2012 was certainly a mixed bag: I saw plenty of action dramas and then I saw fluffy dramas that made no sense. There were dramas I loved, dramas that I liked enough, and then dramas that I hated. It was a tough year for me, and I felt I had bad luck in choosing which dramas to watch this year. But it helps to appreciate all the dramas – good or bad – because there are still plenty of life lessons to be learned from them.
One of my goals for this year was to watch a drama from every letter of the alphabet – HA! Like that really happened. But in the hopes that I did, the reviews will be in alphabetical order… with life lessons in between.
SONG OF THE DAY
“Might Gonna” from What’s Up OST [download]
ANSWER ME 1997
Oh school dramas – honestly two of my favorite dramas this year took place in a school. This is so high up on my list for this year because it had everything I could ever want in a K-drama that’s both relevant and timeless: friendship, love, and family. The biggest win for this drama was that it had heart. It had solid characters that were all perfect and imperfect. It had virtually unknown lead actors (Seo In Gook and Jung Eun Ji) that had that special chemistry that convinced you they had to be friends off the set – if not, real life lovers.
It had a very simple storyline: six high school friends who go through the ups and downs of high school, and once they reach their thirties, two of them are to get married. But which two!? I swear, this was a mystery drama done right, because it certainly kept me on edge. Some of my predictions were right, some of them were wrong. However, in the end it didn’t matter. The most important thing was this drama stayed with me.
I sobbed like a baby with this drama that my pillows became my tissue. I laughed like a lunatic, that made my mother’s head turn curiously over what turned her daughter into a hyena. My heart soared with every new revelation, then deflated when another opportunity was lost by one of the characters. Talk about a freakin’ roller coaster.
It is a timeless drama for me because even though it takes place in the 90’s, it still speaks to the very basic human emotions of passionate fanaticism, love between friends, trust between lovers, and sacrifice between family members. If you don’t know what a Tamagotchi is,
you’re missing out you probably still know what it’s like to be obsessed over a game on your iPhone.
Life Lesson: Nothing like a baaaaaaing soundtrack to take the edge off emotional roller coasters.
I tried. I really really tried. I really really really tried to like this one. I really gave the Hong Sisters a chance to impress me because I have not completed a single one of their series since You’re Beautiful. I thought, “I’m not gonna quit this drama because Gong Yoo‘s in it. It’s all for Gong Yoo and his chocolate abs.”
Wow – I nearly flipped a table after I saw the ending.
Yes – spoilers will be said for this review. The beginning was quite fun, and it set up the drama with an air of mystery. What was the connection between Seo Yoon Jae (Gong Yoo) and Gyung Joon (Shin Won Ho) that led them to switch bodies? What was with all that mysterious talk with Yoon Jae’s mother and the father about not seeing their “other son”? When are Yoon Jae and Gyung Joon going to switch back, and how? What was Yoon Jae going to tell Da Ran (Lee Min Jung) that fateful day of the accident? And most importantly – who is going to win Da Ran’s heart?!
And then Gyung Joon’s body sleeps for the entire series while Yoon Jae’s body/Gong Yoo does all the work in wooing Da Ran and convincing her that he’s the one for her. Despite the fact that he’s really underage.
It was a confusing mess of a drama because I think the Hong Sisters just dug a deeper hole for themselves with every line they wrote for Gyung Joon/Yoon Jae. With every time jump and with every word he says, I as a viewer started to believe that the real Yoon Jae was a cad and a coward, and that Da Ran should end up with the underage Gyung Joon because he was so much more honorable. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, but then it made me want to see Shin Won Ho wake up from sleeping and properly take Da Ran’s hand. I wanted Yoon Jae to die… which I’m not exactly sure is what we’re supposed to want happen. It was also terrible in that I never understood how they were going to switch back. Surgeries and going abroad to resolve “body switching” as if it were a disease were talked about constantly. But despite all these possible solutions, we never see the actual switch back. We are told it happens, but when we see Gyung Joon step out of the bus and chase after Da Ran to reunite with her, it’s so clearly Gong Yoo’s body. And Gong Yoo is supposed to be associated with Yoon Jae.
