I chose Sunny Happiness as my next drama to watch because I needed something realistic, but light and happy. Emphasis on the happy. The last two shows I watched were The Way We Were (a Taiwanese drama) and Chuck (an American spy comedy).The Way We Were ended in tears that threw a wet blanket over the beauty of the rest of the drama, and Chuck‘s bittersweet ending didn’t make me feel any better about life, so I really needed something that was happy. Sunny Happiness is aptly named and did not disappoint.
Plot-wise, there is nothing really new here. The drama, starring Janine Chang as Fang Yong Yong and Mike He as Xiang Yun Jie, is a bit like Cinderella, but with a good dash of realism. Fang Yong Yong has Cinderella-like roots: she’s a hard-working girl who is a maid at a luxury hotel with a stepmother and two stepsisters who depend on her to cook, clean, and make money for them. Xiang Yun Jie is the new manager of the luxury hotel, the elder, favored son of the Xiang family, which owns the Tian Yu Corporation. The two meet and immediately clash, but soon enter a contract marriage that is mutually beneficial. Xiang Yun Jie is trying to gain custody of his son, Xiao Nian, whom he didn’t know exist until recently, and Fang Yong Yong is trying to save an orphanage that she once lived in and now assists at, which is at risk of being demolished in order to build Tian Yu’s new mall. Although originally a fake relationship, Yong Yong and Yun Jie become friends and eventually start to develop feelings for each other, but things are complicated by Yun Jie’s ex-wife, Wang Lan, and other extenuating circumstances.
Like I said, it’s Cinderella with a good dose of realism, so we have no one-dimensional stereotypes here. Fang Yong Yong’s stepfamily isn’t evil, and there is true love and care between them. Yong Yong and Yun Jie don’t fall in love at first sight. On the contrary, the development of their relationship is very real and natural, built upon small building blocks of friendship that evolve into something more. Yun Jie’s younger brother, Xiang Yun Chao, seeks to take over Yun Jie’s position, but is not some one-dimensional, ruthless villain type. Neither is his fiancee, Kong Xin Jie, a spoiled heiress who dislikes Yong Yong out of jealousy, but whose shortcomings are largely a result of her upbringing and understandable personality rather than shoddy and shallow character development.
The only character whose path takes a turn for the worse is Wang Lan, who becomes bitter, manipulative, and vindictive in a very flat and meaningless way. But she also gets her chance at redemption in the end. It doesn’t help that I found Zhou Zi Han’s portrayal of Wang Lan to be a bit flat and stiff.
Overall, Sunny Happiness is very cute and happy with some good doses of reality. Mike He and Janine Chang have some great chemistry, as both lovers and friends. I feel like Mike He’s characters are always pretty similar and don’t require too much range from him personality-wise (but I’ve only seen him in Go, Single Lady and here), but he does it well. I appreciate that all the characters and familial relationships feel real. No evil, prejudiced, chaebol family or stepfamily. A happy story and a happy ending.