My Strange Hero could have been part of the Kdrama School series except for the fact that almost every main character is an adult. The story was entertaining and I enjoyed the characters but the thing that impressed me most was the directing.
Grades mean nothing to Kang Bok-Soo so studying is not part of his life. He enjoys school (“There are friends, you get fed, and the class is so awesome that I can fall asleep easily.”) but achieving a high score is nowhere in his thinking until his teacher decides to pair him with the beautiful and smart class president, Son Soo-Jeong. Grades are the most important thing in her life, so when the pair whose grade is raised the highest on the upcoming test is promised full points on the performance evaluation she decides to give tutoring Bok-Soo her all. In the process, the two become very close but their relationship, as well as their lives, fall apart when Bok-Soo is accused of pushing his best friend, Oh Se-Ho, off the school roof. Soo-Jeong, who hears the argument and witnesses the fall, refuses to come to Bok-Soo’s defense which results in him being kicked out of school.
Fast forward nine years. Bok-Soo is doing fine running a “favors” business with two friends from high school when he, for money, jumps into the Han River to save a drowning woman who (surprise) turns out to be his old love, Soo-Jeong. It’s all caught on camera and he ends up receiving the Brave Citizen Award. At the same time, Seolsong High School is going through a scandal and the new director decides to use Bok-Soo’s new-found fame. In order to put Seolsong High in a better light, Bok-Soo is given the opportunity to go back and finish high school. At first, he’s not at all interested in the offer but, when he discovers Oh Se-Ho is the director and Son Soo-Jeong is a teacher there, he agrees to become a student once again. No one need know he’s doing it for the sole purpose of exacting revenge on the two people responsible for getting him kicked out of school in the first place.
Kang Bok-Soo is a happy, well-adjusted, 27 year old man who just happens to be jaw-droppingly handsome with a killer smile. He lives with his single mother, his older sister and her teenage son over their little restaurant. He is a partner is a small we-do-almost-anything kind of business that is doing fairly well. Although his heart broke when Soo-Jeong refused to stand up for him, the time he was accused of pushing Se-Ho off the roof of the school, he has never stopped loving her. In fact, the one and only dream he has ever had was “to be Son Soo-Jeong’s boyfriend.”
Son Soo-Jeong is beautiful and so smart most people kept their distance in high school, thinking she was out of their league. Her focus was to be the best she could be so she studied every free moment she had. Book-Soo helped her find her dream – to be a teacher who could make a difference in her students’ lives. The problem is, right now she is just a contract teacher. Financially things would be a whole lot less stressful for her if Seolsong would just hire her as a permanent teacher.
When Oh Se-Ho transferred to Seolsong High School, sympathetic Bok-Soo took him under his wing. He is smart, handsome, and rich – having never tasted black bean noodles until he was offered them at Bok-Soo’s house. After his fall, he moved to the U.S. and graduated from Saintbury High school. At Stanley University he double majored in business and English. Upon returning to South Korea he was given the job as the board director of Seolsong High School.
For information about Yoo Seung-Ho, the amazing actor who plays Kang Bok-Soo, you can go to my Remember review.
Born Jo Bo-Yoon, Jo Bo-Ah, who plays Son Soo-Jeong, majored in Performing Arts at Sungkyunkwan University. Her acting debut came in the form of a small role in the 2011 cable sitcom I Live in Cheongdam-dong. She followed that with a hosting position on the audition program Made in U. Her first major role was playing opposite Sung Joon in the teen series Shut Up Flower Boy Band (I was surprised at how much I liked that drama). She hosted M Countdown for two weeks in 2013 alongside Kim Woo-Bin. I’ve seen her in Missing Noir M, Love Cells 2, The Man Living in Our House, and Temperature of Love. In my opinion, Jo Bo-Ah is one of the most beautiful actresses in South Korea.
To learn a bit about the actor who plays Oh Se-Ho, Kwak Dong-Yeon, you can go to my My ID is Gangnam Beauty review.
A quick shout out to the awesome character Teacher Park, played by veteran actor Cheon Ho-Jin. He has played some really wicked characters before so I was amazed at how lovable he made Teacher Park. Great casting, great character.
Of course Kang Bok-Soo is the titular character in My Strange Hero, but there are others I would also consider heroes – people who stand up for themselves and others, people who take on a corrupt system, people who speak the truth in the face of adversity, people who do their best during times of hardship, people who sacrifice themselves for others… In looking over the list of this drama’s characters I found 13 people who (in my book) did at least one heroic thing, and that’s not counting all the kids in the wildflower class. This show is peppered with heroes.
