Wednesday, April 29, 2015

First Impression: School 2015: Who Are You?

School 2015: Who Are You?
Genre: School, Youth, Mystery
Episodes:  16
Broadcast Network: KBS2
Air Time: Monday/Tuesday

Main Cast:
Kim So Hyun as Lee Eun Bi / Go Eun Byul
Nam Joo Hyuk as Han Yi Ahn
Yook Sung Jae as Gon Tae Kwang

Lee Eun Bi lives at the orphanage Love's House in Tongyeong South Gyeongsang Province where younger residents look up to her as a mother figure. They don't know that she's friendless at her school and viciously bullied by a posse of mean girls led by Kang So Young, while teachers turn a blind eye. On the other hand, Go Eun Byul is the most popular girl at Segang High School, the most prestigious private high school in Seoul's Gangnam District. Eun Byul's best friends are Cha Song Joo and Lee Shi Jin, and she shares a mutual attraction with Han Yi An, the school's star swimmer. But Eun Byul has secrets, including one involving a girl named Jung Soo In. Both girls look exactly alice, but only Eun Byul is aware of the other's existence. One day, on a school field trip Eun Byul mysteriously disappears. At teh same time, Eun Bi gets unjustly expelled from her school. Mistaken for her doppelganger, Eun Bi is forced to pretend to be Eun Byul and begins living her charmed life. 

What a start to this drama! The first episodes have really brought me into the story and I am really interested to see where the drama goes from here! I have to say that I haven't watched any of the School series, so I am coming into this drama without any expectations, although School 2013 is on my list to watch. From what I know about this series is that it deals with real life problems that students deal with while in school, but from what I've gathered they haven't been as dark as this has started. Between this show and Angry Mom my eyes are being opened to a very big problem in schools these days, bullying. I don't know how much of this is exaggerated and how much actually shows real life bullying, but it is really hard to watch. The amount of physical, emotional, and sexual harassment that is going on is horrifying. I didn't graduate from high school that long ago and I never experience or saw anything life this. That may be because of where I went to school but I honestly don't remember seeing any bullying at all, and maybe that just means that I ignored what could have potentially been bullying and maybe a lot has changed in the three years since I graduated. 

I think the hardest thing about the first episode was watching this girl get bullied again and again and having her not stand up for herself. It got really frustrating because I just wanted to punch my computer screen every time Jo Soo Hyang came on screen, which is a testament to her acting because I now fully believe she is just a horrible person. But while I was thinking about it, I think it makes the bullying more realistic. When you have someone who has been bullied again and again and seeing how teachers turn a blind eye to what they know if happening, you get to the point where you know that if you do stand up for yourself everything will just get harder, so they stay quiet. It's horrible but I think it's closer to real life. 

The story seems really interesting and I am liking the mystery plot they have integrated into the story. I may be the only person who has watched this show but I swear there are so many similarities between this show and the show The Lying Game. While I was watching this first episode I was reminded of this show over and over again, it must have something to do with the twins separated at birth, one living a wealthy idealistic life while the other is in foster care and then through a series of events the poor twin ends up taking over the others life. There are plenty of differences between the two shows but it was just funny how the basic plot structures were the same. 

The acting has been solid in the first two episodes. Kim So Hyun has quite the job cut out for her, she has two characters that have very different personalities so I'm excited to see what she is able to do with both. The other actors were fine, we haven't really gotten to see a ton of the other main leads so I look forward to seeing more from them.

Overall a solid start from this mystery school drama, the first two episodes have had a quick pace that has kept me interested in the story and it has presented a mystery that has me already guessing at where the drama is going to go. 

