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  • Location: Italy
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amrita828

Italy

amrita828

Italy
Completed
Empress Ki
71 people found this review helpful
Mar 18, 2015
51 of 51 episodes seen
Completed 7
Overall 9.0
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 10
Music 8.5
Rewatch Value 10
This review may contain spoilers
It took me 5 days of mind wrecking just to decide on an overall rating for Empress Ki. The eternal reviewer's doubt whether it is fairer to value a drama using the brain or the heart is maximized here: this is an epic tale where almost every single aspect is at the same time exceptionally good and glaringly bad. In trying to elaborate this, what follows may become very long, and for this I apologize in advance.

First, the pace.
If you are preoccupied by the length, be assured the rhythm of the narration is so fast you'll come to the 51st ep. wishing you could have another 10. There isn't even one moment of boredom among the hundreds of little and big events that follow one another. By the end of each episode, I sat there wide awake wishing it wasn't already 4 a.m. and I could watch another. The downside of such a fast pace is that it never gives you respite. I wanted to linger, now and then to bask in the sweetness, or simply see these people being happy for a while, but it was not to be. Every time an issue is concluded the next is ready to shatter that glint of satisfaction it was so hard to finally obtain. The infamous last 10 episodes I've read many criticize, could have been the most poignant part of the drama if they hadn't been so incredibly rushed, to the point that events seem to make little sense. As a matter of fact they do make a lot of sense – with the glowering exception of the silly Maeback botch – but you have to think the entire journey over in order to see it.

Which leads me to the script and its characters.
This isn't a journey to begin in search of historical dependability, not in the details, at least. Little to nothing is known about the woman who became the Empress of Yuan before she entered the palace as a tribute from Goryeo, and there isn't much information about the single steps that were taken in order for her to sit on that throne. The writers have taken many liberties both in characterization as well as chronology, but I personally think they did a great job in always making those steps exciting and suspenseful and when you reach the end you will realize the plot is rounded up very well, with a couple of exceptions. This is why I think knowing a little about Empress Ki's true story in advance can actually enhance the watching and explain the choices some of the characters make.
For instance, we can assume Crown Prince Ta Hwan was exiled to Goryeo when he was only a teenager, which perhaps will make you judge his character with some indulgence. King Wang Yoo of Goryeo, on the other hand, is by all means the most fictionalized of all the main characters, so much so that knowing his true story is not only unnecessary but extremely counterproductive. My humble advice: stay well away from the true known facts about him if you want to enjoy the drama.

When history is taken into consideration, a lot of the twists invented by the writers acquire significance, since the opening scene tells us in advance where we are heading and curiosity is all on how they'll get there. History also explains why so many characters in this drama change side, go from good to bad, from bad to worse or are suspended somewhere in between. It obviously does not explain or justify the fact that everyone speaks Korean, but I am aware that having the huge cast speak different idioms would have rendered the watch almost impossible.

To this drama I own the realization that I possess a dark side too. There have been moments when I wanted to see blood and wished some characters would not only be killed, but killed with pain. It's such an alien feeling for me, it shocked me. It goes to the credit of writers and actors to make me hate with such an intensity, but I'm not sure I want to experience that kind of emotion again. Attachment and love to some characters, though, was equally intense and I swam in it with gusto. It's going to take a very long time before I can get these people out of my system. While it kept me highly entertained in the first half, in the second this drama almost broke my heart. It has very little to do with characters dying or living, and a lot with them losing their innocence. At some point I almost wished the leads had died on that exile island and remain forever what they used to be, before being scarred and marred by that terrible imperial palace, "a place with no blood, no tears and no mercy". to quote Lady Park.

When it comes to the much talked about love triangle, I must say I jumped on Seung Nyang & Ta Hwan's ship very early on and never wavered. I could not see or feel any chemistry between Ha Ji Won and Jo Jin Mo and while my brain kept on telling me these two characters had a lot in common and it was logical for them to fall for each other, my heart never agreed. In fact, my heart unyieldingly refused to accept it. Ha Ji Won and Ji Chang Wook, on the other hand… I could have watched them waltz one around the other for the whole 51 hours run without complaining even once. Some of the most poignant moments in the entire drama involve these two and they are the main reason why I enjoyed Empress Ki so much.
This said, the love triangle was not only central to the story, but dual purpose too. Because on final analysis the true seesaw is not between a woman and two men, but between a woman and two countries. The issue of eradication underlines the whole narration and should never be forgotten in order to understand Seung Nyang's choices. This is, after all, her story, how she's initially forced to abandon her country and her roots and gradually develops an attachment to her adoptive one. The more she distances herself from Goryeo, the more the story focuses on China and takes the viewer along.

Spectacular acting by Ha Ji Won - no news here, not for me, at least. I doubt any other actress would have pulled off such a role with that seeming ease; Ji Chang Wook - yes, I'm just a little obsessed with him right now, after seeing him in two very different dramas I loved and being impressed by his ability to convey such a varied range of emotions. His Emperor is so controversial I could write a review only on him, but let's go on; Baek Jin Hee – Danashili, my most hated and beloved villain was terrific too and Jin Yi Han, who possibly didn't deliver the best performance of his career, but whose charisma alone made him into an all time favourite, unforgettable Tal Tal. The rest of the cast did great too, although I was more impressed with the young actors than the older ones.
A word needs to be spent on the villains. There are a lot of them here, all evil for different reasons. A few of them are very consistent; others are such since the beginning, but the viewer is manipulated to the point of thinking otherwise; some suffer from inexplicable 180° turns. What they all have in common is the unyielding conviction they never did anything wrong, which for me is the saddest trait of this drama and even when they got what they deserved, I was left feeling… empty. Their evil logic is at times extremely lucid and makes the line between good and bad blur.

