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The five stages of grief [Year in Review, Part 4]

I’m pretty sure I went through all five stages of grief when faced with the incredibly daunting task of summing up the year in just five dramas, because that seemed like way too much responsibility to take on. In retrospect, it shouldn’t have been so frightening when I’d made top five lists in past reviews, but the idea of getting only five was enough to bring on a cascade of warring, terrifying emotions.

First came the more or less innocuous denial phase of, “This’ll actually be easier! What were we thinking, doing twenty a year before?” Then came anger, “You know who else liked the number five? Hitler.*” Which blossomed into bargaining, “Can I do five, and then another ten?” Catapulting me into the soul-sucking depression of, “My choices will inevitably be terrible, and life has no meaning.”

But then came the warm glow of acceptance that more or less took the form of, “Well, rules are rules.” Limits can be freeing! Once I embraced the fact that I could just cherry pick five dramas that made me feel something one way or the other, everything else fell into place. Except for the actual writing, anyway. Cue another trip through all five stages of drama grief, aaaand, go!

(*This statement based on truthiness, not actual fact.)

SONG OF THE DAY

Last OST – Din Din and TransFixion – “Do It” [ Download ]

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Last

Last was a tour de force of excellence in all categories, with a uniquely engaging story, a stellar ensemble cast that included the best of the veteran actor pool, a rockin’ soundtrack, and some of the best direction this side of the equator. It was sleek, it was stylish, but most of all, it was assured from the acting down to the pacing, which never lingered anywhere for too long.

Centering around a man who finds himself living amongst Seoul’s underground homeless population after losing everything through a failed investment scheme, Last showcased an innately human story within a hyperrealistic world that was, at times, reminiscent of the larger than life aspects of a comic book. (Which makes sense, when the drama itself was adapted from a popular web toon of the same name.) Yoon Kye-sang, who’s made a career out of playing tough but downtrodden characters lately, put in an arresting performance as a man suddenly thrust into a world governed by a strict hierarchy of the seven best fighters the city’s crime world had to offer.

The rules dictated that the select few could only stay so if they remained unchallenged, which gave our hero reason to use his ambition to conquer the difficulty ladder leading up to the strongest of them all, a villain(?) expertly played by Lee Beom-soo. Thankfully, this role couldn’t have come soon enough for one of Korea’s most versatile actors, who started on a downward trend in drama choices that began with Dr. Jin, moved onto IRIS 2, then slithered to a stop at Triangle, where his underutilization was practically criminal.

But his talents were on full display here, and while his actions may have been considered evil, such a simple moniker couldn’t be applied to such a complex character. The relationships he shared with others were so twisted, so infinitely layered and oddly real, that we could believe him when he cried over the deaths he caused. Because deep down, we could believe that he once was good, and that no matter the atrocities he’d committed, he could still feel guilt over his wrongdoings. So often villains end up one-dimensional, but Lee Beom-soo defied dimensions and flew in the face of the very idea that this world is populated by heroes and villains. He was simply human—a flawed, broken byproduct of a system he couldn’t escape.

I frequently found myself in awe of the fight scenes, which managed to merge beauty and brutality in the most visually arresting way possible. Nothing about them was polished or sanitized, despite the probably insane levels of choreography that had to go into making each fistfight and showdown that much more epic than the last. Even the last Matrix movie couldn’t stage a final battle worthy of all the hype leading up to it, yet that epic finale fight between Jang Tae-ho and Kwak Heung-sam was everything it promised to be and so much more, and firmly cemented Last as an epic drama for the ages.

Stage One, Denial: It’s not over as long as I keep replaying it.

 

Yong-pal

Oh, Yong-pal. I wish I knew what you were supposed to be. I felt so drained by the time the finale rolled around, which was probably due in part to being pulled in a hundred different directions by episodes that preceded it—okay, maybe not that many, but by the time we made it to the end I didn’t know what I was looking for or what I was hoping to get out of the experience. Which was such a far cry from how the show began that even now I’m having a hard time looking back and figuring out where the shift occurred.

Somewhere along the way things got twisted, characters lost focus, and Yong-pal seemed unsure of itself. Did it want to be a medical drama or a chaebol business drama? Was it Sleeping Beauty or Beauty and the Beast? And why, if you named your show after the alter-ego the hero would use when making house calls to gang members, would you make a show that wasn’t about that at all? It’s such an intriguing premise in theory, though I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised at this point when promos mislead us. If you thought you were in for a show where Joo Won did parkour like Healer while being an actual healer, you probably came out disappointed.

Then again, this was a pretty good instance of high dollar casting earning high dollar ratings, with the show pulling in the kinds of numbers we thought were gone from dramaland for good. In a day and age where a show is lucky to break into the low teens, Yong-pal broke records by peaking well into the twenties, which is nothing to sniff at. If you are itching to sniff at something though, sniff at all the squandered potential. There was certainly no lack of that or harebrained schemes lying about.

Which is a shame, because in the beginning, Yong-pal promised so much it seemed fully capable of delivering, what with its haunting visuals, sleek production design, and a damsel in distress who turned out to be hiding a very sharp set of teeth. It even featured a fun twist on the traditional gender dynamics we’ve come to know when chaebols are involved, making the hero the poor boy and the heroine the rich girl. Unfortunately it didn’t seem to know what to do with itself after that, with Yong-pal ending up as a trophy husband with little else to do but react to the bizarre goings-on in his wife’s legitimately certifiable family.

