Beanie level: Eunuch in drag

Here’s a (potentially nerdy) question for all the c-drama viewers here on DB. I look forward to an interesting discussion (do please also tag people you think might have views on this):

The usual fare that we see in Chinese dramas (which I classify as harlequins on TV) is catering to a certain audience, and I respect that that audience is sufficiently large to bring the moolah in and to warrant rehashing the formula over and over again. 

But the industry not just about nubile women or pretty faces. There’s a phenomenal bundle of talent in the industry (e.g., Sandra Ma, who I thought was a powerhouse in Mr. Fighting). Plus, they are flush with funds (some of the stuff I have watched equals or outdoes average kdramas in production). In these circumstances, why is nobody in the mainland Chinese TV industry making high-quality television which exploits acting talent,  production values and good storytelling? (Do tell me if I am getting this completely wrong, and that there is stuff out there which is going under my radar.)

I have not watched much wuxia (because of a personal mindblock against costume dramas), so my assessment is based only on so-called ‘modern’ dramas that I have watched in bits and pieces over the past few months. I also do not include either Taiwanese or HK dramas in this assessment, which have strengths and problems of their own, from the little I have seen. 

(As an aside, I’m keen to know if anyone has recommendations for HK dramas – I am especially curious to understand how cultural identities are trying to be defined in current times – HK has done noir really well in cinema (Infernal Affairs has not aged at all), I’m sure that has translated into TV as well?)

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    I’m the opposite, because I mainly watch period Cdramas. I haven’t seen enough modern Cdramas to answer your question, and I happened to watch one that had acting talent, magnificent storytelling and superb production: NIRVANA IN FIRE. Not all wuxia are high-quality though. I’ve dropped quite a few as well.

    The only modern dramas I’ve watched were: WHEN A SNAIL FALLS IN LOVE and ARSENAL MILITARY ACADEMY. I thought both were very good.

    It seems like there are tons of Cdramas being produced (even more so than kdramas), so perhaps that gives the impression that in general they are lower quality?

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      “It seems like there are tons of Cdramas being produced (even more so than kdramas), so perhaps that gives the impression that in general they are lower quality?”

      This could be the reason. I haven’t tried either WHEN A SNAIL FALLS IN LOVE or ARSENAL MILITARY ACADEMY, which I shall keep in mind. The basis for my comment was the scores of campus/school romances that are all I see in the cdramasphere.

      I’ve been told by Chinese friends that the period dramas are excellent, so I need to watch that to change my views. I started watching JOY OF LIFE, and thought it was funny, but I didn’t stick with it after 2 eps for some reason.

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    Isn’t part of the issue, at least as it relates to storytelling, the severe censorship? It’s so hard to get around these issues with novel storytelling, so it would be easier to rehash the same stories. I haven’t really been able to get into wuxia either, but I have noticed the same issues you point out with contemporary mainland dramas, which is why I rarely watch them. I also think that the reason the most compelling (to me) contemporary mainland dramas are the youth dramas which have more freedom to play with universal themes that won’t trip up censorship. I think there are a few excellent dramas that do break the mold – but they are rare or harder to get made because they are going to face more obstacles in regard to getting made if they not in line with the tried and true formula; hence they may come off as more low-rent than the big budget productions that are more formulaic.

    These are just my thoughts, and I haven’t had the time to look into it more, though I’d like to. I am fascinated by the restraints censorship place on the C-drama industry, because it really takes effort to be able to make great stories while working under such restrictions.

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      Censorship is one possible reason. But even if we grant them that, and even if all that the industry can make is teen romances (or universal theme dramas, etc), why not make a really good one? I have watched most of the ones folks have raved about recently – LE COUP DE FOUDRE, PYHOMS, LOVE 020, SKATE INTO LOVE – and while they all have their enjoyable moments, I found nothing outstanding about the shows themselves.

      I’m curious to know which shows break the mould, according to you? I’ve heard good things about ADDICTED (and the trouble it ran into – but did it get popular because it ran into trouble, or was it genuinely a good show?).

      Censorship was what prompted me to ask about how HK TV was doing – I really have watched nothing from there – and in the circs., it’s especially interesting to me. Taiwanese drama seems to be more easily available, and definitely pushes the envelope more. There, it seems to be a problem of too much talent, not enough money.

