Fans of Alice in Borderland and Train to Busan will love Netflix’s latest survival thriller series, All of Us Are Dead. The South Korean apocalyptic drama centers on a group of teenagers attending Hyosan High School, which becomes impacted by a mysterious virus causing many of its students to become zombies. The students must escape in order to survive, but without cell service, food, or adults nearby, they’re forced to fight off their zombified fellow students. All of Us Are Dead has quickly racked up a sizable fanbase since its Jan. 28 release, as it beat out HBO’s Euphoria for the top spot on Variety’s Trending TV chart, meaning the series received the most social media mentions of any show from Jan. 24 to Jan. 30.
The series’ immense fanfare has led many viewers to discover the original Korean webtoon it’s based on, Now at Our School by Joo Dong-geun, originally released on the platform Naver between 2009 and 2011. Now at Our School tells the same story as All of Us Are Dead, but there are a few notable changes between the two, as the comic packs a bit more detail into its 130 chapters than the Netflix series does in 12 hour-long episodes. For starters, All of Us Are Dead sees its characters using modern smartphones, which obviously weren’t as prominently used when the webtoon launched in 2009.
Speaking to ScreenRant for a recent interview, director Lee Jae-Kyoo explained the series’ basic differences from the webtoon. “It’s similar to the basic story in terms of the original work. The flow of the storyline also doesn’t depart much from the original,” he told the publication. “However, you might get the feeling that the show is different from the original as far as the specific situations that happen to some of the kids as well as what each of the characters are like.” As far as particular plot points are concerned, here are nine major differences between Netflix’s All of Us Are Dead and Joo Dong-geun’s Now at Our School.
The Webtoon Begins At School
Episode 1 of the Netflix series opens on Lee Jin-su (Lee Min-goo), frequent bullying victim and son of science teacher Lee Byeong-chan (Kim Byung-chul), who realizes there’s something wrong with him. After seeing the school nurse and going to the hospital, he’s revealed to have turned into a zombie, leaving the characters and viewers alike to wonder how the transformation happened. The setting then switches to Hyosan High School, where we’re introduced to the other students.
In Now at Our School, per Korean publication Kpopmap, the story has a far more understated launch. Student Nam On-jo (Park Ji-hoo) walks into school and complains about the difficulty of going up the entrance stairs — completely unaware that her problems are about to be intensified by literal zombies.
Choi Nam-ra’s More Outgoing In The Webtoon
All of Us Are Dead portrays class president Choi Nam-ra (Cho Yi-hyun) as shy and quiet, opting to keep to herself until zombies start infiltrating the school.
But the webtoon sees Nam-ra with a more lively personality, as she holds conversations with her classmates during the school day. The character is also quite compassionate; she responds to Lee Na-yeon (Lee Yoo-mi) and Han Gyeong-su’s (Ham Sung-min) comments about a strange smell by encouraging them to be kind and refrain from making fun of anyone. (Of course, Nam-ra is oblivious to the fact that the smell is coming from a dead body, and they should all be scared.)
Students Spread A Different Rumor About Lee Byeong-chan
After Kim Hyeon-ju (Jung Yi-seo) leaves Byeong-chan’s classroom to see the school nurse in All of Us Are Dead, the students begin spreading a rumor that Jin-su died by suicide as a result of bullying from Yoon Gwi-nam (Yoo In-soo) and his friends, including Hyeon-ju. In turn, the classmates think Byeong-chan is looking to murder his son’s bullies one by one.
The students come up with a different rumor following Hyeon-ju’s exit in Now at Our School, speculating that Byeong-chan’s wife and son have gone missing because the science teacher cannibalized them.
Someone Else Takes Hyeon-ju To The Nurse
When Hyeon-ju has to see the nurse in Netflix’s version of the story, Lee Su-hyeok (Park Solomon) carries her on his back with assistance from On-jo and Yoon I-sak (Kim Joo-ah).
In the Naver-published comics, the students’ homeroom teacher carries Hyeon-ju to the nurse via piggyback, using a large whiteboard to block Byeong-chan and the other classes from viewing the disturbing scene.
Netflix Accelerated The Zombification Process
In All of Us Are Dead, the infected individuals turn into zombies very quickly. After Hyeon-ju is bitten by a hamster and injected with a mysterious fluid by Byeong-chan, she hardly speaks a few sentences before losing control of her body and violently attacking those around her.
Now at Our School portrays the transformation process happening much more slowly, as Hyeon-ju gives a detailed explanation of what she experienced before becoming a zombie. She was bitten by three hamsters in the comics, and Byeong-chan extracted some of her blood instead of injecting her.
The Students Are Infected In A Different Order
The Netflix drama sees On-jo only lightly attacked by a zombified Hyeon-ju, who then bites the school nurse. Later in the series, I-sak is bitten by a classmate.
Because the process of becoming a zombie takes longer in the webtoon, Hyeon-ju bites I-sak sooner in Dong-geun’s telling of the story.
There’s More Romance In Netflix’s Version
Despite their differences on the surface, class president Nam-ra and ex-bad boy Su-Hyeok grow close in All of Us Are Dead and develop a romantic relationship, which is complicated once Nam-ra is bitten by Gwi-nam.
In the comics, however, Nam-ra and Su-hyeok are just good friends — and Nam-ra is infected with the virus through an eye injury contracted while battling zombies, not from Gwi-nam’s bite. The only closer-than-friends relationship featured in Now at Our School is between On-jo and fellow student Lee Cheong-san (Yoon Chan-young), according to the publication KBIZoom News.
The Virus’ Origin Is Slightly Different
Both versions of the story tie the virus’ beginnings to Byeong-chan. In Netflix’s take, the science teacher intentionally created the disease using mutated mice hormones and planned to infect Jin-su so he’d have the power to fight off his bullies. However, Byeong-chan has mixed feelings toward his own actions, which have caused zombies to infiltrate the school. He ends up sacrificing himself to save detective Song Jae-ik (Lee Kyu-hyung), getting bitten in the process and becoming a zombie.
In Dong-geun’s original webtoon, Jin-su goes fishing with his father and mysteriously contracts the virus the next day. Byeong-chan is investigated by police as a suspect for starting it, but he ends up killing himself before the case is solved rather than becoming a zombie sacrifice.
Nam-ra Has A Brighter Future In The Webtoon
All of Us Are Dead ends with Nam-ra in a vulnerable position. Despite connecting with her fellow students over their shared terrors, she’s still infected with the virus and must hide from the Korean military, who would kill her upon discovering her existence.
The webtoon sees Nam-ra become immune to the virus and transported to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention before returning to a relatively normal life. But the ending isn’t completely happy. While the students think the pandemic has been eradicated, readers learn the virus has entered the water stream and traveled to Japan.
The ending foreshadows repeated events soon to occur in the neighboring nation, which could potentially be covered in All of Us Are Dead if the series is renewed for Season 2 by Netflix.