[Dramaland Catnip] Childhood loves and backstories
by Guest Beanie
The Moon That Embraces the Sun
[There’s a certain magic about children in dramaland, whether it’s the pure love stories, the strong emotional backstories that set up our main storyline, or the acting performances themselves. Our Guest Beanies today each have a slightly different take on childhood stories in dramas, and how they affect their viewing experiences. –javabeans]
I almost always love flashbacks about childhood meetings between the leads. These need not necessarily be romantic and do not have to give a “fated” feeling to the couple, although that is always an added bonus. These come in many shapes!
There is the we-have-been-the-best-of-friends-since-childhood version, à la Answer Me 1997, Answer Me 1988, or The Producers. The flashbacks in Answer Me 1988 particularly gave me that “Omo, I love all of them so much” feeling every time they showed those sepia tinted photo- flashbacks!
Answer Me 1988
The Producers was full of flashbacks of the two main best friends (Ye-jin and Joon-mo), but an added bonus was when Seung-chan discovers an old photograph of those two and finds himself in the background. His face full of unparalleled happiness at discovering that keepsake (what he calls a “small fate”) is literally me every time a couple’s adorable history together is revealed. This particular version is always filled with cute memories of leads playing together as kids and manages to make me giddy every single time.
Then there are shows that start off with the younger version of the leads, where the childhood story is almost always better than the grown-up version. Case in point: Angel Eyes. The show was so, so good in the early few episodes, and then it just instantly went downhill as soon as they grew up!
The version I love the most, however, is when we are shown childhood memories from a particularly life-changing event in our leads’ lives. This version has featured in some of my favorite shows, I Hear Your Voice and I Remember You. This gives a particular gravitas to the leads’ stories. Ji-an’s (and Min’s) stalking of Hyun in I Remember You as adults makes sense because it was just natural for her to drift towards someone who had something in common with her and who could hold the essential clue for solving her life’s biggest mystery. Su-ha’s puppy-like adoration of Hye-sung in I Hear You Voice had a legitimate basis in her almost heroic appearance in his early life. I would also like to add Shopping King Louis here, because even though the recollection was not about a serious event, it still showed how a little act of generosity can make one remember and be influenced by someone for one’s whole lifetime.
I know that this trope is so common that it gets a little predictable for many but it never gets old for me! I always love finding more about how the leads were as children and how and if they knew each other. The best thing about this trope? I have yet to find it done wrong. Almost every writer succeeds in getting this particular aspect of their story right, no matter how much they screw up the rest of the show. Or maybe I haven’t seen enough shows? Well, now that’s one more motivation to watch more K-dramas that I didn’t really need.
I Remember You
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Childhood friends who eventually fall in love perfectly encapsulates my dramaland catnip; all my favorite dramas carry a storyline of this sort. There’s just something so intimate about growing up with someone, sharing all the pivotal moments, whether good or bad, and realizing at some point that your memories, experiences, and life in general have become so entwined with someone else’s that you can’t imagine the future without them.
I Need Romance 2012 was the drama where I realized I was a sucker for these types of plots. I remember being on vacation in Mexico and rushing back to the hotel so I could watch the newest episode as soon as possible. Regardless of how idiotic both leads sometimes were in dealing with their relationship and how utterly incommunicative Lee Jin-wook’s character was, there was something so intense about their connection that no one else could possibly ever compare to. Childhood is a wondrous, precious time for everyone and to have shared all of it with someone is an incredibly sweet thing (even if there are multiple break-ups in between). I think that is one of the reasons I am so drawn to this trope—that someone has become so influential in shaping you as a person that no matter how perfect a new love interest is, they can’t ever compete.
I Need Romance 2012
I can’t write about childhood loves without mentioning the Answer Me series. I marathon the first two installments religiously every holiday season (I suffered intense second male lead syndrome in 1988 so let’s never revisit that one again). Answer Me 1997 and 1994 both showcase how, before they become couples, the characters are already family—they have a certain love, respect and understanding for one another that can lay a solid foundation for what comes after the butterflies. Which leaves me with a nostalgia for my own childhood wondering where my Garbage Oppa and Yoon-jae are.
