Young Alpha (Sandian: 알파 은젊, Alpa Eunjeolm) is a Sandian hwaman series published by Gambaku. The series, which takes place in a world of anthropomorphic animals, follows a wolf named Jimeon II, who is trained to become the alpha of his pack after his father dies in a lion stampede.
The hwaman ran from February 2008 to July 2010 for 30 chapters. The series was written by Yenji Yaeng and Makan Geul and illustrated by Yaeng. The hwaman was later released as six sudoseo volumes in December 2010.
An animated series based on the hwaman produced by YOWO aired on YBS and ABS in 2016 to 2017. An animated film adaptation, Young Alpha the Movie: Shadow Beast, was released by Yenyen on January 26, 2018.
Young Alpha takes place in a world of anthropomorphic animals, and is set in year 1340 on the fictional Mammal Calendar. The series' world includes numerous fictional countries, most of which are ruled by a single species.
On Wolf Island, a group of wolves form a group called the Wolf Pack that protects the island's citizens from attacks by other species. One night, a group of lions stampede the village and kill dozens of wolves, including Jimeon I, the pack's Alpha. Following the attack, Jimeon II, his son, is trained to become the Alpha Wolf.
Yaeng first conceived Young Alpha while writing Metro Boys with Yan Ang. Yaeng wondered what animals think and how they see the world. After researching different animals, he decided the hwaman should be about wolves, which he thought were the most interesting animals. Initially, when Yaeng pitched the concept to Gambaku, the company declined due to the hwaman's dark, serious tone. As a result, Yaeng partnered with writer Makan Geul to change the story to be less gritty. Following the changes, Gambaku agreed to published the hwaman.
An animated television adaptation was announced by animation studio YOWO in June 2011, and ran on YBS and ABS from June 6, 2016 to October 23, 2017 for two seasons and a total of 22 episodes. The series was written by Makan Geul and Kanga Cho, and directed by YOWO staff members. The animated series stars Yeon Wim as the voice of Jimeon II and Hango Yam as Jimeon I, along with several other Sandian voice actors.
Main article: Young Alpha the Movie: Shadow Beast
On July 14, 2016, YOWO announced that production had begun on an animated film. The cast and crew from the original television series would reprise their roles.
The official trailer for the film, titled Young Alpha the Movie: Shadow Beast, was released on August 28, 2020. The film premiered at the SFC Yochu Theater on January 19, 2018 and was released nationwide by on January 26. It grossed ₩2.8 billion (US$1.4 billion) worldwide.
The Young Alpha hwaman has received positive reception. Booknick's Adam Cosel called the hwaman "the best thing to ever happen to hwaman" and "an amazing tale". Justin Jerry of CHUCKLE.NET called it "a tale so beautiful I cried my eyes out". JaxNet's Marco Mabala stated, "With its use of anthropomorphic animals and a premise featuring a family member's death, as well as its forest setting, Young Alpha is probably the most unique hwaman I have ever read."
DashWorld's Jonathan Castena stated, "Young Alpha is a good read for fans of dramatic hwaman. It combines animals, action, and even some Sandian culture." Shawn Cho of DeeDub called the hwaman "a very interesting story with an outstanding cast of characters".
OEN's David Wang gave the hwaman a mixed review, stating that it "has an interesting premise and amazing characters, but lacks proper character development and world-building". Fixo's Kenna Yaganami gave it a negative review, calling it a "messy story with too many plots being used at once."
The animated series has received mixed reception. DashWorld's Sherry Devon said that the series was "a great story with lots of action, stunning visuals, and character development". Yuyu Nam of Flick Center called it "an amazing adaptation that places diverse characters in the middle of an intriguing plot". CHUCKLE.NET's Justin Jerry said it is "amazingly brilliant and has quite stunning visuals".
However, Hum.Com's Luis Arzavega said, "Unlike the hwaman series, the Young Alpha TV show is very slow when it comes to storytelling, which might explain why its first season is 11 episodes long."