Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Kdrama in Retrospect - 2016

In the beginning of 2016, I vowed to watch more dramas assuming there will be waaaay more free time as I prepare for my leave to Netherland. Well, the assumption was true at least in the first half of the year. But what I did not expect is the fact that the longer kdrama watching I had, the more selective and reluctant I become to jump on new kdrama train. While in the second half of the year, I basically ditched kdrama for Netflix binge-watching session or movie night with housemates. Hence my sad-looking statistic this year; finish 8, drop 6, currently watching 2. Since it is not long anyway, let's see what was on my list this year.

Six Flying Dragons

Dragons is in my list for 2015 and 2016 as not only because it literally aired in both year, but also because it was so awesome I want it to be in every possible list I could think of. This drama makes me watching saeguk; something that I usually avoid like a plague. Initially assuming that it would be boring, it exceeds my expectation for not only being interesting until the end, but it also excels in all aspects. The writing is compelling, directing and editing are spot on, the acting is great, and the whole story is just so intriguing and contemplative it really makes me think about certain topics talked in the drama. There are few things I desired to be explored further, namely a certain puppy swordsman with pitiful arc, or the ridiculous No Name story mostly used as plot device. But we can't have it all, right? Nevertheless, the journey has been emotional, fulfilling, inspirational, and all around amazing. 

If I have to pick two narrative themes I enjoy the most, it's gonna be procedural and emotional, human drama. Signal has topped my list because it combines these two things, gift-wrapped, complete with all sprinkles of magic dust and red ribbon. The writer purposely tailored cases to the character's journey and development, but they also stand on its own as emotional reminder for how human is on its worst and how we still have so many unfinished horrible cases to solve. Some cases left me with blabbering, crying puff mess, even more so than the actual character arc itself. I can't imagine how it was for Korean citizen as they are based on the unsolved cases actually happened in South Korea. But I truly think that it is the strength of this drama. It is a clever and heartwarming show; imagine how often we got that in kdramaland! What's even more satisfying is that not only it garners a lot of praise from critics, it also gains high rating too. Proving that it is not impossible for high quality drama to reach broader audience. Here’s to season 2!!

Age of Youth
I have been living away from home for almost 10 years, renting a room in a house and living with other girls from various background as well as all kinds of personality. Watching Age of Youth was really relatable as it was just so close with my own experience. At first I relate myself to the quiet and timid Eun-Jae. But then I end up seeing myself (or what I aspire to be) in each of the girl’s character; braveness of Yi-Na, hardworking and oblivious nature of Jin-Myung, persistence of Ye-Eun and even the carefree and confident attitude of Ji-Won. This drama, all conflicts withstanding, first and foremost is a story about 5 strangers who happen to live together and learn how to understand each other. Watching them really reminds me of my own experience living together with my friends; something that I actually still do even now. It has a low-key, indie spirit with slice-of-life style and ordinary cinematography. But then, the script and acting truly makes you care. In the sea of over-the-top drama concept or your usual love square, this comes as refreshing. It makes you reflects on how fun but confusing our youth is, and how important good friends are by our side. In the end, I finished watching a show and felt like I just met 5 new friends; that feeling is truly incredible. 
The Good Wife
It makes me so angry that it seems no one watching this show when in fact, The Good Wife in my opinion is one of the best remake in kdrama. Based on US Series The Good Wife, the story revolved around a Hae-Kyoung, a former lawyer who decided to call her career quit in order to build a family. When her husband was involved in a scandal, she had to step out of the house and start building a career as newbie lawyer in MJ law firm. The drama follows her journey as she struggles to balance her newly career and family, finding the right place at work, and unfolding the mystery surrounding her husband's scandal. This drama certainly has my cookies simply as being smart law drama with so many interesting characters. I love her interaction with everyone and also how she evolves as lawyer and person. It's a pity that side characters were not developed more (Kim Dan is such a girl crush!!). And I still hate the ending (wtf is that?! Justice for Jong Won tbh). But for those who loves well-written court drama with interesting cases completed with interesting characters, this drama is certainly for you. Oh, and the cast is absolutely amazing, nuff said. Yes, and thank me later. 

Police Squad 38
Bad Guys writer and actors I love, there is no way I miss that kind of drama. When reading about the synopsis, ex-con collaborate with public servant trying to con businessman out of their astronomical taxes? I am totally in. The casts are amazing, bromance is brewing, and the con is hella fun. I would like to sing only praise for this squad, but unfortunately not this time. Although enjoying it so much, it doesn't give me feels. The trick starts to feel repetitive in the second half and I just wish they explore the character more. At first I thought they will do that while conning taxes from bad people but along the way, it feels like they are too focus on the con itself. It is interesting, yes. But 16 episodes about conning people will grow stale at some point. It is unfortunate because I keep wishing this to be Korean version of White Collar which I absolutely love. Overall, fun ride, but so many things more that can be explored. And still mad at the fact that Sooyoung's char is very underdeveloped -,-

Oh Hae Young Again
I still have no idea why I start watching this in the first place. Oh probably because of Kim Ji Suk. That man seriously deserves male lead stat. Personally, I think Ordinary Hae Young (played beautifully by Seo Hyun Jin) is truly the center of this drama. She is unbelievably annoying, yet very relatable and earnest. She really put her heart (and clouded, biased emotions) on her sleeves and it reflects in each of her actions. She is a very bizarre character but so believable that it makes me feel for her. In the first half I totally support and want all the better things for her, with or without Do Kyung. But the second half is kinda lost in the sea of emotions and noble idiocy that eventually turns me off. Even until now I still can't be sure what gives the excitements away; the over-the-top humor? Characters that doesn't actually show significant development? Personal expectation that Oh Hae Young can be less psychotic? Wishful thinking that Do Kyung can be a bit less muted and emotionally distant? Of course there are good things. I personally enjoy the first half of the show. Also how they characterize second female lead as she undergoes important personal development. Well still not sure. Guess I will remember this drama by its unfulfilled potential and interestingly crazy female lead. But that's probably it. Too bad, Kim Ji Suk is hilarious in here :')

