K-Drama Review : Melting Me Softly

This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.
K-Drama Review : Melting Me SoftlyMelting Me Softly by Baek Mi-Kyeong
on September 28 - November 17, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Love & Romance, Science Fiction, Social Issues
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Ma Dong Chan (Ji Chang-Wook]) is a PD, who works on a popular variety show. He and other participants take part in the variety show's 24 hour freezing people project. Ma Dong Chan is supposed to wake up 24 hours after being frozen, but, when he wakes up, he finds out that 20 years has passed. His appearance is the same as when he was frozen, but his parents, younger brother, girlfriend and co-workers have all aged significantly. To survive, Ma Dong Chan has to keep his average core body temperature at 33°C. (from AsianWiki)

So as you’ve probably guessed from the lack of K-Drama reviews lately, that I’ve been in a serious K-drama watching and reviewing slump. When I heard Ji Chang Wook–one of my all time favorite Korean actors from some of my favorite dramas like Empress Ki, the K2, and Healer— was back from his mandatory military service and starring in a new drama, I figured it would be the perfect watch to get me out of my viewing hole. I was even more excited because his new drama, Melting Me Softly dealt with a male and female lead who underwent a 24 hour cryogenics experiment only to wake up 20 years later–what an interesting concept!


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Not only did the male lead–Ji Chang Wook’s character, Ma Dong Chan–and female lead–Won Jin Ah’s character, Go Mi Ram–have to deal with waking up in a very different decade, but seeing that all of their loved ones aged 20 years! Plus, the two find that they can’t let their body temperatures–now an average of 31.5 degrees celsius–get past a certain point, or they’ll die. Talk about one heck of a creative story line. Sadly, I struggled to get to even episode 12 out of the 16 episode drama and found I was mostly on my phone for the later episodes. 


Despite the show being extremely well-acted, and having a great center idea, I found that it wasn’t well executed and made odd choices about what to focus on in the course of its very short 16 episode stint. And instead of being a science fiction-esque romantic comedy about two people waking up in a different decade, leaning on each other and falling in love, it’s more of an office comedy, of all things, with a lot of focus on a murder mystery on the side. It was not at all what I expected, but I could have liked, or even loved the show if it had made some different narrative choices.


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Ma Dong Chan and his girlfriend Na Ha Yeoung in the 90s.


For starters, Melting Me Softly didn’t take enough time to develop the characters in their home decade. Viewers are given only part of the first episode in 1999, with a few flashbacks in the second episode, to get to know Ma Dong Chan, his longtime girlfriend Na Ha Yeoung, Go Mi Ram, and their families. It’s simply not enough time to get to know the characters, their personalities, and their relationships. In fact, I never even knew Go Mi Ram was in college until the time skip–that’s how little time was spent on developing the characters’ lives in 1999. If Melting Me Softly had spent more time on the characters in the past, the loss of 20 years with their loved ones would have hit so much harder and opened up the door to way more interesting drama involving the lead characters. Instead, Melting Me Softly spent way too much time on a murder mystery of random characters that has to do with the freezing project.


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Likewise, if the show had spent more time establishing interaction between the Ma Dong Chan and Go Mi Ram from the very beginning, maybe their almost instantaneous love story would have made more sense. For the life of me, I really didn’t understand why these two suddenly fell in love. They had no relationship or friendship outside of work, with Go Mi Ram desperately needing money for her family and simply taking on any odd job Ma Dong Chan offered her from the entertainment studio for which he was a producer/director. He literally had to beg her and to persuade her with money to take part in the experiment, as they had no real relationship prior to the freezing, and even that did not work. It’s only his unknowing nail on the head suggestion that participating in experiment could lead to finding medical cures–something that might help her brother with autism–that finally gets her to to agree to the freezing experiment.


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Instead of two people being the sole survivors of a truly unique traumatic incident and navigating together the murky waters of this new world that left them behind–Go Mi Ram suddenly, out of absolutely nowhere, decides she wants to be a producer and blackmails the entertainment company–which incidentally covered up the whole freezing experiment as part of a larger conspiracy and so they wouldn’t face legal troubles–to give her a job. And for some reason, the studio rehires Ma Dong Chan, and hires Go Mi Ram, with absolutely no legal issues whatsoever–shouldn’t they at least need new driver’s licenses or something? And of course it doesn’t really matter that Go Mi Ram has absolutely no qualifications or experience for said internship, something Melting Me Softly reasons is only for the studio hiring Go Mi Ram to prevent having to pay her damages. 


