Sunday, November 13, 2011
first impression: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop (Korean)
I know I've got a ton of other articles to complete and two drama series to finally finish watching, but who can help starting a fresh new series, especially when it's got so much Pretty (yes, Pretty with a capital 'P') advertised to its name? Of course, I DO have to say that my reasons for picking up a new series has nothing to do with the Pretty; in fact, it wasn't even really the first thing on my mind when I was browsing Drama Fever for SOMETHING to watch casually while eating my night time snacks.
After all, I have plans to begin watching such wonders as Joseon X-files and another Kang Ji Hwan project, whichever one it may be (either Coffee House or Lie to Me, but that's a moot point). What the heck am I doing jumping into a new series when I've got so many others to finish? My list is quite long and since I started the Hallyu obsession later than most people, I should be catching up on my kdrama classics; I mean, it took me long enough to watch all the Hong Sisters' glory and it seems to be taking longer still to attempt some of the more "high dollar" ratings' busters such as Iris or Chuno (both of which I'm still hesitant to touch just because neither are my typical genre).
Well... I guess it shouldn't matter. I'm strapped for time, so watching more than two or three drama series at the same time is a bit difficult for me.
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop is summarized (quite briefly) as a story where the lovely noona runs a ramyun shop and employs a bunch of very good looking young men. Pretty much, the title and the plot description is very straight forward. And so when I glimpsed advertisements and promotions for it, I wasn't too attracted to the concept. It reminded me too much of those shoujo-like reverse harems in Japanese manga world where a lot of sparkly young men work with one girl and everyone manages to fall in love with her. And to be traditional, the girl is usually a bumbling idiot whom NO MAN should even consider falling in love with save for her sunshine and bundles of bunnies charm that is SUPPOSED to radiate adorableness that also sparkles at the right angles; maybe with a little bit of help from a make up artist and cameras and lighting.
I hadn't really been that interested.
After casually watching the first episode of Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, however, I actually found it to be rather delightfully enjoyable; more so than I had expected from the promos. Granted, I guess I should have known better than to pre-judge. I was still stuck on my shoujo manga biases and wasn't looking forward to another superficial, teeny-bopper rom-com with ridiculous angst and crazy cheeses.
But now that I think about it, I had stepped into Coffee Prince with almost the same pre-biases only to find that THAT series wasn't too bad; turned out pretty classic in spite of its overdone cliches.
And so I was pleasantly surprised by Flower Boy Ramyun Shop.
Episode One proved to be quite an embarrassing laugh-fest laced with a few insightful babbles here and there, as well as a fairly thought-invoking ideal of modern day trends; in particular, we are shown the younger generation's concept of what Korean's call "cool dating", known to us Americans as "casual dating" also known as The Fling. To be totally honest, I really hadn't picked up that concept, although I kind of sensed it in the background and thought it was just one of those things in hindsight; I give a delighted thanks to javabeans over at Dramabeans who's reviews and recaps of drama series really help to enlighten me on what's going on with some series. After all, things get lost in translation a lot and it's not easy to pick up where those things get left out. This is why it took a little bit of absorption for me to grasp some of the dialogue despite pinpointing that the series isn't too wayward of witty story telling.
I'm proud of myself to have even fathomed an inkling of interesting story lines when some of the telling wasn't making sense to me. In other words, I believe I was thinking WAY too hard about how to write my first impression post about this series and so ended up missing a few concepts here and there.
Moving into the story of this series itself, it would typically take more than a single first episode to figure out what the story will be about. But so far, we've got quite the foreshadowing as well as the establishment of our main couple and what their relationship dynamics will look like.
Lee Chung Ah is cast as Yang Eun Bi, a twenty-five year old civil service exam taker who has yet to pass her test. I'm not familiar with Korean job allocations, but I assume that civil service exams mean that you get to work for the government if you succeed (something that I guessed after watching the first episode of Lie To Me, but more on that later). Her life has been lived rather plain and, as everyone else in the series doesn't hesitate to so cruelly point out, "old fashioned." While I don't refute what these people say about her, I can't help but to empathize with the merciless jibes at being an old fashioned prude (because I'm a very, very prime example of one -- Prude with a capital 'P' and I even have my spinster mansion picked out).
So, basically, after Eun Bi's boyfriend dumps her because she's not living with the times, it was pretty much a big "Ouch!" for her. He pretty much told her bluntly that he had been seeing this other girl even while he was dating her and that she was stupid to wait around for him while he was in the army. To the dude, "Sorry for respecting relationships and wanting to make them last." Because Eun Bi was pretty much trusting in true romance rather than having flings so casually.
And hence the ideal of casual dating comes into light.
Everyone from her roommate to the random Pretty she keeps running into simply tells her to get with the modern trend. Old fashioned true romance is out; now we date freely and change significant others like buying new shoes.
Excuse me if I don't quite follow this concept, but I guess there's a point to it either way.