As a side note: The swimming scene in the first episode was done really well. That may be weird to say but I was a competitive swimmer, until I got injured in high school swimming was going to be basically my career. So whenever shows have swimmers I always cringe because they never show what real competitive swimming looks like. This show probably has the best representation of a swimmers stroke and technique that I have ever scene. I think they had to have gotten real swimmers to film that scene or Nam Joo Hyuk is one hell of a swimmer. So there is my weird observation for the day. 
To see the swimming scene skip to about the 2:00 mark

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Best Korean Dramas

Top 10 Favorite Dramas

I have officially watched over 50 dramas, which is quite a landmark for me. So in honor of this momentous occasion I wanted to list my favorite dramas. These are the shows I would recommend to any one to watch. It is really hard to create this type of list because I choose to watch dramas usually because I am interested in the synopsis and I tend to gravitate toward dramas that suite my taste. It is also hard because I have really only been watching dramas that have aired in the last five years or so. I have recently tried to go back and watch some of the classic dramas to give my watching a wider range (I am currently about half way through Winter's Sonata and plan to watch Sandglass next, I would love recommendations of older classics, so if you have some let me know).

Warning: This list is 100% biased and is based off of how my I personally enjoyed a drama. If you don't agree... sorry. I know as I watch more dramas that these opinions will change and grow and honestly there are a few other dramas that I really debated to put on this list, those include Healer, Kill Me, Heal Me, Master's Sun. Those easily could have ended up on here. But I think that I have put together a very good list the reflects my taste in dramas and I think they are all pretty quality dramas that anyone could enjoy!

10. The Princess' Man

Why I Loved It: I think this is by far the most beautiful drama I have watched. I have never been the biggest fan of history dramas, which is evident by my serious lack of historical dramas I have watched all the way through. This drama captured me from the beginning and it was never boring. The romance felt real and I was always hoping our main couple would come together. There is great action and the story isn't bogged down by endless conversations about politics. Loved it from beginning to end! 

9. Coffee Prince

Why I Loved It: I am fairly positive that this drama is a staple in any drama lovers watch list, which is deserved. This drama is funny, romantic, and sexy. It is definitely the most believable gender-bending drama and Yoon Eun Hye does an amazing job making the audience believe that she is a boy. This is by far the best drama she has done. I also think it has some poignant messages about accepting oneself. Plus Gong Yoo is very fun to look at! It is a great story that keeps you watching all the way through!

8. The King 2 Hearts

Why I Loved It: This drama has such a great romance, it was a romance I was rooting for the whole drama. It also had some great secondary characters that literally broke my heart. While this drama is set in a different universe where Korea has a constitutional monarchy, it never felt like it wasn't our world. I also found the portrayal of the relationship between North and South Korea to be very interesting. This drama made me laugh and cry my eyes out and had some amazing romance. It also had some very serious themes that honestly surprised me, these moments of seriousness were my favorite part of the drama and I think they were handled very well. 

7. Liar Game

Why I Loved It: This drama challenges you to watch closely and figure out the twist before they show you. I think that is what made this drama so incredible and fun to watch. I was always trying to see if I could beat the show to the punch. This show also has my favorite drama villains. He is so creepy but also fascinating. He is a character that isn't completely black and white and I honestly felt a lot of sympathy for him. Yes, he is a psychopath but it is fascinating to see how he controls every facet of the game to get the result he wants. this show really was just a fascinating watch that kept me guessing the entire time, the twists the show had never felt forced and really just felt like the natural progression of the plot. 

6. Secret Investiagation Record

Why I Loved It: This drama is basically the Korean version of the X-Files which is a show I watched a lot growing up. I have always liked these type of supernatural mystery shows and so when I saw this drama existed I knew I had to watch it. It has an incredible story that isn't the easiest to follow. But if you are willing to give it a chance and really invest in the drama you will go for an incredible ride. There are two episodes that honestly blew my mind and I honestly find myself thinking back to those episodes and thinking about them all over again. 

5. Answer Me 1997

Why I Loved It: This drama is heavy with the nostalgic, which I think for a lot of people was the major appeal. For me I had no idea what a lot of the references were in the drama, so because I am a major nerd I decided to research. Whenever I came across something I didn't get I would look into it. I can now assure everyone that I have a ridiculously vast knowledge of Korea in the late 90's. It was funny and poignant and made me feel all the feels. It was brilliantly acted and introduced a lot of newbies which have now gone on to have very big careers. 

