Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: Playful Kiss Review

I have a major love/hate relationship with the Korean Drama, Playful Kiss. Before I delve into the negative aspects, let me just tell you that despite hating its overall message, I was completely enthralled, couldn't stop watching, and actually finished it to the end. So, here is the good, the bad, and the ugly in Playful Kiss. I'll let you be the final judge for yourself. 

The Good 

This drama was rarely boring. It had a whimsical feel at the beginning that I really enjoyed, and kept a light hearted and fun mood throughout. The characters were funny and entertaining. The female lead, Oh Ha Ni, is played by the beautiful and charming, Jung So-min. The male lead, Baek Seung Jo is played by the kdrama hotty, Kim Hyun-joong. They had pretty great chemistry and I really wanted to see them fall in love and have a healthy, caring relationship. 


Source
The side characters were endearing and had their own interesting little stories, like good kdrama side characters should. I particularly loved Seung Jo's mother. She was hilarious and over-the-top, yet adorable. I can only hope my future mother in-law will be as great as her. She is pretty much the farthest thing from your typical kdrama matriarch. 


Source
The love triangle was believable, and the female rival was totally gorgeous and hate-able, like a good kdrama female villain should be. The story kept me engaged and wanting more at the end of every episode, and even at the end of the series. 


The Bad


Unlike most kdramas, I can explain the plot in one sentence: Playful Kiss is about a simpleminded high school girl whose sole ambition in life is to be with an arrogant, hot guy who despises her but eventually tolerates and loves her. That's it. I kept waiting for there to be more, but nothing. No real character growth for anyone. Oh Ha Ni is likable and pure hearted, which somewhat makes up for her simplemindedness, but she never has any pride or self respect when others put her down. This is so unlike typical kdrama female leads, who I love for their spunk and back bones. 

Characteristic, pouty, "I don'ts understand" face.
I had so little respect for Oh Ha Ni for never standing up for herself that I actually had a really hard time understanding why the male lead ended up with her rather than the smart and beautiful, but evil, female in the love triangle. They seemed like a better match. That should not happen in a kdrama! I really thought that eventually Oh Ha Ni would gain her own dream and be empowered, but no. She claimed that her only dream in life was to follow Baek Seung Jo wherever he went. I had a glimmer of hope when she finally decided to apply herself to become a nurse, but it was only because he was becoming a doctor. At literally the last minute of the series, Oh Ha Ni seems to find her own motivation to become a nurse, but it was too little, too late for me.

Update: Need an Oh Na Hi antidote? Check out our list of smart kdrama female leads


The Ugly


Even worse, Baek Seung Jo was just plain mean and condescending to Oh Ha Ni the whole time. Most kdrama guys start out mean and arrogant, but they usually learn and grow and have a change of heart. This just never happened for him, so it made it hard for me to like him. I missed the old Kim Hyun-joong from the his Boys Over Flowers Days. This character was about as completely opposite from Yoon Ji-hoo as you can get. I'm not going to lie and say that he wasn't attractive at all in this drama. Every time he actually decided to be nice and flashed one of his cute smiles, I was suckered into liking him. 


But him smiling was pretty rare, and definitely did not counteract their emotionally abusive relationship. He treated her like a child, and she seemed insecure of his love for her even after they were married.

This Sums Up Their Relationship
Source
This being said, remember that Playful Kiss was one of those dramas that I could not stop watching against my better judgment. You could say I had an abusive relationship with Playful Kiss. I really loved it while I was watching it because I kept thinking it would change. Every time it did a little, I forgave it and fell back in love, but in the end it had never really changed deep down. My best advice for Playful Kiss is to only watch it if you can look past the sexist, unempowering to women message, and the lack of character growth, and just sit back and be entertained by cute, funny actors. I'm glad I watched it because it's one of those dramas I love to hate. 

What did you think of it? Comment below. 

675x90


Places to Watch Playful Kiss

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

34 comments:

  1. You're so right about having the female lead have her own ambition and pride in herself! If she can't stand up for herself then I feel like the bad boy plus good girl relationship just doesn't work like it should.

