Romance Town is soon becoming not only the most addicting drama for me in May, but perhaps one of my favorites for the year. It also reminds me of Playful Kiss in a lot of ways, and not for the reasons you’re thinking of right now. Playful Kiss may be a drama that many hate, love, or are indifferent to, but for me, it’s a drama that I can easily talk about with anyone, either on paper or over the phone. Romance Town is then very similar in that regard, which is a really good thing in my books.
Let me put it this way: Romance Town inspires me to write, something that very few dramas can do. It’s rare for me to write about a drama, regardless of whether I like it or not. Take KBS’s President for example. I adore that drama to pieces because it introduced me to my I Lub You Choi Soo Jong, but during its entire run, I didn’t write about the drama at all. Oh, I may have spazzed over the awesomeness of CSJ in a post or two, but I haven’t been able to write about the drama itself. I don’t really know why, other than that I just can’t review it. On the other hand, my love for Romance Town is definitely strong. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be able to crank out this first impressions post in the first place.
So just why the heck do I like it so much? Well, based on the first four episodes that I’ve watched thus far, I think the answer lies with one person by the name of Jung Kyeo Woon. I love him as Gun Woo, pre-fatty days and post-skinny days. I’ve read a few comments all over the net about how he becomes such a douchebag since returning back from the States. I, however, believe he’s really just a misunderstood, big ol’ softie at heart. Given that he was also the dark sheep in the neighborhood, what being fat and all, he never had the chance to be adept at being sociable around others. There’s a stark difference between one that’s naturally ill-bred and faking an arrogant, condescending demeanor. In this case, Gun Woo is making a new identity for himself based on the usual Mr. Darcy type, but failing miserably, in a way.
During this past week, one of my drama friends asked me why I liked him so much in Romance Town. The conversation actually began with a question of whether the soundtrack was good, but I sheepishly responded that I hadn’t paid attention to it at all, only because Jung Kyeo Woon was distracting me most of the time. Hence, her next question was what made me such an ardent fan of his. I couldn’t really answer her at the time, and it wasn’t actually something I had thought about before. Was it his looks or his acting? Or was it his chemistry with his co-stars and the way he carried himself on the show? With Jung Kyeo Woon, it’s a combination of all of the above.
(I’m going to reiterate on what I said on kaedejun’s Romance Town Episode 3 recap and also add and elaborate more to my comments from yesterday. So if you’ve read my original comment, don’t be surprised if you see that I’ve included bits of it here as well.)
I tend to spazz and flail every goddamn time Jung Kyeo Woon comes onscreen. It’s like I have this automatic switch within me that just starts doing some crazy, hardcore dodo fangirling whenever he appears. I can’t help it. And I also just can’t stop squealing like a stuck pig and clapping my hands excitedly like a child because it’s Jung. Kyeo. Woon. Why this man is so sexy and charismatic is a question I’d like to ask the drama gods someday. Or maybe now.
I think the biggest appeal for me now is how he isn’t one of those stereotypical (non-existent) rich guys in a standard Kdrama. He’s far from perfect, which can be seen in how he’s first introduced to us. Everything about his behavior in the beginning was so awkward that I immediately cringed, though I also easily sympathized with his imperfect body weight and looks. It isn’t every day that we have a male lead that looks like he needs to clean up his life and build up his own inner strength and confidence.
The way he officially meets Sung Yuri’s Soon Geum the night before he leaves for New York is perhaps what we’d like to call a fateful encounter or another one of those calculative plot scenarios, but the way they hit it right off and became friends that night was well-executed. As probably the only female creature besides Granny who had ever looked on him and treated him favorably as a normal human being, instead of an overweight, awkward guy that society often looked down upon, Soon Geum immediately became his saving grace, captivating him. Though they separated that night after they met, neither was able to forget the other, but not exactly in a romantic way.
Obviously, he has a 180-degree change after he returns. Leaving Korea and his sheltered bubble was a positive thing for him. He’s figured out what he wants to do — standing up for himself against his father, and setting things straight to the world about his father’s illegitimate song. However, coming back home and finding his nanny gone was something totally unexpected. Moreover, finding Soon Geum in his nanny’s stead is even more shocking, making him feel somewhat betrayed. It certainly doesn’t sit well with him to have her living and working in the hated house that he grew up in, replacing the other woman who loved him unconditionally. To have her take his own nanny’s place without his permission must be quite unsettling.
Sung Yuri is doing quite well as Soon Geum, our lead heroine. I truly abhorred her Yi Nok character in Hong Gil Dong, which was also one of the main reasons why I dropped the drama midway through. In Romance Town, I like her directness and how she’s the type of heroine I admire rather than pity. Despite her low status situation, I have yet to actually feel sorry for her. She may come from a humble background with a low education, yet she’s got a good head on her shoulders from that makes her a heartwarming, character. She doesn’t give me the chance to sympathize for her, since before I know it, she’s rising against all her obstacles and getting back on her feet. Such an interesting contrast to Gun Woo — he may be rich, but man is he tortured — who seriously makes my heart ache for him.
