We wrap up mini-drama Ma Boy with Episode 3, which shows that being pegged into a particular genre and market have little to do with telling an effective story. There’s plenty of lightness and laughs in this episode in particular, which wraps up the soonjung-manhwa-esque story neatly and cutely.
I know there’s nothing terribly novel about this show, but even so it kept a silly grin on my face throughout. I’d say Episode 1 started us out with a solid baseline of cute, which dipped a little in Episode 2 to make way for the romantic development, and then came roaring back (and then some) with the wrap-up, which had me laughing quite a bit.
Plus, it’s just nice to see youth programming being given a decent production budget and a name actor or two (e.g., Kim So-hyun), instead of being relegated to grainy low-budget affairs. I hope dramaland keeps it up, whether on Tooniverse or other stations.
SONG OF THE DAY
Ma Boy OST – “Pink Lens” by Chi Chi [ Download ]
EPISODE 3: “My Boy”
Geu-rim’s teacher takes a hard line about the budding scandal, demanding to know who the boy in the photo is. Geu-rim can’t give away Hyun-woo’s secret identity, so she stays mum.
Hyun-woo realizes that she’s going to bear the brunt alone and insists he has to step in. He and Uncle head over to figure out a way out of this mess. (Yeah, this “scandal” is pretty small beans, but here’s a case were I’m taking it in stride. Knowing the genre and market, I think these stakes — suspension from school and Hyun-woo’s possible outing — are adequately dire for this world.)
The majority of the student body enjoys the gossip, and a few actively celebrate. The fanboys exult at the idea of getting rid of her and freeing their beloved Irene-nim from Geu-rim’s inferior clutches.
Hye-ri is notably subdued and chides her friends for sending around that photo without telling her. So she’s not rotten through and through after all. Dumb, maybe, but not without conscience.
Tae-joon comes running in and confronts Tackle about spreading the gossip, calling them cowards. Aw, he’s great. I’m a little sad that we won’t be getting more of this character, since it’s so rare we get two nice guys as leads.
Hyun-woo charges back to the workshop retreat, where Geu-rim is told she’ll be suspended unless she reveals who she was with. She’s ready to take the punishment… and a voice calls out, “It was me.”
That is so adorable. Even better is that Hye-ri’s with him as an accomplice/corroborator.
He tells Geu-rim he’d only meant she should keep quiet so as to prevent gossip, not to get in trouble over it. Then he puts his acting skills to use, saying that he was walking along last night when he saw (of all things!) an injured deer. He couldn’t bear to leave it, so he dashed off with the deer to the vet, “And on my way back from saving that precious life, I heard someone else crying out for help.” Even though the story’s fake, he’s totally willing to brag about his heroism, which cracks me up.
The teachers are doubtful that Tae-joon is really the boy in the picture, but Hye-ri pipes up to confirm. She saw it with her own eyes — and they all know how much she stalks him, right? The teachers are like, She has a point. Thankfully the soft-hearted principal is eager to let it drop.
Geu-rim wears this skeptical expression on her face throughout the explanations, and Tae-joon shoots her a wink.
Hyun-woo (as Irene) arrives at school just as the dust is settling. Tae-joon informs Irene not to worry, the he stepped in and said he was the guy, and now everything’s fine. Hyun-woo should be relieved, but this just makes him upset and he walks off silently.
Tae-joon wonders if Irene is angry at the news. Is she… jealous of him helping Geu-rim? LOL. He’s so pleased at the idea, the dork.
Geu-rim thanks both of them and heads off after Hyun-woo, leaving Tae-joon hilariously confused at her lack of swooning at his grand gesture. “That’s it? I popped up like a prince on a white horse — shouldn’t she be crying and wailing?”
Pesky Paparazzo hears the gossip, but doubts that Tae-joon’s the guy in the photo. In fact, he saw Irene heading for the pool that night… But don’t worry about him putting two and two together (at least not correctly), because his mind takes that in a different direction; he assumes Irene was at the pool with Tae-joon. Ha.
Geu-rim waits up for Hyun-woo that night in concern, and finally sneaks out to look for him. She finds him alone on a bench, in a broody mood.
Trying to lighten things, she assures him that everything worked out, thanks to Tae-joon and Hye-ri. Hyun-woo returns, “What if they didn’t step in? Then what?” Would she have just taken the fall for him, like a dummy?
Geu-rim says she would’ve given up his secret, but that’s a lie and they both know it. It makes Hyun-woo feel worse, and he calls himself a loser.
