Based on the popular manga, Oh Ha Ni is a clumsy student who falls for the perfectionist, Baek Seung Jo. However, Seung Jo is indifferent towards her and rejects her love. When Ha Ni's house collapses, she and her father moves into his long-time friend's house. It turns out that Seung Jo is the friend's son and Ha Ni is given the opportunity to be near the guy she loves. Will she be able to move Seung Jo's heart?
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1) I do not like it when a woman blindly and stupidly follows a man that mostly could care less and treats her like crap on a regular basis.
2) I do not like it when a teenage girl is portrayed as completely without sense and is kind of a stalker.
3) Even worse when she is encouraged by said boy's mother! The mother helps her stalk her own son! I liked the actress, I did but that's just too much for me to wrap my mind around.
Maybe I am too old for this one. I did not like the message it sends. I am all for going with a story. I can forgive a lot because I have a ridiculous romantic side to me but this one left me wanting to yell at that girl and shake her out of her blind stupidity.
Here is what I did like: The boy kind of redeems himself toward the end and she wakes up at the last minute...kind of. ..but not enough.
I hope some take a moment to read this. I am not the best writer. I haven't wrote a lot of reviews yet, but this one forced my hand. I hope it isn't a waste of your time. Also, I hope you give my perspective some consideration. This is a gem.
I have thought many times how I should start this review. However, I do not think I will be emphatic enough of how this Kdrama affected me no matter how much I try.
Oh well here we go...
Playful Kiss was pure, heartfelt joy for me. I am likely going to come at this in a somewhat unique angle. I have to immediately share that I have read much of the hate or criticisms of this drama...mostly about Oh Ha Ni's 'pathetic' puppy dog love and her incessant pursuit of Baek Seung Jo. Which I will deal with later...but a HUGE 'PFFT' – whatever. I see how it made her look dependent, stalker, etc. They even took exception with the mother encouraging this. It makes me wonder what they were watching, but I have my opinion and as I said, I will cover that later. I DO NOT really want to make this negative. This drama is purely about the positive.
A short preamble of sorts. I am relatively new to Kdrama's. I have around 20 under my belt as of writing this review. I think I have a fairly well rounded resume, you can peruse my list if you like, but I have never watched one like 'Playful Kiss'...apparently. Why 'apparently'? It left many of the sinister tropes behind. The overbearing parent, the evil in-law, the person at school or work or wherever that serves as the antagonist. The heal. The 'hated' one or several in some dramas. This was completely devoid of that!!!!!!! It blew me away. It was pure love, warmth, and heart. I do not believe I have watched ANYTHING like this in my life! I am American and our purity on TV left decades ago. The closest we get is shlock filled, syrupy, inane dramas on like ABC Family that are as deep as a puddle and as interesting as insurance forms. This drama had spunk and had loads of REAL laughs. Yes, mostly at the expense of Oh Ha Ni, but in the sweetest way imaginable.
I wrote in the forum part for this drama about how it completely compared to 'Bridget Jone's Diary'. I said, how 'Bridget Jone's Diary' would be an adult, 'R' rated version, while this would be the high school, family equivalent. Both had a hapless, hopeless romantic lead protagonist that went to great lengths and often made fools of themselves over a man. 'Bridget Jone's Diary' was a critical darling and 'Playful Kiss' has a descent rating on mydramalist, but way too many high brow people looking down their noses at Oh Ha Ni because she was too vulnerable and too often let a man define her...yada, yada, yada! First question I have, um, Bong Joon Gu was EVERY bit as clingy to Oh Ha Ni. He even continued after she was married. He told her that if Seung Jo is now her house, he would be her 'insurance'. Yes, the writers or director brought in Chris to turn Joon Gu's head at the end, but he was still clinging to Ha Ni. No one mentions him as exhibiting the same behavior. It was her character only. That to me is sexist. Once again you bring undue attention to the female doing something when a male was largely guilty of the same thing. She was every bit his 'knight in shining armour' and Joon Gu said so much! Ha Ni went through growth over the arch of the series just as Bridget did. She at the end was confident that Seung Jo was every bit taken with her as she was of him. She had matured and was working hard.
I have a theory as to why there are so many pointing out Ha Ni's supposed 'pathetic-ness'. At least from an American perspective, and likely a European perspective, is cynicism. We have gotten so 'empowered' that any show of selling oneself out for another is a show of weakness. I think a lot more relationships and marriages would go a lot further if BOTH individuals were to give up themselves completely for the other. It isn't PC, especially for a woman, to want to give themselves totally to the other. It's often worded 50/50. That's a hedge. Someone may cry semantics, but each giving 100% of themselves for the other is the way to be. I think that was reached in the end albeit Seung Jo was much more reserved in exhibiting his devotion, but he did. I do wish they had him coming to her defense more and stronger, but alas, they didn't. The beginning was about her devotion and lampooned it as such. It was admitted many times to being one sided, but her perseverance paid off. I just think that too many judged her unfairly. She did nothing sordid. She didn't do anything deserving reproach, she was just wide-eyed and too full of heart.
