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Marshmallow-Chocoholic

Europe
Completed
So I Married an Anti-Fan
93 people found this review helpful
Jun 19, 2021
16 of 16 episodes seen
Completed 2
Overall 6.0
Story 6.0
Acting/Cast 7.0
Music 6.0
Rewatch Value 5.5

Should You Become An “ Anti-Fan” Of This Drama?

Have you ever watched a drama which starts off with cataclysmic screenwriting and then surprisingly grows on you in the second-half ? Well, most watchers can probably agree that this ideology epitomises ‘So, I Married An Anti-Fan’ with its surprising turn from certain cliches to an endearing relationship between our leads.

However those expecting ‘So I Married An Anti-Fan’ to be a “masterpiece” should probably be told outright that this drama isn’t without its flaws either.

Taking nearly three years to air ( after finishing production in 2018) and sparking an eruption of mixed criticism by viewers afterwards , “ So, I Married An Anti-Fan” is a drama which has greatly divided the audience demographic . Some viewers take the stance that it is " too reminiscent of the tacky 2000s abusive relationships" and " poorly-written", whilst others on this platform defend this as " sweet" and a " comfort drama". However, this raises the bigger question for those wanting to watch the show for the first time; is it actually worth watching?

Well, there are some undeniable strengths which may have an alluring charm for certain watchers. The main cast (consisting of Choi Soo Young, Choi Tae Joon, Hwang Chan Sung and Han Ji An) were an absolute delight, the plot was " romantic and fluffy with a twist of melodrama", and it was straightforward enough to follow ( in an " unplug your brain" sort of way ). Refreshingly, the second-half took a slightly more serious stance to our main leads’ relationship by delving into the main leads’ interactions, whilst also addressing more profound insights into the idol industry’s sociocultural issues in South-Korea. However, this is also where we must address the opposite side of the coin; the problems.

One of the biggest dilemmas of ‘ So, I Married An Anti-Fan’ came through character development. Let’s start off this example with our female lead Lee Geun Young. Geun Young was a female lead who you desperately tried to like as a viewer as Choi Soo Young is a good actress. Undeniably as a character, she isn’t "naive" or the " sweet girl next door" and will happily stand her ground at times when the male lead kicks off. However, ultimately this is where our biggest problem occurs with Geun Young; she exists( for a major proportion of the series) as a component of an enforced pairing for the “ sake of plot” .

There is nothing wrong per say with a female lead being in a relationship in a drama. ( In fact it can allow god-tier character development . ) However whilst we did get to see Geun Young come round to accepting her feelings in the second-half, this first part felt more like a carte blanche for Geun Young’s character development by screenwriters Kim Eun Jung and Nam Ji Yeon in order to forcefully pair-off Geun Young with our male lead Hoo Joon. Consequently Geun Young was rarely given time to understand exactly why she was attracted to the " jerk who ruined her life" ( the motiveless goal aside from her obsessive desire to " ruin his life"). Sadly further interactions with her mother and friends provided little insight into her actual personality (beside the romantic pairing).

Then there’s the male lead Hoo Joon. Similar to Soo Young, Tae Joon is a dynamic actor and there were certainly intriguing issues tackled with his character; a popular star who is getting fed up of being used by his company and his tiresome lifestyle. However typical of cliches, he was often glorified by his role throughout the drama as the " stoic, jerk male lead” ; getting away with assault, bribery and blackmail (including towards the female lead). The show attempted to play an uno reverse card by introducing the " tragic backstory" which may evidently cause mixed-feelings for viewers.

Of course the issue of our main leads also remains a source of mixed-criticism for the drama. On one side, there is the undeniable problem that the male lead Hoo Joon constantly found ways to emotionally gaslight the female lead ; grabbing Geun Young’s wrist , then giving her the cold shoulder over the most trivial of matters and refusing at times to hear her side of the story (or just talk to her like a decent human being). However, there is an alternate stance that ‘ So I Married An Anti-Fan’ isn’t supposed to be perfect. It’s a romantic-comedy which attempts to reflect the real-life reality that actual relationships are messy and problematic. The focalised writing decision to focus more on our main leads’ relationship in the second-half did seem to prove that this was the intention of the drama.

Although this review would not be complete without talking about one of the biggest elephants in the room; our supporting characters JJ ( Hwang Chan Sung) and Oh In Hyung ( Han Ji An)’s overly problematic relationship.

Hwang Chan Sung is a really good actor, however, you could imagine if there was an “ Encyclopaedia Of The Most Obsessive Second Male Leads Of All Time”, his character JJ would have been on the first page. It was evident that the drama desperately tried for us (as viewers) to root for JJ as the “ pining lover”. However , this appeared difficult when his behaviour reflected an otherwise dysfunctional and oppressive figure in In Hyung’s life by rifling around In Hyung’s room ( without her permission), screaming at her manager down the phone in public ( and thus purposefully embarrassing In Hyung in front of people) and then even attempting to manipulate Geun Young ( without considering In Hyung or Geun Young’s feelings) early on in the series in order to get back at Hoo Joon.

Yet whilst it would be easy to pin all the blame on JJ, Oh In Hyung had her own fair share of problems also . Similar to her costars Han Ji An is a good actress. In terms of her character In Hyung, the drama works incredibly hard to make us feel pity for her being a a victim of the malicious industry of idols and JJ’s obsessive infatuations. ( For the most part as viewers we certainly do.) However as we delve more into the show ( without spoilers), it soon becomes apparent that In Hyung is manipulated by the screenwriting into becoming a tiresome plot mechanism in order to trigger catalytic events in the later storyline.

Oh boy, then there’s the additional problem of the producers. Admittedly they do not have such a prominent role in the second-half, however, most viewers will probably agree that they were incredibly irksome characters. Yes they were supposed to add a touch of comedy during more angst-ridden moments of the show, however, secretly filming the leads without their permission, screaming at the camera crew, forcing, guilt-tripping and then humiliating Geun Young on multiple occasions just grew fairly irksome for viewers .

Nevertheless the ending was a left on a sweet note for viewers. Although admittedly there could have been some plot points wrapped up, it was entertaining to have some closure with our finale.

So, is“ So I Married An Anti-Fan" actually worth watching? Whilst the show has a fairly good cast and is easygoing for viewers looking for an escape from darker romance storylines, this depends entirely on personal taste. For fans of "cutesy" romance with a " slice of 2000s K-drama relationship abuse angst" or just looking for a show to unplug your brain with,then this drama is right up your street. However, drama watchers looking for a more profound storyline then look elsewhere as " So, I Married An Anti-Fan" isn’t it.

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Completed
Oh My Ladylord
62 people found this review helpful
May 13, 2021
16 of 16 episodes seen
Completed 10
Overall 4.5
Story 4.5
Acting/Cast 5.0
Music 5.0
Rewatch Value 4.0

The Honest Verdict ;"Oh My”, This Was A Dire Drama ...


Have you ever found yourself watching a show, and generally wondering whether the screenwriter had a dartboard, was blindfolded and throwing randomly to see what random plot point to come up with next? Well, most drama watchers out there can probably agree that this perfectly describes ” Oh My Ladylord".

Before critiquing the drama , it is important to start on a high note.Against all odds of the female animosity trope, there was a surprisingly profound relationship between female lead Oh Joo In’s mother Yoon Jung Hwa ( Kim Ho Jung) and male lead Han Bi Soo’s mother Kang Hae Jin ( Lee Hwk Hyang). However, this is also where the series hits a major snag also. The main leads’ mothers were simply more interesting than either of our main leads.

It shouldn’t have been this way by default. Nana ( playing Oh Joo In) and Lee Min Ki ( costarring as Han Bi Soo)are both really good actors. ( Alongside Kang Min Hyuk playing second male lead Jung Yu Min.)Sadly, however, whilst the actors did put effort into their performances, they were fairly limited towards what they could actually do with Jo Jin Kook’s questionable script.

To start off this problem, it is important to talk about our female lead Oh Joo. Oh Joo wasn’t an inherently " terrible" character in the beginning. She had a strong, heartfelt relationship with her mother and seemed to defy the typical cliches of being the " spoilt and aloof actress" also. However, the show soon goes down hill when Oh Joo is introduced into her romantic pairing with Bi Soo. It isn’t necessarily the chemistry between the leads which was " bad", but, rather how she was reduced to the equivalent of storyline cannon fodder not even halfway into the show.

This moves us onto the next prominent issue. The dreaded creme de la creme of tropes; the love triangle. There’s nothing entirely wrong with love triangles per say in a drama, but, the problem with " Oh My Ladylord”’s love triangle happened to be that it was incredibly hard to root for any
chemistry in Jo Jin Jook’s trio of one-dimensional main leads.

To give Bi Soo some credulity , he wasn’t entirely a “terrible person at heart”. However, as this is a formulaic romantic drama where flaws have to be exaggerated for plot development, Bi Soo’s aloofness, jealousy and selfishness at times just became tiresome and repetitive .This is exemplified when around the halfway point of the drama, Bi Soo was so caught up in his attempts to make Oh Joo fall in love with him, that he did not make time even once during a pivotal revelation in this episode to visit his own dying mother. (Then, there is also the poorly-written fantasy element tied-in with Oh Joo, which did not add anything of relevance to Bi Soo’s characterisation.)

The final component of our love triangle is Jung Yu Min. The archetypical ” second male lead” who has ” been in love with Oh Joo for a long time”, Yu Min was just shallow and uninteresting . He had potential to be intriguing and well-written ,but (typical of cliches), Yu Min’s biggest problem occurred by his infatuation with Oh Joo. This is because Yu Min exists only as an obstacle in the story for Bi Soo’s affections . He had no sense of individuality with family, friends or his job outside of the romantic pairing. Even after Oh Joo confessed her ambiguous feelings whilst they were " dating" , it was predictable that Yu Min lashed out manipulatively at Bi Soo rather than just sitting down to talk with Bi Soo and Oh Joo like a decent human being .

