THE SHORT VERDICT:
I admit I was a little apprehensive as I started this drama. So many people had dissed it online, condemning it as boring and makjang that I wondered whether I should even attempt it. In the end, I decided that I was curious enough to try it and see for myself.
Even though romance is a main theme, it’s character development that takes centerstage, and it is Baek Ho’s development and growth that we follow, as we watch him time travel.
Populated by an earnest and well-selected cast, this drama is by turns sweet, funny, heartwarming, sad, moving and thought-provoking.
True, there are a few plot holes, but if you overlook them, there’s a lot of good left for the appreciative eye.
Many people say this turned makjang, but it really isn’t makjang. This is a fantasy drama with several melodramatic elements. And those melodramatic elements work within the fantasy world in which this drama is based.
THE LONG VERDICT:
I find it a thought-provoking theme: if you could go back in time and live various key moments in your life again, would you behave differently, and what different outcomes would result at the end of the day? Would anything significant change as a result?
Apparently, in the original Japanese version, the main character keeps going back to the same situation every time he comes back to the present. That means that for the most part, nothing that he does in the past changes the present. I haven’t watched my download of the Japanese version yet, so I’ll have to defer judgment on that approach till later.
In principle, though, I actually like the approach of the Korean version.
Here, Baek Ho goes back in time multiple times, each time to a more recent point in time, and every time he jumps back to the present, he comes back to a somewhat different reality.
I think that makes sense, that there is a ripple effect in some way, originating from the things that he did differently the second time round.
While many viewers may find his progress painfully slow, I find it rather believable.
The point the writers are trying to make is that people generally don’t change their innate nature so easily. So each time he goes back in time, his reactions and responses to the things and people around him don’t or can’t change much because they are tied closely to the state of his character development, which is not flying forward, but inching forward.
And because he’s not changing his responses drastically, the future, even while showing some ripple effects of his actions, essentially doesn’t change. He returns to see Yi Seul engaged to his coach every single time, albeit at different stages of their relationship.
I actually felt rather bad for the Coach, coz Lee Hyun Jin does such a great job portraying him as a sincere, earnest lover to Yi Seul. He is mature, steady, sweet, gentle and romantic. In the real world, he would be who I’d pick in her place.
To answer the makjang accusations that have been leveled at Operation Proposal, I have to say that Operation Proposal is a fantasy drama after all, so certain things which would seem ridiculous in a normal drama are actually very plausible in the fantasy world in which it exists.
When the main theme of a drama is time travel, you can’t seriously expect the drama to stay within the same boundaries as a normal drama. And that’s probably the key reason I was able to enjoy Operation Proposal while so many other people seemed to be frustrated by it.
I accepted it as a fantasy drama with a good amount of focus on character development, rather than romantic development. True, the premise indicates that romance is a central theme, since he travels for the sake of love, but romance can be a central theme without actually being the area in which things develop.
[MAJOR SPOILER ALERT]
One example of where the frustration hit people hard, but did not touch me, is the selective amnesia which Baek Ho had after his last time slip.
Quite a lot of commenters online agreed that this was so makjang. I find that unfair to say. I mean, the Conductor had warned Baek Ho before his last time slip, that attempting to change matters of life and death would most likely result in his own death. And if he survived by some miracle, he would have no memory of Yi Seul. That was laid down as a rule of time traveling.
So, we were warned. And since we can’t actually time travel, we have to accept the rules as they are given. We can’t say, “Oh, but it doesn’t work that way!” Coz we have no clue how it could work anyway.
Therefore, when Baek Ho asked Yi Seul, “Who are you?” I was already expecting him to. I didn’t expect him to remember her at all. I had believed the Conductor when he had said Baek Ho would either die or forget Yi Seul. So it really confounds me that so many people were so quick to point at this and scream, “Makjang! How ridiculous!”
[END MAJOR SPOILER]
True, there were some plot holes in the drama, where certain things weren’t explained after the time slips. Like how Tae Nam suddenly becomes a successful rich guy isn’t explained. But overall, I didn’t find those too distracting.
A big complaint by netizens was how it was really hard to keep track of all the changes that occurred as a result of Baek Ho’s time traveling. I didn’t feel the same way, and I thought the drama did a nice job including items that were changed during Baek Ho’s time traveling in the new, adjusted futures.
Since his time travel has to occur in the progressive past, as in, he can only go to more and more recent points in time, everything that he does in each time slip remains within every single present and past that he returns to, since he can never go back to undo them. I liked that and thought it was a nice touch.
[MINOR SPOILER ALERT]
Like, the red cape-jacket that Baek Ho had worked so hard to buy for Yi Seul at Christmas. That same jacket appeared in quite a few episodes afterwards, featured in subsequent time slips. I liked being reminded of the lasting effects of his trips to the past.
Another big complaint was how we always seemed to be back at square one, no matter what Baek Ho did. I guess I was kind of prepared for this, and that helped. And because I accepted the premise mentioned by the Conductor that people don’t change so easily, I found it much easier to accept Baek Ho’s lack of movement with Yi Seul.
[END MINOR SPOILER]
There was a fair bit of character development despite the slow romantic progress, and that was nice. I grew to like Baek Ho as a character, and I also really liked Yi Seul and Coach as well. In fact, almost all the characters were likable.
I thought Yoo Seung Ho and Park Eun Bin were perfectly cast, and both did very, very nicely. In fact, I thought pretty much every character was well-cast. The friends were a heartwarming bunch, and I really liked Chan Wook’s character.
I enjoyed this and I probably would watch this again sometime.
If you can put aside the need for romantic development as the central driving plotline in favor of a more thoughtful, introspective treatment of character development, you might enjoy this drama too. 🙂
THE FINAL VERDICT:
More of an interesting character study than a straight-up rom-com.
FINAL GRADE: B+