D&D Alignment: Kdrama Heroines Edition

This post is thanks to an anon on tumblr who asked me to classify my favorite kdrama heroines in a D&D alignment chart. Some of these probably aren’t strictly considered heroines (though please give me more shady ladies, dramaland, and don’t think I didn’t notice that there aren’t many young characters falling into the lower part of the alignment chart), but they’re all major players in their respective dramas.

Normal disclaimers apply re: the subjectivity of the alignment chart, and you’ll notice that not all of these characters started or ended the drama in their assigned slots. I’ve slotted these ladies where they are based on my strongest/favorite impression of them—this is the archetypal version of them that I always remember first when I think of them.


We might disagree on the best methods, but we can mostly agree on what good actually is.

Lawful Good: Go Seo-yeon, Solomon’s Perjury

Honestly, what else do you expect from a teenager girl who risks expulsion in order to put her classmates and school on trial for the death of a boy she had barely interacted with?

Neutral Good: Chae Young-shin, Healer

She wants to do good in the world, isn’t particularly fussy about using extrajudicial means to expose corrupt people and systems, and also believes that the system can be fixed with a bit of vigilante help.

Chaotic Good: Arang, Arang and the Magistrate

Look at her, willing to pick fights with the supreme being of her universe and also put a stop to an evil when evil starts interfering with her goals and her boyfriend.

There’s a lot of room to breathe in the gray areas of the world, and we enjoy taking up space.

Lawful Neutral: Kang Suk-soon, You’re All Surrounded

She’s seen the system break firsthand, and now she’s committing every bit of her life to take control so it won’t ever happen again, even if she has to make deals with the devil for it.

True Neutral: Oh Hye-won, Secret Love Affair

She sold her soul long ago for money and prestige, and now her life’s a balancing act of keeping all of her bosses happy and trying to stay out of jail while she slowly dies inside.

Chaotic Neutral: Lee Jin-sook, Heartless City

She got dealt a shit hand in life, but she carved out an illicit kingdom for herself and is willing to do just about anything to protect the people who matter to her.

I will make the world submit to my desires.

Lawful Evil: Kang Eun-shil, Save Me

She is absolutely certain that New Heaven’s Sovereign can save your soul, and she’ll ensure you cooperate in your salvation.

Neutral Evil: Choi Yoo-jin, The K2

Intelligent, ruthless, and endlessly frustrated by all the times she has to play by the rules in order to keep up her perfect wife act, though she is excellent at weaponizing it whenever she has the opportunity.

Chaotic Evil: Jamie, Liar Game

Rules only exist so she can find clever loopholes and walk away with everything she wanted—who cares about everyone else in this sadistic game?


What do you think of my assignments? Where would your favorite heroines go?

5 Kdramas You Should Marathon This Summer

Because it is too damned hot to go outside during the bulk of the daylight hours–at least in my neck of the woods. I’m going to stay inside where it’s air conditioned and I have plenty of snacks to sustain me while marathoning.

#1 Arang and the Magistrate (2012)

From a strict world-building point-of-view, Arang and the Magistrate is the best fantasy kdrama I’ve ever watched. The world, based on a famous folktale, feels magical, and its fantastical elements are grounded by winning performances from its cast. While I think it could have been a little tighter if two episodes were shaved off, the drama generally maintains its fast pace and keeps a clear focus on the mystery of Arang’s murder and the search for Eun-oh’s mother. Watching the lead couple fall in love is a treat, and the high stakes in their search for truth only enhances their romance. Be prepared for comedy, drama, and tragedy in this exciting historical fantasy.

#2 I Hear Your Voice (2013)

This was a mishmash of genres and tropes that honestly sounded like a disaster on paper: a mind-reader, a courtroom drama, a one-sided childhood love, a childhood rivalry/competition carrying over to adulthood, and a killer bent on revenge. Luckily, there was some magic holding all these pieces together. Even though awful things happened to our characters, I Hear Your Voice was astonishingly relentless in its optimism and sympathy for other people, even terrible ones. Character development arcs for the leads cemented our main pair as one of my very few kdrama OTPs. The drama suffered mildly from its two-episode extension, but I can’t even really hold it against the show when that allowed it to develop a touching character arc for a secondary character.

