Saturday, February 1, 2014

Why Jang Geun Suk is the Prince of Asia: Pretty Man (Bel Ami/Beautiful Man/Pretty Boy) Korean Drama Review


Pretty Man was one of those K-dramas that could have gone either way for me, pretty much until the very end when it all unexpectedly came together. There were parts of the plot that made no sense, and aspects of the characters that I loathed, but somehow by a little magic it kept me coming back for more, and even left me satisfied at the end. After short thought I contribute this largely to the mystery that is Jang Geun Suk's charm. I can't explain it, and never believed in it before, but this drama has undeniably led me to understand why it is that Jang Geun Suk is indeed the Prince of Asia.




But let me back up…

The main reason I was drawn to Pretty Man was because of IU's charming ability to make you want to be her, or to at least be her best friend. Her character, Kim Bo Tong, is this strange combination of awkward, adorable, whimsical, slightly perverted, very determined, and incorrigible in her determination to love the male lead.


IU portrays this child-like innocence and wonder like no other actress. Her big round eyes, porcelain skin, rosy lips, and cute little haircut all contribute to this ability, but beyond that she just exudes an excitement as if she's discovering the world for the first time and is in awe of all of it, especially of the male lead, Ma Te (Jang Geun Suk).


I just couldn't resist this female lead despite the fact that her type of one-sided love and obsession for the male lead always is a huge turn off for me (see my Playful Kiss review for another example of my hatred for puppy-like female leads). It still really bothered me to see her give and give relentlessly to Ma Te even though he snubbed her and used her so arrogantly, but in spite of this assault on my senses, I was able to overlook it. IU magic!


One reason I think I was able to get past that was that I LOVED the second male lead David Choi, played by Lee Jang Woo. Since he played such a big part in the drama, more so than most second male leads, I sometimes forgot entirely about Ma Te. He provided a great distraction from the parts I hated and I was sucked into his equally quirky, innocent, and loyal character. He definitely was the other half of IU and their interactions were hilarious and awww-inducing.



I knew he wasn't going to win, but I managed to live in denial completely for about 14 of the 16 episodes. Then it all went south when the male lead finally decided to do a complete, sudden 180 and fall in love with the female lead.

Oh my heart! I was so sad for him.
I want you by my side David!!!
I don't think the writers really thought the plot all the way through before they wrote it, or even until they were writing the second to last episode. The main story line of Ma Te having to seduce 10 women to steal their powers so he could become a worthy heir just didn't really solidify. They kept up the "a new girl to tame an episode" theme for the first few episodes, but then it was like they forgot about it entirely or ran out of ideas. It was as if in the last few episodes the writers were like, "I feel like we're forgetting something. Oh yeah! We never finished the PLOT!" So then they hurriedly threw in a couple more girls and assigned some random women that already existed in the story those roles.

Oh man, this moment when he was trying to seduce the electric fairy was when I first realized his charm.
Also the whole "secret code" thing was problematic to me. First, I don't understand what the point of the secret code was since he didn't actually need it to get anything since he wasn't actually an heir. Second, I don't really get what it means for IU to be his secret code. Secret code to what? His CEO father, who ended up not even being his father, didn't give him anything once he brought IU with him. It made no sense. I don't think that's what the writers originally set out to do. I guess they meant that IU was his secret code to happiness in life, but it just wasn't well thought out.

The biggest problem of all was the placement of the main couple in the plot. We all know that this genre of K-dramas are pretty much all alike in that there is a mean male lead, but then he falls in love with the poor, hard working female lead, so he's nice to her and they are blissful for a couple of episodes until they face one last major challenge to their love (usually involving an evil matriarch) and then they end up happily ever after.


Pretty Man succeeded in this, but the timing was all off. Ma Te was not nice and showed hardly any signs of love towards Bo Tong until the last two episodes. This should have happened by episode 8! It was too little too late. They totally missed the couple blissful episodes in the middle that they should have had, and the male lead never grew on me.

For every 10 arrogant faces he made, there was one irresistible smile. And let's not forget the myriad of hairstyles, mostly ugly!

