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Completed
Search: WWW
57 people found this review helpful
by minj99
Jul 25, 2019
16 of 16 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.0
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 10
Rewatch Value 6.0
This slice-of-life/office drama dares to be experimental in its portrayal of a career woman and the people that support and fight her on her journey. It constantly creates hits and misses, mostly hits, as it bucks the kdrama formula. The show centers around a core cast of female characters, and it wonderfully depicts these women as (or more) complex human beings as (than) men, varying aspirations/dreams, varying ethics/morals, and varying actions/dialogue. It exemplifies the positive impact of having a female screenwriter leading its fun and compelling female-centric story.

Two smaller points I want to point out here because it does not really fit elsewhere. First, the camerawork creates some beautiful shots using the environment and open spaces (Who remembers Angel Ta Mi?). But, sometimes it butchers the emotional delivery of some scenes as it zooms and rotates into the actors’ faces. Second, the rich, experimental story immerses the viewer, and the PPL (product placement) becomes especially jarring as it breaks that deep immersion. Still, I will remember this drama for its highs, not lows, and easily recommend this to all drama viewers as a great example of a modern Korean drama.

Story:
The story is surprisingly refreshing given that the average age of its main characters skews older than the usual mini (16 ep kdrama). No young chaebol inheriting his director position from his grandfather, the women in Search: WWW clearly worked hard and sacrificed much to reach their positions. Given the main female leads’ maturity and high social position, it is a challenge to add believable conflicts, especially given its genre. Search: WWW overcomes this struggle and shows that everyone can grow, no matter how mature, and that there will always be a bigger fish, no matter how high you rise. So, its fallback to some typical kdrama conflicts is understandable and not a blemish.

I wish the same could be same about the main romance in the drama. I want to make a distinction between the content of the romance and the pacing of the romance. The pacing, like the overall story, is refreshing, and relationships grow and stumble at unique points. It weaves itself with the office plot to deliver entertainment in every episode, especially the secondary romances/relationships. However, the content of the main romance is a bit shallow upon closer examination. It attempts to highlight the age and ideological differences between the two leads, but they act like they are designed by the same aged person(s). Specifically, the male lead acts like how someone in their 30s/40s imagines someone in their 20s.

Ultimately, the main drivers of a slice-of-life drama is its characters and not its plot points nor romance. And I can go on and on about the depths and strengths of the entire crew of characters, even the slightly obnoxious Morgan. To keep this review a reasonable length, I will just say that the characters are 10/10, and I somehow found myself rooting for each one of them, protagonists and antagonists alike.

Acting:
Starting with the actresses, the leads are a minimum 9/10. I hate (read “love”) to nitpick but Jeon Hye Jin could have shown slightly more range, given the nuance of her character, beyond the serious/contemplative facet. Also, Lee Da Hee is one of my favorite actresses, but she is almost getting typecast into the rash archetype. The main female lead, Im Soo Jung, is faultless, but don’t get me wrong, all three are amazing in their own ways and carry the show together.

Out of their male counterparts, Lee Jae Wook is the most memorable, and I look forward to his potential growth (he’s 21 when shooting this drama!). I am also impressed with Ji Seung Hyun, who I underrated because his profile shows that he’s mostly been on support/guest roles. As you can tell, expectations do color my judgement, and my expectation for Jang Ki Yong did not get met, but he does have some redeeming moments near the end.

Music:
Search: WWW has one of the best OSTs I’ve listened to in recent kdramas. “Well-rounded”, “In sync”, and “Complementary” all perfectly describe the musical core of Search: WWW. It is impossible to not like at least one of the songs in the OST and very likely that you’ll love them all. I usually write very short reviews of the music, but I need to take the time to rave about the musical cast.

First, shout out to the fierce women of Mamamoo, extra for Moonbyul with her writing credits. Could not have picked a better kpop act to mirror the strong female characters of the drama. Second, Jang Beom-Jun bringing that husky Busker Busker voice that was extremely popular in the early 2010s. Sam Kim was also popular around the same time, but I am not as big of a fan. Kudos to Sam Kim, Elaine , and O3ohn, even though I do not know much about them. Third, huge props to Lee Da Hee for fearlessly busting out her singing chops. Fourth, OST veteran, Kim Na-Young, who has been killing the music charts with her latest single, “To be Honest”. She delivers another great performance for Search:WWW.

Take it how you will, but the music is the strongest aspect of this drama. I didn’t even skip the parental advisory, so I could sing along with “show you a bad girl”. The OST flawlessly supports the drama and keeps true the show’s topics and themes, and all the songs are still worthy of a listen without knowing anything about the drama.

Rewatch Value:
As high as the relisten value is for the OST, the rewatch falls a bit short, which I usually judge on story or cast. The story’s female-centricity is refreshing but no longer unique in kdramas. I find the women of “Because This is My First Life” more relatable and the women of “Sky Castle” to be more entertaining. In terms of cast, I’m a bigger fan of the previous works by the main cast, such as “Chicago Typewriter” and “Beauty Inside” (“Misty” is high on my “to watch” list). Jang Ki Young is equally mediocre in his past works (“Kill It” is low on my “to watch” list). Ji Seung Hyun mostly does support/guest roles. However, I do look forward to Lee Jae Wook’s next drama, “July Found by Chance”. So, it’ll be difficult to find time to rewatch Search: WWW.

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Completed
Be Melodramatic
73 people found this review helpful
by minj99
Sep 28, 2019
16 of 16 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 9.0
Story 8.5
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 8.5
Rewatch Value 9.0

2019 Drama of the Year?

Be Melodramatic has the chops to compete for best drama of 2019. Airing on cable network JTBC, this drama went unnoticed, and it did not help itself with a rough start. The show quickly finds its footing and delivers a drama that perfectly encapsulates a 2010s romcom. It hits on multiple progressive themes with its female leads. On top of the premise, there is a thick layer of meta comedy which will have any experienced kdrama watcher rolling in laughter. Watch Be Melodramatic, which I prematurely crown the Best of 2019.

Story:
The story comes off a bit lukewarm and light on plot. One might think it is deserving of a “slice of life” tag, but the plot of Be Melodramatic is surprisingly engaging, intertwining the drama with the drama within the drama. The sad surprise is the first three shaky episodes, to put it nicely. It really takes 4 episodes to bring the different pieces of the story together. That is why the MDL rating for Be Melodramatic has only been climbing with each week.

