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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Hogu's Love"

2015/04/18 | Permalink

The rise of cable television has also marked the increase in freedom of expression for drama creators. Especially paid channels which are not freely available to the public can handle topics which might be considered "morally harmful" for public television networks and therefore be censored more strictly. 'Hogu's Love' is a series which features a lot of major societal taboo topics and combined with tvN's signature romantic comedy style, it explores them in a refreshing and heartfelt manner.

Kang Ho-goo (Choi Wooshik) is a webtoon artist stuck in perpetual adolescence. With barely any social life, he spends his days with his friends and is known for being a bit of a pushover. Do Do-hee (UEE) is a swimming champion with a graceful image, but she hides a rough country gal personality under it. The two meet at a class reunion of their high-school and decide to meet again after a while. However, Do-hee never shows up. Six months later, Ho-goo meets a now visibly pregnant Do-hee.

Do-hee and Ho-gooHo-kyeong and Kang-cheol

One great thing about the series, which can also be considered a flaw depending on one's viewpoint, is just how many subjects it tackles from an often progressive angle and very boldly. From pregnancy to sexual identity to individual choices about sexual activity and much more. It is admirable that a show brings otherwise still uncomfortable topics like these to the forefront and even more pleasantly surprising that they are handled with quite a bit of respect for their gravity, for the most part. Handling challenging subject matter well takes skill.

On a more practical and personal level, the series has some really nice character development and exploration. Characters in romantic comedies tend to be quite superficial and simple. 'Hogu's Love' writes up some very diversely flawed individuals with very unique struggles and tries to take the time to develop them all to the point its rom-com genre allows and also branch out into wider social commentary through their personal situation. This creates very human characters and therefore engaging ones. It also allows for the difficult topics to unravel through these characters' journey.

The plot is definitely where things are not so great, however. The series has its issues with editing and pacing and it can get very confusing to piece certain sequences together and understand their very stretched logic. Because this is a more serious in tone romantic comedy, the writing also drags certain points and developments out for the sake of dramatic conflict. This also affects the characters negatively at some points in time, as they end up going in circles to an unnecessary and tiring degree.

Kang-cheol and Ho-gooGeum-dong and company

As already mentioned, exploring many issues means less time for each to be featured and being a 16-episode series in length means some things are oversimplified and rushed. The series also gives mixed messages with a number of its decisions, juggling between conservative and more progressive views. So while its attempt to speak up about a lot is refreshing, it also ends up treating some topics unfairly and in limited time. Adding unnecessary complications, misunderstandings and some drama for the sake of drama leaves even less room for these topics, which is truly very regretful.

'Hogu's Love' combines a perhaps cruelly optimistic approach to some painful and complicated situations. The relationships of its characters and honesty with which they and their problems are handled is great to see in Korean drama. It is important to not expect miracles, however, as the series and perhaps medium and society in general are still not ready to deeply tackle such topics. It is nonetheless nice to see the effort.

Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'

 

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