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But first the Cons:
Pacing: After one of the most satisfying first episodes, I found the next two to be in okay territory. This ends up kind of being a cycle with some very enjoyable episodes followed by satisfactory episodes. I did do some skipping here and there but it was limited. Also, one particular mystery in the first half of the drama goes on too long.
Too Much: This drama has solid actors but too many of them and a solid story to tell but they glutted it with more more more. I actually wished the drama had focused less on Inspector Woo, the chaebol characters and really would have been ok never meeting Seol Ok's husband. This is nothing against any of the actors but, rather, the lead actors and the neighborhood crew were so good, it didn't need all those other characters and story lines.
Suspending Reality: Various times there are things left hanging or one particular instance in particular where the audience has to suspend all sense of reality. I will leave it there to avoid spoiler territory but it involves the sister-in-law. Also, like many k-dramas there are some coincidental connections that are just too much to believe but again, this is kind of standard.
Actors: They are all great and a shout out to the leads. I am not as familiar with the actor's dramas, but he has the charisma and timing to pull off comedy without a problem. It actually took me several episodes to realize that the actress was the same one from Heart to Heart. She is lovely. All the co-stars are great as well, and the drama has one of the best, most honest representations of a mother-in-law. I loved that the actress is the same that plays the opposite type in Secret Garden, Heirs and Mask.
Direction Etc: Directions was quite good and music was solid though no OST songs really stuck with me.
Story: Flawed but overall enjoyable and quite honestly something different than a thriller or rom/com. The idea is nothing knew (Scarecrow & Mrs. King - a US show from the 80s - was a housewife and a spy), but I like seeing Korean dramas expand out into other avenues and it gets a little extra love from me for that.
As you can tell I really liked but didn't love this drama. I took a point off for pacing issues and a point off for the uneven story, plot holes and problematic ending. It still gets an 8 from me because this drama made me care about these characters and they grew as the drama went on in honest, realistic ways.
Complaint Other Viewers Have:
Now overall I didn't have issues with the ending because I knew going in everything was not going to be tied up with a red bow. However, there are some unhappy viewers regarding the ending. I felt that I knew where the characters were going so, at the end of the day, I was happy enough with that. At the same time, I understand why others were not. It has now come out that the production team is hoping for a Season 2 so they did this on purpose. Shame on them. I hope they get a second season because they could totally do a fun drama and close up some story lines, but I think the fans deserved better because second seasons are hard to come by in k-dramaland.
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The major flaws are a reliance on tired tropes, an odd but thankfully short lived love triangle, an unnecessary addition of a messed up ex, over the top medical scenario (the teacher...you'll know it when you see it) that makes me dislike the female lead for a bit. Also, and no small thing, the drama is definitely too long. In addition, the writer didn't seem able to set a tone. A little medical, a little romance, a little comedy, a little melo, a little slice of life and so on. I'm not saying that can't work but this writer does not have the skills to pull it off. (Watch Doc Martin for that.) There seemed to be an effort to make it a little bit like every other successful medical drama that had come before instead of just making it his/her own. That's unfortunate.
Also, if there is one thing I could tell drama writers who are doing a medical show, it is this: hospital politics are always boring. The writer stayed away until toward the end and it was just blah and I skipped as much as I could. I finally figured out that I liked the story more when they were on the ship, and it slowed down when they were in the local hospital. The ship is what makes this scenario unique.
I stuck with the drama because I did like a lot of the first half of the drama even with some of the tropes. Unlike many who couldn't buy into the relationship between the two leads, I actually appreciated that it was low-key and sweet. I like that she was the surgeon and he the internal medicine doc and was a good guy. Normally in k-drama, he would be a jerk or tsundere or a genius surgeon. The age difference didn't bother me, because it didn't bother the characters as relayed by the actors. I also was fine with all the actors. I am middle of the road about HJW, but I liked her here and Kang Min Hyuk matched her low key character. Again, I do understand that many couldn't buy into their relationship, but this is what kept me in the drama until the end.
Well, kind of until the end. I am doing the review but - full disclosure - I did fast forward through a lot of the last 5 hours of drama (though I did watch the last episode). So I would say that if you figure out early on that you can't buy into this relationship, drop because there is not enough other stuff to keep you going because the romance is somewhat secondary for a chunk of the drama.
