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Completed
W
127 people found this review helpful
Sep 14, 2016
16 of 16 episodes seen
Completed 10
Overall 8.0
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 9.5
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 7.0
Ah, W. How I was looking forward to writing this review.

W was certainly one of the most anticipated dramas of the season, and for good reason: a creative storyline paired with an exemplary leading cast. I, like many others, was captivated by the idea of a webtoon coming to life. And Lee Jong Suk? Huehue. Say no more.

The writers of the show crafted a plot that is bound to keep you on your toes and send your brain into overdrive. It’s not the most intelligent story I’ve seen. At times it's confusing and borders on being nonsensical, but it’s logical enough to make it worth watching. W is especially intriguing because of its unpredictability - even if you grow used to the plot, each new problem creates an addicting mystery. You become determined to understand exactly what will happen next.

While I enjoyed W and the anxiety its suspense caused me, this drama is not perfect. A show amazing in concept, it fails to deliver in some of the most important aspects.

One thing I found particularly problematic was the romance. Some might disagree, but I found Kang Chul and Yeon Joo’s loveline to be one of the most poorly-written in any K-drama I’ve seen. I’ll admit that there was incredible potential in their relationship. However, the writers never give you any reason to like this couple except that they just are a couple - it’s the unspoken drama rule that because they’re the main characters, they have to be together. Fair enough, but that doesn’t get my heart racing.

Is the romance necessary? Yes - to an extent. Love is the easiest way to connect the two main characters. But trust me; that romance sucks badly. In the beginning episodes, you find it cute. What’s not adorable about a cool guy who’s curious about this ditzy girl? Then, you suddenly hit the point of doubt: but…but why, though? Why are they together? How? Sadly, there is no satisfying answer to these questions.

Yet, as much of a letdown as the romance was, what ultimately kept me from giving this show a higher score was its characters.

I have a burning passion for well-written characters, and I thought W would be the perfect drama to see it being done. The idea of the story is that the boundaries between reality and fiction are blurred, causing a mere created character to act and feel as a real human does. What we viewers deserve out of such a concept are heart-wrenching characters whose personalities you could find within a human in this world; who would persuade you that creations are self-aware. But disappointingly, nearly every single one of W’s characters are dull.

Strangely enough, the best example is Kang Chul. Our main character happens to be perfect. That sounds great! He’s rich, goodlooking, with an incredible sense of justice (this is where I swoon). He wants desperately to live, and you feel for him because…well, he’s not just a webtoon character; he’s a human being goddammit! Look at his perfect skin. And his eyes (oh his eyes). Also his backstory is so sad! But there’s something sadder than his backstory - his personality, which is as two-dimensional as the lines that were drawn to create him.

I’ve seen a lot of people share the same justification for why he has no real flaws: he’s a webtoon character, thus not real, thus does not have to be bound by the unspoken law that all people are imperfect. Fine; that makes sense. But isn’t that ironic? His whole gist is that he’s a human being. Where does he come off claiming such a thing if he’s so flawless? You’ll begrudgingly accept this character because of Lee Jong Suk, but that’ll be the extent of it.

And, the side characters are just that - side characters. Oh, sure, they exist. Yet I never really cared about them. Most of the time, they were convenient plot devices, not people. (I’ll say that I did very much like the role of Yeon Joo’s father - out of everyone, he feels the most realistic.)

If this were any other drama, I would let this go. I understand that a show can’t have everything, and characters are often the afterthought in the face of such a complex plot. However, I want to make it clear that if the writers are going to create a show based around the idea that these webtoon characters seem human, then they have to create characters that are human, and as a result, elicit my empathy. By the end, I should have been setting up a shrine in my house and counting prayer beads in hopes that they all get a happy ending! Uh…maybe that’s an exaggeration. But do you get me?

I know this review sounds bad, but I do want to get across that altogether, I did have a good time with W. Doesn’t sound like it, but it’s true! Its problems may be obvious, yet its strengths are enough to keep you going.

Its control over suspense had me hiding behind my hands at certain parts. And the cast itself is great - particularly the actor portraying Yeon Joo’s father; I cried womanly tears for you, sir. I’ve never watched Han Hyo Joo on screen before, but I did enjoy her role and thought she did a pretty good job with her character. I will also again emphasize my love for Lee Jong Suk: those emotive eyes. Gah. Almost made me like Kang Chul.

I recommend you to watch this drama, but simultaneously caution yourself against the blinding hype that it received. The end product of this show was nothing near to the perfection that I expected it to have, but it also wasn’t anything close to being bad.

Don’t expect a masterpiece. Watch it; have fun with it!

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Completed
Beautiful Gong Shim
64 people found this review helpful
Jul 18, 2016
20 of 20 episodes seen
Completed 1
Overall 6.5
Story 6.0
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 7.5
Rewatch Value 6.0
The best way I can describe this show is by asking you to picture a house. It's a very nice house, but over time the foundation seems to crumble. Then one day, the entire building can't hold itself up anymore and collapses in on itself until it's just a pile of separate, broken parts that used to make a beautiful whole.

