I wanted to reserve my opinion until later but I just couldn't help myself. It's not often that a drama manages to capture my heart so thoroughly that I'm more than willing to spread the love around. The better to spazz together I say. I think most drama viewers share my apprehension of Taiwanese dramas. It's generic and mostly tackles cute and fluffy love stories with exaggerated humour. That's not necessarily a bad thing because it's what they do best and it really depends on the audience's taste. I mostly stay away unless a good one comes along to see if it's worth checking out. Upon another blogger's recommendation, I found In A Good Way and boy am I hooked. Probably obsessed is a better word.
Being out of touch with the T-ent, the cast of IAGW are foreign to me. So the premise alone is what tempted me to give this a try. A drama set in 1995 will inevitably draw comparisons to the Reply Series currently so hot in Korea. I have the Reply series sitting snugly in my hard disk but have not been enticed to watch them yet. I understand the series captured the 90s mood well and one can probably immerse in the drama without prior knowledge of the kpop but somehow I feel that that will detract from the overall satisfaction. Thus, I'm more excited by IAGW because I feel I can relate better since I actually listened to more Mando-pop then. In the end, it really doesn't matter because the central characters are wonderful and it's such a wonderful experience watching the leads fall slowly in love.
The story begins in the summer of 1995 when childhood friends Zheng Ren Wei (Jay Shih) and Lin Jia En (Kirsten Ren) took their college entrance exam. Ren Wei was accepted into ChengDu University while Jia En was left out. Jia En decides to uproot herself to Taipei and prepare for her retake because she was lonely in the countryside without Ren Wei's company. She has a series of meet-cute with the hottest guy in campus, Liu San Feng who is better known as Liu Chuan (Lego Lee). Meanwhile, Ren Wei falls for the prettiest girl in campus, Bai Xue Fen or Bai Xue (Smile Weng). However, Bai Xue nurses a crush on Liu Chuan. On paper, it sounds mundane but I assure you, it's lovely to watch.
This is a drama with an understated feel and it doesn't depend on fancy camerawork or cue music to bring you into the story. It has a natural flow and leisurely pace I love and an ensemble who are all decent people grappling with youthful feelings amidst a variety of college activities. And the soundtrack is absolutely lovely and complements the show perfectly. I can sing its praises all day but as always, it's the lead couple that sucked me in and keeps me coming back for more.
Liu Chuan and Jia En are so perfect together that for once I do not mind that despite their obvious attraction to each other, their relationship has not progressed beyond "friends" even after 5 episodes. I simply love this transitional stage between friends and lovers - the awkward pauses, stolen glances, averted glances, shy smiles - they melt my heart and leave me tingling after each charged interactions. I shiver and squee and lament the brevity of the episodes (mind you T-dramas are over 1 hour per episode) but it's just that good. Watching one episode takes forever because I would be rewinding ten times for certain scenes. And my heart flutters and melts every single time. I've fallen in love with watching them falling in love. Hard.
Some of my favourite moments from the episodes aired so far:
In episode 1, Jia En mistakenly enters Liu Chuan's room and catches him almost naked. It led to a lot of laughs but I love how he couldn't stop noticing how she'd waited all day for Ren Wei and when it starts to rain, he just had to offer her a place to stay. And when they are finally settled in his room after the close call in the bathroom, he turns on the music to dispel the awkwardness and smiles when she loosens up.
In episode 2, Liu Chuan sketches Jia En from memory, well he's looking for her because he wants his necklace back but the fact that he remembers her features enough to sketch her likeness after just one day of acquaintance says so much. And her voice. The way he perks up when he thought he heard her voice. And who can forget how he resolves the whole debacle about Jia En's scandalous rumours and later cheers her up by bringing her to the beach where they watch the sunrise together.
In episode 3, Liu Chuan accepts a challenge for mountain biking from Ren Wei. And despite commenting how Jia En has latched on to him instead of Ren Wei, he was the one who invited her to watch the challenge. He wanted her there, just like Ren Wei wanted Bai Xue's presence - surely it's a sign of something right? But the best part of the episode is of course the concert date...from the accidental embrace on the bike to him holding her hand as they run to the concert, it was pure love.
Episode 4 is a total squee fest. Everything from the moment Liu Chuan finds her the winner of the Treasure Hunt to them watching Taipei night view atop a hill. The mirror which reflected the love of his life and their pleasantly awkward phone conversation.
Episode 5 is where they have their first fights but even so, they can't help staring at each other in the rhumba routine for Jia En's PE test. Liu Chuan getting her a drink while she practices her presentation and showing up at her interview are more evidence he clearly cares more for her than he admits. He also cutely tries to comfort her before...well that escalates into a fight. It's also telling how he's frustrated she's keeping her disappointment to herself instead of confiding in him.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it's going to be satisfying towards the end, but I guess we'd have to wait and see. Just one problem, the wait is painful!!!!