If you’ve read my recent posts, you’d probably know that of late, I’ve been bucking the trend in terms of not loving shows that everyone else seems to love. I was really kinda bummed that even though J-drama Rich Man, Poor Woman and C-drama Shan Shan Comes To Eat are crowd favorites, they just never became one of my favorites.
Well whaddya know. I’m bucking the trend again, with this show. But this time, it’s a happier event for me (woot!), coz while lots of folks seemed to be pretty underwhelmed by 20th Century Boy and Girl, I actually really liked this one, you guys. And I mean, in a solid, I’m-sorry-to-say-goodbye kinda way, too.
Maybe with the right lens, you might also end up liking this one. You never know?
20th Century Boy And Girl OST – 아주 멀지 않은 날에
THE ALL-IMPORTANT LENS
It seems like many viewers didn’t like this show because it felt slow and boring, like nothing very exciting ever happened in this drama world. Which is a fair point. If you’re looking for an exciting drama, this is definitely not one that would fit the bill.
When I look at the flip side of that same coin, though, that angst-lite quality can be a very appealing thing indeed, given the right context. For example, if you’re going through a lot of drama in your own life, and just want to escape into a different world where stuff is less rocky, people are generally warm and welcoming, and obstacles are overcome without too much difficulty, this would be perfect.
Or, if you’re looking for a sweet lil drama to lull you into dreamland, this would be perfect too. I personally watched this show as a drama nightcap, and it hit that just-so balance between being engaging enough to make me want to keep watching, and gentle enough that it didn’t keep me awake at night. Overall, there was enough to enjoy in this one, that I legit felt sorry to see it end, y’all.
STUFF I LIKED
1. The long-time friendship between the 3 gal pals
Right off the bat – and through the rest of the show – I loved the friendship between our 3 girls. Their friendship really pops for me.
On paper, they are so different from one another. Jin Jin (Han Ye Seul) is a big Hallyu star and is sweet and smiley; Ah Reum (Ryu Hyun Kyung) is senior cabin crew and is pretty outspoken and brash; Young Shim (Lee Sang Hee) is a lawyer and is reserved and a little awkward with people in general. Yet, these 3 get along like a house on fire. I feel like they literally come alive to another level, when they are around one another.
I love that they’ve maintained their friendship all these years. I love that even though they’ve each grown into different careers after leaving school, that they’re still super tight and hang out together and squee together. There are no airs among these three. They see all of each person’s flaws, and choose to accept and love one another anyway. Their friendship feels candid, familiar and cozy, and I loves it.
[SPOILER] A great everyday example of how these girls make their friendship work, is in episode 14. Young Shim’s had a particularly difficult day, and tries calling Jin Jin and Ah Reum in turn, but both friends are busy with their own problems and unable to entertain her call. Young Shim swallows her disappointment and soldiers on. That night, though, Jin Jin and Ah Reum wait together at the bus stop for her, with smiles on their faces and an umbrella in hand, big enough to shelter all 3 of them from the rain. Seeing her 2 besties waiting for her, Young Shim breaks into the biggest smile – and so do I. I love that even in the midst of their own problems, Jin Jin and Ah Reum sense that Young Shim needs her friends, and make it a point to be there for her. Aw. [END SPOILER]
I loved watching these 3 friends sticking together through thick and thin, and found it all super endearing. I honestly wouldn’t have minded a show purely showcasing their friendship, with no romance involved. Except that of course we must have romance in this case, coz there’s Kim Ji Suk after all. Melt. (More on that in a bit.)
2. Ji Won & Jin Jin
I’ve generally felt ambivalent about Han Ye Seul as an actress, so it makes me happy to say that I liked Jin Jin right away.
I like that she’s down-to-earth despite being a big star. She’s punctual, patient, gracious, and professional. Even better than that, she genuinely cares about the people around her, and demonstrates loyalty and care in both the big and little things. Even better than that, is how she doesn’t actually care about her image, once she’s around her friends. She has no qualms taking goofy pictures and making dorky faces, and it’s just hard not to like her.
