All About My Romance: Review

30 Nov

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So that went just about as badly as I’d feared. In my last post I was halfway through and predicting drag, and was not to be disappointed. All My Romance is a typical example of too little plot and too many hours to play with. It would have done better in the compactness of a two hour movie rather than stretched out over sixteen.

At about episode 14, I jokingly thought to myself “someone’s going to have to go study abroad if they want to fill the remaining time!”. Because, you know how it’s so cliched that everyone in Korean drama studies abroad if they need an obstacle to fill time without having to build up anything? Yeah, I thought that in 2013, that old trick might be too absurd and obvious. Evidently I was wrong.

In the end it was that absolute lack of creativity that pulled this drama down. The cast was good (Shin Ha Kyun was a little less stunning than in Brain, but blame the scope of the script), the premise had potential, why screw that all up by leafing through The Dictionary of Korean Drama Stereotypes and putting pins in at random? This drama would have been so much better without:

  • The jealous Other Woman who will do ANYTHING to get the main guy, even if the reasons for her intense feelings are flimsy as heck.
  • The possessive Other Man, who’s love is so great that he never bothered to mention in prior to Main Guy sauntering onto the scene, and now he’s indignant that Main Girl might love someone more pro-active.
  • The random chucked in paternity twist. Predictably Overdramatic Drama Character’s lover being the son/daughter of someone who did something awful to PODC/PODC’s family.
  • “I want to be with you, but look at this list of reasons that could probably be fixed if I just spoke to the people involved and didn’t make pointless secrets out of everything. It is a barrier too great for our love to cross.”
  • “I’m going to America/England/Paris for no reason at all, we’ve got two episodes left to fill so pretend this sudden decision makes sense.”

I’ve been a k-drama fan for enough years to know you can never get away from everything predictable and cliched, but nothing in this drama felt new, so it was hard to keep on caring about it.

 

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All About My Romance: Half-Way Thoughts

21 Nov

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I’m terribly, terribly behind on the year’s dramas. It’s nearly December and I’m only now getting around to a drama from the first half of the year. For SHAME. Especially shameful that it’s a drama featuring the blinding talent that is Shin Ha Kyun, my own personal top favourite Korean actor. Alas, my break from the drama scene has done me no good at all, I’ve just been left with an impossibly high pile of dramas I need to watch in order to get back into the loop! Still, gotta start somewhere, so let’s talk a little about All About My Romance.

All About My Romance (also known by about a dozen other titles) is a political rom-com starring Shin Ha Kyun and Lee Min Jung as representatives from different political parties who fall in love with each other in a very toned down take of the Romeo and Juliet scenario. “Toned down” is a pretty good phrase for this drama generally. To begin with, I was expecting something politically hard-hitting. The drama starts off with lead character Kim Soo Young delivering a fantastic speech about his political leanings swaying between right and left wing, and his contempt for those who see only in black and white ideological terms. It’s a great scene, props to the screenwriter, but that’s been about the height of this drama in political terms. Mostly, it’s a love story (clue’s in the title, I guess), and a cliched one at that.

Our star-crossed lovers: Min Young, the earnest and plucky representative from the Green Party, and Soo Young, the general jerkface from the leading party. Yeah, the characters are predictable. Is there a love triangle? Even better, a love square (they’ve become too popular, I miss the good old-fashioned triangle). All About My Romance is, in simple terms, your basic rom-com story set against a political backdrop. Yet, somehow I’m struggling to be bored with it.

At time of writing, I’ve only seen up to episode 8 and I’m sensing potential drag on the horizon, but what’s come so far, I’ve actually really enjoyed. My break from drama may be to blame, but I’m not tired to my back teeth with the old story of powerless girl meets powerful guy and they fall in love. Watching it is a bit like being embraced by an old friend you haven’t seen for a long time. Watching this is bringing back memories of other fluffy rom-coms, how they made me feel, and what was going on in my life when I was watching those. Ah, gosh, I’m getting way too sentimental over what is a really middling level drama, I must just be happy to be back 😀

There is an aspect of this drama which I am not enjoying. I’m someone that suffers terribly with second lead syndrome, like nearly every single time I get it. In this drama? No sirree. Main guy Soo Young might be a jerkface, but we’re led to believe that he ultimately has a good heart. His rival in love is Joon Ha, who serves the purpose of putting all Soo Young’s jerkfacedness into perspective.

