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Surgeons actually follows a pretty standard "format". You have the established specialist, perfect in every way, return from the US to work in his home country as our protagonist Zhuang Shu, the idealistic but highly-talented surgeon who is oblivious to everything outside of work as our heroine Lu Chen Xi, and other side characters whom you can find in practically every other medical drama. Some people call this the modern version of Nirvana in Fire, since Zhuang Shu, like Mei Chang Su, returned to seek vengeance on his enemies. I think the similarities pretty much stop there though (but I never finished NiF so I won't know).
The main plot isn't really prominent in the drama until the later stages. Surgeons actually focuses more on doctor-patient interactions. I don't think it's anything to shout about, but I think the script is pretty well-written in the sense that the dialogues were great. The characters were also designed well, none of them are completely evil, or completely good (other than LCX). Acting wise, I'm not too impressed with Jin Dong. I think he was serviceable, but he didn't come across as an elite surgeon. Imo, LCX is the true protagonist since she is the one who "changed" the most throughout the drama, from someone who is borderline annoying because of how stubborn and unmalleable she is to someone who is, well, a little more flexible and understanding. I was never a fan of Bai Bai He's acting because I think she's herself in every project she stars in, but she was good in this drama. LCX and her buddy Chen Shao Cong showed most growth in the drama (probably because they started out at lvl 0). CSC is freaking hilarious and I think Li Jia Hang played the role well. My favourite character is Yang Fan though. I think you just can't hate the character because Liu Yi Jun is so awesome with his portrayal. You can really see the difference in just acting and good acting when you watch dramas like Surgeons and In the Name of People. I was blown away by the veterans.
Also, kudos to the scriptwriter for making the female characters likeable and "aggressive". LCX and Yang Yu are just kickass when it comes to dealing with their boyfriends. LCX's responses when asked about ZS were so freaking funny as well. The two couples had good chemistry too. I think they did a good job with the romantic development in that it was a slow process but you can see how they come to like each other. Much better than other dramas where you have no idea why they are falling in love with each other, or the dramas where the main couple lacks chemistry so badly (yes, I'm talking about O2O).
In short, I think Surgeons is a good watch. It sort of faltered towards the end, but I think it's just me who's a little exhausted because of its length (44 episodes) and how frequently the episodes were aired. I was completely drawn in by the earlier episodes though and so I'd give it a 8.5. The drama is also rated 7.5 on Douban, slightly lower than what it should have been because of Bai Bai He's scandal.
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The drama is adapted from the uber popular same-name novel and hence the story is rich. A lot of it is just pure imagination on the author's part, but the good thing is that there is no cliches (like all the love stories you've been seeing), and it's a pretty "loyal" adaptation (yes, this is a dig at General and I). The directing is great, the jump scares are terrifying (the two kids in the first tomb and the professor in the penultimate episode - brilliant, brilliant acting on his part), the acting is decent, there's a little humour here and there, just bits of everything. But it's really well-executed, and that's what sets it apart from the awful The Lost Tomb*.
The main complaint I have about the drama is its pacing. The first episode is quite dull since it was mainly used to introduce the main and side characters, one which won't appear much in the rest of the drama at all. I think they have every intention to make a sequel (I heard that Da Jin Ya will have a larger role in the next books) and that's why they expended this much time in setting up everything. The first tomb exploration was quite eventful, and that's where things start to get interesting. However, the pacing problems began again. I mean, they took half an episode to bury Professor Hao!
Also, the whole archaeological team just seems like a huge burden to our three main characters. You're really just watching to see how they die out one by one, and it's difficult to feel sorry for them because of how useless they are. There's a huge reversal at the end but I won't spoil it here.
Other minor flaws include two dubbers for Shirley Yang because the original actor is Taiwanese, and the main dubber is not fluent in English, bad syncing for the English dubbed lines, Shirley Yang's exceptional picture interpretation skills, the archaeological team member who's obsessed with aliens (a horrible attempt at comedy) and so on.
It's difficult to elaborate on the highlights of Candle in the Tomb, because it is a very consistent drama, and thus the flaws stand out more. But trust me, despite what I have to say about the negatives, the drama is definitely worth a watch. In any case, I'm really looking forward to a second season, preferably with the same cast.
*There's bound to be recommendations for The Lost Tomb because the two dramas are of the same genre and are based on the same topic. Nevertheless, there's no need to spend time watching TLT. It's so bad that you should flush it out from your memory if you ever tried watching.
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There are a couple of cast changes in the second season. In particular, Park Hye-soo was swapped out for Ji Woo. I think a lot of people disliked the character. I do agree that she's a lot less likable in this season. Rather than attributing this to the new actress, I feel that the writer has gone slightly wayward in her characterisation of Eun-jae. Or perhaps as viewers we are more partial to the meek Eun-jae than the transformed Eun-jae. I think the scriptwriter probably wanted to show character growth, but the execution was unfortunately not up to par.
