THE SHORT VERDICT:
A stylish, light, polished sequel to I Need Romance.
Although it’s hyped as a more realistic picture of modern-day dating and romance, the show managed to make its world romanticized in its own way.
I liked this more than the original series, but in the end, it still left me a little cold.
I Need Romance 2012 OST – I Could Give You Love
THE LONG VERDICT:
I Need Romance 2012 wasn’t perfect, but there was a fair bit that I liked about it. It’s just that by the time I finished it, I was left feeling rather disappointed and bemused. This, despite really, really hoping to like it.
So, to be fair to the show, I decided that I’d tackle both the good and the not-so-good in turn.
Style & Cinematography:
I liked the color palette, which ranged from bright and happy, to sepia-toned, to desaturated, depending on what the show wanted to convey in any given moment.
I also liked the editing, and in particular, I thought that the freeze-frame technique was put to good use throughout the series. It was often paired with character voice-overs, giving us a moment-suspended-in-time sort of effect which I liked.
I also liked the use of flashbacks to flesh out our understanding of their relationships and their world, and I thought the flashbacks were nicely interspersed with the current-day scenes.
I liked the idea of peppering the episodes with thoughtful voice-overs, not only by the female lead, but on occasion, the male lead as well. This gave a more balanced feel in terms of whose eyes we were observing their world through, which I appreciated.
The almost slice-of-life approach was also rather appealing. I liked the concept of being a fly on the walls of our characters to observe them bicker, laugh, and navigate their lives towards their hopes and dreams.
I thought each episode had a stylish, polished finish, which was enhanced by a good selection of background music. Everything felt light, zippy and fun.
I found the cast good-looking and likable, which is always helpful.
One of the reasons I’d struggled to like the first season was that I wasn’t a fan of either the lead actor or lead actress, and that made watching the show more of an uphill task than it needed to be.
In contrast, I actually started off liking the cast this season, and I found Lee Jin Wook appealing and rather sexy as our male lead.
I also really liked Kim Ji Suk and thought he looked particularly delicious after his stint in the army; so tanned, toned and chiseled:
Mm. Very, very nice.
The Gal Pals
Despite many others not feeling the friendship between the girls as much this season, I actually found the friendship between these 3 characters believable.
Perhaps it’s because I have 2 close girlfriends too, and we also met while in school, and have kept up the meet-ups and girl-talk in adulthood, despite all 3 of us being completely different in terms of temperament and personality.
I found the girls’ frank conversations about men, relationships and sex amusing and fairly true-to-life. I could imagine real friends chatting about similar things and asking one another similar questions.
I also found the dynamic of them being one another’s safe haven heartwarming.
I generally found the sub-plots interesting and entertaining.
My favorite plot-line is that of Ji Hee (Kang Ye Sol), mainly because she learned how to stand up for herself and be true to herself, despite pressure to settle for less due to her age and therefore, perceived lesser bride potential.
[MINOR SPOILER ALERT]
Ji Hee’s bickering, blossoming relationship with Tae Woo (Heo Tae Hee) was so much fun to watch. Their comic timing was very good, and they had great chemistry.
I actually came to enjoy watching them more than I did the main love triangle.
[END MINOR SPOILER]
Kim Ji Suk as Shin Ji Hoon
Shin Ji Hoon was such a wonderfully warm, grounded and good character.
Yes, perhaps he was just a little too perfect, but I loved that he had so many good traits. He was patient, level-headed, generous, humorous, and made it a point to see the good in others.
He brought out the good in our leading lady Yeol Mae (Jung Yu Mi), and didn’t look like he was even really trying. It felt like it was simply the side effect of his goodness, that brought out her goodness, and I loved that.
Of course, it didn’t hurt at all, that he was also romantic and pro-active to boot.
I loved how he patiently courted Yeol Mae, even though she didn’t show a lot of interest in him.
Basically, he was everything a girl could hope for, from a guy that liked her.
Kim Ji Suk made Ji Hoon extremely charming and likable, and I enjoyed watching him the most, among all the characters in the ensemble.
The Chemistry Between The Leads
Lee Jin Wook and Jung Yu Mi had excellent chemistry as Seok Hyun and Yeol Mae, and their scenes together sparked and sizzled in a way that was believable and engaging.
Whether they were playing around as friends or making out as lovers, they looked comfortable together and it was easy to believe that they had grown up together, had been involved with each other, and had known each other all their lives.
Both Lee Jin Wook and Jung Yu Mi delivered strong performances and did justice to their characters.
Yeol Mae as a Character
I honestly found Yeol Mae as a character really hard to root for. That’s kinda not great, considering that she was our lead character.
Right away in episodes 1 and 2, I got a sense of her thoughtlessness and self-centeredness and I disliked her. Immensely. Not a great start.
Unfortunately, my dislike for her was pretty much sustained throughout the series. Yes, there were pockets – small pockets – of time where I found her more likable, but they were essentially fleeting and transient.
[VERY LONG SPOILER ALERT]
Straightaway, in episode 1, Yeol Mae shows that she’s thoughtless and rude when she unceremoniously dumps her blind date because she’s curious about Ji Hoon who is sitting at the next table.
The first time she snubs her date, it is by accident because she mistakes Ji Hoon as her blind date.
Subsequently, however, when she realizes her mistake, not only does she take her time to correct her mistake and sit down with her rightful date, she doesn’t pay him any attention, and then, before we know it, she gets up to sit with Ji Hoon again.
I was aghast at her lack of manners, not just for someone who’s grown up in a society like Korea where a premium is put on manners, but for anyone. In the world.
Then in episode 2, she’s needlessly high-handed with the band that she’s producing in the studio.
