There is a rumor that a magician lives in the tent by the abandoned theme park; some even say his magic is real. However, before he starts his show, he always asks his audience: "Do you believe in magic?"
For Yoon Ah-ee, magic seems like a distant memory. Faced with the harsh reality of poverty, she spends all her time studying, working, and taking care of her younger sister in the absence of their parents. She no longer believes in the wonders of magic, just like her skeptical classmate Na Il-Deung, who has been brought up to believe that a good education is the only way to approach life.
When Ah-ee stumbles into the abandoned theme park and has a chance encounter with the magician, her life is changed forever. Annarasumanara reveals a philosophical, heartwarming, and thought-provoking story of what it means to grow up into the person you want to be.
"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." –Pablo Picasso
Is life a free reality, or a fated game? What happens if you don’t fit into the mold that society wants you to fit in? Can you keep those crazy dreams and beliefs that you had as a child when you move onto adulthood? What's the different between being a child and being an adult? Is great success the most important thing in life? Can you force yourself to just not grow up? What is happiness?
This is the very first manhwa (Korean Manga) that I've ever
read, and I was very impressed; not like a "that was pretty good", but like a "this changed my life". Although I was reluctant to actually read something when I didn't have to, I gave Annarasumanara a try, and now I'm dying to read other manhwas. Annarasumanara makes my English class' "deep" books seem silly and pointless. The story of Annarasumanara was quite straightforward, yet had a mysterious, genius and very touching aspect to it. Although the main synopsis of the manhwa may turn you off because of the "magic", I assure you that the manhwa doesn't have any supernatural magic powers in it. Annarasumanara is truly a heartwarming story about what it means to be an adult and what must (or must not) change when growing up. It also touches on issues like bullying, social expectations, parental pressure, truly understanding yourself, what you want in life, and what you are willing to/should give up or put up with to be your own form of happy. The magic of growing up.
Background Info: There are rumors about a mysterious magician; one that can make people disappear and change people's lives forever. They say that if you go to the old carnival, you'd see a dashing young man wearing a magician's hat — a man who can perform the greatest magic, but before he does any magic, he will look you in the eye, stare at your deep soul with his grey eyes and ask, "Do you believe in magic?"
So now I ask you, do you believe in magic? If so, What kind of magic? Is magic worth believing in? Could one claim that our lives and this world that we live in are magical as well? If you had one wish, what would it be? The beauty of "magic", is that people can perceive what's truly magical in their own terms; and this "magic" can be the brightest, most happy thing in a person's life, but it can also be what horrors, and misfortunes of a person's life. Perhaps people refuse to believe in anything supernatural, but are supernatural things the only things that are considered "magical"?
The story revolves around Yoon Ai, a very smart girl in her class who struggles to feed herself and her sister everyday. She just wants to become an adult faster so that she can get a job and escape from the poverty and the reality of her current situation. That all changes when she meets the rumored magician, Lee Eul who asks her, "Do you believe in magic." The story then proceeds to show Yoon Ai's develop in behavior and attitude towards living life. Lee Eul reminds Yoon Ai of her of innocent childhood, and of her memories and dreams that she had as a child. But the harshness of reality never lets her go and the story moves forward, showing Yoon Ai's hard choices in life that decide her fate. The plot also delves into Lee's childhood past and his refusal to grow up/failure as an adult, thus creating his isolation from society. Lee Eul and Yoon Ai's perspectives of the world and their fates intertwine with one another, creating the ideal story about poverty as a child, struggle to find a place in society, making friends, and growing up while trying to find your own happiness in this unfortunate world. Whenever you think the story is trying to set a positive tone, you get heartbroken by the tragic events that follow afterwards. Whenever you think that there really is "magic", it gets crushed by reality. It's a deep, dark, emotionally gripping manhwa that has sort of made me depressed with the truth about our society today, in the end of the manhwa, it ambiguously emphasizes that there will be a "light at the end of the tunnel". The ending was absolutely perfect; it left me crying. Every aspect of this manhwa deserves a 10/10, but I'd say the plot deserves an 11/10; easily the best, most interesting and touching story I've ever read about.
The plot itself is ambiguous as well. What is the truth in life, and what is the right way to live life? What each character believes is the "truth" is never fully revealed in the manhwa, despite them choosing their own paths, if that makes sense. The themes presented in the manhwa, are pretty blatantly presented though, which I liked; better than trying to be all confusing and deep. The magic in this story is also a little ambiguous. You are never for certain if the magician really turned Ai’s holey tights into pretty polka-dotted ones (bad, harsh past -> moving on into a "better" life, nor are you for sure if the magician is really has a mailbox that sends a letter to anyone, no matter what. The magic in Annarasumanara is something that you have to believe in yourself, and that only helps send the message of "believing" even further.
