Extraordinary You: A Stubborn Heroine Caught Between the Pages of a Comic Book

Kim Hye-yoon couldn’t have picked a more perfect drama to return with. Post her memorable turn as Kang Ye-seo in SKY Castle, which catapulted her into the limelight, all eyes have been on her next project. Extraordinary You shares enough similarities with SKY Castle to allow us to feel at home with her new character right away, while also letting her venture into uncharted territory and showcase her range as a rising actress. I guess one could say that the prodigal schoolgirl is out of her mother’s shadow and running her own show now. (Note: this article is about the first two episodes of the drama.)

The drama begins with our protagonist Eun Dan-oh (Kim Hye-yoon) making her first appearance in a montage that harks back to every high school show ever—the rich girl exiting her fancy car and walking to her fancy school while everyone stares in awe. This montage serves the purpose of establishing the tone of the show as a light-hearted, satirical exploration of a classic teen drama. Dan-oh basks in the attention and announces herself as the “heroine”—and by the end of this episode, I was in full agreement with her, because Kim is one heck of a performer. She takes up almost 90 percent of the total screen time in this episode (1-2) and doesn’t let you get bored for a second. 

Soon, we are introduced to the major characters in Dan-oh’s life, which happen to be as hilariously cliched as her. There’s the arrogant rich guy and Dan-oh’s fiancé, Baek Kyung (Lee Jae-wook); the sweet sports guy, Lee Do-hwa (Jung Gun-joo); and the bad boy, Oh Nam-joo (Kim Young-dae). I really liked that we don’t really know where Dan-oh’s true interests lie with respect to the boys. She’s a teenager caught between wanting to please and be liked and seems to go for whoever gives her the most attention. This leaves the room wide open for much-needed character development and growth, which I can’t wait to see. 

Post introductions, we jump into confusion when Dan-oh suddenly starts going back and forth in time with zero warning except for vague sounds of pages turning in her vicinity. A large part of this episode is dedicated to her trying to work out what is going on around her and wondering if she’s suffering from memory loss or seeing the future. That is until she meets Dried Squid Fairy (Lee Tae-ri), a chef at her school’s cafeteria who informs her that she’s not a human at all, but a character from a manhwa called Secret. That’s right! Not only does the drama revolve around a girl who realizes that she is a comic book character, but it is also adapted from a webtoon. It’s so meta, I love it! 

Dan-oh doesn’t come across as a very likable girl. She’s an entitled rich kid who uses her heart condition to get what she wants. Baek Kyung treats her horribly and she just takes it silently. Immediately, in the next scene, she tries to win Nam-joo’s attention just to placate her insecurities. Dan-oh doesn’t know herself very well beyond the very stereotypes that lead her to believe she’s a formulaic heroine, and therein lies again the potential for some solid character development. I couldn’t be gladder to find a heroine who doesn’t fit into the binary of the innocent vs. the bitchy schoolgirl. 

At one point in the show, a portal-like thing opens up before Dan-oh, possibly signifying the existence of another world. It was a bit absurd, but my years of drama watching has told me that with shows like this, the absurdity is the point. The “we exist in a webcomic” premise is too shaky for me to comment on it right now, but I’ve seen how W-Two Worlds and Memories of The Alhambra turned out, so I’m less than optimistic. On a more hopeful note, however, the secondary characters, including the boys as well as Dan-oh’s best friends Sae-mi (Kim Ji-in) and Soo-chul (Kim Hyun-mok) have already gotten me invested in their storylines! 

There’s not much to say about SF9 member Rowoon‘s role yet, but I’m excited to see how he fits in this webcomic-verse, especially since he was seen sketching Dan-oh. Is he the author? Or simply another character who is also self-aware? In any case, Kim Hye-yoon seems to be becoming a lucky charm for SF9—first, member Chani soared to popularity after starring with her in SKY Castle as Hwang Woo-joo, and now, Ro Woon has snagged his first leading role opposite her.

I thought everything was in place, from our heroine to her three suitors and the mysterious man, but we are in for plot twist when Dan-oh realizes that Yeo Ju-da (Lee Na-eun), a scholarship kid who is bullied by Dan-oh’s classmates, is the main character of the comic, with Nam-joo as her hero. That reduces Dan-oh to, yes, just a supporting character. This was unexpected, and depending on the writing, this arc has the potential to be really good or really stereotypical. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

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IndoorEnthusiast

Indoor Enthusiast (Esha) is a staff writer at Kdramapal. She is responsible for bringing all the latest happenings in Kdramaland, as well as features and recaps of currently airing dramas, to the readers of the site. As a gender studies student, she loves analyzing K-dramas through the lens of gender politics and social justice. You're most likely to find her droning on and on about how Ji Hae-soo from It's Okay That's Love and Sung Bora from Reply 1988 are the best heroines to ever grace our screens. Her favorite dramas tend to be thrillers like Secret Forest and Signal, as well as heartwarming shows like Misaeng. When not in the mood for either of those, you can find her binging on shows about female friendships a la Age of Youth or rom-coms that come with sprinklings of feminism, like Because This Life Is My First. She lives in India, spends all her free time reading books, and would love nothing more than to meet Gong Hyo-jin and sign away her life's earnings to the actress. Indoor Enthusiast can be reached at [email protected]

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