Currently Dong-man and Ae-ra are killing me with the cuteness in Fight My Way. I love the way Dong-man can seemingly anticipate Ae-ra’s reactions, whether it be an aegyo overload or a sobbing session. Since they know each other’s habits and triggers so well, they have no other choice but to be transparent with one another. Also, because they have been so highly supportive of another during some difficult times, it sets a good precedent for whatever comes ahead. The epilogues at the end of each episode work to further emphasize how significant a role Ae-ra has played in each stage of Dong-man’s life, and vice versa.
Fight My Way
Similarly, the epilogues in The Producers often gave the viewers more insight into Ye-jin and Joon-mo’s feelings and how their ultimate relationship was a long time coming. While I remember being so frustrated by Joon-mo’s passiveness and denial of his obvious feelings for his childhood best friend, when he finally confessed I was floored by just how deeply he loved her. While I would never condone choosing a college or career just to follow your crush in real life, the way Joon-mo seemed to be invigorated just to keep Ye-jin firmly by his side left me sobbing.
I’ve been watching dramas for almost half my life now, and there are always the special ones that I connect to momentous events in my life. As if every time I revisit them, or even if they are mentioned, I am transported to that time when I first watched them. I imagine that childhood sweethearts are a little like that—you think of them at the most random of moments because of something you shared. Somehow you can never truly get rid of them because you carry little pieces of them everywhere, as they’ve molded you into the person you are today. Eventually in the cases of these childhood friends, they realize that no other person is as compatible as the one who has always been right there and, if the timing is right, will continue to be there, this time as more than just a friend.
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I love Korean dramas very much and the reasons have been shared in other drama land catnip posts. But one particular reason why I love K-dramas so much is the child or teen actors who play the hero and the heroine. Some of them give me a strong impression, which makes me want to see them onscreen more and watch their scenes a million times, or to not want to say goodbye to young version.
Autumn Fairy Tale was my very first K-drama and it was the beginning of my addiction to everything about South Korea. This drama was divided into a young part and adult part, where the younger versions of the leads were played by Moon Geun-young and Choi Woo-hyuk. The story has them in a brother and sister relationship when growing up, and although they aren’t related, they struggle with their love as adults because of their childhood background and family opposition.
Autumn Fairy Tale
There are scenes that are especially touching from the childhood section, such as the scene when they rode a bicycle on rainy day and took shelter, and he realized that his sister had grown up as a woman. One scene that made me cry was when the second lead girl confronts the hero’s family after they go on an excursion. That’s where the heroine finds out that she’s not really his biological family and runs away from home. He follows her and persuades her to come home, and on the road, he piggybacks her. And when his family goes to United States, she chases her father’s car up to the village, and calls for their mother, father, and brother while crying. It was such a tearjerking scene for me.
The Moon That Embraces the Sun’s teen actors also made a strong impression for me. I just loved their chemistry, and I can’t forget how sweet the moments were between Kim Yoo-jung and Yeo Jin-gu, and how tearjerking the moment was when he realized she was dead. It’s not only about their relationship but also the other characters (Im Shi-wan, Lee Won-geun, Lee Min-ho) that made me love the young version so much. Even though I watched because of Kim Soo-hyun and Han Ga-in, sometimes I didn’t want their young versions to grow old. I watched their teen story a million times while waiting for adult version episodes to be released.
Saimdang, Light’s Diary
In Saimdang, Light’s Diary, the young version was the reason I watched it. Even though this drama was the comeback project for Lee Young-ae, I couldn’t find any interest in the adult version. It was Yang Se-jong and Park Hye-soo who brought me to watch this drama, and only the teen story of the saeguk portion.
Seven Day Queen is the reason why I chose young actors as my catnip. You must agree that their teen story is so cute, funny, yet sad that I can’t move on. Their chemistry was no joke and they really did a good job portraying their characters. Yeon Woo-jin was the reason I was looking forward to this drama, but I got hooked by Baek Sung-hwan and Park Shi-eun acting as the younger versions of the main couple from the first episode. I loved so much when they’re onscreen even when it’s a sad scene. I’d like to thank and appreciate these cuties for their natural and genuine performances which makes this drama win such a positive reputation.
I really love the scene where young Chae-kyung stretches her arms out to the wind and whistles, and Yeok joins her too with the thought that she’s an interesting girl. I love how Yeok gazes at her on a rainy day when they’re being tailed, and you can’t forget the sweetest proposal I’ve ever seen in a saeguk drama, where he asks to be friends for the rest of their lives.
