Wonderful Nightmare: Second Chances

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I definitely love me some body swap hijinks! In Wonderful Nightmare, Yeon Woo is a charismatic and savvy attorney. She cares only for money and reputation, ignoring the poor. She had a hard life growing up and that shaped her outlook on life. She enjoys being single and doesn’t care for marrying as she thinks it will only bring her heartbreak. However, due to a mistake in processing in “heaven”, she ends up dying early through a car accident. In heaven, she is given another chance to live again if she temporarily takes the place of another woman’s life who only has one more month to live. Eager to get back to the living, Yeon Woo decides to take this offer. Her new life is her worst nightmare. She is a mousy, stay-at-home mom of two children, a cheesy lawyer husband, and part of a loud ahjumma group. At first, she can’t get use to this new life and hates how poor she is. She tries to even use her old life to get ahead in her new life. However, she is scolded by “heaven” to not slip up since she has all her old memories and abilities. Gradually, she learns the warmth of a family and even takes on the familial duties that scorned before. Her kids also manage to warm up to her and she also enjoys standing up for her husband. However, with only one month to “live” this other woman’s life, she is reluctant to let go of this new experience she now enjoys. Unfortunately, her son begins to develop blindness that we find was genetic. She had suffered through the same growing blindness as a child that required several expensive surgeries to fix. However, heaven gave her to option to return about to her own life and have the blindness never happen to the son or to stay in her current role, but with the blindness of her son continuing. Although it broke her heart to give up her new family, she chose to go back to her own life to save her child suffering from the blindness.

Wonderful Nightmare is a story about sacrifice and familial bonds. Yeon Woo starts to learn how to care for others more and that life is not just about money. She learns to make attachments and even develops a maternal instinct. Um Jung-Hwa plays an awesome charismatic character as well as the homey housewife. Child actors Shin Ae and Ji-hoon are cute as buttons while new hubby Song Seung Hoon will have you swoony over how protective he is over his wife. A excellent feel good movie that will tug at your heartstrings.

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Jealousy Incarnate: Love Triangles for Everyone

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Weird. Odd. What? Those were my first thoughts when I started the drama. Interestingly enough, I had almost dropped the drama after just 2 eps. However, I am so glad I powered through as I quickly became absorbed and obsessed (marathoned to the current episodes).  Gong Hyo Jin has a way of picking interesting and quirky drama projects which always turn out to be a special kind of hit. Here she plays Na Ri, a weather forecaster, who yearns to be an announcer at one of the biggest media companies. She is the breadwinner of her family and is barely making ends meet as a contract employee. During her years at the company, she had a crush on a reporter named Hwa Shin. Hwa Shin is your typical arrogant jerk and macho man. He not only ignored her crush, but at times went out of his way to be an asshole to her. Eventually Hwa Shin had been self-exiled to Thailand for a stint/scandal he caused at the news station regarding his family’s business.

Na Ri and Hwa Shin eventually meet up in Thailand to film a recruitment video. On this trip, Na Ri meets Jung Won, a sensitive and kind chaebol, who of course is also Hwa Shin’s best friend. These two develop light crushes on each other. Meanwhile, when Na Ri was prepping Hwa Shin for the video, she accidentally groped his chest and inadvertently found out about a nodule in his breast. With a long family history of breast cancer, Na Ri becomes obsessed with Hwa Shin’s chest and the fact that he might have breast cancer. He tries to ignore all her prompting to go get it checked out, but eventually succumbs. His whole world crumbles as he finds out that he has stage I breast cancer even though he is a guy. It was a blow to his pride, career, and life. Coincidentally, Na Ri also has a little nodule that she is getting removed that was non-malignant. As luck would have it, they are paired in the same room before surgery. He swears her to secrecy about his condition while she helps him through the recovery/radiation process.