First, she’s critical of them and accuses them of not practicing. Then, she won’t let them eat – not even bread! – even though they’re likely to keep going late into the night.
She allows them to take a short break, then bops them on the head for poor manners because they didn’t finish zipping up before coming out of the washroom. Then she goes off for lunch, on her own, even though her sound engineer doesn’t get to eat either.
To add to the distastefulness of it all, in voice-over, she says matter-of-factly, “After living more than 30 years, I’m getting more spiteful.”
I SO did not like this woman. I found her selfish, thoughtless and yes, in her very own words, spiteful.
I get that many kdrama lead characters start out more unlikable than likable, and we’re supposed to root for them as they encounter change and ultimately, growth, in the course of the story.
My big problem with Yeol Mae as a character is that she doesn’t really change all that much over the course of 16 episodes.
Yeol Mae showed some sparks of growth while in close proximity with Ji Hoon, but remained essentially cruel and thoughtless, even in the later episodes of the show.
When she broke up with Ji Hoon, she did so abruptly and matter-of-factly. She systematically threw out everything that he’d given her, including his precious limited edition record and his childhood photo.
I couldn’t understand this. Why couldn’t she just return them? A limited edition record is hard to replace, though arguably, you might eventually find a replacement for it.
But you simply can’t replace a childhood photo. Especially if he’s an orphan and there’s unlikely to be an existing negative in his possession.
I couldn’t understand why she could return the bicycle, but couldn’t return these precious items to him. The way she emotionlessly dumped them out, without batting an eye, repulsed me.
Instead, she channeled all her energy into re-igniting her romantic relationship with Seok Hyun.
Which brings me to another beef of mine, and that is, her general lack of ownership of everything.
One incident that comes to mind is when she grabs Seok Hyun’s hand while they’re walking together, post Ji Hoon breakup, and Seok Hyun pulls away. She cheerfully grabs again, saying, “Don’t shake off my hand this time.”
Seok Hyun relents, and then they look up to see Ji Hoon watching them from a distance. Yeol Mae wrenches her hand out of Seok Hyun’s, and abruptly turns around to gather her thoughts. And then, without a word to anybody, she simply walks away. Argh.
In that moment, I felt that Yeol Mae was cowardly and hypocritical. If you’re so bold to break up with Ji Hoon and pursue Seok Hyun all over again, then own it. Don’t run away from it.
Another thing that really annoyed me was her bouts of crying after breaking up with Ji Hoon.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I did feel extremely sorry for Ji Hoon, and I wanted Yeol Mae to show remorse for hurting him the way she did. And tears generally do indicate remorse.
But they didn’t indicate remorse here.
That’s the problem. I didn’t feel like Yeol Mae was crying because she felt sorry for hurting Ji Hoon. Rather, I felt that she was crying because she felt conflicted. The tears were about her, not about him. And that just made me so mad.
Somewhere around this stretch of the drama, Yeol Mae said in voice-over, “I wish there were traffic signs in my life. Stop. Danger. Safe. Be careful. Turn right. Turn left. Go straight. I wish someone could tell me things like this.”
Not only does it show a great bent towards self-centeredness, it shows her lack of ownership. She doesn’t want to take ownership of her decisions. She wants someone else to take responsibility for the direction of her life.
Seok Hyun says to her in exasperation in episode 15, “You always spill your guts and expect the other person to figure it out.” So true.
She says whatever is on her mind, describing how she feels, and expects the other person to make sense of it. She doesn’t bother to filter whether it’s something that would be uncomfortable for the other person to hear.
Case in point: she asks Seok Hyun about how to sort the rubbish, when he knows full well that it’s Ji Hoon’s things that she’s sorting out.
I found it impossible to feel sorry for her.
She cried hard and often about breaking up with Ji Hoon, but really, it was her choice. She chose to leave him. So why does she get to cry about it and feel sorry for herself? I didn’t get it. And I still don’t get it.
Plus, I’m annoyed that she hurt Ji Hoon so badly.
She started dating him knowing that while he was really into her, she was just trying him on for size.
Even in how she started the relationship with him, she relinquished ownership, telling him, “I’ll let you have my heart. So make me change my mind. Make me fall in love with you. I’m giving you a chance.”
Make you change your mind? Make you fall in love? Lady, these are things that people don’t make you do. You choose to do these things yourself. Sheesh.
I found Yeol Mae completely annoying and very, very exasperating as a character, from the get-go, all the way to the very end.
There were flashes of improvement, yes, but when that improvement had everything to do with Ji Hoon whom she heartlessly dumped, that doesn’t score any points with me.
[END VERY LONG SPOILER]
The Writing & The Ending
The writing in I Need Romance 2012 was clever and insightful at times, but ultimately, I felt dissatisfied with where the writers chose to go, particularly in terms of the character development of our lead characters.
For a drama that aims to be modern and more realistic than classic kdrama fare, the writers of this show certainly managed to employ a good number of classic kdrama tropes.
We get the lack of communication, first loves, a time skip and even a mysterious disease as plot devices.
Sure, they’re dressed up a little differently, and accessorized to appear a bit more modern, but they’re all certainly there. Not only are they present, they’re big players as well.
Seok Hyun’s entire reason for keeping Yeol Mae at arm’s length – which ultimately, was the basis of our entire story – was an exercise in the lack of communication.
Actually, we get 2 tropes for the price of one. Not only does everything boil down to a lack of communication, it’s all because of a mysterious, potentially fatal disease!
At first, at the big reveal, it felt like a big game-changer. Suddenly, I felt sorry for him. But upon further thought, I felt like he was acting too much like a victim, and his lack of communication with Yeol Mae about it or anything else just made him fatalistic.
