[REVIEW] Because This Is My First Life

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It’s been a few weeks since the kdrama “Because This is My First Life” ended, but I’m still not really over it, and I doubt I will be in the near future. It’s just one of the shows that struck so many chords and made me feel so many emotions. I enjoyed each episode, dang, there was never a boring moment, and the story is just…beautiful.

Since this will contain (tons of) spoilers, I will just leave you with this brief plot summary from asianwiki:

Nam Se-Hee (Lee Min-Ki) is a single man in his early 30’s. He has chosen to not marry. He owns his home, but he owes a lot on his mortgage.

Yoon Ji-Ho (Jung So-Min) is a single woman in her early 30’s. She does not own a home and envies those that do. She has given up on dating due to her financial struggles.

Yoon Ji-Ho begins to live at Nam Se-Hee’s house. They become housemates.

And really, that’s all you need to know if you just want to try out this show. There’s no child switching between poor and rich families, no one got amnesia, there’s no vehicular accident, no random accidents derived from writers’ desire to raise ratings. It’s just a story of the mundane life of Yoon Ji Ho and Nam Se Hee that just got disturbed by a few totally normal feelings.

Now I just want to say that this post is only for me to get to express all my ~feelings~ towards BTIMFL so nobody dare tell me “you forgot to include blah blah’s character analysis, etc.” because I just didn’t really feel like talking about it. You may comment about your own analyses or if you agree/disagree with my points, but I hope you keep in mind that I’m not here to be a guide about the show. This post is purely out of a fangirl’s heart haha.

Characters

Yoon Ji Ho (Jung So Min) is our determined, albeit unfortunate, protagonist who had to move because of her jobless brother’s sudden marriage. I really like how Ji Ho is different from usual ladies in kdrama– she is quiet but firm in her decisions, she has her own quirks and dreams but she doesn’t have any melodramatic tragic background aside from her patriarchal family. If we think about it, Ji Ho fits as a background character of someone else’s story. Nothing much is happening in her life, and she’s just a normal person trying to make ends meet. That’s why her character is so appealing– her story is of common people.

Nam Se Hee (Lee Min Ki) is a “house poor” web designer (I think?) who has a quiet demeanor and is deemed weird by his officemates. He has everything in life prioritized, and he doesn’t really appreciate it when someone or something disturbs his life “algorithm”. He has a cat named “goyangi” (cat in Korean) and a house loan so big he has to pay it for 20+ years. Even though he isn’t really keen on meeting new people, he decided to share his extra room for additional rent money. I think one way to describe him is that he only minds his own business.

Relationships

Ji Ho and Se Hee’s relationship isn’t really the dreamy type. He’s straightforward and he draws a line when he feels that his private life is being invaded; she’s transparent and even though she lets herself be swayed by her emotions and desire at times, she is steadfast in her decisions and expresses herself in an honest manner. In the first few episodes, you can see how they enjoy their individual lives with their newfound allies– Se Hee doesn’t need to worry about blind dates and recycling, Ji Ho doesn’t have to lost sleep over finding a house, she has quit her horrible work, and is starting anew.

However, we can see that the conflict arises when Ji Ho wanted more from their landlord-tenant relationship– she wanted companion. Not necessarily in a romantic sense, but she wanted to belong somewhere. Our dear Se Hee was quick to refuse it and draw a line, which hurt Ji Ho. Gosh, that morning scene after their talk about their relationship was so awkward. It was so real and just painful.

Anyway, what I really love about this couple is their ability to communicate with each other. They are honest and direct, and they actually listen to each other. Funny because I didn’t think a show where people are actually calmly talking most of the time could be this appealing. No shouting matches (aside from our dear Won Seok and Ho Rang), no hurtful and poorly-thought speeches, no weird accusations. They just talk openly and honestly.

Won Seok and Ho Rang

I love this couple so much because out of all the three pairings, I think they’re the most realistic (aside from their ending, I guess). They’ve dated for 7 years, the girl wants to get married, the guy hasn’t even thought of marriage, boom, problem. People judge Ho Rang because she anchors her worth and happiness on her ability to have a family. Why though? Is it wrong to dream of having her own family? Why can’t that be her goal if it’s the thing that’ll make her feel complete?

In Won Seok’s case, many viewers have guessed that their relationship’s gonna go downhill the moment he proposed. He knows Ho Rang loves him, and he definitely loves her with all his heart, but he’s just not ready for marriage. He just proposed just for her sake.

I think I died a little during their confrontation scene at the cinema. Won Seok realized he can’t make Ho Rang happy without losing himself, and it was such a painful realization. The way actor Kim Min Seok’s voice cracked as he cried and told Ho Rang how he felt all those times.. gosh. What a commendable actor.

Ma Sang Goo and Woo Soo Ji

This unlikely pair gave us so many beautiful and painful scenes as well. Soo Ji is the cold and tough cookie of the group– her cold exterior and “I don’t give/take a shit” attitude towards most people makes her intimidating and hard to approach. On the other hand, our funny and ridiculous but lovable CEO Sang Goo is so carefree that his employees sometimes order him around.

This pair’s dynamics revolved on following the dating rules imposed by Soo Ji. Sang Goo, being the sweet dude that he is, wanted to establish a closer relationship with Soo Ji. It’s actually nice to see that their conflicts regarding the dating rules didn’t get dragged, but rather, was solved nicely with understanding from both parties.

