Warning- there are spoilers for the first ten episodes of 'To the Beautiful You' ahead!
Due to what is either poor planning or unfortunate timing, the idol-laden KBS drama 'To the Beautiful You' has been struggling to gain viewers, consistently coming last in broadcast ratings for its Wednesday and Thursday night slots. This may be due to premiering during the final episodes of the wildly-popular 'Bridal Mask' (KBS2), and now running at the same time as another popular drama, 'Arang and the Magistrate' (MBC). In addition, this drama runs late at night, even though it is targeted at a younger demographic of viewers and should probably be playing a little earlier in the evening.
That said, the show isn't bad, and if you like the whole girl-disguises-herself-as-a-boy storyline and can deal with blatant product placement, big gaps in logic (the scene where Daniel conveniently forgets he can speak Korean just baffles me), a couple of massive plot holes (Jae Hee walking away untraumatized from an attempted rape being one if not the worst), and an overbearing soundtrack (seriously, the music almost never stops!) you'll probably enjoy this story. The idols are surprisingly good actors- much better than I expected, and the way everything is filmed is very colorful and nice to look at. Here's a recap of the first ten episodes.
Our main character is Jae Hee, played by f(x)'s Sulli. Her father died when she was young. When she was five, her mom remarried, and the family relocated to the US. She suffered a lot of bullying in school and came to hate herself, until she saw Korean high-jump gold medalist Kang Tae Joon (SHINee's Minho) on TV. He states that, "'Miracle' is just another word for hard work." She attached herself to that advice and worked very hard to become a fast runner, becoming the second-best female runner in the LA region.
When it looked like an ankle injury might take Tae Joon out of the game for good, Jae Hee chopped off all her hair, and secretly transferred to Genie High School for Boys, the same school Tae Joon attends. Her family believes she's studying at the nearby girls' school. She ends up as Tae Joon's roommate, despite his protests and attempts to throw her out. Her first day of classes starts out poorly, but she manages to win everyone's respect, becoming especially close to Eun Gyeol (Lee Hyun Woo), the school's soccer star.
In the second episode, the school doctor finds out she's a girl after she gets badly injured in a soccer game. He threatens to rat her out, but she explains that she's there to help Tae Joon, which gets his attention- Tae Joon is one of his patients, and he'll take all the help he can get. Meanwhile, we find out that Tae Joon is completely healthy, but he has "the yips", a kind of mental block that makes him unable to jump well. He's already considering retirement. However, he overhears Jae Hee pleading with her brother, who has just learned what she's been up to, to let her stay at the school. Tae Joon learns that Jae Hee is a girl and how he helped her. This gives him the motivation to keep trying and gets him over his initial dislike of Jae Hee. As time goes on, we learn that his mom died while he was busy making his gold medal jump, and he's never gotten over it. In the most recent episodes, Tae Joon and Jae Hee start to realize that they aren't just friends who are highly protective of each other- they've started to develop romantic feelings. However, thinking that the feelings aren't reciprocated and knowing that the news of a relationship between the two would cause a lot of harm for them both, they keep it to themselves.
Now that we've got the basic plot covered, here's a quick take on each of the important characters in the show (other than Jae Hee, who I've pretty much covered):
Tae Joon - Aside from what I've already said, it's worth noting that Tae Joon is a hobbyist photographer and is pretty good at it. He also wears a necklace with his mother's ring on it all the time.
Eun Gyeol - The first person Jae Hee connects with at Genie. Even though he thinks she's a boy, he starts to develop feelings for her, which freaks him out. He ends up dating a childhood friend, Da Hae (Nam Ji Hyun), for a few episodes, and he ends things with her when he realizes that he still can't shake his strong feelings for Jae Hee (as in, he's daydreaming about marrying and raising a family with her). He decides that he'll confess to Jae Hee once he gets picked for the national soccer team, but he doesn't end up making the team, which ruins his plans. He's very jealous of Jae Hee and Tae Joon's friendship, even though he tries to remind himself that they're just roommates and probably aren't into each other. Jae Hee is completely oblivious to Eun Gyeol's feelings, but she values their friendship greatly.