[SPOILER] There’s a great little scene in episode 6 where Jin Jin’s imagination goes into overdrive, that quite succinctly sums up her conflicting desires. Her imagining that Ji Won comes to her door and asks her to run away with him, says a lot about what she wants. The other imagined scene, of Ji Won’s wife confronting her, and the entire thing coming out in the news, also says a lot about the decorum she feels she needs to keep. With this one scene, I felt like I understood Jin Jin’s inner struggle pretty well. [END SPOILER]
I love Kim Ji Suk, and am so pleased that he’s our romantic leading man. Squee! Yes, the material isn’t the most exciting, attention-grabbing stuff out there, but he does so well, with what he’s given. He makes Ji Won so likable, accessible and lovely, that I found myself wanting to reach into my screen to hug Ji Won, more than a few times.
There’s something extremely warm, gentle and inviting about the vibe that he gives off as Ji Won. He makes Ji Won a very assuring presence. On top of that, I love that despite Ji Won’s big-shot corporate image, he isn’t a proud jerk. There’s still a very down-to-earth vibe about him. He feels approachable, and I love that.
I tried to pick just one thing to highlight about Ji Won, but I like so many things about him that I decided I couldn’t settle for just one. So here’re 3 Ji Won highlights.
1. The airport scene
I love the scene at the airport in episodes 1-2. In the few seconds when he first lays eyes on Jin Jin, I could already feel the wistfulness in him, and I could see that this was a man who had a lot of feelings for this woman, and that things were kinda complicated. So much depth, in so little time.
And then, even better, he goes and takes her hand, in the middle of what must’ve felt like a hurricane. That is so sweet. No wrist-grabbing, just a gentle, reassuring hand-hold. In this moment, I’m pretty sure I loved him already. ❤
2. So much consideration
There’s something so affectionate and caring, yet restrained in the way he is towards Jin Jin. And it’s clearly out of consideration for her than out of being less than confident.
In the early episodes, he pretended not to recognize her when she dressed up as the chicken delivery guy, so that she wouldn’t feel embarrassed in front of him. That’s really sweet. He saves her several times, &/or stands up for her, and mostly he does it anonymously. He never brags that he knows the superstar. And the look in his eyes when they finally face each other in the lift, is just so affectionate and welcoming. There’s no judgment in his gaze, only warmth. If I were in Jin Jin’s shoes, I’d fall for him right there. Just so, so melty, in the most understated way. ❤
3. The kisses
Kim Ji Suk kisses like he means it, and I really, really dig it. Considering that this is a drama on a Big Three Network than on, say, tvN, I think it’s a Pretty Big Deal.
Ji Won consistently goes all in, and makes sure to kiss his Jin Jin properly. Swoon.
Jin Jin & Ji Won together
One of the big grumbles about this loveline, is that it felt really slow. I personally didn’t mind the slow pace, because it felt organic to me – at least for the most part.
I enjoyed this OTP very well, in part because their connection felt believably developed, and because Kim Ji Suk and Han Ye Seul share a solid chemistry. When Ji Won and Jin Jin are being chummy, the air between them is relaxed and easy, and I can believe that these two have known each other for a long time. When they’re hyperaware of each other, the air between them feels crackly electric, and I can believe that each feels the other’s presence, down to their pores.
I personally really enjoyed the way Ji Won comes across with Jin Jin, during those early-episode moments when the romantic tension peeks through the surface. He’s a mixture of gentle affection and sweet amusement, and there’s a languid, relaxed sheen about how he seems to feel about the whole thing. It feels like he’s not nervous about her feelings for him, neither is he in a rush to move things along; like he’s content to enjoy the journey, while they take their time reconnecting. I found that very appealing.
Here’re 3 things that I enjoy about this couple.
1. They are genuinely friends
I love the fact that beyond the romantic feelings, these two people are truly close friends who enjoy each other’s company, and who can be honest with each other.
In episode 12, when Ji Won gets accidentally locked into Jin Jin’s room, I actually liked that instead of turning it into a more typical tension-charged hyper-awareness sort of moment, Show let these two just relax and have fun and enjoy each other’s company. The ease and comfort they feel around each other is really clear, and I like that.
In episode 13, the topic of Jin Jin’s sister, which everyone else avoids studiously, is tackled matter-of-factly and honestly. Jin Jin spills all the details without holding back; all Ji Won had to do, was ask. And Ji Won doesn’t hold back either. He tells her about being dumped before his wedding – again, something that he doesn’t seem to tell others about. I like that a lot; it shows how much these two trust each other, and how comfortable they are, with each other.
2. They’re like teenagers
Because these two dated for all of 3 days when they were teenagers, they kind of still feel like teenagers now, when they pick up where they left off. In episode 10, both of them primping separately before breakfast is super cute. It’s like watching two teenagers crushing on each other and trying to leave a good impression on each other.