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        I think what I was trying to get at was that the isn’t a huge market for making a really great youth drama yet because I think C-dramas are still dipping their toes into that pool. I enjoyed PYHOMS, Go Go Squid, Accidentally in Love, A Love So Beautiful – but I think those are very new to the C-drama market. Until they can become more of the norm I would assume from an economic perspective that production companies would be hesitant to invest a lot in these unless they could ensure both the audience and the ability to air. I mean, the censorship is at all levels from what I understand – it’s not just story, but also post-production, editing, changing storylines or eliminating them after they’ve filmed. With that in mind you need to have tried and true stories to stay in business; filming isn’t cheap, and if you have to scrap a whole portion of what you filmed, it can be expensive.

        I think what it boils down to is that censorship denies C-drama makers the luxury of experimentation. They’re not going to secure a massive budget unless they have a surefire hit on their hands and that likely means catering to the whims of the people and the censors i.e. boring and repetitive.

        I have enjoyed very few Cdramas if I’m perfectly honest – I loved Le Coup de Foudre, because I felt it was an unusual love story not in that it was a new story, but more in that it was innovative in how it was told. Early on we knew a lot of the shape of the story (the fact that they are married, they were in school together, they were separated at some point, etc.) but in filling in that outline we got a more rounded world of characters and storylines. I also liked that it didn’t feel like I was watching Chinese propaganda half the time (*coughGoGoSquid*). I really liked Dr. Qin Medical Examiner, which was a fun Sherlockian detective show, though I hear the second season (which recast the leads) was not good. I don’t know if they were as mold-breaking as some K-dramas or TW-dramas, but again, I largely chalk that up to censorship and an inability to express certain ideas in storytelling.

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    It’s only recently that I’ve started watching more cdramas and the majority I’ve seen are high school/college coming of age romances. These shows are a cute, fluffy watch and I appreciate the production team casting virtually unknown actors in these roles.

    Two modern dramas which I enjoyed a lot were Find Yourself and Le Coup de Foudre.

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      “the majority I’ve seen are high school/college coming of age romances. These shows are a cute, fluffy watch and I appreciate the production team casting virtually unknown actors in these roles.”

      Exactly my observation too! That’s what prompted my original comment! They’re a cute and fluffy watch, and there’s an audience for it (including myself occasionally), and it’s great that pretty young things are getting an opportunity, etc. etc. But there’s also probably many many veteran actors who can do justice to a solid script? Where are those actors, and where are those scripts? Are they not being made at all? Or are they being made and we don’t get to see them because our feeds are overrun by the cute fluffy stuff? I feel like I am missing a major piece of the c-drama puzzle.

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    There are tons and tons of cdramas and you get a lot of awful ones but then you find some gems among them. I love finding those gems.

    Cdramas also pump out tons of web dramas which are usually lower budget dramas.

    But a lot of the ratings and views tend to come from their period/costume dramas so a lot of the big productions and money goes towards those types of dramas. Dramas such as Nirvana in Fire, Story of Ming Lan or Story of Yanxi Palace you can tell put a lot of money into the productions. They are very high end.

    Some modern cdramas I really liked that had great actors in them is:

    Love me if you Dare (this one has Sandra Ma who I love)
    Go Go Squid
    Kings Avatar
    Reset Life
    Put Your Head on My Shoulder
    Find Yourself
    Skate into Love
    When a Snail Falls in Love
    My Love, Enlighten Me (I’m watching this now and so far I’m enjoying it)

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      I haven’t seen any web dramas – how do they compare against the Korean web dramas? Plus, the period dramas I have heard lots about, but not managed to dip my fingers in. I should try 🙂

      I tried LOVE ME IF YOU DARE for Sandra Ma (:D) but dropped it early, don’t remember why. I’ve also watched some of the others, and yes, even enjoyed them – e.g., SKATE INTO LOVE. But I was wondering if there were shows that were different from this standard (mostly trope-y) teen/campus romances that were coming out of China. As a comparator, I was thinking of, say, BLACK DOG (not a super brilliant show, but it uses the same school set-up to talk about different things), or even SCHOOL 2013 (which was uh-mazing).

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        Some of the web ones I personally like more than TV aired ones. One of the most popular cdrama The Untamed is a web drama. I actually am surprised to find out which are web dramas at times.

        Oh ya they have other dramas outside of your school romance type ones. I don’t watch those too often so can’t really recommended but there was one that just aired called Hunting that was quite popular in China and one airing now called Autumn Cicada that’s like a 1920s espionage drama that seems to also be popular.

