Episode 1 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 9 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 10 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 11 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 12 -| Review Score – 4.5/5
Light spoilers ahead for the outcome of a few characters!
Korean dramas inspired by webtoons are a rager in the present time and fans are loving seeing their favourite comics in a live-action version. With so many new shows dropping every month, KakaoTV is trying to bring new things to the table and Once Upon A Small Town is the streaming platform’s attempt at trying out a short web drama with Red Velvet’s Joy in the lead role.
The 12-episode web drama is not just 4 episodes shy of a regular K-drama, each episode only has a run-time of 30 minutes making it a quick watch for new fans who want to try their hand at the genre. The show, throughout its 12 episodes, narrates the life of a city boy, Han Ji-yul played by Choo Young-woo.
After her grandfather tricks him into coming back to his hometown, Ji-yul is asked to take care of the old man’s veterinary hospital. Ji-yul has had a traumatic experience that took place in the same town years ago. Now as a grown man, he runs into his secret friend, Ja-young. The vet does not remember his time with her as a child but there is something about her that draws him all the same.
The show aired for four short weeks which made it seem too fast-paced but with that being said, Once Upon The Small Town is really wholesome. The makers’ decision to keep ad-libs into the main episode in order to portray romantic connections was one of the best parts. I really wish the episodes were longer but whatever we got was really good for fans to complain about.
Ji-yul and Ja-young’s characters are amazing together and we have Joy (Park Soo-young) and Young-woo’s unfiltered chemistry to thank for. Knowing that Young-woo is a fan of Joy makes their interactions much more fun. More episodes showing how Ji-yul deals with his trauma would have made the show much better though. On that same note, there’s also not a whole lot of focus on how the couple deals with their long-distance relationship because there was so much potential in that angle.
The cinematography in Once Upon A Small Town is constantly pleasing to the eye and we should thank nature for being so vibrant at all times. The show manages to make life in a small town appealing despite the various challenges living outside the city could bring.
The OST single, ‘Missing You’ is a light upbeat song which fits with the mood of the plot. Watching this drama makes me think of how similar it is to the amazing Hometown Cha Cha Cha from 2021. The show feels like a short, simple tribute to that show.
Aside from the three main leads, the show features important characters that resembled people living in a small town. There is the male lead’s best friend who has the right advice at all times. We also see Mal-geum’s character as the nagging woman who is obnoxious but still gets away with it because the people of the town aren’t confrontational and because she presents herself to be naive to avoid conflict.
One drawback of the show would be the makers’ decision to eliminate showing Ji-yul’s grandfather. Since his character did not appear in the series even for a minute, it felt like the audience was not able to connect with him at all. We only heard about him through his letters or words spoken by characters.
All in all, the show is a fun drama and is healing, to say the least. The episodes are short and sweet but to the extent that it seems too fast-paced with more plot progression happening by the minute. Sang-hyeon’s character deserves better and the makers did him dirty by keeping him single by the end. Petition for there to be a spin-off series to Once Upon A Small Town where we see Sang-hyeon find true love? Let’s make it happen!
Verdict - 7/10