Friday, 31 October 2014

Bad Guys 2014 - Episode 1

"Bad Guys" is a new drama by OCN, a South Korean cable channel. So far 4 episodes have been aired and the ratings have climbed to 3.55%, a feat for cable TV. Seems that "Bad Guys" and "Misaeng" by TvN (another cable channel) are the dark horses for this season of Korean dramas.

The first episode of "Bad Guys" is fast-paced and action-packed. It starts with a police officer stabbed to death by a psychopath serial killer he was trying to catch. This incident exposes the weakness of the police force in Korea - it is understaffed, and too mild to deal with the increasing crime rate.

The father of the dead officer is Police Chief Nam Goo-hyun (Kang Shin-ll). He reinstates Oh Goo-tak (Kim Sang-joong), a police detective who was suspended for using excessive violence, and asks him to help him catch the killer. In return, he will help Goo-tak to "get all the anger out of his heart". At this point in time, we don't know what he means.  A flashback gives us a hint - someone close to Goo-tak, possibly his daughter, has been murdered too.

Chief Nam says to Goo-tak, "To beat up good people, that is violence. But to beat up scoundrels, that is justice." And so, Goo-tak, whose nickname is "mad dog", decides to use an unconventional method to catch the killer. He wants to fight crime using criminals, so he is getting three prisoners out to form a team with himself and police inspector, Yoo Mi-young (Kang Ye-won).

The first prisoner is gangster Park Woong-chul (Ma Dong-suk) who "conquered" all the triads in Seoul in 25 days. He is big and tough, but not very smart, which makes him the comic relief in this show.

The second prisoner is contract killer Jung Tae-soo (Jo Dong-hyuk) who has both brains and brawn. He was a skillful killer who did a clean job every time but one day, he suddenly surrendered himself to the police.

The third prisoner is Lee Jung-moon (Park Hae-jin). He has a documented IQ of 165, was Korea's youngest member of MENSA and the youngest person to attain a PhD in Mathematics. He is also the youngest serial killer, a cold-blooded psychopath.

Woong-chul and Tae-soo are brought before Goo-tak and told that whoever catches the killer first can have his prison sentence reduced by 5 years. They take up the offer but much to their displeasure, they have to wear electronic ankle bracelets for tracking purpose.

Suddenly, Mi-young receives news that Jung-moon has escaped while on the way from the prison to meet them. She tells Woong-chul and Tae-soo that whoever catches Jung-moon can have his sentence reduced by 4 years.

Goo-tak is sure that Jung-moon has gone to look for Yang Yoo-jin (Hwang Seung-eon), the woman he loves and who nearly became his last victim. With Woong-chul and Tae-soo's help, they find out Yoo-jin's current whereabouts. But Jung-moo gets to her first.  

Jung-moo tells Yoo-jin that he doesn't remember trying to kill her. She reminds him that ever since he witnessed his parents' death, he has been having bouts of blackouts. During those blackouts, he killed people. She even suspects that he killed his parents. Jung-moo starts to strangle Yoo-jin. Luckily, Goo-tak and gang arrive in time to stop him. After an exciting car chase scene, Jung-moo is caught and the team is officially born.

At the end of the drama, we learn that the prisoners were not randomly selected. Mi-young confronts Goo-tak with some interesting facts she found - the prisoners went to jail around the same time Goo-tak was suspended from his duty. Goo-tak shuts her up. I suspect one of the prisoners is his daughter's murderer.      

This is a testosterone filled drama, and the main characters are manly and charismatic. It is a refreshing change from the typical Korean drama, and I'm looking forward to the next episode.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Sorry, I Love You 2004 (Episode 11-16)

Sorry, I Love You 2004 (Episode 1-10 Review)

Moo-hyuk tries to strike a deal with Eun-chae. He will donate his heart to Yoon after he dies and in return, she has to spend his remaining days with him. Eun-chae thinks he is joking about death again and gets angry. Out of spite, she agrees and asks Moo-hyuk to keep his promise to die so that Yoon can live.

So Ji Sub

Meanwhile Eun-chae's father, who is Deul-hee's driver, finds out about Moo-hyuk's condition and tells Deul-hee. Deul-hee buys clothes, food and many other stuff for Moo-hyuk and his family. Moo-hyuk is touched and almost forgives her. However, he sees the health supplements which is good for the heart that she bought for him and realizes her true intention - she is literally trying to "buy" his heart. 

An angry Moo-hyuk goes to her house and shouts outside her gates, 

"I'm your son too, just like Yoon! You gave birth to me! You brought me to this world! I'm your son too..."

Eun-chae's father, who knew all along that Moo-hyuk is Deul-hee's son, is the only person who heard his shouting. He berates Deul-hee the next day, 

"Is only your son's life valuable? Moo-hyuk's life is just as valuable to his parents! At least Yoon has hope to survive but Moo-hyuk has nothing. He can only wait for death hopelessly. At least Yoon has a mum who is trying to save him. Moo-hyuk only has a retarded sister who doesn't even know what death is and a young nephew. Let him live the rest of his life in peace, please!"          

