Extraordinary You: Episode 1
You guys have NO idea how excited I am for this drama! It’s finally here, MBC’s anxiously-awaited Extraordinary You, which tells the story of a girl who learns that she’s not real – in fact, she’s only a character in a webtoon. The first episode really delivers, with cute characters, clever execution, and a strange world that I can’t wait to learn more about.
We open on a wide shot of Seuli High School in Seoul. A girl steps out of a nice car — she’s our heroine, EUN DAN-OH (Kim Hye-yoon). She narrates, “There are a few things that always happen to a heroine. It’s her destiny to have hot guys obsess over her.” (Cue Designated Hot Guy asking why she’s not answering his calls.)
A soccer ball flies directly at Dan-oh, but she stops it with one delicate boot and ignores the handsome guy who asks her to kick it back to him. Next she runs into The Rebel, riding his obligatory motorcycle, and Dan-oh tells us that he’s definitely the male lead in the cast, though she doesn’t want to cave to his charms too easily. A girl bumps into him and takes off, and Dan-oh picks up the piggy keychain on the ground and gives it to Nam-ju, assuming it belongs to him.
A while later, Dan-oh is talking with a friend when all the girls start screaming that “A3” has arrived. A3 is the school’s version of the legendary F4, consisting of OH NAM-JU (Kim Young-dae), the “rebel,” BAEK KYUNG (Lee Jae-wook), the guy who’s been calling Dan-oh, and LEE DO-HWA (Jung Gun-joo), the soccer player and flirt of the trio.
They mostly ignore the fawning hoards of females, until a clumsy girl careens straight at them, carrying a box of art supplies. She crashes into Nam-ju and they both fall to the ground, landing in a very trope-y “accidental kiss” situation. Nam-ju looks stunned for a moment, then he complains that she ruined the art supplies, his uniform, and his face.
Dan-oh gently helps the clumsy girl to her feet and snaps at Nam-ju that he’s not special just because he’s a member of A3. He doesn’t look chastened, but Kyung stares at Dan-oh thoughtfully, and Do-hwa helps the girl pick up her dropped art supplies.
As Dan-oh storms off angrily, she experiences a couple of weird blips, where things around her go staticky and she hears a loud noise like a page turning. She turns around, and all the students in the hall behind her are standing perfectly frozen. The blip happens again, and just as Dan-oh is wondering what’s going on…
Dan-oh sits in her classroom, with her classmates all goofing off around her. To her surprise, a message on the chalkboard says that it’s the first day of midterms. By the look of her battered and highlighted workbook, she’s obviously studied, though she has no memory of it. She wonders if she’s having a dream, but pinching herself doesn’t wake her up.
There’s another blip, and now the message on the board declares that it’s the last day of midterms. Her classmates want to go out to celebrate, and when Dan-oh says they just started testing, her friend SOO-CHEOL (Kim Hyun-mok) jokes that she studied so hard she’s gone nuts. He’s excited that his recording of the girl crashing into Nam-ju has gotten a lot of “likes” online, but Dan-oh’s other close friend SAE-MI (Kim Ji-in) is upset that her beloved Nam-ju was so cruelly assaulted.
Worried for her sanity, Dan-oh asks her doctor if her memory loss is a side-effect of heart surgery she had in the past, or maybe the new drug she’s on. Doctor Lee (cameo by Yoon Jong-hoon) assures her that people don’t go suddenly crazy, and that it’s probably due to lack of sleep from studying, especially with her weak heart.
He advises Dan-oh to get more sleep and read fewer manhwas (Korean comic books), hee. He asks if Kyung is stressing her out, but she insists that the problem is with her mind. At home, Dan-oh searches online, but she can’t find any condition that matches with her symptoms.
On the way to school the next day, Kyung’s father (Choi Jin-ho) chastises Kyung for not going to the hospital with Dan-oh yesterday. Kyung is under orders to follow Dan-oh every time she goes to the hospital, since his father sees it as an opportunity to impress Dan-oh’s father. Kyung only says that he didn’t know Dan-oh was going, looking deeply uncomfortable.
