Coffee Prince [Drama]: Your new favourite drama

This review got put on the back-burner while I focused on an assignment that was due. Sorry about that!

I had previously heard many, many things about this classic 2007 drama. I’ve watched a couple of gender-bent dramas and anime before, and I actually like this common trope… when it’s done correctly. Luckily for me, Coffee Prince (aka The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince) is perfect in just about every way!

coffee-prince

What’s it about?

Eun Chan (Yoon Eun Hye) works several jobs to provide the main income for her family. After a mishap on one of her deliveries, she meets Han Kyul (Gong Yoo), the good-for-nothing son of a rich family, who, like many others before him, mistakes her for a boy. Seeing that Eun Chan is desperate for money, and wanting a way out of dates arranged by his grandmother and mother, Han Kyul hires the girl to act as his gay lover. However Han Kyul’s family quickly tries a different angle, putting him in charge of a run-down cafe with the order to triple the investment money in three months. Han Kyul hires Eun Chan as the first “prince” working in the cafe, but what will happen as the two spend more and more time together?

The Positives

Let’s get started with our main couple and the love story. I absolutely adored Eun Chan as our main girl. She’s strong, determined, funny, and fiercely independent. I also liked how she’s a little unpredictable, as she’s ready to just do what feels right in the moment. Han Kyul is adorable as well, and I particularly liked his childish, almost innocent character. AND THEY ARE SO CUTE TOGETHER! I also liked how the whole “Han Kyul discovering Eun Chan is a girl” part was handled. I think it’s a lot fairer to Han Kyul’s character and a lot more realistic that what I’ve seen in other similar plot lines. I also like that this isn’t the climax of the two’s relationship, and that overcoming this obstacle doesn’t mean that there’s going to be smooth sailing on the other side… again, much more realistic. Yoon Eun Hye and Gong Yoo, the two actors, were perfectly cast. They really handled the various stages of the emotional roller coaster of a relationship perfectly. I also liked that we got to compare Eun Chan and Han Kyul to the older, more experienced couple of Han Sung (Lee Sun Kyun) and Yoo Ju (Chae Jung An), who get tangled up in everything as well. A fantastic touch.

socute

Gah, the cute >.<

However, with the setting in the cafe, our drama isn’t all about love. We have a few other “princes” that interact with our two leads. There’s not too much to say about Manager Hong (Kim Chang Wan) except that I liked his fatherly-mentoring relationship with Eun Chan, and the way he always knew what was going on with everyone else’s emotions. Min Yeop (Lee Eon) just reminds me of a adorable, bouncing, but super-sensitive puppy. I loved everything about his character. Ha Rim (Kim Dong Wook) is funny and quirky in his own way. I know there’s one section of the drama where he does get on the audiences’ nerve, but I don’t blame him for his actions that led him there. Sun Ki (Kim Jae Wook) provides the much-needed brains of the group, as well as fitting the bill as the mysterious, “cool” character. However, I really liked that he’s still as much of a dork as the rest of the princes, and has no problem loosening up around them. What really makes these characters great is how naturally they fit in and work with each other. Throughout the series, the cafe has a really fun and interesting dynamic, and I just couldn’t get enough of it.

princes

I would be a regular at the cafe just for the above three reasons! (L-R: Min Yeop, Ha Rim, Sun Ki)

Finally, I really loved that the series presented two functional, loving families. Anyone who’s seen a K-Drama know that this isn’t always the case, especially in any drama with a class divide between the main couple. However, Coffee Prince pulls this off these loving families convincingly. Scenes such as Eun Chan snuggling up with her Mum when she’s worried and Han Kyul teasing his mother and grandmother really sold me on this drama. No toxic environments and no hate allows the drama to be character driven and focused, which makes it so easy to watch!

The Negatives

To be honest, I didn’t have too much to criticise the drama for. Given how great their chemistry was, I would have loved more scenes featuring the cafe princes. They just all bounced off each other really well and were very entertaining to watch. I also would have liked more of Min Yeop’s, Ha Rim’s, and Sun Ki’s backstory. Ha Rim in particular seemed he had a lot going on in his life, and I feel that Sun Ki’s story had more potential. However, I’m still satisfied with what the drama gave, I’m just greedy 😛

Anything else I should consider?

This drama has (rather oddly) 17 episodes in total. However there is an 18th episode, which is a bonus episode containing behind the scenes cuts, interviews with actors and production staff, and the writer’s perspective on the story. It’s quite interesting to check out if you loved the series.

Conclusion

Story: 8/10. The story is largely character-driven, which works well in this plot. Plenty of funny, cute, and emotional moments. You’ll care about the characters the whole way through, so find a comfortable position, ’cause you’ll be glued to your screen for a few hours!

Characters: 9/10. Our main leads are amazing, but they’re not the only characters in this series that are wholesome and interesting and -gasp- act like real people.

