One type of program that doesn't get nearly as much buzz on the internet as it deserves are Korean Dramas (K-Dramas for short.) Unlike American TV dramas, these series are of a finite length and tell one story wrapping things up by the end. While love triangles are a frequent plot device these shows have a lot of heart and it is easy to get engrossed with the likable characters. The newest K-drama from YA Entertainment is the awkwardly named I Really, Really Like You (aka Love Truly.) This show is a little different from others as it is set in and around the Blue House, the residence of the President of Korea. Though it starts off a little slow, the show will soon captivate patient viewers.
Yeo Bong-soon (Korean pop-idol Eugene) lives in a small hut-like house with her grandmother in the remote mountains of Korea. Life is hard there, and the two barely scrape by. While taking a walk one afternoon, Bong-soon stumbles upon a hiker who had an accident and is unconscious, Jang Joon-won (Ryu Jin). She manages to carry the handsome tall man back to her house where she nurses him back to health. He has a sprained ankle and can't walk down the mountain, so he spends some time recuperating in the small shanty.
Unbeknownst to Bong-soon (and just about everyone else in the show), Joon-won is actually the son of the President of Korea and a medical doctor to boot. Once he gets word back to his father, a body guard (the equivalent of a member of the US Secret Service) is sent to help retrieve him. This comes in the form of Nam Bong-ki (Lee Min-ki), a lazy, self-absorbed and stubborn young man who is really upset that his vacation with a hot girl had to be cancelled in order for him to perform this seemingly inconsequential task. Once Bong-ki actually meets Bong-soon he takes an instant dislike to her, something that is only exacerbated when she causes him to loose his government ID, a very serious matter.
As they are about to go, Joon-won discovers that Bong-soon's grandmother is seriously ill and near death. The entire group travels to Seoul, where the old lady dies soon after she gets to the hospital. With her dying breath, she reveals a secret to Bong-soon: she's not really her grandmother! When Bong-soon was a baby her mother abandoned her and she was taken in by the person she thought was her grandmother. When her real mother changed her mind and came looking for the infant, her 'grandmother' whisked her away to live in the mountains where she'd never be found. Now, armed only with one picture of each parent, Bong-soon moves to Seoul to find her true parents and her destiny.
Things aren't easy for a country girl in the big city. She soon looses the money she received from selling her livestock and with no where else to go ends up living with Bong-ki, his father, and their boss, all of whom work at the Blue House, the official residence of the President of Korea. Can Bong-ki resist strangling the girl who has caused him so much trouble, and if he can, will Bong-soon ever find her parents?
Running 34 episodes (though only the first half is included in this set), this is the longest K-Drama that I've seen, and it moves a lot slower than the other shows I've reviewed. (Delicious Proposal and Super Rookie.) The characters aren't as instantly appealing (with the exception of Joon-won) either, and they take a little getting used to. While Bong-soon is cute and plucky, she's so naïve that it's irritating at times (though I think the producers thought it would be funny.) She also has a tendency to whine when she talks. Even in Korean, a language I don't speak, she sounds annoying. Her cheerful demeanor and innocent spirit make it easy to overlook these, but I'd rather not have to. Eugene is also a pretty good actress, aside from the constant whining. She can cry at the drop of a hat and make it look real as well as having the wide-eyed look of someone being in the big city for their first time.
Much harder to get used to is Bong-ki. Many K-Dramas start out with a male protagonist who has character flaws, but Bong-ki is nothing BUT character flaws. He's arrogant, lazy, mistreats his father, spends too much, thinks of women only as sex objects or as a way to get a free meal and is actually pretty bad at his job. The low point comes when Bong-soon follows a man into a cult church where they steal her clothes, assign guards to her, and prevent her from leaving. She manages to get to a phone and when Joon-won doesn't answer his cell she calls Bong-ki, the only other person she knows. She frantically explains her situation and tells him how scared she is. His response? He tells her that she was stupid for going there in the first place and that she needs to solve her own problems and hangs up!
If you're willing to put the time into the series though, it does grow on you. There are several subplots that are interesting, including the mystery of why Bong-ki's father hates a cook in the Blue House and the mini-love triangle between the official photographer, the president's nutritionist, and Bong-ki. There are also some very touching moments that make it easy to like this show, such as when it's finally revealed why Joon-won won't let Bong-soon stay at his house.
This show comes with the original Korean language audio track in stereo and optional English subtitles. The audio track fits the show very well, with the voices being easy to hear and the music mixed at an appropriate level. Common audio defects such as background noise, distortion or dropouts were absent making this a nice show to listen to. The English translations were pretty good over all. There were a couple of oddly worded sentences scattered through the 18 episodes, and I wondered about some of the translations but at no time did the subtitles pull me out of the moment or wreck the atmosphere of the show.
Shot in HD, this series is presented with a nice 1.78:1 anamorphically enhanced image. The picture is sharp, the lines are tight and the colors are solid and bright. The show was recorded on video tape so it doesn't have that warm look of film and that lead to a couple of scenes where the lighting was a little harsh. The whites are also a bit bright throughout the series resulting in some light blooming and loss of detail. On the digital side things also look fine. There is some minor aliasing and when the camera passes over vertical blinds in the background they tend to shimmer just a little. It's never distracting however.
There are no extras on the discs, but there is a nice 24-page booklet that explains some of the humor in the show that western audiences might not understand.
If you've seen a few K-Dramas already, this would be a nice show to watch. Novice viewers might want to try something else since the plot does move rather slowly and the characters aren't as engaging (at first) as some other shows. If you're willing to invest some time you'll be rewarded with a very good show that has a lot of heart. Recommended.