More important than the plot are the characters, specifically the trio of female leads. Again, the trio comes off a bit lukewarm on paper (especially in comparison to the fiery leads of another 2019 drama, Search: WWW), three women with a mashup of common quarter-life problems. Like real people, viewers need time to get to know the leads and grow to like them and their supporting cast.

As the leads strive to produce a drama with double digit ratings, Be Melodramatic struggled to surpass the 2% mark. Perhaps there is a general fatigue with the RomCom genre, but the show deserves more love. Even if the plot synopsis does not interest you, I can assure you that the meta comedy will have you goofy smiling through all 16 episodes.

Acting:
The acting in Be Melodramatic is one of the first signals that put it on my radar, the deadpan humor in the trailers and actor Ahn Jae Hong’s brand of comedy. On the other hand, the three female leads have a very short drama resume, the highlight being Argon from 2016. And what seems like a lighthearted comedy quickly turns into an acting challenge for the entire cast.

Once characters and stories are introduced, the show quickly digs deeper into each character and the different catalysts for their growth. Major props to Jeon Yeon Bin who brought her character, Lee Eun-Jung, to life.

The supporting cast also gets major screentime, even with a large “main” cast. Though they are treated with more of the lightheartedness and comedy, all of them bring an interesting, entertaining character to screen. This highlights the writer’s ability to create loveable characters and the cast’s (and casting director’s) ability to portray them.

Music:
The sound of Be Melodramatic is equally entertaining as the plot. There is a scene where the leads sing one of the OSTs, and I was dying with laughter. Be Melodramatic captures every aspect of the drama making process, including the music. Thoughtful is the word that comes top of mind when thinking back on Be Melodramatic.

However, the soundtrack of 2019 has been stellar with multiple drama OSTs topping the Korean charts, and Be Melodramatic cannot stand up to those powerhouses (looking at you, Hotel Del Luna OST). There is also a slight over-reliance on one song in particular, a song I loved, but a crutch nonetheless.

Rewatch Value:
2019 has been a solid year for Korean dramas, although I believe it rates worse than the past 3-4 years. Based on the shows currently airing and set to air in the final quarter of 2019, I can confidently say that Be Melodramatic will be top of the 2019 RomCom list. If some of the newer shows do not interest me, I might even rewatch Be Melodramatic before 2019 is over. Anyone with extra time during the 2019 holiday season, I recommend giving this drama a try.

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Completed
Do You Like Brahms?
77 people found this review helpful
by minj99
Sep 8, 2020
16 of 16 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.0
Story 7.5
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 6.0

Shining characters trapped in a drab plot line

Standout characters immediately grab your attention, and Do You Like Brahms? starts with one of the strongest first 4 episodes of 2020 premieres, second only to Flower of Evil. The two main leads, a burned out superstar and a struggling artist, seem cliché, but their foil is fully explored and surprisingly relatable. However, little substance is built on the foundation of their relationship. You better understand and relate with each character, with each episode, but the evolution of their relationship stagnates. Either DYLB? should have been told in fewer episodes or bigger dramatics were needed to stimulate a more engaging reaction.

Story:
The contrast between the quality of characters vs plot is stark by the ending of Do You Like Brahms? From leads to supports, the characters have an incredible amount of depth. Even the motivations of the antagonists are mired in complexity. As a character drama, DYLB? excels by making the unique lives and challenges of musicians relatable to casual drama viewers.

As a thrilling romance or gripping melodrama, it falls short. The love triangle(s) that is crux to the plot of DYLB? is presented in the first couple episodes, and its potential outcome feels inevitable (i.e. miscommunication, confusion, heartbreak). The lack of suspense transforms into frustration as the middle segment of DYLB? trundles toward the finale following a subdued climax.

I want to include one last comment about time skips and flashbacks. They were not always crystal clear, but I appreciate that the director did not baby the audience with title cards like “1 year ago”, “1 month later”, etc. Overall, the plot is the main weakness in an otherwise well directed drama.

Acting:
The combination of character design and cast brings to life the fictional characters on screen. Park Eun Bin adds another excellent role after her underappreciated performance in Hot Stove League. Kim Min Jae has a long list of great roles for such a young actor, almost comparable to Yeo Jin Goo. Their interpretations of their characters just make sense. They act and behave like genuine human beings instead of characters.

The rest of the cast is equally decorated, but I will specifically praise Choi Dae Hoon and Baek Ji Won for creating characters that knew all the right buttons to push for maximum irritation. The way they frustrate the viewers and the main leads is the definition of entertainment, in stark contrast to my frustration with the flat plot.

Music:
More so than the characters and cast, the music within Do You Like Brahms? rises above First, the use of classical music is slightly cheesy and often used as a plot device, but it is refreshing to hear a different sound from the standard drama ballads. Second, the OST of DYLB? is anything but “standard”. The same musical producer from Hotel Del Luna worked on this drama, and the quality of the OST is unparalleled in 2020. It is hit after hit sung by some of the biggest names in Korean music, from Taeyeon to Heize. It is good enough to listen without even watching DYLB?

Rewatch Value:
The lack of dynamic plot and explosive confrontations make it hard to justify a rewatch. This weakness even bleeds into the strong character designs. The main female lead starts off as a relatable, struggling young adult, but she seems too perfect as the story drags on. Being untalented or soft-spoken is far from a real character flaw, and her immaculate actions wear her initial relatability thin. I may be overly critical since I started DYLB? with high hopes. Unfortunately, it falls short of the best drama of 2020 which currently belongs to Crash Landing on You (depends if you consider it a 2019 or 2020 drama) or Flower of Evil.

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Completed
When My Love Blooms
26 people found this review helpful
by minj99
Jun 14, 2020
16 of 16 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 7.5
Story 7.5
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 7.5
Rewatch Value 6.0

Slow-burning, often-overlooked drama of 2020

When My Love Blooms also went under my radar with its melodramatic tone and emphasis on flashbacks. However, WMLB is not so overtly melodramatic, especially in comparison to other kdramas. And, the way flashbacks are incorporated into the story is ambitious and novel. The major weakness of WMLB is that it takes too long to show its main merit and charm.