Geu-rim tells him he’s the one who jumped in the pool to save her, regardless of his disguise: “Not Irene, but you. Hyun-woo.”
He’s all, So you do know my name. She jokes, “Wait, was it Gyun-woo?” Corny, but cute, and it gets a smile out of him.
As a pick-me-up, Geu-rim asks Hyun-woo to teach her to dance, so off they go to the rehearsal studio. She’s all goofy elbows and knees, but when he tells her to do the dance properly, she says the only thing that matters is having fun.
He insists there are rules and techniques. Geu-rim: “If you dance like it’s a math problem that you can solve with rules, is it any fun? If the process is fun, whatever the result is at least you have no regrets. Don’t fight with dance, but play with it.”
She pulls him back on the dance floor, and they do this dorky, adorable dance.
Irene’s dogged paparazzo (Reporter Kang) insists he’s given up the tabloid lifestyle in order to get his many, many confiscated cameras back from Uncle, even signing a contract to that effect. But on his way out he runs into Hyun-woo, who immediately ducks his head and turns away. Reporter Kang wonders who it is, noting that he’s as pretty as Irene. Could he be… Irene’s brother?
Tae-joon pokes at his lunch in irritation, stabbing at his beef (jang-jo-rim, a pun on her name, Jang Geu-rim), wondering why Geu-rim hasn’t called. You know, to thank him properly and all. Stab, stab.
Then he wonders, “Maybe she doesn’t know my phone number?” Pshhh. love the dimwitted idol hottie character.
Tae-joon spots Geu-rim entering the cafeteria and bolts up from his chair, slamming into Hye-ri. She goes flyyyyying backward and lands… in the arms of a fanboy. HA. They both stammer and bicker at each other. Aw, is this the birth of a new loveline?
Tae-joon sidles up to Geu-rim’s table doing his cool hero pose (hilariously out of place here) and asks for her phone. Hearing that it’s broken from the pool dunking, he perks up in relief: “So even though you wanted to call me, you couldn’t!”
He asks to see her after class, and gives her a new cell phone. No big deal, one of his endorsement freebies. Nothing he can’t do for a friend.
Then he asks who the mystery pool boy was. A boyfriend? She says no, and he seems awwwwfully happy with that response. With a wink, he skips off. Gahhh, so cute.
But wouldn’tcha know, Hyun-woo’s also got a gift of his own. Too bad he’s been scooped by Tae-joon, and when Geu-rim shows him the new phone, Hyun-woo keeps his own gift out of sight and passive-aggressively snipes about Tae-joon (he calls him Tae-bal, or Tae-foot).
Then Geu-rim heads to the bathroom, just as her phone beeps. Hyun-woo ignores it… for about a second.
He caaaaaasually picks it up and reads the text from Tae-joon, who prefaces his question by saying that he’s asking ALL the girls (sure, sure): “What kind of guy do you like?” Omg, adolescent boys. Thinkin’ you’re all smooth, being so awesomely transparent. I luff them both.
Hyun-woo immediately sees it for the play it is… and smiles as he types a response.
Cut to: Girls falling over in shock. At the sight of Tae-joon. And his glorious flowing red side-mullet. Omg, did Hyun-woo describe Fantastic Baby G-Dragon as her ideal man?
Why yes, yes he did. Tae-joon struts up, all idol confidence, and greets Geu-rim and Irene. I want to know how many NGs they had to work through to shoot this.
He asks what she thinks of his style, reminding her that it’s her favorite look — especially when that side-mullet whips around all sexy-like. Geu-rim immediately realizes what must’ve happened and covers by saying he looks great, but was handsomer in his original style. Diplomacy for the win.
But now — only now! — does Tae-joon wonder why he’s acting this way. Why is he responding to Geu-rim the way he used to with Irene? Gasp! “Do I…? Her?”
So next he finds Irene in the library, doing his usual hero entrance, and asks to talk to her. Feeling his heart, he’s relieved that it’s still pounding for Irene. Snerk. You sure that’s the thing you want to cling to as reassurance?
But what about Geu-rim? What does his reaction to her mean? He gasps in horror: “Then… am I a playboy?!”
I love the way Irene just silently shakes her head throughout his monologue. Tsk-tsk. It’s really the only thing you can do in the face of his ridiculousness. I mean, without bursting into hoots and giving your secret identity away with your deep manly laugh.
Tae-joon apologizes for his momentary lapse in devotion, and asks what to do. Hyun-woo thinks, “Don’t you dare approach Geu-rim.”
