Plus Nine Boys is a lovely little drama that’s cute without being cutesy; emotionally engaging without being overwrought or sappy; funny without being OTT campy.
Its plot points are everyday and unremarkable, but therein lies its slice-of-life, I-can-really-relate-to-that appeal. In just 14 episodes, I grew to really enjoy these characters. And after 14 episodes, I didn’t want to say goodbye.
These characters had started to believably feel like the folks next door; folks whom I watched through their living room window as they lived their lives and I lived mine; folks who felt like real people, and with whom I wouldn’t have minded spending another 10, 20, or even 40 episodes with.
Beyond the set-up, that all of our “plus nine” boys are “cursed” for the year, I’m actually glad that Show only uses that as a bare-bones sort of framework, and eventually fleshes out our boys’ stories more as very relatable and normal growing pains instead.
There’s a lot to like in this understated, charming little show, so here’s a quick shout-out to some of my favorite things in the show.
1. Kim Young Kwang as Kang Jin Goo
Before this show, I didn’t have much of an impression of Kim Young Kwang, to be honest. I mostly identified him with the cowardly bullies he’d played in White Christmas and Hot Young Bloods. I didn’t care for him or his characters all that much in both shows.
Here in Plus Nine Boys, though, Kim Young Kwang manages to make Jin Goo just the right balance of smartass and vulnerable, and it really works to make Jin Goo pop as a character. He feels so real, and those flashes of vulnerability make him endearing and empathetic.
I started out thinking that maybe the smartass deserved what he got, but I ended up totally rooting for him.
2. Kyung Soo Jin as Ma Se Young
I love that Kyung Soo Jin as Ma Se Young is such a normal, down-to-earth girl, and I love that she’s a big eater who isn’t all skin and bones. She’s a pretty girl, but not so pretty that she feels unreal. She totally feels like she could plausibly be a Real Life friend.
She’s got a very likable, warm, matter-of-fact vibe about her, and I love that she totally feels like a regular person trying her best to do her job, and live her life, while still dreaming her dreams.
3. Jin Goo and Se Young’s Arc
This was the couple that rooted for the most, coz their interactions feel so believable.
I love that while all the other girls fall for Jin Goo’s careless charms, that Se Young will have none of it. That set-up is so perfect, really, that the player who could plausibly charm any girl he wants, is hopelessly moony over the one girl who simply won’t take any of his crap. So. Satisfying.
I love how Show treats their interactions and their developing arc, and I also really like their chemistry.
Here are just a few shots of them, and in case you think these are spoilers, they’re not. These are photos that they took as friends, for a work assignment early in the show. Even so, you can already see the cuteness, right?
Aw. I just wanna squish ’em and put ’em in my pocket.
4. Other highlights: a quick list
While I enjoyed Jin Goo’s and Se Young’s arcs the most, there were quite a few other things that I enjoyed about the show:
1. Min Goo (Yook Sung Jae) as the vain 19-year-old judo athlete, who gets his life turned upside down when he meets his “Destiny Girl” (Park Cho Rong);
2. Dong Goo (Choi Ro Woon) as our 9-year-old mini celeb, whose struggles basically center on him losing his cuteness, and his mini girlfriend (Lee Chae Mi), ha;
3. Kwang Soo (Oh Jung Se), the 39-year-old uncle to the boys, whose struggle to find true love stood out as one of the more poignant arcs in this show;
4. The boys’ friends. Jin Goo’s and Se Young’s friendship with Jae Bum (Kim Hyun Joon) is heartwarming; Min Goo’s judo friends, who keep stuffing their faces with convenience store food, are harmlessly amusing; and Kwang Soo’s colleague and friend Young Hoon (Kim Kang Hyun) is such a caring, nosy, nagging (and therefore amusing) mother-hen type.
I rather like the fortune-teller device, where Mom (Kim Mi Kyung) is told that only 1 of the 3 older boys will find a good relationship that year.
It injects a sense of mystery for us that adds to the dramatic tension. As I watched, I kept wondering, Who will it be? And, will all the boys trump fate to have happy-ever-afters in spite of what’s been decreed?
[END MINOR SPOILER]
One of the things that I really appreciate about this show, is how, amid the cute, it remains realistic and relatable.
For one, I really like that Show doesn’t treat our characters’ struggles simply, but acknowledges that making up over something once doesn’t magically make the issue go away.
At the same time, it acknowledges the very real awkwardness and frustration in things that we all know too well. Stuff like trying to get over someone; pretending to be ok with being “just friends” with someone; feeling extremely awkward around an Ex.
It mirrors Real Life so well, in that respect, which I feel is one of this show’s strengths.
And true to its satisfying mimicry of Real Life, Show wraps up in a way that feels real and hopeful too. I love that the show leaves many of the boys’ issues either semi-tied or untied.
It makes me feel like these characters will continue to live and learn and love, long after the cameras stop rolling, which is just the kind of thought that makes me smile.
In the end, the “Plus Nine” thing really doesn’t turn out to be a curse at all.