Overall, I think this was a missed opportunity by the writer. I kept thinking that I wanted to know more about what it was like on the Hospital Ship. What about storms? What happens if you date and break up and are stuck together? What happens when you get sick to death of one another? I get that it is a medical drama, but I would have liked to learned more about life on the ship and had some character development that way versus everyone and their dog associated with these people having some family/medical issue. Nonetheless, I did stick it out and I would give the first half a 7 and the second half a 6 so around 6.5.
Problems others had: Medical scenarios aren't realistic. I love not being in the profession and not having to care but, yeah, I get it.
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I liked the story of this couple trying to deal with the ins and outs of life and marriage with the husband as a gangster as if this was a viable long term career option. It's treated as if he's a salaryman. The wife having to deal with a kind of gangsters' wives club was particularly amusing for anyone who has ever had to attend functions due to a spouse's career.
One of the aspects I liked best was that our lead couple are not perfect people. They both make mistakes and perhaps can be unreasonable. I prefer this over cookie cutter perfect characters. I also like that Moon Jeong Hee plays a really strong, though sometimes at her wit's end, woman. This is not a pushover female k-drama character. All the actors did a good job, but these two leads were great.
Again, it is hard to get the tone of this down because you can go from gangsters violently fighting to quirky humor pretty quickly. (This kind of reminds me of the tone sometimes in parts of Angry Mom.)
The side story about a couple trying to decide if they can give love a second chance sometimes worked for me, sometimes didn't.
The teen romance. I kind of ended up okay with it in the end, and the actors were fine but it seemed like the drama was throwing it in hoping maybe to get a little of the youth market in Korea.
There was some inconsistent writing in what happened to a character. I think a huge opportunity for comedy was lost re: the movie they were making. Instead the writers went to some story that seemed thrown together for some major drama at the end.
So basically it lost a point for some inconsistent writing and a lost opportunity for a strong finish instead of an ok one. Still the journey was a lot of fun with laugh-out-loud moments and a few "oh my gosh, I didn't see that coming" . As a viewer of A LOT of dramas, I love being surprised.
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Cons: No cancer patient getting treatment ever looks this good and truthfully this is how it is in most tv shows regardless of origin. I know expecting reality in this regard is a bit much but it did bug me a little.
Wow, that's really it.
All the actors are solid and a shout out to Joo Sang Wook for playing a bad actor so well. Some of the scenes with the acting coach are so funny. It's not easy to be that bad. Also Kim Tae Hoon as the doc was so good. He is one of those character actors that can do anything: bad guy in Angry Mom, discouraged husband in One More Happy Ending and great as the amazing friend and doc in Fantastic. Really the entire cast is excellent.
Pacing: There are a lot of different stories going on and this drama keeps the pace and flow very well. I especially appreciate this because Ji Soo had a serious surgery situation pop up so, if you watch, that is why he is kind of missing in action as the writers no doubt had to trim down the scope of his story.
Bromance: There's a lot of talk about the bromance in Goblin, but I have to say the story between the two main guys in Fantastic resonated with me so much and was truly amazing. It actually is one of my favorite aspects to this drama.
Story: It went in directions I didn't expect. I can't say too much without spoilers but I thought I'd be watching a bickering couple, k-drama style. Not so much. I thought it will go standard love triangle route...not so much. These characters are adults and they act that way (most of the time); they're not perfect and they make mistakes. I so much appreciated at a certain point when some serious issue happens, they sit down and talk about it. In so many dramas, it's five episodes of angst when a simple discussion could have dealt with it. I also felt this story really shows the power of female friendship, especially with the friend who had kind of fallen away. Who has this not happened to, but it is so true how you can pick those friendships back up again as if no time has passed. One other aspect I liked was the insight into the entertainment industry in regards to management companies and ways they keep their talent in line. I've heard stories out of Korea about this, and the show shines a light on that activity.
Besides the comparisons to Scent of A Woman, the only other issue that I saw some viewers had was with the main male lead....people seemed to think because of the tone of voice JSW uses and the way the character sometimes acts that the guy doesn't have emotional depth. I would just say the longer the drama goes on, the more we see what kind of man he is. I recommend this gem of a drama with one caveat and that is if you or a loved one is dealing with or has dealt with cancer, you might or might not be inclined to watch. This is not a standard melodrama with 16 episodes of angst but still....
Otherwise I'd give it a go.