Music is the hardest aspect for me to rate and perfectly mirrors this drama fluctuating between good and bad. The instrumental pieces are hauntingly beautiful and extremely powerful. Listening to them with closed eyes might be the biggest spoiler of all as to how this story is going to end, which is an achievement in itself since an Ost exists to tell the story via music. The songs, on the other hand, were not only very annoying to my ears (personal taste) but also inserted too abruptly at times when not completely random for the scene they soundtracked. I ended up using good old maths: instrumental 12 + songs 5 = average 8,5.

To come to such a high overall score despite the glaring shortcomings of the script, I took the whole picture into consideration. A 51-hours long story that manages to keep the interest alive till the very end is commendable in itself and the fact that I already know I will definitely re-watch it in the future is proof of the high level of emotion it made me feel. Furthermore, this is not a book, and the visual means is used at its highest, with stunningly beautiful sets, costumes, colours and camera work. If you are able to suspend belief at times and focus on style and emotional impact, you'll no doubt enjoy Empress Ki as much as I did.

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Completed
Healer
36 people found this review helpful
Feb 28, 2015
20 of 20 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 10
Story 10
Acting/Cast 10
Music 9.5
Rewatch Value 10
At first, I didn't want to write a review for Healer. Many good reviews here mirror my sentiments exactly, and I hate to be redundant for no reason. However, after having watched the entire drama twice in the space of 2 weeks - yes, sue me - and triggered by some comments on this very page, I now believe this little gem deserves as much love as it's getting.

While telling an interesting story, Healer manages to do brilliantly what most fictional works should and sometimes fail to do: create 4-dimentional characters, believable persona whose growth and mutual interaction reach the heart of the viewer. When characterization is so strong, the plot twists - whatever they are - fall to the background, becoming a mean to an end. In this sense, it doesn't matter how many times the same plot subject has been used in a drama: what matters is how this same subject pertains to the journey of the characters. The reason why I was constantly on the edge of my seat while watching Healer, is not because I wondered what was going to happen next, but because I was eager to know how each character would react to a certain event. Will she give up? Will he fall apart? Will that one lie, speak the truth, run away, face the challenge, cry, laugh, rejoice? What would I do, in their shoes?
And every single time I feared the ominous K-drama tropes would sneak into the narration with the usual noble idiocy, nth misunderstanding, petty jealousy or envious triangles, these characters surprised me and made me extremely happy for NOT conforming.
Someone here called this drama "a breath of fresh air" and I couldn't agree more.

This story, while simple on the surface, hides a few, much deeper and more complex subjects. One over all, the roles of adults and how their choices can make the lives of children a living hell. K dramas have accustomed us to adults who abandon their children, or abuse them, dictate them, mold them to their will, silence them. In the best of scenarios, they over protect them. This drama, on the other hand, gives out a different message: adults should give their children the means to fight their own battles, their own way. The same could be said about women, who are the true strong point of this drama. I wish I could write an essay on Young Shin and Ahjumma, but don't worry, I'll spare you the boredom, Suffice to say, true courage and strength are not in the fists.

Healer is also a love story. A sweet, realistic, heart wrenching and heartwarming love story made of little, endearing details. It's the encounter of a young man with a tough shell and a vulnerable soul and a young woman with a fragile body and a brave, unwavering heart. They are so natural together, watching them is a pleasure. I think I fell irremediably in love with them as a couple. I ascribe it to the acting, but also to the brave script, which for once depicts 2 young adults who admits they are attracted to each other physically as well as emotionally. I do not expect a drama to show me anything happening under the sheets, but I'm a little weary of tons of dramas where the girl is shocked by the mere hands touching and calls for a trial. Guess what, Young Shin and Jung Hoo are human!

I've read somewhere this drama had a very low budget, so low that they had to film lots of scenes in a rush and couldn't afford complicated special effects. I grew even fonder of it because of this and wish viewer would stop comparing this show to others which had a lot more money to work with. All the actors give out the impression of truly believing in what they are doing, that's possibly why there's a collective, tangible alchemy keeping the whole cast together. As for the music, I admit at not having liked a particular song in the beginning, but because it was so fitting to the story told, I ended up loving it too. The instrumental pieces were perfect.

As I said, I've already watched this twice. When I reached the end the first time, I felt the urge to go see again how it all began and how it all unfolded. When it comes to dramas I like, I am a serial second watcher and go in search of that lost detail I've overlooked before. I think Healer lends itself very well to multiple watching, because even when you already know the outcome, the journey there still has so much enjoyment to give.

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Completed
Tree With Deep Roots
13 people found this review helpful
Feb 7, 2015
24 of 24 episodes seen
Completed 5
Overall 10
Story 10
Acting/Cast 10
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 7.0
There are a few topics one doesn't talk about at social gatherings. One of them is language. I myself have tried a few times but, in front of a pizza and coke, people are ready to talk about almost everything except their means of expression. Language is used, not pondered upon, unless one wants to be labelled the smart aleck of the party and be thrown out with the half-eaten pizza. Why? Because our mother tongue is perceived as a given, a common possession whose technicalities are learnt and then put into practice by everyone, well or not so well. We live in a society where illiteracy is almost unheard-of and have therefore forgotten how huge a power is held by simple education. This is exactly what Tree With Deep Roots is about: the power of knowledge.