Kang Unni is also out of the picture at Belle Epoque, with Choi Ara playing the new-comer Jo Eun. I liked the introduction of Jo Eun. I thought her character was really interesting, especially her "friendship" with Ye-ji. They also briefly touched on homosexuality, although the topic was quickly brushed over. After I watched the finale though, I was really confused as to what this "friendship" was to each party. I would really like them to elaborate on it. Anyway, I thought this was a nice touch and they probably could have explored the plotline a little more. I don't really care for her romance with Seo Jang-hoon though. I don't dislike it, but I didn't think it was a highlight. This is just personal and from the comments I've seen, most people quite like this couple.
Ye-eun's loveline is the one I liked most (other than the Song-sung couple that is). I don't know how Onew* would have been, but I feel that Kwon Ho-chang was perfectly cast. And nerds are always endearing. His relationship with Ye-eun is like a reversal of power compared to her previous relationship. In any case, I felt that they were really cute.
Yoon sunbae is the glue that holds the house together. She's seemingly aloof on the outside but she's really taking care of everyone else, and not getting appreciated for it. I don't like the job she was given in this season. I thought that with how they had emphasised so much on her struggle with jobs and internship they'll hand her a job of a higher perceived social status. I'm not saying that working at an entertainment company is bad, but it's certainly no where near the top of my "dream jobs" list. Also, I personally do not follow Kpop and all, so I'm really indifferent to the storyline with the idol group which was cast aside. It's alright, but I think this could be done better.
This season though, the spotlight is on Song Ji-won. I don't think I need to elaborate further on how fantastic her character is. Her story was the focal point this season, and provided some insight on how her personality came to be. I think a lot of people may feel that her storyline didn't get closure, but I thought it was the best way to handle the situation. Because if everything went perfectly, this wouldn't be called Age of Youth. I still like her interactions with Im Sung-min. *SPOILER ALERT* I really do hope for another season just so we can see them get together. There are hints since the man holding the girl's hand in Ep13 is clearly Im Sung-min, but I would like their relationship to be more explicit and not just implied. *SPOILER ALERT*
In summary, I think AoY is an awesome drama. In the first season my attention waned towards the end but this season I sat through the whole drama, catching up on episodes as they air. I rate the sequel a little higher than its predecessor, though it may just be the freshness playing on my mind.
EDIT: Corrected name of original actor for Kwon Ho-chang.
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The drama is special in the sense that the gab is our heroine and the eul is our hero, which is refreshing in the kdrama world. Naturally, the main draw of the drama is the female lead Ok Da-jung. Ok Da-jung is a fast-rising employee at Gold Chemicals and this led to her being the subject of many malicious rumours. In reality, she's a righteous person who does not stand for things such as the abuse of power. She's extremely principled, and believes in having pride in her own work. On the flip-side, our hero Nam Jung-gi, who is a timid employee at a small company, avoids responsibility like it's the plague. The contrast between their characters makes for a very interesting (and comedic) watch.
Ok Da-jung is such a great character that it's impossible to not love her. Lee Yo-won is perfect as the immaculately dressed heroine. It's almost as if the role was tailor made for her! She was spectacular in all of her scenes (the stoic ones, the emotional ones, and even the downright ridiculous ones). Yoon Sang-hyun turned in an incredible performance with his spot-on comedic timing as Nam Jung-gi. In fact, all of the cast delivered splendid performances. The only exception is Hwang Bora, whose crying scenes appear forced and unnatural at times.
Ok Da-jung's relationship with Nam Woojoo (Nam Jung-gi's son) is also something to look out for. Cute would be a serious understatement. Their chemistry is off the charts. Some may even argue that they are the OTP in the series.
The directing and writing of Ms. Temper are all good. The key point being that the drama maintained a consistent pace throughout the 16 episodes, meaning that it does not suffer from the same problems most kdramas do - waning after the mid-point. This is really impressive for a rookie writer. The use of CGI and various sound effects in the drama also adds to its hilarity.
On the other hand, the drama is not flawless. One criticism would be that there are some overly simplistic plot points. Ok Da-jung seems omnipotent in the series, always coming to the rescue when there is trouble. And the Lovely employees always manage to get into trouble. Some may also be bothered about how unrealistic it is that she's had three husbands, and all of them want a reconciliation. That being said, we can hardly complain since that put Lee Jung-jin and Yeon Jung-hoon on our screens.
Overall, this is an enjoyable drama which should appeal to anyone who's looking for dramas centered around a strong female character. However, if you're looking for a drama with more realism with respect to the business side of things, this is not it. In fact, most dramas don't do business correctly. The good thing about this drama, to quote a knetz, is that there is a right blend of realism (the issues that they tackle) and fantasy elements (how everything gets resolved, albeit a little too easily). Also, the bribery and cajoling may not be something that happens in your society, but it is something more relatable to the Korean viewers. So do take that into account when complaining about how unrealistic this drama is.
DISCLAIMER: My unusually high ratings for this drama is because I rate dramas base on the rating given by MDL. In the sense that if I think a drama is underrated, I'm going to give higher ratings for it. A more objective rating would be an 8. But there are tons of shitty dramas getting 8 here and I don't think that gives enough credit to Ms. Temper.
