Review: Under the Oak Tree (webtoon)

I signed up to a new subscription service just so I could read this very pretty-looking series. That says plenty about how much I, one, love the art style and, two, am a shallow aesthetic trash.

But when I finally did dive into the story, I relaxed in the happy fact that this is a three-dollar-a-month spend I would not ever regret.

(Which also speaks for the platform and its wide array of interesting titles and its Netflix-esque interface but that’s a story for another post.)

Under the Oak Tree cover

The Premise:

Daughter of a proud duke, the stuttering lady Maximilian is forced to marry a lowly knight, who immediately leaves her the day after their wedding night. Three years later, he returns an esteemed commander known throughout the kingdom for slaying the Red Dragon and has come to bring her home. This is the story of their married life.

What I loved:

The art style

One of my favorite things about manhwa and manga compared to their Western contemporary is that when it comes to the art, more often than not, what you see is what you get. There are times when Western comic publishers do this thing where the cover art is not drawn by the creator of the series and the art style is different from what’s inside. It throws me off every time.

This series definitely did not throw me off. In fact, I just love the art style with every new chapter.

The lines and forms of the characters in this series look deceptively simple, but the artist is incredibly generous with their use of textures. I literally checked one panel and counted five different textures.

This could have been very chaotic and noisy but it wasn’t! Instead, the textures not only keep the overall look from being too flat but they also enhance the kind of atmosphere that is fitting for the story’s genre – heck, even fitting for each scene. You will know from the very first episode that this story can go emotional in a snap. And I love how they don’t just rely on character expressions for these moments. I find that’s one of those things that make or break a comic for me.

The use of lighting is also spectacular and seeing as this is set in a fantasy world with dragons and mages, I bet this selective use of lighting would make scenes with magic even more epic.

Also, lest you mistakenly think for a moment that I am not, in fact, a shallow aesthetic trash: the way the artist, who only goes by the name P, draws men?

Lady Gaga Age: Lady Gaga Compliments Gif

The main characters

Maximilian Croyso is a pleasant surprise as a character. At first glance, she seems like a passive character which is a huge turnoff for me. You would not believe how many stories I DNF-ed because the main female character can’t go beyond “Oh no… what should I do? *sad innocent face*”

Haruka Nanami - Uta no Prince-sama photo
*cough cough*

Honestly, I could not care less if main girl is occasionally a damsel in distress in the story just PLEASE have her be proactive.

(One of these days I will talk about passive characters and why they suck and why they have been around since the dawn of time. But for now let’s get back to Maxi.)

As mentioned in the premise, Maxi stutters. And if we base it on her dialogue, it’s moderate to severe stutter. Much like her fellow attractive person who stutters, Simon Basset aka the Duke of Hastings, this impediment results to her being ostracized by her only living parent.

Inspiration is the secret — BRIDGERTON (2020) - out on Netflix 25  December... | Heartthrob, Julia quinn, Good movies
(Interestingly both characters have dukes for abusive fathers and their mom died at childbirth. But I’m veering off again.)

This is a huge part of her backstory and character. It tells the readers where she currently stands at the start of the series. She’s been through a heck lot. And the result? Readers will root for her and will all collectively become the gently holds meme.

Sir Riftan Calypse, on the other hand, is almost the quintessential TDH brooding heartthrob – almost. I mean, this is very obvious with his character design itself. He is, without a doubt, tall, dark and swooningly handsome. But unlike the devilishly handsome male leads before him, it is shown from the very start that Riftan has a very obvious affection for Maxi. Literally everyone but the dense Maximilian can see how much he adores his wife. I find this is very different from the classic brooding heroes who’s often too wrapped up in his own insecurities to really pay attention to anyone.

So while we, as readers, can see how Maxi is slowly falling in love with Riftan, Riftan already seems to be in love with Maxi. But the author has not yet shown when or how this came to be. Only that it probably happened before the start of the story. It’s actually one of the things I look forward to.

The world

It’s very interesting how much details about the world the readers are already given and we’re still nineteen chapters in. Heck, they’ve already talked about currency and economics! For sure, the concept of the world itself isn’t new – a fantastical world inspired from European medieval age and feudalism. But I didn’t expect this much details for a fantasy romance, to be honest. And definitely not as early! It could be that currency will have a great role on the overall plot as the story progresses and, as an accounting graduate, that possibility fills me with absolute joy.

Final thoughts

This series is definitely a delight to read but I would like to end this with a caveat:

Everything I said above? All the things I love about this series? They could very well become the things I will hate the most.

The thing is, this is an ongoing series and there are only nineteen chapters out at the moment. The web light novel this was adapted from is apparently in hiatus right now too. That means a lot of things can happen and it may turn out for the worst. Which would be a shame.

But such is the plight of regular readers and subscribers to ongoing series of any kind. *cries*

I’m still waiting for how the second arc of Attempted Heartbreak will conclude. And it’s killing me softly aaaaaa. (For context, please see this rant from my Twitter.)

At the moment, though, Under the Oak Tree is a beautiful enjoyable read with so much potential. This is definitely not the last time you’ll hear about this series from me. If you want to check it out, the first four chapters (or episodes as they are called) are free to read on Manta.

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