Every once in a while, a little gem of a mini series will show up, and shine more brightly than its peers. Color me surprised, but this is one of those times, you guys.
I’d enjoyed this show’s sisters (Queen Of The Ring and Romance Full Of Life) to varying degrees, having randomly picked those to start with within this trilogy, because I have a lot of affection for Kim Seul Gi and Yoon Si Yoon, who star in each of those shows respectively. I’d kept this installment for last, because I have no strong feelings for the leads either way, and had merely expected this installment to be about as light and fluffy as the others – maybe less, even, since this story’s premise involves death. Eep.
I should’ve known, though, that in the hands of the writer who gave us the wonderful Splash Splash Love, this one was probably always destined to hit me hardest, where it counts the most. <3
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Byul (Ji Woo) is a young Reaper whose only memory of her short human life, is being a huge fan of singer-songwriter Woo Joo (Suho). One day, she finds out that the Higher-ups are demanding her beloved Woo Joo’s soul, and Byul makes it her mission to save him. Soon, things become more complicated when she receives the chance to live as a human again. Will Byul be able to fulfill her mission in the end?
STUFF I LIKED
1. Byul’s friendship with Gakshi
Although the main arc in this show is about Byul finding romance with her idol Woo Joo, I was actually more taken with the fact that Byul’s best friend and fellow fangirl is a ghost, whom she’s supposed to send to the other world. I just loved watching the two besties hang out together, and fangirl together, and have heart-to-heart chats together, all while they were technically supposed to be mortal – uh, immortal? – enemies.
This friendship across all reasonable boundaries was totally one of my favorite things in this show. <3
2. Show’s got depth
Even though Show is only 6 half-hour episodes long, I kinda feel like this one might actually possess more depth than some regular length dramas. That, in a nutshell, makes up for all of Show’s shortcomings. Meaningful themes that made me think and feel, popped up on a regular basis – and I didn’t even have to look very hard for them.
Here are a handful of highlights.
The question of identity
In episode 4, we see that Byul’s scared to find out who she was before she died, in case she meant nothing. Everyone wants to be remembered; everyone wants their life to have meant something.
The idea of self-worth
In episode 5, we see that because of an accident that he had no control over, Se Joo (Shin Hyun Soo) doesn’t see himself as a good person. This, even though he’s done everything he could, in the wake of the accident, to make things a little better. The fact that he’s been caring for Byul’s mother for the last 7 years, is no small deal. And yet, he still sees himself as someone most likely destined for hell. That’s sad, and that sadness is written in his eyes.
The way he kneels and apologizes to Byul is moving not because he’s apologizing, but because he’s grateful that he has the chance to apologize. He thinks she’s destined for heaven, and he for hell, and he theorizes that even after death, he wouldn’t have had a chance to apologize to her. Poor dear thing.
The idea of cherishing the present
In episode 5, we see the idea of cherishing the present (because you never know when that moment will be your last), meshed with the idea of release and forgiveness. Byul gets a chance to apologize to her mom, and tell her that she loves her. That brief encounter gives Mom the peace to finally cross over into the afterlife, and also, I believe, gives Byul the catharsis she needed, in order to forgive Se Joo, in spite of herself.
Show’s far from perfect – which we’ll get to in a bit – but this meaty depth pretty much made up for it all, and then some.
1. Ji Woo as Byul
Ji Woo makes a cute underdog reluctant grim reaper, and she’s got a great Overwhelmed Fangirl face. At the same time, while watching her as Byul, I also couldn’t help feeling like she was acting pretty much exactly as she did as Eun Jae in Age Of Youth 2.
Character-wise, I admit that I found Byul a little too breathy and a little too nervously in awe of Woo Joo. That fangirl awe niggled at me throughout the OTP romance, and I think it’s because I often wasn’t sure how much of what I was witnessing, was fangirl adoration, and how much was actually love.