It’s just that, sometimes, when you’re going through those very necessary growing pains, it can feel miserable and there are times when you feel like the world is against you, and yes, sometimes you even might feel like you’re cursed, but in the end, they all turn out to be growing pains.
In the same way, although not all of our boys find their dream girls, by the time our show ends, every one of the boys manages to cross meaningful growth milestones and begins to look at life differently and begins to dream new dreams – or at least begins to find those new dreams to dream.
And that’s not a bad thing at all.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Uncomplicated and relatable. Mild comfort food that’s great for unwinding to.
FINAL GRADE: B+
Despite the trailers being decidedly more quirky than the actual show, I like them a lot, and find them amusing. Here’s a quick, cute teaser featuring the Plus Nine boys together:
Here’s a slightly longer trailer featuring each of the Plus Nine boys with each of their love interests:
For those who’d like to revisit the various couples in our story, these are for you.
Jin Goo & Se Young
Kwang Soo & Da In
Min Goo & Soo Ah
yes, the show is worth watching and, for me, besides “comfort food” it was also a “band aid” … after watching Han Ye-Seul’s mask-like face in “Birth of a Beauty” (even though i knew Sara was supposed to also show the aftereffects of extensive plastic surgery) i was seriously considering giving up watching k-dramas.
what i liked most in this show was the concept of telling the 100% truth (Kang Min-Goo & Han Soo-A couple) … even if it’s not always pleasant … because imo it’s the most important thing in every long-lasting relationship. love without trust is bound to die sooner or later … love aided by trust can burn forever.
“I started out thinking that maybe the smartass deserved what he got, but I ended up totally rooting for him.” … hm … i rooted for Ma Se Young (whatever or whoever would make her happy) … maybe because i can’t really relate to the selfishness of any of the 4 male characters or maybe because i’m getting a bit tired of the “i love you and therefore you have to …” theme.
Lol. You made me giggle over comment on Birth of a Beauty, INTJ! XD I haven’t checked out Birth of a Beauty, but I’ve heard some frustration from friends who have, and therefore, it’s not high on my list. Sounds like I don’t need to be in a hurry to check it out, AT ALL! XD
You’re right, the point of Min Goo’s and Soo Ah’s arc was about truth and growth, rather than romance. Both of them had to grapple with appearance vs. reality, and in the end, choose to grow from the experience, even though it hurt.
Ah, sorry, I think I wasn’t very clear. I wasn’t rooting for Jin Goo as he was. I wanted him to get the girl, yes, but I also wanted him to grow and mature, and start to see beyond himself. I loved Se Young as a character, and found her warm, earthy and relatable. And from the beginning, we kind of knew that she liked Jin Goo. It wasn’t revealed explicitly till later, but there enough signs for me to guess that that’s where her heart was. And I guess that way, it was easy to root for this couple. They already liked each other, the question was how would they work past the issues that had tripped them up in the past. I found the treatment of characters and relationships in this how quite realistic and believable, which is one of the big things that I liked about this show. Really glad you picked up this one, INTJ. This show is an underrated little gem, imo. 🙂
you should watch it when you’re in the mood to ponder a bit about one’s true identity. the drama makes some really good points about what makes each of us unique, about how shallow we often are, about necessary steps for one to grow, a.s.o. … but be warned that although we’re genetically programmed to recognize a face in every oval form we see, actually we prefer to recognize faces that show signs of life. something similar could be said for “way too much makeup” or even “(very) wrong hair color” too (for ex. Han Bo Reum in Modern Farmer) …
yup, i know that one of the most common scenario girls dream of is “bad boy changes into good guy because he loves me” … i like it too (it show the power of love). real life however is different (bad boys don’t really change to the core) and since the drama was indeed very realistic, in this case the dream scenario was imho a bit out of place. i felt it stereotyped Ma Se Young more so than Han Soo Ah was sterotyped as the bad girl (who actually doesn’t really change into “good girl”, as opposed to Jin Goo). on the other hand, maybe they wanted to show the changes in relationships of different generations … but i know too little about that (in Asia) to have an opinion.
anyway, i have to agree with your assessment: it is an underrated little gem, well worth the time spent watching it.
Thanks for the introduction to Birth of a Beauty, INTJ! I’ll definitely keep that in mind when it comes to that show. Despite the measure of disappointment I’ve heard about it, I haven’t dropped it from my list yet. I think a lot of that might have to do with residual affection for Joo Sang Wook after seeing him in Cunning Single Lady. 😉
You know, you’re right. Se Young was stereotyped more than was realistic. Such good spotting! I guess I was so taken with her likability and her warmth, and her adorable love for food, that I was willing to overlook the stereotyped bits of her characterization. I think that unrealistic, lazy bit of writing showed up more towards the end of the show, which is a pity. I found her earlier characterization quite nicely done, and I enjoyed her very well as a character. 🙂
Maybe they should’ve made the show a little longer, to allow for better writing around the weaker bits. Characters and relationships all better fleshed out to make them really pop. I would’ve loved a few more episodes on this baby. 🙂