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But first the cons:
Foundation of the breakup: To put Yun Jie (Mike He) in the situation about not knowing about his child, the writers basically throw the mom character under the bus and make her entirely unreasonable. It just makes no sense and the viewer will think he's a jerk and she's horrible... I think the viewer has to let it go or it colors your views from there after.
Makjang: This drama was so grounded in how it dealt with so many things that it really didn't need to rely on the cliches, even if it dealt with them better than most dramas. Unfortunately in the last four or so episodes, we see the writers put a few story arcs into the drama that were silly and unfortunate.
The Mom: The main focus of the story is on Yong Yong and Yun Jie as it should be. The drama did bring up issues of single parenting, but in the end I think they missed an opportunity to do better in this area and as already mentioned, used this character to heighten drama in contrived ways.
Secondary Stories: I think they could have done more with the mom and her guy. I have mixed feelings about the brother (Li Yi Feng). Part of the story is his resentment about his brother, his romance with another gal and a very, very late love triangle. As someone who is not a fan of triangles, I'm happy it was half over before going that way but could have done without it.
Tone: Anyone familiar with T-dramas knows how they can be over the top. I found this drama refreshing because even though you think after the first episodes it's going to be another one of those dramas, it really isn't. Every plot point is about these two people getting to know each other, like each other and eventually fall in love. My big issue with a lot of T-Dramas is how often the characters have conversations that mean nothing. In SH, almost every conversation has purpose.
Chemistry: I think Mike He and Janine Chang have a chemistry that works. This is not a steamy, intense romance. This is a get-to-know you romance. You might not think so because of something that happens in episode 1, but it is. I really do not like instalove romances so this really worked for me.
Acting: I was fine with all the actors. I think Mike He is generally a solid but not great actor, but here I think he's done his best work (of what I've seen thus far). His expression when finding out about his son was just spot on. Loved Janine as well.
Family: Early in the drama, her family does something silly, and I worried that the writers would have our gal in a Cinderella type situation....No, it is not like that at all. The family members of both leads are not perfect, but there is no over the top shenanigans. (Well, 2nd sister but who doesn't like her?)
Writing: I appreciate that the characters are not perfect. Yun Jie is one of the best written male characters I've seen in a T-Drama. He is not perfect, and he's not an over bearing jerk stock character. He is a decent guy with flaws who makes mistakes, often realizes it but stays true to himself. I often have trouble getting through T-dramas because they are too long with not enough story. Again the last four or so episodes had some contrived situations pop up, but I completed this drama in around 4 days. I think I appreciate that even when "big" things happen, the reaction is sometimes so grounded. (An example is how they handled her confronting him about the orphanage. You understand where she is coming from, but he is actually very reasonable in what he says as well. The viewer can understand both sides. ) Basically this is a no drama drama. Also, there is comedy but I would not necessarily call this a rom/com.
After all this, I don't really think I'm doing a great job describing it. I think if you are in the mood for a very character driven romance drama, this might fit the bill. (I found it subbed on You Tube). In the end I took a point off for throwing in a silly curveball late in the drama and some noble idiocy. I also took off half a point for the lazy writing in not coming up with a better set up to him not knowing about his child. Overall though, I found this to be one of the better T-Dramas I've seen thus far.
Edit: I almost forgot. I don't really remember an OST because I saw on You Tube so the beginning and ending credits are cut off; however, I actually usually hate the background music (horrible piano music quite often) in T-dramas. The music here was much more muted and was in the background where it needed to be though I did notice it a bit more toward the end of the drama. So my score on the music is about the use of background music not OST, if they even had one.
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One of the aspects I particularly liked is that there are two love-lines. I had no idea the love triangle was such a big deal in Asian dramas when I watched this, and I am not a fan of it. I found both love stories to be well done. I thought the supporting cast was very good with a favorite being Court Lady Choi. I also managed to learn an amazing amount of history as the writer weaves this story together through actual history.
Complaints I've seen about this drama usually involve Kim Hee Sun being whiny as the doc. I think she gets a raw deal and if you stick with it you see how she grows as a person. I think she maintains her modern mindset more than any other time travel drama I've seen, and I like her level of feisty. Also, the time travel element....it never makes sense in any drama I've ever seen and gives me a headache. I just go with it.
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Tone: I will just say it. The dad is abusive and beats on his son and subordinate. Not slap or hit as we see in so many dramas. Beat. And then we are supposed to see and accept that there is an upside to this guy at the same time. I believe this actor played the bad guy in The Time Between Dog and Wolf, and he was fantastic at portraying a tragic, flawed and yet sympathetic character all at the same time. Unfortunately, the script or direction didn't help him here. Many dropped at this point.