Eun-chae overhears and is shocked. She recalls the cruel things she said to Moo-hyuk and breaks down. She goes to Moo-hyuk but his condition worsens and he chases her away. 

So Ji Sub

Moo-hyuk meets Deul-hee to thank her for her gifts, and informs her that he has registered to have his heart donated to Yoon when he dies. Deul-hee is guilt-stricken and tries to reject the offer. Moo-hyuk smiles when he sees her crying. 
Yoon goes to Moo-hyuk's house to ask him what his agenda is. Moo-hyuk reveals that they are half-brothers, and he plans to take revenge on Deul-hee by giving her a call before he dies and telling her, 

"Mother, I am the son you abandoned. I am dying for your precious son. For your jewel-like son to live, your trash-like son is dying." 

So Ji Sub

Moo-hyuk wants to find a place to die alone quietly. However, Eun-chae finds him and they spend some happy time together. Moo-hyuk is determined to break up with Eun-chae and in another classic scene of the drama, before they part, she repeatedly cries, "Saranghae!" to him outside the subway station.      

So Ji Sub

When Moo-hyuk gets home, he finds Yoon waiting for him. Yoon tells him a shocking truth - he is actually an adopted son. Deul-hee adopted him as a substitute for the son she abandoned out of circumstances and could not forget. A shocked Moo-hyuk learns the whole story from Eun-chae's father - Deul-hee was a famous actress and she had an extra-marital affair with a movie director. She gave birth to a pair of twins but her mother felt that their existence would ruin her future, so she got Eun-chae's father to abandon the babies. They lied to the devastated Deul-hee that she gave birth to a stillborn son. 

After knowing the truth, Moo-hyuk is aggrieved that he had spent the remaining days of his life hating his mother. He goes to look for her and asks her to cook something for him. She exasperatedly cooks him a bowl of noodles and he secretly cries while he eats it. He decides not to tell her that he is her son, to spare her the pain of losing him again. He kneels outside her house to thank her for giving birth to him and promises that if there is a next life, he will be a good son to her.  

Moo-hyuk kills himself in a motorcycle accident and his heart saves Yoon's life. Deul-hee, who feels a deep affinity to his sister (her daughter, although she doesn't know), takes care of her and her son. Eun-chae loves Moo-hyuk so much that a year later, she commits suicide in front of his grave.    

So Ji Sub

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Sorry, I Love You 2004 (Episode 1-10)

"They probably have their reasons. No one would ditch their child like that."

"I'll meet my poor mum one day, I'll buy her some pretty clothes, some meat, and a beautiful house."

This is what Cha Moo-hyuk (So Ji-sub) has to say to his parents who abandoned him
in an orphanage when he was a baby. This is how kind he is.

Adopted by an Australian family but abused and left homeless, Moo-hyuk grew up to be a con artist targeting Asian tourists. His girlfriend leaves him for a rich man, but at her wedding, he saves her life by shielding her from a bullet. Although he miraculously survives, his left brain is damaged and he only has a few more months to live. He suffers from intense headaches and displays erratic behaviors, side effects of the bullet left in his head. He decides to return to Korea to look for his biological mother before he dies.

So Ji Sub

In Korea, he finds his intellectually challenged twin sister, Yoon Seo-kyung (Jun Hye-jin) who is a single mother with a young son, Kal-ji. Later, he discovers that his mother, Oh Deul-hee (Lee Hye-young) is very rich and has another son, Choi Yoon (Jung Kyung-ho) who is a popular idol. He hates his mother who abandoned her children even though she was not poor, and he is jealous that she dotes on Yoon.

So Ji Sub

Moo-hyuk gets himself hired as Yoon's manager, and starts to plot revenge against his mother and half-brother. In the process, he falls in love with Yoon's coordinator, Song Eun-chae (Im Soo-jung). Although Eun-chae is in love with Yoon, she starts developing feelings for Moo-hyuk too.

So Ji Sub

Meanwhile, Yoon starts dating actress Kang Min-joo (Seo Ji-young). Moo-hyuk disguises himself to seduce Min-joo. When Min-joo falls for Moo-hyuk and breaks up with Yoon, a heartbroken Yoon gets into a car accident. Deul-hee is devastated when the doctor tells her that Yoon's genetically weak heart is severely injured. She screams that she is willing to donate her heart to save her son.

So Ji Sub

Eun-chae, who had a big fight with Yoon before the accident, cannot bring herself to visit him at the hospital because she feels guilty. She locks herself in her room and refuses to eat or drink. Moo-hyuk drags her out and asks her in the car,

"Do you want to eat? Or kiss me?"
"Do you want to eat? Or sleep with me?"
"Do you want to eat? Or live with me?"
"Do you want to eat? Or die with me?"

