This review may contain spoilersQueen of Mystery (Mystery Queen) is a mixed genre Korean drama with slice of life/mystery/thriller/comedic elements that overall I found to be a satisfying though sometimes uneven drama. If you want something a little different and romance isn't a must, give it a go.
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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This review may contain spoilersOld Boy is the first slice-of-life drama that I've seen come from China. This genre is done well in Japan and Korea, but for it to really work for Chinese dramas, they are going to have to cut the episode count. There is a lot to enjoy about Old Boy but the episode #, as well as a late (last 10 or so episodes) move toward the normal cliches/tropes seen in Asian dramas soured my enjoyment of this series. Honestly, before the last episodes this would have been an 8 but that is what happens when filler and cliches take over a script.
What I liked:
Actors: All solid and really written well though I think the female lead was a bit of a princess but I love the actress so much, it was easy to overlook.
Story: You get it all: romance, bromance, father/son, girl friendship, student/teacher etc. With 45 episodes (not 47 listed on MDL), there is bound to be a storyline here and there that doesn't totally work or one finds boring and this did happen but the main friendships and such worked for me enough to overlook or judiciously fast forward.
Music: Love it.
Production Value: The best I've seen in a contemporary Chinese drama. Money was spent on this and I wanted to get on a plane and go to Shanghai.
What I liked the best: The relateability. For slice-of-life to work for an international viewer like myself, I have to be able to relate to it on some level and the drama does this well with relationship and job woes. Did they all work that way, no, but enough did and generally didn't go so over-the-top as to be silly. Also, none of the characters are perfect, they all have their flaws and we get frustrated with them but that's reality so it works here.
Special Shoutout: The father/son relationship was handled in a non-makjang (to borrow the Korean word) way. The young man who played the son was great, and I think it is my favorite relationship story out of all of them.
What didn't work:
As mentioned before, with so many stories going on, there were a few that didn't do much for me.
Job Scenarios: We see career woes that the main characters have happen, which is fair as they tend to happen to us all. I thought some of them, especially regarding the pilot were on the contrived side. Also the job situations that popped up with the lead female character could have been handled better as well as she sometimes seemed to not know her own mind on what she wanted to do which wasn't believable to how her character had been written in the beginning.
Last 10 episodes: So while the writer did a nice job on many relationshps like the bromance etc, after the romance gets going it goes into the normal cliches that one sees in so many Asian dramas. I was so disappointed. The writer also throws in a bunch of drama where there needn't have been any in this genre especially when there are real issues that any modern couple would face. I don't want to do spoilers but it shows how in a rut the writers are when it comes to romance storylines. I freely admit, I had to fast forward through a lot of the last 10 episodes because of my frustration.
What else you need to know:
Romance: it doesn't get started until halfway through so if you have to have that genre right away, this isn't for you.
Full Disclosure: Pacing: It is not a fast paced drama. I'm moody about this and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. At around episode 15, I turned this into a background drama and watched while doing other things and actually saved this drama for an evening of laundry or some organizational chore and still found it easy to keep up on the events of the drama. This works for me but might not be how others want to view dramas.
So overall this was a solid, but overlong, drama. It's relateable and I enjoyed getting to know all the characters. The modern vibe and flawed but likeable characters made it easy to get into but it easily could have dumped a few storylines, done a better job when the romance actually got going instead of relying on tired tropes and cut the episode count. Nonetheless, it's beautifully filmed, no dubbing, solid acting and if anyone ever told me I'd see Irish clogging in a Chinese drama, I would never have believed them but here we are. Hope this gives the reader some insight as to whether this is their cup of tea. I don't regret watching it but wish they could have stuck with the same tone of the first 35 episodes in the last 10 episodes.
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The story starts two years into the marriage and the pacing is off so that the flashbacks explaining the set up are too late in the drama.
The dysfunction between the couple is very repetitive and eventually annoying. When I see the same scenario 10 plus times, it gets old.
Once the relationship is more settled, it loses a lot of its sizzle in a common way seen in many Asian dramas.
This author writes complex books, and I think they try to do too much in the adaptation. They should narrow the focus more as it sounds like both the screenwriter and an actor or two weren't happy with how this turned out. I understand wanting to do the novel justice, but this was a very talky drama talk talk talk talk and at 50 episodes, if you can't get it done, the writer has to be brutal in the story being told and how to do that often means leaving things out.
Actors are solid.
Initial story being told and laying the foundation of the characters was done well though took too long.
Production value as good as expected for this genre.
I just think they tried to do too much and I feel like it lost its emotional oooomph at a certain point with characters doing things for no rhyme or reason (again maybe an issue with the editing). So unless you love an actor or this genre, I'd give it a pass. I do want to say that I appreciate the production toning down some of the overbearing going into abusive behavior that this author has in her books regarding the lead romance. They come up to the line and try not to cross it compared to some of the other things I've seen from this writer.