It only took a few minutes into the first episode to fall head-over-heels in love with this drama. The emotion throughout the series in genuine, the characters are amazing, and everything was handled perfectly. Whether you’re a drama newbie or veteran, if you’re yet to check out Coffee Prince, I recommend you drop everything and watch it at once. Overall, I give this drama a 9/10.

-S

bcouple

Obligatory second-couple photo. As lovable as the main 🙂

Faith [Drama]: Lots to love, a little to hate…

I was in the mood for something historical, having recently re-watched a couple of my favourite episodes of Sungkyunkwan Scandal, and the 24 episodes of Faith (2012) was on my shortlist. It sounded interesting, and so I decided to check it out (I swear I didn’t know it was a Lee Min Ho drama until I started watching it, honest!)

faith

What’s it about?

King Gongmin (Ryu Deok Hwan) is returning to Goryea to become the next ruler with his wife, Princess Nogoog (Park Se Young), and the Wuldalchi; highly trained soldiers captained by the infamous Choi Young (Lee Min Ho). However, the Princesses’s throat is cut when the group is attacked by enemies, and Jang Bin (Phillip Lee), the highly skilled doctor of the group, states he is unable to save her. Desperate, the King sends Choi Young through “Heaven’s Gate”, a mysterious portal that lands him in modern-day Seoul. The first doctor he finds is cosmetic surgeon Yoo Eun Soo (Kim Hee Seon); stubborn, materialistic, and straightforward, she is kidnapped by Choi Young, and dragged back in time. She succeeds in saving the Princess’s life, but Choi Young breaks his promise of sending her back, blocking her entrance to the portal. Eun Soo is horrified as she watches it close, realising that she is stuck in the fourteenth century.

The Positives

Faith is one of the catch-all dramas that pulls on many different genres to produce something to have a popular appeal. And it’s a drama that does this quite well. Of course, you have all the political manipulation and tension you’d expect in a historic drama (more on that later), but you also have the action scenes from Choi Young and the Wuldalchi as they protect the royal couple and Eun Soo, plenty of romance, and also a healthy dose of comedy. I think the series balances between all aspects really well, making Faith a very entertaining watch.

queen

Go Princess Nogoog!

Secondly, I was really impressed with a lot of the characters (and the actors who portrayed them) in this series. Starting with our mains, Lee Min Ho is the perfect choice for the moody warrior Choi Young. He’s got the screen presence that we all know and love, and pulls off the character’s epic lines and scenes with ease. I feel like if another actor had taken on the role, these aspects would have fallen flat or been corny. Kim Hee Seon did a really good job of bringing Eun Soo to life. I liked that Eun Soo was so straight-forward, loud, and funny, despite being in a time period when she should have acted “seen and not heard”. It shows that her character wasn’t going to let something small like time-travel compromise who she is! I also have to give a special shout out to Park Se Young as Princess Nogoog. I think she portrayed the young queen perfectly with the kind of emotional subtlety you’d expect to see of an actor with many more years of experience. I also really love a good villain, [MINOR SPOILER/] and Park Yoon Jae as Prince Deokheung [\MINOR SPOILER] (the villain) was really, really excellent. I haven’t seen a villain as intelligent and interesting as him for a very long time, and I was really surprised by the character. Definitely up there as a favourite villain! Finally, the host of side characters, but especially the Wuldalchi, really bring the series to like with their various personalities and interactions.

warriors

The best soldiers you’ll ever see!

 

Finally, I really like the mix of myth, fantasy, and history thrown together in this series. The only other historic drama I’ve seen was set in later Joseon era (18th century), so the setting in Goryea (14th century) was something very different. Here, we see Goryea fighting for its independence from (what later becomes) China, and I think this uncertainty of the nation’s future means that all characters are already in a difficult spot. As much as I hate politics in real life, they play out very well in this series, with plenty of twists and turns. I also liked the mix of myth, fantasy, and history throughout the series. I think there was a good balance between the three, retaining some historical accuracy but keeping things interesting with a new twist.

The Negatives

As much as I’ve praised Eun Soo’s character above, I also have a lot to criticise. For a surgeon, a seemingly prestigious surgeon, she sure is stupid. This is a problem with dramas relying too much on the damsel in distress female lead, and it clearly shows in this series. Now I don’t mind her issues with adjusting to Goryea (and honestly, who can blame her for trying to figure out what to do after being flung so far into the past), and her materialistic streak is all apart of her character.  However, I really hate that her character is compromised in certain situations so that she can be saved. My favourite parts of the series were when her and Choi Young worked together, not when he was saving her from the consequences of a stupid decision she made. While we’re on characters, actually, let’s have a quick look at Dr. Jang. Without spoiling to much, I know that there were real-life issues going on here, but I still feel that this character was meant to be much more important. In the first two episodes it’s clear that he’s more than just the royal doctor, and it’s hinted that there’s some serious back story to his character, but he then sort of fizzles off into a side character. I was looking forward to discovery more about him, but left feeling extremely disappointed.