 

#3 Two Weeks (2013)

I’m a sucker for redemption stories, and Tae-san had such a wonderful character arc that he’s one of the few absent fathers I have ever rooted for. The deadline to his bone marrow donation for his daughter put real weight behind his desperate attempts to evade both the bad guys and the police in order to stay alive (and healthy) long enough to get to the hospital. Over the course of the show, he earned the allies he needed to go from being a panicked fugitive to a trickster ready to bring the villains down. The supporting characters were amazing, I’m genuinely disappointed this drama didn’t end with an OT3. It was so close! #TeamHappyFamily

#4 Heartless City (2013)

If you’re looking for a cops vs. gangsters drama with a dark and gritty noir atmosphere, look no further than Heartless City. From a slick score to brutal fight scenes to corruption on all levels, this drama is an entertaining ride. The biggest draw for this show (aside from the soundtrack and cinematography) is the enigmatic and well-dressed Doctor’s Son and his two closest supporters. While the show does suffer from sidelining its heroine and its sometimes too-convoluted-for-its-own-good plot twists/character reveals, it is one of the best crime-themed kdramas I’ve had the chance to watch. Give it a shot when you need a break from trendy romantic comedies.

 

 

#5 Secret Love Affair (2014)

Are you in the mood for an unforgettable drama about a woman who found herself trapped in a cage of her own making by sacrificing her morals and time and youth in order to acquire wealth and prestige? Are you in the mood to watch her rediscover her love of music, crave quiet moments of happiness, and find passion and desire with the help of a much younger man? Secret Love Affair boasted one of the smartest scripts in 2014, and its detailed camerawork and gorgeous soundtrack ensured that the audience paid attention to every detail. Kim Hee-ae and Yoo Ah-in’s performances as the two lovers were breathtaking. If you want smart, sophisticated, morally gray, and engaging storytelling, make sure you check this out.


What’s on your summer marathon list? Let me know!

My 5 Favorite Female Villains in Kdrama

Even though it has been months, I’m still not over the disappointment that was The K2. So in honor of Choi Yoo-jin, one of the very best villains I’ve seen in dramaland in a long time, here’s a list of my top five favorite female villains (of shows I actually completed).

#1 – Moo-yeon from Arang and the Magistrate

It’s not every day you encounter a body-hopping, virgin-eating, exiled heavenly fairy in dramaland, and Moo-yeon was unforgettable. Like most of my favorite villains, Moo-yeon had motivations I could sympathize with and means that I detested. She was utterly ruthless and clever enough to hide from and out-scheme the Jade Emperor and the King of Hell for four hundred years, plus she inspired terrible devotion/terror in her surrogate-son/pseudo-lover (the second male lead). And on top of that, she  also happened to be wearing the hero’s mother’s body, so she was a serious threat to all of our heroes physical and emotional well-beings. Continue reading “My 5 Favorite Female Villains in Kdrama”

My 6 “Marathon It Now!” Kdramas

I’ve gotten a number of people to start watching kdramas over the past couple years, and my favorite stage is always the beginning. You know, the point where you get to recommend all of your favorite stuff with few qualifications because they’ve stood the test of time. The best of the best. The ones that just speak to you on a visceral level.

So without further ado, here are the six kdramas that I recommend to everyone:

Arang and the Magistrate
(MBC | 20 episodes | August 15 to October 18, 2012)

From a strict world-building point-of-view, Arang and the Magistrate is the best fantasy kdrama I’ve ever watched. The world, based on a famous folktale, feels magical, and its fantastical elements are grounded by winning performances from its cast. While I think it could have been a little tighter if two episodes were shaved off, the drama generally maintains its fast pace and keeps a clear focus on the mystery of Arang’s murder and the search for Eun-oh’s mother. Watching the lead couple fall in love is a treat, and the high stakes in their search for truth only enhances their romance. Be prepared for comedy, drama, and tragedy in this exciting historical fantasy.


Healer
(KBS | 20 episodes | December 8, 2014 to February 15, 2015)

You can level several complaints at Healer: the early wire-work is worth a few raised eyebrows, a good chunk of the bad guys were barely better than low-level NPCs, coincidences abounded, the finale felt rushed, etc., but no other show came close to generating the same kind of excitement for me this year as Healer. From its adorable and believable OTP to its masterful use of flashbacks to a cheesy love song that won me over to a world populated by smart, determined, and different women, writer Song Ji-na proved that she is excellent at building characters and crafting a story the audience will care about.

What do I have to sacrifice to ensure you’ll be writing again in dramaland soon?


