‘The Breaker’ – Teachers CAN be cool!

Image courtesy of Amazon.co.uk

I think there comes a time in your life when you think that your teacher is lame. Personally, when I was a teenager I never thought any of my teachers understood me, but the reality was I never understood them. I never took the time to. I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to those teachers, especially when I knew they were trying their best not to interfere, but to support and help me achieve.

Nowadays as a media consumer, the portrayals of teachers are that they are effortlessly the opposite. Some of my favourite characters in cartoons, films, and drama series are teachers! These individuals even inspired me to create my own epic tutors in story ideas. So what would happen when I came across the manhwa series titled The Breaker (브레이커)? Would it be the same?

 The Breaker (브레이커)

This ten volume manhwa series sees writer Jeon Geuk-Jin (전극진) and illustrator Park Jin-Hwan (박진환), under the artist name ‘Kamaro’, team up to create a character that goes by the name of Han Chunwoo. His first appearance is of him crouching on top of a brick wall, smoking and wearing sunglasses. Chunwoo’s hair is pulled back in a loose ponytail and he sports attire that looks far from the professional teacher type – 3/4 length shorts, and an unbuttoned holiday print shirt, revealing a white vest and chain necklace underneath. The first male lead analyses the surroundings and people from where he is positioned, including the next male lead character, Shiwoon, who is being threatened and beaten up by a gang of school bullies led by the antagonist – Shiwoon’s classmate Changho. Shortly after the two meet, it is revealed that Chunwoo is Shiwoon’s substitute class teacher while their actual teacher is on maternity leave.

Geuk-Jin neatly reveals details of Chunwoo and Shiwoon as well as other side characters such as Shiwoo’s childhood friend Saehee. Kamaro’s drawings perfectly support Geuk-Jin’s story telling, with pictures that depict the sound effects, the action in the fighting scenes and the sensibility in the characters’ monologues and inner thoughts.

The problem with story writing, especially in comic form, is that if the author decides to make a longer, ongoing series, they need to have enough of a story to keep their audience entertained. However, if they choose to go down a shorter route, they must come up with the material to round up their plotline. Whilst reading The Breaker’s first volume, I felt that there were no questionable gaps and none of the upcoming events were predictable at all. Again, we are slowly getting to know the setting and the characters, so duo Geuk-Jin and Kamaro know how to keep the reader curious while keeping us on our toes as the story progresses.

The example that backs up my point is a scene that takes place in chapter six, where Chunwoo sets a challenge for Shiwoon. Shiwoon believes that Chunwoo’s intention is to teach him to take things seriously, but Chunwoo just wants to scare him. Of course the action Shiwoon takes is very dramatic but shortly after, the scene turns into a lighthearted one, making the readers not feel like a cliché twist was thrown at them.

The final chapter of volume one introduces the reader to another world: a martial arts one. Now, I don’t particularly read or seek manhwa that use martial arts themes or that as a genre but The Breaker really gave me a good head start to finding out more about the sports itself and what it could entail in its fictional environment. Do they have special skills? Yes. Is it all done by magic? Not that I know of, so far. Will there be more epic fight scenes? It seems like it!

What I liked about it

The confusion of Chunwoo’s personality; when he talks to certain people, you can really see his intention and the relationships he shares with other characters. But how can we know if he’s being the real him or not? Is he putting on a front with them or us? That’s the question that always enters my mind! There are some funny scenes dotted around the first volume now and again too, most involving him (especially in chapter 2 and 6). Again, is he meant to be funny or is this just an act? I like how puzzled I get about his purpose!

It follows a very realistic and therefore, alarming representation of student outcasts. Unfortunately in this world, the saddening act of bullying exists, and it’s true that victims of bullying are living in constant fear – that if they tell someone about what is happening, the consequences might decide their unruly fate. I hope in some way, The Breaker encourages these individuals to stand up for themselves against these bullies or at least alert those close by who might know or suspect that bullying is happening.

What I disliked about it

Sometimes the adult humour can get a bit much. In the dialogue, drawings (especially the illustrations of female characters) – if they’re meant to be crude or not, a joke or not funny at all, they can still come across a little distasteful.

It ended on a character introduction cliffhanger! That can only mean one thing…I should probably read the next volume but only to feed my curiosity, obviously.

Final thoughts

This manhwa didn’t top Banya: The Explosive Delivery Man, which currently rules the top spot in my manhwa reading list, but despite the cliffhanger and sometimes the overdone adult humour, I would say The Breaker is a solid series. I can easily see this being adapted into an animation or real action TV series/film too.

There are currently only translations of The Breaker in German, French, Russian, Italian and Polish. For Korean language learners, reading manhwa would be a great way to practice your hangul (한글) reading skills – or if you have a Korean friend, perhaps you could read this series together!

Do you like martial arts manhwa? Is Chunwoo a cool character to you? Here at ATK, we’re always happy to hear what our readers think, so let us know in the comments section!

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