The South Korean anime drama series “Lookism” is a direct commentary on societal norms of appearance and how they affect young individuals. The plot follows a young high school teenager who is unable to fit in at school due to his looks until he finds a strange new way to get over it. As an anime series, “Lookism” is enjoyable to watch even if the heavier elements in it sometimes look slightly superficial. Nonetheless, the style and presentation are breezy and interesting enough to go through with entertaining ease.
‘Lookism’ Plot Summary: What Is The Series About?
Park Hyeong-Seok is an outcast in his school due to his physical appearance—unlike most other students in the school, he is neither lean nor tall, nor does he have sharp features. Due to his looks, Park is also subjected to incessant bullying by a group of bigger, stronger students, who have made him an errand boy to fetch things for them. Any protestation or delay in this cruel activity he has to partake in results in Park getting beaten up black and blue by the bullies. It’s not even like the boy has to do anything to get beaten up, for he has the same fate regularly, even if he does carry out all the orders of the bullies. Park has a tough time living with all this, and despite his family’s financially poor condition, he wishes to transfer schools. Park is raised by a single working mother who strives hard to manage the expenses of living and education, and the boy is sometimes angry at her for them not being rich. He tells his mother multiple times not to add eggs to his ramen, for he believes that has been making him fat. Perhaps the mother knows that eggs would be the only form of protein she can give to her son daily and pretends to forgetfully add an egg every time.
One day, the mother goes to the school and stumbles upon Park getting bullied, and she tries to stop it too, but Park feels even more embarrassed at this. She finally agrees to get her son transferred to a new school, and the boy is delighted at this new beginning. He excitedly moves to the new place, to a small apartment where he will be staying alone, and then goes out to see the city. However, the difficulty of having conventionally undesirable looks is soon felt by Park on the streets, too, as another teenager beats him up and calls him names for mistakenly bumping into his girlfriend on the road. This entire act is caught on video by multiple bystanders too, and it goes viral on the internet. Extremely dejected that what used to happen to him at his old school now happens on the streets of this new city, Park cries himself to sleep. He wakes up late in the night, though, and feels things to be a bit odd before seeing himself in the mirror. By some unexplainable magic, Park turns into a bigger, taller, and extremely handsome boy with a lean figure and sharp features. Unable to process it at first, he realizes that he has both bodies, old and new, at his disposal, with one being awake at a time and the other sleeping. Every time Park falls asleep from now on, he wakes up in the other body, changing people’s perspectives towards him.
What Does Park Do With His New Magical Power?
Park does not seem to take much time getting used to the whole body-swapping charade, and he starts to attend his new school in his new, attractive body. Exactly opposite to what he was used to, every girl in the school swoons over his desirable looks and his heavier but sweet voice. Despite this change in how he is perceived, Park does not give in to the selfish way of changing his true self, which would have been easier too. Perhaps because he is constantly reminded of his true self, very physically, after every sleep cycle, the boy makes friends without any prejudice. He gradually realizes that there are other young boys facing the same plight that he had to go through in his original self in this new school, and over time Park starts to make friends with them. He meets with the first of these boys, Ji-ho when he himself is bullied along with the boy in his original body. Park had started making use of this double-body power by using his attractive self at school and then employing his old body for a night shift at a convenience store. During his shift, one night, some of the local bullies, who are also students at his school, visit the store and make an easy target of Park. It was at this time that Park made acquaintance with a smaller-built, underconfident boy, Ji-ho, who was also being bullied by him. The other friend he makes with a sense of protection is from the vocal dance class, who is also relentlessly bullied for his heavy body and unconventional looks.
This boy, Deok-Hwa, is introduced a bit later on, as he happens to have great talent in writing and composing music but is constantly bullied by Jin Ho-bin, the popular and attractive student of the class, and his followers. There comes the point when Deok-Hwa hears Park sing in the school and asks the attractive boy to be his partner at the upcoming music festival, where Jin and his singing partner are deemed to be the eventual winners. After multiple attempts to be friends with Deok-Hwa, the boy who felt that Park would eventually bully him as everyone else did, Park manages to get close to the boy. Even though he uses his attractive body to attend the practice sessions held at Deok-Hwa’s house, Park makes it a point to become friends with Ji-ho and Deok-Hwa in his old body too. The confidence that he gradually gains in his own body is something that he wants to share with the two young boys, too, trying to inspire them to stand up to their bullies.
The issue of social looks being the highest measure of character in society is one of the most elementary strains in “Lookism,” if not the most. This is obviously presented with a negative tone and is not just confined to the bounds of the high schools. It is clearly not just the youngsters and teenagers who partake in such “lookism,” or differentiation with regards to one’s looks, but the adults also take an equal part in it. The convenience store owner readily wants to give the job to the attractive Park but is very reluctant to allow the original Park to do the same job. Deok-Hwa faces embarrassment on the public bus when a woman he tries to help almost expresses disgust at his approach. Jin had been auditioning for a music company’s label, and Deok-Hwa, too, had been trying for the same. But the rich company owner does not even give Deok-Hwa a chance to audition because he does not look attractive and instead wants Jin to lead his company’s image because of how he looks and presents himself. The only exceptions to such a belief are present as a few characters, beginning with Park Hyeong-Seok, of course.
