Age of Youth: College Days

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So honestly, I am ambivalent about this drama. I like it for what it is, but I guess I came into it with higher expectations. I started it due to the hype about how it was so unique and different than your usual drama. To that, it definitely hit the mark. However, it did not hold my attention the way I thought it would. Age of Youth tells the story of five young adults who live together at Belle Epoche during their university years. Each young lady has a story of her own and goes through growing pains. Jin Myung, one of the older girls at the house is busy trying to survive by working multiple part time jobs to attend university as well as pay rent and her vegetable brother’s medical bills. She never gets any sleep and is always exhausted. Next is senior Yi Na uses her beautiful appearance to give herself an easy life of luxury. She entertains multiple boyfriends who pay all her living expenses and more. Then we have Ye-Eun who is very devoted to her boyfriend and has strong opinions. Sometimes she may be a little tactless in her words. rooming with Ye-Eun is quirky Ji Won who is desperate to find a boyfriend and goes on multiple blind dates. She has a bright personality and likes to drink. Finally we have newcomer Eun Jae from a rural town and who is very innocent. She is also quite timid and at first is at odds with the rest of the house’s occupants. Age of Youth takes us through each girl’s hardships whether that be with life or love. We see how at times they fight each other like crazy, but also how they are pillars of strength for each other. Slowly, they warm up to each other and have each other’s backs.

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Go Princess Go: The Other Genderbender

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A parody, but also not really. We always see dramas genderbending girls into acting like boys, but not often do we see the other way around. This time, like BuBuJinXin, we have a time traveler who ends up in the era of Chinese dynasties. However, this time, it is a guy who becomes a woman! After suffering an accidental drowning in the pool, Zhang Peng becomes Royal Crown Princess Zhang Peng Peng as he is thrown back several hundred years. He ends up in the body of a very beautiful woman, but still has the mind of his past life as a player whose only goal in life is to eat good food and fool around with beautiful women. At first, he tries to kill himself again in order to go back to the future. However, he ends up lusting after all the beautiful women he encounters in the palace, including his own maid and the crown prince’s concubines. It becomes hilarious since he is still in a women’s body and they are oblivious to his advances. However, she soon becomes sand-whiched between the Crown Prince Qi Sheng that she is married to and his brother, 9th Prince. In the beginning, Qi Sheng had no romantic feeling for his wife, Peng Peng, and was having an affair with another brother’s wife. The past Peng Peng just became embittered and jealous as time went on. However, after Zhang Peng took over, she gave Peng Peng an entire personality change. She was empathetic to the plight of the men and didn’t even mind all the affairs and concubines as she was too busy enjoying herself with all the beauties. At one point, Qi Sheng tried to assassinate Peng Peng when he thought he was unable to control her and thought she was a danger to him. This pushed her into forming an alliance with 9th prince and his friend. She wanted revenge on Qi Sheng and to grab hold of power for 9th prince or even stabilize her own position in the palace. However, as time wore on, Qi Sheng become more and more interested in the new Peng Peng and even fell in love with her. Their intense emotions for each other vacillated daily.  She became more and more entrenched in palace affairs and eventually even bore Qi Sheng a child. However, this vicious cycle of them lying to each other eventually came to a head as they constantly tested each other on their feelings. Peng Peng also became feminized as she fell in love with Qi Sheng.

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Mu Gui Ying Gua Shuai: A Different Kind of Power

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An oldie, but a goodie. In the same of vein as Mulan, Mu Gui Ying Gua Shuai tells the story of young girl who has the smarts, beauty, and physical prowess as much as or even more than any guy during her time. Born the daughter of a rich bandit, she has lived her life to the fullest doing as she pleased, but also gaining skills that surpassed most men. When her father tried to marry her off, she proposed that she will marry any suitor that can best her in martial arts. Of course, no man in town could even match her level until she managed to offend the heir of a family of generals. It then becomes a vicious cycle of Gui Ying provoking the heir, Zhang Bao, while he tries to take a valuable wood sculpture from her. They are well-matched in martial art’s prowess, but Gui Ying exceeds him in intelligence and craftiness. As they duel back and forth, they slowly fall for each other. At first, Zhang Bao hates her for besting him at each encounter, but slowly he becomes enamored and impressed by her. The line is thin between love and hate. Even though his family opposed the relationship, he can’t help but go to her and she has similar intense emotions for him. Eventually, they end up marrying each other, but end up encountering just as many obstacles against them even after their marriage. She had to endure many competitions against family or friends just to prove that she was good enough to be part of the famous Zhang family. However, it seemed like Gui Ying had a way to solve each one of their problems and continued to impress all her family and friends. She even became involved in the royal palace after placating the Royal Princess who had been pursing Zhang Bao before he married Gui Ying. Eventually, she even managed to lead the royal army in defending the Emperor’s territory from the Khitan nomads.

