Webtoons have a long shelf life if done right. Just like its counterpart, manga, it can go on for as long as the creator wishes, especially if they keep the story engaging enough to keep fans interested. But just because something is doing massively good, doesn’t mean it should keep on going forever. Especially when the plot starts losing itself. I saw this happen with another webtoon I used to enjoy, True Beauty, and I’m scared history might be repeating itself with Lookism.
Do I think Lookism is good? Objectively, yes. It was a very unique story for its time, a little too gritty for the polished look of the usual fare on the Line WebToon app. But that’s exactly why it stood out. The story by Park Tae-Jun is supposed to be a commentary on the way South Korea rewards good looks over merit and, yeah, I get that. But somewhere between the near 400+ chapters that have come out, it went from being original to being stale
In a way, both True Beauty and Lookism are about the same thing: Pretty privilege. And yet, they take drastically different directions. True Beauty is much more sparkly, with gorgeous character designs and the ‘horrible flaws’ being something like a little bit of acne and drastic dark circles. Whereas Lookism looks underneath, focusing on how good looks are used to excuse horrible behavior and hide ‘ugly’ personalities.
Again, this is a message I can get on board with. True Beauty almost sterilizes that feeling of hating how you look, making it seems much more shrink-wrapped and neat than it is. Lookism leans into Body Dysmorphia, especially when the main character is switching bodies at every instance. But how did it translate in the webtoon? And is it still worth picking up? Let’s discuss this.
Table of Contents
Premise: The Good Ol’ Switcheroo!
Let’s be honest, life is so much easier when you are conventionally attractive. So, what happens when you’re not? Well, you end up at the bottom of the pyramid with Park Hyung-Suk, a 17-year-old who has been mocked incessantly over his looks by bullies.
One of them is Lee Tae Sung, who seems hell-bent on making Hyung-Suk’s life miserable. At some point, he realizes he can’t take it anymore and decides to move schools, transferring to Jae Won High School, a career-orientated prep school that boasts a liberal education system, in Seoul.
And then just before starting school, Hyung-Sak wakes up to a completely new body. This Hyung Suk is like a dream, handsome and tall. But his original body is still there, so when one falls asleep, the bodies switch. From there it is a journey of Hyung-Suk navigating society in both bodies while trying to figure out how all of this even happened.
Breakdown: Critiquing Society Through Fight Club?
So, besides the art style, which is realistic at times and then almost a caricature of itself in others, Lookism was pretty well-rounded for the first couple of hundred chapters. Hyung-Suk was a pretty great protagonist and his struggle with his body (bodies?) issues was something that really resonated with fans.
I mean, the webtoon took some turns with how looks impact everything. First, you had Hyung-Suk has to get used to having two different outlooks on his existence. Then you had an entire conversation about how social media impacts beauty standards and has perverted them for capitalism. Don’t even get me started on the whole Hostel arc that dealt with homeless youth and human trafficking, of all things. Like, when this manga gets good, it’s unbelievably engaging, pulling attention to a lot of under-discussed issues.
But, at some point, Hyung-Suk’s supernatural mystery gets a resolution, and he starts taking a back seat to his side characters. And that’s where the story starts declining heavily. No longer is the focus on discussing the pressures we face when growing up in a society so obsessed with looks and wealth. Now it’s about turf wars and gangs, pretty generic stuff that you’d find in any fighting manga.
The Verdict: Fun If You Have The Patience
Honestly, as I said, it’s pretty worth it in that first half. It’s engaging and makes you think while still staying a pretty dynamic read.
Just don’t expect a lot of that from the later chapters!