Singing All Along: Rebel Chants

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Another period drama for me to marathon! The one thing that Mainland dramas does well is traditional epics. With birth secrets, warring factions, and angsty romance, it is enough to keep me watching 5 episodes at a time. Singing All Along tells the story of LiHua, daughter of royalty whose parents were killed during an overthrow of a dynasty. However, due to the trauma of watching her parents die, she does not remember her past. She ends up growing up happily in the rich Yin family. LiHua is of strong mind and body. Even though she is female, she enjoys martial arts and is well versed in the ancient teachings, including military warfare. She hates being cooped up in her family home and even cross-dresses as a boy in order to attend school. Meanwhile, LiuXiu is also descendant of royalty whose ancestors were part of the proud Han Dynasty. However, because their family was overthrown by the Mang dynasty, they were made commoners and stripped of their wealth. LiuXiu, as children who had went to the same school as LiHua had not only fallen in love with her, but also had taken care of her during her traumatic past. These two friends were separated for many years due to LiuXiu’s elder brother not wanting her to remember her tragic past. However, LiuXiu always had LiHua in his heart and yearned to ask for her hand in marriage one day despite his poor current circumstances. Things come to a head when LiuXiu’s brother decides to plan a revolt against the Mang dynasty. While LiuXiu is hesitant at first at such a rash action, he is soon convinced this is the right way to go as the current dynasty is bringing about chaos and hunger for the commoners. LiHua, who is starting to remember snippets of her past due to a kidnapping incident where LiuXiu saved her, decides to join forces with the Liu family. She also believes the current emperor is corrupt and wants to help overthrow it. Her ambition pushes her to cross-dress as a man in order to join the growing revolt army. LiuXiu admires her tenacity and intelligence which leads him to want to keep her by his side even though it is risky if she is found out to be a female or the dangers of battle. LiHua not only proves herself to be an able soldier, but a smart tactician as well.

I absolutely love strong female leads, especially those who can participate in battle alongside of their life partners. This is my first time watching Ruby Lin, and she gives off an air of the roles Liu Shi Shi used to play for her Tong Hua dramas. Ruby is not only the producer, but also one of the main leads. She plays strong-willed, playful, and angsty all very well. As for Yuan Hong, I’ve always liked him since he played 13th prince in Scarlet Heart. He plays a gentle scholar who gradually becomes war-hardened. His eyes are so expressive! I really enjoy the chemistry they have together. The side romances are also quite moving, especially the early one between LiHua’s eldest brother and her cousin-in-law. Singing All Along is beautifully filmed and the characters are given appropriate depth.

W-Two Worlds: Fiction or Not?

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A very interesting concept! How many times have we imagined our favorite fictional characters coming to life and being able to interact with them? Oh Yeon-Joo is a cardiothoracic resident whose father pens a popular webtoon called “W”. The main character is named Kang Chul, a handsome young man with revenge in mind. In Kang Chul’s world, he is a Olympic sharpshooter who also runs a multi-billion company. The company is a front for an investigation show where he tries to find the killer who murdered his entire family and framed him for it.However, her father is planning to end the series by killing off Kang Chul. After a couple of odd disappearances of her father while he is trying to write out the last scenes of the webtoon, she decides to investigate what is going on. As she rummages in her father’s drawing studio, she is somehow pulled into the drawing tablet by a bloody hand. It turns out that she is literally dragged into the webtoon by Kang Chul. She manages to save his life by giving emergency treatment, but then is dragged back to her own dimension after seeing the words “to be continued…” appear in midair. In her world, the webtoon is writing itself now and she is now including in the drawings. Everything that happened in the other world is drawn as is and published on line. At first, her friends do not believe her and even her father, who reappears, tries to ignore it. The father knows what is happening which is why he is trying to end the series and kill of Kang Chul, who he believes has become a monster. However, the webtoon has now a life of its own and will write it’s own story no matter what the father draws. Yeon Joo ends up being pulled several times into the webtoon in order to help Kang Chul. However, she has a hard time getting back to her own world each time. She goes out of her way to “surprise” Kang Chul like slapping him or kissing him out of the blue in order to create a cliffhanger event to end that episode. Kang Chul is intrigued by this “crazy” women, but knows that she is the key to his life.

