The plot is surprisingly cohesive. I believe this is due to the fact that it doesn't linger on the technicalities of time travel itself, that is how did Jin fall into the past, why or what's the trick. By glossing over the sci-fi aspects, the drama can focus on the consequences of his jump, how his being in a place where he should not be is going to change not only his life, but the future he knows, triggering a chain of uncontrollable events.
Furthermore, it gives both the main character as well as the viewers the chance to reflect upon the ethics of the medical profession. In this sense, the drama is at the same time current and timeless.
It's strength however is in the portrayal of 19th century Japan. I grew increasingly fond of the side characters, was enthralled by the Courtesan Nokaze's story - also the most harrowing character in the drama - laughed at Sakamoto Ryoma's antics, adored Ogata sensei's wise demeanour and loved to meet all the other famous historical figures, also finding out that in choosing the cast and costumes, they tried to stay true to the physical appearance of these people as shown in ancient portraits.
All in all, scenography, photography and acting are excellent. Each episode introduces new characters and medical challenges, all of which I found extraordinarily interesting and intriguing, so much that I binge watched 11 episodes in a little more than 2 days and am now eager to start season 2.
The weak point of this show is the music. It's so repetitive, by the end I wanted to tear off my hair. Personally, I'd have appreciated the use of some traditional music, of which there are vague hints here and there, but not enough to establish a mood. I believe the ost is made of only one song and one or two instrumental pieces. A mediocre choice, in my book.
I have no doubt I'm going to re-watch this soon enough, possibly with a watching partner who's as interested as I am in the medical field. I suggest you try out this drama only if you like medical shows: that's the main focus of JIN, so if you're looking for something else you may be disappointed.
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End of review, thanks for reading.
Indeed, I could end my review here, since the above is basically all the drama left me with. But to the precious 18 hours – or something – I’ve dedicated to this show, I owe at least a more in-depth epitaph.
"Something in the rain" would have worked wonderfully as a 2 hour movie: the plot can be easily condensed in so short a time, we would have enjoyed a lovely on-screen chemistry and there would have been still room for the artsy cinematography the drama likes so much to sport. But, alas, the writer and director opted for a long narration, taking one conflict and a half and building this repetitive and aggravating slice of “real” life around it. What in the beginning seemed like beautiful aesthetics meant to create an atmosphere and enhance the plot, turned soon enough to be a trick to hide the lack of it. Because of that, the cinematography became, in my eyes, one of the drama flaws.
Let me make this clear: I have absolutely nothing against a slow pace that helps the viewer enter the world of the characters. I love small details: a meaningful glance, a trembling hand, a quiet dialogue that says it all, but here scenes are simply overstretched, even the most mundane, irrelevant ones. I have actually timed a scene: a character gets out of a taxi and walks unobserved on the road for as much as 65 seconds (try to count in your head and you’ll realize it’s an eternity). The camera stays still and the character walks. No close-up shot of the face expression, no weird or telling gate, no encounter to be remembered later on, just a walk that bears no significance whatsoever in the plot, except perhaps that it teaches us how people walk in Korea. I could go on describing scenes like this one, there are a handful. When a 2 whole minutes hug came, I truly became restless. And bored.
All the while, most characters are extremely bi-dimentional. No explanation, flashback or insight is given to justify their motivations. They are trapped in this present bubble and immortalized with one or two character traits only. We are left to speculate about their past, future and, at times, present. This show isn’t centered around a meaty plot, but does not focus on characterization either. There’s only so much a believable on-screen chemistry and artsy aesthetics can do to keep my interest alive.
Which brings me to the love story itself. The only positive trait of this romance is it’s realism, at least in the beginning. However, because these two jump from meeting on the road to being madly in love, I was deprived of my favourite part of romance, that is the falling in love process. Worse, episode after episode I started feeling like a voyeur, peeping through the keyhole to spy on an ordinary albeit pretty married couple in its daily routine. Since voyeurism isn’t my favourite hobby, I lost interest very soon in the nth walk with or without umbrella or yet another scene with these two frolicking around with the ever-present music that should tell a story but does not. They have no heart-to-heart chat, they don’t talk about their dreams, their plans, their future together, they hide more than they tell. Why these two people who have very little in common should love each other is not for us to know. Ah, yes! They are both gorgeous, that must be it.
The tension is all built around the opposition of a mother who’s in serious need of good therapy in whatever culture we set this story. Don’t get me started on the ex boyfriend arc and the harassment on the working place: the first goes nowhere and the second takes an eternity to go… where did it go?
