20 June, 2013

Trial and Error with K-drama Watching

Once upon a time, about two and half years ago, there was a girl who started watching K-dramas.  Since she was a complete newbie, she consumed just about whatever tickled her fancy.  Much of which she would never dream of watching now.

Yep.  I don't do that anymore.  Boys Over Flowers? Queen Seon-deok?  There's no effing way I would watch those (and maybe a dozen others) now, though I am happy that I watched them early on and enjoyed them.  I am sure that most (if not all) K-drama viewers go through the same thing: the more dramas you watch, the pickier you get.  K-drama is time consuming, and when the insane obsession (sort of) wears off, you find that you aren't as satisfied to watch just any K-drama.

With the new crop of dramas that started a few weeks ago, I have been trying out a lot of dramas. And the results were somewhat surprising, and a little disappointing.


*sigh* I love this PD/writer duo's earlier revenge dramas Rebirth/부활 (2005) and The Devil/마왕 (2007).  A lot, actually.  And so it was with excitement, but also trepidation, that I approached this drama.  Especially since I really could not get into 2011's Fermentation Family.  I really couldn't, even though that is one of the few dramas that my sister has taken the time to watch and completely loved.  I wondered if the wonderful excellence that is Rebirth and The Devil could be created once again.

I'm going to go with a decided NO on that one.  I like Son Ye-jin.  Surprisingly, I feel pretty negative about Kim Nam-gil.  There's a solid older cast, and thank heavens Kim Kyu-cheol is here (even though he's completely disgusting), because I seriously needed some connections in the casting with the earlier dramas.   I am a little sad that Uhm Tae-woong isn't in this drama, but on the other hand, I really don't like it so...

The story is sort of interesting, and it's well done, but I don't feel anything for anything in it or anyone involved in it.  The Devil also had a bit of a build up that I almost stopped in middle of, but nothing like this.  I get that they were putting all the pieces down slowly and steadily (one thing I love about Rebirth is the perfect pacing), but there's also very little intensity: I am not screaming my head off waiting for the next episode to be subbed.

I love the child actors, but when the adults come into play, I have to cringe.  Pretty much every single scene.  I get that people grow up, and I get that Kim Nam-gil's fellow did a complete makeover etc., BUT the characters don't seem to bear any resemblance to their younger counterparts, which I found extremely frustrating.

And then there's the romance, which I am finding pretty icky.  (And I am saying this having watched the first full two episodes and a bunch of random scenes up until episode six.)  The blooming romance with the younger cast is wonderful.  I loved it and totally ate it up.  But the whole... connection thing going on with Son Ye-jin and Kim Nam-gil did not work on me.  Sure, he looks hot and mysterious, but that isn't enough.  Plus, he comes off as a little creepy.  And she's married for crying out loud.  It simply doesn't feel organic.

Pros include Son Ye-jin (though I don't really like her character...), and Lee Soo-hyuk actually trying to make an effort in visually emoting.  I like the guy, so I am glad that he's slowly becoming a better actor.  Maybe one day.  But for now, I will just enjoy his adorable ears, gorgeous voice, and ridiculously awesome nose.  Oh, and visually, it's quite wonderful.  Those three things are not enough, however, to keep me watching this drama.



I did watch the movie a year or two back, and it was alright. It was nothing special. But I was excited to hear about it being made into a drama, and I am both pleased and disappointed with the result.

I like the cast quite a bit, and have been a fan of tvn's ongoing Flower Boy Series, though I couldn't make through Flower Boy Next Door.  Mr. X over at the Vault of Doom described this drama as "hopelessly mindless fluff" and as having no soul.  I quote this simply because I dismissed his opinion as being too harsh at first but have come to wholeheartedly agree.

Of course, that doesn't mean it isn't an enjoyable drama. Because it is. It isn't taxing in the least bit, which considering that this isn't the best drama ever, isn't necessarily a bad thing.  But it certainly isn't a good thing either that this drama seemingly has no intention of challenging the viewer, which is always a real shame.

For one, Lee Jong-hyuk (who I prefer as a baddie in stuff like Chuno) has done much better.  As has Lee Chun-hee, who's character I am having a really difficult time with.  I like Sooyoung quite a bit.  She excedes the stupidly typical lead female role by being charming and pleasant, and by not grating on my nerves.  I like Hong Jong-hyun, but hate the character.  Why can't he be someone a little more interesting, instead of the robotic nerd??  Who came up with these crap, cardboard cutout character descriptions??  Mostly, I feel like most of the men are really vague and I cannot really root for any of them because of it.

I will probably still keep watching it.  I am not really sure why, but on the other hand, I can easily discard it as well.  Basically, we'll see how it goes.