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In my less-than-one-year of kdrama-watching, I never ever thought I’d see the day where an entire trailer for a kdrama would be in Hindi, and that too, one *ing @yyishere‘s Oppa (or is he ex-Oppa now? – because he didn’t email an apology?) Anyway, this is a legitimate ad for several reasons (we still have ads like this in India, i.e., kitschy costumed hilarity; the copy writing is genuinely funny, and pokes fun at Indian food /instant noodle eating habits; and the Hindi is accurate!). Pending an official English version, and because I’m still clutching my sides, I thought I’d try translating this myself:

PHJ: Have you ever tried Hot Chicken Noodles?
Costumed Heroine: Are you trying to be funny? If I wanted, I could eat a lot (? – this wass tough to transl., because the accent is poor)
[PHJ emerges from geyser of vegetables with spring onion in mouth]
PHJ: Made just for you. Hot Chicken Noodles without chicken.Costumed Heroine: There is no chicken in Hot Chicken Noodles?!
PHJ: Nods [Yes]
Costumed Heroine: Listen up people! Hot Chicken Noodles without chicken is here!
Random people in costume: Yay! [Start dancing]
A religious song (a paean to a Hindu god, Shiva) plays in the background.
There’s a kitschy poster with elephants raising their trunks at the 0.44 sec mark, with copy in Hindi (“shakahari hatdakamyan (?). Hum jis ramyeon ka intezaar kar rahe the”), that roughly translates to: “vegetarian ‘hatdakamyan’. The ramen we were waiting for.” 
PHJ finally signs off with: “Vegetarian Hot Chicken Noodles. Now you can eat hot chicken noodles. Korea.”

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Amazed at the overflowing comments section for TK:EM, but unable to bring myself to watch it, after having been burned by the first episodes of several other KES dramas (what on earth was DOTS? Secret Garden? Heirs?), I thought I’d give her another shot, and started City Hall, based on multiple recommendations from Beanies on the Fan Wall. And whoa, I’m totally blown away by this show. I can only say thank you to all of you for highlighting this here.

For a 2009 show, it has aged *very well*. Sometimes the acting comes across as wooden, or two-dimensional, but the writing actually shines – whether it is in the plotline (nothing original here, but even so), or the dialogue (quick-fire, sometimes I need to slow it down). I’m only about half-way through, but it’s definitely among the better shows I have seen. Such a shame she’s stopped writing stories like this. 

In any event, a few things about this show stood out to me so far:
1. The plot is essentially a Pygmalion/My Fair Lady story – so far, at least, till about ep 10.

2. There’s not much face paint, and the actors look like real people. Why don’t dramas do make up like this anymore? It would be so much easier on the eye. 

3. In terms of cinematography, the city and fishmarket scenes are so real, not at all manicured. Very well done. The indoor sets, however, are terrible. 

4. I don’t much like either of the leads. Too much aegyo from Kim Sun-Ah, too much macho-ness from Cha Seung-Won. Sure, it was probably part of their remit, but it grates sometimes.  Even so, even with leads I don’t like, this show is a really compelling watch. This says something about how good the story is.

5. To reveal how shallow I am, Yoon Se-Ah is *beautiful*. I thought she was a stunner when I saw her first in Just Between Lovers and then again in Stranger and in the first few episodes of SKY Castle. I can’t stop ogling at her whenever she’s on screen. I feel like I’m stalking her. (Elsewhere, I’m stalking Yoo Yoon-Seok – to fill in the gaps between the weekly installments of Hospital Playlist, I watched  bits of Warm and Cozy , which I did not like, but he’s still eye candy. Maybe I have a thing for Yoons…) 

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    If you love Yoon Se-ah, check out Three Meals A Day in the Mountain

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    So pleased to hear that City Hall stands the test of time and you like it. It has been my all time favourite and it totally blown me away when first released back in 2009. As you said, the story is compelling (although I love the KSA-CSW pairing to pieces as the most mature and romantic OTP in my book). Ep 10 is where the story getting more and more intense till the very end and its ending is the best ever – hope this is not a spoiler.

    I’m sure you know but just in case – Samsooki’s recap is here at DB: http://www.dramabeans.com/2009/07/city-hall-episode-1/

    JB is not a fan of this drama, I recall, and Samsooki took it on to guest-recap (which was very rare in the early days of Dramabeans.

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      And I kind of hope, one day, KES could produce something as great as City Hall instead of the big buzz but disappointing fares in recent years.

      Yoon Se-ah is quite a regular in KES dramas but the last was A Gentleman’s Dignity in which she quite stole the show.

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        And a bonus is to see greenie Lee Joon-Hyuk as the aide of CSW.