By committing to longer flashbacks, the drama tells two intertwined stories that make it challenging to buy-in to either. In the beginning, it feels as though we are watching two sets of characters, and it takes the better half of the series to believe that they are the same “people”. This drama needs a longer runway to fully capture its audience, so do not judge on the first 2 or 4 episodes.

Story:
With the concurrent telling of past and present, When My Love Bloom’s plot is surprisingly tight. Flashbacks are not shown just to explain a specific present event, rather they are given their own fully fleshed out story. Splitting time between flashbacks and present does take away from the development of the main plotline, especially because it is hard to believe, at first, that the past and present characters are really one another.

Acting:
Lee Bo Young and Yoo Ji Tae are what I first noticed from their respective 2013 and 2014 hits. I Hear Your Voice and Healer are both considered kdrama classics, and seeing the two leads in 2020 is a treat. No more needs to be said.

Their past counterparts Jeon So Nee and Park Jin Young also deserve praise. Within their storyline, their chemistry and performance are strong. The only minor criticism is that the two pairs could have better aligned their mannerisms because it may have helped bridge the disconnect between them. Still, I prefer the way the past and present are shown in WMLB over the usual where one pair of actors pretends to be 20 in one scene and 40 in another.

Music:
Music is a key point throughout the drama, from the use of 90’s music to the Female Lead’s piano background. The blend of oldies and classical with the more familiar sounds of kdrama ballad/OST is appreciated. But like the story, When My Love Bloom’s novel approach does not quite break away from the typical kdrama mold.

Rewatch Value:
Even though the drama exceeds expectations, it is hard to promise a rewatch. I hesitate to call it slow paced. It is more that there are two stories that could each be a standalone show. By the time the two “stories” fully connect, When My Love Bloom is already at its end. The finale’s lasting impression is that WMLB fails to stand out even with its novel storytelling and directing.

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Completed
Level Up
23 people found this review helpful
by minj99
Aug 15, 2019
12 of 12 episodes seen
Completed 4
Overall 5.0
Story 5.0
Acting/Cast 7.0
Music 6.0
Rewatch Value 1.0

Wait what? This show is already over, but nothing really happened.

Level Up is unfortunately an entirely forgettable kdrama, at best a show to leave on the background. There is nothing offensive to turn you away from the drama, and there is also an equal amount of positives to draw you in. At first glance, it seems to have a trendy setting in the modern world of mobile game development, but the story actually falls back to bland kdrama cliches and tropes.

A quick glance at my watchlist shows that I’m stingy on ranking dramas highly but also lowly. Ultimately, a large group of people came together to produce this show, and I, ultimately, watched all 12 episodes. So, it is difficult to give any rating lower than a 5. I would only recommend watching this drama for seasoned Korean drama viewers who have already seen the vast majority of romcoms in the kdrama sphere and need something to kill the time.

Story:
The plot of Level Up is a very basic office romcom, secondary leads interfering with the mains and plot-convenient office SNAFUs. In my opinion, there are two ways Level Up could have tried to be different. One, overload on the comedy. The few outrageous scenes were quite funny, though it may not be to everyone’s taste. Two, deliver meaningful commentary on actual modern gaming issues, like mobile gaming/gambling addictions. Instead, we get a very middle-of-the-road kdrama, where an experienced viewer will be able to predict the majority of the plot just based on the premise.

The romance also comes off quite bland. The two main leads seem more like 2 close friends or 2 close colleagues, but somehow the viewers are supposed to see them as a romantic couple. This show is a classic example of forcing mains together.

Acting:
I’ll only cover the 2 leads to minimize the length of this review. I first saw Sung Hoon in Oh My Venus and enjoyed his character in that drama. Based on the online community, I see that he has since been typecast into the character we find in Level Up. I find that unfortunate as I contemplated watching “I Picked Up a Star on the Road”. I can see why viewers are disappointed by his performance in Level Up, but I want to attribute it to the plain writing. For example, he is quite popular as a cast member of I Live Alone, if you watch (or want to watch) Korean variety shows, so he has more to offer than the cool, cold persona.

Similarly, I found Han Bo Reum to be quite funny in Go Back Couple. Her character in Level Up also shines during its comedic moments, but the emotional/romance scenes do demonstrate her weakness as a main lead. Sung Hoon will get more acting roles based on his popularity, but I also hope Han Bo Reum gets a chance to demonstrate her growth as an actress in the future.

Music:
There is very limited English information on the OST for this drama. Based on MNET, there are 3 songs on the OST, 3 ballads. They are all fairly vanilla and do not stand out from the over-saturated kballad genre. I found them enjoyable nonetheless. As a side note, I am not sure if you will be able to easily find English translation for the lyrics.

Rewatch Value:
Given there are easily 50 other dramas to watch before watching this one even once, it would be impossible to rate the rewatch value any higher. I hope I didn’t sound overly harsh throughout this review as, again, I did watch each episode as it aired.

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Completed
One Spring Night
18 people found this review helpful
by minj99
Jul 11, 2019
32 of 32 episodes seen
Completed 2
Overall 8.5
Story 10
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 7.5
Viewers will be quick to compare this drama to “Something in the Rain”, which shares the same Director, Writer, and Male Lead, and they would be at no fault for doing so. Like SitR, One Spring Night utilizes a slow pace to portray the relationship between the main leads. However, the pacing and characters of OSN are superior to SitR because of their steadiness. I recommend this drama to all kdrama watchers and promise that you will also slowly and steadily fall in love with the leads episode by episode till the very end.

Story:
I will be honest and say the story outline is similar to SitR, focusing on a relationship that is heavily critiqued by the leads’ friends and family. I believe there are 2 key differentiators which are the strength of the supporting stories and the methodical pace of character development. The supporting cast gets a fair amount of development throughout the drama, and they, themselves, change instead of folding into 2D one directional characters. This actually adds to the “slowness” of the drama as precious time is diverted away from the main leads.

However, I do not find fault in the slow pace. I admit the 16 (32 halves) episode format changes the standard for pace, but I also believe that there is a range of acceptable pace in kdrama. I find bigger fault when the writer/director strays away from the slow pace to try to close certain plot points or make characters behave erratically, which OSN does not suffer from. If anything, OSN is not shy in leaving interactions with little explanation and limited expose/monologue.

