KyungRan Park’s Imitation, one of Yen Press’ latest manhwa, may seem like it’s one of traditional types of romance stories. It is definitely that! There’s a love triangle set up from the very start and everything. However, that’s not what most drew me in about this new story. Rather, it’s the experience of a talented young woman named Maha Lee who is starting to become famous because of who she looks like.
Imitation begins with a hint that Maha is eventually going to be successful, before immediately flashing back to a point when her career was closer to its beginnings. She and her Tea Party idol group mates HyunJi and Ria are taking part in the Teen Idol Sports Game show despite being a part of a small agency. It’s then that Park immediately introduces one of the major plot points of the series. Maha is a dead ringer for a more famous performer named Lima La. While she has the support of her two friends and Yujin, one of the members of the growing-in-popularity boy band Sparkling, Lima and Ryoc Kwon, from the group Shax, both are immediatel dismissive of Maha. So much so that Lima confronts her in these first few pages, criticizing her.
What’s interesting is, over the course of the manga, watching how Maha handles it. She’s aware of what’s going on. She knows it can be a selling point that can help Tea Party, so she leverages it. So much so that she does wear her hair like Lima’s. When another controversy puts her in the path of Shax and results in her pushing one of its members, it draws the ire of his groupmate Ryoc. So much so that we end up seeing firsthand how Ryoc feels about people like her, and how that influences his behavior toward Maha.
This leads to one of the most fascinating parts of volume 1 of the Imitation manhwa. Lima doesn’t act. This means when people want someone who looks like her, they’ll call Maha. It happens with a show where she’ll be a bit part, but Ryoc will be a major role interacting with her. He pushes her a bit, to the point where he realizes an important part about her as a person and her genuine talent. It also means the people who hired her just because she’s a lookalike get a better idea of what she’s capable of as well. However, the event ends up tapping into insecurities Maha has about herself, while also affecting her view and relationship with Ryoc. It’s a major turning point in so many ways, and the way it’s handled makes the rest of the story in this volume more engrossing.
What also helps it all is that Imitation focuses on times when Maha is at “work” or preparing to work. So it means we really aren’t seeing her downtime as much. We watch as she goes through an audition. We see her socializing with HyunJi and Ria while discussing things with their manager. There are moments at Teen Idol Sports Game with other people from different groups in the industry. But all the while, we see how the personal relationships bleed through. Especially as she interacts further with Ryoc and Yujin.
I suppose I was just really enjoying seeing what Maha’s life is like. We have seen stories about up and coming celebrities before. Especially when it shows being a star isn’t exactly a charmed life. But seeing what it is like for someone who is initially seen as an option perhaps because she looks like someone else, then watching as she’s recognized for who she is and maybe finds love ends up making for a good read in this first volume.
Imitation volume 1 is available now, and Yen Press will release the second installment of the manhwa on January 23, 2024.