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The Douchecanoe

Joon Ha is the possessive type of secondary male lead, the one who won’t make a proper play for the main female lead, but also won’t let her have anyone else, either. As in example, he made Min Young delete the shirtless photos of Soo Young that she had on her phone. Excuuuse me, if a lady wishes to perv over photos of a casual acquaintance in the nude, that is her right and Joon Ha is a d-word for telling her otherwise.  Douchecanoe is one word for him. I-wanna-hit-your-face-so-bad-you-interfering-douchecanoe is another. I can take evil in drama-land, I can take mean, I can take unkind, but the type of character I cannot stand is the possessive figure from the sidelines, who provides an obstacle for the main pair whilst bringing nothing to the table themselves. Ugh. So I basically just sigh dramatically every time Joon Ha comes on screen, hoping that I might somehow transmit my disapproval to him and he’ll go away.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m only halfway through the series so there’s a lot of space for everything to go belly-up. I’m worried it will do too because there’s been a lot of progress already between the main pair, so surely something’s going to have to mess up big time in order to fill the remaining time? I hope it’s not too draggy, whatever it is (and if it’s Joon Ha that initiates it, I’ll beat him. I’ll beat him good.). I’ve enjoyed the series so far, and its low ratings make me want to be an ambassador that goes “no, really, give it a try, it’s a hidden gem!”. So we shall see. I’ll post a quick round up of my thoughts when I finish.

In the meantime, I hope you guys have enjoyed all you watched this year (and got some righteous indignation from what you didn’t). What are your Must Watch series for 2013?

An Update, and a promise of more to come…

24 Jul

Hi, this is a PSA from your authoress, having forged her way through the fog of the web-o-sphere and back to this site.

I last posted a review here over two years ago. Since then, silence. I’d given up. No-one cared about my reviews, no-one was reading, wasn’t I just blogging into the abyss? When I’d started the blog as a bright-eyed, optimistic young thing I’d imagined I’d post a couple of reviews and then BAM! internet celebrity-dom, right? I’d be the go-to girl for all things drama-related. I’d be a guru on a mountaintop. Alas, when this didn’t happen, my heart turned away not only from blogging but a bit later from Asian dramas altogether. 

Zoom forward a couple of years, and I get an email. Someone had posted a comment on ‘Drama Panda’. A hazy bell of recognition dings in my head. A little later, another email, another comment. Two people have been reading my blog!

Now, if you’re a blog owner, and why shouldn’t you be, I imagine you think two people is nothing. Why, I’m sure you get a thousand a day, and have had to turn email-alerts off or your inbox would be flooded with praise and love-filled comments. Good for you, I’m sure you and your blog are superb! Still, for me, going from zero readers to two definite ones, well… that’s something. That’s a motivation. And being a little older and a little wiser than I was when I started this blog, I feel enough gratitude that I’ve been spurred to continue. So what if not many people read? So what if it’s another six months before anyone comments again? I LIKED writing reviews, I LIKED watching dramas, I LIKED the idea that someone might one day take the time to read my reviews. So here I am, back again. Easing myself back into dramas and writing alike but optimistic!

It’s good to be back. And if you’re reading this, hey there, expect regular updates from now on. And don’t be shy to drop me a comment 😉

Hotaru no Hikari – Review

14 Apr

It feels like a long time since I watched a pure, unadulterated romance from Japan. It seems that many Japanese dramas now days aim for ‘hard-hitting’ and ‘artsy’ rather than ‘fuzzy’ and ‘romantic’. It was kind of a relief to watch a drama that breaks that trend.

Hotaru no Hikari is such a simple, silly, yet somehow strangely wonderful drama about a woman who prefers to laze around instead of play around. This changes when her boss becomes a live-in roommate, and a new guy at work takes a shine to her. The drama basically documents her trials to move past her ‘dried up woman’ status, and regain her ‘womanhood’.

It’s kind of hard to describe WHY this kind of drama is so appealing. Maybe there’s something relatable in Hotaru’s relaxed attitude to life; in her wanting to do what she likes rather than what the rest of the world thinks she should. Watching how she lives her life, you can’t help but question, WHY bother with such things as dating, romance, when sitting on the porch with a cold can of beer is just so much more enjoyable? Haha, does it show that Hotaru’s character had quite an impact on me? I think she’s wonderful, with all her cute tics and idiosyncracies (“itadakimambo!”).

I’ve already touched on the fact that this series is a romance through and through, so I can’t help but mention the guys in Hotaru’s life. Firstly, there’s her bucho. He plays her confidant, advisor, and all-around go-to guy for all her problems. Then there’s the initial love interest, who’s the more typical male-lead material. Makoto is good-looking, grabs girls attention wherever he goes, and takes an instant liking to Hotaru. From the two outlined, any seasoned drama watcher will know exactly who she gets with in the end, but for those of you who don’t want it spoiled, my lips are sealed. Basically though, I can’t imagine anyone watching the show will be rooting for Makoto (or maybe I’m just really biased).

