WHAT IS IT?
About Death, originally published on the Korean Webcomic Site Naver, is a story that all of us know is coming but don’t like to think about often. About Death follows the Ultimate, or the Angel of Death, or God, whichever you prefer, as They meet with individuals who are in between life and death and awaiting reincarnation. Each episode (author’s note: WEBTOON comics are called episodes, not chapters. If it is a long-running series, they promote “season finales”). About Death is only one season long, running at 28 episodes and will leave you emotionally drained by the end. However, it will leave you wanting more.
This drama series ended over five years ago, yet it remains as popular as ever with comments on episodes as new as of January 2020 and having every episode translated in 15 (!!) languages. If you are a fan of TV shows like Six Feet Under or Pushing Daisies, then this story is right up your alley.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
“Let’s hear about your story.”
This is what God asks most of Their visitors as they are between life and death. God truly wants to know about how the people spent their time on earth and if they had any regrets.
Usually, their conversations will start with the same confusion and the question “Where am I?” to which God will reply “Always the same question...You are...dead,” allowing the person to reflect momentarily before facing God to await their fate.
The series explores that time between death and whatever comes after, as people look back on their lives. What will they think about the time they spent on Earth? What would you think about your time, if you had to reflect on it?
The pacing in this story is excellent. It works well because it is a linear story, there is no clear cut ending and it can branch off in many ways because each episode is different. Each episode plays like a short film: you have a short prelude and roll to the opening credits, you have a first act, a middle act, and the finale that wraps up the episode before you cut to credits.
Hyeono’s art is able to perfectly pull out the emotion from the reader, while Sini’s words almost blatantly call the reader out with exchanges like the one between God and a man from Episode 1. The exchange reminds us we're afraid of death and forces us to question what our own feelings would be in this same position.
Hyeono uses the gutters and color palette meaningfully, as they can alternate between life and the afterlife to drive the story forward.
In addition, there are small things that add to the attention to detail that Hyeono adds with their art, such as shadows that may be cast over characters or reflections in a mirror.
I think it’s the episodes where people share their story with God and then make the realization that they will never be able to see their loved ones again is what pulls at my heartstrings. Those few moments of being able to say goodbye is such incredible storytelling and really provides some heaviness to the series.
The first time I read this series, I did not have any headphones in and could not really appreciate the music that Squar provides. Please heed my advice and listen to the soundtrack while reading each episode. I find it very unique that music is added into each episode to add just a little more context to the situation playing out.
The lives that people have lived when they are sharing their stories with God is a testament to how good Sini’s writing is in About Death. The way they are able to make readers question what they want out of life and how they think about death is important. In a lot of cultures, death is something to be celebrated – some even look forward to it. As an American, I feel our culture makes death almost like a taboo. Sini makes it known through their writing that it is ok to think about death, prepare for death, but ultimately make life-lasting connections with others.
Conversely while discussing Sini’s writing, their ability to world-build across such few episodes is astounding. As you continue reading, you will find stories connecting to previous episodes and characters popping up in others’ stories.
Remember when I said how Sini is able to convey emotions through their writing? Hyeono’s illustrations of bringing those emotions to life are breathtaking and heartbreaking, all at the same time. When people are in the afterlife and coming to the realization that they are leaving partners, children, and friends behind? Oof.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
There is a general lack of focus on female characters that make their way through the afterlife. I would have liked to see more of a focus on what women experienced in their lives. Likewise, there is no representation of any LGBTQIA+ characters. I believe that is a real miss in this series.
There are some stories where the letters can really add some weight to how we receive what the characters are saying. I don’t think that is something that can be said for this story. There is not anything inherently wrong with how the dialogue is lettered, it is just normal font and word bubbles.
I will also say there are some political beliefs and religious expressions in this series that could be triggering for some. I have my opinions regarding it and I know other readers probably have their own opinions as well.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
I have spent the last year learning more about death from podcasts, books, and comics. This series has probably affected me the most of any medium discussing death that I found myself in. Every death is different, every human being dies, and each person is given a chance to reflect on what they did well, what they could have changed, and the connections with others we have formed. We have this idea that our death will be positive, but this webcomic makes you take notice and do some self-reflection on how you want to spend your life. No matter what you believe in, at the end of it all, you could find yourself being asked: “Let’s hear about your story.”
HOW DO I READ IT?
Read it for free on WEBTOON
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