Playful Kiss: Episodes 1-2 First Impressions

Playful Kiss…*sigh. I think it’s a bit obvious why it got low ratings in the beginning, but it’s also still quite entertaining. Episode 2 was waaaaaay better than episode 1, so let’s hope that it can only improve from there.

Spoilers will show up in this post!

In the first episode, it starts off with a fantasy dream sequence in a forest. Oh Ha Ni (Jung So Min) is sleeping in the forest when a prince – Baek Seung Jo (Kim Hyun Joong) comes and kisses her awake. So in the first minute, we already have a kiss. Whee. She wakes up and sees a white horse, and starts following it…

And follows it…

And follows it…

I think because of this overly long extended dream sequence, it’s easy to turn off viewers. In fact, I started wondering if I was watching the right drama. What makes this drama a winner is the tone and playful mood – but it goes overboard with its dream sequences and Ha Ni’s imaginations. Bong Joon Gu (Lee Tae Sung) and his sidekicks (the Annyong Bada band) are relegated to comic roles that are so exaggerated and over the top that it can become quite annoying. Similarly, Yoon He Ra (Lee Si Young) is very annoying as the junior student who clearly likes Seung Jo.

The drama seems to be really whimsical, and more out there than Goong (although – it’s the return of the teddy bears!! Yay!). That can be good or bad. It’s good in that there’s usually a twist to the dream sequence. For example, in the ballet scene, Ha Ni thinks that Seung Jo is going to embrace her, but instead he lifts her up and throws her away. Then in another biker gang sequence, she gives Seung Jo a choice: does he want to kiss her or date her? dater her or marry her? marry her or get buried? And he chooses to get buried. HEE. Even in her imagination she knows that Seung Jo will reject her. But the bad is – the scenes are SO. LONG. There are cartoon bits where animations of Ha Ni and Seung Jo show up on the student chart. Those animation bits are honestly all I’d need in this series – not over-extended dream sequences. They might have been fun to film (like the pillow fight-Matrix sequence in episode 2), but unnecessary.

But never fear! The drama does pick up in the latter half of episode 1 to 2. Once Joon Gu helps instigate the destruction of her house (ok, ok – it’s really an earthquake, but Joon Gu headbutting the door frame couldn’t have possibly helped), the story picks up. Now, Ha Ni must move in with Seung Jo.

Well – before that, she also admits that she likes him, and he rejects her, so she finally stands up to him. Thank goodness she did that in the first episode or else I would have hated her. She’s gutsy when she’s away from Seung Jo, but her bet to make the special study class makes her more charming. And him being forced to piggyback her? Well – he said it! He offered to do it!

So now that she has set her mind to proving Seung Jo that she’s not a stupid girl, she has to live with him. The mother is HILARIOUS. I love her – she’s one of those happy, frivolous, cutesy mothers who’s stuck with the two most boring sons in the world. The younger brother Eun Jo is mighty darn cute. It’s clear he wants his brother’s attentions, and Seung Jo is just darn too blase to care.

Speaking of Seung Jo – I like that he’s not overly arrogant and cold. He is, but he also just beats to his own drum. He doesn’t side with the students because he thinks they’re all dumb, but he doesn’t side with the teachers either, outing the vice principal’s harsh comments of the students. When he needs to show Ha Ni the way to school in the morning, he has her walk in front of him instead of behind him, for apparently no reason at all. In reality – he’s protecting her from a potential pervert flasher attacking her. With her in front, he’ll know if she’ll get assaulted. Sweet huh? He protects her later that night, and plays it cool (he wasn’t looking for her, oh no, he just happened to pass by after going to the grocery). But what’s funny is that the flasher begs for his forgiveness, and all Seung Jo cares about is her shoe. (By the way – I’m amazed that the flasher got a full wide shot and they just blurred out his body.. whew!)

His interaction with Ha Ni is best when it’s at home. In fact, the best SCENES are when they’re all under one roof. When he begins tutoring her, he gets so frustrated that he yells – and all the parents jump a mile back from the door. Yes – the parents were eavesdropping. LOL. (The parents are so lovable – even Seung Jo’s father isn’t some stiff guy – he jumps around hugging Ha Ni’s father like a little girl.) What’s nice is that Seung Jo isn’t completely aloof as he tutors her too – he realizes what the best way is to get her to understand logarithms and binary numbers – which is through pop culture references. Don’t understand why ‘x’ means an unknown number? Well – an unsolved case is an ‘X-file’ and the new generation that you don’t “understand” is called ‘Gen X’. So he’s kinda patient in that sense…

Other things I loved about their interaction: Seung Jo already acts like the cool older brother who doesn’t want to be seen with the pesky younger sister at school. He tells Ha Ni he refuses to interact with her… and then it turns out their PE uniforms were switched! HA! So he’s forced to call her out and find a “private” place to switch the uniforms. Of course, no where in the school grounds is private, and everyone witnesses their interaction through the windows. When Ha Ni teases him about the baby photo, it leads to a priceless chase around the tree.