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What’s worse is that with Go Mi Ram’s hiring, the show instantly becomes an office drama, where Go Mi Ram is a lowly intern working for Ma Dong Chan, on whom she develops a crush, all while navigating the taboo workplace relationship and the fact that Ma Dong Chan’s now 20-years-older jealous ex is Na Ha Yeong the main newsroom anchor and news director. Not at all what I expected. Even more mind boggling than the circumstances of how I was suddenly watching an office romantic comedy, is when the two decide to go on a completely unnecessary location scouting field trips in dangerously hot weather together and almost “melt” due to their temperatures climbing.  It was clearly written this way to force the two to be alone together in a desperate situation instead of, you know, actual good writing that lays a foundation for a developing relationship–there is no “melting me softly” in this drama, once the characters decide their frozen hearts have melted for each other for some reason–that’s it.


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Similarly, unlike other, better K-Dramas, which draw out a main love triangle or square–sometimes for episodes upon end until you feel like you’re going to scream–Melting Me Softly strangely puts a nail in the coffin of its most interesting relationship right away, that of Ma Dong Chan’s and Na Ha Yeong’s love. Yes, I understand that Na Ha Yeong did not search for her boyfriend after the freezing experiment went over the 24 hour period.  She knew that the head doctor overseeing the project went missing and that the studio could go under for their involvement in allowing the experiment. Deep in her grief, she was convinced there was nothing she could do for Ma Dong Chan by the greedy studio executives who were desperate to cover up their involvement in the freezing experiment. I knew she ultimately agreed to help the entertainment studio cover up the entire incident in exchange for the main newsroom anchor position–the wrong decision–but I still felt bad for her because she immediately wanted to go and look for Ma Dong Chan when she was told the news.


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Much of the show feels like an office dramedy.


I feel the studio executives took advantage of a young woman in a severe amount of emotional distress who had no one else to turn for help, and could lose her livelihood on top of her boyfriend, by resisting their manipulations and pressure of higher ups. No one ever treats her sympathetically in the show, especially not Ma Dong Chan. He had simply been asleep and woken up the next day–how does all of his love for  Na Ha Yeong disappear so easily and quickly? Plus, though he claims to now hate her once he finds out about her betrayal, it’s clear he still cares about Na Ha Yeong on some level, but never goes as far as looking at it from her perspective. I couldn’t help but think that if some crazy murderers were wondering around trying to keep my boyfriend frozen, he would want me to stay safe myself, to investigate from a position of power in the newsroom, and then to go to the police. Although she never really says she investigated in the years he was frozen, she mentions keeping a lookout for any information on Ma Dong Chan.  And she still wants to be with him, despite the age gap, and is even still single. Sure, the dynamics would be a little weird, but shouldn’t a drama primarily about waking up in a different decade demonstrate all of the difficulties that arise from it?


 Melting Me Softly did not do itself any favors by revealing to Ma Dong Chan that Na Ha Yeong helped to cover up the freezing incident so soon, either. It could have built up a lot of much needed tension on the show, with Ha Na Yeong trying to hide evidence of her part in the cover up. And think what a gut wrenching experience for Ma Dong Chan that would have been after showing the two trying to seriously work it out! Melting Me Softly could have even shown the two struggling with Na Ha Yeong keeping secrets, or treating Ma Dong Chan more like a teenager or a child due to her older age. Then the two could have come to the heartbreaking realization that it could never work out due to their age differences, all while Ma Dong Chan spends more time connecting with Go Mi Ram, and with Na Ha Yeong’s betrayal being the final straw. Instead, what actually happens in the show is like a switch is flipped in Ma Dong Chan’s head–one second he wants to be a couple with Na Ha Yeong and make it work despite all the odds–and the next he proclaims he hates her guts and wants nothing to do with her outside of professional work relationship. Ouccch.


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I would have been way more interested in these two making a go of it then the show exploring so much of the family dynamics of both Ma Dong Chan and Go Mi Ram. I did not care about Ma Dong Chan’s younger sister (now middle-aged) having severe drinking problems and recurring issues with her ex-husbands and other men. In fact, every time the family members came back on screen, I was back on my phone. Other K-dramas do a much better job of making you care about the family members. Regrettably, I felt that Melting Me Softly completely wasted all of this time spent on the families and should have used it instead show off the acting talents of Ji Chang Wook and Yoon Se Ah (who plays Na Ha Yeong after the time skip) and to develop these characters and their story further. Yes, they meet for lunch at work once or twice, but it always ends in Na Ha Yeong’s tears and Ma Dong Chan’s anger.


