In a drama landscape where big budgets and loud buzz grab most of the spotlight, Bring It On, Ghost is, quite literally, the little drama that could.
Nestled in the midst of other dramas boasting bigger names, bigger budgets and bigger hype, it’s easy to overlook this show – everyone’s got limited drama hours to spend, after all, and isn’t it natural to gravitate towards the dramas with bigger names, bigger budgets and bigger hype?
If you’ve ever been bitten by a show that starts out fabulous but then crushes your drama hopes to smithereens by derailing partway through, though, you might just appreciate Ghost. It’s got its flaws – minor inconsistencies and some pacing issues – but it just chugs along in its understated way, and is relatively consistent from start to finish. Which, if you’ve been hurt by a drama before, is a pretty solid achievement not to be sniffed at.
As a bonus, Taecyeon and Kim So Hyun are surprisingly cute together, too.
STUFF I LIKED
What I like about Ghost is that it’s an easy, uncomplicated watch. Yes, it’s not at all heavy on the twists and turns, but that also means not much brain power is required in order to enjoy this show. And sometimes, that’s just the kind of show that we need, after a long day dealing with Real Life stuff, right?
Show’s mostly pretty cute, and the ghosts aren’t even that scary – which is just how I like ’em. I generally wuss out at scary shows, and I did just fine with the creepies in this one.
Here are my top highlights when it comes to this show.
1. Kim So Hyun as Hyun Ji & Taecyeon as Bong Pal
I think most folks had concerns when Taec was cast opposite Kim So Hyun in this show. 1, coz of the 10-year age difference between the actors (Taec’s 27, while Kim So Hyun is 17), and 2, coz Kim So Hyun’s known to be an acting powerhouse, and Taec.. not so much.
I’m happy to report that neither of these factors bothered me during my watch of Ghost.
First of all, the age difference didn’t strike me as that huge, when I watched them in character. The characters are actually only a year apart, and as a general rule, I’m more interested in the age difference between characters than the actors that play them. It’s true that Taec looks a shade mature to be playing a college student, but that’s also true of Kang Ki Young, who plays sunbae Chun Sang, and is a year older than Taec. Plus, I know people in Real Life who looked older than Taec, when they were actually attending college. Some people just have mature faces, right?
Second of all, the characters are written such that the difference in acting ability isn’t terribly pronounced. Taec’s character Bong Pal is a gruff marshmallow, and suits Taec very well. On the other hand, Kim So Hyun’s character Hyun Ji is bright, cheery and full of aegyo, which I love. I haven’t ever seen Kim So Hyun this way, and I think she’s adorable and should get to play aegyo-tastic characters more often.
The tone of the show is mostly light, which means that both actors spend more time on the lighter end of the scale; a thing that I find evens out the acting issue nicely. As a bonus, I found that Taec actually does a solid job when Bong Pal’s character faces heavier, more emotional moments. He may not be brilliant at the acting, but he’s definitely improved since I last saw him in Wonderful Days, and I found his delivery of those weightier moments very decent indeed.
2. Hyun Ji & Bong Pal as our OTP
Kim So Hyun and Taec have a good synergy going, and I enjoyed watching them together on my screen.
Sure, the kissy scenes lean a little stiff, but that’s not unlike most kdramas anyway, and I feel it shouldn’t be held against them, especially since PD-nim was probably working to be sensitive to their real-life age difference.
On the upside, I love their bickery rapport, and they make a great ghost-busting duo.
I also really enjoyed the dynamic of sunny, aegyo-tastic Hyun Ji ingratiating herself into Bong Pal’s reluctant good books, pretty much against his will. It’s all super cute stuff, and I never tired of watching them grow closer, unwilling step by unwilling step. Bong Pal’s growing affection for Hyun Ji was a particular favorite of mine, and I really liked the way he generally looks at her, with warmth and fondness. I also loved the little things that Bong Pal does for Hyun Ji, like buying her a popsicle in episode 6, coz it’s in the little things that we see that he cares. <3
[SPOILER] I was a little disappointed that post-coma Hyun Ji doesn’t ever remember her days as a “ghost” or the time she’d spent with Bong Pal, but there is also something romantic about her falling for him all over again, memories or no. [END SPOILER]
3. The writing’s got heart
In a show where campy comedy is a regular feature, I found it refreshing to find spots of heart, sometimes where I least expected it.