When those last five minutes of the drama rolled around, I was so angry that I spent 16 hours for that kind of pay-off. The drama convinces me that Shin Won Ho’s character is the better one, but gives me Gong Yoo instead. One of the rare times I despised seeing him onscreen. It felt as if by the end of this series, the Hong Sisters didn’t know what to do with their characters or what to do with their plot. Most of the side characters fell flat (as they tend to do) and the resolution still felt unresolved. I personally disliked this drama to the core, because I never felt satisfied watching it. Hong Sisters – you pretty much have three strikes with me.
Life Lesson: Don’t trade souls with your future twin. He might steal your girl.
I was so excited for this drama. Lee Min Ho in a historical fantasy with time traveling? Bring it on! The first two episodes were promising enough, and I was particularly excited over how they would fit in Kim Hee Sun’s character Eun Soo in history without changing history – as Dr. Jin had done. In the beginning it was interesting, as Eun Soo had to learn how to make herself clear to people who couldn’t understand her Seoul-isms. It was also interesting in that everything she did didn’t change history, but rather helped make the history happen. Case in point is when she ends up saving the life of young Lee Seong Gye, who historically ends up killing Choi Young (Lee Min Ho) and building up the Joseon dynasty. I found all of this intriguing.
And then we got into a huge power play of “who can win Eun Soo’s heart?” because everyone just wanted to know the future as if she held all the tarot cards. And then the series kind of got boring. And then we never really got anywhere as each time a coup against King Gongmin failed, or each time Eun Soo got close to the secret of her diary and then never really did. For twenty episodes I felt like I was watching a bunch of fight scenes that led to nowhere, and all this talk about a future that never seemed to happen. I had to stare at Lee Min Ho’s atrocious hair (sorry – really didn’t like those bangs) until finally in the last twenty minutes we understood everything that had happened and why it happened to Eun Soo.
I wasn’t as disappointed with this as I was with Big, but I certainly felt cheated because I thought I was going to watch this grand epic historical, only to end up watching a soldier brood over his past wounds and his future lady love. Meh. Blah. Blegh.
Life Lesson: Nothing wins a girl’s heart like a soldier’s honor.
FULL HOUSE TAKE 2
[DISCLAIMER: I've only seen up to episode 14 at the writing of this review. This is not a full series review.]
Ah – the drama more famous for the hair than for… anything else. At first I tuned in because it was only 30 minutes long. (30 minutes – what’s to lose? It’s like you could watch it while going to work. Or watch it while cooking dinner. Or watch it while in the bathroom.) I didn’t know what to expect, except that I knew it wasn’t going to be that great of a drama. Boy was I wrong – it is 3/4 hilarious, and 1/4 serious. You have ridiculous hairstyles (are matching perms the new it thing?) and ridiculous outfits (who can forget the teddy bear necklace?) with ridiculous egos. If you think that this drama is a blemish on Park Ki Woong’s or Noh Min Woo’s resumes, it’s not. Instead, it shows their versatility as an actor because not only can they be ridiculous and diva-tastic, but they also can commit to it.
The drama is at its best when it is focused on Tae Ik and Kang Hwi’s histrionics. Gosh, the house may have been meant to be “full of happiness” but it’s really a house “full of divas.” Add in an irritating actress Se Ryung, a shouty CEO in Lee Joon, and a spunky hapkido master in Man Ok, and you’ve really got a full house of loud personalities. The drama veered towards melodramatic territory for a bit, and it wasn’t the drama’s strength. However I definitely do appreciate that the drama added depth to Tae Ik and Kang Hwi’s characters. They could have been two-dimensional idols that just wanted Man Ok because she “changed their lives,” but in reality, they both had tortured childhoods that really formed who they are now. It’s not a run-of-the-mill tragic story, but rather it comes up every so often and really ties in well with their present actions and present personalities.
The drama is getting to that frustrating point where you want to shake some sense into Man Ok’s head. So many misunderstandings could be cleared up if she just opened her mouth to speak. She’s getting the hugest personality makeover in the worst way possible, and it coincided with her changing hairdo. Lose the curls, lose the spunk. But since we’re in zany dramaland with this drama that is going to stay predictable, we just have to accept it for what it is. At least we have a catchy OST to go with it too.
Life Lesson: Bromance overcomes bad hairdos. But just barely.
