Looking back on 2011…
After a year of recapping, you would think by now I would know more names of Korean actors, actresses, or drama titles, but it’s like water off a duck’s back. It doesn’t take that long for me to forget even the initials I used for all those characters over the past year. Of course I still remember the ones from my all time favorite dramas, but the rest is a fuzzy memory. I had to cheat like crazy for this post and Google almost every drama to get those character names. Pretty soon all the bloggers will be rolling out their annual “end of the year” reviews and they are going to be well written and articulate, replete with full names of actors, directors, writers, and some PDs so I wanted to get a head start on mine before the good ones come out. Obviously I will make up for lack of names with some pretty pictures.
To get started, even though this is a review, it’s not in my nature to tear apart a drama just to ridicule and mock it. I just don’t see the need to be so malicious about a drama that may mean the world to one person even if it was a total dud to another. It’s like this – these shows did their best to entertain us and for the most part, good or bad, that’s exactly what they did. We shouldn’t turn our backs on that effort by spouting out so much vitriol. No one forced us to watch them so why go around attacking them. If you ended up hating it, there is only one person to blame. Don’t subject the rest of the world to your negativity cuz it only ends up leaving a bad impression of the reviewer and not the drama itself. One should never mess with diehard fans of dramas because they go into automatic protective mode for the shows they love.
If I learned anything about blogging this past year, it’s that you can never guess what people will fall in love with. There are some dramas that I covered on this blog that make me stare at it wondering how it got here. But that just shows you that you never know what mood will strike you to pick up a new drama and embrace it – never wanting to let go from the first scene or throwing your hands up in defeat and dropping it midway through. I should know cuz I just described how I felt about some of these dramas. If I stepped on any toes while writing this review, I apologize in advance. Obviously my subjective views shouldn’t matter too much so I hope it won’t stop you from checking out the dramas that you missed out on. Now that I got all that out of the way, let’s begin.
Can You Hear My Heart
It’s no secret by now why I love this drama so much, but way back then before the first few episodes aired, it was the one I wanted to drop cuz 30 episodes seemed impossible. No matter how many excuses I came up with to let it go, each new episode gave me more reasons to stay. After a while, I not only waved a white flag of defeat, but I set up tent and parked myself here on the weekends. I thought I had seen enough good dramas over the years to recognize greatness at first glance, but this one proved me wrong. It humbled me by showing me that you can’t ever judge a drama from the plot alone. What didn’t seem that interesting on paper turned out to be something no one could look away from on screen. These characters took hold of you and their story shook you up in more ways than you ever thought possible and it gently put you back down when it was all over. Like a little kid starving for attention, all you wanted to do was jump up and down begging to be picked up again just so you could experience that wonderful feeling once more. The crazy thing is no matter how many times you watch, it just gets better and that initial feeling of amazement never wanes.
Scent of a Woman
I started this drama with my heart on full alert that it will be put through the ringer since we knew from day one what was going to happen to her, but then the drama did something else to my heart. It filled it with hope and made me realize the power of unwavering love. This is a drama you can’t judge from the premise alone. It belies something much more meaningful and resilient – a love story so well told, you actually feel like you are going through the whole experience with them. It’s one of the few melodramas that I could watch over and over again cuz I know what the reward will be at the end –that satisfying feeling you get when a drama comes through and fulfills all that it promised along the way. Like a true friend, this drama holds your hand through the good times as well as the bad and never lets you feel like you are alone. It’s one of my favorites this year and if anyone still hasn’t seen this, trust me you will be thanking me later for this gentle nudge.
Never saw either one of the leads in anything before this drama so GHJ and CSW were brand new actors for me. I had no bias for any of their previous work so it took some time to imagine them together. At first I didn’t see it – they just didn’t seem like a couple to me. But gradually, my eyes were opened as AJ changed J by affecting him. She got to him just by being herself. It’s like who she was and how brave she was to continue in a business that wasn’t very nice to her sort of chipped away at his bravado and insecurities. Her love was the chisel that finally sculpted and shaped the decent man J could be if he freed himself of the misconception that he was nothing without his clout of being a top star. That’s the kind of love story I can get behind – where the love they share empowers them to become better and stronger people. It didn’t hurt that this drama also had the cutest pair of dimples on the second lead. Laughing through tears is my favorite kind of crying and it happened a lot on this drama. But every once in a while, I found myself all choked up during the quiet wordless moments where one gesture was enough for my eyes to brim up with tears. When a drama can do that so often – it’s a keeper in my book.