This may make it harder for viewers to buy into the relationship between the main leads, but I thoroughly enjoyed the romance that resembled something out of real life rather than a kdrama. One lead doesn’t have to save the other or be connected via childhood past to develop feelings for one another. OSN is the closest example of a life-like relationship in a Korean drama; any more and it would be no fun as a drama (you know you’re trying to escape reality watching kdramas).

I applaud the director/screenwriter for running it back by producing such a comparable drama within one year. They improved on all areas of the plot from SitR and remained true to their style instead of bending to every criticism levied at SitR, which I still ranked at 7.5. I look forward to their next projects with a small longing for something more different.

Acting:
Let’s begin by looking at the Male Lead since, again, it's easy to compare to SitR. Jung Hae In’s acting is markedly improved from SitR. This may be due to his growth as an actor, the improved writing of OSN, the chemistry with the cast, more trust from the director, or some combination of all of the above. He displayed a wide range of thoughts and emotions throughout the drama, and I was especially impressed with his acting when facing the second Male Lead.

Similar compliments can be said for the Female Lead, Lee Jung In. And her chemistry with the male actor was amazing. The biggest evidence of this being how electric the dialogue between the 2 felt; Their conversations conveyed more chemistry than any of their skinship scenes. The acting of the 2 main leads really complimented the direction of the drama, which heavily focused on interactions rather than monologues.

The supporting cast also performed admirably. For example, seeing the FL’s mother in OSN can be quite a shock after watching SitR (or vice versa), but she still nailed both roles and truly deserved to be part of this cast. The FL’s sisters were also great and their acting really conveyed how their characters were shaped by their shared upbringing (and I have a soft spot for “sismance”).

Music:
Funnily enough, even a good chunk of the OST is sung by the artist who contributed to SitR, Rachael Yamagata. Although English in Korean media is improved, it does not compare to having a native English speaker. This should significantly improve the drama viewing experience for international viewers given that some subbers do not sub Korean lyrics.

The actual music works very well with the story and pace. I thought each of the songs in the OST carried tension, even the “happy” song. This tension is well utilized because the story does not have the outrageously tense moments of a thriller or typical melo, so the combination of the story and song was important in conveying conflict and emotional resolution.

Rewatch Value:
There is a high rewatch value for this drama given that it covers a multitude of nuanced issues. Even as a native Korean speaker, I plan to go back and rewatch the drama to better understand and enjoy the conversations and chemistries between all the characters.

The next episode previews were the worst part of this show, so I look forward to not having to deal with them now that it is fully aired.

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Completed
Angel's Last Mission: Love
45 people found this review helpful
by minj99
Jul 11, 2019
32 of 32 episodes seen
Completed 3
Overall 6.0
Story 6.0
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 3.0
Angel’s Last Mission will definitely scratch your RomCom itch with what begins as a carefully concocted love story between a human and an angel. However, the romance fails to live up to the beginning premise, and the story actually unravels as it tries to come to a close. Overall, I recommend this drama to romcom lovers and also to fans of Shin Hye Sun, as she carries the show through its bumpy, messy plot. Although the plot twists and turns are quite illogical, the acting and theatrics work overtime to deliver satisfying emotional payoffs throughout the drama.

Story:
The drama is definitely romcom, and the story is fantasy. For ALM:L, the fantasy components work well with the comedy but lacks synergy with the romance and drama as a whole. Even though the titular character is an angel and L is listed first on the cast list, Shin Hye Sun’s human character seems to be the more “main” character and is the catalyst for most of the emotional development of the characters.

I understand that dwelling more on the fantasy components makes it harder to write a coherent story, and this drama suffers from this as it shoehorns/retcons more and more fantasy elements throughout. So, we are left with fantasy which works well as a comedic relief (i.e. Dan’s social ineptitude with humans) but is used poorly as a plot device.

Similar things can be said for the antagonists of the drama. They are almost comically evil to the point where the characters themselves don’t quite understand why the antagonists behave that way. Like the overall story, the antagonists could have both been more logical and fleshed out.

The messy mix of these elements creates multiple visible flaws throughout the story, and viewers may need to think overtime to try to buy the romance that does develop between the main leads. The plot and antagonists more-or-less force the two characters together rather than the two characters finding/understanding one another.

Still, the main leads’ cute moments together highlights the childlike joy that they bring to each other and showcase their chemistry. Just don’t expect to find mature characters or romance. But there is some growth, especially given the extremely immature characters in the first couple of episodes. So on the other hand, don’t be completely turned off by the character in the beginning.

In conclusion, the story starts off with a promising premise and immature characters, but the show struggles to stay coherent through its fantasy setting and under-delivers in meaningful character development and believable romance. ALM:L tries to mix up the classic romcom formula with fantasy and melodrama, but instead leaves the cast struggling through a chaotic plot.

Acting/Cast:
I’ll mention that this is actually my first drama review and judging this aspect is my weakest area. A quick glance through MyDramaList shows that I focus mainly on romance/romcom dramas, so hopefully I can leave a fairly relatable review here.

Overall, I rate the acting better than the story. However, I do think the story enables the actors by 1) having relatively simple characters and 2) drawing a parallel on and off the ballet stage. The first point is more of a kudos to the cast on their portrayal of the characters. Especially, the antagonist characters lacked depth, but the actors & actresses dutifully conveyed intent with their actions and gave off the impression that there was more underlying their character, which may not always be the case unfortunately.

The second point really enables the acting theatrics in the drama. In another context, Shin Hye Sun could be critiqued for “over acting”. However, the foil between the “story within a story” gives the viewer a different perspective. Yeon Seo’s hysteria does not seem as hysterical in comparison to the ballet that parallels their story. Rather, her “over” acting really connects what is happening on and off the ballet stage. Unfortunately, L gave a weak performance in comparison, although one could attribute it to the weaker writing surrounding the angel. Overall, it is difficult to rate the acting any higher given the limitations of the writing.

Music:
I enjoyed the direction they went with the music because they did not try to sound like a “ballet” (or what I think of as classical music). It stuck to more modern trends, and I have no qualms with it, given my love for kballads. I also like it when a cast member contributes to the OST.

