Written and Illustrated by: Yun Chang Lee, Colourist: Yoonbo Koh.
Zombies are a species that arrived in my life thanks to dubbed Hollywood movies that I gobbled with fright at the dumb age of 10 or 11. This brand of monsters always seemed a very distant problem, foremost because they happened in the western world, and second, most of the time they were people of white skin-tone, and third, I had taken for granted zombies were a Christian problem and won't happen in India, as 80% of the population cremate their dead here. My thought process was also backed by Resident Evil movies and Zombie Romcoms as well. So I innately believed that we the eastern world won’t have transmigration of zombies in our literature or movies. Girl, was I wrong?
My first encounter with eastern zombies happened when I watched Train to Busan! Since then, I have read bootlegged translations of Chinese Web novels and Korean webcomics, watched Thai horror-comedies, and read adaptions of local folklore into pulp fiction. It was not hard to find our own eastern versions of undead people or zombies. And according to my research so far, the best stories revolving around zombies come from South Korea!
The webcomic's focus is My Daughter is A Zombie, a survival comedy about a father and his zombie daughter. The webtoon debuted on the international webtoon app in 2021, with all the chapters translated! A hilariously illustrated and well-planned out webcomic, that I had to read one chapter a day for a straight 80 days because of the daily pass system. And I kid you not, it was a pain to read one episode a day. I am a binge reader; you don’t cross 2000 reads on Goodreads by reading a chapter a day. Anyway, I was forced to change by reading habits because of my empty wallet! I cannot afford those damn coins!
The story of My Daughter Is a Zombie begins one year after South Korea declares itself Zombie-Free. The army has wiped the country clean of zombies, but in a remote mountain village in a humble old house resides Jeonghwan Lee, his tiny mother, his cat Meow-Meow Kim, and his middle-school aged daughter Su-Ah, the last zombie. The father and daughter tried to escape the zombie avalanche in Seoul when Su-Ah got bitten. The story moves in and out of flashbacks as we go deeper into the story, and we understand how their current situation came into being.
Jeonghwan, a translator, is an indulgent and concerned father. From the first chapter, we know this man’s life revolves around his child. The government asks its citizens to be proactive and hunt down zombies, and while we see the scenes of zombie apocalypse unfold, this man’s sole purpose is to protect his child. With the help of his strict mother, Jeonghwa tries to rehabilitate his daughter as human. A zombie-brained child is driven by her instincts, hence at every waking moment she tries to bite her dad, grandma, and the cat. But each of them have found their methods to deal with Su-Ah’s biting urges. Her grandmother being the Asian lady she is, uses her back scratcher to discipline Su-Ah, Meow Meow Kim claws her face, and her dad with surprisingly calm skills—akin to Jedi mind tricks— subdues her.
So for a year, they live like this in the little village full of elderly people. Jeonghwan exploits aging peoples' failing eyesights and simple-mindedness into making them believe Su-Ah’s sick and has lost her basic cognition because she was traumatized by the Zombie outbreak. There are multiple occasions when Su-Ah walks away from home and Jeonghwan mistakenly assumes the exercising elderly have been bitten by Su-Ah. But Su-Ah has been trained so well by her father, that she tries her best to act normal. Jeonghwan also sought help from his veterinary best friend Donbae, they both attempt to teach her things from the beginning, from the alphabet to holding a spoon.
The story takes a sharp turn when Jeonghwan’s love interest Yeohwa comes back with a truck full of Zombie-Hunter certificates and a teaching degree; she is the biggest threat to Su-Ah’s life. While the father suffers in anxiety and unrequited love, his mother dreams of a daughter-in-law and keeps inviting Yeohwa over for dinner! A domesticated Su-Ah is enrolled in school under Yeohwa’s insistence, in a classroom of single digit students. She stands out with her botched make-up and awkward movements, and catches the interest of a wannabe bully and her gang, and a dumb boy who happens to be the Mayor’s grandson. For Su-Ah to not lash out and bite, one main condition needs to be met: she needs to be fully fed all the time. Hence, her father provides her with the best pork intestine in the village for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But what will Su-Ah do when the boy with glasses steals her lunch, and she is overwhelmed by her desire to bite?
Obviously, despite this story being a comedy, it is built up on multiple sub-plots of tragedy, with tiny glimpses into other zombie-affected people’s life: Su-Ah’s mother, the Mayor’s dilemma between duty and love, Yeohwa’s killing hate for Zombies, the petty deity, the stupidity of mob mentality, the neighbor in Seoul and a stray delinquent black tomcat who bullies Meow Meow Kim. I wept when I read that chapter, not because the delinquent cat resembled my chubby brat, but because the art was just so evocative and the story so pathetic. While Su-Ah the human child didn’t get abandoned by her father, the animal-children are very easy to toss away, and the author brought out the vulnerability of their fragile lives to paper just too well. And since I was reading multiple news where misinformation about Covid-19 had made countless pets homeless overnight, the delinquent cat’s story hurt beyond my expectations.
The art needs a special shout out for tricking us into believing it's goofy. The linework gives off a very sketchy visual, but I am in awe with the detailing, which looks simple, but is not! The gorgeous colouring, beautiful geographical locations, and their markers are so seamlessly webbed in that I could eat those panels. And the expressions of Su-Ah and Meow Meow Kim are totally worthy as meme material. The art also elaborates its gags and running jokes too well, especially with the unquestioned fact about women of the Lee Family being born with glasses! We see Su-Ah was just born with glasses on a potato face until Jeonghwan noticed them one day and took them off! Which also made me wonder how would grandma look without her glasses! I was denied this information.
The story was being published in South Korea just when Covid-19 was wreaking havoc in early 2020, and the incidents happening within the story had somehow become a mirror image of reality. People fighting for Zombie-rights and then getting bitten by zombies, a government failing to control the zombie outbreak because it didn’t implement necessary steps, the desperate people trying to hide their infected ones because they didn’t want to lose them, was all too real. Hence, when the final villain comes into the story, who sets the chain of events in motion that leads to the narrative climax, we as a reader are desperate for a miracle. Like the characters in the comics, the readers in real life were divided about the pandemic, and this division did us no good. The total length of My Daughter Is A Zombie is 89 chapters, with an epilogue chapter that also has an afterword and speculative alternative to the first chapter. By the time the reader has reached chapter 90, they have laughed and bitten pillows because it’s such a funny story, and they have also cried into the same pillow because it is also a very sad story. But we feel also feel relieved because the Zombie Pandemic finally gets over, unlike our reality with Covid.
All the chapters of My Daughter is A Zombie are legally free to read under daily pass option and as well as available for purchase with coins in the webtoon app.
Aritra Paul is a book editor and digital marketer from India. She enjoys reading manga and webcomics and aspires to be a comic book writer. But mostly spends her time writing fanfictions and uploading pictures of her cat Gucciko, food, and books on her Instagram.