Not yet happy, these badly outlined characters are for the most part disagreeable. If I have to watch a slice of life drama, I want to become attached to these people, but here I grew increasingly indifferent to all of them, otp included. The heroine is possibly the one who frustrated me the most and no amount of sociological analysis on the customs of South Korea will ever make me love a grown up woman who can’t stand up for her rights and for the people she supposedly loves. The fact that the author decided to portray a female lead who never learns from her own mistakes put a huge distance between me and her and makes the ending, good or bad, senseless. If it was my fault to expect something different, than I’ll take the blame, but at least I have learned something and will try to be a wiser viewer in the future (i.e., drop the hot potato before it scorches).
Finally, the music! Two good songs repeated ad nauseam and another old-fashioned two that made seaweeds grow in my ears. That’s the ost – an inappropriate definition anyway, since ost stands for “Original Sound Track”, that is, songs or music created on purpose for the show. I doubt Carla Bruni (?), Bruce Willis (??) or even talented Rachael Yamagata met to create this meager ensemble.
It’s extremely ironic and sad that the episode I enjoyed the most is the discussed last one. If only everything had taken place much earlier on, I’d have liked this drama. Unfortunately, as it stands it makes little sense and the prospect of subjecting myself to a second watch is unthinkable.
My dear 18 hours, RIP.
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This review may contain spoilersGreat reviews for this rare gem have already been written, but even without having anything new or original to add, I feel the uncontrollable need to come here and share the joy with whomever wants to read.
This drama is brilliant. It's profoundly human, histerically funny, heartwarming, emotional, at times highly gratifying and - given the premises - surprisingly uplifting. Who would have thought I'd enter prison with gloomy anxiety and come out of it with a huge grin of satisfaction, almost wishing they would prolong my sentence and let me stay a little longer behind bars?
The strengh of the script is the wonderful ensamble of characters. They literally invade the viewer's life with their diverse personalities, background stories and antics. I laughed, despaired, feared, anxiously waited with them and never felt bored, even when the events taking place are paramount only for the characters and not for the script itself. It happens when the world of a drama or movie is so well outlined you forget it's fictional.
Fenomenal acting by everyone bar none. Alas, I can't fill up the page with ravings about each one of them: it would take too long, I'd end up being spoilerish somewhere and I'd bore those who haven't watched the drama yet to death. Suffice to say all the actors had the time and the means to shine, both individually as well as a group, proof of their talent but also of an awesome director's work.
Perfect score for the music too. This ost does not exist only to soundtrack the scenes, it also exists in the world of the characters, it's listened to by them, even sung by them, so that we have the weirdest blend of classical music, rap, old korean folk, opera and everything in between. There isn't the usual love ballad played at every turn, until it becomes haunting in a bad way. This soundtrack adds to the story, instead of simply working as a background to the written events. Genius.
Prison Playbook was warmly recommended to me. I'm deeply grateful to all my friends here who encouraged me to watch it and I hope this short review may have the same effect on others. Perhaps some of you are hesitating because of the setting: indeed, there's no glamour here, no super trendy clothes to show off with, no highly dramatic love story, and the goodlooking actors aren't here to simply beautify the set. This drama goes deeper than that, it will make you laugh a lot and it will make you cry, but rest assured you won't regret a single tear.
My only warning: the first episode. Now that I have completed the drama, I could rewatch it with a new perspective. The first time around however, that long pilot felt kind of hard to get through. Hang in there, please. It's worth the patience!
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This drama is a constellation of highly interesting characters who shine individually, but are amazing as a group. When talking about chemistry, we invariably think of romance, but I've come to consider this an oversimplification, since the bond between friends, relatives or even respected colleagues can be just as strong and palpable as any romantic relationship, given these characters are well written and acted out.
After watching 4 dramas by the same pen, I can affirm this is the writer's signature. Her characters are always intensely human, imperfect, goofy… unripe even. Then, they grow, they overcome obstacles and they learn but, guess what, they stay human, imperfect, goofy and incredibly relatable.
Therefore, while I fully agree with all the other reviewers here who were not convinced by the love story, I don't consider it a major problem. Hong Ju and Jae Chan are a lovely couple, one we could all meet at the bus stop; they are very real, they talk to each other and their growing affection is not dragged for ages. The only downside of a "feel-real couple" is that it doesn't pierce the screen or our heart.
Again, I didn't really care. I loved the ensemble and was truly sad to say goodbye to them all. Even the main villain had a twisted charm. And although Woo Tak must be one of the dearest, most hug-worthy and adorable character I've come across in a long while, I venture as far as to say that had he got the girl, the end result would have been the same: sweet, but not sizzling.
The way I see it, this has nothing to do with the acting, but the way each character was written. The whole cast played exceptionally well and empathy for them was always high.
