All Kinds of Cute, all Kinds of Heart
Totally spoilerific. Read with caution.
A Witch’s Romance finished today. I’m both sad to see it go and relieved that it finished nicely. It was a “noona romance” that didn’t depend on the male lead being overly boyish, or base too much conflict on what other people thought of the 14 year age gap. It instead focused on a creating a loving, sweet friendship between leads who were both afraid to let go of the past.
I’ve mentioned before, I watched My Queen, the original Taiwanese version of this drama, and went from loving it to feeling tortured by it. That colors my perspective of A Witch’s Romance quite a bit. The fact that A Witch’s Romance came out of the gate with complex characters, amazing chemistry between the leads, and a great sense of humor couldn’t keep me from fearing the downward slope that (I assumed) was going to come.
A Witch’s Romance didn’t completely avoid all the potholes on the highway, but it got where it was going in much better shape the My Queen.
Let’s get the negative stuff out of the way first:
The return of Polar Bear/Sunbae/Phillip Noh.
This is really the only negative for me, but it’s a big, big, big one. In fact, it has categories and sub categories of bad. I need to use a bulleted list here. I only do that when there was so much bad it has to be carefully organized.
- The relationship was SO DEPRESSING. It wasn’t that the ex-fiancee’s return was badly written, or that the actors were bad, but that the situation was painful to watch. When I say the actors weren’t bad, I don’t mean that Han Jae Suk and Uhm Jung Hwa had chemistry. They didn’t. That worked for the story, though. Ji Yeon mostly looked sad and a bit like an Alzheimer patient when she was with him- as if “How did I get here?” was echoing over and over in her head.
- Ji Yeon lost her personality. Watching Ji Yeon not speak her mind and practice “image maintenance” was so heartbreaking. The thing I loved most about the show was that the writing didn’t suggest Ji Yeon needed to change being straightforward and opinionated, but that she needed to show what she was thinking to the people around. Women like Ji Yeon who are goal oriented and don’t pull punches are often labeled not Witch but something that rhymes with it. I was over the moon to see Ji Yeon stay herself and be loved for it, and then this happened.
- Sunbae’s kind of dull and maybe a bit of an ass. This is the one area that My Queen clearly did better: The 2nd male lead was a much better person, and you really felt for him and understood why the female lead fekt that she had to be with him. (To be fair, the 2nd female lead was way worse, so I guess it’s a draw.)
- It was hard to tell how Ji Yeon felt about Dong ha. She went around being silent and mopey, and although she obviously liked him it was hard to tell if she had acknowledged it to herself.
- Dong Ha’s reaction was SO DEPRESSING. Once Dong Ha let go of a the past, he rushed head on into his feelings for Ji Yeon, which, of course, is when her ex came back. It was the exact moment he threw himself 100% into loving her, the point of no return. This was great dramatic fodder and everything, but I could barely force myself watch him break down for- what, 4 to 6 episodes?
- He started avoiding her and being rude to her. Understandable, just sad.
- He got in fights, got drunk in random places, and didn’t know she cared about him. Again, understandable, but did it really have to go on FOR SO LONG.
- Even the moments when he started acting like himself again broke your heart. He told her mom he loved Ji Yeon even though he didn’t have to, and he looked like he was going to cry. Again, not bad, not hard to understand, and actually really sweet, but did we need SO MUCH ANGST. They could have shortened the angsty period by an episode or two.
The Positive Points
I’m a total fan girl for this show, so I’m going to do my best to make it short so I can actually go to sleep tonight.
The depressing part went on for FAR FEWER EPISODES than it did in My Queen. I know that’s hard to believe, but trust me, it could have been worse. Also, Dong Ha and Ji Yeon still had cute scenes throughout this mess, which they didn’t really in My Queen. There was also a more dramatic revealing of feelings, and they also recovered their zippy, fun interactions much more convincingly.
The main pairing had amazing chemistry. I was very skeptical about this pairing. I though Uhm Jung Hwa might act circles around Park Seo Joon, or that he would look way to young acting opposite her (like a high school student.) I also thought a 19 year age gap between the actors, with the woman being older, might lead to the female acting overly cutesy all the time. None of that happened. Park Seo Joon absolutely made the role of Dong Ha his own, but I think the natural chemistry between the two actors helped him do so. I completely forgot about the age gap, and I’m not really a fan of large age gaps, whether it’s the man or woman who is older. I’m even embarrassed at being a year and four months older than my boyfriend. Here, i didn’t care. The two characters seemed perfect for each other. They seemed to almost have their own language.
Ji Yeon- The mix of strength and vulnerability in the character was great. She wasn’t forced into being one thing or the other. She was allowed to both fearlessly pursue a crooked politician and be scared of the dark.
Yoon Dong Ha- The character was great, superbly acted. I also liked that he wasn’t another jerky main lead, but he also wasn’t a personality-free paragon of virtue. Or rather, it seemed to me that to most people he put a lot of effort into being perfect, but with Ji Yeon he could relax and be pouty or have a temper.
The Supporting Cast: I love the community the characters built! In the end, there wasn’t a clear distinction between who started as who’s friend. Dong Ha helping out in Na Rae and Min Goo’s restaurant, and relying on them for advice, was so adorable to me for some reason. Probably because three of my best friends are my boyfriend’s friends from highschool, and his so-close-they’re-almost-related-best friend was my dorm mate in college. Ji Yeon’s Mom was also really wonderful, and Dong Ha’s Dad, for not being in many episodes, was also endearing. (And I hear the actor is getting a lot of fan girls. He’s being compared to Richard Geer.) The troublemaker staff wasn’t half as annoying as they were in the Taiwanese version, although it’s just as satisfying when they stop being enemies with Ji Yeon. Oh, and the bromance. I can’t even describe it, because I will start squealing; it’s late and I live in an apartment building, and I don’t think I can explain to neighbors that the noise is because of Korean Dramas making me happy.
The Ending- It’s great that the message isn’t that a woman has to get married to be happy. Okay, I do wish there’d been a wedding and stuff, and I find it weird that the skinship depicted when they weren’t dating was way more hot and heavy than when they finally were, but all in all it was satisfying. They love and trust each other, and they’re happy with that.