dr-jang

Dr Jang… clearly meant to be more than a shoulder to cry on…

The second criticism I have against this series… well, I guess it’s one that I have against anything involving time-travel in general. It hurts my head. I followed everything throughout the series until we get to the last couple of episodes and everything is tied up… but sort of not really? I feel that there was a major plot hole in the end (see below) and there were implications, that, if they had been addressed correctly, could have changed the direction of the series, and made it much more interesting. The ending also felt a little anti-climatic (in terms of the “baddies” that we’ve been dealing with) as the drama rushed to focus on Choi Young and Eun Soo’s love. I can’t explain these criticisms any further without major spoilers, so if you intend to check out this series, continue onto the conclusion section of this post, and don’t read the following spoilers.

couple

Cute and all, but I feel there could have been more to this drama…

[MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD]
Alright, let’s get straight into this plot hole business. It gets established early on in the series that Eun Soo has travelled to further into the past (i.e. a time period before Goryea) before her “current” travel to Goryea. Past Eun Soo leaves current Eun Soo tips about what to do and not do to keep history on course and save those she loves. Some of the instructions she leaves suggest that “Past Eun Soo” was in Goryea at a point in which Choi Young was killed. From there, she travelled further into the past and left her future self information about not letting him die for when she travels into Goryea for the first time. I’m not sure how much sense that makes, but the take away message is this: Eun Soo has travelled to Goryea on at least one other occasion from her “current” excursion there. Keep this in mind. One of the other clues Past Eun Soo leaves is how to calculate when the time portal opens. Current Eun Soo is so desperate to get to the time portal in the series because it wasn’t going to open again for another 60 years afterwards. Now, I would assume that the time portal opening is the “same” amongst all time periods that it connects to (past, Goryea, current times); i.e. you can potentially travel through the three time periods when the portal is open. Past Eun Soo, at the point in which she’s known as Hwa Ta, goes into the time portal that brings her back to Choi Young a few years after she first leaves Goryea. Where did this time portal come from because I didn’t think there was going to be one for sixty years?! How can she create time portals left, right, and centre to travel through at the plot’s convenience to make the Goryea trip at least twice?! Or am I thinking about this wrong? Do the time portals only work in certain directions, so the one Eun Soo uses to get from distant past to Goryea wouldn’t allow her to get from Goryea to the future (i.e. her main focus during the series)? Is her “Faith” in returning to Choi Young  meant to explain these random portals popping up? Did she calculate them wrong in the beginning (but she seemed to know where they are)? Would it have been too hard to explain this in the series? This is why time travel hurts my head.

Secondly, [STILL MAJOR SPOILERS] if it is the case that Eun Soo made the Goryea trip on multiple occasions (remember, we’ve established that by the end of the series she’s done this journey at least twice), wouldn’t her attempt(s) to survive in Goryea without screwing up history and her attempt(s) to get back to Choi Young be so much more interesting to focus on rather than, oh, I don’t know, her getting poisoned a second time?! Honestly, I was just about ready to get give up on the series when that happened. It makes Eun Soo look stupid and it’s just infuriating to watch when we could have something with much more substance to enjoy! [END OF ALL SPOILERS]

Conclusion

Story: 6/10. A really fun mix of everything, but some bad plot decisions leave you feeling sour.

Characters: 8.5/10. A lot of the characters are well thought out and developed, although this is compromised in a couple of moments. However, a great drama villain makes up for it all.

Faith is certainly not the best drama I’ve seen, but it is definitely enjoyable. Although I have issues with some of the characters and plot decisions, I really loved the characters and the mixed bag of different genres kept me entertained throughout. If you like the first two to three episodes, you can be reassured to stick with it. Overall I give it a 7/10.

-S

choi-young

Lee Min Ho, why are you so handsome regardless of what they do to your hair?

 

Dream High 2 [Drama]: Lacking a lot…

After watching the first Dream High, I was a little cautious to watch the second series Dream High 2 (2012), since I didn’t think there was too much to expect from it. I was however sucked into it, thanks to a couple of idols that I really liked who were starring in it. Was it worth the watch?

Dream High2

What’s it about?

After a law is passed enforcing restrictions on underage idols, Oz Entertainment CEO Lee Kang Chul (Kim Jung Tae) takes over the long-neglected and drown-trodden Kirin Art School. His idols are transferred to the school, including girl group HershE and boy duo Eden. The schools’ students are at first starstruck, but it doesn’t take long for them to realise that they’re getting kicked out for the sake of the idols. In particular, Jin Yoo Jin (Jinwoon) the school’s rocker, doesn’t want anything to do with idols, and Shin Hae Sung (Kang So Ra), who dreams of being a singer, hates being looked down on. When the two set up rivalries with idols JB (JB) and Rian (Jiyeon), it seems their future at the school, and the chances of following their dreams, depends the outcomes of the schools’ assessments.

