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by Rebecca Silverman,

Omniscient Reader's Viewpoint

Volume 1 Manhwa Review

Omniscient Reader's Viewpoint Volume 1 Manhwa Review

Dokja Kim has gotten through the past ten years of his life reading a web novel with over three thousand chapters – and by the end, he's the only person still reading. He's no sooner finished it than he gets a DM from the author, thanking him for reading and telling him that the content is about to become paid-only at 7 pm, and because his comments kept the author going, he's going to receive a gift. Dokja's only just opened the email when something even stranger happens: the world abruptly ends. Now Dokja's living through the scenarios described in his favorite novel, and as the only person who knows what's coming, he just may be the only one with a decent chance of survival.

Omniscient Reader's Viewpoint is translated by Hye Young Im, with rewrites by J. Torres and lettering by Adnazeer Macalangcom.


This one's for the smug readers, the ones who knew the Red Wedding was coming, who gleefully chuckled when the film for Bridge to Terabithia grossly misled parents as to what it was about, and who always read the book before seeing the movie. I have numbered among them at times, so that's not necessarily a put-down, unless you're unpleasant about it, and there is something very appealing about the situation protagonist Dokja finds himself in Omniscient Reader's Viewpoint - the world has just turned into the plot of an obscure web novel, and he's the only person in Korea (and possibly the world) who has read it. That also makes this a story for anyone who has ever shrieked in frustration when a character doesn't appear familiar with their genre.

That last is something that Dokja feels very familiar with. At twenty-eight and about to run out his temp contract at the office, he's spent his life being beaten down. He even sees his name as being part of the problem; the pronunciation goes with a variety of Chinese characters used to write, and while his dad may have used those for “strong and independent person,” he feels like “lonely person” is the homonym the universe got. (Most people assume the correct characters are “only child,” but probably the ones the universe is working with mean “reader.”) Reading web novels has been his solace, and ten years ago he began reading Three Ways to Survive the Apocalypse, a story that ended up having well over three thousand chapters. By the end of the novel's run, Dokja was the only person still reading, and between that and his generally not great luck he believes the genre of his life is “realistic fiction.” If that's a depressing statement on reality, it's meant to be, but little does Dokja know that the definition of “realistic” is about to make a major change.

This is simultaneously where the story kicks off and begins to feel like something we've seen a thousand times before. Shortly after Dokja finishes the story, the “free trial period” for reality ends, and he and the rest of at least South Korea are tossed head-first into the world of Three Ways to Survive the Apocalypse. Suddenly it's a survival game, and Dokja begins to recognize scenarios and characters. He also realizes that he's the only person with half a chance because he's the only one who knows what's coming. The plot becomes something of a cross between typical power fantasies (albeit without the overt isekai element most incorporate) and a character study of Dokja. He's probably the most interesting piece of what's going on, because he's actively struggling to parse the situation, come up with a plan, and figure out who, if anyone, he can save. There's also the question of whether or not he can change the story as written, now that he's inside it, and if he can, how he will.

In terms of the saving issue, Dokja himself is conflicted. His work crush, Sangah, is on the train with him when disaster strikes, and also in the train car are children and an old lady – an old lady he knows dies in the novel. A large part of Dokja wants to look out for himself because he's reasonably certain that he can keep himself alive, but we can see him also fighting himself to try to keep Sangah, the old woman, and a little boy still breathing. He convinces himself that if he does help them, it's all in service of himself and making himself look better to the “constellations” (divine beings) watching the game play out from the heavens, but his words and actions don't always line up with his thoughts. At this point in the story, Dokja is actively fooling himself to function, and if that isn't exactly revelatory in the genre, it does give him something more to hang his character on.

No one else gets any real character development, which means that the book rides on Dokja and its scenario, something that does hamper the volume. Most of the plot is shock and watching Dokja put his reader knowledge into action, which is decently well done (his solution to the goblin in charge of the game's first directive is a good one) but still retains the familiarity of an old story beat. If that's a story you enjoy, there's plenty to like here: violence, man's inhumanity when faced with death, and some quick thinking on a conflicted hero's part. But if you're already tired of this type of plot, the whole thing feels hollow, and even the novelty of reading it in a full-color manhwa rather than a black-and-white manga can't quite make it more compelling. That doesn't mean that there aren't some neat elements – the “goblin” stands out, if only because Korean dokkaebi can be very different from Japanese oni - but at the end of the day this really is a story many of us have read before, and it's also hampered by pages and panels that can be confusing to follow.

Omniscient Reader's Viewpoint is likely to take a couple of volumes to really get going, though. As an adaptation of a novel, this does feel like the set-up part of the story, and there is enough here to merit giving it a second book to see not so much where it goes, but how it gets there.

Overall : C+
Story : C+
Art : C

+ Dokja is a decently interesting character, the central conceit of being the only one who has read the book is appealing.
Art can be confusing, still feels very pat for its genre, uses stat screens despite being based on an in-world novel.

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