However, it felt like the show relied on the ballad OSTs to convey emotion through its weak writing, which was a disservice to the music. Given the artists that contributed and the quality of the OST, the drama once again under-delivered on using the music to its full potential.

Rewatch Value:
This drama is sufficiently sweet that it may warrant a rewatch on a slow day. However, there are definitely many dramas I would rewatch over this. If you want to see some really immature characters going through more character and romance development, I would recommend “30 but 17” (bonus shoutout for featuring the same Female Lead). Otherwise, it would be hard to rewatch knowing how the story under-delivers and falls apart as it comes to a close.

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Into the Ring
14 people found this review helpful
by minj99
Aug 20, 2020
32 of 32 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 6.0

Encapsulates all the lovable aspects of Korean dramas

Into the Ring is built on the solid foundation of its excellent writing, and it endears itself to the viewer with each and every episode. Although it is missing the typical ingredients for commercial success (e.g. top-tier actors, veteran staff), Into the Ring continuously challenges us for our attention and respect, much like the Female Lead. There is just enough romance, comedy, and drama for a well-balanced drama viewing experience just shy of perfection.

Story:
The award winning merit of the newcomer Moon Hyun Kyung’s screenplay is undeniable. The diverse characters and dynamic relationships are a highlight. Consider these two side characters - a manchild who earns his elected position with his daddy’s money and a working mother who refuses to “sacrifice” either her personal or professional life. The relationship between them and the main leads is hilarious (like when the FL turns the manchild into a whimpering puppy with her assertiveness).

Even the political setting delivers laughs as we witness the ridiculousness of each politician’s pettiness. ITR transitions from this comedy to heartwarming romance to drama seamlessly. Scenes are often layered with all three, which keeps the pace refreshing and the story engaging. The drama’s journey is consistently pleasant from beginning to end, and the careful and deliberate screenwriting is what makes it all possible.

Acting:
My mixed feelings about the main cast changed quickly with Into the Ring. For instance, I know Nana for her kpop career with After School rather than her filmography, and the general attitude towards idol-turned-actor is lukewarm. However, Nana exceeds expectations not just with her comedic timing and romantic chemistry but with her nuanced portrayal of empathy towards others. Park Sung Hoon actually appears with Nana in Justice, which I did not watch. I did watch Psychopath Diary where I found his acting uncannily funny. To see PSH in a completely different character is eye-opening and impressive.

Yoo Da In’s character is surprisingly nuanced for what some may consider a “side” character, but YDI’s acting ability is clearly at the level of “main role” actors. I remember Han Joon Woo from his great but small role in Be Melodramatic. Unfortunately, it is a similar case in ITR where he plays an interesting character which does not receive much screen time for a “main role”. Veteran actor Ahn Nae Sang adds another quality appearance to his long filmography.

Music:
Compared to the strengths of the story and cast, the music is not as critically noteworthy for Into the Ring. The subdued backing tracks are a safe choice, a mix of kpop and ballads. The music is actually a good parallel to the overall drama, which is excellent in its strengths but not quite a masterpiece in its entirety. (One last comment - I am a sucker for OSTs sung by main leads though)

Rewatch Value:
As I happily followed along with the weekly episodes of Into the Ring, I did not envision such a high overall rating because of a lack of some jaw dropping scene or enthralling plot line. Instead, ITR makes its appeal piece by piece, and its beauty is fully appreciated when considering the entirety of the drama. After 32 episodes, I can confidently recommend Into the Ring as a solid romcom in a relatively dry 2020.

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Crash Landing on You
24 people found this review helpful
by minj99
Feb 16, 2020
16 of 16 episodes seen
Completed 2
Overall 8.5
Story 8.5
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 8.5
Rewatch Value 8.5

Everything is turnt up to 11

Crash Landing on You is absolutely absurd. It has one of the highest cable drama ratings and should be on everyone’s 2020 kdrama watchlist. The drama has you going back and forth from laugh-crying to cry-crying. The cast is flawless. The director comes from Romance is a Bonus Book with the screenwriter of The Legend of the Blue Sea. Hyun Bin and Son Ye-Jin also come from 2018 dramas - Memories of the Alhambra and Something in the Rain, respectively. Loads of quality romcom experience, and it shows.

The drawbacks. In an effort to fill major plot holes, conflict escalation and resolution are left vague when convenient, especially for the non-main characters and arc. CLOY also pushes the envelope with its near 90 minute runtime per episode. All-in-all, the drama shoots for the moon but crashes in the stars.

Story:
The premise and story supports the success of Crash Landing on You by spinning a serious current event into an absurd adventure. The North Korea-South Korea conflict immediately adds to the gravitas of the drama, and subverting this expectation results in unforgettable comedy. The over-the-top approach is handled beautifully, and viewer immersion is rarely ruined. Production was even sued for its relatable portrayal of North Korea (It was actually “sued” for glamorizing NK conditions, but I digress).

The drama intertwines the story of four main leads and a large supporting cast, so big that it even has a recap episode. It is entirely understandable why the drama does not fully explain or explore every single plotline. On the other hand, Crash Landing on You has a total runtime equivalent to a 20 episode drama, and it even contains what could be seen as filler scenes. Again, this is being nitpicky with an incredibly entertaining watch.

Acting:
Crash Landing on You actually reunites the two main leads from 2018 movie, The Negotiation, where they are adversaries. In CLOY, their comradery and chemistry is unquestionable. Hyun Bin has received his fair share of criticism in the past, but this character is well suited for his strengths, being good looking and stoic. He earnestly acts each scene with that ridiculous “North Korean” accent, even adding emotions when required (but bloopers, please!). Anyone can appreciate his effort in CLOY, even if it is not winning any acting awards. Son Ye-Jin, on the other hand, I have been a fan of from Something in the Rain. I am most impressed by her expanded comedic role in Crash Landing on You. She is funny in SitR but hilarious in CLOY. Some lines land a little too extra but most hit their timing.

The second leads’ acting also impresses as their roles expand by the end of the drama. Plus, there is too much to say about the large and talented supporting cast. Kim Sun-Young continues to earn her reputation as a talented cast member. The mini-Something in the Rain reunion with Jang So-Yeon is welcome. I give the underrated award to Hwang Woo-Seul-Hye as the lovable/hateable doofus sister-in-law (also, how is she 40 years old!). Even the guest roles amaze, like when my jaws hit the floor seeing Kim Soo-Hyun’s character. Everyone’s buy-in to the premise of CLOY is what creates that special level of immersion that we love about all great kdramas.

