6.26.2016

4 Korean Drama Reviews: My Descent Into The Kdrama Rabbit Hole

I have recently been introduced to Korean dramas, thanks to the suggestions of many friends. Needless to say, I fell HARD for these shows! I have been watching them like crazy, and can't get enough. Though I'm sure these have been reviewed many times over, I thought I would leave my thoughts regarding four of the shows I have watched.
Title links will take you to the show on Dramafever where you can watch them for free (this is where I watch them). Teh descriptions also come from DF. I'm not endorsing them, nor am I getting paid or compensated for any of this...I'm just lazy, and they have all the info. :) Links to actor profiles will take you to their actor profiles on Dramafever--mainly because I think it's hilarious that they even give you the actors' blood types.



The Princess's Man ★★★★★  ♥
Airdate: 2011
Genre: Historical Romance
Episode Count: 24
Princess Se Ryung is the fearless and strong-willed daughter of Grand Prince Su Yang. Seung Yoo is a noble "old soul" who captures her heart. The only problem is that their fathers are powerful rivals, and both will stop at nothing to defeat the other and ascend the throne. Featuring breathtaking cinematography and gorgeous locations, The Princess's Man is a lush historical romance is widely loved, and will capture your heart. This epic Romeo and Juliet-style romance features Moon Chae Won ( Shining Inheritance ) and Park Shi Hoo ( Iljimae ) as the star-crossed lovers. Description via Dramafever.
The majority of Kdramas I've been watching have been historicals, and this is my favorite purely historical one yet! It ripped my heart out many times, and I cried endlessly because of it--which is just how I like my historicals. I admit that I haven't had much experience with Asian history until I began watching Korean dramas. What a world that has been opened up to me! I thought I enjoyed European history, but I believe Asian history is even more interesting and enjoyable. The clothing, the honor, the familial loyalty. *Sigh*

This story gives Sejo of Joseon (the one who took over the throne via a coup) a fictional daughter, Se Ryung, who then goes on to upend his world (with a good reason as to why she isn't in the historical records). I truly admire Se Ryung. She is passionate, strong-willed, and selfless. She also loves her family very dearly. We watch as she goes from taking small risks such as stealing glances at someone, to secretly switching places with the Princess for her daily lessons, to openly disavowing her own parents (a very big and risky move at the time) because she doesn't agree with her father's morals. She is fearless, as long as her actions benefit those she cares for.

I think one of the biggest reasons I enjoyed this show was its true-to-the-time political intrigue and drama. Things happen as they really would have at the time, meaning the deepest friendship and familial ties are tested over and over. People you fall in love with die, and you find your allegiances changing as the story moves on and the characters themselves grow and change. This is the real Game of Thrones (and a clean one, at that), and because of that there is so much restraint to the actions of some characters, and so much must be conveyed via a mere glance, or words with double meanings. We see entire family trees destroyed, and other family trees made anew, as those in power and those who seek power struggle and fight.

Along with all of this are relationships of every kind that grow, break, grow again, and are tested even more. The romance is tragic at times, and beautiful at others. And through it all, the overarching theme is forgiveness: can it be given? Would it be worth it? Will pride get in the way of it, or will love overcome? The actors portray these characters' dilemmas very well, and you'll have a hard time guessing how any one character will respond to a situation.

If you watch any historical, I really recommend this one. Just be prepared for your heart to break over and over.


Faith (The Great Doctor) ★★★★★ ♥
Airdate: 2012
Genre: Historical Fantasy/Romance
Leads: Lee Min Ho and Kim Hee Sun
Episode Count: 24
Lee Min Ho stars in this thrilling fantasy epic, as an elite warrior in 1300s Korea who travels to the 21st century to find a doctor capable of healing the Queen. In a comic twist, his search for a doctor with godlike abilities leads him to a popular plastic surgeon. When she refuses to believe his outlandish story, he kidnaps her, dragging her back into the past to save the Queen. Will this stoic warrior give up his code of honor and choose love over war, and will this career woman ever consider a life less modern? Only time will tell—literally.
Description via Dramafever.
This is officially my favorite Kdrama so far (TPM was my favorite until this one, but I like them for different reasons). It combines my favorite things into one show: romance, history, comedy, and fantasy. I thought it was strange in the beginning because I think they were working out how much magical power they wanted the characters to have/use (compare the powers and character strength in the beginning to the powers and character strength in the end, and you'll see how much they changed this). However, I think the magic use was fair, and done well. I like that the MC relies on his fighting skill more than his powers. I also like that there are limits to the powers of all involved. One doesn't have full control of his powers, another is like X-Men's Rogue, having to take her glove off if she wants to use hers, etc.; there are powers in this world, but there are also rules that follow the laws of nature.

