Flower Boy Ramyun Shop has exceeded my expectations. What began as a hokey high school drama has turned into a show makes use of extremes and juxtaposes them in subtle ways. It may seem like a contradictory statement, but normally one finds that when extremes are used for comedic effect, it often loses the thread of plot and character development.
For example, in Atashinchi no Danshi, each of the adopted brothers has a terribly tragic story that causes them great agony. The traumas of the past are gradually revealed and dealt with in ridiculous ways that undermine their import to the story and character development. The absurd antics causes one to focus more on the humor than the addition of vital bits of information to the plot line. This is not the case with Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, which has won me over with its clever and fun execution.
“Loving, Loving” – DNPD (from the Flower Boy Ramyun Shop OST)
episode 3 & 4 – thoughts
The extremes of this drama are amazing plot fuel and I expect for the show to amusingly guide them to some sort of equilibrium. Until it does, I marvel at newbie writer Yoon Nan-joong’s ability to play with the highs and lows without detracting from either extreme. PD Jung Jung-hwa mirrors the writer’s intentions with his camera work: split-screens, severe angles, the use of mirrors and windows. It’s rather ingenious.
In episode three, “The Return of the Temperamental Girl,” and episode four, “The Scent of a Man,” its’ wonderful how the dialogue and character development center around the episode titles. Yang Eun-bi’s firecracker temper manifests in episode three and will undoubtedly be an issue much of the drama. Her fubae, Dong-joo, calls her a bear. RAWR! And roar she does.
The Return of the Temperamental Girl strongly plays on Eun-bi’s inability to control her temper and it continues into episode four. As time passes, she becomes more unable to control her temper creating comedy and trouble. We actually see evidence of her temper in the first episode when she lobs a water balloon at her ex’s bitchy new beau. And again, when she, as a slap-happy noona, stops Ba-wool from making trouble in the junkyard.
But her temper starts to spiral out of control in episodes three and four. We are introduced to her temper when, again, she smacks Ba-wool upside the head. (He needs to wear a helmet around her.) However, when she overhears how Chi-soo played with her, Eun-bi the Bear rears her ugly head. At this point we are treated to the awesome scene of her taking out Chi-soo with her Eun-bi Spike. Awesome. So this is what the Bear looks like.
The second Bear moment occurs in episode 4 when Chi-soo tries to give her “comfort” (ie, condolence money for her father’s death). She is attempting to apologize for the first Bear moment, but as he stupidly persists in his ridiculous attempts to make her feel better, she slaps the comfort envelope onto his face, quits her teaching job and stalks away. Then she tells him that he stinks. Ah, both episode titles, “The Return of theTemperamental Girl” and “The Scent of a Man,” combining into one beautifully hilarious moment. Score.
But the most awesomest part of her temper (yay bad grammar) is that right after she explodes, she effectively implodes. After the volleyball Bear incident, she first feels free and relieved. While visiting her father in the hospital she regrets her actions. When the Bear comes out the second time she quits while still basking in her triumphant glory. Then she wallows in self-pity while eating chicken feet, wondering what she is to do about employment and her future. It’s an extreme part of her personality that she will hopefully temper (pun intended).
As for our leading men, the writing plays up on the theme of opposites. Cha Chi-soo is a meddlesome, spoiled brat who creates more work for himself with his obsessions. In contract, our newly introduced second lead, Choi Kang-hyuk, is the hilarious epitome of lazy. He falls asleep whenever and wherever he can, avoiding work and effort like the plague.
Not only are their personalities and way of functioning completely different, but their quirks are constantly showcased.
First, let’s take a look at tall, hot, hot, hot Choi Kang-hyuk. In two episodes, this Tall Guy falls asleep four different times in four different places. The repetition of this humorous quirk makes it even funnier. I giggle every time I see him curled up on the floor somewhere.
1) Kang-hyuk is at the hospital looking for his boss and becomes annoyed and bothered when he has to answer too many questions. He sinks to the ground and closes his eyes.
2) After saving Eun-bi from Cha Chi-soo’s punishing hand, the hall moniter finds him passed out on the floor cuddling the ball that pummeled Chi-soo’s face. Kang-kyuk is mumbling about how everything is bothersome. ㅋㅋㅋ
3) As Eun-bi heads to school just after her father’s death, we spy Tall Guy passed out under the stairs.
4) After Eun-bi’s brutally awesome refusal of Chi-soo’s pathetic advances, we see our resident lazy bum, sleeping behind the sofa.
After all this laziness, I expect to see his love for Eun-bi to cure him, at least partially, from his aversion to work. We see the start of this as he takes on a Daddy Long Legs roll. He protects her from Chi-soo’s fist, secretly covers her with his jacket, comforts her after her father’s death, and cooks her meals – all actions that require effort that he doesn’t seem to mind.
