Title: The Beginning After the End
Creator: Story by TurtleMe, Art by Fuyuki23 (Manhwa Artists on digital platforms commonly use pseudonyms such as this)
US Publisher: Yen Press/Ize Press, Distributed digitally via app on Tapas
Age Relevance: Middle School and Up
How Essential Is It?: Must Have (This is going to be a HOT title)
Curricular Connections?: Independent Reading
Reader’s Advisory Tags: Isekai, Fantasy, Reincarnation, Magic, Popular among D&D players, Korean media
Content Warnings: Some mild violence as of the first volume and allusions to human trafficking on the last page. In later chapters, violence increases.
Publisher Synopsis: King Grey is a remarkable ruler with a prosperous reign, and yet…opulence and success cannot bury emptiness and solitude. His time as king, however, comes to an abrupt end, and he reincarnates as Arthur Leywin—a baby born in a world of magic and monsters. Equipped with memories of his previous life and the desire to protect the newfound warmth surrounding him, Art begins his journey of becoming a strong warrior once again. Sword training, mana coreformation, magic studies—Art does it all in order to be as powerful as can be! But will it be enough to repel the dangerous forces that threaten his second chance at life…?
The manhwa (Korean webtoon) print wave is beginning, and this is a title you will certainly be getting requests for this year. Announced before Yen Press divulged that it would be giving an entire imprint to manhwa, The Beginning After the End is an action fantasy isekai that takes some of the genre’s tropes and gives them sufficient twists to keep the audience excited and engaged. It also features Korean media’s most overpowered baby, which is saying something, because… well, there are actually quite a few overpowered babies in manhwa.
The story is about Arthur Leywin, or Art, who is the reincarnation of King Grey. As King Grey, Art was a great and powerful ruler. As Art, he’s a baby who does a lot of baby things, all while having the mind of a great and powerful ruler. The juxtaposition of a wise and sage ruler in a baby’s body actually does create some humor that definitely appeals to adolescents.
The creators recognize that the helpless baby gags can only stretch so far, though. Because Art has the mental abilities of an adult, he quickly begins to learn about his new world from the books in his parents’ study. This enables him to master magic at the age of three, creating a ludicrously overpowered toddler.
While ridiculous, this is also just fun. Of course, it’s ridiculous. But it’s a fantasy world and I very quickly realized why I received requests for the novels earlier this year. It taps into what a lot of Western media doesn’t get about the tastes of teenage boys- a blend of absurdity, action, and comedy, with bigger themes weaving in and out of a long-running story.
Art’s prowess at magic and fighting makes his parents realize that they might need to find him a teacher, so the family joins with a group of adventurers from the parents’ adventuring days to seek out this teacher. This also clued me into why my Dungeons & Dragons kids are the ones who told me about this manhwa. There’s a very D&D vibe, with a ragtag crew on a journey. This ragtag crew quickly takes to Art, but not before one of them challenges the now four-year-old child to a sparring match.
The adults- all seasoned adventurers- are so impressed by this kid that they ask him to train them! While silly, how fun is that for a kid to read?
That’s ultimately the charm of this story. It’s fun! Things do get darker after this volume (I read ahead on Tapas), but ultimately the story is about a character realizing that he needs to cherish and protect his loved ones. The ultimate reasons why Art remembers his past life are actually quite moving, and his motivations are honorable.
The art is ultimately fine at this stage- it improves once Art ages more (babies and toddlers are notoriously hard to draw), which you can actually see from the cover image, which is from deeper into the story. It won’t be until the next volume that we’ll meet the dragon character. As things get deeper, characters get much more fleshed out, and the story gets quite compelling. As someone who is more of a romance manhwa reader, I was surprised at how this story eventually swept me in.
Knowing how much my students love this story, I’m excited to offer it to them in a format that doesn’t require them to pay and is tangible. While the books, manhwa, and audiobooks have been available in digital formats for some time, those formats have barriers. Tapas is probably one of the fairest apps in terms of microtransactions, but you do have to wait patiently for free chapters and coins, meaning there’s a time investment. The audiobooks are only available via Audible, locking them out of library access. I’m extremely happy that Yen Press picked up the manhwa license, because they do such an excellent job with their print editions and enable librarians to create an avenue of access to these works.
I recommend this series to school libraries at the middle school and up, as well as public library collections. While the main character is a baby, I don’t recommend it for elementary collections because of the violence in later volumes, which can get rather grim. Middle school librarians should be aware that this violence increase will occur in the second volume, so you may want to assess via Tapas or by flipping through volume two when it comes out, depending on your collection development policy. I’d say it’s on par with My Hero Academia in terms of violence.
It should be noted that this manhwa is not available on digital platforms, probably in an agreement with Tapas, so it cannot be purchased for Overdrive and probably will not be available on Comics Plus.
Other titles students might enjoy would be Solo Leveling, The Abandoned Empress, or basically an isekai title.
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