This scene is a classic scene which has been parodied many times. It depicts how hurt and lonely Moo-hyuk feels, falling hopelessly for Eun-chae even though he is a dying man. He secretly wishes for Eun-chae to stay by his side and bring him comfort for the remainder of his short life.

So Ji Sub

After the accident, Yoon realizes that his true love is Eun-chae. Unaware of Moo-hyuk's condition, Eun-chae decides to choose Yoon because she feels that he needs her more. When she tearfully tells Moo-hyuk her decision, he asks her to stop crying and says that he will give Yoon his heart when he dies. In return, he wants her to spend his remaining days with him. She gets angry with him for joking about death, unaware that he has less than three months to live and intends to donate his heart after his death.

So Ji Sub

Sorry, I Love You 2004 (Episode 11-16 Review)

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Misaeng 2014 - Episode 1

"Misaeng" is a TvN Korean drama which is adapted from a popular webtoon. It is about how the protagonist Jang Geu-rae (Lim Si-wan) struggles to survive working in a company.

"A road opens as you tread along it. A road that doesn't open isn't a road. Roads are open to everyone. But not everyone can have the road."

Episode 1 starts with this monologue by Geu-rae. Then we see him chasing a guy down the busy streets of Jordan, gets hit by a car, picks himself up and continues the chase. They run to a rooftop of a building, and the guy jumps over to the next building. Behind him, Geu-rae also takes a giant leap.

Suddenly, the drama takes us two years back to 2012. Geu-rae is a 26-year-old with only a GED (General Educational Development) certificate and without any special skill, except the skill of playing Go (traditional Chinese board game). He quit formal education to train to become a professional Go player, but had to give up his dream when his father passed away and his mother became bed-ridden. With his credential, he can only find part-time jobs such as cleaning the bath house or being a designated driver.


One day, his mum informs him that he has gotten an internship opportunity at a big trading company, One International. He was referred to the company by the CEO of Sungwon, but the show does not tell us who the CEO is or what Sungwon is. This is a mystery which will be revealed later on, I think. His mother tells him, "Be confident. You are super smart. You were the top in your class.", and gives him his father's over-sized suit to wear to work.

SiwanFirst day at work, Geu-rae is sent to Sales Team 3. When the assistant manager Kim Dong-sik (Kim Dae-Myung) finds out that he only has a GED certificate and no relevant working experience, he is shocked and asks, "What did you do for 26 years?" A despondent Geu-rae asks himself too, "What have I been doing for 26 years?"

He struggles to adapt on the first day, he is clueless about everything, and he doesn't even know how to operate the photocopying machine. He cannot speak any foreign language and thus, cannot even handle the simple task of answering phone calls.

He meets the other interns who all seem to possess high educational qualifications. Among them are high achievers, An Young-yi (Kang So-ra) and Jang Baek-ki (Kang Ha-neul). Beautiful Young-yi is the "ace" among the interns who helped her team close a difficult deal after just ten days of interning. Baek-ki is an expert in PPTs but seems like a two-faced person. Geu-rae is sort of ostracized by the interns who are unhappy that he got in through connections, while they had to work their ass off.

Remember mum said that Geu-rae is super smart? We get a glimpse of that the next day when he memorized a list of "employees emergency contact numbers" within a short span of time. I am sure his intelligence and memory power will come in handy in the future, helping him to survive the workplace.

Anyway, Sales Team 3's manager, Oh Sang-sik (Lee Sung-min) is supposed to meet a foreign client, but he has just returned from an overseas trip and cannot make it on time from the airport. Dong-sik has no choice but to send Geu-rae down to entertain the client until Manager Oh arrives. Geu-rae does so using the only skill he has, he introduces the client to the game of Go. When Manager Oh arrives, he is surprised to see the client intrigued by Go, and not angry that he is late. Seems like Geu-rae has the ability to deal with unforeseen situations, or he is plain lucky.  

Manager Oh is someone who doesn't mix business with personal life. He doesn't like Geu-rae who got in through connections, and asks him what he has to offer to the team. Geu-rae replies, "My effort. I have never worked hard so my effort is unused and brand-new." Sounds cute to me but Manager Oh is not impressed. "I'm not buying you. Hard-working guys are everywhere at work." Sad, but true.


Later, because of a cock-up, the interns are sent to the factory to help separate squids from octopuses. They are unhappy because the seafood stinks, and they think this is a task beneath them. Geu-rae takes it in his stride and does it without complaining. Soon, Baek-ki receives a call from Manager Oh saying that they don't have to do the task anymore. The interns bully Geu-rae by not telling him, and leaving him behind alone in the factory to continue doing the task.  

At the end of episode 1, the interns go for a drink after work. Geu-rae goes to look for them after leaving the factory, dirty and stinking. He tells them that he is not joining them for a drink because he has to return to the office to clear some work. They sarcastically ask why he is so hardworking. As Geu-rae turns to walk away, we hear his monologue.

"You say I am hardworking? I'm here now because I didn't work hard. I was abandoned because I didn't work hard."


