After a car accident, high schooler Kang Kyung Joon (Shin Won Ho) ends up in the body of 30 something Seo Yoon Jae (Gong Yoo).
The only person who knows about the switch is Kyung Joon’s teacher and Yoon Jae’s fiancée, Gil Da Ran (Lee Min Jung).
Venny – Hey U
The first thing people seem to notice is that this drama doesn’t seem like your usual Hong Sisters’ drama. Big has its subdued characters that border on the wacky but doesn’t quite push the envelope over the edge. However, others have commented in the past at how characters like Dokko Jin and Na Sang Shil can go so far over the edge where some had trouble continuing their dramas. I like how the Hong Sisters continually experiment with their so-called style, even if it means that they give up some of their traditional drama elements.
The drama had an intriguing start as we were exposed to both Kang Kyung Joon’s and Seo Yoon Jae’s faults from the very beginning. I had a hard time figuring out who I should be rooting for but I guess that was the point. As I watch dramas and movies, I often plot out the next 3 steps out in my head with variations on those steps. It’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. If you choose option A, turn to page 63. If you choose option B, turn to page 14. It’s a symptom of my college training.
My indecision to decide who I wanted to root for resulted in me letting go of my expectations. Especially for a K-Drama, it’s a different way to approach it as we’re used to figuring out the OTPs in the first episode. So for me, I put the reigns in the Hong Sisters’ hands and sat back to enjoy the view.
That being said, Korea sure does loves its dramas about teacher/student relationships. Even Gong Yoo has previous experience with this as he was in Biscuit Teacher, Star Candy with Gong Hyo Jin. I have a big problem with this and it partly extends from the fact that I’m American and have a lot of friends that are teachers. I believe that the relationship between a teacher and a student is sacred and a line that shouldn’t be crossed. Sure, you can argue that love knows no age difference but I think it’s an adult’s responsibility to stop any advances.
However, that might not be the case in Korea so I did look up Korean laws on this. The law states that a minor of 13 years of age and older can have a relationship with an adult as long as its consensual. (Does anyone else find this extremely disturbing?) An adult is considered to be 20 years old and in American years, that’s the equivalent of being 18 years of age. Most schools frown upon this type of relationship and it is up to the school and the community to decide if this is a fireable offense.
Case in point, 2 years ago a married middle school teacher had a relationship with her 15-year-old student. When the kid’s parents reported it to the police, the police couldn’t do anything because both parties admitted that they loved each other. Mind you, the teacher was married at the time and had a child that was only 2 years younger than the student. Can you imagine this kid calling the student his step-dad? I’m sorry but that’s just gross. The school dismissed her for violating morality regulations.
Kang Kyung Joon is definitely a minor at the start of this drama. However, this is a fantasy so I tried to take that into consideration when reviewing this drama. It’s a little difficult to weigh morality on an issue that cannot happen in real life. I mean, where would that leave me and The Vampire Diaries? A 165 year-old vampire with a 17 year-old high schooler. Oy. Lol. Thankfully, Da Ran struggles with this issue and keeps Yoon Jae at arms length for most of the drama. Here is where I think a time jump works as Adult Kyung Joon gains another year to come into his own in the adult body.
Gong Yoo and Lee Min Jung really sell the ups and downs and the internal struggle that they each go through. Adult Kyung Joon wavers over that line of being a teenager at heart and struggling with making adult decisions because of how others perceive him in Yoon Jae’s body. And though Da Ran may be the adult, at heart she’s innocent and trusting. There’s the kid in both of them and sometimes it’s used in the heavier moments of the drama and other times they change it up for the lighthearted moments of the drama.
I also thought that Suzy and Baek Sung Hyun was a great addition to the cast as Jang Ma Ri and Kil Choong Shik, respectively. They added a great deal of humor while pushing our character’s stories forward. At times, I felt that Suzy and Baek Sung Hyun added more depth to their characters than what was originally offered to them and found that they struggled and learned how to mature throughout the drama at a more realistic pace than our main characters.
Shin Won Ho has the best gig in the world. He spent most of the drama in a bed, sleeping. Where do I submit my audition tape for coma patient?
As for his part-time gig in acting, it was decent enough but we weren’t given enough screen time with this newbie. I’m not sure how he’d deal with a meatier role as Gong Yoo did most of the heavy lifting for Kang Kyung Joon.