Beautiful Gong Shim began as a drama with infinite promise in the rom-com area. The two main characters are quirky and at first glance, you just expect a cute little romance that you can enjoy without much thought. I'll also point out that the first few episodes included some of the most ridiculously funny moments I've ever experienced in any drama, so my expectations were incredibly high as the rest of the episodes came out.

A little past halfway through it, though, the plot tried way too hard to be serious and suspenseful, thus losing its initial humorous merits. The feeling is somewhat like listening to your grandparents tell stories: at first, you're pretty interested, but it quickly gets boring, yet you feel an obligation to sit there until the very last word. I stopped finding things to laugh at. The romantic moments were less rewarding in the midst of the mess of the conspiracy plot the writers drew up for no apparent reason. The characters deteriorated and lost every trait that made them unique.

If there were one redeeming aspect of this drama, I'd have to say that it's Nam Goong Min. Usually a professional in depicting a psycho serial killer in other dramas, this time he's the lead male with a fair amount of goofballness. He was a joy to watch, but his character was not spared in the enormous *let's-make-everyone-generic* massacre. Everyone else fulfilled their roles nicely, but Goong Min's really the star of this show. (Which is interesting, as I thought the directors would give Minah more of a spotlight but she really dropped off the radar late into the drama. I could say less of the wig they made her wear though.)

The music was fun; there were multiple tracks that cheered me up along the way and altogether, they were nice to listen to.

In general, I'd recommend watching maybe the first ten episodes, if not less. The beginning is worth watching, as it puts a smile on your face pretty frequently. It's just the second half that becomes appallingly boring (trust me, you probably wouldn't even miss anything if you skipped straight to the last episode as soon as the story even starts to drag).

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Completed
Long For You
29 people found this review helpful
Mar 8, 2017
20 of 20 episodes seen
Completed 2
Overall 4.5
Story 3.0
Acting/Cast 6.0
Music 7.5
Rewatch Value 1.0
Honest to God, I don’t understand how this show maintained such high ratings (over an 8.0) on MDL while it was airing. Overscoring is always a problem on this website, but never have I seen overscoring that I couldn’t find some justification for - until I started watching Long For You. (If you enjoyed this show, I'm very open to hearing why.) I’ll try to make this review interesting, in exactly the way that this drama wasn't.

Ever read a fanfiction written by a twelve-year-old whose biggest concept of conflict is that she doesn’t have a boyfriend even though she’s only twelve? Now, imagine if this twelve-year-old had rich parents who paid for the most top-notch cinematography in order to make this fanfiction into a television production. And there you have it; this is what Long For You felt like from beginning to end.

I’ll give the production crew props for such pretty promotional posters and consistently beautiful shots throughout the drama. I genuinely appreciate their efforts in presentation which frequently resulted in brilliant results. But "don't judge a book by its cover" gets a whole new kind of importance in this show's context.

The story was absolute crap. That MDL has this listed as related to You Who Came from the Stars is an absolute insult to the Korean drama industry. I didn’t even like that drama as much as most people did, but I can still say with utmost confidence that You Who Came from the Stars would mop the floor with Long For You any day of the week. Aside from similar plot elements, you can’t even begin to compare the two. Forget being on the same level. They aren’t even in the same building. Or continent.

I have honestly never been so frustrated by a drama plot due to its lack of proper flow. What exacerbated this was the fact that the synopsis was the reason I started watching it: what’s not to like about a story that combines supernatural elements with romance? Yet, Long For You somehow took an interesting concept and turned it into something that was worse than nothing. The stunning cinematography was wasted on a plot that, again, felt like it was straight out of the mind of an immature pre-teen.

Conflict in this drama never feels like conflict. It always feels like a very slight inconvenience. Take for example, the main female character. You can tell from the story’s summary that she’s lonely as all hell. But the most we get of this characterization in the actual show is at most one minute of her being like, “Oh, woe is me. I am so. So. Lonely.” Are you now? Because I’m sorry, but just saying that you’re lonely doesn’t mean sh*t, especially when it only comes up once or twice. The problems in this show were written trivially, almost like the writers couldn’t wait to get back to the romance, but felt the necessity to include something else.

It was quite the shame, as well, that the romance sucked. There was zero chemistry between the main couple and zero logic behind their getting together other than the dramaland rule that states "main female lead and main male lead must end up together." For me, every time I saw them on screen, it was easier to picture them as brother and sister than a couple. Gross. The secondary couple was comparatively much more fun to watch, in addition to the situational pairing of the two male leads. These two pairings made this show slightly bearable.