One of the few dramas I enjoyed through and through this year. It was a thriller written up by Kim Eun Hee from Sign, and so I knew right away that I would love it. And she surely delivered. It’s hard to make cyber-terrorism gripping, especially when all the police had to do was sit in front of a computer and either stop a virus or track down the root of a virus. (Wow – typing fast – so thrilling.) So to make up for it, this drama had a really compelling villain in the form of Eom Ki Joon and an early twist involving So Ji Sub and Daniel Choi that kicked everything up a notch from the get-go.
While the characters were all quite endearing (including the usually-bland Lee Yeon Hee) I enjoyed watching them solve the cases week after week the most. It’s quite frightening to see how they were easily able to hack into other people’s accounts just as the criminals did – drama or not. It had a very similar vibe to Sign where you knew who the big bad was, but the Cyber Anti-terrorism team had to find a way to get conclusive evidence to pin the villain down. It was exciting to see them all race against time to get the evidence that could be deleted with the click of a button – even if they were just sitting behind a computer!
I enjoyed Eom Ki Joon’s subtle portrayal of a complex villain who’s not all that he seems to be. On the other hand, So Ji Sub felt too stiff for me, so you could even say he had a very understated performance. But these two men balanced each other out quite perfectly. With twist after twist, there was no better way to start my summer than with a good ole’ thriller.
Life Lesson: Antivirus has the word virus in it. Just sayin’.
Talk about poking fun at oneself! This drama was surprisingly written by the same writer for City Hunter. Well, I enjoyed City Hunter so why not this one, right?
It had quite a crazy but interesting premise: workaholic prosecutor Lee Tae Sung (Kim Kang Woo) goes undercover to try and bring down a drug kingpin right after he gets married, but ends up in an accident that leads to a loss of memory. A case of stolen identity results in his family thinking that he’s dead, and Tae Sung finds himself with a new name and hanging around with Go So Ra (Jo Yeo Jung), who’s the daughter of a former gangster in Busan. He ends up falling smack into a war over Haeundae Hotel, where the current hotel president’s wife is trying to make sure that the president’s lost son does not inherit it. Thing is – the president’s lost son is none other than Tae Sung himself. Comedy and a dash of “Romeo and Juliet” ensues as Tae Sung falls in love with So Ra.
It’s not much of a thinking drama as it is a “sit back and enjoy the ride” drama. Everything about it is pretty predictable, and it wasn’t perfect throughout. There were definite plot holes and misunderstandings that occurred on my part because I, as a viewer, was privy to more information than all of the characters knew. That caused a lot of confusion for me because I was constantly wondering, “Don’t you know that already? Oh wait, you don’t, because he didn’t say that to you specifically. He was just talking aloud. In your vicinity.” However, the nice thing about this drama is that the writers and actors made sure that everything stayed zany. This drama could have failed if it didn’t poke fun at itself properly – but it did. All the actors kept up with the over-the-top acting, and the writing was self-aware of copying the usual K-drama tropes, and blatantly owned up to it.
I’m really thankful that this drama was so short, and managed to keep up a zippy pace that didn’t bog down on the melodrama, even though it sometimes felt like certain characters weren’t getting the full treatment, or endings were a bit rushed. But one of the key takeaways in this drama for me was the range in Kim Kang Woo’s acting. This was my first drama watching him, and boy can this man flip his personalities like a switch – which is useful when playing a character with two different identities.
Life Lesson: Amnesia can be such a pain, but on the upside, it can give you a much-needed personality makeover.
HANBANDO / PENINSULA
Oh. My. God. When I first watched this drama in the beginning of the year, I thought it was the worst drama ever. I take it back. It’s one of the worst dramas ever for this year. Why did I stick to watching this? Oh right, because of the potential it had regarding the politics of North-South reunification.
Honestly, I’ll give this drama for having plot, and for trying to achieve something ambitious. However it failed because the drama moved so slowly and it was ridiculously predictable. It kept having Hwang Jung Min’s scientist character Myung Joon go undercover to save his lady love Jin Jae (Kim Jung Eun), who’s always being captured by the North Koreans and tortured under her mother’s orders. Dude – aren’t you trying to, um, run for president?! I thought this drama was about a man’s journey as the president to reunifying the Koreas. Instead, it was a man’s campaign to become president to unify the Koreas. Um… not as exciting as you’d think. I don’t care about how he has to win all of South Korea, who are skeptical that a man who loves a North Korean and avoids war at all cost could be president. (What?! That’s a president I’d like to vote for if the goal is reunification!) I wanted to see him DO something about the reunification.
