XO, Kitty review: Anna Cathcart is a delight in this Netflix spinoff on first love set in Korea

Netflix’s spinoff series XO, Kitty takes characters from its popular To All the Boys trilogy and puts forth a delightful premise in which the lead character tries to find her identity by studying abroad in Korea to get closer to her roots. After setting up her older sister Lara Jean (Lana Condor) with the love of her life Peter (Noah Centino), Katherine Song Covey aka Kitty (Anna Cathcart) decides that it’s time she got her own grand romance. She devises a plan that will take her to the Korean Independent School of Seoul (KISS) where she finally gets to spend time with her pen pal/boyfriend Dae (Choi Min-yeong) of the past four years. But life’s not going to be as simple as that.

Anna Cathcart stars in the Netflix series XO, Kitty.

Kitty has also moved to Korea in order to feel closer to her mother Eve who also studied at KISS and she manages to unearth some hidden secrets from the past that could shake up several lives. But her immediate problem is finding out Dae already has a girlfriend Yuri (Gia Kim), the spoiled wealthy daughter of the principal Jina (Yunjin Kim). While her first reaction is to flee, she finally decides to stay and tries to connect with her Korean heritage amidst a bit of culture shock. Over 10 episodes, Kitty finds herself in the middle of much family drama and some messy romances that keep you invested.

Like most young adult series that focus on relationships, XO, Kitty has plenty of misunderstandings and many coincidences that seem too good to be true. As Kitty’s roommate Q (Anthony Keyvan) says, “Life ain’t a K-drama,” but then the series goes on to prove just that. Creator Jenny Han and the show’s writers have kept the storylines moving at a fast pace, hitting on all the right romantic tropes and images. The series is also empathetic to the teenage experience, as everything that happens feels like a life or death situation.

The episodes that celebrate the Korean holiday of Chuseok and the one involving the class in detention (with a nod to The Breakfast Club) are particularly delightful as we get to see more of the supporting characters, not just Kitty. Dae is the nice guy who is bound by responsibility, his friend Min Ho (Sang Heon Lee) is self-absorbed yet caring, Q is Kitty’s supportive gay best friend and Yuri is actually the misunderstood rich girl, who is acting out because of her parental issues.

Kitty continues her matchmaking schemes and finds out that not everything is so cut and dry as it seems. The young cast, especially the endearing Cathcart, are sincere and charming as they inhabit their characters. The adult cast members also lend good support, but largely stay out of the students’ way. And because this revolves around a group of teenagers, there are plenty of missed connections and crushes, with some love triangles I did not see coming.

XO, Kitty makes South Korea look very inviting with a colourful palette that continues from the To All the Boys universe. Of course, the soundtrack has to feature some K-pop as songs from Seventeen, BTS, Blackpink and Stray Kids feature in episodes appropriately titled WTF, TIL and LFG. With most episodes clocking in at around 30-35 minutes, XO, Kitty is a breezy binge that will make your weekend. If you liked the To All the Boys films, you most certainly will enjoy XO, Kitty which shares the same DNA. Kitty graduates to tell her own love story, this just seems to be the beginning for her. All episodes of XO, Kitty are now streaming on Netflix.

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