We now arrive at one of two reasons why I didn’t drop this show like a hot potato: Song Wei Long. Not his acting, though. Kid’s got a long way to go. But there’s just something about those not-yet-legal-age eyebrows that entrance you. I swear I’m not being creepy. Going off of this, though, none of the acting really captured me as being amazing. Though, I imagine it must’ve been hard for the actors to play characters that are about as dimensional as a piece of paper that has been transported into the first dimension.

I’ll conclude this review with the second reason why I kept watching. I just wanted to see how bad it could get. It’s been a while since I’ve completed watching such an utter trainwreck. I’m sure you’ve gathered, but it only got worse with time.

(Also, if you would like to spare the production crew with the excuse that 20 minutes an episode at 20 episodes total is too short to do anything amazing, I will ask you to contact the closest weeaboo available. They can provide you a very long list of anime that construct stories infinitely better than this show's. And in only half the episode count.)

tl;dr: I'm more disappointed in myself for finishing this than I am in the producers of this show.

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Completed
Beautiful Secret
18 people found this review helpful
Apr 17, 2016
39 of 39 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 4.0
Story 4.0
Acting/Cast 7.5
Music 5.0
Rewatch Value 2.0
As someone who's grown up in a Chinese family, I've watched my fair share of mainland dramas. For me, the newer ones generally fall into one of two categories: nostalgia or just-plain-frustrating. I would put the second label all over this drama.



Let me first say that how this drama was marketed made it incredibly misleading. The summary and the promotional posters make it appear as if this is a show that's at least partially about our main protagonist achieving stardom despite all the obstacles that can get in her way. Spoiler alert (one for potential viewers' benefit): it's not. The plot is instead a disgusting mess of irrational decisions made by barely-likable characters that had me mentally writhing in my seat for 40 minutes at a time. There are predictable stories that can still be amusing to watch, and then there are stories like this that are just outright maddening. This whole show I was waiting for the promised moment when our main character would show her talent to the world and I was brutally disappointed.



The cast was possibly the least of all the evils that this show had to offer, and I ask that people take this even with a grain of salt. The reason for that is because no matter how in-character these actors were, the characters they played all were so unbearable by the end of this show that I wondered what on earth was going on in the writers' heads. Take for example Victoria's character, Mei Li. The drama shoves her in your face as the innocent, selfless, embodiment-of-kindness protagonist who, when she does something wrong, was righteous in doing so. Over the period of 40 episodes, this gets old pretty fast and a previously likable character becomes someone so unrealistically depicted that I was left astounded.



Admittedly, the only thing that saved this show from bombing even more than it did with me was the acting. Especially with some of the older actors, they portrayed some of the more emotional parts with enough persuasion that I did feel some sympathy.



-----



tl;dr: This show was a combination of irritation and crying from boredom.

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Completed
Master Devil Do Not Kiss Me 2
16 people found this review helpful
Apr 15, 2017
23 of 23 episodes seen
Completed 4
Overall 4.0
Story 3.0
Acting/Cast 7.5
Music 5.0
Rewatch Value 1.5
This review may contains spoilers
It’s been a solid period of time since I decided to allow this confused mess of a drama sink into my nerves, and seeing how the reviews are scarce in number, I thought I’d give potential viewers a rather large piece of my mind.

If you’re here and considering watching this, I’ll assume that you at least somewhat enjoyed the show to which this is a sequel. Master Devil Do Not Kiss Me sits somewhat high on my rom-com list despite being littered with Asian drama tropes (my favorite of which has to be "cohabiting rich guy and poor girl who refuses to take his crap but sometimes takes his crap anyway because dramaland"). It was youthful, cliched, yet endearing.

This sequel, though, was absolutely terrible in comparison.

There are cliches like in the prequel, which the writers delivered as cute and gave you some giggles. And then there are cliches like in this one, which will have you laughing psychotically as you sharpen your metaphorical knives and prepare to hunt down the people who turned the plot into absolute - for lack of a better word - horseshit.

It’s important to compare this sequel with its predecessor because it is a direct continuation from where MDDNKM left off. There are many problems to be resolved, particularly the one where the relationship between the two main characters remains very ambiguous. Yet, frustratingly, the second season never delivers satisfying closure to any of the questions you may have and instead piles on dilemma after dilemma that don’t serve any real purpose other than pissing you off.

If you have disdain for any of the following cliches (contains spoilers; but who’re we kidding, this show isn’t worth watching anyway): lying ex-girlfriends, clingy third wheels latching onto the male and female main characters, a lead couple whose most effective form of communication is giving one another the cold shoulder, ridiculous birth secrets, "the girl you like is actually blood related to you", etc.; ditch this drama now. It’s pathetic how bad this all became. Every single episode of this show became the longest 20 minutes of my life and I just about wished that I would spontaneously have responsibilities to attend to so I’d be put out of the misery of sitting through them.

The acting is okay. I liked the actors way more in the first season; which might have had something to with the characters’ quirks. Some aspects of them were endearing in the first season, but rapidly became extremely annoying in this one. See reference: Qi Lu deciding that every single time Chu Xia gets pissy with him, he’ll call her stupid or some other variation instead of asking “what did I do” like any normal human being would. Gets old when it happens every episode for 20 straight episodes, boy.

