Wednesday, December 21, 2011

K-Drama Review: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Ep 3-4

Read episode reviews for:
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 1-2
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 5-6
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 7-8
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 9-10
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 11-12
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 13-14
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 15-16

Contains Significant Spoilers for episodes 3-4

Eun-Bi's student-teaching is not going well and she is having more trouble than ever from her rich student Chi-Soo. Eun-Bi does not know how to read Chi-Soo's behavior, since he ignores her most of the time but seems to flirt sincerely on occasion. Eun-Bi's dad has a medical emergency and is hospitalized, and a man named Kang-Hyuk arrives in town. Kang-Hyuk is a young friend of Eun-Bi's dad, and he thinks that he needs to care of their ramyun shop and take care of Eun-Bi as well. The only real problem with Kang-Hyuk is that he seems to be selectively narcoleptic. When faced with a problem or an important decision, he will immediately lay down on the floor and go to sleep.

Eun-Bi's teaching troubles continue when she has to conduct a gym class where Ba-Wool is ready to kill Chi-Soo. Later, Eun-Bi gets so infuriated by Chi-Soo, she spikes him with a volleyball to the head in front of half the school. Chi-Soo spends some time in the hospital (what a baby!) and meets Eun-Bi's dad just before the dad dies. Eun-Bi has to pull her life together when teaching falls through and she has to live at her dad's  abandoned ramyun shop.

One great thing about these two episodes is the intensity of emotion. Prior to now, Chi-Soo hasn't been genuinely angry about anything other than losing his driving privileges, but Eun-Bi embarrasses him badly enough that he loses it and starts yelling. This may not sound like a positive thing, but at least Chi-Soo is getting outside of his own head a little. It's nice to see some character progression from Chi-Soo even if he's moving from arrogant indifference to paranoid anger. He's making a concerted effort to understand normal human emotions like sympathy, and it's fun to watch the "Prince" become a regular human being who has to cope with failure and work toward his goals.

Also, Eun-Bi's scenes of mourning for her dad are wonderful and very touching. They're tear-jerker moments, which are all the more surprising because I was so certain that this show was all comedy. Watch it with tissues nearby.
Things I Loved:

1. Eun-Bi and Ba-Wool's friendship. It's a relief to know that there's no chance that these two are going to be a romantic pairing. They have a genuine sibling-like interaction onscreen, with Ba-Wool always overreacting to things and Eun-Bi slapping the back of his head to bring him back to reality. There's plenty of genuine annoyance and genuine affection in this relationship. Their celebratory dance when they're winning a basketball game is insanely cute.

Precious, Even When Fighting
2. Kang-Hyuk. He is so incredibly sweet, it's easy to forget that he's a total loony.

Falls Asleep for No Apparent Reason

Complaints: 1. Kang-Hyuk's lack of backstory. Is he supposed to be mysterious? Because he comes out of nowhere with an undefined connection to Eun-Bi's dad who he calls "boss", and very few of the facts make sense. Eun-Bi's dad calls Kang-Hyuk instead of calling his own daughter when he thinks he's dying--why? Kang-Hyuk says he already knows Eun-Bi from the past, but doesn't recognize her at the 7-11 store, but then later at the school he does recognize her--why? Good luck answering these important questions, fair viewer, because the show does not fill you in.

2. Ending the teaching job. The plot works overtime to get Eun-Bi fired from her student teaching, but then she gets a full reprieve on two occasions (once from Chi-Soo's father, who owns the school), and we don't even get to see the scene where she irrevocably loses the chance to come back. It's like the writing staff wasn't sure how to force Eun-Bi to stay at the ramyun shop, so they just gave up trying to make it work out logically and said, "Oh well, she loses her temper offscreen, and that's the end of the teaching".


False Romance: Eun-Bi overhears Chi-Soo advising his friends on how to get girls to shut up--compliment them, then kiss them on the forehead so you will seem tender and sincere. Eun-Bi is shocked to hear Chi-Soo reduce romance to a few trite gestures designed to produce a certain effect, but Eun-Bi herself was trying to use romantic shortcuts in Episode 1 when she thought that wide blinking eyes and the use of the word "oppa" would instantly charm her romantic target. But Eun-Bi's attempts really were very innocent, while Chi-Soo is intentionally manipulative. And I think So-Yi's attitude toward Ba-Wool is also a type of false romance, because she keeps stringing him along and offering no real affection or respect.