All in all though, I guess you could say Yong-pal had a little something for everyone, even for the revenge aficionados among us. Who can forget the time Chae-young took her revenge by inducing cancer in the heroine? Or the fact that it actually worked? Man, I forgot how terrible that plot thread was. Who comes up with this stuff anyway? (Writer Jang Hyuk-rin would later go on to win an award for best screenplay.)

Stage Two, Anger: So help me, this is the last time I trust a medical-action-romance-business-revenge-chaebol drama with a slightly disinterested koala for a hero. The last time!

 

Six Flying Dragons

Despite my wariness weighing in on a drama that’s still airing and one that will be just shy of reaching its halfway mark by this review’s publication, twenty hours should be enough of an indicator as to how a show is doing. In this case, just one episode was enough to tell us the kind of show we were in for—but since the universal law of dramas is that a good start never guarantees a good finish, we can only appreciate what we have now and hope against hope that whatever show we’ve invested countless hours of our time in won’t turn out to disappoint us.

And that time investment is nothing to scoff at either, especially when it comes to fifty-episode epics like Six Flying Dragons, whose job it is to not only engage our attention from the beginning but to hold it as well. Where Empress Ki might’ve had an easier time of that last year by being a crowd-pleaser less concerned with historical accuracy than it was with its formidable and star-studded love triangle, Dragons seems determined to one-up itself with every single episode by not only meeting, but exceeding all expectations set for it.

Over the years, dramaland has taught me a cruel lesson when it comes to putting too much stock into any one writer or director, since all too often celebrated reunions or lauded comebacks turn out to be less than stellar. So when I heard that the screenwriter from Tree With Deep Roots—a show I loved so much I found a job just to write about it—was returning to pen another sageuk/unofficial prequel to that very same masterpiece, I ignored everything past reunion-centric disappointments have taught me by getting really, really, unreasonably excited about it.

Perhaps unwisely, I also declared my intention to recap all fifty episodes months before the cast was even nailed down, and then proceeded to get so intimidated by the size of the project that javabeans graciously wrote the first post in order to help pave the way. I still don’t know what I would have done if it turned out to be a ginormous stinking mess/six months of Basketball, since there’s always a risk going into a show already holding the high bar the team has set for itself in the past. But Dragons jumped that bar like a gazelle on steroids and keeps on jumping even higher ones still, so much so that the only reason one would be cautious about the ending is because there’s just no way it can keep building momentum at its current rate.

But with every episode one-upping the last, it’s become more and more difficult to expect anything less from a show that’s taken it upon itself to tackle one of the most tumultuous periods in history with the fall of Goryeo and the rise of Joseon. Depicting such well-known historical figures like Jung Do-jeon and Lee Bang-won (later King Taejong) is no small task, but with such a talented cast and writer behind the helm, plus a good bit of fictional mystery and nail-biting intrigue, what could possibly go wrong?

Stage Three, Bargaining: Are you there, God? It’s me, Heads. I know, it’s about a drama again. I know, there are much bigger problems in the world. But if you could come through on just this one…

 

Punch

One brilliant drama might be considered a fluke, two a very lucky coincidence, but three in a row? That qualifies as a winning streak, which is exactly what writer Park Kyung-soo has given viewers with The Chaser, Empire of Gold, and now Punch, which rightly dominated in the ratings despite having conceivably none of the usual requirements for mass appeal.

Usually ratings are mentioned in reviews like these either ironically or quizzically, since more often than not, the numbers we see don’t correspond with the way we feel. And while it’s true that ratings aren’t a barometer for quality, watching them rise in Punch’s case was an oddly gratifying experience, not only because the show was so well crafted that it deserved every bit of recognition and critical acclaim thrown its way, but because it earned its audience by staying true to the story it wanted to tell. In the changing landscape that is television these days, and coming from one of the Big 3 networks even, that’s no small accomplishment.

In what’s become a hallmark of this writer’s work, actors are chosen not based on their popularity but on their suitability for the role, the importance of which can’t be overstated when dealing with such complex and morally ambiguous characters. Part of its appeal lied in the expert portrayal of its central anti-hero by Kim Rae-won, a once-dedicated husband and prosecutor who finds out that he has six months left to live due to an inoperable brain tumor.

That sounds like it’d be quite the noble setup in giving the hero a chance to realize the error of his ways when faced with his own mortality, enough for him to use the remainder of his time to help right the wrongs he helped to propagate, right? Maybe in a sugar-coated version of reality, but not in the eerily resonant world Punch crafted, where law and order served more as loose guidelines than the standard we should all aspire to.

By exploring themes of mortality and causality through an uncompromising lens, Punch put us face to face with our universal desire for relevance and permanence even as it showcased one of the most infinitely complex adversarial relationships to grace our screens in recent years. Jo Jae-hyun may have been the anti-villain to Kim Rae-won’s anti-hero, but there’s one thing none of these characters will ever be, and that’s forgettable. Long live the true king of dramas.

Stage Four, Depression: It’s over and it’s never coming back. My soul, like a drama landscape without Punch, is a barren wasteland of death and despair.

