Tuesday, November 29, 2011

thoughts: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop (Korean) -- mid-series thoughts

This article contains spoilers, but mostly opinions; proceed with caution.

Regardless of whether or not this series will be slapped with an extension, Episode Eight is where the intended central turning point seems to be located. We are well on our way into the Flower Boy Ramyun Shop's (official shop title now) business success, and our characters all seem to have reached some sort of climax in their development. Then again, I might be looking into it too much and really just want to be able to blog about this series in the middle, so I'm reaching for significance.

And yes, the above picture isn't from Episode Eight, but there's something giddily amusing about the way that Eun Bi is silently analyzing the two items, symbolically representing the two men (boys?) entering into her life.

But anyway, one thing IS for sure: Even if no one else will admit it (Cha Chi Soo included), our Pretty has finally come to the conclusion that he is indeed physically attracted to Yang Eun Bi and has developed feelings for her. I don't know if Eun Bi has picked up on this, but there's no doubt that her column of a "husband", Choi Kang Hyuk, has figured out as much. And so we now let the little love triangle fall into place.

I love how this series deals with plot devices and story arcs, as well as all the symbolism and dialogue. While there's a very hilarious, almost comic tone on the surface, the heart of this series' emotion and meaning is very well conveyed at all the right times. Plot devices wrap up quickly without being drawn out for too long and so the pacing and editing is fairly awesome; we get right to the point and then we keep moving right along -- there are no unnecessary fillers or strangely awkward details forced into it. ALL of it is purely story line and the transitions from one mood to another aren't at all forced.

For example, Cha Chi Soo's demand to see Eun Bi immediately because he's starting to hallucinate again (comedy) is cut short by Eun Bi's run in with her ex-boyfriend (melodrama) which then leads to resurfacing memories and eventually the angry confrontation between Chi Soo and Eun Bi (angst). Following, we get a little glimpse of the impending love triangle between the three main characters as they all reflect on their own thoughts (melodrama and romance). And all of this falls right into place without seeming too awkward.

It's a very smooth ride from the highs and lows of our mood, coupled with a very extreme hilarity and nonsensical devices that just seem to work for this story line.

While the main base plot of the ramyun shop took some time to build-up (about six episodes), everything that went into it was rather essential to the rest of the story line. Because even though the ramyun shop is what will eventually bring us all together, there is so much more to the series than just the ramyun shop alone. But we've incorporated so much backstory (that doesn't feel like backstory at all as we watch developments) into the necessity of both Yang Eun Bi and Cha Chi Soo to be a part of this ramyun shop despite the entire concept being out of their own elements.

Eun Bi has spent her life trying to distance herself from the ramyun shop because not only does it conflict with her wish for a "normal" lifestyle, it also brings back painful memories of her childhood. Her days as the scary "Eun Bi Spike" volley ball player is viewed as something unfeminine to her coupled with her anger driven strength that seems to scare most men away. Her mother's death, she even ties in as a woe of the ramyun shop because she felt that her father had cared more for business than for family. But the death of her father seems to instill some sort of clarity in her life and she begins her development early, giving the ramyun shop a chance to be in her life again.

Cha Chi Soo has lived in a delusional, second-generation chaebol world wherein his questionable upbringing by an overly doting father has rendered him... well, incapable of being a "normal" human being with "normal" human compassion and thought processes. He's arrogant, spoiled, and extremely silly to the point that it's hard not to feel frustrated with him, but at the same time adopt an adoration for his egocentric ignorance. As much as a jerkface as he is, I hate him AND I love him, but most importantly, I feel sad for him. Because of this, I'm most drawn to Chi Soo's comically outlandish behavior. The boy thinks that he's refined and mature, but he couldn't be more far from it.

I totally don't mind that he's a little badass because he does it so hilariously. And it really DOES just make you want to see how he turns out in the latter part of the series. Is it strange that I find his wildly immature behavior kind of adorkable? And this has nothing to do with the fact that Jung Il Woo is the resident Pretty of the characters; the character of Chi Soo himself is just so layered in depth that it's hard not to pay attention to him. It's like he has some sort of switch where he goes from one mood to another, almost too quickly but naturally.

Being the first series I've seen with Jung Il Woo, I have to hand it to him and all of his fans; he definitely knows what he's doing with this role and he definitely knows where he's taking Chi Soo's character. His comedic flair is strange and loud, but not in a scene stealing way; for the type of person that Cha Chi Soo is, the level of noisy and funny tantrums are just right. But at the same time Jung Il Woo can switch Chi Soo's insane outbursts, hallucination scenes, and strange logical deliberations into the depth of vulnerability and seriousness you would have never expected from Chi Soo's arrogant persona. And it works -- at the push of a button, you see the deep thought and the sad struggle and it all goes right with Chi Soo's characterization.

I've found my new fangirl obsession. Jung Il Woo does it all excellently!

The best part about Cha Chi Soo is that he can easily go from a character you want to hate, but almost immediately change into one that you can't help but love. He isn't the resident jerk face main male lead only because his world and his logic are so skewed as a result of his upbringing. He doesn't intend to be a crass asshole; the way he acts just makes sense to him even if it shouldn't make sense to any normal person. But he seriously doesn't understand why it is that his actions are bringing about so much hostility, while at the same time he recognizes that hostility.

