'True Beauty' Episode 1: Cha Eun-woo, Moon Ga-young in this web manhwa adaptation experience comedy of errors
'True Beauty' Episode 1 depicts how Lim Ju-kyung had first fallen in love with makeup as a way of hiding behind a mask because everyone around her had always told her that she looked "ugly". From her relatives to her peers, everyone made fun of Ju-kyung's freckles while she was young, and her breakouts later. To bury her sorrows, Ju-kyung indulges in horror manhwa and metal music. She has a crush on a young man who works at her school's cafeteria called Hyun Bin (Lee Tae-ri) but the bullies in her class ruin it all. No, the joke here about Hyun Bin is definitely not lost on us, but the episode does a good job of depicting how horrible bullying is. The violence and harassment that Ju-kyung experiences is a reflection of reality in high schools today and not something to laugh about and the show too takes the same tone.
Based on the popular webtoon 'Yeoshingangrim' by Yaongyi, in the show we see how Ju-kyung goes through a phase of self-hate before she finds out that make-up could become her savior. A savior that would help her escape the horrors of being an outcast because of her looks. Shaming her, breaking her spirit enough to get her to doubt herself are things that the bullies in her school do not regret. When she asks her peers why they are so mean to her, she is simply told that it is because she was ugly and this only further aggravates her self-hate. She even considers dying by suicide momentarily and goes to her home terrace. However, just when she is about to take that step and fall into oblivion she sees the big banner of celebrity idol Jeong Se-yeon whose fans are commemorating what would have been his 18th birthday. This young boy also died by suicide.
She then realizes how unfortunate it would be and also comes to the conclusion that she shouldn't die but before she could climb down a young boy, who we are later told is Lee Soo-ho, pulls her off the ledge and saves her. This boy who Ju-kyung cannot see because her glasses are broken tells her how she must consider fighting her battles and not give up, consider the hurt that people close to her would feel and before you know it, what would have been a tragedy turns into a comedy. After knocking her glasses off, she ends up taking a fall due to her bad vision and all the buried frustration comes to the surface again. So when this man appears again to lift her up, she considers him a savior. Of course, she doesn't realize that the man is more or less her age.
That night, after she confesses in her cyber community that she was rejected by the guy that she had had a crush on, and that he told her that she was too ugly to be his girlfriend. Her online friends suggest solutions varying between finding someone who accepts her to getting plastic surgery done. Of all the options, she finds makeup the most feasible and when she sees the transformation videos published online, she is inspired. She definitely doesn't get it right the first time and is in fact trolled for looking like someone from a horror movie that she loves so much. So she is about to drown in despair when she learns that her father was scammed and so they would now have to transfer schools as they will be moving to a different area.
It is as if Ju-kyung's prayers are answered and we see her try her best to learn everything about makeup. Over days, she practices until she gets it perfectly and on the first day in her new school, Ju-kyung experiences the privileges that her other peers had been granted without a thought. There is no hate or disgust in the students who look at her now as there was in her past. The difference is too huge to be taken lightly in fact because we see how Ju-kyung experiences the pleasures of making friends, going out with them and having spicy tteokbokki -- things that were not possible for her before. However, the only hiccup is none other than Soo-ho himself. She doesn't realize that he is the same boy who saved her before, and he doesn't realize initially that she is the girl that he had saved because of the makeup either.
However, towards the end of the episode, all of that might change as Ju-kyung ends up meeting him at the comics store that she used to frequent while she was young. At the end, Ju-kyung sees her new classmate in Soo-ho while Soo-ho sees the girl that he had saved and that is where it all begins between the two of them. So what happens next?
'True Beauty' episodes will air on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 10.30 pm on tvN in Seoul and can be streamed on Viki in the US.