Although I pay for the Plus subscription on Viki, I don’t often watch shows in this category. Extra-Ordinary You is worth paying extra for. It has some flaws, which I’ll address, but overall was a great watch with a good script and good acting. Based on a web comic by Moo Ryoo, it is well suited to half-hour episodes, and although as usual the latter half of the show dragged a bit, I was excited to keep watching.
Extra-Ordinary You is first of all a take off of high school romcoms like Boys over Flowers. In fact, there are many references and nods to that show throughout this one, and although the shows are ten years apart, 2019 and 2009, the standard plot formula still works, although here we get a completely different take on it. Eun Dan Oh (Kim Hye Yoon Come and Hug Me) is a popular girl at high school, vivacious, with plenty of friends, and also some potential boyfriends. But something is amiss in her world as she suddenly begins to have amnesia and appears to be skipping parts of her life. Soon, she starts to realize that she is not behaving as she used to and is also starting to see strange things. She realizes the kitchen help, an older hottie that everyone calls “Dried Squid,” can see these things too, and goes to him for answers. Jinmiche, played by Lee Tae Ri (Tale of the Nine-Tailed and also whose real name is Lee Min Ho, sharing a name with the star of BoF and other dramas), and an interesting encounter with a book in the library, reveals to her that she is a character in a comic book. That is why she skips parts her life.
Eun Dan Oh finds this unbelievable at first, but she then embraces it, thinking how awesome it is to be the lead in a high school romcom comic book. But soon, she is quickly confronted with the reality that she is actually not the main character, but a supporting one with a rather pitiful back story in which she has a ticking clock heart condition and dating a boy who just doesn’t love her. To the horror of Dried Squid, who we find has been through this waking up of characters before, Dan Oh decides to change her plot line and defy the writer, causing all sorts of trouble.
The conduit for change in Eun Dan Oh’s story is a nameless almost characterless character that she eventually names Ha Roo (Ro Woon Where Stars Land). For much of the beginning of the show Ha Roo stays in the background, then becomes more and more prominent as his character gets filled in by the attention Eun Dan Oh shows him. After awhile it seems that Ha Roo may be the only one who can change any of the story, but why is unclear. The show is a bit trippy and reminded me of the Scream movie series in which the characters also talk like they are aware they are characters in a production. Eun Dan Oh alternates between explanation and frustration at herself and her friends acting just the way the writer wants. We never get to meet the writer, who is a stand in for the Creator God. Eun Dan Oh’s plight is instantly relatable. Who of us doesn’t think God has put us on paths from which we cannot divert? Who of us doesn’t have something plaguing us in our life, either a physical, mental, or historical affliction that we just can’t shake? Who of us doesn’t also want to change our story in some way, more than that, who of us doesn’t rely heavily on the idea of a hero to do that for us, to save us?
Although Extra-Ordinary You is often tedious and repetitive, it is also a refreshing take on the Kdrama high school romance genre. The acting is great, especially because a few of the characters are supposed to be bland, suiting the actors in the show who are maybe new to acting, or just not that good at it yet. Like in BoF, the teachers of the school are much in the background, as are the parents, and Dried Squid is really the only one who comes across as the adult in charge, though he never really takes charge, as he can’t. Although the show is a romance, the episodes focused mostly on that were s-l-o-w, and I was really glad they were only about thirty minutes by that point. I also really got tired of hearing the names Eun Dan Oh and Ha Roo, or, rather Ha Roo Ya. I think Ha Roo Ya was said more times than Goo Yun Pyo in BoF.
Other things it has going for it: The spoofing of the leads in the comic book versus the leads in the show, the soundtrack, all of the really tall guys–seriously they all appear well over six feet, but then Eun Dan Oh is very short. The scene stealers: Definitely Lee Tae Ri, or Dried Squid, who has a hard-to-miss screen presence, and Lee Do Hwa (Oh My Baby) who is definitely leading man material with his emotive eyes and expressions. Lee Na Eun as the stereotypical heroine in the comic also shows promise, but perhaps as a villain. Not everyone can play a villain well, but her acting got a thousand times more interesting when her character stopped being so nice. Someday it would be fun to read the web comic this has been based on.