Speaking of BABY PHOTOS – I love that the mom showed Ha Ni pictures of baby Seung Jo – DRESSED AS A GIRL!!!!!! Even Ha Ni was shocked. Too funny! (I think the mom is awesome in every scene she’s in.)

The drama is not hopeless, and Jung So Min is really doing a great job with her acting. I feel that she might be pulling the weight a little bit, but otherwise, she’s great as Ha Ni. She’s a little more frivolous than Yoon Eun Hye was in Goong but has certain natural charms (i.e. when she’s so talkative with Seung Jo, she bumps into a car. How random.) Kim Hyun Joong is… actually not bad! I enjoy him in this role! Lee Tae Sung – not so much. I’m sorry Tae Sung, but you are WAAAAY too ridiculous for me as the Busan student in love with Ha Ni.

Episode 2 ends with Ha Ni getting into the top 50 students who can use the special classroom. (Plot moves fast.) She’s super thankful, but her teacher stops Seung Jo from leaving. He promised to piggy back her if she got in, so why isn’t he doing it now? Ha Ni had voided that part of their bet when she asked for his tutelage, but the rest of the school doesn’t know that bit. I did major AAAACK when the episode ended on that.

It’s sad that the drama got such low ratings when it can definitely do better. Just cut to the chase director! And then you’ll have a winner!

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6 comments

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  1. gia 4 September, 2010 at 16:20 Reply

    Hey, thanks for the recap.
    I actually enjoy this drama a lot more than i expected. The second ep is indeed a lot better than the first one. Both leads are very good looking and cute. I like how they play their parts, quite suitable with the manga characters.

    I really don’t quite understand the rating system in Korea. Obviously, most of the youngsters are using internet instead of TV. So, is that making the rating, which’s only based on TV sensus, quite inaccurate?

    • kaedejun 4 September, 2010 at 16:26 Reply

      yeah – i’d agree that the ratings misrepresent the actual fan base and how many people are watching. after all – something like you’re beautiful got bad ratings, but a fervent fan base. and prosecutor princess was more popular in other countries than korea – thanks to internet. i’m sure that plenty of people are watching playful kiss – just not on TV. most are so hooked on to other stories that it’s hard for them to gain a footing against the dramas that are already airing. 😛

  2. aberdeen_angus 6 September, 2010 at 11:08 Reply

    Hmmm, I was expecting something better or funnier. All the Goong-vibes everyone’s getting are something really negative in my book. Goong was a snore fest and the characters were annoying as hell *sigh* At least, these one’s are a bit less boring and whiny.

    Oh, and the bears *rolls eyes*

    While maybe bombing isn’t completely fair, PK can’t even breath the same air that Baker King and Gumiho are enjoying so naturally.

    • kaedejun 6 September, 2010 at 21:01 Reply

      Hehe – I don’t know – I managed to laugh out loud – especially with Seung Jo’s mom. Goong was one of my FAAAAAAVEEEESSS so I guess that’s why I can enjoy this drama more. i admit that this drama doesn’t have much going on… the plot is moving really fast – they resolved issues within the episode, but it also makes each episode feel so long… but it makes me curious – is playful kiss going to pull something like BOF where the first two seasons are combined into one?

      playful kiss is playing on a different field than MGIG and BKKTG – the latter two are original scripts while PK is following a manga – it definitely can’t beat the “natural air” the other two are enjoying.

      • aberdeen_angus 7 September, 2010 at 07:57 Reply

        Well, I think I was going for the development of the series in my comparison. The fact that this one’s a retelling of a manga (btw, while I didn’t watch ISWAK, I read they got married?? I don’t see that happening here), doesn’t mean that it can’t be fresh. That quality depends on the director, actors and writers.

        After all, the cute-factor-without-story of GG or the melodrama of BK ain’t so new as concepts, but they managed to capture viewers’ hearts.

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