The drama’s pacing is the worst part of it, because the last episode does the necessary time jump that shows all of our characters doing something towards reunification, while the previous 17 episodes was just a struggle of getting our hero and heroine together. Repetitiveness in this drama made it difficult to get through, and it didn’t quite have the “action-thriller” aspect that I had hoped to get out of it. Beautiful shots, expensive budget, but didn’t live up to its pre-broadcast hype.
Life Lesson: Scientists are just as badass as spies.
Ah – one of the three OCN dramas I saw this year. Surprisingly, this was the least compelling when compared to Special Affairs Team TEN and Vampire Prosecutor 2. However, it had its own charms – a layabout who gets into an accident, receives a superhero serum, and decides to be a vigilante because heck – why not?!
That’s the charm of Yang Dong Geun, as he’s your perfect anti-hero. He had a great supporting cast with Han Chae Ah as a righteous detective, and Son Byung Ho and Choi Chul Ho as his evil father and brother respectively. This drama was like a version of Batman – if Bruce Wayne had the smart-alecky sense of Spiderman – replete with a dark and despairing ‘Gotham.’ What’s great is that every character is painted in shades of gray. No one is good, but no one is bad either. Every character had their faults; while the father and the brother were both dastardly evil in corrupting the city for their own gain, Heuk Chul was also not innocent because to him, saving other people was just for fun. For me, his loyalty to his corrupt father also showed that he was not going to truly go up against him. He was only going to rankle his father’s nerves, but not really help change society. I
While that sort of hero can be quite uninspiring, the hope by the end of the series is that he will be the hero that the city needs. The drama had the gall to put an imperfect hero in our faces that wasn’t going to be righteous and idealistic right away. I don’t think it’s a drama that merits a sequel, like the other two OCN dramas, but it’s certainly the only one that leaves me feeling like the protagonist in the drama will have the brightest future.
Life Lesson: Don’t do drugs.
I NEED ROMANCE 2012
A worthy sequel to I Need Romance (2011), I Need Romance 2012 showed what happens when you’ve found “the one.” Do you eventually tire of each other? Do you learn from your mistakes and continue to grow and change together? Or do you realize that you’re better off apart? This drama was all about timing; each of those girls met their man at the wrong time. For Yeol Mae (Jung Yumi), it took her a long time before she finally learned what Suk Hyun’s (Lee Jin Wook) quirks were, and by the time she was ready to accept him unconditionally, he was not. It was only when he could accept himself that he could be with her again.
Similarly, for her best friend and shoe designer Jae Kyung, she was having an affair with the man she truly loved but had rejected a marriage proposal from. It was only when she was unafraid of a relationship based on love (and not on money) that she was brave enough to admit she wanted to be with him. And as for the innocent Ji Hee, she met her fated love Tae Woo at the worst possible time – when her then-boyfriend yelled at her for being terrible in bed in front of him! (To her ex-boyfriend’s credit, he thought that Tae Woo couldn’t hear him because he had earbuds on.)
A grown up drama with a harsh look on love, this drama was not as happy as I felt I Need Romance was. It was full of pain, sorrow, and learning from mistakes. It was a very good drama, until the whole pushing back and forth between the leads got a little tiresome towards the end. (“I want her back!” “I don’t want you back!” “I need you back!”) But this just highlighted this drama’s strength: that all the characters had the time to think, reflect, and grow – and become even stronger characters by the end.
Life Lesson: Time heals all wounds – unless you live in a conjoined house.
THE KING 2 HEARTS
I like this other set of Hong Sisters. I enjoyed their take on how North-South reunification would be like if South Korea was still ruled by a monarchy. Already we are transported into a parallel universe that does not exist, and yet the rules of this world when it comes to diplomacy remains the same. One of my favorite things about this drama was the political-ness of it, because it didn’t try to glaze over the tensions between the two Koreas, as well as the tensions with the rest of the world. It wasn’t afraid to paint other countries in a bad light, especially if realistically speaking they wouldn’t be happy about reunification. It’s all about perspective, and this drama excelled with that.