He mentions her hospital visit to Dan-oh when she greets him, but she waves it away as simple stress. Kyung accuses her of being desperate for attention and getting his family involved, and he mentions the fact that they’re engaged, but he stops himself from saying anything else.
Dan-oh suddenly comes clean, telling Kyung about her spotty memory and how she’s hearing strange noises. Kyung tells her to just blame her heart condition like usual and walks away, leaving Dan-oh throwing a tiny adorable temper tantrum.
In class, Dan-oh tells Sae-mi about her weird symptoms, and how she lost her cool at Kyung. Sae-mi just tells Dan-oh to stop pretending because everyone at the school knows she likes Kyung. Then ~BLIP~ Dan-oh finds herself in her gym clothes, with no memory of how it happened. ~BLIP~ and she’s back in her school uniform, and there’s Baek Kyung swag all over her desk. What on earth??
Sae-mi explains that they’re making “love fridges” (hers is dedicated to Nam-ju), and when Dan-oh whines, “Why am I making this?” Sae-mi asks if something happened between her and Kyung. She says again that everyone knows Dan-oh likes Kyung, and Dan-oh thinks with horror, “Something is wrong with me…”
Over time, Dan-oh experiences more blips… sometimes time advances just a couple of hours, sometimes several days. She never knows whether in the hospital on an IV drip, standing in the middle of the street, or at school. She still thinks she’s having a problem with her memory, and worries that it seems to be getting worse.
In the school library, a male student contemplates a long scar in his left palm. He watches as Dan-oh pulls a few books from the shelves, then sits on the floor flipping through them, looking for information on her memory loss.
Dan-oh sees one book wobbling on the shelf, surrounded by tiny sparkles. She grabs it and watches as the letters in the title, “Secret,” move as if by magic. She shuffles the pages, on which seem to be manhwa panels, then she freezes as snippets of scenes run through her mind.
Kyung grabs her wrist, angry that she followed him… the clumsy girl is deliberately tripped in the lunchroom, and the students record it on their phones as Nam-ju helps her up. When her vision normalizes, Dan-oh steps back and trips over a pile of books, dropping the manhwa, and is caught by someone.
She turns to see Kyung, who accuses her angrily of following him to the library, just like in her vision. Dan-oh pulls out of his wrist-grab and escapes, and Kyung starts to follow her, but he’s stopped by a pretty girl named Ae-il, who asks how he’s endured Dan-oh’s “stalking” for ten years.
The boy with the scar, whose face we haven’t seen yet, shoulder-checks Kyung as he leaves the library. Kyung calls out an angry, “Hey!” and the boy turns around, but Kyung can’t read his nametag or see his features because of the bright backlighting.
Dan-oh dunks her head in the bathroom sink, and when she hears another page-turning noise that usually denotes a time blip, she yells, “Go ahead, erase my memory. Do it again!” Someone knocks from inside one of the bathroom stalls, calling out for help. Dan-oh removes the pen holding the door closed and lets out the clumsy girl who’s soaking wet and covered in leaves.
A package of wet wipes mysteriously appear in Dan-oh’s hand. She recognizes the clumsy girl as JOO-DA (Lee Na-eun), who’s new at their school and has been getting bullied regularly. She fusses over Joo-da, but wonders why, when she should be more concerned for herself.
Dan-oh stomps up to the school roof, seriously concerned for her sanity, especially her out-of-character fussing over Joo-da. Nam-ju is up there trying to nap, and he snaps at Dan-oh, asking if this is how she treats Kyung. Dan-oh just shoves him back inside the school and goes back to her worries.
The boys of A3 hang out together after school. Nam-ju tosses the piggy keychain on a table and grumbles that “she” is driving him crazy, but when Kyung tries to pick up the keychain, Nam-ju grabs it and barks that it’s his. He asks what Kyung thinks of “her,” and Kyung says she’s not his type, which calms Nam-ju down. He admits that he’s been thinking about “her” a lot.
