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[2018 Year in Review] Scrapbook escapades

By Andy

This year I spent less time watching 2018 dramas and more time catching up on old gems that I missed. Hence my pickings for 2018 hence are very slim. To liven things up, I’ve created a summery-vibe scrapbook (because it’s always summer here!) to commemorate my favorite K-dramas. (Currently airing dramas that have stolen my heart like SKY Castle, Red Moon, Blue Sun, Twelve Nights, and Boyfriend are not included because I don’t trust K-dramas until I’ve watched the end. See: Misty, Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food.)

Life on Mars was an adaptation done superbly well when most fell flat (see: Suits). In fact, it exceeded expectations by going above, beyond, and even further into intergalactic space. It was impossible to top the momentum it built but it charged forward, dished out surprises, and ended with a bang that made my head hurt. The ending left most confused, some even angry, but I loved every single microsecond of this riveting and almost hyper-realistic show that I’d sell my soul to get a second season. (Okay, not really. Second seasons and crushed disappointment scare me to bits. See: Mystery Queen 2.)

Life on Mars was a blend of reality and surrealism. A back-to-the-past dream world that was real. It featured thrilling action, a supportive squad, characters that went through actual development, Officer Yoon who deserves her own show, arcs that were adapted to Korean history, head-bopping ’70s and ’80s music, comedy that’d make the most sullen person laugh (silent hospital fight = gold), impressive acting on all fronts, and an experience that will make you question everything while it takes you for an intense ride.

This is the drama for me when people ask for non-rom-com recommendations. I’ve managed to rope in university peeps, oldies, teens, gruff I-refuse-to-like-anything people (my family!) and even those sustained solely by a diet of fluffy romances. It made summer 2018 such an enjoyable experience. Nothing else in 2018 comes close to the thrilling 4D experience it signs you up for.

Matrimonial Chaos flew beneath most people’s radars despite being a gem. The drama was a hard rock-lullaby: soothing at times and then unexpectedly real. It’s quiet, organic, blissful, contemplative, impressive, and utterly engaging. The drama was like a diary, detailing moments of vulnerability and the way cracks form in relationships when small, insignificant things pile up into mountains.

Both Sohn Seok-gu and Cha Tae-hyun did well nestling into their three-dimensional roles with a quirky bromance. Both Bae Doo-na and Lee El were a tour de force, immersing me in their lived-in performances. I’d crumple when they did, sniffle at their pains, understand their suffocating situations, question their decisions, and celebrate their happiness. Whether it’s simple dinner conversations, divorce parties, moments of joy–they’re all brilliant here. Even side characters like Halmoni and the families felt real with their own ambitions, fears, and problems to deal with.

The drama was never bogged down by divorce as a “sad situation.” Instead it was one of ambiguity, heart, breezy laughter, sincerity, and calmness. If I still haven’t convinced you, watch it for the unlikely female friendship between the exes. Where most dramas use the divorce as an opportunity for jealousy, hair-pulling, and manipulation, Matrimonial Chaos stands out by painting a heart-warming bond with lots of advice and sis-fists.

Mother ranks as the best 2018 drama in my books. It isn’t for everyone since it deals with child abuse and is very difficult to watch. But there aren’t enough words to describe how I felt watching it. It was an emotional rollercoaster, yanking me into the tough world of Hye-na and Soo-jin. It gets your blood pumping and mouth gushing with praise. The cinematography is art, each visual metaphor carefully chosen and every shot meaningful.

The characters of Mother are hypnotizing. Every possible form of motherhood, biological or not, is explored along with what makes one a stranger. I held my breath every time our main mother and daughter were in danger or in pain. There were so many times that I felt I needed to protect Hye-na’s childlike golden heart.

This drama is a powerful force to reckon with (a perfect 10/10) but must never be binged because the emotional burnout is real. It was the most visceral, blinding, and empowering drama to grace my screen and for that I’m thankful. But you must watch it yourselves and feel the emotions quivering inside you, waiting to burst. The dialogue is poignant, every scene perfect, the acting impeccable.

