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[Dramaland Catnip] Fish out of water


Surplus Princess

By @whoopeeyoo

When the call for dramaland catnips came around, I thought immediately of time travel. I love the confusion, the slow realization that the character has been transported to an era completely different from their own, the cluelessness, the embarrassing hijinks, the desperation to survive, the character showing resourcefulness and quick-wittedness to prevent being discovered, the shenanigans, and of course, because this is dramaland, the inevitable star-crossed romance with someone from that different era. But as I was getting ready to write my submission, I realized it’s actually the fish-out-of-water trope that is my catnip, and that was the aspect of time travel stories that I liked.

The trope can be used with a supernatural being such as a gumiho trapped in a painting freed into the modern world, who pesters an adorable aspiring actor to feed her meat and provide her lodging while her fox bead heals him, such as in My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho. Mi-ho thinking that the toilet was a well had me crackling with laughter, and her naiveté in buying a poster of a camera thinking Dae-woong wanted that instead of the actual camera endeared her to me like no other.


Legend of the Blue Sea

In the case of Legend of the Blue Sea and Surplus Princess, we have actual fish (well, mermaids) out of water, with the heroines who come to land to live among the mortals. The mermaids in these two dramas are vastly different, which made their fish-out-of-water antics quite different too. Everything was new and unknown for Shim Chung in Legend of the Blue Sea—forks, car horns, tissue paper—and we saw her encountering them for the first time. Her cluelessness led to comedic scenes that I still chuckle to remember, like how she tried to mimic cars honking and went on a spree pulling tissues out of boxes like they were magic. On the other hand, Surplus Princess’ Ha-ni knew about the modern world from a smartphone that fell underwater. The drama didn’t heavily rely on the mermaid’s naiveté, but still had me rooting for her quest to find true love and a job in order to survive on land.

Lastly, we have the topic that started this all, time travel. There are people from the modern era traveling to the past such as in Faith, Dr. Jin, Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo and Splish Splash Love. Despite being only a two-episode drama, Splish Splash Love won me over and is seated at the top of the list of K-dramas I can watch again and again with its perfect blend of comedy, romance, time travel, and poignancy, as well as its smart plot. A high school senior travels back in time to King Sejong’s era, and ends up teaching him math and anatomy and astronomy and everything under the sun while pretending to be a eunuch. I could gobble that up for 14 more episodes.


Rooftop Prince

But by far, I enjoy it more when people from the past travel to the future, as with Rooftop Prince and Queen In-hyun’s Man. When Crown Prince Yi Gak ended up in jail with his minions over asking for some ramyun at the local 7-11 in sageuk speak, I was in stitches. Honestly, all the hijinks in Rooftop Prince had me rolling with glee, from learning about running water to thinking an elevator was a changing room. This is why I love time travel: so embarrassing, so hilarious. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, the situation can also result in building tension too. Just thinking about the hero of Queen In-hyun’s Man needing to be in mortal danger for his time-traveling talisman to work stresses me out, even now. See what I mean by high stakes?

I guess placing characters in a situation completely unfamiliar to them just makes me sit up in excitement and keep my eyes glued to the screen. Preferably if the unfamiliar is also illogical and impossible, which heightens everything—the comedy, the danger, the stakes, the romance, and my feelings. Nothing gives me as much joy as the humor brought about by the character adapting (or not!), and nothing stresses me out as much as the tension and/or danger faced by the character when he or she is inevitably found out. Most importantly, nothing beats the drama and poignancy of star-crossed romance. How are they going to overcome this great divide? Would their love transcend time? The land-water divide? Looming death?


Queen In-hyun’s Man

 
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By @wishfultoki

Life is about dealing with unfamiliar surroundings, so pretty much any drama will involve some kind of fish-out-of-water situations, whether it’s a cross-dressing girl, the guy with a secret identity, or Gu Jun-pyo making kimchi. It’s how characters deal with unexpected circumstances that I find interesting. I like wacky, so often fish-out-of-water situations are downright hilarious. It’s not enough to make me finish dramas, but it certainly compels me to start them. I’ve grouped them into three main catnip species:

First is the time-traveler. My brain cries out against watching these because often the romance doesn’t work out (unless your phone has magical time-traveling properties). Splish Splash Love aside, I know there is a possibility the plot might unravel into a mess, and that there will be major pain. Yet time and time again, I come back to these. (I must like a bit of pain.)


