Thursday, December 1, 2011

thoughts: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop (Korean) -- episodes 9 & 10

This article contains spoilers, but mostly opinions; proceed at your own risk.

Short and sweet article (or what would have been short): We're diving into the last half of the series and this is where the ultimate test begins to take place (for the series in general, not the story line or the characters). Typically, we expect that some steam will be lost somewhere within the next few episodes as the story progresses towards the ending. From here onward, we start to anticipate how well this series will fair against itself.

So far, I'm not seeing any awkward "we know the end is near" pacing; the series is still continuing on in the same fashion that it's been working for the passed eight episodes. Characters will hopefully retain their true personalities and ADD development rather than become a completely different person altogether (*cough*BaekDongSoo*cough*).

For the entirety of Episode Nine, however, I started to wonder about the love line after that "almost kiss" between Chi Soo and Eun Bi. The love triangle should have settled more completely by then as the three corners start to realize feelings. But for the majority of Episode Nine, Chi Soo continues to be his stubborn self, denying (or just not making that connection to) his true feelings. I was really wanting more than just the healf-hearted revelations. Cha Chi Soo's continued denial of romantic feelings was getting a little grating and Choi Kang Hyuk's continued jokingly playful "husband/wifey" act was starting to get a bit boring. And as for Eun Bi: Does she know which way she's going to sway, because I can't quite tell? However, she DOES seem to openly let herself be bothered by Chi Soo's actions continually, even if she allows Kang Hyuk to continue his teasing advances without completely shying away.

By the end of Episode Nine, I was beginning to desire more advancement on the love line and probably would have pitched a fit if nothing moved forward. I totally WANTED Kang Hyuk to kiss Eun Bi by the end of that episode. I totally WANTED Chi Soo to storm up and declare war. And I totally also WANT Eun Bi to pick a side, or at least show some sense of feelings toward one of our men; I would even accept a slight case of wavering, but right now she's simply observing and I'm not feeling that she's in the same triangle. We know she's attracted to Chi Soo since Day One and I'm sure there are still lingering particles of those feelings somewhere -- but where did it all go so suddenly? You can't just will away your feelings because you know it's a taboo due to the connection (high school student/teacher, older woman/younger man). You can't help who you develop feelings for, right? Not that I feel like there's an issue -- throughout the series, I don't think I once worried about the age difference.

Until I read through all the comments from Dramabeans' Episode Ten recap I hadn't even realized that there was a conflicting feel towards the growing love line between Chi Soo and Eun Bi by netizens and viewers. Some are attributing the age difference, others are more specific that it has to do with the high school student and teacher relationship they once had... and some just feel that no matter what, it isn't socially okay for Eun Bi to be fooling with a nineteen year old boy.

Ha! I just realized that while I'm distressing over the triangle, I had totally missed all those social taboos on age, even though I knew for certain that this series was addressing a noona-dongsaeng relationship. I guess I just never put too much thought into society's views on the older woman/younger man relationships as well as that forbidden age gap (which apparently is okay for men, but NOT okay for an older woman?) being a problem with this series, or ANY other series. Maybe because Jung Il Woo has not seemed like a high school student to me since Day One. However, I really don't think that age is that BIG of an issue. It's more of a social taboo matter that makes everyone so squicky about it.

Because let's face it, even if we pooh-pooh those ideas through media, they DO happen in real life. Teachers fool around with students (then get arrested due to law), and couples with immense age gaps get married with no problems. It's really an issue of where we draw the line on what's okay and what's not okay and how much of it do we base on legal and social standards.

However, going through those comments, the age gap is clearly NOT the issue here, since no matter which way Eun Bi leans, the age gap is going to be six years. It just so happens that in one direction, it's a six year younger man and in the other direction, a six year older man. And so then we end up wondering, do we have an issue with it because with Chi Soo, Eun Bi is the older of the two, and in society's eyes, it becomes an unnacceptable older woman/younger man relationship? No one seems to see a problem with the six year age gap between Eun Bi and Kang Hyuk, possibly because in this direction, Eun Bi is the younger of the two and THAT is more socially acceptable.

Whatever happened to equal opportunity in gender rights?

But as I already said, the age gap doesn't seem to be as big an issue as the fact that Chi Soo is still a high school student. I'm not sure how legal age comes into play, but in America (if the statutes haven't changed since the last time I studied them) at eighteen, you're a legal adult and be damned if you go and do whatever the heck you want, because you are legally okay to make your own decisions without restrictions (except for consuming alcohol). So maybe because Chi Soo was nineteen years old is why I never saw a problem with the relationship -- he's legal for consent, isn't he?

Anyway, I might be wrong in a lot of aspects about this topic, but in my own opinion (not because of Jung Il Woo's portrayal) the age difference isn't a big deal, and as long as it's perfectly legal for Eun Bi and Chi Soo to be in a romantic relationship, then to hell with what society thinks (what do they know anyway?). If there's going to be a legal issue due to Chi Soo's young age, then it'll only take about a year or two for the two to refrain from any incriminating activities (or engage in them secretly, because, who doesn't love some forbidden excitement?) before they do anything extreme, like get married or become serious.

But anyway...