The leader of the architecture class, Basco, is another strong example, as the well-built, tough young man makes it his responsibility to get rid of all bullies in the school. Initially, Basco also considers Park a usual bully due to his looks and even believes he got confirmation of this following an incident. Park’s mother visits his house one day when his real body is asleep, and the attractive body makes acquaintance with her, pretending to be her son’s friend. At the end of this meeting, the mother gives the boy some money to give to her son, but Basco feels this to be some extortion on the attractive Park’s part. He confronts the boy and also fights him, only to be defeated by Park. This attractive body of Park is not just great in physical appearance; it possesses everything that Park originally wanted from himself. Included in this are super-human strength, extremely quick response, and agility. With these powers, Park also has an important fight with the boy who beat him up on the street after he moves to this new city. This boy, Lee Jin-Seong, is also a classmate of Park’s, and he has a fight with the boy early on when Park starts to grab the attention of all his classmates. Lee’s character actually changes over time, as both his girlfriend (they are not really dating, but they act like they are partners) Mi-jin and Park are able to indirectly convince him that bullying is not really such a cool thing to do after all. Park also has another ally or friend in his always-silent classmate Jae-yeol. Using his family’s immeasurable riches, which are at his disposal, Jae-yeol gifts Park clothes and fashion accessories as the boy seems to be genuinely interested in the attractive Park.
Another exception to the general perception of appearance and looks is in the form of a woman named Choi Su-jeong, who appears midway through the series. She is initially seen visiting the convenience store where Park works at night, and the woman behaves very nicely with Park, who is in his original body at the time. The boy is definitely not used to such behavior and takes an immediate fancy to the lady. She returns to the store a couple more times too, and every time leaves Park with some small item as a gift and also sweet and encouraging words. Choi again appears in the last episode as she seems to visit the music festival with her bodyguard but is disgusted by the school students’ general perception of beauty and appearance. As she leaves, Park goes to have a word with her, but since he is being his attractive self, she takes him to be a teenager with vanity and chooses to go away. The real idea that “Lookism” carries is that a person cannot be judged by their outward appearance. Despite being the attractive teenager in his found body, Park does not lose the virtues or values that he had in him. While he has always been subjected to ridicule and bullying due to his original body, he faces prejudice for his appearance in the attractive form, too, just on the other side of the spectrum. Both Choi and Basco take him to be no different from the bullies because he looks and dresses in a conventionally attractive fashion. There is almost no room to imagine that all this was just Park’s dream or that his attractive body was just a projection of his inner desires. In the world of “Lookism,” Park Hyeong-seok’s conscience does have the ability to control two bodies, one for each sleep cycle, and this can be thought to be symbolic of the more profound meanings. It is his confidence and natural charisma, both of which are present only in his attractive self, that complete Park, and by the end, this realization does come to him.
‘Lookism’ Season 1: Ending Explained – What Finally Happened At The Music Festival?
As the stage is set for the school’s final music festival, all students gather to watch their favorite classmates perform. The music director of the studio is also present at the place, looking to sign a new young musician to his label, which he is almost sure would-be Jin Ho-bin. It is Jin and his companion who perform on stage as the second-to-last act, and the last spot is saved for Deok-Hwa and Park. After his performance, Jin is confident that he has won, and he even hits Deok-Hwa backstage, to which Park is about to respond with violence. Deok-Hwa asks him not to, as he wants his revenge on the stage, and he is confident that his self-written and composing music would be better than Jin’s, who had gotten his music prepared by paid artists. Although Park falters with his notes on the stage at first, Deok-Hwa turns out to be a true performer, just like his biggest role model, Eminem. His rapping helps Park get over his initial stage fright, and he remembers the person he loves the most—his mother. The two then perform their hearts out and are obviously announced as the winners of the competition. The music director also approaches them quickly, turning down their support for Jin, but the man offers a contract only to Park. When he asks about Deok-Hwa, the man replies that the boy would not be able to go far due to his conventionally unattractive looks. Hearing this, Park turns down the offer with complete disregard for the director and his popular music company.
This performance at the music festival went viral on the internet and reached a popular artist called DG, and it was seen by Choi too. The woman is surprised to see the attractive Park sing the song, for it is the same melody that she had heard the original Park hum in the convenience store. Suspecting that something might be up, she looks at her own bed, on which is seen a woman with unconventional looks sleeping by herself. This makes it clear that Choi herself has two bodies with two differing looks, just like Park. If there are any following seasons to “Lookism,” then we might be able to see more of her side of the story, and an eventual romance between the two characters since both seem interesting. Despite herself and her attractive body, Choi is interested in Park’s original form and dismisses his attractive body. This is in complete agreement with Park’s own nature of looking out for the students and friends who resemble his original self. In the end, Park makes it a point to regularly exercise and make himself as fit as possible, along with his two new dear friends, Deok-Hwa and Ji-ho. The way Park’s attractive self bids goodbye to his original body, in the end, might be seen with some hint of finality, but this suave body would surely be back if “Lookism” is renewed for a second season.
“Lookism” is a 2022 Animated Thriller series streaming on Netflix.