 

Shine or Go Crazy

There would’ve been a joke to be made if Shine or Go Crazy had actually gone crazy, but as it stands, it’s just one of those weird titles that tries hard to mean something about astrology/fate/star-crossed lovers, but ends up just being a loose coalition of words. Based off a novel of the same name, it was apparently intended to refer to the hero’s risk of losing his mind without his heroine/star, though I’d venture a guess that something was lost in translation from page to screen when it came to that allusion. Zany it may have been, but crazy? Nah.

I have to give dramas like Shine credit for being no more and no less than simplistic, fun, and thoroughly escapist entertainment. It’s comfort food in a hanbok (try not to think about that too long), with enough fantastical elements to make its very tangential basis in real history practically moot—it had about as much to do with the fourth king of Goryeo than the real fourth king of Goryeo had to do with a crossdressing-induced gay crisis. And lest you think they plucked an unremarkable and forgettable king out for precisely that reason, think again. Or don’t, because I’m not sure they did either.

Megastar and sageuk hitmaker Jang Hyuk, undoubtedly being the drama’s biggest draw, gave us a manic but good-hearted prince who could have easily been Lee Gun’s ancestor from Fated To Love You. Wang So could probably best be described as a hot mess, but the good kind of hot mess, the kind that can be a blundering idiot in one scene only to be a sword-wielding badass the next. The kind that has a crazy laugh and two wive—… well, no one’s perfect.

At first, the plot of a prince and princess getting married for just one night seems like it’d be pretty cut and dry, and in many respects it was. All told, it was a simple boy-loves-girl, boy’s-brother-also-loves-girl, boy-and-girl-are-married, boy-marries-other-girl, girl-cross-dresses-to-be-near-boy story. You know the one. Surprisingly enough, the pair at the center of it all was always a treat to watch even when they were apart, which was a more frequent occurrence than them being in the same frame. But hey, if it helped us to treasure their time together more, that must’ve been what the twenty-four episode count was for, right?

The rich cinematography was probably more than a story like this called for, but was by no means unwelcome when it made for such a luscious color palette. Another standout was the wig quality, which I know is probably the weirdest thing in the world to notice. In my admittedly weak defense, drama weaves are usually either just terrible or tolerable, with the only exceptions being those actors who grow their own mane of glory. Yet there I was, transfixed by the miles of pretty locks on display, and even more so by the way Jang Hyuk’s ‘do both accentuated his manliness and dampened it just enough for him to look downright androgynous sometimes. So beautiful. So bizarre. So bizarrely beautiful.

But Heads, you might say, surely you had deeper, more scholarly observations that aren’t solely based on the looks of an actor you’ve loved for years. Surely you didn’t just watch a drama for the pretty, you might add. Totally valid points, I would reply, even though that’s exactly what I did. Let the first viewer who hasn’t watched a drama for completely superficial reasons cast the first stone.

Stage Five, Acceptance: That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.

 

RELATIVELY SPEAKING, 2015 WAS A PRETTY GOOD YEAR

As always, thank you to javabeans and girlfriday for being fearless leaders. And to gummimochi, whose well of patience never seems to run dry. Thank you for indulging my rants and my borderline unhealthy obsession with grilled meats like the friendship champion you are.

Of course, none of this would be here without you fine people to read it, so thank you for another fun year of hearty discussions and mutual squeeing, and the occasional pity party whenever I pick a bad show. Here’s to you.

 
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This is amazing. All the shows you really liked, I really disliked. And all the shows you didn't like, I really liked. I'll probably be the only drama beans fan who feels this way! I love your site, everyone's reviews, recaps and ratings, so thank you guys for all your hard work, and especially your humorous comments. Sometimes I feel your recaps/reviews are better than the actual show! And thanks for letting me disagree sometimes with your take on a show. And don't ask me to explain my likes and dislikes, I can't even explain them to myself!

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forgot to say: I will try Last again, since I didn't watch the whole thing. But I hated Punch because of the ending, though I've seen plenty others with the same ending that I didn't mind. I loved Yong Pal, almost all of the episodes except for the extension wasn't necessary, but it was mostly because of Joo Won.

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You hated it because of the ending? You mean you expected a sudden miracle cure that would negate the entire premise of the Drama?

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Haha, you're not alone! I feel ya. I'm a loyal dramabeans reader but I oftentimes disagree with some of the opinions on here! For instance, I never liked Healer. (I know! don't attack me ppl). But I loved Hogu's Romance.

Of course, dramas like Punch, I LOVED, so there were some overlaps in likes and dislikes.

But I think that's perfectly normal! As people each have their own opinions ;)

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Lols, I am the opposite. IMO, Heads is probably the only reviewer so far that I've read (not including Santa) with such on point reviews of some of the best and worst Kdramas of 2015. And by worst, I mean completely wracked my brain with the deplorable execution of the drama toward its ending.

Punch is my vote for the best 2015 Kdrama - in a pretty lackluster year for Kdramas. Hopefully, with many pre-produced dramas coming out in 2016, 2016 will prove to be better.

P.S. Love your diversity in taste amid many lighter-fare Kdrama reviewers online. Maybe 10 years ago, I would have liked more of the rom-coms, school shows, and squeely actions, but now I find my time too precious to waste on dramas that doesn't enlighten or educate me. So kudos and keep it up!

