Netflix’s “Mask Girl” aired a couple of days back, here is my review of the drama.
Table of Contents
Note: this will be a spoiler review of the said episodes in the title. This is a subjective review.
The drama is based on a web comic of the same title, and it was published from 2015 to 2018, which means there was a lot of content to cover. It was written by a rookie screenwriter-director. This marks his second project, and I think he did a good job.
Of course, I don’t have a frame of reference to talk about in terms of adaptation because I never personally read the webcomic. But if I take a look at this project as a standalone project, I think it was done well, for the most part. Enough to be quite memorable and enough for me to call it one of the better Netflix kdramas released this year.
I think a lot of people have some mixed thoughts about the drama, the messaging, the gruesomeness in some of the scenes, as well as how dark it got pretty fast.
I would definitely say that this is not a drama for the faint of heart, and this is not a drama that is easy to watch. Regardless, in a sense, I would say that I was pretty much hooked watching this drama. Time flew by fast as I was anxiously waiting to see how it pans out.
This isn’t the type of drama that I would recommend to anyone, as they would have to have a certain tolerance for violence and some pretty heavy scenes that include sexual harassment and sexual assault. But if this is something you can tolerate, this is definitely a kdrama that I would recommend.
The drama tackles South Korea’s Obsession with beauty and how it affects a lot of people’s lives. It touches on the way that people, and society, generally view people who are ugly, and how it can take a severe mental and physical toll on the person who’s being subjected to the harassment due to the way they look, specifically if they don’t really have a lot of ways they can combat that, and they cannot become more confident due to how people treat them. It’s like a vicious cycle that repeats itself over and over again without missing a beat.
Since this review is spoilers filled, I’ll be discussing more details about the drama.
I think overall the messaging of the drama was presented well. It shows what happens when one simple obsession turns into something deadly very fast. It tackles a lot of difficult topics and tackles the way Korean society looks at women and treats them.
By no means did I think at most points that the screenwriter was attempting to make us feel sympathetic towards the main female character because she’s done some very questionable and horrible actions on her own. At least, personally, I never felt that to a ‘questionable’ degree, because it doesn’t shy away from presenting how she does what she does and how it takes a toll on her and those surrounding her.
She makes horrible decisions in pursuit of attention that she didn’t receive growing up. Her mother did a horrible job building up her confidence which makes the situation even worse for her as she progresses in life.
When she raped her boss, there is no possible ‘excuse’ that could even begin to justify it. You could say she’s been sexually deprived and wanted him for some time, you could ‘understand’ it but not ‘justify’ it in the same vain. When she hit that suspicious man on the head, she could’ve still called police or help, there were moments in her life when she could’ve taken a different approach, but she didn’t and for a variety of reasons.
To what degree should she be considered complicit or horrible is up to debate, but I still think it was an interesting look at Momi and how some sequences of horrible circumstances can turn even the most docile people into what you could say “monsters.”
We could say they’re victims of circumstances and things outside their control and that would not be entirely inaccurate to say, but it would still not be the full picture. It’s a nuanced conversation and a subject not easy to tackle. I loved how it was never presented as black and white at any point.
The drama also goes through a lot of Various mental illnesses that manifest differently in different people, which I also thought was interesting.
I think for 7 episodes, its tightly written and presented. I wouldn’t have minded more episodes but I still think, judging as a standalone project, it was done pretty well.
This is the type of project that you expect Netflix to produce, a project that would not be easy for other Koreans streaming platforms to greenlight considering the degree of violence and darkness present.
I must say, I really love the close look at each character that was presented in each episode. And how each one of them talks about their childhood and what has led up to the point we get to meet them. It is not too much and enough for most to come to a basic understanding of why certain characters behave certain ways.
I thought that every character was unique and 3D. They’re the type of characters that you would not easily find in your average Korean drama that you would watch on an average Korean channel, which I also appreciated.
