Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Kdrama Review: To The Beautiful You (2012)

To The Beautiful You
아름다운 그대에게

To the Beautiful You snagged my attention the first time I heard it was to be made back in summer 2012, and for good reason. It hadn’t been that long since I had finished Japan’s first Jdrama version of this apparently timeless manga story Hana Kimi. My brain exploded. Korea? Is remaking this? With an idol cast? Save me now… Which is to say, from the moment episode 1 became subbed and available, I was on board – but for all the wrong reasons.

The story should be a familiar one for most drama watchers. American born Korean girl Goo Jae Hee (Sulli from f(x)) cuts her hair, moves to Korea, and dresses up as a boy to attend an all-males sports focused high school for pretty boys, and ends up rooming with the star of her life, a former legend at the high jump Kang Tae Joon (Minho from SHINee). The reasons and explanations vary from version to version, but basically her aim is inspire the injured and lackluster former star back into jumping. And for some reason, Jae Hee thinks she’s the only person capable of doing this – also that she can pull off such an undercover feat without being caught. Why am I picking bones with the story? It’s a manga. We should just be cool with it. 

More on the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly coming up! (No Spoilers)

Oddly enough, that is also my mentality when it comes to idol-actors, especially when presented in such concentration as they are in TTBY. Be cool with it, even if they can’t act themselves out of a paper bag. Sulli is one of the least convincing gender-bender girls I’ve ever seen on the small screen, and Minho has about 2 emotions – concentrated and cuteness. But if we emphasis the cuteness, we begin to see how I could enjoy this drama (twice!) despite all predilections to hating it. It helps that the cast is rounded up by a few other non-idol actors. My main love: Lee Hyun Woo’s Cha Eun Gyul (aka Puppy – thank you Adverse Affects recaps for the renaming ceremony). 

Everyone just hitching a ride back to the dorm. 
In case you missed that –yes, I watched this drama twice. And the first time I fast-forwarded through half of the latter episodes. It sucked. Waste of time. I gave it a crappy rating with an average of 5.5. Except that after a few months I realized I missed watching this, my weekly dose of mindless storytelling and puppy dog cuteness (both the boy Puppy and the actual dog Lettuce/Sangchu). I even missed Minho’s blank expressions. So when my mother arrived for the weekend, she who is still relatively new to the world of Kdrama, and hesitant to watch EVERY fabulous drama first, I recommended something I noted was “not great, but not bad”. I admit it - I needed an excuse. 14 hours later, we’d watched 14 episodes before I passed out, and she continued to the end. Hot damn, but I’m getting too old for dramathons! 

The Good

As far as light summer fun goes, TTBY is a breeze. It doesn’t make your brain work, and it certainly won’t throw you for any loops in the plot. The drama’s at it best when it focuses on the students and their relationships with one another. 

Say kimchi!!
Jae Hee and Tae Joon form the nuclear family with Puppy in the love triangle, but even this group is often accompanied by a broader crowd: petulant second girl Han Na (Kim Ji Won), dorm leader Seung Ri (Suh Joon Young), fellow high jumper Hyung Jae (Kang Ha Neul, now starring in Monstar), and chapstick slapstick Jong Min (ZE:A’s Kwanghee). Aside from the girl, the camaraderie between them all is most endearing. There is also a particularly fun couple-episode cameo from Woo Bin. Hooray! 

Oh we so cute and happy together
I’m also embarrassingly enamored by the cuteness factor that is Jae Hee and Tae Joon’s love story. Putting aside the unrealism of the rest of the plot, there is something completely squee-worthy about Tae Joon’s discovery of the girl living in his midst, and his hesitancy to reveal the knowledge. Minho even redeems himself for his general bad acting when he’s being cute and secretive, obviously enamored by the girl-in-disguise, and blushing more and more profusely as the episodes drag on. 

She just got out of the shower... *gulps*

Kdramas don’t always seem to pick up on the rampancy of teenage hormones (preferring instead the noble romance of a few lip presses), yet here in a school full of boys, it’s fairly obvious where Tae Joon’s mind often wanders. His attempts at self-control and discipline (aka lots of manly push-ups) are some of the funniest scenes I’ve ever seen.

Capturing heartbreak AS it happens
Let’s not forget Puppy either, because as the 2nd lead guy destined to fail in love, Lee Hyun Woo’s role was faultless. He is earnest and lovable, a good friend and so loyal, and while he might not compare to the perfection that was Ikuta Toma’s Nakatsu in the Japanese edition, I can’t see any way in which he was lacking. Even his bowl haircut makes it impossible for you to dislike him. Cha Eun Gyul (and others have made a connection between him and a possible Coffee Prince nod) is in a class of his own and shows a real distinction between his usual cute selca-taking self and the bewildered lovestruck boy who doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do with all the feels. Oh the torment! Both his and our own watching him. 

The Bad

Sadly, the pacing isn’t perfect and the drama drags horrendously at times. Some dramas may gain from overall plotlessness, but when it starts to feel like the entire script is being written around whatever new product the show wants to peddle this episode – Zzzzzzzzzzz…. 

I'm the best thing to have ever happened to this show.
See the bow? It's because I'm awesome!
I also don’t dig many of the side plots, including but not limited to the teachers’ interactions and romantic-ish feels (which seem forced), anything involving Tae Joon’s dad and manager (takes too much time away from the cute), and about every scene with Han Na. Every time she abuses Jae Hee, I want to wring her pretty little neck. The fact that she gets a redemption angle by the end annoys me greatly. Whatever happened to just desserts? Purposely writing in a pity party for such characters has always been a pet peeve of mine. Sadly, it’s a common occurrence in Kdramas. They like to pretend that everyone is human and makes mistakes or acts badly because of some reason, but selfish immaturity on such a level as hers is a little too much for me to forgive and like. 

The Ugly

Sulli? Is that you??


Not for everyone, and not for any mood. Be advised that ridiculousness will prevail, cuteness might cause an explosion in your ovaries, and you may just start craving that new pair of New Balance sneakers and a Samsung Gallery Note. Hope your pocket books will be okay. Good luck!


  1. I should finish this drama. It was not nearly as good as I hoped it would be, but I think I would gladly watch more of the cute. Minho's character's jealously is pretty funny to look at.
    It does drag a lot, though. The slow pace is probably why I haven't yet finished the show. And the plot is far from being logical. But it can be quite entertaining despite all that. It's one of those switch-off-your-brain-and-enjoy kind of dramas.

    1. I think I never expected it to be good, therefore I was fine with it, hehe. Minho really is was an unexpected gem though (for his cute looks and jealousy alone) ;)

  2. Replies
    1. That boy is so adorable. I even didn't mind his bowl hair cut the 2nd time around. xD

  3. Ahhh Cha Eun Gyul was my fave, I was torn between him and Tae Joon, but we all know about the curse of the second lead -___-
    Great blog! :D