The To All the Boys I Loved Before franchise made the internet fall in love with Lara Jean and her complex love life, but is the spin-off series revolving around Lara Jean’s little sister XO, Kitty as effective? For four years, Kitty has been in a long-distance relationship with a guy she met in Seoul. But glitchy video calls and unreliable cellular networks can only do so much. Kitty was desperate to be with Dae, and she devised a plan to make their relationship work. Rom-coms are incomplete without the talk of fate and destiny, and traveling to South Korea to be with her boyfriend was pretty much Kitty’s fate.
Kitty’s life completely changes when she receives a phone call informing her that she has been accepted into the Korean Independent School of Seoul, aka K.I.S.S. If you have already cringed at the abbreviation, then let me warn you that XO, Kitty has its own range of cringe moments. I don’t know how safe a parent would feel with KISS (in all caps) embossed in their child’s uniform, but that did not seem to be too much of a concern for Dan and Trina. Trina, was moved by Kitty’s genuine interest in knowing about her late mother, who went to the same institute. She convinced Dan to allow his daughter to explore her maternal roots. And off went Kitty to Seoul to feel closer to her mother and to finally reunite with her long-term boyfriend.
Seoul was not too welcoming to Kitty. She missed her bus; she struggled to navigate the city streets and to make matters worse, she met with an accident. But thanks to the accident, she came across one of the most popular girls at K.I.S.S., Yuri. The daughter of an elite businessman, Yuri is a popular face and is mostly surrounded by her fans. While Kitty believed she was making her first friend in Korea, she was oblivious to what the future had in store for her. Kitty planned to surprise Dae and kiss him at the welcome party. Well, Dae was surprised for sure, but it was far from the fairy tale romance that Kitty expected. Kitty was completely heartbroken when she learned that Yuri was Dae’s girlfriend. She decided to return home and packed her bags to leave. The next morning, when she was about to leave the school campus, she realized that by leaving, she would be abandoning the chance to feel closer to her mother. Kitty was not done with Korea; she came for love, but it was her mother who compelled her to stay.
XO, Kitty started on the right note. With its easy, breezy romance, the Seoul touch, the hopelessly romantic protagonist, and a complex boyfriend situation, the series had all the necessary elements for a light-hearted rom-com before it introduced more complexities. By the third episode, it was hinted that Kitty might have a half-brother in Seoul. There is already a complicated storyline when it comes to Dae and Kitty, and along with it comes her mother’s past, and surprisingly, everyone associated with her just happens to be on Kitty’s contact list. The series keeps on getting complicated, and feelings keep on shifting a little too rapidly. Well, yes, the teenage years are unexplainably tough and confusing, and love is the driving force, thanks to raging hormones! I understand the unpredictability of teenage romance, but it gets a little too tiring when the confusion is stretched for ten episodes. After watching XO, Kitty, I sympathized with Dae. He was used by Yuri for personal benefit; money was thrown at him for image cleansing; whenever he tried to make a move on Kitty, he was interrupted by phone calls; and by the time he decided to put his foot down, it was all too late. Dae could have been a lot more interesting than the sad-faced boy that we mostly see in XO, Kitty. Dae and Kitty’s confusion was stretched to the point where it was almost frustrating (confess the truth already, Dae!). According to the rules of rom-coms, if you hate someone, you will probably fall in love with them by the end of the runtime, and XO, Kitty abides by the rule. Since this is a spoiler-free review, that is all that I can reveal.
The most exciting aspect of XO, Kitty is its Korean star cast. Gia Kim, as Yuri, successfully brings out the complexity of her character. She is catty but, at the same time, admirable. Minyeong Choi’s broad smile will make you fall in love with Dae. While the character is quite one-dimensional, Choi is convincing as the broken lover. Yunjin Kim from “Money Heist Korea: Joint Economic Area” portrays the role of Principal Jina, and she was a delight to watch on screen. Sang Heon Lee, as Min Ho, is an absolute entertainer. A little bratty at first, Min Ho is a smooth talker and charmer. Anna Cathcart finally got her own show, and she thrives as Kitty. Though there is nothing exception about the character. Kitty is a stereotypical teenage rom-com protagonist—chatty, overly confused and annoyingly nosy. XO, Kitty also has a lot of queer romance going on, and we are here for it. Thankfully, the gay best friend, Q (Anthony Keyvan), gets to be more than just Kitty’s cheerleader, and it is a relief to watch him stop Kitty every time she makes things about herself. Netflix has a tendency to check boxes simply to keep up with its “woke” status, and at times it does seem a little too pushed.
XO, Kitty has all the tropes to cater to the teenage crowd. But as someone who is well past her teenage years, I will not recommend the series to Netflix’s mature audience. The series reminded me of how horrifying teenage years can be, and at some point, the unnecessary complexities and drama was just a little too much. I do enjoy a good light-hearted rom-com, but XO, Kitty was just not the one for me.