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          I know!! Now there’s an actor who I feel hasn’t quite got his due on screen yet. He was excellent in Stranger (or maybe I just like everyone and everything about that show). Can’t bring myself to watch 365 because the story doesn’t interest me, but it’s great to see him here! He looks like a kid in front of CSW and KSA. 😀

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      I just finished ep 10! Thank you. I have been reading Samsooki’s recaps alongside watching the show, and really enjoying it.
      I’m surprised at how fast-paced the drama actually is. I went in with a great deal of hesitation, because (a) it’s an old show; and (b) I was expecting it to be slow-burn, slow-paced. But the story moves really really fast. It’s a great ride.

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    City Hall is an absolute gem^^
    And well, I adored CSW and KSA together! I remember being so obsessed with them, saving their pictures and looking at them every day:))) I miss those days.

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Is it just me or do others also periodically get logged out of their accounts without their doing anything?

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    Yup!! 🤷🏻‍♀️

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    This looks like a bit of a problem, going by the number of likes it has garnered. Maybe @db-staff can do something about it?

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    It happens to me when I connect from different devices, but I have saved username and password, so it doesn’t bother me

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      I access the site from one device only, and usually keep the page logged in somewhere in the background. I also have a saved username and password so that’s useful.

      But what gets annoying is when it logs you out *after* you have composed a post/comment and hit “send” – then it goes into a refresh tailspin and while you keep waiting for the darned refresh to actually happen, you realize you have been suddenly logged out and the post/comment is lost forever between refreshes… So now when I want to write a long-ish note, I compose elsewhere before posting here. 😀

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        Ah! No, the refresh tailspin happens a lot to me, but at least it doesn’t log me out…

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    I do, but I figured it was a general reset function. I’ve been re-logging in for a long time but didn’t think much of it.

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      Oh, this happens to me at least once (usually not more than once) every daily session I access the site. It’s not super-annoying, but it definitely is an issue.

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      Me too. I thought it was supposed to do that.

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      Oh for me it happens about once a month or so. When you re-sign in do you check the box to “keep me signed in”? I wonder if it’s your browser. Once a day would be annoying to me for sure!

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        I don’t get a “keep me signed in” option. I get a “remember me” option which I occasionally remember (:D) to check. But I always thought “remember me” was for saving the username and password, and not for “keep(ing) me signed in”. It could be my browser. I will try switching and see if anything changes.

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    It happens to me once or twice a month.

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Nobody Knows: A beautiful end to a great show. 

It was a superb ensemble cast, helmed by the incredible Kim Seo-hyung, whom I was watching for the first time. She has chemistry with *everyone* she’s on the screen with – whether it’s her chingu, her hoobaes, sunbaes, the villain…  Park Hoon totally upped his game in the last episode. The kids were the stars truly – I would impatiently wait for their scenes every episode.  It still had too many flashbacks, and I do wonder if this would have been an *even better show* with a tighter episode run. But overall, it was so satisfying, I’m just… sigh…

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    Her smile is just soo gorgeous…
    The room with all the shelves waiting to be filled, it is indeed a beautiful ending. *sobs*

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      Yes! I loved that bit with the empty bookshelves waiting to be filled in a room that no longer has dark walls and the door is no longer shut. Her character may have had a dark past, but she always kept hope alive (books, plants) – and that defined her magnetism. Ji-won recognized that too, and joined the ducklings club. Tae-hyung too! So many ducklings she has now 🙂 (it’s a shame the ship didn’t really sail, though :/)

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        She said that she’s not sweet and thoughtful like Eun-ho, but we know her better now!
        As for the ship, I’ll just think that playdate is a step towards real date ><

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        Hooray for good duckling Tae-hyung!

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I was on the fence when Episodes 1 & 2 aired; warmed up with Eps 3 & 4; and liked Eps 5 & 6. But A Piece of Your Mind just upped its game exponentially with Eps 7 & 8. Just. Wow. (notes below)

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    I absolutely loved the phantom touch angle and the subtext on sensory perception and artificial intelligence. That sold me.  As much as I thought the quantum mechanics part was a little pretentious, I still enjoyed it (although Viki subs have disappointed hugely!). Now that the obsessive staring has become mutual, it no longer feels like stalking.

    I am not picking up on the romantic vibes from this show still (I have low EQ). But it really does not matter to me now. This is a very very refreshing take on human relationships, and what it means to be alive.

    If only the first two episodes had shown this degree of editorial and directorial control, I would have been sold on the show much much earlier. Now, I’m hoping this show keeps it going for the remaining (and curtailed) duration of 4 episodes!

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      Although I don’t talk a lot about it (because my fan wall is 90% me gushing about how key-yoot these two are), I really like some of the themes. The discussion throughout about technologically-mediated relationships and their inadequacy vs in-person relationships, as well as how technology is in general a poor substitute for real people (even though real people are far more complex and difficult to understand), is really interesting and fresh.