So this drama is, first and foremost, very brave: it takes a topic generally considered yawn inducing - and conceited - and builds upon it one of the cleverest, suspenseful plot I've had the fortune to watch. Because the topic intrigued me, I approached this drama expecting to be intellectually swept away. What I wasn't prepared for, was to have my feelings deeply involved too. This drama is clever, yes, but it's emotionally intense and moving too.
Truth be told, in the beginning I was so confused by the trillion characters, names all sounding the same and genealogy tree that for a moment I thought I had suddenly become an idiot. Should you happen to experience the same, please don't despair: this is like a pile of jigsaw puzzle tiles thrown at you all at once that you start putting together. Once you have glimpsed the main picture, the rest follows on its own. I haven't found a single dull moment in the 24 episodes. I enjoyed the sometimes long political dialogues and didn't want to miss a word. I enjoyed the steadfast growth of each character and the relationship between them all, the marvelous setting, the wuxia-like sword fights.

Mostly, I enjoyed the portrayal of a great King, which naturally leads me to the acting. Among the brilliant performances of all, Han Seok Kyu shines his own light. I was sad to see Song Jong Ki go, as he delivers a great act of a young and fearful king who grows a backbone, but it's his older version I came to love, admire and enjoy the most. Second in my personal enjoyment chart is, hear hear, So Yi/Dam. By general consensus, a female character is considered strong when she opposes the rules, or when she can kick and fight. So Yi's strength, however, is in the brain, which she uses to comply with the rules, instead of opposing them. Shin Se Kyung embodies intelligence and courage in a very calm and effective way. Loved her to bits. Our third lead is the bridge between the passionate vision of a King and the idealism of the woman he loves. His common sense and simple views on life are a paramount addition to the dynamic and while he undergoes a major change throughout the drama, he stays consistent to his nature till the very end.

A character/actors review would be incomplete without the villains. There are moments when you may question who the villains really are. Their motives aren't wrong in the grand scheme of things, but idealism alone won't win a war and their methods go from arguable to unacceptable, mixed as they are with political greed, blind loyalty or personal grudge. Kudos to all the actors, though, for making me love to hate them.

I don't think the music is the strong trait of this drama. It has a few instrumental pieces and a couple of songs which are neither a disturbance nor a feeling magnifier. I must admit, however, that a couple of pieces are quite haunting, as I found myself humming a tone or two while doing totally unrelated things. Whether this is because they were used too often or because they were good, I don't know.

I've long debated about the re-watch value. I don't see myself sitting through the whole drama again in the near future, mostly because a well crafted thriller lingers in the memory much longer than a simpler plot. Ironically, its high quality makes this into a one-time experience. Which doesn't mean I won't go back to it when a considerable time has lapsed. It's an intense journey I recommend to everyone who's ready to invest a good dose of concentration in a drama.

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Completed
Pinocchio
47 people found this review helpful
Jan 17, 2015
20 of 20 episodes seen
Completed 2
Overall 8.5
Story 9.5
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 7.5
Rewatch Value 7.0
I find it impossible to write a review of this drama without comparing it to I Hear Your Voice. After all, like others before me pointed out, Pinocchio comes out of the same pen, same cameras, same musical instruments and even part of the same cast that created I Hear Your Voice. I couldn't get rid of the impression I was watching a remake of this last, just with a different setting and a male protagonist who can't read the mind.

Pinocchio's story is intriguing, very captivating, well written and highly thought-provoking. It's also very well executed, in terms of acting, camera work and plot development. I enjoyed all episodes and was eager to watch the next.
So why have I given I Hear Your Voice a full 10, and bestowed this one a "mere" 8,5?
In rating a drama I always try to be as objective as I can be - try being the key word. A show that awakens the intellect deserves high scores, but it's the emotional share which earns it a perfect score. I was intellectually very engaged by Pinocchio, but I felt slightly detached when it came to the heart. Among other things, the romance didn't make my heart flutter, not even once. Honestly, I can't even pinpoint a reason for this: Park Shin Hye and Lee Jong Suk are both beautiful, very sweet in a puppy-like way, their respective characters lovable and their love story believable. And yet, it seems to me it lacked romantic tension, it was like watching two cute people in a commercial for shoes, or coats.
The moment they stopped being on screen, in my mind they also stopped being a couple.
On the contrary, I think Hye Song and Soo Ha are still dating, overcoming their differences and being happy together. I could mention many other drama couples that, to me, are still a reality somewhere in that evanescent world created by fantasy and therefore linger in my heart. Dal Po and In Ha are not among them.

Nobody's fault, mind you. The acting of all was above average and I was positively impressed by Park Shin Hye's performance. It must not be easy to interrupt every other sentence with a hiccup and make it sound believable. Her character isn't a champion of resolution, but she's very sweet and I liked her a lot. Lee Jong Suk is clearly a rising star in the drama world and can play this kind of role better and better. I loved the supporting cast, villain(s) included.

The music didn't make much of an impact on me either.

To explain my re-watch score, I'm going to confess a weak spot of mine: when a particular scene has a strong impact on me, I can't help but watch it again as soon as the episode is over. I haven't done so with any of Pinocchio's scenes. I may re-watch the entire show one day, but for now this ride, as much as it was enjoyable, is over.

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Completed
Proposal Daisakusen
26 people found this review helpful
Dec 28, 2014
11 of 11 episodes seen
Completed 6
Overall 9.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 9.0
7 years ago, when I first watched this drama, I experienced the same frustration related by so many reviewers here and elsewhere. I gave it tepid marks then, because annoyance surpassed the pleasure. Why I decided to re-watch it and why my overall opinion on the drama changed so drastically this second time around, is the reason for my present review.
I have been led to think by past experiences that the more I watch Asian dramas, the more fastidious I become; it is therefore quite ironic that in this case my better knowledge came out as an incentive to appreciate the drama more, not less.