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The choice is very easy for me - only "Oh my Venus" matters.

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"Who can forget the time Chae-young took her revenge by inducing cancer in the heroine? Or the fact that it actually worked? "

It's not really that much of a stretch - I have/had more than one friend whose cancers were chemically induced - one ended up dying from cancer caused by a medicine mixup in hospital.

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Not true, I really would like to know what kind of substances/drugs/chemical that can cause cancer coz I'm a doctor of many years and I've never treated even a single patient with chemically induced cancer before. Please name the chemical.
.... and one died from medicine mixed up??? you mean he was medically poisoned by doctors! wow! I also need to know about the medicine that kill him.

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He died from chemically induced leukaemia, which the hospital responsible said was caused by a medication error. It was nearly 20 years ago, so I'd have to sk his surviving family what the medication in question was. But that much was conceded by the hospital - chemically induced leukaemia (a form of cancer) caused by a medication error.

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I'm sorry for not able to accept your explanation, unless you can come up with the name of substance, your reason is not valid.
The known carcinogens so far are Hepatitis B and C for causing liver cancer, HPV for causing cervical cancer and xray and gamma radiation for causing many types of cancer including leukaemia. Other possible carcinogens (not proven) are mostly industrial chemical like leads and Naphthalene and they are NOT medicine.

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Cute how, without proving your own medical background, this person has to draw out their friends' personal medical history. Stand down, okay? If you were setting out to be impressive, you are only coming off as rude and majorly confrontational on a DRAMA WEBSITE comment thread.

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Lots of drugs are potentially carcinogenic - all the radioisotopes (eg radioactive iodine > leukaemias etc), alkylating agents (cyclophosphamide > bladder Ca, chlorambucil etc), AZT to list a few.

As with all things medical, it's not black and white. No one can conclusively "prove" that a single exposure will result in cancer. But we do know that for certain drugs, exposure will increase the risk of developing cancer vs if no exposure happened, which is why the hospital should bear the brunt if the carcinogen was given in error.

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I am 100% fascinated by this comment. I have never heard of a human dying from cancer induced by a doctor's intervention. Please describe.

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My son's best friend died at 15 from lymphoma brought on by anti-rejection drugs he was given after his heart transplant surgery. A cardiologist friend says this happens more frequently than they want to talk about.

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Hmm yup that sounds more likely - i mean lymphomas by exposure to immunosuppressants, or perhaps leukemias from exposure to anti-tumoral agents. Tumors from excessive radiation, or eventually getting liver cancer from hepatitis due to contamination at the hospital are also possible. But dying from chemically induced leukaemia from one medication error (I would suppose this is without prolonged exposure to the offending agent)? I'm fascinated too! I guess we won't know the answer since it's not the best topic to bring up!

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Punch is absolutely fantastic. I'll have to check out The Chaser and Empire of Gold.

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Heads is right...3 dramas in a row is not just pure luck by any means; this production team must be filled with geniuses. You should watch Chaser and EoG (but you should do it after holidays because, let's face it who needs depression on Christmas day, right?).

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Lol, how would you rate all three against each other?

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As far as I'm concerned, the equation is Chaser + EoG= (or<) Punch. Chaser is more simplistic but not simple while EoG is far more complicated (corporations, financial terms and whatnot) but once you get familiar with the plot (revenge, as always) it becomes easier. In Punch, the production team reached perfection: story line, action, revenge and, above all, acting were superb. I watched all three dramas in that order and I realised that their projects were "upgraded" in every aspect.

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That just makes me more in awe of Punch b/c it's so hard to reach that level of perfection. To hear they leveled up after each drama makes me more eager to see their next work.

That means I'm going to work backwards and will watch EoG next. Thanks!

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Thanks for this review piece. I really like your writing style, it made me chortle in a few places, and I'm in total agreement so far with Six Flying Dragons and Shine or Go Crazy. I can't believe, now looking back, that I managed to sit through the whole of the latter. And my biggest takeaways from it were exactly that Wang So was so much like a predecessor of Lee Gun and that the hairdos were eye-catching!

I've heard too much about Yong Pal to dare touch it, unless maybe while I'm doing something more painful, like taxes, but your write up makes me want to watch Last and Punch.

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I've started Last. It's awesome so far. Really unusual set up, and I love Yoon Kye-Sang. He's killed everything I've seen him in, including High Kick 3.

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I'm so distracted by the pretty graphics. O3O

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Ya for real, these are gorgeous. Last and 6 Dragons are especially beautiful. But uh Punch and Yong-Pal and Shine or go crazy are also lookers though.

Seriously, graphic-maker has future in creating movie posters.

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Heads, gotta say...this piece is probably my favorite writing of yours. Not because I agree with everything (except for six flying dragons, I AGREE WITH EVERY WORD), but because I love the way you choose your words to describe your take on each drama. Kudos, Heads!!!

Watching Six is like buying a stock that you want to not be so excited about, and watching the market close with its value sky rocket, EACH TIME! Then like you said, it can't hold this momentum, right? It just can't? So you gingerly go to the next episode, hoping the market won't crash this time and hoping your heart can take it if it does. Ugh, the feels!

