Edited by Yang Young Jun
Translated by Cho EK
Romance is a recurring subject in youthful dramas. Claiming to be ‘a Misaeng set on campus,’ this series promised to portray the brutal reality of young people. However, if the project has put more weight on ‘romance’ rather than on ‘personal growth,’ would it be able to resonate with the youths? This is about At a Distance, Spring is Green.
Based on the webtoon of the same title, At a Distance, Spring is Green revolves around three college kids. Seemingly ordinary students Kim So Bin, Yeo Jun, and Nam Soo Hyeon all have their own hidden pains. First, So bin is traumatized by bullying due to her family circumstances, and she wishes to live a normal happy life for the rest of her life. Secondly, although freshman Jun is popular for his looks, sociability, and wealth, he has suffered emotional and physical abuse by his family for a long time. Lastly, Su Hyeon has to keep several of his part-time jobs and study at the same time due to financial difficulties.
The drama’s original plans were to convey empathy and consolation by portraying three different youths overcoming their difficulties and growing up as young adults. However, watching up till the 8th out of the 12 episodes, it seems that the flow diverted from its original purpose.
The original characters indeed have dark narratives. And it can be tricky to deal with such stories on terrestrial TV, not to mention that the story centers around two male protagonists rather than following the traditional relationship between the male and the female leads. So, the drama adaptation has decided to focus on the romance between So bin and Jun. However, it isn’t easy to resonate with the series because, compared to the length and importance of the work, the narrative and the emotional threads of those characters are not convincing enough.
As time does not allow for the drama to cover all the details in the webtoon, it is perhaps best to keep the significant characters, events and omit or tweak some of the narratives and emotions. However, suppose the adaptation results do not live up to its hype. In that case, it is hard to avoid criticism from both the webtoon fans and the TV audience because they will find the work “destroying the original work” or simply “unconvincing.”
For example, the romance between Jun and Sobin is disappointing. They indeed had an opportunity to get closer starting with their first meeting at Jun’s freshman orientation. Jun gave up his on-campus job to Sobin. He gives her relationship tips and does group assignments with her. However, this seems like a friendship between college students or siblings. So, I strongly doubt that it is enough to make them consider each other as potential dates. It is difficult to understand why So Bin opens her heart so easily to Jun because he is the one who had intentionally ruined her chance of being in a relationship with her crush. Kang Min Ah and Park Ji Hoon’s attractive looks and reasonable acting skills still don’t make up for the weak plotline.
However, the bromance of the two male protagonists is fun to watch and is surprisingly convincing. Jun and Soo Hyeon, who always argue because of their differences in background, current lives, and personalities, gradually get closer after the group assignment. At first, Jun’s favor, which started with curiosity, soon turns into a heartfelt help. Soo Hyeon, who instantly turns down his favor, unintentionally and gradually realizes Jun’s sincerity in his support. It is even touching to see the two, who are the opposite of each other, slowly breaking down the walls and filling each other’s shortcomings. It is enough to soothe the disappointment that comes from a poor growth narrative and romance.
Although some characters’ relationships may be a bit disappointing, the actors’ acting skills are flawless. Park Ji Hoon, who took on the lead role for the second time, fills in the lack of the character’s narrative with delicate emotional acting. Kang Min Ah vividly expresses So Bin’s attempts to overcome the pain of her past. Bae In Hyuk also interestingly portrays Nam Soo Hyun, who is entirely different from his last role of Gye Seon Woo, in tvN My Roommate is a Gumiho.
The other casts, including Kwon Eun Bin, Woo Da Bi, Choi Jeong Woo, and Na In Woo, also add vitality to the play with their solid performances. In particular, the presence of the villains Han Jeong Ho and Oh Cheon Guk, Lee Woo Je, and Yoo In Su is remarkable. The realistic portrayal of a ‘group assignment free rider’ or ‘a nuisance senior’ is so accurate that it takes my breath away every time he appears.
At A Distance, Spring is Green is coming to an end. The heart-fluttering romance and bromance of young men and women are great enough. But, to be honest, what I expected from this work, as mentioned earlier, is how Jun, So Bin, and Soohyun overcome the pain of the past and the difficulties of the present and will grow up into the future. I hope that the remaining episodes would deal with the growing up stories of the three youths and resonate with the viewers. So that drama could avoid getting labeled as ‘a clichéd youthful romance.’
Verdict: I wanted a comforting growth drama rather than an eye-opening romance… (5/10)
Editor Yang Young Jun: There is at least one good part in every movie or TV series. A media geek who isn’t picky with genres.
Translator Cho EK: I’m a big fan of Korean dramas and movies.