And wouldn’t you know, there’s Reporter Kang at a distance, snapping away on his camera. Thankfully this is a low-stakes drama and he’s basically the most incompetent paparazzo ever, because he gets stopped by Irene’s fanboys. Reporter Kang says he’s her fan too, but the boys chide him for crossing the line and instruct him to go to her online fan cafe if he wants photos so badly. Hee. Ethical fandom for the double win.
Tae-joon asks Geu-rim out on an almost-date, which is when you ask a girl on a date but couch it in a lame excuse so she doesn’t actually know it’s a date, you dolt. (His excuse: He’s preparing for a musical and wants to go “study” one — will she go with him?)
Hyun-woo watches this from the second story, eyes narrowed at Tae-joon… only Tae-joon glances up and sees Irene storming off in a huff and interprets this in a totally different way. He sighs about the perils of being too popular. If anything, his reactions make me feel less sorry that he’ll lose the girl(s) in the end, ’cause at least he’ll have his enormous ego to cushion the blow.
That night, Geu-rim complains about Hyun-woo messing with her text messages. She bangs on the bathroom door and demands he come out, so he does, and the motion sends them lurching at each other. Gulp.
He’s testy about Tae-joon and snipes, Why, are you gonna pamper your skin for your DATE? Then he asks Geu-rim to call him after the musical, which leads to bickering (“Why should I?”) and ends with her huffing that she’s gonna have a great time with Tae-joon, yup!
The next day, Geu-rim heads out for her date and runs into Irene’s manager, who asks if she’s gonna be at the agency tonight for Hyun-woo’s birthday party. She realizes he was trying to bring it up last night before she cut him off.
Hyun-woo gets dropped off at his dorm, not interested in a party. His manager says Geu-rim will be coming, which makes him reconsider for a split-second. But he decides she won’t show, since she has her date.
Nearby, Reporter-Kang-in-disguise lurks, and notices that Irene’s voice sounded funny. Did he… hear a boy’s voice by mistake?
Geu-rim cancels her date with Tae-joon, saying she forgot about a friend’s birthday. He notes that it must be “a really important friend,” and sits scratching his head, wondering who could be more important than idol star Tae-joon. “Could it be that mystery pool boy?”
Irene spots Tae-joon grumbling to himself on campus and wonders why he’s still here.
Geu-rim arrives at the management company with a cake and sets up party decorations on the rooftop. She anticipates his reaction, and that night when Hyun-woo shows up, she surprises him with a cake and a song, which leads to teasing and a kiss.
IN HER MIND. Ya big fakeout. Geu-rim wakes up with a start and resumes waiting.
Alas, the manager comes by and locks the roof door for the night, leaving her stuck outside. And when she tries to call Hyun-woo over, she realizes she left her bag downstairs.
Hyun-woo tries her phone to no avail, and texts the other students asking about her. Tae-joon says the date got canceled for a friend’s birthday party, which sends Hyun-woo to the rooftop.
He finds her asleep, amid all her party preparations. She’s eaten most of the cake, too, HAHA. I love that ’cause that’s exactly what I’d do.
He wakes her up, and of course since he’s so touched by her gesture, his first reaction is to yell at her. Oh, boys. He says he never asked for a party, and wasn’t she supposed to be on a date anyway? Why is she even here?
Geu-rim’s flustered and on the verge of tears, and exclaims, “I don’t know either! Because I like you! Because… your birthday’s more important than Tae-joon.”
She starts to walk off, but he yanks her back to hold her close. She hears his thumping heart, and he says gruffly, “From now on, if you moon after Tae-joon, you’re dead.”
Reporter Kang keeps tabs on Irene, determined to get to the bottom of this, and photographs her entering the bathroom… and Hyun-woo leaving it. Oh noes!
But fear not! Reporter Kang nearly craps his pants waiting outside the bathroom for hours — for Irene to come out. Omg. Are you that dumb? Ha, I love this drama.
Hyun-woo is on his way to their first date, and takes Geu-rim to a museum where they do cutesy couple things. Afterward, Hyun-woo heads to the dance studio for his evaluation, and Geu-rim sends him off with the reminder to have fun.
He does look looser tonight (dancing along to Touch, aka Sun-woong’s idol group), and has a big smile on his face as he dances in front of his judges and dance crew buddies. Everyone’s amazed at his vast improvement, and his manager figures he’ll be ready to debut soon.