I Hear Your Voice
(SBS | 18 episodes | June 5 to August 1, 2013)

This was a mishmash of genres and tropes that honestly sounded like a disaster on paper: a mind-reader, a courtroom drama, a one-sided childhood love, a childhood rivalry/competition carrying over to adulthood, and a killer bent on revenge. Luckily, there was some magic holding all these pieces together. Even though awful things happened to our characters, I Hear Your Voice was astonishingly relentless in its optimism and sympathy for other people, even terrible ones. Character development arcs for the leads cemented our main pair as one of my very few kdrama OTPs. The drama suffered mildly from its two-episode extension, but I can’t even really hold it against the show when that allowed it to develop a touching character arc for a secondary character.


Queen In-hyun’s Man
(tvN | 16 episodes | April 18 to June 7, 2012)

I’m pretty sure the only one who sobbed more over this show than me is Yoo In-na. Queen In-hyun’s man boasts one of my favorite romances—in any genre—and my first kdrama OTP. This is one of the smartest time travel dramas I’ve seen and had one of the cleverest male leads I’ve ever seen in dramaland. But the heart of the show was Yoo In-na’s Choi Hee-jin, an actress who wore her heart on her sleeve and fell in love with a time-traveling Joseon scholar despite everything in their way, like bloody political conspiracies, several centuries, and a pain-in-the-ass ex-boyfriend.

Make sure you have plenty of tissues and a fainting couch on hand for this one.


Secret Love Affair
(JTBC | 16 episodes | March 17 to May 13, 2014)

Are you in the mood for an unforgettable drama about a woman who found herself trapped in a cage of her own making by sacrificing her morals and time and youth in order to acquire wealth and prestige? Are you in the mood to watch her rediscover her love of music, crave quiet moments of happiness, and find passion and desire with the help of a much younger man? Secret Love Affair boasted one of the smartest scripts in 2014, and its detailed camerawork and gorgeous soundtrack ensured that the audience paid attention to every detail. Kim Hee-ae and Yoo Ah-in’s performances as the two lovers were breathtaking. If you want smart, sophisticated, morally gray, and engaging storytelling, make sure you check this out.


Shut Up: Flower Boy Band
(tvN | 16 episodes | January 30 to March 20, 2012)

Easily the best installment of the Flower Boy franchise to date, SUFBB was everything I wanted out of a high school drama: a coming-of-age story where friends learn that growing up can be just as much a threat to their worlds as any other poverty, bullying, and the drive to succeed. The Eye Candy boys formed one of my favorite “found families” in dramaland, and their struggles against each other and against the world were both heart-rending and heart-warming. There are few neatly tied bows in this show—SUFBB knows just how messy life can be, and it isn’t afraid to stop things with an “and they kept living” ending. Watch this for great music, great performances, and great reasons to cry.


(If you want to see my ratings for all of the full-length the dramas I’ve finished, you can go here. If you want my recs by genre, go here.)

What would make it on to your “marathon it now” list? What dramas to you always recommend to people who are just starting to watch? Let me know!

My 3 Favorite Fusion Sageuks

I love fusion sageuks, that wonderful mixture of historical background and whatever-the-hell-else-you-want-to-add-in. Whether it’s supernatural elements, fictional people and events, re-tellings, etc., these non-historical elements can be a lot of fun.

Arang and the Magistrate#1 – Arang and the Magistrate

From a strict world-building point-of-view, Arang and the Magistrate is the best fantasy kdrama I’ve ever watched. The world, based on a famous folktale, feels magical, and its fantastical elements are grounded by winning performances from its cast. While I think it could have been a little tighter if two episodes were shaved off, the drama generally maintains its fast pace and keeps a clear focus on the mystery of Arang’s murder and the search for Eun-oh’s mother. Watching the lead couple fall in love is a treat, and the high stakes in their search for truth only enhances their romance. Be prepared for comedy, drama, and tragedy in this exciting historical fantasy.

sungkyungwan-scandal#2 – Sungkyunkwan Scandal

A young Joseon woman cross-dresses in order to provide for her family, gets tangled up with three pretty boy scholars, and is forced to attend the best school in the nation—seems like the perfect storm of clichés, right? But Sungkyunkwan Scandal is far more than the sum of its parts, and its earnestness mixed with cutting commentary on classism and feminist issues is enough to delight just about any drama fan. Our main quartet (and their developing friendships and romances) are the strongest part of the drama. The four of them uniting together to solve a mystery and get justice for old wrongs is a satisfying, though not perfect, final arc. Give it a try if you’re in the mood for something that will make you smile.

the-three-musketeers#3 – The Three Musketeers

Kdrama adaptations don’t always work well, but this fantastic adaptation of the famous Dumas novel was clearly made by people who had great fondness for the original. It had a great mix of humor, action, and high-stakes politics, all centered on a doomed crown prince. Jung Yong-hwa put in a great performance as Dal-hyang, and Lee Jin-wook was perfect as Crown Prince Sohyeon. While the leading ladies didn’t get as much screen time as the eponymous musketeers and their tagalong, they were solid characters with some wonderful moments. I’m still weeping over what could have been in seasons two and three and the eventual death of the crown prince.