Music:
Like many watchers, I am also a fan of kpop, and the musical ensemble for Crash Landing on You delivers on all fronts. IU, one of the hottest kpop stars, sings the final OST, capping off the musical journey of CLOY. Another rising star, Song Ga-In, sings one of the best tracks on the OST. I have also been following Davichi since debut and hearing them in CLOY is a joy. The only knockback is that the music does not push its boundary quite like the story and acting of CLOY.

Rewatch Value:
I plan to rewatch Crash Landing on You as soon as I have the chance. On top of everything said thus far, there are references to other dramas, pop culture, and current events, and I am sure that I have missed many of them. There is so much to enjoy about CLOY for first-time kdrama watchers AND veteran viewers. After my rewatch, I may even revise my final score to a 9 because CLOY sets the bar very high for 2020.

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Psychopath Diary
8 people found this review helpful
by minj99
Jan 9, 2020
16 of 16 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 7.5
Story 7.5
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 6.5
Rewatch Value 6.0

Can one gimmick sustain an entire kdrama? Almost

The progression of Psychopath Diary seems simple, characters clear the misunderstanding until the big finale, and the drama results from which characters figure out the truth and when. The back half of the drama leaves the misunderstanding uncleared for a bit too long (to be expected of Korean dramas) with a hurried conclusion. The drama relies on comedy to get through its plot shortcomings, and the comedy never lets the viewers down.

Psychopath Diary brings in two successful main leads, Yoon Shi-Yoon (The Nokdu Flower) and Jung In-Sun (Terius Behind Me) and focuses on their interactions with third lead, Park Sung-Hoon. Their delivery really brings Psychopath Diary together and makes it a solid kdrama in 2019.

Story:
Nothing about the premise screams “new” in kdramaland: murder mystery, amnesia, nice guy taken advantage of, etc. Instead, it throws these concepts into a blender to create the nice guy who believes he is the psychopath killer with amnesia. The opening scene shows a male lead with conviction but that facade is ripped off for the viewers quickly, and the viewers are omniscient of the entire plot from the get-go.

From there, you would think the show revolves around how to resolve the misunderstanding, but Psychopath Diary dwells on all the hilarious scenarios of mistaken identity. The main male lead, Yook Dong Shik, tries to live up to his “killer” identity and to turn his pushover life around. Even with all the creative snafus, the gimmick starts to tire, and the comedic genius behind Psychopath Diary does not translate to the mystery/thriller aspect of the show. All-in-all, Psychopath Diary is a comedic gem under the guise of a mystery/thriller.

Acting:
The casting of the main leads is exceptional. Psychopath Diary showcases a group of actors with comic chops. Jung In-Sun is equally fun and funny in her previous role in Terius Behind Me. I remember Yoon Shi-Yoon from King of Baking in the 2010s. There are countless scenes where YSY’s character hilariously behaves more psychotic than our psychopath killer.

The supporting cast also has a strong resume in comedic dramas. Shout out to Kim Ki-Doo, who continues to score rolls as the comic relief (even in a comedy). The entire cast can be depended on to bring laughter to even the most dire scenes.

Music:
Music is an area that cable dramas struggle to keep up versus their major network counterparts. tvN is able to pull together an awesome ensemble, as evidenced by Hotel Del Luna, but that is more an exception than a rule. Still, the music does not take away from Psychopath Diary in any way. The overall viewing/listening experience remains pleasant throughout all the episodes.

Rewatch Value:
I cannot help but compare Psychopath Diary to Terius Behind Me again. So many of the things said in this review can also apply to Terius, and Terius is just a hair better in my eyes. Both casts are stellar, but Terius Behind Me does not trip up as much with the mystery/thriller plotline. On the other hand, Psychopath Diary never let down on the laughs, and that is what will be remembered about Psychopath Diary above all else.

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Monthly Magazine Home
5 people found this review helpful
by minj99
Aug 5, 2021
16 of 16 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 7.5
Story 7.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 7.5
Rewatch Value 6.0

Building a house brick by brick in Trope City

Monthly Magazine Home starts on solid foundation, veteran cast from top to bottom, then it devolves into meaningless drama tropes. Either for laughs or for plot progression, tropes from love triangles to noble idiocy rear their ugly head. The fatal flaw with tropes is that it sacrifices uniqueness, and this is doubly applicable for MMH’s focus on strong individual characters. Overusing tropes hinders MMH’s ability to demonstrate meaningful growth in its characters.

Story:
Monthly Magazine Home is another character driven romcom that explores characters and their reactions instead of plots and devices of yesteryears. It is unfortunate that the character designs are painfully paper thin in MMH. Yoo Ja Sung is a rags-to-riches self-made man with a singular focus on financial success. The third leg of the love triangle is a well-mannered son from generational wealth. The entire cast of characters can be explained in simple one-liners, and their motivations, what makes them tick, are not expanded through the drama.

For example, YJS has the emotional intelligence of a small child. Next scene, he is the most thoughtful man of every woman's dream. Character behaviors are erratic and often played for laughs. Or even worse, queue noble idiocy. Monthly Magazine Home squanders the potential to empathetically examine modern millennial struggles for stereotypical romance-comedy.

Acting:
The cast immediately draws eyes to Monthly Magazine Home. The two main leads each have over a decade of experience. Kim Ji Suk’s performance in When the Camellia Blooms is exceptional, and he does not miss a beat in the more comical character in MMH. Jung So Min has been a romcom staple since Playfull Kiss in 2010. Highlights from the supporting cast are Kim Won Hae, who never fails to draw a laugh, and Coffee Prince star, Cha Jung An. With well over a hundred years of experience between the core cast, the actors make this broken drama.

Music:
The OST for Monthly Magazine Home pairs several kpop artists with staple OST composers. The music maintains the light-hearted atmosphere of MMH with familiar sounds. Jo Yu-ri’s song may be of interest to IZ*ONE fans after the recent disbandment of the reality competition group.

