*Available on US Netflix Streaming*
The Gist: High school student Oh Ha Ni (Jung So Min) is mesmerized by classmate Baek Seung Jo (Kim Hyun Joong), the smartest and most handsome guy in school. When she finally confesses via love letter, Seung Jo shames her by exposing the letter and correcting all of her grammar and spelling mistakes. Embarrassed, Oh Ha Ni decides to stop loving Seung Jo, a declaration that doesn’t last long when an earthquake knocks down her house and her father’s old friend, Seung Jo’s dad, asks them to stay at their place. Now living under the same roof, seeing Baek Seung Jo every day, Ha Ni finds it impossible to give up on him, no matter how coldly he treats her.
1.Baek Seung Jo and Oh Ha Ni
Naturally a drama called Playful Kiss could only be about romance and this classic story is based off of bestselling manga Itazura Na Kiss. This romance works on so many levels it’s hard to identify them all, but here’s a few. It’s obvious why the characters should be together as they bring out the best in each other – Seung Jo drives Ha Ni to work harder and study more and Ha Ni lets Seung Jo relax and have fun. It’s a perfect fit. With a character so stoic, it’s easy to tell when Seung Jo’s enjoying himself, softening towards Ha Ni, even as he is confused and perplexed by her. So Min and Hyun Joong play off each other well and they seem like they’re enjoying themselves acting with each other. It’s just lovely.
2.Baek Seung Jo’s Family
Oh Ha Ni is without a mother and Seung Jo’s mom is without a daughter, so the bond between them is almost instantaneous. Their characters are also very similar and it’s so like a mother to know her son’s heart better than him. I love Jung Hye Young in this role – she is fantastic. I also love little Eun Jo (Choi Won Hong) as Seung Jo’s brother. He’s like a mini Seung Jo, copying him exactly, and just like his brother, he takes his time warming to Oh Ha Ni. The episode where Ha Ni takes care of him when he’s sick shows how much like family they become.
3.The Scope of the Show
Having watched the anime before I watched this live action version, one of the things I loved about the story is how much ground we cover. It’s not just a year in high school, but high school, college, and if you watch the shorts (which, why would you not?), some of their career life. The story goes on quite a bit longer in the Taiwanese version, which I also enjoyed, but the quality of this version is better.
4. Um… Can I go to school there … and live there?
Seriously though, the high school, college, house, and even the pasta restaurant are beautiful. I want to go there!
1.Bong Joon Gu
Lee Tae Sung plays Oh Ha Ni’s desperate admirer. More on her level, Joon Gu doesn’t do well at studying and ends up working in her dad’s shop as a genius cook. I feel conflicted about this character. On the negative, his voice is ridiculously overdramatic; actually he is just ridiculously overdramatic. He seems like a cartoon character, more than a person. On the positive, we actually get some mature moments from him when the show progresses. I think as he realizes that Oh Ha Ni and him really can’t be together, it makes him a stronger character.
Played by Choi Sung Gook, Kyung Soo is a sunbae and tennis coach at Ha Ni’s college. He’s obsessed with Hae Ra, who’s obsessed with Seung Jo, so Ha Ni and him often team up to thwart their relationship. As genuine as he is about Hae Ra, Kyung Soo is kind of an obnoxious character. You feel bad for him because his efforts with Hae Ra are even more unsuccessful than Ha Ni’s with Seung Jo, but he’s still a bizarre person. I think at the end of it though, I do like Kyung Soo’s part in this story, so we’ll lean him towards the positive side of things.
As much as I love this story Oh Ha Ni proclaims that she’s giving up on Baek Seung Jo like five times in the show. She tries to be very serious about it every time and it’s impossible to even kind of believe her because she changes her mind so quickly. There is one time where she makes a good genuine effort and that’s the time it matters – so good for her! However, the million times she cries and says she’ll stop loving him just gets old. At least it’s realistic, people are totally like that.
So…this show is easily in my top five. The story is concise, but still gives you what you want out of it. The leads are likeable and the supporting cast really adds to the story. If anything, I would have hoped for a little more physical intimacy between the characters, but it’s an innocent show, so it plays just right. It’s a perfect romance, with the right amount of build up to a rewarding ending.
Final Grade: A+