Frankly, Ma Dong Chan’s treatment of Na Ha Yeong and lack of understanding for her position did not do much to endear me to his character. Maybe he never truly loved her as much as he thought he did–or worse, perhaps he felt threatened by an older, confident woman, and her successful career. After all, he seemed to have a big hand in helping fresh-faced Na Ha Yeong’s career in the very beginning–influencing how she did even basic parts of her job and creating new opportunities for her within the career field. What’s more she was obviously new to the industry and pretty starstruck by Ma Dong Chan, who is well-respected and famous. But after the timeskip, Ma Dong Chan is no longer as successful as Na Ha Yeong, the news director and main anchorwoman with over twenty years of experience. And suddenly, he’s no longer interested in her, but in Go Mi Ram.


As previously mentioned, before the freezing experiment, Ma Dong Chan and Go Mi Ram had very little interaction. But suddenly the very inexperienced and innocent Go Mi Ram wants to join the entertainment career and could use a mentor. Of course, Ma Dong Chan, who already has this pattern of taking young women new to the field under his wing, is only too happy to oblige. I was suddenly very worried for innocent Go Mi Ram. When Ma Dong Chan called himself a “selfish and immature man” to Na Ha Yeong, I believed him because obviously his ego couldn’t handle dating a more successful woman.


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I honestly don’t think the show meant to make Ma Dong Chan anything but the nice guy and Na Ha Yeong anything but the ex-lover who did him wrong. But in this era of “Me Too,” Melting Me Softly should have thought harder about how it portrayed this young woman in a very unique and difficult situation, surrounded by all male colleagues with more power than her. I do not know how far-reaching the “Me Too” movement is, however, and if it even reached South Korea, so I don’t want to be unfair to Melting Me Softly.


Instead, I just want to point out that I was uncomfortable with the writing and its handling of Na Ha Yeong’s position after Ma Dong Chan’s disappearance. Similarly, Ma Dong Chan’s pattern of behavior was also disturbing to me, as it seemed almost predatory–romancing vulnerable women new to the career field who would obviously be in awe of him and his successful career. I wondered if Go Mi Ram became more successful that Ma Dong Chan, would he dump her too? It’s definitely a significant problem in the writing when I’m worrying about if the main characters should actually be together romantically–mainly for safety reasons–than when the main characters will fall in love and get together and actually anticipating this romance happening.


I would have felt better if the show had further explored the romance between Na Ha Yeong and Ma Dong Chan, so it seemed more like he genuinely cared for each of his love interests, and that their involvement in the same career field was just a coincidence, and not a dangerous problem. I couldn’t help but wonder if the show did not explore Na Ha Yeong and Ma Dong Chan’s relationship more because of cultural reasons. I have not seen many older women-younger male relationships in Korean dramas–ever. In fact, I can’t think of a single one featuring an older woman and younger male romance I’ve seen off the top of my head and I’ve been watching asian dramas for over ten years. I know older women-younger men relationships are also not very popular in the United States either, but we still get movies like Prime, with Uma Thurman, that explore the topic. Regardless, I can’t imagine a 20 year age gap being a very common thing in a more conservative Korean society, but it’s truly a shame that Melting Me Softly didn’t take more of a chance with the age gap, like shows like Big did.  


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I think if this story line had been explored this romance further, it also would have provided a stronger case for the romance of Ma Dong Chang and Go Mi Ram developing as well. While having issues with Ha Na Yeong and figuring out things like smart phones, perhaps Ma Dong Chang could have confided in Go Mi Ram and developed a friendship before falling for each other. Instead, what Melting Me Softly offers is a very sudden realization that each character finds the other attractive. Their whole first kiss took me completely by surprise, and the same could be said for Ma Dong Chan. It goes to show how unexpected this kiss was, because Go Mi Ram tries to brush it off by saying she did it only because she thought she was going to die and had never been kissed. That is not my idea of romance. 


Later kisses in the show are done better. One scene is pure brilliance–in order to keep their temperatures and heart rates at a safe level for their conditions–Ma Dong Chan turns on the shower and kisses Go Mi Ram, with both fully clothed. If this is not on a video list somewhere for steamiest K-Drama kiss somewhere, Melting Me Softly was robbed. But even though this kiss was beautiful, well-acted, and original–I just wasn’t all that connected to the characters or their romance, so I didn’t find it as thrilling or amazing as other K-Drama kisses for that reason.


