After a short one-month break from watching any Korean dramas, i’m back with not one, not two, but three dramas at once. All of which premiered last week. All of which compete in the Wednesday/Thursday timeslot. All of which offer dissimilar genre and tone that it hardly feel repetitive. That’s a good thing, although i may need to adjust my mood and expectation accordingly before clicking on the next title.
One is romance, one is youth, one is family. While having no major issues with any opening week, i’m not sure i’ll be able to keep up with them all till the end without dropping or postponing any of them. So, let’s see how they’ll play out.
Legend of the Blue Sea
This fantasy romance is house to the biggest names and hype among all three, and as a result pulled in the highest viewership ratings as well. A project between Jin Hyuk PD (who directed City Hunter, Master’s Sun, and Doctor Stranger) and Park Ji-eun (who wrote You from Another Star and The Producers) starring Jeon Ji-hyun and Lee Min-ho… i could see why it garners much attention and naturally, high expectation, though it’s too early to tell if it lives up to the buzz. Its first week didn’t do it for me.
Simply put, it’s a love story between a mythical creature — mermaid this time — and a human transcending over four long centuries. Their fate first crossed path in 1598 when the mermaid (Jeon Ji-hyun) was cast ashore, captured by townsfolk, and freed by the new mayor, Dam-ryung (Lee Min-ho). They meet again in the present through similar fashion. Thrown to land, she breaks into his hotel room, gets reported to police, before he changes his mind and tricks the police in charge to release her. I guess it’s safe to say that Joon-jae is Dam-ryung’s reincarnation though the former’s occupation isn’t as noble as his past self’s. He’s a hypnosis-using swindler who doesn’t seem to enjoy the job, as if he’s forcing himself to go against his conscience, though he tends to follow it more when it comes to the mermaid-turned-human.
We don’t know how or why, but she gains a pair of legs on land, which turns back to tail in water. I wonder if the limbs transformation affects her personality, because she is elegant and graceful as a mermaid yet bumbling and gauche as a human. The literal fish-out-of-water experience is expected given her unfamiliarity with human life, food, technology and whatnots, but her reactions and antics are…something else. They’re equal parts amusing and cringeworthy. Which i wouldn’t have minded since it’s pretty hilarious to watch the mermaid being so adept at kicking some ass despite her general cluelessness about other human-y things if it didn’t give me a whiplash of tone change. It just feels so jarring, as if she has a double personality.
As in the case of any other fantasy drama, i am looking/searching for some governing rules, and the lack thereof leads to a string of questions. Hopefully Legend of the Blue Sea will provide some answers soon because the number of questions have already started piling up in my head, the most burning ones are if the mermaid 1) is aware that Joon-jae has the same face as her Joseon savior, 2) never realized her bangle — which was originally Dam-ryung’s — gone missing, or 3) is a learning genius — she goes from completely mute to thoroughly conversant in Korean overnight, though curiously the crash course doesn’t ‘teach’ her simple words like “wife” and “love”. The last point is one of head-scratching moments this drama gave in its first week.
Questionable logic and plot points aside, the visuals are definitely first-rate; the leads alone make for a gorgeous power couple on screen. However, in the end what makes me stick around is the story and performance, and i shall give Legend of the Blue Sea another week.
Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo
Ooh, i’m already loving it. A lighthearted underdog drama with optimistic tone, zippy pace, and likable characters that’s a breeze to watch.
As the title suggests, the center of this sports campus drama is Kim Bok-joo (Lee Sung-kyung), a talented female weightlifter, though the “fairy” part remains a mystery to me. It doesn’t take long for Weightlifting Fairy to give me strong vibes of Sassy, Go Go; it feels like student-athlete version of that cheerleading high school drama, hopefully without all the drama, backstabbing, and unhealthy rivalry. There’s this brewing enmity between weightlifters and gymnasts, particularly since they stand on opposite ends in terms of body image, but i don’t think it will escalate into the extremes given the drama’s tone. The weightlifting team, however, is the black sheep of the sports department, and i wonder why. They do stuff their faces like there’s no tomorrow, but they don’t seem to underperform or anything — Bok-joo, for one, managed to win gold in the opening minutes.