Protect The Boss
I need to give credit where it’s due cuz I fell in love with this drama because of my readers. All of you PTB fans kept asking for recaps or encouraging me to give this drama another try after I ran away from Ji Hyun’s scary hair. Who knew that underneath that mop of curls beat the heart of a true romantic. Eun Seol never had a chance when Ji Hyun turned on his charm. It wasn’t just his love that was convincing, it was the sincerity behind it that made you go weak in your knees. There isn’t a single thing about this drama that I didn’t like. I love Ji Hyun’s father and grandmother for being such special kdrama characters that put their love for him above everything else. As for the secondary characters, I love Moon Won for fighting so immaturely with his cousin until one day he realized they would both be better off if they got along and the two of them proceeded to become the chummiest cousins around. Bromance is always welcome in any drama and a definite plus. They should also come up with a word for when two female characters hit it off too. When Na Yoon became best friends with Eun Seol and her roommate, I was floored by the comedy and delighted by this fun twist of circumstances. By then I should have expected the unexpected since this show broke so many kdrama rules left and right. With the perfect combination of humor, heart, somewhat plausible conflict, and a resolution that tied everything up neatly, there aren’t that many gaps in this drama to call it anything less than a winner.
Some people love shows like Glee, but I need characters who speak and not sing what they are feeling. If any character suddenly shifts from speaking to singing, I reach for my remote. When I first heard about this drama, I was wary but a name I trusted was attached so I knew I would give it a try. To put it simply, I loved this drama cuz of Kim Soo Hyun. He was the reason why I tuned in and why I hated having to drop it cuz of my busy schedule and why I picked it back up the first chance I got. In an interview, KSH said that he trained for months to sing before filming this drama. Can I just say, that training paid off in a major way. Second reason would be the music and talent behind all the kids and their devoted teachers. Each hour went by quickly cuz this isn’t a draggy show – everything moves at the right pace and it’s like watching a musical without actually having to see them break out in song and dance suddenly out of the blue. This was so good, it paved the way for YFFM.
You’ve Fallen For Me
This is like the indie films that get overshadowed by the blockbusters airing at the same time. It never really got its chance to shine in the limelight, but the handful of viewers who saw its potential remained loyal to the very end and was awarded for their steadfastness. Aside from the music, I loved what this drama was trying to do. It just wanted a chance to tell its story and do it in a way that doesn’t use too many kdrama clichés and remain original. The only drawback was finding an audience with the right mindset to appreciate such endeavors. For those of us who fit that description, we got to enjoy an understated drama that showcased every talent it had to share and for a brief time, we all got to bask in their spotlight together.
I normally don’t hold grudges that long. How many months has it been now since this drama ended? It’s been long enough where I should be able to put the ending behind me and move on to acknowledge how much I loved this drama for the first 19 episodes, but I am still not there yet. I refuse to admit there was a 20th episode. It was deleted from my memory that night. I fell for this drama months before it even began – the premise alone was enough to keep up my anticipation during that long wait. The sting of that betrayal on the last episode after months of recapping and translating still burns. I keep trying to recall all the great moments this drama had and how much fun it was to watch it, but it all comes down to that last night again. Ok I changed my mind – I do hold grudges longer than I thought. Ask me next year and I bet I can say more positive stuff about this drama.
Lie to me
Real life chemistry sustained this show and was the heart of the drama itself. The pulse was the viewers who fell for their charm and presence and came back for more each week. Once the drama ended, clarity set in and some of us wondered why we felt like we were waking from a dream like state – as if we were groggy from being entranced for so long. Months later and I am still wondering what happened. It’s like that drug haze never really clears when it comes to this drama. You have vague recollections of bizarre behaviors, crazy antics, and a whirlwind romance, but the only thing you know for sure is that you suddenly crave cola.