One of the most interesting things about the show is that it isn't the villains' magical powers that cause so much fear amongst the "good guys," but rather the villains' political powers. This really sets the scene for the historical aspects of the show, and allows for more interesting twists in the plot. I loved all the intrigue that takes place. I especially love the portrayal of the King. He was just so human; able to admit his faults, and to ask his followers for advice or help. This very aspect of his personality becomes a major plot point, endearing not only viewers to him, but also key characters in the show.

The main relationship develops in a sweet way, and we get some very touching moments because of the circumstances. I adore these two in these roles together. They did so well! I think this is one of the deepest relationships I have seen in a Kdrama, and the way it develops is just so satisfying and sweet. Think Beauty and the Beast for this one. <3

There are also relationships between other characters that are interesting and compelling, creating a well-rounded storyline. I love the relationships between King and Queen, friend and foe, Calabash families, and even doctor and patients. On top of all this is fantastic humor that comes out at just the right moments to make you laugh out loud (X-Men moment, anyone?).

*Le sigh.* I could watch this one over and over. If you aren't big on historicals this is a good one to watch because it has so many other aspects to it. There is also the fact that the MC is from our own time period, bringing with her questions and explanations about history that create a softer landing for those who aren't familiar with it.


Airdate: 2009
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Episode Count: 25
At the prestigious Shin Hwa High School in Seoul, four boys comprise the group known as the Flower Four. The crème de la crème of the most powerful families from Korea, these spoiled, rebellious, flirtatious and cruel boys rule the school. Enter Jan Di, a girl of humble upbringing who is accepted into Shin Hwa on a swimming scholarship after accidentally saving the life of a Shin Hwa student. Not one for following the rules blindly, Jan Di faces immediate scrutiny from the entire school and in particular the boys of the Flower Four and their leader, Goo Jun Pyo, who dislikes her instantly. Through her charm and undying optimism, she slowly begins to capture the hearts of those around her, even the icy boys of the F4.
Description via Dramafever.
I think this is one of those shows that you have to watch upon your entry into Korean dramas just to see the show that set off so many fashion trends, and launched the career of the famous hearthrob, Lee Min Ho (totally fangirling over here).

I want to start off by saying that I already had something against this show before I even began watching. I hate Gossip Girl-like storylines, so books, shows, or movies of a similar nature annoy me. Snotty rich kids who have no boundaries or supervision, and who use their money to do whatever they want is a storyline that I seriously despise. Basically, take what I say with a grain of salt, because there were things in this show that really irked me because of this bias. However, this show came highly recommended, so I decided I needed to at least watch it once.

Needless to say, there was a lot that I did not like about the show. For one thing, the first half takes place primarily at school or during school days, yet there are only two times total (I counted) in the show that we ever see a teacher, administrator, or school security of any kind. There are classroom scenes where no teacher is ever present. There are many examples of fighting, bullying, egging, attempted rooftop suicide, and even a fire alarm goes off without one teacher, parent, or administrator being present. There is one 30-ish second scene with a teacher of some sort teaching the F4 in their special classroom. And then there is finally a scene with the school principle--yay! Except the scene is just one where his job is being threatened by one of the characters, and he caves to demands. So how and when do these kids actually learn anything at this prestigious school? Why is it one of the top schools in the country? Because I guarantee if these things were attempted at an actual private school all students involved would be expelled immediately. It must be one of those "magic of TV" things that we mere mortals can't understand. And don't get me started on Jan Di's parents--the ones who have no problems any of the multiple times that she fails to come home until the next morning.