I am not sure I articulated my point well enough the above point, but I will move on.
Some complained and some LOVED Kim Hyun Joong. I am betting some of the devotees to Hyun Joong are nearly as starry eyed as Ha Ni because he is handsome. However, he seems to be a one note actor at the moment. I have only seen him in 'Boys Over Flowers' and this. I don't hate him. What the director wants from him, he has down to a science. Hyun Joong's performance was nearly an extension of Yoon Ji Hoo. However, for me, he was not what drove this movie, nor was he what touched my heart so much by this drama. He was merely a pawn. He was Ha Ni's carrot and that is about it. I will say this because of the way he plays his part through out, when his tone does change it hits you! The viewer feels it because most of the series he acts arrogant and is brooding all the time so when he does lower his guard and shows his love for Ha Ni the viewer always feels it. However, once again, the series acknowledges that!! He does. His friends do. His MOTHER does always. Even his little worshiping brother does near the end! They all acknowledge that he has personality issues. So to point it out seems rather silly BECAUSE EVERYONE knows it! LOL! It was his known flaw that would expose other flaws in his seemingly perfect demeanor. Ha Ni wears her flaws on her sleeve. They are there for everyone to see...and every one freely talks about them too.
Here's my heart felt feeling in the end, this drama was nothing but love. It permeated the entire series. It's warmth never wavered. I would love to live in a cocoon such as Ha Ni's. In spite her flaws, she brought warmth to everyone she touched and everyone surrounding her brought the love to her too. Her friends, her father, Seung Jo's parents, Joon Gu, her senior homeroom teacher, even Yoon Ha Rae was won over!! Jung So Min was radiant! She played this part as well as you could hope. The way she stumbled. The way she bit her lip. The way she shrunk when she knew she screwed up. I get teary eyed just thinking how special she was in this role...and the hate for her character -UGH! I DO NOT get it. She was a bit naïve sure, but she was so pure in every action how could you not cheer for her. When Seung Jo's mother, Geum Hee, came to her defense and pointed out the heart she brought to their lives it was awe inspiring.
I would love to flesh out more about each of these examples in her friends, Seung Jo's family, etc, but I will only touch on them a little. It was ALL of them that lead to my captivation with this series. I could only imagine having friends such as Ha Ni's and that includes Joon Gu. Her father was so gentle and worked so hard and gave his all for his daughter. However, for me the ones that filled my heart most was Seung Jo's parents. Yes, at first the mother, Geum Hee, seemed off. She seemed to have a screw loose and was weird, but that, at least for me, faded quickly. Her character was explained deeper. She became second only Ha Ni as my most beloved, but that only seems right since they were meant to be VERY similar, if not mirrors of one another. Their out pouring of support and uncompromising support for Ha Ni and her dad was profound. It brought buckets of tears from me.
Speaking of tears, I sobbed so many times during this series. From tears of joy, to tears of sharing their heartache, but it was always a pure heartache never a malicious heartache. The type that just comes with life. People come and go. We say good bye, and if you have a heart, most good byes are misty eyed. I tell my boys the most painful things in life are good byes.
So to maybe conclude, the cynicism this series has garnered from some is truly baffling. It's charming from start to finish. Having a happy ending with everyone finding love is unrealistic. People are right, life is mired in pain, suffering, hatred, bigotry, gossiping, backstabbing, greed, and so many other morose happenings. And thank God above this series doesn't have them. This is bliss start to finish, with just the mild bumps along the way. I'll tell you what, there are plenty of dramas that explore those ugly parts of life. Once in a while, isn't it nice to experience a story where people are good and helpful to each other. Doesn't that sound glorious? We live atrocity, why then would we want to ONLY champion that and watch series about that? Why wouldn't we want to escape for a while in a gentle, sweet world that largely doesn't exist in the real world, but wouldn't it be nice if it did? I'm 44. I had a marriage of 22 years end with lies, a wife committing adultery, a broken family through divorce etc. I'm tired of all that. It was a breath of fresh air to live in this drama for a little while. I ordered it on DVD and bought the soundtrack. Now I will not just seek out dramas like this. I will still watch and love the dramas with all the usually Kdrama tropes and expect story devices, but when life has me shaking my head, I will lose myself in this series for a moment and realize how people should treat each other.