Lee Seung Gi, I felt, was pitch perfect in this role. He was at turns funny and charming, and then serious and pained. He wasn’t dumb at all, which made things more satisfying because he allowed himself to be constantly underestimated by his enemies. He proved himself to his own staff, to the world, and even to me that he was the ruler South Korea needed at that moment. As for Ha Ji Won, after I got over her accent and girlish voice, I cheered for such a badass female lead that wasn’t afraid to go and save her man, and wasn’t about to sit back and let him do all the work in reunifying the two countries. She was a proactive woman, and most definitely the queen the peninsula needed. See – why couldn’t Hanbando do this!?
As for villains, Yoon Je Moon takes the cake. Even more devious and frightening than his character in Tree With Deep Roots, he sold it as a crazed mad man who childishly wanted to rule the world, and didn’t care what he had to do in order to achieve it. It took all of Lee Seung Gi and Ha Ji Won to equally match the force that is Yoon Je Moon. Such a solid villain and such a grounded plot made this drama a big win for me. Spy Myung Wol and Hanbando couldn’t cover North-South relations right; this drama managed to balance the melodrama and the comedy in just the right way, with the perfect dash of politics to help ground the drama in something we can all relate to.
I can’t end this review without a special shoutout to Lee Yoon Ji (who is the perfect princess in every drama she’s in – 50% sassy, 40% grace, and 10% best sister in the world), and Jo Jung Suk, whose portrayal of the ever loyal bodyguard made his little bromance with the king all that much better. They certainly took the cake when it came to couplings, and I was rooting for them more than I cared for the main pairing.
Life Lesson: Not everything can be solved with a magic trick. Especially by a crazy person.
Oh drama, how slow thou art. I knew what I was sort of getting into because it was directed by Yoon Suk Ho, who did the classic season dramas. You’re bound to get disease, obstacles for the protagonists, a wretched third wheel, and really really really pretty scenery. I felt like I was watching all the season dramas again, as this drama spanned from the winter time to the spring/summer time. I don’t think we ever reached autumn…
I knew I was going to get leads who were so innocent and wistful that you kind of wondered how they stayed so “pure,” and it did happen for the 70’s portion of the drama. Everything dragged on in the 70’s because everyone was too stuffy and formal to say the things they really felt, and then when they wanted to they tried to be the noble one to give the girl away to the friend who liked her. But refreshingly enough we got feisty leads in the present-day portion of the drama.
I enjoyed the first half of the series because the 70’s episodes were beautiful visually, and the present-day generation were more relatable and less innocent. But then we fell into a predictable pattern of “will they or won’t they?” This especially became frustrating because of Jang Geun Suk’s and Yoona’s parents deciding to be together. The children generation kept saying that they’d give up their love for their parents, then go back to not being able to give up on that love. I could literally skip through a bunch of the latter half episodes, and still understood what happened. The love triangle never fully formed in my opinion, and there was an attempt to make a love square (with Seo! In! Gook!) but it never really worked out. The drama was much too predictable – you knew Jang Geun Suk and Yoona had to end up together. I can only give credit to how beautifully this drama was composed, and for making Lee Mi Sook such a sympathetic mom for once. Other than that – snooze fest!
Life Lesson: Who needs Fate when you have a yellow umbrella?
I plunged into this drama headfirst with almost no knowledge of the drama because everyone around me refused to tell me the story for fear of being to spoiler-y. Bah humbug. The story is really about an ex-convict trying to rebuild his life, and he has three chances to make it right.
Moody, dark, but atmospheric, the drama truly focuses on the human spirit and how one’s will can change his or her fate. Jung Woo Sung redeemed himself here after that bit of a trainwreck called Athena, as he showed us the simple heart of ex-murderer Yang Kang Chil who really wanted to leave his past behind. Kim Bum was the angel and fellow inmate Lee Gook Soo, who guided him along the way, knowing certain things before Kang Chil, but also just as confused on how to help Kang Chil get the life he deserves. Jung Ji Na (Han Ji Min) is the love interest, a veterinarian who has a tragic history with Kang Chil (because of course, what melodramatic heroine wouldn’t?) and ends up falling for him.
It’s a drama that I appreciated over time, because while watching the drama I felt constantly frustrated that Kang Chil couldn’t seem to get out of the rut he was in. The main villain Chang Gul was simply a cowardly guy with status, and yet had so much control over Kang Chil’s life. Admittedly towards the end of the drama I was very sick of it and just wanted it to be done. But now with some distance, I appreciate the drama, because Kang Chil never acted out of character; things moved slowly because it took him a while to become the hero we all wanted, but considering his circumstances, it wasn’t like he could become a hero overnight. I now appreciate that he was such a weak character in the beginning, because it shows that no matter who you are, you can take control over your life. You still have power over it.