When I approached Proposal Daisakusen the first time, all my attention was captured by the love story between Kenzo and Rei. I was so anxious for him to do the right thing and say the right words that I overlooked all the rest. But guess what: as odd as it may sound, this drama is all about 'the rest'. Daisakusen in Japanese means 'big strategy', as in organizing a war campaign. View in this light, we could think of Kenzo's time travelling as it were a war where single episodes are the several battles fought. To maintain the analogy, if while watching you put all your energy in trying to win every single battle, you'll end up frustrated, but if you keep the target in mind, i.e. win the war, you may truly appreciate this 'big strategy'. Despite all premises to the contrary, this drama is not so much about Kenzo managing to change Rei's heart as it is a journey of a young man understanding what's truly important in life and establishing clear priorities. It also makes you reflect upon the true meaning of love, whether it were only about declaring it aloud or rather be there when the person you love needs you.

In this sense, I believe this drama to be a lot cleverer than your average romantic comedy. It touches issues like friendship, family, loyalty, generosity and honesty. It takes its time, lingering on what seem little details, but it turns out that changing a small detail can make a huge difference not only in your life, but on the direction the people around you will take as well. The thin thread underlying the whole show is an old friend: carpe diem. Seize the moment and the opportunity, you may not have a second chance. This is a very simple philosophy, but it is so dear to me I firmly believe it cannot be repeated or stressed enough. Don't procrastinate, don't give the people around you for granted, thinking you have all the time in the world to do the right thing, to convey your feeling or to listen to them when they need an ear.
I consider the special as integral part of the drama, so I indirectly include that one in this review. They called it special, but it could just as well be episode 12, so I suggest you watch the special too before rating the show.

The acting is fine. It could have been more intense, but I'm willing to forgive the occasional stone-face because the characters created by the whole cast are truly endearing and hard to forget. They are very natural as a group of friends and as such I ended up imagining them.
The music isn't the strong trait of the drama. It has a lovely instrumental piece and a very old-fashioned song repeated now and again. In the end, I have become quite deaf to both. A little variety wouldn’t have hurt...

I suppose there's no need for me to explain why the re-watch value is so high. If you are ready to put aside Kenzo's eternal hesitation and Rei's insecurity - which by the way are paramount traits of their personality, without which the drama wouldn't have been created - and you fix gaze and mind on the whole picture, you may end up loving it as much as I did on second watching. There's a constellation of little events, many related to the Japanese culture and rituals, that is delicious and heart-warming.
After 7 years, I'm now ready to recommend this drama to everyone.

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Completed
Fated to Love You
81 people found this review helpful
Nov 2, 2014
20 of 20 episodes seen
Completed 12
Overall 9.0
Story 6.0
Acting/Cast 10
Music 10
Rewatch Value 8.0
This review may contain spoilers
Have you ever asked yourself what's more important in a drama? Plot or acting? Can a good performance turn a mediocre plot into something unique?
Fated to Love You answers this question with a decisive Yes.

Let's have a look at this plot. Aside from it being a remake of a popular Taiwanese drama, this is a collection of old clichés: doormat girl meets obnoxious rich guy, an incident of some sort occurs and compels them to live under the same roof, meddling – and maddening – relatives, random humour, misunderstandings, birth secrets, the 'other girl' and the 'other guy', all spiced up with a lot of noble idiocy (although this might be one of the few cases when the noble act is frustrating but comprehensible). It's not hard to see why I treaded on this very makjang field on tiptoe.

Therefore, my overall 9 has to be ascribed entirely to the impeccable acting and one of the best thought of OST of songs I've come across. Try out the first 10 minutes of this show, and you'll have no doubts the whole thing is going to be played on style, rather than plot substance. The performance of the whole cast is brilliant, but the two leads manage to outshine everything and everyone.
What could have resulted in two trite, annoying characters in lesser hands, becomes one of the best matched couple in melo/romantic comedy. Even when their plot-line drags – and it does, here and there – they are both able to sustain the silence and make it resound.

Jang Hyuk… wow, the man can act. Yes, I suppose this is a very superfluous statement for the many of you who know him, but this is my first time and I was enchanted. The character he creates here has no grey areas: Gun is so over the line he goes from hysterically funny to heartbreaking in the space of a few minutes. At times the two aspects are interwoven, and the viewer gets glimpses of his pain through his laughter. But his best trait in my opinion is that he doesn't give a dry fig about what people think of him: he goes on doing what he believes is right in the craziest of manners.
It doesn't hurt that the actor is seriously hot. Seriously. When he cuts his hair – this is not considered a spoiler, is it? - I was so distracted here and there I forgot to watch the drama and just watched him.

This said, Jang Na Ra is downright brilliant. For the first time in my drama addicted life, I loved a 'weak' heroine. There's a special quality about the rendition of her character that turns her weakness into strength, and her compliance into endearing sweetness. One can see why Gun falls in love with her, because the viewer experiences the same. Possibly, we all know from the start that Kim Mi Young will eventually change, and yet she keeps her true, generous nature intact. With her beautiful, huge eyes she speaks volumes and her chemistry with Jang Hyuk on screen is tangible.

Notable mention for Song Ok Sook, aka Mi Young's mother. I enjoyed every minute of her antics and rejoiced in her relationship with both her daughter and her son in law.

I already mentioned the music. As a rule, I only like instrumental pieces in dramas. I'm making an exception here not only because the songs are beautiful, but because each piece is chosen with the utmost care, emphasising in turn the fun, the suffering, the romance, the absurd. Isn't this what an Ost should do? Perfect score from me.

Because I believe the plot to be absolutely secondary in this drama, I'm sure it lends itself very well to future re-watching.

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Completed
Sungkyunkwan Scandal
14 people found this review helpful
Oct 28, 2014
20 of 20 episodes seen
Completed 3
Overall 8.5
Story 7.5
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 6.0
Rewatch Value 8.0
You're Beautiful meets Boys Over Flowers in 1790 Joseon.

