Does the webtoon True Beauty work as a K-Drama?

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Webtoon, a publishing company launched by Naver known for its online comics, has quickly been gaining popularity worldwide, causing a rise in webtoon-based drama productions. A sensational webtoon-drama adaptation, True Beauty, by Korean Webtoon artist Yaongyi, was released this past winter. The webtoon version was released in April 2018 and is an ongoing comic about a high school girl named Lim Ju-gyeong who, using her newfound aptitude for makeup to transform her face, arrives in a new school where she discovers new friendships and love interests. The comic follows her journey through high school, where she meets the two male leads, Lee Su-ho and Han Seo-jun, along the way and later develops her life as a professional makeup artist.  

The drama starts similarly to the webtoon but quickly diverges from the storyline and ending to fit the limitations of live-action adaptations. The K-drama version, produced by Studio Dragon, tvN, and Production Plan, stars Moon Ga-young, Hwang In-yeop, Cha Eun-woo, and  Park Yoo-na. Junior Alexandra Yick said that although she’s only watched a few episodes of the drama, she feels that the producers did “a really good job making the webtoon a reality…It was really cool seeing how similar most of the actors looked compared to the comic’s characters and their personalities are spot on.” Season 1 was released on December 9, 2020, and the last episode aired on February 4, 2021. The episodes can be found on online streaming sites such as Viki Rakuten.

The drama version differs from the webtoon in that the drama adds depth to Ju-gyeong’s experiences as a high schooler. Her character develops through broken and healed friendships, romantic relationships, bullying, enduring the stigmas of not being seen as “pretty” or using makeup in general, and learning how to love herself for who she is. Ultimately she discovers her “true beauty.”  Sophomore Emily Dong said, “The drama was reasonable, I’ve heard a lot of people say it’s bad since it’s so different from the webtoon, but I felt as if it was well needed for there to be actual development.” In addition to adding depth to the story, the drama incorporates more comedy into each scene. “Even though there were a lot of changes, it kept the lighthearted aspect of the comic, the cast was loveable, and the main characters had great character development,” said junior Marykate Wee. 

Although the drama follows the recent K-drama standard of sixteen episodes, the storyline of True Beauty is riveting and captivates the audience in each episode. The drama starts off in a high school with a bare-faced Ju-kyung getting bullied by her classmates for her physical appearance.  From the get-go, the drama creates feelings of sympathy and anger on behalf of the protagonist and the scenes of increasing tension between the characters in the following episodes allow viewers to glimpse Ju-kyung’s self-deprecating mindset as she struggles to learn to love herself.  Junior Linda Shi said that the drama covers, “a really interesting topic….the drama talks about school bullying and the beauty expectations of girls nowadays.” At the same time, the addition of more comedic scenes along with the school-aged scenes and youthful backdrops allow the audience to take a breather from the darker tones of the drama. 

The ending of the show, however, feels rushed, possibly due to the 16 episode limit.  Junior Marykate Wee suggested an alternative that the producers could have chosen to avoid this. “[They] could have extended it to two seasons but instead the complex storyline was compressed into 16 episodes,” she said Sophomore Stella Cho agreed that the producers could have created more episodes, and said that it would “make the ending feel more solid.” Others felt that the length and pacing of the K-drama marked an improvement from the webtoon. “[The webtoon] wasn’t great honestly, there was no character development and the plot seems to be going nowhere so far … I do feel like there could’ve been a better ending [to the K-drama] since it seemed rushed but the overall experience of it was great,” said Emily.

True Beauty is an international hit, with more than six million readers on Webtoon and a best of 4.579 percent viewership ratings for the drama nationally.  Similar intriguing webtoon-drama adaptations include My ID is Gangnam Beauty (which also revolves around a theme of beauty standards, and also stars Cha Eun-woo), Extraordinary You, Cheese In the Trap, Love Alarm, and Oh My Venus. If you’re in the mood for a romantic, comedic, and youthful drama with loveable characters and a well-developed plot, we recommend giving True Beauty a try.

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