Seven Day Queen
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“It started when we were younger…”
This is one of my weaknesses when it comes to dramas. When it all started back when they were younger, it always makes me think they’re making a good foundation for a strong relationship. This background is something no one can replace and it secures a spot in each other’s lives no matter what happens later. What most people call “just puppy love” can be as strong as wild beasts that can take your life in a snap. It’s like a tattoo that you’ll always have. Most often, it’s never forgotten.
So far, The Moon That Embraces the Sun is the best drama that describes what I mean. An unexpected encounter that turns into one of the best love stories I’ve ever seen in dramaland. I just love how great their love is for each other that even presumed death and memory loss (not to mention the many years that passed when they were far away from each other) didn’t stand a chance to win over the fight of their true love.
Stairway to Heaven
In Autumn Fairy Tale, who can forget the story about the unexplainable affection these two have for each other, masked in sibling love? It shows how your heart knows what you’re trying to hide the most, the kind of love that goes past the boundaries. The couple somehow grew up as brother and sister but still ended up facing what they truly feel for each other ever since they were young. It also shows how well they’ve waited for each other with a longing heart and the desire to be together despite the circumstances they are in.
Stairway to Heaven was the story about childhood friends that later on turns into love. The pain in this love story was very addicting for me. I will never forget the way it broke my heart at a very young age, but I couldn’t help but ask for more because their story was a perfect sweet poison. Their love would’ve been perfect is the thought that never leaves my mind while watching this drama, but I can’t complain because aside from being exhausted from buckets of tears that were shed, it’s all worth the pain anyway.
She Was Pretty
She Was Pretty: These lovely puppies! I can’t help but smile whenever I remember their scenes (insert the song ‘’Close to You”). Isn’t it amazing that in this drama they just emphasize that looks doesn’t matter as long as you have a great personality and a very good heart? Despite the heroine being almost perfect when they were younger, it wasn’t a reason for her not to care for the boy when he was less popular. This is definitely one good show for the heart and will make you believe that love is stronger than what your eyes can see.
Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju is another one of the best-friends-to-lovers stories out there, a very delightful drama from start to finish. In this one, it shows how deep our hero’s love for the heroine is because it all started back when they were still little kids. Of course it all started as what most call a crush but it ended up as a heartwarming love story (and can’t help but to mention, eventually gave us one of the best real-life K-drama couples).
Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju
I know Seven Day Queen is still an ongoing drama, but I bet whoever was able to see it already agrees that the start of this drama is daebak! The chemistry with the young actors was just on point and left you asking for more so I feel the need to include it on this list. Can’t wait how their young love will turn into a great love even with a taste of tragedy.
This kind of story may sound cheesy and too good to be true for some people, but I really find it irresistible, maybe because it feeds my fantasy and makes me believe in a kind of love that lasts a lifetime. I’ve been watching K-dramas since ten or twelve years ago and this is definitely my catnip. Anyone else with me?
Seven Day Queen
- [Dramaland Catnip] Bromances and girlfriends
- [Dramaland Catnip] Sibling love and fauxcest
- [Dramaland Catnip] Beta males and the alpha ladies who love them
- [Dramaland Catnip] The bad boys of dramaland
- [Dramaland Catnip] Prickly marshmallows and tsundere heroes
- [Dramaland Catnip] Reverse harems
- [Dramaland Catnip] Noona romances
- [Dramaland Catnip] Secret identities and alter egos
- [Dramaland Catnip] Disastrous first meetings
- [Dramaland Catnip] Cohabitation shenanigans
- [Dramaland Catnip] Enemies turned lovers
- [Dramaland Catnip] Crossdressing and gender-bending romances
- [Dramaland Catnip] Opponents turned allies
- [Dramaland Catnip] Marriage before dating
- [Dramaland Catnip] Swooning for dramatic height differences
- [Dramaland Catnip] Ragtag bands of misfits
- [Dramaland Catnip] Finding satisfaction in sad love stories
- [Dramaland Catnip] The magic of bad drama magic
- [Dramaland Catnip] The stinging embarrassment of thinking someone likes you… when they don’t
- [Dramaland Catnip] When the hero falls first
- [Dramaland Catnip] The angst and thrills of dramaland’s reunited lovers
- What’s your dramaland catnip? Tell us your stories!
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