2. Suho as Woo Joo
This was my proper introduction to Suho (if I don’t count EXO Next Door), and while I think he looks nice and sings nice, I don’t think acting is his strength. Because of Suho’s relatively limited acting range, Woo Joo didn’t come across as a very interesting character, to me.
Additionally, as a character, I don’t think we were given enough insight into what made Woo Joo tick, aside from wanting to be successful at music. [MINOR SPOILER] For the record, as someone who has a dog at home, I really didn’t think much of him for stealing the puppy, in episode 3. [END SPOILER]
3. Lack of OTP chemistry
Because of the short amount of time that Woo Joo spends with Byul before developing feelings for her, I found it hard to believe the strength of his feelings for her, particularly since he wasn’t actually drawn to her in the first place, and was just trying on her company for size. On the other side of the table, I found it difficult to sift out Byul’s fangirl adoration from actual love, as I mentioned earlier.
Add on the fact that Suho and Ji Woo don’t actually share much chemistry to my eyes, and it was actually a challenge for me, to want to root for this OTP. In fact, in the middle section of the show, I found myself hoping that Byul’s destiny was with Se Joo instead. Which, of course, was probably due to the actors’ casting in Age Of Youth 2, but also because I found Shin Hyun Soo’s delivery that much more engaging and convincing than Suho’s (sorry, Suho fans).
Despite these unfavorable factors, though, I found myself genuinely moved by the OTP arc by the end, so mad props to writer-nim for that.
4. Sometimes people don’t behave like normal human beings [SPOILERS]
I know this is a fantasy story, but it really did feel odd to me that in episode 5, when almost everyone around Byul realizes that she’s a dead person come back to life, they all seem pretty chill about it. No one actually freaks out. They accept it readily and act grateful, and that’s.. really weird.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
What a surprisingly stirring ending, that leaves my heart a little broken, but yet at the same time, very much full.
The goodbye between Byul and Gakshi legit gave me chills. I was disappointed when Gakshi faded a fair bit from our story after Byul became human again, and I was glad that we got a robust final scene between these besties. There is just so much endearment and gratitude, in Gakshi’s words to Byul. In particular, I love that it was Byul’s consistent love and companionship that finally gave Gakshi the liberty to finally cross over to the afterlife without regrets.
I’d loved their friendship on sight, and I found that at the end of our story, I loved their friendship even more. Theirs truly is a friendship that crosses boundaries. Whether Byul was a Reaper or a human, it didn’t change her relationship with Gakshi; they remained best buds through it all, and I love that.
In terms of our OTP arc, I must confess that Show did take me by surprise. I’d imagined that Byul would either get the chance to live as a human with Woo Joo, or that they would both die and spend the afterlife together. I didn’t expect that it would be both and neither. And I didn’t expect that I would kinda love that choice.
It felt in character for Woo Joo to save Byul by taking the stabbing for her, and it also felt in character for Byul to then bargain for Woo Joo’s life, by staking her own. In the end, when Woo Joo’s life is secured, and Byul gets seven more years to spend with him, it feels like a win, instead of a compromise. They fill the seven years with love; they marry, and have a son, and live each day to the fullest.
When the time comes for Byul to fulfill her promise and cross over, she is able to leave without regrets, with a heart that is full. It’s clear that she is sad to leave her husband and son behind, but we know, and she knows, that it is but a matter of time before they meet again, and she is able to say goodbye without regrets. As Byul walks her way into the afterlife, and as Woo Joo sits with their son, gazing into the horizon, the song that she inspired him to write, plays:
A star that shines during the day
A star that protects you
Even if you can’t see me
Even if you can’t see me
I love Show’s final bundle of messages; that love rises above boundaries; that love doesn’t stop; that how long you love doesn’t dictate how deep you love; that above all, we should love and live without reservation, wherever our journeys take us; and finally, that joy and satisfaction can exist, even in the face of sadness.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
A little show that packs more weight on its tiny bones than one would expect. Rises above its shortcomings to be poignant, thought-provoking, and quite thoroughly affecting.
FINAL GRADE: B++