K-drama Review: Witch's Romance

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Oh, Witch's Romance, how I wish I could have loved you more? 

From time to time, there are dramas I start watching with such enthusiasm, but later on either drop them in disappointment or continue watching with lukewarm feelings. Witch's Romance belongs in the latter group as I enjoyed it a lot at first, but grew increasingly unsatisfied with it by the end.

That is not to say, I didn't have good times with this drama. I certainly did, and I'll be writing quite extensively about those in the following review. I can't even say it was a bad drama because it started nicely and it ended nicely. But for me, it never really recovered from the appearance of one irritatingly boring second male lead.

So while I'm thankful to Witch's Romance for introducing me to Park Seo Joon, in the end, I guess we weren't quite meant to be.

 Plot summary: 

Ban Ji Yeon (Uhm Jung Hwa) is single 39-year-old woman, who no longer believes in true love after her ex-fiance No Shi Hoon (Han Jae Suk) disappeared from her life on their wedding day. Instead, Ji Yeon is fully immersed in her job as a reporter for a tabloid magazine, not even minding that her co-workers call her a "witch" because of her controlling no-nonsense personality.
Then one day, Ji Yeon's paths unexpectedly cross with the 25-year-old kind and hard-working Yoon Dong Ha (Park Seo Joon), who begins working as a part-timer at Ji Yeon's workplace. Although their relationship is rocky at first, the two soon become close and are forced to acknowledge the growing attraction between them. 

SPOILER ALERT! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! 

 What I liked: 

The chemistry between the OTP. What makes our main couple so easy to root for is the natural chemistry between Uhm Jung Hwa and Park Seo Joon. Despite the age difference, both actors seem to have a genuinely good time working together, which certainly shows when we're seeing their characters interact on-screen. I thought maybe there would be some awkwardness between them at first, but that kiss at the end of episode 1 proved me that the two actors were totally comfortable with the skinship. And let me tell you, kissing scenes are a lot more satisfying to watch when you can see the two actors actually finding each other attractive and enjoying each other's company. I believe that is why there is a sense of realness to Ji Yeon and Dong Ha's relationship - it's there when they're getting frisky with each other, but it's also there when they laugh and just chat together. It feels effortless and natural, which is how I want all my OTPs to feel like.


Treatment of the age difference issue. First of all, I'd like to say that this is how I want noona romances be done. While I like the genre itself, more than often I am a little disappointed in how noona romances are executed in most dramas. Mainly, I find it extremely uncomfortable when the younger man is a high schooler while the older woman is his teacher or otherwise a motherly figure in his life ( e.g. Big, High School King of Savvy, I Hear Your Voice etc). To me, this is a little unsettling because what kind of a grown up woman would allow herself to start a relationship with a minor? I can see the topic being raised in a more serious drama (e.g. Secret Love Affair), but not in a fluffy romcom with a fairytale ending.

This is why I appreciate the treatment of age difference in Witch's Romance. Dong Ha is 14 years younger than Ji Yeon, which in itself is a rather huge age gap. However, Dong Ha is a grown-up like Ji Yeon, he has had real relationships before and, most importantly, isn't linked to Ji Yeon in an inappropriate way. They are mutually attracted to each other and there isn't really anything preventing them from starting a relationship, other than their own insecurities, which they overcome by sitting down and talking about it like adults.

Communication is indeed the best part of the OTP's relationship, which further explains why they are so compatible. They are always on the same page with each other, finding things to connect over even if their experiences seem totally different because of the age gap. And although the romantic attraction between Ji Yeon and Dong Ha is already there from the first episode onwards, I kinda love that for the most of the series they are actually just friends. And because they were friends first, they are later able to understand each other better and make the age difference seem just like minor obstacle in their relationship.


Park Seo Joon as Yoon Dong Ha. I'm certain that many of the viewers agree with me here when I say that there is something absolutely magnetic about Park Seo Joon. 

Strangely, I did not feel particularly drawn to him when I looked the promotional teasers and posters for the drama. To be completely honest, it wasn't until I actually saw him in the drama as Yoon Dong Ha that I realized how attractive he is. I've mentioned this before in one of my earlier posts that Seo Joon might not look much when you're just looking him up on Google, but that's because he is most charming on screen. There's just something really warm and approachable in him that's particularly emphasized when he's playing our kind and earnest Dong Ha.

In fact, I think Dong Ha might be one of my most favourite male leads in a drama. Or rather, he is one of the few male leads who I'd actually date in real life. Most male leads are either selfish jerks or they have too much drama going on with them that I couldn't imagine putting up with in real life. Meanwhile, Dong Ha is just that down-to-earth sweet guy that any girl would want. And you gotta love how he's honest about his feelings without being selfish. Not to mention the fact that he treats all women with kindness and respect, which is kind of a rare thing in dramaland. Taking all that into account, I think he might just be the most perfect male lead in a K-drama yet.


Reversal of the mean guy-nice girl cliche. Speaking about Dong Ha, how refreshing it is that our hero is a genuinely nice guy, while it's the heroine who has some attitude issues? How many dramas have we seen where the lead guy is a big meanie and it's only thanks to the nice female lead that he reforms and ends up being decent? Many. But in Witch's Romance, the roles are reversed and it's kinda awesome for a change. 

