I’m branching out this year and discovering new things. One of these things is something I’ve had a bit of interest in the past but never really explored. That is the k-drama genre! I’m currently already watching my second one so I thought why not review the first ever k-drama I saw: Extraordinary You. Haven’t written any reviews in ages so I’m not even sure if I know how to. But I will try to do justice for Extraordinary You which was actually very good and sweet (even though I have nothing to compare it to).
What would you do if you found out that you were, in fact, a character in a comic? And an extra character on top of that? Change the course of the story, obviously.
Extraordinary You’s plot line from IMDb doesn’t really tell you much except the fact that this is a show with a fantasy and magical realism element. We have our main protagonist, high school senior Eun Dan Oh realising she is a character in a comic book. So basically she develops an ego and is aware of her comic book arc. Outside of it, like outside the story arc inside that comic book, she is able to do other things. She also remembers everything unlike the other characters who haven’t developed egos. In other words the show almost has like two different story arcs – one inside the comic book and one between the empty spaces of said comic book.
To make matters worse she’s not the main character inside the comic book! This plot point is revealed in the first few episodes and the rest of the story evolves from there. She also suffers from a heart condition which adds to the drama of it all.
Of course we have an element of a love story here which in this case is doubled. There’s a lot happening with the main characters as well as the supporting ones. There’s jealousy, confusion, a lot of drama and that’s just in the storyline of the comic book not the main storyline of the drama. All in all it’s 16 hours of drama available on Netflix and I’m all here for it.
Extraordinary You is based on a webtoon series called July Found By Chance. Despite initial concerns that the webtoon plot would be too complicated for a drama, the writer has stated that the cast and crew have surpassed her expectations in bringing the comic to life.
From this point on, expect spoilers!
As I mentioned Eun Dan Oh (Kim Hye-Yoon) is our main protagonist here. At first I found her character to be a tad bit annoying but I guess that’s sort of the style for k-dramas in general. Everything is amped up to an eleven with her, the crying, the laughing, the embarrassment. As I said it felt weird at first but by the midpoint of the series I was very used to it. It’s simply the genre itself. Don’t get me wrong though, there are subtle moments to Eun Dan Oh too.
The challenge for Eun Dan Oh and many other characters in this drama is the duality of their personality. In the comic book version, which is set in stone by the writer, Eun Dan Oh is in love with her childhood friend and tends to be super cheesy. The Eun Dan Oh that is aware of herself (has her ego) is less shallow and she is far more interesting.
Her heart condition does hold her back a lot but it also makes for good character development. She is also very determined which I like about her and she is also a little stubborn. So even though this is magical realism and she is stuck in a comic book her gumption feels very realistic and inspiring. I lack her level of motivation in my life and I’m jealous of that.
The childhood friend I mentioned briefly before is Baek Kyung (Jae-Wook Lee). He, for the lack of a better word, is a complete asshole. I’m sorry but he is so rude and awful for like 95% of the season. There are some moments where you almost want to feel sorry for him but then he just does something shitty again. Jae-Wook Lee is really good here though because I genuinely hated his character. Though I can’t say I hated him to the bone. I still could see that small part of his character that shone through. The backstory of Baek Kyung is rather sad so I did feel sorry for him for a second there.
To balance the awfulness of Baek Kyung we have Haru (Ro-Woon Kim) who is the reason I started this drama in the first place. Ro-Woon is part of a Kpop group called SF9 who I stan. (Yes, we’ve made it further into the kpop world and I’m not even sorry). This k-drama was also recommended to me so I figured why not. Anyway Haru starts off as a mystery. In the comic book he is basically a faceless/nameless character who in the empty spaces is somehow noticed by Eun Dan Oh. At first he doesn’t even speak but Eun Dan Oh is determined to bring Haru to his consciousness.
By the way Ro-Woon is so handsome, like honestly… Tall and sweet looking, it’s basically impossible not to fall for him as Haru. His character does get a tad bit too overprotective but it sort of works here. It balances Baek Kyung’s possessiveness very well. Also the story arc of Haru is actually even better than Eun Dan Oh’s. Haru’s character is also a lot calmer and more chill which I liked.
As far as side characters go (there are too many to mention all of them) I loved Lee Do Hwa (Geon-joo Jung)! I think he actually deserved more screen time because his scenes were always so fun and adorable. In the comic book arc he was the best friend of the main protagonist. Unfortunately his character was also in love with his best friends love interest.
To make matters even more complicated, Lee Do Hwa outside the comic book arc is also in love with the same girl. This proposes many problems including the fact that this girl is only aware of her comic book arc and has no ego. Anyway he is such a sweetheart and you can’t help but to root for him.