Also, I’d like to mention that the editors confused the hell out of me. Why on earth would you play fun, happy background music during a scene in which two antagonists are plotting how to get rid of their rival? Whenever this happened, I half-expected a squirrel to jump out and maul them or something else that would be entertaining, but nope. It would just be a possibly suspenseful scene, ruined by a playful little jingle in the background. It seriously ruins the mood.

In a way, I consider it intelligent that none of this content was included in the first season. The quality falls so short that it’d be a real shame to drag down the fun of the first season with this trash.

tl;dr: did the director hit his head during production and decide to continue being the director?

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Completed
A Love So Beautiful
8 people found this review helpful
Dec 30, 2017
23 of 23 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.5
Story 7.5
Acting/Cast 10
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 7.5
Amidst all the positivity and perfection that others see in this drama, you can count on me to be a real grinch and center in on all the reasons that it was not entirely flawless. That is not to say I hated it; far from it, but I fail to share the unwavering, absolute love that many others seem to.

Many things about A Love So Beautiful was a surprise to me. I'll be the first to admit that I harbor a real prejudice each time I enter the realm that is a Chinese drama - watching them throughout my childhood, they were unfailingly littered with a) tragedy, b) horrible CG, and/or c) gagworthy storylines (typically, an entertaining combination of all three). And quite honestly, few nowadays seem to impress me. Call it bias, but I still think the Mainland has much to learn regarding what constitutes a good show.

A Love So Beautiful was different from the moment I picked it up. It does not present melodramatic conflict for you to brood over, but instead focuses on the innocence of a teenager trying to get through the struggles of school and first love. I did not grow up within the Chinese education system, but there is something incredibly charming and nostalgic about seeing a group of five friends trudge through their high school years. Having teachers scold you, finding unpredictable friendships, secretly liking someone...A person is only naive in such a way for a small amount of time, and this drama perfectly captures that foolish yet heartwarming attitude of youth.

It only helped that the cast consisted of young, yet capable actors. How annoying is it when you watch a show about high school and the actors are in their mid- to late-twenties? And then you spend the entire duration brooding over how old they look and how nothing about them reminds you of a cute teenager. A Love So Beautiful never suffers from this issue; because not only do the main actors look young - they are. They act their parts perfectly, accurately presenting the turbulent feelings of their characters and how they grow over the course of the drama. It's difficult to find five lead actors who interact with one another with so much natural chemistry that it's hard to believe that they're acting.

But turn on the sad music - I'm done gushing about all the things I absolutely adored. Here's what dragged it down from a perfect 10: as soon as the characters left high school, the plot began to wander. There is a distinct imbalance between the warmth that is their high school lives and the confusion that is their "growing up."

I would like to ensure you that I don't hate the fact that they got older. It was the delivery; how the writers depicted their "maturing" that was irksome. What I found particularly problematic was how you spend over half of the drama watching them in high school - and you love it to pieces - but then you have less than eight episodes to watch them speed carelessly through cliche relationship problems and time skips. The transition is rough and the trip doesn't get any smoother. It would have made far more sense to me to either limit the story of this show to their high school years, or add more episodes to spread out their time as they age past university and through adulthood.

I simply didn't feel the magic in the latter part of the drama, which follows their post-graduation lives. It's still fine to watch, but it just isn't the same. I wanted to see the ways they carefully sort out problems between themselves and thus mature, not watch as they get angry at one another and resolve it merely because - well, merely because that's the way the writers want it to be. I did not feel as connected to their characters; not because they aren't bubbly teenagers, but because the story slowly becomes more about their problems and less about who they are. To me, their characters are one of the greatest strengths of the plotline, and as it fades throughout, so does the show's primary charm.

I would feel bad shutting this drama down entirely, since that would be unfair to the refreshing fun that it brought to me as I marathoned it. It is not without its flaws. However, it made me remember my first feelings of romance and filled my heart to the brim with both happiness and bittersweetness. It's hard to find a drama capable of such an effect on a viewer - and I'm glad this one found a way.

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Completed
Meteor Garden
20 people found this review helpful
24 days ago
50 of 49 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 4.5
Story 3.5
Acting/Cast 6.0
Music 4.0
Rewatch Value 5.0
(For a spoilerful review, I wrote a separate, much more in-depth version here: https://dramavixen.tumblr.com/post/177526794854/)

Was I expecting a trainwreck when I first started watching? Perhaps. Actually, yes; unquestionably so. Thus, even if I call this show a trainwreck, it wouldn’t be accurate to say that Meteor Garden was "below expectations."