Rewatch Value:
Monthly Magazine Home may be an example of the weakness of pre-produced Korean dramas, which have become popular, especially with the rise of streaming services. The direction is set from the beginning without regular audience feedback. Perhaps it is pride. Expecting a veteran cast and crew to create success. Regardless, I will remember MMH as a what-could-have-been drama of 2021.

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Find Me in Your Memory
10 people found this review helpful
by minj99
May 13, 2020
32 of 32 episodes seen
Completed 1
Overall 6.5
Story 6.5
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 6.0
Rewatch Value 5.0

Just another memory-based plot device

Amnesia is a tired trope for drama watchers, and hyperthymesia looks to follow the same trend. Find Me in Your Memory has enough feel good moments to sustain it over “32” episodes, but the way it handles the crux of the plot - the intersection of a woman with amnesia and man with hyperthymesia - leaves too much to be desired. Too often, FMIYM uses its main ingredient as just another plot device, forgetting and remembering events as they are convenient. Instead, FMIYM will be better remembered for the casts’ chemistry rather than any of the characters’ unique abilities.

Story:
Find Me in Your Memory deserves credit for not pigeonholing itself into the helpless amnesiac Female Lead. An interesting dynamic does exist between the amnesiac Female Lead and all-remembering Male Lead, but it does not change the fact that the FL has amnesia and that her condition only serves to move the plot forward. Both, the FL and ML, are in need of better character development. It is not sufficient to have them literally say they have a bad/good memory nor the ML being good at remembering his script each night (that is his job…). I exaggerate, but that desire for fully fleshed out characters is never satisfied by FMIYM.

Acting:
Given the weakness in character development, the cast outperforms expectations by bringing an air of authenticity to each scene. The leads’ relationship may not be electric, but Kim Dong Wook and Moon Ga Young convey sympathy and compassion for one another’s characters through their acting. The supporting cast is mainly used for comedic levity but also deliver on emotional moments when given the opportunity.

Music:
I rarely find issues with kdrama music as most tend to stick to the tried and true ballads or upbeat kpop-esque melodies, which applies to Find Me in Your Memory. The exception is that FMIYM’s OST fares better separately from the drama. The OST lyrics vaguely point to the events and themes of the drama, but the way it is incorporated with the scenes detract from the overall ambience. These are my highly subjective thoughts, and the way the music is mixed with the scenes does not do justice for what are otherwise strong kdrama ballads.

Rewatch Value:
FMIYM is an easy watch, especially if you are self-isolating and looking for something to lift your quarantine mood. Feel good moments abound but do not make up for the insufficient character development. This results in a rather middle-of-the-road drama, start to finish; reminding me of another feel-good, average drama, Touch Your Heart.

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Chocolate
11 people found this review helpful
by minj99
Jan 18, 2020
16 of 16 episodes seen
Completed 5
Overall 6.5
Story 7.5
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 2.5

Another average entrant into the sea of Korean dramas on Netflix

Korean dramas are reaching wider audiences thanks to Netflix’s foray, but Netflix’s flawed “Match” ratings system obfuscates true kdrama gems. Luckily, the backlog of dramas are mostly well-received ones from trusted cable networks, like jtbc and tvN. The same is not true for the new dramas. (On a tangent, Netflix produced dramas are pretty mediocre less Kingdom, which is still incomplete).

Even the jtbc and tvN dramas from 2019 have been slightly worse than previous years. Albeit, my 2019 favorites, Be Melodramatic/Her Private Life/Search: WWW were not available on Netflix (US region). In this context, Chocolate is just another average show. I will skip straight to recommendations! One Spring Night and Romance is a Bonus Book are both available on Netflix. Dr. John is a more makjang medical drama, and Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim (season 1) is a better character driven medical drama.

Story:
As average as Chocolate is, it covers many typical Korean drama tropes that might be beneficial to experience for new viewers. The main leads are tangled from childhood to present, both have traumatic pasts to overcome, and their relationship develops slowly. The only “different” wrinkle is mixing cooking and medical genres, and as good as the food looked, it adds surprisingly little to the plot (a.k.a. Medicine cannot cure these people so give them a yummy last meal…). If this is one of your first Korean dramas, look forward to all the amazing ways this format can stretch tired tropes, just not in Chocolate.

Acting:
The two main leads, Yoon Kye-Sang and Ha Ji-Won, have a strong, subtle chemistry and deliver adequately, but the support/guest roles are the highlight. Major props to Kim Won-Hae who owns a much more serious role than his usual. I also enjoyed Yeom Hye-Ran’s part (especially coming off of a strong performance in When the Camellia Blooms). Even the guests are fun, like Yubin with the guest role AND OST credit.

Music:
Segueing into music, Chocolate relies on a surprising amount of k-pop idols, from Yubin to Seventeen to Hui (from Pentagon). There is also a solid presence of k-ballad/ost veterans. The backing sounds of Chocolate remained strong throughout, and the high production value of Chocolate shines through its beautiful settings and its credentialed musical cast.

Rewatch Value:
I already gave recommendations upfront and stand by them here. Chocolate is a totally acceptable watch (contrary to its 6.5 rating) but leaves little impact afterwards. Personally, taking more risks in storytelling would have been appreciated, even if it were to land a bit flat. In that regard, Doctor John is a great example of turning the stereotypical korean drama tropes up one notch.

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My Roommate Is a Gumiho
7 people found this review helpful
by minj99
Jul 15, 2021
16 of 16 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 7.0
Story 7.0
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 7.5
Rewatch Value 5.5

One of the most anticipated romcoms of 2021

The expectations for My Roommate is a Gumiho blow through the roof. Screenwriter and director combo from What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim (plus countless other dramas). Two of the hottest young actors in Jang Ki Yong and Lee Hye Ri. Reunion of Start-Up cast members Kang Han Na and Kim Do Wan. Even the “fifth” lead, Bae In Hyuk builds on his 2019 debut. The cast makes MRIG a must-watch for lovers of romcom.

To live up to lofty expectations proves to be too challenging for My Roommate is a Gumiho. The fantasy setting is almost an afterthought for what is essentially a slice-of-life/cohabitation drama, and MRIG fails to provide a fresh perspective on the usual romcom tropes.