4. Shut Up: Flower Boy Band

Why I Loved It: This is the best coming of age stories in dramaland. It is a story about finding who you are and how friendships grow and change with time. Sung Joon is incredible is this drama, and because of this drama he has become one of my favorite dramaland actors. I like that this show dives into a part of the Korean music industry outside of K-pop. But the focus of the drama isn't on the music, it is on relationships between these people and how they deal with trials that come their way.  

3. White Christmas

Why I Loved It: Okay this drama is by far the best psychological drama out there. I just happened to watch this over Christmas break between my semesters. I literally watched it in a single sitting going through all 8 episodes very quickly. Psychology has always fascinated me, the human mind is a crazy thing, and this is what this drama focuses on. It's final message leaves you thinking and it is another one that I continually find myself thinking back trying to interpret the meaning behind the whole drama, it really leaves you with a lot to think about. It is honestly brilliant and I loved every episode.

2. Misaeng

Why I Loved It: This drama has the most heart out of any drama I have watched. It also has a way of taking all your feelings and crushing them in the first episode and then slowly and painfully builds those feels back to where they are stronger then they were when you started the drama. It is about every day life but it is never boring. I think this is the best drama I have watched, quality wise. Every aspect of the show is perfect, the writing, acting, and directing. Watch it!

1. It's Okay, That's Love

Why I Loved It: I think this is one of the finest acted dramas with a brilliant script and great story. It is a drama that tackles a pretty heavy subject and does it extremely well. Gong Hyo Jin is one of my favorite actresses, I have loved her in every drama I have watched of hers, and she doesn't disappoint in this. She has a knack of picking really strong female characters that sometimes are hard to find in dramaland. The secondary characters are also extremely interesting and Lee Kwang Soo has an amazing performance, since I had only seen him on Running Man I was actually blown away. Then there is Jo In Sung who is honestly what makes this drama for me. Out of all the amazing actors on this list and the amazing performances they gave in their respective dramas, he takes the ultimate award for me. I think another reason this drama is my favorite is because it is the one that got one of my very good childhood friends hooked on K-Dramas. I will never be able to listen to Hero by Family of the Year, without seeing Jo In Sung's face. It may not be technically the best drama, but emotionally it hit all the right places for me. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

First Impression: Divorce Lawyer in Love

Divorce Lawyer In Love
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Episodes: 20
Broadcast Network: SBS
Air Time: Saturday/Sunday

Main Cast:
Jo Yeo Jung as Ko Cheok Hee
Yun Woo Jin as So Jung Woo
Shim Hyung Tak as Bong Min Gyu
Wang Hi Won as Jo Soo Ah

Ko Cheok Hee is an unscrupulous divorce attorney who will do whatever it takes to get what she wants for her clients. Her office manager, So Jung Woo doesn't hold back his opinions and criticizes everything Cheok Hee does wrong, and the two constantly bicker and collide. Ultimately, the two can't stand each other and Jung Woo leaves his job and ends up going to law school and also becomes a divorce attorney. Years later, Cheok Hee gets her legal license suspended because of professional misconduct. When she runs into Jeong Woo, she goes to work for this law office as his office manager. With the table now turned, can Jung Woo survive the abuse she gets from her new boss? 

