Korean Title: Breaker
Related: The Breaker: New Waves (sequel)
Genre: Martial Arts Action Comedy Drama
Length: 10 volumes
- High quality art.
- Solid action.
- Han is hilarious.
- Slow to get the protagonist’s story going.
The Breaker follows Shi-Woon, a downtrodden student, and his womanising martial arts teacher in hiding, Han. In the story’s opening, Shi-Woon is a victim of severe bullying at the hands of classmates. These one-dimensional bullies found in every Karate Kid-type story made me groan, but when Han tells Shi-Woon he is bullied because he’s a piece of shit, I laughed (see first image below). You don’t expect the master to tell the apprentice he’s trash. My opinion changed thereafter.
Han is the best character here and, in my opinion, the true protagonist since he has the most page time and conflict focus. His combination of goofball during downtime and serious when needed makes every scene with him a joy. He’s a martial arts master in hiding from several high-end gangs he’s peeved off in the past and he sees potential in Shi-Woon to become something great. The sexy Shiho, a master in Ki healing, joins them soon. She and Han play well off each other, particularly in regards to the sexual humour.
Having the underdog learn from a master to win a series of fights is nothing new and I would say oversaturates action manga. However, The Breaker executes it at the top tier, so don’t let past slush get in the way here. For one, there’s more psychology to Shi-Woon than your usual underdog. The author made an effort to explain why he is mentally and physically weak at the start, developing him in a believable way from there.
The Breaker also deviates from the formula with the inclusion of these gangs, which takes the story into a more Ki-powered mafia direction. Having more than a string of fights prevents the story from growing stale. Don’t misunderstand – action is still the focus, but there’s enough around the action to elevate it from the slush pile.
As for the action itself, it has all you expect – trash talk, comebacks, punches that knock the soul out of your gut, blood pouring over one eye, supernatural strength, and despicable villains. I preferred the comedy sections, but wasn’t disappointed either when it switched to action.
Art – High
I love The Breaker’s art style and character designs – Shiho is gorgeous. Panels aren’t cluttered and the action sequences have clarity often lacking in action manga/manhwa.
Story – High
A bullied student learns to pick himself off the ground when his school teacher turns out to be a martial arts master in hiding. Taking the Karate Kid formula as a baseline, The Breaker adds supernatural martial arts, sex appeal, humour, and plenty of opponents to defeat.
Recommendation: A must for action fans. The Breaker’s great characters balanced in comedy and action make this an engaging read to the end. If you only want to read one martial arts series, The Breaker should probably be it.
(Find out more about the manga recommendation system here.)