Faith

What really tickles my funny bone is the culture shock of a character dropping into another time period. The first two episodes of Faith were a perfect example of this, with deadpan Goryeo general Choi Young braving traffic in modern Seoul, and Eun-soo as the modern doctor in Goryeo. It was enough to keep me watching all the way, although the ending almost had me screaming.

And how cute is it when the time-traveler adapts so well? Like the Rooftop Prince gang who packed their backpacks with essentials to take back to Joseon… which included ketchup, of course. Again, pain hit when I saw no hope for the OTP in this life (I hate reincarnation endings). Out of recent dramas, I think Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo could have done more with the fish-out-of-water situations because I often forgot that Hae Soo was a modern woman trapped in a Goryeo body. Actually, the whole drama scarred me so badly that I swore I’d leave time-traveling dramas for the time being. But then The Best Hit snuck up on me. I didn’t know it would be a time-traveler drama, and before I knew it I had been sucked into Hyun-jae’s typhoon-like arrival into 2017 and his love affair with his handphone. May it never end.


Vampire Idol

The second type is the traveler from distant places or different species. I don’t mean characters with awful English who pop up here and there. I mean the true foreigners to this world. In these cases, we see the first shock of encountering human life, such as in Vampire Idol when Mukadil thinks he’s dying and is being dramatic about his symptoms because, poor little vampire, he’d never had a cold before.

I’m not a sci-fi girl, but this catnip drew me to our particularly swoony alien in You From Another Star. It also made me anticipate the mermaid floundering on land in Legend of the Blue Sea. Although that turned out to be a bit of a let-down overall, I was in stiches seeing the mermaid adjust to land and how she learned to collect her pearl tears in a plastic bag. And My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho probably best exemplifies the shift from fish-out-of-water comedy to the angst of wanting to live and love as a human. Ah, the pain!


My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho

And third, we have the fish out of water who is a sensitive soul or introvert. In Introverted Boss, I could emphathize with Hwan-ki’s struggles since I’m also the kind of fish that doesn’t want the rest of the fish tank to invade my little bubble. Jang Geu-rae had a quiet strength that I really admired in Misaeng, but he was another fish that felt he was different from the others around him in the cutthroat company he worked out. Watching him learn to appreciate himself while never changing his quiet and steadfast character was inspiring.

Speaking of inspiring, Chief Kim walked into TQ Group earlier this year and gave me the most glorious fish-out-of-water office hijinks I have ever seen. He wasn’t thrown into the office unexpectedly and he was quite the opposite of the introvert, but I’ve included him here because his enemies made it clear that he did not belong in the company and that he should play by the rules. Instead, he proved that a fish can jump into another fish tank and swim just as well with a little help from his friends and reluctant bros. Sometimes we try too hard to adapt to unfamiliar and uncomfortable situations. Chief Kim taught me to laugh at those situations and just be myself.


Chief Kim

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Definitely one of my favourite catnips! It comes with so much adorable comedy and visible character growth, seeing a Joseon man or a Gumiho come to terms with 21st century life, while simultaneously questioning the necessity of many things we take for granted. I love an outsider's perspective on a life we think is normal, even though it's true that we can still live differently.

More than that, I secretly also love how meaningful the lovelines are, as sometimes they are required to live their life passionately asif there is no tomorrow, or make important grand sacrifices to be able to be with the other, hard work in the name of love.

That said, reincarnation is a no-go. You hear me shows? NO-GO.
And time travel should never happen through a brain fetus. Ever.

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🙋 I really hate reincarnation endings too, it can never satisfy me. NO! One of the reasons why i didn't watch Rooftop Prince...

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I like the retrospective bit you said, @saturtledaisy, of questioning the necessity of things we take for granted. And the passionate and intense romance is such a big part of why I love these fish-out-of-water dramas because everything just means more and my heart is also always there with the couple.

