[One True Pairings] Rainy days, dreamy knights
by Guest Beanie
OTPs are hard to measure for me, but they should leave that mark like, “Ah… I love that series because the main couple really stood out.” Even if the drama direction was bad or the writing was less than excellent, an outstanding OTP will use every resource it has, even if it is just chemistry, to lure the viewers into a romance.
Flashback to 2005, when I was just a grade-schooler, and our local television was invaded by dramas from Korea. There was this one drama that totally hooked my attention and eventually become my classic favorite—Full House. It was about a quirky young lady who signed a marriage contract with a Hallyu star to get her own house back. I can still remember the nights we stopped everything we were doing just to tune into the drama. My family enjoyed every laugh, and our hearts fluttered for the chemistry between the actors.
Years after, during college, I tried to rewatch the series again for old time’s sake. As an engineering university student whose degree relied on math and logic (or maybe, just as an adult), I felt that the plot challenged my intellectuality. I was actually surprised as to how this series was able to become a rom-com classic. But I came to understand that the secret to the series’ success truly lies in its OTP. It was its bread and butter, its backbone and the reason for its existence. The couple’s bickering moments defined the standard for how romantic comedies should be made.
Their comedic timing was also more than impressive. Who can forget how Song Hye-gyo’s character performed the “Three Bears Song” for her in-laws? Years later when I saw behind-the-scenes clips, I cracked up at how Rain couldn’t help but laugh at Song Hye-gyo’s joyous dance. Their bed scene was also worth mentioning. Every time there is a scene in a movie or drama where someone dares to kiss another for the sake of getting something, I still remember this couple fighting for their bed. Full House was just a pioneer of the genre of contract relationships and they delivered so well, but without the “psychotic” and “bird brain,” I very much doubt they would’ve been able to reach that status.
Fast-forward to 2011, when a new series became crack to teenagers and catered to my Korean drama needs. Dream High managed to redefine its genre and somehow changed people’s views on K-pop stars being a part of dramaland. The musical journey of Go Hye-mi (Suzy) finding emotions (and acting skills) plus the beautiful and tragic success of Song Sam-dong (Kim Soo-hyun) and their endgame were some of the reasons they are one of my favorite OTPs. While fans were divided between Taecyon and Kim Soo-hyun, I was rooting all the way for Sam-dong.
The series presented an innocent love-at-first-sight and hate-at-first-sight setup, and their opposite characterizations complemented each other. I also thank the drama gods that despite the childhood connection between Hye-mi and Jin-gook, Sam-dong’s ship sailed at the end even with the vagueness of its future. It was really a huge struggle to fight a long history of childhood sweethearts, but the relationship and connection between Hye-mi and Sam-dong was so profound, despite the series having to cater to a lot of plotlines going on for each character.
Sam-dong’s affection for Hye-mi was limitless. He did not get angry with her even when she was throwing a fit at him. He was more than willing to save Hye-mi when everyone was bullying her, and I felt so sad when Sam-dong had to witness the ferris wheel scene between Jin-gook and Hye-mi. Even though there was a lot of pain and misery for him, he still followed and protected Hye-mi at all times.
And episodes later, Hye-mi did not give up on him when Sam-dong lost his sense of hearing onstage. I swear, my face was so tearfully messy while watching that scene. For me, Sam-dong was a swoony knight in shining armor in an innocent young teenager, while Hye-mi was a damsel in distress who refused any saving. And if I may add, Hye-mi and Baek-hee’s friends-turned-enemies-turned-friends relationship was also a powerful all-girl OTP. It was not a romance, but their rivalry was compelling and relatable.
How can a series be so cheesy and compelling, yet not intellectually absurd? This was my reaction after watching Queen In-hyun’s Man. Props to the writer for making the male lead as scholarly as he should be. The female lead also had a brain, unlike some drama heroines (and she was hilariously manipulative).
The plot setup was so plain, yet it was not empty. Sixteen episodes were filled by an uncountable number of smooches (another breakthrough for a K-drama). There were also no big romantic conflicts from the third-wheeling characters. They played as accessory to the couple’s love story instead. While the couple’s chemistry was off the charts, the show capitalized on it sufficiently but did not abusively milk it.
Queen In-hyun’s Man
Instead, the moving plotline filled this need. When sudden amnesia for everyone occurs due to the bending of time and reality, their short onscreen separations cost the couple’s lingering feelings to look like a hundred years of waiting. The show was intentionally cheesy, but that doesn’t mean that someone has to turn off their brain in order to enjoy it.
While defining the best OTP is a difficult thing to do, one thing is sure—it does not need to be a love against all odds. An OTP can simply be a spark that ignites the flames to warm the audience’s hearts.
Queen In-hyun’s Man
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