3. Their relationship is so healthy
I really like how healthy their relationship demonstrates itself to be, by the later episodes.
In particular, I like the way that Ji Won’s closure with Bella was handled in episode 30. First of all, Jin Jin doesn’t hide the fact that she saw Bella’s text. She tells Ji Won she saw it, and apologizes, and they have a conversation about it. She even encourages him to meet Bella, if only to get closure – even though she regrets it later, in a small fit of jealousy.
There was no emotional meeting, nor any dramatic conversations; just a simple phone call, of him declining to meet, and simply explaining what the shoes meant to him. It feels like he’s reached a place of acceptance, and is fully ready to move on. I like it.
The fact that he then goes right to Jin Jin to propose with the cutest cake, is just bonus. ❤
3. Ah Reum & Woo Sung
I found Ah Reum funny and a little brash, and soon discovered that beneath the funny and the brash, she’s also caring and thoughtful.
[SPOILER] I found her uber endearing when she burst into tears in episode 4, blaming herself for what Jin Jin had to go through with the media after her hospital visit. And I couldn’t help melting a little, when, in episode 7, she demands that Jin Jin buy her a bag, just so that she can ask for one for Young Shim too – because she’d noticed Young Shim’s worn-out work bag. It’s so backwards, but it’s also so thoughtful and sweet – just like Ah Reum herself. [END SPOILER]
With his “face reversal” and his comical reaction expressions, I’d pegged Woo Sung as simply the Funny Guy at first. But then, he started caring about Ah Reum, [SPOILER] like in episode 10, where he literally brings his date to the Han River looking for a drunk Ah Reum, out of worry for her – only to end up piggybacking a deliriously violent Ah Reum, and losing his date in the process. Ha. And, aw. [END SPOILER] After that, I couldn’t help but have a bit of a soft spot for him.
[SPOILER] I think my favorite Woo Sung moment in the show, is in episode 20, when he comes to Ah Reum’s rescue. He looks terrified himself, but he bravely gets rid of the creepy cab driver for Ah Reum, even if it’s by throwing his own shoes, heh. How adorkable is he? And how sweet, that he then goes to Ah Reum’s apartment to hug her and assure her it’s ok – without even picking up his shoes first. Aw. [END SPOILER]
Ah Reum & Woo Sung together
With Jin Jin and Ji Won, things are more awkward when they are just trying to be friends. Once they become a couple, their ease with each other just completely blossoms. With Ah Reum and Woo Sung, it’s kind of the opposite. Things are much more comfortable with these two, when they are just friends. Once they start dating, things become a lot more awkward, which is pretty funny to watch.
That doesn’t mean that these two don’t work well together, though. Once they decide to just be comfortable the way they used to be, before they started dating, they become a very cute couple that I very much enjoyed having on my screen.
[SPOILER] One of my favorite moments with this couple is when Ah Reum realizes that she’s attracted to Woo Sung. It’s cute, yes, but what’s awesome about it, is how she pretty much just ups and kisses him the second she realizes it’s true that she likes him. And he simply kisses her right back. Woot! [END SPOILER]
4. Young Shim & Keong Seok
I have a special soft spot for Young Shim, because Lee Sang Hee who portrays her, is just amazing. Despite Young Shim being a reserved and reticent character a lot of the time, Lee Sang Hee gives her depth and dimension that not only makes Young Shim feel completely 3D, but grabs my heart as well.
[MINOR SPOILER] In particular, I love Lee Sang Hee’s delivery around Young Shim’s strained-but-slowly-healing relationship with her father. Major kudos to Lee Sang Hee; she is so beautifully expressive, even when Young Shim is required to be so reticent and withdrawn. After all the silent wincing, and pained looks in her eyes, which totally made my heart go out to her, it’s just so great to see Young Shim break into a big smile, because she can feel that things are getting a little bit better between her and her dad. Talk about taking your viewer on a journey. Love. [END SPOILER]
Sunbae Kyeong Seok (Oh Sang Jin) is almost as reserved as Young Shim, so it took a while for him to grow on me. But as I saw his gaze softening towards Young Shim, and the affection growing in his eyes, I couldn’t help but start to appreciate his dorky charm.