Han Na (Kim Ji Won)- An Olympic gymnast, considered one of the nation's fairies. She's got a bratty, childish attitude- always turning up late, throwing a fit when she doesn't get her way- but she has her nice moments as well. She and Tae Joon grew up together, and she's close with his family. She's convinced that Tae Joon is "The One" and is heartbroken that he doesn't feel the same, but persistent. She's furious at Tae Joon and Jae Hee's friendship, and her anger gets even worse when, in episode ten, she realizes that Jae Hee is a girl. She tries to confront Tae Joon about it, and gets madder when it turns out he's known for a while. In a fit of rage, she agrees that she will keep the secret under one condition- if he will be in a public relationship with her. Before he can answer, and before he can fill Jae Hee in on the situation, she announces the relationship in an interview. It's also worth noting that she and Eun Gyeol have an ongoing hatred of each other.
Director Jang (Lee Ah Hyun)- Tae Joon and Ha Na's manager. She's a hard worker and takes excellent care of the two of them, doing her best to shield them from reporters and handling their moodiness expertly. Since the death of Tae Joon's mother, she's become a strong, motherly figure in his life.
Mr. Kang (Seon Woo Jae Deok)- Tae Joon's father. Tae Joon isn't on good terms with him, and at first it seems like it's just because his father pushes him so hard to be a good athlete, but we find out later that Tae Joon sort of blames his father for his mother's death. While that's not at all fair, he feels this way because his father kept his mom's death a secret from him until they got back to Korea, knowing that Tae Joon wouldn't have been able to compete if he had known.
Jong Min (ZE:A's Kwanghee)- Eun Gyeol's very possessive friend. He's incredibly jealous of how much attention Eun Gyeol pays to Jae Hee, to the point where he's intentionally pranked her, tripped her, and gotten her injured to try to scare her off. He's whiny, entitled, and rarely seen without his lip balm.
Dr. Jang (Ki Tae Young)- The school doctor. He discovers Jae Hee's secret early on, but lets her stick around because he thinks she can actually help Jae Hee. He harbors a secret obsession with fashion.
Coach Byeon (Sometimes Coach Baek, depending on the translation) (Kang Kyung Joon)- The gym teacher and track team coach. He's very strict with his students, but ultimately wants what's best for them. He was once a silver medalist in the high jump, but retired after an injury. He has a massive crush on Teacher Lee (Lee Young Eun).
Hyeonjae (Kang Ha Neul)- Eun Gyeol's roommate. A high jumper who falls just short of Tae Joon's skill level. In an effort to take Tae Joon down, he leaks a photo of Tae Joon drunkenly kissing Jae Hee (this was long before anyone's feelings were involved), as well as the contents of Tae Joon's medical records, which include the information that he's got the yips. Coach Byeon eventually forces them to become training buddies.
Daniel Dawson (Julien Kang) - Jae Hee's older step-brother. An ivy league grad and a world-renowned neuropsychiatrist- in fact, he's the world's foremost expert on the yips. After meeting him at a conference, Dr. Jang brings him in to talk to Tae Joon, asking Jae Hee if she'll serve as a translator. When Daniel sees her, the jig is up and he nearly sends her back to the US, but once he realizes how important this is to her, he tells her she can stay.
Coach Holten - The world's foremost high jump coach. Tae Joon's been dreaming of working with him forever, but blows his chances when he fails a jump that Holten witnessed. Jae Hee, not one to let Tae Joon give up, makes a slideshow of reasons why Holten should take Tae Joon on, which is where we learn her story, and Holten eventually agrees. Tae Joon initially accepts the offer (which requires him to move to Canada), but then rejects it when he realizes he'll have to go without Jae Hee. This upsets Jae Hee greatly- she doesn't understand and thinks he's giving up his dream for no reason. At the end of episode ten, he had still decided he wasn't going, but that decision is still up in the air.
Reporter Yang (Ahn Hye Kyung)- the main reporter constantly looking for dirt on Tae Joon. She gets Hyeonjae to help her for a while (she's the one he leaked information to), but he gets tired of it after a while- she's always curious about Tae Joon, and never about Hyeonjae, and he's tired of that game.
John Kim/Johnny (Kim Woo Bin)- Jae Hee's "favorite oppa" from the US. He helps her transfer to Genie, which makes him one of only two people who were in on her secret from the start (the other being her best female friend, who isn't named and doesn't have a lot of screen time). Johnny comes to visit Jae Hee in Korea, where he confesses that he's fallen for her. She's not so thrilled about this. He realizes he isn't going to win Jae Hee's heart with Tae Joon in the picture and gives up.
Seung Ri (Seo Joon Young)- The head of the dorm that Jae Hee, Tae Joon, Hyeongjae, and Eun Gyeol live in.
Obviously, we couldn't cover ten episodes of material in one article, but if you're jumping in late, this will get you up to speed enough to start watching. For those of you who have been watching, what are your favorite parts of the drama so far? Let us know in the comments!