He’s supposed to be all in love with her, and super-super close to her, what with their childhood history & everything, but he never tells her anything, including that his sister was ill, or that the disease was probably hereditary.
Yeol Mae, too, sucked at communication. She would rattle off what she felt on the inside, but essentially, she was a poor communicator who was unable to navigate an important conversation to save her life.
I found myself thinking, if your communication with each other over 30 years is consistently this poor, I really don’t think you’re that good for each other.
Ok, I get that Seok Hyun is written as a character who’s uncommunicative and closed off about anything remotely emotional and close to the heart. That’s why he’s written as never having told Yeol Mae that he loved her, in all the years that they were romantically involved.
But see, if I buy that, then I can’t buy the ending.
After the convenient time skip – I don’t have issues with the time skip per se, because I buy that the characters needed time and room to grow.
It’s just how conveniently everything is solved with one simple time skip that I don’t buy – Seok Hyun is shown breaking down in tears from missing Yeol Mae. And then we see them reunited, with Seok Hyun incessantly telling Yeol Mae that he misses her and loves her.
Er. If you want me to buy that something so deep-rooted in him was so completely turned around, I’m going to need more than a time-skip to explain the change in him.
After all that reticence about telling her that he loved her, it rang false that he would be incessantly telling her he loves her just because he missed her for a year. People don’t generally change so easily or to such extremes.
So yes, the time skip in itself was good. But after the time skip, everything rang a little false.
I wanted them both to grow up more, mature more. And I wanted to see how they arrived at that new place of maturity. It was inferred, sort of, but it just wasn’t enough for me.
In the whole 12 years that Yeol Mae and Seok Hyun were together, they kept breaking up because of the lack of communication.
I’m supposed to believe that a simple one year time skip fixed all their communication problems and that’s why they’re now insanely happy? That’s hard to do. You have to give me more than that.
The insanely happy couple that they were in the final scenes didn’t seem real to me. I didn’t buy the cutesy.
So ultimately, the first love won. Isn’t that the oldest kdrama trope of all time?
Worse, this happened in both installments of the series, which is supposed to tackle romance with a more modern and realistic sensibility.
With this whole first-love-always-wins theme pervading both installments, the whole I Need Romance series shouldn’t claim to be anything close to reality.
Because in reality, first loves are, more often than not, just that: a first love. You grow up, you mature, you move on, you evolve.
You learn (hopefully) to care for other people more, and to recognize and treasure what or who is truly good for you.
You generally don’t get rewarded for staying your petulant, selfish self.
This drama didn’t acknowledge any of these real-life truisms, and therefore wasn’t very real where it actually mattered, I thought.
I would have liked the writers to have taken a different approach, to have let Yeol Mae choose Ji Hoon, commit to him, and really do some serious growing up under his positive influence.
That, to me, would have been a much happier, more realistic ending than what the writers served up.
In the end, though, I am sort of relieved that Ji Hoon didn’t get the girl. With Yeol Mae as fickle as she’d shown herself to be over the course of the show, even if she’d decided to choose him, I wouldn’t have wanted him to accept her. I would worry that she’d bail on him again.
So, it’s actually a relief, I guess, that Ji Hoon didn’t get the woman he wanted. Coz, y’know, sometimes what you want isn’t good for you.
SLICES OF LIFE
Overall, this drama had a slice of life feel in some ways.
There was often a lot of back and forth between characters, and sometimes, there wasn’t a lot of plot movement. And it’s true that that’s similar to real life.
If we’d wanted a slice of someone’s life, though, why did we have to pick Yeol Mae’s? Sigh.
So, in the interest of ending this review on a happier note, I decided to highlight some of the slices of life that appealed to me a lot more.
Here we go:
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Contains some goodies, but in the end, not very satisfying, I’m afraid.
FINAL GRADE: C-
Can’t pass up on a recommendation that emphatic. I’ll put it at the top o’ my list!
Yay! That makes me happy 😀 Also, when you are back in the mood for some romance that runs a little more mainstream, I think a good one to watch is Healer. It’s romantic, but also action-packed, super cool, and very well done overall. I also loved that one unreservedly – and I even watched it twice. That’s something I rarely do nowadays. Best part? I loved it just as much on my second watch – if not more 😉 It’s addictive, swoony, and the main couple is wonderful together. Not super tropey, and you even get a strong female lead who’s brave and dreams big, even while following her heart. <3 AND A MALE LEAD WHO PARKOURS OFF BUILDINGS. GAH. Can you tell I love this drama? 😉
*Chuckle* Admittedly I had to look up what “parkour” was, thinking it was like rappelling. Nope. Infinitely cooler! *Sigh* Well now you’ve put me smack dab in the middle of a dastardly dilemma, because this sounds even better than Answer Me 1988. The only two series I’ve seen to date with any action are “When a Snail Falls in Love” and “Live”, and this sounds like it’ll top both of those. The fact that you gave it a second viewing when there are so many other series to watch puts it in an elite category. …And after checking the cast I’m even more intrigued as I don’t think any of them have been in the previous shows I’ve watched. Parkouring and pursuing protagonists, ho! I sense heavy binging approaching… 😀
Oh yes, parkour IS way cooler than rappelling! Omigosh, Healer leaping off buildings was one of THE things that made my heart wobble in that show – well, among other things, of course 😉 I haven’t seen Live, but I did watch most of When a Snail Falls in Love, and I can honestly say I feel Healer is a much more satisfying watch. <3 To be fair, I still have good intentions about rewatching most of the shows I've recommended to you so far. Answer Me 1988 is definitely something I'd love to experience all over again. <3
First, thank you for your thoughtful and thorough review. When someone can properly articulate their feelings and perspective on a show or movie, it’s like a wonderful bonus feature; ya kinda get to watch the series again though different eyes and process characters and events a different way.
