Chinese traditional epics usually have the same trajectory: childhood loves, pain and suffering for 2/3 of the drama, and then 1/3 happiness and death. However, depending on how long the drama is and how tightly the story is written makes all the difference. General and I is quite long, a whopping 62 episodes. The drama starts out pretty good with our female heroine, Bai Ping Ting having both the brains and beauty. Her role in society at that point is the maid of a young prince of one of the three warring kingdoms in China. However, she actually functions as a war tactician due to her great knowledge of the battlefield through ancient texts. She attracts the attention of Chu Bei Jie with her knowledge prowess. Her fated soul mate is not the prince with whom she grows up with, but Chu Bei Jie. Bei Jie is a war god/general who is fierce on the battlefield and a brilliant tactician. He is also the half brother of the a king from a different kingdom. When both were younger, Ping Ting’s father had saved his mother. Thus, he remembers her forever and vows to find her. One day, Bai Ping Ting and her Prince He Xia, get trapped in a plot where their entire family is wiped out due to the fight for power. These two become separated and eventually Ping Ting is saved by Chu Bei Jie as she floats half dead down the river. She later finds out that it was Bei Jie who helped annihilate her adopted family due to a deal he had made with the other kingdom. He had thought he was helping achieve peace between both nations, but he was tricked by the other kingdom. While Ping Ting dislikes him at first, eventually she falls for him as he treats her preciously. General Bei Jie loves her for her intelligence and kindness of heart. He thinks she matches him in every way and actually enjoys it when she beats him in battle. However, He Xia is trying every which way to exact revenge on Bei Jie as he blames all his tragedy on him. Because Ping Ting ends up falling in love with Bei Jie, she chooses to leave He Xia’s side to support her husband. Many obstacles stand between Ping Ting and Bei Jie. Each of them makes multiple sacrifices for the benefit of the other.
THE PRETTINESS. Angelabby and Wallace Chung are such a treat for the eyes. I enjoy Wallace’s acting, but unfortunately I can’t say as much for Angelabby. She is serviceable, but I feel like she has one expression for all her feelings. Everything is beautiful, people and costume-wise. However, it just isn’t as engaging as I thought it would be. I must also comment on the awkward CG backgrounds at times. It is clearly very computerized and doesn’t look natural at all. Sometimes I get so distracted by the background, that I miss out on important scenes. While I am about half way through, the drama is definitely starting to drag a little. The beginning was quite interesting as it featured their battle of wits against each other. However, now it is just petty palace intrigue coming from both sides, an Imperial Consort and a Prince turned Prince Consort. I hope that these two lovebirds make it through and have some happiness for all their sufferings.
I told myself I wouldn’t start it many times due to the long length of the drama, but I finally caved. The costumes of the Tang Dynasty are just so gorgeous that I couldn’t resist. Now I haven’t watched any of the actors or actresses in the drama before except for Janine Chang, so I really just came for the costumes. I am in the beginning of the drama at the moment, and so far Wu Ruyi, our main character has captured my heart. She has the makings of all the main lead females that I like. She is smart, witty, gorgeous, and a fighter. Wu Ruyi enters the palace as a “imperial wife”, one of the dozens that comes through each year. All the concubines wait eagerly for their chance to be with the emperor even for one night. However, Ruyi, just wants to eke out a living in the palace. By chance, she is able to meet the emperor one night and he becomes interested in her (not sexually). He thinks she has interesting ideas and a cute personality. Instead of sleeping with his other wives, he ends up spending time with her whether that be just talking or hanging out. Of course, as this is the royal harem, all the women get jealous. Not the regular kind of petty jealousy, but the vicious, I’m going to poison so you will never appear in front of His Majesty again. Poor Ruyi made only a few friends in the palace so far, but has already had some stab her in the back. She is also targeted by the higher up concubines who do not like a young thing usurping their power and the majesty’s attentions. However much torture Ruyi endures, she struggles through it and becomes stronger on the outside. She gives it back as good as she has got. She knows that she can’t rely on the emperor’s fleeting favor and has to fend for herself.
