In A Good Way: The Gentle, Sweet Slowburn of Love

IAGW

[mild spoilers Ep 1 – Ep 9]

God, I love this show! Love. I didn’t expect this to happen. In fact, it started out rather lukewarm–the show was sweet, but fairly sleepy. And then, all the gentle slowburn of Lego Lee’s glances, all the surprising character-building turns, the quiet sweetness, has turned me into an In A Good Way junkie. Waiting for one measly episode each week is going to be the death of me!

I can’t get over how everyone is so utterly normal. Set in a Taiwan campus, the story revolves a loveable gang of friends, and although these are obvious types–the campus hottie, the wide-eyed country bumpkin, the player, the jock–these characters feel just like regular kids trying to make it through university, rather than stock tropes filling a plot purpose. 

What I also love is how each character has surprised me by being so much more than what I expected them to be, and that even with 10 episodes behind us, we are still learning so much more about them. Bai Xue for instance, is the pretty, pining second-lead but she’s also kind, encouraging, and whips out awesome looks of horror at bumbling suitors like this:IAGW_ep7_01

She’s also been hiding the pain of how desperately alone longing for someone who will never return her love makes her. It’s the bitter irony of being the girl the entire campus envies, whom everyone thinks can get any boy she wants, except for the one boy she does want. Liu Chuan is now out of her reach, and watching her realise how he’s slowly slipping out of her fingers is utterly heartbreaking. And throughout it all, she’s never once been nasty to Jia Ern or treated her as a rival for Liu Chuan’s heart.

We all know that love triangles like these are a dime a dozen in dramaland, but what makes the difference is a drama that makes these well-worn tropes come alive without feeling contrived. This little show has somehow managed to make the mundanity of campus life –tests, basketball games, school clubs, dances–brim with tension (oh believe me there’s tension!) and conflict, with a quiet beating heart that’s a welcome relief after the noisy exploits of chaebols, movie stars, aliens, jerks, beauty queens and the like on offer right now.

IAGW_ep6_01

But most of all, what I love about this show is Liu Chuan and Jia Ern. I adore them completely. Their ever-evolving relationship has gotten to me because we’ve seen them grow as people alongside their connection with each other. They communicate and support each other, and are slowly learning be open and vulnerable–you know, all that good growing up stuff.

Liu Chuan is in a word, DREAMY. This boy kills me, and it’s no wonder why he has amassed a boatload of fans. I’ll let Jomo tell you more, but what I like best about him is that he’s a man of few words. He’s a guy who has figured out who he is and who he wants to be far earlier than those around him and feels no need to shout about it. He’s also someone who seems to have tasted his fair share of disappointments and he knows his limited time in university isn’t to be squandered with things that don’t matter.

IAGW_ep7_02

What is also cool is that he, the hotshot, the dreamboat, has fallen first for the wide-eyed, country girl Jia Ern. And the drama doesn’t make this into a big deal like many lesser shows probably would.  It just simply makes sense that Liu Chuan as a character who is guarded and private, would be drawn to Jia Ern’s generous spirit and her openness to the possibilities that the world has to offer.

And what is even more cool is that Jia Ern has never once thought of herself unworthy of his company or attention. Although she understandably looks up to him as a senior and as someone who’s wiser and more worldly, you never get the sense that this is a relationship of unequals. And that is what really gets me.

IAGW_ep8_05

And if that is not enough awesomeness, there’s the lingering glances, the meaningful pauses in dialogue, the shy awkwardness of a blossoming attraction. Boy does Lego Li (can I just call him Lee Guo Yi instead of Lego?) absolutely nail this. The way he looks at her, furtively, achingly, makes my heart thrum. I honestly don’t know how Kirsten Jen can bear it. I can hardly stand it and I’m looking at at computer screen! 

They’ve made so many great strides already and they’re not even together yet! I could gush in a separate post about these two, but for now, let’s just say I’ve hopelessly fallen for this show just as sure as Liu Chuan has for Jia Ern.

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21 thoughts on “In A Good Way: The Gentle, Sweet Slowburn of Love

    • This is my first T-drama! And I’m so glad I chose this one. I was in the mood for something like this and this hits the spot for me. It’s not glamourous or glossy, but it’s full of sweetness and heart. And Lee Guo Yi is so adorable!! 🙂

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      • When a T-drama is good, you feel all tingly at all the right spots. Most of them are not subtle like IaGW, so there are loud and aggressive caricatures that you just have to accept to enjoy the shows. The OSTs are very nice and the fashion is unique from K and J productions. Not as flashy for sure.

        MY QUEEN is prolly my favorite after IaGW.
        Ethan Ruan/Cheryl Yang It’s a noonah-dongsang, yes, and I love that set up. ER may not look like a lot in stills, but in motion, is so sexy. Oh! And they kiss early. CY is very sexy and smart, too. You want her to be happy.

        I loved Office Girls, too, with Roy Qui/Alice Ke, as long as you don’t mind fforwarding during the middle episodes somewhere.

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  1. Outstanding post. Thanks for more ways to love this show.

    A haiku, since you have requested on before, in response:

    If they touch, they glow.
    For now, a white snow wall fills
    the space between them.

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  2. When this came out I put it on my watch list, but had a bad taste in my mouth from my last T-drama as it was just too over the top and heartbreaking. But I really liked the story concept. Now I have moved this show up on my to watch list. Thanks for a really great review!

