This has been an insane weekend for me. I started off Friday night going to the U2 concert and I’m still partially deaf 48 hours later. Then real life got sorta upended for the next two weeks with some unforeseen complications, so suddenly I’m busier than I normally am. I’m starting to feel an out-of-body experience where I am watching myself run myself ragged. Sigh.
My drama load also added two new dramas – in addition to watching episode 1 of Material Queen, a second new TW-drama premiered this weekend that I also wanted to check out, Hayate the Combat Butler with Park Shin Hye and George Hu. The previews were frankly not all that, so I dialed my expectations way low and went in either to get bored or snark.
The cool thing is that neither was my reaction – I thoroughly enjoyed episode 1. Actually, my reaction was a little more than that – I adored it. I watched it with a giant grin on my face the entire time. It was charming, sweet, and absolutely nailed the manga-adaptation tone and vibe. It really is a live-action of an anime, so whether you like it might depend if you enjoy hyper-real situations wrapped in youthful sincerity. If episode 1 of Material Queen was a fine glass of Bordeaux, then episode one of Hayate is guzzling a delicious tumbler of Yakult.
I find both George and Shin Hye perfectly cast, and together they have the cutest puppies-and-rainbows kind of chemistry. It’s totally undeniable, and will make their story so much fun to watch unfold. Yes, the acting is all-around mediocre, but that’s not the point. George has this sincere vibe that totally captures the character of Ling Qi Sa, a humble boy with extraordinary skills who is down on his luck thanks to his debt-ridden parents. I love Xiao Zi (Shin Hye’s character) as well, equal parts bratty kindness and naive young girl.
The first meeting between Sa and Xaio Zi was so utterly winning that I’ve watched it multiple times now, each time feeling this warmth and laughter in my belly. Xiao Zi thinks Sa is coming on to her, but instead he is trying to kidnap her for ransom but is too polite so he asks for her permission first, using such lines as “I need you” and ending with “I want to enslave you.” Mwahahaha, these two kids are going to be a barrel of laughs together since they are both so dim about love and life in different ways.
The dubbing doesn’t bother me at all, because the voice chosen for Shin Hye is not high pitched and cutesy, but is actually quite lovely on the ears with a very fluid delivery. The OST is surprisingly mellow and restrained for a manga-adaptation, nothing outstanding but nevertheless the music chosen is a good fit for the drama.
Episode 1 is just the set-up, bringing Sa into the world of Xiao Zi and making him her personal butler. I’m hoping the sweet friendship and love story between the lady and her butler will work in a way that My Fair Lady with Yoon Eun Hye and Yoon Sang Hyun failed to deliver because the script was such a mess. Hayate feels like such a breath of fresh air, a Summer drama that doesn’t aim high but rather delivers simple enjoyment and happiness. I can’t ask for more. Hayate is a win in my book.