I finally found a webdrama worthy of playing with the big boys- The Secret Message. It’s 18 episodes, each varying in length somewhere between 11 to 23 minutes long. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself hooked right away, anxiously going from episode to episode watching this long distance love story unfold.
Woo-Hyun is a documentary film maker. Although Korean, he is working in Japan, talking to people about their experiences and feelings concerning the elusive emotion called love. One day, a man he is interviewing asks to borrow his phone and takes off with it. Although Woo-Hyun goes after him, he looses the guy in a crowd. He reports the theft to the police and his film making buddy kindly gets him another phone to use until his is found. That night, Woo-Hyun gets a strange text message written in Japanese. Using the phone’s translator he discovers the text says “Was it love?” Curious about who sent the message and who it was meant for, Woo-Hyun replies and finds a girl named Haruka on the other end.
Romance blossoms through the text messages Woo-Hyun and Haruka send to one another. They never speak over the phone, just text their thoughts and feelings. At one point, Woo-Hyun asks Haruka if she’d like to go with him on an “excursion”. She’s in Korea and he’s in Japan but they go out and about, text/talking the whole time as if they were on a date. The audience sees the date like it would really be – the two of them next to each other, laughing and talking – but we know they are only together through their texts. It’s a wonderfully charming idea. And although Woo-Hyun tells her he’s curious as to what she looks like, they never send any pictures of themselves revealing their face. Woo-Hyun receives one of Haruka’s back and another of her arm/hand, while Haruka gets one of Woo-Hyun’s face covered by his hands in a “director imagining what something would look like on screen” pose. So because their interactions are purely through written words we know they really fall in love with who the person is, not what they look like. Romance at its best.
Woo-Hyun is methodical and serious in his career but playful when the camera isn’t rolling. He’s quietly nursing a broken heart from when the woman he loved left to go back to the guy she was with before him. I think it’s fair to say Woo-Hyun is the instigator in turning his and Haruka’s relationship into something a little more than friendship.
Haruka leaves Japan to go to Korea for dancing lessons/classes. It is implied she knows Amy, who is also a dancer, somehow because it is Amy and two male dancers that go looking for her when she arrives. Haruka is also in broken-heart mode. The guy she loves is no longer by her side and she can’t get him out of her mind. Is she the one responsible for him not being with her?
There are a few supporting characters that add a bit more dimension to the story. Amy is a cheerful dancer who befriends Haruka and gives her a place to stay while she’s in Korea. Lee Jae-Soo and Choi Gang are dancers in class and good friends to Amy. Woo-Hyun’s friend and film making buddy is Sung-Joon, and Mariko is the Japanese girl that is helping Woo-Hyun and Sung-Joon with their documentary.
Woo-Hyun and Haruka aren’t the only people in the story experiencing love. Amy falls for Lee Jae-Soo, Choi Gang thinks Haruka is cute, and Sung-Joon is enamored with Mariko who likes Woo-Hyun. Do we find out what happens with all these relationships? Kind of. Nothing is set in stone but the writer gives the audience enough information for us to fill in what we, personally, want to have happen.
This webdrama has a decent cast, people I’m actually familiar with from good Kdramas.
T.O.P. is the leading man, Woo-Hyun. He began his career as a rapper/singer in the predominantly hip hop boy band Big Bang. As for acting, the only other thing I’ve seen him in was Iris, where he played a really scary killer. He was so good at being bad he gave me the creeps every time he was on screen.
Haruka is played by Juri Ueno. In 2007 she won the Best Lead Actress award for her staring role in the TV drama Nodame Cantabile, adapted from the manga of the same name. It happens to be the same manga the Kdrama Tomorrow’s Cantabile was based on. (Give it a shot. I gave it a perfect score.)
Yoo In-Na has a supporting role as Amy. She has been in quite a few really great Kdramas – Secret Garden, The Greatest Love, Queen In-Hyun’s Man, My Love From the Star, My Secret Hotel. She’s also in One More Happy Ending. I’m very anxious to see that one. I’ll start it as soon as all the episodes are out. (I hate wanting to go on to the next episode of a drama and not having it available.)
Lee Jae-Yoon is Lee Jae-Soo. He played Officer Jang Doo-Soo in the Kdrama Heart to Heart. It’s a good love story and I really liked his character. As I was writing this I was thinking, “It’s too bad we don’t get to see more of him in this show,” but then I remembered we really do get to see quite a bit of him when he takes off his shirt and reveals a great set of muscles in his arms and shoulders!
The soundtrack is very small but the songs are quite good. Mr. Heartache has a sort of techno sound to the vocal and is sung in English. And you won’t be surprised that we get to hear from T.O.P. himself as he sings to Haruka to calm her nerves during a blackout. That’s one of the best and prettiest scenes in the whole show. Woo-Hyun texts her instructions on how to make a water bottle/cell phone flashlight and the effect is very romantic – blue light surrounds the room as she listens to a recording he texts to her of him singing Hello Haruka.
The Secret Message is a pretty drama. Since the show was filmed in South Korea and Japan there’s scenery of both, including Tokyo Tower. There’s also a beautiful meteor shower (fake, but lovely none the less) and Haruka is a dancer so we get to see her perform during class.
The Secret Message is an entertaining love story with well known actors/actresses that will hook you right away. Now that I know webdramas are capable of competing with the big dramas, my expectations have just shot up. Come on, webdrama makers… it is possible. You can do it!
Original, realistic plot
Endearing love story
Even story flow
Kdrama feel to it
Would have been nice to have a larger soundtrack