Thank you for JB, GF, Gummi, Heads, Saya, and Lollipip for the year of writing! Here's for the next!

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My theory is that Heads has had such bad luck with dramas (recapping mostly stinkers) that she is just expecting for the other shoe to drop on Six Flying Dragon but it hasn't. lol I have a special fondness for Heads as a recapper. It takes real talent to liven up some of the most boring and ill-conceived dramas to ever grace Dramabeans. You've worked hard Heads.. You've worked hard!

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I don't think SFD needs a prayer circle :).

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Enjoyed this review. And i might even check out "Last" and "Punch" because of it. (I usually stay far away from the serious stuff.)

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Once you start Punch, you won't be able to stop.

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Yes, once you start Punch, you won't stop. Despite my rant on it coz it's not a feels show, so no emotional love from me. I just don't feel it. But it's really exciting. So still drawn to watch each new episode. Maybe I just don't like bad guys triumphing, lol.

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FINALLY!!! Someone else appreciated 'Last' as much as I did! Last was a work of wonder that I built my schedule around. Thank you so much.
(You have excellent taste) ?

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I agree! Last came out of nowhere (although JTBC gave us great shows time and again) and rocked my world, too...

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Last - definitely one of the best dramas this year. Thanks to everyone at Dramabeans for your wonderful recaps and drama updates. Really appreciate your amazing efforts.

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I had to laugh...as I went from euphoria, to What The? in these reviews. Last, Six, Punch...Superb dramas. 10's all of them.

Yong Pal and Shine...ugh. For me, huge disappointments, wasted talent, the first with a total lack of chemistry and who cares story...for me. The second, boring and a huge disappointment after a likable start.

Replace those with Assembly or Awl...especially Awl!!!! Or even My Beautiful Bride or Heard it Through the Grapevine. This year blew me away with just those few dramas. All the rest could have blown...just those left me floating!

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Dear Heads, thanks a lot for your Recaps... especially when the shows were really bad so we could follow them without having to spend our time miserably watching. Thanks for your sacrifice in behalf of us.

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My eyes were teary while I was watching that scene from Punch =(

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I, too, get distracted by bad wigs but I find Korean shows do a much better job with them than Hollywood does. A bad wig can make me lose focus of everything else going on. Hyuk's brother with the brown stiff wig - I could think of nothing else while he was on camera.

The only thing I disagree with in Heads' post is this:

"...Jang Hyuk’s ‘do both accentuated his manliness and dampened it just enough for him to look downright androgynous sometimes."

I find nothing, absolutely nada, zero "androgynous" about Jang Hyuk. He passively oozes testosterone and hot bloodedness. I think if you put him in a dress with full makeup he would still give off an "allllll man" musk. lol (I can't help it.)

I am fully on board with this though:

"So beautiful. So bizarre. So bizarrely beautiful."

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> I find nothing, absolutely nada, zero “androgynous” about Jang Hyuk. He passively oozes testosterone and hot bloodedness. I think if you put him in a dress with full makeup he would still give off an “allllll man” musk. lol (I can’t help it.)

The above cracked me up. Something about the juxtaposition of passively oozing and hotbloodedness.

Jang Hyuk should put that on his gravestone someday. Oh wait, didn't he have a book out about being a hot blooded male? I think he'd agree with you.

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Last was really awesome. I'm still in awe thinking of it.

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I think everyone should realize that just because someone writes a review about a drama, even one that has already been reviewed and may seem redundant to write about (coughYongPalcough) it does NOT mean the recapper loved the drama, or even liked it. In fact, it could be the drama that stood out the most because of how much hate the recapper had for it. (Or, still has!) So read carefully, my friends, read carefully.

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thanks for the review, heads!

after hearing all the praise for six flying dragons, i think i'm going to check it out! i need some more good quality, well-acted dramas in my life!

also... "this is the last time I trust a medical-action-romance-business-revenge-chaebol drama with a slightly disinterested koala for a hero"
... wait did you just call Joo Won a koala?? haha I definitely laughed out loud when I read that!

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Kudos for another year-end review completed.

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This is funny... the fighting scenes in Last were over the top for me (com'on, 3 guys against the whole bunch of thugs?) and the reason I actually stopped watching...

Yongpal...first 6 episodes were brilliant...and then...then not...
I only continued watching for the total unpredictability...and with the tiny hope of return of the Superdoctor (I especially loved his rucksack and how he unrolled it :--) )... sadly he didn't...

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The preamble made me laugh. i feel so bad for you.Thanks for writing it. I never evn heard of Last. Your drama taste are completely different from mine that's why I appreciate reading all the reviews. I can recommend good dramas then to people asking. Rather than give the obvious ones.

I still can't believe you signed on to a 50 episode recap. I already cringe whenever I make a commitment and discover its a 24 episode drama.

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I only watched half of yong pal (the good half) out of all the shows listed. Last and Punch sound very intense. I will try Last based on your review.

Umm should I watch Shine Go Crazy? I can't tell if it is fun bad or just bad.

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I would not call it "fun" bad; it had very little comedy going on, and the ending may not be your cup of tea after 24 episodes. I was just bored. I kept watching in the hope that it might pick up, until I got to the point where I might as well finish it. To me this was Jang Hyuk's strike two after Fated to Love you; not going near Master of Trade...