Mu Gui Ying is actually a legendary and real figure in Chinese history. She was famous for being a woman beyond her times and playing a big part in defending her country. While I haven’t seen the lead actress, Miao Pu, in any other drama before, I am very impressed with her acting. She was very natural and endearing. Her martial arts choreography was also on point. She also had such an addicting laugh paired with her country accent. As for Zhang Bao, played by Jin Luo, I really enjoyed his acting of intense emotions. He played the angsty role brilliantly and had a great comedic side to him as well. However, unlike traditional dramas now, the supporting characters of the drama did not have as big of a role as I would have expected. They felt more like add-ons and I would have liked to see more of their story and interactions with the main leads. Furthermore, as this drama is more obscure, to the point where it doesn’t even have a wiki page, it is not subtitled at all. So watchers beware, with the accents and royal speak, it was a struggle even for me at times. However, it is an amazing drama that really spoke to me as it featured a strong female lead which I love. Hopefully it will be subbed one day and more people can enjoy this drama!

Wonderful Nightmare: Second Chances

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I definitely love me some body swap hijinks! In Wonderful Nightmare, Yeon Woo is a charismatic and savvy attorney. She cares only for money and reputation, ignoring the poor. She had a hard life growing up and that shaped her outlook on life. She enjoys being single and doesn’t care for marrying as she thinks it will only bring her heartbreak. However, due to a mistake in processing in “heaven”, she ends up dying early through a car accident. In heaven, she is given another chance to live again if she temporarily takes the place of another woman’s life who only has one more month to live. Eager to get back to the living, Yeon Woo decides to take this offer. Her new life is her worst nightmare. She is a mousy, stay-at-home mom of two children, a cheesy lawyer husband, and part of a loud ahjumma group. At first, she can’t get use to this new life and hates how poor she is. She tries to even use her old life to get ahead in her new life. However, she is scolded by “heaven” to not slip up since she has all her old memories and abilities. Gradually, she learns the warmth of a family and even takes on the familial duties that scorned before. Her kids also manage to warm up to her and she also enjoys standing up for her husband. However, with only one month to “live” this other woman’s life, she is reluctant to let go of this new experience she now enjoys. Unfortunately, her son begins to develop blindness that we find was genetic. She had suffered through the same growing blindness as a child that required several expensive surgeries to fix. However, heaven gave her to option to return about to her own life and have the blindness never happen to the son or to stay in her current role, but with the blindness of her son continuing. Although it broke her heart to give up her new family, she chose to go back to her own life to save her child suffering from the blindness.

Wonderful Nightmare is a story about sacrifice and familial bonds. Yeon Woo starts to learn how to care for others more and that life is not just about money. She learns to make attachments and even develops a maternal instinct. Um Jung-Hwa plays an awesome charismatic character as well as the homey housewife. Child actors Shin Ae and Ji-hoon are cute as buttons while new hubby Song Seung Hoon will have you swoony over how protective he is over his wife. A excellent feel good movie that will tug at your heartstrings.