Meteor Garden was possibly one of the most anticipated Chinese dramas of the season, rousing the nostalgic instincts of those of us who have long been attached to this story. Of course, that’s a great burden on the cast and crew. This is especially true in China, where viewers tend to prefer the “original” version of everything—novels, dramas, movies; you name it. Any kind of remake or adaptation is asking for trouble; and Meteor Garden fared the worst that I've seen, with a whopping rating of 2.8/10 when the first episode aired.

We can say that viewers in China are being overly judgmental, but the one thing they’re right about is that choosing to remake this was a shaky decision to begin with. At its core, Meteor Garden overflows with cliche after cliche; all the ones that make us roll our eyes whenever we see them: the poor girl-rich guy combo, the trash male lead/nice second male lead dynamic, the meddling mother-in-law; the list just writes itself. This isn’t to say that cliche usage equates to a bad drama, but historically, Meteor Garden has never elevated these elements to anything past mediocrity.

This adaptation still uses all of these tropes: without improvement. We can argue all day about how the writers toned down the bullying that existed in the previous versions; how Dao Ming Si isn’t as bad of a guy as he used to be. That doesn’t change the fact that this story is incredibly weak.

The conflicts between the main couple start off making sense because they have a lot of moral disagreements. Meteor Garden intends to show the evolution of a relationship as it progresses between two enemies to two people in love. However, with 48 episodes worth of problem after problem solely for the sake of dramatics, the instability of their relationship quickly becomes less heartbreaking and more obnoxious. All the side plots involving the other characters are also either boring or mindnumblingly frustrating—or (if your goddess of luck has abandoned you) both!

How do the characters play into the plot? In a word, badly. The sheer level of bullcrapery that is injected into the script makes it impossible for anyone to truly develop or interact with each other like normal human beings. Each character does have their good and bad points, which I appreciate. But more often than not, we don’t get to see them act as people; they’re just used as paper dolls for the sake of toddling through whatever conflict the writers feel like putting into the episode. It’s a real shame, especially since the actors all have so much potential to do better.

In all honesty, I’m surprised that I finished this show. Well, I guess I could be more surprised; from the very beginning, I wanted to see this ordeal to the end so that I could be as thorough in my roasting as possible without any false pretenses. So here, I have to say that Meteor Garden is but a pile of burnt potatoes. And just like there're a lot of better things to eat than burnt potatoes, there’re a lot of better things to watch than this.

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Completed
Go Back Couple
3 people found this review helpful
Aug 10, 2018
12 of 12 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 9.0
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 10
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 10
(Spoilerful, detailed review here: https://dramavixen.tumblr.com/post/176856871009/)

How do I even put this into words? Though just missing the mark of perfection, "Go Back Couple" is quite the emotional ride and one that I can't stop thinking about.

At its core, this is such a simple drama, but its execution is breathtaking. This tells the story of deep emotions and complex relationships under the guise of a lighthearted romcom. Everything about its surface will have you believing that this is a refreshing watch to relax yourself, but once you set foot into the first episode, you will realize: you have made a horrible, beautiful mistake.

I’m a crybaby. Over the years, my tear ducts have truly widened the scope as to what can get them going. Even so, nothing could have prepared me for this drama. “Go Back Couple” had me bawling every episode. Yes: every. Single. Episode. My tissue box is a bit tired. The emotional impact of this plot hits like a cement truck and results from the writers’ decision to focus not on the couple’s romance, but on the leads as individual people who harbor their own struggles. Those struggles then translate into their relationship. As we see them learn how to cope, their reconnection is natural and more satisfying.

The plot is not overly convoluted or “smart,” which occasionally causes it to slip whenever it tries to introduce bigger conflicts; but ultimately the lack of plot twists is what gives it its beauty. The simplicity but poignancy of our leads’ interactions, along with all the characters around them, increases how much we as viewers can empathize with them. There’s none of that theatric suspense that has become the trend in so many dramas: just humans dealing with incredibly human problems. Sometimes I forget that a time slip isn’t exactly normal; it weaves so well into, but doesn’t completely overpower, the story.

The cast plays a huge part in all of this success. Because the plot relies entirely on the personalities of its characters, there is no room for error on the side of the actors—and there are no errors made. Jang Na Ra is always spot-on when it comes to her roles, especially in scenes that are emotionally heavy. As soon as she hits the switch for the crying, it’s almost impossible to not follow along. Son Ho Jun is a new name to me, but he could be Ban Do in real life and I wouldn’t question it. These two together are as great as they are as individuals. All the side characters and so-called “secondary leads" are also incredibly important in their own ways. None of them are “there” for the sake of diluting the plot and dragging out time. They each bear their own hardships in ways that pry at our hearts and help the lead couple along their journey.

Everything about “Go Back Couple” feels priceless to me. There are so many little moments that are heartwarming yet claw at your innards. It’s one of those shows that has something incredibly personal to say to you, regardless of what stage of your life you’re currently in. That’s such a difficult trait to come by in any type of media these days, and that alone makes this drama worth watching.

