Dating Agency: Cyrano – A Review

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I wish I recapped this series! This drama was the cute fun that I needed after watching Nine: Nine Time Travels, and it never failed in making me feel good. A happy tone, bright colors, and wonderful cameos, this drama was for the lighthearted and those seeking something easy to watch.

A brisk romantic comedy, Dating Agency: Cyrano follows Gong Min Young (a refreshingly wonderful Sooyoung from SNSD), a matchmaker who works for a dating agency. When one of her matches goes wrong, she discovers that her plans were foiled by the Cyrano Dating Agency, headed by Seo Byung Hoon, a.k.a Seo Il Rok (because it sounds like Sherlock), a.k.a Lee Jong Hyuk. He, along with Moo Jin (Hong Jong Hyun) and Ah Rang (Jo Yoon Woo), hatch plans that seem perfectly natural, but are really set-ups between their clients and their target.

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When Min Young is fired for her careless match, she goes to Cyrano. While Byung Hoon refuses to admit that he needs her on his team, she adds the needed emotional factor (and a woman’s touch) that also helps make their missions a success. She and Byung Hoon constantly clash over the ideals on love. Byung Hoon has been scarred before, having lost the woman of his dreams to his best friend, who then died in a car accident. To honor his friend’s memory, Byung Hoon wants to be a big named producer for their Cyrano Theater, but is so debt-ridden that he must run the dating agency as a side business.

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His debts are collected by ‘Master’ (Lee Chun Hee), the owner of the restaurant next door that maintains a mysterious persona until we learn that he’s Byung Hoon’s friend’s younger brother. And an ex-gangster. He holds a grudge against Byung Hoon for his brother’s death, but even more so when he finds himself in a love triangle between Byung Hoon and Min Young.

Byung Hoon knows that Master likes Min Young, and doesn’t feel confident enough to profess his love (even though he’s a master scriptwriter when it comes to romantic lines). But when Min Young ends up in a life-or-death situation, Byung Hoon finds the courage within himself to admit his feelings, while Master finds the courage to step away for his love’s happiness.

The Actors

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First, I’d like to cover the cameos. It was such a feat to have the guest stars come on to the show, from Ji Jin Hee and Lee Chung Ah and Choi Won Young (who will be in the upcoming Heirs), Lee Yoon Ji and Lim Hyung Joon (probably better known for his movies like I Am the King and Taegukgi), Tae Min of SHINee, Lee Kwang Soo and Goo Eun Ae (who’s better known as a model I believe), Gong Yoo and Jung Yoo Mi. The list goes on. For some they were just so perfect in their roles; I thought Lee Yoon Ji and Lee Kwang Soo’s story lines were perfect for their characters because they’re so good at acting neurotic and awkward respectively. Lee Chung Ah’s cameo only made me giggle because she had been in Flower Boy Ramen Shop, the first of the Oh Boy! series for tvN. Gong Yoo and Jung Yoo Mi’s cameo was short-lived and disappointing, but kinda funny when you think that their last collaboration was for the dark, serious, sickening film “The Crucible”. But while I relished that each cameo lasted approximately two episodes, the last mission between the Nurse Lee Hae Shim and the fireman Kim Chul Soo was a bit too long for me. Three episodes centering around them?! It’s not that their storyline wasn’t touching (it was), but it was too long for me because I wanted them to move on to the next mission already.

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As for the rest of the cast, I have to admit that Sooyoung was a delightful surprise. Being a K-pop idol certainly made me skeptical of her skills (Jessica certainly scarred me for Wild Romance). I had never seen in her in a drama before, but it was hilarious to discover that Sooyoung was in A Gentleman’s Dignity as herself, and Lee Jong Hyuk had gone ga-ga over her there. She definitely embodied the free-spirited, optimistic Min Young, and in a way I’d like to think that’s how she is in real life.

Lee Jong Hyuk was amazing; never have I doubted his acting, but never have I felt so fuzzy all over seeing him be aloof to Sooyoung, and yet finally admitting his love with a whisper. It’s oh-so-Lost In Translation-esque, but less frustrating because I think I know what he said (whereas in the Sofia Coppola movie I didn’t at all), and it makes me giggle with delight. Hong Jong Hyun was unfortunately stiff; in almost all the dramas I’ve seen him in, he seems to play the straight guy all the way through – and by ‘straight’ I mean ‘stiff’. I wish he did more with his character, Moo Jin; if Moo Jin was meant to be a straight up computer geek who was awkward around girls, I would have preferred it if he took a leaf out of Park Ki Woong’s book in Story of a Man. Jo Yoon Woo was the token ‘flower boy’ and honestly – not that much different from his character in Flower Boy Ramen Shop. I have to say, that was a little disappointing.

