The 2004 Seoul Broadcasting System television series Stained Glass is a love story about three individuals who were connected on an emotional level at a very young age. Over the course of eighteen hour long episodes, their story is told. It has dramatic, romantic, and somber elements. It is a true K-drama and delivers an engaging story that is slow at times but nonetheless hard to put down. The characters are all likeable and their melodramatic situation will have you on the edge of your sit wanting more.
Stained Glass's main plotline deals with three individuals and the sordid love triangle that ensues as two best friends pine over the same girl, who also feels conflicted about her relationship with each of them. Han Dong-Joo (Lee Dong-Gun) and Park Gi-Tae (Kim Sung-Su) were two orphans who found great friendship in each other. Gi-Tae even donated part of his kidney to save Dong-Joo's life when he was in need. Fifteen years prior the show's current setting, the two friends met Shin Ji-Soo (Kim Ha-Neul). From the beginning, both Dong-Joo and Gi-Tae fell in love with her, as well the three became best friends. For three years, they were close, and they vowed to stay friends forever. And both Dong-Joo and Gi-Tae swore to protect and care for Ji-Soo.
Twelve years ago, their lives changed forever. Ji-Soo dropped her ocarina in the water and Dong-Joo went after it. Unfortunately, he disappeared in the water and was thought to have drowned. For twelve years, Gi-Tae stayed by Ji-Soo's side, protecting her and trying to make her life better. It was his love for her that drove him to act as he did. But no matter what he did, her feelings were never quite as strong. She longed for Dong-Joo. And now, their lives are once again forever changed when Dong-Joo comes back into their lives.
In the beginning of the story, Dong-Joo and Ji-Soo unknowingly meet for the first time in twelve years. Ji-Soo works as a photographer for a magazine and she is sent to Japan to take pictures of a celebrity with her latest boyfriend. The boyfriend turns out to be a man named Yamamoto Yuichi. Yuichi is Dong-Joo. When his friends had thought he was lost, he had been found by a wealthy Japanese couple who adopted him. As Yuichi, Dong-Joo stands to inherit a global insurance company. In their initial reunion, Dong-Joo and Ji-Soo develop quite some chemistry as they both do not realize who each other is.
Afterwards, the story is brought to Korea when Dong-Joo goes to Seoul to work on an online marketing campaign for car insurance sales. Dong-Joo courts Ji-Soo (still not knowing who she is exactly) while Ji-Soo's relationship with Gi-Tae starts to get shaky. Gi-Tae was adopted by a has-been actress, who married a wealthy man and continues to love him despite the fact he wants nothing to do with her or her adopted son. Gi-Tae works for his step-father, who treats him poorly as he prefers his own children. Gi-Tae finds salvation in Ji-Soo, who does not reciprocate.
At first, the friends do not realize of each other's existence. But as the story continues, they all realize who each other is. It is at this point the drama is heightened and the problems associated with a love triangle start to come into full effect. Ji-Soo feels connected to Gi-Tae, because he has been at her side for the last twelve years. At the same time, she has pined for Dong-Joo, who she thought was dead. She has a bond with both. Gi-Tae loves Ji-Soo and has spent so much of his life looking out for her that he cannot imagine living without her. But Dong-Joo has also spent the last twelve years dreaming of finding the love of his life again. On the other hand, Dong-Joo is in debt to Gi-Tae (who saved his life by donating part of his kidney when they were kids). The situation is very complex.
What works for this story comes in many forms. First, the characters are great. All of the leading roles are handled superbly and they have great chemistry together. Kim Ha-Neul is excellent in the leading female Ji-Soo. She is simply adorable and projects her emotions well. Lee Dong-Gun makes for the perfect match to Ji-Soo. He has exceptional chemistry with Ha-Neul and makes the relationship between Ji-Soo and Dong-Joo great. Kim Sung-Su is perfect in his role as Gi-Tae. Sung-Su provides his character with the necessary look and feel of Gi-Tae, someone full of so much sorrow and pain. Together, they make a great lineup in this enticing drama.
Second, the main storyline and its development are done well. While the storyline of two best friends chasing after the same girl is nothing new, how this particular story is handled stands out. I really enjoyed how the relationships with the characters were developed. For instance, something I thought worked quite well was how this story did not develop their childhood relationship in the early episodes. A couple K-dramas, e.g., Stairway to Heaven and Sandglass, I have seen recently dedicated a couple episodes to show the characters in their childhood. It is an aspect I enjoyed those example series, but I thought the approach Stained Glass took worked a lot better for this particular story. This series used periodic flashbacks to describe important events from their childhood as necessary. It made it easy to get to know the characters, as they got to know each other in the present time.
Third, the story's subplots were excellent aspects that helped heighten the drama. For instance, plotlines dealing with Gi-Tae tended to be solid. As the adopted son of a father who wants nothing to do with him, he is included in some true drama with a father who wants nothing to do with him and a soon-to-be sister-in-law who also refuses to acknowledge him as family. The plotlines that deal with this very melodramatic plotline get very exciting as the story progresses. There are also strong plotlines that result from the main storyline dealing with Ji-Soo trying to handle her life with both Dong-Joo and Gi-Tae trying to be a part of it.
Overall, Stained Glass is an excellent K-drama that delivers a lot of drama with likeable characters and an enticing storyline that will keep you on the edge of your seat wanting more. I had a great time with this story, and while it had a few slow portions, it generally had a good progression. In the end, I think this drama is done very well and deserves to be watched.
For non-spoken language options, there are subtitles in English provided. There are a few grammatical errors and odd word usage, but for the most part the subtitles provided dialogue that was very easy to follow.