I watched the first two episodes of this drama and I have actually decided not to watch it right now. I am going to follow comments and what people are saying about it but after the first two hours I just don't like the drama and it hasn't peaked my interest at all. It honestly just seemed like a normal dramaland rom-com with all the usual cliches. I feel like I have seen the relationship our leading couple has a billion times. Also the humor isn't really my type of humor so I didn't find any of the situations that funny. I really wanted to like the drama because I loved Yun Woo Jin in Marriage Not Dating which was a brilliant rom-com. But I am not in love with him enough to push through this drama. Maybe I will come back to it later if I see it get really good reviews, but for now I will have to give it a pass. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

First Impressions: Missing Noir M

Missing Noir M
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller, Action
Episodes: 10
Broadcast Network: OCN
Airtime: Saturday

Main Cast:
Kim Kan Woo as Gil So Hyun
Park Hee Soon as Oh Dae Young
Jo Bo Ah as Jin Seo Joon
Park So Hyun as Kang Joo Young
Kim Gyu Chul as Park Jung Do

This drama revolves around a unique cases investigated by Gil Soo Hyun and Oh Dae Young. This team focuses on not just simple missing victims but missing persons involved with serious violent crimes. Gil Soo Hyun is extremely intelligent. At the age of 10, he attended Harvard University. After graduating there, he decided to work for the FBI and worked there for 10 years. Afterwards, he decided to come back to South Korea. He now works as the leader of the Special Missing Persons Unity. The unity deals with about 1% of special missing person cases. His appearance borders perfection, but he holds a dark secret. His partner is Oh Dae Young who has worked as a detective for 20 years and he has an obsession in observing the law. 

I am in love with this drama. One of my favorite American shows is Hannibal and really it is the only show I watch from the U.S. The first two episodes of this drama reminded me of the overall feel of that show and I think that's what instantly drew me to the show. I am not the biggest fan of crime procedural shows but I do like the super dark shows that dive into the psychology of killers. This drama falls perfectly into that category and from what I saw in the first two episodes it is going to be a fascinating show. 

I think the lead character Gil So Hyun is going to be an interesting character to watch throughout the series. He is definitely hiding things and I really want to know what has happened to him in his past. He is really the driving force of the drama for me.

The first two episodes focused on a killer who is in jail and drags So Hyun through a series of puzzles to find people before they die. The killer is played by Kang Ha Neul who just recently finished Misaeng. I loved him in that show where he played a brooding office worker. For this cameo role though he completely transformed and honestly seemed like a crazy serial killer. His performance in the first two episodes was amazing and I'm bummed that I won't get to see him anymore. 

Overall this show has a fascinating premise that is dark and shrouded in mystery. OCN has always done a great job with darker crime procedural dramas, so I have high expectations with where this drama is going to take us.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

First Impression: The Lover

The Lover
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Episodes: 12
Broadcast Network: Mnet
Air Time: Thursday

Main Cast:
Oh Jung Se as Oh Do Si
Ryu Hyun Kyung as Ryoo Doo Ri
Choi Yeo Jin as Choi Jin Nyeo
Jung Joon Young as Jeong Yeong Joon
Ha Eun Sul as Ha Seol Eun
Park Jong Hwan as Park Hwan Jong
Lee Jae joon as Lee Joon Jae
Terada Takuya as Takuya

It's an omnibus series about four different couples living together in one apartment complex.

Oh Do Si and Ryoo Doo Ri play the main couple in their 30's who chose to live together instead of getting married, and have been sharing an apartment for two years. Oh Do Si plays a voice actor and Ryoo Doo Ri plays a reviewer who runs a blog.

Choi Jin Nyeo and Heong Yeong Joon have been cast as the second couple, they're twelve years apart in age and have been living together for a year. He's a pretty-boy singer who carries his guitar everywhere he goes, but doesn't actually know how to play it all that well. She's a penny pinching ajumma in the body of a hot woman who basically supports her much younger boyfriend. He drives her crazy but he's a good guy at heart, and she can never manage to stay mad at him for long. 

Ha Seol Eun and Park Hwan Jong play a couple in their 20's that have just moved in together. She's the type of woman who doesn't want her boyfriend to know that she isn't the perfect embodiment of femininity, and works tirelessly to keep up the illusion.

