In a nutshell: I’m so excited High Kick 3 actually made it as a 2012 drama! It’s the first (and so far, only) Korean “sitcom” I’ve ever watched, and I think it might be the last of this particular series, so I’m pleased to have a chance to babble about it. Which gives a clue that yes, I liked it. The reason I put quotes around “sitcom” is that while the episodes were only about half an hour long, they aren’t all written for comedy — though comedy is definitely a main player and there were many times I laughed loud and hard. It’s basically a slice-of-life revolving around two homes joined by an underground tunnel (as will happen), one with a traditional family (mom, dad, uncles, kids), the other with a found-family of friends and colleagues. Which means there are many different storylines that form and branch and reform again as the various characters interact. I very much enjoyed my time with them and was sad to let them go at drama end. And while I liked some endings better than others, overall they did a good job at not tying up knots too tightly, so there was a real feeling the characters continued on. Which is pretty much always my favorite way of ending. I definitely recommend this one.
(FYI: The High Kick series is linked by concept and production team, but not by characters. So they’re each a stand-alone sitcom/drama. Also, as far as I can tell, the title is random — maybe a Korean metaphor or pun I’m not getting?)
Spoilers! Spoilers below!
Storylines I was most interested in and my thoughts on them (aka: the long and spoilery section): Far and away the funniest storyline was the romance between gym teacher, Yoon Ji-suk, and Korean teacher, Park Ha-sun. Mainly because actress Park Ha-sun (the characters were named after the actors) totally threw herself into the comedy without a care about dignity or beauty or even physical safety (though I hope that was more due to carefully planned stunt-work than actual physical danger). But their story also had a delightful sweetness that made me smile happily at their happiness. It slid into some unnecessary drama towards the end that made me wish they’d just let that story alone for a bit rather than throwing plot at it. But it pulled out at the end, so I was happy over-all.
The best realized storyline was Ahn Jong-suk’s coming of age. (Played by Lee Jong-suk who’d I’d last seen as the frail, prodigy song-writer in Secret Garden. So it was kind of fun to see him as the dumb high-school jock here) From his slow realization that he needed to become something more than a has-been high-school hockey star, to his crush on his classmate and neighbor, Kim Ji-won, I think he may have changed the most over the course of the show. His journey was sweet and funny and bittersweet and painful and so, so real. I feel like I have the clearest sense of where he might go in the future. (Law school and then Prosecutor is my head-canon.) And his was one of the harder ones to let go of.
My most favorite storyline (though unfortunately one of the least realized) was the relationship between Kim Ji-won and Yoon Kye-sang. They were both such ancient souls, and very much outside looking in. They both wore a mask of contentment that hid an underlying dissatisfaction or unhappiness with their lives. And they both seemed the most comfortable with each other and surprised by that comfort. Pretty much a duo package of the sort of brooding mystery leaning towards romance I eat up with a spoon, with the added twist of her still being in high-school and therefore far too young for him.
The show did a really good job handling Ji-won’s crush on Kye-sang. They allowed it to be something more than silly. I appreciated that he didn’t just dismiss her feelings when he learned of them. And I was thrilled that Kye-sang both admitted that he could see himself returning her feelings, but also chose to not let himself go there. It was a really good work around, allowing for the possibility of something in the future when she’d matured, without him coming across as a creeper.
Unfortunately, the mysterious brooding aspect of especially Kye-sang’s character was left totally unexplored. We knew he was desperate to leave Korea and return to being a doctor in Rwanda, but the show never gave us an explanation of why. I understood that Rwanda was a MacGuffin, especially after Ji-won decides she wants to go, too. But it needed to be better defined. What did Rwanda mean to Kye-sang? And what to did it come to mean to Ji-won? (My impression was she wasn’t just going for him — though that might have been wishful thinking on my part.) They both had past pain and it seemed like Rwanda was some kind of answer and learning more about the answer would have given us more about them. But the show didn’t bother. (If only they’d dropped the unnecessary romantic drama in the two teachers’ storyline and spent that time here.)
But even with the unanswered questions there was enough to get my imagination working. And my disappointment was nicely mitigated by the other stories. Which is a bonus that comes with multi-plots. I’m glad I gave High Kick 3 a shot.