What Love?: If you expect romance to be a big part of this drama, stop right here and back away. I get it....love is in the title of the drama but this has a very mild love story and to a certain extent the writer doesn't seem to know what to do with it. It is because of this woman that he is changing; that's been true of many dramas but the writer doesn't commit to how she feels about him really. Writer also throws in a totally unbelievable love triangle
Pacing: There is bromance, but I don't think it flourished like it could have because something that needed to be revealed didn't happen until too late. I think this is unfortunate because this drama is at its best when the three friends are all for one and one for all like the 3 Musketeers so to speak.
Change: Unlike many, I was happy that change of the main character didn't happen that quickly. There is something around episode 4 wherein many viewers got really frustrated at the continued immaturity of Siwon's character. I am in the minority that LIKED that he didn't change that quickly because, guess what, people don't. If this drama's theme is that caring about people can bring about positive change in others, fine but it is still going to take time and it does.
Actors: So Siwon is a bit OTT here but some of that we learn is a facade to deal with the brutality of his father and some of it is his personality and doing what is expected of him. It was a bit much and I think the writer/director should have dealt with that because I think it is more on them. They wanted a definite comedic vibe even if it didn't always suit the tone. (See Con) Kang Sora is fine and shows she can be dramatic and funny but I actually think this wasn't a hugely challenging role for her. Gong Myung is really good here as the woe is me salaryman. I just wish there had been some earlier evolution in his character because I think he doesn't crack a smile for 15 episodes.
Story: Okay, full disclosure, I'm a sucker for a friends helping friends story. I like the cleaning crew gang, I like the three helping each other out. I like the flight attendant/cop combo. I like people working to change because so often in the real world, people stay in their ruts. So, yes, this drama worked better for me than others. I freely admit by the last four or so episodes I was folding my laundry and wrapping Christmas gifts while watching but that's fine, it worked for me.
I would say that if you keep expectations in the middle and realize romance is very very limited, there is a solid k-drama here. Not anything fantastic or life changing but pleasant enough. For a better office/friends drama there is Radiant Office and, of course, the excellent Misaeng.
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I really enjoyed Jin as the writer managed to do a very good job of interweaving the emotional situations involving the characters with the medical scenarios and meshing it with the political world of Edo. One or two things that didn't quite come together are as follows:
Time Travel: I've said it in other reviews, and I'll say it again: it never makes sense. Just don't expect some serious explanation for that fetus tumor...yeah, I know. It sounds and is weird. Just go with it and perhaps part 2 will answer that question. But probably not.
Truly that is the only issue I have with the drama. Things I liked:
Actors: I truly thought they all did a good job. There are not many reviews here of Jin, and I took the time to read the "6" rating review because I was interested what the issue was. Drama watching is such an individual thing and what bothers one person another doesn't care about etc. It appears it was the acting style of some of the actors. I think perhaps if this had been my first Japanese drama, I would understand that because there is a certain earnestness sometimes in the way scripts are written and acted out that I have taken this to be a cultural difference especially coming from the K-dramas. All I can say is it's subjective, and I didn't have any issues here. With a few exceptions, it's pretty much what I see in most Japanese dramas.
Writing: This is the key as many genres are rolled into one and blended beautifully. This did not get bogged down in politics even though it's made clear that Japan is in a very tenuous time. I enjoyed how the medical scenarios were addressed and how we learn so much of the time simply by bringing forth what the people needed help addressing. (The time frame is in the 1860s.) Also, all the characters grew as the drama proceeded and the pacing of the story was good. The perk of 11 episodes is no filler.
History: I seem to have learned a lot about what was going on in Japan without even knowing it. That's the sign of a good drama; it is enjoyable while educating me at the same time. Now the choice a viewer will have to make is whether to look up who Ryoma is. Sometimes I do not want to know about history during a drama, but it was very apparent that this was a famous person in Japan, and I didn't think I'd enjoy it as much while our main character is very aware of who he is, what he does, and how he dies. So I did look him up, and I recommend it if you, like me, are unaware of Japanese history. I feel it helped my enjoyment of the drama.
Direction/Music etc: It is beautifully filmed and well done. Costumes are amazing. I liked the song well enough but thought it was a bit over the top sometimes for the times they were playing it. There were no behind the scene issues that hindered my enjoyment of the drama.