This drama was his journey in learning that lesson. Padam Padam is a beautiful drama, with the excellent cinematography, the touch of whimsy that never felt too out of place, and the stellar actors who poured out their soul for you. It’s certainly up there on my list for melodramas – and I don’t usually like melodramas.
Life lesson: Kim Bum is an angel.
SPECIAL AFFAIRS TEAM Ten
The grittiest of all the OCN dramas I had seen this year. It is sick, it is raw, it is not going to shy away from crime. And I mean really bloody crime. We start off with such a harrowing case of girls being murdered after being suffocated from duct tape, and we end with that. What makes it similar to Sign or Ghost (in a way) is the overarching plot where the police need to capture one big bad who usually starts off the season. I love stories like that, because while you have the other cases on the side, there’s always still that one big evil person niggling at you in the back of your brain, taunting you to figure out who he is.
The characters ended up being a big draw for me for this drama. Joo Sang Wook is the most moody boss in town as he’s aloof with slightly sociopathic tendencies, and gets a kick out of checking out dead bodies to find out how they died. His team doesn’t quite have that special camaraderie that the team in Vampire Prosecutor has, but they’re a special kind of family that I wouldn’t mind seeing more of. After that, I really enjoyed the story and how everything was so carefully woven together. It was confusing at times, and I had a headache trying to figure out all the clues that I eventually gave up, screaming “Explain the answer in the easiest way possible!” to the computer. But that’s what’s amazing about it – it never assumed the audience was an idiot. If there was a simple case, I felt lucky because less thinking involved when recapping!
For all the crime dramas, this had the most suspenseful ending that merits it a season 2 for sure. True to its nature, it offers twist after twist until you’re not quite sure what to expect. It’s better than some of the cases in Vampire Prosecutor 2 and it also knows how to use the concept of “seasons” to its advantage. Leave them wanting for more, they say. And boy am I bloodthirsty for more on this one.
A complex story filled with rich characters for both the good and the bad, this is not a drama for the faint-hearted. But it sure is satisfying to the bitter end.
Life Lesson: It’s hard to unwrap a cactus from gift wrapping. They prick.
VAMPIRE PROSECUTOR 2
Vampire Prosecutor 2 held on its own quite well with more intriguing cases and more instances of bromance, but I somehow felt that it was very “been there-done that” sort of drama for me. This season truly upped the stakes with the appearance of “L” as a worthy foe to Min Tae Yeon, and it was amazing to watch Min Tae Yeon’s resolve shatter bit by bit as L attacked everyone close to him. It was bound to happen that Tae Yeon’s vampire alter-ego was going to give him some sort of trouble. But the thing was I felt lost because there was such a disconnect between L and the case-of-the-week. I admittedly felt confused whenever the jumped between Park Hoon’s storyline and Min Tae Yeon, because I couldn’t tell if we were in the past or in the present time.
The drama didn’t get very exciting until towards the end, when all hell pretty much broke loose and everything was fair game for death – including the characters we’ve come to love. I loved seeing Min Tae Yeon trying to be a superhero when he technically can be a superhero, but isn’t really. But the ending was quite frustrating because it just called for a season 3, and I honestly felt like this drama didn’t need anymore seasons. If it had a tighter storyline around L throughout the season, I felt that a lot of questions could have been answered. Instead I was left confused and with more questions.
It’s not a terrible drama, but after expecting a certain quality from OCN dramas with its predecessors, you could say I was a bit disappointed.
Life Lesson: More eyeliner, more badass. Rules of dramaland.
The last of the 2011 musical dramas that ended in 2012, and probably the best. What’s Up followed the dreams of a group of students who wanted to be a star! It’s very similar to You’ve Fallen For Me, and yet it managed to take on a more serious tone, showing the rivalries and friendship that grew out of all these students who had one remarkable professor who made them think about why they were in that school, and to be true to themselves. Only then could they become the best.The stakes were higher in this drama than You’ve Fallen For Me, which was appropriate for college students.