And this is where the magic of Jang Geun Suk comes in. Somehow he made this work. He scowled and was arrogant for 90% of the show, but when he turned around and became loving and humble at the very last second, I actually bought it!




How is that possible? And I wasn't even all that sad that she didn't end up with the second male lead, even though his sadness broke my heart and I wanted them together so bad. But beyond comprehension Jang Geun Suk flashed his hypnotizing smile and made me believe it was all going to be ok. I kind of hate him for it, but I can't deny he did it. He saved the show!


Overall, I enjoyed Pretty Man partly because I tricked my roommate into watching it with me so we bonded over it, partly because the whimsical feel of it was fun and light after watching so much crying in Heirs, partly because I love IU, partly because I wanted to marry the second male lead, and ultimately because Jang Geun Suk is the Prince of Asia and kind of the Prince of My Heart, just a little bit.


For all its plot holes and the obnoxious female lead's love for the male lead, I can recommend it as a fun, light hearted K-drama to watch when you just want to mindlessly sit back and relax. There wasn't too much excessive crying or longing, but it will give you the pleasant FEELS.

What did you think of Pretty Man? Did Jang Geun Suk steal your heart? Which of his hairstyles did you hate the most? Comment below!

17 comments:

  1. I can relate with everything you've said about the show because it dud the exact same thing to me and I too, couldn't figure out why I was so drawn in. I stuck with it at first because of IU's plucky heroine, but then found myself waiting anxiously for the episodes to watch it all. I was disappointed that the romantic payoff for the main couple was all of five minutes at the end if the finale, but so it goes. My least favorite hair was right after he cut it, so maybe around the third episode. I'd prefer he kept the longer hair and did the twisty bun thing the whole show.

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  2. I agree with everything you said about how the writers had no clue where they were actually going with anything. This was a terrible, terrible show. By the end, I was only in it for David and Botong, and even then, David started being kind of annoying in the last couple of episodes, until he was okay again in the last episode, lol. I didn't care about Ma Te at all, right to the end. I think this character actually put me off Jang Geun Suk, which seems unfair to him, lol.

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  3. I'm so glad that you watched this instead of me! This sounds suspiciously similar to the problems I had with You Are Beautiful.

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  4. Thank you for this extremely helpful review. JGS literally makes my skin crawl with revulsion, there's something visceral about my reaction to him, so learning that the ONLY thing which makes this Drama work is his charm has completely saved me from the possibility of trying it out or IU. For sstopping me from making a big mistake, I'm in your debt!

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  5. There were problems with the plot especially
    in the development of the main couple and I agree there were times you wondered
    what Bo Tong was attracted to in Ma Te. But there were also many things that I
    really enjoyed. I also liked the 2nd lead and how his character had
    his own personality. There were many interesting aspects to this drama such as
    the relationship with Ma Te and Yoou Ra however due the length of the drama the
    relationships didn’t really develop. Also the fact that the main women were
    successful in their own fields was refreshing. While I agree the change mid way
    through that focused on Ma Ta’s mystery birth and unknown mother and father
    seemed to take the drama in a different direction. I think it also gave the
    drama depth and some of the strongest acting was between Ma Ta and his
    biological mother. I was really impressed with jang keun Suk’s acting and a
    agree with you, he was able to make you believe in his love for Bo Tong at the
    end and the development of his personality to a much more rounded character who
    had grown through his different
    experiences with each of the different women. As it is based on a mangwa it
    would be interesting to know how the relationship developed between Bo tong, Ma
    Te and David Choi. But overall I looked forward to each episode and it held my
    attention the whole way through. I also like how Ma Ta changed his haircut as it
    was a little bit about his Chameleon personality.

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  6. Yes to everything you said. Especially the stupid plot thing with the passcode. It didn't make sense at all. And I felt ripped off at the ending because the mean lady just got won over too easily. I'd like to have seen him have to work harder for that, maybe proving he was different to his bio-dad. All the way through, it felt like the writers had no idea what they were doing with the story then it was like, screw this, let's wrap it up. The story had a lot of potenial, and JKS was awesome, but it just didn't work.