      I also like how closed the universe in this show is the. We don’t have a sprawling dramatis personae here. We just have a few characters, yet this small cast is makes up this whole rich world. It’s like what Ha-won and Seo-woo keep saying. One percent and one person are really all you need for you to be able to overcome trauma and pain, and one percent and one person can be the greatest hope and joy in your life.

      The flip side as well, though, is how this show demonstrates that, just as one person can be the source of all your happiness, one person can also be the source of all your anguish.

      It’s a balancing act and I love that about this show.

      As an aside, I also love that the plot in this show (except for episode 2) isn’t being driven by a whole series of fantastical events (not at this point, anyway). It’s just small changes in the relationships between these characters that snowball.

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        This was so well put! Much better than how I could say it.

        Yes, for me personally, this show’s central theme is about real and virtual relationships, and all the baggage that goes with both. It is visionary in its treatment of ‘technology-mediated relationships’ (great phrase!) and pushes a lot of boundaries. I’ve only watched I’m Not a Robot before that tries something similar, but I did not enjoy that as much. This is far superior and more complex in its storytelling.

        And well caught on that “one person / 1%” motif. Although masked in overcoming trauma and harboring one-sided crushes, I thought this was a clever way to talk about interdependencies and the relevance of ‘community’ – peopled with real flesh-and-blood.

        I also like your observation about the small universe. We’ve been introduced to a small cast, and some of their lives are yet to collide. I feel the coincidence-trope is maybe being overused here, but at the same time, it helps viewers focus on the central themes better.

        At this stage, for me, the romance is completely inconsequential, and not even necessary to go all the way for a satisfactory end (of course, it’s a bonus, but not at all essential, IMO).

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#MyAhjusshi #rewatch Ep 6

Life’s Like That

The show’s central objective, which it never forgets, is to ask questions about life and existence and mediocrity and middle aged meaninglessness. So it has these acutely insightful dialogues like the one between Dong-hun and his wife. 

But the gravitas is always only momentary; it never lasts long. A few minutes later, the seriousness of the dialogue is soon punctured by an atrocious, hilarious montage of scenes of the brothers walking in a feather shower down the streets. 

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    It’s so hard watching how wrecked DongHun marriage is. None of them know why they’re still together making the other so miserable. There’s the memory of having been in love and loving each other, but it seems it just faded away.

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      I’m not even sure there’s that memory left at all. They’re so bitter – both of them – to each other, to themselves, and about the marriage. In the show, the other marriage that has chinks is that of Sang-hoon and his wife – a parallel story, but of a different kind – who also don’t know how to to get out of it…

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        People who are miserable together shouldn’t stick together only because it’s what society demands. Life is too short not to have a relief.

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          So true. In real life and in dramas, I don’t understand why people just don’t cut toxicity out of their lives completely! It’s as though they derive some sort of sado-masochistic pleasure out of negativity.

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#MyAhjusshi #rewatch Ep 5 

What’s in a name

The meanings of people’s names are so important, yet quickly forgotten as you work your way through life. Your name signifies all the hope that your family has poured into your future. What’s in a name, you may ask. Here, we have Ji-an wondering if she has made her name her enemy. This was the first time I saw a character name explained in kdrama, and placed so well in context.

This scene had so much subtext, beautifully done. Ji-an hesitated to describe what her name meant. Did she not want to say it out loud? Did she not want to remember it? Or was she thinking she should have been named differently? Was she feeling guilty for not wasn’t living upto her name, because she couldn’t offer her grandma a comfortable life? Dong-hun, having seen her help her grandma out the previous night,  said that she was well-named. But did his remark reassure her, or did it just make her feel more incompetent?

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#MyAhjusshi #rewatch Ep 4

Realism in ambiguity

This show offers no clear answers, and is full of ambiguity. It leaves the audience to make what they will. This ambiguity – peppered throughout – is precisely what makes it a complex drama, because it doesn’t hand you solutions on a platter. Just like real life. It makes you think about every little glance, word, dialogue, scene over and over again, long after you have watched it…

Take, for example, the confrontation in the conference room between Dong-hun and Ji-an about the attempted kiss. We have enough background information to infer why she did it: she wants to have him caught in flagrante delicto and extract her 10 million won. She offers, of course, a different explanation of why she did it to Dong-hun. But in between the truth we think we know, and the lie she tells him, there are multiple layers to be uncovered. Even Dong-hun doesn’t seem to understand or believe her fully. Did she really do it out of pity? Or because she liked him? Or out of empathy? Or because she wanted to satisfy her own desires? Or to distract both of them from their weary lives? Will we ever really and truly understand either of them?

