Cross: Organ Transplants

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While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I love me some medical dramas (only if they are done well and realistically, so BYE DESCENDANTS OF THE SUN). Cross is a medical drama focused on organ transplants which I am very familiar with as I work on a transplant ICU! The main character Kang In Kyu is on a revenge warpath to dig out the organ harvesting rings and stop the illegal trading of organs. His journey starts when his father is brutally murdered and all his organs harvested because they were scrapped for money for his sister’s treatments. As a result of a scuffle between In Kyu and the leader of the ring, Hyung Bom, In Kyung injures his head which in turn gives him a sharper sight than most humans. In Kyu decides to make it his life goal to find Hyung Bom and punish him. Under the guidance of Jung Hoon, a organ transplant doctor, he becomes a doctor as well. His personality is exceedingly cold and robotic as he is so focused on capturing the perpetuator that made him suffer for 15 years. Thus he becomes a doctor with an aim to harm rather than heal. Soon he becomes a prison doctor in an effort to kill Hyung Bom slowly with medicine. However, this plan is derailed when Hyung Bom finds out and escaped. In Kyu is shortly transferred to the same hospital that his foster father, Jung Hoon, works at. He tries to repair the strained relationship between him and his foster father due to past misunderstandings. However, he soon finds out that the hospital executives themselves are involved in illegal organ trading. With the help of tentative friendships he made along the way, he sets out to trap Hyung Bom and put him away forever.

While Ko Gyung Po was decent in the drama, I felt like this role did not suit him very well. He has a very puppy dog lost kind of look and just doesn’t feel harsh enough. I think a grittier actor may have fit this role better. However, it was fun to see how his sharper eyesight worked to his favor when fighting! Now for the unfortunate sexual harassment scandals that Cho Jae Hyun was involved in, I cannot fault him on his acting skill which is superb, but I am glad he come forward to admit his transgressions. This resulted in his removal from the drama, albeit the drama was in it’s final stages anyways. All in all it was a decent watch with realistic organ transplant ethical dilemmas to think about.

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Mother: Go Hug Your Mom Now

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It took me a long time to post this. To be honest, this is more of a review than a first impression of Mother, the Korean remake of the famous Japanese Mother drama. Even now, as I write this, my heart aches in a way that is hasn’t been before.

Mother is a drama that documents the journey of a woman who rescues an abused and neglected child and goes on the run with her. Soo Jin is a socially awkward bird researcher is currently between jobs as she prepares to go to Iceland to fulfill her dream career. She has a cold and distant personality which leads her to stay out of complicated situations. However, her attention is drawn to mature and pitiful child in her kindergarten class that she is the substitute for. She noticed the telltale signs of abuse on the poor child and grudgingly helps a fellow teacher pursue the case. Time after time again, she encounters Hye Na and can’t help but have emotional flashbacks to a past trauma she also endured. It finally comes to a point where Hye Na’s mother leaves her for dead in a trash bag by the curb. Soo Jin decides she will take this child and go on the run with her to save her. She fakes Hye Na’s death and thus begins their arduous quest out of the country. Their journey is incredibly difficult and then encounter many unfortunate situations. However, Soo Jin and Hye Na, who goes by Young Bok, develop a deep emotional relationship. Young Bok sees Soo Jin as the mother she never had and just soaks up all the love that Soo Jin gives her. She learns to let go of her past and embrace each day as it comes. This journey also matures Soo Jin who learns to accept other’s help and brings down her tall wall that she had built around her heart. Without this journey, she would never have encountered her birth mother along the way or made up with her adoptive mother.

Without giving away the ending, I must say it is one that is very realistic, but also so optimistic and perfect. There was not one episode where I was not crying. The story is incredible touching and it features all types of mother and daughter relationships, good and bad. It showcases the sacrifices a mother is willing to make to protect her child, whether they be biological or not. The story is very dark and has a lot of triggering content, so please watch at your own risk.

I must say that there was not one character that was wasted in the story. You even feel twinges of sympathy for the unlikable characters as most of them are molded by their circumstances. Lee Bo Young is very talented at playing the role of a “mother” as showcased by her previous drama, God’s Gift, where she was also searching for a child. She is so natural and raw in this drama, that you can feel her pain. And now, Heo Yool, god what an AMAZING child actress. This is her first drama and she carried it on her back! I can’t believe that this is her first one as she is so immersed in such a difficult role for a child to play. Can you imagine playing an abused kid in the drama? She has a air of maturity that you just don’t see in kids her age. I just am astounded at what a masterpiece this drama was and it will be forever in my favorite dramas list even though I used a whole box of tissues while watching it.