YES YES, another Lee Jong Suk drama please! I really adore and have watched all of the dramas he was in. He is a very versatile young actor who has put out several popular shows within the last few years. The character Lee Jong Suk plays is your typical Mary Sue with all the workings, tall, popular, good looking, smart, strong, and rich. However, it seems like he has a darker side as he shoots Yeon Joo with his gun just to test his theory that she is not of his world. I also feel bad that his character endures several out of context events that keep on trying to kill him. Meanwhile, although I like Han Hyo Joo, her role in this drama is a bit awkward at times. She is almost a little ditzy and is incredibly a bad liar. Then again, I would probably be as confused as she is if I was pulled into a webtoon which I had only read about. I suppose I had expected her to have more of a strong woman role like the actual heroine of the webtoon. Nonetheless, I am at the point where Kang Chul is starting to cross over to her world so I am eager to see what happens then!

Whirlwind Girl 2: Let’s Kick it Off!

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Hip Hip Hooray for the second installment of Whirlwind Girl………BUT with some integral changes. While our main character is still Bai Cao, the actress playing her has now changed. However, I actually really enjoy this new actress and even feel like she suits the role better than the original one (but hey, that is just me). MOST IMPORTANTLY and UNFORTUNATELY, one of my favorite characters, Ruo Bai, is no longer part of the drama, in a physical sense. At the end of the first season, it is clear that the Ruo Bai and Bai Cao was the largest ship and sailing quite nicely until Ruo Bai ended up in the hospital during her competition. However, because neither the actor for Ruo Bai nor the one for Bai Cao were able to film the second season, there were changes in the story. Ruo Bai is “ambiguously” dead in the second season. I say ambiguous because hints are still dropping that he may be alive and coming back at the end of the season. In the beginning, Bai Cao is unwilling to accept that Ruo Bai is dead even though everyone is telling her that he has passed away. She still thinks that he is angry at her and will come back if she makes it into the international women’s competition. Poor Ting Hao, international champion, is still madly in love with her, but she doesn’t give him the time of day. Nobody can take the place of Ruo Bai in her heart. However, since Song Bai is without an instructor, her senior who is still doing medical research in the states invites Chang An to teach at the institute. Chang An had abandoned his previous institute that was famous for its brutal and cruel ways of training their students. He brings this same training style to Song Bai and implements it to the dismay of the students. However, Bai Cao is eager to comply to even the harshest of trainings because she believes it will help her in the competitions. Ting Hao is furious at Chang An’s tactics as he had endured them himself when he was at Chang An’s institute in the past. These tactics had caused the death of his young friend in the past which is a sore point for both Chang An and Ting Hao. With the dual training of both masters, Bai Cao improves with leaps and bounds.

While some people may not enjoy the major shift in characters and new actors, I really like it! Korean actor Ji Chang Wook plays almost an extended version of his Healer character in the beginning as he is being chased and hounded by his old institute. As Chang An, he is brutally cold and no nonsense as he trains Bai Cao ruthlessly. However, he is not without feeling as Bai Cao’s perseverance continues to move him just as it had moved Ruo Bai. In essence, he is playing an extension of Ruo Bai. For the new Bai Cao, I find her less annoying than the previous one and just as fierce. But for Fan Tin Yi, Ting Hao’s sister, she is just as jealous, spoiled, and frustrating as before. She really makes my lips curl in hatred. As for poor Ting Hao, this man is fighting a loosing battle. He can not gain her love no matter how he tries. He is even losing the battle against the new instructor! While I do miss Ruo Bai, I have one foot on the Chang An and Bai Cao ship right now!

Bring it On, Ghost: Supernatural Duo

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SO CUTE. Kim So Hyun hits it out of the park again with her sassy, spunky, ghosty character paired with a straight-laced ghost fighter, Taecyeon. In this drama, Taec plays Bong Pal, a college freshman who makes a living fighting ghosts. He offers a public service where his customers pay him large sums to exorcise ghosts out of certain locations. However, the catch is that he only fights the weaker ghosts. One day, Taec is called to an abandoned girl’s high school to exorcise a strong perverted ghost. The girl who called him there is Hyun-Ji, a female ghost who has been dead for 5yrs, not a human like he expected.  Hyun Ji does not seem like the other ghosts who are gray and decaying in appearance. She still mysteriously retains her youthfulness and color. However, she does not remember anything about her past or how she died. Hyun Ji is very spunky and a good fighter as well.  At first, they are constantly getting into fights with one another. However, gradually they learn to work together to fight off the stronger and more brutal ghosts. She practically follows him around everyday due to one instance where their lips touched and she was able to see bits and pieces of her past. Of course, she tries to sneak in another “kiss” as an attempt to see her past, unsuccessfully. Bong Pal, at first finds her quite annoying, but gradually becomes accustomed to her presence in his life. Together, they manage to defeat ghosts by finding their weak spots and banishing them from the places they haunt.