The Positives

Right from the start, I was really happy to see that Dream High 2 is not a follow up to Dream High; there’s no attempt to tie the two together apart from the setting of the series and a couple of other minor things. I think that the character development and ending to the first Dream High was handled well enough to be left alone, so I’m really glad that the writers from Dream High 2 kept it separate. I also like that the character struggles are different to the first season. Dream High had characters struggling to succeed, not because they lacked talent, but because there was something else about them holding them back. Dream High 2’s characters are either outright told they don’t have talent, or are already in a position of stardom, and are struggling with everything that comes along with it. It’s an interesting take on the same subject matter.

idols

Yes, idols have their problems too.

As much as I loved the first Dream High, you can’t deny that it’s quite far on the corny side. I think that Dream High 2 is more realistic in terms of characters and situations. There is a bigger range of different types of characters in the second season, from the quirky, weird high-school students, right through to the bratty and the losers of the school. If you’ve been to high-school you’ll know the different cliques of kids I’m talking about. The bigger mix of characters and the interactions of the main characters with the others helped cement the school setting. I also think the second series was better at pulling off more realistic situations for the characters to be in, and the characters reacted like high-school students. Even the problems the idol students faced (particularly Eden member Si Woo (Park Seo Joon)) felt very realistic.

The Negatives

The main problem I have with this series is that a lot of the time it’s either really flat or really choppy. There is hardly any character development in this series; with the exception of maybe one or two characters, all the characters are essentially the same at the end of series… apart from where there is inconsistent characterisation. I feel like JB and Yoo Jin are the two characters who suffer the most from random out-of-character behaviour, and I think this is done to make the romance in the series work. I’m not sure the writers knew what they wanted with the romance, and to make it fit the way they eventually wanted it, they were required to make random adjustments to characters. By the end, the couples felt very forced, and I honestly still feel they are around the wrong way. The final problem related to the writing of this series is the sudden and just plain bad ending. On a whole, a lot of this series is very disappointing.

jbyujin

I’m so surprised that in the battle for love, Yoo Jin never once picks on JB for bedazzling the hell out of his school uniform.

Another, relatively minor point, this series does not have the best acting I’ve seen in it. It might be because Dream High 2 uses younger idols, but I feel that the acting ability is very, very average.

Conclusion

Story: 5.5/10. All the right elements are there, but story falls flat far too many times.

Characters: 5/10. On one hand, I like the greater mix and different perspectives of the characters, but the severe lack of development and choppy characterisation is horribly noticeable.

I don’t know what it is about Dream High 2, but it just lacks that something that made the first season so enjoyable. It had the right elements from the start to be a great second season, but inconsistent characterisation and flat development just led it down the drain. If you’re a fan of any of the idols starring in it, you could probably get through with a lot of grimacing, but if you’re looking for something more, don’t waste your time. Overall I give it a 5.5/10.

-S

otp

Ui Bong (Jr.) and Lee Seul (Jung Yeon Joo), one of the few saving graces of this series for me (also OTP material for the win).

Dream High [Drama]: Fun!

I was in a mood to watch something funny, short, and teenager-y, and the 16-episode high-school drama Dream High (2011) was on my hit-list. The fact that it’s set in an arts school and stars some of my favourite K-Pop idols cemented my plan to check it out.

dreamhigh

What’s it about?

Go Hye Mi (Suzy) is a high-school student who is forced to give up her dream of attending the prestigious Julliard and training to become an opera singer because of her father’s debts. Instead, she auditions for the “third-rate” Kirin Art School, known for churning out pop stars, with her friend Yoon Baek Hee (Eunjung). She quickly looses Baek Hee’s friendship and becomes an outcast in the school because of her inflated ego and fierce pride. Put into the misfits class with country boy Song Sam Dong (Kim Soo Hyun), the “gangster looking” Jin Guk (Taecyeon), and Kim Pil Suk (IU) who has the skills, but not the looks, of an idol, all seems lost. Can their teacher, Kang Oh Hyuk (Uhm Ki Joon) spur the group into realising and finding their own dreams, or will the pressures of their difficult road get to them?

The Positives

This series is one to watch if you’re a fan of K-Pop. With major roles played by JYP, 2PM’s Taecyeon and Wooyoung, Miss A’s Suzy, T-ara’s Eunjung,  singer-song writer IU, and a number of cameos from other celebrities, you will be fan-girling/boying in every episode! The series also boast a pretty great soundtrack, with a number of well-loved K-Pop anthems, so you’ll be bobbing along the whole time. There’s also a couple of inside K-Drama jokes (cue: Almost paaaaaradiiise), that, if you’ve seen a couple of well-known dramas, you’ll pick up on. A lot of fun for anyone into Korean entertainment!

JYP

I will happily have JYP as a teacher!

There’s a lot of fun to be had when watching Dream High! There are plenty of funny scenes and hilarious characters to get you laughing and keep you entertained (JYP was amazing!). The humour occasionally draws on the audience knowing who the actors are, but most of the time I was laughing due to good writing of characters, and excellent delivery. There’s also some really cute characters (Pil Suk!) and really cute couples in this series. Be prepared for some ridiculously cute scenes and interactions between characters.

otp

Jason and Pil Suk.. aka everyone’s OTP!

