I have a new page just for K-culture! I'll be keeping track of the dramas I watch, the K-pop I listen to, and a few other things on that page.
Who Are You ★★★★★ ♥
Genre: Supernatural Romance Mystery
Episode Count: 16
Detective Yang Si Ohn (So Yi Hyun) awakens from a six-year coma and discovers she now has the eerie ability to see and interact with spirits. She’s paired with Cha Gun Woo (Ok Taecyeon), a cop who believes only in cold facts and solid evidence. As the two begrudgingly work with one another, they develop a knack for solving cases involving supernaturally charged objects in the lost and found center — and eventually develop a lot of romantic tension. Just when things start to make sense, a paranormal love triangle emerges when Si Ohn’s dead boyfriend, former elite officer Lee Hyung Joon (Kim Jae Wook), appears as a spirit... Description via Dramafever.There are some noticeable faults to this drama, such as trained police officers who have no idea how to hold a gun, defend themselves, or how to low key investigate a crime at all. But all of that is swallowed up in the story as it unfolds. This one has some mystery to it as Si Ohn, the main lead, attempts to discover just what put her into a coma six years earlier. And she has to do all of that while dealing with her newfound skill of being able to see ghosts. While I think a bit more could have come of this ability (some of it is explained and utilized, but only when necessary to the plot), I like how things turned out in the end.
The most compelling part of this drama is the relationship between the main character, her previous boyfriend's ghost, and the new love interest. The nuances to such a situation are handled so well, leaving us unsure of how, exactly, we want things to end. Do we want a miracle to happen that somehow allows her to be with her almost-fiance? Or do we want her to move on and accept the one who now hopes to take care of her? Will all parties be satisfied with the outcome? The result of this dilemma leaves us in tears, though there is a satisfying conclusion at the end of this one.
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Leads: Lee Min Ho and Park Shin Hye
Episode Count: 20
A worthy successor to the international hit Boys Over Flowers, Heirs follows a group of privileged, elite high school students as they are groomed to take over their families' business empires. These wealthy students seem to have everything under control–except their love lives. Kim Tan (Lee Min Ho) is heir to the Empire Group sent to study abroad in the U.S. In reality it's a form of exile, as his elder half-brother back home (Choi Jin Hyuk) schemes to take over the family business. While in the States, Kim Tan bumps into Cha Eun Sang (Park Shin Hye), who's arrived from Korea in search of her older sister. He feels himself falling for her, never realizing that she's the daughter of his family's housekeeper. When his fiancée Rachel Yoo (Kim Ji Won) arrives to bring him back to Korea, his heart is torn between love and duty. Meanwhile, Rachel's half-brother Choi Young Do (Kim Woo Bin) develops his own crush on Eun Sang. Who said being a rich, beautiful high school student was easy?This is what Boys Over Flowers should have been. While it has many faults, I think the re-do of the B/F storyline presented here is a good one. It has more realistic circumstances and resolutions, and I feel the characters mesh well in this drama. From the leads to the supporting characters, the relationships and conflicts leave a much better taste in your mouth. For one thing, I love how Eun Sang stands her ground and makes decisions herself for much of the drama. I also like the sacrifices made by other characters such as Kim Tan. And rest assured: you won't find these characters suddenly in a meaningless amnesia storyline (thank you K-drama gods).
Description via Dramafever.
A lot of people have complained about the beginning episodes while the story is set in Cali, and I guess it would be a bit awkward to get through if you aren't used to odd accents. I grew up with one parent speaking broken, accented English, and conversing with people who also have accents, so it really didn't bother me. I also don't believe other countries have to hire actors who can speak perfect English; Hollywood doesn't hire actors with perfect British accents (to the bane of Brits everywhere), yet we accept their movies with no questions. This seems no different to me. (Rant over.) It's only three episodes anyway, then the story moves back to Korea and the awkwardness is gone.
Genre: Romantic Comedy-ish
Episode Count: 20
Goo Seo Jin (Hyun Bin) reaches an all-time low when he uses his power as a theme park director to decommission Wonderland's popular circus. Refusing to give in to the demands of her frosty boss, ringleader Jang Ha Na (Han Ji Min) puts up a fight, but is thrown off guard when Seo Jin's secret persona reveals itself with genuine kindness. In the battle to save her circus, Ha Na realizes she must tease out Seo Jin's brighter side with magic, wonder and love, but who's listening — Jekyll or Hyde?This one began with such promise that I was really excited to watch it. That excitement faded a bit somewhere in the middle when the same things kept happening over and over again. Honestly, how many times can one person fool everyone else involved and still get away with it? How many failed attempts at kidnapping and/or murder will one person try until they give up? The culprit is clear from his/her first appearance without a mask.
Description via Dramafever.
And then there's the Hyde/Jekyll issue. I liked it at first, then it became bothersome. It took the main character FOREVER to find out what we viewers knew from the very first episode. Then she willfully ignored the positive or negative aspects of each personality, depending on how those aspects fit her own assumptions.