So Hyun always makes her sassy characters fun and relatable. It is a joy to watch her grow and develop her acting career from such a young age to the beautiful young lady she is now. While Taec at first seems a little stiff on the acting front, it ends up working well with his character. His character is a little awkward, as he plays a loner who seems almost more comfortable talking to ghosts rather than humans. To add comedic effect is the Ghost Net duo who are constantly on the search for supernatural events and more members for their club. I would be just as scared as them if I participated in such ghostly adventures. For the villainy side, we have Hye Sung. On the outside, he seems to be the popular and kind veterinarian and professor. However, we are shown his creepy blank stare and special scar on his back for a more mysterious past. I wonder how he ties into the story. So far, I have good vibes about this drama and appreciate its brisk and fun pace.

 

Precious Youth: Youth Lost

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I love anything with Liu Shi Shi in it! Furthermore, it is refreshing to see her in a non-period role and in modern garb for once. Precious Youth tells the love story of Liu Ting and Xiao Jun, two young adults who fell in love during high school. Liu Shi Shi plays Liu Ting, an academically driven and the good pure daughter of a teacher at the school. Meanwhile, Xiao Jun is the troublemaker and “gangster” of the school who always gets into trouble because he is too mischievous. One day, after literally falling head over heels for her while getting into detention, he decides to pursue her. Liu Ting found Xiao Jun very fun and a large contrast to her “goody two-shoes” type of lifestyle. However, as a beauty at the school, Liu Ting also attracted other suitors. She also becomes the love interest of Hai Bing, whose father was the boss of Liu Ting’s father. In order to network, her mom pushed her to tutor Hai Bing, who was also a “gangster” type and “brothers” with Xiao Jun. It is because of this fight over one girl that broke the deep brotherhood between Hai Bing and Xiao Jun. Unfortunately, things come to a head as families disagree and Xiao Jun broke up with Liu Ting. Liu Ting was devastated and you could tell Xiao Jun just wanted her to have a better future. On the second female lead front you have Xiao Lu, ex-best friend of Liu Ting who was in love with Xiao Jun as well and pursued him to the ends of the earth. As they all grow up, Xiao Lu and Liu Ting enter an arts school. Xiao Jun does not go to college and decides to do the dirty work of society and tries to make connections to start up his own company. Hai Bing attends college so that he can better match up to Liu Ting. Even in college, Liu Ting is still attracting many suitors, but deep in her heart, she is still in love with Xiao Jun.

Giving hints of the Korean reply series, Precious Youth feels like a slice of life drama. I find the chemistry between Liu Ting and Xiao Jun palpable, but with Xiao Jun’s nasty attitude, I’m finding it harder and harder to root for this couple. Meanwhile, I admire Liu Ting’s persistency and consistency of her love to Xiao Jun. She does not care about their class differences. However, I’m not sure if this is naiveté on her front. I am interested in seeing how these relationships untangle as their are love triangles and squares everywhere! Plus, what a lovely way to see Zheng Kai act, as I’ve previously watched him only on the Hurry Up Brother variety show.

 

Beautiful Mind: Blank Emotions

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Juxtaposed to Doctors, Beautiful Mind feels like the opposite of the other drama. While the other medical drama focuses on the humanity of the field, Beautiful Mind tells a darker story. In this drama, Dr. Lee Young Oh is a doctor who has antisocial disorder. He is unable to emotionally connect or empathize with another human being. Instead, he has learned to read body language in order to figure out how other people are feeling. He decides to return from being abroad to work at his father’s hospital. He is a genius neurosurgeon, but acts very clinically cold to all situations. There, he manages to collaborate often with a cardiac surgeon named Suk-Joo. However, Suk-Joo is suspicious of Dr. Oh’s true intentions in the hospital and why he wants to work with him. One of Suk-Joo’s patients, Jin-Sung, is a young female police officer who is headstrong and persistent. She becomes involved in a suspicious case that is tied with the upper levels of management in the hospital. However, the man she was pursuing ends up being run over multiple times and dying on the operating table as Dr. Oh and Dr. Suk-Joo did a collaborative surgery on him. Jin-Sung ordered an autopsy on the body as she believed it to be a homicide, but the results were suspiciously innocuous. She watches the security tape and blames Dr. Oh for being shady. However, it is a misunderstanding as Dr. Oh was researching a rare fungus in the victims head for a more famous surgery case that he wanted to perform live surgery on. Although he was called to ethics board at first for the misunderstanding and did not get to start the surgery, he ended up being the only person who was able to save the presidential candidate who had a cerebral aneurysm. Dr. Oh also manages to save Jin-Sung’s life as she needed emergency pericardial fluid aspiration due to her previous heart condition. Although this misunderstanding between them was solved, there are still tense feelings between them and now a newfound suspicion of the shady dealings at the hospital.

