Stream or skip? +2023

If you could become a different person in an instant, would you? Would you walk around in a body that didn’t belong to you if it meant you could completely change your life? lookism is a Korean anime series based on a popular webtoon in which a young man who is bullied because of his weight and looks finds a way to live a double life in a body that society respects.

But is it all that matters? Can he find a way to be accepted by his peers living a life that isn’t really his? These would certainly be compelling questions if this adaptation weren’t such a mild attempt at bringing the story to life. Lookism doesn’t quite land as it should given its contemporary message.


opening shot:The camera pans over to a window, then a pair of legs going to a bathroom sink. A young man stares at himself in the mirror in disbelief as if he can’t believe what he’s seeing.

The essentials: Park Hyeong-seok (Garrett Gallego) is an overweight high school student who is bullied by his classmates because of his looks. He is bullied to tears every day, treated like a pig and beaten up when he doesn’t comply with the demands of his bullies.

One day, after a particularly bad experience at school, Hyeong-seok goes home and falls asleep, ready to give up his life. His mother (Susan Haruye Ioka) is of little help and his goons are relentless. So when he wakes up and finds himself in the body of a tall, skinny teenager, he’s shocked in a way that’s hard to understand.

He believes this could be the key to changing his life and decides to step out in this new kind of “shell”. But what will that do to his life in the end? How much longer can he maintain both existences?

Photo: Netflix

What shows will it remind you of? There are a variety of isekai shows that explore concepts of “living in a new body” or “starting a new life” storylines. Much like magical girls who morph into different costumes or forms so others don’t recognize them, these make up a big part of the genre.

But as simple as the comparison is, Hannah Montana is a close analogue. She’s just a regular Miley before she puts the wig on and then a superstar when she’s Hannah Montana. That’s how Hyeong-seok ends when he learns that he can be someone else – sounds silly, but that’s the mood.

Our opinion: There’s no shortage of anime series that take the protagonist and give them the ability to age themselves (such as Fancy Lala or Full moon in Sagashite). It’s a trope that comes up over and over again, especially when it comes to magical girl series. And unfortunately, judging others by their looks is a frustrating fact of life that many of us have to come to terms with. The problem here is that while the setup tries to win viewers’ sympathy over its “hero’s” predicament, it ultimately fails.

as a web toon, lookism is a gripping read that you can’t stop leafing through. Unfortunately, that doesn’t translate well to the small screen at all. Tiny details are overlooked and twisted, our protagonist is elusive due to his horrible personality (despite being bullied), and there’s just no one to be sympathetic to. You don’t really feel like you want to see Hyeong-seok succeed, which means the whole premise breaks down. He’s been treated like trash for so long that it seems to manifest in his personality as well, and it’s quite embarrassing to see him treating his mother the way he does instead of trying to fight back and deal with his own problems solve.

Dialogue also tends to be absent more often, which in turn affects the performance of the English voice cast. For example, relative newcomer Garrett Gallego does his best as Hyeong-seok but gets a lackluster set of English lines compared to the original Korean dialogue, similar to the other voices across the board. As a result, the actors deliver serviceable performances but never sound entirely accurate for their characters. The script is too milquetoast when it needs to be powerful and too aggressive when it needs to tone things down.

Additionally, Studio Mir’s animation took a pretty decent-looking webtoon and turned it into a cheap-looking schlock, reminiscent of some of those lazy, American-flavored anime that grace the covers of How To Draw books. These characters don’t look good, nor are they consistent. That makes for an even more uninteresting watch, with all of these elements coming together to make it difficult to appreciate lookism.

gender and skin: A brief glimpse of a student’s underwear, but not long enough to be too tasteless, as happens in the context of the narrative.

farewell shot: In his “new” body, Hyeong-seok strolls into his new school while his teacher introduces him as a new transfer student. The jaw drops and the whole class rages at what they see. A closeup of his face and a “nice to meet you” close the scene.

sleeping star: Susan Haruye Ioka plays Hyeong-seok’s mother, a woman who suffers so that her son can have a better life seemingly far from the bullies in his own neighborhood. Ioka brings a compelling warmth to the character that tugs at your heart. You can feel the pain in her heart when she sees her son being bullied and hurt at school and it cuts like a knife. It’s the one emotional scene in that first episode that will absolutely stick with you.

Most pilot line: “Here I am starting from the beginning again,” explains a confident Hyeong-seok as he makes his way to the small apartment his mother furnished for him in another city. He believes this is a time and place for new beginnings, and “starting over” is a theme that runs through the first episode.

Our appeal: SKIP IT. We all know when a book outshines its film or TV adaptation. lookism may be a webtoon instead of a novel, but its animated version omits too many details to be as impactful an experience as the original story. And not to totally miss the point of the story, but ironically it just looks cheap. Studio Mir’s animation is frankly unattractive and the English voice acting leaves a lot to be desired. It’s also quite spasmodic at times: “He’s a hot AF!” isn’t something real people say with their mouths in conversation. Additionally, the first episode won’t do much to hook you and you’ll likely try to dig into the webtoon rather than commit to the eight episodes available on Netflix. Let’s hope future customizations will be less arbitrary in their execution.

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