I ended up really liking this drama which is surprising because usually I dislike watching internal harem politics and the viciousness of women who are jealous. However, I enjoy how strong Ruyi is and I really couldn’t care less about romance in the story. I just want her to achieve more power and give it back as good as she got it. She is enduring so much pain and misunderstanding now that she can’t get revenge on. Although later we will know that all this hardship will harden her heart and will affect how she rules in the future. I really also hoping that some of the friendships she has made will last her most of her rule because it will be so lonely for her if at the top of her power, she has no one to share her happiness with. However, in such a dog eat dog world, it may be the just the closest ones to her that stab her the deepest. I don’t know how many episodes I will watch of the drama, but so far it had me watching 10 in one sitting!
So I watched the Japanese version of Liar Game many years ago before the Korean version came out. After the hype of the Korean version, I thought I must check it out! The story is quite similar between the two with some extra twists in the Korean version. The Korean version features Da-Jung, a naïve and way to kind girl who is struggling in society, after her father left her a huge gambling debt. One day, she finds her self +500million dollars courtesy of trying to help out an old lady. However, this money is actually a set up for her to enter a game show called Liar Game. Liar game pits people against others in a competition for large sums of money. However, the key of the game is deceit and manipulation. This is something that Da-Jung really lacks. However, fortunately she is able to get help from expert con-man and past professor, Woo Jin. Woo=jin had just spent a stint in jail for being suspect of killing a man. However, he had not killed this man, but rather brought his company down because it had ruined his mother’s life. Da-Jung reminded Woo Jin of his late mother which encouraged him to help her. Later he finds out that her father’s debt is actually his fault as he had manipulated the stocks that her father had bought. Now it isn’t just chance that both of them get roped into the game. The host of the game, Do-Young, is actually manipulating everyone to his own plan. He wants to see the ugly side of everyone, especially in the face of greed.
While this drama received many good reviews and hype, I could only get through 8 episodes of it before having to drop. This is also after a second attempt at watching it. However, I do find it better than the Japanese version. Perhaps it is my severe annoyance at Da Jung whose “naiveness” or kindness is honestly just stupidity to me. She lets everyone walk over her and does not learn from her past mistakes. I suppose that is what makes her so innocent and encourages everyone to protect her. However, it is just exasperating to me. As for Woo-Jin, I do love Sang-Yoon the actor, and he plays decently enough in the drama. As for Do young, played by Shin Sun Rok, that is what really shined in this drama for me. He is an excellent villain who you just don’t know what he is going to do next. While half the time he seems surprised at the outcomes, in reality he had already planned for it. The games they play are really interesting and thoughtful. For me, perhaps it was just not the right timing again. But don’t let this deter you from watching the show. It is definitely a different feel and format!
Action, Spies, Thriller, Entertainment, GO~ Reminiscent of K2, Man to Man is like the comedic version of it. Touted as the new Netflix foray into the Korean entertainment industry, I am just hoping they won’t knock off the airing schedule and free subtitles! Man to Man tells the story of a ghost spy named Kim Sul-Woo. He is an expert spy who has been on many missions with his latest one being to infiltrate a hidden mansion in Europe to find a hidden figurine. This figurine is of upmost important to huge companies in Korea and the politics attached to the upper crust society. However, to do this, he must become the bodyguard of a popular action movie star. The owner of the mansion loves this movie star and had invited him to the mystery home for a party. Said movie star is Woon Gwang, a notoriously hard to get along with man who is a dramatic flair. Sul-Woo with his charm manages to instill himself next to the movie star to the consternation of Do-Ha, the star’s manager. Do-Ha is Woon-Gwang’s utmost fangirl and a little on the psychotic end. She is completely distrustful of Sul-Woo’s intentions which are ironically correct as he has ulterior motives. However, again and again, Sul-Woo proves himself worthy to be the bodyguard and saves them from several awkward situations. With half the drama being comedy and the other half action, it is an interesting mix of a drama that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Dark crime or law dramas are again right up my alley. I find it especially interesting to see the cat and mouse game between an intelligent villain and our hero. Innocent Defendant is about Jeong Woo, a prosecutor who ends up waking up in jail with no memories of the previous four months. Jeong Woo was a successful and dogged prosecutor who was not afraid to dig deep into cases and even put himself in harms way to crack a case. However, he buried his nose too deep in a murder case committed by Cha Min Ho, the twin brother of a conglomerate heir. Cha Min Ho is a playboy twin who ended up killing a golddigger in a drunken fit. Instead of owning up to his crimes like his brother told him to, he ends up killing his twin brother to take his place. He had always been jealous of his twin, Cha Seon Ho who was the apple of his father’s eye and heir to the conglomerate. Min Ho decides to push his brother off the building and become him when Seon Ho died. He used the cover story that the brother who had fallen was actually him and that he had committed suicide out of guilt. Of course, Jeong Woo suspects something foul is at play because he thinks that Min Ho is not the type to commit suicide. Jeong Woo ends up finding out that Min Ho is actually alive and pretending, but he has no evidence to prove it. One day after his daughter’s birthday, he wakes up the next morning in a jail cell. He doesn’t remember what has happened and thinks that something is playing a trick on him. He is told that he is on death row because he had somehow killed his loving wife and daughter. They are unable to find his daughter’s “body”, and he is unable to remember what exactly has happened. Apparently he has been having these repeat losses of memory in jail for the past four months with the gaps getting larger and larger. Jeong Woo is furious and heartbroken as he cannot remember and accept what is going on.