Then there’s the biggest elephant in the room with the drama; the genre. Genre shifts can work well to a show’s advantage, and then there’s " Oh My Ladylord".

Admittedly the screenwriter does attempt to make amends by bringing the fantasy elements again into the storyline, however , this resorted in the overall genre shift being nothing more than a lazy plot Macguffin. ( In an attempt to make a poorly-written romance story interesting with little success. ) The ending was even worse, attempting to deliver a tearjerking solution to an otherwise horrible storyline , but , with little success.

So, is " Oh My Ladylord" actually worth watching? This is entirely dependent upon expectations. If you’re a fan of trope-filled, terribly outdated storylines with toxic relationships then " Oh My Ladylord" is right up your street. However, if you’re looking for a modern, well-written and dynamic romance tale with a supernatural twist, then look elsewhere because " Oh My Ladylord" certainly isn’t it.


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Completed
Love Alarm
38 people found this review helpful
Feb 22, 2021
8 of 8 episodes seen
Completed 2
Overall 5.0
Story 5.0
Acting/Cast 5.5
Music 5.0
Rewatch Value 5.0

An “ Alarm” Ahead For Terrible Screenwriting ...


Screenwriters Lee Ah Yeon and Seo Bo Ra evidently adapted this from the webtoon for their eponymous contemporary drama “ Love Alarm” centralising upon the same premise of high school student Jo Jo ( Kim So Hyun) and her love triangle with “popular student ” Hwang Sun Oh ( Song Kang) and his “ kind-hearted best friend” Lee Hye Yeong ( Jung Ga Ram), in a world determining love through one app.

By default, this drama should be a masterpiece; its source material and premise are fairly creative and original, the characters are intrinsically interesting and it has a top-notch cast as well. However, “ Love Alarm”’s biggest inconsistencies can be pinpointed to two focal areas; characterisation ( or the lack of it) and the lingering problems which arise through the existence of the alarm itself.

Perhaps the biggest elephant in the room to tackle is our main heroine Jo Jo. It is made pretty evident that Jo Jo actually has a lot of intriguing qualities as our main character; her circumstances growing up have been difficult, she’s struggled with trauma and she’s never been “ overly exposed” to the love alarm ( like the viewer) in the same way her fellow peers have .

Yet whilst Jo Jo has all the right qualities of being a relatable and well-written main character, her actual personality traits make her seem a fairly hollow “ Mary Sue”, rather than an actual flawed human being. She’s deemed as “ pretty, smart and popular” by her peers yet the two latter classifications were fairly flawed in terms of who Jo Jo is supposed to be as a character. Jo Jo being “ popular” isn’t an immediately ridiculous trope with the considered factors of her “ attractive” appearance and being book smart, but let’s be honest in considering that Jo Jo lives in a society still determined by trends as a form of social hierarchy .Even in an alternate society, this seemingly manifests to the idea of the app “ Love Alarm”, something Jo Jo prominently does not have. Whilst this in itself is of course not something Jo Jo would realistically be written out as suddenly “ not being popular” , it would still remain obvious even amongst Jo Jo’s social crowds that she isn’t up to date on certain trends and styles, something which was neither realistically raised or shown critically in the show at all.

Additionally, Despite Jo Jo’s seeming intelligence and her circumstances leading to at least some street smart personality traits , Jo Jo is a shockingly dim-witted character within putting herself in danger or helping to create numerous misunderstandings throughout the show. Of course this was supposed to intensify the “ drama” and make Jo Jo’s feelings more heightened for the two male leads, however, it seemed even if Jo Jo was more “ naive” of her actions than anything else, cruelly ignorant to lead on both Sun Oh and Hye Yeong, two individuals who clearly hold feelings for her, than create the amount of ridiculous dilemmas as she did in the drama. Whilst the drama wanted us to feel evident pity for Jo Jo in the season one finale, it was hard to truly feel attachment towards a character who had little to really offer in the first place.

Naturally this moves us onto the problems of our two main leads Sun Oh and Hye Yeong. Arguably, Sun Oh does have some more noticeable character traits than Jo Jo in the beginning of the series; he’s rich, and similarly popular , but acts out in his often “ stoic” manner because of his own inner psychological turmoil surrounding lacking parental love.

This in itself should have been something which drew Sun Oh and Jo Jo upon their similarities ; Jo Jo may not have parents whilst Sun Oh does, but they both lack that intrinsic parental love which most of their peers have had and thus struggle to find love in the same way. Yet as much as Sun Oh did have some interesting character qualities, he wasn’t given the chance to either grow or mature with his relationship with Jo Jo at all over the course of the series. In fact, Sun Oh is strikingly quite a selfish and fractious character who neither seems to actually reflect or learn from any of his mistakes even going as emotionally gaslight his best friend and
ruin his relationship with both Jo Jo and Hye Yeong rather than actually mature as an individual .

Arguably Hye-Yeong did have more likeable qualities out of Sun Oh as a love interest and Jo Jo as a main character; he often comes off as complacent, but at least this is actually made prominent as one of his flaws, which he learns to mature upon with his pursuit of Jo Jo - the girl he harbours a crush upon without the need of the app. On the other hand, what is undeniably annoying about Hye-Yeong as a character, is that he is often a little too forceful upon Jo Jo when she made her feelings evident at times in the show, and ironically too staid rather than sticking up for himself when Sun Oh began to emotionally gaslight him. Whilst Hye-Yeong had all the right qualities of being possibly one of the few well-written characters in the show, he often felt too irregular as a character; jumping from sudden growth to reversal in two seconds flat.

As for the rest of the characters of the show, Love Alarm is a halcyon for your typical minor trope characters, yet perhaps one minor character who arguably had many intriguing characteristics was “ outcast” Cheon Duk Goo( Lee Jae Eung). Duk Goo plays an undeniable major role within the events of the series and realistically has a lot of inevitable flaws including his own lack of self-confidence. Nevertheless, it was berating even with the app, exactly what Duk Goo, possibly one of the few decent characters of the show, saw in Gul Mi ( Go Min Si); Jo Jo’s “ popular” and selfish cousin. Perhaps it is entirely wrong to attack Gul Mi per say as being entirely “ horrible” as she did have some noticeable problems from being spoilt by her mother, as well as pressurised due to her popularity to “ fit in” with her classmates and Duk Goo’s involvement as her “alarm” entirely threatened this from her point of view. On the other hand, it was still fairly hard to see Duk Goo learn from his mistakes as well as Gul Mi actually maturing from being a selfish schoolgirl , in addition to fundamental questions about how the app actually works .

These dilemmas include; how such an app would be legalised or not face backlash ( protests or negativity) openly, if the app can or has made “ errors” or faced glitches over more than one love alarm per person , why the presumed “app developer” hadn’t been approached by greater technology firms wishing to invest or purchase the app’s rights, as well as of course more upon the “ love alarm” for same-sex couples. Although the show briefly mentioned about the public shame of the love alarm in this scenario, it felt a little sugarcoated not to explain or develop into characters who have faced this. Finally, there’s the most evidential problem of how this app actually works.

The ideology of the app is undeniably artistic licensing; we’re not really supposed to “ understand” the actual methods of the app and we can presume certain theories towards how this actually functions. Nevertheless, there were several lingering questions which were naturally raised about the app’s existence in Love Alarm throughout the series.

So, this leaves us on the most obvious question. Is Love Alarm actually worth watching? Love Alarm undeniably has an intriguing story premise, high production value and a top-notch cast. On the other hand, Love Alarm is simply its own worst enemy when it comes to avoiding falling into tropes, badly-written characters and plot inconsistencies. With a second season on the horizon, it’s wrong to entirely draw out that the story won’t smooth over some of these issues, and there are certainly some interesting ideas going forwards. It’s probably fair to say that Love Alarm isn’t a “ dire” show and certainly something to watch if you’re fan of “ cute, romantic and fluffy” dramas. On the other hand, this show is a waste of time if you’re looking for actual investment in well-written main leads, a sensical storyline and realistic and deep critiques which should have been raised in a show tackling such ideas of technology intermingled with relationships .

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Completed
The Day of Becoming You
48 people found this review helpful
Jun 26, 2021
26 of 26 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 7.0
Story 7.0
Acting/Cast 7.5
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 7.0

The Body-Swapping Trope Done Right…


The body-swap trope can often be a slippery slope for quality screenwriting in dramas .However whilst " The Day of Becoming You" doesn’t exactly stray far from its " body-swapping” predecessors as a concept, screenwriter Wang Xiong Cheng surprisingly uses the tiresome trope well in order to explore character growth and the relationship between the main leads .

Steven Zhang ( playing seemingly cold idol Jiang Yi) and Liang Jie ( playing bubbly entertainment reporter Yu Sheng Sheng) were brilliant as our main leads. The duo had dynamic chemistry onscreen throughout and were perfectly able to mimic the mannerisms of one another during the " body-swap” scenes. Respectfully whilst Vian Wang ( playing Sheng Sheng’s editor and best friend Tong Hua), Shen Po Qing ( playing Sheng Sheng’s close doctor friend and her second love interest) and Jiang Yi’s fellow band members of ” Little Galaxy” faded more into the background than the main leads, their performances were equally good.

On a more critical note ” The Day of Becoming You" isn’t entirely the more ” realistic" imagining of the ”body-swap” scenario either . The jobs of main leads respectfully as a journalist ( Liang Jie) and an idol ( Jiang Yi) were often taken for granted by inconsistent timing schedules or evident responsibilities with their jobs often dismissed easily. ( The irony not lost that Liang Jie trying to make up for loss time by working late at night could come in early the next day to work, looking fresh as a daisy without bags under her eyes.) However, these points are more nuanced and as the show only uses these settings really for exposition , they can be overlooked .

Arguably what made our main leads and their pairing refreshing was the gradual process of development . It would be easy to have established Liang Ji merely as the “ significant other” in the drama without exploring further interactions, however, the series provides surprisingly heartwarming insights into her character’s sentience by her familial life as well as her friendship with Tong Hua.

