First Impressions: Playful Kiss

I wasn’t planning on watching this show at all. Really, a none-too-bright girl mooning after a super-smart ikemen? And he falls in love with her too? Er… And then I read the synopsis of Itazura na Kiss on Wikipedia and I was even less enthused. I don’t know about you, but I like my female lead characters to have a brain. I’m not saying they have to be a member of Mensa or that they should know how to cure cancer, but really, since when did stupidity become an attractive trait in a girl? Clueless naiveté a la Go Minam is one thing; being too dumb to breathe is quite another, which is why I had to stop watching Liar Game after four episodes or risk developing an ulcer. To be fair, how annoying and fatuous the character comes across on screen depends very much on the actress playing the role, and since I had never heard of Jung So-min prior to this, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Ergo, if you had asked me which one I wanted to waste 16 hours of my life on—Sungkyunkwan Scandal or Playful Kiss—I would have gone for the former.

Well, Playful Kiss, I’m sorry I doubted you. Can we please be friends? And Jung So-min? You’re just darling. If I were Baek Jeong-so, I’d be mooning after you!

Jung So-min, thy name is adorable

What her Oh Ha-ni lacks in book smarts, she more than makes up for with a megawatt personality. Jung isn’t conventionally beautiful but she grows on you, and her ability to connect with her inner idiot while maintaining an impish spunk makes her all the more endearing. She’s not so much stupid as she is a dreamer who’s just not interested in binary equations and the like (and to be honest, who can blame her?) Like she says to Jeung-so in episode two, “We just have different interests.”

Ha-ni showing the vending machine who's boss

Speaking of endearing, just how adorable is Lee Tae-sung as Busan badass Bong Joon-gu? I think there should be a fan club to the Hair and I love his hopeless, puppy-dog crush on Ha-ni and his faux bad-boy swagger (though we all know he’s just a big, squishy marshmallow waiting for the right girl to worship hand and foot.)

Ha-ni, how can you not see all that love being laser-beamed at you?

But what of our main lead? Kim Hyun-joong is…well, Kim Hyun-joong. I get that Seung-jo is supposed to be Sex on Legs™ with a super big brain and a supercilious attitude, but I like his character best when he’s yelling at and bickering with Ha-ni, not only because these kind of set-ups are cute, but also because he’s easier to read in these situations. I realize the SS-501er has gotten a lot of flak for his economy of expression, but look at it this way, if Keanu Reeves can make a career out of being inscrutable, I’m sure KHJ can too!

I feel pretty, oh so pretty...oh wait, wrong show.

Playful Kiss is by no means flawless and it tends to drag (for me, anyway) when it moves away from Ha-ni, Jeong-su and the rest of the gang in school. Also, I’m not particularly crazy about Jeong-su’s mother. I know the way she’s being portrayed is probably in keeping with the character in the manga but she’s just a bit too over-the-top flighty for my taste. And all that pink too! How old is she again? But yes, I know this is an adaptation of a shoujo manga and that a sedation of my disbelief is in order.

This slight hiccup aside, I’ll be watching Playful Kiss to see how Ha-ni reels Seung-jo in. Jung So-min: Rock on!

Being tutored by the guy of our dreams...we should all be so lucky!


  1. “Economy of Emotion”….I am SO stealing that. :)

    You are a WONDERFUL writer – I’m hooked, will visit often. Thanks!

  2. totaly with you on that. I watched ISWAK (taiwan version) when I just started the world of asian dramas and was going through the list of top ones. I was annoyed with the dumbness of the girl, rudeness of the guy to her, etc. and did not get what was all the fuss about. So, if you has asked me than I would swear on a Bible that I will never watch it again. But than at kids. yahoo Sungkyunkwan Scandal put against Playful Kiss, and PK is actually winning. It made me curious and I gave it a shot. And was so surprised! They really managed to find the actress who can pull that character without being annoying. SKKS is still my favourite, but PK turned out to be sweet time killer.

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