorical, not just eye candy, which adds another layer of depth to the story. Each panel has something to say.
The art also differentiates between the real world and within the amusement park, making it clear they are of the same world, but adding unique touches to both. The backgrounds are also amazing, seriously detailed and worth a thorough look. For the most part, this is in black and white, but with touches of color throughout. But there are scenes with a spectacular amount of color, making a huge impact in the story and being incredibly memorable. Sometimes, it feels like you're there. The art also communicated the story as much as the dialogue; if the art were different, or if this was a book rather than a comic, Annarasumanara wouldn't have the same impact and memorability. The art and the writing share equal parts in terms of impact and memorability. Basically, this is something I think everyone should read if not for the sake of the art.
World Building: 4/5: This takes place in the real world, and it is captured so well! It feels very realistic. The pressure and expectations society places on people isn't sugar coated, but is communicated incredibly well without feeling over the top. Instead, it feels right, and I think it captures a time everyone feels in their life. As Annarasumanara largely focuses on society and its impact on people, this rings incredibly true.
- Twists with value: The twists are amazingly well placed. Each character has a huge revelation about them, and yet they are never contrived, instead feeling like a real twist that could happen. These characters feel like real people. They each have impact and add a layer of reality to the world.
- Realistic: This starts off with a Disney vibe. It feels like magic, but reality shows up. Once that happens, it actually feels like how the real world would react to these events, in both positive and negative ways.
- The overall presentation: The way mental health was portrayed, society's reactions to different people, and how society affects each person differently was effectively portrayed. It was very realistic and relatable. People and society and pressure were all realistically portrayed…all while feeling magical. It's sort of reminiscent of a Ghibli movie in that regard.
- Short: This was really short. At only 28 episodes, I wish there was more content. I wanted more of these characters, the art, and the world. But unlike most short stories, this managed to be powerful, impactful, and had amazing development.
- Too many metaphors?: This was incredibly symbolic, but some of the symbolism could go over people's heads. I know some did for me. It could be a little much for some.
- Ambiguous ending: The ending was a little confusing. Again, it was likely a symbolic/metaphorical ending, but it was just a bit unclear. I sort of wish the ending had been longer; I needed more closure, and it felt open-ended. But it was still very impactful.
Grading: 5/5. A very rare five out five for me. But this was one of the few Webtoons I would call a masterpiece. It was stunning and breathtaking. It's drama, but has elements of magic, psychology, and social drama/commentary. I highly recommend this.