Sometimes, it was in the form of the ghost-of-the-day’s backstory. Occasionally, I found those beats unexpectedly touching. More often, it was in the poignant moments of our main characters. [MINOR SPOILER] Like the little beat in episode 3, when Hyun Ji treats her new toothbrush so preciously, because she hadn’t had anything to call her own since she’d died. I found that beat unexpectedly moving, and rather thought-provoking. [END MINOR SPOILER]
[SPOILER] I also found the angst at the end of episode 9, from Hyun Ji’s perspective, rather relatable and thought-provoking. The angst of a ghost-human relationship, where she felt bad for him being looked at as a weirdo by everyone else, is easy to relate to, for anyone who’s been in an unconventional relationship. [END SPOILER]
It was this heartfelt treatment of our characters, underlying the campy comedy, that made this show an engaging watch for me.
4. Comic Duo In Rang and Chun Sang
I’ll be the first to admit that these two were a slow burn, for me. I don’t typically enjoy overly campy stuff, and these two were clearly the designated Funny Men of this show, often going off on long, campy tangents that might or might not have anything to do with the main story.
Still, in spite of myself, and in spite of some moments of impatience with these two, they eventually endeared themselves to me, and by show’s end, I found that I had a legit fondness for both of these characters.
Kang Ki Young and David Lee are perfectly cast, and they’re just the right combination of clueless, geeky scaredy cats, who amusingly turn into instant fanboys of Bong Pal, once they realize he has the ability to not only see ghosts, but kick ghost butt.
[SPOILER] I found In Rang’s (David Lee) crush on Hyun Ji pretty cute, but more than that, I found his eventual selfless support of Bong Pal and Hyun Ji’s relationship very sweet. I also loved that In Rang and Chun Sang eventually graduate from being Bong Pal’s fanboys to becoming his friends and support network. Aw. [END SPOILER]
STUFF THAT I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
1. Creepy Hye Sung
I could be bucking the trend here, but I wasn’t ever really keen on the Creepy Hye Sung arc, and I never found Kwon Yul’s Intense Evil Stare very intriguing nor scary at all. I mean, I know I was supposed to be chilled and intrigued by Hye Sung, particularly by his Intense Stares accompanied by those echoey low growls, but I felt indifferent towards him most of the way through.
I think the problem with Creepy Hye Sung, is that Show withheld actual information from us for far too long. It’s literally the final few episodes before we actually know what Creepy Hye Sung’s actual deal is, and by then, I was long over the dark professor arc, and had simply categorized him in my head as a Creepy Character with the need to glower inexplicably on a regular basis.
2. Pacing issues & spots of jerky tone
…Which brings me my next point really nicely.
Show has some pacing issues, in terms of where it chooses to spend its time. I feel that in trying to prolong the mystery around Creepy Hye Sung, Show ended up cycling in place for too long. Instead of amping up the dramatic tension, I felt like it actually sucked a lot of the dramatic tension out of the watch, for me. It’s literally only in episode 14 before we finally get some actual answers about the backstory, and for me, that was really, really late.
With screen time exploring Hye Sung’s actual deal being actively withheld, we end up with some filler stuff, like episode 6’s random MT, which made the episode a particularly laid back one with no actual ghostbusting by our ghostbusting team.
There are also other spots where Show’s tone felt a little jerky. Given Show’s pacing issues, these.. didn’t really help.
