My Beautiful Bride – My WOW of the year. Intense and well restrained, gruesome yet subtle too. A love story that permeates everything while staying in the background. This show is the main reason I wanted to write this follow up Drama List post to, even if only slightly, channel my enthusiasm for Kim Moo-Yul and the way his containment is such an unlikely yet perfect vehicle for this character’s deep devotional passion.
A few episodes in a row of kidnapping and near death for Bank Guy did get tedious midway, but I was still on the edge of my seat, and circling the computer like a shark when it was time for the next episode to appear. My favorite song of the year so far as well, Days and Moons. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Tsp0yXzwbQ
Warm and Cozy – Refreshing elements that came together flatly. Was curious to see what the writers would do with the diving women string, since they’ve become famous around the world due to various articles, and perhaps if that had been the main story it would have been better. Kang So Ra’s character was endearing and it wasn’t that the two leads didn’t have interesting dynamics, but pacing was terribly off for long stretches. I even liked the music and most of the characters individually. Just, no ride to it at all.
Three Musketeers – Quick, and fun to keep track of twists and turns. Lead from Nine Times Time Travel. Awry at end, but OK.
Producers – Really liked and sometimes loved. Appreciated the experimental format, the quirky filming, and the off the charts acting skills of Kim Soo Hyun. Excellent balance of older and younger characters and wide-ish spectrum of appropriate concerns and emotions.
Orange Marmalade – Started out well then fell off a cliff. They saved it by going back to previous lives in the Joseon era, then blending modern and memory. I liked it more than most reviewers seemed to, was happy with the way it came together at the end. Sweet acceptance story.
Spy – Beautiful JaeJoong or I might not have watched. Skipped forward a lot. Typical spy drama made more interesting by involving a mom and son dynamic, but nothing to recommend.
I Need Romance (2011) – Tries too hard, but often lives up to its steamy description. Steamy is rare in drama land, usually a total 20 minutes of the average 16 hours. :)
I Need Romance (2012) – Very good. Ending a bit blah though. A lot of dramas seem to lose rhythm in the end, perhaps because they are usually written week to week and the juice from anticipation might weaken as teams begin to think about their next projects.
Falling in Love with Soon Jung – Just such a good love affair, with sensitive lead actor able to deliver complex emotion. The plot was not especially tedious even though there was a too-typical battle for the company, an obligatory murder mystery, a rescue from hit-by-a-truck scene, and nose bleeds.
Mask – Cra cra. Great! So intense, pushing the fiction to limits, and fun to watch. Love the central romance but another where a fewer episodes might have made for a stronger hook in to the whole story.
What’s Up Fox – Writer from Valid Love and My Lovely Kim Sam Sam Soon. Racy content and quite enjoyable. Enjoyed the lead actor’s intensity and some break out moments.
High Society – Boring, even with Sung Joon. The quick leap in attachment from the female lead lost me within just a few episodes, and although there were some noteworthy aspects to the characters’ motivations as written, there was almost no feeling. What Korean dramas are best at is tapping into emotions, evoking happiness or tears, suspenseful angst. Without that, the rest of the components don’t work.
Flowers for my Life – Slow and dated, but warm, with an interesting premise. Funeral home backdrop, so a few similar themes to Departures, but more drawn out. I thought too much so. I wouldn’t give it the 10/10 rating that’s given on Dramabeans because it lacked true non-self-conscious ‘up’ moments.
My Love Eun Dong – The only drama this year that can stand confidently next to My Beautiful Bride, although Heard it Through the Grapevine and Unkind Women were both excellent.
It is just that My Love Eun Dong was torturously, knife-to-the-heart good. Deeply romantic, very well acted. Ju Jin-Mo got under my skin and stayed there. Half of the drama took place in his expressions, with one moment (when she is making breakfast in his kitchen) even rivaling that of a most touching Sense and Sensibility scene mentioned in other posts. There were elements that detracted, but I was able to single out the romance as core impression.
A story with the conflicted and layered dilemmas and emotions of an affair, without one. Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful.
9th End and Two Outs – Started, stalled, and came back able to realize that this is what The Time I Loved You was supposed to be, a more modern telling of a warmhearted friend-turns-romance tale. Easy to watch and enjoy, though not immersive. Some dramas are better for multitasking than others.
You’re the Best, Lee Soo Shin – Enjoyed. Not especially memorable but did like the central romance and characters, also the string of the entertainment company work. Her name is a reference to the military general who designed the famous Korean turtle ship – clever.
The Time I Loved You – Nothing happens. Just pretty figures moving around like a screen saver. Similar sense of disappointment to Warm and Cozy but at least Warm and Cozy sprinkled fantastic individual scenes throughout.
Warrior King Baek Dong Soo – Excellent. The first episode was a little intense, but quickly found course with deeply sentimental, fleshed out characters. Ji Chang Wook is fun to watch and twinkly.
Oh My Ghostess (in progress) – Love the ghost actress – even the sight of her makes me smile, also the main romantic lead. Wonderful.
I was a little conflicted, because until right at the end I couldn’t see how they would resolve heartbreak caused by misdirected affections, or the consent issues. I found it hard to commit and go with the story entirely, but kept watching because the romance was terribly cute and sexy at the same time, which is not the easiest balance.
Trot Lovers – Surprisingly cute and funny. Completely loved Shin Sung Roc playing a funny rather than villainous role.
Heartless City – Writer from My Beautiful Bride, lead actor from Falling in Love with Sung Joon. Excellent. This writer has made me take back my words that I don’t care for police and gangster dramas.
I Order You – Was light and easy and then suddenly became an angst ball. Still, the food was presented sooooooo lovingly.
Little dream boxes:
Tomorrow’s Cantable – Charming, and got better and better in terms of the life lessons and camaraderie of characters. Enjoyed, but not because it was absorbing – precisely for the opposite reason, that I could relax and listen to wonderful music that they didn’t give just scenes and snippets of, but long pieces. Also because there were older characters to balance out the young vibe at the center.
Gakistal (Bridal Mask) – It took me a long time to watch this one. On my list for a few years, I kept beginning and stopping. The first few episodes I found choppy and a bit cheesy, with special effects that seemed out of place, but I couldn’t ignore the excellent ratings and repeated mention of the drama on the forums. As I write this, I am 19 episodes in and completely understand. It takes an amazing writer to tie even strings from battle scenes together, and this one does. It is weighty subject matter, with tastes of V from Vendetta, bombings, and too many torture scenes, but excellent acting, especially from the main second lead/villain. The drama is set in the 30s, which is a particularly turbulent time and rich territory that they explore bravely.
RE-WATCH: My Lovely Kim Sam Soon – I was wrong about this drama before. What this writer gets better than anyone else, is how complex and overlapping adult love can be… how it rarely ends or begins in neat and sensible ways… how love for one doesn’t prevent love for another… and why such choices are heart-wrenching. Some try not to choose. Maybe for others it is clear cut and they never come to impossible crossroads. I can’t relate to them, though.
I was very bothered when first viewing of this drama, by the continual references to Sam Soon’s weight as being chubby or fat or plump, because I see a woman who is tall and fit, and not 22 years old but 30. What happened in this viewing however is that I was able to immerse more in her character as she is written and in her particular context, which is that of Korea, not America or Europe. And in that context it fit her character and those around her, and it fits the drama world, that she is not the norm nor is beauty what is supposed to make her special.
A scene in which a character is slapped still upset me.