Heart Signal 2: Episode 5

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Do Gyun and Hyun Ju grab ice cream

I was not a fan of Do Gyun, but that has changed. The more I see him interact with other people in the house, especially Hyun Ju, the more I believe he’s thoughtful. He doesn’t say a lot but he seems to be a good listener. Exhibit A: Do Gyun remembered exactly what Hyun Ju was craving – ice cream – and the exact flavor. This was something Hyun Ju herself even forgot that she mentioned. There is not a lot that we get as viewers from this interaction. We don’t learn anything new. We already know Do Gyun is crushing pretty hard on Hyun Ju.

Young Joo takes a step toward Hyun Woo

If Young Joo keeps making a move on Hyun Woo, she might end up heartbroken. Ugh. It’s great that she took the initiative and went on a date with Hyun Woo, but I am not sure this is leading anywhere. I would rather her focus her efforts on Gyu Bin. She could get to know him better and give him a chance.

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Heart Signal 2: Episode 4

The Christmas Dates

Hyun Woo and Hyun Ju

The two meet at a coffee shop then go to a VR cafe. Lastly, dinner.

I felt like Hyun Woo was surprised and not necessarily overjoyed to see Hyun Ju. That changes during the date.

  • Hyun Woo turns out to be super caring, putting food in Hyun Ju’s plate and cutting her food for her. He was also being that way with Young Joo in the previous episode so now I am confused.
  • As usual Hyun Ju was her bubbly self, which got on my nerves. I’ve said this before but given her age the aegyo seems fake. Ughh, it also rubs me in the wrong way how the love forecasters keep praising Hyun Ju. It’s like they are trying to force her down viewers’ throats.
  • Hyun Ju seems possessive and jealous. On the date at the coffee shop, she keeps asking questions that give hints: Oh, did you come here with a woman before? Was your ex-girlfriend from Busan? She also indirectly asks how he feels about Young Ju…
  • When it comes to Hyun Woo, the charisma is slowly wearing off. During the date, I found him slightly shy. This is not what I’ve seen of his personality in the previous episodes.
  • Overall the date was pretty cute. There definitely is potential for a relation here. I was shipping Hyun Woo and Young Joo, but I am not so sure anymore.

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Tempted: Bad or Extra Bad?

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This drama is such a waste of time. If you haven’t started yet, please don’t even consider watching the show.

The only thing this drama has to offer is the attractive cast. That’s it. Nothing else to see there.

The story is based on the French epistolary novel “Dangerous Liaisons” by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos.  I absolutely love this book. This book, although written in the 18th century, has been the subject of many adaptations. One of the best adaptation is the 1988 movie with Glenn Close and John Malkovich.

The story goes like this in the K-drama version: Three childhood friends, somewhat entangled in a love triangle, are known for creating a mess everywhere they go. Choi Soo Ji, Kwon Si Hyun and Lee Se Joo, are rich heirs who live carefree and purposeless lives. Things take an interesting turn when Soo Ji asks Si Hyun to help her take revenge on her ex-boyfriend.

The revenge plot is simple: Si Hyun will have to seduce the ex-boyfriend’s first love and forever crush, Eun Tae Hee. Of course, this wouldn’t be dramatic enough if Si Hyun didn’t end up falling in love with Tae Hee.

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What I dislike about Tempted

Disclaimer: I dislike almost every thing about this drama.

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Cinderella and the Four Knights: The Eye Candy Overdose

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I think they could have found a better title.

The title is not that enticing because you expect  the basic Cinderella trope when the show adds several twists to the well known fairy tale.

Eun Ha Won is a high schooler who lives with her father, evil stepmother, and (evil and not so smart) step sister. The father is often on the road for work, and Ha Won isn’t spending quite as much time with him as she would want to.

What keeps her going despite the countless abuse from her stepmother and step sister? The thought of college. She has been juggling countless part-time jobs to be able to pay for her initial college deposit.

