Published on February 7th, 2015 | by porninja0
Rom-com roundup: Multiple personalities, twins, fake grannies and more
We’ll be honest; we like our K-drama romance served with a side of cute, and with a new crop of rom-coms premiering in January, we can’t help but compare – especially when a few of them seem to have similar themes.
2014 saw the rise in tales of reuniting exes and the use of secret identities but these days, we’re noticing a trend in featuring lead characters with crippling mental disorders, which, I guess isn’t something to lament about, is it? I’d say it’s a good thing that agoraphobia, autism, depression and a whole slew of other mental disorders that are commonly misunderstood and don’t get the attention they deserve, are now being given more importance. Of course, whether or not they’re portrayed accurately is a whole different story (plus, with the way the doctors in dramas seem to be revealing confidential information all over the place on top of falling for their patients, you’d think more of them would be hit with a malpractice suit). Still, I’d like to think that this is at least a step in the right direction.
Another thing so many dramas have in common? The ol’ first love/childhood connection trope. Seeing as dramas rely entirely too much on coincidences and Fate (with a capital F!), three out of the four dramas we’re about to mention all actually share this very trait – because in Dramaland, people can’t just simply like each other and decide they want to date like two normal, consenting adults, can they? We’re only too familiar with how dramas that start out so well can easily take a turn for the worse once the second half rolls around – veering steadily into angstville – so proceed with caution. We’ll be checking in with four dramas and then you can decide on your own whether they’re worth giving up precious sleep time for. Enjoy!
Kill Me, Heal Me (January 7)
Story: After a traumatic childhood experience, third-generation chaebol Cha Do Hyun (Ji Sung) suffers memory lapses, causing his personality to fracture into seven different personalities. He’s been living with dissociative identity disorder for years and isolates himself from the world in order to not hurt the people he loves. He tries to regain control over his life with the help of first-year psychiatry resident Oh Ri Jin (Hwang Jung Eum) who agrees to treat him in secret. But Ri Jin’s twin brother, Oh Ri On (Park Seo Joon), is determined to protect his sister at all costs and ends up snooping around and digging into the past.
Verdict: I love it when a drama knows when not to take itself too seriously. Kill Me, Heal Me‘s campiness is definitely one of its most distinctive assets. It oscillates between heart-wrenchingly painful and downright ridiculous but it’s sometimes so side-splittingly hilarious that it doesn’t even matter that I get whiplash sometimes. In fact, it’s this unique little combination of wonderfully-mixed elements that makes this such an entertaining watch. I’m bracing myself for the inevitable angstfest that’s sure to come once more of Do Hyun’s painful past gets revealed, but I feel assured that the writers will handle it the way they’ve handled everything else so far – with a touch of quirky self-awareness and a whole lot of funny. Of course, with the good, comes the bad and the drama isn’t without its flaws. It can be a tad over-the-top and the complicated backstory can be hard to follow, though I sometimes feel that it’s kept deliberately vague to keep viewers guessing. Most of the supporting characters are laughably one-dimensional but where Kill Me, Heal Me shines the most is in the wonderful character development of our two main leads. They’re fleshed out so wholly, reacting in ways that feel utterly human.
From Yo Na’s teenage girl mannerisms and Shin Se Gi’s manic energy, to Ferry Park’s ahjussi ways and Yo Sub’s quiet intelligence, it goes without saying that Ji Sung is an absolute star for being able to adeptly juggle so many distinctly different personalities with such ease. Check out one of my favourite scenes below of Yo Na inhabiting Do Hyun’s body and running off to see her idol oppas before being stopped unceremoniously by Ri Jin.
More credit needs to go to Hwang Jung Eum because it’s not easy to hold your own against such a charismatic actor in Ji Sung. She started out a little shrill but at the core of it all, her character’s the heart that grounds this whole series in reality, never getting carried away in the face of Ji Sung’s larger-than-life character and perfectly playing off his vulnerability at all the right moments. Backed with excellent acting and comedic timing, I’m so thankful that this drama turned out to be a winner, far surpassing expectations in every way.
Persevere, Goo Hae Ra (January 9)
Story: It’s the year 2010. Hae Ra’s (Min Hyo Rin) dream is to debut as a singer to let people know about her late father’s musical compositions. To do so, she takes part in Superstar K2 with her childhood twin friends Se Jong (Kwak Si Yang) and Se Chan (Jin Young). They get through the local tryouts and are selected to take part in the programme. At Super Week, they team up with Henry (Henry Lau), Woo Ri (Yoo Sung Eun) and Jang Goon (Park Kwang Sun), but they get disqualified and end up returning to their daily lives. Several years later, through a shocking incident, the team gathers again and makes their debut.
