I have branched out and am watching a Thai ‘Lakorn,’ so not a K-drama at all. What is Lakorn? This one is called Cubic, and the title refers to a Rubik’s cube and is explained in the show.
I’m kind of shaking my head over this one, or over myself because I keep watching. It’s so cute but it really shouldn’t be, and it has moments that severely stretch my toleration. It’s like an almost super squeaky clean Harlequin romance, the kind where the good girl falls in love with the very bad pirate king and becomes the only person he can love and this love redeems him. In this version the very wicked pirate king is a mafia boss.
What’s not super squeaky clean would be the clothes of one or two of the bad girls here, and several mentions of mistresses, not to mention the mafia is a criminal organization and there’s not much charming about gun-running IMO.
But otherwise, yes, clean (wait, more on that later), formulaic, Asian in some distinctive ways (I almost cheered out loud in one quick scene with some Asian, porcelain toilets set in the ground for squatting in the background because yes, I’m really weird), old-fashioned in some ways I like, perpetuating some of the more unpleasant patriarchal stereotypes which I don’t like, but in such melodramatic settings that it’s hard to take seriously, and I enjoyed large parts of the plot, the character of the lead girl, and the character of the second male lead immensely.
Lin Lan Ser is the lead male. He’s a coldhearted, brooding, Thai Godfather type- he has been in charge of the mafia since he was 21 (I think he’s in his late 20s here). Only this Thai gangster’s organization is in Hong Kong. A business man who is deeply in debt to him puts up his pretty daughter P’Nan as collateral and then betrays Lin and substitutes his supposedly less pretty, but far smarter younger (17 years old) daughter Ruthainark while he flees with the older girl. Lin’s boys kidnap Ruthainark (Nark), the younger sister, and bring her back to Hong Kong.
Mainly that’s because they think she knows where her father and sister really are, and they can use her to catch them, but that doesn’t work. She really doesn’t know, and her daddy is too busy fleeing with P’Nan to come back to fetch Nark. Lin Lan Ser gives her a very bare bones place to live, insists that she enroll in school, and gets her a job at a construction site because he’s kind of taken aback at her feisty and mostly fearless responses to him and he’s bemused and doesn’t know what else to do with her. She pleads with him to let her off school attendance, but he refuses because she needs her education.
Also, he’s the principal of her school.
Yes, that kind of cracked me up, too, but an article I read explained that the idea of mafia behind private schools isn’t that far fetched, it’s a way to educate mafia kids and have some money laundering going on at the same time.
There are several young looking (to me) fathers of pretty daughters, and selling them for debts seems to be a drama way of life, (and I hope that’s all it is). There are strange comments that are meant to be funny, like once when Ruthainark (Nark) has just finished mouthing off to him in front of his henchman, Lin says, “If I didn’t think it would be child harassment, I’d tie her down and cut off her fingers,” and they all laugh genially and I gather the audience was supposed to as well.
There are a lot of bizarre-and-appalling-to-me things that are supposed to be entertaining, but that also is part of the exotic attraction. There’s plenty of other stuff that actually really is entertaining (to me), and I always enjoy listening to new languages and getting a sense of the inflections and syntax.
Mint, the actress playing Nark is not at all plain or homely as she is supposed to be for the purposes of this story. I think she’s adorable, so it’s a stretch to believe, as they keep saying, that she didn’t get sold off as a mistress because she’s not pretty enough. The story is based on a novel, where the description of Nark is that she’s plain, chubby, and nerdy, according to what I read.
Anyway- the character of Nark or Naak (i’ve seen it transcribed both ways) is pretty delightful, and watching her baffle most of the mafia is pretty funny, too, although admittedly unrealistic. Mint is a fun actress to watch here. She’s totally charming, adorable, and clever as all get out.
Bomb, the actor playing the mafia king, is not so good, and he relies an awful lot on speaking glances, glares, and head shaking, but then, his character is icey cold and doesn’t chat much with chits, however cheerful, so he may not feel he has a lot of options. He does warm up as the series progresses, and I must concede that he is very pretty to look at.
I would call this a definite PG for the details that you see, a PG 13 for theme in some cases. For example, one of the lamer, weaker members of the mafia group kidnaps a young woman in payment for her father’s massive gambling debts. He locks her in his house waiting her father’s repayment, but when the father flees to another country, lame mafia dude attempts to ‘make her his woman,’ and I don’t mean sweet talking her and giving her flowers and a ring. She escapes by tricking him into following her into the bathroom where she beats him into a temporarily stunned sort of incapacity with a toilet plunger and then sneaks out of the house and runs away. I get that it’s supposed to be a funny scene, but I am too western to be hugely amused by it and wouldn’t want my son watching it.
And I guess this is a spoiler- but once she escapes from him she stops her friends from giving him the full beating he deserves and decides she loves him after all, because, you know, he only abducted her (only because she fought back and escaped). Ugh. That dreadful side plot aside- I found this strangely fun to watch.
Viki, it’s also at Youtube.