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Where should I start? I think on the whole the acting was good. I found Andrew Gregson really awkward with his hand gestures, but I can totally see how that ties in to his character. It's just an unfamiliar sight for a male lead to be so... childishly adorable (...) . He's absolutely fantastic in the more emotional scenes though. Matt Peranee was really cute. I wonder if all the "oppa" references were actually ad-libs on her part. In any case, the female lead was an easy character to root for (at least at the start). They also had exceptional chemistry with each other. The lunch scenes were so heart-tingling! It's a pity that their scenes got lesser and lesser, and the drama went into a makjang spiral at the end .
It may be because I'm not that familiar with Thai dramas, but this is one of the rare instances where I found the youngsters acting better than the veterans (youngsters and veterans are relative really, but you get the idea). Midway through the drama I got this vibe from both the father and the housekeeper that they are actually villains, but they are obviously not. The aunt was overacting so much that it actually became sort of funny.
The plot was a little meh. For a drama about romance, they spent too much time on the angst. It'll be better if the angst gave the leads some screen time, but the angst gave the supporting characters too much screen time. By the end of the drama, I just skip-watched all those portions. Episode one was so-so, episode two and three dragged me in, but at the end I survived only by crumbs of the sweet OTP moments. I think the best thing that happened to the drama was possibly the editing of the preview. I swear in every episode I think the next is going to be better and full of cute scenes, but yeah. Also, I'm a little piffed at how they wrapped up everything so hastily. They got together in the end alright (this is totally not a spoiler), but it was a little underwhelming and the flashback was way way way too long. It's almost like they decided to re-edit the OTP scenes into a whole new MV for the opening theme.
Also, the kiss scenes. Wait, I mean the lack of kiss scenes. I know how Thai dramas are like with my few experiences. There's virtually no intimate scenes at all, not the lip-on-lip kisses anyway. Even if there is, it's just them manipulating angles. Usually, I don't really mind it. On second watch of the MKLFF episodes though, I realise that there wasn't even a peck anywhere. I'm completely fine with watching them on the same screen doing nothing except eating and talking (the lunch scenes were really the highlights of the drama), but if you are going to have a kiss scene do it properly. For the forehead "kiss" in the last episode, Andrew Gregson was just kissing air lol. Like whaaaat? It's just the forehead! I'll admit that I wasn't watching properly the first time and got tricked though.
All in all, despite my complaints, I actually think this is a decent drama. Perhaps it's because I just came from a horrible one . I feel the start and the interactions between the leads were really refreshing, and even though it went downhill, it didn't erode my fondness for the drama. It's probably also because of my impression that Thai dramas are in general overly theatrical. This drama actually scores lower on the makjang scale compared to the others I've watched (and tried to watch). I also have a personal preference for dramas with stronger female leads as well so there's that.
- Footnotes -
 I wonder how much of this is due to the fact that this is actually a remake and they had to somehow follow the plot. From what I understand though, it's nothing like the original version. I think they probably should've done away with the not-so-great plot points and kept the better ones, but I really have no idea what the original was like.
 For those who are curious, that terrible drama is the Thai adaptation of Princess Hours.
EDIT: Grammar and spelling.
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The reason why the novel stood out is because of the balance of power between the male and female leads. They are intellectual equals, quite unlike Kdramas where the male leads tend to be more dominant, and unlike the trend of female-centric Cdramas where the female leads tend to be smarter while the male leads are really just supporting characters who wield huge power to lend a hand in times of emergency (Princess Weiyoung). I think they tried to maintain the same balance in the drama as well, and I'll give them a little bit of credit for that.
From now on, I'll talk about the divergences between the novel and the drama, and my thoughts on whether these are sound/positive modifications:
1. First up, the character conceptualisation. In the book, the Jing An - He family was executed by the Yan king because their achievements are so great that the Yan king finds it unsettling. Chu Beijie did not play a part in inciting the Yan king. He merely pushed the decision by deliberating losing the battle which made the Yan king even more uneasy. There's no talk in the novel too about Chu Beijie wanting to cease battle to protect the civilians. In fact, I remember distinctly that Chu Beijie wanted to expand the territories of Jin; he was battle-hungry. There is clearly a huge difference in the personalities of the character for the drama and the book. I can see why it was changed. It's to make Chu Beijie a more likable character who regards the welfare of the civilians above everything. Personally, I prefer a male lead who isn't this "perfect" and one-dimensional really. I don't like this, but I can see people preferring it. The biggest change in Chu Beijie is how weak he's become in the drama. He was captured and tortured three times! For his love, of course, very "romantic", but I do prefer the book where he was a lot smarter and didn't have to rely on the damsel to save him in times of distress at all. Bai Pingting also didn't need any rescuing in the novel as well. On the other hand, the drama just turned into this cycle of Chu Beijie saving Bai Pingting, then vice-versa, and rinse and repeat again.