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Lucky Romance: Lucky Strike

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So after being frightened off by Hwang Jung Eum’s previous romcom, She Was Pretty, I was very hesitant to try another one. But don’t get me wrong, I love her in melos such as Secret Love and Kill Me Heal Me. However, after watching a couple of episodes, I must say I am a fan. Lucky Romance tells the story of Bo Nui, a very unlucky woman who tries her best using rituals and superstitions to ward off her unlucky fate. She works odd jobs, barely/does not make ends meet, and has a sister in the hospital who hasn’t woken up ever since her accident. As she often visits a fortune teller, she is told that if she doesn’t sleep with a man of the Chinese zodiac sign, tiger, her sister will end up never waking up and dying. Desperate to complete this ritual, she look far and wide for a man that fits. Meanwhile, her gambler boss signs up their tiny start up company in a computer designing contest. Bo Nui is actually a very amazing and talented coder and game designer. She also made it into a famous game company called ZeZe, but in the interviewing process, she got sidetracked by her sister’s accident. At ZeZe, the CEO is a young genius named Soo Ho. Soo Ho had a troubled upbringing where exposure to media at such a young age caused him extreme anxiety and phobia of cameras flashing. As an awkward nerd type, he has trouble getting along with others and uses his intelligence at times in a distasteful and arrogant manner. As luck would have it, Bo Nui’s game, IF, gets chosen as the next big virtual reality program for ZeZe to develop. Bo Nui also finds out that Soo Ho is a “tiger”. He wants her game, but has to sign her onto the job as part of the deal. She sets the terms that she will only work for ZeZe if he goes on dates with her in the intent that he will eventually sleep with her. Of course, as we are missing the childhood love story part, we also have Gary Choi, famous tennis player, back from abroad to look for his biological father. As we all anticipated, Bo Niu and Gary Choi used to be close friends, and rekindled this friendship upon meeting again, with hints of romance.

While this drama started out a lot like She Was Pretty, to the point where the office for the company was the same (The Most / ZeZe), it developed its own groove. I appreciate the less screamy version Hwang Jung Eum plays in this drama, but yet she always takes on the role of a long-suffering hard worker who others find to be an oddball. However, she is more endearing this current role. Now I have not watched Ryu before, but he reminds of Kim Woo Bin, down to the unique face structure and eyes. I find their acting styles to be similar, but Ryu carrying more of an awkward type than a charismatic bad boy type that Woo Bin plays. This is not to say his acting is bad, in fact, I enjoy his portrayal of Soo Ho. For Gary Choi, Lee Soo Hyuk is always a solid secondary male lead though I long to see him in a lead role one day. Soo Hyuk is very charismatic and that deep voice does make me swoon. All in all, I hope to continue watching this though I am sure I will be inundated with the huge amounts of doctor dramas that I want to watch coming in!

Oh Hae Young Again: No Shame

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Wow, just wow. I had completely skipped over this drama at first, not even having the slightest inclination to watching it. I thought it was going to be a silly rom-com judging by the poster and teasers. But, I could not be more wrong. This drama is more of a melo that has hit the dysfunctional couple trope for me combined with excellent acting and intense feels. In the drama, Oh Hae Young, an ordinary woman is all set to get married to her handsome and rich boyfriend. However, their wedding is called off the day before. Her boyfriend dumps her cruelly and in her embarrassment, she requests that it be publicized as her calling off the wedding instead. Everyone in her family and friend group is surprised at this turn of events while Hae Young wallows in pain and misery. Her family, in order to shock her out of her despair and also angry at her “irresponsibleness” kicks her out of their house. She ends up moving into a side studio connected to a larger house with a door for access in between. The man who is her neighbor is Park Do Kyung. As fate would have it, these two people are connected. Park Do Kyung had suffered a painful breakup where his fiance left him on the day of his wedding. But get this, her name was was Oh Hae Young. What is more is that both Hae Youngs went to school together in the past. However, Do Kyung’s fiance was the pretty and popular Hae Young, while our Hae Young was more plain and constantly was compared to the prettier one. Heartbroken, Do Kyung had planned revenge on pretty Hae Young. However, through a misunderstanding and confusion with names, Do Kyung ended up ruining the wedding and life of our Hae Young. Through rumors and confusion, he thought that his Hae Young was marrying our Hae Young’s Tae Jin. Thus, he made investors pull out of Tae Jin’s company and the man ended up in jail for a stint. However, it turns out that Tae Jin broke but with Hae Young cruelly in order for her to stop waiting for him and recover her family name before it was ruined. As these Hae Young and Park Do Kyung start to live together, they at first butt heads, but eventually fall for each other. Do Kyung is tortured and guilty because he is unable to tell Hae Young the truth, while Hae Young is unknowingly loving the one who ruined her life. With the pretty Hae Young and Tae Jin coming back into the picture later, it creates all sorts of pain for all parties involved.

