The Breaker Review: A Martial Arts Disciple’s Growth
About a month ago, I read through a manhwa called The Breaker. Some of my AIM friends have a lot of love for this series and demanded I get to it as soon as possible. It took me a while, and sadly I still have only finished the first part of the series, but it was quite a fun read. The Breaker is my second manhwa, the first being Tower of God. While both are action manhwa, the two are very, very different series and Breaker certainly feels more like a manga than ToG did. I say that Breaker’s style is more reminiscent of manga, though truth be told I don’t know a whole lot of manga quite like it. I guess that part of it is simply the fact that I haven’t read a whole lot of martial arts manga to begin with (only ones I’ve read much of anything for are probably Baki the Grappler and History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi, both of which have their similarities to it but aren’t quite the same deal). Apparently the early stages of Breaker are supposed to be similar to Great Teacher Onizuka as well, though I’ll have to see just how similar GTO is once I actually do start that. In any case, The Breaker was quite a good series and I look forward to seeing what New Waves has to offer as well.
The story revolves around Shi-Woon Yi, a weak boy that is constantly pushed around at school and unable to stand up for himself. However, everything changes with the entrance of a new teacher, Chun Woo Han. Chun Woo initially seems to be a goofy, eccentric teacher focused on women above all else, though Shi-Woon discovers that Chun Woo is in fact a skilled martial artist. Shi-Woon, desperate to change his life and find a way to defend himself, insists on having Chun Woo teach him, though Chun Woo tries to dismiss him at first. Shi-Woon proves himself willing to go to any length in order to improve himself, and Chun Woo reluctantly decides to teach him. However, there is more trouble beyond Shi-Woon’s bullying issues. Chun Woo has a dark past and Shi-Woon ultimately gets drawn in more and more as he continues to learn martial arts. Though Shi-Woon simply hoped to become stronger to defend himself and protect those whom he cares about, he finds that the world of martial arts is more dangerous than he realized and there is much more to Chun Woo than meets the eye.
Breaker’s story is quite engaging, and while it starts off a bit slow, it becomes a very eventful and captivating read. While the plot seems more comical and lighthearted at first, it becomes much more serious as the story progresses. As the threats become more pressing and more is revealed about Chun Woo, the story becomes very action-packed and the developments that take place do wonders for the series. There isn’t anything especially complex about what takes place and the plot is quite easy to follow, but things become much more interesting as the backstories are revealed and more about Chun Woo’s life and how it connects to his current ordeals is displayed. This aspect of the story is one of the best, though this is also very much a tale about Shi-Woon the disciple, and Shi-Woon is just as important a part of the story as Chun Woo. Shi-Woon fits more as the role of main character and a good portion of the story does in fact follow him above all else, though Chun Woo plays an instrumental role in driving the story’s events and both characters are equally relevant to what takes place. Breaker follows the growth of Shi-Woon just as much as it follows Chun Woo fighting against the enemies of his past, and seeing how the two come together makes for a very exciting experience.
The characters, more than the story, are what make this tale the enjoyable ride it is. Shi-Woon is a great protagonist that grows substantially over the course of the story. While wimpy protagonists can be a hit or miss depending on the situation, Shi-Woon stands out to me as one of the better ones as he truly does develop and becomes a strong, respectable character that’s very easy to root for. Chun Woo, while not necessarily developing as Shi-Woon has, is a fantastic character in his own right. Early in the story, he balances the roles of silly, outrageous teacher with the serious, powerful martial artist. As Breaker progresses, however, the comedic aspects of his character start to fade away as the darker sides of his personality get the spotlight. Chun Woo proves to be a much more complex character than he seems and the pain of his past proves to be the main source motivating his actions and even his personality throughout. Chun Woo also constantly shows why he is the resident badass of the series as he is a nearly unstoppable force that shows exceptional power and has some of the most intense battle moments. A majority of Chun Woo’s fights handicap him in one way or another, only proving further just how powerful he truly is as he smashes those in his way. Another important character is Shiho Lee, a woman who helps Shi-Woon to get stronger as well as one of the people aware of Chun Woo’s past. Shiho proves to be a very valuable ally and a very important part of the story, even if she is not quite as central as Shi-Woon or Chun Woo. Beyond these three, however, there are a number of other characters that play less major yet nonetheless important roles. Sae-hie, a girl that is one of Shi-Woon’s closest friends, and Chang Ho, a delinquent bully that proves to be detestable in every scene he appears, both appear fairly frequently in the early stages as a good deal of Shi-Woon’s growth takes place earlier in the story before the Chun Woo reveals. There are also a number of characters involved with the martial arts world in some way, from the level-headed So Chun Hyuk to the tsundere loli Sosul Jang. I could list a lot of characters but much of that material would probably lean toward spoilers, so I’ll just say that Breaker has a diverse cast of fighters, some likable and others very easy to hate. While most of the other characters don’t get particular development, they play their roles well and do exactly what they are intended to, and for a 10-volume manhwa that treats its mains well developmentwise, that’s certainly sufficient.
The character interactions are some of the most interesting parts of this manhwa, and in particular I’m quite fond of the relationship between our major characters, Shi-Woon and Chun Woo. While the master/disciple bond is nothing new and fairly common in the more Shounen actiony series, something about this one appealed to me more than others. I can’t even say it’s a particularly revolutionary bond, per se, as it doesn’t do a whole lot of “new” things, but something about it just works. More than anything it’s probably the development that goes along with it all. It goes without saying that the sensei/student situations involve the student becoming more powerful, though I feel that there really was more in terms of the character development with these two. With a lot of other series, I feel that the characters, aside from having a connection with each other as would certainly be the case with a sensei and disciple, don’t really change all that much overall. However, it’s clear that Shi-Woon and Chun Woo have a clear impact on the other’s life and seeing how their relationship develops over the story was great. Like I mentioned before, Shi-Woon truly does grow significantly over the course of the series, and he stays true to his beliefs even after becoming stronger. However, it’s also true that Shi-Woon becomes just as important to Chun Woo. Chun Woo, who proves to be aggressive, violent, and bitter in some ways, shows his kindness in the effort he gives to help Shi-Woon, even if he constantly acts as though he isn’t concerned and Shi-Woon truly brings out the best in his master throughout. The strong bond between the two helps carry the series all the way to the end, perhaps the most in what is a very emotional conclusion to the story.
While The Breaker isn’t necessarily the deepest of stories or the most developed in every area, it does well with what it aims to do and is a very enjoyable read. With an engaging story, lovable characters, and great fights, it’s easy to be drawn in by the series. Perhaps the best part, however, is that it doesn’t end here. I still have yet to read New Waves, and according to my friends, it’s even better than the first part. More Shi-Woon focus and development sounds fantastic and I have high hopes for the rest of the series. I cannot wait to see how things unfold and I imagine there will be even more greatness to appreciate in the chapters ahead. The Breaker ends up at a very high 8/10 from me, and if I were to give it a re-read, it might perhaps even be a 9/10. I look forward to the rest of the series and I certainly hope I can find other similar series that can pull me in just as The Breaker has.