Lee Joon Jae is a loner who prefers to stay at home, but it forced to get a roommate for financial reasons. He doesn't even want to exchange unnecessary small talk with the guy, and thus seeks out a foreigner who can't speak Korean very well. Takuya plays the new roommate, a young man from Japan who's on a trip around the world. Takuya thinks it's a shame that Joon Jae is wasting his youth as a homebody, and begins to draw him out into the world. 

I literally laughed out loud when I first watched the trailer for The Lover. And the trailer is really a great introduction into what the show really feels like because it honestly feels like someone has a camera just recording these people. The show is honestly unlike anything I have watched before and it is really refreshing. This show is the closest I think we could get to a Kdrama representing real life. The dialogue between the characters feels real and unscripted. Just the fact that these people are living together and it isn't a big deal, in so many dramas we get characters who are so shy and any physical contact is shocking and inappropriate. That obviously isn't real life, and while South Korea is still a lot more conservative, people still have sex outside of marriage and kissing is something natural. 

Since I have only watched the first episode I don't have a complete feel for the show but it is filmed really interesting because it feels more like a documentary then a television show. They switch between the different apartments to kind of just look in on what the couple is up to. This show is just about everyday life and examining how life is for cohabiting couples. I am always a fan of the usual drama that takes us on an incredible journey but I also like dramas that show us a glimpse of the real world, that is what this drama is doing. Sure some of the personalities are heightened just because they do have to create some conflict and entertainment for the audience. But the issues these couples are going through are what real people have to deal with. Also it looks like there may be a gay couple which is awesome. It's not completely clear if they will actually have a relationship but I am really curious to see where they take them. 

Overall I am really interested in this drama and seeing where the story goes with each couple. It is a laugh out loud fun show that is just entertaining to watch. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

First Impression: The Girl Who Can See Smells

The Girl Who Can See Smells
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Fantasy
Episodes: 16
Broadcast Network: SBS
Air Time: Wednesday/Thursday

Main Cast:
Yoochun as Choi Moo Gak
Shin Se Kyung as Oh Cho Rim
Nam Goong Min as Kwon Jae Hee
Yoon Jin Seo as Yeom Mi

3 years ago, Choi Moo Gak lost his younger sister in the "Bar Code Murders." Since then he has become cold and insensible. Meanwhile, Oh Cho Rim miraculously survived the same incident. Since hen she has lost all her memories of her previous life, but also gained the ability to see smells. 

I originally wasn't going to watch this drama. The premise really didn't connect to me and honestly I thought that it sounded dumb. But while I was looking at some of the comments on the first two episodes I began to get really curious about it and decided that I should give it a try and boy am I glad I did. This show is going to be fun! This shows plot revolves around two peoples lives who have been seriously changed because of a serial murderer and you would except the show to be relatively dark, I thought it was going to be another show that seemed like it was a comedy from the previews but it is actually really serious. But that isn't the case, this show has very smart humor that I found refreshing. it has successfully maneuvered between serious and funny moments, making the two different tones work together instead of against each other. Everything just works, which is a nice surprise, considering I went into the drama thinking it was going to be a hot mess. 

What I really appreciate about this drama is that the two characters lives are intertwined but it doesn't feel like an unbelievable coincidence. After two episodes I am fully invested in the story and in the characters. I feel so bad for Moo Gak because he has gone through something horrific and his sister died for no reason. If the two girls had had slightly different names or things had gone a little bit different his younger sister wouldn't have been killed and he would be living a perfectly normal life. He has lost all feeling of pain because he has already experience the worse kind of pain a person can live through. I look forward to seeing him slowly recover his emotions see him come back to life. While Cho Rim will have to learn about her past and will have to come to terms with what happened to her. The casting for the two leads has also been done really well, I can already feel the chemistry between these two but they are also going to make an amazing team together. 

I am really excited to see where this show goes. After watching the first episodes I am reminder of how I felt after watching the first few episodes of Healer. I did the same thing with that show, I didn't watch it at first because I didn't think it was going to be all that great but then it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable dramas I have watched in a while. So while this show has a crazy out of this world plot that has no right to work but somehow it melds together to create an enjoyable show that is both laugh out loud funny and serious. 