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    There is a truth behind every lie.
    Every episode I found myself more and more drawn to JiAn.

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      Yes! Ji-an is fascinating, but my favorite character in the show is actually Dong-hun’s best friend. More about that when the episode comes…

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    Dropping by to say that I love your analysis and how I gather things that I otherwise missed when I watched the show. I completed the show a month ago too and didn’t check the comments because the whole experience would’ve been very overwhelming so it’s nice to come across yours, @eazal and @leetennant ‘s in this watch/rewatch.

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      Thank you! My analysis is kind of disjointed, and not sufficiently reflective of what I feel when I watch/rewatch this show. It’s just that kind of a drama that leaves you at a loss for words. I can’t think of any other show that has done this to me. A few books, maybe, but never a TV show!

      I am also only now slowly reading the recaps and the comments as and when I watch each episode. I expected there to be many more comments considering what a phenomenal show this was, but the numbers are surprisingly low!

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#MyAhjusshi #rewatch Ep 4

Everyday philosophy – this show makes you ask profound questions through the briefest of dialogues and the smallest of scenes. 

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Kim Hwan Hee’s Playbook of Emotions

I already knew I had kdrama addiction, but I realised recently that my illness had mutated into scene addiction too! If viki had a replay count for this scene, I’d have broken some kind of a record by now. @mindy already put up a post sharing this video, and I commented on it too, detailing what I thought were the various emotions KHH, the actress playing Hwi, guided us through (see here: http://www.dramabeans.com/members/mindy/activity/1023786/). 

After multiple rewatches, and killing the arrow keys on my board, I realised that the performance was so nuanced, I had missed out on several smaller, finer subtleties in my original list, and this deserved better documentation. 

The youtube extract doesn’t capture the whole scene I’m referring to, which starts roughly at 47.00 and runs till 50.30 (roughly 210 seconds). If my description of the scene is accurate, Hwi roughly switched emotions every 10 seconds. That is one helluva range. 

Here is what I thought this scene was about:

1. Walking back home on her bike, Hwi is sad when she thinks that ES will not return this time. 
2. Hwi sees ES outside their home, and expresses relief through a veil of annoyance by throwing the bike down and punching ES, before storming off.
3. Hwi sneaks back to peek at ES, curious to see what he’s doing. 
4. Hwi remarks gloomily that he’s going to leave anyway, and sarcastically tells him to go away.
5. Hwi switches to irritation when she realises he’s still fiddling with her bike, even when she knows he’s planning to go away. 
6. She yells at him angrily to leave anyway, dramatically imagining him sailing on a boat in the Pacific.
7. She sighs cathartically after her mini-yelling session.
8. In response to ES’s question of when she ever loved him, she answers indignantly, :from when she was born”, exasperated that he can’t seem to understand it.
9. After ES asks “why” (and that’s his best line in this scene!), she is barely able to hold back tears of sadness+anger+confusion+love while having to break it down for him, “because you are my brother, because you were always my brother, from the time I was born”. 
10. Hwi is frustrated – doesn’t ES get it? She can’t do anything about him being her brother, and her loving him for that.
11. And then she swings to a sobbing declaration of hate-love – she hates ES because even as he knows all of this, he ought to know all of this, he’s still going to get on that boat and go away.  
12. Then Hwi is just confused by his continued presence – “I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m going to tell Mom and Dad.” – and stomps off in search of their parents.
13. She has just reached the door when she hears ES tell her the saddle was expensive. Like a child being told she’s being given a present, she turns around, her tears stop momentarily, and her face contorts into an expression of curiosity, her eyes rounded.
14. Hwi is secretly surprised and happy that she’s got an expensive gift, stops sniffing and clarifies that’s the case from ES.
15. Hwi then cracks a joke, about ES not having expressed himself to her using material means (even in her emotional breakdown, she is able to see the light side of things!)
16. Hwi is overjoyed at the saddle – it’s the same one she saw in the shop, which she wanted.
17. Hwi berates herself for having mistook the cost of the saddle.
18. Hwi is sarcastic again, telling ES he has a lot of money, and that he should have given her cash instead. 
19. Even though she is cracking jokes through dialogue, Hwi’s actions are a stark contrast – she can’t stop staring at the saddle, realising perhaps that this is ES’s way of showing her he loves her too, just as much as she does.
20. Hwi gets angry again, when ES, true to character, tries to lighten the tension by laughing at her crying (just as he did when HW got angry with him for not calling her from Seoul, or inviting her to the book launch) – why is he laughing when she’s crying. 
21. After she shoves him out of the way, and gets on the bike, she’s happy the saddle is comfortable.
22. She’s not just happy, she’s delighted! She loves it! She’s forgotten about all the angst she was going through moments before. Her tears have dried up. She has a big smile plastered on her face. ES is happy to see his sister happy. She rides off down the hill, back to her old self, yelling, “Out of my way!”   