If you’re concerned that this series might rely too heavily on cameos to get laughs, don’t be! Dream High has some of the best and most heartfelt character development to be found in drama. No matter what you think of the characters in the first episode, they will grow and change into completely different people by the end. I liked how the series balanced out the development of the characters; although there’s a change of which characters is “in focus” for development, you still get to see the other characters growing and changing on the sidelines, when it’s not their turn to be in focus. I liked that all the plot events are treated with a sense of realism and seriousness, which allows the associated development of the character to flow logically. It’s definitely one of Dream High’s strongest points.

The Negatives

Despite how enjoyable this series is, there are a couple of little drawbacks. For a start, especially in the first couple of episodes, the acting from the less experienced idols is a little stiff. I don’t know if it’s because of inexperience, or because the idols are working with others from their company (including their CEO), but there are a couple of times when they come awfully close to breaking character (Taecyeon’s probably the worst offender for this). It’s not a big deal, however, given how lighthearted the series is.

Anything else I should consider?

There is a bonus episode, in the form of a special concert. There’s a little bits that’s been cut to squeeze it into an hour format, but if you’re looking to check out some behind the scenes cuts and bloopers, and to find out what the actors were like on set, then you should definitely check it out.

Conclusion

Story: 7/10: Dream High has a very familiar feel for anyone who’s watched any western media of similar veins (e.g. Fame, Centre Stage), and although it may be predictable, it’s enjoyable nevertheless.

Characters: 8/10: With strong character development occurring throughout the series, and a bunch of likeable and interesting characters, there’s lots to keep you watching.

Dream High is a really fun and care-free watch. If you’re a fan of any of the idols starring in it, I’m pretty confident you’ll enjoy it, however, it’s also a cute and funny watch for people who don’t know anything about the actors, thanks to the great characters. Overall, I give it a 7.5/10.

-S

trio

The wonderful trio of (L-R) Jin Guk, Hye Mi, and Sam Dong!

Angel Eyes [Drama]: Sweet and well-written

It was forever ago when I first read a post on The Talking Cupboard about the 20-episode Korean drama Angel Eyes (2014) and added it to my list. When I was in a little bit of a lull and wanted a no-mess, wholesome drama, Angel Eyes was what I reached for. No regrets in checking this one out!

angel eyes

What’s it about?

Yoon Soo Wan (Nam Ji Hyun (young), Ku Hye Sun) and Park Dong Joo (Kang Ha Neul (young), Lee Sang Yoon) have intertwined fates before they even meet each other, with Soo Wan’s mother and Dong Joo’s father dying in the same accident. When they eventually meet, or rather, when Dong Joo builds up the nerve to talk to Soo Wan, nothing can stop the two’s developing friendship and romance. Nothing, it seems, except another tragic twist of fate involving Dong Joo’s mother Yoo Jung Hwa (Kim Yeo Jin) and Soo Wan’s father Yoon Jae Beom (Jung Jin Young), which forces Dong Joo and his younger sister to leave for America without a word. Twelve years later, Dong Joo, going by the alias Dylan Park, has returned to South Korea, his love for Soo Wan still strong. But twelve years is a long time, and there’s no guarantee that Soo Wan has waited for him. Furthermore, what is the dark truth lingering behind Dong Joo’s reason for leaving that could shatter the world of all involved?

The Positives

This series has the best character introduction and set up of events in the the first two episodes compared to any other drama I have seen so far. Right from the start you care about Dong Joo and Soo Wan and their story; you get emotionally engaged with what happens to them (and their family) very, very quickly. Once the story is set up, the series never tries to drift from it; it doesn’t try to squeeze in unnecessary plot points to make the series more dramatic. Instead, it focuses on telling the story of Dong Joo and Soo Wan, and telling their story well.

marriage

Reality, or Dong Joo’s dream? You’ll have to watch to find out 😉

Another thing that I really liked about this series was the fantastic acting! Nam Ji Hyun and Kang Ha Neul, who play the younger versions of Soo Wan and Dong Joo, do an absolutely fantastic job. I believe that these two actors play a big role in drawing the audience in right from the start. Ku Hye Sun Lee Sang Yoon, who play the older versions, keep the audience caring about their characters. I really liked the way that the younger and older actors were matched up; there was a good carry-over of mannerisms, which allowed the drama to flow well. Other great casting choices include Kim Yeo Jin as Dong Joo’s mother, Jung Jin Young as Soo Wan’s father, Kim Ji Suk as love rival Kang Ji Woon, Hyun Jyu Ni as Soo Wan’s best friend, and Yoon Ye Joo as Dong Joo’s little sister.

cute

The adorable Kang Ha Neul and Nam Ji Hyun!

