“Soulmate” series review

Fated to love each other after loving others.

Junggugeo Kaenada 중국어 캐나다: ★★
Only 만: ★★.5

Throughout the series, it is hinted that Dong Wook and Soo Kyung are destined to be together. Until that happy time, we must watch Soo Kyung and her fiancé, Phillip try to overcome long term relationship ennui. Meanwhile, Dong Wook and naive weirdo, Yu Jin try to make their relationship work in spite of her craziness and his inability to communicate. A whole of host of ridiculous secondary characters play out relationship woes between men and women in contemporary Seoul.

Side dish: Much like Yu Jin’s dating guide, Epicurious has created a guide to the tricky world of romantic meals. Check out the Romantic Menu Planner (complete with a Cosmopolitan-esque quiz) for when you find your soulmate, or even if you just want to get your rocks off after a nice meal.

Junggugeo Kaenada 중국어 캐나다: You’ve heard this before with “I Need Romance 3”, but I would like to start by apologizing for proposing that we recap “Soulmate”. It seemed like a good idea, because “Soulmate” enjoys a cult status for its sexually provocative approach.

Only 만: I don’t know if the approach was provocative so much as direct. “Soulmate” is about the dating lives of a group of working twenty-somethings in the city. I’m not up on my Korean drama history, but even now, I would say that’s unusual, especially since it wasn’t a romance shoe-horned into an unrelated story. So, I can see how it seemed like a good choice.

Junggugeo Kaenada: Unfortunately, the resulting drama was a cringe worthy parade of stereotypes and battles of the sexes.

Only: Right. But it was a parade of different stereotypes from the usual, so I guess we can call it ground-breaking in that aspect. There was very much a “Sex and the City” on a budget vibe to it.

But, let’s talk about what we liked about it, before we move on to the negatives.

Junggugeo Kaenada: I liked the pacing of the show. With a half hour format, there was minimal opportunity for unnecessary exposition. I liked that the characters did not act squeamish about premarital sex nor homosexual relations. The soundtrack was quite wide ranging, and featured a surprisingly cool selection of Western music.

Only: I was never bored during any of the episodes, and I did like that everyone was a working professional. And, while the women were portrayed as obsessed with relationships, they weren’t portrayed as weak. Despite the comedy aspect petering out, I enjoyed the latter part of the series more than the beginning, because the main characters seemed more like people, and interacted more naturally.

Junggugeo Kaenada: Did you actually like any of the characters?

Only: Only towards the end. Dong Wook and Soo Kyung were much more engaging when interacting with each other, and that helped me like them. I mean, Dong Wook was appealing when he wasn’t staring intensely at Soo Kyung or rescuing her from flying plates of spaghetti.

Junggugeo Kaenada: I actually liked Min Ae at the beginning. It is rare that you see such a sexually aggressive and confident female character in a K-drama. Unfortunately, the character and her storyline became an after thought.

I had a love hate relationship with Yu Jin. She was such a freak from her mannerisms to her plastic face, and as her crazy ramped up, I found myself enjoying it while wishing that someone would slap some reality into her head.

Only: Yes, I would have preferred if the confident Min Ae didn’t end up with a jug of water poured over her head, and I didn’t like that she devolved into a caricature when Joo Hee showed up. As for Yu Jin, she was sort of entertaining at the beginning, but by the end she was so single-minded about her relationship with Dong Wook that I was worrying about her mental health. Her craziness wasn’t helped by Dong Wook’s lack of honesty with her.

Junggugeo Kaenada: I did not understand the basis of Dong Wook and Yu Jin’s relationship. As a seasoned player, he carried it on way longer than I would have expected given how predictable she is. In contrast, Soo Kyung and Phillip’s storyline was surprisingly realistic about how a relationship dies in fits and starts. Not that the realism made it entertaining to watch; it was painful to spend more than half of the series watching Soo Kyung and Phillip try repeatedly to save their relationship, and fail.

Only: That’s where I would say the pacing failed. Watching two relationships that were bound to fail wasn’t exactly fun, and it went on for a lot longer than I thought it would, given the heavy-handed hinting at Soo Kyung and Dong Wook’s matchup. I was a bit envious of you recapping the Yu Jin and Dong Wook episodes at first, but Yu Jin’s delusions and calculations, and Dong Wook’s lack of honesty made their relationship just as bad by the end.

Junggugeo Kaenada: I have to admit I enjoyed recapping Dong Wook and Yu Jin’s relationship more than Phillip and Soo Kyung, because the former was more ridiculous. Really, it was the lesser of two evils.

Only: I’d agree with that. Watching Phillip drifting away and Soo Kyung’s desperate attempts to hold their relationship together was painful at best. At least I could laugh off Yu Jin and her bodily fluids.

But, enough about our main characters. Let’s talk about Ryohei’s ridiculous wardrobe. Why was a male model dressed like a combination of a cowboy and a children’s entertainer from the 70s?

Junggugeo Kaenada: Whatever; you loved his wardrobe. Ryohei’s ridiculous outfits were a nice contrast to his rather bland character. I think bad fashion was one of the highlights of this show.

Only: Agreed. Every time I thought Ryohei couldn’t top one of his horrible outfits, he would surprise me with something worse. I had the impression that some of the other actors were wearing clothes out of their own wardrobes, but Ryohei looked like they’d raided the props department of a small-town theatre troupe that had just finished up a run of “The Partridge Family”. He made Dong Wook’s stupid headband and bad pants look good by comparison.

Junggugeo Kaenada: We should discuss the ending of the series. Readers who want to discover it on their own should stop here.

Only: Given the bad pacing in terms of the two leads getting together, any other ending would have been ridiculous. That said, it was such a weird combination of the recurring destiny element, and the more realistic side, that it left me a little bemused. I felt like the show didn’t know which way to go at that point, and just left it open-ended.

Junggugeo Kaenada: Yes, it was nice that they did not get carried away with the destiny element, and infused some practicality into the situation. However, if they had just spent less time focused on the breakdown of the relationships, and allotted more time to the building of the relationship between Soo Kyung and Dong Wook, then the ending would not have been so abrupt. There would have been time for Soo Kyung and Dong Wook to separate, and then come back together.

Only: Right. Instead of a short, bittersweet interlude, and then an abrupt departure, I would definitely have preferred seeing the two of them try to make their “destiny” work in the real world.

Junggugeo Kaenada: I couldn’t help but think that they blew their budget on a trip to Tokyo at the end. So, it was a good ending for Dong Wook, at least.

Only: Sure, Dong Wook gets a trip to Tokyo, and Ryohei and his bad fashion get to go back to Seoul. Everyone’s happy.


Soulmate (소울메이트)

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