THE SHORT VERDICT:
Looks cute and attractive with its good-looking leads, bright, youthful color palette and peppy, happy music.
BUT. Requires a lot of suspension of disbelief. Female lead is written as unbelievably naive and tends to behave like a kid rather than a 20-something woman. Not cute.
Also, the story basically turns into makjang-lite with a Disney vibe.
Only if you’re bored and have nothing else to watch.
Or if you just want to ogle Donghae. Or the pretty, pretty cakes. Or both.
THE LONG VERDICT:
I went into this with lowered expectations stemming from the low ratings, the general lukewarm response from the general viewership, and the fact that this was a Channel A drama.
I’d heard how terribly makjang and disappointing Bachelor’s Vegetable Store was, and then there was all the upset viewers who’d been disappointed by Color of Woman. Basically, Channel A doesn’t have a great reputation for dramas.
But still, I also found that there was a select fan base who loved this drama. A LOT. I wanted to see what the fuss was about, and dived in.
I liked the bright happy palette and the cute opening credits. I found the light, tinkly jingle and the good-looking people amid the illustrations appealing. It all looked light and fun.
BUT. Once the opening credits finished rolling and the acting kicked in, I began to get annoyed quite quickly. I found the acting quite exaggerated from several of the actors, and that made the simple act of watching this drama much more painful than it should have been.
First, I can’t really fault Donghae coz he’s not an actor-actor, but an idol-actor, and I usually cut idol-actors some slack coz many of them have never acted before and it’s tough trying to hold your own among actor-actors.
Of course, Donghae acted in It’s Ok, Daddy’s Girl in 2010, so this wasn’t his very first drama.
And I have to say that I thought he did quite alright, and I liked him a lot more in this drama than I did Yoon Seung Ah, our female lead. He was really not bad.
He showed a decent amount of range, and I found his Hedgehog likable and fairly natural. Sure, the writing was a bit too Disney for my taste, but I can’t fault him for that.
It didn’t hurt that he’s cute too.
Clearly, they were capitalizing on the cute when he was given a shirtless scene practically right away. Like, 3 minutes into the first episode right away.
With the tantalizing hint of perhaps more to come, I’m pretty sure all the Donghae fangirls were sold on the drama, right there. Ok, fine. The Donghae fangirls AND anyone else who appreciates a buff male lead with good pecs 😉
Alas, Yoon Seung Ah was one of the main sources of my frustration with this drama.
I’d enjoyed Yoon Seung Ah in her supporting roles in Playful Kiss and The Princess’ Man, and I’d been quite excited to see that she’d landed her first leading role.
Her other performances were fairly restrained, particularly in The Princess’ Man, and I liked her as an actress. Which makes this particular outing of hers all the more confounding and frustrating.
Her female lead Pan Da Yang is written as very naive and ditzy, and that’s so cliched. Worse, the character was grossly overacted.
I don’t know whether the PD asked her to act that way, or she somehow decided on it herself, but she basically acted like an 8-year-old (is 8 being too generous? Maybe it was more like 5? 6?) instead of a twenty-something adult.
Practically everything about the way she played this character smacked of an immature young child. The pouts, the pout-wiggles, the glares, the stamping of her feet, scratching of the head.. the list goes on.
And then there was the way she spoke. She literally spoke like a child. Sometimes, it was like a pouty child, which made it that much worse. Coming from a young adult who’s clearly left her childhood years behind, this actually made her seem, er, developmentally challenged.
So. Not. Attractive.
But wait! She wasn’t the only one guilty of this.
Cue second lead Choi Jin Hyuk, who plays Choi Won Il.
I’d not had much of an impression of him before this drama. To me, he was just one of the cute chefs in Pasta. There, he’d been serviceable. He hadn’t been good enough to make me remember him, but he hadn’t been bad enough to make me remember him either.
But here, he left a lasting impression, and for all the wrong reasons.
As much as Yoon Seung Ah acted like her character was developmentally-challenged, so did he.
