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.

Man To Man: Bromance Level

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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.

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Whisper: Dark Intentions

 

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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?

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The K2: Bourne

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Watching this simultaneously with Empress Ki is like watching two Ji Chang Wooks. One that is a cowardly wimp versus another one is a Jason Bourne style badass. Or in a way, we are reprising a upgraded level of Healer who has become more deadly. Wook plays Je Ha, ex-special forces soldier who seems to be on the run and working menial jobs to lay low. He meets our lead lady, Anna, in Spain where he seemed to be finishing up a mission.

Anna is the illegitimate daughter of a assemblyman who is trying to run for presidency. Anna’s mother seemed to have died through mysterious means and Anna is sequestered in this monastery to keep her out of the way or hidden. However, she is constantly trying to run away since she believes the people who have her captured are villainous. In one of her escape attempts, Je Ha manages to help her for a bit, even though he is injured. However, it was for naught when she is recaptured and he ended up returning back to Korean in order not to get involved with foreign police.

Back in Korea, we get a peek into the assemblyman, Se Joon, and his wife’s tense relationship. His wife, Yoo Jin, is not the mother of Anna, and seems to be in a contract relationship with Se Joon. Yoo Jin is the daughter of a powerful conglomerate and it seems that Se Joon is using that power to back up his candidacy. However, they don’t have a loving relationship at all and seem to be sabotaging each other. Se Joon keeps on having affairs while Yoo Jin tries to catch him at it. She is calculating and manipulative deep down and tries to keep a mask of innocence and romanticism for the public. Unfortunately, Je Ha becomes involved in their power struggle when he takes on a banner fixing job at Yoo Jin’s company. He sees things that he shouldn’t have and now is being hunted down by both parties for recruitment or worse.

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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.

 

Local Hero: Homegrown

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OCN never disappoints! As some of you may know, Park Shi Hoo has come back to the acting world with a new drama. After his highly publicized scandal in 2013, he laid low and now after two years, he ventures back, albeit a smaller cable channel. His name is still highly controversial and thus, many will probably shun this new drama of his. While I am disgusted by his past behavior, I cannot say the same of his acting. His acting ever since The Princess’s Man, has been brilliant and impressed me. He continues his excellent acting in Local Hero.

Local Hero tells the tale of Baek Shi Yoon, an ex-secret agent who was on a large scale mission before he was told to stop his efforts. Due to him not listening to this command, the mission becomes botched and a fellow agent ends up dead. He ends up going to prison for 3 years for being insubordinate. After getting out of prison, he buys the bar, “Neighborhood”, which doubles as a chill location for former agents. Secretly, he wants to revenge on the ones who told him to halt his mission and is haunted by his friend’s death. However, ex-agents are not allowed to dabble back in intelligence, so he is forced to act like a regular person instead of a highly trained agent. Meanwhile, Im Tae Ho, is a detective who is short on money to manage his wife and three kids. He ends up taking a side job from a ex-intelligence officer and sets up a “monitoring” company to make an extra buck. He hires Chan-Gyoo, a young man who wants to get into the police academy, but fails the exam. Chan Gyoo is ordered to follow ex-agents and take notes on their routines. However, one day the man Chan Gyoo is following ends up dead. The same guy who had told Shi Yoon years earlier to halt his mission. Shi Yoon, who comes into contact with Chan Gyo, tries to make friends with this young man, thinking he will be of use in the future. While being the new owner of this bar, Shi Yoon grows closer to its employees and even begins sympathizing with their plights. A few times, he takes action using his martial arts skills to help get his employees out of sticky situations. All the while, wearing a hat and mask to not reveal his identity and skills.

While I am definitely attracted to this plot, the drama is still laying down its groundwork in its first two episodes. Characters are introduced and their backgrounds are explained. People’s missions and ambitions are being established. As we know from The Princess’s Man, Park Shi Hoo does that brooding angst thing perfectly as well as stubborn on revenge part too. I get the added deliciousness of his abs in a workout scene as well! But beyond his abs, I enjoy the Batman, local hero type theme. And looking at the preview for episode 3, I can see that Chan-Gyoo, played by Lee Soo Hyuk (very steady actor in my opinion), will be his disciple in local crime fighting!

Yong Pal: Healer on the Run!