2. Next, we have the process of falling in love. Oh god. This is probably the most annoying aspect of the drama. In the book, Bai Pingting was captured by slave traders during her escape (when the Yan king was trying to kill the He family). She was then sold to the Hua family in Jin and became attendant to the young mistress. She caught the attention of Chu Beijie while playing the zither. Chu Beijie thinks that she is Miss Hua, they fall in love, and Miss Hua makes use of Chu Beijie's affection towards "her" to cancel her previous engagement so that she can marry her beloved. Bai Pingting's servant identity was revealed, and she eventually stayed in Chu Beijie's manor. Even though the two of them are in love, they are wary of each other. Bai Pingting wants to know her young master He Xia's whereabouts whereas Chu Beijie knows that Bai Pingting isn't who she claims to be (Yang Feng). After some mutual scheming and whatnot, they separate. Isn't this a refreshing storyline? But in the drama, they chose to make the leads childhood sweethearts. If I wanted to watch childhood sweethearts, any bloody Kdrama will do. Why add in such a cliched plot device? Damn. Furthermore, Chu Beijie recognised Bai Pingting as the little girl he met, and decided that he must FORCE her to marry him. And somehow she gradually loves him back, for no rhyme or reason at all. What the hell?
3. The addition of a lot of vertices to the love polygon. Jealous, unscrupulous female character who loves the male lead, check. Another female character who falls for the male lead while the leads are separated, check. In the novel, it was just a love square and it was complicated enough already.
These are just some of the more obvious changes. And all adverse ones in my opinion. The drama honestly would've been much better if it was more streamlined and stuck to the novel like gum to the underside of the table. 62 episodes is way too many. I guess they had no choice but to extend the story with such stupid tropes to keep it going. It's obvious that the production is trying to stretch out the story to get more profit, and I'm worried that more C-dramas will turn to this trend as well.
To add on, here are some of the flaws in production:
1. A glaring one is the green screens that they used. The first episode had really well cheoreographed fight scenes with pretty natural looking scenery. From then on, it just seemed like a lot of the characters were cut and pasted onto the background. There are even scenes where the main characters are keyed onto a background with the calefares on it. That's just ridiculous! It's so awkward to watch. So much money pumped into the production and this is the result? I can understand that Angelababy was pregnant and perhaps they had to speed up filming, thus leading to this. But I can't help but feel cheated. Looking at the trailers alone, I expected a gorgeous-looking drama on or exceeding Princess Weiyoung's level. Nevertheless, the end-product was far from that. Imo, if you aren't going to tell a decent story, at least make the drama decently pretty. G&I was neither interesting nor beautiful.
2. Also, the dubbing. Wallace's dubber is just horrible. He has this slightly unorthodox pronunciation, kind of Cantonese-like, which makes him (actually, his voice) sticks out like a sore thumb. Plus, the voice totally doesn't suit the character. You can definitely get used to it, but it took me more than 10 episodes (still don't like it).
3. Styling. I'm pretty sure Princess Yaotian looks great in real life, but her styling in the drama does nothing for her. It looks horrible! The guys' long hairstyles looked like crap on all of them except Ze Yi and Fan Lu as well. I mean, Wallace Chung and Sun Yizhou looked fantastic with the man bun I have no idea why they had to give them the long hair/dreadlocks. I know it's to differentiate between the different territories but really it's so inconsistent that it's useless.
4. Chu Beijie's deliberate act-cool moves *cringe* (dramas need to stop doing this to their male leads). Forcibly trying to make your male leads "cool" tends to achieve the exact opposite effect. Also, why does he need a mask?
Now here comes the positives. Well, the non-negatives. Some of these are not even well done but just good enough:
1. The cute loveline between Fan Lu and Zui Ju. I didn't pay much attention to this subplot in the novel itself. However, the actors portraying the two characters actually brought more appeal to this storyline in the drama compared to the novel. Zui Ju is probably the most likable character in this entire drama, despite the bad acting (so, so bad). I was worried that they were going to alter this storyline when they gave Chu Moran and Zui Ju a lot of interactions during the time Chu Beijie broke away from the Jin court. Thankfully, they didn't change it that much.
2. The acting. Angelababy gets a lot of flak for being inexpressive. I don't actually think that she is thaaat bad (that being said, she's quite bad). I'm just slightly bothered by her constant smile, which just distracts me a little when the occasion clearly does not call for it. It may also be an after effect of plastic surgery though. Imo, she improved towards the end of the drama. I also have to give her some leeway for getting an acting coach. Hey, at least she knows how awful her acting is and is trying to do something about it (alright, I'm just being sympathetic). Everyone else were just on par. I also disagree that Wallace was great in the drama like what many say. With such a bad story, you really can't judge. The duo above (Zui Ju and Fan Lu) were cute but they are obviously very green. Zui Ju, in particular, was terrible. I'm generally not picky about the acting as long as it doesn't come across as unnatural, so in this aspect the drama gets a passing mark (barely) in my book.
3. Yaotian's ending. I liked He Xia and Princess Yaotian's romance more in the novel, even though the author didn't really touch on it much. In the drama, the two had very little chemistry (actually, chemistry was virtually non-existent for both pairings). Yaotian's ending is the same, but the way it ended was slightly different. I think they didn't want to make He Xia look too bad. But I actually like how "evil" he is in the book, and how tragic this pairing became. I thought it added more flavour to the story.