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Heyyyy he was great (and manic) in Fated to Love You :( Hehe

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Oh, nothing against him in particular, but Fated to Love You was just entrapment; it hooks you with rom-com, and then slaps you in the face with ten episodes of angst. I loved Jang Hyuk in Chuno, but my love cannot survive through three disappointments in a row; I need to be extra cautious now :p .

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Fated to Love You started out with a bang, but it became real suffering after the angst kicked in. I did stick it out as I love Jang Nara, and the storyline of losing a child, feels so raw it semi-justified the suffering. But it didn't mean I didn't want to bop Lee Gun in the head for a good few episodes for the noble idiocy....

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Hmm, interesting. I love your recaps (esp the snarky ones) and almost always agree with your comments, but have not seen any of these 5. Although maybe I'll try Tree with Deep Roots, I hadn't heard of it before but I googled it and it sounded pretty good.

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Don't watch the last episode. Just pretend that whatever you think SHOULD happen, did. I absolutely LOVED this show. (At least, I thought I did, until I rewatched it. And then I realized I'd blocked the final episode from my memory.)

Give me enough time and I'll amnesia it again from my consciousness. And I'll love that drama again.

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Hahaha! I did exactly THAT! I watched all the other 15 (or was it 19?) episodes and left the last episode alone. I read recap for it, and then I pretended the final never happened. Hahahaha! I guess Heads was right, we're good at this 5 stages of grieving thing, as denial is one of them!

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Ok, thanks for the warning!

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Why, yes, I'll join the LAST fan club. Long over, and I still get chills thinking of all the amazing!

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LAST was honestly amazing. as i watch new dramas i am constantly reminded in the difference of storytelling and quality i honestly still really miss the amazing cast and their chemistry. it deffo brought a lot of actors to light that i wasn't as interested in.

i haven't seen punch but now i am interested. does it have a decent romance? that's kind of always a big selling point for me. maybe anti hero falling for a nice girl? if yes i am in!

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The hero is the heroine's ex-husband. They already have a daughter. At first, their relationship is pretty bad, but then the ex-wife discover his sickness and she become more understanding.

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The ex-wife (Kim Ah-Joong) was an idealist prosecutor who hates Junghwan for being a-not-so-idealist one. But over the time when Junghwan changed they became closer too. O remember the first 4 episodes make me emotionally drained and want to punch Junghwan on screen, but after that it got better and great.

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I'd say Punch is much better than Last in all aspects. It was very intense from beginning to end. Thankfully I watched it after it ended airing, otherwise I would've gone crazy waiting for the next episode.

I had never seen Kim Rae-Won and Cho Jae-Hyun in anything prior to this, and was literally in awe of their acting.

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Last and Punch have absolutely nothing in common; quite different genres and productions on different level. However, in terms of direction, acting and story (and feelings if I may add) do give us similar strong vibes and (as far as I'm concerned) two international stories that could have happened anywhere on this planet.

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I couldn't go past episode 4 for Last and it was completely on my radar before it aired. Whereas I wasn't even interested in Punch and watched it in one sitting.

I wanted to like Last and maybe I should give it another go (based on the review and everyone's comments here), but the story wasn't gripping enough and the characters didn't pull me in emotionally as it did in Punch.

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Romance is not a big factor in Punch.
It had some nice, caring moments between the main lead and his ex-wife though. They became a bit more close.

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Amen to your earnest prayer for Six Flying Dragons. This show is simply too awesome to be ruined in the end. Please let it always be this good, pretty please...

And I agree with your review on Punch. That complicated relationship between our not-really-a-hero and not-really-a-villain is one of the best thing in this show.

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Thanks heads! I've got pretty similar drama taste as you, so I absolutely adore your recaps. Stay fabulous - seriously, please don't stop writing I beg of you. #1 Fav recapper <3

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The hero is the heroine's ex-husband. They already have a daughter. At first, their relationship is pretty bad, but then the ex-wife discovers his sickness and she becomes more understanding.

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I need to go back and finish Last. I did enjoy it. But once I fall behind, it's nearly impossible for me to finish as I have to start over. No one has time for that. I just have to do it some week.

Punch, I loved it. Loved how two old friends went at each other. I was listening to the song by Kim Feel last night in remembrance. But I'm still furious that I hated the lead female actress so much. In another drama, she might've been fine. But when you're put with Kim Rae-won, Cho Jae-hyun and Seo Ji-hye, you better kick it up a notch. No pretty little teardrops! argh.

Six Flying Dragons. Yes, please do not fail me. Please!

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only seen one of those drama and that one shine or go crazy I never finished.

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Yoona's Street . . . then Misaeng . . . then Last. Three wonderful examples of the best kdramas can be.

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Heads, thank you for your review!
I love reading it! You made me want to watch the all 4 (except Yongpal)!
I thought you would review The Time We Were Not In Love aka The Time We Were Annoyed. Hahaha..

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Joining you in your prayer about Six Flying Dragons. This is the first 50-episode sageuk that I've started on, so make it a memorable first, please!

And Punch was amazing. I did feel sort of depressed after watching the final episode, but I watched it thrice and it never failed to make me tear up. I think Punch's ending has the most impact compared to other dramas this year.

