The Taiwanese version of Playful Kiss/Itazura Na Kiss/Mischievous Kiss
Season 1: It Started With a Kiss (2005)
Season 2: They Kiss Again (2007)
Okay I was soooo surprised at my extreme sadness when I found out I was done with the show and there was no more to watch I came to this drama with zero expectations. I never watch anything older than 2010, and this is from 2005! I was actually curious because Playful Kiss/Mischievous Kiss had such terrible reviews, so I wanted to see just how bad the story was. At the same time, I didn’t want to waste time, so I searched around and saw that the Taiwanese version had the best ratings.
Season 1 told of their life from high school to their wedding, and Season 2 deals with what happens after that. For almost all of the 40 eps, the two families live together - FL and her dad with ML, ML’s parents and little brother.
I won’t defend its flaws. The original manga isn’t the best story out there. But there was something so captivating about it. In a nutshell, it’s about a perfect genius popular tsundere guy living aimlessly, and a clumsy, silly-but-sweet girl with set goals - but all of them revolve around him. I braced myself because I knew ML was going to be a meanie and FL wasn’t going to have a life outside him.
The thing is… he wasn’t as mean as I expected. I’d read Playful Kiss reviews talking about how extremely toxic and unbearable it was, but he was definitely not as mean as the ML in Secret Garden. A comment I read gave all the credit to the TW version’s actor, Joseph Cheng. I haven’t watched the other versions, but I agree with everything the writer says about the TW version’s character.
Definitely. I loved his micro-expressions. They drew me away from the words he was saying, and made me think about what was going on in his head. He was definitely not a stiff, carved-from-stone character - since there are 40 eps, you slowly learn to see the differences in his expression even when the words are the same - when he’s actually serious, when he’s feeling awkward or shy or hurting inside, when he’s just playing around and teasing(that’s when his dimple comes out of hiding)… kudos to Joe Cheng, seriously.
Season 1 was nice, but Season 2 was just the cherry on top. It made me feel giddy and silly and just… high The ML was way more affectionate in this one, and I loved that they developed the characters really well. There was no magical about-turn in their attitudes. They felt like real people trying to adapt to situations and become better people. They didn’t change completely, sometimes they just worked around the other’s weaknesses. I loved that they addressed the issues with the relationship instead of sliding it under the rug.
They confronted ML’s behavior, made him know what he was doing wrong, instead of turning him into a “good, doting partner” overnight just because he was in love. I really liked the way he grew, from bashfully reacting with anger/callousness to save his pride, to slowly putting his feelings into words. He didn’t magically become smooth with words. It felt so real.
They addressed FL’s dependency on ML. She wasn’t exactly a doormat character, but her life’s plans all seemed to revolve around him. However, she was also stubborn and her tenacity was admirable. I liked the way they developed her character, too. I really liked the way they addressed the inevitable feeling of “Is he with me just because I pursued him non-stop or does he really like me?” after they got together. It felt like the elephant in the room at times, and I’m glad they addressed it. I do wish the FL was a little more capable, though. I blame it on the manga writer.
Other things I liked:
FOR ONCE IN DRAMALAND, the FL had an amazing relationship with the ML’s family. All ML’s coldness was offset by his hilariously dorky family, who accepted her from Day 1, loving her and treating her like a family member(well, all except the little brother). The mom was one of the cutest characters, and she treated FL like a daughter - to the point where ML had to complain about the favoritism She did go overboard sometimes, but it was all part of the character. She loved the FL to pieces, and it was refreshing to watch. I almost cried whenever FL went running to her crying “Mommyyyyyyy” (FL doesn’t have a mom)
Well, she does go overboard sometimes
The FL and ML’s little brother. This was another funny and refreshing relationship. The brother was a lot like the ML, all bashful and rude to her at first, but she found a way into his heart somehow. They were like a very normal, bickering pair of siblings. So funny to watch her matchmake and tease him, while he’d be irrationally rude to her - but both would stick up for each other in a heartbeat.
The ML and FL’s dad. The dad was like his confidante, one who would listen to him and give him advice instead of assuming he could do everything perfectly right, like all the others.
The ML and his little brother. They were honestly so funny, replicas of each other - I wish I could see this relationship in more dramas
The family. I loved that no one was irrationally overprotective of their child - they truly consider themselves as one big family.
NO serious love triangles. ML just ignored all his many fans and FL was oblivious to any guys after her. If she did come to know, she’d just directly turn them down. There was one guy who was with her during a really tough phase with her husband, and I liked the way they handled that arc. It felt organic.
All in all, I’d say this one of my guilty pleasures. I already feel like re-watching it. I gave Season 1 an 8.0 and Season 2 a 9.5. Season 1 can be a little difficult to get through at times, but it sets the stage for a very satisfying season 2. I usually hate high school dramas, but it was coupled with cohabitation and was somehow not so bad. It had some of the best build-up and kiss scenes I’ve ever seen. The key was in the build-up, and they executed it very well. The romance was sooooooooo good, I could feel the chemistry and their growing love for each other. It made me feel all warm and giddy inside.
It’s outrageous at times and can get pretty cringey, but cut it some slack, people - it’s from 2005. In compensation, it was so satisfyingly romantic and so funny, and I fell in love with everyone, for better or for worse. Joe Cheng’s dimples and Ariel Lin’s smile - I AM IN LOVE