4. The OST. I must say, they have some really nice songs. My favourite is the duet by William Wei and Claire Kuo, followed by Tan Jing's song. The opening and ending themes don't appeal to me though.
In summary, I think the drama definitely falls short of expectations. It had good source material, but did not make good use of it. It had a huge budget, but didn't spend enough effort trying to refine the drama. If anything, the production itself just screams unprofessional to me. I do wish that they won't rush the filming so much, and gave more time to post-production as well. It could have been at least a pretty drama to look at, but now it's just... a huge disappointment. I usually write reviews only when I really like a drama, or when I hate it (don't ask me why I watch it all even though I dislike it, it's a childish question). General and I belongs to the latter. I'll give it a 3 and that's already understating how bad it was .
-- Footnotes --
 The drama has a rating of 3.6 on Douban as of the time this review is written which is far closer to my personal grade but MDL just has biased ratings. You can see it. Candle in the Tomb, a fantastic drama, is rated 8.3 on MDL and 8.2 on Douban. G&I, an awful drama in comparison, is still rated 8.0 on MDL but only 3.6 on Douban. Therefore, if you are a longtime Cdrama watcher, 3.6 is probably fair and what you should take into account when deciding whether to watch or not.
EDIT: MDL update screwed up formatting.
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Casting. LoCH 2017 used mostly rookies for its leading cast. Yang Xu Wen is probably the best-looking Guo Jing I've ever seen. I also think Li Yi Tong looks very much the part of Huang Rong. She also gives off a Zhou Xun feel (both of them suit this role well). The dubbing did wonders for this pair though, because if I had to listen to their original voices instead my ears will bleed. However, I think Mu Nian Ci was horribly miscast. This is my first time seeing such a... Mu Nian Ci. She doesn't have the right disposition at all.
Acting. Pretty decent acting all around, especially the veteran actors. There must also be something magical with the role of Ouyang Ke, because somehow all the actors who play the character do really really really well with it.
Production. The production team claimed that the use of rookie actors means that they are able to set aside more money for the more important things. Well, I think that's reasonable. At least there wasn't an overwhelming use of green screens *cough, cough G&I*. My problem is with the colours. Despite everything, the colours are still very "idol-ish wuxia" . I much prefer the Zhang Ji Zhong adaptations where the colours were duller, more movie-like and looks like a proper drama as opposed to "idol dramas".
In all, I think the drama stands out from most of the 2017 productions. It also has an edge because of the fact that it's a recent adaptation, and after watching Yu Zheng's dramas, it's like a breath of fresh air. The drama also has a 8.0 rating on Douban, above the 2003 and 2008 versions. Not exactly deserved, but as I say, it has the advantage of being the diamond in the dirt.
-- Footnotes --
 I think it's based on the more recent editions of the book, which is a pity since I think in general the changes were for the worse.
 As years go on, Chinese period dramas are getting brighter and brighter in colours, which imo is a bad thing. It just looks... cheap.
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I'm having trouble coming up with things for this one. I think very often it's easy to overlook a drama's strong points because its flaws are so obvious. It is especially so for Moon Lovers. And so I'll acknowledge that this review perhaps isn't really that great of a reflection of the quality of the drama.
Firstly, I think the drama did a pretty good job in executing several parts of the story, particularly when the supporting characters die. I think that's partly due to the actors' portrayals, and partly because the writer seemed to have gotten his grip on at the right moments. It would have been great if the writing was more consistent throughout the drama. If the drama managed to relay such poignant emotions more frequently I wouldn't have felt as detached from the story. In any case, I think those scenes were possibly the most awesome scenes in the drama.
Next, Lee Jun-ki. I'm certainly biased, but I think he delivered his character well, especially during the more emotional scenes. I can't elaborate more since I don't want to spoil the story. I also appreciated his cleaned-up look after he became emperor. It was about a thousand times better than that side-swept fringe hairstyle. I'm not that fond of his acting as a "blood-thirsty" emperor however. I like how his expressions changed, but imo he overacted a little when trying to portray Wang So's darker side. I also think Hong Jong-hyun was pretty good in his role as well. All in all, I don't think the acting was deserving of all the criticisms it was subjected to. I won't deny that there are some jarring scenes here and there because of "not-so-great" acting, but on the whole it was pretty watchable as far as I'm concerned and the actors did improve.
Lastly, the romance. I don't think the chemistry was great. However, there were certain scenes which were really cute. I'm personally not a huge fan of lovelines actually, but people who like to watch romance scenes will like it. It's a pity that a couple of scenes were cut from the international version, and you have to scour the Internet to look for the SBS version.
I think they got the OST choices very, very wrong. I'm personally not a fan of rap songs, and I don't think rap songs have a place in a historical drama anyway. The music was really annoying in some of the scenes because of this. Also, the fact that there were English lyrics in a couple of others as well. However, I did give a high score to the music because:
1. The "dadada" song was really catchy, despite the fact that it's not very suitable for the drama.
2. I also liked My Love by Lee Hi and Wind by Jung Seung-hwan.
3. Im Sun-hye's Will Be Back was really really really good. Not something I'll listen to in my spare time, but I felt it added value to the drama.