I’ve not paid much attention to what was said or done by ES/SKJ here, because I think he’s just a prop or an accessory in the entire scene, much like the bicycle or the saddle. I can’t stop fangirling over Kim Hwan Hee – she is just 17! So much more lies ahead for her!  

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#MyAhjusshi #rewatch Ep 3

If someone were to ask me what this drama was about, based on this episode, these are the key words I came up with: Middle aged loneliness. Middle class mediocrity. The absence of temptation. Boredom. Frustration. Hatred. Jealousy. Joblessness. Depression. Lethargy. Dullness. Failure. Demotivation. 

No one would want to watch this drama based on this description. But this is what makes it so compelling: its realism. This drama holds up a mirror to all of us. Life’s exactly like this. Everyone you know and their aunt has or will experience all of these things. Even you will. As will I. It’s just that it will all be bundled up in a ball of chaos, happiness, kindness, love and more. And just like life, this drama never really resolves these issues with any finality. All it does is leave you with the realisation that it’s all a package deal. You live life with all of this, and take what you want from it (including the choice to not live life at all). It’s a powerful spiritual/existential message to leave an audience with.

The more I think of it, the more I realise it’s such a bold and ambitious subject to take up for a drama intended to be aired on prime time television. It takes a lot of courageous people to pull this off. Thank you to all of you who made this for blessing us with this gem.

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    I still wonder how they got it approved to be made. They must have waited a while for that. While PD KWS has worked on non conventional stories and made them a hit, this is the kind of show that’s opposite to commercial entertainment, the one that sells. This has to be a passion project of the writer and director and I’m glad they made it possible because we got to see it.

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      I know, right! It’s like a lot of pieces just fell together at the right time and the right place. So grateful!

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        KWS fell in love with the script the moment he read it and wished he had received it earlier, but I remember going noooo… This was produced at just the right time to get this perfect cast together, including the last minute substitution of Park Ho San. Furthermore, KWS had so much faith in the script and crew that he unabashedly declared it a masterpiece at their first script-reading session.

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#MyAhjusshi Ep2 #rewatch 
While I figure out what’s going wrong with my gif game, here’s another note from this episode. 

In this rewatch, I was paying closer attention to the lesser characters, because I felt that the first time around I was so overwhelmed by the leads that I had pushed these folks into the sidelines. Here’s one scene that caught my eye.

There is this scene where Dong-hun’s boxes and files are returned to him, and his juniors are staring at the entire ceremony of the stuff being returned. A short 15 second scene ensues where an entire conversation takes place between Dong-hun and two of his juniors, EXCEPT not a single word is spoken! Instead they use those boring office chairs on wheels to “talk”.  This is another lesson in storytelling without dialogue: How to use props to good effect. Who would have thought boring office chairs could be used to move the story forward?   

This is how I translate this scene plays out:

Junior 1: “What just happened?” 
Dong-hun: “I don’t want to talk. Go away” 
Junior 2: “Okay, if you don’t want to tell him, tell me instead.”
Dong-hun: “I said GO AWAY!”
Junior 2 (to J1):  “What’s up with him?”
J1 to J2: “Aish. Leave him be for now. We’ll figure it out later.”
J2: “Hmph. Okay.”

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#MyAhjusshi Ep2 #rewatch 

So much of the story is left unsaid in the drama. Its emotional quotient is intense even in the most fleeting of scenes, and using the most peripheral of characters. In 3 seconds, I felt like I understood all this: 
(1) Dong-hun was afraid of being labelled as an errant co-worker; 
(2) DH was embarrassed/ashamed to be called out to be investigated like this in front of his  juniors; 
(3) His juniors were shocked/bewildered at seeing him in this situation; 
(4) DH was angry at Ji-an for not speaking out.

So much to process in so little time! This is one way in which the show is such a complex and compelling watch.
PS: The #firstever gif I made – like, in life (yay!!!) 

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    Actually in my humble opinion Koreans are geniuses in showing the unsaid. It is just more apparent in more muted shows like MA. But this is the exact reason behind some of my most favorite shows being favorites. Some of them are quite loud and flashy and this aspect might completely escape most international viewers, but they still make me feel gutted about unsaid feelings.