Ouch. Sad, but true. Those of us who spent our youth having fun instead of studying hard or acquiring skills, tend to fall behind our peers when we enter the workforce. We are abandoned by society, left behind because we did not work hard. To catch up, we have to work doubly hard.

"A road opens as you tread along it. A road that doesn't open isn't a road."

Geu-rae's dream is to be a professional Go player. However, circumstances make it impossible. This "road" does not open for him.

"Roads are open to everyone. But not everyone can have the road."

Geu-rae is lucky to get into the company, but without ability and hard work, he will not be able to pass his internship and get a permanent position. There is a "road" open but he may not be able to take it.

"Misaeng" is a jargon used in Go. It refers to a stone (game piece) which is not yet alive in a Go game but is not dead, meaning there is still a chance for it to come alive. Geu-rae is like a "misaeng" in the company, an intern who cannot fit in, but has the potential to do so if he passes his internship. He is a "misaeng" in his life, he has accomplised nothing for the past 26 years, but is now given a chance to start over again.

The first episode looks promising. Geu-rae is a character that ordinary folks can relate to, and I am rooting for this underdog to succeed. I think this drama will turn out to be motivational and inspiring.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Badump Badump (Gag Concert)

I am not a fan of "Gag Concert", a Korean sketch comedy TV show, but one boring day in January 2014, I accidentally saw an episode of it on KBS World TV on YouTube, and I fell in love with a segment, "Badump Badump". I searched for all the previous episodes to watch, and after finishing them, I started waiting impatiently every week for a new episode to come out. 7 days of wait, just for 5 minutes of "Badump Badump" weekly.

"Badump Badump" first aired on KBS on 2013.06.16  (KBS World TV on 2013.07.06) and ended on 2014.07.20 (KBS World TV on 2014.08.09). It was the most popular skit in "Gag Concert" during its run, having the highest viewership almost every week.

"Badump Badump" means pit-a-pat in Korean, the sound of the heart beating. It is about two best friends, Jang Hyo-in and Lee Mun-jae, who knew each other since they were kids. They secretly love each other, but dare not confess their feelings because they are afraid that that would ruin their friendship. Every time they accidentally let their feelings show, the song "Ode to My Family" will play in the background, a sign that their hearts are fluttering.

For example, in one of the episodes, Mun-jae meets Hyo-in to teach her how to ride a bike.

Mun-jae: Why do you have makeup on for this? You are so clueless! This is why you don't have a boyfriend.   

Hyo-in: Why did you put wax on your hair then? Are you wearing cologne as well? You think this is a date? 

"Ode to My Family" starts playing.

Gag concert

In another episode, after attending the wedding of their mutual friends, they discuss about it.

Hyo-in: How can two friends get married? I just don't get it. 

Mun-jae: It could be better to marry your friend. Since you have known your friend for long, you are comfortable with each other and you know each other well. You won't have any reason to fight. 

Hyo-in: I guess it is not bad for friends to get married (to each other).

"Ode to My Family" starts playing. 

Gag Concert

This skit is popular because everyone who has been in love (secretly or openly) can relate to it. "Badump Badump" is not as funny as the other skits in the show, and a lot less exaggerated. It is cheesy, warm, and more romantic than Korean dramas. In "Badump Badump", ordinary-looking (by industry standards) comedian Mun-jae transforms into the ideal boyfriend every girl wishes she has. I had a big crush on him while watching this skit.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Osozaki No Himawari (Late Blooming Sunflower - My Life Renewed) 2012

"Osozaki No Himawari" (Late Blooming Sunflower - My Life Renewed) aired on Fuji TV in October 2012 but I only watched it recently. I was not interested in it until I discovered recently that it is written by Hashibe Atsuko, the scriptwriter who wrote "Boku No Ita Jikan" (The Hours of My Life), one of my favorite Japanese dramas.

This drama is about the "Lost Generation" of Japan. The "Lost Generation" refers to a group of Japanese in their late 20s and early 30s who can't find a regular job although they are willing to work, and have lost faith in society and their future. The seven main characters in this show either belong to the "Lost Generation" or are somehow lost in life. 

"Osozaki No Himawari" deals with a somber theme in a light-hearted and positive way. It tries to convey the message that everyone has a purpose in life, but some people take a longer time to discover it. Just like some sunflowers bloom late.    

The Main Characters 

Kodaira Jotaro (Ikuta Toma), 28 years old
Ikuta Toma
Jotaro is an easy-going and laid-back guy who has been working as a temporary staff for six years after graduation. One day, he is fired from his company and as a result, his girlfriend of seven years dumps him. Jobless and feeling lost, he applies for a job in rural Shimoto of Kochi prefecture, a town with an aging and dwindling population. His new job is to be part of the local revitalization team, to provide assistance for the elderly and increase the population of Shimoto. Soon, he falls in love with the quaint town that he will be leaving after the completion of his three year contract, and he begins to ponder the purpose of life.