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Just Between Lovers
3 people found this review helpful
Jun 19, 2018
16 of 16 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.0
Story 7.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 8.5
Rewatch Value 7.0
I was originally going to post a simple comment regarding my two cents on this drama, but then I figured that it's impossible to condense all of my thoughts into anything less than a whole review. After all, I talk a lot.

The biggest danger of being on this platform (or any similar site, really) is getting swept up in the mob mentality that is a high rating. Time and time again, I begin watching a drama with high hopes just because so many other people loved it. Sometimes, I agree. Other times, I find that I have basically scammed myself through other viewers' preferences. One of those other times was my recent experience with Just Between Lovers.

Just Between Lovers is, by far, not a bad show. I completely understand why so many viewers fell into it. The casting choices, the cinematography, the soundtrack. There’s a lot to brag about. The plot choice is a challenge, but one I commend the writer for choosing. PTSD, survivor's guilt, depression; these things are incredibly difficult subjects to put into a drama without being insensitive, inaccurate, or both.

While I’m not entirely dissatisfied with how the writer depicted these mental conditions, I do feel that she should have gone much further. I didn’t really get into the heads of the characters as much as I expected; so my heart didn’t hurt for them at all.

For Just Between Lovers, the characters should have been the main point. We can understand the technicals of what they went through just by reading a synopsis. In that case, it’s the show’s responsibility to show us more about them; not merely history, but who they are down to every nerve in their body. Okay; maybe that's pushing it for a 16-episode drama, but you understand what I mean? I want to relate to them on some level. Instead, the writer relied too much on the fallacy that “tragedy” automatically equates to a sympathetic audience. In trying to make us viewers feel sad with a truckload of melodrama, we end up not feeling too sad at all.

While I admit that I'm frequently too much of a stickler for well-written characters, I firmly believe that this oversimplification of characters was what failed this show. There were just too many characters to deal with effectively and all at once. The writer was trying to show that everyone is dealing with their own inner demons, which is fine; but then why do I not feel anything for any of them except for the smallest shred of pity? The experience was very similar to when you watch news broadcasts about car accidents: you might wince, feel bad because of what happened. But you most likely don’t have a great enough connection with the victim to truly feel bad for him as a person. That’s a big issue for a drama in which it’s all about seeing the characters as real and human.

Amongst everything, I think that the writer wasted the most time on the romance aspect. (The irony of naming a script “Just Between Lovers” and have a viewer hate the romance. Ouch.) This might’ve just been a trickle-down effect of me not liking the character development enough to appreciate the relationships. I tried to like it, and the pairing was cute; but not anything groundbreaking. It seemed as if the romance was an excuse for more melodrama that the show didn’t need.

The saving grace for Just Between Lovers was the acting. I may have felt lukewarm toward their characters, but I’d be spitting lies if I claimed I wasn’t immersed by Junho and Jinah in each of their more intense scenes. I only completed this show because of them. The amount of emotion that these two harbor in their eyes, namely when they’re crying, is appallingly wonderful. Especially Junho; the amount of acting talent that this singer has is unfair. It’s a real shame that their characters weren’t written better, otherwise the acting would have been explosive.

Altogether, the writer could have done more with the characters instead of focusing on the story alone. Had there been more focus in the character department, I would hardly have any complaints.

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Completed
Love in the Moonlight
14 people found this review helpful
Oct 20, 2016
18 of 18 episodes seen
Completed 3
Overall 8.5
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 9.5
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 8.0
For me, the title of this show should be more like “Love and Hate in the Moonlight.” Because those are my feelings towards it - incredibly mixed and indecisive.

When Love in the Moonlight first hit my drama radar, everything about it put me off. The promo posters just radiated cheesiness, so much so that I’m pretty sure I internally gagged. Not to mention, everything about its premise was overdone and oftentimes badly so. The crossdressing girl, the handsome prince, the political intrigue mixed somewhere in there...Was it worth the risk of watching and likely being disappointed?

The thing about Love in the Moonlight is that it is definitely a good show. Well, partially. It suffers from what I like to call “K-drama syndrome,” where it starts off at its peak and then plunges down into its inevitable doom, where the plot and characters deteriorate in a cesspool of their previously glorious existences. It's exactly as revolting to us viewers as it sounds.

The storyline of Love in the Moonlight is incredibly unoriginal. Its desire to take on the tropes of a crossdressing female who falls in love with a higher-class man was quite impressive, and for a good half of the drama, the execution was phenomenal. I found myself practically twitching while I waited to watch the next episode upon release.

There’s something about cliches done well that’s just as appealing as a never-before-seen storyline, and that’s what Love in the Moonlight accomplished. Its cheesy romance was bolstered by a talented leading couple, and its political aspect was intelligent, yet not overly difficult to follow. Not to mention, the characters were all lovable, each with their defining characteristics that made you love to see them. I admired the drama's ability to make the usually predictable storyline both unpredictable and addicting, and making me take back all my doubts from the beginning. Touche, writers; but that victory only lasts for a little while.