So I've already talked (and maybe raved a little) about this drama.  But it's still going really strong, and I am still crazy about it.  I am surprised by how consistently dark this drama is and continues to be.  It's also pretty complex, not only in story, but also in character descriptions and relationships.  They do feel like characters, not like real people, but noir is really a darkly heightened reality anyways.  On the other end, the relationships are wonderfully complex and double-sided.  And I love it.

Jung Kyung-ho is giving a fantastic performance, as is Choi Mu-sung as Safari.  And Kim Yoo-mi may not be the greatest actress, but man if she isn't perfectly cast.  She gives the character a lot of flair, but a lot of vulnerability as well, and she looks perfect for the part.  There's a certain rough agelessness about her.  I don't really know how to describe it, but she's great.  I also love the sort of romance between her and Shi-hyun.  It's icky, but that's noir for you.

And Nam Gyu-ri is proving to be alright.  She's billed as the top actress, so I have been consistently surprised at what a minor role she has played thus far.  I do think she'll get more in subsequent episodes, but I am impressed that this drama has had the guts to develop where it has needed to (in this case, Jin-sook and Doc's Son's relationship vs. Soo-min and Doc's Son) instead of catering to star power.

I am a little annoyed by the knife blurring: the drama is 15+, it says so at the beginning of each episode, and it's on freaking jTBC.  You can see the blood spurting etc., so I think the knives are the least of anyone's problems if the kids are watching.  On an associated note, it really is too bad that no cigarette smoking is allowed in dramas, because it feels a little weird that no one is smoking in this drama.

Anyways, that all aside, this drama continues to be the grandest surprise of this last crop.  I keep second guessing it, thinking that it will disappoint, but it doesn't. Hopefully it keeps doing everything that it's doing right right now.

Verdict: OH SO HAPPY

I am still on the bench as whether to begin I Hear Your Voice, which, by most accounts is wonderful and charming and everyone that is watching it seems to be in love with it.  But I have also heard that Monstar can be given the same description... so I am not really sure what to do.  Problem is, I don't really love either casts.  Also, they both seem a little fluffy, and well, Cyrano Dating Agency is sort of more than filling that quota for me right now.

Basically, I'd love to hear some more opinions on these dramas.  What dramas did you stick with?  Did you drop any?  Are you loving or hating any of them?

◀ Cruel City: First Impressions                                Cruel City: A Study in Unhappy Families ▶ 


  1. I think you have just convinced me not to start Cyrano...though I really wanted to. Oh Cruel City - I luff it so much!!!

  2. That makes me slightly sad, but mostly because it's a disappointing drama.

    Ooooh Cruel City. it's so satisfying.

  3. I am completely behind on the current batch of dramas, but I just wanted to say, I am SO with you, on finding myself getting pickier :P I'm not sure if it's coz I've been watching dramas for 6 years and it's about time I got pickier, or if it's coz I started reviewing them, and therefore became pickier.. Sometimes I wish I were less picky, so that I'd be enjoying more dramas! XD

  4. I think reviewing definitely helps. A LOT. Because you're forced to be an active viewer. Sometimes I think it'd be nice to just enjoy, but at the same time... I feel like the snobbier field over here is a little greener. ^^

  5. Well, maybe if I need something pleasant I might pick it up. Cruel City - this is how I feel about it: ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤

  6. I think it's just like buster_ed said...it's because you become a more active viewer. I think it's also because you realize you want to say something meaningful for the readers who read your blog, which means the drama had better have some meaningful substance. I think that we also just also start to realize what is out there, and are not so willing to settle for something less satiating.

  7. I Hear Your Voice is definitely more than your ordinary fluff. I've tried watching Monstar and I've dropped it after the first episode but IHYV is quite good. A pleasant surprise in fact, as I had originally dismissed it as another fluff drama. I really hope that you can consider giving it a try! :D

  8. Yes, I think being a more active viewer pretty much sums it up, very nicely!! ^^

  9. I really am considering it, especially if I drop Cyrano. It seems like it has some darker undertones which I am always a fan of.... What do you like about it??

  10. Out of three you are not watching, I'd say watch I Hear Your Voice. It has a dark undertone not just in the main storyline but also in the cases. The characters are consistent & growing as people.

  11. Yep, I dropped Cyrano and began I Hear Your Voice this morning. I have to say I am a little disappointed, but mostly because I hate the lead female. Please tell me she becomes less obnoxious after the second episode?

    There are things that I do like about it, and a few scenes have been sincerely touching and had me grinning like crazy with how sweet they were, but overall, I am annoyed that most of the adults act unprofessionally and immaturely. Or maybe they are types of people that I just happen to dislike in real life...?

    However, I must say that Lee Jong-seok (although a developing actor) is very sweet and I like him most in the present storyline. And although I can't stand Lee Bo-young's character (so far), this is by far my favorite performance I've seen her give.

    I really do like the darker storyline running through it. It's just everything else I have a harder time with... Anyhow, I like it, and am going to watch 3 & 4--then I will decide to keep going or not. ^^