What’s Up is easily one of my favorite dramas this year. I loved this drama for the talent involved. I discovered Jo Jung Seok and his musical greatness, the richness of Im Joo Hwan’s voice, the raw ferocity in Im Joo Eun, the awesome-ness that is Oh Man Suk and the thrill of listening to Daesung. It also had one of the most elusive OST’s for me to access, and therefore I honor this drama to be the song representative for this review of the year. Their songs – renditions of Broadway classics, or purely original – were catchy and lyrical, and were played on repeat for me. The chemistry between the students was wonderful because I really felt that they were their characters. I do believe that Song Ji Na wrote a very solid story because she made the characters rich, considering that she had to juggle up to ten characters and weave together their stories while also showing their growth. With such strong personalities, it’s as if their life stories wrote themselves on the page, and it felt like there was always plenty of material to share.
Even though it was a 20-episode series, I was left wanting for more, wanting for another year with these characters. I kind of felt disappointed when it began to rush on tying up loose ends, and focused more on Im Joo Hwan and Kim Ji Won‘s love story. The drama then became a little more conventional, showing how these two characters were in love, but never really meant to be because of something in the past.
What’s important for me is that it is something I could watch again and again. The drama is about growing up, whether it’s facing your fears, facing your past, or facing your uncertain future. And that is something you never stop doing.
Life Lesson: “You and I” watch dramas in the “springtime” for “those magic changes.”
Oh Wild Romance – what a wild ride. It’s a typical rom-com where a tomboyish lead (with the hair to match) becomes the bodyguard of a baseball player she hates the most, only to end up winning his heart. Lee Si Young (Eun Jae) and Lee Dong Wook (Mu Yeol) are the bickering couple, and while I didn’t feel like they were “lovers” to me, they certainly had that chemistry that could be likened to a brother and sister’s relationship. It started off conventionally enough, and I never felt a rush to watch the drama. I was mainly interested in the main, dark plot point: who is Mu Yeol’s stalker?
I watched this drama after What’s Up so I was pretty psyched to see Oh Man Seok and Im Joo Eun here. But then, I was a bit disappointed that Oh Man Seok’s character ended up being a bit – dare I say? – dull. He was the forever good guy, which is a good thing considering that Mu Yeol doesn’t have many friends, but he had a character background that could have made him the “jealous best friend” and Oh Man Seok would have portrayed it brilliantly. Save for perhaps Im Joo Eun’s quirky performance (although it wasn’t that quirky) and Kang Dong Ho’s stiff demeanor (Robo-Tae-Han love!), the rest of the supporting cast had pretty bland characters that, though they tried to be interesting and complex, the writing was never quite there to help support that. Jessica was forever an “eyesore” to my screen, as I have no belief that she can really act and was irritated with her and her character for most of the series.
And speaking of the script, I never saw one go off the deep end so oddly like this one. For most of the series, it was pretty straightforward – two people who hate each other will fall for each other while solving the mystery to who is Mu Yeol’s stalker. But in the last three episodes everyone just went into crazy town; episode 14 felt like the writer forgot everyone’s original personalities; episode 15 had improbable events as shit hit the fan; and episode 16 dragged on endlessly as we watched every loose end get tied up, and waited for Mu Yeol and Eun Jae to get together.
Overall, this drama felt like a mixed bag in and of itself. To check it out, really check your brain at the door.
Life Lesson: In dramaland, a K-O is foreplay.
So there’s the year of 2012 in a nutshell for me: some regular hard candies, some chewy ones that get stuck to your teeth, and some smooth, melting chocolate. Thanks to girlfriday and javabeans, I get to share my humble thoughts on some of these dramas. A toast to 2013! May the best be yet to come!
- 2012: Something for everyone? [Year In Review, Part 1]
- 2012 Beanie Awards: Vote for your favorite dramas of the year
- 2011 Year In Review, Part 5: Editors’ Picks
- 2011 Year In Review, Part 4: The dramaMeter: highly scientific and foolproof (girlfriday’s review)
- 2011 Year In Review, Part 3: Somewhere Over the K-Drama Rainbow (Dahee Fanel’s review)
- 2011 Year In Review, Part 2: The Good, The Bad, and The Hmmm… of 2011 (kaedejun’s review)
- 2011 Year In Review, Part 1: Measuring 2011 on the Sticky Scale (javabeans’ review)