[SPOILERS] Like in episode 13, when Hyun Ji’s mom suddenly becomes abrasive and calculative, when she’d been pretty nice and mellow before. Bong Pal also goes from actively reconnecting with Hyun Ji, to keeping a cold distance, to then grabbing her and kissing her again. This also felt jerky, even though I understood the rationale behind it. Hyun Ji deciding that she does mind Bong Pal spending time with Seo Yeon (Baek Seo Yi), and interrupting Seo Yeon’s drunken time with Bong Pal, also feels rather sudden and quite out-of-the-blue. It almost felt like Show was having a sudden onset of some kind of split-personality disorder, honestly. [END SPOILER]
3. Some inconsistencies
It’s not that I have terribly high expectations of this drama, but I couldn’t help but notice some inconsistencies in Show’s treatment of its supernatural rules.
Here are just a handful of inconsistencies that I noticed:
E5. We now see that when Hyun Ji eats, the food actually is left behind and looks untouched. If she’s not actually reducing the amount of food on the table, it doesn’t make sense that Bong Pal said in the beginning of the show, that she ate too much and he wouldn’t be able to afford it.
E8. It’s cute that Bong Pal buys Hyun Ji her own uniform, but doesn’t he have to burn it for her? This is inconsistent with how she got to wear her new dress. Also, while I’m on this topic, we even see Hyun Ji with her 3 outfits laid out later, including the uniform that had been replaced by the burned dress, while trying to decide on an outfit for her date with Bong Pal. How is that even supposed to work?
E9. It’s pretty cute seeing Bong Pal and Hyun Ji enjoying a bit of breezy couple time, but because Show is a bit abrupt in taking them from awkward I-don’t-know-what-we-are to sudden happy couple, it feels weird. Also, the perspective of the rest of the world while Bong Pal is interacting with Hyun Ji is not very well fleshed-out. It feels like Show is just poking at it rather half-heartedly. Sometimes we get a glimpse of that perspective, but mostly we don’t, and it doesn’t add up, honestly.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
The penultimate episode
In episode 15, we finally get the final showdown between the good guys and the Big Evil, and it’s solidly fast-paced. We finally get the answers we’ve been waiting for, and even though the answers feel super late, they do make sense in this dramaworld’s context, for which I am grateful.
Plus, having grown fond of these characters, I found it easy to root for them as they faced the Big Evil and fought to protect one another. Myung Chul (Kim Sang Ho) literally laying down his life to protect Bong Pal moved me, and Bong Pal and Hyun Ji throwing themselves in harm’s way to protect each other was also sweetly touching.
The actual finale
All in all, the ending felt pretty solid and satisfying.
It’s true that pacing-wise, it felt a touch abrupt and jerky, with the resolution of the Final Showdown between our team of ghostbusters and the Big Evil that had been set up by the penultimate episode, being dealt with pretty swiftly in the first few minutes, and the rest of the episode falling into an easy-breezy sort of tone, and mostly functioning like an extended epilogue of sorts. In that sense, the penultimate episode felt a lot more exciting than the finale itself.
Ordinarily, this type of epilogue-esque ending would strike me as mostly filler, but in this show’s case, I actually liked it and found it fitting.
After spending so many episodes figuring out the Big Evil and finding a way to annihilate him (it?), I felt that our characters deserved their own time and space, to figure out their lives and relationships, and have the luxury of bickering over little everyday type things instead of fighting for their lives.
It was fun to see Bong Pal and Hyun Ji become an actual campus couple and indulge in little petty jealousies. It was amusing to see the eventual evolution of Soondae Soup. It was particularly sweet, to see Bong Pal finally embrace Myung Chul as his family and officially share his home with him. It was even a little poignant, to see Hye Sung adjust to life, post-possession, and reconnect with his mom.
After all of that, I’m glad that we even had time to see our ghostbusting team reunited again and ready to take on the (under)world.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
A touch slow in spots, but overall, a pretty solid watch, with healthy helpings of cute, silly and heart.
FINAL GRADE: B