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  7. i feel Jang Geun Suk is over rated .. having said that every one is entitled to their choices. he indeed has got cute smile.. i still don't understand y k-drama main male leads are characterized soo arrogant..poor David Choi's .. i guess i am sucker for k-drama second lead ..

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  8. Your review is spot on! I agree with all your observations. However, a funny thing happened to me, in episode 15, I kind of bought Bo Tong getting together with Ma Te, but they lost me in episode 16 with the whole kidnapping plot. And who rescues her but darling puppy David. But who gets the girl? Ma Te! (doesn't click for me). The kidnapping plot was a little over the top.


    In the end, I was left mourning that David didn't get together with Bo Tong. I just wasn't fully convinced that Ma Te and Bo Tong were a real couple - the chemistry between them was more like siblings and not the romantic kind - I wished the writer could have gone with a more realistic plot line and let Bo Tong fall for David instead, who in retrospect, was the real pretty man of the show.


    And my pet peeve - they wait until ep. 16 for a kiss - and really, could you even call that a kiss? WTH? They might as well have given us something with more passion in it, it is a romantic comedy after all. The problem I have with Jang Guen Suk is that he appears cold in almost all of the dramas that I've watched him in, and it's kind of off-putting to a viewer. I just wish he appeared warmer, I would root for him more.

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  9. I'm glad you guys posted this review because I've really wanted to hash out this drama with someone else for a while. I agree on sooo many levels. Loved it at the beginning. Kim Bo Tong is so endearing and I was so excited to see what was in store for her with Ma Te. Turns out this wasn't really a show about her and Ma Te... it was a show about Kim Bo Tong and David Choi. Don't get me wrong, I love David (so adorable), but as a viewer it was confusing that the relationship that developed most was between Bo Tong and David and yet they didn't end up together. It left a very unsatisfying ending for me. Bo Tong and David should have ended up together OR they should have spent more time developing the relationship between the leads. The pass code annoyed me because I still don't see how Ma Te figured it out. It could have been ANYTHING. And then it ended up being a woman who his mother loved but Ma Te did not (of course until conveniently he did). She was not a very nice mother to force her son to be with a woman of her choosing. Although in the end like you stated, the pass code got him nothing. Also, I was intrigued with the grand plot line in the beginning which totally fizzled out.

    I love me some Jang Geun Suk, but he needs to choose better dramas!

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  10. I really enjoyed this drama even though the main schtick of him "seducing 10 women" had pretty much nothing to do with the end game AND the character of Yu Ra ended up having nothing to do with anything (Seriously, the only reason she was doing any of this was to make sure her ex-husband and daughter were happy without any need to actually be around or involved with either of them??? O......kay....Have fun in NY, I guess?)

    So for me, this ended up being 2 separate shows: 1. Typical birth secret-corporate screw over-evil-mom and 2. A story about girl in love with a boy for a million years without him ever really seeing her...until like the last episode.

    Okay, so let's just ignore that first story, it was a complete mess, made no sense (PASSCODE!) and most of what happens in the beginning had no effect on the ending.

    Let's focus on the fun part of this drama: the love, the feels! I know the majority of watchers hated Ma Te and never saw anything in him that Bo Tong should/would love. The complete 180 thing, I guess I buy that and most people did adore David and think she should pick him.

    However, for me personally, Ma Te and Bo Tong worked because of one thing: their history. These are two people that had known each other for YEARS. Presumably, they grew up together (I think Bo Tong mentions she's 27 at one point and in the first meeting flashback she was in high school?), their families went back and forth, spending time together and I'm pretty sure Ma Te always knew of Bo Tong's feelings for him. Does it excuse him being an ass to her? No BUT I felt that Ma Te's arrogance was somewhat more for show and Bo Tong knew that.

    Remember in the beginning, she sees him acting all high and mighty about being a vegetarian, then she finds out he devours ribs. I think it's THAT Ma Te that she loves and can't let go of. It's not the "Pretty Man" (although obviously she values that part of him, lol) but I think it's the Ma Te that she (and possibly only she outside of his mom) sees. Yes, he is arrogant and self-involved but compared to other male leads with those same traits, Ma Te isn't "evil-y" arrogant (I'm looking at you, "Playful Kiss" Geez, that guy was a hateful ass with no redeeming qualities in my opinion. Yuck.) He might make a rude comment to Bo Tong but you NEVER saw her wilt under it or cry like 99% of other female leads. If anything, she bit back and, I think due to their history together, he came to expect it or at least anticipate it be amused by it.