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Go Mi Ram’s ex , who has aged normally, is a complete stalker, who doesn’t mind waiting outside the women’s bathroom for her to appear.


And if you think Melting Me Softly might at least do a better job handling Go Mi Ram’s other love interests, you’d be wrong. So on the plus side, viewers can’t get struck with a serious case of second male lead syndrome, but on the negative side, all of her other love interests were basically just shallow plot devices. Go Mi Ram’s cheating ex from 1999, who is now very much unhappily married and wants to get back with Go Mi Ram, is even a stalker. He moves into her parent’s rooftop apartment to be closer to her, sneaks into her room to see and smell her stuff–but it’s still treated as a just a gross joke, with his wife (who is weirdly Go Mi Ram’s friend from 1999), coming to beat him up in order to get him to leave Go Mi Ram’s home. Even more strangely, their son also likes Go Mi Ram–I mean, I guess it’s in his genes, but what a stretch. Even though their son is Go Mi Ram’s age from before she was frozen and is handsome, and kind–he’s just used to make Ma Dong Chan jealous every once in a while and his parents worried–there’s nothing much to it, but distracting filler and inappropriate jokes, which is a shame when I’m used to the torment of amazing second male leads: Siwon in She Was Pretty, anyone?


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I also did not understand why so much of Melting Me Softly dealt with mysteries surrounding the freezing project either. I didn’t care about some corrupt politician masquerading as his frozen twin brother, and wanting him to stay frozen so he could continue to steal his identity. I also did not care at all about the doctor who ran the experiment either. I wanted more of the main characters and their growth. For me Melting Me Softly’s obsession with this plot line was a huge miss. What was a hit were the parts of the show that demonstrated Go Mi Ram wearing 90s fashion, using cassette tapes and an old flip phone, and an actual calculator or Ma Dong Chan figuring out how to use a smart phone. It was hilarious seeing these “relics” of the old age in present times and seeing other characters react to their use. Though Go Mi Ram’s “present day” fashion was a huge miss for me, I really enjoyed when both characters were trying to find their way in the era of a smartphone and push-to-start-cars. It was very quirky and fun and the show did not spend nearly enough time on this humorous juxtaposition, which is honestly, what it did best.


Despite this humor and interesting concept, Melting Me Softly just wasn’t my favorite K-Drama.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t even finish the watching the show, only make it through 3/4 of the 12th episode. The later episodes focused mainly murder mystery aspect of the freezing project and not even the promise of a good resolution could keep me watching. Plus, I hated to see Ha Na Yeong being pressured by yet another powerful man, who this time, had to do with the freezing project mystery. Normally, I love these kind of mystery plot lines, but the difference is that I love them in K-Dramas like Pinocchio, where this mystery is established from the very onset and is what the entire show is supposed to be mainly about–not something that’s thrown in to fill up episodes. I’m disappointed because though Melting Me Softly had such an ingenious idea and so much potential, it just didn’t seem to know what to do with itself or its characters.


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Was it a murder mystery full of chase sequences, an office dramedy, or a science fiction love story for the ages?  Melting Me Softly couldn’t seem to decide. It could’ve been a very touching K-Drama, and kept the quirkiness of the time differences to offset the melodrama of the romance square with some lightheartedness. And it should have focused on its main characters–where two people found each other in extraordinary circumstances and fell in love–but instead it feels like Ma Dong Chan and Go Mi Ran fall in love simply because they’re both attractive and because they can–not the type of romance I look for in a K-Drama.


In fact, I feel that the true love story would have not focused on Ma Dong Chan and Go Mi Ran falling in love with each other–at all–but instead, Ma Dong Chan and his previous love Ha Na Yeong rekindling their love despite their age differences and experiences. Surely a true love story is the one that triumphs over years and involves people finding each other again after time apart and forgiving each other. But sadly, Melting Me Softly does not deliver on any of its romances. Nor does it succeed at exploring obvious plot lines, making its main characters sympathetic, keeping viewers engaged, providing a coherent tightly-knit story with a well-developed foundation, or melting any hearts.


If you are looking for a show that focuses mainly on the characters and their love developing, and with science fiction elements, I strongly recommend that you check out I Am Not a Robot, which is one of my favorite K-dramas of all time. 

K-Drama Review : Melting Me Softly - Blogging with Dragons

Posted June 26, 2020 in K-Dramas, Watch

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