K-drama ● Review: Strong Girl Bong-soon
English Title: Strong Girl Bong-soon
Korean Title: 힘쎈여자도봉순[lit. strong woman Do Bong-soon]
Director(s): Lee Hyung-min
Screenwriter(s): Baek Mi-kyung
Studio: Drama House & JS Pictures Released: 2017
Runtime: 16 episodes, ~1h 6m each.
Starring: Park Bo-young, Park Hyung-sik, Kim Ji-soo
My Verdict: Mostly enjoyable romantic dramady and very funny at times, but the plotting and pacing plateau in the second half of the series. A lost opportunity, relying on Park Bo-young to carry the show.
● Do Bong-soon (Park Bo-young) is a 27-year-old woman who has no degree, no meaningful work experience and unemployed. But she does have artistic skills and supernatural strength, the latter runs in the women of the family. Her power is obviously a secret and there are rules, so she has to be careful about how she uses it. It’s not explained how but she will lose her powers if used unjustly. This in fact happened to her mother.
● Bong-soon has an unrequited crush on her childhood friend In Guk-doo (Kim Ji-soo) who is a police officer, apparently an idealistic rookie detective. By chance, Bong-soon meets weirdo Ahn Min-hyuk (Park Hyung-sik) who witnesses her using her powers and then hires her as a bodyguard. He is rich and runs a game developing company and he has his enemies. That and he clearly finds her fascinating.
● As a romantic dramady, there is obviously the love triangle. There is the “grow up and give up your first crush” lesson in this story. I think there could be a more in-depth exploration of this without compromising the comedy. Having said that, given the relationship between Bong-soon and Min-hyuk develops gradually, at least that part is not rushed.
● In such a series, Bong-soon must face her villains and we are introduced to two. The first is a group of local gangsters. It’s obvious they are just a joke and one can predict they will not last the series. The second is a psycho kidnapper-murderer and this guy is treated more seriously, and one can tell this will not be resolved until the end.
● Bong-soon conveniently doesn’t have enough control of her powers to allow for slapstick and mildly black humor, but enough to mostly get by in day-to-day life. It is funny and although somewhat convenient, it’s plausible enough since she hides it and avoids using it.
● As a matter of personal taste, the series could use more black humor. I understand writers not wanting too much of that to avoid the story becoming an outright farce and to not trivialize violence, but there is little danger of that given the premise and characterizations and assuming a mature audience.
● Even though Bong-soon is no detective, her raw strength enables her to cut through some obstacles easily, figuratively and literally. The psycho kidnapper-murderer is just not skilled enough to last 16 episodes. In other words, this arc is forced to last the series and the pacing suffers in the latter half. This could be compensated by giving Bong-soon a few more minor villains and problems to deal with as filler.
● [Potential Spoiler] Bong-soon undergoes training with Min-hyuk to develop some control and to learn to fight smarter. This is obviously a way to facilitate the romance as well as her character development. This is fine but the problem is that this is done as a montage. This may be appropriate in a feature-length film but with 16 episodes, this is a wasted opportunity since there is plenty of screen time to use. Training scenes could be spread throughout the first eight or more episodes, in effect being its own arc. And it doesn’t have to be training purely between the two; it can include Bong-soon trying things when dealing with bad guys (and failing). This will facilitate her personal development, her relationship with Min-hyuk and the comedy.
● Apart from Bong-soon’s family (and Min-hyuk), only her best friend Na Kyung-shim (Park Bo-mi) knows about her superpowers. It is arguably a bit of a stretch to have Bong-soon’s childhood friend Guk-doo in the dark about this.
● [Potential Spoiler] On a different note, Guk-doo later confesses to having had some feelings for her in the past. It’s not surprising but it’s not necessary either. The so-called love triangle works fine if Guk-doo knows about Bong-soon’s superpowers and never considered her to be anything more than a friend. It’s more realistic if they were closer in the past but not as close in recent years with Bong-soon missing the good ol’ days. That will perhaps more strongly resonate emotionally since growing apart is a common enough experience.
● It is commendable that the writer does not forsake Bong-soon’s relationship with her family and her best friend, a woman of similar age who does know about her powers. Familial relationships are often ignored in shows, especially when young people are involved. Sometimes it does allow for more focused storytelling, but sometimes it’s just an attempt to downplay the family. In this case, it adds to the storytelling and Bong-soon’s character. If anything, they are under-utilized. Also, Bong-soon’s family life is a juxtaposition to Min-hyuk’s as they have their problems.
● Despite the plot weaknesses, it’s a decent and enjoyable show. The production is good although some of the visual effects are too comic-book for the sake of the comedy. It could be more realistic and the comedy would still work. Park Bo-young is the star of the show, handling well the comedy, attitude and pathos.
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