Se Young (Jang Hee Jin) also aids the plot with her meddling but in the end she seemed to be there more for decoration than anything else. After all the meddling was done, I felt that they didn’t really know what to do with her character and so she just stuck around to be an extra. It’s kind of unfortunate. I want to see Jang Hee Jin as more than a pretty face but she always plays these one-dimensional villains. While the Hong Sisters aren’t really known for creating 3-dimensional secondary characters, I thought this might be an opportunity for her to show something else with her acting. Alas, I think I might just file Jang Hee Jin as one of those unimpressive actresses who can’t break free from conventional roles.
She’s not the only character that outlived their purpose in the drama. Teacher Kim Young Ok (Choi Ran) and Kyung Joon’s uncle, Kang Hyuk Soo (Jang Hyun Sung), often console each other about their past loves. Young Ok was in love with Da Ran’s dad (Ahn Suk Hwan) when Da Ran’s mom (Lee Jung Hye) who was a student at the time stole his heart to the dismay of Hyuk Soo who loved her from afar. Hyuk Soo spends most of the drama trying to get Da Ran’s mom to recognize him.
Was that love rhombus supposed to parallel Da Ran and Kyung Joon’s relationship or was it supposed to parallel the gym teacher’s crush on Da Ran and then Ae Kyung’s feelings for the gym teacher? It’s just too much time spent on something that has little reward on the bigger picture.
That’s the biggest problem with the drama. Part of this drama should explore the topic of maturity as Da Ran and Kyung Joon both need to deal with it from opposite perspectives in the drama. While Teenage Kyung Joon displays a cool exterior, he allows to himself to show his vulnerable side to Da Ran learning that being mature is not about suppressing your emotions.
Da Ran also learns that being mature means not being afraid to find out the cold, hard truth, even if it hurts and to stand up for yourself. However, the drama doesn’t really explore this matter as deep as it could go.
The other part of this drama should be about the miracle aspect. First, you shroud the connection between Seo Yoon Jae and Kang Kyung Joon in this mystery. Then make a big stink about the importance of saving each other’s lives. Finally, you answer that dilemma with this fairy tale book and the author/illustrator of it. All these little things that could have made the drama great is reduced to big tricks (e.g. the wacky, the cute and the laughter) and very few answers (e.g. it’s magic). I love the cute but I just can’t live off the cute and the cute alone.
And that just about summarizes how I felt about the drama as a whole. There are all so many adorable and lovable elements, a lot of characters with their own subplots but no cohesion or depth.
Despite all of that, I was surprisingly okay with the ending. I had already felt a bit detached from the drama but it doesn’t insert another character in the place of the one that we had visually and emotionally gotten to know already. Like say, Rooftop Prince which angered me intensely. Seriously, I have a ton of Gis Myun sitting at home that I can’t consume because it makes me think of Yoo Chun and that drama.
Since we spend all this time with Kyung Joon in Yoon Jae’s body, it would have been jarring to have Teenage Kyung Joon make a comeback. Not to mention that the sight of the prepubescent actor would have made me uncomfortable with the whole age thing again. Think of it this way, we started off the drama on a visual note when we were able to see Yoon Jae through Da Ran’s eyes. However, she never really knew Yoon Jae and instead of being in love with him, she fell in love with the idea of him. It reminds me of Pygmalion and how he fell in love with the statue he sculpted. Is that how you’d describe real love? Even I fell for that Yoon Jae at first. Can you blame me? Gong Yoo wears that checkered suit so well. Drool.
But with Kyung Joon, we fell in love with his character even though the first image we got of him was his prickly self.
The ending was not about physically connecting us with Kyung Joon in his young body. We had spent the last 16 episodes trying to look past that. So in that respect I like that we saw him through Da Ran’s point of view again. She was looking at the person she fell in love with, Kyung Joon in Yoon Jae’s body.
If your point is to show that these two souls who love each other found their way back to each other, then they accomplished it because we had spent all this time with Adult Kyung Joon. If you want to know the how, that’s not how this drama had been pacing itself the whole time so better luck next time. Honestly, I think the reason why I’m calm is probably because I was so emotionally involved with The Chaser on Monday and Tuesdays. When I sat down to watch Big, I could just enjoy it for the fluff that it was.