He even had the pout. And then there was frowning, some tantrums, and the talking. He pretty much talked just like her. No wonder their characters were childhood friends.
So. Not. Attractive.
Because of this, I found myself dragging my feet through the entire first episode.
Still, I was curious enough to press on, and went on the finish the drama. Yes. The whole thing.
The supporting cast was serviceable to varying degrees. The good guys were likable enough, and the bad guys were easy to hate, being drawn to cartoonish extremes.
Special shout-out goes to Park Geun Hyung who plays Grandpa.
I’m tickled that he’s basically reprising his role in MBC’s Delicious Proposal (2001).
In both shows, he’s the upright father figure who owns a food-related joint and takes in an abandoned / lost child and brings him up as his own.
Sure, there are differences, like how this is a bakery and that was a Chinese restaurant. And here his adopted grandson went to prison before coming under his wing whereas there the boy was abandoned as a baby. And here he’s a grandpa and there he’s a father.
But still. The similarity between the roles is striking. Even the sleeping arrangements are the same! Too funny.
The plot in this drama is makjang drawn to the extreme, but treated with a Disney touch.
I know. That just sounds weird. But really, that’s what it is.
[MAJOR SPOILER ALERT]
There’s birth secrets, half-siblings, long-lost first loves, revenge, family politics, business politics, and even a secret code between childhood friends that not only acts like a magic encouragement mantra that specializes in cake inspirations, but is also the key that solves the mystery of a missing boy whom everyone has been searching for, for years.
Hedgehog turns out to be the biological son of his sworn enemy, AND he’s also the long-lost friend that Won Il’s been searching for, AND he’s also Panda’s long-lost first-love. Woah. Talk about serving multiple narrative roles.
Some of the plot points require extreme suspension of disbelief.
Like how Won Il is so guilty thinking that he caused his friend to be lost that he becomes physically unable to stomach eating cakes. If he eats cake, he gets sick. That in itself is hard to believe.
Even more unbelievable, is how that is solved. Hedgehog basically makes him a cake that doesn’t look like a cake, and when Won Il eats it without getting sick, presto! Problem solved.
This is what I mean when I say everything in this drama is extreme makjang but with a Disney vibe. Melodrama is thrown into the story to extremes, and everyone is related to everyone, and there’re secrets and problems galore.
At the same time, everything gets solved easily and conveniently, almost like magic. Ta-da! Problem solved! Let’s get back to the cute, which is what’s really important here.
[END MAJOR SPOILER]
In terms of the cute, well, it’s basically Donghae-centered, and OTP-centered.
The drama isn’t very clear on how the leads fall for each other. All we know is that they do.
It’s particularly strange how Hedgehog ends up falling for Panda, because he seems to start liking her very abruptly and proceeds to spend A LOT of his savings on helping her overhaul and run her cafe.
Anyway. The point is, there are cute couple moments for our OTP, and that’s part of the icing on this strange confection of makjang-lite cake.
Other than the OTP, there are the pretty, pretty confections to drool over.
Yes, it’s unbelievable that Hedgehog learned to bake like a patissier while in jail. And it’s just as unbelievable that his secret mantra magically gives him inspiration each and every time he’s stuck.
But who cares, when he churns out the prettiest looking macarons and cakes?
Here, have another:
In the end, the show wasn’t anything great, but there were times when I found it somewhat engaging after I started to like the characters. When I say “like” I mean it relatively speaking, of course.
Basically, the writing and execution of the story were bad enough that I almost dropped this drama. It was enough to be a deal-breaker. But Donghae’s cuteness and the pretty cakes and the pretty color palette managed to keep me hanging in there. But just barely.
If I hadn’t been dividing my attention between watching this while doing other stuff, I may never have made it to the finish line.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
For tweens. Or tweens at heart.
FINAL GRADE: C-
Here’s a short MV which shows you Donghae’s shirtless scene, and some cute OTP moments. There. Maybe now you don’t need to watch this show anymore 😉