All this aside, there are some redeeming qualities to the show. Once F4 goes to university, the relationships all around become more meaningful. They no longer participate in petty grievances, and they seem to grow up a little. I did really like Jun Pyro's character arc. He goes from angsty, naive, and terrorizing rich kid, to responsible, loving, and fearless adult. Jun Pyro and Jan Di's relationship is what made me admire the show, at least a little bit. She's courageous, and without even meaning to she molded Jun Pyro into a man worthy of her. She didn't ask for any of the bad things that happened to her, nor did she deserve them, but she works through each one while remaining the smiling, caring person that she is. She reminds me a lot of Elinor Dashwood.

So, basically this show was a flop for me, but there were moments of wisdom and perseverance that redeemed it a bit, especially among the side characters. I don't think it will ever be a favorite, but I've at least seen it now.


Descendants Of The Sun ★★★★
Airdate: 2016
Genre: Action Romance
Leads: Song Joong Ki and Song Hye Gyo
Episode Count: 19 (technically 16 episodes with 3 bonus scene compilations)
It's love at first sight for special forces Captain Yoo Shi Jin (Song Joong Ki) when he meets a beautiful doctor (Song Hye Kyo) who treats his wounds. Over before it can truly begin, the two separate due to their opposite values -- one being a soldier who takes lives, and the other a doctor who fights to save them. Almost a year later, a fateful reunion takes place in Uruk, causing them to work together. Can Shi Jin and Mo Yeon overcome their biggest hurdle, or was it never meant to be?
Description via Dramafever.
Descendants is--so far--the most risque Kdrama that I've come across. It has the most over-the-head references to sex, along with the most passionate kissing I've seen in a Kdrama (whoa there!). Yet it being a Kdrama means that these things are still pretty chaste, and I would only call it PG in regards to intimacy. However, in areas such as drinking and violence, I would call it PG-13. Like I said, I have been mainly watching historical dramas, so it may be that this is the norm with the modern dramas, but this was the first one I came across with so much of it.

In other regards, the show is quite great. It features several compelling side stories ranging from familial relationships, to friendships, to some very sweet romances. I was just as invested in the happenings of secondary characters as I was in the relationship of the main characters, and the writers did a great job of making every on-screen moment count.

In regards to the main couple: *sigh.* I love their dynamic: his unfailing cheerfulness, and her caring reserve. There are many sweet and tender moments where actions say more than words ever could. In one scene Shi Jin simply ties Mo Yeon's shoelace, and more love and care is conveyed through that action than anything.

The one thing I didn't enjoy about the romance was how quickly deep feelings were developed. I believe we were two episodes in (and the MCs had only seen each other three times) before they were saying how much they had missed each other. Shi Jin tells Mo Yeon that he missed her "like a man." So we never get to see those initial feelings develop, they just appear. However, despite this, the rest of the relationship development from there on out happens in a natural way.

The humor is very on point in this drama. I found myself laughing so often! There's a great balance between romance, humor, and action. I did cry a few times, and there are some sad events that are sure to make anyone cry. I think part of what made it so emotional was the great camera angles and scenery. This is my favorite drama in this regard, as I feel it has the best camera work that I've seen. It's comparable to Pearl Harbor, in that it utilizes scenery and camera angles to raise the emotional impact.

Lastly, get ready for some odd American accents. There are characters from many different countries in this drama, however there are also a lot of characters that are defined as American. These "Americans" have Australian, Russian, and a few other accents that I couldn't place. While I didn't mind, it does sound a bit odd coming from a supposedly American Special Forces team. It was also interesting to see how Americans are portrayed in this one. The first American shown had anger issues, threw his knife at the Korean team during a joint operation, and then cracked a "yo mama" insult for good measure. :D


What are some of YOUR favorite Kdramas?
And if you've seen any of these, what did you think of them?

4 comments:

  1. I haven't watched any of these yet. I've only seen Oh My Venus and She Was Pretty. And, I'm in the middle of watching Healer. These are on my list to watch at some point.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All three of those are currently on my list to watch! Are you liking them? I think I'll try Oh My Venus when I'm finished with Oh My Ghostess.

      Delete
  2. So fun to see your take on these! We have agreed on most points... I haven't seen the Princess one yet, but all the rest. :) So glad to have more people to fangirl with over these crazy shows! What an adventure we have ahead of us!

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for commenting! I read each and every one, and reply as soon as I can :)

Please note: The Reading Fever is an award-free zone. I am very flattered, but comments are all the thanks I need.

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