I loved the soundtrack too, but not at first. I warmed up to it slowly but steadily and particularly enjoyed Suzy's "I love you boy". Songs and instrumental pieces are used with due parsimony and don't overpower the scenes.
WYWS is sure worth re-watching. I'm already planning on luring one or more of my fellow watchers into sharing the pleasure with me.
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I was very excited when Code Blue 3 was announced, for I am a hardcore fan of the previous 2 seasons, but I ended up being extremely disappointed in this sequel.
Gone are the fresh feel, the modernity, the swift and yet harmonious pace that captured me in the past. This season is a never-ending sequel of people regretting something, apologizing for things they are in no way responsible for, whining patients and non-captivating medical cases. The addition to the cast – i.e. the new rookies – have all the cards to become interesting characters each in his or her own way, but the plot failed at giving us enough background to understand and empathize with them. Medical cases are chopped almost randomly: one moment we have a high tension accident and the next it's been resolved somehow.
Our dear quartet of now "senior" doctors, who after 9 years of working together should be a close-knit of friends/collegues, seem to have gone back to square one, barely talking to one another if not for a few encouragements here and there which felt kind of old, or given too late in the time of the story. My favourite Mitsui Sensei has been relegated to the role of mother/care-giver with one and only one worried expression on her face and no mention whatsoever is given to the fact that she is, in fact, a doctor herself.
I blame the writing and the editing. The change of scriptwriter is painfully clear. They tried to condense too much in the space of 10 episodes, cut some of the scenes abruptly, treated the medical procedures in a very superficial way, and reduced almost all female characters to sweet but bland things. Last but not least, there's a sad lacking of a strong chief figure that brings them all together, as it was the case of Kuroda or Tadokoro sensei in the previous 2 seasons.
Acting is kind of stony too, by almost all. The only glaring exception is Erika Toda, who acted marvelously as always and whose character's the only one with some substance, spine and development.
The music is fine.
I'm not going to re-watch this season. Luckily, I have the first 2 to enjoy again in the future.
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The plot is quite ingenious, even when almost all the situations these characters are thrown into range from slightly unbelievable to surreal, all spiced up with action and laughter. I don't think the drama ever intended to be taken seriously, and if you keep this in mind, you'll enjoy the whole show very much.
Let's get rid of its faults quickly, then. No matter what country they are in, everyone speaks English. Korean seem to live under the impression that the whole of Europe were a substation of the States, where, say, Russian people speak English among each other, prisoners wear orange in Hungary, and French eat cereals for breakfast. Ingenuities like these are scattered throughout the whole drama, but as I said, to fully enjoy Man to Man one needs to overlook the incongruities and stay focused on the characters and their antics.
In fact, the characters are all likable, even the villains. There's an ever-present light undertone to the drama which I personally found charming. No trace of melodrama is to be found, so that you can watch with due expectations but without having your heart shatter in a thousand pieces at every turn or boiling for anger at the injustice of life.
Park Hae Jin is a sight to behold. He's believable and engaging in the action scenes, kind of goofy in the romantic ones, clever and quick-thinking in his job and invariably gorgeous looking in his sleek costumes and generally suave style. Therefore, if you watch M2M for the sake of him, you won't be disappointed.
I loved the female heroine too. I'd read critical comments about her being annoying and inconsistent, but I honestly agree with none of them. I even liked her hairstyle: it makes her look younger and more breezy than she actually is, but it all adds to the inevitability of K falling for her and not for any of the stylish, fashionable women he meets for his assignments.
The love story between these two is sweet, but has to be taken as a side plot, not the core of the story. If you want to be swept away by a sizzling passion, look elsewhere. I was happy with this too.
The Hallyu Star made me laugh from start to finish and the same goes with all the secret agents whose actions are so conspicuous I had to laugh hard at their preoccupation with undercover and secrecy.
The music is kind of atrocious and badly edited, at times too loud and most of the time unnecessary. Some pieces got a smile out of me, which is the best I can say about this soundtrack.
Since this story does not rely too much on high voltage suspense, it can be re-watched again and again without losing its charm.
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In a nutshell, a saeguk for kids. Take a Disney film, split it into several episodes, dress the characters in hanboks and you have this drama. It mimics The Moon embracing the Sun - without ever nearing its intriguing plot or romance - in almost every aspect except for the detail of a girl dressed as a man despite the fact that she could never in a trillion years be mistaken for a man. To keep the parallel, we could say this is a fluffy rom-com dressed up as a Saeguk.