Page Turner
Kim So Hyun. Ji Soo. Based on the lead itself, whatever the script is I am sure many people will be watching, including me. It was a short drama consists only 3 episodes. The story is really interesting and cute, performance of both lead actors (and basically everyone, really) is amazing. I especially like Kim So Hyun in here, acting as a blind person must not be easy. Here she has to be blind and playing piano convincingly. And she did a very good job at both. And Ji Soo, my adorable puppy being completely adorable in here. I totally like the acting and also the ending. Strange thing is that, it is personally hard for me to connect emotionally with the drama, maybe because it is too short, or because i am not familiar with the world setup. The only thing that I regret because this drama happened is that now that they were already in this drama, Kim So Hyun and Ji Soo won't be paired together anymore anytime sooner. It’s a pity that the episodes are short because we need more of this cutesies!!

W - The Two Worlds
The main attraction of this drama for me is the writer. Nine: Nine Times Time Travel is still in my top drama list of all time and when I heard he planned this, it’s a definitive watch. The first half of this drama is truly enjoyable. I love the wacko concept, the intriguing manhwa setup, the leads, chemistry between Lee Jong Suk & Han Hyo Joo, directing and cinematography; well basically everything. It is really painful to see such a good work crumbled in the second part of the drama. It went to identity crisis after sudden amnesia episode (which really confuse me because it was just weird). The romance didn’t feel natural anymore, the mysteries left unsolved, and the solutions felt like an easy way out. So many things going wrong, and unlike many other dramas when I stop caring after it went weird, I really got annoyed and sad when this went downhill. Because I did wish this to be good until the end. Too bad, not everything has its happy ending.

Honorable mention: Cheese in the Trap

As I have mentioned many times before, since I did not watch many drama, I end up being emotionally invested to those that I did watch. With Cheese in the Trap, I was not only emotionally invested, but also personally relate to the story and its character. I read the webtoon shortly before watching the drama and fell in love completely with the way the writer painted the story. It is simple yet complicated. It discussed psychological concept and people’s character in a very intriguing way. What makes me happier is that, the drama managed to capture the webtoon perfectly; well, at least in the first half.
I don’t know exactly what happened behind the scene, but the direction changed in the second half. Main lead got sidelined, the second male lead got pushed front in a very unorganic way, the main female lead suddenly changed into a weird characterization. It angers me so much because not only it differs from the original material which eventually hurt the whole story, it also treated the characters in a very unfair and wrong way. I cannot imagine what leads to sudden change because literally everything is perfect in the first 10 episodes. I confess that even until now I still haven’t watched the last episode, that’s why it is put in the Honorable Mentions. This may sound like an exaggeration but it hurts so much because I truly care very much to the story. Conclusion? Just stick to the webtoon.  

Gladly dropped

Second to Last Love – This drama feels so weird and wacky. From the production value, it kinda feels like weekend drama which makes me a bit uninterested. Actually I love the female lead, and they also have Kim Seul Gi! But everything else seems weird and it doesn’t make me care at all. 

Master: God of Noodles – After SFD, I swear to myself that I will watch anything the cast is in afterwards. This drama has Jung Yoo Mi & Gong Seung Yeon. It also has Lee Sang Yeob (that creepy guy from Signal) and Jo Jae Hyun (from my beloved Punch). This practically is a must watch. But the show turns out to be so dark and daaaaark it really didn’t spark my interest to continue. Maybe bad timing. Or maybe because I just don’t like Chun Jung Myung’s acting in here. 

Doctors - cute doctors roaming around in heels, cute Moohyul Yoon Kyun Sang acting like he is a doctor while in fact he is just an adorable puppy, and another cute relationship between main lead. The thing is, i just don't care. There is no content, everything is just fluff and nothing is going on. 12 episodes are enough for me i can't handle this anymore. 

Miss Temper & Nam Jung Ki – I heard all good things about this drama but idk why not interesting enough to continue beyond ep 4. Maybe I’ll pick this up again if I have time (when?!)

Jealousy Incarnate – Despite my undying love for the casts, I was unable to connect to the story and the character. I admit that it was supposed to be comedy, but something is grating me I don’t know what. I like the humor, but I just couldn’t continue knowing that Na Ri will choose the jerk instead of the kind. Jo Jeong Seok really did wonder because if it’s not him, I will hate the character even more. 

Currently watching

This Week My Wife Is Having an Affair – what a mouthful title. Currently still in episode 3 (final sucks). But enjoying this so much <3

Goblin – a.k.a the current phenomenon sweeping over Korea and internet sphere. I love this drama, it did excellent in so many things. But I just can’t with the main couple romance. Love Kim Go Eun’s portrayal but Ji Eun Tak feels wrong. I can’t keep being butthurt though because this drama is sincerely fun. And it gives me Lee Dong Wok & Yoo Inna, I am happy already ha.

Phew, that was my list of kdrama in 2016. 
For TL;DR version, I really love the first four drama on that list. Six Flying Dragons, Signal, Age of Youth and The Good Wife just simply drew me into their world. But overall, a very enjoyable ride. I wish i watched more drama, but i guess no regret because apparently i watched too many movies in exchange haha. And I am so excited for 2017 as there are already few titles I anticipate and plan to watch. So again, here's for the better kdrama in 2017!!

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