Webtoon Analysis: True Beauty, A True Disappointment

Spoilers ahoy!

True Beauty by Yaongi is a romantic comedy following the life of Jugyeong Lim, a relatable, young student who’s physical appearance is… well average. Jugyeong is no model, but she’s a cute lady who knows how to work the brush. Make-up brush that is. Her face painting skills allow her to ascend to the upper echelons of society, garnering her friends and male attention she previously lacked.

However, none of her friends know what she looks like without make-up, leaving her insecure and using make-up as a mask to hide her “ugliness”. Jugyeong is always on guard, afraid her carefully curated world as the hot girl summer will crumble once others discover what she looks like beneath the mask.

Then, a wild Suho appears!

A wild Suho!

Suho is conventionally attractive, smart, and sort of rude initially. A lover of horror and comics, he runs into a bare-faced Jugyeong at the comic store and the two eventually bond over their shared love of all things creepy. An interest that soon blossoms into love as Suho is drawn to her “true beauty”: the Jugyeong who’s awkward, likes horror, comics, and late night talks on benches while eating snacks in sweats. A Suho who encourages Jugyeong to be better, to study hard, and pursue her dreams. The feelings are mutual too.

True Beauty was sort of cheesy and not typically the sort of thing I enjoy reading, but it was light-hearted and had a semi-positive message: ladies, find a guy who likes the true you. A guy who shares your weird hobbies, isn’t put-off when you’re just chilling in sweats, and who pushes you to be better. But most importantly, a guy you’re entirely comfortable being yourself around.

Alas, all good things must be ruined by love triangles… and poor writing.

The story introduces Seonjun, who initially is very much your average bad boy type character, clad in jewelry and all.

A wild Seonjun!

He’s sort of a jerk to Jugyeong at first (or his friends are – birds of a feather, if you will) and Jugyeong is terrified of showing him her face. Unlike Suho, Jugyeong doesn’t really have much in common with Seojun. Nevertheless, for whatever reason, Jugyeong finds herself interested in him aided by the fact that right as her relationship with Suho was blooming, the author put him on a boat and ships him away. Literally. Suho disappears from the story entirely for vague reasons and then the reader gets what feels like a very lengthy filler episode, depicting Jugyeong’s relationship with Seojun. Suho eventually reappears, but is basically reduced to wangsting over Jugyeong.

Seojun’s introduction essentially marked the end of what little character development Jugyeong was experiencing and what little individuality she possessed too.

Episodes later, Jugyeong never develops beyond that insecure, young lady wearing a mask because she’s terrified of her natural appearance, and her relationship with Seojun seemingly makes her regress into an even more insecure individual, obsessed with looks. And while she quickly grew comfortable around Suho bare-faced, it took her some 90 episodes before accidentally showing Seojun her face. Fortunately, he’s fine with it but still. It’s a terrible way to start a relationship and an unhealthy message to young girls.

Rather than coming to understand what true beauty means, Jugyeong seems to have become a stereotypical “pretty girl”, vain and obsessed with her appearance. And whereas at least her relationship with Suho showed Jugyeong she didn’t need to be all dolled up to obtain meaningful relationships with others, her relationship with Seojun just sort of exists as a plot device to drag the story along endlessly, with no clear ending in sight.

While True Beauty’s not over (and it’s been made into a drama apparently), it should’ve ended long ago. Yaongi seems to have either lost the plot, or is dragging the story on because it’s successful (which get the bag, but personally I do appreciate authors like Carnby Kim who create very tight, well-paced plots without filler (to be fair – those are two different genres, but even compared to “Odd Girl Out”, another ongoing manwha centered around a young woman going through life, True Beauty is lacking as the Main character Nari develops tremendously throughout the story, whereas Jugyeong does not)).

In Yaongi’s defense, the Korean title seems to be “A Goddess Descends” or “The Secret Angel”, so it’s entirely possible English translators set unfair expectations for readers by naming it “True Beauty”. Even still, it lacks character development, the male leads are static, and the story’s initial, more interesting premise about a young girl learning about the meaning of true beauty seems to have ditched in favor of a more stereotypical, love-triangle-ish story about a young women obsessed with looking pretty for the sake of others.

True Beauty Rating: 6.5/10

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