This was perfectly contrasted by Jiang Yi and his “ complicated" family scenario with his father Jiang Dong Ha ( Zhang Lei) and his estranged younger sister Jiang Mo ( Cong Shang).Admittedly whilst it wasn’t the focalised subject of the series, it would have been intriguing to have explored more about Jiang Yi and his father’s reconciliation, than some of the earlier trivial scenes dedicated to his " secret crush” on superstar and close friend Xu Shu Yi ( Zhao Yao Ke). ( Only really provided to add " angst” and an ” obstacle” to the main romantic pairing.)

However, the drama arguably did allow time for Jiang Yi to heal some of his emotional wounds through his gradual alliance to friendship to affectionate relationship with Shengsheng. There were times this relationship did feel a little disconcerted by the sudden reversal of Jiang Yi’s " feelings" for Jiang Yi being dismissed so readily. ( Although Shengsheng’s feelings for Doctor Shen were slightly more drawn out, they suffered a similar fate of being disregarded when the storyline called for it.) Importantly but the relationship between Jiang Yi and Shengsheng was healthily built upon learning to trust and rely on one another by being ( literally) in one another’s shoes. The ending certainly offered an unseen twist which will likely surprise viewers, however, nonetheless does help to tie-off the more far-fetched moments of the storyline.

So, is “ The Day of Becoming You” worth watching? Whilst the show offers a more sugarcoated version of the respected industries and romance, there is something which is undeniably well-written about the body-swap scenario in order to allow the characters to grow, a main pairing who gradually developed an an unforeseen ending which surprisingly works. Definitely worth a watch if you’re looking for something easygoing and fluffy but with good screenwriting and acting on top.

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Completed
L.U.C.A.: The Beginning
51 people found this review helpful
Mar 9, 2021
12 of 12 episodes seen
Completed 2
Overall 5.0
Story 5.0
Acting/Cast 5.5
Music 5.0
Rewatch Value 4.5

This Series Would Probably Have Been Put Together Better By A Single-Celled Organism...


With Kim Hong Seon, PD of masterpieces such as Voice and The Guest behind the works of the show , an ensemble of fairly talented actors ( not least Kim Rae Won, Kim Sang Ho Lee Da Hee and Kim Sung Oh) taking up the personae of screenwriter Chung Sung II ‘s characters( The Package,Your Honor), everything in relativity about “ L.U.C.A; The Beginning” screamed out " masterpiece" . Then, not even several episodes into the actual story, we find ourselves going down into the previously mentioned rabbit hole of cataclysmic screenwriting, which only seemed to crumble further into the abyss as the series went on...

The premiere episode of ‘ L.U.C.A’ did initially introduce some fairly innovative story writing techniques. The most evident offering hope for viewers to grow alongside our protagonist Zi O ( Kim Rae Won). Like our amnesiac main lead, we know little about Zi O’s world, identity and his mysterious link to detective Gu Reum ( Lee Da Hee). This should have by default allowed us to become attached to Zi O emotionally, had our hearts pulled out when he confronts the terrible and clandestine truths about his past and felt broken-heartedness to part with him and Gu Reum in the finale also.

Instead, trying to become attached to Zi O as a character even later on the show was fairly out of bounds for viewers . This is mainly because the characters lacked the innate, individualistic core of profound personality flaws and traits, rather than cliche plot mechanisms in order to keep a poorly-paced storyline motivated.

Whilst dramas often like to take the approach of the “ wild card” rebel trope in order to keep audiences entertained, this approach to Zi O soon began to collapse when every episode would follow this expected , fundamental structuring of Zi O having “ lost control of his powers again” or “ gone into a fit of rage” over a small (and often trivial) issue. It is not necessarily always a terrible approach to a character, but normally a show tends to foreground why this personality transition should be so shocking or surprising for viewers. Naturally, as we know little about his past, this aspect of knowing more about his identity , is drawn out of the question until later episodes. On the other hand, it is still interesting to note how Zi O’s character slowly begins to fall into the cesspit of lacklustre characterisation, even from his initial introduction in episode 1.

When Zi O is first introduced, he is notably marked as being “ different” by screenwriter Chung Sung II. He had few qualms over animal abuse , but somehow easily allowed his emotions to boil when someone who had grown close to him such as Gu Reum, was injured. This is not saying that Zi O should have remained an emotionless android in the drama, but it did seem peculiar for a character who struggled with emotional and psychological isolation over the course of the series, to suddenly see Zi O transitioning into emotional outbursts and tantrums. This can be mainly sourced to the problem of having few focal points over the course of the series which allowed Zi O to come to grips with his state of mind or mature as an individual.

It is important to address the controversial dilemma of miscasting for Zi O as well. Before anything else, it is important to state that Kim Rae Won is a good actor. However, Zi O as a written character respectfully felt slightly younger that Rae Won. This is not claiming that a “ fresher actor” would have been better at the role( as anyone would struggle with what was given to them by screenwriter Chung Sung II).Again, this is more the fault of poor casting than Won’s ability as an actor, however, it will certainly raise eyebrows for viewers to see a man nearing his 40s taking a temper tantrum as his character onscreen before storming off in order to ‘’ cool down’’.

This naturally draws us onto what led Gu Reum from being possibly one of the most profound female characters in a TVN drama, to a senseless cardboard cutout not even several episodes later. Gu-Reum is a character who was initially established as the “ advisory cop” archetype with a prolonged desire to find out what happened to her parents. It wasn’t honestly an original backstory, but it did bring the potential to explore Gu-Reum as someone caught in the crossfire between duty and morals over the course of the drama, who learns to becomes stronger as a consequence of her enmity towards Zi O.

Instead, Gu Reum seemed to have been a female lead drawn into this unexplained cliche of having an inferiority complex against her male associates in early episodes before being completed reverted into a “ damsel in distress” who faints, or gets clunked over the head by an object in the later storyline . Da Hee certainly was quite a good actress in the show, however, it was hard to take her role seriously when her character transitioned from intelligent cop to unintentional comic relief in seconds flat , especially due to with her relationship with Zi O.

The “ enemy to lovers” is a popular trope amongst dramas and given the right storyline and characterisation, this can work incredibly well. Yet, “ L.U.C.A; The Beginning”’s problem can be found by the sudden and illogical transition from Gu Reum being at Zi O’s throat in early episodes and Zi O “ accidentally” pushing her around with his powers, to Gi Reum suddenly eloping and holding his hand affectionately like a shy school girl not even several episodes later . If you think it can’t get worse than this between the two characters and their “ affections”, then (without any spoilers), it is important to confirm that it certainly does. Although this was necessary to the storyline, there’s little sense of actually building up the characters , let alone pairing them off from enemies to lovers in nearly seconds flat.

Whilst the pacing of the show was quick in parts, a major issue with its sudden fast-pacing can be found through the myriad of plot inconsistencies which arose throughout the drama. Whilst there are some evident reasons explained in the plot behind this, it naturally draws more concern how Zi O, a mutant who has never been registered for official residence was able to not to be caught as a figure of interest amongst CCTV footage after initial reports in the past as well as not legally queried over his job entitlement as well. Whilst minor, it often subjugated the drama’s “ unintelligent violence” without deeper meaning, or at least unique film techniques to make these fight sequences more than a brawl, but fine art.

Arguably our show has several “ main antagonists”, however, the most reoccurring and prominent “ puppet working for the brains” in the series appears as the gruff former-solider Lee Son ( Kim Sung Oh).With an interesting and personal motive behind the reason for getting back at Zi O, Lee Son had the potential to be a fairly well-crafted, Machiavellian antagonist with actual depth due to his experiences in the field and profounder reasons for working for nefarious scientist Ryu Joong Kwon ( Ahn Nae Sang). Instead, Lee Son turns more into the classic “ brainless and inhuman combatant ” than a worthwhile or interesting opponent, often resulting in his actions coming off as more “annoying” than “baleful” .

On the other hand, the one character in the show who was surprisingly intriguing came in the form of Choi Yoo Na ( Jung Da Eun). Although Da Eun hasn’t received as much credibility in performances as some of her costars , she did surprisingly capture interest within her well-performed role as the mysterious and laidback Yoo Na; a young woman who became a field agent for Jong Kwon’s organisation after the initial operation upon her leg ( as shown in the first episode). Yet like most side characters out there, Yoo Na didn’t really have the opportunity for viewers to see her character grow or deepen over the course or the series.

Meanwhile, the ending of the show took a cliffhanger approach rather than particularly “ bittersweet” or “ happy”- appropriate for the genre, but nevertheless a little disjointed and arguably anticlimactic rather than an ending which felt complete and worthwhile.

“ L.U.C.A; The Beginning” can probably be seen as the epitome of the recent problem of “ throwaway” dramas emerging out of the action genre in South-Korea. With notable recent predecessors such as “ Alice” (2020) and “RUGAL” (2020) also suffering from the same fate of being high-budget extravaganzas, but often lacking screenwriting quality , it is probably fair to say that “ L.U.C.A; The Beginning” is the type of show to watch if you’re bored and want to binge-watch something with mindless violence without a second thought . However, “ L.U.C.A; The Beginning” greatly suffers from its own demise as a memorable and well-written show due to poor characterisation, miscasting, plot inconsistencies, deeper meaning and plot incoherency as well. A shame for a drama which had potential to be one of the best dramas of 2021 .

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Completed
Tale of the Nine-Tailed
45 people found this review helpful
Dec 28, 2020
16 of 16 episodes seen
Completed 2
Overall 6.5
Story 6.5
Acting/Cast 7.5
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 5.0

Without beating around the bush, The Tale of Gumiho ( or the Nine Tailed Fox) ‘s beginning did offer the criteria of being a brilliant fantasy show ; a stellar cast, fairly strong scriptwriting from episode one and of course the intriguing plot scenario of a lovelorn nine-tailed fox ( Lee Dong Wook) desperately yearning to be human again and overcoming the emotional scars of his past.

The Tale of Gumiho does certainly have one gift for drama watchers by offering us a stellar cast line-up. Finally seeing Lee Dong Wook reprise a fantasy role again had to be an undeniable selling- point for most drama watchers.