    I think this is the final nail in the coffin for me watching this one right now. I know that Playful Kiss is based off a manga and that there are a lot of other television adaptations. (I think there's a two-shot Taiwanese version and a Japanese version which is currently airing.) I hate to skip over a K-Drama in favour of starting else where, but I'm thinking of watching one of the higher praised versions first and then coming back to this one later to compare.

    I just worry that the sexist tone will be there no matter where I look...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I just watched the first episode of the Japanese version and it will be interesting to see if she's any better. I'm not getting my hopes too high though, either, since it's based off a manga.

      Delete
    2. Hi
      i would rec you watch the T version, i loooooved it i have watched this show in all versions and the T one is the one that stuck with the real original line of the manga the most

      hope you like it too :p

      Delete
  2. I wholeheartedly advocate just skipping it if you aren't feeling it! I used to feel obligated to finish every one, but there are too many awesome k-dramas to waste time on the ones that you know won't pay off in the end!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ok so PK was the first drama I ever finished. I tried two shows previously and had almost given up on the whole genre, but this show made me a K-Pop addict. I completely agree with you though; I would never recommend this show to a feminist.

    That being said I think the reason so many people love this version is because Oh Ha Ni loves at a level most people only dream of. That level of commitment...I wouldn't work that hard for a parking space let alone a boy who seems to not know I exist. Ha Ni represents the hope of finding a love that is worth fighting for and knowing in your heart that you truly want it because you are the light to that person's dark.

    P.S. I think Seung Jo had character growth, but it's so subtle that most people think he just stays grumpy and self righteous. Of all the versions I've seen in this he is the most stoic so it's those minor smiles or chuckles that represent his growth. By the end of the show when he's not yelling at Oh Ha Ni because he's mad it's because he's trying to help her.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Firstly, I sooo love your blog! I am a new kdrama fan and I do reviews on my personal blog too. I was about to write a review about playful kiss this week! Love love love kim hyun joong...I just found the female lead annoying and clingy hahaha...oh well..I will definitely be back here reading your blog! :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! Your blog looks really interesting! I'm excited to read more about your life and culture :)

      Delete
    2. Thanks!! I finally got to writing the review for this show. Took me so long as I was really busy. Here it is if you wanna read it. Haha.

      http://voicingmythoughts.tumblr.com/post/51393790418/k-review-playful-kiss

      Delete
  5. Smart is incredibly sexy to me. Thst is the only reason I watched the whole drama. If the male lead was dumb I would never have made it

    ReplyDelete
  6. I am an indian.I loved the PK serial.aww! such a lovely actors i have ever seen.This is the first korean serial i watched. looking forward to watch such youthful and love stories.

    Please give me a list of those.:)

    Thanks
    Divya

    ReplyDelete
  7. My relationship with Playful Kiss is pretty complicated too. It's like 40% love and then 60% shame for loving it. However, to this day, it remains one of my favorite dramas I have ever watched. Yes, it's sexist. Yes, it's silly. But in many ways, it's heartwarming and pure.
    I think Seung-Jo did have character growth in the drama. It was subtle and it was slow, but it was definitely there. He was pretty much a straight up jerk in the first couple episodes. I think the whole turning point for him was when he finally admitted to himself that he loved Ha Ni. Like when Hae Ra told him that the reason he was so mean to her all the time was that she was like a problem that he couldn't find the answer to. That was Seung Jo's problem all along; he's so used to being able to do everything and be good at it that when Ha Ni came in to his life and pretty much turned it upside down and then some, he got scared like all men do. And yes, it was annoying toward the end how Seung Jo was still cold toward Ha Ni after they were married. But he was warmer toward Ha Ni than he's ever been toward anyone. And most of the time, he was trying to help her become a more independent person than be mean to her.
    Of course, Oh Ha Ni's character was pitiful at times, but if you look at it that way, wasn't Boon Joon Gu's character the same? He was pretty much the male version of Ha Ni: no matter how many times she rejected him, he still loved her. So, I feel like it wasn't trying to be sexist at all but rather show how love can make a person literally insane. And that yes, it's hard, but if your love is deep enough, it will all work out.
    This is a drama that I have unknowingly went back to over and over again. It's funny and light and makes us feel good. Isn't that all we want in a Kdrama? So don't look over Playful Kiss because of it's sometimes sexist tendencies; watch it because it's fun.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those are some good points. It is definitely worth a watch if you take a lighthearted approach to it.