Verdict: Well, it’s nothing at all like Monstar. What the second music-centric youth drama offering from Mnet lacks most of all, is a beating heart. At 70 minutes per episode, it runs a little too long and with characters that are not very likeable, it makes sitting through each episode in its entirety a feat. The friendships amongst the characters are the core of youth dramas like these (think Reply 1997, Dream High or Shut Up Flower Boy Band) and with mediocre acting and barely a hint of chemistry between our leads, it’s hard to really feel anything for our rag-tag group of Superstar K outcasts. The writing is not very polished and the pacing is off but with every cloud, there is a silver lining. Four episodes in, I’ll admit that there are a couple of good songs (though the excessive use of autotune does take one out of the moment sometimes) and some genuine laugh-out-moments (such as one involving a rather…naked Henry) that make me feel like perhaps not all hope is lost. There’s still potential and with the introduction of a fascinating new character at the end of the third episode (hint: it involves a secret twin brother!) to shake things up, I think there’s promise yet.
Heart to Heart (January 9)
Story: Cha Hong Do (Choi Kang Hee) suffers from agoraphobia, developed due to the way she blushes uncontrollably. She’s naturally curious and learns a lot from books and the Internet. Because she hasn’t been able to leave her home, she has come up with the idea to dress up as an elderly woman in order to get around her neighbourhood, a task made easier due to her close relationship with her grandmother who raised her. Hong Do has had a crush on Jang Doo Soo (Lee Jae Yoon), a kind detective, for the past seven years, which has spurred her to do something about her condition so that she’s able to meet him face-to-face confidently. Through an incident, she meets Go Yi Seok (Chun Jung Myung), an egotistical psychiatrist who has issues of his own. She convinces him to help her get over her illness and soon, they end up finding comfort in the unlikeliest of places – in each other.
Verdict: Finally. It’s so refreshing to see a drama where you have adults acting like adults, and most importantly, talking about their feelings. Also, realistic kissing! None of that agonisingly slow-mo peck of the lips crap or ridiculous 360-degree camera pans as the couple stay frozen in each other’s arms. This one’s worth watching just for the adorably sweet morning-after cuddle session in episode 5 but honestly, there are a ton of other reasons why this quaint little drama has stolen my heart. With a lovely soundtrack and the PD of Coffee Prince behind this one, it’s no wonder there’s a certain whimsy quality to it and a dynamic between our leads that mirrors Choi Han Gyul and Go Eun Chan. They have an intense chemistry that makes me breathless and giddy as though I’m the one falling in love. They’re so comfortable with each other, just touching, feeling, and I can’t do anything except let myself be swept along.
I’ll admit the first two episodes were a little dark and they left me uncertain as to where the show was taking us but by the end of the second episode, I was hooked. There’s so much debate about whether or not it’s ethical to sleep with your patient (it’s not), but I’ve always approached this with the view that our OTP has a more friend-like relationship than a professional one. Considering neither of them are being paid for the advice they’re doling out on a daily basis, it’s pretty easy for me to get behind this ship. We’ve been sold a bunch of “healing romances” this season, but this is probably the only one I really buy wholeheartedly. I keep thinking about Heart to Heart and the delightful characters that inhabit this world long after I’ve finished the episode, and even end up re-watching certain scenes over and over. I just can’t get enough.
Hyde, Jekyll, Me (January 17)
Story: Goo Seo Jin (Hyun Bin) is the director of the theme park Wonderland and he has a cold personality, not unlike that of Dr Jekyll. Jang Ha Na (Han Ji Min) works in the circus at Wonderland and ends up falling in love with Robin, mistakenly thinking that he is Seo Jin’s twin brother. But she couldn’t be further from the truth: Seo Jin actually has dissociative identity disorder. Whenever his heart rate exceeds 150, another personality emerges, and unlike Seo Jin’s usual cynical and ruthless self, Robin is kind, gentle and has a saviour complex.
Verdict: By far, the most underwhelming out of the four, Jekyll, Hyde, Me suffers because it relies too heavily on the sheer star power of its male lead. But even Hyun Bin can’t save this one from its major narrative shortcomings. It’s a classic case of a drama wrapped up in very pretty packaging but with little actual substance. For what it’s worth, it is a very sleek and pretty drama (clunky editing aside). It’s very confidently shot and it’s well-acted but story-wise, it’s severely lacking. It’s not that it’s bad – far, from it – but it just chugs along at a languid pace and nothing exciting or unexpected ever happens. I keep waiting for it, but so far, I’ve been disappointed each time.
I haven’t reached a point where I care about any of the characters and while Goo Seo Jin is probably the most fleshed out character, I feel like he’s just angry and barking orders at everyone all the time. Unlike in Kill Me, Heal Me, I don’t feel this tug at my heart for this person who has to share his body with somebody else, a monster who feels like he can never get close to anybody for fear of hurting them. Oh, there are traces of humanity and heart there in Seo Jin and we’re even beginning to see cracks in his armour in episodes 5 and 6, but I feel like it’s taken us so long to get to this point. I want more. One of the most interesting things about this drama would be the twist on expectations whereby the second personality is the inherently good one instead of the other way around although on hindsight, this may serve to be the drama’s biggest weakness. What’s there to fear when your other personality makes it his life’s mission to save the lives of the people around him? He’s mostly obedient and appears to simply want to live peacefully within Seo Jin’s body, only coming out to play whenever he’s allowed to. That’s sweet and all, but the stakes are just so low.