I’m beginning to think there might be another reason why Song Seung Heon is called “hand towel” cuz you use towels and forget all about it. That’s what happened with this drama. I couldn’t remember anything about it and had to go back and look at my recaps to see if I liked it back then or not. Then I remembered two things about it that I loved all on my own – that song by Taru and the Roman holiday scene that lured me to do the recaps in the first place. Beyond that nothing came to mind. This isn’t the kind of drama that you would call gripping or amazing. It’s more like watching a 16 episode CF. Two very good looking people are comical and amusing from time to time and they will probably keep you entertained enough to finish the series, but after you are done, I highly doubt you will want to start all over again. Maybe if you were on vacation on the beach and you had lots of cocktails. Yup – pretty sure alcohol could make this drama a lot more interesting, but then you would end up where you started cuz you wouldn’t remember anything again.
Dramas currently airing:
This one snuck up on me. I knew early on that I liked the drama itself to continue watching, but I had no idea that with each passing week, my love for this drama would reach heights reserved for my top three all time favorites. Episode 11 did it for me. After that I became a slave to this drama and I would do just about anything for it – even going so far as to kick CYHMH off my number one list to make room for this one. My love for this drama is going to extend all the way till next year and beyond.
Flower Boy Ramen Shop
I dreaded writing this one cuz I had high hopes for it, but my initial disappointment hasn’t dissipated. I wanted to like it so much I tried everything – even watching it on mute. It got a little better, but I kept “pfft”ing through so many scenes so I went back to sound. The fact that Jung Il Woo look amazing in it clouds my judgment from time to time and keeps the flicker of hope alive that it will become something more than what it actually is on screen. So many people are in love with this drama so I was tempted to “drink the cool aid,” but the problem was I couldn’t swallow it cuz it’s just too sugary. There are only three things that aren’t syncing for me when it comes to this drama – the over the top fluff, how a 19 yr old could be that out of touch with reality and so clueless, and the lead couple’s age disparity. The first two are self explanatory so I will skip to the part that was the deal breaker for me. In the past, I didn’t think twice about younger guys supposedly falling in love with older divorced or single women on these dramas since the guys were usually in their mid to late twenties or early thirties. Those few years age difference was about the same as this drama’s, but as soon as Jung Il Woo’s character came on screen wearing a high school uniform, the doors of my open mind clang shut tightly and it wouldn’t budge after that. No matter how much I tried to pry it open using coaxing words like “you missed out on Return of Iljimae so you owe it to him to give this a chance cuz he looks so cute here” or “it’s just a drama, in real life they are only a few years apart and he is not 19,” all those words fell on deaf ears. The thing about a drama is that I have to believe in the possibility – I need to feel like “this couple was meant to be” in order to root for them to get together by the end of the series and I just do not see it for Chi Soo and Eun Bi. All I see is teacher intern and 19 year old kid. At this point, even a time jump is too late so I am rooting for the tall guy to get the girl. I think Chi Soo needs more maturing to really get what it means to be with someone like Eun Bi. I continue to watch this, but my facial expressions range from one eyebrow raised to frowns. Lately my head has been tilting to the side as well cuz I don’t get how this drama is going to end so I will watch this till it’s over. Mere curiosity trumps bafflement every time.
Thousand Day Promise
This may be the first time I continue to watch a drama for the peripheral characters. Every week I tune in to see whose turn it is to make me cry. Will it be Seo Yeon’s loving younger brother who puts his sister first before his own worries and concern for her well being or will it be her devoted cousin Jae Min who has been her guardian angel watching over her better than a father, boyfriend, and friend combined. His character redefines what it means to have a “pillar of strength” in your life when you need one the most and to top it off, he is easy on the eyes. Lately even Seo Yeon’s aunt, Ji Hyung’s ex-fiance, and his mother have caused my tear ducts to get a work out. Initially I was turned off by the lead couple’s love story since it stemmed from an affair. No matter how you look at it, Seo Yeon’s claim that he belonged to her first from when they were younger just doesn’t cut it for me. If that was true then she should never have let him go back then. Ji Hyung was already taken when she met him again a year ago. Stealing him from his fiancé for a year claiming dibs only works in her warped mind in her desperate attempt to cling to any excuse for her wrongful act. Of course it doesn’t help that I still don’t like Ji Hyung either for being the spineless jellyfish that he was all this time. You don’t claim to love one and marry another no matter what the circumstances. He was trying to juggle too many balls in the air that were bound to fall no matter how long he kept them up there. Now that he has finally done the right thing, I should cut him some slack but that residual resentment towards his selfish character hasn’t gone away. This drama is almost over and I am surprised to find myself wondering how this is going to end. Each episode showed a progression of her deteriorating condition and watching her struggle to maintain control has been fascinating. Never saw a drama before where the lead couple rode shotgun while the illness took over the driver’s seat. This is not an easy drama that you can watch more than once so I am going to finish it off praying for some kind of satisfactory conclusion that doesn’t leave me feeling depressed.