Visual impact: Much like with Chi-Soo, Kang-Hyuk makes all the ladies swoon and sigh. The difference is that Kang-Hyuk is not trying to charm anyone, and Chi-Soo is. It's also interesting that early on, the camera is focused on reaction shots where instead of the audience seeing Kang-Hyuk, we're seeing other people's reactions to his handsomeness. With Chi-Soo, we're always looking right at him.

Female strength and society's reactions to it: Eun-Bi is known for her strength (though the actress playing her probably only weighs around 90 pounds). When Eun-Bi boxes against a coin-operated strength measuring machine, her BFF Dongjoo is horrified because Eun-Bi is acting unfeminine in public, but Kang-Hyuk happens to be watching and he thinks she's awesome. Eun-Bi's friend Coach also admires her athletic abilities and mourns whenever Eun-Bi acts helpless. It's interesting that the male characters affirm Eun-Bi's strength, athletic ability, and assertiveness, but her female friend cautions her against such displays.

Mirrored scenes: It's laugh out loud funny when Kang-Hyuk is introduced in the exact same way that Chi-Soo was. Kang-Hyuk sits in the same airplane seat across from the same girl as Chi-Soo sat opposite in episode one, and the camera pans in the same soft-focus sweeps while the same dreamy music plays. Only Kang-Hyuk is totally different from Chi-Soo and rather than being a false charmer, he's much more genuine. And a little bit weird.

Cultural Observances:

New words: 1. "Aboji" is "father", and the word is mentioned a lot because Eun-Bi's father plays a big role in these episodes. 2. "Seonbae" is a term of respect for upperclassmen or someone who is your senior in sports or some other organized activity, and Dongjoo calls Eun-Bi her seonbae because Eun-Bi is older, and they were friends in school and teammates in volleyball. This surprised me though, because I would have thought Dongjoo was close enough to call Eun-Bi her "Unnie" or "older sister".

Food as a reflection of economic status: Eun-Bi tells her dad that she doesn't want to eat ramyun all her life; instead she wants to eat rice. I'm guessing that ramyun (ramen) is just as cheap in Korea as it is in America and that rice represents eating better and living better. Though in my mind, rice is super inexpensive as well, so I don't quite get the connection, but Eun-Bi may be saying that she wants to be independent of her dad's shop and wants to earn her own living.

Hanbok: Eun-Bi wears a special kind of formal black dress for her dad's funeral. It looks like a kimono, but it's Korean instead of Japanese.

Wearing gloves while eating: Eun-Bi, Coach, and Dongjoo eat barbecue so hot they wear plastic gloves to keep from hurting their skin. Wow. We probably have this in America, but I've never seen it.
English Bonus:

1. American songs. "Step Into My World" plays yet again when Kang-Hyuk is introduced. "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz plays when So-Yi and Ba-Wool are having lunch.

2. Random words. Dongjoo and Eun-Bi both say the English word "something" in conversation. Eun-Bi counts to three in English when she hits Chi-Soo with the volleyball. Chi-Soo always calls Eun-Bi "intern" in English.

Episode Evaluations: Getting less realistic, but still compulsively watchable.


  1. hi there.
    So, I've been reading your reviews for FBRS as I got the links recommended from FBRS fanpage on Facebook. I think your review is interesting as you managed to summed up 2 episodes with important themes and etc. I also love that you covered from cultural observations to the stuffs that you do and don't love for the episodes.
    short and simple but I get the gist of the story. hope you'll continue until the last episode. looking forward to read what your takes on coming episodes.
    good work!

  2. @n.azliana Thanks so much for your kind words! I do intend to keep going through episode 16. I love this show. :-)

  3. I've never seen wearing gloves when we eat in the states, EVER, but I really seriously wish we had it for BBQ and other messy foods!