신데렐라와 네 명의 기사 (Cinderella and Four Knights)

Park So Dam plays Eun Ha Won, an incoming university student who strives to become a teacher just as her late mother wished but it’s not easy to work different jobs to save up for her own tuition. She lives in a fatherless home, an uncaring stepmom, and a bitchy older sister. She goes from one part-time job to another until a fateful encounter with one of the country’s royal family members, Kang Hyun Min, changes her life.  On the other hand, her first meeting with Hyun Min’s youngest cousin isn’t as good.

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Kang Hyun Min lives in a mansion called Sky House. There’s luxury but no happiness since he can’t get along with his cousins, Kang Seo Woo and Kang Ji Woon. With the latter especially. Kang Hyun Min (Ahn Jae Hyun) is a known womanizer; a charmer who is seemingly harboring some bitterness from his past love. Kang Seo Woo (Lee Jung Shin) is our Mr. Nice Guy, a musician who doesn’t allow his celebrity status go to his head. Opposite is Kang Ji Woon (Jung Il Woo) who insists to live as Han Ji Woon, the rebel who holds the makjang birth secret arc.

For rich and powerful grandpa to be able to choose his successor, the three cousins with very different personalities are forced to live together in the Sky House and it always ends in chaos. No butler can endure the tantrums of these spoiled chaebols. Their grandfather, CEO Kang, gets an idea on how to control them after meeting Ha Won in his fifth wedding ceremony. Her no-nonsense attitude and fighting skills are exactly what he needs to keep these troublemaking cousins in check. He asks her to live at Sky House and help him reform the boys for three months. With a desperate need for money and lodging, I guess it won’t be long til she accepts the offer. After a heated conversation at home and the revelation about her family, she finds herself at the door of the mansion, as the three cousins arrive to find out what’s new and interesting about Sky House.

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The introduction on the premiere episode about how ‘Cinderellas are busy and prince charmings are just jerks’ is extremely catchy. I like Park So Dam as this modern fairytale heroine. She looks a bit like Gouriki Ayame with some Park Go Eun Coin Locker Girl vibes. Her character is introduced as a tough and earnest girl but in dramas like these, there’s a tendency for the initially feisty female lead to become more and more dependent on the alpha male later on,  so I hope she’d stay as strong for the rest of the series.

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It’s been 3 years since Ahn Jae Hyun played Jun Ji Hyun’s younger brother in My Love From Another Star. Until now, I can’t believe that he’s almost 30 years old so it is a bit strange for me to hear me him ask Jung Il Woo to call him ‘hyung’. He still doesn’t look like a ‘hyung’. He has such babyface that he can continue to play a high school student and I’d buy it. Hyun Min had more interactions with Ha Won in the first episode so it is understandable that a lot of people would want them to end up together instead of emo-angry at the world, Ji Woon. Second lead syndrome is strong on this one. But then let us not forget that while Ahn Jae Hyun is swoonworthy, this is Jung Il Woo we’re talking about.

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Jung Il Woo is like the go-to guy for romance.  It doesn’t even matter who he gets paired with, just when it comes to this genre, he delivers. I honestly didn’t feel he had that much chemistry with Lee Chung Ah in Flower Boy Ramyun Shop; and Jin Se Yeon had a really bland performance in High End Crush but I finished both dramas because of him. He’s so-so at other genres though. Jung Il Woo= chaebol. That fact also poses a problem because if he keeps on playing the same roles, at some point, people will find it unexciting.

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Lee Jung Shin plays Kang Seo Woo and I swear I finished the first episode thinking it was Nam Joo Hyuk the entire time. It was only when I watched the second episode that I realized something was quite different, and I had to check the wiki page just to make sure. Doppelganger!

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From CNBlue to A-Pink, Son Na Eun plays Park Hye Ji. Hyun Min’s treating her coldly while Ji Woon continues to take care of her; a love triangle that would’ve been better if only Na Eun has the acting skills to at least match Jung Il Woo’s. I can’t stand her acting so much I ended up dropping Second Time Twenty Years Old  and now she’s here again. I hope she doesn’t get that much screen time so I can continue watching this. I’m sorry biased A-Pink fans but we can all see, objectively, that Na Eun has a lot to improve and if she wants to become an actress, accepting smaller roles would’ve been better instead of grabbing second lead characters unprepared.

The title says Cinderella and Four Knights but there are only three chaebol cousins. Who is the fourth knight? Seems like it’s CEO’s reticent secretary/ bodyguard/ right-hand man, Lee Yoon Sung. The umbrella shot at the end of the second episode was filmed beautifully. He also mentioned a very important rule that dating is not allowed in Sky House. What if you end up falling for her first?

Based on the novel Cinderellawa Nemyungui Kisa by Baek Myo, Cinderella and Four Knights is directed by Kwon Hyuk Chan- the director of the famous Hyun Bin-Ha Ji Won drama, Secret Garden.  A lot of people have been comparing this drama with Boys Over Flowers that even Ahn Jae Hyun said in an interview that he felt the similarities so he discussed his acting with his wife, Gu Hye Sun, who starred in Hana Yori Dango‘s Korean remake. Cinderella and Four Knights‘ story, however, reminds me more of Atashinchi no Danshi.  It’s a 2009 Japanese drama about a young woman who lost her mother from an illness and her chronic gambler father left her with a huge debt. She ended up marrying a rich toy company owner who only had a month to live. A month later, she found out that the marriage conditions include living in Trick Heart Castle, being a mom to the old man’s successors, and completing every task in their contract for three months. Horikita Maki also sported short hair in that show. (And I had a huge crush on Osamu Mukai at that time.)

TvN is known to make innovative youth dramas but I don’t have high expectations since this show is 100% pre-produced and has floated for a few months while waiting for a broadcaster. The network’s very own Reply series has raised the standards in contemporary teen dramas but picking up Cinderella and Four Knights, with a story line this generic and actors so mediocre, only means that there is still a high demand for shows like these.  Chaebol, flower boys, love triangle, birth secrets and cohabitation.. Cinderella and Four Knights seemed to have marked a lot of items from the “How to make a typical KDrama fluff” checklist. The show knows exactly what it is and doesn’t pretend to be anything other than the usual fairy tale cliché which is why it works! No matter how good the classic romcoms are, with their outdated hairstyle and fashion, you can’t make the young’uns watch ’em. (I know it for a fact since I’m teaching a lot of Korean middle school girls.) Cinderella and Four Knights obviously caters to these younger viewers. The new generation needs their own Hana Yori Dango. And stressed out adults need some “turn your brain off and just enjoy the pretty” kind of drama too.

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