Finally, Angel Eyes has all of the elements to make it a fantastic series to get you pulled in and addicted. The characters are solid, likeable, and intelligent, so you’re not left feeling frustrated at stupid decisions or with characters missing obvious cues. There’s also a lot of tragedy in this series, and all of the actors bring real emotion to their roles to bring it alive; there are more than a few moments where you’ll probably need a box of tissues. However there’s also plenty of romance and humour to lighten the mood (I really loved the off-beat humour that Seungri and the other rescue workers bought to the series!).

The Negatives

This series has got some melodrama elements in it, so there are a couple of times in the middle where the episodes tend to drag a little. Bear with it, and it’ll come around good again.

dundun

Is there a reason to look so handsomely sad, Dong Joo?

I do feel that the ending of this series could be a little stronger, given how fantastic its first few episodes and set up is. The drama does push itself a little too much to cover everyone’s stories, so you get a bit of emotional whiplash in the last two episodes as we quickly switch between sad and happy moments. The final episode is also rushed. However, by K-drama standards, it’s still a decent ending.

Anything else I should consider?

This series has a couple of small surgery scenes in it that involves cutting open patients, a couple of images of organs, and blood. Although it’s not gory, and it only occurs a couple of times, it’s just something to watch out for if you don’t like that kind of stuff.

Conclusion

Story: 8/10: Although the story isn’t anything groundbreaking, it’s told in such a beautiful and straightforward way, you can’t help but enjoy it.

Characters: 8/10: Intelligent, well rounded characters, and plenty of cast chemistry to keep you coming back for more!

Angel Eyes is a straight forward, emotional, and engaging series. I love its intelligent characters and the talented actors portraying them. If you’re looking for a straightforward and lovable series to keep you occupied, I strongly recommend it! Overall, I give it a strong 8/10.

-S

seungri

And finally, some cute Seungri… another reason to watch this series!

Descendants of the Sun [Drama]: Not what I was expecting, but SONG JOONG KI!

Song Joong Ki’s comeback drama! I was so happy to hear that Song Joong Ki had signed up for a drama not long after being discharged from the military, and I was counting down the days until it aired! I didn’t expect 16 episode Descendants of the Sun (2016) to have created a new ‘Hallyu wave“, but I’m glad that Joong Ki is getting the recognition he deserves as an actor!

Descendants of teh Sun

What’s it about?

Yoo Shi Jin (Song Joong Ki) is a Captain in the special forces of South Korea. When on leave with his second-in-command and best friend Seo Dae Young (Jin Goo), he encounters the beautiful and talented doctor Kang Mo Yeon (Song Hye Kyo), falling for her instantly. However, his works get in the way of their dates, causing Mo Yeon to declare the relationship over before it even has a chance to begin. Eight months later, Mo Yeon is sent to Urk (a fictional recovering war-torn nation) to lead a medical team. Having his unit detached from special forces for a short break, Shi Jin is also there on a peace-keeping mission. The two meet again, but can their relationship blossom in the unique pressures of Urk?

The Positives

Once I started watching, the first thing that really drew me into this drama was the great characters, and their fantastic chemistry on screen. I like that Mo Yeon knows what she wants, she’s professional, direct, and is immensely likeable. Her resistance to Shi Jin makes sense (who on earth wants to date someone who might disappear from you with no warning and no explanation?!), and her handling of herself and her emotions makes sense throughout the drama. Likewise I really liked Shi Jin’s confidence, suaveness, and cheekiness, and there’s a lot to like in the interaction between the two. The secondary couple of the drama, Dae Young and army doctor Yoon Myeong Joo (Kim Ji Won) have their own dynamic and problems in their relationship, and Dae Young’s sincerity and sternness bounces well off Myeong Joo’s eagerness. In fact, there’s times when the secondary couple grabbed my attention slightly more than the main. Other characters that I really liked include veteran doctor Song Sang Hyun (Lee Seung Joon), veteran nurse Ha Ja Ae (Seo Jung Yeon), young doctor Lee Chi Hoon (Onew), and peacemaker doctor Daniel Spencer (Cho Tae Kwan). With all of these actors (and more!) proving their skills on screen, there’s a lot of good chemistry going on, and a lot of fun to watch!

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The Korean armed forces and the medical team of Urk… such a fun mix of characters!

Secondly, I really liked the humour in this drama. From Shi Jin’s jokes, to Sang Hyun’s comic over-dramatic reactions, and even the breaks in the façade of Dae Young, the comedy is always well-timed and accurate. The comedy gives this drama something a little extra, which gets you invested into it even more.

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Shi Jin and Dae Young escaping from danger

Finally, you can’t deny the cuteness and overly sweetness of this drama. There’s plenty of cute scenes between our main couple and secondary couple (and third couple?) that will melt anyone’s heart. The bromantic moments between Shi Jin and Dae Young are solid and funny, and the warming relationship between Mo Yeon and Myeong Joo also unfolds nicely. There are, of course, moments to counteract all of this sweetness, and these moments are all done extremely well. The acting, as I’ve already pointed out, is very solid in this drama, and so these extra dramatic and intense scenes are bought to life beautifully.