I think this couple gives redemption aka happy moments when the other two are falling apart, and for that, I’m just thankful. I think we all agree that Ma Sang Goo is one hell of a catch.

Story

While I do agree that this is a little bit more similar to NigeHaji that people would like to admit, BTIMFL has its own merits. The show depicts real struggles as well as people’s reactions and thoughts very well. What makes it better is that it gives the characters real depth and ability to communicate and actually reaching each other. They don’t have over-the-top reactions, but rather, the show utilized a lot of the actors’ natural charms and appeal. I think we can agree that Lee Min Ki is the best choice for Se Hee’s character. Se Hee’s deadpan expression became his charm. Jung So Min’s innocent look played a big role on how Yoon Ji Ho became the Ji Ho we loved. Their portrayals are so on point that we think it’s their real personas.

Anyway, back to the story. There’s nothing really special with the story aside from what most would think as a ridiculous premise of contract marriage just for house rent. At least for me, that sounds…unusual. But aside from that, the struggles of Ji Ho in pursuing what she loves while not really being able to do what she wants, Ho Rang’s naive love for Won Seok and their sexcapades, Soo Ji’s cold exterior but being a submissive subordinate to her bosses because of the work culture in Korea.

One of the best and my favorite things about this show is their ability to surprise viewers. I watched the show while it was airing, so I had to wait week by week just to get two episodes. While waiting, I usually read forum posts and rants about BTIMFL, and it was just so amazing how many other people were so invested in it. Each preview of the show was beautiful and hopeful but the real ep would contain conflicts, etc. After a while, I realized that most dialogues in the previews were just hodgepodge of lines from the succeeding eps. Forums during the show run were so funny because everyone was trying to guess the succeeding events and well, we gloriously failed. It’s just amazing to think that the staff was able to trick the viewers into thinking that we actually figured it out.

I think the most memorable preview for me was the one for Episode 11 where Se Hee was supposed to go to Namhae to help with kimchi-making. At the end of the preview, they kissed at the beach, thus, commotion ensued in the forums. Everyone was saying that it was just a dream, most likely of Ji Ho, since it seemed so out of character for the two. There were a few who expressed doubt and said that the staff might be pulling some strings and manipulating the previews… Even I myself was like, “nope, you’re not gonna fool me this time. That kiss is totally unwarranted and unexpected.” And to everyone who has watched the show, we all know how episode 11 went. It’s just really awesome how the production and staff were able to manipulate us into thinking that we had it all laid out.

Another point I’d like to raise is about how each character is just so mature and decent. There’s really no antagonist, no horrible ex, no awful confrontations; it’s just about people being human. I’ve never really felt it in other kdramas I watched while it was on air, but with BTIMFL, I didn’t worry about the next episodes however bad or sad the preceding episode was. I just knew that the characters’ issues would be dealt with maturity, honesty, and openness.

Damn, great show.

Character Development

As much as I love the character, I think Ji Ho had an unrealistic character development in the last two episodes. Let me tell you that I was satisfied with how the story unfolded and ended, maybe a few issues regarding Ho Rang and Won Seok, but overall, it’s still one good drama. Definitely in my top 5 favorites.

My issue with Ji Ho’s actions was that everything felt so calculated as if she knew how everything would turn out. She left the town house because she wanted to start anew with him without any contracts binding them, and she also wanted him to express himself to her. As much as I love everything about them, it felt like Ji Ho became a Mary Sue character where she had everything planned out and it actually happened the way she wanted it to. Leaving someone like that would be devastating, yes, Se Hee had unresolved issues within himself and nobody would want to deal with an emotionless man even though he is super cute, but her leaving like that and coming back as if nothing happened and wanting to start all over again seemed so..unrealistic. I loved every dialogue, I loved every sentiment, but in real life, you don’t get to be as poetic and cheesy as that. Ji Ho was an awesome character throughout the show, but for an inexperienced woman in love whose only experience is through dramas and failed crush, she seemed so mature and a little bit manipulative on the last episode.

Music

I LOVE IT I LOVE IT SO MUCH THIS HAS THE BEST MUSIC ALONGSIDE REPLY SERIES, OMG TVN IS THE BEST WHEN IT COMES TO OST MYGOD WHERE IS THEIR BEST MUSIC SCORING IN THE UNIVERSE AWARD

But really, every song used in the show is so beautiful. I recognized Ben’s voice because who wouldn’t?? She’s just one of the best aslkdmlsf;dfld

Anyway, aside from the songs, I really love how they utilized silence and pauses so effectively. I’m so used with the music just simply playing in the background in most kdramas that I get really blown away by new sound/music techniques and  manipulations. Aside from this show, I only remember Reply 1994 as another show that used pauses for their background music and delivered so well.

Here’s the clip for BTIMFL:

The use of pause was so subtle and effective and made the scene a million times sadder. I might’ve watched this a hundred times already, but I won’t admit it.. lol

Reply 1994 episode 12

I think this is my favorite kdrama scene in all kdramas I’ve watched. The use of sound especially volume and pause to manipulate the scene is so commendable. Start at 2:50 mark.

Reply 1994 episode 21

Another noteworthy scene is this one, again from 1994. Dramatic pause + Jung Woo’s acting = sorry Chilbong.. Start at 3:20 mark.

I’m not really sure I should end this, but let’s just say that this is definitely one of the best kdramas this 2017. Rack up all those awards, my babies 😀

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