Gah, I’m struggling to round this (short) review off with something conclusive. I feel I’ve said everything already. I liked this drama a lot. I liked that it wasn’t pretentious. I liked that it never tried to be something above it’s level. I liked that I got the ‘doki-doki’ feeling when Hotaru and her bucho hugged. All I can really finish with is that I can’t wait to watch season two.

Fated To Love You – Review

13 Apr

I began watching Fated To Love You without high expectations. It sounded very Full House-esque with the trappings of a marriage contract slowly turning into love. The addition of the female lead becoming pregnant within the first episode perhaps sets the plot apart a little from other dramas following a similar vein, but I wasn’t expecting miracles from this drama.

After the first few episodes, however, I began thinking I’d been wrong. This drama had some really darn likeable characters. There was some convincing relationship-building going on. The humour actually succeeded in being funny, not simply slapstick. My gosh, was Fated To Love You going to become one of my favourite Taiwanese dramas of all time?

Well, no.

Before I start on the negativity, I want to commend the first half of the drama. It’s good. It’s REALLY good. It’s addictive type good, the type where I couldn’t wait to get home to watch the next episode. But then came the twist in around episode 10/11. Without giving away any spoilers, the course of the remainder of the drama is irrevocably altered, and the feel-good feeling is all gone. Our main lady, Xin Yi, decides to up sticks, away from Cun Xi who she can’t forgive. She moves to Shanghai with her long-time admirer, Dylan.

And that’s pretty much where I recommend you stop watching. Make up your own ending. Be creative. Come up with something heartwarming, conclusive and lovely for the leading pair. Whatever you decide on, I can guarantee it’ll be better than what the writer’s plucked from the discarded remnants on the editing room floor.

If I could sever off the last half of this drama like a gangrene-infested limb, I would. Gone is everything that had made the drama so wonderful and likable before. The charm of pretty much all of the characters is lost in their ‘transformation’ over the two years that the drama skipped. Naive, gentle Xin Yi becomes sassy, no-nonsense, with a career bitch haircut to match. Cun Xi wheedles his way into becoming needy, stupid, and, frankly, desperate at times. And how about the supporting characters? I don’t think even the writers knew what they were trying to say with Dylan and Anna. Is Dylan a well-meaning friend, or a serious love rival? Are we meant to feel sorry for Anna, or view her as a wolf in sheep’s clothing? By the end, the only characters that had remained consistent seemed to be Grandma, who is just lovable the whole way through.

I Am Legend – First Glance

12 Feb

I Am Legend is such a relief to watch. Lately, my Korean dramas have consisted of the likes of Goong and Mary Stayed Out All Night, and my teeth were starting to rot with the sugary, teeny-bopper romances. I Am Legend, on the other hand, is a drama which (seem so far, anyway) to be more mature, and have some proper substance to it.

The basic plot is that Seol Hee (Kim Jung Eun), a lady getting on in her years (though you couldn’t tell for looking), performs in a rock band with other ajummas. She’s married to lawyer Ji Wook (Kim Seung Soo), who is the son of a wealthy family. On the outside, she has a life to be envied. However, her husband is cold and disinterested in her, and she suspects him to be having an affair with a fellow lawyer, Seung Hye (Jang Young Nam). With her in-laws seeing her as nothing but a vessel for their future grandchild, going as far as forbidding her from giving her sister a bone-marrow transplant in case this will prevent her from being able to conceive, Seol Hee decides to get a divorce.

I’ve only seen three episodes so far, but I’m enjoying it. I love Seol Hee. I hope she doesn’t change later into the drama, ’cause the girl’s got guts right now. The love interest of the series (I’m assuming), is Tae Hyun (Lee Joon Hyuk), a cold rockstar (or is it former rockstar?) who Seol Hee has history with. It’s not exactly clear what that history is yet, just that he was described as her ‘first love’. I’m not too enthusiastic about the pairing, if I’m honest. Tae Hyun is such a typical male lead; cold, heartless, and by the looks of it, with a dark past. He’s also a father. Now, I may be wrong on this, but I think his little boy’s mother is Seung Hye, the woman that Seol Hee’s husband is having an affair with. Awkward, much? In any case, at least fireworks are guaranteed.

Oh, before I forget, the supports in this drama totally deserve a mention, too. I love love love Hwa Ja (Hong Ji Min) particularly, and her cutesy interactions with her husband. They’re just adorably hilarious.

And one final last note; I spy Bye Bye Sea in this drama! I LOVE this band, and heard they were cameoing in Playful Kiss, but it completely passed me by they were in I Am Legend, too. Gah, I turn into such a fangirl every time they come on screen.