Ha Won dreams of becoming a teacher-something her late mother had wished for.

Things turn out for the worst when she realizes that she has to pay money for the storage of her mother’s ashes. Using almost all the money she had saved up, Ha Won goes ahead and pays to preserve her mother’s ashes.

Well our female lead is now broke broke broke. That’s when the Han’s family enters. The Han grandfather, the chairman of a large company, asks Ha Won to live in Sky House, which is where his three grandsons live. He will make sure that all her studies are paid for, and she is financially stable. Of course there is a price to pay. Ha Won must bring the three grandsons closer (Good luck Ha Won), which is not easy when the cousins can’t stand each other at all. Two of the cousins in particular – Ji Woon and Hyun Min are constantly at each other’s throats.

Let me describe each cousin in the grandfather’s own words:

  • Hyun Min is not someone who tries to spread love around him: He is a player.
  • Ji Woon is not someone who pushes boundaries, and refuses to be tamed: He is a thug.
  • Seo Woo is not a singer/songwriter: He is a good for nothing.

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Snow Lotus: Deeply Rooted

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Another modern saguek fusion like Splish Splash Love, but with a different take on reincarnation. Snow Lotus focuses mainly on two characeter’s lucid dreams about a past life in Joseon times. These dreams feel so real to them that they keep on trying to find connections in real life that pertain to them. Ji Jin Hee plays San Baek and Soo Hyun. San Baek plays the historical part of a commoner’s son who ends up becoming a scholar using a secret identity. Lee Ji Ah plays Yeong Dae and Yeon Hee. Yeong Dae is nobleman’s daughter who is skilled in swordplay and in an arranged marriage with her childhood friend Moon Jae. However, Moon Jae’s love is not reciprocated in her. Instead, Yeong Dae falls in love with San Baek which Moon Jae tries to break them up. Their love story ends in tragedy when Moon Jae accidentally kills Yeon Dae. Fast-forward in modern times, Soo Hyun is the CEO of a gaming company who ends up hiring intern Yeon Hee as a character designer. Yeon Hee, an artist masquerades as a man for a large part of the story due to certain circumstances during hiring. Both of them keep on dreaming similar dreams and searching for their counterparts. However, their happy reunion is cut short by Moon Jae’s modern reincarnation of Yoo Ri. As a punishment for killing Yeong Dae in the past, he is reincarnated as a woman who ends up being in love with Soo Hyun. Like her past counterpart, she throws Yeon Hee off the roof of a building in a fit of anger after Soo Hyun cancel’s their loveless marriage ceremony. Will history repeat itself in the form of a tragic ending?

As a two episode drama, it was a decent watch, but not give me the feels. I enjoyed the unique storyline of lucid dreaming and reincarnation, but was not feeling the chemistry as much between Jin Hee and Ji Ah. Perhaps a different pair of leads would have made the story more heartfelt? However, I feel there was a marked improvement of Ahn Jae Hyun from Blood to this saguek character here. His villainous role was very on point. I did find it interesting how the drama played up the genderbending portin of the story. For a large of the drama, when Jin Hee’s character did not know that Ji Ah’s character was a woman, Jin Hee’s character did not seem too bothered that he was in love with a man both in his dreams as well as in real life. I find that to be refreshingly progressive and different.

Divorce Lawyer in Love (이혼변호사는 연애중): Let the bickering begin

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Why?! Oh, why did it take me so much to watch this show?! Just finished 10 episodes in the span of two days.

Plot

Go Cheok Hee is a ruthless lawyer specializing in divorce cases. She lives to work and is always determined to win a case. Cheok Hee goes as far as creating evidences if needed and that’s exactly what will put her in trouble.

In order to help the celebrity Han Mi Ra obtain a divorce, Cheok Hee uses an illegal recording of Mi Ra’s husband cheating on her. The divorce is successfully completed, but Cheok Hee loses her lawyer license for malpractice. AngRY Cheok Hee thinks her office manager, So Jung Woo, sold her out. She goes ahead and vent her anger at the innocent Jung Woo and it’s the cherry on top of the cake when she dumps seaweed soup on him. Ooops, let me point out that it was Jung Woo’s birthday soup and the scene is caught by Jung Woo’s mother. Total humiliation. Of course, Jung Woo resigns. I wouldn’t stay either.