And seeing how they phased out the more unsuitable songs towards the end, I'm alright with giving them a higher score.
Many people have also complained about the directing. I have to say, I was actually overwhelmed by it at the start. I loved the shot with Wang So riding away from the eclipse. It was beautiful. Till I realised that that's perhaps the only redeeming scene. A lot of close-ups were wholly unnecessary. I don't mind that the director likes to take close-up shots, but I think it should be done in moderation, and only when it's contributing to the drama. The poor directing and editing knocked a lot of points off this drama.
Also, this may seem like a minor point, but despite it being a high budget production they didn't invest a lot in calefares. I understand that they wanted to put focus on the main characters, but does it make sense that no one is on the streets when Wang So and Hae Soo snuck out? I thought a festival was supposed to be ongoing but there wasn't even a soul on the streets. It just seemed too "cold" because there were only the two of them.
The writing really let the drama down. I was actually looking forward to more political intrigues, a stronger heroine, better character development in general, and more cohesiveness.
I don't know what the writer was thinking of when he/she first starting conceptualising the characters. They had to dig into Kdrama tropes and hand Wang So a parent issue right at the start. Was that necessary? Was it necessary to give him a scar too? I think the writer was trying very hard to plant conflicts, but it didn't work to plan. And because of the scar, they made the female lead a cosmetics saleswoman. Not very useful in the ancient times. In fact (minor spoiler), it's was awkwardly hilarious that at the end they spoke about how Goryeo was very advanced in terms of cosmetics and tea culture. Riiiiiiight. Furthermore, Hae Soo wasn't the female lead I expected as well. I wanted a stronger, smarter, more independent female lead. Plus the fact that all the princes were crazy for love made them seem like really superficial characters. Personally, if your only motivation to fight for the throne is love, I absolutely will not love you. That's just too lame a reason.
Characters aside, I also have qualms about how they choose to leave out certain scenes. A lot of scenes were left to the viewers' imaginations, and that made the show really incoherent. At the very least they should have added in some of the more important scenes. How Wang So got the throne and all was pretty poorly thought out. The time skips weren't handled well as well (though the same can be said of the Chinese version). They were just there to advance the story so that the next scene can be played out, but the characters didn't really grow or change. Side plots such as the Baek-ah and Woo-hee story line was also choppy and they were given what I'd consider a slipshod ending that didn't make much sense.
The drama is just disappointing. I expected a lot from it, but I don't think the fact that it was a pre-production did anything for it, nor the fact that it was a high-budget production because that totally didn't show. I think it may be worth a look if you like any of the actors, but that's about it.
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Kha Badin, being a historical drama, has less of the typical Thai drama tropes (hip, hip, hurray). It's supposedly about a man's fall from grace and his comeback. The protagonist is a nationalistic, loyal "servant of the King" who is willing to put national interests above personal gains. Very noble of him, of course. To me though, this drama is just a love story. If I were to write the synopsis myself, it'll be about a man being wrongly stripped of his ranks and a woman who stood by him, and how their relationship evolved from family (siblings-like) to lovers. It's not because I'm specifically looking out for romance, but I think the drama wasn't as successful in delivering its main theme as opposed to portraying the love between the leads.
Initially, I was really perplexed why they chose two leads who are not Thai-looking at all. I guess there's probably a lot of Thai Chinese/Chinese Thai (?) even back in the days so casting James Ma isn't that much of a stretch, but in spite of my adoration for Matt Peranee I can't fathom why they'd choose someone who won't even look out of place in a US TV series to act in a historical drama. It's also a little weird that Haym is supposed to be older than Lamduan, but she looks more like the elder sister (I guess James Ma just has a baby face since he looked younger than everyone except for teen Lamduan). Disregarding their appearances though, I think they did a decent job acting wise and had unexpected chemistry (especially after their reunion and in the last couple of episodes, so cute). Except... that James Ma always looked more creepy than romantic when speaking his "mushy" lines. He really needs to work on that. Matt Peranee is brilliant as always. I think she was filming a couple of dramas at the same time, so sometimes you could see the lethargy on her face. She did a great job with her character though, even though she may not look the part. I think it must be a testament to her acting that I don't find her jarring in a historical drama at all. On the other hand, Bua (played by Samai Maneerat) is interesting in that I'm not sure if the general unpleasant vibes I got from her character were deliberate or because of her stiffness. In any case, I guess she got the point across.
There are quite a lot of production flaws I spotted while watching the drama. The fighting scenes were especially lackluster. I wonder if it's because I'm used to watching Chinese dramas which tend to hire really famous martial arts directors to choreograph their fight scenes. Part of what contributed to the weak fighting was also the lack of power. They looked like they were just swinging their blades, but not using force. It doesn't help that the swords looked like (poorly-made) paper mache. The "blades" were so blunt that I wouldn't mind if any of the hits landed on me; they won't even leave a scratch. Moreover, there were no blood splatters initially, so the first couple of fighting scenes looked like rehearsals rather than the real thing.
