Webtoon Review: “Jungle Juice”

Insects Are Heroes, Not Pests in “Jungle Juice,” An Adventure Comic About Finding One’s Own Wings


Carol Xu

An adventure comic with enough thrilling action and subtle romance, “Jungle Juice” will resonate with readers of all ages.

The comic book community has long been enthralled by the likes of Spider-man, Ant-man, and the Moth–prolific superheroes with bug namesakes and origins. Their legacy carries on in Jungle Juice, an ongoing webcomic offered on Naver Webtoons, where a new and endearing cast of characters join the insect superhero ranks in an intriguing and surprisingly educational thriller. 

Jungle Juice follows Jang Suchan, the golden boy of his college, “top of the social food chain” with good looks, excellent grades, and irresistible charm. Underneath his confident appearance and fashionable jackets, however, is a dark secret: a pair of dragonfly wings on his back. The wings are the side-effects of a long-defunct pest repellent branded as “Jungle Juice,” which combines human DNA with that of the killed bug to transform its users into insect-human hybrids. 

After years of hiding the wings, a life-threatening attack forces him to reveal them to the world, and Suchan finds himself ostracized by his former friends and classmates. Seeking a way to reverse the effects of Jungle Juice, he discovers the Nest, a hidden academy for insect humans like him. The Nest is governed by the law of the jungle, a hierarchy of power where the weak are annihilated–in such a world fraught with danger, Suchan must fend for himself and embrace his new powers in order to survive. 

Building dramatic tension in a webtoon is as tricky as stacking Jenga blocks, especially in action thrillers like Jungle Juice. When publishing on a platform whose format gives the readers direct control over plot progression with the scroll of a finger, mastering reader engagement requires precision and compelling storytelling. Thankfully, Jungle Juice does just that. 

The pacing of the comic panels still manages to be as riveting as an adventure film, delivering natural frissons of horror and excitement that keeps the plot flowing fast. Action scenes are portrayed through varying camera angles, with colourfully elaborate backgrounds that gives the comic a rare, cinematic feel.  Each episode culminates in jaw-dropping cliffhangers, placed at just the right points to incite greater suspense and keep readers clamouring for the next installment.

You think Spider-man’s web-shooting fingers are cool? Please, the students at the Nest can blow him right out of the water–literally.

The accompanying art, created by husband and wife duo JUDER, is gorgeous, a style that blends the endearing aspects of anime with a realism palette of soft brushes and bright hues. Particularly impressive are the character designs, each of whom carry distinctive and unique insect features drawn with commendable accuracy. 

JUDER makes an apt creative choice against depicting Suchan and his fellow insect humans as Frankenstein-esque creatures of grotesque limbs and appendages, instead presenting them in primarily human form with only a few accentuated insect features to indicate their species–say, cockroach antennas upon one’s head, ladybug-patterned hair, or sharp beetle fangs on one’s face. 

In doing so, the protagonists are effectively rendered as an awe-inspiring bastion against evil, primed to be the next generation of crime-fighting superheroes with the most unique powers. You think Spider-man’s web-shooting fingers are cool? Please, the students at the Nest can blow him right out of the water–literally. 

There’s feisty love interest Park Hujin, the cockroach-turned class president with thirteen robust chambers in her heart and super-speed healing powers (so that’s why cockroaches are so hard to kill!); there’s hunky, gruff Professor Ji, a bombardier beetle capable of setting off poisonous chemical explosions; then there’s seductive villainess Sin Gayeon, whose mind-controlling wasp powers turn her victims into terrifying zombies. Keep in mind these are all real “superpowers” insects use everyday…  

Whenever a new character is introduced, their insect abilities, referred to as “complexes,” are also announced, giving author Eun Hyeong an opening to indulge the reader in fascinating entomology without the ennui. This way, Ms. Eun excels in making the story double as an effective science lesson both kids and teenagers can enjoy, although the abundant blood and gore may deter younger readers. Seeing insect humans battle it out in the webtoon awakened in me a newfound admiration and respect for bugs in general, as it did for many other readers from the comment sections. 

But for all the gripping action and dope villain-busting, Jungle Juice is really a tale of personal transformation and acceptance. In the past, Suchan’s peers shunned him for being an orphan. “All I wanted was to have friends, but if you’re labeled as different from everyone else, you’re not even allowed the simple joys of life,” he solemnly recalls. Later, even as his popularity exploded in college, Suchan couldn’t shake his childhood trauma of rejection.  

But for all the gripping action and dope villain-busting, Jungle Juice is really a tale of personal transformation and acceptance.

His immediate reactions upon seeing his wings are first of shock, then repulsed horror: “How could I ever show anyone the monster I’ve become?” Haunted by his dark insecurities, Suchan refuses to stay a dragonfly. As he navigates life in the Nest and faces off against deadly supervillains though, he begins to shed his fears like snake skin and activate his powerful insect abilities, at last realizing that they are an inextricable part of his identity. 

In the end, Jungle Juice is as much a story about individual metamorphosis as the crazy world of insects. A fresh and satisfying science-fiction addition, the webtoon paints a vivid and emotional journey of Suchan’s evolution into a confident hero who finally accepts himself for who he is. Readers of all ages will resonate with this artfully delivered message of self-acceptance and, at the very least, come away with a new understanding of the major players in the insect league. I, for one, will be having second thoughts about bothering those little creepy-crawlies in my backyard again.