 


So what are your favorite fusion sageuks? I want to know!

My Top 5 SFF Kdramas

W: Two Worlds is taking up so much of my brain space right now, but we’ve still got half the show–four whole weeks!–left to go. To ease my misery somewhat, I’m compiling a list of my top five favorite kdramas with science-fiction or fantasy elements.


#1 – Queen In-hyun’s Man
(Time travel with a hefty dose of romance.)

Queen In Hyuns Man

I’m pretty sure the only one who sobbed more over this show than me is Yoo In-na. Queen In-hyun’s man boasts one of my favorite romances—in any genre—and my first kdrama OTP. This is one of the smartest time travel dramas I’ve seen and had one of the cleverest male leads I’ve ever seen in dramaland. But the heart of the show was Yoo In-na’s Choi Hee-jin, an actress who wore her heart on her sleeve and fell in love with a time-traveling Joseon scholar despite everything in their way, like bloody political conspiracies, several centuries, and a pain-in-the-ass ex-boyfriend. Make sure you have plenty of tissues and a fainting couch on hand for this one.

#2 – I Hear Your Voice
(Mindreading teenager versus killer set on revenge.)

I Hear Your Voice

This was a mishmash of genres and tropes that honestly sounded like a disaster on paper: a mind-reader, a courtroom drama, a one-sided childhood love, a childhood rivalry/competition carrying over to adulthood, and a killer bent on revenge. Luckily, there was some magic holding all these pieces together. Even though awful things happened to our characters, I Hear Your Voice was astonishingly relentless in its optimism and sympathy for other people, even terrible ones. Character development arcs for the leads cemented our main pair as one of my very few kdrama OTPs. The drama suffered mildly from its two-episode extension, but I can’t even really hold it against the show when that allowed it to develop a touching character arc for a secondary character.

#3 – Arang and the Magistrate
(Ghosts, reapers, monsters, and murderers.)

Arang and the Magistrate

From a strict world-building point-of-view, Arang and the Magistrate is the best fantasy kdrama I’ve ever watched. The world, based on a famous folktale, feels magical, and its fantastical elements are grounded by winning performances from its cast. While I think it could have been a little tighter if two episodes were shaved off, the drama generally maintains its fast pace and keeps a clear focus on the mystery of Arang’s murder and the search for Eun-oh’s mother. Watching the lead couple fall in love is a treat, and the high stakes in their search for truth only enhances their romance. Be prepared for comedy, drama, and tragedy in this exciting historical fantasy.

#4 – Nine: Nine Times Time Travel
(Time travel, but with murder mysteries and multiple timelines/realities.)

Nine

Easily one of the smartest SFF kdramas, Nine is the thrilling journey of a man determined to right some of the wrongs of the past, including his father’s murder, before he dies of brain cancer. If that wasn’t difficult enough, the past and present are synced, and as his younger self goes further and further off script, changes ripple out in increasingly difficult to predict ways. A lackluster romance, poorly acted villain, and a couple side-eye worthy plot points keep Nine from achieving greatness. The divisive ending will leave you reeling (and/or angry). This was ultimately a drama that engaged my brain—if not the entirety of my heart.

#5 – My Girlfriend is a Gumiho
(Monster girl wants to become human.)

My Girlfriend is a Gumiho

This is easily my favorite of the Hong Sisters’ comedies, largely thanks to a delightfully outspoken heroine who isn’t shy about going after whatever—or whoever—she desires. The hero’s journey from jerk to 100% willing to die for the heroine is one of the few drastic changes of heart that I wholly believe. While the show features a funny, charming cast, a dose of eleventh hour noble idiocy and a deus ex machina happy drag it down a little. Nonetheless, there are some real gems in this drama, and it holds a special place in my heart. If only the rest of the Hong Sisters’ body of work were this enjoyable.


So what do you think of my picks? What dramas would you add to my list?