Itazura na Kiss (It Started with a Kiss) spawns another version and now its the Koreans resurrecting the popular manga earlier brought to life by Joe Cheng and Ariel Lin in Taiwan in 2005. There was also a Japanese drama which ran for 10 episodes starring Japanese actress Aiko Sato and Takashi Kashiwabara in 2010.
So, what does this mean for the Korean version? It means that it has big big shoes to fill following the success of the first two versions (discounting the animation). It Started With a Kiss remains to be one of my favorite Taiwan dramas to date because of the excellent chemistry between the two lead stars and the great acting (Ariel Lin). When Taiwan came out with They Kiss Again, it still maintained the awesomeness of the original, which is quite rare for sequels. The Japanese version, I felt, was a bit to rushed with only 10 episodes and the lead female star was a bit annoying because she was shrieking for 90 percent of the series, perhaps due to its comic book roots, but it did not lack for emotional moments.
The Korean version, topbilling Boys Over Flowers alum Kim Hyun Joong as genius heartthrob Baek Seung Jo and newbie Jung So Min as the super snail Oh Ha Ni, whose life’s mission is to get Seung Jo to like her. The first thing that I noticed is that this is probably the prettiest version of the manga hit among the three adaptations. Compared to its predecessors, the approach is also has a younger and more modern feel to it than the first two. It is also more fashionable than the two versions combined.While Oh Ha Ni was not too quick on the uptake, she sure dresses well.
With only 16 episodes, the pacing was pretty good, not too fast as to alienate the audience and not too slow as to bore the viewers. Each episode has a highlight which makes the viewers keep track of the chapters better. Acting wise, there were moments that pulled at the heartstrings, but I felt that some scenes which required seriousness were treated like a sequence in a comic book. The heaviest insults from Seung Jo merited only an exaggerated pout from Ha Ni and Seung Jo pretty much remained stoic for the rest of the series in keeping with his character. In this sense, I think that it is inferior to the Taiwan version and the Japanese version where viewers empathized with the female leads, who suffered through the worst things for their dream guy. This is not to say that So Min is a bad actress. I just think that the interpretation of the character could have gone a bit deeper because the predecessors have set the bar high.
All in all, a passable RomCom in its own right but slightly inferior to its highly successful predecessors.