Forest of Secrets: Forest of Lies

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Tis’ the year for corrupt prosecutors and law enforcement! But wait, tis the year for whistleblowers as well! Hwang Shi Mok, a stoic prosecutor who literally cannot express emotions due to a surgery he had when he was younger is the only one who is one of the only non-corrupt officials in his organization. After meeting Lieutenant Han at a murder scene, he is caught up in a complicated scandal that implicates several of the higher up law enforcement officers. Because of his personality, people find it hard to work with him. However, Shi Mok doesn’t mind and marches to the beat of his own drum. Because of this personality, he is dogged in his desire to expose all the corruptness of his higher ups even if it costs him his job. Lieutenant Han is the heart of this team and slowly Shi Mok absorbs her compassion as well. Through their investigations, they are thrown many red herrings and everyone is constantly switching sides! However, their doggedness will certainly pay off!

tvN is always a trustworthy network that always gives me something interesting to watch. The actors are the core of the story. I enjoyed Cho Seung Woo’s stoic performance and those rare bursts of emotion. You never quite know what he is thinking, but that just adds to the mystery of the drama. As for Bae Doona, she is amazing as the down to earth cop. She is not necessarily using her visuals(thought I think she is gorgeous), but is rather dressing down to match her character. It just comes off so natural. I also thoroughly enjoyed Lee Joon Hyuk as the intense brown-noser who doesn’t hesitate to ingratiate himself with power no matter the humiliation he must endure. He struggles so hard to survive in a cut throat organization even if he has to beg on his knees. In the beginning I was hoping for a grand redemption, but I prefer him this way because he is more realistic! The most unfortunate loss was Shin Hye Sun. She was such an underrated character and I wished she could have made it through the end! The plot was very intricate and well written. I was guessing until the very end where everyone’s true loyalties lay! I like how it wasn’t just focused on action, but rather how clever thinking and manipulation solves the case! These shorter stories keep my watching until the end, so that the first impressions are more like general impressions (without hopefully giving too much away). However, this is definitely a must watch of the summer!

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Lost Love in Time: Sorcery

 

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Pretty, so so pretty. However, I am having that meh feeling that I had when watching General and I. I want to so hard be addicted to it, but right now I feel like I can’t get into it. Lost Love in Times tells the love story between sorceress QinCheng and prince Yuang Ling of Wei. QinCheng and her faction of sorcerers are tasked with the job of protecting the royal family. Yuang Ling, the skilled 4th prince and general nicknamed “God of War”, becomes involved in a family struggle for the throne. Because he was the actual rightful heir the throne, the current emperor sought to have him killed and put his sons up to it. However, Ling survived due to QinCheng saving him. He was grateful to her and ended up falling in love with her as he recovered. Her mentor also decided to help Ling correct the power and political structure of Wei and even sacrificed his life for it. While Ling wished to take QinCheng as his wife, she believed that protecting him and his position as more important. Furthermore, the state did not approve of him marrying a sorceress. Thus, he decides to throw a coup on the day of his wedding with the help of QinCheng. They hoped to reset the land and bring about peace by overthrowing corrupt officials and healing the rifts between the royal family members.

So I love Liu Shi Shi and I like William Chan…and I even love the cinematography and costumes. BUT like I said before, everything is pretty, but on the surface. First of all I feel like the pair fell in love way to fast with absolutely no scenes showing how they got to know each other. Perhaps I am the slow burn type of person, but I wanted to see some development of a bond and not immediate pleasebemywife connection. To be honest, even the romance between the elders of the sorcery clan seemed more natural even though they just showed a few scenes of it! But, after I watched another 4 episodes, I did have to eat my words a bit. With the time reversal plot line, the romance came to a stop and the relationship started to be rekindled at a slower pace. What As for the politics, now that could be expanded on and intriguing. I wonder what happened between the two princes for them to be so vicious and at each other’s throat. I need to stop being so harsh and give it a few more episodes to sort itself out. Perhaps everything will align and hopefully suck me back in!

Princess Agents: Wonder Woman

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Since you have probably noticed the large gap where there were no posts…let me tell you where I was at! I was on kdrama dry spell and decided to focus on watching just one cdrama, Princess Agents. Never happens right?

This drama had become my obsession for the last month. It has seriously topped my top cdrama! Princess Agents is about Chu Qiao, a assassin/spy who had lost her memories and ended up taken as a slave by a genius spymaster, Yuwen Yue. After almost getting killed through human hunting by the other princes of the city, she also attracts the interest of young Yan Xun, hostage son of Yanbei. Due to her several members of her adopted family being killed by the Yue household, she had decided to become a slave for Yue in order to get a chance to kill him. However, seeing the potential in her, Yue decided to train her to become a spy even at the risk of him being killed himself. As grand spymaster, he enjoyed manipulating the people around him and everything he does was not what it seemed. Chu Qiao found out that it was not Yue’s fault that her adopted brother and sister died. She cautiously warmed up to Yue and enjoyed his teachings. However, she knew that she needed to escape the slave life eventually when she could fend for herself.