So far, I am impressed with Jang Hyuk’s cold as the OR acting. He plays this psychopathic character very well and it is frightening as well as intriguing to watch him try to gauge other people’s feelings or his seemingly malicious intents. As for Jin Sung, played by Park So-Dam, this is the first drama I have seen her in. I don’t love her, but I don’t hate her. Her acting is tolerable for me, but I hope to seem some development in her character. However, I guess I am mainly watching for how Jin Sung will be able to change Jang Hyuk for the better or help him adjust more smoothly to society. As for Yoon Hyun Min, he has always been a solid second lead for me. I hope to see him in lead roles in the future!

 

Uncontrollably Fond: Uncertain Futures

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Uncertainty is a keyword for me right now. After being all hyped up by all the promotions and media coverage, let’s just say that my expectations were elevated a little more than usual. Add in one actor that I adore, Kim Woo Bin, you know I was gunning for it. However, after watching the first two episodes, I feel a little detached to story, but not enough to drop it right then and there. Uncontrollably Fond is uncontrollably makjang from the start, which is to be expected as it is a drama penned by Lee Kyung-Hee (Nice Guy, A Love to Kill, etc.). Kim Woo Bin plays Joon Young, illegitimate son of a famous (but dirty as in bribe-taking) prosecutor. The drama starts off in the future, where Joon Young is a famous actor. However, it seems like he has an incurable disease with only 1 year to live. He is slowly becoming depressed and retreating into a shell. On the flip side is Noh Eul, broke and an opportunist. She was previously a documentarist who chased after illegal doings of big companies. However, instead of exposing these horrendous acts, she ends up taking bribes to keep her mouth shut. She has to pay off loan sharks, rent, and her little brother’s education. Unfortunately, she is shortly fired from this job. These two are brought together when Noh Eul sets out with the task of persuading Joon Young to participate in a documentary. She needs a job and money while he is trying to search for her (assuming that they were separated in the past). Of course, their reunion is indifferent at first as both pretend not to know each other. Then emotions explode into angst.

With a time skip to the past, we learn that Joon Young does badly in school and gets into fights often. His mother, who didn’t tell the father about her pregnancy, only wishes that Joon Young would grow up to be like his father. After getting into trouble with the police, he learns of his birth parents which makes him decide to grow up and start studying in an effort to make his mother (and future father) proud. Meanwhile, Noh Eul, is a kind hearted daughter of a food stall seller. She had liked Joon Young in the past, but decided to give up on the chase because she believed he was out of her league and unavailable. She also knows that Joon Young treats his suitors badly. They are brought head to head as she tries to get him to make her friend feel better who he had rejected. As all this is happening, her father manages to get into an accident. A rich girl had run him over and he was put on life support. In an effort to find the culprit, she hounds the prosecutor who changed the info around so that the girl would not get prosecuted. This prosecutor happens to be Joon Young’s dad. She even insults him about his intelligence in front of his future father, unknowingly. As revenge, he pretends to woo her in front of the school saying that it was their 100th day of dating. This made her seem like a girl who stole her best friend’s crush. Unfortunately, her father ends up dying and she is chased away from their home by the loan sharks. Joon Young, strangely starts to care about this girl and continues to try and find out what is really going on. It is there, that we jump back to the present where Joon Young forces an acknowledgement of their past relationship. Noh Eul haves none of it, walks off, and promptly faints.