The romance is so cheesy I welcomed the politics with a sigh of relief. Everything happens too soon and... too much, depriving my otherwise romantic heart of the needed suspense and, yes, what I consider a must for romance: trepidation. I can't say I am an expert in historical dramas, but the little I know is that almost everything the two main characters do and say here is totally implausible: stroll hand in hand in the palace courts without anyone seeing them? Right. This is just one example out of dozens unlikely - no, impossible - situations. Unlike other reviewers here, I believe the second half of this drama to be a lot better than the first, with at least some plot developments, albeit rushed, at times.
The real saving grace of the show is Park Bo Goum. He clearly is talented and a pleasure to watch. His character is too good to be true, but well played out and multifaceted. On the other hand, I was a little disappointed in Kim Yoo Jung's performance. I know she's very young and has a lot of potential, but she didn't manage to make me feel a thing. By some camera angles, it was clear she wasn't looking at her partner when supposed to do so, and the result was kind of ridiculous. Her character is neither particularly brave, nor very strong or intelligent, so what's left in the end is a super nice crown prince who falls madly in love with a sweet pretty thing because she's a sweet pretty thing. I even came to prefer the appointed crown princess, she was refreshingly spunky.
The music is a collection of pop songs fit for everything and nothing. See above for the age target.
In conclusion, this drama had some real potential, even when the plot twists are predictable, but the final package is fluffy at best. Can be marathoned through for an overdose of lovey-dovey chirping.
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The plot is sweet enough, but I truly fail to see its purpose. The premises, that is, a girly girl who lifts heavy weights, could have been everyone else that comes to mind – a clown, a dock worker, a truck driver or a simple student. The sport of weightlifting itself does absolutely nothing to deeply define this girl, except for 2 details: 1st, the hardship of balancing love for this sport with the basic womanly needs of being pretty; 2nd, the ridiculous choice of main actress, who is as believable as a weightlifter as I am as the first queen of Goryeo.
In Cheese in the Trap, the last drama I saw her acting in, someone called her "a giraffe", which I'd say is quite accurate a description. Lee Sung Kyung is tall, thin and beautiful, and her acting here consists of an alternation of pouts and a goofy gate that should lead us to believe she's not feminine. While watching, I spent a lot of time deciding whether I should raise one eyebrow or both.
The humour is off, at least for my taste. I didn't laugh once. There's too much screaming and wrestling, and most of all, there's too much eating. When I enter the realm of Korean drama, I'm psychologically prepared to see people eat at every opportunity, but here they really don't do much more. The quantity of food – and junk food – shoved into everyone's mouth is such that I got nauseous.
Acting is average. None of the actors shine in his or her performance, possibly because the script has no room for deep characterization. This isn't even a coming of age kind of story, since all characters end up being basically the same they were in the beginning, but with a partner. All the interesting cues, those that somehow delved deeper into the emotions of some characters, are conveniently skimmed and resolved in the space of a few minutes. Everyone lies to everyone else and calls it either friendship or protection. Bah.
There is some music… I think.
Never to be rewatched. Once was enough to establish this is not my kind of drama and simply forget about it. My 6 is due to the fact that I completed it.
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This is a Tenpatsu, literally a 'one-shot' drama made for tv, not for the cinema big screen. It feels a lot like a theatrical piece, with a stage-like set and clear-cut, almost cartoonish characters.
Once forewarned, you can approach this movie and actually enjoy it. Kindaichi Kosuke and Akechi Kogoro are two famous detectives created by the pens of two equally famous writers. You'll immediately recognize all the elements of a 'whodunit' thriller, with an overly complicated crime, a lot of hints given to the public, oblivious police inspectors and an amateur detective who complicates things before gathering all the possible culprits for the final revelation.
The plot is intriguing and the solution of the case is at the same time unpredictable and deducible if you pay attention to the hints. There's also a funny twist which I thought elevated the story by half a point.
If you like the genre, you'll like this little movie, which comes with the bonus of a pleasing cast and quite a lot of humour. Both Yamashita and Ito Hideaki play their respective roles very well, with easy flippancy and a good dose of self-irony. We are also introduced to the future recurring characters, among which an adorable little girl who serves as improbable governess and secretary of Kindaichi.
The music - extremely forgettable - adds to the comic... I hope intentionally so.
The movie can be rewatched, provided one has forgotten the plot. So, depending on the strength of your memory, in 5 to 10 years.
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Ironically, it had been sitting in my ptw list for a good year, waiting - so I thought - for me to be in the right mood for its somehow heavy subject. It came as a big surprise that this was the perfect moment and Algernon ni Hanataba wo is the show that finally reminded me why I fell in love with Asian dramas in the first place and became an addict so many years ago.