During this time, she forms a friendship with Yan Xun who saves her time and time again from dangerous situations. She grudging accepts his help which delights sunny Yan Xun. Even though they had a class difference, he wished that he could take Chu Qiao back to Yanbei and marry her. However, the Emperor of Wei decides to get rid of his competition, Yan Xun’s father. He mercilessly slaughters Yan Xun’s entire family before he could escape. Meanwhile, Chu Qiao becomes strong enough to kill the elder who had made her siblings die. With prices on both of their heads, they were thrown in jail to be executed. Yan Xun suffers enormously as he is forced to see not only the decapitated heads of his family, but his mother commit suicide. He nearly loses his own life as well, but Chu Qiao rallies him up as he is pondering death. These two suffered through three more years of assassination plots and exile before being pardoned. Meanwhile, Yue is hindered by his elders and family, who forbid him to help the traitors and made him seem like he betrayed the two. A deep seated hatred began to develop between Yan Xun and Chu Qiao towards Yue. However, the emperor was not going to let Yan Xun go anyways, and plots to kill him on his wedding day where he uses his own daughter, the princess, to be wed to him. Yan Xun takes this chance to massacre the royal city and rebel against Wei. Chu Qiao, who is much stronger after years of hardship, helps him escape. However, Yan Xun is not the sunny prince of before, but has turned into a cruel, hard man who has no more mercy except towards Chu Qiao.

A long long series that I don’t want to end! I absolutely love Zhanilia as Chu Qiao who is able to pull of that cold spy type, but also show empathy towards the commoners. She is so skilled in fighting, her morals, etc, and its amazing to see such a strong female lead. She bests even the strongest opponent and fights for what she believes for instead of just following a man. As for Yan Xun, Shawn Duo, played him perfectly. I first fell in love with his sunny smile and playfulness in the beginning. He showed his true acting chops as he slowly became bent on revenge and that simmering rage is a sight o behold. To be honest, I feel like Chu Qiao and Yan Xun are the perfect OTP as they see things on a similar level. Yan Xun only cares about her and vice versa at this point. While Yue is toted as the main lead and is played by my favorite 14th prince of BBJX, I just really don’t see his OTPness with Chu Qiao. There are just not enough scenes with them and I can’t see that deep rooted bond as with the other couple. Perhaps, the later few episodes will turn the tide. As for now, I will enjoy my yummy dark Yan Xun.

Ruler: Master of the Mask

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My dream team casting has come into fruition! I have always wanted to see Yoo Seung Ho and Kim So-Hyun as the main leads in a drama. I have watched them grow up from being child actors in dramas to the amazing young actors that they are today. Despite their age, they sometimes out-act older actors! In Ruler, Seung Ho plays a young crown prince who has lived life in anonymity due to the price on his life. The King, his father, had made a deal with a powerful group called the Pyunsoo in order to access the throne and have a peaceful rule. However, the price of such rule was to privatize the water system in Joseon and give them sole power over it. This deal was terrible to the commoners because the water would grow to outrageous prices during drought. Furthermore the corrupt Pyunsoo group decided to divert water wells as well which jacked up water prices even more till the point people were dying because of the lack of water. The group hoped to make the new crown prince a puppet as well. Thus,Crown Prince Lee lived most of his life under a mask to protect his identity. However whoever saw his face would be immediately killed. Once naïve young man, he soon discovers the state his people are in during a venture outside of the kingdom. He is heartbroken that his safety was the cause of such poverty and illness in the commoner’s lives. After accidently becoming involved in a brawl, a young Ga-Eun saves him. She is the daughter of a town official and is very interested in medicine. These two develop a tentative friendship, but without Ga-Eun knowing his true birthright. The Crown prince, knowing that the public did not know his face had ventured out without his mask on, masquerading as a messenger boy. Meanwhile, another young man who is also called Lee Sun, becomes acquainted with the Crown Prince. He is Ga-Eun’s friend and a peasant, but he is eager to learn and educate himself. After a terrible situation where both Lee Sun’s and Ga-Eun’s fathers are killed because of the Pyunsoo group, Crown Prince Lee Sun suffers a mental and heart breakdown. He is both angry and aggrieved that the king and him are so powerless against the Pyunsoo group. Therefore, he decides he wants to spy in Pyunsoo group with the peasant Lee Sun as masquerading as him, the Crown Prince in the palace. These three form a tight friendship, but with poor Ga-Eun not knowing the Crown Prince’s real identity. Furthermore, during this time, Hwa Goon, the Pyunsoo’s leader’s granddaughter, had fallen in love with the Crown Prince after he saved her life when she trespassed in the palace. While she is often terrifyingly manipulative, her soft spot for the Crown Prince puts her at odds with her grandfather.

