Welcome to THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS, the KDrama edition!
FLOWER BOYS NEXT DOOR
I’ll say right now that FLOWER BOYS NEXT DOOR contains pretty much everything I love about KDrama, and most things I love about the best T.V. shows–and, in fact, story-telling as a whole–within its bright little bubble.
The description of this KDrama interested me straight away (a free-lance editor with agoraphobia is set upon by a boy-puppy type hero and chivvied out of her comfort zone? yes please!) and when I learned that the female MC was played by Park Shin-hye, it was a no-brainer.
Go Dok-mi (Park Shin-hye)
I love Park Shin-hye. I love the fact that she’s not horrendously, unhealthily skinny. I love that she’s always adorable. I love watching her act. I’ve also found out that she has a gorgeous singing voice (she’s actually part of the soundtrack for Flower Boys Next Door), so there’s that too.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that I absolutely adored her character in this. Go Dok-mi is a freelance editor who, as a schoolgirl, was so much bullied by both enemies and (supposed) friends, that she almost tried to kill herself, and ended up as an agoraphobic shut-in. From her small apartment, she watches the world outside (and particularly the guy next door, with whom she has fallen in love) with her bright yellow binoculars.
I love Go Dok-mi’s frugal cost-saving measures. I love her infrequent, nervous trips Outside, when she can’t put them off any longer. I love the fact that although she doesn’t care for herself, she has an incredibly caring nature, and will always do the kind thing for others. I love her quiet, undemanding, unrequited love for the man next door. I love her humble self-knowledge.
One of my favourite Dok-mi moments? When, after seeing her through 5 or 6 episodes where she won’t put the heater on to save electricity costs, wearing multiple layers to keep warm, and sleeping with hot water bottles (which she uses, when cold, to flush the toilet)– when Enrique says thoughtlessly upon entering her apartment “Oh! So cold!” we see her turn on the heater immediately. It’s the trademark of this beautifully written drama to place such quiet, effective moments in the most unexpected places.
My other favourite moment is when she tells Jin-Rak: “You had it wrong the whole time. I’m not the princess. I’m the witch who locked her in.”
Enrique Geum (Yoon Shi-yoon)
Okay, this was only the second KDrama I watched (after something like 10 KDramas) where I didn’t get 2nd Lead Syndrome. That should tell you something about how delightful Enrique was.
How to describe Enrique? Well, he’s a world famous games designer, but the first word that springs to mind is puppy. This little puppy of a hero is warm, and kind, and enthusiastic. He doesn’t give up, he’s teachable, and he has a heart that is just as kind as Dok-mi’s. His unrelenting bouncing around Dok-mi’s seemingly impenetrable facade of untouchability is just delightful to watch–as delightful, in fact, as watching him fall in love with her all unknowingly, and her falling in love with him with barely greater knowledge.
As much as I love each character separately, I love them as a couple even more. I don’t know if there’s an actual age difference between them, but Enrique’s bouncing youthfulness combined with Dok-mi’s decidedly womanly dignity is a truly gorgeous dynamic. (Guys, he calls her Ahjumma! Ahjumma!) And it’s not just his relationship with Dok-mi that is heart-warming: his relationship with Jin-rak is also a huge highlight of the drama.
Oh Jin-rak (Kim Ji-hun)
Oh Jin-rak. Some of the best comic moments in this drama come from Oh Jin-rak. He’s been in love with Go Dok-mi ever since he first saw her at their shared apartment building.
Remember I said that I didn’t get 2nd Lead Syndrome with this drama? I didn’t, but that’s not because Oh Jin-rak, the 2nd boy of Flower Boys Next Door, wasn’t an awesome character.
He totally was.
For starters, he’s a writer. How could I not love him? Not only was he a writer, but the very nature of this drama (wherein Jin-rak is part of a team who write a webtoon based on their life) means that the fourth wall is constantly being broached in the most delicate and delicious manner. Jin-rak is the source of most of this assault on the fourth wall–the rest coming from the Editor–and he is one of the most self-aware characters I’ve had the joy of watching. Plus, he’s a Facilitator, and if you’ve read my posts on KDrama, you know how much I love Facilitators.
Despite that, I was very happy to see him not end up with the girl. (Oh, yeah, SPOILERS).