The problem with Love in the Moonlight is that as time goes on, you begin to see the infection of K-drama syndrome more and more. I'll admit, the writers keep you on your toes enough so that you barely even notice the problems unless you take a glance backward. But holy cheese, did this show throw away its potential at being perfect.

The romance is great, that much I will stand by. However, I attribute that much more to the capabilities of the leading actors than the characters themselves. I adored the Crown Prince at the beginning, and I likewise appreciated Ra On’s quirkiness. But over time, the writers lost sight of what made these characters unique and reduced them down to “male lead” and “female lead.” I don't even want to talk about the atrocities of the side characters, particularly Ha Yeon, who faded further and further into the background. It got to the point where she would come on screen and my reaction would be, "who is dis," because she had become that irrelevant. I’ve seen static characters, but I was puzzled with how the ones in Love in the Moonlight somehow managed to all move backward in development - their quirks disappeared. To me, there was nothing sadder than the moment I admitted to myself that the only reason I still liked the Crown Prince was because of Park Bo Gum.

Additionally, I have to say that the writers really lost themselves nearing the end of this show. It was cliche in the beginning, but at least they carried it out well. By the end, they were throwing so many tropes in your face that it almost bruised me. Most of which, I didn’t appreciate at all. There’s a difference between using previously-seen plot elements to better a show, and using them just because there is a need to. By resorting to the latter, the writers failed what could have been an absolute gorgeous ending.

For me, the one trump card of this drama was the cast, and this is the one basis I will recommend this drama off of. I sat down in front of the first episode knowing no one out of the main cast aside from Kim Yoo Jung, who I sneered at for being far too young for her role. By the end, I was impressed with everyone’s ability to portray their respective roles.

Park Bo Gum is phenomenal. He’s obviously goodlooking (those puppy-dog eyes though hehehehe), but the level of emotion he puts into every line and movement is awe-inspiring. Everything about his acting feels real, from the look in his eyes and - I swear - each shift of his facial muscles. He brings the Crown Prince to life in a way that I’ve honestly never seen another actor do with their character. And now I have posters of him on my walls. I wish this were a joke, but I guess I’m prouder to say that it’s not - he was just that good.

Yoo Jung is where I’m split. There’s no doubt she’s talented, but I’ll still enforce the idea that she was too young for the lead role in a romance drama. If you’re going to forget how weird it is morally that 23-year-old Bo Gum is interacting romantically with a minor, just know that her acting was far better in scenes where there wasn’t any handholding and whatnot. I’ll give it to her that she tried, and did well alongside Bo Gum, but she still needs more experience to pair with that acting talent. Soon enough, she’ll have a scary level of skill.

I would also like to comment on the music, most of which I loved. They chose a good collection of strong singers for it, and the instrumentals were beautiful (I listen to some of them when I work now because they’re that entrancing). I am going to go out on a limb here though, and say that the song they gave to Park Bo Gum was subpar. I know he’s capable of better music, and I just wish that they provided him the chance to blind us even more with his unlimited talent.

I’d say that Love in the Moonlight is worth the watch, if only to see how the actors are able to bring quality to a usually mundane plot. Despite the bits of disappointment I felt at the ending, I am still glad that I watched the whole thing through and I can say that I enjoyed myself for the most part.

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Completed
Better Man
5 people found this review helpful
Aug 25, 2016
60 of 60 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 7.0
Story 6.0
Acting/Cast 7.0
Music 7.5
Rewatch Value 5.0
I'll start off by admitting that I have trouble committing to dramas that are longer than 30 episodes. When I first took this one up and discovered that it was scheduled for 80 (later reduced to 60), I was a little skeptical - 80 episodes of nothing but romance? But at the same time, the storyline seemed cute and the comedic moments at the start were pretty good too, so I went on to watch each episode as it came out.

To me, the story was your fairly typical romance; this show just mixed things up a bit by including three couples: three brothers from one family, paired with another's two sisters and their best friend. It tried dealing with the idea of age gaps (a whopping 18 years between the eldest brother and the youngest sister!) which can be difficult to address.

Despite attempts at creating problems for the characters to deal with, I felt that the writers didn't include much real conflict that built each relationship. The consequence of this is that by the end of the 60 episodes, the most sentiment I had was 'oh dang they're cute together' - as opposed to what I think the show was trying to go for; 'they're finally together, after going through so much for each other.' I view this as a failure on the writers' part: they tried to create the sentiment of how relationships can help build each participating individual as a person, but fell short of that goal. Perhaps three couples in one fell swoop was a bit ambitious.

For the most part, this show's strong point is in that it's a pretty easy watch. You have small intense moments that are almost always immediately solved, but almost no anxiety-inducing scenes in which you nervously wonder how the characters can get past a particular hurdle. It's always nice to have a drama on hand that won't cause you constant worry.