[SPOILER] Perhaps the most adorkable thing about Kyung Seok, is how weird he is, when he’s drunk. That, and how little it actually takes for him to get dead drunk. It ridiculous, and it’s cute. Especially since he only seems to ever actually drink around Young Shim. [END SPOILER]
Young Shim & Kyeong Seok together
The trajectory for this couple is a slow one, but one I appreciate for feeling extra organic. Theirs is an understanding and affection born out of spending many hours in the office together, and so, little milestones like starting to eat lunch together, are squee-worthy nuggets that I lapped up eagerly.
[SPOILER] The couple moments that we do get to see with these two, are much fewer, purely for the fact that they’re starting from a different place than the other couples in this show. One key moment that felt particularly significant, is the time in episode 30 when Young Shim’s mom goes to their office for a consultation on her divorce. Young Shim’s shock at the reality of what it means for Mom to divorce Dad is understandable; even though she’s supported the idea in concept for a long time, she likely never imagined what the reality was like, and what that would entail. And now that that reality is here, she needs some time to reel from it.
Kyung Seok stepping up to help Young Shim in that moment, is thoughtful and sweet. And the way he later offered to hold her hand, so comforting and kind. Aw. Melt. ❤ [END SPOILER]
5. General levels of honesty
As a general rule, I found that the levels of honesty in this show are refreshingly better than the average kdrama. We see many of the characters having honest conversations, and giving truthful answers to hard questions. Sure, there are lashings of noble silence, and the occasional misunderstanding. Overall, though, I found the candid tone of our characters’ interactions very welcome indeed.
Special shout-out: the bromance between Anthony & Ji Won [SPOILERS]
The more we are shown Ji Won’s family history through flashbacks, the more I understood the sad wistfulness he gets in his eyes. He’s been through a lot, losing his dad at a young age, and then suddenly gaining a new family when his mother remarried. He strives to be as good of a son as he can bring himself to be, without betraying the memory of his father. And part of that, is demonstrated in his sincere care and regard for Anthony as his step-brother.
I appreciate that both Ji Won and Anthony have suffered the loss of a parent, and that both of them had to face the struggle of accepting and fitting into a new family. It moved me, that these two, in the way that they truly care about each other, are brothers not primarily by circumstance, but by choice.
Jin Jin’s Mom
I love Mom (Kim Mi Kyung) for how she loves her kids – and I love that her motherly embrace is far-reaching and generous.
[SPOILER] I love how Mom started fussing over Ji Won right away, the moment she realized he was living nearby. The way she keeps bringing him food, and nagging him to eat, is so natural and so wonderfully motherly. I just love the relationship between her and Ji Won; these two are basically a surrogate mom and a surrogate son.
At the same time, I love the way Mom loves her own kids as well. I found the scene in episode 28, when Mom recognizes Ho Sung (Kim Jung Hwa) at the hospital, without needing to see her face, thoroughly moving.
Essentially, the more I saw how Mom loves her kids, the more I loved her. ❤ [END SPOILER]
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
Despite the many things I enjoyed in this show, there are definitely flaws that I could’ve done without too. Without being too nitpicky (I hope!), here’s them:
1. What it’s like to be a Hallyu star
There’s a weird thing that happens in this drama world: basically, Jin Jin’s status as a superstar affords her varying levels of personal freedom, depending on what the story requires.
A lot of the time, we see her going about her day like a regular person, with no face mask or other disguise, and with no manager, and nobody seems to recognize her or bother her. BUT, when Show feels that it’s relevant to the story, Jin Jin gets mobbed and photographed, and it all gets in the news.
I found this inconsistency distracting and quite jarring.
2. The love triangle stretch
It’s no surprise that Show sets up Anthony as Jin Jin’s other potential love interest, but this never felt necessary or organic, to be honest. Jin Jin’s feelings for Ji Won are clear from the get-go, so whatever affection she feels for Anthony pales in comparison. Honestly, Anthony never stood a chance.
[SPOILER] I was particularly displeased with this plotline when Show used it as a channel for noble idiocy between the brothers. I was especially miffed when Ji Won was shown repeatedly trying to remove himself from the picture, while pushing his brother at Jin Jin. I mean, isn’t it more important to figure out who Jin Jin herself prefers to be with, than which brother is more willing to make a sacrifice? [END SPOILER]
A WGM tangent
On a related tangent, I just wanted to say that while I’ve enjoyed various couples on We Got Married before, it wasn’t until episode 11 of this show, that WGM actually felt creepy-weird to me. The fact that Jin Jin and Anthony were role-playing a wedding when they’d literally just met, and everyone was egging them on to kiss during the ceremony, was just really weird. It feels really wrong, when I can see all the workings of the set-up, and I don’t know if I will ever be able to enjoy WGM again. Hrm.