Bonus: No psycho women trying to do each other in and actually a bit of a friendship develops between two unlikely gals. Also bromance galore.
So, overall, if you want a quick drama (all episodes 45ish minutes except the first and last), I highly recommend Jin. I plan on starting the sequel shortly though this drama really stands alone. Both are currently on Viki.
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Based on a much loved manwha (sorry if I spelled that incorrectly), there were a lot of expectations for this drama. I found the first 6 episodes to be quite good, and I was happy enough with the story. Unfortunately at around episode 7 through approximately 11ish, the story just floundered. Even after that it was uneven here and there. Since I was watching this as it aired, I did see that the production had to bring in a second writer by episode 10 so they knew they had a problem with the adaptation. This is the reality of the live shoot system. It is my understanding the source material was very complex with lots of stories and threads, and I believe they really tried to do too much and it got away from them. Most of the issues I personally had with the drama have to do with how it was adapted specifically the story choices made regarding defeating Gwi.
Also, the last episode in regard to the timing of events and the culmination of the drama was all over the place. Definitely a victim of a rushed live shoot or a writer drinking too much soju. As far as the ending, of course, no spoiler. I was fine with it but it wasn't totally satisfying. I'm kind of over watching dramas of manga/manwha etc when the source material is still being written because I feel it ties down the drama story.
Music: Like 90% of k-dramas, the OST is overused. I liked all but one song and, much to my surprise, that one grew on me over time. Apparently many took a dislike to what I'll call the "quirky" song but this just isn't a big deal to me personally. I'm in it for the story.
Cast: Changmin: I thought he pulled off charming quite well, dramatic less so.
Lee Soo Hyuk: People took a liking to Gwi, who is pretty much total evil, because LSH is hot. I mean if I had a dollar for every time I've read that. I thought he was a little cardboard, but someone who read the source material said that this is how Gwi pretty much was so I'll take their word for it. I've since seen him in Lucky Romance and a few episodes of Neighborhood Hero, and I thought he was good.
Lee Yubi: Okay, this gal gets so much grief, and I definitely noticed that people who saw her in a lot of other dramas seemed more critical. I don't judge an actress on what the writers have her do in a drama. I mean c'mon that's not right. I can't speak to the "wide eyed look" that seemed to irk others. I was actually fine with her and found her more believable dressed as a boy than a lot of other k-drama actresses I've seen. I thought she and LJG had a sweet chemistry....not off the charts but given the age difference and historical genre, pretty much what I expect.
Lee Joon Gi: He was great and the reason many people stuck with the drama. I personally thought the vampire scenes should have been toned down but that's the way the production decided to go so okay. LJG has grown as an actor, and I love him but he can go OTT if not careful. I do have to say that they play up how pretty he is in this drama so to see him go play Wang So with half his face covered and the weight loss making his features more angular is just kind of fun.
I thought this was beautifully filmed and the costumes were gorgeous.
Final Analysis: As far as some type of coherent vampire supernatural drama, nope it just isn't going to work. However, the romance really worked for me so if you want to give it a go for that you might have to do some fast forwarding. If you can't buy into the two leads together, best to move on.
One last thought....I do want to give credit to all the actors I mention as well as others in the production because this drama got trounced by the end of Mask and then Yong Pal. (Though it did beat the 3rd drama...maybe Assembly...it's been a while.) This production was obviously having difficulties behind the scenes, and the actors stuck with it and gave it their all. Since the leads take the heat when these things happen, I bow to Yubi (regardless of what people think of her performance) and LJG because that couldn't have been fun, especially after both being injured in some kind of accident during filming. If at any time I felt that they weren't invested, I would have bailed and they gave it their all imo 'til the end.
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It's on the shorter side for T-Dramas (13 episodes) so for the nice chemistry I would give it a go with some judicious use of the fast forward button.
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Another Pro to this drama is the bad guy is done very well and is given a good story arc throughout the drama.
I judiciously used my fast forward as regards to the side story. Sometimes I found it very involving and other times a bit to over the top for my taste. Nothing against the excellent actors, but I was mainly in it for our lead couple.
My main reason for the downgrade to an 8 is I can't overlook that the writer basically made the lead gal a candy. Also, due to I assume a lack of creativity, the story takes a wacky turn toward the end and goes sideways. In my opinion, the writers threw the actress under the bus with a ridiculous story arc. It gets back on track thankfully, but I was very disappointed.