Dan-oh is growing more concerned, now that she’s not just experiencing time skips but is also behaving strangely. She recalls the hallucination she had in the library, but realizes that a hallucination wouldn’t then actually happen in real life.
At lunch, a frighteningly made-up Sae-mi notes that the “Dried Squid Fairy” has made an appearance today, calling him the hidden fourth member of A3. All the girls squeal at the angelically handsome cafeteria worker, JIN MI-CHAE (Lee Tae-ri), who apparently only shows up on days when dried squid is served.
Mi-chae notices that Dan-oh seems down and serves her extra dried squid. She just says she can’t eat when she keeps losing her memory, and Mi-chae gives her an odd look. At the sight of the curry, Dan-oh remembers her second vision of Joo-da being tripped and her lunch tray going flying, splattering her and Dan-oh with curry. She mutters that she’d rather not get curry on her shirt, and Mi-chae shoots her another strange stare.
As they eat, Dan-oh asks Soo-cheol and Sae-mi what they’d do if they could see the future. Soo-cheol says he’d make videos billing himself as a prophet and become an online success, and Sae-mi says she’d win the lottery and buy Nam-ju an expensive bag. Dan-oh says she wants to prevent unfortunate mishaps.
Just then, the girls that Dan-oh saw tripping Joo-da surround the newcomer and start hassling her for being admitted to the school on a sponsorship from Nam-ju’s family’s foundation (wow, they’re just going full-on unabashed Boys Before Flowers, aren’t they?).
A teacher breaks up the bullying, but the girls don’t go far, and Dan-oh sees them exchange loaded glances. She exchanges her still-full lunch tray for Soo-cheol’s empty one, and when Joo-da stands, Dan-oh also stands and runs in front of her. She gets tripped, but unfortunately, Joo-da is also tripped and they both end up on the floor covered in curry, just like in her vision.
The students jump up to record the humiliating moment, and Dan-oh realizes that she can’t change what she’s seen. Nam-ju shows up right on cue and smashes one student’s phone. He steps forward and holds out a hand, exactly as Dan-oh remembers.
In class later, Dan-oh catches Nam-ju watching her, and he quickly looks away. Ignoring the lesson, Dan-oh wonders if she’s losing her memory because she can see the future. She asks to go to the nurse but instead stands in the hall trying to get another vision, but nothing she tries works.
The class can see her in the hall gesturing and yelling, so the teacher sends Kyung to take her to the nurse, since he’s her fiance and all. Dan-oh tells him to leave her alone, but Kyung says she’s got a weird way of having a crush on him. Dan-oh laughs at that, then nervously admits that he’s not wrong.
He turns away and she complains that he’s always rude to her. Kyung turns back and says that he doesn’t like a woman who’s ill, and that her crush on him is a waste of time because he’ll never return her feelings.
Later, outside on the catwalk, Dan-oh berates herself for not saying anything in that moment. She covers her face with her hands in embarrassment, and when she peeks through her fingers, she sees a shimmering circle in the air in front of her.
Dan-oh rubs her eyes, but the sparkling circle stays where it is. She notices that Mi-chae is standing underneath the circle staring up at it, but she looks away and when she looks back, he’s gone. Dan-oh goes to the cafeteria kitchen looking for Mi-chae, and LOL, he ducks behind the counter when she walks in.
Mi-chae pretends to have no idea what Dan-oh is talking about when she says that she saw him looking at the “black hole.” She insists on getting a straight answer, but he just says nothing good will come from her knowing. Dan-oh sees the “Secret” book on the counter, but Mi-chae sits on it to prevent her from grabbing it.
Dan-oh runs off (Mi-chae: “She’s more quick-witted than I thought…”) and heads to the library. The spot where she previously found the book is empty, but there’s a smaller black hole where it used to be. Dan-oh reaches out to touch it, and it nearly sucks her whole arm in before she yanks her hand back. She decides that it’s all connected — the black holes, the book, and “Dried Squid Fairy.”