Empress Ki: Two Kingdoms

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This is it. This is the longest Korean drama that I will ever watch at 51 episodes. I had put this one off only because of the length for quite some time, and only recently decided to brave it. I am totally glad I did as it is turning out to be one of the best dramas I have watched in awhile. It has all the fixings of a saguek that I love. Ha Ji Won plays Suenyang, a Goryo born woman who lost her mother during her childhood as they were being hauled off to be the Chinese Yuan Kindom’s concubine tribute. After seeing mother and daughter being beat badly, young crown prince of Goryo, Wang Yu, attempts to free them. However, in her attempt to escape the slave caravan, her mother is shot down by Tanqishi, son of the all powerful Regent of China. Seungyang ends up crossdressing as a boy for most of her life to hide from the authorities and to have more independence. She ends up working for Wang Go, uncle to the Goryo Crown Prince, but secretly undermining him as he is the one fueling the concubine trade. She passes along information to the royal officers to take him down. She and her loyal group of followers manage to thwart Wang Go’s plans with the help of the now grown up Wang Yu. However, she does not know he is the crown prince. They end up forming a brotherly bond as they help each other out. Wang Yu is portrayed as a handsome and passionate man who tries to follow the just path. As they go their separate ways after, she manages to find her long lost father who is a General for the royal family. During her stay with him, they are tasked with making sure the exiled Crown Prince of China would stay alive and lately return back to China. The current Regent of China was El Temur, a brutal tyrant who was trying to obtain all the power for himself by killing off the Crown Prince of China in Goryo lands so that he can also oppress Goryo. Two birds with one stone. The Crown Prince of China is Ta Hwan, who will name as baby emperor as all he does is cry, whine, and pout. He is scared for his life and cowers whenever there is a fight. He manages to escape the Regent’s first attempt at killing him off because he was hiding and ends up being shunted to an isolated island for his protection.

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Fatal Intuition: Psychometric

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I admit I watched this movie because Joo Won was the main actor and I love me some intense acting! Which I got for sure! Joo Won plays Jung Woo who lives with his sibling Eun Jin in a small seaside town. Jung Woo works menial jobs in order to support his sister going to college. His aim is to get both of them out of the rural countryside. Eun Ji is a playful and outgoing girl who is kind to everyone. She is also very pretty which makes Jung Woo very protective of her. One day, after an argument about there future, Jung Woo locks Eun Ji in the house so she won’t run away. Upset, he goes out drinking with his friends. Unfortunately, an intruder breaks into their home and ends up drowning Eun Ji in his own bleaching vat in the basement since she couldn’t escape the locked house. Jung Woo comes back and ends up filing a missing persons case when he couldn’t find where she went. Meanwhile, another girl in the town is bullied severely and cursed by everyone due to her unique ability to foresee the deaths of people she comes across. Before Eun Ji’s death, the two girls had come into contact with each other. Eun Ji was nice to her and the psychic girl Si-Eun had accidentally saw her death. Si-Eun had passed out from the force of her vision and wasn’t able to save Eun Ji. However, she did manage to let Jung Woo know where Eun Ji’s body was. Jung woo was heartbroken when he found out his sister died and swore vengeance to find who did it. He suspected the neighborhood pharmacist who had a upstanding reputation had done it. He beings chasing him down, but no one would believe that the pharmacist was the culprit. Si-Eun even tries to use her powers to help him. Little by little, we find out about the pharmacist’s sordid and bloody past. His own family had died by his hands. Even without the police helping him, Jung Woo swore he would kill the pharmacist with his own hands for what he had done.

The movie itself did not have much dialogue as it relied mostly on cinematography and the actor’s expressions. Joo Won puts on a rural dialect to play role and the chase is thrilling since the pharmacist is physically a strong fighter and able to elude Jung Woo. He is also manipulative enough to escape the police and turn the tables in his favor. Poor Si-Eun plays a sister substitute to Jung Woo’s real sister after she passed away. He becomes protective of her and they fight against society themselves to bring about vengeance and survive the ordeal. All in all, a decent movie to pass the time, but not anything to write home about.

 

Painter of the Wind: Hidden Brushstrokes

 

