Would you change the future if given the chance?
‘My First Love’ – Synopsis
Kang Shin-Woo (Lee Jung-Shin) is a math teacher with a good looking appearance. He has not forgotten his first love Han Ji-Soo (Lee Yeol-Eum) for the past 10 years. By an accident, he travels to the past when he was a high school student. There, he meets his younger self (Seo Ji-Hoon). Kang Shin-Woo struggles to make the younger Kang Shin-Woo’s love come true. – AsianWiki
Native/alternate titles: 애간장, Longing Heart, Aeganjang
Countries: South Korea
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Directors: Min Yeon-hong
Writers: Park Ga-yeon, Kim Hee-ran (webcomic), Kim Byung-gwan (webcomic) – Aeganjang
Cast: Seo Ji-hoon, Lee Yeol-eum, Lee Jung-shin, Jo Seung-hee, Lee Tae-sun, Song Ji-hyun, Min Do-hee, Lee Joo-hyung, Kim Sun-young, Go Gyu-pil
‘My First Love’ – Review
‘My First Love’ has two ingredients that I usually avoid in a South Korean TV shows — time-travel (seriously Koreans, please stop it! Bring something new) and school romance (not that I hate it but instead of turning out sincere and touching, the puppy–love usually gets too cringeworthy). I had to pick it up because Poornima recommended it and honestly, I was pleasantly surprised with what I got.
I got the first surprise the moment I started watching. The channel logo ‘OCN Romance’ is something that I am not used to seeing. For me and probably many others, the name OCN is a synonym of thriller genre TV shows. I was not expecting to see something ‘fluffy’ like ‘My First Love’ alongside the name ‘OCN’.
Side-note: ‘Special Affairs Team TEN’ is an OCN crime-thriller TV show. It is one of the best of its kind! Its first episode is just like a movie and I would put it up there with the best thriller movies! Go watch it!
OCN has made a few romance shows in the past (mostly quite recently) and I am also familiar with one called ‘Someday’ (came out a decade ago, an almost gem of a drama starring Bae Doo–na). Try to imagine yourself watching a gory thriller show on Comedy Central. Yeah, exactly that’s the kind of shock I got.
About the Story
The story is about Shin-woo who is reaching 30 and still single. He cannot bring himself to like a girl because even after 10 years of separation he is still in love with his friend Ji-soo. Till this day he regrets, not confessing his feelings to her. There were circumstances that forced him not to confess. I believe that this scenario would be very relatable to almost everyone, right?! Maybe not everyone has regrets regarding their love life but surely everyone has some regrets, whether it is about career or any other life decision. However, most of us live with those regrets but not Shin-woo. Shin-woo, by accident, travels back in time by 10 years and tries to re-write his love story in hopes of a happy ending.
Many of us have surely wished to turn back the time to correct some action or decision in order to not have any regrets. I know that I do* and I could really relate to Shin-woo. Despite being skeptical about the story in the beginning I was immediately hooked.
*Kinda off-topic but I to wish to go back in time and change things. However, if I actually was given a choice to go back then I wouldn’t want to chance anything. BUT, if I somehow landed up in the past then the temptation to change the past would be really strong! In any case, all this is hypothetical. Yet, what would you do?
As I mentioned earlier, the time-travel concept is something that I avoid. It has been used countless times in Korean dramas. I have not watched them all but from synopsis and comments, I can say that it is pretty much the same for most of them. So much so that ‘time-travel’ has become a genre on its own! However, ‘My First Love’ brings something new. Albeit nothing too refreshing but it was good to watch. I can say that ‘My First Love’ succeeded in giving the illusion of being a fresh concept.
In the drama, two timelines existed in a kind of parallel dimension-like manner or more like in overlapped time-lines. But this has its own drawbacks. This concept is pretty messed up as nothing is explained clearly. Two versions of the same person (Shin-woo) existing in the same place? No problem. But how their actions and decisions affected others is confusing, to say the least. Especially how everything affects Shin-woo’s memory is even more confusing! Maybe it is my geeky side, but I refused to overlook such major loopholes in the story! There are many other baffling things about the time-travel concept used in the drama but that would take a lot of words and time to even mention so let’s just leave it here with the time travel.
A huge flaw in the story is how no one…not a single person recognises Shin-woo’s older version in the past or younger version in the future. Not even his sister, the girl he adores and was adored by, and neither did his best friends! Imagine, because of some reason you meet your best friend or sister after 10 years. Even then, it might take a while, but you will recognize that person. I agree that the circumstances are different here but shouldn’t the characters feel some inkling of familiarity or recognition? Here the guy comes to the future looking the same as he used to but no one recognises him?!?! His own sister believes that he’s a student of her brother (older version). Much awesome, so wow!
Another negative, two versions playing Shin-woo did not look-alike at all. Not even remotely close. I wish they had cast two somewhat similar looking actors to play Shin-woo. I got comfortable eventually because I liked the show but I can understand if someone does not enjoy it because of the drastic difference between physique of two actors playing the same person. Maybe they could have used the same actor with makeup?! Putting that aside, both actors had a great chemistry! I absolutely loved them together!
Now coming to the romance. It is not just another puppy love story set in the school environment. It has a few sprinklings of puppy love but for the most part, it is cute, sweet, and fluffy. It even manages to tug your heartstrings on a few occasions. Sometimes it was weird/creepy to see the guy treating younger himself and even his love like kids but nothing it’s that you can’t overcome!
For me, the best part of this drama was the mother-son relationship scenes. At times, I felt my eyes almost tearing up. At one particular scene, I got goosebumps and actually felt my body warming up. For that, I must give this drama a BIG thumbs up!
The friendship between each character was also equally important in this drama. I would not have enjoyed the drama without both the main characters’ friends. I wish they could have developed their characters a little more but, their respective stories are heart-warming and touching as well. Also, the shows a couple of ‘reality–check’ moments which really added to the charm of the show.
Every character was likable. Shin-woo’s character development was well done whereas Ji-soo’s character development left me wanting more. Her character needed more steady development. The actors were good in general.
For me, the highlight among all the actors was Seo Ji-hoon. He portrayed Young Shin-woo’s character quite realistically. Lee Jung-shin is alright as older Shin-woo. But, sometimes I felt a bit more energy from him than required for Shin-woo, but I guess it is better than being almost static.
Now, being static and expressionless is something I can complain about Lee Yeol-eum who played Ji-soo. She was believable at times but most of the times I felt like she needed to deliver more. She has a pretty face and that helps but I would have enjoyed the drama more with some more expressive actress or even better if some other look-alike actress had played the character of older Ji-soo like they did with Shin-woo.
So, what is the conclusion? I really want to ‘love’ this drama but I cannot. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it….A LOT! There is a touching romance, a beautiful mother-son relationship that almost teared me up, and friendships that I adored. I could emotionally connect myself to the show. Honestly, it is a great feeling when you could emotionally relate to some show or a movie. I want to give it 5/5 purely on an emotional basis and in the past, I have overrated many titles purely due to my emotional bias. But not this time. In this case the flaws are huge and cannot be covered by emotional impact. They constantly grabbed my attention while viewing and forced me to use my mind instead of heart (this is a romantic drama, not some intricate mindf*** story) – I cannot overlook this flaw.
I like it, just not enough to call it one of my favourites and I would not openly recommend it to anyone unless it meets someone’s specific requirements.
Have you seen ‘My First Love’? If yes, then do you agree with my comments? If no, then are you interested in watching it? Would you turn back the time if given the chance? Or if you are already in the past would you try to change the future? Let us know in comments below.