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      So true! I have been trying to understand why I have fallen head over heels for kdramas, and this is probably one key reason why.

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    Aargh! My gif didn’t show up. I’m doing something wrong but no idea what. I can see it on my computer, but not on the screen – any tips?

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      If you’ve loaded the gif as a picture, it’ll only show a still. You can use the video function but I prefer to embed them myself.

      Left bracket img src=”gif.gif” Right bracket

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        thanks! Do you give the full file path for “gif.gif”, or is it just the file name? (I wish DB had a separate page for figuring how to fix these issues!)

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        dumb question – obviously full file path. but I’m still doing something wrong. I tried a few test posts but failed. I will spend sometime figuring out what.

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        So I’ve tried both embedding (via a giphy link) and using html, but neither works.

        Embedding gives me an error saying it could not be processed; html gives me a question mark in a blue square. I played around with every imaginable file path variation I could come up with, no special characters in the file path (not even numerals), removed/added slashes, etc., but it still doesn’t work.

        I am now thinking it might be a specs problem (Mac 10.14.6+safari 13.1), but couldn’t find this to be an issue on any forums online. If you have any ideas, do let me know!

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      If I click on the picture, it shows up as gif. You probably knew that?

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        Haha I didn’t! Thanks for pointing it out.

        If I click on the picture, my screen freezes for a few seconds, so I just figured there was an error! Thanks for pointing it out. I still want those pretty animated gifs that animate without anyone having to click on it. I will keep tearing my hair out to see what I am doing wrong…

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#MyAhjusshi Ep2 #rewatch 

After I first finished the show (and I have watched it only once), I remember digesting all of it and thinking that it was a slow-paced show. On my first rewatch this time around, I went in with the same expectation, and having since watched a few more kdramas (and dare I say, become more experienced), I looked for the usual techniques that tend to be used to slow things down in dramas: slow motion shots, long pauses between dialogues, interminably long stares between characters, overuse and repeat of flashbacks. But I found practically none (barring two very tiny flashbacks to make the character recall a forgotten dialogue) in this episode – I can’t remember what it’s like in the rest of the show, but it will be something I will be looking out for. 

Thank you @leetennant for starting off on the rewatch, and inspiring me to join in! I wasn’t around DB when it live-aired, so I will use this opportunity to gush about how much I love this. I realised I have so much to say, I was taking notes while watching this episode! (I skipped ep 1 because I had rewatched just that one recently). I will try and restrict myself and not go overboard in my gushing, so as not to hijack the fanwall. 

Also, this line/screenshot reminded me of (one of) the April ToTM(s). 😀 

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    Please don’t hold back from gushing! This show needs to be revisited every so often so more people are exposed to it. It’s too beautiful to be forgotten.

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      So true! This is a show of the highest order in every respect. It excels in every part of the filmmaking process that I can think of: storytelling, dialogue, direction, acting, music, art direction, makeup, sound, cinematography, lighting… I remember just sitting quietly and thinking about what I had just gone through after I finished watching this show for the first time. It was beyond overwhelming. It was indescribable.

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        Inviting @eazal to this mini DB rewatch.

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          It will be my first watch!!! I’m planning to begin this weekend and catch up with you!!!

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            Awesome! @leetennant has proposed a schedule of 2 episodes a week, along the lines of how it was originally aired (also, it cannot be enjoyed if it is binge watched – it really needs to be savoured slowly). So she’s 4 episodes in. Next week is ep 5 and 6.

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            I’m glad you are giving it a try even if the first two episodes were a little hard for you to get through. Hang in there and I believe you’ll be sucked in before too long.

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Prompted by #NICEWEATHER and the book it\’s based on: Any recommendations on Korean fiction translated into English? Literary fiction, preferably. I want something new to read. 🙂

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My discovery of the day for #musicmarch: Jung Young-joo’s singing. I have no words, just awe.

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Ooh I didn\’t realise – I have leveled up to Water Maid now. Thanks to @sicarius and that glossary (is there a permalink somewhere?), I now know what that refers to too!

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This drama had its problems, but this song stayed in my head for a while. I like how they use the songs as proxies for conversations – OSTs like this are especially fun! And Joy does a great job!

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Like so many of you, I maintain that STRANGER is one of the best-made kdramas ever out there, and I can’t wait for Season 2 to be out. I was delighted to discover that Cho Seung-woo is also a musical theatre artiste, and immediately went searching for his performances. Sadly, there aren’t enough on youtube (or I’m looking with wrong keywords).  For this edition of #MusicMarch, here is his excellent cover of a classic made popular by Sinatra. 

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