I love how this story is going, with Gun Woo and Soon Geum further establishing their relationship in this episode. I’m diggin’ the chemistry, and loving how their relationship is at the awkward-yet-not-so-awkward-because-we-have-a-past stage, where the two don’t necessarily know exactly what to make of the other. I think that if she weren’t working as a maid at HIS house, and if there wasn’t this huge misunderstanding between them, they’d be a lot closer.
But that’s what makes their relationship so winning and fun. There’s definitely this awareness and attraction between them, particularly notable in the ending scene of three and the beginning of four, so I’ll be patient and wait for the past to be resolved. I’m also excited to see the friendship and romance really start to take a hold of this drama. I absolutely just can’t wait, because his “I like you and hate you” spiel at the end of 3 already had me going, WHEEEEE!
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m totally not buying his arrogant, douchebag-y demeanor — what with him kicking out Soon Geum from his house and treating her harshly, even when she’s done nothing wrong except to let herself be employed there. But then again, perhaps that’s exactly what’s ticking him off in the first place — the fact that she’s working at the one place where he hates AND that the only person that loved him in that dreadful house was the Granny, but who is now no longer there.
His actions may be sometimes uncalled for, yes, but I empathize with him. Plus, I don’t think he’ll keep this facade up for long, because that’s just not who I think he is, based on how he treated her back in episode 2, right when he got back from the U.S. There’s also these little hints and there that illustrate his affection for her, such as when he torments her with his teasing. One example would be when he grabs her lottery ticket — which he thinks is just a scrap of paper and doesn’t actually know that it’s a winning lottery ticket, hence not knowing that it’s quite valuable for her — and writes on it, then purposely keeps it out of her reach.
It’s akin to a little boy playfully harassing a girl he likes because he doesn’t know how to get her attention any other way, but knowing that pissing her off will get a reaction out of her, which is just what he wants. (Why boys need to do this, I’ll never understand.) Anyway, I can’t wait for more scenes with these two. They’re just awesome.
Young Hee and Soon Geum also have chemistry as well, but I don’t find this pairing as awesome for some reason. That reason, I think, is because Kim Min Joon is just not Jung Kyeo Woon. He’s funny and quirky in his own way – like how he puts up pretenses when there’s also more of him that we have yet to see – but he’s lacking the personal backstory that makes Gun Woo so wonderful. He just doesn’t grip me emotionally like Gun Woo, yet I know that there’s more of him that we have yet to find. Out of all the other chaebols in this cul-de-sac neighborhood, Young Hee is much more attentive of the maids. He’s also the only one where all the housemaids can act comfortably around, knowing that he doesn’t put on airs in front of them.
Kim Min Joon is known to be either a hit or miss in the amongst viewers. He had a major role back in 2003’s Damo, arguably his best performance to-date, and also stood out in 2009’s Friend, Our Legend. Despite two stellar performances in his career, he’s had more misses than hits, and was also unable to really showcase his acting in the rest of his drama projects.
It’ll be interesting to see how his part in this story unfolds. So far, I like him. But that might change in the near future, when I become more acquainted with his character. Because without the bromance, it’s just not as fun anymore.
As for the other characters, I find them all really interesting, some even endearing. I dislike both fathers for being irresponsible jerks and dumping unnecessary responsibility on their children, but at least we get a few, albeit brief glimpses that Soon Geum’s father does love his daughter, whereas Gun Woo’s dad seems to constantly belittle him. The crappy father figures notwithstanding, I enjoy seeing the other characters come to life. In particular are the maids.
I love how they aren’t just written off as some side character in a drama, but that they each have their own story as well. I’m lovin’ how we can get a glimpse into their lives and also see what’s going on in the chaebol households. They most certainly get into scrapes and arguments on a regular basis, but their mutual camaraderie and how they look out for everyone is truly wonderful, bringing a depth to these characters that I have yet to see in other similar scenarios. In many Kdramas, characters such as these would be totally disregarded and tossed aside, only meant to resurface when the drama needed some quick comic relief. That’s not the case that we see in Romance Town, where the lives of these women actually elevate the story, and makes it original and fresh.
Min Hyo Rin is the other leg in the love square, er, triangle relationship. She’s currently being overshadowed by the Gun Woo-Soon Geum/Young Hee-Soon Geum pairing right now, but I’m glad that the writer does drop enough hints so that we know she’ll be the other leading candidate in running for Young Hee’s affections. Other than that, I don’t feel especially pulled to her character at all. For now, she’s meant to be just another cute housemaid, though, just like Soon Geum, one that’s also unafraid to speak her mind.
There’s so much to be said about Romance Town, even though only four episodes have been released. It’s truly a great show that surpassed my initial expectations and is definitely upping the ante by tweaking a storyline we think we’ve all heard before, and throwing it back at us in a way that’s totally unexpected. It’s refreshing and fun, making this a drama I look forward to with great zeal. God, I cannot freaking wait for Wednesdays now. This drama is THE shiz, yo!