The ending. I liked that the drama didn't end in marriage. In fact, I usually consider wedding-endings rather boring and uncreative, despite them giving me a happily ever after for the OTP. It's just that I don't get why marriage is set as the ending point for a couple when their lives won't end there. That's why I liked how Ji Yeon and Dong Ha never rushed with getting married. In fact, Ji Yeon narrates at the very end that she isn't sure whether they're ever going to tie the knot, but it's not important because they are happy now. I like that. I like it particularly because while everyone was commenting on her age and mom always urging her to find a husband, that really wasn't a goal for Ji Yeon. When she finally found her man, she was just happy to be with him right in that moment. She didn't need to be married to be satisfied with where she was in life. I can totally appreciate that.



 What I didn't like: 

DISCLAIMER! The following section is mostly just one big rant against Polar Bear. And I'm not even sorry.

Polar Bear/Noh Shi Hoon. Ugh, I truly hated him. Polar Bear is both the most boring second male lead ever AND the most annoying second male lead ever. 

Above all, the character is simply poorly written. Aside from appearing really selfish and smug, Polar Bear has no real personality at all. Here you have a potential conflict - the big love in Ji Yeon's life, the ex, who disappeared mysteriously on their wedding day, suddenly returning to win her back. You'd expect him to be a pretty tough opponent for Dong Ha, but he is so weak and passive as a character that you cannot take him seriously as a love rival. And that's exactly what makes him even more frustrating, because you actually want him to be a threat to the OTP, to create some tension and make us feel worried for our main couple. After all, isn't that the whole point of a second male lead character in a K-drama? 

I also cannot help but mention how  uninspiring it is to watch Han Jae Suk on screen. He looks stiff and delivers his lines with little emotion, so as a viewer it's hard to feel anything for him at all. I get that he didn't have much material to work with, considering how awfully lifeless Polar Bear's character is, but even so, I'm disappointed because the actor could have easily showed more passion towards his work. Instead, he's just...there.


Lack of conflict. If I think about it, there wasn't a real conflict in this drama. The age issue was not really that big of an issue for the main couple, nor the people surrounding them. Dong Ha's backstory and fallout with his father was also brought in rather late for it to actually be of any importance. While I'm glad that they at least closed up Young Chae's chapter completely, I feel like it should have been done sooner because at that point I couldn't bring myself to care enough about it. The only thing that could be considered a conflict was the "return of the ex". However, even that failed miserably as a compelling obstacle for our OTP, when we admit the simple fact that Polar Bear was as interesting as toilet paper. 

The writing. So what I blame for the lifeless character of Polar Bear and the lack of a good conflict is obviously the writing. The latter half of the drama clearly suffered quite a lot from writing mishaps, but here are the three worst ones. 

First of all, the writing wasn't strong enough to convince us that Polar Bear had a chance with Ji Yeon. In fact, we weren't even shown why Polar Bear mattered in the first place. Aside from a few flashbacks, we got very little insight into their relationship, further proving that his character was never going to be any threat at all. How did they fall in love? What kind of people were they then? We don't know.

Secondly, Ji Yeon's character wasn't very consistent. When Polar Bear returns, we can see an entirely different Ji Yeon. She loses her confidence and becomes timid and unsure of herself. It's almost as if he sucks the life out of our otherwise sassy Ji Yeon. I can understand that with her ex-fiance reappearing in her life, she indeed goes through those painful feelings again. But that does not excuse sudden the change in Ji Yeon's character.


Moreover, I found it extremely hard to believe that Ji Yeon wouldn't realize her feelings for Dong Ha during when she was planning the marriage with Polar Bear. Ji Yeon had had relationships before, she had been love before, so how would she not know how it feels like? I get that she might be confused about her feelings for Polar Bear when they finally reconciled, but she knew she was attracted to Dong Ha even before that. The only reasoning that the drama offered was that Ji Yeon was afraid of hurting Dong Ha again and felt like she didn't deserve him, which is noble idiocy at its best. Nothing more uncharacteristic of her, in my opinion. 

And thirdly, what bothers me the most is that it was Polar Bear who broke off the wedding in the end. Apparently, he was sick of waiting after her, which is ironic because he expected her to drop everything for him after he hadn't contacted her for 6 whole years (his excuse for that still makes no sense). I know that this was Polar Bear's way of letting Ji Yeon be happy with Dong Ha, but it comes across as if he wasn't just willing to fight for Ji Yeon. He's seemingly playing the noble idiot card, though there's noting noble about it. He should've let Ji Yeon decide whether she wanted to be with him or not. He owed her that much. In that scenario, he would have at least showed some passion towards her and I would have understood him a little better. But instead he just disappears from her life, leaving her confused and hearbroken, AGAIN. 



 Overall conclusion: 

Although I liked quite a few things about Witch's Romance, I have to say that my overall experience did not end up being as enjoyable as I thought. It started out great, but declined into mediocrity in the second half and unfortunately the ending, though cute, did not compensate for the draggy angsty parts. 