She goes back to the kitchen, peeking in the windows, and when Mi-chae steps away, she sneaks in and grabs the book. The first thing she sees is a male character saying, “I don’t like a woman who’s ill. It’s annoying. You’re wasting your time having a crush on me” — the exact words that Kyung said to her earlier.
The male character even looks like Kyung, and the girl he’s talking to looks just like Dan-oh. Dan-oh drops the book in shock and sees more manhwa panels, this time depicting the situation in the bathroom between herself and Joo-da.
Mi-chae returns and picks up the book, and Dan-oh says that book is about her, but he just smirks and says she’s wrong. Dan-oh tells him that she’s been able to see the future ever since she touched the book, not to mention the black holes, so Mi-chae sits down and tells her the truth:
We aren’t humans. What you’re feeling is the gap between scenes. You didn’t fall asleep, but you’re living in the next day. You don’t remember coming to school, but you’re at school. A few days pass by in the blink of an eye. You wouldn’t usually feel it, but once you gain consciousness, you become aware of that gap. Then you think you’ve lost your memories. This is… the world of manhwas!
He finishes with a dramatic flourish, but Dan-oh calls him crazy. He jokes that he’ll live longer than the writer intended with all the insults he’s received today. Dan-oh tries to leave, but Mi-chae grabs her wrist and tells her in plain words that she’s a character in a manhwa.
She still doesn’t believe him, and she scurries away with Mi-chae trailing behind her, begging her to hear him out. He chases her all over campus until she finally stops on the catwalk, in danger of having a heart episode. Mi-chae holds her on the railing and asks if she’ll believe him if he pushes her over, assuring her that she’d be perfectly fine in the next scene.
Instead he drops Dan-oh’s phone over the edge, but it hangs in midair, surrounded by sparkles. Dan-oh calls to Sae-mi and Soo-cheol below that “Dried Squid” threatened to push her over the handrail and that her phone is floating. But suddenly Mi-chae is gone, her phone is in her hand, and Soo-cheol says she’s been with them this whole time.
Dan-oh goes to class and does her best to convince herself that she’s just gullible and has been reading too many manhwas lately. She asks herself out loud how that explains her seeing the future, and suddenly Sae-mi and Soo-cheol say the exact same things they said at lunch about what they’d do if they could see the future. Dan-oh realizes that she remembers them saying those things because she’s self-aware, which would mean that the rest of the students are not.
She finds Mi-chae and asks him how he made her phone float. He says again that this is the world of manhwas, but Dan-oh suggests that he drew the manhwa himself after watching her. In the middle of his denial, there’s another ~BLIP~ and Mi-chae is gone, but Nam-ju is approaching.
Sae-mi tells Dan-oh to push her in front of Nam-ju as he passes, so she does, but he just sidesteps Sae-mi and stops in front of Dan-oh. He offers her a chance to thank him, and she thinks he’s talking about helping her to her feet in the cafeteria. But she can’t force the words out, and Nam-ju walks away looking annoyed.
It’s back to the kitchen, where Mi-chae is reading the “Secret” manhwa. Over his shoulder Dan-oh reads the scene that just happened between herself and Nam-ju. She yanks at the book and rips out several pages, and Mi-chae tells her in annoyance, “Just accept it. You’re Eun Dan-oh, a character in a manhwa.”
Dan-oh shows Sae-mi the pages and tries to explain that they’re living in that manhwa world, and Soo-cheol repeats her words in a loud, mocking voice. The rest of the class tease her for reading too many manhwas when she’s in the hospital, and Dan-oh hides her face in her hands, then ~BLIP~ it’s a different day.
Sae-mi doesn’t remember anything about the manhwa pages, and when Dan-oh mentions them, it kicks off Soo-cheol again, and the class repeats their teasing word-for-word. Another ~BLIP~ and it’s a different day, and Dan-oh when asks Sae-mi if she can hear the page-turning noise, off we go for a third round of word-for-word teasing.
