One episode of So Ji Sub is all it takes to ruin kdrama leading men for me.
Yes, those to die for washboard abs is something to behold but if you could believe me, I actually find him sexier dressed in a windowpane suit, wincing his trademark frown than the famous bathtub scene in Oh My Venus.
So, you might ask, why am I such a latecomer to the So Ji Sub train? After five years in the kdrama verse, how did I miss the awesomeness of So Ji Sub? I wonder myself. Yes, I’ve heard of Master’s Sun. It regularly makes the top 10 on many kdrama fans’ most beloved kdramas. But what kept me away was the horror genre. I have a thing about not watching horrors… they give me the creepy jeebies and leave me with troubled sleeps. Let’s just say those days watching Dracula and Pontianak shows at a tender age left less than desirable imprints on my brain.
So back to So Ji Sub. How did I happen on this unconventionally charming heartthrob?
Enter my twin. A twin’s a twin for good reasons. We tend to have the same tastes in just about anything, men in particular. And I was in between dramas, waiting for the next episode of Descendants of the Sun when my twin said, for the tenth time, you will love So Ji Sub…go watch Oh My Venus. I actually resisted. Not a fan of the makeover trope, I had super low expectations, thinking I would give it a shot to appease her but fully expected to drop it anytime.
But on the contrary, just like my twin predicted, it launched my love affair with So Ji Sub. I stopped chasing the remaining episodes of Descendants of the Sun (waited until they were all aired and subbed), and for the last few weeks, marathoned six So Ji Sub’s dramas and movies. And in spite of my obsession with Korean dramas, I was never really into its movies until the So Ji Sub phenomenon. Crazy, huh?
A king of melodrama, So Ji Sub can do no wrong in my eyes. Almost. Not sure I like some of his fashion sense but at least on the small screen, his characters are just my cup of tea. Whether he’s playing the broody, down and out boxer in Always, the revengeful anti hero in Sorry I Love You, the introvert shopping mall Chaebol in Master’s Sun, the sexy trainer with a heart of gold in Oh My Venus, or the straight shooter, no nonsense cyber investigator in Phantom, he mesmerized me with his emotive acting, and leave me wanting more.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s a looker, a total package, and a damn good-looking one.
He inspires me to get up and hit the gym, makes martial arts look sexy, gives meaning and relevance to my dull IT job and pushes me to overcome my psychological battle for the horror genre. Not that I will start watching or reading horror anytime soon. 🙂
So, here’s a quick run-down on the So Ji Sub’s performances that I’ve enjoyed over these past few weeks.
A heartfelt love story with gritty, intense, and thought-provoking moments. Both So ji Sub and Han Hyo Joo were superb with chemistry that sizzles up the screen, overshadowing the dark subject matter. The trio (+ Ding Ga, the adorable dog) stole my heart. My absolute favorite moment towards the end when he came into her shop and took the turtle away to release it back to the sea. So poignant. I cried. (10/10)
Phantom / Ghost
A departure from other shows. No romance, no melodrama. Action packed, cybercrime thriller. But an absolute page turner, one unpredictable twist after another. Not so much whodunit but leaving the audience to try to connect the dots in between. Credit to So Ji Sub playing two characters (not the classic separated twins trope) and for delivering the nuances between the two. On paper they don’t appear too different but So Ji Sub made it so we could sense the intense, conflicted Kim Woo Hyun versus the super intelligent, slightly more sassy hacker, Park Ki Young. An adrenaline filled, pleasantly surprising treat! Gives me a whole new level of respect for my IT Security department. 🙂 (9/10)
The Master’s Sun
What a quirky, fun pairing. Poor girl meets rich guy story but with an original twist. I don’t mind this trope. It is how well the story is executed that excites me and this one sure does. It starts with a far fetched romance and Gong Hyo Jin looks downright freaky in her white baggy coveralls on a deserted road, in the rain, in the middle of the night. Definitely not a candidate for love at first sight 🙂 What can I say about this show that has not already been said. Stellar casting a primary factor. Both leads are among my two favorites in kdrama. Between the two of them, they gave an absolutely satisfying performance, giving the show its beating heart. Thank goodness, the horror elements weren’t that scary even for the timid me. I was touched by each ghost’s story and like a mini series, the show gives us a small closure in each episode as each ghost finds solace on his/her road to redemption while the main OTP overcomes their struggles to be together. (9/10)
Oh My Venus
Haha! Here’s the show that started it all. As a whole the entertainment value doesn’t rate as high as the above shows but how can I forget the one that launched my obsession. Aside from the fact that it’s not my favorite trope, I cannot deny the grown up, sexy chemistry between Shin Min Ah and So Ji Sub. Those sparring scenes….was that suggestive or what. And the bromance between the trio is cute and endearing. As many other reviewers have mentioned, there are some questionable plot holes. Like the one where he shuts her out during his rehab. That’s super unreal. When they finally meet for the first time after one year apart…all we get is a hug (*sigh*) but the scarf is a nice touch. I could do without the second and third pairings and love lines. Overall, it is a feel good story, easy on the heart, the eyes and the brain. The last two episodes feel like an extended epilogue but I won’t complain since I get to gaze at my dreamy leading man for two more hours. (8/10)
Sorry I love You
A revenge melodrama with plenty of makjang. I’m not one to shy away from it. This character driven drama is compelling in many ways and showcased So Ji Sub’s superb acting range.
A story of ill-fated love, misunderstandings, family secrets with tragic outcomes. Definitely not one for the faint of heart looking for cheesy, sweet as honey love story. As Moo Hyuk, So Ji Sub showed the many sensitive sides as the tough, street kid in urban Australia, pining for an identity and holding out hope that he was not abandoned because his mother didn’t want him. My only complaint is that I wish he spoke more fluent English for a character that practically grew up in Australia. Minor point since most of the story happens back in Seoul. Im Su Jung is solid in the role as the naive but good hearted Eun Chae. She’s got to be one of the saddest character on kdramas. The beauty to this imperfect story is that none of the characters are perfect human beings. Each one has his/her wart and ultimately pays for it. What a sad love story. Though neither seeks it, the love just grows unbeknownst to them and when they finally acknowledge it, it is too little too late. A kdrama Romeo and Juliet. Keep a boxful of tissues handy for this one. (8/10)
A Company Man
Not quite sure what to make of this one except it kept me entertained. The premise is a tad creepy, a fake company that looks ordinary from the outside but is a shell for mercenary killings. All its employees are contract killers for hire. So Ji Sub plays one such employee and is very good at what he does. An action thriller that keeps me glued from beginning to end. And though the end is somewhat predictable (what good can come from such a profession – either you get killed by the good guys or the bad guys right?) it is the subtle love story that shines above it all. So Ji Sub thrives on playing a brooding introvert; the cold, silent type that appears tough on the outside but soft as butter on the inside. If you like action, this one’s for you. (8/10)
There! I think I’m almost caught up. I may go back and watch some of his other works such as Road No. 1 and Cain and Abel. I’ve also got Battleship Island firmly entrenched on my watch list though it is quite a ways out. Everything I read so far sounds promising, the most exciting being the star studded cast which includes Hwang Jung Min and Song Joong Ki.
So, are you also a So Ji Sub fan? Any good one that I missed?