In place of wearing a prim and proper black hat as a certain Grim Reaper, however, Dong Wook steps into his new character, Lee Yeon, by sporting freshly dyed auburn red hair and brightly coloured suits as part of his foxy persona. There is no denying the fact that Dong Wook is undeniably Dong Wook in his performance - with a mixture of a sarcasm , comical wit and angst-driven ambiance surrounding his performance as Lee Yeon, it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing this mysterious trickster instead. In a similar manner to Dong Wook, Jo Bo- ah was stunningly brilliant as the female lead, Nam Ji- ah through her heart-driven wit and capability to portray a female lead with rationality and intelligence in the show .

Yet sadly, however, as far as the scriptwriting is concerned both characters undeniably fall short of expectations through how they are dealt with after the opening of the drama. Without revealing too much it’s fair to say that although both characters did respectfully have emotional attachment to viewers through their experiences, some of the cliches that the scriptwriters had included just didn’t live up to expectations for these characters to be more than plot devices. ( Ji- ah’s rationality and intelligence as a lead is seemingly flung out the window by the halfway point of the drama, our main antagonist, Imoogi played mostly by Lee Tae- Ri has little intrigue for
watchers over his motives whereas characters such as the Snail Bride, Taluipa and Hyun Eui-ong who should’ve have had some of the most intriguing involvement in the storyline, were simply played for comical effect instead). By the ending of this drama there was little development or actual intrigue around most of these characters.


On the other hand, perhaps the one thing ( alongside the fairly good OST ) which most certainly can be praised in regards to one element of the scriptwriting, is how they dealt with Kim Bum’s brilliantly sardonic and emotionally complex portrayal as the antagonist- antihero role , Lee Rang.Of course, there is no denying that Rang did step often beyond the points of morality in the drama even from episode one, yet revelations of Lee Rang’s complicated past and his partially morally-guided actions throughout the drama such as saving his faithful sidekick Yu-ri ( Kim Yong Ji) from animal abuse in a zoo, a puppy from being tortured by a group of teenage thugs and Kim Soo oh ( Jung Si yul) from child abuse, adds more intricacy to him simply being labelled as an “ evil” or “ twisted” character.

Surprisingly, Kim Yong Ji’s performance as Yu- ri , also had better characterisation than the majority our main leads as well. As a character, Yu- ri appears at first as somewhat detestable by her animalistic desires to eat humans and to deceive a married couple behind the truth that their daughter is dead. Yet as Rang reveals more about Yu-ri’s past, it soon becomes apparent through her growing relationship with the veterinarian Shin Joo ( Hwang Hee) that Yu-ri is again not entirely an evil character, but simply doing what she must in order to survive. It is only a shame that whilst Yu- ri undeniably had a good character progression by the ending of the show, the circumstances of Lee Rang, Lee Yeon and Ji-ah felt lacklustre in comparison. It wasn’t that the ending of the drama wasn’t good, however, the means in which the scriptwriters had got us to this ending felt rushed and lacking in both emotional investment and intrigue for watchers.

Overall Tale of Gumiho was a fairly enjoyable show, however, it was severely flawed by character progression of our main leads as well as their relationship, and the overall ending deliverance of the drama. Perhaps the two saving graces of the drama were the casting choices and evidently Kim Bum’s performance as Lee Rang due to being a complicated and intriguing antagonist up until the ending , where sadly his final character twist and progression felt too rushed. Whilst Tale of Gumiho is worth a watch, don’t watch it if you’re looking for a masterpiece, as there are certainly better fantasy dramas out there.

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Completed
Kingyo Tsuma
40 people found this review helpful
Feb 14, 2022
8 of 8 episodes seen
Completed 3
Overall 6.5
Story 6.5
Acting/Cast 7.0
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 6.0

‘Fishbowl Wives’ ; A Worthwhile Watch, Or A Waste Of Precious Time?


‘ Kingyo Tsuma’ ( alternatively known as ‘ Fishbowl Wives’ or ‘ 金魚妻’) is adapted from the eponymous psychological work by Kurosawa R . A mature and a surprisingly dark insight at times into the world of marriage, affairs and domestic abuse, ‘ Kingyo Tsuma’ is an intriguing if somewhat unrelieved portrayal into the fishbowl-like environment of main female lead Sakura Hiraga ( Shinohara Ryoko).

Hiraga is seemingly living the dream. She’s married to affluent hair stylist Hiraga Takuya( Ando Masanobu), she lives in an opulent penthouse apartment and she is envied by almost everyone that she knows.However as the saying goes: the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Unbeknownst to others, the seemingly perfect Sakura Hiraga is an abuse-victim. Attacked physically and verbally by her husband on a regular basis, Hiraga likens herself to a goldfish stuck in a fishbowl; trapped in an inescapable situation with no way out.

It is due to her fascination with goldfish that Hiraga ends up encountering Toyoda Haruto ( Iwata Takanori). Toyoda is a kindhearted and younger man who owns a pet shop. After becoming enamoured by Hiraga, the female lead begins to question whether Todoya could be the key for her escaping from her megalomaniacal husband.

Screenwriter Tsubota Fumi has numerous works accredited under her name. Previously having worked upon ‘ Will I Be Single Forever ?’ (2021), Ojisan wa Kawaii Mono ga Osuki’ (2020) and ‘ Colorful Love: Genderless Danshi ni Aisareteimasu’ (2021), Fumi has notably had previous experience with adapting or writing somewhat “ avant garde” or unconventional screenplays.

This isn’t to entirely critique Fumi’s screenplay or the leadership of directors Matsuyama Hiroaki ( ‘ Mystery To Iunakare’, ‘ Switched’, ‘ Nobunaga Concerto’ ) and Namiki Michiko ( ‘ Mirai Nikki’, ‘Soredemo, Ikite Yuku’, ‘ Ichikei no Karasu’). The series did an excellent job through the writing reigns of Fumi and Hiroaki and Michiko’s lens perspective of making viewers feel uncomfortable during key moments. The topics exploited onscreen particularly revolving around infidelity, debauchery and domestic abuse could often purposefully make the viewer feel almost voyeuristic.

In addition to this it was apparent that ‘ Fishbowl Wives’ offered some wry and witty attempts at comic relief- a droll comic exchange or setup evidently drawing attention away from tense or angst-ridden moments in the series. However where ‘ Fishbowl Wives’ could admittedly feel somewhat limited was through the direction of writing .

The performances given by the main cast are certainly solid, with Shinohara Ryoko and Iwata Takanori particularly stealing the spotlight during tense or tour de force moments.

On the other hand whilst both leading actors’ idiosyncratic performances were certainly good, the onscreen chemistry between Ryoko and Takanori was admittedly somewhat stunted and inconsistent in parts .

Perhaps this isn’t entirely the fault of the actors. Whilst there is supposed to be an awkward barrier between their onscreen characters due to their respected age gap, it was often hard for viewers to truly engage with this “ developing” relationship due to the characters rarely having a lot of personal drive. ( Particularly with Sakura Hiraga. Although the female lead does develop and does make some life-changing decisions, there were many elements surrounding her seeming “ disregarded” dreams, her first meeting with Takuya as well as trauma which were often widely disregarded and limited opportunities in order to flesh out her character.)

Naturally this also had a knock-on effect with the plot. One of the focal and major drives of ‘ Fishbowl Wives’ narrative came through Hiraga and Haruto trying to find happiness. Whilst we did see opportunities as viewers towards Haruto and Hiraga’s feelings for one another blossoming and the impact of their relationship upon plot, the somewhat lukewarm venture into the characters’ mutual growth and chemistry with one another did restrict dynamic engagement with the audience.

As for the progression of the narrative, ‘ Fishbowl Wives’ is truly a trial of patience. Even for an eight episode miniseries the plot could feel somewhat tedious in parts and slightly dragged out. Admittedly the series did attempt to offer some distributed screen time upon the subplots revolving around Hiraga’s acquaintances, but due to limited screen time, these storylines felt somewhat rushed and sporadically placed.

The delivered ending is admittedly dependent on viewers’ expectations; some possible enjoying the bittersweet note and imagery, whilst others feeling somewhat disappointed by the lack of a concise conclusion.

Under the directing reigns of Hiroaki and Michiko, ‘ Fishbowl Wives’ is notably an assortment of bright palette schemes, symbols and motifs. ( One of the most reoccurring motifs throughout the series evidently being the goldfish; an important plot device for the main characters, as well as a symbol of irony and foreshadowing). In addition to this the OST is notably subtle yet synchronic with key scenes; somewhat generic in parts, but helping to heighten certain scenes also.

‘ Fishbowl Wives’ offered viewers with aesthetically pleasing scenes and decent performances by the cast. However whilst the series did offer viewers with an intriguing plot premise, ‘ Fishbowl Wives’ slowly began to meet its cataclysmic downfall as the series progressed. The ending of the series will certainly differ for audiences dependent on expectations, but helped to reinforce the assertion that ‘ Fishbowl Wives’ struggled at times to escape its own bubble of writing limitations also.

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Completed
My Name
42 people found this review helpful
Oct 17, 2021
8 of 8 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 7.0
Story 6.5
Acting/Cast 7.5
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 6.5

Revenge Is Sweet…



Screenwriter Kim Ba Da’s revenge-filled drama follows vengeful young woman Yoon Ji Woo ( Han So Hee) who seeks to find and bring to justice by hunting down the murderers of her father ( Yoon Gyung Hoo). Taking up another alias and infiltrating the police force as Oh Hye Jin , Ji Woo’s quest sends her down a dark road with many revelations coming to light.

Whilst the drama does present some prominent messages about corruption and morality both within South-Korean society, the justice system and the police force, the drama itself doesn’t really stray away from the stereotypical reaches of the “ revenge” drama, from Ji Woo’s experiences as an outcast teen to the “ murdered parent” trope soon taking central route before the actual zest of the revenge story crumbling slightly by the midway point . Of course this boils down to the ultimate question; “ is ‘ My Name’ actually worth watching or is it a waste of time?”