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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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This review may contain spoilersI really enjoyed this drama telling the tale of a woman and the three important men in her life. There are very mixed reactions to this drama so I will be upfront; this isn't a pure romance drama like the excellent 10 Mile Peach Orchard or the flawed but very romantic The General and I. So if you are in it for romance romance romance, this might not be for you. Also, Bin Bin isn't the lead.... Yes, let that sink in for a moment. Truthfully, 50% of the complaints are about this situation. I watched them together in The King's Woman and that is a romance centric drama and they have chemistry in spades. But it is what it is and truthfuly I ended up fast forwarding through almost every scene the leads weren't in in TKS.
First the Cons:
1. Not so much about the drama but the synopsis. It's horrible wherever you see it. Someone on the page wrote a new better one if you want to take a look. This is unfortunate because the drama throws you right into the story and we are there figuring things out on our own. It took me three episodes to adjust; however, this isn't necessarily a negative to me. I actually kind of liked just figuring things out and checking out MDL if I needed some insight. I do miss Dramafever's episode pages because there is always someone who has read the book and this really has helped me with other dramas from Cheese in the Trap to 10 Mile Peach Orchard.
2. The drama sagged a bit in the middle. I do want to disagree with some who thought it was all filler. It wasn't. It was getting all the characters in place for the second half so because there is quite a cast of characters, this took a # of episodes. Basically stuff happened in these episodes, but the romance definitely wasn't front and center, and most viewers realistically are there for the romance.
3. I can't get into details because of spoiler territory and someone who read the book might have insight but it has to do with the birth secret (that's not a spoiler, we know going in), and someone looking like someone else. I'll leave it there.
Now to the Pros:
1. I just really liked the story. I liked that every character - Every Single One - is fully fleshed out. The characters aren't cookie cutter. Their motivations aren't as simple as good/evil. Rather there are shades of gray that seem more reality based in a non-reality type story. I liked this a lot. There is not some higher purpose to this drama; it's just a story about these peoples lives over a few years time. I like that the three men are more nuanced than we might believe; not a cookie cutter arrogant jerk in the bunch (not even Bin Bin).
2. Acting: No problems here. I've heard some had issues with Dilraba. I'm fine with her though I don't love love love her. There was no performance that hindered my enjoyment of this drama. I want to do a shout out to Vic Chou for taking on such a whimsical character the likes I've never seen before in an Asian drama. It took a bit to wrap my head around it but it ended up really working for me.
3. The best action scenes/choreography that I've seen in a Chinese drama...ever. Dilraba with the whip. Even if you choose not to watch. Check out some of her scenes (not the bloopers) on You Tube. All the actors had their chance to shine. Awesome.
4. Production Value: It is from the same team as 10 Mile Peach Orchard. Sets were amazing, costumes on point though whoever designed Vic Chou's hairstyle could have perhaps come up with something else. $$ was spent on this and it shows.
5. Writing: Okay this should probably be the first thing since it is the most imporant, for me anyway. Again, you will be thrown in not knowing what is going on. I just went in and figured things out when the audience did and I actually found it refreshing and just went with it but could be frustrating for new drama watchers. The first half of the drama is learning the lay of the land in all these relationships, the middle episodes get characters in place for culmination of drama which is well paced imo. It is my understanding that the writer of the novel didn't even know how she was going to end her book. I'm just going to say it given what I have learned about the book, I actually think the screenwriter improved on the original work.
6. Side Characters: I read somewhere that someone judged dramas on how the writer treats the non-lead characters. Let's face it, many times they are filler. Every character in this drama has a story thread and we know where they are all in the end. Some wanted more of some favorite characters, but you know the situation they are all in and how they are dealing with it but the focus is where I want it.
So as you can tell, I liked it quite a bit and it left me satisfied. Some complaints that others had that I didn't or just didn't think were a big deal: Where's the smexy? Okay, I get it but - again - not as romance centric in the sense of this girl is 100% ending up with this guy (because, hey, the writer of the book took a while to figure it out and then the screen writer switched things up.) Therefore, this drama is romantic but not sexy and, realistically, she's got a broken heart to start off with at episode 1. So the smexy is just not gonna happen here. Some indicated a lack of chemistry with everyone but Bin Bin, but I actually think a writer could have written a romance with each of the three guys and made it work. Some just found it blah.
One last thought about why this worked for me is that some of the same type characters we see in these dramas didn't pop up or, if they did, it was limited: the pyscho obsessed woman comes to mind. Nope not so much here. As much as I love 10 Mile Peach Orchard, 70% of the leads love story was moved forward because of one character. Not here. This drama has some similar character types but it's limited and not as narrowly portrayed (Exp: crown prince fighting for throne type stuff.)
So this is a 9 out of 10 for me. Maybe I'm in a generous mood because I just watched the last episode but here's the deal: I maybe fast forwarded through 30 minutes of 52 episodes at about 40 to 45 minutes each. I don't think I've ever skipped less than that because generally there is a storyline I don't care about. So if you jump in and you are not feeling it by 15ish , this might not be for you and my apologies. The point off is for the question/inconsistency I had but can't get into, and I do think things could have been explained along the way here and there a tad bit better....and okay, I'll admit it, a little more smexy would have been nice.