Veering away from the best, the grand honor for biggest 2018 disappointment was: *drumroll* Misty, a tantalizing show featuring one of the most morally ambiguous heroines ever.

Go Hye-ran was a charismatic news announcer who would stop at nothing for her ambition, including exploiting her family and connections. She had a complex, ruthless nature that knew no boundaries, coupled with a quick wit and tough faรงade that made everyone bow down to her. Every episode unraveled the bigger murder mystery, spilling secrets about our morally grey antihero. I was initially hyped up with adrenaline, awe, and curiosity as we constantly decoded her thought process while she was one step ahead.

That magnetism kept drawing me closer. That’s why I was crisped into ashes when the drama crashed and burnt as magnificently and spontaneously as it had begun. A “misty” ending indeed. Would I recommend this drama to anyone? Yes! The ending was horrible, its message disastrous and the loose ends were plenty to nitpick about. Yet Go Hye-ran, the five-star acting, and the masterpiece narrative before the ending were great. Watch it to be mesmerized by her power-hungry appetite, impeccable wardrobe, and stunning OST. Plus, I like to see others suffer at the end. *cue evil music*

Now onto the dramas that surprised me. Mr. Sunshine was one that I cautiously looked forward to but had zero hopes for. I was never a Lee Byung-heon fan and I never actively liked any of Kim Eun-sook’s worksโ€”I’d appreciate their killer OSTs (Goblin) or eye candy but never stuck to the end in anticipation. Especially since I found so many of her dramas problematic (Heirs). Mr. Sunshine, though, was incredible. Sure, it was languid in its pacing, kicking up only in the last quarter, but rather than dilly-dallying, I felt like I was immersed in a safari of sorts, stopping to view pivotal moments within the daily life that cruised by.

It’s a very slow drama and needed a much tighter hand script-wise but the atmospheric tension and cinematographic grandeur it crafts made up for it. It enveloped me in the story, making me care about the revolution: the tragic back-stories, their misplaced idealism, fears, guilt, and greed. The questions it raised about aristocracy and the status-quo made me question their individual motives. The cast was superb (Yoo Yeon-seok and Kim Min-jung in particular) and while not all the comedy hit the mark, there was plenty to laugh about (see: frustrated bromance). This is a drama to watch when you’re free. It calls for patience to appreciate the glory onscreen without rushing.

The other two dramas that surprised me were also from OCN. The Guest broke out in full force, the horror seeping from the screen in the grim darkness where the worlds of shamanism and exorcism collided. I barely watch K-drama horror but the gorgeous, suspense-filled teaser got me waiting for the premiere. Boy, did it not disappoint.

The fast-paced intensity that gripped you and scared you with the hundred possible ways to get possessed. The directorial hand was masterful in creating an eerie, anything-can-happen atmosphere. I’ll never forget some scenes, like the crow and the first shaman ritual. But it was really the acting, interwoven storyline, and characters that set it apart from other horror dramas out there. Every character took my breath away. Hwa-pyung scared me with his visions, Kil-young wowed me with her fearlessness, and Yoon’s exorcisms gave me the shivers then sent me into shock. This isn’t for the faint of heart, and you’ll probably never look at water being gulped down in the same way.

Mistress was an underdog that went unnoticed, but at twelve episodes it packed a serious, mind-swirling punch. With four lifelong friends experiencing um… outside relationships in the center of a murder, it’s a wild dash to figure out what’s going on, who murdered whom and how everyone is connected. The drama melds the past and present timelines together and introduces everyone in a shady light, making it difficult to connect anyone and pinpoint what really happened that night. Twists are carefully planned, hints left behind, and stakes amped up every episode. I loved the zingy thrill of it. It was so incredibly tight!

Finally, some love for my favorite special: to.Jenny, featuring some of the most addictively relatable songs (“Tiramisu Cake” and “Nonhyungdon Samgyeopsal”) where he sorrowfully sings about being the lone diner amongst couples. The two episodes are full of heart, youth, indie music, and laughter. The best part? The fabulous kid-diva Ok-hee who has a way better love-game than her Oppa. She’s such an adorable know-it-all. My advice is to watch it if you haven’t and relish the breezy ride about growing up, first loves, and chasing your dreams.