That said, I don’t think I could argue any of the faults you and others have found with the series. There are, however, a few points of diversion that I figured I’d toss into the fray for the sake of providing the aforementioned “different eyes”. First, I actually didn’t mind YM’s character. Yes, she probably had more accentuated flaws than most leading ladies, but to be fair, the past several k-dramas I’ve watched have made the biggest flaw “she cares too much for others and neglects herself”. That’s kinda like saying, “My biggest problem is that I work too hard and care too much” when being asked for an area of improvement by a potential employer. It’s adorable, but not very relatable or true to life. The fact that YM was self-centered was almost refreshing, because I see more of that in my world than I do people who are too giving.
As much as I liked JH, I think he’s largely to blame for the animus towards YM. First, most 2nd leads either have some noticeable flaws or compatibility issues that make it easier to see why the 1st lead is in fact the right choice. They also typically have an alternative to the relationship, whether it’s a potential alternative love interest, a new life direction, job, etc.., In other words, they are given a somewhat plausible method of coping with their ultimate rejection, while having flaws that also allow the audience to accept that rejection. JH was the RomCom version of a Gary Stu. He was too perfect. I agree that he was still likable and came across real enough (somehow), but he made YM look worse than she should have during the relationship and converted her to a downright monster when it ended.
That’s poor writing. We as an audience were never given what we needed to accept the rejection properly. K-dramas usually show the 2nd lead to get emotional and hurt–and rightly so–but I saw a lot more emotional devastation in JH than I’ve seen in others in his role, which subtly adds to the ugliness of the breakup. We essentially saw a perfect human being contrasted with an incredibly flawed one, and when the inevitable happened, that perfect human being was emotionally wrecked with nowhere to go, no hope on the horizon. I think his virtues and pain are ultimately what made YM hard to handle.
As for her tumultuous relationship with SH, the “deadly disease” gimmick unfortunately did a good job of justifying and sustaining the tension. The majority of their relational issues started after the disease became a factor for SH; the same love that was screaming to be with her demanded that he keep his distance. If he knew for a fact that he had the disease, the tension wouldn’t have been there. He would have just left her life and never talked to her again. The struggle came because he had hope that he didn’t have the disease, and so therefore he could still be with her. That’s why he didn’t move away, kept connecting, kept pursuing. And that’s why he said nothing about it to her.
Don’t get me wrong, I HATE communication issues in general, let alone when they are the crux of drama in a relationship. But we saw numerous times where SH seemed okay being the love of her life, only for her to make an offhanded comment that struck the very core of his insecurity. How could he tell her that he could end up like his father when she just said how she felt so sorry for his mother? As far as he knew, telling her would destroy their relationship…possibly for no reason. It was that hope at work again. He couldn’t bring himself to strike a fatal blow to their relationship (why it was mostly her breaking up with him) while there was a chance he didn’t have the disease.
Sadly, his insecurity and nearly perpetual inner turmoil was the perfect fit for YM’s insecurity. She needed him to express his love, to say he wanted her, to make her a priority. That need is there in healthy people to a large degree, but the writers chose to emphasize that to the point it became a flaw. His continuous inability to provide that security at key moments triggered her fears and lead to the reflexive breakups.
I may be wrong, but we aren’t really given any good reason for YM’s issues…which is itself a big issue. I admit, I was pretty tweaked at SH for most of the series; it was only the pockets of tender and fun interactions between him and YM that allowed me to stomach his behavior. But when the disease element was revealed, I immediately felt a great deal of sympathy for him–much like YM feels when she says that his love was greater. I could see the conflict of hope/despair he had endured as well as the fear he was living under. That revelation, contrived though it may be, was enough to retcon his character for me, and I pretty much liked him from that point forward. YM was never given a cause for her flaws, so not only was there a lack of sympathy for her, but there was no way for her to grow. Problems have roots, and addressing those roots are what allows us to grow as people (pardon any kind of mangled pun). For a lead, YM wasn’t fleshed out very well, and in a way, that gives me a sympathy for her that the script is never able to produce.
The final point of minor divergence is regarding the ending. I agree that it was a bit saccharine and out of place for happening a year later, but I think it’s because a year is too much time. Poor YM has no discernible arc, but SH does. With the whole disease specter gone, the fierce, goofy, playful love we saw glimpses of in the flashbacks is finally released. He has years of pent up feelings that can be expressed now that the fear is gone. He can fully embrace the relationship that he had only been able to briefly touch in moments where hope surpassed despair. He is free to say “I love you” without having to think, “but I don’t want to burden you with the possibility of a disease-ravaged future”. I have to imagine that feelings that strong would be expressed often with little restraint for awhile after the release. Kinda like a Honeymoon period. But I’d also imagine that exuberance would taper down to more normal levels after about three months or so–if not sooner. The fact that they are virtually dysfunctionally in love a full year later seems a bit of a stretch.
I do have a question. You and many others have mentioned the disappointing utilization of tropes, which I heartily agree with. I admit I’m relatively knew to the world of k-dramas, having only seen 10-15 of them to date. So far virtually none of them buck any major trends. 1st lead always gets 1st girl, usually after getting her and then losing her once. 2nd lead is always uber amazing, watches from the sidelines, makes his move with varying levels of success, then ends up single but more/less none-the-worse for the wear. While 1st lead isn’t always first love, 2nd lead is NEVER first love. The disclosure of a secret or a past event reconciles the first 75% of the story. Hurdles to relational progress are either a villain or a miscommunication.