Also the Running Man cameo was brillaint!!!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Series Review: Maids

Maids is a drama that had to survive a devastating fire that caused the death of Yeom Hye Sun, their main script coordinator. This event occurred one episode into the shows run and resulted in the show postponing their run until the end of January.  I was half expecting that the show would cancel it's run because of the long delay but I'm glad that they decided to air the show. I am not the biggest fan of historical dramas, in fact I have given up on a bunch of them half way through because most of them focus on the politics and honestly I just get bored. I am trying to be better and go back and watch some of the shows I had given up on but it's hard to be invested. I initially didn't watch the first episode when it aired in December because I really wasn't interested in the drama.  But a week before the drama was set to return I decided to give that first episode a try, and I'm really glad I did, because I really enjoyed this drama. 

First lets talk about our leads, Jung Yoo Mi does a great job playing In Yub. While the first few episodes she does come across as spoiled and at times I just think how ridiculous she is to make some of these request, but the fact was that's how people of the upper class were in the time period (and really the upper class hasn't changed all that much through history). She grew up privileged and respected and that's how she expected to be treated at all times. But you also see that she really is a kind person, her relationship with Sal Wol Yi was more like sisters than a master/slave situation. This relationship also grew a ton when In Yub's status was lowered to a maid. At the beginning of the drama we saw In Yub at her worst, she was alone taking care of a household and had to face the reality that her father was most likely never coming back. We got to see her character struggle with her family situation changing and seeing her come to accept her place was nice to watch. She is a strong female character that took charge of her life and wanted to clear her family name, not because she wanted to be a noble woman again but because she wanted her father's name be respected. While she did seem frustrating at times overall I really liked her character. 

Oh Ji Ho also did a great job with his character, Moo Myung. He was a character who didn't really say a whole lot throughout the whole drama. He was the brooding, silent, mysterious type who had me invested in him since the beginning of the drama. I wanted to know what his story was and why he did the things he did. It is pretty easy to guess who he is by the time it is finally revealed but it is gratifying to know his back story. I do feel like his character was left kind of bland, we never really got to see him break down or be completely open, which was disappointing. 

Now we come to the most frustrating character in the show, Kim Eun Gi. This character started out adorable and you could see how much he cared for In Yub, but the second she starts to distance herself from him he switches to this evil villain who apparently wants to destroy In Yub's life. Of course he says he's doing it because he loves her but in what world does it make sense for him to go all Anakin Skywalker episode 3 on us? His character went down hill fast and I never felt anything for him after the first few episodes and I'm glad he died... 

My biggest disappointment with this show was how little romance there really was. I was looking forward to In Yub and Moo Myung falling into each others arms and declaring their love for each other but that absolutely never happened. I liked how In Yub didn't immediately go to Moo Myung when it was initially revealed that he kind of caused the ruin of her entire family, but I was hoping she would eventually get over it. I felt like she ended up not really liking Moo Myung which would be intersting if the female lead just ended up going her own way and being an independent woman, but I don't think that's what the drama meant to do, it just ended with a weird dynamic between the two of them, which is a shame because they had amazing chemistry at the beginning of the drama. 

All the side characters were okay, I wish there was less time spent with some of them because I didn't find them all that interesting. Except for Sal Wol Yi who was pretty much the greatest. 

Really overall the show was really great, expect for the final few episodes which I felt were rushed. This is a drama I wish was 24 episodes instead of 20 so we could have seen the main plot really fleshed out, and hopefully could have seen more romance. But I am glad that this show was able to continue after it's tragic start. It was beautifully shot and was gorgeous to watch and it had some great background music as well. We get so many historical dramas that revolve around the upper class and royalty but this was a nice look at the lowest class. It felt a bit like Downton Abbey with the upstairs downstairs look at the period.