Best Historic Manhwa with Strong Female Roles
Many historical manhwa feature strong female figures, a major breakthrough for the genre. Here are some of the best.
Manhwa is full of fascinating historical tales that span many different contexts and time periods, from the realist to the highly romanticized. However, one of the most exciting trends in this genre is the growing number of strong female characters that can be found in popular stories. This is a critical change for several reasons. So, for those looking to step back in time, here are some of the best historical manhwa with solid female roles.
Empress Cesia wears panties
Empress Cesia wears panties is a fun twist on both an isekai and a historical series. Written by Jeogyeom, the series follows Yuri, a modern pattern maker who finds himself in a Renaissance land. There, she learns that Empress Cesia has a problem: despite her power, she hates her corset and instead looks for something comfortable to wear. Yuri poses as a man and joins the guild of local fashion designers, soon becoming Cesia’s designer and using her modern sensibility to revolutionize the country, one outfit at a time.
Taking a slightly offbeat look at historical fashion, Empress Cesia wears panties addresses an often overlooked part of the historical female experience – how dress standards often prevented women from living a free life by dressing them in restrictive outfits. This makes Yuri and Cesia’s rebellion against these standards even more powerful and courageous, and shows the importance of standing up for what you believe in.
Doctor Elise: The Royal Lady with the Lamp
Continuing the theme of little-known feminine contributions, Doctor Elise: The Royal Lady with the Lamp sees Dr. Song, a professor at the Korean College of Medicine, sent back to her past life. At that time, she was a bratty princess who was hated by everyone. But now, with his modern medical knowledge, Dr Song is keen to change everything for his old self.
Drawing a lot from the mythology surrounding Florence Nightingale, Doctor Élise, while fantastic, subverts traditional historical fantasy narratives by allowing the Principal Woman to make sweeping cultural changes to her kingdom without resorting to battle. It also draws attention to the importance, but neglected, of women in the history of medical progress, especially in the field of nursing.
Perhaps one of the most famous historic manhwa in history, Saver follows Lena Ha, the captain of a kumdo team. When she incurs the wrath of a powerful woman, her mother is murdered by a sword-wielding attacker while Lena herself is thrown into a deep lake. When she wakes up, however, Lena realizes that she is now in medieval Scotland, carrying the sword that killed her mother. In her quest to return home, she must find her inner strength and protect the people of Scotland from various threats in this fascinating meditation on power and trauma.
Lena’s inner strength and desire to fight is a breath of fresh air in a genre where women are too often love interests or decorations. His transition from trauma and anger in search of a new purpose and a new affinity with the Scottish people is also a unique tale, showing that allowing oneself to heal is often a powerful and rebellious act. Finally, the harsh reality of medieval Scotland contrasts perfectly with Lena’s mental state, leading to a one-of-a-kind historical story.
Charlotte’s letter takes place in a pseudo-Victorian world and follows Charlotte, a young woman who dreams of becoming a writer. However, money problems force her to work for Lord Matthew and his sister Lady Anna, but Charlotte’s ability to write quickly catches their attention. Matthew assigns Charlotte to write letters for him, pretending to be him when she responds to specific pieces of correspondence. Anna also orders Charlotte to report to her on Matthew’s activities, but for unexplained reasons. However, Charlotte soon learns that things are not so peaceful in this house that a dark secret lurks in the shadows.
With a convincing female role, Charlotte’s letter highlights how difficult life could be for poor women in history. Despite Charlotte’s intelligence and strength, her economic situation forces her to find herself in a position that she cannot voluntarily move away from, forcing her to use all her wits to survive.
It’s fantastic to see more historic manhwa featuring strong women. Historical fiction has long centered on male stories, often using women as decoration or as trinkets to be won in battle. Today, however, young women can see themselves reflected in all genres of entertainment. Despite historical marginalization, women have always played a major role in society. In fact, they were the source of many events and inventions that provide the comfort that many people around the world enjoy today. Hopefully, these stories will encourage more writers to create female-led historical fictions – and allow young women to chase their dreams and tell their own stories.
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