The time is a few minutes after midnight. To be exact, it’s the first few minutes into November 22, 2013, Friday (Malaysia time). The moment I’ve been highly anticipating for about a week is finally here – the debut of Pretty Man on Maaduu! I stop my work to check in to ensure the first episode is truly there. And it is. Yay! But indulgence will have to wait a while longer…
I may seem somewhat wired but this is my maiden voyage into following a K-drama merely 24 hours after its home country, South Korea. Not to mention I’m eager to catch Jang Keun-Suk in action in something other than Love Rain (having watched the entire 20 episodes about five times!).
Such was my excitement last night, or rather very early this morning. I spent the last hour before slumberland joyfully watching the opening episode of Pretty Man. Then an idea sprang into my head that I should chronicle this inaugural excursion.
So I’ll be posting episode-by-episode recaps (condensed version), questions, and comments over eight weeks. Aish! Only two episodes will be released each week. The void in between will be rather painful and tiresome but I’m determined to endure. Fighting!
Post update timeline
I strive to publish my recaps and reviews within a week after the screenings on Maaduu.
Synopsis from Maaduu:
Dok-go is living every man’s dream. With his natural charm and dashing sweep-her-off-her-feet looks, he’s on a mission to seduce not one, but ten of Korea’s most eligible bachelorettes.
After learning the art of seduction from his mentor, the once-famous but still-stunning Hong Yoo-Ra, he arms himself with a list of their biographies and the ambition to do or die. And he has only one plan: to rock ‘em, pop ‘em, and drop ‘em. However, in comes the form of the common and awkward Kim Bo-tong, whose name literally means “average.” After having a crush on him for more than ten years, SHE is armed with a thick skin and a never-say-die attitude. But naturally, Dok-go cannot be bothered with such small fry, and pays no attention to her ploys.
Will the wild playboy finally be reined in by the gentle but firm hands of this poor country girl? What happens when a second pretty boy comes in, this one after Bo-tong’s heart? Watch this lovable rom-com with a simple but deep truth, that love really does conquer all.
Introducing the main characters:
Dokgo Ma-Te (Jang Keun-Suk)
– Irresistibly dazzling to women, he can get away with and gain almost anything with his pretty face.
– Of a humble upbringing by a single mother, his ambition is to amass riches and transform their lives by means of his amazing gift of enchanting women and getting them wrapped around his finger.
– Beneath the façade of confidence, is a man who struggles with a heavy load of anger, hatred, and vengeance towards his absent father. There’s definitely more to him than meets the eye.
Kim Bo-Tong (IU)
– Her name Bo-Tong literally means average.
– Cute and animated with a positive, driven attitude. It’s so easy to love her.
– Struggling with raging hormones, she sees eroticism everywhere.
– A jobless college graduate who’s about to turn 26, her lifetime ambition is to be Ma-Te oppa’s wife.
– Lives with mother and younger brother.
Hong Yoo-Ra (Han Chae-Young)
– Absolutely ravishing, she’s the only woman who managed to get our hero’s heart thumping “dugun, dugun” and occupied his mind since their first encounter.
– Curiously mysterious.
– An ex-classmate of Jaek-Hee’s (So Yoo-Jin), Ma-Te’s sugar mommy, I’m guessing she’s in her late 30s.
Episode 1 (Screen date: November 22, 2013, Friday)
A man and woman are on a couch in a posh apartment overlooking the city. The man looks bored and annoyed as the woman claws at his shirt undoing the buttons. She offers to buy him a car to which his immediate response is to put a stop to everything. He starts to storm off while asking, “Do you think I’m the type of guy who would do anything for material gain?” She apologizes by pleading money is all she has. In a last ditch effort, she offers him a luxurious apartment, just like the one they’re in. He turns around, strides back to her, and gives her a knee-buckling smooch – sealing the deal with a kiss, so to speak.
The man is none other than the protagonist, Dokgo Ma-Te, and the woman, his sugar mommy, real estate tycoon Jaek-Hee. Such is Ma-Te’s current life – cleverly utilizing his assets to fuel his ambition for riches and success. (Though it’s clear Ma-Te’s a gigolo now, I’m unsure how long he’s been with Jaek Hee and what he did for a living prior to this relationship.)
