Yuan Xiang Qin has just been rejected by her longtime crush, school genius Jiang Zhi Shu, and after two long years admits defeat. While moving, Xiang Qin and her father are suddenly left homeless when an earthquake destroys their new house and all of their belongings. When her father's old friends offer them a place to stay, Xiang Qin is unprepared to discover they are the parents of none other than Jiang Zhi Shu.
Note: This summary stands for both this drama and its sequel.
I was really hesitant about watching this version of It Started With A Kiss for several reasons: 1) I loved the anime, 2) I didn't enjoy the Korean version nearly as much despite the fact that I adore Kim Hyun Joong, especially as Ji Hoo in Boys Over Flowers, 3) I was still pining over Joe Cheng as Kui with Bai He in The Rose and I worried that watching this would spoil my image of him and his fictional romance.
However, I needn't have feared. Even though the anime had the advantage of being the first time that Tada Kaoru's ending was conceptualized, courtesy of her husband, this version beat out both the Korean drama version and the anime for me because it was here that we were able to actually obtain a glimpse into what Zhi Shu/Irie was thinking. This made his character much more understandable, if not quite lovable.
But, after all, this story isn't really about him, so much as Xiang Qin and her indomitable will. Plus, like all romance stories, things are only truly interesting when they feature somewhat disfunctional or lacking people. But interesting doesn't have to mean unbelievable. I'll be the first to admit that the initial circumstances leading to the close proximity of our leading characters is a bit hokey in all versions (well, maybe not if one is familiar with the following really sad stories: http://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2010/01/07/the-ten-most-important-natural-disasters-of-the-last-ten-years-2/) but it's not all that unusual for dumb girls to pursue smart guys or sweet girls to end up with not so nice guys. All the characters were somewhat realistic though.
The Korean characters seemed to strive to be like the anime but I feel that was the wrong approach, and one that 3D people, no matter how cute, always seems to fail at. In this version though, everyone, not just Naoki, was humanized and made to be relatable. In this way, I wasn't left feeling like they fell short (although that would have been chronologically impossible anyway) and I am still able to fully appreciate both the anime and this drama.
Thankfully, Joe Cheng is also a much better actor than Kim Hyun Joong and the supporting cast, while perhaps not as physically attractive as the Korean cast, was much more memorable. I will always love Joe Cheng as Kui and forever mourn both his lustrous locks and his screen time with Ella Bao Bei but, with his wonderful ability to flesh out Irie Naoki, I'm also glad to know that it wasn't just a fluke or the Ella Bao Bei effect (my term for her ability to make me love all lead males starring with her).
The jury is still out on if it's the talents of the director. I got a kick out of the little references to The Rose in both this drama and its sequel. So far, I've liked everything I've seen by this guy and I'm convinced that he has the ability to draw out the best in my favorite actors and actresses, and even some that aren't on that list.
Speaking of, I was super apprehensive about Ariel Lin, not only because my standard for characters like this in Ella Bao Bei but just because I wasn't too familiar with her. I'd heard that she had great chemistry with Joe Cheng though and I wasn't dissappointed on that front in the least. In addition, having seen her acting prowess in this show, I might give Legend of the Condor Heroes another go.
Oftentimes, actresses are a bit self conscious and afraid of truly looking ugly but with her body language , facial expressions and vocal inflections, she more than adequately portrayed a stupid, average looking girl with low self esteem who gets by on luck, the good graces of those around her and sheer persistence. I guess the character isn't meant to be overly cute and I can't say I fell in love with her but I did greatly enjoy her love story.
"intelligent guy completely ignores and seems to hate an eccentric airheaded girl but secretly doesn't"
type of stories..
It’s manga-based so.. it’s original in its own way.
At the very beginning it’s apparent that the main character, Xiang Qin, is obsessed with a beautiful boy who everyone loves. The day-dreams she has are hilarious (even though at times, her stupidity and obsession is enough to make you cringe.) This boy, Zhi Shu, is a cold-hearted genius who Joe Cheng he plays ridiculously well. (seriously, really well) He is openly cruel and teases Xiang Qin’s stupidity, while at the same time toying with her emotions. She responds with feistiness, yet she still loves the guy and follows him around like a lost puppy.
During the first episodes it runs smoothly. There really isn’t a character that I disliked (other than Zhi Shu) and everything was keeping my attention. But down the line, maybe in the mid episodes, Xiang Qin lost her spunk and became totally pitiful. Then it was hard to even watch. There were plenty of times when I felt embarrassment while watching a scene… yes, embarrassment for a fictional character.If she were real she’d have Dependent Personality Disorder.
Notable characters: Zhi Shu's little brother who is always irritated by Xiang Qin, Zhi Shu's childlike mother who wants him and Xiang Qin together, an older student who plays tennis (he was always cracking me up) and Ah Jin, a boy who desperately peruses Xiang Qin even though she clearly dislikes him. Props to Jiro Wang for making stalking and obsession look adorable.