One last issue is the editing. There are a few scenes which literally look like they were thrown together at the last minute and give you whiplash as you try to figure out what the heck just happened. However, I generally watch dramas for the story and this one overall I enjoyed.
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The First Episode: The first 40 minutes of episode 1 were tough going for me. I dump dramas early, and I don't know why I stuck with it but the minute the friends found each other, my level of enjoyment went way way up. So if you are like me, stick with it a bit longer because I was totally hooked by the end of episode 2.
Big Meanie: Either the writer or the director had Ha Suk Jin play his character a bit over-the-top verbally aggressive ( I really don't want to use the word abusive), in several scenes. I think it needed to be toned down a bit.
Left Hanging: There are a few misunderstanding/unexplained things that really needed a conclusion that I didn't get to my satisfaction, but this is relatively minor.
Dr. Seo: Not to be confused with the lead, but there is a character who is a doc with the same name (Seo), and I think the writer did twist and turn him around to suit the needs of the story a bit too much for my taste.
Terminal Illness: This drama is not really about terminal illness. I think the writer should have found a better way to get her characters where they needed to be without this trope, but I will stay away from spoiler territory.
Story: Well isn't this the most important thing? Not everyone is into office dramas and this is NOT Misaeng, but for me this is a story of the people just set in an office. That is its strength. It could have been a law firm or hospital or wherever because where they work doesn't matter so much as the people involved.
Characters: Which brings us to how well all the characters are fleshed out....all of them. And sometimes they surprise you. Someone you think you will really dislike, you end up learning more about or seeing things from their perspective. This to me is a success of the writing (from a newbie writer no less) that there is no over the top villain or caricature going on here. Office politics, for sure but as anyone who has worked in one knows, that actually is often reality.
Actors: No weak links at all. They were all solid. I saw a lot of comments kind of getting onto Ha Suk Jin for taking another such "arrogant man" role, but way more so here than in 1% or Let's Drink, we get to see him outside the office and become a more realized character. Was this a huge challenging role for him; probably not but we see that he has some good comedic timing when need be in what has to be one of the funniest scenes I've seen in a drama recently. It has to do with a Swiffer mop and I'll leave it at that.
Eun Ho Won: I'm just gonna say it. Sometimes I didn't like her, and sometimes I was frustrated by her, and sometimes I was embarrassed about her. So why is this on the "Pro" side? Because all too often K-drama leads are either martyrs, candies, over-the-top sassy girls that are not always well rounded as characters. She is a 'glass half empty' type person as are her friends, and it can be tough to root for someone like that, but I liked her and her friends, and I was rooting and cheering them on flaws and all.
Problems Others Had But I Didn't:
- Many didn't share my acceptance of Eun Ho Won, yet I noticed many completed the drama due to their liking of the side characters.
-Romance is definitely on the back burner for a chunk of this drama, but I actually think this is realistic to most office romances. No instalove, but if you have to have a lot of romance, this is not for you.
-Some people didn't like the unrealistic office scenarios, but - well - isn't this the reality of medical/legal/cop dramas? They are not realistic, but I actually thought Radiant Office brought out the difficulty of contract workers, women getting ahead, expectations put on men to be super successful before starting a family, difficult job search etc in a pretty sane way.
I found this to be an enjoyable drama, but definitely people had different thoughts on it with some finding it on the boring side and others frustrated by EHW. I have a soft spot for these type dramas and grew to enjoy Eun Ho Won on her quest for acceptance and success in the business world and in life.
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- The foundation of the story is the epic love between the General and Bai Ping Ting, but the drama chose to give short thrift to the falling in love aspect of the story using an overused trope. I would understand this but, you know, 62 episodes so no time constraints to use as an excuse. Many people dumped the drama early on because they weren't feeling it so go in knowing you have to eventually kind of buy into these two.
- Past the middle point of the drama it spins its wheels and many found it dragging. I actually enjoyed many of these episodes but eventually I also got a little frustrated. They could have taken 5 of those episodes and put them in the first part of the drama to build the love story.
-At this same middle point, writers decided to go a certain route which was also in the book but the reasoning in the book (because commenters commented) made both leads flawed people. To me the drama threw the female character under the bus. To be fair, commenters also did indicate some aspects as relates to the General's character during this same time frame were better in the drama. I don't want spoilers so I'll leave it at that.
