One of the more popular series on a Korean pay channel currently airing during the 2016 K-drama Autumn season is Fantastic. The reason why the JTBC K-drama is garnering plenty of attention is the fact it uses a similar plot concept and direction seen in the overly-hyped Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) K-drama Uncontrollably Fond. However, where Uncontrollably Fond failed, Fantastic is succeeding.
For those who do not remember the plot concept and direction of Uncontrollably Fond, in summary, it is a rekindled relationship between two people who went to school together later in life: Shin Joon Young (Kim Woo Bin) and Noh Eul (Bae Suzy). Joon Young is a popular actor and singer while Noh Eul is a reporter. Upon meeting each other again, they butt heads since there is some animosity from how their relationship ended. Joon Young then learns he has cancer and decides to change his life around in the six months he has to live which includes winning back the heart of the love of his life, No Eul.
The plot concept and direction of Fantastic is very similar to Uncontrollably Fond as it is a rekindled relationship between two people who used to work together in the start of their respective careers in K-dramas: Lee So Hye (Kim Hyun Joo) and Ryu Hae Sung (Joo Sang Wook). So Hye is a popular writer for K-dramas while Hae Sung is a very popular actor in China, though he is not good at acting. Initially, they do not want to work with each other because of the fallout not just from what happened professionally, but personally as they were a couple. However, So Hye learns she has cancer and tries to make the most of her six months to live, which eventually leads to a rekindled relationship with Hae Sung. Hae Sung learns So Hye has cancer and they have to readjust their plans for the future.
The aforementioned synopsis for Fantastic surely fits the bill of making its viewers emotional. Though the relationship between Lee So Hye and Ryu Hae Sung truly invokes emotion, the one character who truly pulls at heartstrings is Hong Joon Gi. It is even safe to say he pulls at heartstrings more than the lead characters and their relationship.
Played by Kim Tae Woon, a Korean actor known for his fantastic portrayal of Choi Jae Ho in My Beloved Eun Dong, Hong Joon Gi is a director of a hospital and the doctor in charge of Lee So Hye’s cancer case. As the K-drama progresses, we learn that Joon Gi is usually in charge of cancer patients because he can relate to them as he too is a cancer patient. When So Hye learns this, she becomes more open to Joon Gi which in turn opens the doors of a possible romance, one that Joon Gi hopes for as he likes So Hye.
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The setup above would usually lead in an aggressive love triangle between Hong Joon Gi, Lee So Hye, and Ryu Hae Sung, but JTBC went in a different direction that many believe was far better because it was far more emotional, one that pulls at heartstrings: Joon Gi recognizes himself as “Second” when So Hye realizes she likes Hae Sung. Not only that, he cheers their relationship on though making it clear “Second” will be there for So Hye if Hae Sung messes it up.
Believe it or not, the potential relationship between Hong Joon Gi and Lee So Hye is not the most interesting on Joon Gi has. His “older brother” relationship he develops with his “rival in love” Ryu Hae Sung is actually getting plenty of attention among viewers. After Hae Sung seeks Joon Gi for advice on how to take care of So Hye, they become close to the point Hae Sung calls Joon Gi “Hyung” (honorific term meaning “older brother” used by men for men who they might have a close relationship with).
So when the plot progresses to the point Hong Joon Gi has many close calls with his cancer, many in which Ryu Hae Sung is witness to, it really pulls at heartstrings. As a matter of fact, JTBC realized the relationship between Hae Sung and Joon Gi would probably be more popular with viewers, ergo having Hae Sung be the one to lead Joon Gi’s funeral party really got the flood works going for many viewers.
Nevertheless, the last five episodes, in which the 10th, 12th, and 13th episodes ended with Hong Joon Gi in a death scene, have seen collectively high viewership ratings for a pay channel show. AGB Nielsen Korea recorded 2.7 percent viewership for the 12th episode, the one cementing the brotherly relationship between Joon Gi and Ryu Hae Sung at the end of the episode.
Fantastic airs on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. KST on JTBC. For those who do not have access to Korean premium channels, it is available to watch for free, with ads, on both DramaFever and Viki.
[Featured Image by JTBC]