Flower Boy Next Door

4 kdramas for new watchers

Everyone’s got to start somewhere, right? Boys Over Flowers, Coffee Prince, City Hunter–those were some of the big gateway shows for my corner of the internet. (Coffee Prince was my first ever kdrama, thanks to Crunchyroll, though it was a different show that got me hooked.)

I was thinking today about what shows I would recommend to someone new to kdrama. Which shows did a good job with tropes I would later come to recognize as staples of their genres? Which ones are good enough that they’ll hold up to viewing after the new and shiny have worn off? I finally settled on four dramas (not listed above) that I thought would be a good jumping off point for people who are just starting out:

#1 – School 2013

Why it’s a good beginner drama: This drama has a bit of everything you’ll need to be familiar with if you’re interested in teen/youth-oriented shows: school violence/bullying, ridiculous academic pressure, societal despair, etc. You’ll learn fast that there are a lot of shit adults in the world–and also some who will go out of their way to help a lost soul or two. A strong ensemble cast and multitude of interweaving (and emotional) plots keep the viewer engaged. It’s ultimately a hopeful story about high school students gearing up to face the adult world in the near future.

#2 – Flower Boy Next Door

Why it’s a good beginner drama: This slice-of-life contemporary romance provides a good look at the common romance roles (heroine, hero, second female lead, second male lead) and some of the standard plot roles they tend to fill. However, in a fun twist, it’s the hero who is the bubbly bit of sunshine while the heroine is more reserved. You’ll get a taste of frequent twenty-something plots, like career issues, uncertainty about romance, sorting out what life means to them, etc. Also, point to this drama whenever anyone tells you that asshole male leads must be tolerated in romantic kdramas. NOPE.

 

 

#3 – Arang and the Magistrate

Why it’s a good beginner drama: I know a lot of hardcore sageuk fans will poo-poo the notion that fusion is a good way to start historical dramas, but one of the benefits of this show is that you literally do not need to know anything about the Joseon era in order to dive into it. While a wide range of historical figures either feature directly in or are major background players to a lot of sageuks, the king and all of his assorted palace drama are so far away he never appears on screen. A new viewer can get used to the historical outfits and character types (shaman, loyal servant, corrupt local officials, etc.) without needing to pause and look up political factions, historical events, and impending massacres.

#4 – Heartless City

Why it’s a good beginner drama: This fast-paced cops vs. gangster drama will thrust you deep into the seedy underground of Seoul, and you might never want to leave. You’ll get to see some of the best versions of character archetypes, from kingpins in well-tailored suits to loudly dressed (and accented) minions to sexy femme fatales to undercover and corrupt (and corrupt undercover) cops. This will serve as an excellent entryway into the Korean gangster movie genre, too, if you want a whole lot more violence and a whole lot more sex once you’ve got the basics down.


Apparently my golden age was 2012/2013. Those are my four recommendations for beginner kdrama watchers. What would make your list? Let me know!

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Save Me, Episode 2

TL;DR: I figured you weren’t going to make it through the whole show based on the opening, but I really thought you’d last longer than episode two.

So this is an upsetting, distressing episode. We’ve got multiple sexual harassment scenes, bullying scenes, a hero fumbling his test of character, and ultimately a death from suicide. It took me about four hours to get through this episode because I kept getting angry for characters and/or wanting to chase the cult members off. Just so you know before you dive in. Continue reading “Save Me, Episode 2”

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Newborns, wage lawsuits, and drama news

I don’t know about everyone else, but my summer seems to have gone by way too fast. I can’t believe it’s already August.

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What to do when you’re in a slump?

I’ve had a look at the dramas coming up in the next couple of weeks, and the only one that strongly piques my interest is While You Were Sleeping–which doesn’t premier until the end of September. (I do plan on continuing to watch Save Me, for the record, but that will end before WYWS even starts.)  I’ve got a long list of movies to tackle, so you can expect some headway on those, and there’s Queen In-hyun’s Man, but that’s going to be sporadic and slow because I’m watching it with a friend.

My viewing schedule is pretty blank, and that just isn’t fun. Tonight I circled back around to my list of older dramas that I haven’t seen yet but that everyone has raved about, and I remembered that I wanted to try my hand at a recap.

So, I’m anxious pleased to announce that I’ll be doing a first-time-watcher’s recap + commentary for My Beautiful Bride! I have only done one tv show recap before, and that was five years ago. I’m going to be a bit rusty and slow as I remember how this works. (And sort out just how detailed I want to be with the recap part. I am a terribly slow writer–my normal commentaries take me at least an hour, typically.) I thought MBB would be a fun place to start since it sounds right up my alley and there won’t be any pressure to keep up with a live viewing schedule.

So, yeah. New project for me! Because that’s precisely what my life needs. I’ll get started on it once I catch up with Save Me.

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Save Me, Episode 1

TL;DR: You’re all way too old to be playing high school students.

But I’m okay with that. You know why? Because the actress playing our heroine is also too old. The showrunners didn’t cast an adult male as the hero and a teenage girl as the heroine—Seo Ye-ji (the actress playing Sang-mi) is 27 to Ok Taecyeon’s 28. Two of the heroic quartet are even younger (can’t find a birth year for the third), and the actor playing Sang-mi’s twin brother is 26. The actors are all pretty close in age, so not only do I get to avoid behind-the-scenes age-squick, but I’m also way less distracted because they look like they could have been peers in an actual high school.