Thank you for this entertaining review, Heads! And thanks for your hard work of recapping.

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I can't get enough of these reviews. In fact, I think I've come to love/like/enjoy reading about the dramas more than actually watching them. Which is pretty bad, I think. I blame DB lol. I love and hate this site. Heh. ;)

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Punch was incredible. The complex and intriguing relationship between the anti-hero and the anti-villain is a first in dramaland and the best aspect of the show for me. I just love how none of the characters are relatively nice or relatively bad and although romance is far from being the main focus of the show, I find the long and unfinished love between Junghwan and Hakyung more compelling than a lot of other k-drama couples out there. Though I kinda wished the writers would go the cliche route and make Junghwan survive at the end, I'm glad they stuck to the realistic aspect of the show and went with the bittersweet ending it ended with.

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The review and comments make me miss Punch! When is the writer coming back with another drama?! I feel like I've been waiting forever.

I forgot exactly how the story ended, but I prefer that it was a bittersweet ending for Jung-Hwan. I only wish that the writer didn't make him nicer towards the end. He was the perfect anti-hero; I liked him flawed and a bit cruel even though my heart was aching that he was flawed and a bit cruel.

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Punch was so stellar it's in a league by itself.

Six Flying Dragons is also outstanding.

Both dramas are fine examples of what happens when it all comes together, as they say.

Thank you Heads for your reviews, your recaps and all you do!

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"Punch was so stellar it’s in a league by itself."

I couldn't have said it better myself. Absolutely yes!

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Good job, headsno2. I like reading your review. And Five stages of grief.. oh my.. I suddenly remember Chun Song Yi's Five stages of grief. Hahaha...

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Thank you for your Year in Review. I especially enjoyed your Last recaps. =)

Nice graphics by Alex! Her website is cool, too. Creative people like her and you all at Dramabeans are amazing.

I'm going to have to go check out the previous Year in Review posts for the other graphics Alex made.

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Hahaha I really like the whole theme you got going here. ^^

Punch didn't leave me obsessed with every episode, but it was a well-written show. The characters had such great dialogue at times.
I'm glad I gave it a shot since I hadn't enjoyed the writer's previous work, The Chaser.

LOL I like your review on Shine or Go Crazy too. Wigs... wut. I haven't watched it yet. Been curious though. And I do adore Jang Hyuk in sageuks.

And I loveeee the drama banners by Alex. They look great. :)

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Last and Punch were the best dramas this year, and i'm glad you liked both<3

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Hey Heads.

Loved your reviews. Thank you for touching on some noteworthy yet not so popular dramas like Last, and other action political dramas like Punch and Six Flying Dragons. I even enjoyed Shine Or Go Crazy and to a lesser extent, the craziness that was Yong Pal. I must say that of all the recappers, my taste in dramas seem to align most similarly with those of Heads and Gummimonchi's.

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Awesome use of five stages of grief for this year-end review.
I haven't watch any of the dramas you mentioned. But If I have to pick one to start, It would probably 6 Flying Daggers. Even that, I will wait until it finish its run and final verdict confirms it's a great investment through and through. hehe.

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Punch was SO good, I started off wanting to shove Kim Rae-won off a high cliff but then it just got better and better. Though when they say he's an anti-hero, they really aren't kidding!

It and its timeslot successor, Heard It Through the Grapevine were two of the year's best for sure - SBS Monday dramas seem to be mostly solid. I haven't really properly watched Six Flying Dragons but I feel like I should.

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I have only seen young pal from this !

And I really want to see Last and Punch ! I should probably try different genres in kdramas !

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I haven't finish Last. Maybe I'll give it another try. But I'll start Punch based on your review. And will watch Six after it finish airing.
Thanks Heads for your review :))

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The improbably suspenseful, alpha male jjajangmyeon showdown in Punch is my favorite moment of television ever.

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I knew it, that's either Heads or Gummi that will be relatable to me, and then one of them will include Last and Punch here wahh :D I'm just so happy that Punch is here with also a great great review with everyone :)

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"Writer Jang Hyuk-rin would later go on to win an award for best screenplay."

For what? It couldn't have been Yong Pal. (It wasn't, was it? If so, was the award universally recognized to be based on revenue rather than quality?)

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I feel sorry for the YP's writer and his original idea. Reset was his debut and was absolutely amazing. Big 3 must be the devil in disguise. I don't want to even imagine what would have happened to a drama like My Beautiful Bride (that writer's second work after Heartless City), had it been aired on one of the major channels. An award can never ever cover for a patchwork of stories combined in one show (unless it's a day-time drama). Maybe he's awarded for his patience and his high tolerance of very demanding CEOs, too many PPLs, pampered A-list actors, the live-shooting system, last-minute changes etc., etc. ...

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Glad that Punch got the recognition it deserves. Its such a gripping story with a hero (anti-hero) that you truly hated at the beginning of the show but ended up rooting for him even though you might not agree with everything he did at the end of the show. It takes great writing and amazing acting to draw such emotions out of the audience. I might not watch the show again but the plot and the emotions that I went through while watching still remain. I guess that's the power of good story telling. Hmmm ... Maybe time for me to check out The Chaser and Empire of Gold.