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As always, there’s some mystery surrounding the characters’ backgrounds. Immediately we see it with Lee Chun Hee’s character, Master, because we don’t know his name in the beginning and we always got scary music or lingering shots of him that suggested an evil aura. Initially I didn’t like the cliche presentation of Master as someone who’s nice on the outset, and but really devious. It felt reminiscent of Flower Boy Next Door, regarding Oh Jin Rak (Kim Ji Hoon) and his background. But thankfully we figured it out that he’s (a) a former gangster, and (b) he’s the younger brother of Byung Hoon’s best friend. Though his revenge was understandable, it was a relief to see him change because of love, in accordance with the drama’s themes. I didn’t think his secret identity added much to the drama as we already knew that Byung Hoon was conflicted and torn up about his friend’s death. We didn’t need a brother who hid his identity to come in and threaten to take over the agency, when really the love triangle and the jealousy was enough of an impetus to want to take it over. Or to at least ruin Byung Hoon.

The Plot

A straightforward romantic comedy, I didn’t expect anything remarkable. In fact, I just wanted the laughs and the cute. And this drama delivered just that. There were some themes about love and sincerity – how honesty is the best policy, but how sometimes a little lie goes a long way – that were tried and tested true, but it’s still refreshing to see it play out when it comes to manipulating other people’s love lives. While the antagonist of the last couple of episodes found it an absolute sin to play with people’s hearts, the truth of the matter is even without the agency’s help, one would have to play that “game” of manipulation to get the girl/guy. Don’t hate the players, hate the game. So I never found it bothersome that they were manipulating people into falling in love.

There was also an element of the ‘Noble Idiot’ in the last few episodes, when Byung Hoon thought he wasn’t worthy for Min Young and could never make her happy. It was infuriating that he was a better teacher than an actual ‘doer’; he could tell others how to confess their feelings and act out on their love, but he couldn’t do it himself because he was always sacrificing his own feelings for the sake of others. I know this drama is meant to be based on “Cyrano de Bergerac”… but still!

(I did find some overlaps with “Emma” by Jane Austen as well. Aside from the obvious references to “Cyrano,” I also think Min Young is the Mr. Knightley to Byung Hoon’s Emma.)

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The last five minutes of the drama was cute, but also out of nowhere. I wasn’t particularly sure if the dating agency still existed and was still working, but it was random how she just introduced their potential client to Byung Hoon, and kisses him right in front of her. Um – awkward? As a potential client, I don’t think I’d want to watch two people kissing and forgetting about me and my love woes! It was an odd way to have our leads kiss, because you know you wouldn’t be satisfied with them just holding hands, hugging, or smiling at each other.

It took a while for me to accept the last three episodes though, with its kidnapping arc and all. I didn’t feel like it was set up very well because it seemed like it came out of nowhere. The only hints we had at something sinister going on was when we’d see Mr. Hawaiian Shirt come to the restaurant every day and give Hye Ri one odd look. But it wasn’t enough to make me think he was going to be such a threat – until he was. I had thought he was the token extra who was just going to be in every episode doing his own thing, sort of giving the drama the semblance of a normal reality (considering that these theatrical matchmaking situations felt out of the ordinary).

While Mr. Hawaiian Shirt really just wanted revenge for his own failed romance, I sometimes wonder if it’s possible that everything he did was an over-exaggerated set-up to make Byung Hoon admit his love for Min Young. Similar to the mission between the veterinarian and the librarian, they created insane scenarios to make him look like a spy so that she’d think he’d be more exciting. Here, Mr. Hawaiian Shirt threatened to kill Min Young just to get Byung Hoon to save her, and admit that he really did care a lot for her. Imagine if this was all a concoction between Hye Ri, Moo Jin, and Ah Rang! How crazy would that be?!

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Overall Impressions

I was very sad when the drama ended, even though 16 episodes really is the perfect length for this drama. It got to the point where I actually had a vivid dream of me as Min Young, falling in love with Byung Hoon, and watching Cyrano plays all day. Literally. No lie.

It’s not a great drama. It’s a happy drama. It served its purpose in being sweet and yummy in between two melodramas that will bookend it (Nine: Nine Time Travels and Who Are You?). It also reminded me why I liked Korean dramas so much – because I don’t think I can get anything as sweetly satisfying like this through American TV shows.

Verdict: 8.5/10 – a solid score for a cast with chemistry and a plot full of fun.

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