General Warning: Beginning and ending credit/songs show a mountain a spoilers so beware.
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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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This review may contain spoilersFantastic is a lovely slice of life drama that encompasses many genres: there is romance, comedy, melo, bromance and female friendship. Like many I was worried about the cancer story line but this is not Scent of a Woman (solid drama by the way). I noticed a few viewers seemed to see this as a watered down version but this is an entirely different style drama with a totally different vibe though the message is perhaps the same. Kim Hyun Joo plays a very successful writer having to deal with this diagnosis and the return of "foot" actor ex-boyfriend possibly playing the lead in her next drama. If you don't think that sounds like SOAW you'd be right. I consider Fantastic to be one of the overlooked dramas of 2016 so here goes:
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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This review may contain spoilersI am a fan of fantasy and supernatural stories so I'm inclined to like these type dramas. I gave all three vampire k-dramas (Blood and Orange Marmalade) a go in 2015, and Scholar is the best one. However, that might not be saying much.
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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This review may contain spoilersI found this to be a fun, generally easy watch even with the tone of murder, revenge and corruption. It has all those elements with a quirky, funky vibe as well as awesome (if totally unrealistic) action scenes and a dash of romance as well. I also am not generally a fan of legal dramas because I know too much about that area and the legal aspects are ridiculous and it is hard to suspend reality. Nonetheless, this show has the benefit of spending the absolute minimum amount of time in a courtroom.
Are there flaws? Sure, here's what bugged me though I have to keep it vague to avoid spoilers:
- Love the uncle and the scenario he was involved in would have made more sense with one or two conversations to set up the situation better.
-Some noble idiocy that doesn't last long and seems unnecessary and contrived and, with a little better writing, could easily have been avoided.
-I can't believe I'm saying this because sometimes dramas give too much build up to the bad guys, but I actually wanted a bit more about how these baddies came together.
- A bit too much of people having the, " I will take you down" talk which I took as just wanting two certain actors together to show their stuff. Once is fine but around the 3rd time, it's a bit much.
- There are a few things that happened throughout the drama that needed that one conversation that tied things together a little better. It doesn't take away much from my enjoyment, but I did notice and others did as well. Probably a victim of the live shoot. It's odd how when a drama really works, I notice the small things yet when a drama is just okay, I forgive huge gaps in logic. I guess I'm a bit contrary.
The things I liked:
-Strong female lead and not cookie cutter. The writer of this drama also wrote the melo, Remember: Son's War and I recall there were complaints that Park Min Young's character got sidelined. I'm not a huge melo person so I can't speak to that drama, but any concerns in this regard can be disregarded. Again there was a story arc in the second half that was meh but it was shortlived. Otherwise, I found the female lead to have depth. She's not the over the top sassy that might be assumed from her punching person after person early on. We really get to know her here and she gets to show her stuff both in and out of the courtroom. Someone commented BSP saved her a lot; well she saved him as well. AND she got to drive the muscle car.
-To have a drama like this work well, you have to have a great antagonist. We get 3 from the judge to her minion to her thug. These three actors elevated this drama and a special shout out to Choi Min Soo who has more charisma than any other actor of his generation that I've seen in k-drama. I believe another actor had to back out so he came in late, had to immerse himself in this character and learn the dialect as well. If anyone gets an award from this drama, it will be him.
-The music is fantastic. The opening right away lets you know the quirky vibe of the drama and the background music and OST songs are all fantastic. Also the setting; it's nice to hear a dialect and get out of Seoul.
-Direction is great. Was there a bit of the shaky camera here and there, yes, but he didn't go crazy. This PD knows how to shoot action (yes, totally unrealistic one man against 15). He also sets mood well with the foggy, ominous vibe of the early episodes especially effective.
- Romance. I wasn't really expecting much but it surprised me how well this worked and it wasn't the normal route to romance that we see in k-dramaland. I liked that. The writer is a dude so we don't get all the sweet talk and, as much as I love all that stuff, I can get it from a romance drama. This relationship has a mature -we're-adults- here tone that worked quite well for me to the point I wanted more.
-Lee Joon Gi & Seo Ye Ji. Alone and together, they work. They are both solid actors with a lovely chemistry that shines through even though romance isn't the main focus of this drama.
-I've dinged the writer a bit for not always having all his ducks in a row, but it's a gentle chiding because this story has a lot of moving parts and many actors. I respect that this isn't always easy to do and the story does generally work with some nice twists and turns as well as fun and romance along the way but there is no doubt in my mind that the actors, director and music elevated it. Also, I give the writer credit for advancing a romance story in a different way instead of a dot to dot love storyline that seems thrown in just to satisfy the romantics but nothing that's really satisfying. (Full disclosure: I loved it, some were a bit doubtful.)
So overall if you can suspend reality and sit back for a fun ride in a solid though imperfectly written, well executed and acted drama this might be for you.
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