The webtoon-based True Beauty‘s middle picks up right where the first four episodes left off. The love triangle between our main characters now proceeds in full force, making for an abundance of sweet and hilarious moments. While Seo-jun (Hwang In-yeop) continues to tease and taunt Ju-kyeong (Moon Ga-young), he comes to realize his feelings for her. Su-ho (Cha Eun-woo) on the other hand, is well aware of them and tries to figure out a way of confession that may require him to step out of his comfort zone.
This review contains spoilers.
All in all, the drama delivers another well-paced and entertaining four episodes. The young characters experience emotional ups and downs, while trying to figure out their romances, friendships and school lives. The focus shifts to developments in inter-character relationships. In addition to the budding romance between Ju-kyeong and Su-ho, the wrecked friendship between Su-ho and Seo-jun, the romance between Hee-kyung (Ju-kyeong’s sister played by Im Se-mi) and Ju-kyeong’s good-natured teacher Joon-woo (Oh Eui-sik) all see major progress and challenges. This makes the drama quite dynamic and engaging.
While episodes one to four touched on Su-ho’s troubled past and family relations only on the surface, we are now given deeper insight into the complicated relationship with his famous father, whom he loathes, and the panic attacks he suffers since the death of his close friend. Su-ho’s portrayal and his unpredictability remain one of the appealing parts of the drama. While he is very bland and cold, he now starts coming out of his shell to find a way to confess to Ju-kyeong. The highlight, undoubtely, is his visit to Ju-kyeong’s house on her mother’s invitation. His stiff character is the perfect contrast to Ju-kyeong’s loud and crazy family, which fights at every opportunity.
The damaged friendship between Su-ho and Seo-jun also sees some growth after the two join forces to save Ju-kyeong, who is held captive by a gangster student (Seo-jun later even thanks Su-ho for his help). The two are rivals when it comes to Ju-kyeong, but somehow the drama retains a warm atmosphere between the male leads refraining from depicting them strictly as such, but also as friends, who still care for each other. Seo-jun continues to establish himself as one the most interesting characters of the drama. Not only is he perfect material for some major second lead syndrome, but behind the initially intimidating and insurgent impression he made, he is a sweet, caring and childish person.
The drama also sees the addition of new character Go-woon (Yeo Joo-ha), whose situation greatly affects Ju-kyeong. She is chosen as the main vocal for a school performance, but is being ridiculed for her ugly looks, reminding Ju-kyeong eerily of the bullying she experienced. She decides to give Go-woon a make-over for her school festival performance. This is a cute and refreshing addition to the storyline, giving Ju-kyeong some time to reflect on her past hardships and demonstrating her kind-hearted, warm character.
At the center are Ju-kyeong’s romantic feelings for Su-ho, which cause her quite an emotional turmoil. She tries to figure out whether he holds the same feelings towards her. Ju-kyeong can be pretty dense at times, but the depiction of her first romantic journey is highly relatable. She perceives herself as ugly and inferior to her peers due to her looks, completely ruling out the possibility of Su-ho being romantically interested in her. However, to Su-ho her bare face doesn’t matter at all, and he tells her that she is pretty with or without make-up.
Episode 8 keeps the fun and tension high, as Ju-kyeong’s class goes on a school trip to the countryside that (as expected) results in utter chaos. Ju-kyeong has to go to great lenghts to hide her bare face from her classmates and is mistaken as a ghost, who passed away because of her ugly appearance and is now hunting girls with pretty faces. This sudden supernatural element admittedly feels a bit random, but makes up for plenty of hilarious situations.
The background story of Soo-jin (Park Yoo-na) is also fleshed out more in these episodes. We learn about the incredible pressure (and occasional violence) she faces from her parents to excel at school and that her close friendship with Su-ho since childhood. Soo-jin’s personality is very likeable and her friendship with Ju-kyeong, who respects her greatly, adds a sweet notion to the drama. While there have been some hints that Soo-jin crushes on Su-ho, it has so far not been confirmed. It will be exciting to see how she will react to the romance between him and Ju-kyeong.
True Beauty is, however, not without its flaws that are demonstrated quite well in these episodes. Not only is the storyline highly predictable, but the interactions and dialogues often excessively clichéd. The cameo by Jung Gun-joo as a famous basketball player, who takes an interest in Ju-kyeong is also redundant and barely adds anything to the storyline. While it is supposed to make Su-ho and Seo-jun jealous and therefore realize their feelings for Ju-kyeong, the drama could have easily done without this cameo.
For now True Beauty keeps a steady pace and remains entertaining. After all, it is a high school teen drama that does not take itself too seriously and remains on the lighter and comedic side. Simultaneously, it already sends out a very favorable message: what matters is inner beauty, not so much your appearance. Ju-kyeong’s generous personality is what attracts both Su-ho and Seo-jun, not her beauty. With Su-ho having confessed his feelings to her and the drama having only aired its first half, it will be interesting to see which challenges our main couple will meet.
(Images via tvN)