P.S. I’ll definitely watch the much-loved My Ajusshi. Give me time, I’ll make you proud.

 
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*Just sends all the hearts to @fencejumper*

Gosh darn, Andy, youโ€™ve done it again! Your pieces are so wonderfully articulated with your special flair. Despite not having seen many dramas that you wrote about (I too, spent much of the year revisiting dramas from not-2018), I love your scrapbook images! They manifest your love of them and the life in them. <3 *dances away singing Tiramisu Cake*

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Thanks so much, bammsie! *captures and stores hearts forsafe-keeping* I just left some ๐Ÿ’–on your review! What is this telepathy? I hadn't even realised DB published this. *jumps around elated*

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*jumps around with you, ร  la Ssong-style* ๐Ÿ’–

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This was awesome! The pictures are really detailed and so nice! I didn't even know a drama name mistress came out but the story sounds so interesting, I really like murder mysteries and your words about mother makes me want to check it out.

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Thanks so much, @imbukuk โค I wanted to brighten up my ramblings so I decided to spice things up ^_^ Mistress is exceptional for a 12 ep drama. It keeps you guessing till the last moment but it's beginning is very sensual ๐Ÿ˜ as for Mother it's the definition of perfection.

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AWESOME work! I am a visual person so this appeals to me very much. I love your scrapbook images, the colors, the themes, the fonts - everything!

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Aww thanks @outofthisworld I'm a visual person too! I tried to convey the drama in a way that would rope people into binging them. *eye glints evilly*

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Well done @fencejumper. Your post script answered my burning question. I'm looking forward to your thoughts about My Ajusshi.

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I'll probably finish it in 2019 T__T But it's on the very top of my list! Seems like I'm always late when it comes to the good stuff.

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I think you've watched more of the good stuff this year than I have.

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Really enjoyed the article! I also love the art work you put in and the verdicts! Now I know what to add to my 2018 to watch drama list! (definitely adding To. Jenny along with Matrimonial Chaos and Life on Mars. Might try Mr. Sunshine, and will not try Mother as it's too emotional (?) and I usually get swept with the emotions for like, weeks.)

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Thank you so much โค To. Jenny and LoM are must watches and if you're into slice of life definitely check out MC! I totally understand your feelings on Mother cause it wrecked me in the best way possible but it was a very, very draining watch.

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I just watched To. Jenny yesterday and Tiramisu Cake managed to slipped into my dream and I'm singing that in my dream omg ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ glad I checked it out. That was sweet and cute โค๏ธ Ahh yes to slice of life! even more excited for MC now!
Yes... I'm no good with emotionally draining dramas tho I also wanted to know the story :(

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๐ŸŽถTiramisu Cake is so addictive! Imagine if you started singing out loud.๐Ÿ˜‚ MC is a gem -stick through the first few eps because the after ride is amazing.

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Thank you such a beautiful scrap book @fencejumper !
There is not enough that can be said in praise of Mother, I call it the drama that you should watch if there was just one drama that you wanted to watch in your life. Its a masterpiece of perfection.

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@oppafangirl YES! I love it when other people shower love- Mother is so deserving!

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I completely forgot I'd watched Mistress, and I thought no one else had! Such a great drama (with a terrible last five minutes).

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I didn't get the ending. Was it supposed to be a giant hint at a second season??

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Potentially. I just thought it was weird and trippy that they brought that guy back so suddenly - like, I should have been happy since he was my favourite character, but I was too mad by how little sense it made! ๐Ÿ˜‘

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Oh yeah I remember that and the weird flashback/camera turn around reveal they used to surprise us of his return. Hmm I guess they wanted the oompf factor.

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Thank you for sharing your beautiful article <3
Life On Mars was soo GOOD.. ah.. that silent fight was so Hilarious!
The 1988 team was jjang!!
10/10 for Mother.. hmm gotta check it out :)

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The silent fight, Captain head-banging Tae Joo princess style... LoM was brilliant! I couldn't get into other kdramas after that. Mother is a must watch if you're into emotional, brilliant rides.