However, the drama was entertaining throughout and funny at times. The plot wasn't very complicated and hence not as convoluted like other Thai dramas. The interactions between the lead characters were also enjoyable to watch. It's a drama I don't have many complaints about, which makes it better than 99% of Thai dramas already lol. I think 8.5 is slightly overrating it, but I don't mind going along with the flow once in a while.
-- Footnotes --
 For those who are interested in watching the drama with English subtitles, I believe a subbing team has recently taken on the project, and episode 1 is available already.
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I shall be completely honest; I watched this drama purely for Davika Hoorne (Mai). Imo she's arguably the most attractive Thai actress currently active (not that I've seen many though). The main reasons that kept me off Thai dramas previously were my general distaste for the male leads they pick  and the ridiculous tropes they employ . I'm happy to say that the male lead was fine in this instance (exactly why I decided to try it) and the two of them have great chemistry but unfortunately the second half of this drama was riddled with typical Thai drama cliches.
Did I mention that Davika Hoorne is unbelievably gorgeous? She looked stunning in every single piece of clothing she wore; the drama was like her individual fashion show. She was absolutely hilarious as Rosalin. It's not the first drama I watched her in actually. I vaguely remember dropping a drama where she was being tortured by every single character in it and I thought then that she was a pretty bad actress. This drama changed my mind. She has great comedic timing and great gestures as well. I mean, some actors have awkward hands when they act (like they don't know where to put them and what to do with them), but perhaps playing such a flamboyant character makes things a little easier. On the other hand, Kan who plays the male lead... Well, I'd say that he was average? He didn't really shine, but he wasn't bad at all. I guess I just didn't remember much of him. The triad boss character did leave an impression though, in that he was so stiff that even I took notice. The other side characters were all decent. This drama is essentially a comedy, and I think they did the comedic parts pretty well.
The drama started out great actually. There were a couple of cringe-worthy staring-in-each-other's-eyes-for-longer-than-necessary moments, a couple of super-fake-fall-to-initiate-skinship moments, but they were tolerable. I mean, when the comedy was there, I can still neglect those. It not as if this is a Thai drama problem, Chinese and Korean dramas have this sort of interactions as well. However, following that, everything went wrong. I was expecting it though. They pretty much exhausted everything they could in the farm, and they had to pull all the tricks out of their hat to extend the story to 15 episodes (mind you, each was ~1h 30min long). What happened next? Well, they had a misunderstanding, he explained but the evidence was accidentally destroyed, she refused to listen, then the second leads came out to wreck havoc. It doesn't stop there though. There was this cycle of her getting injured and him getting injured, and those little moments of intimacy to appease the viewers for delaying progress (my assumption, that is). How many times did Rosalin get injured? I think about 10 times. By the time I got to episode 10, I could barely take it anymore. Then they played their last hand by using the amnesiac plot point. Faaaantastic.
There were more than a few moments where I was on the verge of pulling my hair out. Some parts were really incomprehensible. Like how Rosalin's grandfather claimed that he was totally not forcing her to marry Tawan but actually trying to help her. Typical dramaland bullshit. We all know that it's drama for the sake of drama. They should really stop using such weak excuses, but just brush over it. Why highlight your own flaws? And how Tawan objected to Rosalin modelling because it wasn't "meaningful"? *sigh* There's also Tawan's feud with the triad boss (his father killed his father) which was so lame. Additionally, towards the end where they encountered the thugs and he got off his car to check them out, I was shouting in my heart for him to just drive away. It was simply too illogical for words.
I gave a passing mark for the story solely because of the first part (the second half should be forgotten). The acting was 8.5, on account of Davika Hoorne's acting as well as the cuteness of some of the secondary characters. I swear it's completely unbiased. The music was so-so. The drama actually has rewatch value, if someone is willing to cut off parts in the second half and end the drama where it should have ended. Overall it's not great, but compared to other Thai dramas where I was turned off by their synopses immediately (or by the cinematography in the first episode), I think this can actually be considered "refreshing". Just skip to the last episode when things get bad (or end it after their first kiss ).
-- Footnotes --
 I think some Thai actresses can be very beautiful, but in comparison the Thai actors are less appealing. They also tend to pair someone I like with someone I just don't get a good vibe from on first glance (I call this a lack of audience affinity but it may be just me). I've seen pairings with HUGE age gaps as well.
 Thai dramas also tend to sway towards the makjang end.
 On the topic of kisses, it's really weird that the only real lip-on-lip kiss in this drama is in the first episode.
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I think everyone should know by now that the drama is adapted from the novel of the same title written by Tang Qi Gong Zi. The novel is plagued with plagiarism accusations, and apparently there is ample proof of it as well. I don't think it's fair to give the story a low grade because of the plagiarism claims; the production itself is innocent after all.