Then we have Chi-soo, resident man-child and expert fit-pitcher. As hot-tempered as Kang-hyuk is lazy, we are treated to delightfully amusing temper tantrums. Six, at least.
1) Just after he gets owned by Eun-bi and her wickedly strong volleyball arm, he flips out and orders her to stop like a petulant child. Il-woo, you’re my hero. How can you be such a big baby and still be so hot at the same time?
2) Chi-soo is in the hospital *eye roll* and incredibly embarassed. He commands that his father and the assistant never say that he was hit again. This isn’t a full-blown fit, but if you’re bossing your daddy around, there has to be some kind of inner three-year-old manifestation going on.
3) Chi-soo gets his horribly insulting comfort money plastered to his face by Eun-bi the Bear and declares he is going to fire her. He can’t control himself and starts doing the toddler shake: he shifts his weight from side to side, wiggles his shoulders back and forth and makes the poopie face. My favorite fit thus far.
4) Eun-bi refuses Chi-soo’s father’s offer to reinstate her as an intern teacher. Chi-soo is furious. Isn’t it cute how he gets angry when things don’t go his way? I wonder if he’s through potty training. When he hangs up we discover he’d taken the phone call in class and everyone had witnessed the tantrum. They turn back to the lesson as though nothing happened. Ha!
5) After Eun-bi calls him a child when he tries to work the mojo on her in his car, he drives off in a huff. Another half-fit, but a fit none-the-less.
6) The last fit finishes out episode 4 as Cha Chi-soo takes extreme offense at Tall Guy’s (purposeful) inability to remember his surname.
It has already begun, but Chi-soo’s growth will be in seeing the world as a bigger place than just his playground. Eun-bi’s father’s death caused a crack in his porcelain box of selfishness. I really love how it was only a small improvement of his attitude. He feels remorse over his behavior, but goes about apologizing for it in a very Chi-soo manner – in other words, completely the wrong way.
We do see another side to Chi-soo in these two episodes. They are minor peeks into his rather cracked psyche. First, we see Chi-soo’s reaction to the death. He is stunned and is unable to properly deal with the situation immediately after it happens; he also is unable to comfort the bereaved Eun-bi despite his earnest desire to do so.
Then, we see that he had a mother who cried in pain. How does that factor into family dynamics? We do know that it caused Chi-soo, who intended to leave a crying Eun-bi to herself, to turn back with the intention of doing something for her. At this point in the story, however, I doubt he would know what to do. He can’t even comprehend the word comfort, let alone know how to properly give it.
We also see Chi-soo finally reflecting, even though it’s a preoccupation with figuring out why Eun-bi was wrong about him rather than taking some responsibility for himself. But hey, its a start.
Then there is the last scene when Chi-soo shows up at the ramyun shop because he’s worried that Eun-bi was unable to get into her house. (He would never admit it, but it’s cute nonetheless.) It’s awesome how he starts all of his good deeds correctly and then butchers him by completing them in inappropriate ways.
And now for what is probably my favorite part about these two episodes: Yoon Nan-joong and Jung Jung-hwa’s ability to shift from levity to gravity in an instant while preserving the feelings of both. Again, its back to the extremes.
The most powerful example in these two episodes is when Chi-soo encounters Eun-bi in front of the elevator. He’s in the hospital after getting hit by her Eun-bi spike and she’s visiting her father. He selfishly thinks that she’s there to apologize to him and she takes him to task. As he climbs onto his soapbox, Eun-bi’s father is wheeled down the hall on a gurney. Forgetting Chi-soo’s existence, she chases after him. She finds out her father has passed.
Immediately following that we see an imperious Chi-soo blustering with anger. Because the scene cut was so starkly made, and because Ba-wool’s posse passes by Chi-soo without acknowledgement, we feel both the humor of Chi-soo’s antics but the moment still retains the weight of death. This blows my mind as it is quite difficult to do. That is this show’s charm. The show continues the juxtaposition as Eun-bi is honoring her father. Chi-soo brings her the ramyun pot she left with him and he awkwardly hands it over. She coldly rebuffs him. I want to laugh and cry.
We are also blessed with Ba-wool’s alpha male persona that immediately turns into a gruff pile of goo around So-yi, whom I have dubbed “Swan Chick”. I hope she gets what’s coming to her ’cause right now her usage of Ba-wool makes me want to punch her swan-y face.
I can also see why Chi-soo is beginning to become a bit preoccupied with Yang Eun-bi. He is baffled by all of her faces: goofy, strength in personality and body, grieving daughter, the Bear, and, perhaps most strongly, he’s not the center of her universe. Do people actually think about things other than me? Even Kang-hyuk’s apathy baffles Chi-soo. I get the feeling of a parent humoring a child when I saw them together. Again, opposites.
How clever is this show? I am stoked to see it through to its end. It completely defies expectations and predictions.
So bring it on! I want more!
(Thank you MadDino for the awesome screencaps.)