Right now, by the end of Episode Two, we get a small amount of peering into Eun Bi's history and there is a small hint that she used to be one of those high school delinquents with a nickname and everything; something about a "scary Silver Pot." (I get what I can from translations...) Whatever it was, she used to be badass, but as of current, she's really showing nothing more than tendencies of a doormat. After all, she's allowed her boyfriend of two years to just throw her away and the only retaliation she managed was ruining his current girl's nose job. And then she seems to let our Pretty walk all over her way too easily just because he's of the impression that the world should worship him (just like any spoiled chaebol brat) and she doesn't seem to want to start any scene or cause trouble.
I say, let's see badass Eun Bi come out and play. I'd like to see how Mr. Arrogant likes it.
Jung Il Woo is cast as Cha Chi Soo, the Pretty. He's the perpetually smarmy and good-looking (and knows that he's good looking) young chaebol who seems to be having some daddy issues. In spite of this, his father is quite the doting father, easily acquiescing to his son's childish pouting and manipulations. It's going to be a long road to maturity for this kid, despite how mature he LIKES to think that he is. A look into the darker side of Cha Chi Soo would be some form of moody "I don't like seeing women cry" type of possible childhood traumatic experience. Perchance he's had women troubles more than just being dumped by the hottest girl in school? Maybe some girl has used tears against him during his younger years or even recently? Or maybe it was just a casual comment to make himself out to be "The Man."
Whatever it is, as per rom-com and kdrama-land dictations, there will ultimately be SOMETHING dark in his history that would help enlighten us on his petulantly jerk-hole-like behavior. Why has this boy been allowed to be spoiled rotten by his doting father? Well, I guess aside from the fact that he's wealthy, good-looking and powerful (and knows it); there is ALWAYS something else about his history that would explain an underlying darkness to his chaebol arrogance. A few things seem to pique his anger here and there, and the crying thing especially made him flare.
I DO have to admit that any kind of crying would make me uncomfortable too. And it's a pretty widely known fact that men tend to become awkward stuttering messes when they have to face a crying woman. But, MAN was this kid mean about it or what?
Either way, I'm awaiting some potential depth for this kid, since the only description I can really come up with for him is "spoiled, arrogant, asshole chaebol." So being the resident Prince Charming, I'm pretty sure we're bound to see some development in him as a result of meeting our poor, old fashioned, true romance desiring prude.
In the near future, maybe a few more episodes in, when our young Pretty starts to develop feelings for the noona (which HAS to happen because this is a rom-com after all and they are the main couple) I wonder how he'll handle her hurt and pain; because this is a rom-com after all and there is bound to be some angst and more tears. How will he handle her crying at that point? And when he grows up and falls in love, how will he view the entire casual dating trend?
This is one of those predictable love lines wherein we are at the tips of our toes waiting to see how the jerk of a chaebol learns to be more sentimental through his resident love interest. Will noona teach him to love and learn how to respect others as well? This is stereotypical procedure for rich and arrogant, immature kids from wealthy families. We just wait and see how he turns out and we ALWAYS expect it to be for the better.
The only unfortunate turn off about this series so far is the fact that I'm not feeling Jung Il Woo as a young high school boy. His actual age is somewhere around twenty-three or twenty-four, I believe, and so that suspension of disbelief telling me that he's supposed to be teenage material isn't really hitting it in the right place. There's no doubting the presented story line age difference; this is set up as a noona-dongsaeng love line after all (which is another one of those social issues addressed as Korea, and many other Asian cultures still aren't too open about an older woman/younger man relationship).
Still, hopefully high school doesn't last long for our main male lead. Enduring Jae Hee as a high school student in Delightful Girl Choon Hyang had been bad enough.
On a final note, I can already feel the chemistry building between our main leads. Though I hope that Cha Chi Soo doesn't remain a perpetual asshole forever and that Yang Eun Bi doesn't continue carrying the embarrassing doormat persona either, the dynamics have been really enticing. Eun Bi has a temper, evidently, and a lot of strangely skewed logic to her defenses -- so she just needs to use it for the greater good rather than simmer it in the face of a pretty boy. Though I'm sure a lot of us would probably do as much just the same, it's not good to be too obvious about finding Jung Il Woo very pretty to stare at for hours.
HOWEVER, if he winks anymore than he has to, I might start throwing a fit.
The Pretty is charming and good to look at, but the amped up smarm isn't always a good thing and can easily make one's stomach turn when in excess -- the winking must be used in moderation. I'm not trying to be a killjoy since I'm sure a lot of fangirls out there are thoroughly enjoying the Pretty do his number. But if this guy can use his pretty face charms correctly, then he can present to us his Pretty without reason for excessive Winky. It kind of makes me shiver.
thoughts: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop -- mid-series
thoughts: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop -- episodes 9 and 10
thoughts: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop -- shipper status update
thoughts: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop -- the end is near
thoughts: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop -- finale on the horizon
thoughts: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop -- the final showdown (sort of)