As for Kim Bo-Tong, she’s apt to while her time away daydreaming about her Ma-Te oppa while creating picture collage wallpapers of him on her younger brother’s laptop. Her taekwondo-enthusiast namdongsaeng simply cannot understand her persistent fascination for Ma-Te hyung. While sharing an exchange about this, their mom storms into the room livid upon finding out Bo-Tong’s been working part-time washing dishes at another BBQ restaurant when she refuses to help her mom in her BBQ restaurant (made me wonder too). Bo-Tong justifies her disloyalty by arguing she gets paid at her part-time job but not if she helps her mom.
Annoyed to her limit, Bo-Tong’s mom pesters her daughter about becoming gainfully employed. This is when we find out Bo-Tong’s an almost 26-year-old jobless, college graduate (ah, I see now where her mom is coming from and what all the fuss is really about). When confronted what she ultimately plans to do with her life, she proudly declares “to be Ma-Te oppa’s wife” (aigoo!).
Bo-Tong’s infatuation with Ma-Te began ten years before when he boarded the same bus she was on. As fate would have it, turns out he’s her mom’s friend’s son. The reason he was on the bus that day was to go to her mom’s restaurant to meet his mom. Bo-Tong keeps up appearances with Ma-Te and his mom, who lives nearby, ever since.
Ma-Te discusses with his mom about a secret code required for him to meet his absent father (hmmm, there’s some mystery involved?) but his mother coaxes him to be patient and that everything will be revealed in good time. Unfortunately, his mom eventually succumbs to cancer she’s been battling but kept secret from him, before revealing the critical information. Soon before her death, she does meet with an unnamed man who seems to be concerned about her and enquires about Ma-Te. (No points for guessing this must be THE FATHER.)
Dazzling, beautiful, mystery woman Hong Yoo-Ra reappears just when Ma-Te thought he’d gotten over her. Apparently she’s the first woman ever to have made him swoon when he first came to Cheongdam-dong, Seoul’s land of the wealthy. She’s been slipping in and out of his view ever since. When they finally actually meet, Ma-Te realizes there’s hardly anything about him and his mom that she doesn’t know. The mystery deepens when Yoo-Ra tells him she knows the secret code he’s been obsessed with all his life. Unknown to Ma-Te, Yoo-Ra had confronted his mom on her deathbed. Divulging it’s been arduous tracking them down, this is where we see the sinister side of her. (At this point I’m unsure whether Yoo-Ra’s naughty or nice and what she got up her sleeves.)
I must say, “Wow, I’m impressed and hooked!” Adapted from a comic book, I was doubtful at first whether Pretty Man would be my thing. Different from what I’m used to, boy am I glad that it’s refreshingly entertaining.
Light-hearted humor interjected with drama makes for easy, relaxing, enjoyable viewing. The unexpected elements of mystery serve as icing on the already scrumptious cake.
The actors embodied their characters to a tee. The main reason for my interest in Pretty Man, Jang Keun-Suk, doesn’t disappoint. His portrayal of Dokgo Ma-Te’s multi-faceted personality is absolutely becoming. Cool as a cucumber one moment and animated the next, he’s living his character.
IU as Kim Bo-Tong is lusciously cute. It’s rib-tickling how she’d admitted to a call-in fortune teller that she’s as innocent as a lamb, but with a very dirty mind. She simply can’t take her mind off men (actually only one man to be exact – Ma-Te oppa).
As for the stunning mystery woman Hong Yoo-Ra (Han Chae-Young), though I can’t quite yet decide whether she’s an angel, devil, or something in between, her dazzling, poised on-screen persona alone is engaging enough.
Based on this introductory episode, I’m already hungry for more. So happy there’s Episode 2 coming up tomorrow. Beyond that is a week’s agonizing wait. Alas, patience is virtuous or so the saying goes.
1. Who is Ma-Te’s father? Why hasn’t he been around and the need for a code to meet him? Is he a spy or something?
2. Hong Yoo-Ra – who is this mesmerizing woman of mystery?
I would so love to hear from and discuss with other like-minded K-drama / Pretty Man fans. Do drop me a note.