(Just, you know, a decade ago.) Continue reading “Save Me, Episode 1”

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4 kdramas that I wish had a second season

I know, I know—second seasons are a mixed-to-terrible bag in dramaland. Franchises seem to work better overall (see: Flower Boys series, School series), but there are a couple of dramas that I think had enough story potential for a second season. When I reviewed my completed dramas, I was actually surprised by how few of my top ten dramas (I need to update this…) made it on this list.

Then again, a lot of my top tens are top tens precisely because they completed the story they wanted to tell and I was satisfied with the ending. And while my fangirl heart might want sixteen episodes of domestic bliss and skinship, I can concede that it probably wouldn’t be the best business decision. Nevertheless, here are four dramas I would be very interested in getting a second season for, though I know it’ll never happen. Beware of show-ending spoilers! Continue reading “4 kdramas that I wish had a second season”

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4 Hopes for Save Me

Okay, I’m just going to be honest: I’ve grown increasingly fascinated by religious cults over the last couple of years, so the moment I heard about Save Me, I knew I needed to check it out. I also have a soft spot for Taecyeon, ever since Dream High, so it’ll be nice to see him again. I don’t know a whole lot about this show, the original webtoon, the cast, the writer, or the PD, so my expectations are pretty low. Nevertheless, I still have some:

  1. We get a ton of social commentary. I want to talk power, corruption, religious fervor, complicity, apathy, etc. Give me a vicious skewering of all the ways people turn a blind eye to evil for the sake of keeping the peace and holding on to their power and prestige.
  2. Sang-mi’s trauma isn’t played to motivate the boys. I’ve seen precisely two trailers, so I’ve got a fairly good idea of where this could wind up. Don’t go there, show. Sang-mi is the one who is trying to escape the cult—let her retain her emotional arc instead of just using it to upset the boys. Do I want them to care about her? Yes. Do I want them to help her? Absolutely. I just don’t want whatever happens to her to be taken over by manpain.
  3. Jung-ki is terrifying. I want him to be kind and charismatic in one moment and a hundred percent terrifying in the next. The actor, Cho Seong-ha, did a fantastic job of playing a two-faced character in the few episodes I watched of The K2. I want to see the charisma that is able to attract fanatical followers and the menace that keeps everyone else under his control.
  4. Give me an optimistic ending. The kids can suffer and have their illusions shattered about the world, but I still want them to pull off something other than a downer ending. I want them to triumph despite all the obstacles in their paths and resolve to do better than all of the people who failed them. Pretty please?

Will you be watching Save Me? What are your hopes for the show? Let me know!

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Two time-travel comedies this week

Of all the trends to come back in style, I hadn’t expected it to be time travel. Huh. Well, here’s hoping we end up with a better crop of good ones than we did back in 2012/2013. Also, what do I need to do to get more time-traveling ladies? Are either of these on your to-watch list?

Manhole: Feel So Good
16 episodes, KBS2
Wednesday/Thursday
Available on KOCOWA.com I’m assuming so even though they didn’t have a page for it when I wrote this post

Bong Pill has spent the last three years studying for the civil service exam without success. To make matters worse, his childhood friend (whom he has been secretly in love with all his life), Kang Soo-jin, is getting married in one week. With a little help from his friends—and a manhole that allows him to travel back and forth in time—Bong Pil is going to try to stop Soo-jin from falling in love with another man and getting married.

 

Deserving of the Name
16 episodes, tvN
Saturday/Sunday
Available on DramaFever.com (as Live Up to Your Name)

Cardiac surgery resident Choi Yeon-kyung is a firm believer in modern medicine. Her cold and logical outlook means she doesn’t put much faith in traditional medicine—or romance. Heo Im, an acupuncturist and practitioner of moxibustion, has been held back in the Joseon Era due to his status as the son of a concubine. He ends up traveling 400 years into the future, and Yeon-kyung is neither impressed by his medical practice nor his insistence that he’s a time traveler. Heo Im soon falls in love, despite their clashing personalities and views on medicine, and he decides he needs to prove his worth to Yeon-kyung.

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Two new dramas for the weekend

If you’re looking for a new show to start this weekend, you’re in luck! Personally, I’m intrigued by Rescue Me–are either of these going to make your to-watch list?

Strongest Deliveryman
32 (mini) episodes, KBS2
Friday/Saturday
Available on DramaFever.com

Delivery worker Lee Dan-ah is determined to climb the socioeconomic ladder and improve her situation in life. Choi Kang-soo is also a delivery worker with dreams of someday becoming a CEO. The two of them fight to overcome the obstacles thrown in their path as the ones at the bottom of Hell Joseon—and fall in love along the way.

Rescue Me
16 episodes, OCN
Saturday/Sunday
Availability unknown

A religious cult is starting to take over a country town. Im Sang-me is initially one of the believers, but she ends up trying to flee from the darkness she finds there. Student Han Sang-hwan and his friends discover her in an alley, and she asks them to rescue her.

Save Me is based on the webtoon Out of the World by Jo Geum-san.

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Menstrual cups, amusement parks, and drama news

It has been a long week.