If you add the makjang tropes in dramaland, you will have Uncontrollably fond. Incurable disease with a limit of 1 year to live, childhood sweethearts, birth secrets, untimely deaths, dirty people in power, and forbidden love, we’ve got it all, in just 2 episodes! To me, the drama felt a little disconnected. One situation did not flow into another well, especially their past scenes. The romance felt forced, and I mean the situation, not the acting. Furthermore, the scenes in the past were frankly strange to me. Why would you run after the villain’s car for that long, without first checking upon your father who is dying on the road? Why is there not more emotion at her father’s bedside? I’ve just insulted you greatly in front your father who you were trying to impress, but please seduce me, or I will seduce you? It’s just not making sense!! I really feel bad for Suzy’s past scenes as it was flimsy and awkward to be honest. The writer seemed to focus so much on Woo Bin’s character. His past and characterizations are more fleshed out. There is more purpose to his actions and reactions. I actually like the future scenes better. It kind of disappoints me since I loved her previous Nice Guy work.

So enough about the jaded plot, I find the acting to be decent. While I know there are many people who like Suzy and then there are many people who don’t like her. I have no extreme emotion about her, and I find her acting tolerable in the drama. She is trying to pull of a happy, but really angsty inside character, which is not bad. I enjoy that she is not your average Candy, and that she is realistic. She is broke and needs money. She does what is necessary to pay her debts. While her high school scenes were so-so, I am really looking forward to her adult scenes. They have the potential to be nuanced! As for Woo Bin, he is still acting as great as he has in the past. He plays internal conflict and broody scenes quite well. Reminding us of his shaky teary eyes from School 2013 and Heirs. His character is somewhat similar to ones he has done in the past, where he is a troublemaker who decides to man up. I am interested how he will play a dying man who is trying to live life best he can.

So I think I will give their another 2-3 episodes?

PS: He is going to have some friendly competition with his RL BFF Lee Jong Suk’s W.

Plus I guess this is why I am always hesitant to watch hyped up dramas in fear of being underwhelmed.

Doctors: Saving Grace

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This drama is everything I wanted and more. For once, I get to see Park Shin Hye play a character different from her previous roles. Here, she is a delinquent who gets a chance to change her future because she met the right kind of teacher. She plays Hye-Jung, a young adult who lived aimlessly and fought often. She lost her mother at a young age and her father abandons her to her grandmother because he feels like he can’t deal with her unruliness. Hye-Jung ends up transferring to a rural school.   At first, she does not even want to attend and uses the money her grandmother gave her to go clubbing. However, her grandmother showed her patience and love which slowly motivated her to go to school. Before even registering at the school, she butts heads with her homeroom teacher, Hong Ji-Hong. He believed her to be a delinquent and did not want to be bothered with her. Unfortunately, he is her next door neighbor and its a small town. However, they slowly warm up to each other after they manage a emergency situation together. A pregnant woman had passed out on the street which spurred Hong into action immediately. He was originally a surgeon who due to a tragic table death, decided to become a teacher instead. Through his quick actions, he was able to save the lady. This gave Hye-Jung the motivation to change her way of life and decide to become a doctor as well. She begins making friends at school, including the cute daughter of the principle, and top student Seo Woo. Seo Woo was the daughter of a hospital vice-president and had her future path decided as a hopeful inheritor of the hospital. She studied well and ended up tutoring Hye-Jung. Hye-Jung, who had a high IQ, grasped concepts quickly and ended up getting scores even higher than Seo Woo. Teacher Hong was impressed by her development and became like a mentor to Hye-Jung. Seo Woo, who had a crush on Teacher Hong became extremely jealous and began to spread rumors about the two having a unsavory relationship. This situation heated up to the point where the board of teachers became involved. Hye-Jung tried to convince Seo Woo to drop the case, but the situation only became worse.

Wow, wow, wow. I found that Park Shin Hye did not use a stunt double for all her fighting scenes which really impressed me. Her choreography looked very realistic and the character’s personality is very different than her roles before. She plays prickly, broody, and badass surprisingly well when I previously only saw her in squeaky Candy type roles. Mix in a gangster like Ji Soo who tries to pursue to Hye Jung (who, by the way, refuses to even acknowledge him) is even more fun. It is great seeing her try to be her own person and not taking any nonsense from someone else. While the age gap of Teacher Hong and Hye Jung may feel a little squicky right now, I feel like it will feel more comfortable when the drama transitions into their older roles. They have an nice mentor like relationship going on right now. As for Lee Sung Kyung as Seo Woo, I enjoy her non-crazy like character and how she is playing the calm and collected top student in her school.Overall, I am very interested in this drama and hope to see the high school part be played out longer.