Story:
The synopsis points to a fantasy romance when comedy cohabitation drama is a more apt description. The two leads meet due to a drunk accident, not an otherworldly incident; Gumiho powers seem more gimmicky than terrifying; The urgency of becoming human is explained away with “you have one year remaining on your thousand year deadline”. The fantasy element feels cheaply used to bring together and keep the two leads under one roof.

Acting:
Regardless of the drama’s shortcomings, the cast comes out better individually than as a team. Jang Ki Yong’s brand is peaking as we speak, and Lee Hye Ri adds another leading role to her idol-turned-actress career. Second leads are given plenty of screen time, mostly at the expense of the supporting roles. The commercial firepower of the five main leads is not in question, with numerous product placements to maximize earnings potential.

Music:
The music is a surprisingly good analogy for the drama as a whole - safe and unremarkable mix of Korean drama OST staples with select kpop features. The commercial feel of the whole enterprise from cast to plot to music is the ultimate weakness of My Roommate Is a Gumiho. Greater risks could have been allowed to the writers, directors, actors, and musicians involved.

Rewatch Value:
All the points made in the review could be driven by one fact: My Roommate Is a Gumiho is the first Korean TV series produced by iQIYI. The producers philosophy seems heavily risk averse. They could have taken bigger risks and stumbled like Tale of the Nine-Tailed or succeeded like Goblin. Instead, we have another run-of-the-mill webtoon adaptation.

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Hotel del Luna
6 people found this review helpful
by minj99
Sep 2, 2019
16 of 16 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 7.5
Story 7.0
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 10
Rewatch Value 5.0

Absolute candy for your eyes and ears!!!

One glance at the cast shows why Hotel del Luna is and will be one of the most talked about dramas of 2019. A second glance highlights an interesting premise, and more in-depth research reveals HDL’s insane ratings and chart-topping music. The only blemish is the screenwriters, the infamous Hong sisters, though many love their work. Unfortunately, HDL does not quite live up to the hype, and I find its substance a bit lacking, much like candy. Still, I’m sure HDL will be a must-watch for most viewers regardless of what I say, but maybe I can lower your expectations just a hair. Who knows - maybe you can better appreciate the show without such lofty expectations.

Story:
I am not purposefully trying to rain on the parade, but the story is the weakest aspect of Hotel del Luna. To HDL’s credit, fantasy is one of the most challenging genres to pull-off in kdramas (said another way, it’s easier to relate to human dramas). The other two Hong sister supernatural dramas I have seen are The Master’s Sun and My Girlfriend is a Gumiho. I am not a huge fan of The Master’s Sun, and I have a feeling that Gumiho has not aged well since its debut in 2010. The Hong sisters are a master of the romcom craft, and the overall story remains surprisingly coherent through its multiple time period settings.The balance of romance and comedy is also carefully weighed, and each piece of HDL’s episodic format adds to the main underlying plot and tension.

Many may think that HDL’s plot is incredible based on what I have said thus far. The true challenge that HDL does not quite surpass is a relatable and believable gravity within the main plotline. It is not enough to say the main character waited hundreds of years for this moment and expect all viewers to immediately empathize with her. HDL fails to adequately address some critical questions: Why wait hundreds of years? Is this really a problem/challenge? The Hong Sisters’ responses are sadly insufficient. Looking back, one of the root causes is that too many subplots, plots, characters are covered over 16 episodes, even if each episode is over one hour long. As a whole, the story, while intriguing, did not leave me thinking about it throughout the week like some of my favorite dramas.

Acting:
Hotel Del Luna boasts two of the hottest main leads of 2019, IU and Yeo Jin-goo. I had 2 thoughts before starting HDL: unsurety of IU’s shedding of the idol-actress image and the poor taste left after Absolute Boyfriend. Let me caveat that I did not finish the most recent dramas starring IU or YJG, My Mister and My Absolute Boyfriend, respectively. In HDL, both exceed my lowered expectations. In comparing the 2 leads, Goo Chan-Sung shows a narrower range of emotions and often plays the straight man, shutting down many of Jang Man-Wol’s anctics. YJG executes this role with precision and professionalism, plus he’s only 22! I look forward to his future performances as he continues to grow as an actor.

Jang Man-Wol experiences a much wider range of emotions and actions, and I cannot confidently say that IU is a bonafide top star (of acting) yet. The main reason is because the casting of IU is as much a part of her success as her acting chops. HDL jumps between romance, comedy, and drama frequently and sharply. IU’s execution, like YJG, is exceptional, but sometimes it looks more like IU playing multiple characters vs her portraying one consistent character. Furthermore, IU puts together a more convincing character in the “drama” scenes than the romance and comedy scenes, and the chemistry between the two leads is just short of electric. All around, I praise IU for committing to her acting career and participating in different genres of dramas/movies, and I fully expect her to become a topflight actress sooner or later.

Here are a couple thoughts on the supporting cast. Overall, the supporting cast is as wonderful as the leads, but they lose major screen time to not only the main leads but also to the guests who fill out the episodic format of HDL (again, a criticism more of the story than acting). Of course, there are weaker areas, one being Kang Mi-Na. Her character is convoluted and a difficult challenge for the young actress. Hopefully, she grows and follows/exceeds IU’s acting career trajectory. To end on a sweet note, I am a huge fan of Kang Hong-Suk and would love to see more screen time from him in the future.

Music:
The backing cast of artists for Hotel del Luna is incredible, especially for kpop fans. Even the non-”pop” singers are well-respected veterans of kballad. So, I won’t get into every single song and artist from the OST. I will mention Song Ha-ye because she is relatively “new” (5+ year vet) and may be lesser known. Her track, “Say Goodbye”, fits great with the drama, and her latest hit, “Your Regards”, is definitely worth a listen. My favorite track from the OST is Heize’s “Can You See My Heart”. It didn’t top the music charts like Taeyeon’s or Gummy’s, but I still listen to it on repeat! Also, nearly an hour of original music for a cable network drama?! HDL shines bright in countless ways.

Rewatch Value:
Writing this review made me reconsider my thoughts on Hotel del Luna as a whole. I would enjoy HDL more had I binged the drama instead of following the weekly releases. Since I found the main storyline slightly unconvincing, my interest in HDL wavered while waiting for a new episode. It is entirely possible that I bump up the overall rating by half a point after a binge rewatch. However, I do not have any plans to rewatch HDL at the moment.

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