Are there any series out there that avoid some of these trends? I feel like “Descendants of the of Sun” avoids the whole 2nd lead v 1st lead tension, but it’s been awhile since I’ve seen it. I’m hoping to find well-written, compelling shows that involve folks past college age that have some variance from the established pattern, but I haven’t found any just yet. I enjoy the genre for what it is, but the critiques seem to indicate the existence of alternatives that I am eager to explore. Any recommendations?
Thanks again for sharing your POV on the series!
Hi there Jesse!! Wow, thanks for sharing your thoughts on INR2012! So detailed and so thoughtful, I loved reading your point of view! 😀 It’s been a fair while since I saw the show (omigosh, has it been 5 years?!), so I don’t recall enough detail in order to take this train of thought any further, but your sharing made a lot of sense. 🙂
As for tropes, I actually think tropes can be used effectively in dramas, so having them present in a story doesn’t automatically earn a thumbs down from me. That said, if you’re specifically looking for dramas that aren’t tropey, I’d like to recommend Secret Love Affair, which is gorgeous, thoughtful and brilliant, and so much like an extended art film that I haven’t seen another drama quite like it. For something more youthful, I loved School 2013, which I found refreshing in that it’s focused not on romance, but on strong bromantic friendship, and growing up. For a story of growth, and the search for ideals, set in a splendidly executed historical background, I recommend Chuno, which is a masterpiece in its own right. For something a little darker, I thought Vampire Prosecutor was very well done. I also recently loved Prison Playbook, which is more about brotherhood and community and personal journey, than about romance. I hope at least some of these recommendations resonate with you. If not, let me know, and I can maybe throw more titles at you? 😉 You can also find my full list of reviews here, in case that’s helpful. 🙂
Hey KFG! Thank you for the recommendations–I really appreciate your time! Admittedly I haven’t seen any of those titles yet, but I will endeavor to do so in short order. I agree that tropes aren’t a bad thing, but after binge-watching five shows in a couple weeks, I just felt the need for a metaphorical palate cleanser before diving back into the norm. 🙂 I wish I had seen INR2012 closer to when it came out so as to be more relevant, but I’m typically five years behind any kind of trend; the fact that I saw it for the first time in 2017 means I’m right on track. I’ll check out those recommendations and take a gander at your reviews to see what else I’ve been missing out on. Maybe I’ll be able to compare perspectives on a show that came out in the last year! 😀 Much obliged!
The good thing about being late to the party, is that you now have all the best shows to pick from! 😉 Another show I highly recommend is Answer Me 1988. It’s nostalgic goodness at its best. So full of family and community warmth, in a rag-tag looking package that’s overflowing with heart. I loved it unreservedly, and I hope you’ll give it a go sometime! 🙂
Thanks for the review. I enjoyed reading it. I know I’m late to the party, but I only discovered the show this week.
Interestingly, I do, however, feel very differently. I never saw the original INR, so I’m sure that has something to do with it. I also have a huge crush on Jung Yu-mi (she’s how I found the show, I searched Netflix for her name), so I’m sure that colors my perception.
I mostly agree with you about Seok-hyun. I grew to really dislike him, occasionally outright hating him. This is likely the basis of alot of my disagreement with you, because I found his behavior, actions, attitude, and decisions to be much more inconsiderate and cruel than anything Yeol-mae did. To treat somebody like that for over a decade? Make the same bonehead decision over and over again, resultantly crushing her emotionally over and over again? To remain purposefully emotionally withholding for almost their entire relationship? Asshole. A handful of times he makes up for this, but almost always by helping her friends, not her. I liked how he protected Jae-kyung when things went down with getting caught by the media, and I loved how he helped Ji-hee finally ditch her awful boyfriend by scolding him about his sexual prowess. But I really can’t remember one decent time he was helpful to Yeol-mae. To treat somebody the way he treated her for 10+ years is hideous and, in my opinion, worse than all of Yeol-mae’s mistakes combined.
From my perspective, it is Seok-hyun who never ever seems to learn anything (well, until the time skip, FINALLY). And yes, his radical change in behavior was kinda unbelievable.
Now, Yeol-mae. Gotta admit, I really loved her. Liked the way she argued (usually), her conversational style, her friendship with the girls, how introspective she is. I enjoyed the comedic timing and acting style of Jung Yu-mi, the actress who played her. I didn’t mind the couple over-the-top spiteful things she did (yelling at the band, not letting them eat) because I interpreted it as the show being hyperbolic for comedic effect. And I also feel differently than you about her growth/learning. For example… Ji-hoo calls her “baby” and she realizes she really should be nicer and kinder. Towards the end she realizes she should stop shouting when she’s upset, and instead try to be more calm as she shares what’s wrong. She learns several lessons about patience. She learns a more nuanced and generous concept of love from Ji-hoo and his tree story. And in the end she learned to be on her own and have the self-confidence not to be constantly in romantic relationships.
One thing she didn’t learn and that disappointed me was that she should finally kick Seok-hyun to the curb and choose Ji-hoo.
All that said, I also really enjoyed the other two relationship storylines. Both of the other characters learned and grew in a way that I appreciated and found believable.
Oh, and the first half of the series was sooooo racy, it made the second half a tad boring with it’s nearly complete lack of sexiness.
Sorry to go on and on, haha. Anyway, I really enjoyed the series. And I currently can really connect emotionally with a story about a 10+ year relationship falling apart, so I think that caused me to enjoy the show more than others might. I don’t watch too many Kdramas for this reason, I find that they are almost always emotionally brutal.
Again, thanks for the review! I’ll definitely appreciate any feedback if anybody is still interested in discussion.
I started watching this on Netflix, started to really not like it, and then decided to just google a review instead. So glad I did! Thanks for the comprehensive round-up. I agree on the female lead, but I equally disliked the male lead. Their relationship is so incredibly dysfunctional and unhealthy, it was really twisted and mostly just made me feel sick.