Of course there’s a lot of other students and there’s also a few grown up characters. There’s even a whole plot line about the pressure of being a “perfect son” but I can’t surely go into it all here. Needless to say there’s quite a lot happening which does make Extraordinary You a little messy.
A LITTLE MESSY
I do need to point out that k-dramas have a different vibe. I knew this before going in and so should you (in case you decide to venture into k-dramas too). As I mentioned there’s some overreacting and over the top moments. It also gets a bit repetitive at times with the flashbacks and if you binge it in one go (although 16 hours seems a bit much even to me) that might get a little tiring. But honestly you get used to it. I’m onto my second k-drama now and I feel much more comfortable with the style.
Oh and there’s not a lot of sexy stuff either. You get like one or two kisses here and there, hand holding and that’s about it. Yet I must admit I did love the slow burn way of story telling this resulted in. So basically very PG and compared to Elite Extraordinary You is like a children’s program. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing but it can be quite frustrating for some. It’s very cute and sweet and if that’s not your thing I don’t think Extraordinary You would work for you.
Another thing that might be a style thing is the extent of it all. Due to multiple shifts in the story line and the amount of side stories that lead to nowhere the series does get a little muddled. The back-and-worth really doesn’t fully make sense either. There are a few scenes that almost feel like repeats and some conversations feel way too similar. When Baek Kyung confronts Haru a few times it’s like we get nothing new out of it, and the scenes don’t escalate logically. There are also scenes that serve no purpose and don’t help to carry the story. Some episodes feel emptier than others and there’s a lot of choppiness to the drama as well.
That being said the messiness doesn’t overshadow the main arc too much. It just makes some characters feel less developed and minimises the outcome of some of the story lines. Plus with the premise being that these are characters in a comic book the chopped up story telling actually makes sense. Though sometimes the choppiness is handled way better. Basically it could have been a bit more consistent.
As a huge gripe though: there are these black shimmery holes that appear once in a while. These holes are never truly explained but I guess they are like gateways between the comic books or memories or something. Again, they never really explain them and to be honest… he show could have been fine without those things.
LOVE BEYOND PAGES
But now let me gush a bit more. So as I mentioned the characters have technically two story arcs, one in the comic book and one in the spaces in between. I’m doing a horrible job at explaining it but trust me, the show has a whole explanatory scene for this so don’t worry. Anyway there’s a second comic book that comes into the forefront during the middle. Basically we find out that Eun Dan Oh and Haru were the actual main characters of a different comic book set in a distant past.
That was such an amazing twist! It’s just another layer to he main story but the meaning of it is just so darn wonderful. Basically the main protagonists are shown to be like star crossed lovers. Always in love with each other but never able to actually be with each other in the comic book arc and in the empty spaces. I thought that was such a great way to show how strong the bond between them truly is. Like the writer can keep them completely apart but these two will always and forever find a way to each other.
Another element I really liked about Extraordinary You was its Deadpool type jokes. In other words the characters with egos are dissing the writer quite a lot, almost mocking him due to his cheesiness. It’s rather fun and it gives the drama a bit of humour. Plus it mocks the cheesy romance plot that takes place in the comic book arc which in turn makes it more bearable.
And as I mentioned above I love some of the characters a lot. Haru is great, Eun Dan Oh has many good qualities and Lee Do Hwa is the perfect supportive character. Baek Kyung though a complete asshole is the perfect villain as well. And though his attitude is not fully explained but we get some hints to fill in the blanks. But have no doubts, Haru and Eun Dan Oh are the stars here.
I feel so weird about this review because I’m pretty sure my writing has become beyond rusty. I haven’t really watched many things these days and definitely feeling that lack of motivation about blogging too. That being said I did find Extraordinary You very refreshing. It’s a different kind of series I’m used to in terms of style but it made the experience more exciting. Plus reading the subtitles really helps me to focus more which is my biggest problem these days. Lack of focus.
This k-drama also made me cry a bit which was surprising to me. I’m either emotional or this truly touched my heart. Actually I think it’s probably a little bit of both. You can’t help but to root for these characters and you do want to find out how it all ends for them. If things get difficult for them you cry along, isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?
In my honest opinion I think the drama could have cut like an episode or even two. There’s a lot of filler in this drama and some characters get introduced just to be left aside by the end. For instance the asshole Baek Kyung has a younger step-brother and he gets almost no screen time. Yet the time he gets he stands out because you find out almost nothing about him, which makes him mysterious. He also looks so damn sad all the time that you just want to give him a hug.
Anyway I digress. I want to end on the fact that I’m really glad Extraordinary You was my first k-drama. It had just the right elements and it wasn’t your typical romance story. It has its flaws and it could have aimed for a more refined script but I say the same about a lot of shows. In other words Extraordinary You was a delightful experience for me and a good introduction to the k-drama genre. And it was cute as hell!5