Mary Stayed Out All Night – Review

8 Feb

I got a bit over-excited about Mary Stayed Out All Night. Rarely do I bump a drama right up to the top of my lengthy to-watch list, even if I’m really looking forward to it. With MSOAN, everywhere I went online people seemed to be raving about it. Sure, there’s were a few opinions dotted here and there that labelled this drama as ‘boring’ and ‘tedious’, but I was determined that those people must be wrong. After all, it’s a feel-good romance drama about indie rocker, Moo Kyul (Jang Geun Suk) and cheerful, gutsy girl Mae Ri (Moon Geun Young) falling in love. What’s not to like?

Indeed, for the first handful of episodes, the drama is incredibly likeable. Such cliches such as the hate-growing-to-love of the main leads is replaced by a genuine friendship. Moo Kyul is no rich prince charming – in fact, he’s even poorer than hard-done-by Mae Ri. His drive in life is one of performing rock music with his band, and he remains loyal to his bandmates even when offered elusive contracts by big companies who would make him famous. This set up just doesn’t sound like a Korean drama at all, does it? Where is the grotesquely rich, cold-hearted prince charming? Where is the scheming, bitchy other-woman? If you’re reading this with no prior knowledge of the drama, you may now be thinking: is this genuinely a drama without overused cliches and predictable plot devices? Is Mary Stayed Out All Night almost indie of itself?

Well, no.

It takes a few episodes, but MSOAN slowly morphs into the format of a more regular K-drama. Enter Jung In (Kim Jae Wook), a rich, priveleged young man with a heart of ice, just waiting for Mae Ri to melt it. Enter Seo Joon (Kim Hyo Jin), the moody other-woman who used to date Moo Kyul and hasn’t quite accepted yet that it’s over. Ah, the always-a-favourite K-drama love square, how we’ve missed you.

One thing impossible to ignore in this drama is Jang Geun Suk. No, I don’t mean that in a squealing fangirl kind of way (I like him, but I don’t get the hype surrounding him), I’m referring to the obvious typecasting he’s been subject to. It’s almost impossible to not draw similarities between Moo Kyul and his role as Tae Kyung in You’re Beautiful. Slightly-angry, slighty-misunderstood rocker who won’t let any girl into his heart until he find The One. Yeah, hopefully JGS will do something completely different for his next role. Still, I did like Moo Kyul. And whilst we’re drawing comparisons, it must be said that his damaging relationship with his mother in this drama was much better portrayed than that with his mother in You’re Beautiful.

So how about our leading lady? Mae Ri, to begin with, is adorable. Even beyond Moon Geun Young being one of the prettiest actresses I can think of, her mannerisms and expressions are just lovely. If she’d stayed that way throughout, she could easily have been one of my top female leads of all time. Alas, love has a tendency to turn even the strongest characters into melted down piles of mushy ickiness. There’s probably only a handful of scenes in the second half of the drama where Mae Ri didn’t have tears building in her eyes. Ugh, what a waste of what could have been a wonderful character. Where, at the beginning, she and Moo Kyul seemed like a really equal and lovely match, by the end I couldn’t help but be convinced that, in the real world (which has no place in asian drama, I knooow) a guy like Moo Kyul would toss her aside two minutes after he had got her, as soon as the novelty had worn off. She’s wimpy and weak and clings onto his arm like a frightened puppy most of the time. In the real world, she’d be much better suited to safe and steady rich-boy Jung In.

Speaking of Jung In, I spent the first part of the drama rolling my eyes every time he came on screen. The flat, Japanese-speaking guy from Coffee Prince is back, and he’s… exactly the same, just with slightly less good hair. He was hardly enthralling character in that, and he wasn’t in this, either, to begin with. I was surprised, therefore, that as the drama came to a close, he started actually coming to life. He doesn’t just have one facial expression – moodiness mixed with slight condescension – after all! I swear I even spotted a smile at points! In the very last episode, his almost playful interactions with Moo Kyul actually made me wish that we’d had more of him, and that’d he’d been better developed than childhood-trauma-and-evil-father-made-me-the-way-I-am. I’m also willing to say that he brought about the single most emotionally moving scene of the drama:

You couldn’t help feel for him then, even if his apparent love for Mae Ri was built rather unconvincingly.

Now, because I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone who hasn’t seen Mary Stayed Out All Night (is there anything to ruin? It’s a pretty straightforward drama, I guess…), I’ll stop here. I’ll wrap up by saying that, if you have a fairly high patience threshold, then this drama will be worth you checking out. It still has undeniable saving graces (Moo Kyul’s mum, for example, is epic. ICE CREAM!), so I don’t want to put people off watching altogether. Just don’t go in there with your hopes built too high.