I love a good thriller and mystery. Ji Sung is one of my favorite actors as he has one of the most expressive faces I have ever had the pleasure to watch. He definitely throws his entire being into the role. His anguish is so hard to watch. Juxtaposing him is another fantastic actor, Uhm Ki Joon. I have seen him in more villainous roles and he plays them to a “T”. The more evil his character is, the better his acting becomes. Not only does he play one character, but he plays two, or even three (if you count him pretending to be his brother). As for the female leads in the story, I have no reads on them yet except for the quick appearance of Yuri. So far, the drama seems to be an on your seat thriller that will keep me guessing as what is really going on. I hope that Jeong Woo will be able to recover some of his memories and be able to go against Min ho soon!
In a way, this drama reminds of Signal, but only with the time travel part. Otherwise, it is another fascinating drama by OCN based on the Hwaseong Murders. To give a little background, the Hwaseong Murders is a famous case that was never solved in S. Korea. Several women ranging from ages 14- 70 were strangled by their own clothing by a serial killer. Tunnel features a homicide detective in the 1980s who is in the middle of investigating a series of murders where the victim is strangled by her own pantyhose and the ankles are dotted in the order they were killed. After several false leads, detective Gwang-Ho manages to catch a glimpse of a mysterious man in a tunnel. While running after said man, he is knocked out on the head with a rock by the man. When he wake up and tries to get out of the tunnel, he ends up walking into another world. This world is the same as his, but 30 years in the future. He is extremely confused as to what is going on and tries to make sense of it by going to his police station. He pretends to be an officer with the same name, but his experience gives him away. Coincidentally, a junior officer of his has now become chief at the same station. His junior officer recognizes his friend that had disappeared 30 years ago. In the past, his body is never found and his team is disbanded after the tragic event. Together, in the future, they try to make sense of what has happened, where Gwang-Ho’s wife is, and how to get back to his time. Of course, adapting to the new traditions at the police station is difficult. He ends up clashing with Sun Jae, an extremely smart detective who is also quite abrasive. Joining the bunch is Jae-Yi, a criminal psychologist who lends her expertise to the homicide unit.
While I do admit that this drama is a little over dramatic at times, I nonetheless am still interested. Following her husband Ji Sung, Lee Bo Young is also part of a drama where the corrupt upper crust of society uses power and money to get their way and out of illegal doings. However, Bo Young plays Young Joo, a police officer whose father is wrongly accused of murdering a informant. While her father’s trial seemed to be going well at first due to a just judge, it quickly went down hill as the judge gave in to the dark side. The judge, Dong Joon, had been once known for his morals and justness while standing up to the upper crust. He had refused to let those with money bully him into changing verdicts and refused all bribery. With this, Young Joo, had thought she would get a fair trial for her father and she even brought concrete evidence to supplement her father’s innocence. However, Dong Joon eventually was backed into a corner where he would loose his entire career and never get reappointed as a judge if he didn’t give in to Chairman Il-hwan. The Chairman was the head of a famous, but also infamously corrupt law firm that helped the rich get away things. Dong Joon tried with all his might to resist being influenced, but ultimately, he joined hands to save his career that he had worked so hard for. Heartbroken and furious, Young Joon who was now fired for meddling in the case, decided to get her revenge. She filmed a video where it appeared that a drunk Dong Joon had raped her and used this to blackmail him into helping her get her father free. Dong Joon, who had now become a lawyer at Taebek, the law firm was backed not only into a corner by his in-laws, but also by Young Joon. He has no one to turn to and must get out of this web of evil, but at what sacrifice?