Use of Slow Motion: Almost every single moment of emotional impact utilizes slow motion. I swear you could cut 4 hours of drama time just in using regular speed. This to me, actually lessened the impact and, oddly, the sensuality of some of the intimate scenes between the two leads. I mean there is one scene in particular that could have been so much more impactful but the use of not only slow motion but a wind machine made it super cheesy. I think they were going for super romantic and maybe it worked for some.
Angelababy's make up: I'm over expecting reality when it comes to make up in C-Dramas. You could go through heck and back and still have perfect hair and make up. But the makeup artist who decided to use a little lip stain making BPT look like she'd been sucking on a cherry lollypop or had bloody lips....well, it took me out of the drama.
-I'm a sucker for romance, but that always means a lot of politics and such with the dramas, and often it is repetitive and simplistic. I dinged the production on the foundation of the romance, but they did a great job in handling a lot of characters and setting up the political intrigue. Also the characters weren't cookie cutter. They were flawed individuals who at times made good decisions and often bad decisions. I wish they'd actually given more nuance to the leads because I thought they were a bit too perfect. All the co-stars did a stellar job.
-The Smexy. I don't need explicit, but if we have an epic love story, I want some real looking kisses and such and show delivers. No deer in the headlights going on here.
-I have watched a lot of historicals, and this drama actually surprised me with some of the twist and turns. I love that because in so many dramas, we viewers can be steps ahead of the characters. Good job drama.
-I thought the costumes - both the armor and the dresses - were well done. Also loved the OST.
-Overall, I thought the chemistry between Wallace Chung and AB was solid. I've seen better but generally thought that around episode 15 Angelababy got comfortable. Since this was pre-produced and they might not have filmed in order, this could be because I think the material actually got better. Basically she's only as good as the material given to her. Wallace Chung certainly brings the sexy, and I think he did a good job but not outstanding which brings me to...
....the dubbing. Maybe because I've actually heard WC's real voice, but around the halfway point, I began to really dislike the tone of the voice actor doing the dubbing. It was too soft and just not powerful enough and that really does hinder how I viewed WC's performance. I don't know why it took so long to bug me. I'm used to dubbing and this is the first time it really hindered how I viewed a performance. And, truly, I really do like Wallace Chung.
Issues Others Had:
I had no trouble with any of this but here goes: Flying action scenes...I'm used to them. Heavy use of green screen; bothered me in beginning but again, it kind of goes with the territory. Only so much $$ to spend on production.
So depending on my mood, this could be a 7.5 to 8 and since I was left with a satisfied feeling after watching the last episode, I'm going with the 8.
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Length: I was actually pretty happy with the length of the drama, but I think they could have successfully completed the drama at 18 episodes. Specifically I wasn't that taken with the romance involving Shin Jae Bok's friends. The problem with side stories is they often seem like filler, well, because they often are filler. This was a very minor issue for me however. I will say the first few episodes were a bit uneven as well.
Writer Cheats: I have a pet peeve in any drama wherein one conversation could clear up some misunderstanding/questions. There are a few in this drama and one in particular that a certain question would definitely, absolutely 100% positively have been asked and answered. However, the writer was not ready for the character to find out the reason something happened so that question was not asked or answered and it made no sense. This is cheating. I get it but it bugs me though it might not others.
Writer Cheat II: The writer does a good job giving all these characters layers, but I think he or she kind of tosses Jung Hee around a bit too much. The actor is fantastic, but I actually think we needed a bit more of his decision making process in the 2nd half for viewers to really see his point of view a bit more. Also, there is a decision late in the drama that JH makes about his children that no man in that situation would make knowing what JH knows. It kicked the level of angst up a notch but things done out of character bug me though most viewers wouldn't probably give him this benefit.
Dangling Threads: There are a few characters that needed at least a bit more of a resolution. I'm talking one who needed maybe 30 seconds to let us know what happened. Most things were tied up, but I'm gonna give the drama grief because they had time to tie up these loose ends.
Actors: I saw someone saying people were complaining about the acting, but where I was watching this was not the case. Everyone was solid and both the lead actresses were absolutely fantastic. There seems to be a lot of interest in Sung Joon, and he is absolutely solid in this though his fans should know he is really not the main focus.
Characters: Even the intrepid Shin Jae Bok isn't perfect. I like that. I loved her but sometimes she drove me crazy. "Listen to your mom gut" was said by me more than once in this drama. All the characters in this drama have depth and layers.