And illness is no reason to mess with someone like that: he broke up with her but kept her emotionally attached to him and controlled her life while maintaining she meant nothing to him. It was just—yuck. If you’re worried you’re dying and decide to keep your distance, you don’t stay in the same house and emotionally torture the person, by implying they’re not good enough for you to date or marry, even if you love them, while still occasionally sleeping with them, knowing they’ve always been in love with you. That’s just… borderline sociopathic. So yeah, while I didn’t like the female lead at all, what the male lead was doing to her was pretty awful to watch.
I found most of the characters bizarrely selfish. The female lead, for sure, but also the shoe designer. I couldn’t BELIEVE the scene where she feels “betrayed” by her staff, because they are resigning, and it turns out she hasn’t paid them for months. And then she plays it as if she was the victim, and they didn’t stand by her! She went on a CRUISE. They were all probably freaking about paying rent and so on, and she is so absorbed in her romance scandal that she doesn’t even spare a thought for the people she left behind who are working without PAY. Then to top it off, she forces her friends to give her their savings, sorry, “invest” in her company. That’s horrifying. You don’t guilt trip friends into giving you their money when your business tanks. People who shamelessly hit up loved ones for cash are the worst.
I also dislike the first love trope. I don’t want to have to marry a guy because we played in a sandpit a few times when we were five. Life is a lot bigger than that!
So yeah, this was fun for a while, but it wasn’t a win for me, which was a pity because I liked the cast.
I think Ji Hoon was full of crap, not a realistic relationship (from a man’s point of view). Yeol was flawed indeed, but who isn’t? She didn’t someone who was willing to kiss her behind, she needed someone to challenge her. Jihoon influence was too quick and thereby superficial in my opinion. If SH had been upfront with her from the beginning she might have been a different person.
However, she had the responsibility to grow herself. If romance was all she was after that’s what she got from Ji Hoon and was not enough to sustain the relationship. What she needed was romance from Seok, she did have it in bits and pieces, but his sister’s illness put a damper on his hope for their future. He should have left the relationship if he could not provide what she needed.The fact was he could provide it but he chose to limit it; he was selfish in holding on to her without being honest to her. He was a strong contributor to her frustration and personality deficit. He could not let her go and she didn’t really want to go although Ji Hoon offered a package that was appealing it wasn’t satisfying.
There is nothing wrong with first love, it can be great if its your only love, there is a comfort zone in that; however, it does not have to be the only love and it can be a love that one returns to after maturing through other love experiences. First love is usually rather pure and therefore has a certain strength to it that can allow for a fruitful reunion.
Hi there ICarnell, I don’t believe we’ve met, so welcome to the blog! Always nice to meet a fellow drama fan. 🙂
As for your sentiments on the show, it does seem that we had very different experiences and opinions of it. Which isn’t a bad thing at all, since it promotes sharing and discussion. I wouldn’t go so far to say that Ji Hoon was “full of crap” but I do concede that his character was portrayed as too good to be true. I still gravitated towards him among the 3 characters in our love triangle, mostly because I disliked the other 2 characters as I described in my review, and also, I enjoyed Kim Ji Suk’s warm delivery of the character. Somehow he made Ji Hoon relatively believable as a character in spite of said character being written pretty unbelievably.
As for Yeol Mae and Seok Hyun.. I found Seok Hyun fatalistic and weak as a character, and I found Yeol Mae selfish / self-centered, and I was annoyed by her refusal to take ownership of her decisions, behavior and life. I totally agree with your point that Yeol Mae had the responsibility to grow herself – which is why I don’t buy the idea that her bad behavior is excusable because Seok Hyun was a strong contributor to her personality deficit. She could have chosen to be a better person, but she never does. At no point in the drama do we get to see her take ownership of her behavior and decisions. In fact, I don’t feel that she changed for the better in any significant way through the entire drama. All things considered, I think Yeol Mae and Seok Hyun deserved each other, in that sense.
It’s true that there’s nothing wrong with first loves. I guess it’s become overused as a plot point in too many kdramas, and has started to smack of tropeyness as a result. INR as a series was touted as a fresh & modern take on romance, and I guess it just felt like Show wasn’t keeping its promise, by going back to the first love trope in both Season 1 and Season 2. Other than that, I don’t generally object to a first love theme in a drama, especially if it’s well-written and well-executed.
I’m not sure if my sharing has given you any further perspective, but certainly, it’s fine for us to agree to disagree. We all experience dramas in our own unique ways after all; that’s what makes the drama community to interesting 🙂
is there a review for the first I Need Romance? Or did I miss it?
Anyway, my problem with the INR series is that it gives you the romance, like the best of best romance clichés a girl could ask for, only for the girl to break the good guy’s heart and go back to the not-so-good first love. So is the writer going for the realistic side of love by telling you that romance is too much to ask and you should stay in your comfort zone, even if, objectively speaking, it’s a bad one? I mean, can we have sweet romance and let it be a reason to return someone’s feeling?
I agree about everything you say to why lead girl made it very hard to root for and I was honestly happy that she dumped Ji Hoon in the end b/c I just couldn’t bring myself to be happy for him when she treated him so badly.
I do think that in this one and in the 1st season, the side stories were more appealing and less melodramatic. If the writers weren’t so adamant about that first love=true love=no other love is better, and didn’t try to make the Second Lead so perfect, it would have been the realistic touch I was looking for. With that said, I stand by the fact that it’s one of the rare shows where female friendship is explored and it’s not only about being competitive with each other or fighting over a man…. But since Yeol Mae was so hard to like, I couldn’t get on board with their friendship, at least not like I was in the 1st season where the girls really had scenes to talk over their problems, give each other (sometimes bad) advice but it always cZme from a good place. .. Well, the difference here is that Seok Hyun was nearly the 4th “girl” of the group, so the friendship bond was a bit biased b/c they were his friends too… I don’t know where i was going with this… xD that’s a log of comments in 2 days, right?