There are basically only 3 (main) characters in the entire manhwa. First, Yoon Ai, whose development through her encounter with the mysterious yet childish magician is the entire story. Yoon Ai's past is filled with hardship. Her mom is dead, her father ran away from home,causing her to have to work on part time jobs & deal with the debt collectors who are looking for her dad while looking after her younger sister and keeping her in school. Then there's the magician, Lee Eul whose character is unveiled gradually in an artistic fashion. And finally, Na Il-Deong, Yoon Ai's classmate who seems to have everything, yet there's something important missing in his life. Il-Deong's interactions with Yoon Ai and Lee Eul, open him up into a "new world" in which he finds the missing piece of his life. No other character's were developed in depth, but it really wasn't necessary either, since the entire plot worked perfectly with just these 3 characters; an impressive feat. The characters were very realistic in their own sense. All 3 of them has had a different childhood, from poverty to average to rich, yet all of them are related in a way. The readers can easily connect to each one of the characters. As a child, what did we want to become? When we grow up, did it stay the same? What kind of hardships did you have to go through to go from a child to an adult? Looking back on your past, do you regret the choices you made?
The art was stunningly magnificent. The manhwa has pages without words which still manage to say a lot of things through the beauty of the art. The facial expressions portrayed by the characters express their emotions exquisitely. Furthermore the background is also very detailed and has the unique ability to draw attention to the stunning bits of details. Visually Mesmerizing!
Annarasumanara was needless to say, absolutely enjoyable. There's nothing to not like about the manhwa: the plot was touching, creative, genius and well executed; the characters were interesting, thoroughly developed, and relatable. As a growing teenager myself, I often scoff at and enjoy my present, reminisce about my past, and dream about my future. The art in the manhwa was so beautiful, how can people be so artistic?! And do I believe in magic? I don't believe in the magic powers, but I believe in magical things: family, friends, miracles, and memorable moments that I cherish or immensely regret. I recommend this manhwa to everyone, and I can promise you that none of you will be left disappointed. Perhaps the greatest piece of writing I've ever read. Thank you Ha, Il-Kwon for creating Annarasumanara, for allowing me the chance to read such an excellent piece of writing, and changing my life forever. Truly a magical story.
What would happen if you turned away from society? What would happen if you stopped on the road of life? What would happen if instead of moving forward, you planted your feet squarely on the ground and refused to lose your childish purity? What if you never grew up?
These are all questions which Annarasumanara asks the reader. I'd say that thematically, it is similar to the likes of Peter Pan, but that would be doing this manwha an incredible injustice. For a story all about rejecting adult life, this story is a lot more mature than the average.
The story is of course, based
around magic. Not the type you usually see in fiction, with Wizards and battles, but with the type of Magician you'd see at Carnivals or Birthday parties. The plot is ambiguous for the most part. You're never sure whether someone is telling the truth or not. Hell, you're never even sure if some of the characters are sane or not. But, this is not a negative. It's handled very well. It never makes the mistake of making something so ambiguous that the narrative becomes confusing or loses it's grounding in reality.
The art is, without a doubt in my mind, the best art I've seen in a Manwha or a Manga. It's truly a joy to see people break away from normal art and do something abstract or interesting. It's clever in a way that I haven't seen in a Manwha before, where the abstraction of the work actually has tangible meaning to the plot, and isn't done just randomly out of nowhere. There are a couple of artistic quirks which I really want to talk about but I'll leave them, I don't want to spoil it.
When it comes to characters, it's nice to see some real character progression throughout the series. The characters really change as the series goes on.
This is a Manwha which I can give my full recommendation. 10/10 from me.
We are brought into a world where the main characters each have their own problem. Problems that are serious yet common around the world. There will be at least one point in the story, where you feel as if the story is about you. Instead of trying to create completely unique and fresh back-stories, they made relatable ones. Ones that made you think about your own life and what you want.
The story really is a journey of self-discovery for us and the characters. What is that YOU want? As the chapters progress, over and over, we are taught that it is okay to be
selfish every once in a while and no one is going to blame you for doing what you want to do. Life isn't all about pleasing others. You must pursue your own dreams even if that's not what people expect from you. Living up to each and every expectation will only make it harder to keep up.