As for positives, I like the resolution that was found, both with the culprit and the main characters. It ended pretty much how I suspected it would, but the ending, at least, was well done. I can positively say that this is the first drama where I've been conflicted over two leads who are actually the same person.
Oh My Venus ★★★
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Leads: So Ji Sub and Shin Min Ah
Episode Count: 16
Although Kang Joo Eun (Shin Min Ah) was once considered the most beautiful girl in her hometown, her workaholic tendencies as a lawyer have taken a drastic toll. On top of being overworked and overweight, the former so-called “Venus of Daegu” is crushed when her long-term beau, Im Woo Sik (Jung Gyu Woon), dumps her for another woman.This one gets the award for ten minutes ruining the entire drama. I don't think I'm alone when I say that the ending killed the whole thing for me. I can't go into details without spoiling everything, but if you watch this one, be prepared for a sudden downward spiral that causes you to lose all hope and joy in life.
Meanwhile, Kim Young Ho (So Ji Sub) — a mysterious personal trainer who works incognito as “John Kim” — flees Los Angeles, amidst rumors that he and his ultra-famous starlet client are romantically involved. Devastated by the turn of events, Joo Eun pours herself into a business trip, but suddenly passes out from stomach pains on the return flight. As luck would have it, Young Ho promptly rescues her (from a tummy corset she’s been wearing to slim down her curves).
Though they initially clash and part on a sour note, a turn of events convinces Joo Eun that Kim Ji Yong (Henry Lau) — a member of Young Ho’s team — is indeed the famed John Kim. Threatening to blow his cover, Joo Eun tracks down his athletic entourage and blackmails Young Ho, Ji Yong and MFA fighter Jang Soon Jung (Sung Hoon) into becoming her trusty personal trainers.
On a mission to get even with Woo Shik and Soo Jin by shedding pounds and emotional baggage, Joo Eun’s optimism and determination eventually warm the cold and stoic exterior of her control-freak coach. In his biggest challenge yet, Young Ho musters all of his stubborn perfectionism into whipping Joo Eun’s body and heart back into shape—discovering along the way that she’s exactly what he needs to move past his own issues.
Description via Dramafever.
Negatives first: the ugly/pretty fat/skinny culture. This seems to be a running theme in K-dramas, but it was especially present in this one, as that's the theme. The lead is ugly because she's fat, and is considered pretty only when she loses weight. The male lead makes sure she's aware of this all the time. His excuse is that "healthy is pretty," which is just a clever way of saying skinny is pretty. (Because it's impossible to be thick and pretty, right?) This is why another character passes out trying to achieve this "healthy" look. This is literally my only beef with this drama, but because it's a theme that runs throughout and is constantly brought up by all characters involved, it's the reason why I only gave it 3 stars. It really irks me that one of the ultimate insults in K-dramas is telling a woman that she's ugly, and there's plenty of that here.
Other than that, the romance in this one is pretty sweet. I really like Shin Min Ah and So Ji Sub together. They have a lot of chemistry on-screen. There are plenty of swoon-worthy moments to make up for some of my above beef. Despite the fact that this is another rich man/poor woman storyline, it was handled really well and I was happy with the conclusion (minus those last ten minutes).
Orange Marmalade ★★★★★♥
Episode Count: 12
Despite a 200-year-old treaty between humans and vampires, both races still don't get along. Amidst the looming tension, Jung Jae Min (Yeo Jin Goo), a posh yet kindhearted high school student, quickly falls for the mysterious new girl Baek Ma Ri (Seol Hyun). But can Ma Ri conceal her true vampire identity and give love an honest chance? If these star-crossed lovers can find the courage to make the leap, Jae Min and Ma Ri may just be the key to a final resolution between humans and vampires...Squee! This drama was unexpectedly good. I began watching it because it's about vampires, and I was looking for something supernatural after watching Who Are You. There are some things I wish it had done a better job with, such as explaining more about the vampires themselves. The only information that is revealed is whatever is pertinent to the story. Everything else is left up to our imaginations, so we never find out who controls all of the vampires, nor do we find out who signed the original vampire/human peace treaty. While these are small details, they are important for believable world-building.
Description via Dramafever.
Despite these things, I feel the show was done very well. It's about star-crossed lovers, and we get to see two of their lifetimes in the show. It was jarring at first to have the show set in modern times, then to have it switch back 200 years. I almost quit watching at that point because I was too invested in what had already taken place nowadays. I'm really glad I kept going, though, because going back in time shows sides to the characters that we need to see in order to understand their modern-day actions and behaviors. I liked both time periods a lot, and was sad to leave each one.
This is a sweet high school romance with the nice addition of history and the supernatural (and even some Kpop). It isn't perfect, but I enjoyed it anyway.
Fair warning: be prepared for some major second male lead syndrome!
What are some of YOUR favorite Kdramas?
And if you've seen any of these, what did you think of them?