You have such eagle-sharp eyes, Sunny! You’re right, there’s no review for the first INR.. I watched that before I started the blog, and never got around to writing a review in retrospect 🙂
I completely agree with your beef with the INR series, that the girl seems to keep breaking the nice guy’s heart (well, with the exception of INR3, that is). Which is why, even though it made Ji Hoon sad, like you, I was happy and relieved that he didn’t get the girl. Coz Yeol Mae was mean and self-centered and not very likable at all, and I thought he was genuinely better off without her. As for the friendships among the girls.. I find that I like them to different degrees, with each installment of the INR series. I liked the female friendships more in some of the installments than others. I can’t quite pinpoint what it is.. Maybe it boils down to the likability of the characters themselves? Or the perceived sincerity of their interactions? I’m not sure.. But yes, it’s a nice touch in dramaland, to have a narrative that brings female friendships to the forefront. Hopefully that’s a sign of things to come? 🙂
And YES, that’s a lot of comments in just 2 days!! I’m sorry I’ve taken a while to reply.. I’m traveling for work, and this week was really hectic.
I love your recap of this! This was one of my favorites of 2012, mainly because like you, I found the leads cute and showing great chemistry (both male leads!). I really appreciate cable for being able to show the sexual side of a relationship realistically. I guess I’ve seen so many types of relationships and so many communication problems that I really enjoyed it and took much of it in stride. Also, once his mysterious terminal illness was revealed, I understood him completely, as there is such an illness in my brother-in-law’s family and it is devastating to live with, especially if you’re not sure if you have it or not. It does change the way one acts and looks at life. Having personal experience with this gives me a different perspective on this drama, I’m sure. (I’m sure we all view dramas from our own personal perspective!)
You reminded me how annoyed I got with Yeol Mae, but that made me appreciate her choosing Seok Hyun even more because these two were used to putting up with each others’ flaws. Also, as much as I liked the character of Ji Hoon, I am not attracted to the actor at all. And yes, I am that shallow – I love LJW so definitely favored him.
Thanks for another insightful review.
Wow, thanks for the perspective and insight!
When the illness was revealed in the drama, it did feel like a big game changer to me and I did feel sorry for him.. but I think after that, part of the reason it stopped feeling like such a huge force was my opinion that he didn’t have to let the illness own him and how he lived his life. Also, I think part of it has to do with how tropey The Illness has become in kdrama. I think that tropey-ness desensitized me to how devastating it would be in real life. Your sharing of this same illness existing in the family of someone you actually know, puts a completely different perspective on it for sure. I can totally see how that would help you to appreciate the character’s struggles in a much more insightful manner. Wow. Thanks for sharing that insight with me – makes me reconsider my reaction to how the character of Seok Hyun was written.
Not everyone handles the situation the same way, but my nephew, while only in his twenties, has not had a girlfriend and is definitely a commitment phobe. I truly think men can live in a much bigger state of denial, but the truth is, if he has it (50/50 chance), it is a death sentence – no cure and no real effective treatment. He’s watched it in the family so knows how devastating it can be to all involved. While some facing it may have the emotional fortitude to not let it rule their life, it is a fact that many commit suicide before even being tested for it. Also, if LJW had it in the drama, his children would have a 50/50 chance of having it, so that could have been another reason he was wary of marriage. I’m hoping in the case of INR2012, the writer had an idea going into the story that she wanted the illness to be responsible for his commitment issue and didn’t just throw it in at the last minute, because that’s a heavy issue to just use for sympathy’s sake. Personally, I was devastated when I realized the drama took that turn, especially because it seemed to be clearly the disease I’ve had experience with.
I also had a different opinion than most regarding A Thousand Days Promise. Many could not believe the male lead would stick by the woman with alzheimer’s, but I’ve personally witnessed almost superhuman devotion to a sick/dying person, so it was believable to me. We can only judge things based on our own experiences, so you shouldn’t feel bad about viewing it differently than I did. I just appreciate you giving me the opportunity to express my opinion!
And on a lighter note, it made me a big LJW fan and that is what prompted me to watch Nine, which I am loving!
OMG. I can imagine how devastating being diagnosed with such an illness would be, but for people to commit suicide without even getting tested?? That’s so tragic! And so needless too, coz they may not have had it. It’s sobering what fear can do to the human mind 🙁
I agree with you – I hope the writer went in with this intentionally and built the whole story around it, coz otherwise it’s a pretty cheap shot.
Good to know Nine is shaping up nicely – that’s definitely on my watch list!
Like you, I also had hope Yeol Mae chose Ji Hoon… For once, I thought the writer made a good pass on the first hero! Almost it did! Big sigh… But I really enjoy the drama, kind of grown up, fresh story and not so much of nagging. Hmmm, perhaps I forgot the nagging part. K Dramas are known to be full of nagging scenes… Anyway, good review!
Thanks Nelly! I’m glad you enjoyed the review! 🙂
Now that you mention it, I think there WAS less nagging in this show! I’m guessing it was most probably because the characters’ family members weren’t shown very much at all, so the only nagging that happened was between the friends themselves.
And yes, definitely, I so wanted the writers to do something different from the first season, and let the female lead NOT go back to her first love. That would have made this a MUCH fresher drama, I think! ^^
Such a good analysis of what went wrong. (Though, I like that you included everything that they did right, because they did do some things right and it was nice to be reminded of them.)