At first, the characters struggle to comprehend these concepts. They can't understand why they would do something that would only benefit them and not their parents, teachers, etc. However, they slowly come to understand that freedom is the best joy of all. The freedom to do what they desire. For their whole lives, the path to the future was cold and dark. Now, as they find things that make their heart race, they feel genuine happiness. They encounter an abundance of obstacles along the way, but they know that's a small price to pay for individualism and happiness. We see them doing whatever it takes to get on the path they deem right. No longer will they let themselves be told what they should do and shouldn't do. Even if means going against their parents and teachers, they will continue to run full steam ahead to their future, not anyone else's.
The art is stunning and absolutely unique. The characters and backgrounds alike are neatly drawn. For the most part, everything is in black and white, but there are instances where there are colored drawings such as a flower or money. The flower being the sole colored drawing makes it stand out. You see that it's something beautiful in an otherwise heavy atmosphere. More often than not, the colored drawings appear to be very realistic.
What's really unique about the art is how Il-Deung Na is drawn. His initial design is supposed to make you see what kind of person he is. Being the only one who's so weirdly drawn, you realize the art has a correlation with his personality. He looks that way because of how he acts. Eventually, we have fluctuations in his design as a result of him changing who he is on the inside.
We have 3 main characters Lee Eul, Il-Deung Na, & Ah-ee Yoon. None of them are one-dimensional or cardboard cut-outs. They feel like actual people. Like of all us, they have their own problems and flaws. They're not perfect, but they don't come off as unlikable people. Them and their problems are so relate-able that you just can't help, but feel sympathy and care for them. Lee Eul and Ah-ee each have a substantial amount of development, but the character I really want to talk about is Il-Deung Na. I believe he goes through the most character development.
In the beginning, I had nothing, but hate for this guy. Then, we got to see his problem and how he begins to change. He goes from an insufferable jerk to a jerk with problems of his own to an all around good guy. We see that even if your whole life consisted of living in darkness, it's not too late to change yourself. Il-Deung was able to realize that those who did want they wanted to do had the most fun and that having a well-paying job isn't everything. Yeah, you need to be able to take care of yourself in the future, but you also need to live your life to the fullest and not have any regrets. By noticing this, Il-Deung learns not to judge others and gives himself a future where he can support himself while smiling everyday.
You know, I found out about this manhwa by checking the top-rated romance manga. I'm the type of person to drop points if the ending isn't romantically conclusive or sweet, yet I gave this manhwa a 10. Never in a million years, did I think I would be completely satisfied with a bittersweet ending. From beginning to end, the story had me in the palm of its hand. I was so into the story that I didn't even care about romance anymore. The story was just so enticing. The characters and their problems felt real to the point where it felt like I was narrating or actually listening to someone's problems. If you want a good coming-of-age story, then I highly recommend Annarasumanara.
"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;"
Have you ever sat by yourself and thought of the road you're taking? Was everything you abandoned worth chasing what you yearned for? As children, we lived in delusional fantasies: one would dream to grow up as an astronomer, a prince or princess, an honorary idol, or a magician that people traveld for. You were a child that believed in dreams and hopes, you had naive goals that were truly your inspiration.
As you grew up, your eyes saw more to it: such dreams are 'pathetic.' This is reality, and reality equals to success through money and education. Ah, but is that true? This story makes you question everything; uncertainty relays itself in your mind, and all you could ever think of is 'if you're living the life you truly want.'
This story revolves around three types of people:
1- A high school student stolen by reality. She view things logically and carries out responsibilities, she is mature, intelligent, and quite a realist; she carries a charismatic vibe.
2- A classmate who is one of the elites in society. He is clever, logical, calculating and lives his life walking a road planned out for him. He believes education is the only prosperity to succession.
3- A magician. He abandoned luxury and society's will for the sake of his own dreams, he lives a life away from reality and has a mind as delusional as a child, he believes a dream is everything you should live for.
To sum it up, a realist + an elitist + a magician, they all take you into a journey of 27 chapters, they teach you what it means to live a dream and reality, they make you see the kind of things you don't always see in mangas: originality; accuracy.
Although this manga has not answered every mystery, it has taught me more than mangas with 100s of chapters did. This manga is special in its own way, all the characters seem so real and full of depth, the way every character develops is outstanding and the lessons it has taught me is unforgettable.
I think after this manga, the way I carry on with my life will slightly differ than how it used to be. Reading this was a wonderful experience.