      Delete
  8. I can not tell anyone how much I HATE Playful Kiss. I barely made it through. I just have a supreme dislike to any drama where the girl looks like a total idiot drooling after the guy (granted, Kim Hyun-joong is pretty hot). It was cringe-worthy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the backup on this one! There are a lot of diehard fans!

      Delete
  9. " No real character growth for anyone. Oh Ha Ni is likeable and pure hearted, which somewhat makes up for her simplemindedness, but she never has any pride or self respect when others put her down"

    YES! YES! ONE HUNDRED TIME YES! I disliked the series for exactly this reason. I actually felt that there was *some* growth and humanising of Baek Seung Jo, but zero development of Oh Ha Ni until almost the very end. My wife and I both very much preferred the youtube specials - THEY showed character development that was missing from the series proper, imho.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll have to check out the youtube specials and see if they change my mind at all.

      Delete
  10. i will admit i completely hated how the show started off. the first episode annoyed me beyond the point of acceptance. i feel that first episodes are supposed to draw you in, which in some ways it did. i chose to continue to watch it because i truly wanted to see how the relationships with Oh Ha Ni would work out[with seung jo, his family, hae ra, and Joon gu]. i enjoyed it for the most part and i think your opinion on the show was very accurate. i really wish Oh Ha Ni did not basically make herself a part of Seung Jo's Shadow [following him around and basically copying the things he does]but overall it was indeed a good show, that kept you entertained yet a little annoyed.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I agree so much with this review. She had no pride or self empowerment and it just made me so frustrated! When she said she didn't have any other ambition then to follow Baek Seung Jo around my mouth dropped, The heroin of this story was terrible, I didn't like her character at all and I think that made her acting skills that much more intolerable, the whole lip biting thing and naive stupidity got under my skin. I hated it. And then there's the hero of the story if you could even call him a "hero" he was so cold and crass the whole time I began to dislike him more and more. I was patiently waiting the whole series for a change of character like any normal drama where the lead male begins to have a change of heart mid way through the series, but no, playful kiss surprises me yet again, leaving it till the last 2-3 episodes to give Baek Seung Jo a little sincerity. All in all, it was frustrating until those last episodes. the heroin had no back bone and the hero is a complete jackass. I would say that it was a mediocre show at best but I just finished watching it and I'm not satisfied, maybe one day in the future when I reminisce of this series I'll come to miss it but for now its just impossible.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Ha ha ha...
    But i love this drama.....

    ReplyDelete
  13. I completely understand the negative reactions to this show, but I loved it. It's been many months since I've seen it (as you say, Vivi, there are so many other dramas to get through -- and so little time! --- it's tough to go back and re-watch any), so I'd have to go back to it to more clearly express what I saw in it that absolutely bowled me over so positively.

    Definitely, part of it is that, for reasons I'm not quite sure of, I've LONG been a fan of the Korean language, so a chance to listen to it bears its own pleasures. Though, strangely, I couldn't for the life of me say why I decided to try K-dramas at all.

    As to the specific appeal of the show, here's what little and vague thoughts I can remember. I very quickly became attached to the cast, in part due to their surface appeal, but also was surprised at the quality and uniqueness of the banter. It really is quite different and, in a way, more clever than stuff offered by Western TV. Also, where others saw Ha Ni as weak, I saw her as strong in her sincerity and other qualities that made her unusually genuine. She wasn't without her human flaws, of course, but as the show progressed, she made genuine efforts to improve herself, NOT just to win Seung Jo, but because she understood she needed to mature.