A big joy for me in the character of Jin-rak was how much we got to see of his personal growth and shenanigans. This was followed closely by the joy in the relationships grown between him and Enrique, and the even sweeter seonbae/hubae, hyung/dongsang relationship between him and Oh Dong-hoon. It’s so rare for a western show to focus on brotherly love that it was a constant refreshment.
Oh Dong-hoon (Go Kyung-pyo)
This kid is another actor I’ve loved in everything I’ve seen him in. As Oh Dong-hoon, he plays an impoverished kid who is bunking with Jin-rak while co-writing a webtoon with him. Their hyung/dongsang relationship is sweet and hilarious to watch, and it’s not Jin-rak alone who grows over the course of the drama.
Even sweeter is the budding (yet entirely practical) romance between Dong-hoon and the Editor. I loved seeing those two together.
Editor (Kim Seul-Gi)
I’m quickly gaining new favourite actors, because Kim Seul-Gi is sheerly hilarious. All the quiet incursions of the fourth wall that Jin-rak isn’t responsible for, the Editor is, and as I’ve said before, her relationship with Dong-hoon is just perfect.
The Editor is (obviously) the editor of Jin-rak and Dong-hoon’s webtoon. She gets four hours of sleep per night, and therefore spends the remainder of her time with the cutest panda eyes I’ve seen, and a raging case of bipolar disorder that is even cuter than her panda eyes.
OBVIOUSLY she’s a favourite character.
Cha Do-Hwi (Park Soo-jin)
Blurk. Cha Do-Hwi is your requisite bad guy gal who used to be a friend of Dok-mi’s in school, and then both betrayed and bullied her to the point of suicide because Cha Do-Hwi fell in love with the teacher who seemed to be falling in love with Dok-mi.
My biggest fear was that Jin-rak would fall in love with her, because I really hated her.
She’s unpleasant and highly toxic, and never actually gets to the point of admitting total fault. What I like about this character is, that although you never see her change, exactly–well, you never see her change. And that was oddly satisfying. Because although Dok-mi was able to grow beyond her boundaries, by the end of the drama you could see that Cha Do-Hwi would never change, and that, to my justice-loving mind, was punishment enough.
Also, I hated her clothes.
Watanabe (Mizuta Kouki)
This kid was basically there to look pretty and be a plot device, though he was a pleasant one and rounded out the group nicely. Watanabe is a Japanese boy who is cooking his way around the world. There’s not too much to say about him, but he fit in with the whole drama beautifully, and he’s a constant thread through it.
Well, I’ve already really told you most of the important stuff. There’s other stuff going on, of course: the residents picketing their apartment for better terms, the mystery of who really owns the apartment building, the packing up and leaving of Dok-mi’s one-sided love from the apartment across the road, Enrique’s first love– not to mention a totally sweet, budding romance between one of the older, female residents of the apartment building and the elderly security guard.
Then there are the mobster-looking types who are following Jin-rak around, and the scurrilous goings on within Enrique’s gaming fandom…
The Writing–oh my goodness, the WRITING!
I don’t remember the last time I actually squealed in glee while watching a movie or tv show. With Flower Boys Next Door, I was doing it constantly.
The metaphors, guys! The subtle, beautiful metaphors, in both dialogue and situation.
The constant, delicate encroachments upon the fourth wall.
The downright lovely, delightful characters!
I’m actually so overcome with how amazing the writing is that I have almost no words to describe it, and after watching Flower Boys Next Door I just sat in my chair saying to Mr.G: “I will never be able to write like that!”
I loved the comedy. I loved the way they played with viewer expectations, and the way they subverted those expectations. Oh my goodness, I LOVED how they directed and obscured the narrative, and then tore the rug out from under my feet in the most hilarious and heartwarming ways!
You’ll see what I mean when you get to this part. And then, like me, you will laugh until you cry at what they’ve done with your expectations.
*Breathe, WR, Breathe*
Okay, you can probably tell I loved this one to bits (it’s one of my top 4 KDramas that I can rewatch over and over again) so go out and watch it already before this blog post runs beyond its already ridiculous word count as I try to convince you.
The best part? I get to watch it over and over, and it’s STUDY, GUYS, because I’m learning Korean.