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Manhwa Review: Imitation Vol. 1 (2023) by KyungRan Park

A perfect romance story for the K-pop fandom

“As a member of the obscure idol group Tea Party, Maha Lee dreams of becoming a superstar one day. But she had no idea she'd get her big break so soon…by embarrassing herself on a popular talk show! Even worse, the debacle lands her on the bad side of Ryoc Kwon, a member of the top male idol group SHAX. He now has her pegged as a talentless fake who imitates successful artists for attention…Does Maha have what it takes to convince him and the world that she's the real deal?” (Yen Press)

A romantic comedy set within the competitive work of K-pop idols, 's “” has already succeeded as a 2021 K-drama series of the same name, directed by Han Hyun Hee. Moreover, the title is added to the titles by /Ize Press that highlight the best WebToons by bringing them to print in high-quality editions. This is a welcome addition to the line-up and a treat for fans of the TV series and K-pop-driven stories.

“Imitation” is a satisfying and well-executed romantic comic, thanks to its focus on realistic interactions between members of the K-pop industry. Though fictionalized, the characters offer insight into how dating works within the field and the pressure on the performers as they try to find their voice and fit within the competitive landscape. In addition, as a performer struggling to make a name, protagonist Maha Lee gives the reader a relatable character who has not yet seen stardom and is going through challenges that add a compelling aspect to the romantic elements.

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Opposite the relatable Maha Lee, pop sensation Ryoc Kwon presents the industry's peak, as a popular performer loved by fans. He plays the ideal romantic interest, falling into the familiar structure of romantic comedies where an elite within a field falls for a more mild-mannered outsider. The awkward interactions between Maha Lee and Ryoc Kwon are consistently entertaining in the inaugural volume as the two try to feel each other out.

While it is hard to deny that the story is very typical of the genre, much of the success of the rom-com in both Korean films and comics draws from how exceptionally well its creators can lean into the formula and draw readers in, regardless of predictability. Thankfully, KyungRan Park exemplifies how working within familiar confines can still be fruitful and produce engaging, entertaining content in a saturated genre.

The art, presented mainly in soft palettes, is one of the more visually appealing entries in the WebToon format, which can often be stunted by publishing schedules and over-reliance on digital techniques. KyungRan Park further excels in capturing the emotions of her characters in a way that is ideally suited to draw readers into its romantic themes. Consequently, the book is well-rounded in its visual presence, and any shortcomings (lack of backgrounds) melt away as one gets wrapped up in the characters and the soft, welcoming color tones.

“Imitation” does little to go beyond the surface level of romantic cliches, but its upbeat tone, strong character development, and lush visual directions make up for its lack of originality. Moreover, while entirely fictional, the ties to the K-pop industry will surely draw in those who love the inherited drama that comes with idol worship. Ultimately, “Imitation” may not even be the best romance WebToon currently in print, but the audience it caters to and those that like series that thrives in a familiar structure will surely fall for its charms.

About the author

Adam Symchuk

Adam Symchuk is a Canadian born freelance writer and editor who has been writing for Asian Movie Pulse since 2018. He is currently focused on covering manga, manhwa and light novels having reviewed hundreds of titles in the past two years.

His love of film came from horror and exploitation films from Japan that he devoured in his teens. His love of comics came from falling in love with the works of Shuzo Oshimi, Junji Ito, Hideshi Hino, and Inio Asano but has expanded to a general love of the medium and all its genres.

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