Today’s Webtoon is not the first television series based on Naoko Matsuda’s manga book Juhan Shutter! If you’re familiar with Japanese culture, you’ve probably heard of Sleepeeer Hit!, a lighthearted slice-of-life drama about a weekly manga magazine. Today’s Webtoon takes a similar approach but injects its own spin on this classic tale by relocating it to the realm of Korean webtoons.
Kim Se-Jeong from A Business Proposal plays as On Ma-eum, a former judo prodigy who is sidelined due to an injury in SBS’s latest series. She adores her favorite webtoons and their creators; practically all of her belongings are adorned with images of the cherished San-ha from the fictional series Princess Gumiho.
With her childlike fascination with animated worlds and mythic high-stakes adventures, Ma-eum appears harmless and even naive, but when she gets a part-time job as security at a webtoon event, the sharper edges of her character emerge as she devotes herself to protecting the artists from crazed fans.
Today’s Webtoon storyline is reminiscent of K-drama cliches in which a bubbly female lead ends up inspiring everyone around her and changing things for the better – corny motivations, childish comedy, and viewer delight highly dependent on the leading lady’s geniality.
Ma-eum’s vivacious personality, like Kurosawa Kokoro in the first Juhan Shuttai! adaption secures her a producer job at Neon’s webtoon department and is also what eventually gets her through the department’s difficulties, as it faces disbandment in a year if its performance does not improve.
Ma-eum is understandably disappointed to hear this news; after stumbling through many part-time jobs and finally getting a foot in the door of a sector she’s passionate about, the opportunity could be ripped away from her. Thankfully, this isn’t merely a handy story device; the webtoon department is only faced with closure because its staff and artists have become complacent.
Ma-eum establishes himself as a valuable member of the team, questioning the current quo and providing fresh perspectives. Kim’s interpretation of the character is multifaceted: despite her nearly continual cheerful outlook, she is intelligent and empathetic.
She, too, has her quiet times and is not immune to disappointment and self-doubt. Kim’s vibrant yet grounded performance ensures that she immediately becomes a character to root for. The spectator is moved to care not only about Ma-development, eum’s but also about the people she impacts.
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Assistant editor Seok Ji-Hyung is a fantastic mentor for Ma-eum. As Ma-eum rekindles the jaded editor’s enthusiasm for webtoons, actor Daniel Choi has unrivaled on-screen chemistry with Kim. Ma-eum also finds an unexpected ally in Goo Joo-young (Nam Yoon-su), who appears stern and occasionally disagreeable at first after being relocated to the department against his will, but eventually finds his place in the world of webtoons.
Today’s Webtoon, on the other hand, is at a loss for what to make of its own premise, other than to re-contextualize Sleepeeer Hit! for the Korean market As the second adaptation of a beloved manga classic, the series had some big shoes to fill, as well as a distinct voice that would allow it to stand on its own.
Aside from capitalizing on the current popularity of webcomics in East Asian countries and developing an overarching storyline to replace Sleepeeer Hit! Today’s Webtoon doesn’t do much else to add weight to a familiar story than its original serial format.
There are empowering, heartfelt moments when Ma-eum goes above and beyond to ensure the Neon artists finish and upload new chapters of their stories on time, or when she convinces Joo-young to stay on the webtoon team despite their colleagues’ dismissal (“There’s no paradise for you to escape to,” she says).
However, these moments are usually overshadowed by the series’ erratic pacing – there is no steady velocity with which events progress. Today’s Webtoon sometimes extends out certain moments of conflict between characters or circumstances. At times, it passes over details that could lead to substantial character growth.
While four episodes are insufficient to dismiss Today’s Webtoon as a totally unsuccessful imitation of Juhan Shuttai! Significant adjustments are required to make it worthwhile for viewers to watch.
The show’s potential is based on its superb ensemble, which adds subtlety and life to characters we’ve seen before. Today’s Webtoon is similar to many previous office dramas, but Ma-unwavering eum’s confidence, optimism, and faith in both herself and her staff make it a compelling entry.
Today’s Webtoon releases new episodes every Friday and Saturday on South Korean cable network SBS and in select regions on Viu.