    But the BIGGEST reasons I absolutely FELL IN LOVE with this show, and subsequently with K-dramas in general, is this very UN-Western focus on admirable, wholesome, noble themes such as genuine love, family, sacrifice, selflessness. I LOVE how the family and friends dynamics are not the dysfunctional paradigms we Westerners seem to crave. There's genuine affection and thoughtfulness among friends and family to put others before yourself. I am getting teary-eyed now just thinking about it!!! :\ THAT is what I love most about K-dramas and the thematic thread I see through every one I've tried so far.

    I will try to make time to go back through this particular show and post a review somewhere to be more clear about why I love it and also address the very valid negatives people here have brought up.

    As always, a pleasure to come to this site, Vivi!! Fighting!!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi! You should watch the Taiwanese version of this drama, It Started With a Kiss, with Ariel Lin and Joe Cheng as the leads. You wouldn't think that the story is boring and you would even love the female lead. They did this drama soooo much better. The female lead is stupid and a no brainer but in the taiwanese version at least she is funny and clumsy to the point of crying tears and literally rolling on the floor and you can see the male lead's character slowly evolve and build up his love or her. The actors are 200% better than in Playful Kiss and the story is engagingly done. That was my first Asian drama ever and I have watched it at least 20 times already and never get bored of it. Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yup, the Taiwanese version is at least 200% better, better acting, better showing his growing attachment to her, and Jiro Wang is in it... I love Jiro. ISWAK was my 3rd or 4th Taiwanese drama, but i have found that the Taiwanese version of just about anything is better than the Kdrama version. with the exception of shining inheritance, the Taiwanese remake - i didn't even make it a whole episode. But i love Meteor Garden (aka Boys over Flowers), especially since it was filmed when i was in high school and i could relate to everyone a bit more.

      i love my kdramas, but the Taiwanese versions go not get enough credit, nor spotlight.

      Delete
  15. I just finished watching it and really liked it. It's a high school rom-com and you shouldn't expect it to be more than that. But it is funny, cute and romantic. It's true that the main characters are flawed but I don't think Ha Ni and Seung-Jo need to change. The point is that they balance each other out.

    ReplyDelete
  16. The main female lead was so DUMB I just couldn't pass by that. I actually hate her till now

    ReplyDelete
  17. I have watched the drama in the holiday, then when I finished episode 14 I realized how dumb I was for wasting my holiday on it, I mean come on this show is sending a bad message, if your crush treated you like shit just keep following him and don't stop loving till he love you back, really ?? When I started watching the first episodes I thought it would be interesting so I'm really disappointed of how the story turned into.. it was blah

    ReplyDelete
  18. I think this show started the birth of sasaeng fans. I didn't think it was cute in anyway except that crazy mother because she was funny. Imagine if Oh Ha Ni was Ugly, would it still be ok to follow him around? I think not. Just beacuse shes cute doesn't make it ok to stalk people. tsk

    ReplyDelete
  19. I enjoyed the series but agree that Oh Ha Ni needed a focus that didn't rely on Seung Jo although some cultures still encourage the mindset that the woman's world should revolve around her husband and children so in some ways, she's normal for Asian culture. I also missed Ji Hoo (BoF) but KHJ did SO much better as far as showing some emotion as compared to the Japanese version which I really didn't like at all! The Japanese version put a lot of "ham" in with the "cheese" leading me to think that it followed the manga closer but as I'm not an anime/manga fan I didn't appreciate the awful (purposely done) acting. There at the end of the series you started getting glimpses of the couple really seeing each other and Ha Ni learning to interpret Seung Jo's dry wit and see through to how much he really loved her.

    ReplyDelete
  20. but i really enjoyed this drama,, others may call it stupid but yeah maybe i need stupidity in my life,,, watched it twice already and will still remain as my favorite k drama ever,, and i watched also the taiwan version athough i love ariel but i prefer this one,, ,,,