Nikaido Kahori (Maki Yoko), 28 years old 
Maki Yoko
Kahori is originally from Shimoto. She went to an university in Tokyo to study medicine and is now a doctor who does laboratory research work. Her dream is to come out with a cure for cancer. However, she is suddenly sent back to Shimoto to be a clinician in the local hospital. She harbors hopes of returning to the laboratory in Tokyo and does her job halfheartedly. Her parents nag her to go for a blind date to get a husband and settle down in Shimoto. Just when she finally gives up on her dream and makes up her mind to become a good clinician, she receives a call from her professor asking her to return to Tokyo. Now she has to decide between pursuing her dream and fulfilling her duty to her patients who have grown to trust her.      

Fujii Junichi (Kiritani Kenta), 30 years old 
Kiritani Kenta
Junichi has lived in Shimoto all his life and has never set foot outside Kochi prefecture. He works in his father's hardware store and his dream is to take over the store when his father retires. He loves his hometown a lot and is a volunteer with the local revitalization team. Due to the aging and dwindling population, many shops in the shopping street are closing down. Junichi feels anxious because if the shopping street disappears, he will have to leave town to look for a job. He tries to think of different ways to revive the street but to no avail. When the hardware store is forced to close down too, he becomes a NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training).

Shimada Hisashi (Yahiba Toshihiro), 30 years old
Yahiba Toshihiro

Hisashi is Kahori's big sister who was very popular in high school. She is married to a banker and has two daughters. She works as a part-time cashier in the supermarket, much to her husband's displeasure as he wants her to be a homemaker full-time. She finds daily life mundane and her relationship with her husband is cold. When Kahori returns to Shimoto, she starts feeling jealous of her who has a great career. She envies her little sister who had the courage and determination to leave Shimoto for Tokyo. When Junichi invites her to be a volunteer with the revitalization team, she is delighted. Things become complicated when they develop feelings for each other.

Morishita Ayaka (Kashii Yu), 30 years old 
Kashii Yu

Ayaka is a nurse assisting Kahori in the local hospital. She is a dedicated nurse but a very private person. She took Hiroki in when he was homeless and has been cohabiting with him since. Jotaro falls in love with her at first sight and starts asking her out. However, unbeknown to all, she has a deep emotional wound from her previous relationship. She has been incapable of loving anyone else since her ex-boyfriend died from stomach cancer two and a half years ago. She moved from her hometown to Shimoto because she wanted to go to a place where nobody knows her.

Matsumoto Hiroki (Emoto Tasuku), 28 years old

Emoto Tasuku

Hiroki was a high school baseball player, and the "hero" of Shimoto because he helped his team to make it to the finals of the prefecture tournament. After high school, his baseball career did not take off and his dream was shattered. His father became an alcoholic after his business failed. Hiroki became despondent and ran away from home. He is cohabiting with Ayaka now and works as a rehabilitation assistant in the same hospital. However, he still can't let go of the title of the local hero and has no zest for life.

Imai Haruna (Kimura Fumino), 25 years old
Kimura Fumino

Haruna's father is a senator and she works in the real estate company that her family owns. She has always lived a rich and sheltered life, and she never goes against the wishes of her overprotective parents. Deep down inside, she feels suffocated and craves freedom. She is in love with her university professor who is married. She tries to break up with the professor, but they get back together again when he tells her that he is getting a divorce. She realizes how naive she is when she discovers that he is lying. Meanwhile, her parents want her to marry a man they deem good for her, and she doesn't have the courage to say no.      

The Ending 

At the end of the show, everyone seems to have found what they want in life. Jotaro decides to settle down in Shimoto and become a rice farmer with Junichi. Kahori returns to Tokyo to pursue her initial dream. She and Jotaro start a long distant relationship. Hisashi has a talk with her husband and they agree to put in effort to make their marriage work. Ayaka lets go of her dead boyfriend and moves on. Hiroki makes up with his father and goes back to school to get a physiotherapist licence. Haruna finally tells her parents her true feelings.
Although we do not know if they will be successful in the path they chose to take, at least they are doing something to renew their lives. Some people start late in life, just like some sunflowers bloom late.        

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Kang Xi Lai Le 康熙来了 2014.10.21


"Kang Xi Lai Le" is a Taiwanese talk show hosted by Kevin Tsai and Dee Hsu (a.k.a. Xiao S). It is a highly popular and long-running show (since 2004) which airs from Monday to Friday from 22:00 to 23:00.  

2014.10.21 - Lame Breakup Excuses 

This episode is funny and entertaining. Guests talk about the lame excuses that people use for breakups. Here are some of those shared in the show. 

1) I'm a devoted catholic and I can't have premarital sex. You are too much of a temptation because you are too beautiful and sexy.

2) You are such a good cook and feed me so well that I am getting fat.  

3) I need to find myself. 

4) I am going overseas for further studies next week. (And then a week later, I run into you at the local shopping mall.)
Kang xi lai le, 蔡康永,小s,徐熙娣

5) I'm looking for a wife. You can only be my girlfriend. 
Kang xi lai le, 蔡康永,小s,徐熙娣

6) My mum says you are too beautiful. She caught my dad staring at you. 