I've yet to start on Six Flying Dragons but it's now on my radar since I've heard so many good things. The number of episodes is the only thing that's keeping me away. I didn't realise it is from the same writer of Tree with Deep Roots. I loved that drama to bits. Guess this is one more reason to watch Six Flying Dragons.

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HeadsNo2, you rock! Five stages of grief in Dramaland...well done. Greatly appreciate you mentioning and showering affection on The Chaser, Empire of Gold, and Punch.

Underlying/overriding themes from the dramas listed in your series review:
"Does the world naturally move on the trajectory towards good?" ~ Last's Chairman Johwejang (President Jo)
Hitting rock-bottom.
Recognizing one’s limits and boundaries.
A second chance - to get one's life back.
Decisions you have to make in order to keep surviving another day.
Systematic and political corruption, egregious abuses, reprehensible ​conduct/​actions, and one's own wrongdoing.

Last ▪ Intense ▪ Action-Packed
"Yoon Kye-Sang, who’s made a career out of playing tough but downtrodden characters lately, put in an arresting performance..."
For the record, we're being lulled into a false sense of security. Another wonderful performance by YKS. He's spoiling us rotten as a former boy-band singer who has steadily transitioned into a weighty actor – The Greatest Love (aka Best Love), Beyond the Clouds (aka Full Sun), & now Last.

My Kdrama New Year's Resolution for 2016 – I’m going to have to break the cycle of marathoning Yoon Kye-Sang's drama after the series has aired.

PUNCH ▪ Outstanding ▪ "Tour de Force of Excellence"
Kim Rae-Won & Jo Jae-Hyun ▪ First-rate ▪ Awesome
Lots and lots of love and admiration for Punch. A thrilling, smartly written, and brilliantly acted bittersweet hallmark of a drama.
Limits vs. Boundaries (The difference and why it matters?)
Challenging Your Limits and Where to Draw the Line.
Setting Boundaries With Difficult People.
Givers have to set limits because takers rarely do.

YoungPal"A medical-action-romance-business-revenge-chaebol drama"...a coat of many colors.

Did it want to be a medical drama or a chaebol business drama? Was it Sleeping Beauty or Beauty and the Beast? And why, if you named your show after the alter-ego the hero would use when making house calls to gang members, would you make a show that wasn’t about that at all?

...its haunting visuals, sleek production design, and a damsel in distress who turned out to be hiding a very sharp set of teeth. It even featured a fun twist on the traditional gender dynamics we’ve come to know when chaebols are involved, making the hero the poor boy and the heroine the rich girl. Unfortunately it didn’t seem to know what to do with itself after that, with Yong-pal ending up as a trophy husband with little else to do but react to the bizarre goings-on in his wife’s legitimately certifiable family.

Different strokes for different folks. Pretty much every aggravation and sigh of annoyance you listed for disliking YoungPal is the main reason why I liked and enjoyed the drama as much as I did. (Shhh, don't tell the Healerites...YoungPal, I'd watch it again way before I'd ever replay an...

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Continued...
Different strokes for different folks. Pretty much every aggravation and sigh of annoyance you listed for disliking YoungPal is the main reason why I liked and enjoyed the drama as much as I did. (Shhh, don't tell the Healerites...YoungPal, I'd watch it again way before I'd ever replay an episode of Healer.) Hey, one has a right to one's personal preferences in dramaland. What can I say...I like what I like.

Shine or Go Crazy
You're right, it was fun escapist entertainment with a luscious color palette. Now while you were transfixed by Jang Hyuk's mane of glory locks...I found it hard to ignore and get past the awful wig Lim Ju-Hwan had to wear.

Denial - Six Flying Dragons - Time flies. It's at the halfway mark and I haven't even started...many many episodes to catch up on.

And then there were...
Other engaging dramas deserving of time in the spotlight: Sassy Go Go, My Beautiful Bride, Heard It Through The Grapevine, Heart to Heart, Missing Noir M, My Beloved Eun-Dong, and I Remember You.

In-line for Honorable Mentions: Mask, Valid Love, and Girl Who Sees Smells.

Sleek & Stylish Directing: My Beautiful Bride
A rockin’ soundtrack: Heart to Heart & My Beautiful Bride
Stellar ensemble cast: Heard It Through The Grapevine

I'm still holding out hope the other DB recappers chose to write about them in their year end reviews.

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I'm keeping my good faith with Six because of writer's past work (QSD never lost its momentum and actually get better each eps, only the xtention was felt in last 5 eps), and the writers actually working on Six for four years. Unless there's something unexpected goes wrong (like writer's death or anything)

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Ahhhh, which one should I watch first, Last or Punch? I need opinions from people who have seen both. Thank youuuu.

I'll keep on praying that Dragons will be good until the end. For your sanity and mine too.

I love you and your recaps, Heads! Keep rockin'!

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Punch first. Some comments describe it gripping and it's exactly that. All aspects of it was perfectly combined: writing, storytelling, acting, direction, art direction and character development.

I was really excited to watch Last, but stopped at episode 4. All of the above qualities was a little off for me in Last. Maybe I should've tried two more episodes, but the extra draw for me in Punch was the relationship between the anti-hero and anti-villian. All in all, Punch was not absolutely perfect, but close.

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Thanks! I'll start with Punch then. :)

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