Nam Joo-hyuk plays a prodigy swimmer with a haunting trauma, Jung Joon-hyung, who brings to mind his School 2015‘s character. The trauma is of different type, but if kept hidden and left untreated, it too will hurt his budding career. His connection with the titular fairy dates back to their elementary school years, which i was least enthused about. More often that not, it means they’re each other’s childhood sweetheart, but there’s also possibility that they’re merely childhood friends.
This reveal obviously excites Joon-hyung more than Bok-joo — the former happily teases the latter ever since — although the better part is that he looks smitten by her already, which is quite unexpected yet surely interesting given he’s supposedly the prince charming while she’s the ugly duckling. Problem is, he has an ex-flame who seems intent on getting back on his good side. The best part is the fact that Bok-joo isn’t impressed by Joon-hyung’s good looks or physique (“I don’t fall in love with every handsome man!”) and is falling almost immediately for a guy who shields her from the rain and calls her a lady. That sounds cheap, but i won’t blame her; Lee Jae-yoon has perfected the art of embodying the best, warmest, most attentive oppa ever.
Lee Sung-kyung doesn’t look the part of a weightlifter, but i appreciate her efforts to assume a different posture to sell the bulkier build, which i think works. Nam Joo-hyuk is okay in blither role, so as long as Joon-hyung doesn’t become too broody or despondent, he’ll manage just fine.
I’m not sure how closely this youth drama follows the life of the country’s Olympic weightlifter it’s inspired by, but i don’t think i’ll care as long as it stays this delightful and awkwardly adorable. I’m fine with the training scenes, enjoying the camaraderie, and loving the more tender moments. Coming from Oh My Ghostess‘ screenwriter, i trust Weightlifting Fairy to balance fun and bittersweet beats well.
Oh My Geum-bi
Now, this is the drama i’m ambivalent about. On one hand, i totally adore Geum-bi and look forward to her blossoming relationship with the father she never knew existed. On the other hand, i wasn’t aware that it’s gonna be a melodrama. I mean, who would have thought this sharp, bright, if snarky little girl would suffer from dementia? Who knew dementia could happen to a kid? When i first watched the trailer, i expected a chirpy and heartwarming family drama; suffice to say, i’m not ready for a tear-jerker one. But let’s worry about it once we get there.
Geum-bi (Heo Jung-eun) has been living with her aunt until one day she’s given a name and address to go to in case anything happens. So, when she returns to an empty house, she sets off to look for “Dad”. It is such a bad first encounter, because not only their meeting point is inside the court room, but Mo Hwi-chul’s (Oh Ji-ho) situation is also at rock bottom with no place to sleep in and barely any money to get by. Despite their age, Hwi-chul is the immature one that oftentimes it’s Geum-bi’s quick thinking that gets them out of trouble. Even then, he finds her a nuisance. That’s not entirely incomprehensible though; a kid pops up out of nowhere claiming to be his child yet unable to identify her mother. The father-daughter duo may dislike each other, but in two episodes, they’ve started getting fond of each other.
Of all three dramas, Oh My Geum-bi has the most not-so-likeable and potentially annoying supporting characters. First off, the aunt — how could she be so heartless and leave without a word? Next, Hwi-chul’s conning partners, who don’t seem loyal. Then, Geum-bi’s bitchy classmate. Sigh.
If anything, it’s amazing that Geum-bi has no abandonment issues after being pushed away many times. So far she also calls Hwi-chul by “Ahjussi” that i think it’ll be interesting to note when and what will prompt her to switch to “Appa”. Nevertheless, what truly amazes me is how expressive Heo Jung-eun’s acting is. I guess i’ll forever wonder how child actors like her can easily conjure the right emotions that get you in the heart, something actors twice or triple her age or experience still struggle to do. She arguably carries the show and while i have no idea how the story will develop, i’m interested to follow her journey with newfound dad, even if it’ll eventually lead to heartbreak and tears. Not too much, please?