Manhwa as a subject hasn’t been discussed at length here, but with increasingly large anime projects emerging from prominent series, it’s impossible to ignore. With 7Fates: Chakho, I was introduced to a vibrant, colorful, and dangerous world beset by dangerous beom in my review.
A Fun, Engaging Story for the BTS Fans
I was amused by the opportunity to write about this book as, before this, I was merely aware of BTS, but nothing beyond surface value. The characters of this story, particularly the members of its titular group of monster hunters, Chakho, have their designs and personalities each reflecting a member of BTS. Suddenly, it became a fun game of identifying who is who, while also enjoying a modern twist on the legend of Dangun.
The story itself was fascinating if a familiar one, with a B-A-C narrative presentation. We’re presented first with a glimpse of the group together, brandishing their weapons and fighting beom. Beom in this context are monstrous, large predatory cat creatures resembling, but not limited to, tigers.
While it’s a bit jarring to be introduced to so many characters at once, the BTS fans were jumping for joy. But then it dials back to Zeha, Jungkook’s counterpart, as he wakes up in the hospital to unravel the mystery of his past, family, and secret lineage. The rest of the story paces itself quite nicely, even giving a pretty memorable and nuanced portrayal of Do-geon, RM’s counterpart.
Elegant Presentation You Can’t Replicate in a Webtoon
My first impression of 7Fates CHAKHO was through this wonderfully printed first volume. The whole series gets a pretty conclusive run across 15 chapters, and while you can read it online in its original webtoon format, it’d be a disservice to how well this translates to the page. Manhwa and webtoons often don’t have the same page-oriented structure, resulting in paneling sometimes feeling off, but in CHAKHO, it works quite well.
Not only does the volume get a lovely full-color release like another typical manhwa, but it also features consistent lettering across all of its pages, an underrated feature. This helps maintain a comic book feel and tone, and feels more engaging than the bland text you’ll sometimes find between the pictures on the webtoon. The colors are also wonderfully vibrant in the physical format.
These details make the $20 price tag an easier one to swallow as you’re getting quality color-printed pages, and a nice holographic cover. However, the Webtoon does have its advantages, including embedded BTS background music in Chapter 5, but my counter-argument to this is easily just to pull it up on YouTube music while you read, it’s not a hard compromise.
While the Art is Strong, the Fanservice is Goofy
The art of manhwa and webtoons already have a strong presence thanks to full color unlike manga, and Western audiences will appreciate the more familiar left-to-right structure. But while the art of CHAKHO is strong, the fanservice is goofy. This is to be expected, as the BTS fans are legion among the target audiences of this book. But that doesn’t mean the execution couldn’t be less silly.
At one point, there’s a series of panels where a character easily slays several beom with his gun, only to run out of bullets. When the beom points this out, the character then spits out two more bullets and uses them to finish them off. Why he has them stored there instead of precisely anywhere else is a stylistic choice, and a fun one, but is also nonsense.
Beyond this, the art throughout the book has its moments. While characters have somewhat bland poses, the color palettes of many pages, along with the stylish narration over 2-page lore spreads, had me poring over the book like a fiend. The number of effects overlaid on the more action-packed panels made it gain a distinctly cinematic feel, and while it might fall short of how I see classic and contemporary hits like Yu Yu Hakusho or Jujutsu Kaisen, this series is boosted by the stylistic advantages of manhwa.
7Fates: CHAKHO isn’t a definitive manhwa, but it’s fantastic for collectors of the medium, and BTS fans, and is a legitimately entertaining read in its own right. It naturally lacks some features like chapter background music in the Webtoon original. The characters and story might lack the epic-scale pacing, scope, and even the iconic poses of your favorite manga heroes, but its elegant color, exciting action sequences, and fascinating lore make this a satisfying, concise reading experience.
- This article was updated on November 28th, 2023