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โญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธ
You deserve five stars!
Your scrapbook is jjang!!! Love the colours and your insight ๐Ÿ˜
Except for Mr Sunshine, I watched all the dramas in your scrapbook and agree wholeheartedly with your verdict!
Thank you for this!

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@suriyana-shah
๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’– Aww thanks! Glad we share similar tastes. ^_^

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What a creative post. I have not watched any of these.....except My Ahjussi, lol.
I am planning to watch To. Jenny in the next few days if not sooner.

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Meanwhile My Ahjussi's on my watch list for the next few days (if not sooner)... 0_0

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It really is special.

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I needed a year in review about MR. Sunshine. I havenโ€™t watched it yet but this drama got the highest number of viewers and it is the most beloved drama of 2018 in my country. Whenever I see a post about it in my language the number of people praising it and saying itโ€™s the best drama they have ever seen amazes me. So I really wanted to know opinions from the people of other countries.
Thank you for your post.

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Okay, you've convinced me. I'll start Matrimonial Chaos this weekend. @waadmay has been telling me to watch, and I've been dragging my heels (sorry may), but knowing the women don't sink to the usual has pushed it up the list.

Nicely written and illustrated @fencejumper. As a terribly impatient person who hates to do any kind of scrapbooking I really enjoy how you encapsulate your dramas visually.

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The women in Matrimonial Chaos are so well done that you'll want to hang out in the restaurant with them.

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@egads I happen to be terribly impatient too ๐Ÿ˜‚ but with a creative side-hobby and MC is a must watch!

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It's okay egads , it's really good you should definitely watch

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I started it! The first two episodes are excellent, and you were right, I like it.

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Glad you liked it , by the way I'm always right .
Note : Since we have almost similar taste and we both watched The Guest , you shouldn't maybe watch The Priest ๐Ÿ˜‡๐Ÿ˜

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Great review. The scrapbook images look so awesome!
Glad to see the love for LOM too! :)

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Andy,

This was a great write up. Life On Mars was my vote for best show of 2018...until Matrimonial Chaos came out and said 'Hold My Soju'. It really is neck and neck on which was the best for me.

Now Misty, I know people were very disappointed on the ending but I really thought in was fitting, especially with the characters. Tae-wook to me was a little punkish, dramatic, etc and was okay with the women in his life doing the heavy lifting and have their reputations take a hit as the result. Him going out like that was just the final chapter of what he thought was a tragic life he felt he had ( born of privilege, had a successful career that he was able to leave because he was married to someone who can continue to support them in the lifestyle that he was always accustomed to) and all because, he ambitious wife.....wanted to continue to be ambitious. Hye-ran, I loved because she was surrounded by people who just wanted to not take her off the pedestal that she busted her ass to climb, but then to stomp on her until she left a permanent imprint in the concrete. What some call morally ambiguous others will call surviving because you know that there is no one out there looking out for you.

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๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ The hold my soju bit.
I totally get why you were fine with the ending and I love how you see it as a her surviving the venomous industry! I guess my take is different because I was so swept with her journey I expected a more concrete or twisty ending instead of a Misty one. Ironic isn't it? Misty is still one of my ultimate favs tho.

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Wow!! I havent seen any of these dramas besides LoM (completely agree, and I loved the ending. I dont think it wouldve made sense with the theme of the show if the ending made sense) and the first part of To.Jenny.
*tries to resist the urge of taking up scrapbooking again*

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*cackles at you resisting the impossible-to-resist scrapbook urge*
Yay glad we both loved the ending! It honestly went so well with the trippy nature of the show. I had zero complaints about the mind-bogglingness ( I'm pretty sure that's not a word) of it all.

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Thanks for the lovely scrapbook review @fencejumper Andy. It looks like you put in a lot of time and effort designing the 'pages'.

I'm glad to see that you liked Life on Mars, The Guest and To. Jenny which I did too, a very great deal.