It enchanted me and pulled me into its world five minutes in. I hadn't even realized I was marathoning with bated breath until I exhaled.
The show is built on two different levels: the plot itself with its events and the story told by the characters. These two levels aren't of equal importance, that is, if you watch for the events it may disappoint you, as it suffers from the typical Japanese brevity and sudden, unexpected turns. However, this drama is meant to be valued for the thoughts it provokes and the way it does so, hence my perfect mark.
I won't lie, it made me cry. A lot.
This is a beautifully heart-wrenching story of diversity and the need to conform, be 'equal'. While most of us aim at being smart enough to earn more, have success in life and even wallow in our self-esteem, Sakuto dreams of becoming intelligent for the people around him to love him. This makes his journey all the more tragic, since it inevitably raises the question whether he was happier when only half cognizant of his surrounding or when he fully grasped the meaning of everyone's motivations and finds out that being a genius can be a sentence to loneliness. It also heavily probes on the benefits of intelligence when it's attained at the cost of humanity, empathy, compassion and even love.
I believe each single character in this drama has a precise purpose in terms of typecasting the different approaches to what is generally considered 'normal'. Here's a word I hate when referred to human beings, but it is the core of this tale, in its literal meaning of 'conforming to the norm'. This means that all the characters revolving around Sakuto find their justification only in connection with him, they represent the wide range of 'normality' as opposed to the extremes Sakuto's going to experience.
Which is not to say that they didn't act well. Quite the opposite: what fascinated me here is the fact that each actor played its part in a different way, according to his/her role in Sakuto's life. The same can be said about the direction, which plays a precise role too with its use of symbolism, archetypes, flowers, colours, camera focalization. Even Algernon is a great character. Tiny details are everything but irrelevant, a trait I always, highly appreciate.
And at the risk of being called biased, I maintain Yamashita's acting is impressive here. I was deeply moved by the sheer movement of his hand, the subtle, slow changes in stance, walk, gaze. I loved Sakuto as a viewer, as a woman, as a mother, as a sister, as a friend, to the point I desperately wanted to hug him and never let go. I could go on, but I'm becoming verbose and perhaps a little too emotional too.
The music is the only trait of the drama that gets a mere passing grade. I wish Japanese shows in general would put on their Osts the same amount of effort they spend on photography and characterization. The only song played here is very suitable to the story, but repetitive to the point of losing all its impact.
I've already rewatched many scenes soon after completing an episode. I simply couldn't help it. There's no doubt in my mind I'm going to re-watch the whole drama soon enough, certain it will lose none of its emotional impact on further viewing.
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I had my reservations before beginning this show, since I'm no fan of religiously oriented stories. Should you hesistate for the same reason, rest assured that, aside from the beautiful temple that plays as a setting and a few sutras read in the background, the monk hero is less religious than me - if possible.
In fact, here's one of those rare examples in rom-coms where the leads have physical desires. That a monk has to take more icy showers than your average CEO to suppress his wordly lust is an entertaining concept. Not to mention that, if you're a fan of Yamapi you may find this habit of his very pleasing.
As I said, there's a lot to laugh about while watching. Indeed, I'd say this is a rom-COM, where the comedic aspect wins over the romance. The romantic aspect, on the other hand, is seesawing, and I found myself laughing at the couple, hating the couple, loving the couple, re-hating it and re-loving it. There are in all respect more couples to enjoy here, even though I personally loved the side characters as a whole, not paired, if that makes any sense.
Don't expect some deep characterization because, in perfect from-manga-to-live-action style, the stress is on the characters' present actions, rather than how they came to this point. Hints, however, are given now and again, and I personally found those touching and well played out.
Out of the lot, I found the best acting performance to be that of Satomi Ishihara, solid, elegant and believable. A pity her character undergoes a few unwatchable tests that made me cringe on my womanly seat, but that's the plot and the actress won the challenge whether she had to be spunky or sad.
Yamashita's character requires him to be hilariously robotic, something he does very well, since he manages to convey quite a lot through his eyes. I appreciate this trait of him and loved it here. This monk can stretch your patience to its limits, but it turns out he's truly endearing and I'm very happy at his decision by the end - and I'm not referring to the very end.
Music? Nothing to talk about.
I think I'll rewatch this one day, either because I'm a rewatcher by nature or simply because it managed to draw me out of a slump with some welcomed laugh and a deserved (?) Yamapi fix.
