I am very pleased to report that Love Buffet, while it may not be brilliant television, has its heart in the right place. It's warm and adorable and occasionally very funny. Best of all, all three leads have excellent chemistry with each other, especially Aaron Yan and Reen Yu.

I was wondering what kind of vibe this drama would have, given that it's based on a manga that seems quite melodramatic, but based on the playful opening sequence (which apparently took 10 hours to film), with its balloons and "Love Buffet" spelled out in huge colorful block letters in a yard, I'd say that right now it's going for low-key romance. (Watch the opening sequence at the bottom of this post). And based on the first episode, if there is angst or over-the-top hijinks, it will appear much later in the drama. bWatching this, I found myself pondering again the differences between Kdramas and Twdramas - I've been on a steady diet of Kdramas this year, with the few Twdramas I did try - Momo Love, Calling for Love disappointing me - so I found myself taken aback as I watched and remembering what a very different beast Twdramas are. The cinematography is much lower quality and the sets on a much smaller scale - coming off the crystalline clarity and rich sets of Secret Garden this was particularly obvious. Time also moves much faster - in the first episode alone, Xiao Feng and Da Ye have already come to know know each other quite well and Xiao Feng has fallen in love with him - and believably so. A kdrama could very well have its heroine falling for someone in the first episode, but it would be of the "mindless schoolgirl crush," eyeroll-inducing variety. In Love Buffet on the other hand, Xiao Feng's burgeoning feelings for Da Ye are refreshingly realistic and sympathetic, and because an unspecified "many days" pass, it's not unlikely that the two would get to know each other very well indeed. The first episode moves insanely fast with almost everything however, completely the opposite of a kdrama. In the first minute, Da Ye and Yi Cheng, two cousins (they've been labeled as both brothers and cousins but I'm pretty sure they're actually cousins), the heirs to a hugely wealthy family, are packed off by their grandfather from their home in Shanghai to a new home and school in Taipei. Some reference to Yi Cheng needing to get over some traumatic experience of the past year is made, but not explicated. In the next minute, they're in Taipei and moving into the top floor of Xiao Feng's house. By the third minute, they're moved in, welcome fellow house-residents with Xiao Feng's family, and attending Xiao Feng's college. Those three minutes (give or take) alone would have made up the first 30 minutes of a Kdrama. And then there's the use of flashbacks. Kdramas love flashbacks. If there is any opportunity, however small or limited, to have a flashback scene, a Kdrama will utilize it. Here's where the difference comes in however - when there was a golden opportunity for the drama to have a series of flashbacks showing us in excruciating detail what exactly Yi Cheng's problem was - we got nary a one. The drama does still drop hints - it's clear that it's something to do with an ex-girlfriend, presumedly who dumped him - but beyond that we don't know. I can't even express how deep my gratitude and relief at this is. A drama that doesn't immediately give everything up, that doesn't beat every single facet of the character's lives and characters into our faces immediately? Beautiful. (Not to give particular kudos to Love Buffet for this: Twdramas in general reveal characters' pasts much more slowly than Kdramas, it's one aspect of them I like). pAnd now the drama itself. Calvin Chen and Aaron Yan have been typecast in the past as the happy-go-lucky charmer and the cold, charismatic figure, respectively, and they both play to type here. Which is just as well since they're not exactly the cream of the acting crop, though they've certainly improved over the course of their respective acting careers. Da Ye is intelligent, good-looking, cheery, and charming, with an ever-present smile and an unfailing kindness. He and Xiao Feng develop an instant rapport and quickly become fast friends, possessed of an easy companionship. It's little wonder then that Xiao Feng begins to fall for him, as he's incredibly attentive and kind to her, but there are hints already that he has a rather different view of how to behave toward the opposite sex than she does. He's willing to extend that same kindness to anyone, including a random girl at school who broke up with her boyfriend and wants consolation. Da Ye may be too easy-going to be an outright playboy, but that doesn't mean he's not a little shallow and highly careless about other's feelings. Amusingly, the drama gives what I am almost certain is a direct shout-out to his popular KO One character by having him stroll into (what he thinks is) an English classroom reciting "To be, or not to be, that is the question" at the top of his lungs. Yi Cheng, on the other hand, is as silent and icy as Da Ye is warm and talkative. He ignores Xiao Feng completely and is downright rude to her on several occasions. Xiao Feng, ever the optimist, doesn't dismiss him completely however, and one of the highlights thus far is watching the see-saw of her emotions about him. Interestingly, Yi Cheng is obviously far more scarred by parental neglect than Da Ye - both boys have grown up virtually alone, but while Da Ye seems to have dealt with it to some extent, Yi Cheng's bitterness and loneliness are lying just under the surface. When Xiao Feng finds an abandoned puppy, he tells her not to hold or pet it because she's promising it something she can't fulfill. The sequence of events which follows is absolutely adorable and sets the trend of the Yi Cheng/Xiao Feng relationship to follow, in which her determined kindness and overflowing warmth soften his cold cold heart and fill that void left by his parents. It's nothing original - we've seen this pairing before in hundreds of dramas - but there's a reason that it works and we keep coming back for more. Yi Cheng is clearly already beginning to be drawn to Xiao Feng - he occasionally shoots her a look. Best of all, Aaron and Reen Yu have electric chemistry. Xiao Feng is very endearing; she's a fairly ordinary girl on the whole, but had a deep fount of warmth that she pours out on everyone around her. Small vulnerable things particularly speak to her, so she loves children and animals (a large part of the reason why she begins to fall for Da Ya). My favorite thing about her is her steadiness, however - she's not a ditz, works extremely hard for what she wants, and accepts Da Ye's attentions matter-of-factly on the whole, not automatically assuming that he's romantically interested. Reen Yu is not the most gorgeous actress I've ever seen, but she has hands-down one of the best smiles - every time she smiles the whole screen lights up. In fact, if there's an actress she reminds me of, it's Kim Hee Sun, who is not stunningly beautiful but who brings a sunny, down-to-earth warmth to her roles, especially her role in Smile Again. On the whole, Love Buffet is not groundbreaking or brilliant, but in a year which gave us almost no good Twdramas, I'm optimistic that the chemistry and charm of the three main leads and the so-far consistent writing will give us the light, enjoyable, competent romance I've been waiting for all year. On an ending note, can I just say that I think there will be a lot of smooching in this drama? I mean if they're already getting down to it in the second episode, and based on the zillions of short previews that have been released...Also, about the length: the number of episodes has not yet been announced, but there's a rumor it will be only 10 episodes. Which makes sense given how rapidly the plot is moving. Opening sequence: