URL: haru-sari.smackjeeves.com
Creator/s: Min Kwon
Run: 11/05-current
Schedule: M/F
Section/s: Ch. 31, "The Savior's Lie"

Website: The first thing readers should notice is the large, colorful digital painting of the protagonist, which both shows off the creator's artistic abilities and invites the reader to learn more about this interesting character. Beyond that, the site has a simple layout and an earthy color scheme, which helps establish a calm, refined look.

The site has a good amount of information on the creator, characters, and setting. The section on the FAQ page about the various races in the webcomic was particularly useful, and it helped me be able to jump right into the middle of the story without getting confused. One thing that could use some explanation, though, is the webcomic's name, as it's still unclear to me what it means. A Google search turned up a post from 2007 on the webcomic's old site, where the creator explained, "It's in Korean. [...] Haru means "day," and sari means "one who lives." So, "day one who lives"? "One who lives day?" Like, one who lives for today?

This webcomic's archives are unusual, as the creator made a custom design that changes the thumbnail of the cover shown when the reader moves their mouse over the chapter's title. I haven't seen much in the way of experimentation with Smack Jeeves' archives system, so this stood out to me as being a really nice touch.
Lastly, I think it's super-cool that the creator lists the Myers-Briggs Type for each of the main characters. I've definitely never seen that before on a cast page.

Writing: A lot of the time, webcartoonists go for the path of least resistance, emulating the same simple approaches used countless times before. The most common example of this is in gaming comics, where many webcartoonists are content featuring two characters playing video games on a couch, obviously trying to leech off the success of Penny Arcade and Ctrl+Alt+Del. However, this strategy's particularly prevalent in manga and anime, which, originating in Japan, are products of what's possibly the world's most conformist society. TVTropes.org covers this phenomenon in depth, cataloging the many Japanese works that have characters and scenes which are blatantly similar to those in other popular comics, shows, and movies.

With that context in mind, Haru-Sari managed to continuously surprise me with its thoughtful and original subject matter. Its concept involves a race of kawaii elves being persecuted by an intolerant society, and this immediately set off alarms for me. When it comes to racism in webcomics, the M.O.'s to have a Mary Sue victim-protagonist suffer repeatedly at the hands of villainous racist strawmen, and while this approach might be effective at getting readers' emotions worked up, it lacks substance and doesn't really relate to how racism works in a more realistic setting. In this webcomic, though, when a racist situation comes up, the elf-protagonist, Chi-Min, casually brushes off a racist comment, showing that the creator has no interest in portraying the character as a victim. Similarly, it would've been easy for the creator to emphasize Chi-Min's childlike qualities more in order to show him as being vulnerable and sympathetic, like he's a child overwhelmed by the adult world, but I actually got the impression that Chi-Min's the most mature character in the story due to his self-reliance and willingness to take charge. In this case, the prejudice that Chi-Min's had to deal with and overcome seems to have fueled his desire to be a successful doctor, and that positions him as a heroic figure.

The pacing in this webcomic's handled particularly well. Two of the main characters, Chi-Min and Leon, are a doctor and a bounty hunter, respectively, and the creator's clearly aware that these aren't the kind of people who'd normally be very emotional over a suffering patient. In addition, Leon's employed by Chi-Min's enemy, so bringing them together in mutual grief's a delicate and awkward manner. While Chi-Min's conversation with his uncle doesn't directly affect the plot, it was a smart move by the creator to dedicate a significant amount of pages to that scene, as it's necessary to show Chi-Min get to the point of desperation where the events in the second half of the chapter make sense. The creator's already named all of the webcomic's remaining chapters, so it appears that she has at least a good idea of the overarching plot structure and can properly balance character development with plot progression.

Art: The creator boasts an excellent manga style that's free of the elements I regularly complain about, such as cheek-mouths, snout-noses, and clumsy onomatopoeia. Her anatomy's spot-on, as not only is she able to draw very realistically, but she consistently challenges herself by tackling difficult angles, facial expressions, and hand gestures.

When reviewing webcomics like this one that have particularly high-quality artwork, I prefer to keep the Art section relatively brief, as I don't feel like trying to describe qualities that are largely self-evident. I will, though, take a moment to compare Haru-Sari's backgrounds with those in LAND//SKY, which I reviewed last week. While I'd describe both webcomics' backgrounds as minimalistic, Haru-Sari's are much better because they're designed to enhance the mood of the scenes. A good example of this is the top panel here, where the soft, light-gray background contrasts with the hard shadows in the foreground, directing the reader's attention to the characters and helping the scene seem more intense and intimate. And in this page, the simple technique of having the background go from white to gray to black as the page progresses reflects Leon's emotional shift from shock to heaviness. The creator's also able to draw a competent establishing shot when she needs to, which is something the creator of LAND//SKY wasn't able to demonstrate.

Lastly, the creator's digital paintings look phenomenal, as can be seen in the cover and on this page. It's understandable that this technique's too time-consuming to do regularly, so it's a real treat when the creator chooses to use digital painting to give a page a certain dramatic effect.

Overall: Haru-Sari's definitely the best manga webcomic I've reviewed, and I'd even consider it to be one of the best webcomics I've reviewed in any genre. Despite only reading one chapter out of the lengthy story, I already found all of the characters to be very likable, and I was able to emphasize with each of their situations. The art's, of course, gorgeous, and it has all the strengths of the manga style without any of the failings that many manga webcomics are prone to. This is a webcomic that I definitely recommend checking out.


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