Uncle takes that to heart, and he announces later that today he’s officially striking Irene from the roster. They’ll fulfill their outstanding commitments, then put the persona to rest. Uncle apologizes for putting Hyun-woo through it, and only cries a little at the thought of quitting while they’re so successful. They’ll un-enroll Irene from school, then find a way to enroll Hyun-woo.
That night, Reporter Kang sees that Irene’s profile has been pulled and wonders at it. Only NOW does he link the resemblance between Irene and Hyun-woo — who are wearing the same hat and shoes in his photos.
Time to take this blackmail to Uncle. He goes armed with his demands, ready to sell his silence.
Uncle gathers his team to deliver the news: All activities are to be suspended, and Hyun-woo will stay out of sight while they quietly clean up the mess. It’ll take a lot of money to shut up Reporter Kang, which Uncle will scrape together somehow.
Hyun-woo wants to see Geu-rim, but is advised that it’s better not to — she might get caught up in the scandal. Thus she’s taken by as much surprise as everyone else when Irene’s retirement is announced.
The news sends the fanboys into a tailspin (“We can’t live in a world without Irene!”) and they go crying to the management company, begging to know the reason. They’re kneeling on the ground as Reporter Kang comes in to gloat, which makes manager hyung growl under his breath about the damn paparazzo.
That in turn gets the fanboys’ brain-wheels turning. Wait… that ajusshi… was at the school…
Next thing we know, they’re conspiring with the Tackle girls, telling them that the ajusshi is using Tae-joon and Irene photos to blackmail them. Oh, this just tickles my heart. So they’re all banding together? The annoying gnats actually have a narrative purpose? D’aww.
Agreeing with Uncle that keeping Geu-rim out of this is better for her, Hyun-woo keeps his distance. He hopes she can wait till he can show himself without, you know, causing a huge uproar, but she’s hurt by the ignored phone calls. Grar, you’d think he could at least text her a quick heads-up, but he goes for the cold-turkey route in cutting ties.
Tae-joon laments the loss, too, thinking Irene left because she was upset he took an interest in Geu-rim. You doofus. He cries dramatically to himself that he must be an homme fatale: “I’m sorry, Irene!” Well, the heart may be bruised but that ego’s as robust as ever.
Determined to protect their crushes, the two idiot trios make another pact. Let’s hope this collaboration ends better than the first. To that end, Reporter Kang finds himself suddenly accosted by the Tackle girls, who accuse him of secretly photographing their legs and being a big ol’ pervert. Ha.
That’s their excuse for grabbing his camera to find the “proof,” and vote to wipe the photos blind, deciding they can’t bear to see romantic photos of Tae-joon and Irene. Delete!
Geu-rim shows up at the management company, only to find that it’s been put on the market for leasing.
And then… we come back a year later.
Tae-joon is still after Geu-rim to date him, but she turns him down, which seems to be a recurring thing. They have a cutely bickering relationship, where she takes him down a peg or twenty by informing him that he’s actually kind of tiresome now that she looks at him. Heh.
Their attention is diverted by the TV being watched by a group of students, which features an interview with an idol. It’s the leader of a group called Ma Boy… and it’s Hyun-woo. Who happens to be the newly arrived student.
Everyone drools over the beautiful idol, and even the fanboys get unexpectedly excited. For Geu-rim, though, the painful memory makes her deflate.
Hyun-woo lets the students get their gossiping quota in, then heads down to them, beelining straight for Geu-rim.
He asks, “Am I too late?” He leads her away from the crowd, and the air is a bit awkward — she’s not quite sure how to react, or what he wants from her. She stiffly congratulates Hyun-woo for his success, keeping her distance and trying to appear indifferent.
You get the sense they could dance around the main topic for days without a push in the right direction. So Hyun-woo finally just pulls her in for a hug, and that eases everything. Skinship for the triple win!
He says, “Sorry for making you wait so long.” He tells her he can’t be with her as Ma Boy leader Hyun-woo, “But I’ll stay by your side as Daehan Arts High’s class 3-1’s Jo Hyun-woo.”
And this time when he leans forward for a kiss, she’s not dreaming.
Yeah, it’s maybe not a real kiss, being a mere peck on the forehead, but I actually like the simple ending. It suits the show, whose forte was always in knowing exactly what it was, and managing to stay within the sweet spot for its story — not too dramatic, not too intense, not too big.