Lots of praise goes to My Strange Hero’s scriptwriter, Kim Yoon-Young, for trying to put a spotlight on the flaws in the educational system in South Korea (and I believe in other places, as well). Seolsong High School “divides it’s students into ranked classes based on weekly test results.” The administration looks at each student’s test scores and puts them into classes – the kids with the highest scores are in the “ivy” class and the ones with the lowest scores are the “wildflowers” (with other classes in between, such as the “watermelon” class). The “ivy” kids all get their own private, glass, study booth and an entirely different lunch than the rest of the student body. That system of hierarchy divides the school, putting undo pressure on the “ivy” kids and squashing the self-esteem of the others. Referring to a student named Oh Young-Min, one person comments, “The anxiety from being kicked out of the top 1% class drove him crazy.” Of course it would. And one teacher admits, “The school only pushing for top grades and the misguided parents don’t realize they are ruining their own kids.” That’s absolutely true. Another problem with the educational system is that teachers at Seolsong High are fearful one mistake could cost them their job, or panicked they may not be hired after their student teaching/internship is over. I don’t know what the educational system is like in your country but I happen to know several teachers here in the U.S.A. and in talking with them I’ve figured out, in my opinion, America’s needs a complete overhaul.
As I mentioned in my opening paragraph, the directing in this show stands head and shoulders above countless other dramas I’ve seen. Not since While You Were Sleeping have I seen such artistic directing, and it’s all thanks to Ham Joon-Ho’s creativity. It’s hard to believe it’s only the second thing he has created. (Wok of Love is the other.) Slow motion, camera angels, close-ups, centered/not centered shots, lighting, tilted shots, backgrounds… it’s all perfect! Sometimes a wall will get in the way of a shot. No problem, they just work it into the story because Director Ham uses everything around the actors to his advantage. In the script there has to be a metaphoric wall between Bok-Soo and Soo-Jeong so Director Ham uses a real wall to get that point across – Bok-Soo on one side, looking longingly at Soo-Jeong who is on the other side grinning embarrassingly at him. Wow! Another scene shows Bok-Soo back Soo-Jeong up against a wall, behind a door in order to kiss her. Since they are behind the door we see the kiss from in front of the door (a glass window lets us see everything) and the shot shows the couple against the left side of the screen. Since Soo-Jeong is against a wall we see her backed against the side of the screen. Just brilliant! Now that’s awesome directing! Don’t just watch this show, think about what you’re seeing and why. I really hope this man gets some kind of directing nomination for his work on this drama.
Surprisingly, My Strange Hero didn’t do all that well in South Korea, its highest rating being only 8.1% nationwide (ranked 12th place). However, it’s done much better abroad. The viewers on Viki.com gave it a 9.5 out of 10.
As for the show’s music, Is It Love? is an upbeat duet featuring So Yun & DinDin. Their voices are a good fit with the song and each other, plus he does some quality rapping. Hwang Chi-Yeul belts out the lovely ballad Are You Listening. Its such a powerful song. The other really good song in this drama is Will You Date Me? sung by Ken, lead vocal in the Kpop group VIXX. Sadly, I wasn’t really impressed with the song Send Off but, on the upside, there’s an amazingly classy trumpet in it that’s thumbs-up awesome.
Of course the school is the focal point in this drama. We do get to see the ocean (when Bok-Soo and Soo-Jeong go on their own private field trip) but aside from that, and a really pretty romantic scene in front of a billion little colored lights, the scenery in this show is fairly average.
If you’re in the mood for some yummy, covert romance (flirtatious smiles, come hither glances, hidden winks, secret kisses, sneaky hand-holding…) My Strange Hero is the perfect choice – and they throw in a good storyline, fine acting, excellent writing, and artistic directing to boot!
If you ever find yourself part of the ‘wildflower’ class in life remember this important fact, “An ugly wildflower, no matter how much you step on it, will bloom again.” – Son Soo-Jeong
Note: A great line in the show worthy of a giggle, and repeating…
“If you can’t buy happiness with money, check [to see] if you are lacking the money.”
Writing points out the flaws in the educational system
Yoo Seung-Ho is perfect as Kang Bok-Soo