Graphic Novel Review: bad friends

bad friends by ancco. Translation by Janet Hong. Drawn & Quarterly, 2018 9781770463295. 173pp.

I always suspect there are great, gritty Korean comics out there, but too much of the time the only manwha I can find on the shelves in US bookstores look like standard anime. When I taught in South Korea I had almost no contact with the “bad” kids. Instead I was locked in a cycle of teaching academically oriented students and adults trying to improve their English. The only time I seemed to be able to talk to anyone whose life didn’t revolve at least partially around extracurricular tutoring was during shared taxi rides, and then only if they weren’t too shy to chat. On both counts it was great to read this beautifully rendered, dark graphic novel about less-than-successful high school students.

It opens with a flashback, to the narrator being beaten and thrown out of the house by her father. It’s a brutal, realistic scene, and violence seems to be an integral part of life at school and at home in the lives of the characters. Everything seems destined to get worse for the narrator and her friend after they run away from home and start working in a bar despite being underage. But it’s realistic and compelling, and evidences a high level of craft and artistry. You can see an excerpt at

If you like the sound of this, I also highly recommend Kang Doha’s The Great Catsby, which is available in English and was the basis for a Korean drama. It’s not quite as dark as bad friends, but on the plus side the characters are cats.


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