Dan-oh is still at school after dark, finally accepting that Mi-chae’s claim that they’re living in a manhwa world must be true. She goes home and looks through her photo albums, and she analyzes her character — she’s from a rich family, pretty, a good student, and has heart disease. On top of all that, she’s engaged to the guy she’s had a crush on for years. From all this, Dan-oh concludes that she must be the leading lady.
Dan-oh’s dad, CHAIRMAN EUN (Eom Hyo-seob), finds her moping in the kitchen, and she asks what he’d do if they were actually living in the world of manhwas. Playing along, Dad says that he’d want to be the main character because he could fix her heart. He says that it wouldn’t change the fact that he loves Dan-oh most in the world, awww.
Elsewhere, a mysterious person draws Dan-oh’s face. In the morning, Dan-oh decides that no matter what world she lives in, she’s still Eun Dan-oh, and she’s real.
When she gets to school, the way her classmates fawn over her just reinforces Dan-oh’s belief that she’s the main character in this romance manhwa. She witnesses Joo-da arriving at school and crashing into the bike rack, and she sighs at Joo-da’s unfortunate fate as the bullies’ target.
In class, the bully trio accuses Joo-da of stealing the wallet of their leader, Il-jin. Dan-oh watches as Il-jin slips her wallet into Joo-da’s backpack, so she stalks over and tells Il-jin that she saw everything. She makes Il-jin apologize to Joo-da, and she preens when Joo-da calls her pretty and kind, saying it’s just her role.
At recess, Dan-oh watches the boys, wondering one which is her leading man. She sees Do-hwa waving and assumes he’s flirting with her, then spots Kyung and Nam-ju both staring in her direction. All three of them head towards her… then walk right past her. She seethes at being ignored, but the guys just continue on, so Dan-oh clutches her chest and gracefully collapses.
She decides that whoever comes to her rescue must be her leading man, and we hear a guy’s voice call her name and sneakers running to her, but we don’t see who it is. After another ~BLIP~, Dan-oh wakes in a hospital room. Kyung is there, and he leaves annoyed when Dan-oh wakes up and asks where Nam-ju and Do-hwa are.
Frustrated and feeling mistreated as the main character, Dan-oh goes to the one person she can talk to — Dried Squid Mi-chae. She complains that she feels sick and asks how the main character can be so badly constructed with her weak heart and the way she’s mistreated by the guys. Mi-chae gives her a weird look, then slowly backs away from the ranting Dan-oh and disappears.
In home ec class the next day, Dan-oh wonders who to decorate her cake for, ruling out Nam-ju, who already has enough girls chasing him around. When she’s finished, Sae-mi assumes it’s for Kyung, but Dan-oh loudly denies it. Sae-mi whines that she’s liked Kyung for ten years, but Dan-oh says that was before she was self-aware.
Do-hwa comes into the classroom and praises Dan-oh’s cake, saying that he loves chocolate. Kyung snaps that it’s probably not for Do-hwa, and Nam-ju says pointedly that he loves cake. Dan-oh tells them primly that she hasn’t decided who to give her cake to, and she asks them to pinky-promise that her decision won’t break up their friendship.
The guys just look at her like she’s lost her mind, ha. Outside the classroom, the mystery boy watches Dan-oh talking to A3 about her cake.
Outside, Dan-oh helps Joo-da carry some heavy bags, then she hears the sound of a page being turned and realizes that something is about to happen. A crowd forms around her and Joo-da as one of the three male bullies orders Joo-da to carry his backpack.
Dan-oh senses that her male lead is about to show up and rescue her, and Nam-ju shows up on his motorcycle right on cue. Dan-oh is a bit disappointed that her leading man isn’t that jerk Kyung, but she’s okay with it being Nam-ju, since he’s also handsome and the top dog of the school.
The bullies tell Nam-ju that they’re making her pay for being rude to him, but Nam-ju growls, “Who said you could do that?” He approaches Dan-oh and Joo-da, and Dan-oh prepares herself for her big romantic moment, though she finds that she can’t step towards Nam-ju like she wants to do.