What’s interesting (to me, anyway ;)) is that I came away from the drama with the same level of dislike for Seok Hyun that you had for Yeol Mae. I was trying to figure out why, because you did a really good job pointing out Yeol Mae’s faults and I totally remembered them in a “oh, yeah she did do that” kind of way rather than a “oh, but if you look at it this way it’s not so bad…” So I was trying to figure out why I cut YM so much more slack than I obviously cut SH.
I think that I put the blame for most of her bad behavior on him. SH was so shut off, and from the very early days, too. And it felt to me like YM had been shaped by him to be this constant crying child — because that was the only way she ever got his attention. Whereas Ji Hoon encouraged her to be an adult. (By the time the show was over I was actually turned off by the term “oppa” because that’s what YM called SH and I felt there was this underlying ugliness to that place it put her in. I did get over that, though. ;))
It’s probably very unfair on my part, but that’s how it fell out in my head. I think part of it was his issues were of the sort that really, really bother me. Sort of like having two things on your plate you don’t like, but one actually makes you ill, so that’s the one you describe as the thing you don’t like. if that makes any sense.
Wow, that’s interesting, that you felt as strongly about Seok Hyun as I did Yeol Mae. This gave me food for thought, coz I tried to figure out why I disliked Yeol Mae more. Here’s what I’ve got so far:
I have to agree that Seok Hyun’s issues were of the distasteful sort too, and I clearly didn’t spend much time at all exploring them in this review. I hated his fatalistic mindset and victim mentality. He allowed his one big issue to determine how he lived his entire life, and he seemed to genuinely believe that his only choice was to keep Yeol Mae at arm’s length. So not true. He had other choices which he just refused to make, and simply chose to shut himself away from the rest of the world instead. I found him frustrating and weak as a character.
I think the reason that I disliked Yeol Mae MORE, is because her behavior was more overtly nasty to more people. I mean, Seok Hyun’s behavior hurt Yeol Mae and those close to him, sure, but he was pleasant and helpful to other people, so he appeared less revolting in a general sense in my eyes. Yeol Mae, on the other hand, was cruel so much of the time, and even took some pride in being spiteful. I hate people like that.
I agree that Yeol Mae had allowed Seok Hyun to shape her character. But I like to think that she had a choice in it. She could have chosen not to become that spiteful, whining baby, but she didn’t. She allowed him to shape her character, which again, relinquishes responsibility. I’m sure that in her head, it’s something like, “Well, Oppa made me this way.” Which echoes my big beef with her lack of ownership to everything in her life.
And also, as unbelievable as I found it, Seok Hyun as a character did change in the end and he did become more communicative etc. But Yeol Mae remained the same, pretty much, AND she got the guy that she wanted. So it looked like she had been rewarded for staying the same unpleasant self that she’d been in ep 1. I was put off by that.
I have to agree that by the end stretch of the show, her cry of “Oppa!” really grated on my nerves >.<
Everything you say is true. And it’s actually kind of reminding me how frustrating the ending was. Because she didn’t change or grow, and his growth struck me as false so I didn’t buy it. I really think it came down to his issue hit me first so I gave her passes she didn’t, quite frankly, deserve.
Oh I hear ya! The ending was frustrating for me too, for exactly those reasons!
This was an odd show for me, coz on the surface, there was quite a lot to like, and yet, walking away, I felt bemused and completely dissatisfied. On the upside, it made me think – though probably not in the way the writers were hoping for! 😉
I really felt like this show should have gone with the second lead and been about getting over a first love that didn’t work. Because it just didn’t. I didn’t love love love the co-writer that Seok Hyun was being paired with, but I think if he had been able to communicate with her than it would have been okay. I also found the lead off-putting especially because she seemed to learn nothing. I think that was my main problem was she learned nothing Seok Hyun had to learn everything and completely changed and learn to be more communicative. This show just frustrated me because it followed the kdrama playbook line by line instead of trying something new. I liked your analysis, and I think it can be enjoyable, but I just found it too frustrating, after I realized what the ending would be.
Yes, I was so very annoyed with Yeol Mae, and I felt more and more frustrated as I neared the end of the show too. It’s true that she didn’t seem to learn anything much at all over the course of the entire drama. I had issues with Seok Hyun too, but it was Yeol Mae who REALLY drove me up the wall! >.<
You're right, the show should've just acknowledged that Yeol Mae and Seok Hyun weren't good for each other and explored how they grew up and matured, instead of harping on the first love thing. I would've preferred to watch that drama for sure!
Yeah also I feel like then it would have worked more as a sequel because it could be seen as playing out the other end of the romance presented in the first one. A la Heartstrings. But that’s cool, drama, don’t do that and just stick to the playbook. Not like I haven’t seen that A LOT. 😛
True! You don’t have to keep the first love theme in order to qualify as a sequel! I wish they’d taught the writers that in writing school! 😉
I know! They should just have let us write the sequel! 😉
LOL! Yeah, we would have written it just the way we like it! 😉 Would’ve had no time left to blog, but we’d have had a much happier time watching a drama that we wrote ourselves, heh ^^
I’m definitely going to watch this as I’ve already downloaded this 😉
but it’s good that you gave a positive review so I’m feeling good 🙂
There was a fair bit to like in this drama, and there are some who really love this drama to bits. I have to confess that I’m not one of them, I’m afraid. If I stacked up the number of things I liked against the number of things I didn’t like, what I liked would win in terms of sheer numbers. BUT. The few things that I didn’t like were weighty things in my view, and that really bummed me out.
Still, I hope you like it better than I did! I’d be curious to know how you find it – let me know! 🙂
ya sure 🙂