Instead of this being a first impression, it is more like a rant after watching 12 episodes! I literally could not put this down. While it does have romcom moments, this drama is very deep into the melo world. Do Kyung and Hae Young is one of the most dysfunctional and toxic relationships I have seen in the drama world. Both are severely heartbroken and depressed when they first meet each other, and somehow manages to help heal each other. However, it is so unfortunate that they have such a knot to untangle between them. Each is torturing themselves for loving each other because it started out wrong. People they are crazy or selfish to be in love after all that has happened, but they just can’t help it. With Eric Mun’s Do Kyung, the character is the brooding and silent type which much of the acting in Mun’s eyes. His agony and regret are palpable. As for our Hae Young, her feelings are so relatable. She had to overcome such comparison and endure many embarrassing situations. However, she picked herself back up, albeit in some weird ways and with the amazing support of her parents. She also doesn’t play hard to get and is honest with her feelings. Yet, I hope the premonitions that Do Kyung keeps on having do not end in tragedy. That would just break my heart !

Beautiful Gong Shim: Duckling to Swan

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Let me just put it out there that I totally tested out this drama just to see if Nam Goong Min could be in a nice guy role. The story itself is about four people, two sisters, and what suspect is two long lost brothers. Gong Shim, our main character, is the younger sibling to her beautiful older sister. She has an inferiority complex due to her sister getting all the blessings in life, good looks, a decent job, and the favoritism of her parents. Meanwhile, Gong Shim looks nothing like her sister and is struggling to make ends meet due to her moving out of the house. She ends up renting her rooftop room to Dan Tae, a happy go lucky guy who is a lawyer does that charge exorbitant fees and helps the underdog. He also seems to have an enhanced sense of eyesight and reflexes. These two of course butt heads as Gong Shim thinks Dan Tae is a bully/pervert while her odd habits/personality is driving Dan Tae around the bend. Due to them constantly bumping into each other, Gong Shim meets Joon Soon, the unfavorably treated grandson of a large corporation. He was rescued from some gang members by Dan tae. She develops a crush on the handsome and wealthy son, who is also the envy of many others in the same social circle.

One day, at Gong Shim’s part time job at a gas station, she is humiliated and beaten by the snobby wife of a law firm. She wanted to sue and press charges, but was stopped by her older sister, who worked for the law firm. In an act of selfishness, the sister pretended to be pitiful to gain Gong Shim’s sympathy and stop her from pursuing the arrogant wife. Luckily, Dan Tae was able to persuade/threaten the wife into apologizing to Gong Shim. With this happy event, Gong Shim was also able to get a job as the President’s secretary of Joon Soon’s company even though she had attended the wrong interview and scolded the interview panel. Gong Shim’s interesting personality, but warm heart has won over many of the people she has met.

Even though Dan Tae’s character is as happy as can be, literally, rainbows and giggles, I still can’t shake his villain character style. Especially, whenever he strokes his sideburns and smiles a little too widely, I’m reminded of his role in Remember: War of the Son and Girl Who Sees Smells. That underlying, I’m going to kill you if you provoke me type of feeling. However, I find his total opposite character intriguing and he has good chemistry with Min Ah who plays Gong Shim. Min Ah who is part of Girl’s Day is a decent actor in my books even though this is the first project I have seen her in. She portrays the frustrated and oddball Gong Shim to a tee and endears her to us. Meanwhile, common second lead of her sister played by Seo Hyo Rim gets your blood pressure up as she uses and abuses her sister. Overall, I am intrigued to see ugly duckling Gong Shim evolve into a beautiful swan.

Come Back Ahjussi: Another Life

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What a pleasant surprise! Judging by the previews, it had looked more like a romcom, but underneath the humorous veneer is more of a melo that tugs at your heartstrings! The drama gives us an almost humorous take on 49days. In here, Kim Young Soo is a loving husband who has literally worked himself to death. He used to be a department store manager before unfortunate circumstances sent him plummeting to his death, which on the outside looked like a suicide. At the same time, another man, Han Gi Tak is a reformed gangster who owned a restaurant. In an effort to help a woman he once loved, he gets caught up in a deeper conspiracy. This woman was a celebrity who owed him her life when they were younger. However, after getting caught meeting up, he embarks on a chase after the paparazzi for taking their photo. Unfortunately for him,after being run over by a mysterious van, his passes away. In the afterlife, even though both were bound for heaven, they felt like they couldn’t peacefully leave things the way they were on Earth. Both jumped off the train headed for heaven and signed a contract to go back to Earth for two months to take care of loose ends. Young Soo ends up in Rain’s body, which is completely opposite for his own not as good looking and disease ridden body. Young Soo is ecstatic that he came back looking like a sculpture and sets out to make things right at his old workplace. He happens to meet his wife who now works there to make ends meet. Meanwhile, Gi Tak comes back in a woman’s body! A very pretty woman’s body…but one that he can no longer fight with. He tries to go back to his underlings, but with this new body, nobody takes him seriously even though he still has the old swagger. In an effort to help out his old lover who has got herself into a bind, he pretends to be his own “sister”.