Story: It's hard to get into it too much because everything is a spoiler, but if you like heavy romance walk away. This isn't your drama. Having said that the relationships that flourish are dealt with in a lovely way. I'll just leave it there. This drama successfully kept me guessing through the first 8 or so episodes with "oh my gosh, I didn't see that coming" multiple times through the first 10 episodes.
Makjang: Yep, I'm putting it on the pro side. There is some of this because it's kind of an over the top situation to begin with. However, there is fun OTT makjang and then there is the birth secrets makjang. None of the latter is here.
Ending: As mentioned previously, I feel a few threads didn't get tied up but all the big ones did. We know the ending. We understand what happened to all major characters. No "What the ...." "I don't understand what happened".... I actually really liked how they portrayed the relationships between the members of this family unit at the end of the drama. We get where everyone is at. Could there have been more between a few here and there, sure but I actually think this drama was true to what it set out to do.
Overall to me this is a gem of a drama given the strength of its leading ladies, a look at a marriage in crisis and how it evolves and an overall fun roller coaster ride. However, I do understand this is not for everyone. For some they will get frustrated by the imperfect characters. Others will find it on the makjang side. I think this writer does something really well and that is take flawed characters and make us care even about ones we don't think we will care about (the character of Na Mi comes to mind). It's hard to write about this drama and flesh it out more because of spoilers. Basically I think these type shows are fun because while I watch and sometimes get mad and frustrated, I'm also thinking: What would I do? I think that is the fun of this show... but again not for everyone. I'd give it 4 episodes and if you are not hooked by then, this one might not be for you.
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I actually am a fan of the gender bender genre though I know it is ridiculous. It works better in historical setting because there can actually be a legitimate reason for a woman to pretend to be a man re: safety or economic necessity. Bromance goes all in T-drama style on the silly and just says, shyster shaman/silly parents, deal with it. Basically you have to suspend reality or this drama will not work for you. Like I said, it took me two attempts. Having said that, I had trouble with how Coffee Prince handled this because at a certain point, there was no reason for someone not to tell so the writers contrived something silly. It really bugged me. I'd rather just know it is all silly from the get go.
Cons: The secondary story line didn't do much for me and the actor (who I think is a singer) was just ok.
Writers knew what buttered their bread and gave us a lot of the leads, but it would be nice to have some kind of coherent story other than constantly throwing them in compromising situations. They threw in some mafia stuff, but it was all pretty silly at the end of the day. I've watched idol dramas, and I just think the writers need to get better because they just rely on their stars to see them through.
It was too long, as are most of the modern T-Dramas (MARS this is not.). I really liked the lead characters, but after a while with both the mafia stuff and the romance, it got repetitive. This could have been done better at 15 episodes.
Pros: Megan Lai is fantastic and easily takes on Yoon Eun Hye as the most realistic woman playing a guy in a gender bender. Baron Chen is also great. They have great chemistry and are the basis for this drama being so popular imo.
I liked that the 2nd male lead character (the vet) story line was different without all the usual posturing. I also liked the hotdog guy and the sister as well as the cousin. She was a true friend.
So I notice some of the negativity is that this show didn't have the angst as, say, Coffee Prince. However, I liked that because this is lighthearted fare and it is a pet peeve of mine when I start watching a light romance (I mean, again, a shaman is involved), and it turns into a melo. This drama keeps to its roots and while it doesn't mine the anguish of a sexual identity crisis like Gong Yoo in CP, it does tell of acceptance of oneself, who one loves and what goes into that. I can't really get into it without spoilers. I do think the writers were trying to stay away from Coffee Prince territory because it's been done and time has gone on and this is Taiwan not Korea. I think they did well making sure neither lead character was knowingly causing the other angst. I really appreciated that.
So I'll admit to some fast forwarding through mafia business and secondary stories, but Megan and BC shined in this. I also appreciated some sizzling scenes as well. I took off one point for being over long and one point for the lackluster secondary love story and mafia business stuff.
I did not downgrade for the contrivances, the cheese factor or the cliches in the story. Also, the godawful background music. I just take them as part and parcel of Taiwanese dramas these days, but I notice this bothered many people.
There is a bit of a surprise at one point that irked some viewers. And as before, I think many viewers wanted the intensity of Coffee Prince....this isn't CP and it never acts like it want to be.
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