This review got put on the back-burner while I focused on an assignment that was due. Sorry about that!
I had previously heard many, many things about this classic 2007 drama. I’ve watched a couple of gender-bent dramas and anime before, and I actually like this common trope… when it’s done correctly. Luckily for me, Coffee Prince (aka The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince) is perfect in just about every way!
What’s it about?
Eun Chan (Yoon Eun Hye) works several jobs to provide the main income for her family. After a mishap on one of her deliveries, she meets Han Kyul (Gong Yoo), the good-for-nothing son of a rich family, who, like many others before him, mistakes her for a boy. Seeing that Eun Chan is desperate for money, and wanting a way out of dates arranged by his grandmother and mother, Han Kyul hires the girl to act as his gay lover. However Han Kyul’s family quickly tries a different angle, putting him in charge of a run-down cafe with the order to triple the investment money in three months. Han Kyul hires Eun Chan as the first “prince” working in the cafe, but what will happen as the two spend more and more time together?
Let’s get started with our main couple and the love story. I absolutely adored Eun Chan as our main girl. She’s strong, determined, funny, and fiercely independent. I also liked how she’s a little unpredictable, as she’s ready to just do what feels right in the moment. Han Kyul is adorable as well, and I particularly liked his childish, almost innocent character. AND THEY ARE SO CUTE TOGETHER! I also liked how the whole “Han Kyul discovering Eun Chan is a girl” part was handled. I think it’s a lot fairer to Han Kyul’s character and a lot more realistic that what I’ve seen in other similar plot lines. I also like that this isn’t the climax of the two’s relationship, and that overcoming this obstacle doesn’t mean that there’s going to be smooth sailing on the other side… again, much more realistic. Yoon Eun Hye and Gong Yoo, the two actors, were perfectly cast. They really handled the various stages of the emotional roller coaster of a relationship perfectly. I also liked that we got to compare Eun Chan and Han Kyul to the older, more experienced couple of Han Sung (Lee Sun Kyun) and Yoo Ju (Chae Jung An), who get tangled up in everything as well. A fantastic touch.
However, with the setting in the cafe, our drama isn’t all about love. We have a few other “princes” that interact with our two leads. There’s not too much to say about Manager Hong (Kim Chang Wan) except that I liked his fatherly-mentoring relationship with Eun Chan, and the way he always knew what was going on with everyone else’s emotions. Min Yeop (Lee Eon) just reminds me of a adorable, bouncing, but super-sensitive puppy. I loved everything about his character. Ha Rim (Kim Dong Wook) is funny and quirky in his own way. I know there’s one section of the drama where he does get on the audiences’ nerve, but I don’t blame him for his actions that led him there. Sun Ki (Kim Jae Wook) provides the much-needed brains of the group, as well as fitting the bill as the mysterious, “cool” character. However, I really liked that he’s still as much of a dork as the rest of the princes, and has no problem loosening up around them. What really makes these characters great is how naturally they fit in and work with each other. Throughout the series, the cafe has a really fun and interesting dynamic, and I just couldn’t get enough of it.
Finally, I really loved that the series presented two functional, loving families. Anyone who’s seen a K-Drama know that this isn’t always the case, especially in any drama with a class divide between the main couple. However, Coffee Prince pulls this off these loving families convincingly. Scenes such as Eun Chan snuggling up with her Mum when she’s worried and Han Kyul teasing his mother and grandmother really sold me on this drama. No toxic environments and no hate allows the drama to be character driven and focused, which makes it so easy to watch!
To be honest, I didn’t have too much to criticise the drama for. Given how great their chemistry was, I would have loved more scenes featuring the cafe princes. They just all bounced off each other really well and were very entertaining to watch. I also would have liked more of Min Yeop’s, Ha Rim’s, and Sun Ki’s backstory. Ha Rim in particular seemed he had a lot going on in his life, and I feel that Sun Ki’s story had more potential. However, I’m still satisfied with what the drama gave, I’m just greedy 😛
Anything else I should consider?
This drama has (rather oddly) 17 episodes in total. However there is an 18th episode, which is a bonus episode containing behind the scenes cuts, interviews with actors and production staff, and the writer’s perspective on the story. It’s quite interesting to check out if you loved the series.
Story: 8/10. The story is largely character-driven, which works well in this plot. Plenty of funny, cute, and emotional moments. You’ll care about the characters the whole way through, so find a comfortable position, ’cause you’ll be glued to your screen for a few hours!
Characters: 9/10. Our main leads are amazing, but they’re not the only characters in this series that are wholesome and interesting and -gasp- act like real people.
It only took a few minutes into the first episode to fall head-over-heels in love with this drama. The emotion throughout the series in genuine, the characters are amazing, and everything was handled perfectly. Whether you’re a drama newbie or veteran, if you’re yet to check out Coffee Prince, I recommend you drop everything and watch it at once. Overall, I give this drama a 9/10.