I started Playful Kiss about five times, never getting any further than the first 15 minutes before I turned it off and found another drama. I just couldn’t get into it. It didn’t seem serious enough for me to spend 16 hours on. But because Playful Kiss is considered a classic, like Boys Over Flowers, I kept giving it another try. Even if I didn’t care for it, I wanted to know what everyone else saw in it so I told myself I’d watch the entire first episode before deciding whether or not to go on to the second. And guess what? I did go on, and on and on and on… It’s very entertaining and a fun, endearing, young love story.
Oh Ha-Ni has been in love with Baek Seung-Jo for four years. She often fantasizes about them being together and finally decides to confess her feelings to him through a love letter. Seung-Jo isn’t touched by the letter in the least. If fact, he edits it in red pen, pointing out all the grammatical errors, and gives it back to her with an ugly “D-” on top, saying he hates girls who are stupid. One day, a tiny earthquake demolishes Oh Ha-Ni’s brand new house and she and her father are invited to live with her dad’s old junior high school friend’s family until they can figure out their housing situation. Imagine how shocked Ha-Ni is when the guy she’s in love with, the heartless one who returned her love letter, comes out of the house where she and her father will be staying. Will the close quarters make Seung-Jo realize just how wonderful Ha-Ni really is or will his outspoken ways show her he’s not as wonderful as she thinks he is?
There are two other characters thrown in that make the love story more interesting – Bong Joon-Gu and Yoon Hae-Ra. Joon-Gu loves Ha-Ni the same way she loves Seung-Jo. He wants to protect and make her happy and he hates the emotionally gruff way Seung-Jo treats her. Hae-Ra is the beautiful gal who has a crush on Seung-Jo. They’re perfectly compatible in every way but she’ll have to go through Ha-Ni to get to him.
Oh Ha-Ni is just plain lovable. She’s sweet, selfless, helpful, cheerful – the kind of person that would jump into the ocean to save someone who was drowning even though she couldn’t swim herself. Her grandmother gave her the nickname Noah’s Snail because even though she may be slow, she never gives up and always reaches her destination in the end. Ha-Ni’s been raised by her single father and hardly remembers her mother who passed away when she was four. She also has two friends who love her dearly and together they’re sort of like The Three Musketeers.
At first I thought Baek Seung-Jo had a chronic case of narcissism but the guy never really acts like he’s better than anyone else. He backs away from compliments and seems a bit uncomfortable when people call him a genius. The more I watched him, the more I began to see Seung-Jo is simply out spoken, impatient, and has little tolerance for the imperfections in others. He’s not a mean-spirited person, he’s just a “tell it like I see it” kind of guy. Unfortunately, that type of person can be very hurtful, especially to sensitive folks like Ha-Ni.
Bong Joon-Gu is a teddy bear/tiger. He’s soft and sweet to the people he cares about but has no problem showing his claws and teeth in order to protect them. He’s a hard worker who enjoys the art of cooking and has a natural ability for it.
Yoon Hae-Ra is a female version of Baek Seung-Jo. She comes from a wealthy family, is extremely intelligent, very good looking, and does whatever she wants to do well. However, unlike Seung-Jo, I think she has an overinflated ego.
As I was watching Seung-Jo and Ha-Ni interact I kept thinking, “If she were my friend I’d tell her to run far away from that rude guy and never look back.” His sharp tongue is extremely disrespectful and what girl in her right mind wants a guy who doesn’t respect her and her feelings? However, when his mother and other people call him out on the way he talks to, and treats, Ha-Ni he explains he thinks it’s fun to tease her. In other words, to him it’s a kind of foreplay that adds sexual tension to their relationship. He’s like a third grade boy pulling the pigtails of the girl he likes because that’s as close as he can get to her. Maybe Ha-Ni subconsciously realizes that and that’s why she sticks around and doesn’t give up on the seemingly rude boy she loves.
Although Playful Kiss didn’t have very good ratings, the show was a huge hit all over Asia and they ended up making a special Playful Kiss sort of sequel that was released on YouTube. It’s seven episodes, each one being around 15 minutes long. I watched them all and loved them. The cast is the same and the writing stays true to the characters. Don’t watch them before you see the drama, though. The YouTube episodes begin where the show left off and you don’t want to jump the storyline.
Playful Kiss was Jung So-Min’s first time to star in a show and, impressively, she won two awards for her portrayal of darling Oh Ha-Ni, Best New Actress for TV and New Star Award. I watched her star opposite Sung Joon in Can We Get Married? and even though their acting was good the drama, itself, was just too depressing for me to like. In Big Man she plays a spoiled, rich girl who decides to get away from her evil, oppressive parents and actually work for a living. I think that was a good, challenging role for her and she did it well.
Not too unlike Baek Seung-Jo, Kim Hyun-Joon won lots of art and math competitions when he was young and was often ranked first or second in his school. He began his entertainment career as the leader of SS501 and it was because of his fame as a singer that, despite low ratings, Playful Kiss was so popular overseas. He even received the Male Popularity Award for his role as Seung-Jo. (Personally, I think the guy is an amazing entertainer in both drama and music. Check out his solos Kiss Kiss and Unbreakable.)
This Kdrama was not the first time Lee Si-Young and Kim Hyun-Joon worked together. They were both in Boys Over Flowers before she took on the role of Yoon Hae-Ra and he portrayed Baek Seung-Jo.
Lee Tae-Sung won the Best New Actor award for his role as sweet Bong Joon-Gu. The only other thing I’ve seen him in is Two Outs in the Ninth Inning, which came out three years before Playful Kiss, playing the younger love interest of the leading female character. I really enjoyed that show.
With ratings as high as 28.8%, the popular 2006 Kdrama Goong (Princess Hours) ended its episodes with teddy bears representing a scene in the show. I guess the people that worked on Playful Kiss, four years later, thought that was a fun idea because these shows end with teddy bears in the same pose as Seung-Jo and Ha-Ni from a memorable scene in each particular episode. It’s pretty cute. Maybe the fact that both dramas had the same two directors has something to do with it.
Shout “hallelujah” for a soundtrack worthy of high praise, indeed! I loved every single song. No kidding, every one. Canadian born singer G.NA sings Will You Kiss Me, a song you can’t help but tap your toes to. My favorite, Saying I Love You, is performed by lovely Soyou from the Kpop group Sistar. Also, talented Kim Hyun-Joong sings a pretty ballad entitled One More Time and Lee Tae-Sung sings the song Talking to Myself. I love it when the actors in the show sing on the soundtrack. It just makes the drama seem more real, somehow. You really ought to check out the whole thing. The music is wonderful.
As for scenery, this show takes us to an ocean beach, a forest retreat, and beautiful Jeju Island. There’s also Ha-Ni’s father’s noodle shop, and the Baek house, along with the high school and college the characters go to.
This is definitely one of, if not, the best high school love themed Kdramas available. It’s a pleasure to sit back and watch the sweet relationship of a darling couple unfold a little at a time. If you haven’t seen it yet, may I strongly suggest you make some time for Playful Kiss. You’ll be so glad you did.
Fun, young love story
Smooth flowing storyline
A bit silly in the beginning