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You are so right, Mo Yeon.

The Negatives

As much as I loved this drama and its characters, I need to point out some of its flaws. The overall pacing of the series reminded me a lot of Boys Over Flowers; a lot happens in a very short amount of time. So much so, in fact, that you know the ‘big event’ that happens in each episode is going to be wrapped up nicely without any major effects on the characters. As such, it removes a lot of the tension from the drama, and leaves the audience feeling a lot less concerned about the main characters’ welfare than they should be. A lot of the time these ‘big events’ just feel like they’re thrown in to get our main couple in situations in which (mostly) Mo Yeon needs to rely on Shi Jin to save her.

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Dramatic! But don’t worry, Shi Jin’s got this.

Secondly, and very strongly linked to my first point, I feel like the setting of the drama in the fictional country of Urk is underutilised. Yes, it’s pretty, and sure, it helps the feasibility of some plot points, such as the desperation during the natural disaster and the involvement of gangs, but that’s about it. I mean, the characters have zero problems using wifi and only problems making a phone call back to South Korea to talk to loved ones… let’s try and make the setting a little more important!

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Very pretty, Joong Ki!

Finally, my only other gripe was with the last two episodes. I found the timeline to be a little bit messy and over the place, with smaller and larger time skips thrown in haphazardly to make the ending work. I get that the writers had a lot to wrap up, and, considering they only had a total of 16 episodes to deal with, I think they do a reasonable job, but it could have been handled better. I particularly didn’t like the scramble to get all of the characters to the same event in the last episode, although I did like the idea of all the characters being there.

Anything else I should consider?

The narrative of this series takes up 16 episodes, but there are also three special episodes. The first two are the ‘best’ moments of the entire series (with an obvious focus on Shi Jin and Mo Yeon’s relationship), and the third is made up of behind the scenes and cast interviews (and arguably the only one worth checking out).

Conclusion

Story: 7/10. A lot of cute scenes and dramatic scenes that are acted out well, but they often feel strong together with little time for the characters to reflect on the impact of different events.

Characters: 8.5/10. The four main characters and the immediate supporting cast all have great chemistry with each other and really come to life when they’re on screen and together… which makes for a lot of fun!

Descendants of the Sun does not live up to the gritty and tragic feel its title, premise, and setting give. If you’re looking for a soldier struggling against his duty for the woman that he loves, you will not find it in this drama. However, if you want a sweet romance story and plenty of laughs and cute scenes, you’ve come to the right place. Overall, I give this drama 7.5/10.

-S

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And finally, a gif of our second couple, Dae Young and Myeong Joo

Boys Over Flowers [Drama]: Doesn’t quite stand the test of time…

Continuing my Lee Min Ho phase, I finally turned my attention to the Korean drama that launched him into fame; Boys Over Flowers (2009). This 25-episode series is actually an adaptation of Yoko Kamio’s manga of the same name (Hana Yori Dango in Japanese), and it created quite a buzz back in the day. But can the series hold up to a relatively new drama watcher six years later?

Boys Over Flowers

What’s it about?

Geum Jan Di (Ku Hye Sun) is an ordinary girl from a poor family. By chance, she finds herself attending the prestigious Shinhwa High School, usually only open to the wealthiest families in South Korea. The school is ruled by the Fab4 F4, a quartet made up of the wealthiest, best looking male students, who are treated like walking gods. This group includes Gu Jun Pyo (Lee Min Ho), heir to the Shinhwa Group fortune and leader of the group; Yoon Ji Hoo (Kim Hyun Joong), grandson of a previous President and music prodigy; So Yi Jung (Kim Bum), son of an old family famed for their pottery; and Song Woo Bin (Kim Joon), who comes from a family with strong connections to organised crime. Jan Di is disgusted with F4’s treatment of fellow students, and refuses to bow down to them. Her defiance sparks the interest of Jun Pyo, who makes it his personal mission to force her to leave the school. However, amidst all the bullying, is it possible that he may harbour other feelings? And why is Ji Hoo so nice to Jan Di in contrast to F4’s treatment of her?

The Positives

As far as I’m aware, this was the first main role for the majority of the cast, especially Ku Hye Sun as the main character, and the F4. These five actors put in a lot of effort, considering their age and relative lack of experience. I can see why this is the drama that jump started Lee Min Ho’s career; he captures the immature, angry teenage character very well. The other three F4 do a decent job, with Kim Hyun Joong especially bringing Ji Hoo to life. Despite her character’s inconsistencies, Ku Hye Sun manages to pull off a solid performance, as does Kim So Eun, playing Jan Di’s best friend Choo Ga Eul. All of the actors seemed to have really good cheistry on screen, which I think really helped bring a lot of the scenes to life; both the cute, funny scenes, and the angsty, angry scenes. Of course, there is some cringe-worthy moments with some of the other young cast, but that’s to be expected. On a side note, shout out to the kids who play the younger versions of the F4; they were completely adorable!

Inserting this photo purely because of Jun Pyo's accessories...