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Secret Romance: One Night!

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Secret Romance is the epitome of a cheesy romantic comedy, but one that we will always watch anyways no matter how clichéd the plot is. With the same manga style and steamy kisses as 1% of Anything (the new one), the drama is a cute watch. Secret Romance tells the love story between Lee Yoo Mi and Cha Jin Wook, two people who had a one night stand as a result of several coincidences. Yoo Mi had a rough childhood of bullying due to her mother being an erotic actress. She did not have much self-esteem and just wanted to find a career path and love. Jin Wook is your usual immature and spoiled chaebol who needed to be beat into shape before entering the work force. Through a heart to heart with the help of a bottle of wine, these two connected on a deeper level. As a result, they had a one night stand on the beach. However, she was scared about what had happened and ran away in the morning. He was left with her bra pads as a souvenir of their tryst, bra-rella (Cinderella?). Fast-forward three years later, Yoo Mi has become the nutritionist for a big company cafeteria. The company just happens to be owned by a now mature and hard working Jin Wook. Jin Wook has a childish grudge against Yoo Mi because she left him hanging that fateful morning and he uses petty ways to get back at Yoo Mi. Yoo Mi tries to ignore him as best as possible as she remembers their night clearly, but doesn’t know how he feels about it. She was forced to prepare meals specially for him 3 times a day to get him to eat better as Jin Wook had already fainted due to malnutrition. It turned out that our haughty director was actually pining away for Yoo Mi. The rest of the story follows these two naïve lovers as they fumble to reconnect again.

A newbie, but a cutie, Sung Hoon played his role perfectly and pretty much carried the show. The first drama I ever saw him in, New Tales of Gisaeng, he played a similar type of male lead. This is like an elevated version of the previous. He has grown more handsome, more skilled in acting, and dare I say, a better and hotter kisser as well. As for Yoo Mi, played by Song Ji Eun, I believe she has a room for development. I absolutely love her singing skills, but she reminds me of a deer in headlights in this drama. However, half of this may be due to how her character is written too. In the second half of the drama, I also had wished that they had followed through with the “mistaken son” plot line to make it into a real story. That would have set this drama apart more from the rest of its genre. However, I will take this drama as it is, a cute and easy 13 episode watch.

The Liar and His Lover: Duet

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Music dramas are tough and go for me. Some of them really capture my interest in Monstar, while others slip off my radar. I am not quite sure about Liar and His Lover yet. Based on a Japanese manga, this drama features the relationship between a young music producer and a high school student who loves to sing. The Liar is the young music producer, Han Gyul, who only cares about making beautiful music while being tactless and heartless about other people’s feelings. He used to be part of a band called Crude Play until he decided that writing the songs were more important. His band and him ended up being extremely popular and successful. However, he hides his identity from the public. Meanwhile, the lover is So Rim, a cheerful high school senior who loves to sing, but experienced trauma in her childhood that prevents her from singing in on stage. While her band and her audition for many companies, she always freezes up on stage when she remembers what happened in the past. Her parents had died in a freak subway accident during her singing recital. One day, she coincidently meets Han Gyul who was looking for inspiration on a new song. He ends up recording his song on her phone because he didn’t have his with him. She ends up loving this song and falling in love with him. The song made her feel special and happy. She decides to play by the Han River everyday with her band until her meets him again. By luck, she does meet him again, but doesn’t recognize that he is a producer. He lies to her and says he is a inexperienced composer while trying to get her to delete the song. This song was suppose to be the title track for his band and had not been released yet. These two become entangled in a messy web lies. So Rim has a sincere heart towards him while he is just trying to accomplish his goals.

The premise is cute and the music attracts me, but it doesn’t have quite the pull for me yet. I enjoy watching child actor Lee Hyun Woo grow up and getting more main lead roles. He has such a baby face still that sometimes its still hard for me to picture him in older roles. However, he is a decent actor who is able to emote well. As for Joy of Red Velvet, I quite enjoy her breakout performance. Even though she is an idol actress, she is pretty good and even better than some idols who have been acting for a while. It is still two episodes in so I look forward to seeing her grow in her acting skills. Furthermore, I would really love to hear her voice in more songs. Red Velvet is one of my favorite girl groups and all the members have really lovely voices. On an appearance and age level, the main leads definitely fit each other. I think the drama will be a cute and fluffy experience.

General and I: Epic Angst

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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.

Empress of China: Wu Zetian

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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!