    ReplyDelete
  21. but i still preferred playfull kiss than the taiwan version,,,

    ReplyDelete
  22. this is my absolute favorite love story. It's not a love story that I want to have or that people should strive for but it works for them. It works simply because Baek Sung Jo and Oh Ha Ni are complete opposities of each other. Neither of them are normal. But they work together because they help each other. They make each other better. A lot of people hate playful kiss because oh ha ni's life ambition is to be with a guy who barely aknowledges her. But cold hearted Baek Sung Jo needs a person like a warm hearted Oh Ha Ni. And Oh Ha Ni needs a person like Baek Sung jo who knows exactly how to motivate her to do her best. For them, this love story is perfect and will always be my favorite.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I really love this drama! I have watched the anime adaptation (Itazura na Kiss) and I love how Playful Kiss really brought the characters to life. JSM is adorable. I have some issues with OHN's characterization at first (but I don't think Playful Kiss really has a say in it because it just followed the original manga story) but I love how they made her really likable. Like even though she's so in love with BSJ, I just can't help but cheer for her.

    KHJ, on the other hand, fits his character to a tee!!! I like him better here than in Boys Over Flowers. Although I must say, JSM is on a completely different level when it comes to acting. KHJ still has a long way to go but I love how he has managed to portray the many layers of BSJ.

    I've seen a lot of people getting turned off with this drama, mainly because of the two lead's characterizations. Though I must admit that this drama is flawed, and sometimes I want to slap OHN to reality and make her realize how bad BSJ is treating her, but then again, this is as real as it gets! Even I have experienced being hopelessly in love over someone, and sometimes when we're in love, we become irrational. (although OHN is sometimes borderline stalker-obsessed here but hey it's not a Korean drama without the exaggerations). This drama is a slice-of-life, about young love that eventually blossomed into a happy married life. I watched Playful Kiss because it's one big ball of fluff and lighthearted mush. I watched it because I want to be entertained and be able to think back on my carefree high school days with nostalgia. If you think OHN is a poor example of how a woman should be in love, then you clearly haven't been in love. OHN is not without faults, and I'm sure there are also a lot of guys out there who are like BSJ (btw read BSJ's Diary, it sheds an entirely new light on his character), but for all it's worth, their pairing is one of the real-est I have seen in the Asian drama world. My OTP forever!

    And, Yoon Hae Ra is no different either, right? Sure, she's classier, smarter, and more discreet. But same part-time job as BSJ? Tutoring the same kid? Really now, why does OHN get all the backlash?

    I'm sure, in one way or the other, we have laughed with OHN. We gushed with her during those times that BSJ warms up to her. We cried with her. We become frustrated at her. We become angry at her. Heck, I even wished (for one moment) that she end up with Bong Joon Gu instead! But it's her persistence that endeared me to her. A woman in love is really scary sometimes.

    Overall, this drama rewards loyalty. Watch all 16 episodes. Development might be slow but the ending is worth it! Even though the wedding and honeymoon scenes did not live up to my expectations, the 7-episode specials really made up for everything! Seeing OHN finally fulfilling her dream as a nurse, and BSJ finally expressing his love for her (that birthday episode is something!) totally warmed my heart.

    This drama will remain to be one of my favorites. Not the best out there. Not the most emotionally gripping. Not the most thought provoking. Not a tearjerker. Not award-winning. But one of the cutest, most heartwarming, and real-est Asian drama. Something you'll always watch again and again and again and again.

    ReplyDelete
  24. PK was the first K-Drama that I ever watched and I LOVED it! So I went on and watched other K-Dramas and now I am an addict. Anyway I was feeling nostalgic and decided to watch PK again and I was so disappointed. Everything you said and more was wrong with it. I found Oh Ha Ni to become really creepy than endearing with her stalking. The fact that Baek Seung Jo ends up with her baffles my mind. And her friends!!! They don't slap her and tell her to get over Seung Jo. If I was Oh Ha Ni's friend.... I wouldn't be her friend.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I totally agree with you in many points,
    like,Oh Ha Ni was not at all having any good ambition for her,i know she liked baek seung jo a lot but still...being a nurse for him..felt like she was being very desperate ! But still i got highly addicted to the show...and loved it <3

    ReplyDelete
  26. 100% true. I really like the t version. In pk i was waiting for the moment when the male lead secretly watch her or do something to the girl till the final episode like in the t version,but that only happened once till the last episode. I wanted the female lead to give him his time and space but that rarely happens,and it becomes boring

    ReplyDelete

Total Pageviews