“Semantic Error” Series Review (Ep.3 to 8)


Suppose you look ‘error’ up in the dictionary. In that case, one of the first definitions offered is simply ‘mistake.’ Adapted from the web novel of the same name by Jeo Soo Ri, the Korean BL Semantic Error is undoubtedly not the blunder its title would imply. But it will cause a systemic malfunction while watching.

One of my favorite things about the webtoon and its live-action version is Chu Sang Woo (actor/singer Park Jae Chan). When I was sixteen, I was diagnosed with bulimia nervosa, a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. My therapist at the time called it a control issue, a need to control the one thing in my life I thought I had control over: my body. Although my obsessions differ heavily from Sang Woo’s, I relate to his need for order.

While the drama never mentions Sang Woo being neurodivergent, it is apparent that he thinks and behaves differently than those around him. He’s a logical thinker with a high IQ who only focuses on what he deems essential while depending on routine to avoid anxiety. The more control he has, the less out of control he feels.

That is until Jang Jae Young (actor Park Seo Ham) suddenly appears in his carefully organized life.

Jae Young is everything Sang Woo is not. He’s carefree, unorganized, and spontaneous, yet he’s also as uniquely different as Sang Woo himself. While Jae Young is popular, talented, and fun to be around, he’s also easily distracted and bored. For Jae Young, Sang Woo presents a challenge he can’t ignore.

Both of them are equally, uniquely, beautifully eccentric in their own ways, and it’s these qualities that cause them to fit so well together.

Life has taught me that a person can be as much a safe place for someone else as a person’s surroundings. Nowhere is this more obvious than in Semantic Error.

While Semantic Error is essentially an enemies-to-lovers youth drama, it is also a story about breaking down walls. Sang Woo not only allows Jae Young into his safely disciplined life, he begins to rearrange his routine and feelings around Jae Young’s existence. That’s a beautifully intimate thing to watch on screen, especially when the chemistry between the actors is as strong as Park Seo Ham’s and Park Jae Chan’s.

I’ve read the webtoon the drama is inspired by, and while I understand creative licenses are made when adapting for the screen, I am pleased by how well the script retained the story’s and characters’ essence.

This is one of those dramas where reading the manhwa beforehand seriously deepens the experience, which is rare. It was already great, but the Easter eggs added for the manhwa readers to pick up made it so special.

Semantic Error is already a top contender for my favorite Korean BL release of 2022. It hits every point well, from its music score to the artwork to the acting. The drama keeps its circle small by focusing on shooting scenes at the school, apartment, studio, and restaurant, and the intimate, minimal locations work in its favor. It focuses on the human aspect rather than the environment.

As a rookie actor, Park Jae Chan does an incredible job conveying Sang Woo’s need for stability. The emotionally fulfilling way he transitions Sang Woo into the growing desperation he feels as Jae Young chips away at his routine-oriented walls proves Jae Chan is an up-and-coming talent. Jae Chan’s subtle expressions and movements speak a thousand words.

This brings me to actor Park Seo Ham. He pulls off the flirty, ambitious, and stubborn Jae Young effortlessly. Although his character doesn’t require the same subtle acting that Jae Chan has to employ for Sang Woo, Seo Ham has the challenging task of making the audience believe he’s fallen in love with the staid Sang Woo despite Jae Young’s frivolous and non-committal personality. Seo Ham does not fall short. From the stolen glances to the sudden pensive expressions flitting across Jae Young’s face, it’s easy to see that Sang Woo isn’t the only one whose walls are broken.

Jae Young sets Sang Woo free while Sang Woo anchors Jae Young in place. It’s a happy balance portrayed beautifully by the actors involved.

And they do so with passion. I don’t need kisses or intimate scenes for a drama to leave an impression (story sells it for me), but kiss scenes can completely own a moment when intimacy is done right. The kisses between Sang Woo and Jae Young don’t just own; they sell the desperation and need these characters feel for each other as well as the struggle Sang Woo is having in understanding his attraction to Jae Young.

I was not ready to see this series end, but I am delighted with the production and the cast.

Near the end of the series, Sang Woo rushes to Jae Young, emotionally letting him have it before suddenly saying, “I like you, Hyung. I really do.”

The courage it took for Sang Woo to say this in that moment, and the walls he had to break down to let Jae Young into his regimented world, says everything about why this series is great. Semantic Error was perfect. A must-watch.

Check it out now on Viki or Gagaoolala. You won’t regret it.

Rating- 4.5 out of 5

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