    Unlike the unbendable, "perfect man among men" d-bag lead in Playful Kiss, Ma Te had his moments of being brought down a peg (first thing offhand is when he licks his lips and Bo Tong tells him that it looks cheap. LOL) and it was almost always Bo Tong that did it. Blind infatuation for a "perfect" man? I don't think so. Always trying to make it "up to his level" like in Playful Kiss? No way. Bo Tong was the same yesterday, today and forever. Another trait that Ma Te finally recognized and realized needed to be appreciated or he would lose it.

    I think he both never considered her romantically and came to very much need her romantically because of their history. So his "180" actually didn't bother me so much. I didn't feel it was completely out of left field. It made sense that this self-involved character would one day just look "outside" and suddenly SEE her and that would instantly just sort of be it for him.

    Or I just think too much about these things. IDK. :D

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  11. Andddddd I apologize for the novel. lol >.<

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  12. Overall I enjoyed the drama and it might be mainly due to IU and her character Bo Tang. The drama started showing it's flaws somewhere in the middle when I realized I forgot they started with "The 10 Women Lesson Plan" and then it further dawned on me when I was trying to figure out what was the Purpose of the Password, The "unwrap this gift" in case of emergency confusion, and Hong Ya Roo?
    Let's not talk about the corporate crimes of the evil barracuda birth mother. Resigning to spend the last days reading to her dying husband.. WHAT ABOUT SOME JAIL TIME???????
    Still despite these flaws, I enjoyed the show and didn't have one problem with Ma Tae probably because I couldn't take my eyes off of Jang Geun Suk. I loved every facial expression, every smile, every eye roll, every tear..... OOOOH GAWD!!!! I need a cold shower

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  13. i totally agree with what you've written. except for the part that i actually went on to watch this because of JKS oppa. haha. think its his cute boyish charm that just gives him the ulitmate charm to be the prince of asia. sad to say though that i never got to finishing this drama because like you said the writers seemed to forgot their whole plot and forgot about the necessity of the 10 girls. it just didn't pull me in long enough. i think i still have 3 or 4 more episodes before finishing. but since you wrote here that the ending is worth it. might as well give it a try. fighting! PS. love your blog btw. :)

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  14. I absolutely adored this up until the end. I love JGS and IU was absolutely adorable with the most infectious laugh I've ever heard. Even tho the plot was often incomprehensible, the charm of the lead actors made up for it. However, the end felt so rushed and that last kiss was so cold--if not for that this would have been near the top of my all time favorites. I do think the leads had chemistry thru most of it but that last kiss was quite a letdown. Still glad I watched it and enjoyed most of it.

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  15. Very superficial feel to the series. BoTong loved him because of his looks and that was the sum total of it. She was up front that she thought he was beautiful and loved him for that. Of course his character lacked everything so that was all he was...his looks! Boring! Definitely should have had him wake up to caring for her much sooner in the series. Waiting SOOOOO long was an error in judgment on the part of the writers.

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  16. Jang Geun Suk is the king of my heart too--the smile, it melts you! Also, second male lead also got a fellow "glam-per" to love at the end, which was a very nice bone to throw to him. The chemistry was way better between her and the second lead.

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  17. I agree so much with just about everything you said. I went in expecting great things mostly because I love JGS so much and left strangely satisfied but extremely confused. I was expecting him to stick with the 10 women plot and for Bo Na to end up being the last one he had to "conquer". I was expecting him to realize that because she knew him so well none of his tricks would work, and the woman he thought would be the easiest turns out to be the only one he has to actually let inside to win over. And then he realizes he loves her...she finds out he was somewhat using her...cliche fight...cliche make up....happy ending, ta da! However, that's not the way they went at all. I still really enjoyed it and I'm glad they ended up together but I wish their relationship had been more of a focus.

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