Been on the funk the last couple of weeks. I got a little sick of Partner after episode 13; the meaty issues were just starting, but for some reason, I kinda lost interest. The drama just finished and I heard that the ending was good, but rushed. So, while I’m definitely going to go back in there, I’m not too keen on it at the moment. Dream and Tamna the Island have been left untouched too. I watched the first episode of Tamna and I really liked it, it’s cute and it’s fun. Dream was still good too the last time I saw, but there seems to be a development between Son Dambi and Joo Jinmo and I’m not too into that coupling idea just yet.
So, with that gaping hole of current dramas, I dug Drama Fever for some old dramas, having just found that the website is not restricted only for US residents anymore, so yay! 9 End 2 Outs was one of the results from this tireless digging, and Soulmate is too now.
Alright, Soulmate is a 2006 MBC sitcom with 22 episodes comprised into 12 hours. It’s purported to be a mix of Friends and Sex And The City in the Korean context, portraying love and relationship realistically. Sookyung is the strong on the outside and weak on the inside type of girl. She has been with her boyfriend for 5 years and while he has proposed, she’s still unsure if marriage is the right thing. Dongwook is a music director who knows his way with women and thinks that the concept of Soulmate is a pathetic concept. He’s been seeing a girl because she’s nice enough, but when he meets Sookyung, he can’t help but accept that they are destined to be together. Sookyung and Dongwook are the main pairing in the drama.
Yoojin is a rich, conservative girl who is super super super polite. She is Sookyung’s junior and Dongwook’s girlfriend, so when she finds out that her senior and her boyfriend like each other, she is the one hit hardest. Phillip is Sookyung’s longtime boyfriend who breaks up with her for another woman after 5 years together. Minae is the other woman, and coincidentally Yoojin’s roomate. She can get any guy she wants and has no moral qualms about breaking up a couple if she can get the guy. Ryohei however, adores Minae and is unwavering in his love for her. Make no mistake, girls are falling over themselves to get Ryohei too, but he only has eyes for Minae.
I’ll start with The Bad:
Okay, so I enjoyed episode 1 and 2 for laying out the foundation of the story and the characters. But oh my lord, episode 3-6 were so slow that I scratched my head in frustration on regular basis. It took Sookyung and Dongwook half of the drama before finally meeting each other for real. I understand that perhaps the concept of Soulmate would be moot if they had known each other sooner and not felt anything, but seriously 6 episodes of the drama is spent going back and forth. Phillip’s started two-timing Sookyung with Minae and he’s going back and forth trying to keep Sookyung from being suspicious meanwhile their relationship sours. Dongwook and Yoojin go back and forth playing the games of love, Yoojin wants Dongwook, while Dongwook just wants to win in these games.
Some characters are painted beautifully, but some other are painted with too broad of a stroke. Way too one dimensional. Mijin, Sookyung’s boss, chases tirelessly after Junghwan, Dongwook’s friend. I am guessing that Mijin and Junghwan are there mainly for the gag factor. Sure, they can be poster child for ‘not so attractive and older couple’ but too bad that the gag element is the more apparent. They are full of crazy antics, all the fake voice, the high voice, the cutesy voice, the overacting. It’s hilarious for about three quarter of the drama, but man, it gets really old after.
Now the Good:
Soulmate has the perfect amount of realism, that fairy tale finding-your-destined-person element, and comedy. I enjoyed watching Dongwook and Yoojin’s love tug of war. Dongwook pretends to come at dawn to drop his complation CD for Yoojin, when in fact he drops it off the night before and just set his cell phone to send a message at dawn to make it look like he is up all night compiling songs. It’s also hilarious to see Dongwook, who is begging for forgiveness from Yoojin, pretends to stand all night outside her apartment when in fact he goes home and sleep first before waking up super early and go stand outside her place again.
But then, our heartstrings are singing whenever Dongwook chances upon Sookyung, his supposed soulmate. They both note how incredibly strange it is they just keep running into each other, but they just can’t help how they bump into each other yet again. They grab the same shoe in a department store (for different purpose, of course). When Sookyung calls a random number to cry her hearts out, Dongwook is the one on the other line. When Sookyung inwardly screams for her soulmate to appear, she turns her head and meets Dongwook’s eyes.
This idea that you are destined for your soulmate and are drawn to them in spite of everything, in the hands of other dramas, could turn into a cheestastic gagfest. But I thought Soulmate handles it well with excellent script and dialogue. I noticed in 9 End 2 Outs, there was a lot of ‘preachy’ monologues (but that was balanced out with Nanhee and Hyungtae’s easygoing relationship), but Soulmate had very few of those monologues, which makes it more edible and less…offputting.
The editing is also fantastic! I also like how each episode we start regularly, then we come to a strange scene. To appease the confused viewers, they take us back to explain why that scene is like that and how the interaction come about. So at the end, we nod and say ‘Ah..so it’s like that.’ There was a scene I thought was really weird. When Dongwook picks Yoojin up, freshly rekindling their relationship, he sees Sookyung standing around and suddenly tells her ‘You too will find someone you love soon.’ and I was like WTFF??
In the last episode, Sookyung was sent by Yoojin to give Dongwook back his stuff (when they were still on a fight) and left soon after. What they didn’t show was when she left, Sookyung saw her ex with his new toy and in a state of emotional disarray, she knocked into a tray full of food and they fell unto her. Dongwook came to rescue her in her pathetic situation and feels really bad for her. This was such a sweet moment, but we only understood the meaning of what Dongwook was saying until we see what really happened. So instead of laying it all flat, Soulmate is excellently edited to keep things fresh.
The characters are among the most memorable characters ever. They just crack me up big time. There’s a feverish guy who quotes romantic lines from dramas in most of his conversation. He would suddenly bust up a line from Lovers in Paris and I’m Sorry I Love You. Then there’s also a ditzy girl who mistakes lobsters for hamsters (she would looove to eat hamster, lol) or international for intercontinental (according to her, her english literate friend is intercontinental, haha) and when her mistakes are pointed out, she would cover her ears and mumble ‘I can’t hear you’ to herself, hahaha. This girl also has a habit of saying ‘Deojeon (challenge)’ when spotting a new target male, and ‘Injeong (admit)’ when she admits defeat.
There’s quite a bit of controversy surrounding the ending (and a possible Season 2). Some hates it for being too open ending, some loves it because it leaves us to our imagination. Let me get this out: I loved the ending a lot. It represents Soulmate as a whole. Good realism, with a dash of fairy tale. No, Sookyung and Dongwook do not ride into the sunset together. And it’s appropriate given how Sookyung is just out of a 5 year relationship that ended in a painful heartbreak and bertrayal while Dongwook is fresh out of his own engagement. As well, in the process of falling in love, they have hurt another party, Yoojin. The wounds are all still raw, it would probably be destructive to push Sookyung with Dongwook right away. This is the realistic part. So, Dongwook goes to US to study and Sookyung to Japan. But surprise surprise, his trip to US has in fact landed Dongwook in Tokyo for his study. This is the fairy tale part.
Looking at Dongwook and Sookyung ‘Chance Encounter’ track records, we can safely assume that one of these days, these two will meet on the street of Japan. The cheesy line goes: If it’s mean to be, it will be.