7) My ex-girlfriend is expecting my child. 

8) My dog doesn't like you. 

9) The fortune teller says we are not suitable for each other. 
Kang xi lai le, 蔡康永,小s,徐熙娣

The highlight of this episode is guest Wang Si Jia's story. She broke up with her first love with the lame excuse that he is 10+ days younger than her. She regrets it because he has become very gorgeous and a famous actor now. Although she did not reveal his name, based on the clues given, netizens deduced that her ex-boyfriend is actor Tony Yang You-ning.      


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Discovery of Romance 2014

Eric Mun, Sung Joon, Jung Yu mi, Discovery of Love, Finding True Love, Korean drama,

"Discovery of Romance" is about Yeo-reum (Jung Yu-mi), a furniture designer who has been dating her plastic surgeon boyfriend, Ha-jin (Sung Joon) for a year. One day, she bumps into her ex-boyfriend, Tae-ha (Eric Mun), a smart and confident CEO of an interior design company. They had dated for five years before breaking up five years ago. Later, she is forced to work with him and things become complicated when he decides that he wants her back.

Tae-ha - The Man Who Knows Her Best

Eric Mun, Jung Yu mi, Discovery of Love, Finding True Love, Korean drama,

Yeo-reum met Tae-ha when she was young and innocent. It was love at first sight and she went after him first. They fell deeply in love and dated for five years. Five years is a long time to be together. They experienced many "first-times" together, influenced each other's taste and habits, and were familiar with each others' family and friends. They loved passionately and without inhibitions, but they also fought a lot. When Tae-ha started neglecting Yeo-reum because of work, she started to question his love for her, and they broke up.

They have not seen each other for five years. However, when they meet again, their chemistry is still there. He is still the man who understands her most. She is not afraid of showing him her true self and her ugliest side.

Eric Mun, Jung Yu mi, Discovery of Love, Finding True Love, Korean drama

Ha-jin - The Perfect Boyfriend
Ha-jin is a gentle and caring boyfriend. He loves Yeo-reum deeply, and they seldom fight because he gives in to her most of the time. He spends time with her and makes her feel loved. He doesn't make her cry like Tae-ha did. Her previous relationship with Tae-ha taught her that it is happier to date someone who loves you more than you love him.

Sung Joon, Jung Yu mi, Discovery of Love, Finding True Love, Korean drama,

Yeo-reum is caught between Tae-ha and Ha-jin, and this drama is about her journey to discovering what true love is.

"Discovery of Romance" provides some thought-provoking insights about love, and there are many intelligent quotes from the characters. It is written by the same scriptwriter who wrote the "I Need Romance" series - Jung Hyun-jung. When it comes to romantic comedies, I think Jung is the best TV scriptwriter in South Korea. Some may beg to differ, especially fans of the Hong sisters who wrote many popular hits such as "You're Beautiful" and "Master's Sun". I am a big fan of the Hong sisters too, but I prefer the frank and realistic portrayal of love and sexual relationships in Jung's works.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Boku No Ita Jikan (The Hours of My Life) 2014

Japanese drama, The Hours of My Life,

"Boku No Ita Jikan" (The Hours of My Life) is my favorite Japanese drama in recent years. It is a melodrama about a young man who is diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), and how he tries to live his life to the fullest. It reminds me of the 2005 tearjerker "1 liter of tears", another Japanese drama I love.   

At the beginning of the drama, we see the male protagonist, Takuto (Miura Haruma) as a fourth year university student struggling to find a job before he graduates. Apparently in Japan, it is extremely difficult to get a good permanent job later in life, if you can't get it before graduation.

I've been through a period of long-term unemployment, so I can totally relate to Takuto as I watch him fill in tons of job application forms, go for tons of job interviews, and getting rejected again and again. He begins to feel lost and question the meaning of life.

Japanese drama, The Hours of My Life,

By the end of episode 2, Takuto has gotten himself a job and a girlfriend, Megumi (Tabe Mikako). Things seem to be going well, but life is unpredictable. He starts getting leg cramps and has difficulty raising his left arm. He sees a neurologist and is diagnosed with ALS. He is told that his muscles will progressively weaken and he will gradually lose the ability to move, speak and even breath. Also, he may die within the next 3 to 4 years.

Takuto finds it hard to accept at first but soon pulls himself together. He breaks up with Megumi without telling her about his condition, but resolves to live with his disease positively.

The first person he tells about his illness is his best friend, Mamoru. Mamoru is an easy-going guy who is often the comic relief in this show. He proves to be a true friend who continues hanging out with Takuto. Knowing that Takuto enjoys playing soccer, he finds a place where wheelchair users meet to play wheelchair soccer, and brings Takuto there. When asked if he hangs out with Takuto out of pity, his heart-warming reply is, "We were friends since before he got sick. Even now, I enjoy being with Takuto."      