One of the strongest virtues of the series came through the acting front of our main cast. Main actress Han So Hee was undeniably dynamic as Ji Woo. Whilst the actress has respectfully formerly come under mixed reception for her role in the controversial Netflix flop ‘ Nevertheless’, Han So Hee reinstates any doubts within her moody, angst-driven and cunning onscreen persona as Ji Woo. As a character, our female lead has two different lives which are both intriguing as one another. On one side it’s easy to understand Ji Woo’s role early on in the series. She’s the “ outcast” and socially isolated from her peers due to her father’s criminal record and past. However refreshingly rather than presenting Ji Woo’s father as a “ heroic figure” in the eyes of a grieving Ji Woo, the series helps to explore more complicated depth to Ji Woo’s emotional state, as well as cunningness and stubborn to enlist help in unlikely places to reenact her revenge.

Helping her along the way comes the merciless and mysterious gangster played brilliantly by Park Hee Soon, Choi Moon Jin. Moon Jin acts both as a major mentor figure and an antagonistic plot foil for Ji Woo by helping to reinvent her identity as Hye Jin as well as hide his own personal motives also . He shares his own reasons for helping Hye Jin / Ji Woo but isn’t afraid to be more brutal or punish those who put a toe out of line.

As Hye Jin our female lead is a talented and a skilled police officer who over the years has not lost her raison d’être for revenge. Her partnership with fellow colleague and partner Jeon Pil Do( Ahn Bo Hyun) presents a great contrast between other relationships in the drama. Bo Hyun plays Pil Do with a laidback yet naturally driven charisma as a hardworking cop. Naturally as he spends more time with Hye Jin he becomes more curious about her identity and motives. Whilst a later plot development was supposed to present a “ moment we’ve all been waiting for” this undeniably felt lacklustre due to lacking screenwriting and bonding opportunities often made revelations between the fall short of plot drive.

Yet ‘ My Name’ isn’t without its more obvious problems either. Pacing could sometimes be a major downfall. Whilst a major drive was evident within Hye Jin/ Ji Woo’s search for her father’s killer, this major plot point felt often rammed into the storyline when it was necessary rather than flowing more coherently within the small subplots which followed in each episode. Evidently another major downfall as a consequence occurred within plot lore and logic with many setups (including early on) often falling short or lacking more depth due to writing and character exploration often falling short. Consequently the ending was overly anti climatic than well-paced or completed with an expected yet abrupt twist which failed to bring a sense of finality or completion overall.

What is refreshing about the series is that it isn’t afraid to trade any punches with presenting brutality in its full glory. Interplayed with moody lightning and a dramatic OST, bloody fight scenes and knife attacks, as well as hallucinogenic palettes of bright reds, purples, blues and golds during drug and dodgy dive raids help to shed a more dangerous and dark presentation of the mysterious underbelly of Ji Woo’s world.

Overall ‘ My Name’ is an odd array of both a highly-talented cast and crew, but often falling short of plot-writing also. The revenge drama was a fairly archetypical approach to the revenge genre; intriguing with many interlaced messages shedding light into corruption, violence and problems in South-Korean society, but sometimes failing to hit the mark with actual build-up . Undeniably a good watch but lacking more finesse in certain areas.

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Completed
Run On
63 people found this review helpful
Feb 5, 2021
16 of 16 episodes seen
Completed 4
Overall 6.5
Story 7.0
Acting/Cast 7.0
Music 6.0
Rewatch Value 6.5

A Cinematic Journey To Love...

When it comes to writing love stories, romance dramas often tend to blow out relationships heavily into cliche territory; the female or male lead is head over heels for their significant other, jealousy spins around their love interest approaching (respectfully) other men and women, and an onslaught of dramatic misunderstandings occur as a consequence.

When you decide to sit down and watch “ Run-On” for the first time, it may strike viewers as unusual to come across several prominent, atypical features within our leads and their relationships; the most evident being that our female heroine and translator Oh Mi Joo (Shin Se Kyung) and our male lead athlete Ki Seon Geom ( Im Shi Wan) are intrinsically written as individuals, rather than the typical “ unit” approach taken in most romantic dramas.

Shin Se Kyung is brilliant within her role as our fairly down-to-earth female lead Oh Mi-Joo; a talented and hardworking translator with a difficult childhood , Mi-Joo alongside her best friend Park Mae Yi ( Lee Bong Ryun) , is more focused on her career and struggling to pay the bills than anything else.Contrastingly, Ki Seon Geom ( again, brilliantly played by Im Shi Wan) comes from a wealthy family, has a successful career as an athlete, however, he is quite simply fed up from others using him, his money and status as a social climbing ladder as episodes progress. By a whim of fate, the two individuals from opposite walks of life end up meeting and gradually developing a relationship. However, this is also where the series hits its biggest snag as well.

The “ opposites attract” cliche is one of the most infamous storyline usages in romantic dramas, yet when it came to Run-On, one of the notable elements of a storyline intrinsically based on this cliche seemed to feel unexpectedly lacklustre. By default, it shouldn’t have done; Mi-Joo and Seon- Geom were well-rounded individuals with intriguing backstories , storylines and striking similarities as characters, yet, principally rather than playing out their similarities, the show seemed to ride too heavily upon their differences which often resulted in their relationship feelings fairly indifferent for viewers .

One reason behind this can be explained by Mi-Jo and Seo Geom’s relationship progression over the course of the series. Despite their differences, Mi-Joo had many similar impacts of her past like Seon-Geom, however, neither character really tried to reach out, to talk or bond over this matter either.This should have helped to bring our couple together more throughout the drama, however, this would have only been possible if the storyline had more of an arching development for our characters, (due to little sense of climatic building),strong pacing or intrinsic development over a course of sixteen episodes.

Alongside our main couple, the drama attempts also to introduce the romantic pairing between slightly naive art student Lee Young Hwa ( Kang Tae Oh) and the cynical young CEO of a talent agency company, Seo Dan Ah ( Choi Soo Young). Before commenting upon their relationship, it is fairly striking that Dan Ah has numerous deep and likeable qualities as a character ( despite her sometimes “ overly abrupt” personality); she isn’t written off as a figure of female animosity nor as the “ antagonist”, but rather an individual hiding deep secrets, a naturally hardworking businesswoman and who is the type that struggles to reach out to others both emotionally and socially ( often leading to both comical and sad misunderstandings).

Against all odds, the relationship between the pair was arguably more appealing to audiences than our main couple at times. This is intrinsically due to the fact that Young Hwa and Dan Ah are truly the epitome of different within their backgrounds, moralities and even personality types, yet are still able to develop and bond due to their similarities( particularly their admiration of art). On the other hand, their relationship will still notably lacking in depth; a consequence of several plot inconsistencies, tropes as well as the series possibly running out of time to not truly captivate “ life imitating art” to the fullest.

Overall whilst Run-On was an intrinsically sweet romance drama which had several surprisingly well-written characters, an appropriate ending , humour and touched upon several notable realistic issues including homosexuality, illness, mental health and family, notable relationship portrayals , development , plot holes and of course an overall didactic purpose for the show, felt both lacklustre and lacking in the grand scheme of things.



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Completed
Strangers from Hell
24 people found this review helpful
Jan 15, 2021
10 of 10 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 7.0
Story 7.5
Acting/Cast 7.0
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 7.0

A Journey Into The Hellish Depths of Horror And Loneliness...

There’s no denying that Strangers From Hell is possibly one of the few and most disturbing psychological dramas that South-Korea has ever produced to date with actual investment and creativity over scenes and lighting, as well as quite bloodthirsty scenes in later episodes.

Based upon the eponymous webtoon, Strangers From Hell’s title and concept is taken from a very famous play, No Exit ( 1944)by a French existentialist called Jean Paul Sartre. The play focuses upon three people who are trapped in “ Hell” which exits as a single room, and as they grow gradually sickened by the torment of one another’s company, one of the individuals realises on stage that “ Hell is other people”.

Yet Strangers From Hell isn’t a drama about three individuals stuck in one room. Instead, it is rather a focus upon our main lead Yoon Jong- Woo ( Im Siwan)’s gradual descent into madness after moving into the mysterious Eden Complex in Seoul; a cheap apartment with creepy residents and in particular, falling into the mysterious trap of the charismatic psychopath Seo Moon- Jo ( Lee Dong Wook) . Whilst not unexpected due to Im Siwan’s previous roles , it was certainty a surprising shift since his renowned role in the slice of life and business drama Misaeng, to see Im Siwan tackle a darker and more disturbing role in a psychological horror drama. Undeniably Im Siwan was brilliant within portraying the very slow mental decay of his character by the show exposing dark revelations of Jong- Woo’s past. This role was parallel to the surprising choice of typically typecast romance drama actor Dong Wook , who undeniably went beyond expectations within portraying the sheer complexity and charisma of his psychopathic role as Moon- Jo.

On the other hand, it can’t be sugarcoated that Strangers From Hell’s pacing could have been quicker or the episode lengths reduced. This isn’t to say that the show should have been constantly bloodthirsty or violent as it was part of the suspense to feel unease at what would happen next to our tragic lead, however, by the midway point ( before the ending), the drama often felt a little dragging upon focusing on one element of the story at a time. There’s obviously nothing wrong with doing this, but thus did mean there were a couple of really nuanced plot inconsistencies which were left out ( such as security cameras, suspensions and criminal records) which would have added more realism to some of the tackled scenarios.

Yet despite this, the one element of the show which must be given full praise for ( in addition to the fairly good OST, with The Rose track Strangers adding to the eeriness of the drama) , was the creativity behind the scenes and lighting. There was nothing glamourised nor glossy about the image of the apartment complex or even Jong- Woo’s workplace. It was eerily drab; adding to a later epiphany for viewers that Jong- Woo’s true hell began even before moving into the apartment complex in his hellish everyday life . ( E.g. his “ busy” girlfriend who dismisses his ridiculous claims about the residents and is nearly always at work, his arrogant old friend and boss who constantly undermines him as being worthless, his haughty colleagues as well as his fellow cadets during his time in the army ).