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His character here is so endearing, this drama could have just as well been entitled "Falling for Min Ho" and it would have mirrored my sentiments exactly – though I realize the pun with Sung Jung meaning Innocence would have gone lost. The way Min Ho's character is written is clever enough, but it's the actor's rendition that makes him so darn adorable. I can easily picture a director instruct his actors to show surprise, anger, sadness, joy, but in the end it is always the actors who decide how to bring these emotions to life. Min Ho's reactions are almost never what one would expect, his movements and even the intonation of the voice took me by surprise more than once, never failing to express what it was meant to, though.
What I personally found irresistible, is the way he would think things over, make his own personal connections and deductions and blurt out the conclusion with the utmost candor, leaving the poor people around him totally confused. Not to mention his appearance, a mixture between a kid with temper tantrums and a pale man who's either just got out of bed or is in dire need to go back to it. Not exactly the general idea of a romantic hero, on paper. And yet, he's the kind of man I would fall in love with in real life… wait, I atone: he's the kind of man I HAVE fallen in love with in real life and even married (minus the heart condition, the whole revenge/business stuff and the Korean language. Details). So you may now understand and perhaps forgive my passionate bias.
Since this is a drama review and not Jung Kyung Ho's – wait, did I tell you I love this actor? – I suppose I should address the rest of the cast too. Kim So Yeon is a talented actress I've known and liked before. Her role here is very well acted, very believable; possibly, a little too… by the book. It's as though in an attempt at staying as true as possible to her character, she forgot to be that character. Sung Jung is lovable, loyal and intelligent and if only this script had given her the opportunity to be a little more lively, we could have enjoyed a sizzling love story, instead of a very cute one. But I suppose that was the original intent, so I won't complain.
If chemistry has to be, then I thought there was quite a lot between Jung Kyung Ho and his nemesis Yoon Hyun Min. Since these two have worked together before as best friends in Cruel City, it was great fun to see them stand one opposite the other as enemies. Their steady, verbal arm wrestling made up for some of my favourite scenes. The character of Lee Jun Hee is like a dog in the manger, who doesn't eat vegetables, but doesn't want anyone else to eat it either. While I hated him for his actions, his motivations made him into a pathetic man. To quote Min Ho's words: "You do not live to be able to gain something..., you live to take things from other people. Is there any happiness in this?". Really, how measly is that?
The most touching moments in the drama are those involving fathers, Ma Tae Seok in primis, and the funniest the ones with Detective Ok Hyun and Secretary Woo Shik, aka Wendy and Tinkerbell. What an improbable, hilarious pairing!
The music is like the rest of the drama: very cute. Not something which would stand alone, but rightly chosen for the feel of the drama.
All in all, I laughed a lot, I fell in love with the male lead, I was highly entertained, grew very fond of all the characters, was sad to say goodbye to them and had a lot to talk about for the reasons mentioned above. I don't ask a rom-com for anything more.
Recommended to everyone, I'm definitely going to watch it again in the future.
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I understand where this plot wants to go, and I even appreciated – to some extent - the never-ending shifts of most characters from one side to the other, when not somewhere in between. However, it gets a little surreal in the long run, to the point that the unpredictable becomes predictable: once you know nothing is as it seems, you're prepared to think the opposite of what they want you to think – hence seeing through the smoke curtain. Therefore, if it weren't for the heartthrobbing Paksa Adil and all the scenes he's in bar none, this drama would be a sequel of police actions going askew either because some corrupted high power butts in or because they are as incospicuous as a baobab tree in the desert. Not to mention the nth old, or fat, or old and fat villain sitting on some baroque chair and acting like a lunatic buddha ordering this or that killing. I need to confess: at times I yawned. And why do the powerful and corrupted always meet at Japanese restaurants? Does sashimi embody the "raw" quality of the Korean politics?
Unfortunately, there's no way to explain the faults of this plot without spoiling it. Suffice to know that I stopped watching it for the plot and just went for the way scenes were shot and acted. Now, if it were possible to rate direction and cinematography in particular, it would be a completely different story, since the drama is visually and technically impeccable. Attention to details, colouring and the use of light – or lack thereof - all are spot on and intensely evocative. I found many of the characters extremely interesting, constantly fluctuating between dark and shade – light is completely absent here – and the acting by Kim Yoo Mi and Choi Moo Sung impressed me no end. Kim Yoo Mi in particular gives life to an amazing character, extremely stubborn as a "boss" and wonderfully human as a woman. My liking of her character is all due to her acting, because, let's face it, the poor actress's actions consist mostly on moving from an armchair to a sofa with a glass of whisky in her beautifully manicured hand. It's therefore the subtle changes of her face that tell her story.