Man of honor
This is a funny one cuz since it shouldn’t even be a drama I am watching. On the first night it aired, I told myself I wouldn’t touch this drama again with a ten foot pole since I am allergic to anything remotely makjang. Then the fascination to see just how far they would take this got the better of me. I underestimated their full makjang capability cuz this drama does not believe in doling it out little by little. They like to douse you with it and give you only a few minutes to dry out and then soak you again. In Woo’s dad is supposed to be evil, but I find him more comical than anything. It boggles my mind whether the actor is actually terrible at acting or if this is his best version of playing maniacal. Either way, the end result is that I can’t take him seriously cuz of all his crazy facial expressions. There are certain dramas where you just immediately upon first glance sense that the main couple just looks like they belong with each other. Every scene they are in together or even during the poster shoot, they just click well. You just buy the idea that they are going to fall in love during the course of the drama just from looking at them. That didn’t happen in this one. At this point, I can’t picture her with anyone except with Lee Min Ho. But if I had to choose for this drama, I think Jae In looks better and seems more suitable with In Woo. I know – falling for the second character seems to be the story of my kdrama experience.
Every year there are a handful of Kdramas that create a wave of hysteria for a few months. There are the ones that cause quite a stir on the internet, but didn’t fare so well in the ratings war such as MSOAN and MGIAG and then you have the clear winners that no one can contest. Last year I was lucky enough to have taken part in the SKKS and SG phenomenon where people were eagerly waiting on pins and needles anticipating the next episode. The distinction and honor of being dubbed this year’s best go to some of the shows I covered on this blog. City Hunter, Lie to Me, Can You Hear My Heart, and 49 Days were the ones that left quite an impression on the internet, but the only one that is still ranked number one in weekend ratings in Seoul is OB. It seems a quiet unobtrusive drama packed more of a punch than people bargained for and some of us are still reeling from the blow and will be seeing stars for quite some time. As long as we keep seeing a certain pair of dimples, a duck pendant, caramel macchiato, and some kisses floating around in our dazed state, I doubt anyone will be complaining any time soon. :)
* Just to let everyone know why I left out Romance Town,WBDS, and City Hunter – it was cuz I never watched every episode. I feel like if I didnt finish the entire series, I didnt really earn the right to review them. I loved City Hunter towards the middle and end, but I wasn’t a fan of the first episode so I dropped it from the recap lineup. I picked it back up later cuz it was fun and easy to do quick recaps before YFFM. As for RT, I still have no idea what anyone’s real name or character names are. That’s what I do when I dont recap a drama – I watch the whole series without knowing a single name. I was just fascinated by the money and how it moved from hand to hand and changed everyone. Main reason why I even started was cuz of the grandma from Brilliant Legacy – total fan of hers. I didn’t even care about the love stories in RT at all. Hope that explains why they weren’t covered. :)
Upcoming new shows recap idea:
I thought the crazy month of May was behind us, but now it’s back again. In the next coming weeks, all these new dramas will air: Wild romance, Bachelor vegetable store, Padam Padam, Feast of the Gods, and Moon that embraces the sun. On top of that, I still have dramas I am currently watching like OB, MoH, FBRS, and TDP. Now add up all those dramas and then add how many translators there are on this blog (just me) and what do you get? A very exhausted frazzled blogger who will be one show shy of a mental break down. So the solution? I am going to watch some of those new shows and decide if I like them enough to recap. If I do, then I am going to make a weekly post called “KD rundown” and add quick recaps for those shows that made the cut. It will more than likely include either a quick recap of Padam Padam or at least an explanation why they will not be coming up in the future if I end up not liking it. Only those shows that I love will end up being OB style full recaps with screenshots and all.