The level of nuance imbued in each character, which I truly admire, is a feat not easily accomplished. The writing and direction display meticulous attention to detail, without excessive dwelling. The screenwriter-director swiftly presents the situation, effectively laying the groundwork for what lies ahead. It is a precise, fast-paced, and captivating experience.
It shows a level of understanding one can only dream of for an adaptation, it shows he understood the basic material and knew how to adapt it to get maximum engagement. A delicate balance that he managed to create. Truly amazing work.
We have a new face in this drama. A rookie actress who had to beat 1000 other actresses in auditions for this role. Korean netizens have already praised the casting director for choosing the actors for this project, as they feel that they pretty much match the vibes of the original webtoon characters, which I think will contribute overall to the degree of engagement that people will associate with this drama, specifically if they read the web comic.
Lee Han Byul does an amazing job, truly when they pick actors/actresses through open auditions, you usually get really great diamond in the rough actors that can become something big.
Nana puts on an amazing performance. I’ve always thought she was an amazing actress and I’ve spoken about her previously in many other reviews I’ve made for other Korean dramas. I definitely think she’s an interesting case of an idol-turned-actress, I always thought that the choices she made for her dramas were odd but not necessarily in a good way. As I felt that she could not live up to her full potential, a lot of her fans say that it might be due to the agency she’s signed with.
This might be true, to what degree remains to be seen IF she ends up moving to another agency, I guess we’ll end up finding out what degree that agency had an influence on the type of projects she’s chosen if she signs with another one.
Nana did not really pick the typical route you’d expect from an idol-actress. Specifically, she does not use her beauty as a steppingstone similarly to what other beautiful idol actresses have done.
I appreciate that she’s taking an alternative style, but I would have loved for it to have had a bigger effect on her. She’s been involved in some projects that have not really gotten the spotlight despite turning out amazing performances each time, which I think overall is a shame.
I certainly believe that she deserves some nominations for her performance in this drama, and I hope that she ends up receiving a lot of praise for the way she carried her character. She definitely deserves more attention than what she’s getting right now, and I hope she gets it.
Go Hyun Jung is amazing, as per usual. Generally speaking, she does heavy dramas, which I tend to enjoy. I think she has the face for that. I’ve been thinking while watching this most recent drama of her, I would love it in the future if she tries something different. I wonder how well she’d do with a romantic comedy. She is definitely a stunning veteran actress.
I cannot begin to sing enough praise about Yum Hye-Ran, what a powerful performance. She’s lowkey become the auntie of Netflix appearing in various hit Netflix projects in recent memory and we love to see it. She needs to be nominated for awards for her performance. She can make you love or hate her pretty easily.
Having talked about the three Momis, I still felt it was three different characters, not one character, three actresses. There is nothing in particular that connects them. Generally speaking, the tone, the hand gestures and such should match but there was no such attention paid to this. This could well be intentional on the director’s part but it still felt disconnected. Some might say its because its a character at three different stages, and to an extent, its a good argument, but I still felt more effort could’ve gone into making sure they somewhat feel similar if not the same.
Another breakout performance is that of Ahn Jae-Hong, a lot of netizens say this is his second hit moment and I agree. He’s terrifying as Ju Oh-Nam. What a performance, I am sure he’ll win awards for best-supporting actor. He didn’t have much airtime but he did so well each time. He also said he spent 2 hours on makeup before filming, the transformation is something to admire.
Honestly, the casting for this drama is A++
“Mask Girl” is not an easy drama to watch, its more like 21+ and includes heavy themes that might not be suitable for everyone. It tackles heavy subjects with the nuance they deserve while also not making light of the said circumstances and situations.
Its tightly written, beautifully acted, and masterfully directed.
This is definitely one of the most memorable Netflix dramas I’ve seen recently. I love the degree of attention to detail displayed by the actors, staff, and director, and the meticulousness I felt watching this project.
Have you guys seen Mask Girl? did you like it or not?