My Lovely Sam Soon was the first Kdrama I ever watched, back before Korean dramas were easily accessible on legal streaming sites. Thanks to a borrowed set of DVDs, a friend and I were able to marathon all sixteen episodes over the course of a single summer weekend, breaking only for absolute necessities like trips to the fridge and an occasional nap.
Whenever I think back to that weekend, one thing always stands out in my memory: how incredibly bizarre it was to watch the show’s zippy opening sequence, which was like nothing I’d ever seen before. From the bubblegum pink color scheme to the chirpy techno theme song—complete with garbled English—those forty seconds seemed to perfectly embody My Lovely Sam Soon’s gonzo charm and exotic appeal.
It only recently occurred to me, though, that most streaming sites now dispense with these opening sequences altogether. I can see why they do it—if you were watching a bunch of episodes in a row, the exuberant intros would probably get old pretty quickly. Also, I’m semi-convinced that streaming sites are designed on the same principles as Vegas casinos: they’re set up to lure you in and keep you there as long as possible. When one episode wraps up, they briskly whisk you away to another, making it easy to overlook just how much time has passed. A long opening sequence at the beginning of each episode would rat them out, making it impossible to ignore the fact that you’ve just committed to another hour watching.
I made this realization while watching Boys over Flowers with the same friend who first introduced me to My Lovely Sam Soon all those years ago. BoF is another drama with an incredibly great opening sequence, but my friend didn’t get to see it until she watched episode 5 on Dramafever at my house. “What’s this?” she gasped when confronted with the opening’s eight-bit glory, all computer-generated firework flowers and floating diamonds decorated with the heads of cast members.The Netflix episodes she’d watched to that point hadn’t included this segment, so it was like some fabulous archeological discovery in the valley of the drama kings.
If you don’t immediately fall in love with the cheesy excess of the Boys over Flowers title sequence, you should just stop watching—you’ll definitely hate the show. Questionable fashion sense, bellows of “Alllmooossst Paradise,” and hokey “rich stuff” abound. But to the right viewer (i.e., me), this segment, like the drama itself, is nothing short of a masterpiece of tacky delights.
It actually makes me a little sad that it’s so easy for viewers to miss Kdrama intros. They’re great calling cards for the shows they represent, and any completist deserves to know they exist. This is why I thought I’d dig up some possibly lost opening sequences to share here. (“Possibly lost” in this case meaning easily available on YouTube or Vimeo, if only you know to look for them.)
Coffee Prince (2007)
Been there, done that, bought the boxed set. Which is why I knew that Coffee Prince features a short intro that isn’t included on either Dramafever or Viki. Set to the cheerful “La, la, la” of one of the soundtrack’s key songs, it shows a boyish Eun Chan drawing at a Coffee Prince-esque patio table. Her sketchbook magically (and inexplicably) becomes a real book, complete with flip-book art. The intro ends with a girlie version of Eun Chan sharing a coffee with Han Gyul. This opening is cute enough, but I can’t say I’m a fan of Eun Chan’s progression from a thoughtful artist in a baggy t-shirt to a flirty, winking girlie-girl in a red skirt. Definitely nonessential viewing. C+
Prime Minister (2014)
With all the bland sheen of a actual political ad, a cartoony Seoul skyline gives way to brief clips of each major character, filmed in front of a studio-style grey backdrop littered with floating Korean words. A bloodless orchestral march sets the tone while the intro uses a series of disembodied handshakes as a device to cycle from one character to another. I can’t help thinking they cropped out this intro because they knew it was a dead giveaway how boring the show would be. D
Energetic and youthful, this opening makes the most of the California setting showcased in the drama’s first few episodes. Complete with surfboards, palms trees, and fast cars, it’s like Beverley Hills, 90210: The Seoul Years. Rapid cuts and a punky vocal track combine to give this montage of breezy character shots a distinctly cinematic feel. It also features one possibly unique detail: the names of its actors appear in transliterated English characters, not Hangul. I would suspect this to be an artifact of Dramafever’s involvement with the show, but the DF episodes never include this part. So maybe it’s just meant to make Heirs feel edgy and cosmopolitan? B+
City Hunter (2011)
It’s an actual tragedy that this manwa-inspired opening isn’t available on Dramafever or Viki. Stylish and intense, it shows flying bullets, impressive martial-arts moves, and a cartoon Lee Min Ho that might even be hotter than the real thing. I can’t say as I’m big fan of the background music (I lived through the hyper-synthesized pop hits of the 1980s), but this is still one doozy of an opening sequence that shouldn’t vanish in the sands of time. A
Flower Boy Next Door (2013)
Some title sequences do make it onto streaming sites. The cartoon creep-out of Master’s Sun falls into this category, as do the openings of pretty much every show that originally aired on cable network tvN. My favorite of them all is the quirky, crafty cutefest that prefaced last year’s Flower Boy Next Door. It’s a fun junk drawer of goodies that feels like it was created by people who actually cared about the show and its characters. The only thing more charming than this kitschy collection of FBND-themed of odds and ends is the show itself. (Regrettably, though, it seems to have become something of a template—the Witch’s Romance intro is a like decidedly less fabulous remake.) A
Secret Love Affair (2014)
Appropriately somber and wrenching, this opening hints of intrigue and flaming passion. What it doesn’t convey, however, are the show’s visual flair and dramatic flourishes, so perfectly captured SLA’s other promotional pieces, from its theatrical teaser trailer to its gorgeous posters. The most interesting thing about the clip is what it has to say about drama shooting schedules—this scene of Yoo Ah In’s character playing with the orchestra didn’t happen until midway through the drama, yet it must have been shot before the premiere of its very first episode. B-
What about your favorite drama? Have you seen its title sequence?