By Sneha Jaiswal (Twitter | Instagram)
Lara Jean was 17-years-old when she had to choose between her boyfriend and dream college, and her spunky little sister Kitty is the same age in the 2023 Netflix series “XO, Kitty”, where the teen embarks on a big Korean adventure to discover her roots and pursue the boy she likes. Anna Cathcart portrays the protagonist, Kitty, who gains admission to a Korean International School, where her mother had once studied, and her long-distance boyfriend Dae (Minyeong Choi) is a student.
Created by Jenny Han, the ten episode long “XO, Kitty” is colorful, cute and filled with adorable characters. Only problem? The story is contrived, with too many co-incidences that will make you sigh. The first person Kitty runs into in Seoul is Yuri (Gia Kim), who turns out to be Dae’s girlfriend. The first boy she meets from her new school turns out to be Dae’s best-friend. The first teacher she spots on campus was her mom’s former best-friend. And these “co-incidences” keep coming. Oh wait, Kitty likes to call it all “fate”.
Despite the plot holes and clichés, the pretty-looking sets and talented actors make “XO, Kitty” a fun, escapist teen drama that has its own share of K-drama style twists. As Kitty tries to figure out why Dae was seeing some other girl behind her back, she also makes new friends, including the athletic but sweet Q (Anthony Keyvan) and the vain yet caring Min Ho (Sang Heon Lee). Like his character Rahim in “Love Victor”, Anthony Keyvan plays a dependable friend who comes from a conservative family but is openly gay. Interestingly, most characters overshadow the overenthusiastic Kitty and the shy reliable Dae. Gia Kim looked slightly old to be playing a teenager, however, her portrayal of the rich confident Yuri was immaculate. She delivers a stand-out performance as a closeted young woman whose parents care too much about their “image” to see the hurt and isolation they are causing their child. Yunjin Kim plays Yuri’s mom Jina, who is also the school principal and is hiding a bunch of secrets from her daughter. Peter Thurnwald is charming as a Korean-born Australian, who is a new teacher at Kitty’s Seoul school and the two share a sweet student-teacher bond as two foreigners trying to find their place in Korea.
All the friendships and family dynamics that find their place in “XO, Kitty” are a lot more interesting than its romantic subplots. However, a crucial romantic twist introduced in the second half felt forced and seemed like it was added solely to shake things up and make the story appear less formulaic than it really is. Also, I don’t understand why Jenny Han believes that the protagonist has to be the “prettiest” person in their school or wherever. While Kitty is undeniably adorable, the writers include dialogues and scenes that emphasize she is the “hottest” girl on campus. For instance, there’s a scene where Min Ho’s jaw drops when he sees Kitty walk into a party. Writers should normalize the idea that people can fall for someone even if they are not the “hottest” person in their world. Kitty’s sweet and sunny personality is enough for any peer to fall in love with her; she doesn’t need a tight black dress to do the job. Anyway…
School dances, parties, outdoor hikes, sleepovers, petty fights, big fights, secrets, crushes, hook-ups… this series has all the entertaining elements of a teenage romantic comedy. If you ignore the farcical co-incidences, “XO, Kitty” is a cheerful entertaining watch and the finale leaves plenty scope for a season two.
It’s a 7 on 10 from me.