As an Asian drama (or "soap opera" as a lot of commoners call them) veteran, I've probably watched more dramas in my lifetime than eaten bowls of rice. And yes, that's saying a lot for growing up in a super Asian family.
"Nail Shop Paris" was one of those dramas that kind of suck you in starting from the very beginning, but not to the extent where you question whether watching it has become an addiction or not.
I originally looked into this drama a chance because of Cheondoong (aka my MBLAQ bias). And although I'm not overly fond of KARA (No offense but Gyuri's eyes are kinda...weird. She has something like a second eye fold going on waaaayyy above her crease ^ ^;), I'm super glad I gave this a watch!
* SPOILER ALERT STARTING HERE *
- Lead actress is shy and timid and follows the lead actor around even when he treats her like crap.
- Lead actor hides his feelings, gets overly jealous, and immaturely expresses his 'love' for the lead actress in the form of teasing and bullying. And later on he might do things discreetly for her to show that he cares.
- The mindblowingly nice 'best friend' falls in love with the lead actress, questions his sexual orientation, then continues to love her even when she obviously shows no signs of returning his feelings.
- Lead actress and lead actor end up together, shattering the best friend's heart to pieces.
- Episodes drag on too long, leading the viewer to fastforward through whenever possible.
- Ten billion problems arise throughout the progression of the story and are all somewhat solved in the last ten minutes of the final episode (honestly, WTF?).
(And yes, if you haven't already noticed, this drama is gender bender as Gyuri cuts her hair short to join an all-male team of manicurists at a nail parlour called 'Nail Shop Paris'.)
But "Nail Shop Paris" isn't your average K-drama. It's a refreshing, funny, and lighthearted take on a typical gender bender story that keeps you on the edge of your seat for more romantic interactions.
The story starts off in an ancient-present setting, with Gyuri (Bunny) and Jun Ji Hoo (Alex) acting out a scene from Gyuri's fictional novel about the love between a Gumiho (Nine-Tailed Fox) and a human. The scene changes and shows Gyuri getting scolded by her publisher for plagiarizing the movie 'Twilight', who claims that the idea of a Gumiho was her own idea and insists that she has this "connection" with Gumiho. This connection is subtly enforced throughout the drama.
And this means that I never have the need to fastforward through recaps.
Though I don't know about the rest of the drama-watching population, but I tend to fastforward through boring and overly melodramatic scenes due to my huge dislike for them. I also have a habit of pausing at scenes where the story takes a turn for the unnecessarily complicated.
But I never had that problem with "Nail Shop Paris".
Each of the first 6-7 episodes dealt with the nail parlour's clientele's individual problems in detail. But as the final episodes started to roll around, the manicurists started to focus more on their own personal relationship issues, signifying a increasing urgency to solving them.
To be honest, there are so many facets of this drama that amazed me that it is impossible to write a response without getting completely lost in all my opinions. So let's break it down into categories.
- Gyuri scores major points in my book for actually acting like a guy: the confident stride, the way her character is easily able to talk to Thunder (Jin), her blunt yet polite way of talking, her drinking habits, and her competitive response to Song Jae Rim (Kay)'s bullying at the beginning.
She's probably the most convincing gender bender girl I've seen up to this point. The only flaw I can find is her wearing of sneaker wedges (cuz really, what kind of guy wears sneaker wedges??), but I'll blame the stylist for that.
- Jun Ji Hoo, who I will just call Alex from here on, is undeniably cute. He's just too cute to play a 28-year-old doctor/manicurist! Despite taking part in a low number of acting jobs, he distinguished his roles between the hunter/helper identity in Gyuri's novel from the kind-hearted big brother guise with amazing ease, even changing his tone of voice from practical and mature to slightly mischievous and sexy.
- Song Jae Rim, who will now be referred to as just Kay, is a rather interesting personage in the story. Although at the beginning he is depicted as someone "cold, bringing out the maternal properties of women", the viewer should be able to see that this description is nothing more than a gimmick facade for the clientele in the drama, and that his real personality is more on the lines of an extremely caring man with an innocent mind and a strong sense of justice. Needless to say, Song-sshi was good enough actor to convey all these aspects of his character perfectly.
- Thunder (Jin) is an interesting addition to the cast: maybe inserted as comedic relief as well as an inexperienced figure with more than just one lesson to learn in life, or maybe just to improve Cheondoong's acting abilities while providing an additional boost to ratings. Nonetheless, I quite liked his involvement in this series. While it's true that his acting definitely has room for improvement, he was competent in playing a character that many teenagers and young adults could easily relate to.
There were a couple of kisses in this drama, more than I expected to be honest.
I'll conduct my evaluation discarding the ones between Alex and Bunny from Gyuri's novel (as they were "staged") and the accidental brief brush-of-lips between Bunny and Kay (shown below).
Though I feel as if this one-sided one was quite unnecessary, as it was just Bunny's show of feelings for Alex at the early stages, I guess it is also arguable that its presence is indeed important for Kay to begin his suspicions toward Bunny.
2) Kay and Bunny, the bench kiss (Ep. 7)
a) TOO. MANY. CAMERA. ANGLES! The camera gets shots of the couple from like four different sides, each shot lasting only a millisecond short. It's like they were trying to film a fake kiss where the actors just stand close with their lips close together and not touching - but they weren't! It was a real kiss but the cameras moved so fast that you couldn't really enjoy watching it.
b) Gyuri's closed mouth. Ummm...normally you open your mouth slightly for a more passionate effect? But this point might actually be a really good reflection of how Bunny's feelings at that point in time: she's accepted Kay, but doesn't admit to fully loving him yet. And this could be the possible cause of a just-under-passionate smooch.
c) Gyuri's limp arms hanging by her side. Ok fine, the above point might also apply to this so I'll stop here.
3) Kay and Bunny, camping kiss
Bunny, you're supposed to be in love with this man at this point! ...so why are your lips pursed together and your eyes wide open?!
Can't say I was too fond of this kiss, but it was still better than the bench one with all its camera angles. Two things for sure though: Kay has to work on his technique of romantically (stressing the romantic part here!) pulling his partner into kissable position and Bunny has to relax and improve her on-screen kisses.
Both of their kisses had so much potential that it seems like a waste to see them get ruined by these little things. *SIGH*
4) Jin x Ji Soo, the hospital kiss
Although I'm not too familiar with Ji Soo's kissing history, I recall that Thunder was the first member of MBLAQ to do an on-screen kiss for a commercial. Could that have possibly contributed to making this kiss so seemless and cute?! xD
I have no other words besides chillingly good. The right amount of significance was placed on solving all the right problems and the ending wasn't just some crappy 5-minute ok-let's-wrap-this-up-and-be-done-with-it reply to the audience.
Basically, there is nothing you'll lose and only something to gain from watching this funny yet still meaning ten-episode drama. Give it a try won't cha? =3