Setting all of that above soap box aside and moving back into the love line... Fortunately for me, and not so fortunate for Kang Hyuk when Eun Bi sneezes mid-almost-kiss (Gah! What's wrong with her timing?), even though the kiss didn't happen, the rest of Episode Ten answered my biggest desire. Yes, we make good on developing feelings and acknowledgements of possible relationships. Kang Hyuk keeps his word on not holding back anymore and Chi Soo moves right along to "jealousy" territory which is thankfully his last step into realizing his romantic feelings toward Eun Bi. I was ready to throw him a neon flashing sign just to tell him that, "Dude, you've fallen deep. Admit it and quit blaming physical ailments."

While I normally don't like love triangles, it's usually because I tend to end up rooting for the wrong guy. Those story lines where you DON'T have a clue who the girl will end up with... the one guy I prefer usually gets the bad end of the stick. In Ramyun Shop, however, I've suddenly found that I'm playing hopscotch with the Kang Hyuk ship and the Chi Soo ship. It's a little frustrating, but at the same time, I am totally loving this feeling! I don't know what it is, but this time around, the triangle is just so, so, so delicious that I'm at a point where I really DON'T care who Eun Bi ends up with because both of these guys are crack-tabulously hot!

While I was an avid Chi Soo shipper from the beginning, the more that I watch the series, the more that Kang Hyuk begins to grow on me and the more I find him adorably strange and some of his actions totally SIZZLING. And there's no denying my love for Chi Soo (I don't know HOW much more I can dote on him without becoming biased)... and so this triangle dilemma might kill me in the end because my heart just keeps bursting at each new turn for both male leads. So many surprises keep coming up that I'm on some natural Ramyun Shop love line high now.

Basically, if the rest of the series continues on the way it's going right now, I think I've found my love for K-dramas this season (City Hunter might actually have an equal). Because this is how I normally base my love for a series: How well is this series hooking me into wanting to keep watching up until the very end? How addictively crack-tastic is this series that I can't help but become a wreck waiting for the next episode to present itself?

Because if I bail for a few episodes after a while, then there must have been something that didn't work even if the series was a great one overall. If it becomes a chore just to finish the series at ANY point, then that series has sort of lost it's appeal on me (see how long it's taking just to finish the last three episodes of Taiwanese drama Love Keeps Going?). I know, I'm not exactly scientific or literal or anything, but the whole point of entertainment is entertainment anyway -- if I'm not enjoying it to the fullest, even if it IS a wonderful story line and series, I may not remember it or care to revisit it.

For Ramyun Shop, so far, I'm catching one episode after another like a drug addiction. This is awesome!

Finally, the comedy is still working itself in and out of the story line in a fun, unique, over-the-top witty way, which I love. I don't think I'll ever get tired of Chi Soo's over-dramatic responses to situations with his tantrums and his anger; Jung Il Woo just keeps hitting all the right notes. And I've come to adore Kang Hyuk's strange habits, which somehow just make him out to be really endearing -- I'm starting to see Lee Ki Woo's handsome charm.

And once again, how much do I LOVE the Ba Wool and Eun Bi, noona-dongsaeng platonic relationship? They're like two kids who are constantly pouting to each other about something. Ba Wool IS still my favorite Flower Boy. The scene in which he's drinking yogurt with his "new girlfriend" Miss Teddy Bear was so detailed and cute. I can't help but smile every time I see Ba Wool onscreen. I just wish we could figure something out about Yoon So Yi -- while I'm not digging her two-timing or her illogical logic, there's just something about her that makes me unable to completely dislike her. I'm hoping that she wises up soon and realizes that she won't be able to keep Ba Wool around if there are anymore of those "an oppa I know" hanging around.

At this rate, I'm not a hundred percent against introducing a new love interest for Ba Wool's sake, but I AM hoping that So Yi's ideals get a smack of reality. Then again, equal opportunity dating isn't like the end of the world for young people.

A note on the character of Eun Bi (a quick note) -- I'm still picking up some latent "doormat" vibes from her despite how openly awesome she's become. She has her moments where she puts people in their places with her passion and her words. But then she also ends up being dragged around, pushed around, and forced around. Granted, it's hard to put up a fight against two larger, taller, stronger people; however, there could have been at least a bit of struggle or the like whenever Chi Soo backs her into walls and objects or whenever she gets wrist-grabbed ungracefully.

Anyway, the end of Episode Ten was swoon-worthy (just as a lot of other scenes have been in these two episodes). Kang Hyuk's continuous skinship with Eun Bi keeps making me squee with giddiness and Chi Soo is just so cute.

And then finally... the kiss we've been waiting for! Man, for Asian media standards (Taiwan not included) this was one HOT and jaw-dropping kiss! Well, at least judging from the previews (cause I'm not sure if that ending was an extension of the episode or actual previews). And while it's totally aggressive and sometimes barbaric for the guy to always force a kiss like that, it usually works in terms of dramatic effect -- at least from the previews, it doesn't look like Eun Bi's resisting too much. I can understand the spontaneous kiss if feelings are officially mutual, but we are clearly under the impression that even though Eun Bi is attracted to Chi Soo, those two are not exactly in "make out and make up" territory.

I like it when they get a little more realistic for kissing scenes though, because as much as I understand the Asian cultural need to remain rather chaste, it DOES feel much more delightful and incredibly breath-taking when we see a REAL kiss rather than the statue-to-statue, lip-to-lip five minute stills. I think I'm going to continue shipping Cha Chi Soo and fangirling Jung Il Woo; no doubts there anymore.

Ack! I don't know if I can wait long for the next episode.


Related articles:
first impression: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop
thoughts: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop - mid-series thoughts
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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