Friday, December 23, 2011

K-Drama Review: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Ep 7-8

Read episode reviews for:
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 1-2
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 3-4
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 5-6
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 Spoilers for episodes 7-8

Eun-Bi and her acquaintance/friend/business partner Kang-Hyuk are running the ramyun shop now, and they've hired three highschool guys as part-time helpers! Let's see what new troubles arise at the freshly remodeled shop.

It's nice that Chi-Soo is back to causing trouble for Eun-Bi. In the beginning episodes, he made her life very difficult, but then for Ep 5-6 he was basically at her mercy, though she didn't know it. Turnabout is fair play, and now Chi-Soo is complicating Eun-Bi's life again by working at her ramyun shop and interacting with her every day. Chi-Soo passes off his job at the shop as a way to learn managerial responsibility, but everyone knows that Chi-Soo has all the innate responsibility of a kindergartner--he's really at the shop to get his daily Eun-Bi fix. He still has a constantly morphing illness (which the audience knows is lovesickness), and now that his stomach isn't hurting any more, his eyes are in pain. The only cure for his eye-strain is to see Eun-Bi all the time.

And oh, the ramyun shop environment itself is grand--it's the ideal excuse to keep all the main cast in the same place. Eun-Bi is in her element, with lots of hard work ahead of her and lots of people to boss around. Ba-Wool and Hyunwoo are funny guys with contrasting personalities that make for plenty of laughs, and it's very charming to see the female clients of the ramyun shop giggling over their waiters. Dongjoo and Coach come visiting to give Eun-Bi some added support, and their scenes are great as well--I only wish there were more of them. Then there's Chi-Soo in the corner of the shop, magnanimously dispensing pickled radish as if he were signing autographs for rabid fans.

In other words, life is going well until Eun-Bi's ex-boyfriend Jaeho returns, throwing everyone's emotions into turmoil. Will Eun-Bi reunite with this jerk? Will Chi-Soo finally recognize his own feelings? Will Kang-Hyuk do anything besides be funny? Dun, dun, dun...

Things I Loved:

1. The balance of the character development. This show is really excellent at taking turns putting its characters under pressure, then easing up. Early on, Eun-Bi's life looked like one long shame spiral, but then she got her act together. Next, Chi-Soo became so imbalanced, he seemed ready for a mental ward, but then he regained his composure and his attitude. Now, it's Eun-Bi's turn to be off-balance and flustered. This is such a neat trick the writing team has mastered; make a character hilariously upset and then relieve the tension by moving on to a new victim target.

We Take Turns Being Crazy. Today is Not My Turn.

And if Eun-Bi and Chi-Soo take turns being the "martyr" of the cast, Eun-Bi and Kang-Hyuk take turns being the grown-up or the parent of the cast. See? Balance.

2. The new shop. It's clean and bright after the redecoration, and it looks like the kind of place you'd want to spend your free time. The set designers did a good job with the place.

Come for the Noodles, Stay for the Drama.

3.  Chi-Soo getting even with Eun-Bi by saying weird things to Jaeho about their fake relationship.

Has the Worst Make-Believe Boyfriend Ever

Seriously, Chi-Soo should get a special award for his inventive cruelty. He hates backpacks, but he buys a backpack specifically so he can emphasize to Jaeho that Eun-Bi is pathetically dating a highschooler. And in the scene where Chi-Soo is talking to Jaeho about Eun-Bi, I nearly died laughing when I recognized the song playing in the background as SHINee's "Noona Neomu Yeppeo" or "Older Woman, You're So Pretty". Someone in charge of the soundtrack definitely had a sense of humor.

4. The power of music. Episode 8 does some amazing things with exploring how closely songs are associated with our memories and with our feelings.

Complaints: Uh. Nope, surprisingly, no criticisms. I am let down by Eun-Bi's entertaining the thought of dating Jaeho again, but she adored him for years and years, so her one-time feelings for him have to be dealt with in order for her to progress as a person. It makes sense, but it still hurts to see her reading Jaeho's blog posts and trying to interpret everything he says as meaning something about her. Oh, girl. *air hugs*


Hyper-Femininity vs. Feminine strength: So-Yi is ultra-feminine, but while she's not a villain, I think she's the girl least worthy of respect in this show because she uses her charms to make other people do what she wants. On the opposite side of this spectrum, we hear Kang-Hyuk say he admires Eun-Bi most when she's using her strength, and I think the audience probably feels the same way.

Taking care of your friends: Everyone else in the show has done a good job of this, but Chi-Soo is trying to be a good friend for the very first time by having his father's guards look out for Hyunwoo. But this is a drama, so the attempt at caring for others goes drastically wrong and everyone blames Chi-Soo. But he gets an "A" for effort! His attempts to pay off Hyunwoo's dad's debts are rebuffed also.

Using names correctly: Kang-Hyuk intentionally forgets Chi-Soo's last name, but if he ever says "Cha Chi-Soo", like he ought to, he's trying to get Chi-Soo's full attention. And when Chi-Soo calls Eun-Bi "Yang Eun-Bi" instead of "intern" or "that woman", he's trying to have a sincere conversation. So-Yi always seems more sincere when she's calling Ba-Wool by his name instead of the manipulative use of oppa. Kang-Hyuk does still say "Kim Chi-Soo: and "Park Chi-Soo" and has now added "Jung Chi-Soo" to the repertoire.

Mirrored scenes: Eun-Bi is baking and her hair keeps falling in her face, so Kang-Hyuk ties it back for her. Kang-Hyuk does sweet, thoughtful things like this all the time and not just for Eun-Bi, so we expect it of him. But then he leaves and Eun-Bi's hair falls again, and someone starts to fix it for her, someone who's guy-bracelets look familiar... I think the wardrobe department for the show probably assigned Chi-Soo these certain bracelets just so that the audience would be able to recognize his hands when his face is not in the shot.

A Double Dose of Romantic Hair-Fixing

Cultural Observances:

Not very many new ones this time around.

New words: Ba-Wool calls Kang-Hyuk "Hyung-nim", which I think is a more polite way for a guy to say "older brother". It's very cute that he's putting Kang-Hyuk on the same older-sibling level as Eun-Bi. "kamsahamnida" is "thank you", and we hear it a lot at the shop as customers thank Chi-Soo for bowls of pickled radish. "Jagi" is like "honey" or "darling", and that's what Eun-Bi calls Chi-Soo when she's pretending they're dating.

English Bonus:

Random words: A K-pop song playing in the background contains the words "be happy". Kang-Hyuk says "chicken curry" in English, Chi-Soo says "no problem" in English, and Eun-Bi says "thank you" in English.

Episode Evaluations: It's more complicated than ever, with plenty of fun and intense emotions.

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