Episode 1 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 9 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 10 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 11 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 12 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 13 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 14 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 15 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 16 – | Review Score – 4/5
True Beauty is a perfectly enjoyable Korean drama. It’s a cuddly, warmhearted k-drama romp, with enough laughs, romance and drama to keep you hooked until the end. Unfortunately, it’s also a show riddled with clichés and tropes, taking what worked so well in Extraordinary You (the Director’s previous work) and attempting to rekindle that here – but not quite as effectively.
Adapted from the web comic Yeoshingangrim, True Beauty centers on a high school girl called Ju-Kyung. Bullied for her ugly looks and forced out of school, Ju-Kyung eventually stumbles upon make-up tutorials online and manages to transform her looks overnight. Armed with a prettier face and a new, confidently bubbly attitude, Ju-Kyung enlists at a new school where she winds up involved in a love triangle with bad-boy Seo-Joon and kind-hearted but quiet Soo-Ho.
This will they/won’t they triangle continues for much of the show, with Soo-Ho and Seo-Joon’s ties deepening as the season progresses. You see, these two have a pretty dark history involving a third member of their former team, Se-Yeon. After a tragic incident in the past, Seo-Joon and Soo-Ho sever ties and eventually wind up disliking each other. Ju-Kyung entering the mix just makes things all the more volatile between them.
All of this builds up to a climax that suddenly jumps forward in time and disrupts some of the tighter writing gripping the first half of this show. While the finale does do a good job wrapping up all the different storylines, the journey there isn’t always as smooth as one may expect.
Thankfully, the supporting characters – namely the reverse-role romance between Ju-Kyung’s sister Hee-Kyung and Ju-Kyung’s teacher Joon- Woo – are enough to overlook some of this. Other subplots involve Soo-Jin, Ju-Kyung’s best friend, still hung up over her love interest Soo-Ho. Her character goes through quite the transformation as well, although personally this doesn’t always work as effectively as it should.
Given the Director here also worked on Extraordinary You, there’s a lot of similarities between the two dramas. Instead of the self-aware satire in that drama though, True Beauty leans into ideas surrounding cosmetics, bullying and the true meaning of beauty. It’s a pretty solid theme in truth, and although the later episodes water this down and resolve things pretty swiftly, the well-mannered intentions are certainly worth applauding.
Much like Start-Up last year though, True Beauty is a show that completely splits its fandom into two distinct teams. With half rooting for Seo-Joon and the other gunning for Soo-Ho, this one was always going to disappoint a collection of its avid watchers.
Having said that though, True Beauty almost does itself more harm than good by trying to appease the other half of the fanbase, dedicating an entire episode to fan-service near the end. Narratively, this doesn’t work and the show would have been stronger had it stuck to its guns.
Despite a few wobbles along the way, True Beauty rounds things out with a perfectly enjoyable finale that wraps everything up with a neat little bow at the end. While the show certainly won’t win any awards, it does have a light, fuzzy tone and enough laughs along the way to recommend.
It does pale in comparison to Extraordinary You but this extraordinarily sweet Korean drama should appease fans looking for a light romcom.