Next, Takuto informs his company and thankfully, it is a great company that creates a place for him to stay. The company changes his job scope along with the progression of his symptoms. His colleagues are very understanding and helpful, even the one who used to dislike him.

The last people Takuto tells is his family. His relationship with his parents is actually a bit awkward. His father owns a hospital and his parents wanted him to become a doctor. However he did not live up to their expectations and they turned their attention to his small brother, to the extent of neglecting him. When Takuto finally reveals his illness to his mum, he breaks down and apologizes for being sick. Something good comes out of something bad, Takuto's parents start caring more for him and their relationship improves.

Takuto's small brother, Rikuto is suffering from depression and withdraws himself socially. He is in the second year of medical school but feels lost because his interest is not in medicine. He has always been socially inept and finds it difficult to make friends. With the help of Takuto, he starts learning how to communicate better with people and finds his directions in life.

Japanese drama, The Hours of My Life,

While playing wheelchair soccer one day, Takuto runs into Megumi by chance. She is now a healthcare worker who is taking care of another ALS patient. She is shocked to discover that Takuto is an ALS patient, and it hits her that that is why he broke up with her. The only thing she said to him is, "We met." This is in reference to something he said to her a long time ago, "I think you do meet people that you are destined to meet."

Japanese drama, The Hours of My Life,

But Megumi has a fiance now and is about to get married. She is torn between her fiance, Shigeyuki and Takuto. Shigeyuki is an outstanding guy who loves her a lot, but her one true love is Takuto. In a touching scene at the beach, she tells him that she is getting married soon and they can't meet anymore. She asks if there is anything he wants to do before they part, and he replies that it is something that he can't do. He actually wants to hug her. But he can't do it because he can't raise his arms. And maybe also because it is not proper to hug her when she is engaged to someone else. She seems to read his mind and asks if she can do something she wants. Then she hugs him.

Japanese drama, The Hours of My Life,
Towards the end of the drama, Takuto starts experiencing difficulty in breathing and faces the biggest decision in his life. Should he undergo an irreversible surgical procedure to live on a mechanical ventilator to prolong his life? His family and friends want him to stay alive no matter what. However, the thought of living a long life without the ability to move and communicate frightens him.

This drama deals with a depressing theme in a realistic and subtle way. It is inspiring, thought-provoking and educational (about ALS). I strongly recommend everyone to watch it.

Read my review on "Osozaki No Himawari", an inspiring Japanese drama written by the same scriptwriter.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Nine: Nine Time Travels 2013 - The Ending

In a previous post about TvN dramas, I said that "Nine: Nine Time Travels" is one of my top 3 favourite TvN dramas, and one of the best Korean dramas I've watched in the past 2-3 years. The ending left many baffled, so I am going to give my interpretation of it here.

I shall attempt to answer 2 questions now.
(1) Is Sun-woo going to die?
(2) What is the last scene with Sun-woo and his brother, Jung-woo, on the mountains of Nepal about?

(1) Is Sun-woo going to die?

Korean drama

My answer is no. The reason is simple. Sun-woo Senior died because he went back to the past. But Sun-woo Junior will not be able to do that because all the incense sticks have been used up. In episode 16, when the bad guy tries to light the incense stick that Sun-woo used up, it disappears. If Junior doesn't go back to the past, he will not die there like Senior did.

As seen in previous episodes, the present will change when something in the past changes. Using Jung-woo as an example, he lived "life A" for 20 years. When the past changed, "life A" will not happen and he lives "life B" for 20 years. However, he has memories of "life A" because he did experienced it once (something like a dream).

So Senior will "come back to life" in 2013. Then there will only be one Sun-woo. Senior's life a.k.a "life A" (in which he is dead from 2013 to 2033) will not happen. Only Junior's life a.k.a "life B" will happen. But Sun-woo will regain memories of "life A" because he experienced it once.

(2) What is the last scene with Sun-woo and Jung-woo on the mountains of Nepal about?

Korean drama,

The show could have ended at the point Junior boards the plane and everything will make sense. But no, the scriptwriters have to add the last scene. Here's my take on it.

Under normal circumstances, Senior will come back to life in 2013, there will only be one Sun-woo.

However, the circumstances are not normal here. Why? Because Senior is stuck in the past and cannot come back to the present. He did not die in 2013 but in 1993.

So when 38 year old Junior is still alive in 2013, 38 year old Senior comes back alive in 1993. He will have to live another 20 years, before "life A" becomes just a memory in 2013.

In the last scene, Sun-woo looks old. That's because he is 58 year old Senior. Some things never change and he is worried that Jung-woo will die in Nepal again, so he hangs around to save him.

One illogical loophole

There is just 1 thing that doesn't make sense to me. Why is it that just because Junior knows that Senior has a brain tumor that the tumor miraculously disappears? It would have made sense if the scriptwriters had written it this way: Junior goes for regular check-ups, finds the tumor in its early stage and removes it.