It's like he's still having trouble making that connection no matter how much he wants to get there. The vulnerability in Chi Soo's ignorance doesn't stun me at all, though. Because while I'm frustrated with his second-generation chaebol delusions that money can solve all problems and people shouldn't take feelings too seriously, at the same time, you kind of pity him. I mean, his logic makes sense to HIM.

So I guess that it's high time that he finally starts to learn what real life is all about. Maybe this is why I'm loving this series so much. It's more of a journey for Chi Soo (as well as Eun Bi) in a sort of twisted self-discovery type of plot device. It's a sadder process for Chi Soo, mostly because the rough treatment he's receiving isn't undeserved; he's been quite the brat after all and needs to be taught a good lesson. But the wounded look on his face really DOES make one ache for his ignorance and wish that he would change soon, or that someone will at least give him the benefit of a doubt and understand where he's coming from.

Tough love is hard, so it's a good thing that everyone is being so difficult for him; hopefully they can all be standing on the same plane soon.

Finally: How much do I love the more light-hearted happenings in this series? How much do I just adore every single character in this series? And how much do I absolutely LOVE Cha Chi Soo's deduction of his feelings concerning Eun Bi, trying to make that connection between his logic and these new emotions he's developing? It's awesome, hilarious, AND heart-filled all at the same time!

Kang Hyuk's tendencies to be lazy and outworldly strange, while at the same time showing so much more depth in his mind's workings in a sort of "all-knowing being" way has started growing on me. I didn't really care for him at the beginning despite his already saintly presence; there was always something awkward about him that bugged me. I also didn't take to his claim on Eun Bi as his wife (without her knowledge) as well as his cohabitation with her (also without her knowledge). It almost made it seem like Eun Bi wouldn't have a say in her future, and if this wasn't a comedy, I'd call it creepy stalking. But now, he's coming off adorably sweet, and frankly, I think this is going to be a tough triangle to battle with.

On the surface, I'm rooting for Chi Soo just because of everything I've said about him already, faults included. But deep down, I know that Kang Hyuk is the better man and I wouldn't be surprised if Eun Bi develops any sort of attraction towards him -- or has her own struggle. I hate triangles... but sometimes, they're not so bad, I guess.

Kim Ba Wool is by far my favorite "Flower Boy" if only for his off-character cutesie childishness when dealing with the people around him. His relationship with Eun Bi is a wonder that I love watching, just because you rarely get to see this type of dynamic between a non-blood-related-opposite-gender sibling pair. People always assume that men and women cannot be "just friends" but these two radiate all sorts of noona-dongsaeng goodness without even remotely tying themselves up with complicated romantic tendencies.

The scene in which they are both begging Kang Hyuk to comply with their desires by clinging to his arm and pouting like children -- Golden Moment!

The only unfortanate deal with Ba Wool is his wussiness giving in to all of Yoon So Yi's "OPPA-WIGGLE-POUT" (a term coined at Dramabeans) actions. Yoon So Yi is still an enigma to me (as well as to many, many other viewers, I'm sure) with her somehow managing to convince herself that two-timing is for the greater good. Yes, she's a big fat "huh" in terms of her strange logic, even IF she's starting to grow on me only because I'm not quite sure how to file her persona. She IS quite cute, if only I can get passed her strangely blissful ignorance the same way that I managed to accept Chi Soo's immature behavior. This girl pretty much lives in a book of her own logic, which somehow, she manages to promote levelly, but no matter how you look at it or over analyze it with references, none of it makes ANY sense. A team of politicians couldn't get around this one at all.

Lastly, I totally love how Chi Soo can't seem to fathom the slightest about why he's so fixated on Yang Eun Bi. I mean, yea, obviously the kid's never been in love before (but I haven't either and I'm sure I could recognize feelings better than he can). HOWEVER, to have somehow concluded and convinced himself that he's suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to rough treatment by Intern... It's just interesting how the more logical reasoning of having developed feelings WASN'T his first conclusion (nor his father's) while every other person around him has probably figured out that he's attracted to Yang Eun Bi. This is such unique and classic new territory that it's just fun, fun, fun! I totally love, love, LOVE watching him struggle like this! (I know, I'm sadistic, but it's cute.) It's so silly and bizzare and Jung Il Woo hits all of Chi Soo's tantrums and hallucinations and strange ideas so, so perfectly.

(Standing ovation!)

Here's looking forward to the rest of the series now that we're rolling right along. The ramyun shop is open for business, feelings are coming out into the open, the aggressive triangle has begun to settle into place, and our story has thankfully scooted the "ex-boyfriend returns" plot device through resolution within two episodes with a rather amusing conclusion to it. The fast pacedness of the telling is so great that I'm sitting on the edge of my seat in excitement waiting for what happens next.

When was the last time I was so engrossed in a series? Oh yea... City Hunter.

Drama series, don't fail me now! Please wrap up cleanly and wonderfully without regrets; because you're moving along oh so well right now that I'd hate to walk away feeling unsatisfied when it ends.


Related articles:
first impression: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop
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)


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