The finale of Strangers From Hell was certainly a surprisingly one, yet nonetheless fitting for its genre and deeper intrinsic philosophical questions of our main lead’s Hellish experiences. Whilst the drama was flawed by certain aspects of pacing and plot inconsistencies, the cast helped to realistically flesh out the characters on screen through their performances, the story was certainly intriguing and disturbing of a man just pushed too far by his experiences and it was overall a very good Psychological - Horror. It is easy to see why this show has earned its status as a cult-classic , and certainly worth a watch.

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Completed
Navillera
28 people found this review helpful
Apr 27, 2021
12 of 12 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 7.5
Story 7.5
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 7.5

A Heartwarming Friendship Fluttering Across Backgrounds And Age...


Based upon the eponymous webtoon by Ji Min, Navillera was adapted onto the small screen by screenwriter Lee Eun Mi ( Tunnel-2017) and director Han Dong Hwa ( 38 Task Force, Miss Lee) with the hope of bringing to life this story’s heartwarmingly atypical friendship between 70 year old Shim Deok Chul ( Park In Hwan) , and a young man his early 20s Lee Chae Rok ( Song Kang) who are both united through their shared adoration of ballet . A heartwarming friendship tale, Navillera tackled some profoundly upfront issues about ageism, mortality, mental and physical illnesses as well as social prejudice also.

Park In Hwan was undeniably brilliant with his role as our main protagonist Shim Deok Chul. Although older characters are not uncommon in K-dramas , it was a breath of fresh air to come across a character in his twilight years who took central stage as a less glamorised or “ fresher” protagonist in a Korean drama with an equally heartbreaking character growth over the course of the series .

Naturally, it is important to respect South-Korean culture and expectations, however, ‘ Navillera’ pivotal focus is highlighted by the peculiar friendship between two individuals of different ages, with different backgrounds and personalities, who learn to surpass these boundaries through their friendship. Deok Chul respects Chae Rok both as his teacher and being his “ manager”, both inside and outside of the practice room. This allows Deok Chul to take on both the “encouraging figure” and the “friend role” for Chae Rok by his kind actions and standing up for him especially against his young mentor’s rival Yang Ho Beom ( Kim Kwon). ( As well as developing a friendship with this individual also.)

This of course moves us onto the deuteragonist of ‘ Navillera’ Chae Rok. Whilst actor Song Kang’s previous performances have been a little stiff , he seemed to truly capture something vividly brilliant behind his character Chae Rok; a young ballet dancer caught between the pain of the past, and struggling to move forwards to a brighter future. Yet whilst ironically Chae Rok’s archetype does undeniably fall into the cliche of the “ young and good looking main character”, his role in the series is nonetheless just as multifaceted as Deok Chul. This did not push Chae Rok down the stereotypical root of being a ‘ heinous and bitter person’. He’s seemingly aloof and judgemental as well as quick to complain about Deok Chul, however, he is shown to constantly battle with loneliness due to the circumstances of his father Lee Moo Young ( Jo Sung Ah) . He possesses also a similar streak of altruism and kindness as Deok Chul, which manifests throughout his actions over the course of the series.

Over the course of 12 episodes, the duo’s friendship begins to truly bloom. Even Deok Chul’s normally hypercritical wife Choi Hae Nam ( Na Moon Hee) taking a later shine to the younger dancer .

However, against all odds of cliches,the side characters of the series were often given intriguing backgrounds also. Chae Rok’s mentor Ki Seung Joo ( Kim Tae Hoon) has had a complicated divorce and past due to his career as a former- ballet dancer and is determined to not let his young prodigy walk down the same route. Similarly, Deok Chul’s youngest son Shim Seong Gwan ( Jo Bok Rae) ‘s changed career decision often leads to tension during family meetings, whilst the eldest Shim Seong San ( Jung Hae Kyun)’s harsh attitude towards his daughter and wife is certainly more complicated than it seems whereas Deok Chul’s daughter Shim Seong Suk ( Kim Soo Jin) supporting her husband Byun Young Il ( Joong Hee Tae)’s decisions were equally endearing storylines .

Yet the notable story arc which should probably be mentioned along the way can be seen within the staged romance between Chae Rok and Deok Chul’s granddaughter and Chae Rok’s colleague Shim Eun Ho( Hong Seung Hee).There was nothing inherently “ terrible” about this romantic pairing.Eun Ho and Chae Rok were mutually respectful of one another , and shared common ground within their close relationship with Deok Chul. On the other hand, it is fair to say that whilst partially necessary for allowing both characters to overcome their own lack of self-esteem in different ways, the romance respectfully wasn’t the most intriguing or exciting part of the show.

Similarly, another major focal point of the series occurs within Yang Ho Beom’s long-held “ enmity” towards Chae Rok. Without revealing too much about the reasons behind Ho Beom’s contempt of Chae Rok ( due to feeding into the main storyline), it is pivotal to point out that this “ rivalry” begins to filter into the storyline many cliche events, though, this does gradually begin to fizzle out due to their circumstances. However, this is what was refreshing about Ho Beom as a character and minor antagonist . He was far from being a “flawless person ”, but, he wasn’t entirely shown onscreen as having “ no humanity” either. Without any spoilers , there is one particular scene in which Ho Beom later approaches and sits down for a meal with Deok Chul, in a heartwarming moment of the drama.

Besides some minor flaws of the series, the ending of “ Navillera” was bittersweet. An amazing ending point to see just how far the characters had come and the difficulties which Deok Chul is taking one step at a time.

It is easy for shows like “ Navillera” to become overwhelmed with cliches by detracting from the more important points of character growth and storyline. Admittedly, the drama didn’t entirely stray away from these angst-ridden tropes, however, they were used to screenwriter Lee Eun Mi’s advantage allowing " Navillera" to become a heartwarming, tearjerking from beginning to end about family, friendship and self-determination. An enjoying and heartfelt watch with prominent character-growth and pivotal and universal messages throughout.

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Completed
Imitation
40 people found this review helpful
Jul 24, 2021
12 of 12 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 6.5
Story 6.0
Acting/Cast 6.5
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 6.5

Idols With A Twist…



With a predominantly idol actor cast ( aside from actual actress Jung Ji So) and respectfully a lot of hyped fans of these idols watching the drama, it does objectively brand the question for a lot of drama-watchers ( especially those who aren’t interested or a part of idol fanbases), whether ‘ Imitation’ is actually worth watching as a storyline , or is a waste of time.

There is a balance of good things and more critical points when it comes to ‘ Imitation’. On a strong note ‘ Imitation’ has a prominent message about problems with the idol industry and does not shy away from tackling themes such as corruption, the media, toxicity present in idol fanbases , mental health and hardships . What resonated even further was undeniably having a predominantly idol-cast playing in those roles. However, the show often did fall short with how consistent it was trying to be with conveying these messages through writing and character writing also.

Let’s start with the main female lead Ma-Ha. Ji-So is a good actress, however, although initial introduction wasn’t terrible, it didn’t quite embody her role either. It had nothing to do with Ji-So not being an idol. After all she takes on roles in order to adapt herself to becoming someone else onscreen whilst the cameras are rolling. That’s her job. Instead, its rather the fact that Ma-Ha was always a character who you should’ve felt sorry for with her hardships, but often it was easy to grow detached from the FL with Ji-So’s lacking vitality invested with her given - performance. This isn’t entirely the actress’ fault, as this was also sparked by screenwriting problems also .

As viewers there’s a lot we are supposed to like about Ma-Ha. She’s not only the female lead of the drama, but the “ underdog” archetype who takes a central position as a member of her girl group and desperately yearns for the group to become famous. These goals were easily likeable traits, but then when we actually exposed to her reasons for “ becoming an idol” as well as her “ will they, won’t they?” lacklustre onscreen chemistry with popular Shax boyband member Ryeok ( Jun from U-KISS), her character simply became uninteresting for the most part. This is because rather than depending Ma-Ha’s own sense of purpose outside of the group in early episodes , the female lead’s entire being was pretty much defined by romantic tropes, than actual character development.

Oh boy, this leads us onto the romance elements and setups of the show. Tackling this topic in a drama about idols evidently isn’t a crime. After all, a lot of idols have love lives and date in secret but the problem with “ Imitation”’s depiction of the turbulent love lives of idols was that it lacked a lot of depth. There were multiple opportunities for us as viewers to perk up and take note of what really happens in the lives of idols, when the spotlight and cameras aren’t rolling. However, instead “ Imitation” was focused nearly entirely upon bringing in pairings which were fairly dull.

This is even case and point with our main pairing between Ma-Ha and Ryeok. Jun is a really good actor alongside Ji-So but the tropes and cliches soon diminished a lot of onscreen chemistry between them. This was because similar to Ma-Ha, Ryeok’s original character was fairly interesting. He had clear goals and motives, as well as presenting an evident contrast to Ma-Ha due to being successful and suffering under a lot of emotional burdens. Yet rather than connecting these characters under their similarities and learning to symbiotically “ lean” upon one another gradually from their “ hate to love” relationship , the drama attempted to present too many cliche “ differences” between them, which often fell short due to questioning why on earth these characters should have been together if this was all their relationship equated to.

Similarly one of the most poorly-written couples in this drama was Hyun Ji ( Lim Nayoung )and Yoo Jun ( Hwiyoung). Hyun Ji was by herself an interesting character alongside fellow member of Teaparty Ri-A ( Minseo). However, her pairing with Yoo Jun? It was incredibly enforced to say the least. Hyun Ji’s feelings for Yoo Jun were fairly unrequited as Yoo Jun, rarely reciprocated them romantically. Their screen time interactions were minimal and when they were together, the topic was usually just about Ma-Ha. If the show had developed this couple more, or had just disregarded entirely and explored Hyun Ji’s relationship with her fellow members then it would have been a lot more coherent than the pairing we were presented with onscreen .