Well, I guess nothing is perfect. 

Saturday, 18 October 2014

tvN churns out awesome Korean dramas

tvN is a South Korean cable channel which, in my humble opinion, produces some of the best Korean dramas that I've watched in the past 2-3 years. My guess is being a young cable network, tvN has a young and creative drama department which is not afraid to try new concepts, compared to KBS, MBC and SBS, the big 3 TV stations. In this post, I will talk about my top 3 tvN dramas to date, in no particular order.

1. Reply 1997

The "Reply" series' successful formula is this - coming-of-age drama which brings back nostalgic memories of the 1990s, while being funny and romantic at the same time. There is a suspense in the drama that engages the audience. It moves back and forth between the 1990s and 2010s, where in the 2010s we know the female protagonist is married, but we don't know to which of the male characters.

Both "Reply" 1997 and "Reply 1994" are great but I personally prefer "Reply 1997" because "Reply 1994" turned draggy towards the end. (P.S: The plots of the 2 dramas are unrelated so you don't have to watch one before the other.)

In "Reply 1997", the female protagonist, Shi-won (Jung Eun-ji), is a great fan of H.O.T and through her, audience recap or learn about (depending on when they were born) the crazy Kpop fan culture back in the 1990s. Other nostalgic items that appeared in the show - pagers, Tamagotchi, etc. Don't know what I'm talking about? Proof that you haven't watched this yet and (hurray!) you are young.

What drew me to the drama though, is the romance between Shi-won and the male protagonist, Yoon-jae (Seo In-guk). Shi-won and Yoon-jae grew up together and he's in love with her but she is (a) dense when it comes to boy-girl relationship (b) too obsessed with her idol (H.O.T's Tony) to realize it. There are many sweet scenes between the two and my favourite one is from episode 11 where he runs all the way from his house in his pajamas to rescue her from a stalker.

Seo In-guk, Eunji

2. I Need Romance 2012      

The "I Need Romance" series (so far 3 dramas in all, again with unrelated plots) is another great series which is something like the Korean version of Sex and the City. I love how it tries to portray love and sexual relationships among young Koreans today in a realistic, yet romantic way. My favourite is "I Need Romance 2012", the second in the series, because the last few episodes made me cry so much.

Here goes the plot: Yeol-mae (Jung Yu-mi) had an on-off relationship with her childhood friend, Seok-hyun (Lee Jin-wook), for 12 years before they broke up 3 years ago because she wants to get married and he doesn't. They maintain an ambiguous relationship until one day, a new love interest, Ji-hoon (Kim Ji-seok), appears and a love triangle is formed. Just when Yeol-mae falls for Ji-hoon and accepts his proposal, she discovers a secret about
Seok-hyun that shakes up her world again.

Did I mention that Lee Jin-wook is really hot in this drama? And that there are many sexy make out scenes?      

3. Nine: Nine Time Travels

The plot of this drama is, in my humble opinion, intelligent and confusing. So if you don't like to use your brain cells when you watch TV, this is probably not for you. Anyway, in a nutshell, this is a time travel fantasy show about a news anchor, Park Sun-woo (Lee Jin-wook), who finds 9 incense sticks which allow him to travel back 20 years in time.

He wants to travel back to do 3 things. (1) Sun-woo's father was murdered 20 years ago and his death caused Sun-woo's mother mental illness, so he wants to prevent the murder from happening. (2) Sun-woo's brother also suffers from mental illness due to the family tragedy and breaking up with his lover 20 years ago, so Sun-woo wants to help his brother to make up with his then girlfriend. (3) Sun-woo is diagnosed with a brain tumor and has only a few more months to live, so he wants to warn his younger self about it and hopefully save his own life.

Here are the complications. (a) Each incense allows him to travel exactly 20 years back from the moment he lights it. So if he lights it on 18 October 2014 at 2pm, he will return to 18 October 1994 at 2pm. Thus, he needs to pinpoint the exact time to go back to. (b) Each incense burns for 30 minutes so each time he time travels, he can only stay in the past for 30 minutes. Thus, he needs to complete whatever he sets out to within that time frame.

Wow! 9 chances to go back in time and fix things that went wrong? Awesome! Alas, we soon find out that when human beings try to play god, things can go bad. During Sun-woo's trips, he discovers a secret that shakes up his whole world. He also changes things in the past that affect the present, with bad consequences.

This is not just a fantasy drama, there is a romantic subplot between Sun-woo and a rookie reporter, Min-young (Jo Yoon-hee). It's fun to watch the bubbly and somewhat naive Min-young chase after Sun-woo who acts distant. This subplot is what makes the last episode my favourite. The enigmatic ending of this drama has set many fans discussing. Click Nine Nine Time Travels - Ending to read my interpretation.            

Korean drama,

By the way people, I heard that there is going to be an American remake of "Nine: Nine Time Travels" by ABC, and Fox is going to remake "Reply 1997". I guess a good storyline is universally appealing.