My review could very well end here, and you'd get the gist. Nevertheless, a simple comparison would be unfair towards this drama and decisively too flattering towards the other two.
There are at least 3 reasons to prefer Sungkyunkwan Scandal (after 4 years I've finally learnt to write this title) to other gender/bender, flowery boys scenarios:

1. The female heroine is intelligent! How refreshing. Not only she has a well working brain, but she doesn't let anyone trample all over her. Her goal in life is more edifying than simply get the guy. In this sense, SKK is way more modern than many K-dramas set in today Asia.

2. Directly related to the above, the flower boys are actually nice people! They overcome prejudice, value friendship and don't go around grabbing the girl's wrist at every turn.

3. Everyone is MUCH better dressed. I'd say colours and costumes are a huge part of this drama's charm.

This said, the drama is not flawless. I believe its main weakness lies in the way conflicts are resolved. While highly interesting and thought-provoking issues are raised - gender equality, homosexuality, eastern vs. western philosophy (Confucius vs. Socrates), the power of knowledge and others, they aren't in any way resolved and at times are very superficially concluded. Mind you, not that a tv-show could ever give us the answers to such essential questions, but even in the enclosed world of the narration some plot threads should have had a conclusion but didn't. We are left to wonder when and how the packet has been so prettily wrapped.

Also, the pace is uneven. The drama is somehow divided in groups of episodes, each developing and in a way closing: the entrance, the tournament, the scandal, the treasure hunt etc. The love story is charming in the beginning, drags in the middle and gets very charming again by the end. I wish they had shortened the angst - which works very well for the male lead who's facing a true conflict, but makes the female suddenly annoying - and given more space to their delightful romantic banter. Even the ending could have been better elaborated and conclusive, had they cut short on the middle anguish.

All in all, however, this is a lovely, funny, feel-good watch. The acting is fine enough, since it has no pretence of greatness. Don't expect stellar performances, they are all a little stony at times, but they look young and pretty, so one is ready to forgive them.
Not surprisingly, my very favourite character here - Yeorim - is also the best acted one. I've sit through the whole drama waiting to see what he would say next and what new outfit he would wear.

Music is, for me, the true sore spot. I appreciated the insertion of modern rhythm on a period setting because the drama is meant to be "timeless". The instrumental pieces are nice, albeit forgettable. The "lover song", on the other hand, got so much on my nerves, my watching partner and I retorted to muting the sound whenever it played (and it played every single time our lovey-dovey pair was together). Have you ever tried watching a kiss in complete silence? Well, don't try: it's terribly awkward, proof that the right music makes up for 50% of the emotion. Since we couldn't have romance+music at the same time, we hummed a tune ourselves.

This review comes after a second watch. I had seen this drama back in 2011, but was distracted by other things at the time and basically couldn't remember a thing. Watching it in good company was a funny and entertaining experience I am ready to recommend.

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Completed
Moon Embracing the Sun
25 people found this review helpful
Oct 11, 2014
20 of 20 episodes seen
Completed 7
Overall 10
Story 9.5
Acting/Cast 10
Music 10
Rewatch Value 10
I have shied well away from Korean historical dramas since I started watching Asian shows. I did try out a few in the past and by the end of a couple of episodes at best I was bored to death, mighty frustrated, totally confused or an unpleasant combination of the three.
Why I decided to watch The Moon/Sun is a long story which I'm kindly going to spare you. Suffice to know, 20 minutes in and I was hooked. This review is therefore dedicated to viewers who, like me, have never been fond of the genre.

Captivated by the details of folklore scattered throughout this drama, I decided to read up on their historical dependability. I so found out that the Saeguks of the past were all based upon true facts derived from Joseon annals, while the newer productions often deviate from this norm, by either introducing a few fictional facts on a documented background (fusion Saeguks) or creating a fantasy world in terms of characters, plot, even costumes. The Moon embracing the Sun falls into the latter category, so if what you look for is a lesson on how royalty lived in the Joseon era, you'd better forget this drama. This isn't a perfect Saeguk by far, possibly not a perfect drama either. It is, however, a perfect fairytale and in this light I believe it fully deserves the high marks many of us awarded it and the success it attained in Korea.
.
The fairytale elements are all there from the very beginning. Prepare yourself for a journey into magic, undying love, friendship, betrayal, hate, tears, laughter, curses and so on and so forth. A childlike approach to the viewing is needed, lest you want to spend your time wondering at its credibility or lack thereof. And because a work of fiction should never be judged outside its narrative context, it is undeniable this story works, and works well. Now that I have completed it, I fully understand the complains of those who wished for a different epilogue for some of the characters, but personally I was prepared to face losses and would go as far as to say they were a necessity induced by the premises of this story.

I won't spend too many words on the acting. Everybody has sang praises for the teenagers' cast, which I second. Nevertheless, the adult cast was outstanding, Han Ga In included – it was truly hard to surpass the grace, beauty and artless charm of the 13 year old Yeom Woo. Han Ga In didn't steal my heart at first but sneaked into it with steadfast progression. She has one of the most pleasant voices I know. I was literally mesmerized by Kim Soo Hyun, but I won't lie: I have a hard time separating my hormonal reaction to my logical thinking, when it comes to him. Whatever the case, he gave life to a multilayered, unforgettable character.
I'd love to talk in detail about each and every endearing character – see on top the Eunuch and Wun – but I fear this is becoming long enough.

I thought the transition from children to adults was marvellously made, and not surprisingly my very favourite scene is the 8 years jump, both on a visual as well as an emotional and symbolic level.
There have been times when I wished they had made use of more open-space sets, but not only I have not enough experience in period dramas to know whether this is often the case, but following what I wrote before, the enclosed setting works well in creating a sort of fantasy bubble out of time and reality.
Little visual details made my day, and I have no qualms in declaring this drama displays the most beautiful letter ever shown on screen.