As for Jung Kyung Ho's, it'd deserve a review on its own, so mesmerizing it was. His character is the best written one: you can peel off layer after layer and there's still something to find. The actor's take of it, suavely ruthless and gracefully tormented, makes his Doc's Son into one of those unforgettable characters who are going to stay with you for a very long time. Without him, this drama would be nothing more than a morbid, blurred photograph of an improbable criminal world. His onscreen chemistry with Nam Gyu Ri and his "putative family" is palpable and great to watch, but then again, I think this actor would have great chemistry with a tree trunk, if needed.
On the opposite side of the spectrum there's Ji Hyeong Min, the super cop who got so much on my nerves I want to forget him with all my might. He goes from being as likable as an ingrown nail to suddenly grasping the situation to no avail whatsoever. Truth be told, the whole police force – the official one, that is – could have heavily contributed to the comic if this drama had a comic intention, which it doesn't. The level of corruption and the number of undercovers borders on ridicule.
The soundtrack is classy, powerful, always appropriate. In short, marvelous.
I am not going to rewatch this drama any time soon, if ever. Intense but frustrating, it is the kind of experience which leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth, since the ultimate meaning of it seems to be that justice is a mere word, a utopia for philosophers and dreamers. I have no doubt this is so in real life too, but at least when dealing with the world of fiction, I'd rather be deceived.
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The plot is a hot mess. Very hot on the eyes and the heart and very much a mess for the intellect. But, frankly, I was more than willing to overlook every plot-hole, every unrealistic twist, every narrative ingenuity while watching, because the emotions portrayed were so strong, so moving and beautiful, it was like swimming in self-inflicted, desired pain. This is a story of friendship, and this aspect is wonderful. I rejoiced in every scene which would bring the friends/rivals together on screen and not surprisingly those scenes are the best shot ones too, with some stunning choreography and mesmerizing music. I could have watched 29 hours of sword fights or friends silently sitting next to each other without complain. This is what the story is about and as I said it's incredibly beautiful.
On the other hand, the plot, or, if you prefer, the writing, goes everywhere and nowhere. Aliens could have landed in Joseon and killed them all with laser beams and it would have gone almost unnoticed in the circus. I'm not saying the politics didn't count, but I simply didn't care. What I cared about were the characters and their bond.
First, the kids: they enchanted me. Because this drama is totally devoid of mother figures – the only living one having refused to be such for 20 years – I suppose my very latent mother instinct came to the surface with a vengeance. The acting by both Yeo Jin Goo and Park Gun Tae was amazing and I'm kind of indignant they are listed as "guest roles" here. In less than 4 episodes they managed to make me love the characters and die to see how they'd connect to one another. The young Wun in particular must be the most harrowing character I've come across in a long while. My desire to kill that father of his with my own hands reached unexpected and disquieting heights.
Then, there's the older generation of friends/foes, mainly Chun the Sky Lord and Gwan Taek, who share a weird bond based on rivalry and grumpy respect shown with swords. I won't spend too many words on the two actors, they are simply brilliant and the director seemed to share my opinion since the best camera works are dedicated to them. I mostly appreciated Choi Min Soo's rendition of his character, which could have easily come out of a Sergio Leone's film.
This drama is based on a manwha and this is particularly obvious in all the main characters who are clear cut and distinctive like drawings.
Not so the adult Dong Soo And Yeo Wun, who mature and change, making this into a coming-of-age drama. As single individuals they are very different, one light the other dark, one goofy the other somber, one stubborn the other easy to manipulate, but together they shine. I loved the acting of both Ji Chang Wook and Yo Seung Ho; the first because he enters the character in a way that makes you instantly forget whatever role you may have seen him in before: here, he's Dong Soo. There's a lot of physicality in his acting, which makes his performance totally believable. Seung Ho has such expressive eyes he steals the screen by a single, all-telling glance. His character is all played on subtlety, which makes it extremely powerful. As I said, separately they do great, but together they are unforgettable. It helps that they are both so smouldering handsome; in a drama based so much upon visuals, this isn't a secondary aspect at all.
Also, I must be the only living creature who liked Shin Hyun Bin here. What everybody described as a wooden performance I found to be delicate and very fitting to her role. What that role was, is another story entirely: the romance is so secondary it's almost non-existent here. This in the most common sense of the word, since the drama is profoundly romantic in the classical definition of sentimental and tumultuous.
I invested a lot of feeling in this drama, this is why the very last minutes infuriated me. I can condone many faults of this script, but I will never, ever forgive the writer for not honouring a particular character the way he deserved, for cutting short on a farewell I had been kind of expecting (and dreading) since the beginning. Many tears welled in my eyes but never had the time to come out, leaving me frustrated and empty. I suppose I should thank the production for hastening my healing process this way, for reminding me life goes on, or I'd be still suffering now. I'm not sure it's fair to lower the overall score of a drama due to the last 10 minutes, but for a show that expects you to leave the brain aside and only watch with the heart it feels like cheating.