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    • Hah, I guarantee this is way different from your last T outing! It’s very subtle, and gentle and sweet. And I lub all of these kids! I just hope it doesn’t go off the rails and stays the course. I’m concerned because no one seems to know how many episodes this is. I’ve read it could be 30, which scares me!

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      • Oh man 30 episodes is a lot! But if you love it so much I think I could forgive it for being so long lol. My to watch list is pretty hefty already, but I’ve moved this up! Though the show might close to ending before I actually get to it. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing because I’ll get to see what your reaction is to the story throughout the whole journey 🙂

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      • I know, but I live in hope that it will not be 30 eps. The drama just took a really interesting turn and it seems to be getting better and better. This may even work better as a marathon since I can see how the slice-of-life pacing and plotting could be sleepy for some. So it works perfectly for you!

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      • I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you that it doesn’t run for 30 episodes! I’m not sure I could hang for 30 episodes, lol so I”m also hoping it doesn’t run that long for me so I can watch it hehe. I’m used to marathoning, so watching one show at a time is hard. I’m having difficulty waiting for the new episodes of the shows I’m watching live.

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  3. I’d had this on a tentative to-watch list, but now I’m really intrigued. I’ve watched a few TW dramas, but not to completion. (They tended to get a bit over the top and predictable so were easy to walk away from.) So this might well be the one! 😀

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    • Oh this is so not over the top. AT ALL. It’s quite the opposite! It might even be too slow and stately for some. But I just love all the characters already, and I love that it’s taking it’s time. The build-up is so sweet, and I’m so anticipating the pay off ;D. I hope it doesn’t go off the rails though, but I’ll be sure to keep you posted!

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  4. I love everyone in this drama! :’) Liu Chuan and Jia’en are so, so, so perfect for each other in the most unexpected of ways, and while I’m not completely aboard the Bai Xue & Renwei ship, I do love these two characters individually. Especially Renwei, since he’s just oozing with so much awesomeness as the bumbling, romantic fool + best childhood friend ever. What I like about every single student (beyond our four main leads) is that they all have distinct personalities of their own and live out the college life independent of one another; they don’t play second fiddle to our leads so much as they enrich the world in which our story takes place. IAGW is a breath of fresh air, really. ^__^

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    • Oh gosh, Ren Wei!! He was such a TURD in the beginning but he’s really redeemed himself and has somehow become so endearing. I cringe at him but he also amuses me, and I can see why Bai Xue softens towards him. I know, I love everyone in this drama too! And well said, they really do enrich this world and not jut orbit the leads. Ri Qi for instance. He feels like his own person too. I imagine he’s happiest climbing mountains or something 🙂

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  5. “Although she understandably looks up to him as a senior and as someone who’s wiser and more worldly, you never get the sense that this is a relationship of unequals.”
    Exactly! I love that. Also, none of the other characters are mistreating her for not being flashy or growing up in the countryside, I’m really happy there’s this type of mutual respect between them as a group.

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    • Right?? And all her girlfriends are really kickass, the way they dealt with her with zero judgement about her dressing, etc. I was so ready to start cringing. But miracles, nothing but direct, gentle encouragement! I lub them!

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  6. Hei DDee, it’s been a weird winter here in Finland because there’s been little snow and it didn’t get soo cold this year. Plus! There’s been lots of sun. WEIRD! lol Anyhow, I’ve been keeping up with your posts and because of you, I decided to pick up In a Good way. I’ve marathoned up ep 9 this weekend and I really like it. I agree with all of your points and it’s turning out to be just the thing for me to watch right now. Thanks for the recommendation!

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    • KAT!! Welcome bck! Nice to hear frm you again :D. I’m SO GLAD you like this show. I’m completely still in love with it, and I’m happy to tell you, from eps 10 onwards GET EVEN BETTER!! Although I’ve just heard that the show has 30-something episodes in total that makes me a little worried that it will run out of steam. But my fingers are crossed, and this explains why they are taking their own sweet time.

      I hope you’re enjoying the mild winter in Finland? If that is how you like your winters 😀

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      • Oh my goodness…30 episodes?! gah!!

        I’m still enjoying the show. I’m up to episode 14 and waiting for a couple more episodes to air before starting up again. Jia En and Liu Chuan’s growing relationship is soo cute. I feel for both of them. Jia En’s honesty and her growing awareness of Liu Chuan as a “boy” feels soo real and takes me back to my younger years ^_^ Liu Chuan’s principals and sincerity is admirable but what gets to me is how flustered he gets with Jia En.

        I do have to admit that the last few episodes frustrated me due to other characters (RE: not buying a textbook) but I think I was reading too much into it as if it was really about a totally different thing altogether. I don’t know if that makes sense but I don’t want to drop spoilers so I’m being vague.

        I don’t know where the drama will take us from here, when the time jump will occur and if our OTP will continue down the road to freedom together.

        (BTW, the mild winter this year, which I enjoyed hee hee, is causing others some pain. Electricity company, winter sports, etc are suffering from the lack of money flow.)

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      • OMG Liu Chuan and his face KILL ME. Just utterly destroys me. He looks like he’d melt into the floor at any moment and is just barely holding it together. GAH!! Le Guo Le is fantastic in this. It’s all in the eyes, as they say. I LUB HIM. The both of them, really…so sweet! And Jia Ern completely rocks!

        Oh I’m not sure what you mean bout the textbook but I kind of liked that arc because I didn’t expect the drama to take that kind of turn. I thought it was fabulous and Jia Ern really got a chance to shine there!

        I must do up a post on the girls, because I love all of them so much 🙂

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