A huge part of this drama emotional impact is played by the music. Mainly instrumental and with lovely insertions of traditional instruments such as zithers, harps and lutes, it would be perfectly fit for a grand period movie. Notable mention for the minor key pieces, especially 'Like Petals, Like Flames', 'The Sorrow Song of Love' and the enchanting 'Butterfly Dance'. They all play on the viewer's emotion and are wonderfully suggestive of the scene they soundtrack.

As for re-watch value… I am toying with the idea of starting afresh next week. I suppose this says it all.

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Completed
Secretly, Greatly
6 people found this review helpful
Oct 4, 2014
Completed 1
Overall 8.5
Story 7.0
Acting/Cast 10
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 6.0
This movie had an odd effect on me. It worked like a punch in the stomach: it hurt a lot and for a moment there I was stunned and couldn't think of anything else, it was pure feeling. After a while, however, I began putting the whole experience under a more rational light and I was left a little puzzled.

Like someone else here pointed out, I too fail to see a logic in the actions of all involved. The title of the movie, which is not randomly chosen but should explain the whole film, promises something that wasn't fulfilled. If the intention of the writer was to create a story of secrecy and greatness, it excelled at the first and failed at the second, since there isn't anything heroic, or shiny in the order they are given and the way they handle it. This dichotomy would work if the whole film had been built on the futility of nationalism, if it were a big, sarcastic accusation, but it isn't. It talks about three young guys and the way they deal with facing a different reality from the only one they have known and learnt as kids. I wish we had had the chance to see that bond with the 3 spies and the village building up, but we don't. We are left to imagine whys that never get a because.

My reason for the high overall mark is the acting, which in my opinion fully deserves a 10. Kim Soo Hyun in particular does a fantastic job in portraying this double version of himself. And here's the rub: the movie works only on a visual and pure feel level. Once the plot has been dissected and your mind fills with question marks, what lingers is the beauty of all three guys, particularly enhanced by ultra smexy combat scenes, murderous looks and a few very effective friendship scenes. My desperate attempt at reasoning miserably failed when confronted with the three of them on screen, just like any other adolescent viewer - problem is, I'm no adolescent anymore.

I feel there wasn't enough music in the movie to speak about it in detail. It was there, but I forgot.

I'm still debating about ever re-watching this movie. I won't be thrown a second punch, that's for sure, so I wonder whether it would be of any use to re-watch something that was pure feeling in the first place, once the feeling is gone.

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Completed
Itazura na Kiss - Love in Tokyo
19 people found this review helpful
Aug 1, 2013
16 of 16 episodes seen
Completed 2
Overall 4.0
Story 1.0
Acting/Cast 7.0
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 1.0
The important premise: I approached this drama well knowing the plot. I have watched the Korean version of this story and found it unbearably stupid. Therefore, I can only blame myself for treading on such a ground. Actually, I dropped the drama by episode 6, but then decided to pick it up again, since so many well trusted friends enjoyed it a lot.
I wanted to know why.

So please forgive me if I truly didn't get why.
Why is this drama so popular?
Why so many people find the misadventures of a brainless girl and her just as stupid entourage romantic?

I could even accept this thing as a purely over the top comedic soap, but the pretense of romance fills every fiber of my being with indignation.

Once again, I apologize a hundred times to the lovers of this super popular story if I offend them, but, really, how can a person sink so low in the name of love? A love with no dignity, no reasoning, no scope outside itself is not worth of this name: it's just a shallow obsession.

Kotoko looks and acts like a ditz from the fifties. She has no ambitions whatsoever, no self-esteem, no curiosity of the world outside the Irie's house. She's cheerful and when challenged she can actually learn, so why don't emphasize these traits, let her grow stronger, and make use of what she's been compelled to learn? No, what really pisses me off is that she makes one step forward and then retreats behind the start line. We come to the end of this story, and all she dreams about is EXACTLY the same thing she dreamt about on episode 1: marry Naoki. And what's even worse, she proclaims her undying love 1 trillion times, but her love as well as her life is ruled by an incredibly narrow tunnel vision. She never takes Naoki's feelings into consideration: I love him, when will he love me back?

I had hoped for this new version to give us a different heroine. They could have deviated from the original manga all they wanted; even Shakespeare has been revisited, for Pete's sake! In the beginning I had some hopes, she seemed a little more combative than her previous versions, but soon the fighting spirit turned into stalker spirit and her cuteness into overdone pantomime. Not to mention the whole set of medieval clichés with arranged marriages, meddling parents, cooking girls in aprons, walking 2 metres behind the guy, marrying at 19. Is this truly romantic? Do any of you really dream of this kind of "love", of completely cancel yourself for someone else?

I can understand Naoki's allure. His character is cold and distant, but he's honest. If I had been pestered by such a persistent admirer myself, I think I'd have resorted to murder, so I applaud his Patience of Job. And while it's not my task to decide why so many love this drama, I can venture the guess that many female viewers have a crush on him. The actor pulls off this role very well, and - allow me - holds up the whole drama. His character's the only one with a true arc: he moves forward, grows up, learns, changes. Which is ironic to say the least, since he's the genius of the day.

I know I'm not going to convince anyone not to watch this drama. I didn't write anything new, really, and as I premised, I was aware of the type of drama I was going to watch, so shame on me for hoping. But since I watched Playful Kiss and remained silent on the wreck it was, I had to get this one out of my chest.

I can only hope most viewers won't take this girl as anything even remotely resembling a role model, or I'll lose all my faith in the evolution of the species.