The music is a different story. To put it short, this is the best drama Ost I've heard so far. It contributes so much to the feeling I believe it is mainly responsible for my loving the drama and overlooking its faults. Honorable mention to BMK's powerful "Yanoy", to its harrowing acoustic version by Eun Tae Park and to the haunting "Stagnant" by Shin Sung Woo. If you have the chance, give a look at the lyrics too, as they are beautifully poetic.
I don't think I'll watch the entire drama again. I will definitely re-watch single scenes though, just for the wonderful aesthetic of them. On the other hand though, I've watched a disgustingly high number of MVs and fan videos only for the sake of Dong Soo and Yeo Wun. Given how many are to be found, it seems I'm not the only one.
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This review may contain spoilersPlease forgive me if this review's going to be a little unconventional, I'm in no mood for serious considerations on a drama that doesn't take itself too seriously. The followings are random conversations between me and my watching partner, aka my husband (H). Try to imagine us as the two old men at the end of The Muppet Show.
H: Why the heck is he (Seung Gi) pining for that almost sister of his when he can have the prettier and much nicer one (Suzy)?
Me: He thinks she's a boy.
H: Rrrrrright. And the winner of Genius of the Year is…
[Kang Chi finds out Yeo Wol's a girl in a slightly unorthodox way]
H: Ok, I take back everything I've said before: the guy IS a genius!!!!
[scene: Kang Chi and Yeo Wol are staring into each other's eyes]
H: Whoa, he's finally going to kiss the girl
Me: Hmm, I wouldn't be that optimistic.
H: Trust me, he has that glint in his eyes. He's going to kiss her, I tell you!
Music: "Saranghaee, saranghaeeeeeeeeee, SARANGHAEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE…"
[more staring followed by sudden wrist grabbing]
[off they go eating]
*collective and colourful grunts from the audience*
Me: He clearly hasn't taken after his father
H: Yeah, daddy knew his business. Save the girl, hide the girl, kiss the girl, ta-da… a BABY!
[the monk urges Kang Chi to flee for the nth time]
Me: Is that monk ever going to give a valuable advice? Nobody listens to him anyway.
H: Ikr? That monk is as useful as a concrete parachute (he used a different simile, but it can't be repeated here)
H: His eyes turned green! What do you think, is he going to morph into Perry Parky now?
Me: Sure, Perry Park would bomb them all, but if you want him to kiss the girl, Shin Se Gi's definitely the one to morph into.
H: Shin Se Gi had red eyes and eyeliner.
Me: True. Like daddy gumiho, now that I think of it.
H: Daddy again. Are we sure Kang Chi's not the monk's child?
(references to Kill Me, Heal Me are sort of involuntary. I hereby decline every responsibility)
Me: What do you think is that Gu Book about?
H: A kissing manual?
Me: A recipe for Kimchi, more likely.
"Saranghaee, saranghaeeeeeeeeee, SARANGHAEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE…"
[Kang Chi, his face half covered with a scarf, is surrounded by his comrades, all demanding to know who he is]
Me: Are we the only ones who would recognize him from a 10-km distance? I mean, the clothes, the hairdo, the bracelet…
H: I know. Perhaps they think it's the head Gisaeng incognito. After all, they share 1 neuron among the 20 of them.
Me: LOL, now that thug thinks his dongsaeng Kang Chi's gay. A gay gumiho is an interesting take of the trope
H: So he too thinks Yeo Wol is a boy? This drama should be called "The Goofy Family Book"
H: Ha, now he's really going to kiss the girl!
Me: You may be right this time. The moment is perfect and the song is clearly suggesting romance.
[7 and a half minutes later, the scene is still frozen like it was 7 and a half minutes before]
Me [making coffee]: Are their heads a little closer now?
H: Hmmm, I'm not sure. 2 cm closer, maybe?
Me: All right, I'm making sandwiches. And please mute that misleading Saranghae song before I explode.
To give this review some semblance of usefulness, let me conclude by saying this is a highly entertaining drama, with a good, rounded-up plot, lots of fun – although laughter is often involuntarily induced - a Seung Gi who never fails to put me in a good mood by simply existing, a lovable Suzy, a despicable villain with a certain, almost compelling elegance, good romance and a fairy-tale feel that won't let you down. Recommended to everyone looking for a light watch with glints of unexpected depth and an awesome finale . If you have a watching partner to frolic with, so much the better.
P.S. Allow me a tiny spoiler: the kiss does come, after all, much to the joy of the two Muppet Old Men.
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