You think it couldn’t get worst for Cheok Hee? Well, it could and it does. Cheok Hee finds out that Mi Ra manipulated evidences. Mi Ra knew how fierce Cheok Hee was and no matter what she would obtain the evidence. Out of despair, Mi Ra’s husband kills himself, leaving a guilty and jobless Cheok Hee.

Fast forward three years later

Jung Woo is now Lawyer So and the manager of his office is no other than Cheok Hee. Things start on a sour note. Both hope that the other will quit. Too bad since both are convinced to stay by the law firm owner Bong Min Gyu.

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A Peek Into DID: Kill Me Heal Me vs. Hyde, Jekyll, Me

Here is two for one deal! I have officially completed Kill Me Heal Me and dropped Hyde, Jekyll, Me like it’s hot (stopped at ep.14). Kill Me Heal Me touched my heart in so many ways and I have never replayed so many parts of a drama. Meanwhile, while I love Hyun Bin and tolerate Han Ji-Min, I can no longer force myself to watch it.

KMHM Plot: I can definitely say, the right plot really breaks or makes a drama, especially if you have a similar airing drama to compare it to. What KMHM has is a touching and very tightly spun storyline following a pair of children from their tragic pass to how this affects them in the future. Add in exciting and unexpected twists is just the cherry on top which kept my yearning for the next set of episodes each week. Much of the time you are kept guessing at what really happened which is the point since the main character didn’t even know himself the true story of his past and could only assume at first what had occurred. The drama is literally about different perspectives and how just one act can be interpreted in so many ways, many facets just like Do Hyun himself. Even the ending was perfect and cathartic, a truly healing completion to a emotional roller coaster for the viewers and Do Hyun himself.

HJM Plot: Everything since pretty, fluffy, and dream like in the beginning which seriously drew me in. However, the drama is like a broken carousel (forgive my circus metaphors!). It spins colorfully in the beginning, but has no substance and soon you hear the slowed down and warped music as it comes to a complete stop. The premise sounded interesting as I was already watching the other DID drama, and I wanted to see another take on it, with fewer personality. While the DID Seo Jin backstory was fine including the tragic past with his friendenemy, the rest was really flimsy. First of all, the cops are SO INADEQUATE, loosing the villain a billion times with their ineptitude. Seriously, it bordered on farcical how stupid they were and how this was suppose to keep Tae Joo in play to add a somewhat interesting item to the plot. All the romance moving plot was really not and much like a parody instead of a romcom. Basically, a carousel that goes round and round and round when you wish it would just let you off and finish at ep16.

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A Final Word on Healer

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Not very often do I find a perfect drama, but I must say Healer hits all the spots for me. Finding brilliant gems such as this drama is what keeps me watching Asian dramas!

Plot: Healer does a wonderful job using a tight plot. What was seen at the beginning of the drama with what seems like a simple courier job is eventually connected and part of the intricate overarching plot. Loose ends are tied up, birth secretes are solved, and generations of family are reacquainted.

Characterizations: Fleshing out characters is an important part of a drama and makes us feel connected to the material we are watching. Healer, himself, is very complex. His past sufferings made him who he was, but at the end, he rose above it. While starting out working alone, he learns how to work with others and reintegrate into society. He is the flawed hero that decides to work on his shortcomings. Chae Young Shin is the definition of spunky, not your usual Candy type, but endearing and earnest. It was a joy seeing her rise above her own past sufferings and bounce back. For our support actors, Moon Ho and Ahjumma, they are also very fleshed out with their pasts and their motivation for what they do now. Even minor characters are introduced well and given meaning to the drama.

Acting: The acting is definitely A++ with all characters. Since this is my first Ji Chang Wook drama and knowning he has not produced too many other ones yet, I am astounded at the expressiveness of his acting. Flipping between his two roles of Healer, Bong Soo, and Joon-Ho, you can see the clear differences between each, but also how each of those characterizations is still himself. Park Min Young is still as cute as ever and also a lovely actress. I have never had a problem with her acting and am glad that it is still shining through in this drama. Yoo Ji Tae, veteran actor, does a great job supporting his younger counterpart. His restrained anger and inner pain made a great contrast to Ji Chang Wook’s action first, talk later. Our group of older radio broadcasters did a great job connecting our younger generation with the convoluted past.

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