Created by Park Kyung-ran, Imitation is the hottest South Korean webtoon on the scene. Featuring a brand new storyline and steering clear from most typical webtoons, Imitation is the story of a K-pop band named Tea Party and its three female members trying to survive the snares of the entertainment industry while navigating through love, friendship and family.
Considering that most new Korean TV series are being adapted from webtoons, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Imitation receive the Cheese in the Trap treatment (webtoon + TV series + movie +…). It certainly has the potential. It has a promising premise, a well thought out plot and easily likeable leads. There is already a popular demand cast on stand-by.
Imitation follows the life of Maha Lee, an upcoming band debuting as Tea Party with 3 members – Maha, Ria and HyunJi. Maha gets her ’15 minutes’ of fame due to her facial likeness to established popular star La Lima – an idea used by her manager, hence the name of the webtoon.
Starring opposite to Maha, we have Ryoc, singer of a famous boy band SHAX who despises people using cheap tricks to rise to fame. True to The Webtoon Theory of Hot Male Leads, he is – aloof, disciplined…and you guessed it – averse to Maha…in the beginning. A particular incident and certain other unfortunate (or planned?) events lead to Maha being labelled by him as a ‘2-minute celebrity’ who will quickly disappear from the scene.
The arc culminates when his developing prejudice leads him to insult her indirectly during an adlib session for an upcoming movie shoot. Realising that he perhaps went too far, Ryoc looks for opportunities to apologise. When he cannot find an appropriate moment to do so, he convinces himself that he will barely ever see them again.
However, due to their ’15 minutes of fame’, Tea Party gains an unprecedented number of followers than their poor manager had ever thought of and Maha and Ryoc find each other face to face more often than they’d like. With Ryoc looking for opportunities to apologise in private and Maha trying to avoid him, hilarity ensues as they run in circles but also begin to recognise each other for what they are rather than their prejudices. It’s an oft used situation. We’ve seen Boys Over Flowers, we know what happens. We’ve seen My Love from Another Star. We know what happens. We’ve seen Suspicious Partner. We know what happens! But Imitation isn’t another hit on the list that makes it longer – it makes it better.
Of course, it isn’t all roses. Maha is also pursued by Yujin from boyband Sparkling who happens to be her friend since middle school. While Maha is oblivious to his feelings, HyunJi has had a crush on Yujin from the beginning. There are also 6 other members in SHAX who make appearances to only warn Ryoc of his budding relationship.
The characters are well thought out and overall, the webtoon has a warm, easy pace. You get to see the efforts the bands put in and the joy of Tea Party’s manager when he finally manages to secure another investor. Rather than just focusing on their personal lives, the author gives ample view into the relationship of the idols with their fans and the hopes on their shoulders.
The series does not sideline the rest of the cast and everyone’s backstory is duly depicted. No one is a saint, but no one is truly evil either. Everyone is capable of reason and changing for the better. HyunJi fosters hatred towards Maha for ignoring Yujin’s advances – but it is only because she is human. La Lima despises Tea Party for trying to rub off on her fame – but it is only because she feels she has been wronged. The Webtoon Law of Female Leads states that there cannot be two beautiful, successful female leads – they must be rivals at some point (cue: Go Hyemi and Yoon Baek Hee from Dream High). However, with Ria, HyunJi and Maha, we get not two, but three female leads who unaffectedly care about one another – enough to ask the questions that will lead to misunderstandings if not resolved. Ria turns out to be an unexpectedly sensitive and understanding individual who seems to foresee every arc before it happens. Basically, she acts as the voice of the reader, plummeting sense into Maha’s head.
With time, the characters learn to grow and move on. La Lima redeems herself and realises she is more like an elder sister to Maha. Yujin learns to accept unrequited love. The difficulties they face are real and tangible – Maha and Ryoc struggle to separate their personal and private lives, Tea Party struggles to stay relevant without a Top 3 company backing them.
Maha Lee narrowly escapes falling into the frame of a stereotypical heroine. She is justifiably dense, has an eidetic memory and genuinely tries hard to do her best in a cut-throat competitive world. She comes across as a good person, but not a grating do-gooder. She is also just a 20-year old trying to find her footing while things around her change too fast according to what her manager or hair stylist decides. Perhaps we place so much expectations on our idols that we forget they are just as young and impressionable as the audience watching them. We are also introduced to Maha’s sister and her patriarchal family who is not aware that she is a now a pop idol. Family dynamics exist but only as a way to introduce some drama into the plot.
Done in light colours, Imitation gives off a sparkly vibe with its flowery backgrounds and detailed costume design – the focus is on the people, not on the space. The panels work on the vibe rather than the place they are in. Scenes mostly take place in repeated areas – SHAX’s van, Maha’s room, the game show set. There is a sense of familiarity with the cast and the places. The dialogues are natural which makes the reader feel familiar with the characters and their dynamics. The panels are minimalistic and placed in even stacks throughout the webtoon strip. The white space around it gives the webtoon a very simplistic and open vibe.
There is also a good deal of chibi characters sprinkled in a healthy dose. The characters are gorgeous and different from the Pinterest Korean art style we’ve become used to seeing (cue: Yang Se Eun’s works).
The romance builds up gradually. The pitfalls are many, but they aren’t exaggerated.
Imitation is available for free reading on Mangatoon. Download the app for easier reading here.
Imitation is a fresh breath of air in an over-saturated webtoon market of like faced characters and we’ll award it 8/10 Turnips!
Disclaimer: Foxyturnip gets a small commission when you click on ads or buy products from the links listed which helps run the site.