Inserting this photo purely because of Jun Pyo’s accessories…

Finally, I want to talk a little bit about the character Ji Hoo, who, in my humble opinion, is by the far the most well-developed character in the series. Although I understand he differs quite a bit from the base character and the other portrayals, I absolutely adored the character. He’s adorable, kind, and sweet, but in no way a push-over, standing up to many other characters throughout the series, including the grand Jun Pyo himself. I only wish all of his hard work paid off in the end but *sigh* that’s drama I guess… I’ve never had second lead syndrome so bad before.

The Negatives

Well, it is really tempting to dedicate this section to Lee Min Ho’s notorious “poodle” hairstyle or the costume choices of some of the characters, but there is so much more to talk about. Well really there’s three things, but they’re three big things. So let’s start with the script. Not the strongest. I don’t know if it was just the sub that I was watching, but some lines definitely placed on the corny spectrum. The random bursts of English, laughable in many dramas, was downright out of place and annoying here.

Secondly, character development was all over the place, with the exception of Ji Hoo I’ve already mentioned. I was expecting Jun Pyo, the childish, angry male lead, to go through a transformation into a mature young adult, without missing the unique punch of his character, but sadly his development is minimal. Jan Di is quite an inconsistent character, appearing as a plucky and confident character in some scenes, and completely useless in others. Throughout most of the series, it really felt that Jun Pyo and Jan Di were the type of main characters that have things happen to them, rather than doing things themselves in their own storyline; very, very odd. The treatment of Yi Jung and Ga Eul feels tacked on in the last few episodes and doesn’t seem to sit smoothly with Jun Pyo and Jan Di’s story; it was like the writers wanted to develop them as characters, but couldn’t be bothered going the whole way with it. And then you have the neglect of poor lonely Woo Bin, who, apart from an odd scene here or there, doesn’t get much of a background at all.

It's okay Woo Bin (L) and ** (R), I care about you.

It’s okay Woo Bin (L) and Yi Jung (R), I care about you.

Finally, the plot’s pacing was terrible, and this partly accounts for the poor character development I was talking about above. Looking at the other adaptations of Hana Yori Dango, they all have two seasons while Boys Over Flowers has one… this rings alarm bells right from the start. And, as you’d expect, there is way too much crammed into 25 episodes that certain plot points lose their impact because of the speed they occur and then become meaningless. Take for example (SPOILERS/) the kidnapping of Jan Di that occurs quite early in the series; the kidnapper is introduced as an initial nice guy, we’re shown he’s not so nice, the kidnapping occurs, and Jan Di gets saved, all in the space of two very quick episodes. There wasn’t even time to appreciate the whole “wow he’s actually not the nice guy we thought he was” theme or to really acknowledge that Jan Di was in danger. Finally, the whole incident becomes meaningless as Jun Pyo doesn’t even develop as a character after learning the kidnapping was an indirect result of his earlier bullying habits (\SPOILERS). And don’t even get me get me started on the mess of the last two episodes where it feels like the authors try to squeeze in an entire second season…

Anything else I should consider?

As I already mentioned, this Korean drama is an adaptation of a popular Japanese manga. In fact, it is not the only drama adaptation of Hana Yori Dango, others include the Taiwanese Meteor Garden (2001) and its sequel Meteor Garden II (2002), and the Japanese Hana Yori Dango (2005) and its sequel Hana Yori Dango Returns (2007). I will eventually be getting onto these series as well, so if you like the sound of the drama, but want to check out the best adaptation, watch this space 🙂

Conclusion

Story: 6/10: The story itself is actually good! There’s a lot of cool things going on in the plot, but the drama rushes through everything too quickly for big events to really leave much of an impact on the audience. If it had been stretched across a second season or if there had been less crammed in, the story-line would really be able to shine.

Characters: 5/10: Sadly the poor character development and inconsistent characterisation of several key characters, including Jan Di and Jun Pyo, causes the whole series to suffer. But not Ji Hoo, though, because he’s the best.

I can honestly see why this drama became popular back when it first came out, the attractive cast, international filming locations, luxurious and wealthy characters and settings to play around with, and love story involving a lot of obstacles for the main couple to overcome is a set up that would suck any drama viewer in. Although I can confidentially say that Boys Over Flowers doesn’t drag in its plot; I can’t help but feel that the story races forward with little acknowledgement to the grander meaning of each plot point and poor and inconsistent character development, especially for the main characters. I can understand the writer’s desire to adapt as much as the original source material as possible, but I really think this drama suffers from it. With less cramming of events and more character development, this drama could have really stood the test of time. However, I don’t really think Boys Over Flowers should still be considered a suitable “gateway drama” to Korean dramas. Overall, I give it a 5.5/10, and a suggestion to stay tuned to see how other adaptations stack up against it.

-S

Let's take a moment to appreciate one of the worst families I've seen in a Korean Drama yet...

Let’s take a moment to appreciate one of the worst families I’ve seen in a Korean Drama yet…