Having drawn to a close two weeks ago, Im definitely feeling the loss of idol-starring drama, Panda and Hedgehog, and the delight it brought me every weekend with its beautiful, beautiful baked goods. The drama stars Super Juniors Lee Donghae as Go Seung-ji, Yoon Seung-ah as Pan Da-yang, and Choi Jin-hyuk as Choi Won-ill in this ridiculously funny drama that has the great quality of not taking itself too seriously. If youve yet to catch Panda and Hedgehog, beware as there are spoilers ahead.
Seung-ji, or otherwise known as Hedgehog has a super prickly personality, giving him his nickname. He meets the sweet and lovable Pan Da-yang who is also better known for her nickname, Panda and he is hired by her as a pâtissier to help revive her failing cafe, aptly named Cafe Panda. They struggle together to make Cafe Panda a success while fending off competition from the franchise Saint Honore, which is owned by Choi Won-ill.
The main female lead, Panda, actually comes across as too overly naive and trusting, which is quite typical of female drama leads. One of her few saving graces as a character is how empathetic she is towards the hardships of Hedgehog, Choi Won-ill, and Choi Won-yi. Panda is cute but definitely not my favorite character in the drama. Rather, it seemed that she was simply written in as a helper for Hedgehog to help him with his trials with dealing with daddy problems, as well as plagiarism issues from their rival. She lacks a lot of motivation and depth that is necessary to be a likable character. Sadly, for the majority of the female characters in Panda and Hedgehog this is the case, except in the case of a few such as Choi Won-yi.
Although the main leads are cute and all, the things that actually kept me watching this drama were the gorgeous cakes, Donghae, and the bromance. If you’re a foodie, this drama is for you. It will keep you salivating after the beautiful macaroons and cakes.
Second lead Choi Won-il and his sister, Won-yi, have an interesting dynamic relationship. Instead of calling her brother the more traditional oppa, she calls him hyung, as she is more of a tomboy. Won-yi’s character is also very endearing as she provides much comic relief as well as playing the stand-in for the boy that Won-ill lost as a child. Essentially, her whole life is spent trying to be that boy for Won-ill and help him relieve his guilt.
Out of all of the characters, the most dynamic is in fact Won-yi. Her struggle to choose between her familial loyalty to her father who is the one plagiarizing Hedgehogs original designs and her attachment to Hedgehog as a student of his causes her significant emotional turmoil. Furthermore, the big reveal of the drama is that the lost child is Hedgehogand is Won-yis half-brotherwhich leads her to fighting with her fathers money-grubbing ideology and own Hedgehogs more honest and down-to-earth ideals.
Even better than the Choi siblings relationship is Hedgehog and Won-ill’s bromance. It just me, or is when the two male leads of dramas become friends thus fostering a bromance, sometimes even better than the main couple à la Protect the Boss?
Hedgehogs back story is the one thing that strung what seemed to be random trials together. He experienced what had to be one of the worst childhoods everamnesia, child abuse, a stint in prison, and being parent-lesslife basically sucked for Hedgehog. The one ray of sunlight was his adopted grandfather who taught him to continue working hard towards his dream of being a pastry chef no matter what obstacles life presented, which in itself is a very Confucian ideal. As per these ideals, filial piety and hard work leads to success in life, which Hedgehog achieved with fame and family as the reward.
Something that the drama lacked was an actual, believable plot. The drama had tendencies of what is more commonly known as a makjang, or a type of drama sylistic, tonal, or narrative element in dramas that chooses to play up outrageous storylines to keep viewers hooked despite how ridiculous the stories become. As a character-driven drama, this doesnt keep the viewers from falling in love with the individual characters through mini trials and great emotional moments wherein the viewer could connect with the drama. However, the overarching storyline of the child that Panda and Won-ill had lostand thus felt responsible foris very contrived, which is made even worse when the main conflict is resolved in the eleventh hour by a blow to the head and thus prompting memory recall. Amnesia is a burnt out trope and the way in which it was used by the drama was sloppy and most likely evidence of a deadline crunch for the writers.
Despite that flaw, the main appeal of Panda and Hedgehog is how it’s an adorable and light rom-com and if you’re also watching heavier dramas such as Faith, Arang and the Magistrate, and Nice Guy during the week, it’s a great way to relax and enjoy all the cute scenes during the weekend without having to delve into the intricacies of a well-written plot.
(Channel A, SBS, Dramabeans)