Aside from the romantic factor, the biggest flaw in this show was undeniably disregarding the seemingly “major” established storyline around Eunjo and Annie. Now this was an interesting part of the show, however, it was nonsensical and seriously bad writing to disregard these characters, bring them up for a few seconds when it was called for and then anticlimactically solve the case, without rhyme or reason .

Perhaps the one character who you surprisingly grow to love as a viewer is solo singer La Li Ma( Jiyeon from T-ara). Ji Yeon really gave a dynamic performance as the soloist, and her character takes some surprising turns away from the stereotypical “ catty second female lead” trope that she was presented within in the first few episodes. It was oddly refreshing and enjoyable to see this character grow.


So, is “ Imitation” worth watching? The drama presents some fairly hard-hitting issues about the idol industry, but sometimes struggled to convey these meanings due to the heavy investment of romance as well as disregarding major plot lines and character development also. The acting is a mixed-bag. There are times where the acting front is really good, and other scenes where it is questionable . The OST is okay also -a little generic, but certainly nothing wrong with it either. Overall, certainly not a bad show but dependent on what you’re looking for. If you’re watching for the idol cast and themes about music, idol and cutesy couple moments, then you’ll absolutely love this one. If you’re not a major fan of them and where enticed by the darker storyline topics, then you may be a little disappointed.

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Completed
My Roommate Is a Gumiho
42 people found this review helpful
Jul 15, 2021
16 of 16 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 7.0
Story 6.5
Acting/Cast 7.5
Music 6.0
Rewatch Value 7.0

The Nine-Tailed Fox Tale With A Romantic Twist…


Admittedly whilst the quality of these fantasy dramas are often variable upon screenwriting ,‘ My Roommate Is A Gumiho’ surprisingly hits most of the marks by portraying well-rounded characters, strong chemistry between the main leads and an intriguing premise which felt enjoyable and surprisingly heartfelt for viewers.

Taken from the eponymous webcomic and adapted by screenwriters Baek Sun Woo and Choi Bo Rim , " My Roommate Is A Gumiho” revolves around Shin Woo Yeo( Jung Ki Yong)- an ancient nine-tailed fox ( Gumiho) who yearns to be human. Woo Yeo must turn his fox bead marble blue before reaching his 999th year, otherwise he will never be able to attain this possibility of becoming mortal . However, nothing ever runs smoothly for supernatural beings in K-dramas. When young and feisty university student Lee Dam (Hyeri) swallows his bead, Woo Yeo soon finds himself battling between his desires and a new obstacle of affections for Lee Dam…

Starting off his performance on a slightly lacklustre note, Jang Ki Young soon proved his talents to animate the sagacious and mysterious onscreen persona as Shin Woo Yeo to life through his surprisingly heart-rendering scenes of Woo Yeo’s complex past and sweet interactions with Lee Dam.

It is surprising how underrated Lee Hyeri’s acting talents are by truly delivering a resonant performance as headstrong Lee Dam. Lee Dam ( as a character) is arguably an evidently "down-to-earth heroine" than a lot of K-drama female leads out there- deadpan expressions, shamelessly honest comments and straightforward priorities ( not least the fact that she was more worried about not being able to eat fried chicken again with the bead) helping to epitomise this.

However to be more brutally honest with Lee Dam’s characterisation, it was evident to see some nuanced problems here also. This didn’t mean her sentience as a character was non-existent. Early on in the series, Lee Dam established she was no pushover when calling out the sexist remarks of second male lead Gye Sun Woo ( Bae In Hyuk)’s friendship group upon her body. She comments defiantly that she is a human being; ” not an object" in a moment which truly brought forward the taboo issue of misogyny in South-Korea . ( Kudos as well for screenwriters Baek Sun Woo and Choi Bo Rim for having addressed this issues overtly than burying them under the carpet also.)

In addition to this the screenwriters also used the opportunity to explore more with her interactions outside of romances alone, with her two best friends; Do Jae Jin( Kim Do Wan) and Choi Soo Kyung( Park Kyung Hye) . The " best friends" archetype in K-dramas is often used to present “animosity”( either through love triangles, lies or relationships) or as “unnecessary” ( they are used to fill-in time or for comical relief). At times, the duo were manipulated into both roles in order to heighten drama, however, they was something oddly sweet here ; they genuinely cared about Lee Dam.

However, the biggest problem occurred sometimes in between this development of " comical" and " serious" Lee Dam scenes, there was a opportunity to use this time to sketch-out more about Lee Dam’s sense of identity . Admittedly , this also fuelled more tedious interactions between our main leads in the beginning as we had little to truly grasp ( as viewers) about their characters.

Arguably, however, it this was necessary to foreground who are characters were as individuals and to get to know one another first. This seemed to remain evident in later episodes with a more fortified pairing feeling refreshing, gradual and healthy-both for the characters, and the logic of the plot without having to define Woo Yeo merely as the ‘ supernatural and inhuman’ character of the series for angst and tension. Although some viewers have risen red flags about the “ improper” relationship between Woo Yeo and Lee Dam’s addressed name to him ( “ Elder/ Sir”) in Korean, there was undeniably something well-matched about the chemistry between these two characters. The storyline could’ve presented Woo Yeo as a “ callous” or “ disruptive” towards Lee Dam, but the male lead was fairly respectful towards our female lead and likewise with Lee Dam towards Woo Yeo. Their relationship was undeniably slow-burning but built upon gradual mutual respect and symbiotic feelings, rather than the stereotypical causes which often reduced the main pairing in fantasy dramas being there “ for the sake of plot”.

The supporting leads were in a similar boat. Second female lead Yang Hye Sun ( Kang Ha Na) was an absolute delight with her wholesome friendship with our male main lead . There was initial fear that perhaps Hye Sun would go down the stereotypical ” female animosity” route due to her close-knit relationship with Woo Yeo ( due to her established " vixen-style and mischievous ”personality). However, thankfully the show allowed Hye Sun to steer clear of this route. Instead Hye Sun is paired together with an unusual side character which you won’t see coming . Now, without spoilers ( to either the drama or the webtoon), there is a particular reason why the storyline paired these two polar opposites together, however, first-time viewers will possibly feel disconcerted with this pairing choice due to the more ” comical" approach taken on at first. (Although admittedly there are some surprisingly heartfelt moments between these two also.)

Our second male lead Gye Sun Woo ( Bae In Hyuk) was a little bit of a curve ball. Bae In Hyuk was undeniably delightful as our main lead. However although the series did attempt to present Sun Woo as the “ forlorn lover with unrequited feelings” towards Lee Dam, lacking character growth and missed opportunities to use Sun Woo’s egotism in order to explore more about his backstory, truly derived from the screenwriters’ intended desire of presenting him as this sentient individual rather than merely a story writing trope.

On a more positive note the ending was fairly well-matched for the series and did leave a sense of completion towards the overall events of the drama.

So aside from the seeming abundance of high ratings for this series giving it “10/10”, is “ My Roommate Is A Gumiho” actually that good? Well, the drama undeniably has its flaws in parts. Whilst it hits the mark with good acting, prominent messages and brilliant relationship chemistry between our leads, the fresh spins upon tropes are sometimes mismatched against more tiresome cliches particularly with later storyline developments, slower pacing in parts and evidently the character development of Sun Woo. On the other hand, “ My Roommate Is A Gumiho” was an entertaining watch with chemistry which sparked alive onscreen and will definitely win the heart of any avid romance fan.

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Completed
Love and Leashes
34 people found this review helpful
Feb 11, 2022
Completed 0
Overall 7.5
Story 7.0
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 7.0

Let’s Talk About ‘ Love And Leashes’, Baby…


“Controversial”, “risky” and “unconventional” are some of the immediate buzz-words which come to mind when talking about Netflix’s South-Korean movie ‘ Love and Leashes’.

Directed by Park Hyun Jin( ‘ The Color Of A Woman’) and based upon the webtoon ( 모럴센스), ‘ Love and Leashes’ focuses upon office worker Jung Ji Hoo ( Lee Jun Young). Clean-cut, professional and adored by his female coworkers, Ji Hoo has always been able to maintain his prudish persona . However in reality “prim and proper” Ji Hoo hides a deep secret from his peers; he’s a BDSM enthusiast.

When bemused coworker Jung Ji Woo ( Seo Hyun) unknowingly stumbles upon his salacious desires through an open package, Ji Hoo soon finds his sexual fantasies awakened when he enters a consensual-contractual “slave and master” relationship with his coworker. However as their risqué relationship begins to play out, Ji Woo and Ji Hoo soon finds themselves questioning their sincere feelings for one another along the way…

Perhaps one of the most notable things which should be said about ‘ Love and Leashes’ is that it is a daring concept . Topics of sexual and amorous relationships have certainly been explore beforehand in South-Korean productions such as ‘ You’re My Pet’ ( adapted from its Japanese predecessor ‘ Kimi Wa Petto’), or more sardonically throughout ‘ The Handmaiden’ , ‘ Thirst’ and ‘ Happy End’ . However due to a respectfully conservative atitude towards sexual content in South-Korean culture and media , it is still slightly unusual to see this topic addressed in mainstream popular culture .

Despite its eyebrow-raising premise, ‘ Love and Leashes’ surprisingly starts off as a somewhat lighthearted rom-com and office drama. Jung Ji Hoo is established as a smooth-talker and highly liked by his superiors who tries to avoid conflict, whereas Jung Ji Woo is an “ everyday” office worker with a slightly stubborn streak. ( Helping viewers to understand the dynamic between the characters as well as foreshadow their later roles within their racy relationship.)

However despite the somewhat niche early setup, ‘ Love and Leashes’ wasn’t afraid to delve slightly deeper into some issues in the workplace- sexism , prejudice as well as several references towards homophobia and sexual harassment , bustling their way into the film’s early workplace vernacular .

Nevertheless whilst praise must be given towards director Park Hyun Jin’s open address of these current issues early on in the film’s narrative , it is hard to ignore that these references were rarely touched upon after their initial use. ( In theory this dynamic could’ve easily been explained more within the nature of the narrative.)