While episode one was heartbreaking with the main lead’s backstories, the second episode made me laugh my butt off. The acting is definitely on point whether it be past or present incarnations. Rain is hilarious as the newly hot Young Soo, yet still super awkward and still a doofus like his old self. It was so funny in episode 2 where he basically fondles himself all over, admiring his new abs and rock hard pecs/biceps. Furthermore, I feel the chemistry burning between present him and his old wife. I really hope that somehow she will recognize him and that he can leave in peace later on after setting things right. Meanwhile, the new Gi Tak as a woman, Hong Nan, is fantastically comedic. Still not adjusted to being a woman, I love how she still has the old tough guy swagger. I look forward to more gender-swap hijinks and I hope his underlings will somehow recognize him as well!

 

Madame Antoine: Fortunes Told

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An interesting fortune is being told here! Madame Antoine is about the bickering of a fortune teller versus a renowned psychologist. Han Ye Seul plays Hye Rim, a fortune teller who has a knack for being observant and being a good guesser. Often she is described as conning people, but in reality she is just handing out life advice. Meanwhile, Sung Joon plays Soo Hyun, a psychologist who doesn’t have any morals when it comes to his experiments. He is focused on the female psyche and especially does not believe in love. In fact, the drama is based on an experiment he is conducting. His hypothesis is that most women will choose a man who gives them financial stability and that true love does not exist. However, even with his first pilot study, he is unscrupulous and plays with other people’s feelings. After moving into the center above the cafe, these two butt heads as each derides the other for their work. Thus, in a form of revenge Soo Hyun decides to apply this experiment again, but using Hye Rim as the subject. He sets three men of varying characteristics upon her. One is his own genius protege, Ji Ho, to be the young flower boy type. The second is his younger athlete brother, Seung Chan, as the one who has a sexy body. He plays the third guy, a rich man in the mid-thirties. Each pushes their “fake” feelings onto her and tries to make her fall in love with them. However, as time goes by, each man develops their own true feelings for her. Most importantly, Soo Hyun, himself begins to have feelings for her. Now he is in a rocky spot of pulling out of the experiment, revealing what he has done, or setting up a new third man. Of course, when this experiment falls apart, Hye Rim will definitely be very hurt. Will they be able to rekindle or forgive?

This is an interesting concept, if unscrupulous. It is always horrible to play with another person’s feelings for the sake of an experiment, in my opinion. However, for now, the drama has enough of comedic element to level this distaste in my mouth. Hopefully,there will be some heavy groveling from Soo Hyun for doing such a thing. I very much enjoy Han Ye Seul’s acting here which is has been a hit or miss in the past with her other other projects. She is funny and endearing. I absolutely love the parts where she pretends to talk to Madame Antoine’s ghost while reading a fortune, but is really just saying nonsensical phrases in French since no one understands. Meanwhile, Sung Joon’s facial tics are hilarious. I am so used to seeing him in sulky brooding roles, but I think comedy is really his element here. While the other flower boys are cute, I do wish they were given more of a background or depth rather than the stereotypical roles, literally, that they are forced into. Other than that, Madame Antoine is a quirky fun drama to watch in between my other obsessions.

5-ji Kara 9-ji Made : Congratulations!