He comes close… then pulls Joo-da to his side. Facing the crowd, he says, “I hate when someone touches something that’s mine.” Suddenly, lights shine down on Nam-ju and Joo-da, as Nam-ju says, “Did you hear? You’ll be my errand girl from now on, Yeo Joo-da.”
Shocked, Dan-oh realizes that all the times she thought Nam-ju was staring at her, he was actually staring past her at Joo-da. When he said he was giving her a chance to thank him and Dan-oh couldn’t speak, it was because he was talking to Joo-da, who was standing behind her. And when he said he likes cake, he was looking directly at Joo-da.
Dan-oh finally understands that Nam-ju is the male lead — in fact, his name means “leading man.” And she’s just heard Joo-da’s full name for the first time, “Yeo Joo-da,” which means “heroine.” Nam-ju and Joo-da are actually the romantic leads in the manhwa of Dan-oh’s life… and Dan-oh is just a minor supporting character.
In the library, the mystery boy looks out the window at the crowd gathered around Nam-ju and Joo-da. In his hand is a sketchbook, with a drawing of Dan-oh.
This may just be one of the cutest drama premieres ever. I pretty much loved everything about it — the characters, the world-building, and especially the clever way Dan-oh slowly discovered the truth about her reality and her place in it. There are a lot of mysteries to solve, and the girl at the center of them all has just learned that not only is she not the leading lady, she’s not even an important character in the story. How Dan-oh will react to this disappointing discovery is going to be a lot of fun.
There’s been a lot of hype leading up to Extraordinary You (otherwise known in its manhwa form as “July Found by Chance”), and the ratings for this first episode were pretty high, so I went in with very high hopes that this show would be everything it’s promised to be. And I’m happy to say that in my opinion, it’s starting out to be every bit as cute and clever as promised. I know very little about the manhwa except that it’s still unfinished, so the writer of Extraordinary You has stated that they will be creating an ending that will likely deviate from the manhwa itself, out of necessity.
I love that the story-within-the-story is a blatant rip-off of Boys Before Flowers, with its middle class heroine landing in an exclusive school and running afoul of the resident Top Dog and his lackeys. Besides offering a lot of opportunity for meta jokes, this also means that the background action is familiar enough that we can focus on side character Dan-oh’s problems and still easily keep up with the “real” leads. It’s also fun how such a dated story lets this version positively wallow in old-fashioned tropes (how many wrist-grabs can they cram into one episode?) and familiar character stereotypes, and we can just laugh at them instead of being annoyed. The fun will be in watching Dan-oh, and hopefully her friends if she can convince them of the truth, break out of these tropes as they navigate their strange reality.
We are all the “main character” in our own life, but in a manhwa, that’s not true for everyone. Dan-oh’s “time skips” are a phenomenon caused by the fact that she only exists in scenes where one of the major characters is doing something, and her memory loss is really just the fact that she doesn’t exist between those times. I’ve never thought about the minor characters in stories I’ve read, but now I have to wonder… do they know they’re not the main character? Do they have lives outside of their contribution to the main storyline? Why has Dan-oh suddenly become self-aware when the rest of the students are still trapped in the manhwa’s narrative? And how does Mi-chae know the truth?
My only disappointment with the premiere of Extraordinary You is that we didn’t get to officially meet Dan-oh’s leading man yet, but I’m sure we’ll see him soon. He’s very mysterious, and that scar on his hand hints at something dark and twisty, which makes me wonder if he’s just another clueless background character or if he knows something, like Mi-chae does. I actually hope that our mystery man does know how their world works, because right now, Mi-chae is my favorite character simply because he’s so enigmatic and elusive (and Lee Tae-ri has been a personal favorite ever since I first saw him in Rooftop Prince). I would love to see Dan-oh’s love interest in on the secret of “Secret,” and watch as the two of them navigate this strange reality.
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