Four budding Japanese actresses go to Korea to find love as well as a footing in the world of K-dramas, with four Korean actors by their sides. The question lies: can a kiss make it go from acting to true feelings? This is what Love Like a K-drama, the new Japanese reality dating(?) show, is trying to answer. As someone who can’t see beyond the inauthenticity of all things reality TV, I’m probably the wrong person to judge this particular show, but Love Like a K-drama had me somewhat invested. Specifically, it’s the cultural difference between the Koreans and the Japanese that makes the stories exciting to follow. On November 28th, Netflix released four episodes. Yes, within four episodes, there have been confessions, a lot of crying (a bit much, I’d say), and some sweet moments somewhere in there.
What’s The Show About?
The concept is actually rather baffling. As the episodes pass, members can split up and find other partners to get to know. The show begins with the four women, namely Honoka, Rio, Nozomi, and Ayano, choosing the men they want to work with first. The Korean actors are Won-Shik, Dong-Kyu, Jihyuk, and Tae-Gyun. Contestants get to audition in order to create six short K-drama episodes with an entirely Korean crew within the show. They’re truly getting the K-drama experience. Yuko Fueki, the host, is a popular Japanese actress who has also done some work in Korean entertainment. We’re not the only ones watching these actors reveal themselves like a bride on her wedding day., but there’s a panel of five that also comment on what’s happening. The all-Japanese panel gives us glimpses of how different the cultures truly are, sprinkling some excitement where we can’t really picture it. Of course, just spending time together as actors isn’t enough to make sparks fly, so it’s only necessary for the group to also house together in a very sweet home (I had to), with a romantic set-up. The first pairs are Rio and Jihyuk, Ayano and Tae-Gyun, Nozomi and Dong-Kyu, and Honoka and Won-Shik.
The Last Goodbye
The first audition is for a drama called The Last Goodbye, a tragic last meeting between an engaged couple that had to split up ultimately. It’s interesting to see how harsh the judges are right in the first episode, where they basically choose a winner just because they seem to be putting the most effort into their work. It’s Rio and Jihyuk who win the first round, specifically thanks to Rio’s good work. Their episode is sweet enough, appearing like a real K-drama, with the rain showers and the tragic last kiss. Between these two, it really just looks like they’re business partners. Whatever the chemistry was meant to be, it was briefly shared only in the drama episode.
For round 2, it’s the men who get to choose who they want to partner up with, and this is when the drama really begins. While three of the men are certain they want to go back to their previous partners and get to know them further, Tae-Gyun has his eyes set on Rio (Scandy). Jihyuk seems to be the oldest of the lot, but this decision is a tough one, so ultimately, it’s the other two who decide who should pair up with Rio. To no one’s surprise, Rio is paired with Tae-Gyun, which leaves Ayano with Jihyuk.
How Do They Communicate?
As if it isn’t difficult enough to communicate in one’s own familiar language, there’s the added burden of having to translate every thought between two people. Jihyuk is the only one of the lot who can speak both Korean and Japanese fluently. Or at least enough to get to know his partners. Somehow, this isn’t a huge barrier between the 8 actors, though; maybe it adds a mysterious air to the feeling of it all.
She’s the One
Episode 2 is one that is for the fans who live and breathe for the second lead. The second lead syndrome is something all K-drama fans go through at some point because of the number of shows that have love triangles. Honoka is the lucky girl in this case, and she gets to pick who her other man will be along with Won-Shik. Of course, the show is based on a basic trope that really didn’t push any buttons for me. On top of that, we find out that Honoka is actually interested in Tae-Gyun, and so she chooses him to be the “other guy.” Throughout the shooting of the episode, even when the two have to kiss, Won-Shik is present as Honoka’s partner, watching over the whole thing (poor guy). Between the two scenes, though, it seemed like Honoka’s chemistry with Won-Shik was much better.
Sparks And Unrequited Love
From the beginning of the series, it’s Nozomi and Dong-Kyu who really shine as a couple behind the scenes. It’s almost like watching the “cold guy-sunshine girl” trope come to life with them. Yet, for some reason, they’re always one step back when it comes to winning the lead roles. The two even pair up for all three episodes without hesitation, and it all seems quite natural, at least for a reality show. Feelings are mutual between these two, though, so they hope to give each other another chance. Specifically, it’s Dong-Kyu who has to work extra hard, according to all the judges. On the other hand, there’s Won-Shik, who is stuck on Honoko, who herself is developing a massive crush on Tae-Gyun. But the twist is that he might still be into Ayano, his first partner! Won-Shik does confess his feelings for Honoka under the starry night sky, but it doesn’t do any good for him as she admits she has feelings for another. The series of unrequited loves.
The fourth episode of Love Like a K-drama is the most rollercoaster-like of the ones that have come out thus far. The challenge is for the women to go and purchase the product that the man they like draws on a notepad. Simple enough? But more than one woman is interested in the same guy, so how will things turn out? Nozomi is like the KTX, immediately rushing to the store to buy Dong-Kyu his desired sunflower (they’re honestly so cute). Rio finds the store much later and travels there by taxi. It seems like Rio developed feelings for a quiet and mysterious Dong-Kyu somewhere in between the madness of the shared home. She goes as far as to tear up in her interview after saying she really likes him (yikes). Rio then manages to get lost, so she chooses to go with a different man, knowing she’s lost. Similarly, Ayano and Honoka are both after Tae-Gyun, but it’s Ayano who wins, so Honoka chooses Jihyuk. There’s no way she’ll pair with Won-Shik so soon after breaking his heart, no? Call me biased, but I was definitely rooting for Nozomi here.
Won-Shik seems to get friend-zoned by everybody (he’s the sweet guy, you know?). He even tells Rio that she can fight for Dong-Kyu, and he’ll root for her. In the meantime, between Tae-Gyun and Ayano, she’s the more expressive one, so it’s hard to guess what Tae-Gyun is really thinking. He says something about his mind changing, and it looks like the panel believes that means he’s falling for Ayano, but I could’ve thought it meant he was also interested in someone else. Or maybe it’s just lost in translation, as it is with Netflix all the time.
Honoka and Rio feel disheartened that they can’t be with their chosen partners, but they still give it their all when it comes to the auditions. This time, it’s in front of a crowd of people who get to vote for whose audition is the best. By this time, there’s actually been much improvement in everyone’s acting, but there must be only one winner. At first, it’s a tie between Nozomi and Ayano (suspiciously, both of them haven’t yet had an episode). Ultimately, it’s Ayano and Tae-Gyun who win it by one vote. Nozomi is absolutely devastated by the outcome, and this is when she has a word with Dong-Kyu about their feelings.
For someone who doesn’t quite like reality, this show balances out the real-world drama with the made-up dramas within the show, which is quite fun to see. Everyone in the show is charming, but I’ve already picked my favorites, as I’m sure everyone would based on how it’s presented. I can’t believe I’m actually looking forward to the next four episodes of Love Like a K-drama (only to see if my favorite pair sticks on, okay?). Now that all the actors have gotten to know each other a little bit, there’s room for changes and deeper connections.