The plots were low-key, and passion isn’t the point; it’s that sweet puppy love that’s more about liking-liking someone than a whole bunch of physical displays of affection. Plus, the actress is only 13 years old and admittedly it might feel a little skeevy to have her kiss an oppa who’s a legal adult, even if he’s very dreamy.
It was super refreshing to watch a show where there were no huge dramatic twists or angsty bouts of conflict. There was definitely an adequate level of conflict to keep the plot moving, but it was lovely to not have to always shoot for the highest level of theatrics — sometimes a problem popped up and caused a hiccup, but not everything was going to Ruin Things Forever. It’s funny how I’ve become so used to watching the big prime-time miniseries that whenever a hurdle cropped up for our characters, my reaction was to assume the worst — oh crap, Irene is outed! Her name is going to be dragged through the mud! Hyun-woo’s whole future is destroyed! Geu-rim’s fundamental moral fiber will be smeared beyond reckoning!
But no, things stayed scaled down to the world of the show. I’m not sure how I’d feel if this were to go on for fifty episodes, because perhaps I’d get bored of the slow movement in that instance. But I feel like three episodes was a nice length for this — short enough to gobble down quickly, also just long enough to settle into the conflicts and give them some weight before then resolving them.
By the way, how cute is Kim So-hyun? You know, when she’s not playing pint-sized incarnations of evil and all. As a child actress she’s still developing, of course, but I love that she has range. I was so sure they’d cast her specifically to be the mean princess-sister in her previous roles — like, maybe she just looked evil — that it was a surprise to see her being totally normal for once. Not only that, but she’s got the makings of a decent comedic touch; she has pretty good timing and I’d love to see her expand more. She does have a raw feel in comedy, but I think she can pull it off.
I did wonder how the show was going to pull off a satisfying ending given the very light nature of the romance — it’s not the type of story you want to see riding off into the sunset, ’cause how romantic is that when you’ve just gotta show up at school the next day anyway? So I like that Hyun-woo and Geu-rim get their reconciliation, and that it came very simply and without dramatics. Because this drama’s main conflict wasn’t really ever about the attraction; it was about how Hyun-woo would manage to reconcile his real self with his Irene sham.
So it makes sense to have that be the problem needing most solving. You had to have our hero’s team confront some sort of consequences for the ruse, but you didn’t want them shattered by it. So not only does Irene go into retirement, but the team essentially loses everything they earned with Irene’s name and have to start over from scratch again.
But thanks to Hyun-woo, it’s not too painful a process this time around — and now they all have the security in knowing they earned their success legitimately. Most of all Hyun-woo, who gets to hold his head up high now. ‘Cause I don’t think he was ever comfortable in his own skin, even out of the Irene guise.
I was also satisfied with the way his mini identity crisis was resolved, even if it was super simplistic. But simple’s the name of the game, and it’s no less meaningful, is it? So it turns out that Hyun-woo’s lost his feel for the dance, not because it’s not his true dream, but because he’s become so desperate to conquer it that he’s forgotten how to feel it. That feels real to me, and while it’s something anybody could have pointed out to him, it gets through to him when it comes from Geu-rim, who pushes him to be goofy and embrace the silliness. I love the dorky dance they do, because she looks like a flailing chicken and doesn’t really care.
And can we talk about Tae-joon? Or am I going to have to call him T-Dragon from now on? I love this love triangle. So much. I liked him right off the bat, but even more so with every scene he had. How could he be so proud, so confident, so oblivious, and make it utterly charming? He probably made me laugh the most, with his eagerness to please and the totally serious way he despaired of his “flaw” of being too popular with the ladies.
If anything, I could watch a whole series with this character. I can just see it now: Tae-joon torn between his love for Irene and the newfound attraction to Geu-rim, acting out a one-man show of angst and despair in the background of every scene while everyone else just looks at him askance, like, “What’s HIS deal?”
I appreciate that all the characters are mostly decent folks, and that even the annoying ones had a purpose. We only had one outright antagonist, but he had all the attack power of an ant. With his peabrain, it was a wonder he got anything out of the deal at all. So it just goes to show that you CAN whip up a funny, sweet, enjoyable show with likable characters and still have a plot. Take that, dramas who don’t have plots! Lightheartedness should never be an excuse for lazy writing. In fact, I find the idea insulting to the many talented writers who know otherwise.
All in all, Ma Boy was a cheery interlude from the heavier fare in dramaland, and a nice foray into a different market of storytelling. It is aimed at a tween audience, but I find that the best “children’s” stuff knows how to tap into that broad, universal appeal despite the limitations that come with the youth label. It’s good to see.