3. Sometimes believability takes a beating
There are a number of times when I found believability a problem, during my watch.
[SPOILERS THROUGH THE END OF THE REVIEW]
Here’s a quick spotlight on that:
E19. The hotel room mix-up that resulted in Ji Won and Jin Jin finding themselves accidentally in bed with each other, is completely unbelievable. I mean, as if the hotel wouldn’t inform Jin Jin’s assistant that they got the wrong room, when she went to check why the key didn’t work, right? Surely in the hotel system they wouldn’t have actually assigned the same room to both Ji Won and Jin Jin.
But, the emotional gaze that Ji Won wears, as he looks at Jin Jin lying across from him, is beautiful, and so full, that I almost can forgive the terribly ungainly writing.
E19. Pretty much every person with an allergy would have antihistamines on them as an emergency fall-back at all times, because it is life-threatening, literally. So to have Jin Jin not have antihistamines on her despite having a shrimp allergy, is not very believable at all.
E27. Ji Won and Jin Jin taking that long to clue in that maybe, just maybe, the Lee Soo Hyun that everyone is talking about, might be Ho Sung, is hard to believe. I mean, if she’s purposely hidden herself from her family for so long, it would make sense that she uses a fake name. Why did they take so long to even consider the possibility? And why didn’t they take a photo with them, when looking for her? That would’ve made a lot more sense.
E27. Ji Won getting up early to go to the village is sweet, but it doesn’t make sense to me that he’d be able to buy shoes and lightbulbs and get the car fixed, all before the sun’s properly risen? I just don’t think a remote little village would have that many 24-hour services, to be honest.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING
Show stays true to its sweet vanilla character, and doesn’t serve up any rude surprises in its final hour. We see everyone get a happy ever after, or at least, get on the path towards a happy ever after, and it’s contented smiles all around.
I wasn’t surprised to see Ah Reum change her mind about breaking up with Woo Sung, coz it was obvious that she and Woo Sung are perfect together. I loved that the very moment she realized she’d made a mistake, she literally ran right over to the hospital to tell him how she felt. More than that, I love that he didn’t seem at all surprised. It’s like he knew her so well that he was confident of this turn of events, even before it happened. Cutest of all, is how these two promptly dived into adjusting to each other’s opposite habits, with Woo Sung even learning to eat jokpal off the bone, heh.
For Young Shim’s sake, I was glad that her mom didn’t file for divorce right away, but instead started putting Dad in his place by not allowing him to walk all over her. Personally, I feel like it would’ve still been a happy ending if she divorced him right away – provided Young Shim’s ties with both parents were preserved.
On a brighter note, Young Shim’s budding romance with Kyung Seok is kinda-sorta sealed with them wearing couple sneakers (cute!), and Kyung Seok picking Young Shim up for work. I can imagine these two being adorkably cute together for a long, long time.
Ho Sung’s back in contact with her family, and even while rebuilding bonds feels a touch awkward at times, it looks like lots of family earnestness and warmth will ease the way nicely.
Even Anthony gets a chance at happy ever after, with a blossoming romance with Director Kim (strategically placed cameo by Kim So Yeon, Lee Sang Woo’s recently wedded real-life wife). I thought it was a cute touch, to make Director Kim a closet Super Fangirl of Anthony’s.
And of course, Ji Won and Jin Jin get their happy ever too, with Jin Jin finally accepting Ji Won’s proposal over a shared plate of tteokbokki. It’s casual, cozy and nothing fancy, which suits this couple’s style to a T.
Last but not least, we get the 4 Bongos together again, on a road trip in a yellow Bongo van, amid happy squeals and excited chatter. They realize they don’t have a plan, and don’t know where they’re headed, but they figure that they’ll find a way – and that it’s going to be fun. I like that for these 4 friends, that this is not only true of road trips but true of life, too.
As the camera pans away from the 4 Bongos and their yellow van, I feel rather wistful at saying goodbye to such endearing characters, but I’m also left feeling confident that they will continue to figure out life, and ride all of the ups and downs together, firmly held together by friendship and love.
Aw. I’m gonna miss these 4 Bongos. ❤
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Mild, charming and inoffensive. Perfect for a cozy drama nightcap, when you just want a relaxing prelude to sweet dreams.
FINAL GRADE: B