Yes, please, can we ban reincarnation?!?!

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A great catnip! I agree that a fish out of water is interesting to watch whether it is implying that one is a different species, an introvert, or a time traveler. Granted, these stories usually take a turn on how sometimes these people want to stay in the world they've just landed in. It will always make for a lot of laughters and tell a beautiful love story that will span across even different timelines.

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YES. This is also one of my favorite catnips.

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Puahahahaha... Poor little vampire and his kokko

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I quite like this catnip, the fondness emerged while watching my girlfriend is a gumiho (mi ho thinking the toilet as water well was the best lol) & rooftop prince :-) This is an enjoyable trope

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This is one of my favourite catnips @whoopeeyoo and @wishfultoki Faith was the first drama I watched but I've seen and enjoyed most of the other shows you listed. Thanks for sharing!

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What I love about this catnip is the adjustment period. You can always be sure of hijinks.

In Legend of the Blue Sea, it was so hilarious to see Shim Chung consume modern media like a women possessed. It was equally hilarious to see her react to new things, such as traffic lights, electrical switches, food etc.

In My Only Love Song, one of my favourite thing was seeing people like On-Dal, Moo Myung and the Princess be amazed by technology, modern medicine and words. On-Dal's reaction to Boong-Boong, the van was particular hilarious. I will never forget his panicked screaming when the van decided to drop through time and space! :D

@wishfultoki - Whenever I see your name, I think of Chief Kim and your enjoyable contributions to the episode recaps. Imagine my surprise and delight when I saw your name and saw that you mentioned Chief Kim as well! <3

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Aw thanks @pipette! We really did have a good time in the Chief Kim recaps. He's such a unique character that I had to think hard how it related to my catnip, and then I realised it's because he embraced his unconventional self to the full and didn't try to adapt externally. The Business Operations team (and Seo Yul!) came to value him because of his inner self, and in turn he became a better person through bonding with them. :)

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You're welcome! :)

You are completely right. He really was a fish out of water when it came to TQ. He joined with the intention of becoming respectable but once there, he just did not want to play by their rules. His open defiance of the HR lady, his antics. All so very hilarious, and so very unlike normal office people!

I loved that in the end, the Business Operations team and Yul came to be a little like Sung Ryong himself!

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I'm planning on binging My Only Love Song soon! I'm so excited for the scene you just described hihi

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I hope you will enjoy it! The entire drama has some really hilarious scenes! :)

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Such a well written catnip! And yup! I always watch shows which guarantee fish-out-of-water moments! Makes me think I really should try Faith and Vampire Idol!

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Agree! Loved these 2 entries a lot, really well written and interestingly not repetitive at all despite being about the same catnip!

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Vampire Idol is such a cringetastic, yet cracktastic drama. One of my favourite scenes was when Hong Jong-hyun went to the bathroom and he came out with such a look of horror on his face because he pooped. The thing is, I've never been able to find the rest of the drama.

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For me the catnip goodness of Faith and Vampire Idol outweighs the later messiness of plot, but others disagree... I really do recommend Faith regardless!

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Love these. Hyungjae and his "handphone." 😂

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I love this relationship.

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Haha I cracked watching that scene. Super hilarious!!

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Hyunjae and handphone's got to be the best OTP this season 😂

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These interesting set-ups calls for a lot of comedic hijinks, yes, which are a gem but...what really draws me in is the love is portrayed more poignant, more passionate and thus the (sometimes) inevitable parting much, much more heartbreaking. Aahh, what is love in dramaland if not star-crossed

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Y E S, I enjoy the comedic hijinks but I also always come back for the intense and poignant star-crossed romance. My hearttttt

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I love the Joseon Power Rangers and their color-coordinating attires.
Rooftop Prince is where I found a puppy named Choi Woo-shiiiiiik <3

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This is a great catnip. I particularly love it because it can elevate an otherwise-mediocre drama into something genuinely entertaining, but when it's part of something truly excellent, it can be sublime.

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I'm rewatching Faith now - love it so much!

