Today’s Webtoon: A Bit of Onscreen Magic

Recently I finished the 2022 Kdrama Today’s Webtoon and really enjoyed it. I’m not sure how many stars I would give it, as it does so many things right and so many wrong, and I’m not certain I’d watch it again, but it was on the whole enjoyable. Especially from a writing perspective, the characters on the show discuss much about writing, storytelling, art, and the creative process. Much food for thought there.

Starring the cute-as-a-button Kim Se Jeong (The Uncanny Encounter) as a former Judo champion turned webtoon producer, fellow toon rookie played by Nam Yoon Too (The King’s Affection), and their editing supervisor in a wonderful, quiet performance by Daniel Choi (The Jugglers), the story follows a standard “office work” genre format. The rookies are given tough assignments and learn on the job and not only become great at what they do, but also gain a newfound love for it. The show is a based on a Japanese manga called Juhan Shuttai. The previous TV adaptation came out in Japan in 2016. The show has two directors, Kim Young Hum and Jo Soo Won, both of whom worked together on Kdrama Gogh, the Starry Night. Jo has a bit more projects under his belt, having directed the amazing Pinocchio and also Doctor John, which I hope to watch someday.

First off, the show boasts many good, magical scenes, the best of which is On Ma Eum (Kim Se Jeong) and Seok Ji Hyung (Daniel Choi) flipping a coin at a bus station. It’s a great scene and cements the personalities of both characters, their chemistry, and possibly their future. The scene hints at future romance, but that ends in a bit of a dud. Here’s the scene. Many of the episodes had me in tears as they were very human, sweet stories. The show makes something what many would consider trivial, webtoons, or online comic series and graphic novels, and shows how the writing, messages, images, and themes can be just as profound and soul touch as literary works of yore. In tone, the show is low key, the music light. The webtoon artists themselves are all fun personalities, each with their own challenges and their own little dramas. Again, and again the producers and editors of Neon Webtoon have to stretch and finesse them to meet their production goals and keep producing toons that the audience will keep reading.

I found all the discussions about story and what makes one webtoon better than another to be fascinating. It was also interesting to see how much pressure there is to produce when working with serial stories. Sometimes I wondered if these people, artists, editors, or producers, every really got a day off. Often the artists who I figured would give up did not and some who did came back at the end, wiser and more practiced in their craft. It was inspiring to watch.

Although in the show itself the characters discuss romance in stories and how it can help move stories along and engage the audience, for some mystifying reason, at least in this adaption, there is almost zero romance. By the end, a little is forced in, and it really felt forced. Although there’s a significant age gap, the palpable chemistry between Kim Se Jeong and her supervisor really overshadows the third lead, the other rookie, Goo Jun Yeong. Spoiler: He is supposed to be the love interest. It also really doesn’t help that Nam Yoon Too is one of those actors that sucks the energy off the screen. It’s not exactly bad acting, but certainly not engaging acting and lacking in screen presence. In his defense, though, Daniel Choi has an advantage, being more of a veteran actor and looking ridiculously good in glasses–and supervisor Seok owns a lot of glasses. Also really awkward throughout the show is the product placements, not subtle in the slightest and with the tendency to pull one out of the story.

The latter half of Today’s Webtoon almost had me stop watching. One of the webtoon artists is clearly dealing with trauma or psychological problems and it is like no one at all notices. But his behavior is even abnormal despite the colorful characters that are the other artists. When the fact that he has a problem gets addressed, it is handled very poorly, with a not-too-credible reason for what happened. Although the character gets much needed closure, it is probably the show’s worst moment.

Another thing that really had me rolling my eyes after awhile, was the Neon Webtoon department’s obsession with their former company Ginger Toon. I get that it didn’t work out and that it is sad for them, but…it is a bit too much after awhile, especially as, not to disrespect comics, but it is not like they are making essential products or solving major world problems or something. It is great they all still have so much passion for Ginger Toon, but it is also cringey that they can’t just move on already. And the bad guy is so meh, but that kind of works as with the low-key style of the drama. The primary focus is the main character’s transformation in joining this field of work.

Speaking of that, I can’t say enough about Kim Se Jeong. She brings so much life to the screen and is a pleasure to watch. Her character is written well, and the Judo angle kind of neat, as is the fact that her family owns a manga or comic book cafe. Almost all of the family scenes are wonderful. They seem like a real family that genuinely cares for each other. Kim really carries the show, especially as after awhile Daniel Choi is severely underused. The outfits chosen for her character show the growing pains of a character that’s never really thought about fashion before. In the end Ma Eum’s style is comfortable, yet feminine, and unique to her.

Today’s Webtoon isn’t a drama that will change your life, but it may give you the itch to be more creative and to consider how much meaning all stories have for their readers/watchers/consumers.

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