I love how high school premises have evolved over the years. Like, the premise would generally involve a teen male and then some kind of ability being thrust upon them, right? But in Japan, that power tends to be more supernatural, with the protagonist being inexperienced about it. However, in Korea, they go about it in a completely different way. With them, it’s all about the suave and cool main characters. Just take a look at Teenage Mercenary.
Teenage Mercenary is a webtoon that only came out last year on Line WebToon, but has quickly gained millions of views. And I get the appeal, I mean, who doesn’t enjoy the reversed tropes where an extraordinary person suffers from the worst thing possible: a mundane life? It’s why fiction like Spy X Family got so hyped. It’s just a setting that works so well, making these amazing and skilled characters seem much more human. And Teenage Mercenary follows that same idea, becoming very worth the read.
I’m just a sucker for a good webtoon anyways, but rarely do I ever dip my toes into anything outside of the romance genre. It’s just a preference thing. And while I did end up enjoying webtoons like UnOrdinary and Lookism at one point, I dropped them pretty quickly because they didn’t remain consistent in their quality or became an absolute drag that should’ve ended years ago. But that was not the case with Teenage Mercenary. Writer YC made sure that your attention stays with this one.
Then again, it also helps that the writing of the characters themselves never feels like it’s cookie-cutter. Yes, it follows a pattern set by high school manhwa as of late, but it never ends up coming off as boring or stale. Like yeah, the main character is OP as hell, but also really out of his element. And if that sounds like something you’d be into, then keep on reading!
The Premise: He Can Kill A Man, But Can He Survive Highschool?
Most kids probably wouldn’t survive a plane crash at only 8 years of age, but Ijin Yu had luck on his side. However, that same luck landed him in a hotbed of mercenaries, who end up becoming his new family. Trained in the art of combat and stealth, Yu has become deadly at a very young age, growing accustomed to a life of bloodshed.
So, it’s surprising when he learns he still has family somewhere in South Korea and is whisked away to a life of a normal teenager. No longer having to fight for food and shelter, Yu should feel good about this change of pace. Of course, what he learns is that normal city life can be just as dangerous as any warzone. Only, the conflicts here take place in a far seedier manner.
Could he keep up this pretense of being an ordinary high schooler? Or will his violent past never leave his shadow?
The Breakdown: Thrilling Action Balanced With Sweet Moments!
It’s fun. And for all the best reasons. This isn’t a complicated story; in fact, it follows many of the stereotypes you’ve come to see in these high school-style stories. But over here, the cliches don’t feel forced or like they’re trying too hard to seem cooler or ‘more epic’. It’s just casual, while simultaneously being serious when it needs to be.
And those heavier moments come in because Yu, our protagonist, is so dead serious all the time. But unlike most main characters like him, his seriousness is never treated as superior or intellectual. In the end, he’s still young and in an environment, he is wholly unfamiliar with. And for some reason, that means he, nor the people he interacts with, ever come across as unlikeable.
The art by Rakyeon plays that emotional factor while also showcasing the fight choreography nicely.
The Verdict: Not Your Typical Korean High School Webtoon!
I went in expecting yet another God Of High School or whatnot. Instead, I got a genuinely sincere story about this fish out of water that uses what he knows best to adapt to a space he isn’t used to. It’s endearing and exhilarating in equal spades.
All in all, Teenage Mercenary is worth a read!