Show Me the Romance

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Archive for the tag “korean drama”

TV Series Review: Sungkyunkwan Scandal

Sungkyunkwan Scandal
TV Series (20 episodes, complete and available free on Hulu.com)
Korean historical drama starring Park Yuchun, Park Min Young, Song Joong-Ki, and Yoo Ah In.

It’s K-drama time again! And this time, it’s a historical drama about a girl living as a boy so she can attend an elite university at a time when women could be killed for such an offense. There’s humor, rooftop flying, swordfights, an archery competition, and lovely characters. The elaborate costumes may look a little funny to Western eyes, but beautiful fabrics are still beautiful, and since this is one historical drama with a happy ending, romance fans should queue it up on Hulu pronto.

L-R: Geul-Oh, Lee Sun Joon, Kim Yoon Hee, and Yeo-Rim

The Premise

It’s the 1790s in the kingdom of Joseon (Korea), and women aren’t allowed to have jobs or go to school. Clever, self-taught Kim Yoon Hee (played by Park Min Young) disguises herself as her sickly younger brother, Kim Yoon Shik, and takes odd writing and copying jobs  to support her brother and widowed mother. She is so desperate for work that she compromises her principles and takes an assignment helping would-be scholars (only successful scholars can become high-ranking court officials) cheat on their university entrance exams. When exceptionally bright exam-taker and nobleman’s son Lee Sun Joon (Park Yuchun) catches Yoon Hee in the act, he realizes this “boy” has talent. Instead of turning Yoon Hee in, he “blackmails” her into taking the test as herself. Yoon Hee passes with flying colors, and suddenly she’s attending a great university as no girl could ever dream, knowing they’ll cut her head off if she’s caught. Meanwhile, there are political intrigues running rampant, plots to hatch, and ideals to follow–and there are those who suspect this small, pretty boy is not a boy at all.

Geul-Oh and Yeo-Rim

The Pain

The guys and Yoon Hee all walk around wearing mesh versions of pilgrim hats. With beads hanging from the brim.  But that appears to be historically accurate for yangban, or noblemen, so you just have to accustom yourself to that costume detail and move on. As the hero character, Lee Sun Joon is kind of stiff and hard to like in the first few episodes, but as the series goes on, that becomes part of his charm.

The Payoff

No impossibly far away plot device, yay! No scheming hell-bitch, yay!** I adored all three of Yoon Hee’s best guy friends in the series: Yeo-Rim (played by Song Joong-Ki) is slippery, charming, and funny; Geul-Oh (Yoo Ah In) is the wild child of the bunch, the best fighter and the most tortured soul; and finally Lee Sun Joon, who shows adequate fighting skill in one scene, but who really displays his heroic qualities through the dramatic and brilliant application of his brain.

Kim Yoon Hee and Lee Sun Joon

Yoon Hee is a truly likeable heroine. She’s smart, she’s got a spine of steel, and she has real motivations and fears you can’t help but understand. The main kiss scene is a good one and the ending is truly one of the best, most satisfying endings I’ve seen in any J-drama or K-drama, so from beginning to end, I wholeheartedly give this romance five arrows.

Rating: 

5 out of 5 arrows

**see my review of You’re Beautiful for my rant on both of those.

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TV Show Review: Mary Stayed Out All Night (2010)

Mary Stayed Out All Night
TV Show (16 episodes, complete and available free on Hulu.com)
Korean romantic comedy starring Jang Geun Suk and Moon Geun Young.

When I last reviewed a Korean drama, I complained about the “scheming mean girl rival” and “go abroad at the end to provide more complications” plot devices used so frequently in Korean and Japanese dramas. The very next show I watched uses neither! Let’s hear it for Mary Stayed Out All Night.

The Premise

Wi Ma Ri (Mary, as everyone calls her) is cheerful, practical, and accustomed to having to dodge the loan sharks who are always hounding her dad for money. But when her dad strikes up a deal with his wealthy childhood friend to marry her to his friend’s son, Mary knows she’ll have to do something drastic to avoid marriage with a complete stranger–like pretend to marry the handsome rock singer she met last night.

The Pain

I feel like Mary Stayed Out All Night takes quite awhile to hit its stride, which might make it hard for some people to get into the story. Preposterous situations abound, but that’s kind of par for the course in these dramas. Ultimately, male romantic lead Kang Mu Gyul isn’t as hilarious as that actor’s character in You’re Beautiful, so it took me awhile to warm up to him and appreciate the more subtle layers in his personality.

The Payoff

A GREAT kiss between the two leads. Asian dramas can be rather hit-or-miss when it comes to realistic kisses, but when Wi Mary and Kang Mu Gyul finally kiss for real, it’s fantastic. I truly enjoyed some of the music in this show, most of all Kang Mu Gyul’s marquee rock song “My Bus.” The story is more emotionally mature as well, especially since the beautiful actress who struggles with her jealousy over the relationship developing between her ex-boyfriend Kang Mu Gyul and Mary actually seems like a real person. Sometimes she succumbs to her bitterness, but more often she rises above it–making her one of the few romantic rival characters I actually admire.

Rating: 

4 out of 5 arrows

TV Show Review: You’re Beautiful (2009)

You’re Beautiful
TV Show (16 episodes, complete and available free on Hulu.com)
Korean romantic comedy starring Jang Geun Suk and Park Shin Hye.

You know you’ve always wanted to see a show about a nun-in-training who has to impersonate her twin brother and join a Korean boy band. Man, I love these shows.

The Premise

Go Mi Nyo (family name Go, personal name Mi Nyo) is a sister-in-training at the convent that’s been her home for most of her life. She hasn’t seen her twin brother Go Mi Nam in years when a spastic talent manager bursts into her life, saying her brother has finally achieved his dream of joining a boy band. Unfortunately, for (spectacularly) contrived reasons, he can’t perform in their concert and is about to forfeit his contract unless Mi Nyo pretends to be him. This eventually entails living with three guys for the better part of two months. You see where this is going.

The Pain

Okay, more obvious problems notwithstanding (like how the actress who plays Mi Nyo/Mi Nam is adorable and no one would ever mistake her for a boy) I wish Korean dramas wouldn’t rely so heavily on the scheming hell-bitch motif to draw out the romantic tension between the hero and heroine. And why…why do they always use the “oh no, I might have to go Somewhere Impossibly Far Away for Years” plot device?” I’m on a mission now to find a k-drama without it.

The Payoff

Park Shin Hye is (as I said above) adorable, which is really saying something when you consider she’s playing the idiot/klutz heroine type, a.k.a. Too Stupid To Live. At least Mi Nyo’s convent background explains her naivety, and she has such a big warm heart, I couldn’t hate her. As for Jang Geun Suk, his Tae Kyung is a master class in combining unappealing quirks to make an irresistible hero. He’s a moody rockstar germaphobe with night blindness, bad hair, and the lonely soul of a poet. His first smile is worth the wait.

And their romance makes me a grinning fool.

Rating: 

4 out of 5 arrows

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