Here's wishing you a great drama year in 2019 and looking forward to more of your reviews. 😃

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@growingbeautifully โคโค I wanted to go all out with the creativity because this year my favourites stuck with me for a long time. Hopefully 2019 will have even more gems for the both of us! ^_^

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Hear! Hear! 😁

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This was so lovely @fencejumper! I loved your scrapbook, especially your to.Jenny one. When I first started watching kdramas, I did some scrapbooking of my favorite ones, but my book got filled up with other things. I think it's time to buy a new one! Happy 2019!๐Ÿ˜€

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to.Jenny was my favourite to do! I just went all out with the cakes and pink ๐Ÿ˜‚ Ooh same! My book ended up being 3 pages of actual scrapbooking and like 50 of random doodles and notes. Might need a new one too and Happy 2019!

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Wonderful writing.
SIMPLY wonderful. I wish I could write like that, at least in English๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜…
And yes, please watch My Ajusshi.
I want to watch To Jenny and Matrimonial chaos, they are on my list as well.

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Thanks @javinne *finger hearts* ๐Ÿ’• Your English seems perfect! My Ahjussi will be the first one I catch up on 2019. It's part of my New Year resolution ๐Ÿ˜‚

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Oh my! I love those scrapbook pages! I was a scrapbooker when my kids were babies! I still havr

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To watch my ahjusshi too! Iโ€™ll watch it with you when you decide! Great writing!

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Yay thanks @ally-le I'll definitely tag you when I start watching so I have someone along for the ride! And I bet your scrapbooks are amazing based on how engaging your family convos on the OT are ^_^

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You guys, it's time for me to see My Ajusshi as well. Where can we watch it now?

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Thatโ€™s a good question. Iโ€™m seeing it on the usual suspects. We could do a rabbit watch as well.

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If it's unavailable in your area @bbstl I wouldn't mind doing a rabbit watch. We can all catch up on it at the same time ^_^

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Iโ€™m starting My Ahjusshi tomorrow. I wonโ€™t be going a rabbit watch though, just downloaded it and it will be keeping me company on the plane!

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Oooooh!!! Enjoy, Ally! Itโ€™s a slow-burn, but I hope it hooks you in the end!

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Andy@fencejumper your visual inspiration to scrapbook these shows is just so darn charming, plus it's so well done, wow! Having seen many of the dramas, I shook my head, dropped my jaw and laughed out loud at so many of the details, what a treat! Your words are equally great, thanks so much for this great contribution to the 2018 wrap-up ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ This is really special.

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@bbstl Your words make me so happy! So glad we both liked the same shows. ๐Ÿ’– P.S I love your profile pic from WWWSK- it makes me chuckle everytime I spot you in the comments.

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This is a fantastic review... the only one I've watched on the list is Mr. Sunshine (fantastic show, one of my all time favorites), though I can say that I have wanted to watch most of the other ones for a very long time. I totally get what you mean about endings, a not so popular one The Ghost Detective came out this year, it was an absolutely fantastically produced show with a great cast and a great plot... however the ending completely ruined it for me, same with Something in the Rain, though I must say I still love Something in the Rain due to the underlying message I thing still exists. I haven't watched a drama in about two months, just because I felt like there were so many getting so repetitive... but this gives me hope that I may be able to watch something meaningful yet enjoyable. Thank you for your fantastic review.

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I've heard about how disappointing Ghost Detective turned out to be and was so glad I didn't live-watch it even though Daniel Choi and Eun Bin were calling out to me T_T I totally understand the slump and the repetitiveness (the rom-coms kinda failed me this year) but hopefully, 2019 will be a fantastic drama year for the both of us!

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Nice! Are you trained as a graphic artist, or are you just talented? Every time I try something like this, it looks like a 4-year-old made it.

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๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ I'm the same way with actual paper-pen drawing. My inner Sol (but not as cute) comes out. I love digitally designing things as a side-hobby but was never trained- I'm too lazy for that, sadly.

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This review is the best I have ever read! Exceptional art-work ๐Ÿค—

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Aargh I love this @fencejumper!

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