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“Congratulations!”, as Takane would say. It has been ages, possibly years, that I have truly enjoyed a Japanese dorama. I was primarily drawn in by the cute previews, interesting storyline, and last but not least, Yamapi! 5-ji Kara 9-ji Made is about how Sakuraba Junko, a English teacher at an academy finds love in the most unexpected of places, a monk named Takane. Junko is a hardworking teacher who has dreams of moving to New York. She is well-loved by her coworkers and good at her job. However, she does not have much luck on the romance front, even though she has suitors from afar. One day, while she is attending a funeral service at a temple, she accidentally causes a scene. Her foot had started cramping and she ended up tipping a whole bowl of ashes onto the chief priest’s head as he was chanting the sutras. Whoops! However, its okay since he fell head over heels for her ever since. Completely embarrassed, Junko hopes never to see Takane again. As dramas would have it, she is tricked into a matchmaking session with none other than Takane, under her mother’s behest. Takane single-mindedly pursues her and tries to gain her favor. He wants to marry her, but Junko was not having it. Junko becomes annoyed as Takane literally stalks her everyday and even joins her academy as a student even though he was a Tokyo University graduate who is already competent in English. While the two bicker, two other suitors have set their eyes on Junko as well. One is her mentor and role model lecturer from when she was a college student who is now her General Manager. The other is a college friend who had been in love with her ever since meeting. Unfortunately for Takane, who is very possessive and jealous, he must compete against so many people vying for her hand. This is not to mention that his own grandmother who controls the temple since his parents passed away hates Junko for not being worthy enough as a daughter-in-law. She is constantly hindering them and even brought in a proper bride-to-be that she wants Takane is marry instead. It is so good that it is only after 8 episodes that I have paused to write this review!

Different from other doramas, 5-ji Kara 9-ji Made thankfully does not do “repeat problems or plots” in each episode and instead moves the plot along at a brisk pace. I particularly enjoy how the wooing and romancing is slow and drawn out which makes it more realistic. Takane and Junko take the time, even if it is through bickering, to learn about each’s character and past. This makes it all the sweeter when they are finally accepting of each other’s feelings and all that is left is to hopefully achieve their dreams.

Ishihara Satomi who plays Junko is all kinds of cute, cool, and beautiful! I love how she speaks so fast and how lively her expressions are. Contrast this to Yamapi’s frozen Takane face is quite a difference. This makes it all the cuter when Takane is brought to a smile. Most of his feelings are expressed through his eyes instead which for me is still a work in progress. However, the chemistry between the two is just sizzling and I most definitely fangirl with every OTP moment!

Bromance: Cheesiness, but Amusing

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While the cheesiness is off the charts in Bromance, I am amused. I don’t know how long I will be amused by these cliches, but so far the idol drama has kept me entertained. As a genderbender drama, Pi Ah Nuo is a girl who has lived as a man for the past 25 years of life due to the suspicions of a fortuneteller. On her 26th birthday, she would have passed her “dangerous” time and can return to live as a female. However, before then, she must keep her gender a secret from everyone. One day, she happens to rescue a mob boss named Du Zi Feng and his sister due to his fast reflexes and fighting skills. The sister falls in love with Ah Nuo, who is actually a girl. Ah Nuo is considered a “flower boy” and is especially popular amongst the ladies. Due to the sibling’s mother’s manipulations, Ah Nuo becomes Zi Feng’s sworn blood brother and future son-in-law prospect for her daughter. Throw in Ah Nuo’s cousin, who is acting as his girlfriend, we have all sorts of misunderstandings happen as the cousin tries to set up Ah Nuo and Zi Feng together as she of course knows that her cousin is a girl. As the motley crew boards a cruise ship for vacation, we see more situations where Ah Nuo’s heart flutters in proximity to Zi Feng while Zi Feng just likes to tease Ah Nuo for being so delicate. With her 26th birthday approaching, I wonder how Ah Nuo will be able to solve her situation.The drama is so chalk full of fangirl-y bromance moments, that sometimes it does give me minor goosebumps and makes me wonder how oblivious the main male lead could be. I guess I am just waiting for the period where she will need to decide whether to reveal her feminine side or just be more comfortable with her masculine side.

She Was Pretty – Hidden Beauty

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I am conflicted about this new drama. While Hwang Jung Eum stars in two of my most favorite dramas, Kill Me Heal Me and Secret Love, I am not feeling it right now with She Was Pretty. Even the addition of the amazing Park Seo Joon, who made a splash in Kill Me Heal Me with her, is just not tiding me over yet. For me, I think it was how her character is written that is not attracting my full attention. In this drama, she stars as Hye-Jin who was a gorgeous little girl that puberty turned the opposite way as an adult. Unfortunately for her, she only has a waitressing job and is ridiculed daily for her looks. With a frumpy appearance of frizzy hair and ruddy cheeks, she is not looked upon favorably and people are surprised that she has a really gorgeous best friend. Now her and her best friends have one of the most loving relationships ever, which may be one reason I keep watching the show. You rarely get to see good girl friendships in dramas, but they really watch out for each other.

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