And I don't feel bad for blaming Polar Bear for it. As a matter of fact, I propose that from henceforth we shall call it a "Polar Bear Effect" whenever a character in a drama is so annoying that they manage to ruin the entire show for the viewer (thanks a lot, Polar Bear). That is why I am grateful for this wonderful graph that a fellow K-drama blogger OCDDee posted to her review, as it sums up my whole viewing experience.

So in the end, what I take away from this drama is the leading couple, whom I wholeheartedly rooted for and whom I'm gonna miss. But if I'm being completely honest, I probably won't remember the rest of the drama. 


 Verdict: 

Plot - First half is fun and breezy, but the second half is disappointingly slow and angsty. The conflict is poor and fails to keep tension, causing the story to needlessly going around in circles before arriving at a satisfying conclusion. The ending is sweet, but didn't completely redeem the draggy latter half for me, which is a shame.

Acting - Uhm Jung Hwa is electric as the confident and slightly bitchy Ji Yeon, also giving depth to the character's vulnerable side. Park Seo Joon is a dream - so utterly charming and sweet and genuine. He definitely could benefit from more acting experience, but he's nevertheless absolutely wonderful in the role. Meanwhile, Han Jae Suk is utterly boring as Polar Bear.

OST - My favourite picks from the OST are SPICA's "Witch Diary" and Park Seo Joon's "Come Into My Heart". But as a whole, I found the OST very unmemorable. 

Comedy - Not the funniest romcom I've seen. The first half of the show gives some pretty good laughs, but there isn't much humour in later angstier episodes. Most of the comedy comes from the bromantic interactions between Dong Ha and Soo Cheol, which can get a little too cartoony at times.

Romance - The chemistry between Uhm Jung Hwa and Park Seo Joon is off-the-charts. They make an awesome noona romance and a surprisingly mature couple, with sizzling kisses and cute interactions. Though I wish there had been more make out scenes like at the end of episode 2 (now that was hot).

Cinematography and editing - Editing is a little off in that how a previous episodes ends with one thing and the next begins with a totally new scene, making it very frustrating for the audience. Sometimes the scene is explained in a flashback, other times it's just tossed aside, but either way it's confusing. Otherwise, warm tones and basic camera angles.

 Final rating: 7       Enjoyment: 6.5 



 Memorable quotes: 

Ji Yeon: "What's wrong with a witch? It's better than Snow White who only depends on others and causes a nuisance. Often an independent witch is a hundred times better."
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Ji Yeon: "Forget about the first blossom. Cut out the scar and the flower will bloom again. Live a new life."
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Dong Ha: "Love always takes us somewhere. Sometimes it can be like heaven, and sometimes it can be like hell."
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Dong Ha: "I don't have the confidence to look at your face as if nothing's wrong."
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Dong Ha: "Can't I drink as much as I want? I need to drink at the very least, otherwise who would I blame? Should I blame you two meeting again? Or should I blame him up above, asking why didn't he make us meet sooner?"
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Dong Ha: "Team Leader. Do I lack a lot to be your man?"
Ji Yeon: "What are you saying?"
Dong Ha: "It’s just that you asked me why I left home."
Ji Yeon: "That’s not what I meant.."
Dong Ha: "I know. It’s my inferiority complex. But when I think about it, I’m not sure myself what my dream is. Other people are moving forward, but I feel as though I can’t escape my past."
---
Ji Yeon: "To have a new beginning, there has to be an end. But I don’t even remember how to start."
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Dong Ha: "It isn't too late for us."
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Ji Yeon: "Stop. I will talk first. I love you. All this time, all I did was respond to your confessions. I wanted to say those words first for sure. I love you."
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Ji Yeon: "Right now, I am dating this man. Now I am no longer afraid of love. Maybe our end won't be marriage, but I don't care. Right now, we are doing our best to love each other and are happy enough."


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2 comments

  1. You know what I did wonder at the end? Will they ever have kids? She's already in her 40's and if she's not interested in getting married or settling down, then kids probably aren't on her list either. But i know he would want them. It was never brought up, and it didn't need to be because it wasn't relevant, but it is something I thought about.

    I really liked Park Seo Joon, he's on my list for people to watch out for now. He was just so delightful, and i totally agree that he and Uhm Jung Hwa had amazing chemistry. I don't overly love Uhm Jung Hwa because her unnatural face annoys me but i'm happy to watch her if she's with someone I like. I think i agree with your overall rating. It was a good show for the most part but did falter once Polar Bear came into it. Urgh, no one liked him, he was such a stupid character to bring in, he didn't even do anything!

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    Replies
    1. You are right! I actually thought about that too, whether they'll have kids or not. I'm not necessarily saying that she wouldn't have wanted kids at all, but I don't think it was something she seriously considered. I could imagine them living together for a few years and maybe then adopt or something but I can't imagine her getting pregnant.

      I think I might have been a little harsher with my rating this time around because I did enjoy it a lot at first, but in the end I felt just so underwhelmed and unimpressed with it. Not a bad drama, just not as good as it could have been, I guess.

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