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Completed
Osozaki no Himawari
28 people found this review helpful
Jul 6, 2013
10 of 10 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 9.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 10
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 9.0
"A quiet life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; and work, which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one's neighbour — such is my idea of happiness."
- Lev Tolstoy

I hope you can forgive me if my penchant for quotes invades a review. I have watched Osozaki no Himawari some time ago and loved it but never came around to write a review for it. Then I stumbled upon the words of Tolstoy and was immediately reminded of it.

The essence of this drama is, ultimately, the pursuit of happiness. It shows how this last can be found in the most unexpected places, with the most random people, doing things we would never have taken into consideration, if we hadn't been forced to do so by the circumstances.
The simple message this drama tries to send is beautifully conveyed, thanks to a wonderful cast that creates lovely characters and warms the heart. Ikuta Toma is perfect for the part: he's goofy and reasonable at the same time, I'd say he is the new element that unconsciously brings an otherwise sleepy community to a new life, while he himself learns to adapt and understand.
Jotaro's interactions with Kahori, wonderfully portrayed by a talented Maki Yoko are priceless, and their phone conversations are the sweetest thing ever. "Ore ore" will remain in my memory for a long time.

What makes this drama so special, besides the adorable ensemble of characters, is the cinematography. Perhaps the Shimanto River Region is so beautiful one doesn't need to be a particularly skilled photographer to capture its charm on screen; whatever the case, the end result is stunning. If the intention of this drama direction was to promote the region, I must say they succeded: when I finally visit Japan, it will be one of the first places I put on my itinerary.

The music is lovely too, and I agree with Sewitches that the idea of having the whole cast sing the leitmotif is brilliant.

If you are the type of person who feels at ease in the countryside, who finds happiness in small things, this drama will appeal to you. On the other hand, if you need the dizziness of crowded cities with a lot of events going on, it may not. This is a relaxing trot, not a wild gallop.

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Completed
Soratobu Kouhoushitsu
49 people found this review helpful
Jun 27, 2013
11 of 11 episodes seen
Completed 1
Overall 10
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 10
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 9.0
I have been debating for a while if I should give this drama an overall 9 or give in to the impulse of bestowing it a 10. The "masterpiece" definition always sounds a little awkward to me, it seems to require I were ready to offer defensible reasons for my choices.

But I'm hair-splitting. Soratobu Kouhoushitsu is a terrific drama, one that starts without any pomp or expectations and slowly sneaks into the heart and under your skin. It does so in such a gradual, delicate and suave way the effect is powerful and lasting. By the end, I was so sad to see these characters go I couldn't bring myself to watch the last 15 minutes.
When I begin to feel nostalgic about something that isn't even over yet, it means I'm seriously in love. This is why I am not at all sure I'll be able to convey the feeling with my review, or convince any of you to watch this little jewel of a drama. This is not a rom-com, it's not melo, it's not a thriller, nor a simple life drama; it doesn't rely on plot twists, nor on sexy heroes... and yet my heart has stopped many times while watching.

Perhaps the main reason is in the acting, which is wonderful. I never needed confirmation of Aragaki Yui's acting skill, since I've loved her in everything she's acted in. This role however has sealed the issue. I loved everything about Ina-pyon, from her stubborn and passionate honesty at the beginning, to her compassion and better understanding she grows into. And I adored the chemistry she shared on screen with an outstanding Ayano Go, whom I have every intention of becoming a stalker to.
Honourable mention to Shibata Kohei, the most lovable, unforgettable and adorable chief ever appeared on screen. I'm almost offended that the actor isn't even mentioned in the cast. He was awesome here, the kind of character everyone would like to have as a father, or a superior at work.
Hats off to everyone else, from a gorgeous Renn Kiriyama to a hilarious Mizuno Miki, from a surprising Katsuhisa Namase to a sweetly idiotic Jun Kaname.

I can't possibly not mention the cinematography. Stunning. While watching I had to stop the screen every other minute to get a screenshot. Beautiful colours, terrific attention to little details, masterful use of camera angles. Truly lovely.

The same could be said about the music. Not too many pieces are used, but the few have the ability to enhance the scene and play with the viewer's feelings, just what an Ost should do.

I am well aware that I haven't said much about the main subjects of this drama. You may be wondering at this point: what it is about?
Please, bear with me. If my experience is anything to go by, this is a drama better approached without expectations or prejudice. Let its charm work on you as it did on me, by surprise.

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Completed
Last Cinderella
19 people found this review helpful
Jun 23, 2013
11 of 11 episodes seen
Completed 2
Overall 8.0
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 10
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 8.0
Let me start by saying that light rom-coms are not my favoutite genre: I usually feel slightly detached and only watch them for the entertainment and the pleasure to let my brain rest for a while.

View in this light, Last Cinderella is the perfect romantic comedy. It's funny, at times utterly hilarious, it's fast-paced, it's highly entertaining, well characterized and most of all it's sexy.
Therefore, lowering my score because it didn't make my heart pound or didn't make me weep or think and re-think would be unfair towards the script, the cast and the general value of the drama.

If you're looking for a good romantic comedy, this is it. The cast is brilliant, the romance is spicy, the humour is wicked, the kisses are great, the guys are hot and the friendship between the three women deliciously naughty and heartwarming.

This kind of drama doesn't need long academic dissertations. Watch it for the fun and, yes, for Miura Haruma. He must be the hottest thing after chili paste. A shallow statement? Yes, of course, but then again, a good rom-com should stir your hormones, if it pretends to stir the neurons it invariably fails.

The music fits its purpose, it's just as light and summer-like as the drama itself.

Last Cinderella lends itself to multiple watching, hence the high re-watch value. Since I believe it's perfect for the Summer, I suggest you start watching it now. I doubt you'll regret it.