Yet ‘ Love and Leashes’’ seemingly mundane workplace setup soon begins to into an amalgamation of lighthearted and riskier comedy after main female lead Ji Woo stumbles upon the package.

For those expecting ‘ Love and Leashes’ to be a series revolving entirely around erotica and debauchery, it is noteworthy that ‘ Love and Leashes’ is predominantly a romantic comedy. Risqué and sexually suggestive jokes and setups were mainly used as the necessary pretext behind a surprisingly warm-hearted romantic love story for the main leads.

Naturally this isn’t to say that Park Hyun Jin wasn’t afraid to delve deeper into depicting the misconceptions and taboos surrounding fetishises, hedonism and casual relationships. The narrative would often diverge away from the typical tropes surrounding setups of sexual fantasies being “ nauseating”, “ unhealthy” or “ encouraging sexual abuse”, by instead shedding light into a fairly positive, consensual and healthy relationship between the main leads .

Yet when the film’s narrative wasn’t driving home messages about sensuality or comic relief, ‘ Love and Leashes’ did surprisingly touch upon some sentimental moments surrounding its main characters. In particular this became apparent through . Ji Woo’s uncertainty and gradually growing mixed feelings for her coworker , as well as Ji Hoo’s own struggles with his dating life. However whilst these elements of the storyline were present in ‘ Love and Leashes’, the backstories and problems surrounding the characters were often limited and subdued by the plot. As a consequence it could often feel as though our main leads were roughly sketched out as individuals; necessary plot devices for keeping the storyline afloat, but rarely being given definitive sentience also.

Of course it is hard to ignore the somewhat controversial casting choices also. Former U-KISS member Lee Jun Young ( ‘ Class of Lies’, ‘ D.P’, ‘ Imitation’ and ‘ Let Me Be Your Knight’ ; plays the unusual role of main male lead Jung Ji Hoo, whilst costar and Girl’s Generation’s Seo Hyun( ‘ Private Lives’) takes on the role as main female lead Jung Ji Woo. However despite the somewhat surprising and controversial cast decisions, Seo Hyun and Lee Jun Young were delightful as our main leads. ( Both actors also openly spoke in interviews about their initial surprise upon reading the context of the script, alongside their enjoyment at being able to take on different roles.)

Admittedly the onscreen chemistry between both stars felt somewhat stunted in early parts of the film. Initial “ role play” scenes came across as awkwardly delivered for audiences ( in particular one scene surrounding Jun Young attempting to literally embody a “ dog”). However as the narrative progresses and allowed opportunities for their characters to grow, their chemistry did become more apparent.

The pacing is admittedly tightly-packed in the first half. Whilst this did allow opportunities in order to delve deeper into the characters’ relationship and certain issues, it did provide to be a double-edged sword. This is mainly due to the fact that the second half downplayed the pacing with a notably slower and sharper focus upon the bittersweet elements of the characters; prominent but admittedly rushed in the course of the movie. The attempted climax served in the latter-half felt somewhat anticlimactic. There was little buildup or foreshadowing and whilst the ending did serve a somewhat cheerful resolution for the events of ‘ Love and Leashes’, viewers may feel a little disorientated in parts with the storyline.

Under the directing reigns of Park Hyun Jin, ‘ Love and Leashes’ was notably a multitude of slick and professional cuts, scenes, editing and gradients. Notably Hyun Jin placed heavy focus upon the contrasting tones of minimalistic everyday life and the office, against the lustful neon, vivid and lively palettes surrounding Ji Hoo and Ji Woo’s role play sessions. ( One of the most striking scenes of the film came through Ji Hoo’s birthday “ present” . Against the pallid tones of the room’s surroundings, Ji Hoo’s present in an unopened black box, a pair of patent ruby red heels, greatly sticks out for viewers to visually engorge.)

It is notable that the OST is sparsely placed in the movie. ( Aside from the opening credits, emotional buildup moments and the ending.) Instead under the directing reigns of Park Hyun Jin, ‘ Love and Leashes’ is predominantly focused upon the characters’ dialogue exchanges and interactions. When the OST is present it is climatic; helping to reflect the emotional scope of characters and situations.

Despite its unusual setup and premise , ‘ Love and Leashes’ was foremost a love story between its main leads. It is arguably one of Netflix’s riskier moves from South-Korean production in recent years. Nevertheless despite the somewhat expected controversy surrounding the movie’s casting choices, Seo Hyun and Lee Jun Young’s onscreen chemistry and performances were solid and dynamic. The themes surrounding ‘ Love and Leashes’ are versatile if somewhat stunted in parts, but surprisingly delivered a sweet and risqué romance along the way.

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Completed
Sweet Home
26 people found this review helpful
Dec 21, 2020
10 of 10 episodes seen
Completed 2
Overall 6.5
Story 6.5
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 5.0
Rewatch Value 7.0

Sweet Home, Where The True Monsters Reside With Your Head...


In the gory dystopian Japanese classic Battle Royale (2000), the style of ‘ fighting until the last survivor’ has created a lasting legacy upon numerous western franchises ( consider movies like the Hunger Games and Saw) and video games as well, whilst series like the American graphic - novel based and Zombie show the Walking Dead (2010-) have established an interest in contemporary dystopian dramas and franchises. Yet, as dramas go, Sweet Home doesn’t entirely stand out at first amongst the multitude of ‘ race- for- survival’ - style movies and dramas out there.

Most webtoon readers will probably argue, however, that the one thing which the drama does do well in regards to divulging away from past dystopian tropes in a similar manner to the eponymous webtoon , is being able to maintain the archetype that the monsters aren’t created by some pandemic or freaky lab accident, but the human psyche’s repressed fears and desires. This is one of the main focuses of the show and one of the main obstacles for the main protagonist Hyun ( Song Kang) in order to confront ( both literally and metaphorically) his own demons over the course of the drama.

On the other hand, whilst it is important to respect both a webtoon and “ based-upon” drama as standalone productions in their own rights, it is undeniable with the great legacy of the original webtoon to notice where the drama fell short of expectations at times. ( With all due respect the drama did maintain some of the impactful themes of the original webtoon such as mental health, murder, smoking and violence).

The greatest of the show’s flaws came from character development and interaction throughout the series.

For those who don’t know, one of the critically-acclaimed features of the original webtoon ( sans the fighting scenes) was the ability to show how the numerous characters of the webtoon with different personalities, backgrounds and beliefs were able to develop bonds, alliances and friendships throughout the events of Sweet Home. That’s not to say that the drama didn’t achieve this at all. To some extent, we got to see this interaction en par with the webtoon through the first meeting of Hyun and Lee Eun Yoo ( Go Min- Si) in episode 1 and their interactions over the course of the drama, as well as the humanity of the most unlikely character, the gangster Pyeon Sang-wook ( Lee Jin Wook) through his heart-rendering backstory in later episodes. Apart from this, there seemed to be little dedication in scenes to actually focus upon other and more intimate character interactions.

Yet whilst the show arguably does not have the time to cram in 142 chapters of character interactions into 10 episodes alone, there were still endless opportunities to explore and humanise other important characters in the drama in order to make their backstories and their events such as Yoon Ji- Soo ( Park Kyu-Young) and Jung Jae Hyeon ( Kim Nah Hee) more impactful by allowing them to grown upon viewers.

This ironically moves us onto the second problem of the drama; the CGI effects of the monsters.

As it happens there was something more sinister in some regards to the effects of Hyun’s eyes turning demonically- black in scenes than the bloodshot appearance in the webtoon, and the nightmarish forms of the “ Half- Headed” and “ Protein” Monsters will certainly leave goosebumps for viewers afterwards. What is hard to understand, however, is how lazy the CGI could be at times within this show, with several scenes such as the “ Seoul Apocalypse” appearing more like a 2000s cheap horror movie than a drama released this year. It seemed only adding to this effect was the single shot style frame typically employed for romance dramas which felt oddly out of a place in a horror drama where inventive styles ( even slow-motion) or the feeling of distortion ( which have been employed to portray Hyun’s nightmares) would have been better suited for theme of Sweet Home.Additionally one of the biggest of the drama had to be the OST. Whilst hearing Imagine Dragon’s Warriors during a fight scene or the ironic energetic K-Hip Hop artist BeWhy did add a level of pacing to the ending, it soon became repetitive and lost impact to hear these songs again and again without a change of pace. For a drama which has a main character as a musician, there was so much wasted potential to not have a wider range of genres, styles and (respectfully )more Korean and international mainstream and indie artists throughout the show.

Perhaps Sweet Home’s one saving grace had to be its varied and brilliant cast. By far several of the best casting choices of the show had to be between choosing Lee Jin Wook as a gruff gangster, Go Min- Si as a foul-mouthed teenager with a surprising streak of kindness and of course casting Kim Sang Ho as Han Du- Sik , the much needed comical relief of the drama.

Yet the casting choices of our main leads were by far the most surprising. Knowing that Song Kang( who played one of the cheerful leads in the romance hit-drama Love Alarm ) would be cast to play the suicidal and angst-ridden teen Hyun, seems a strange fact to grasp with for most viewers, yet, Kang’s portrayal added a surprisingly level of humanity to the irony of playing a character fighting for that very sake. In a similar manner, Lee Do Hyun was fairly unrecognisable in a guise of glasses and a more mature role as Lee- Eun Hyuk than a certain “ Ahjussi teenager “ in the romance- comedy 18 Again , yet like his costar, Do- Hyun was fairly good in the drama.

Overall, Sweet Home has certainly been one of the better dramas of 2020 with a fairly good and original concept ( although it does fall down on several factors), difficult themes (such as murder and suicide) being tackled in an appropriate manner and a stellar and diverse cast. My only other complaint is with the ending already trying to build its way to another season ( or leave on a “ dramatic” cliffhanger) and therefore consequently trying to stray away from the original storyline. Apart from this ( as we are still yet to see if there is another season or not) , Sweet Home ( although not flawless) is definitely worth a watch.

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