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I meant to add that Wonder Woman has some great fish out of water moments in the movie and it was fantastic! I've seen it twice already, best superhero film so far!

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Yes! Anything that tickles the funny bone is catnip worthy! ^^ <3

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My favorite catnip too.
Especially time-travel.
Especially early in my kdrama days, when kdrama-land was new to me and I could sorta share the traveller's sense of wonder.

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We should sum up all the ways the kdrama leads use to time travel and see which method is our favourite ! 😆

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One of my favorite catnips. It always bring lots of comedy in the beginning, and gives different perspective towards life by the time the "fish" or the time-traveler adapts to the new life. My Gf is a Gumiho, Rooftop Prince, Queen Inhyun's Man, The Best Hit and Tunnel are my favorite.

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Oh another catnip that I didn't know I have, until now jajaja. I loved many of the dramas mentioned in the list: Chief kim, Misaeng, Rooftop Prince, Splash Love and The best hit. Thank you @whoopeeyoo and @wishfultoki!!.

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This catnip is, most of the time, a joy to watch as the circumstances will draw out the best in our resident OTPs, heroes, and heroines. It drives them to want to do better and to grow, and God knows that growth in (a) character(s) is always a plus for me, especially when there's nothing to hold onto or go on with when the writing goes downhill XD

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@wishfultoki - thanks for including Chief Kim! his character was so endearing, not only to those he met in the office but also to me as a viewer:)

@whoopeeyoo - for the longest time kim boong do was my kdrama crush, he was not only intelligent but resourceful as well.

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Ah Mukadil, I miss Lee Soo-hyuk in dramas. All his bros have shows when is he coming back?!

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Wow, such a reminder of the greatness of these shows! Now I really want to watch Queen In-Hyun's man again!

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Faith, Faith, Faith. My first crack drama. 😊

Lee Min-ho reeled me in, but the hijinks of the modern doctor stuck in the Goryeo era kept me glued to the tv.

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I love this catnip, too... Thanks for recommending these dramas!

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This is my favorite capnip of my favorite catnips!! I've seen all the dramas above and they're all great. Queen Inhyun's Man is loveeee. That playboy Bong-do, hehe

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Wow, I've never realized how many dramas I've enjoyed that have employed the fish-out-of-water trope! It's so enjoyable.

Speaking of which, I've been curious about Chief Kim. Beanies, what are your thoughts on it? Recommend or pass?

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Recommend! @missdancingfool, it was such a great mix of office hijinks and heartwarming office scenes. The characters were ones you'd root for and even the villain (Seo Yul) was layered and hard to hate. The performances were good! I was not surprised by how well Nam Goong Min became Chief Kim but I was definitely surprised how Jun-ho was able to make me not hate Seo Yul. The recaps tackled that magic a bit. But really, it was gutbustingly funny at times and then sometimes I won't even notice I'm crying because I'm so moved. So warm, this show. Definitely recommend it!

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Frankly speaking the first two epi of Chief Kim kinda bored me out with the accounting fraud or whatsoever but once you get pass that first two epi, the rest of the episodes are much better and funnier !!

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Highly recommended. Enough said.

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Based on what some of the Beanies wrote here, it seems Rooftop Prince was actually quite funny! ...... I don't remember it being funny though. I dropped it pretty quickly, so perhaps I didn't watch enough episodes. I'll have to consider giving it another try.

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I dropped it that time too. The half sister of the lead gal irked me too much. And I too, don't rmb it to be very funny as well.

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Heh! No mention of W which had this in double doses? What Han Hyu Joo's character had to do to get back into the real world was simply hillarious.

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I thought of including W, actually. However, I didn't because the comic world is almost similar to the real world. But I did want to talk about having to kiss to get out of the comic world and such! Too bad I didn't know how huhu

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This is a cool one! I never categorized this concept on my own or thought much about my feelings on the genre, though I've seen many of these! Now that I think about it, I usually feel a little stressed for the fish, but there are always those delicious chunks of comedic cheese that make it delightful. :)

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It is stressful though! Secondhand embarrassment is real too. But I'd go through the stress for the comedic goldmine. Haha!

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