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Of course in my saguek mania mode, I decided to add one more traditional epic onto my plate. I have always admired Moon Geun Young as a very talented young actress. Add in a little crossdressing fun like Sungkyunkwan Scandal and you have me hooked. However, instead of your youth fusion, Painter of the Wind breaks some usual drama barriers. Moon plays Yun-bok, a young genius painter who is attending the royal school for artists. She is also a girl, but was brought up as a guy by her adopted family because her father had committed a sin against the royal family. She has a unique way of painting and looking at the world. One day, she hopes to work for the palace, but in the mean time she makes side money painting lewd paintings for nobles. She especially likes painting romantic rendezvous. However, during a painting competition held by the school, she unknowingly painted the Queen dowager having a illicit affair with a mysterious man. She submitted the work anonymously, but it caught the attention of the royal court and it become a huge deal. The queen was incredibly angry and wanted the hands cut off of the person who drew her affair, but did not want to give it away that it was her. Instead, a genius, but exiled painter was called back to figure our which younger painter in the school had painted it. Said genius is a Hong-do, a middle-aged gentleman who has unique teaching methods, but is incredibly famous for his amazing paintings. He especially had the king’s favor, who is also opposed to his grandmother’s power in the royal court. Hong-do manages to figure out that is was Yun-bok who painted the illegal painting, but did not know that she was a girl or that she was the daughter of his previous mentee. He takes her under his wing due to her amazing talent. Meanwhile, Yun-bok gets to know a gisaeng who is very pretty, haughty, has very high standards. She becomes her muse while the gisaeng actually slowly falls in love with her without knowing that they are both girls. Yun-bok really adores Jung-hyang who embodies the feminine side that Yun-bok never got to explore. Luckily Hong-do manages to save Yun-bok from getting her hands chopped off, but at the sacrifice of her adopted brother who got exiled from the school instead. Yun-bok also makes it into the royal painters association due to her skill and overcomes the obstacles that are set against her by jealous colleagues. However, it came with a price as the king now wants her and Hong-do to be his spies in order to best his scheming ministers. Of course, now Yun-bok is engaged in a weird love triangle between her new mentor and the gisaeng with neither of them knowing her true gender.

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Coin Locker Girl: An Eye for an Eye

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In the lieu of Hwayi, Coin Locker Girl has the same dark feel which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. Il-young, who is named Ten for short, was abandoned as a baby and stored in one of those 10cent coin lockers at the subway. As a result, she grew up with the homeless and was later kidnapped by a loan shark gang. Even as a young girl, she proved herself resilient and capable of handling her jobs. This grabbed the attention of the gang head, Woo-hee, who is known as Mother of the underground society. Ten grows up to become the right hand man of Mother, handling all sorts of dirty jobs with a dispassion and calculation that frightens many. One day, she is supposed to retrieve the debt from this father-son pair, but only encounters the son because the father had ran away. The son, Seok Hyun, shows her a kindness that she has never encountered before in her harsh upbringing. He cooks for, takes her to movies, and gives her the warmth that she craves for. At first, she tries to treat him harshly to get the money from him, but slowly becomes attached. However, their little world collapses when Mother issues the order to kill Seok Hyun because his father had completely abandoned the family and left the debt to be taken care of by the son. Ten is emotionally unable to kill Seok Hyun and instead betrays the only family she has even known. They try to run, but don’t get very far as the rest of the gang catch up. Seok Hyun is brutally murdered before her eyes aInd his organs used to make up for his debt. This completely breaks Ten apart as she is now hunted by those who she once called family. She decides to take fate and vengeance into her own hands.

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Jealousy Incarnate: Love Triangles for Everyone

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Weird. Odd. What? Those were my first thoughts when I started the drama. Interestingly enough, I had almost dropped the drama after just 2 eps. However, I am so glad I powered through as I quickly became absorbed and obsessed (marathoned to the current episodes).  Gong Hyo Jin has a way of picking interesting and quirky drama projects which always turn out to be a special kind of hit. Here she plays Na Ri, a weather forecaster, who yearns to be an announcer at one of the biggest media companies. She is the breadwinner of her family and is barely making ends meet as a contract employee. During her years at the company, she had a crush on a reporter named Hwa Shin. Hwa Shin is your typical arrogant jerk and macho man. He not only ignored her crush, but at times went out of his way to be an asshole to her. Eventually Hwa Shin had been self-exiled to Thailand for a stint/scandal he caused at the news station regarding his family’s business.

Na Ri and Hwa Shin eventually meet up in Thailand to film a recruitment video. On this trip, Na Ri meets Jung Won, a sensitive and kind chaebol, who of course is also Hwa Shin’s best friend. These two develop light crushes on each other. Meanwhile, when Na Ri was prepping Hwa Shin for the video, she accidentally groped his chest and inadvertently found out about a nodule in his breast. With a long family history of breast cancer, Na Ri becomes obsessed with Hwa Shin’s chest and the fact that he might have breast cancer. He tries to ignore all her prompting to go get it checked out, but eventually succumbs. His whole world crumbles as he finds out that he has stage I breast cancer even though he is a guy. It was a blow to his pride, career, and life. Coincidentally, Na Ri also has a little nodule that she is getting removed that was non-malignant. As luck would have it, they are paired in the same room before surgery. He swears her to secrecy about his condition while she helps him through the recovery/radiation process.

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