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If Good Doctor had a revamp coupled with flavors of Innocent Man, Doctor Stranger, and Healer, you would have the drama baby of Yong-Pal. Joo Won of Good Doctor reprises his role as a doctor, but this time, one of great ability, fearlessness, and genius, rather like Doctor Stranger. Joon Won is Tae Hyun, a gifted resident who works at a famous hospital, but makes money on the side to pay off his enormous debts to a loan shark. Professional by the day, he receives calls at night to go on jobs, mostly to stitch up gangsters, who then pay him loads of money. With this money, he slowly pays off the debts he has from treating his sister’s renal? failure (dialysis treatments). However, his money grubbing doesn’t stop there. He also subtly threatens rich VIP families at the hospital for extra “money gifts” for saving their loved ones. Even with his doctor income, shady surgeries at night, and bribe receiving, he is barely making ends meet and has barely made a dent in his own medical school tuition expenses. At the hospital, he is well known for his skills and even the professors ask him for help, no matter the humiliation from asking a mere resident. However, hidden well in the hospital is a special lady who is kept in a medical coma by her devil of a brother. After her lover had died in a brutal car accident, Yeo Jin played by Kim Tae Hee, tried to commit suicide by throwing herself out the window. She survived, but cannot wake as her brother takes control of the family fortunes. One of the Chief Surgeons is also in on this scheme as he is paid a heavy sum for keeping her under. Meanwhile, Tae Hyun who is known by Yong Pal on the streets, comes across a bad deal. He is forced to save a gangster boss, but has a run in with the police. After a long police car chase, he and the boss end up on the railing of a bridge. Tae Hyun, who must not get caught, decides to inject him and the boss with epi pens in order to up their body function for a mere few minutes and jumps into the river below. Though he is affectionately called the quack doctor on the streets, he is well known for keeping people alive if they can’t go to the hospital.

A thousand times yes for this drama! I LOVE Joo Won, even though I may not love all his projects. However, he is one of those special actors who throws himself wholly into whatever character he is playing. He has a totally different role as a doctor in Yong Pal versus the timid one in Good Doctor. Yong Pal has a Healer type personality (pun intended) where he is tenacious, ambitious, money hungry, and fearless. But he has Innocent Man issues where his little sister requires hospital treatments that are sucking the lifeblood out of him. He is pushed to unsavory actions in order to make ends meet. I not only love the medical aspect, but also the dash of action thriller. Yong pal is sassy and a likable character. When the police were chasing him, I definitely had a flashback to Gaksital. Oh Yong Pal, a mask again? Better not let them find you and keep that double identity!

As for the other half of this story with Kim Tae Hee, at the moment, I have no judgement of her yet. She is breathtakingly beautiful in motion and stillness. I hope to see how her acting career has helped her improve as I have heard that she did very well in that traditional drama. However, the section of the hospital where she is kept is so gorgeous in technology and aesthetics. Really, wow! However, I am not used to this VIP section of a hospital idea. In the US, no matter how famous or rich you are, EVERYBODY is the same and everybody is treated the SAME! So, let this sleeping beauty wake soon!

PS. The posters are just a treat for the eyes. Beautiful graphic design!

Blood

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So I decided to take a quick peek at Blood, like watched 3/4 of Episode 1 and skimmed episode 2. That is all I could stomach so far. Coming from the same writer, Park Jae-Bum, who wrote the fantastic Good Doctor drama….I can’t believe he wrote this tripe. I didn’t know if I was watching a continuation of the Twilight series, Korean style, in episode 1. Really, we got giant werewolves, some Volturi-looking vamps in hoods, some forest running, teenage angst, pure-bred blood lines all smooshed into one Twilight summary episode. Then we suddenly change the channel to Doctor Stranger, the sequel, but without the decent actors and dumbed down. In strolls, Ji-Sang, genius noble vampire doctor who wants to save lives, but must control his bloodlust. He also likes to push out bullets form his body like Wolverine from X-Men. He meets Ri-Ta, heiress doctor to the hospital (chaebol doctor?), who seems quite arrogant and develops a rivalry to Ji-Sang. But this will turn into an immortal luuuurve to transcend all epic romances, obviously. Then we have Jae-wook who is the chief surgeon …and also the resident baddie vampire who killed Ji-Sang’s parents and is also searching for pureblood Ji-Sang? Like I said….Twilight part. 50. While I’m not finding Jae-Hyeon too atrocious to watch, its clear to me he is NOT leading man material yet. I would say he jumped a little too far after My Love From Another Star. And can we do a little less blood spraying and a little more goggle-mask wearing during surgery? Let’s please make things a little more realistic and have less chance of eye infections for our doctors, yeah? And for the love of God, Gu Hye-Sun, you are just as bad as I remembered from BOF, if not worse. I am so disappointed after hearing you had improved a lot in Angel Eyes. This is you taking 5 steps back. No, actually, there is something new besides your too frozen face, literally why are only your lips are moving? And please put back those eyes in your eye sockets! You also seemed to have developed a weird head tilt. You must have a cramp after filming each episode! Even my neck hurts from watching yours!

PS. This is one of the harshest reviews I’ve written, so I have prepared water for flames!

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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