Acting wasn't the best I've seen, but it was enough to get by. For the most part, everyone played their roles well; for me, the pair of Jolin and Hope were the most convincing and certainly the most entertaining.

I was split on the soundtrack - the opening ('Faded Pictures' by Vanness Wu) I found incredibly addictive and memorable, but some of the others actually became fairly annoying. It's not a big surprise though, considering that you listen to them basically for 60 episodes straight.

Overall, a pretty fun show. 60 episodes at around 50 minutes each is quite the commitment though, but also necessary to get things rolling with each of the couples. So, there was definitely potential for the allotted 80 episodes, so I'm unsure why they cut it short.

Better Man's main strength lies in its lightheartedness, so I'd find it perfect for kicking back and relaxing.

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Completed
Ashes of Love
3 people found this review helpful
9 days ago
63 of 63 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 9.0
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 9.5
Music 8.5
Rewatch Value 9.0
(Full, spoilerful review here: https://dramavixen.tumblr.com/post/178041972179/
I had a lot of fun with this one.)

Ooh, baby. Should’ve jumped aboard this hype train sooner because this is quite the ride.

From my perspective, Ashes of Love is the definition of a dark horse drama. It possesses a star cast with Yang Zi and Deng Lun at the top of the list, but its synopsis only lets on that this is a rather typical romance in which everyone happens to be dressed in layers of colored silk. And everything about it proves me wrong.

For all intents and purposes, the story of Ashes of Love is not the strongest I’ve seen. It’s fairly creative, but still incorporates the tropes of “aloof male lead,” “let’s kill the person that killed this person that I rather liked,” etc. However, the writing allows you to not mind any of those stereotypes as they surface because of how the characters grow and evolve in the grand scheme of things. Though set in a fantasy land of immortals, the struggles of every character in this story is poignantly human and wrenches at your heartstrings. I might even argue that the romance isn’t even the star plot of this show. While the main couple is very enjoyable to watch, my lasting impression lies with the revenge story of the second male lead—and I usually despise revenge stories.

But let me rave about the characters some more. Their success was half due to writing and half due to acting. May I shake the hand of the casting director; because I can’t remember the last time I was this impressed with every single actor. I entered for Yang Zi, but stayed for Yang Zi, Deng Lun, Luo Yun Xi (this guy makes me speechless and I could talk about only him for ten hours if someone would listen); even the “minor” characters add so much emotion to the story. The depiction of each individual is amazingly spot-on, whether it be in comedic moments or scenes that make you exhaust your tissue supply. You may be able to identify someone as good or bad; but you absolutely cannot point a finger at anyone and define them as purely one way or the other. That acknowledgement of a dual human nature is Ashes of Love’s true strength.

All things considered, I find it somewhat of a blessing that I charged into episode one with no knowledge of the emotion that was about to slap me in the face. It’s quite a pleasant (and heartbreaking) surprise when you get deeper and find that this isn’t just a pretty drama with pretty actors and pretty visuals. It is those things, too, but the value of Ashes of Love lies much further beneath the surface.

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Twenty Again
6 people found this review helpful
Oct 17, 2015
16 of 16 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.5
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 8.0
**Edited review after not really liking the tone of the last one.

I'll start off by saying that I enjoyed this show. I was a little skeptical going into it because I've had my fair share of terrible rom-coms, but decided to give it a chance (for Sang Yoon...what). I was glad that I went into it, because it hooked me really early on. I would be alert for whenever the new episode would be released online so that I could hurry and see the newest plot developments. This is, altogether, a very good show that held itself together in a lot of spots where rom-coms generally lose points for me.

The story itself has been seen once or twice before, although I'm not sure that the other shows handle it quite as well as this one did. There are many problems with Mom going to school, especially under the objections of her husband and son. She hits heaps of problems before even setting foot on campus, let alone afterward. The show does a good job depicting her struggles, not only with school, but with herself and her relationships. This is definitely a strong point to the drama, especially for those of you who enjoy the typical rom-com but wish for something just a little deeper.

In general, the cast chosen did very well. Both the main and supporting actors come across as very real people and they carry their personalities consistently. (And let's be honest, you need a little Lee Sang Yoon to boost everything a bit.) The acting falls short with Min Jae and Na Eun, who, frankly, are the weakest links of the entire show and are the least believable in both character development and chemistry. Luckily, they're fairly minor in the scope of everything else and don't ruin the show for me.

I did enjoy the music and found myself humming along at some points. Like with most other shows, the soundtrack was mixed between cutesy and emotional, and it was pretty typical as far as drama OST goes. Nonetheless, the music went along well with whatever the scene called for.

Rewatch value is quite high. Being that this is a rom-com, it's fairly light-hearted. The pace keeps you interested really well throughout but there's nothing so heavy that would keep you from rewatching it.

Altogether, this was a pleasure to watch. It's a fairly simple show, but not boring in the least and I think it could be fair game to try out for most anyone, especially if you're looking for a cute yet more mature romance.

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