Anyway, I'm not a fan of fantasy-wuxia dramas. There hasn't been any fantasy drama which caught my eye since Chinese Paladin. The genre simply doesn't appeal to me. This is also the reason why despite being an avid reader I've never thought of reading the original novel. However, according to the book fans, it's a pretty loyal adaptation. I also like how there really isn't any overly cliched plots, though it certainly took time for the villains to get their comeuppance. I really really do wish that they gave a happier ending to Feng Jiu and Dong Hua but I get that they have their limitations . I also wanted a "happily ever after" for Zi Lan and Yan Zhi, which unfortunately also didn't happen.
There are some actors in the drama whom I thought were hopeless in their craft. In particular, Vengo Gao. He was absolutely terrible in Les Interpretes but he improved a lot in 3L3W. Yang Mi too, seemed to have recovered her form from her earlier years. Her double act as Bai Qian and Xuan Nv was impressive. I'm not as awed as everyone is by Mark Chao's acting - he just doesn't look the part, but I guess he must be good judging by the positive responses. I liked Dilraba the most though. It helps that she's stunningly gorgeous and her character is super likable as well. Overall, the casting is incredible because of the visuals. It's hard to find a drama like 3L3W where every single female character is so freaking good-looking.
On the music, I don't skip the opening theme because I quite like it, but I can't say the same for the ending soundtrack. I don't think the music is anything to shout about, I'll say that it's just fine.
There are still some minuses though. First is the special effects. I don't think Chinese dramas right now have the technical expertise to make a xianxia drama look believable yet. So this is not a huge knock, just a disadvantage of the genre itself. Next is the styling. Mark Chao looks like Severus Snape when he lets down his hair. Yang Mi's high forehead (when she's disguised as a man) is also slightly distracting. Also, I'm not exactly sure how the deities "grow". Su Jin looked 6 at age 500, but Feng Jiu is still a toddler after thousands of years. I guess perhaps (nine-tail) foxes don't age as quickly, but it's sure confusing.
In all, it's a pretty solid production. I'm not sure if it's because I've just finished the god-awful G&I, but the comparison did help. It's amazing how a fantasy drama feels more natural than a pseudo-historical drama. The drama has a pretty good rating on Douban at 6.2 and that's despite a lot of people giving it only one star due to plagiarism. I don't love the drama, but I liked bits and pieces of it and I think it's at least entertaining. You'll probably skip some parts here and there but the length of the drama is actually tolerable. They do have a story to tell and the episodes are not merely fillers.
-- Footnotes --
 The movie version stars Liu Yifei as Bai Qian and Yang Yang as Ye Hua. Just looking at visuals alone, this is an awesome cast.
 Another production company has picked up the rights to the Feng Jiu and Dong Hua spinoff and thus they cannot replicate the story from that novel. Also why you most probably will not see Dilraba and Vengo Gao reprising their roles.
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+ Shi Ma and Yao Yao . Shi Ma's character is hilarious, especially how his best friend is just a ball (to quote Yao Yao). The drama can cut out the other main storyline and it'll make it even better, because 99.9% of people watching are really just watching for these two characters.
+ Shi Ma and Yao Yao's romance. Okay, I'll readily admit that this is just an extension of the previous point. Very standard relationship progression, from a bickering duo to lovers. Their interactions are super funny. It helps that they are a very good-looking couple. I mean, TVB actors aren't exactly known for their looks really.
- Sisley Choi. Her acting is horrible, her voice is annoying. I'm usually not skeptical of acting really, but she's bad. Her voice is totally unbearable though. I wondered if it's because she's not a native speaker, but I concluded that her voice is just naturally not-so-pleasant.
A very standard HK procedural. Not very brainy. It doesn't need to be since it's focusing on the traffic police, which is honestly not very interesting material. One of the better dramas of the year, by virtue of Natalie Tong and Benjamin Yuen's characters. A surprisingly easy pair to root for given that it's their first cooperation. I do wish that they'll continue to pair up gorgeous looking fadans and siusangs. I'm quite superficial in this regard, which is why the only other drama I watched in 2016 is the Mafia drama which had Elisa Sam and Matt Yeung. I was looking forward to Roger's drama (not so superficial after all), but it was a letdown...
-- Footnotes --
 I don't know how to romanise Cantonese since I can understand but I can't speak the dialect. So all names will be romanised as it is spoken in Mandarin.
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Drama Festival 2013: Me and Mom and Dad and Grandma and Anna
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Every character gets one (or more) section(s) throughout the one-act special to narrate their inner feelings, and each part ends with a punctuation. Unfortunately, I still haven't really gotten the meaning behind the punctuation symbols but hopefully with more time to think (working through my midterms) about it I'll understand their purpose a whole lot better. I quite like how the the story is relayed to the viewers through different points of view, and it's interesting to see how different characters have separate interpretations of what happened. The acting is awesome. Seo Ji-hye is fantastic (and gorgeous), Yang Jin-sung is great as well, and so is the kid. The dad didn't make any sort of impression, but I think that's because of the role rather than his portrayal. The cinematography is good too, really exceeding expectations considering it's a one-act drama. I have to say that MBC's one-act specials seem to be of a higher quality in general compared to KBS', and they are challenging different genres as well which is good to see.
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