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.

Liar Game: Dirty Money

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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!

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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Innocent Defendant: Prison Break

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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!

Tunnel: Time Slip

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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.

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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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Strong Woman Do Bong-soon: Pint-sized Strength

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AHHHH so cute. CUTE! Strong Woman Do Bong-Soon is such a lovely fluffy drama with a surprisingly dark streak. I guess the trend these days is to have serial killers in your dramas with each one getting creepier than the one before. Park Bo Young plays Bong Soon, a girl with supernatural strength. However, she can only use that strength for the greater good or else she would break out and lose her powers. Bong Soon has a hard time controlling her power at times which leads to funny hijinks. One day she witnesses an event where a group of gangsters were bullying a bus driver and a group of preschoolers. She uses her strength to beat them up to the point where they end up in the hospital. Funny thing is that Ahn Min Hyuk, young and rich CEO of a game company witnesses this entire interaction and decides to hire her as his bodyguard. Over the past few weeks, he had been threatened by a an unknown caller who is threatening to ruin his company if he decides to inherit his father’s conglomerate. While hesitant at first, Bong Soon ends up taking the job because her dream is to become a game developer. Soon a love triangle ensues as Min Hyuk falls for her, but pretend to be a homosexual so that she can stay over at his house as a proper lady. Of course, she mistakens him as having the hots for her crush, a young police officer that she grew up with. Guk Du, the police officer doesn’t know about Bongsoon’s strength and thinks she is a childhood that needs to be protected. While this sounds all fun and games, the dark area of the show comes from a serial killer/kidnapper that is terrorizing Bongsoon’s neighborhood. The kidnapper has been taking young girls and trapping them in his jail cells as his brides. Bongsoon becomes a witness later on as the kidnapper tried to take her friend.

All three main leads are actors and actresses that I adore. They are expressive and wonderful at acting. Most importantly, they have great chemistry with each other considering the unique love triangle that we have. Whenever Bong Soon uses her strength, its quite funny considering the situations she gets herself into. Bong Soon and Min Hyuk also have a great relationship that you usually don’t see in a kdrama. Min Hyuk isn’t a complete jerk and finds this strong girl in his life very attractive. They work on building a strong foundation in friendship. They also push each other to be better and supports each other in times of need. Of course, my previous Ji Soo playing Guk Du is so adorably obliviously cute and in love with Bong Soon as well. Even Guk Du and Min Hyuk have good chemistry together even if they are always alpha fighting. I just hope to see Guk Du’s astonished reaction to when he finds out that Bong Soon is stronger than he thought. This drama has all the goodies, light fluffiness and dark crime.

Voice – Tuned In

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After vacationing for three weeks, I finally finished my winter Korean dramas. However, oddly enough, I haven’t been in the mood much to start a new batch of dramas. It may also be due to the fact that I am marathoning through Vampire Diaries. Voice, though, is the only one so far, that I have started for this spring. This drama tells the story of Jin Hyuk, a ex-detective who lost his wife to a serial killer. However, before she had died, she had called the emergency response center. They could not get to her in time. The woman who had responded to her call was Kwon-Joo. Kwon-Joo had the special talent of sensitive hearing due to an illness when she was younger. Everyone thought the culprit was a certain male and no one would listen to the details she gave because it did not match the person she caught. The tragedy of the event changed their lives forever. Jin Hyuk went on a three year bender while Kwon Joo decided to improve her skill set in America. Fast forward three years, Kwon Joo comes back to revamp the emergency response system. She wants to create the Golden Time team where an emergency team of police officers are dispatched and apprehend the perpetrator within ten minutes. She wants Jin Hyuk to head the team, but to his reluctance the ridicule of the entire police department. Furthermore, she is still searching for the killer who had murdered Jin Hyuk’s wife. Slowly, through multiple cases, these two manage to work together and save several people. Jin Hyuk finds out about her special ability and trust begins to develop between them.

OCN, this trusty cable network, always has gritty crime dramas that are right up my alley. Jang Hyuk is a talented actor who portrays Jin Hyuk’s doggedness and fierceness very well. Of course, I also missed his insane laugh from Fated To Love you. He has a talent for playing intense characters. As for Lee Ha-Na, this is my first drama with her. She plays a decent character who is actually strong in her own right in a world run by men. She doesn’t take any nonsense or ridicule from the men in her workplace and puts her foot down to get what she needs. I appreciate this type of female character that you don’t get to see a lot in a crime drama. As for the culprit, I have a good idea of who is playing him. However, the show throws out several red herrings which makes me wonder if there is a bigger twist. I of course had suspected his partner for playing a part in the tragedy, but who knows? I love these kind of shows that keep you on the edge of your seat and guessing.