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Completed
Ashita No Joe
12 people found this review helpful
Jun 5, 2013
Completed 0
Overall 8.0
Story 4.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 7.0
On a super crazy Yamapi nostalgia which propelled me to re-watch almost all he's been acting in, I have finally come around to watch this movie. I was hesitant because, honestly, among all the combat sports, boxing is definitely not my favourite.

Being the movie adaptation of a legendary manga, the plot of this live action would need a 1 page discussion at least. But here's the rub! The movie does absolutely no justice to the cultural reality it was born in. Tomorrow's Joe is originally a story of social redemption that features a very self destructive antihero; it's not your average story of poor guy becomes rich and popular thanks to his fists and strength of will. It is, or I'd better say it SHOULD BE, the mirror of a period, a true social condemnation embodied by a derelict guy who can express himself only on the ring. This is where the film fails big time. The character of Joe is so scantily written one needs to be a seer to understand his motives – unless you've read all 20 volumes of the manga, in which case you'll probably be disappointed anyway by its brevity.
The direction seems to have been so preoccupied with the tiniest visual detail that it completely forgot to tell a story. The same applies to all the characters, whose arc is touched so superficially I had to appeal to my imagination to fill all the glaring voids.

Not to mention the boxing aspect itself. While the actors have done an amazing job at preparing for a difficult athletic task, the combats themselves are visually beautiful but tremendously repetitive. Since so much time is dedicated to the fight, I was hoping for more moves and tricks that never came. Once again, in their anxiety to be loyal to the manga they concentrated on the outer picture, instead of creating a movie which could stand on its own feet, for viewers who weren't yet born in the 60ies or have never heard of Yabuki Joe.

So why am I giving this film such a high overall rate?
Let's say this is my way to pay homage to the cast, mostly Tomohisa and Yusuke Iseya, and the director of photography. As you may have inferred from the premise of this review, I do not belong to the group of those who think Yamapi's just another pretty idol who can't act. On the contrary, I maintain he has what in theatre jargon is called the "physique du role", regardless of the part he plays. He does not express much with his face, he actually uses his whole body to enter the character. From Akira who flaps his arms like a weird butterfly to the über cool flying doctor, from the basketball court to the boxing ring he's always extremely believable. I could mention more roles, but it won't be necessary, I stand my ground: here, he IS Joe. If he had been given the chance, he would have created an unforgettable character.
Iseya did an amazing job too, despite the sad lack of depth the character he portrays is condemned to by the terrible script.

As for photography, it's absolutely stunning. Colours, angles, close-up shots and flashbacks are spot on. It does have a flaw, though, directly related to the abovementioned necessity to stay visually true to the manga: at times it looks as though the story took place in the 20ies, when in fact it's the 60ies and 70ies, as proved by the fact that people watch television, among other things.
The music falls into the same trap, but I'm willing to forgive this detail, since it's very beautiful and suits the atmosphere perfectly.

I may rewatch this movie in the future, just for the visual. I'm not sure I'm willing to recommend it, unless you're familiar with the characters and don't care for the plot.
Let's say that this movie has done nothing to ignite my interest for the sport, but it has confirmed my undying love for Yamashita Tomohisa – as if that ever needed validation.

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Completed
Run 60
6 people found this review helpful
May 23, 2013
9 of 9 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.0
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 10
Rewatch Value 9.0
The important premise: there are no available subs for this drama as of today. I wish to spare you the time and energy to look for them: none to be found anywhere.
Which means I’ve watched the drama raw, and since my knowledge of Japanese is not fluent enough to be remarkable, my judgment is based upon cinematography, acting and what I comprehended of the dialogues. It also means that if you understand some basic Japanese (and Korean, here and there) you may do the same and enjoy the drama – as I did – despite the lack of subtitles.

The main idea is that of a group of people who have to run and reach a destination in a given time. Not completing the task means death. While the running game makes for the general plot of the 9 episodes, the characters and arcs involved are three. So we can say this is a drama made of 3 separate chapters of 3 episodes each. There is no real need to review them separately, since the thrill to know how the dangerous game goes on is well balances in all three chapters.
I am, however, very partial to Renn Kiriyama, no need for me to deny it. He’s so ridiculously handsome in this, he could have delivered the white pages and I’d have been besotted anyway.
This isn't the only reason why the 1st chapter is my favourite, though. The first three episodes move at a faster pace than the others and being the introductory ones they also set the mood. While I loved the drama for the first half, I thought some performances by the end weren't exceptional and even the solution of the quiz was a little too predictable to be completely satisfactory.
This is why I have lowered the score for both story and acting by a point.

The idea of random people recruited by some grey eminence to play a deadly game is obviously reminiscent of Liar Game, but I’d say all similarities end here.
While Liar Game was made great by the general theatrical touch, including acting, music and costumes, RUN60 is pervaded with a sense of reality which is brilliant and yet quite disquieting. There is no super clever hero who wins all battles, just a group of people who do their best to survive. The run is also the occasion for their personality to unfold and for their unsolved business to be somehow concluded. In a sense, the act of running is a metaphor of those people making a brief journey into themselves.
The villains are known from the very beginning, at least that's what the viewer is lead to believe. The "Pied Piper" behind it all remains unknown until the very last chapter (but hints to the culprit are scattered throughout the whole show, if you're attentive enough).

The music is terrific, with just the right intensity at the right moment.

The very high re-watch value is due to my hope I will be able to watch this drama with subs one day – possibly in this century. I know I should wait for them before facing the movie, but I’m afraid patience is not my strongest trait and if you’ll excuse me I’m now going to watch RUN60 – Game Over.
Ja ne!

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