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Queen In-hyun’s Man, Episode 5

TL;DR: Would you look at all that cute.

When I say that QIHM is one of my all-time favorite romances, this episode is one (of many) that serves as evidence. Too often speculative fiction crashes and burns when it forgets about its characters and their relationships for the sake of being flashy and clever and smug, but QIHM never loses sight of the fact that the heart of the story is getting Hee-jin and Boong-do together. Now that they’ve become intertwined in each other’s lives, their desire to see and be near one another—and all of the forces working to keep them apart—is what drives the story. Continue reading “Queen In-hyun’s Man, Episode 5”

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Queen In-hyun’s Man, Episode 4

TL;DR: I can’t believe I had forgotten so many tiny moments that make this romance one of my favorites.

It has been years since I’ve seen the first half of this drama, and this episode reminded me exactly why I fell in love with it. Hee-jin and Boong-do were my very first kdrama OTP (for me, there are only three couples worthy of that title), and it is in no small part because of how things played out this episode. Continue reading “Queen In-hyun’s Man, Episode 4”

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Queen In-hyun’s Man, Episode 3

TL;DR: Boong-do can recite Confucius but doesn’t know what to do with seatbelts.

I had forgotten how quickly Hee-jin begins doubting her own memories. In hindsight, this is some pretty damned good foreshadowing. I like how she latches onto a fact that proves she wasn’t just dreaming after fainting (that poor horse) and immediately zooms off to go find her phone and the nobleman with a sword. That’s one of my favorite parts of Hee-jin’s personality: how she blazes forward in search of whatever she wants. Sure, hiding out in her hospital room is the most strategic thing to do, but that won’t get her what she wants now, so she makes the leap. Continue reading “Queen In-hyun’s Man, Episode 3”

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Queen In-hyun’s Man, Episode 2

TL;DR: Sorry, Boong-do, but no matter how many times I watch this drama, I never quite remember all the details of your tragic backstory.

Possibly because it’s fairly standard sageuk fare, what with the fridged women and wrongfully murdered father and the unnecessary torture of political rivals. Even his transformation from a bookish scholar to a badass fighter isn’t all that unique among the sageuk heroes I’ve seen.

And that’s a shame, because in the course of forgetting Boong-do’s rather standard backstory, I’ve forgotten a lot of Yoon Wol’s history, too. Continue reading “Queen In-hyun’s Man, Episode 2”

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Queen In-hyun’s Man, Episode 1

TL;DR: Remember when tvN used to have episodes that were less than an hour long? Those were the good days.

Queen In-hyun’s Man is one of my all-time favorite kdramas, and I’ve been meaning to rewatch it since I need to decide if Healer has overtaken it in my heart. My friend Beth occasionally watches kdramas with me, so after I introduced her to White Christmas, she selected Queen In-hyun’s Man as the show she wanted to watch next. My posting about the show will consequently be sporadic (as it is dependent on when we watch episodes), but I hope you enjoy it. Continue reading “Queen In-hyun’s Man, Episode 1”

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My Top 3 “Comfort Food” Dramas

I’ve been sick with a cold all this last week, so all I’ve wanted to do is stay in my pajamas all day and have comfort food. (Current favorite: grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.) Since I’m miserable, I also just want to curl up with my favorite shows and be soothed with their familiarity and guaranteed ability to make me feel better—or at the very least, make me smile.

(And fun bonus fact—I own the DVDs for all of these shows.)

#1 – Sungkyunkwan Scandal

Sweet, not too intense, absolutely going to make me happy. SKKS was one of the first dramas I ever watched and the one that got me hooked. It’s a mix of cross-dressing comedy, the earnest belief that the world can be made a better place, and friendships (and romance) that will stand the test of time. The heroine’s steadfast desire to stand up for women, the poor, the downtrodden, etc. always lifted my spirits. Continue reading “My Top 3 “Comfort Food” Dramas”

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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!

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5 Kdramas That I Need to Rewatch Soon

The nights are getting longer in my neck of the woods, and that always means it’s time to pull out the fuzzy blankets and hot chocolate–and maybe seriously consider marathoning a kdrama or two.  I haven’t properly marathoned anything in a while, but it’d be nice to sit back down with some old favorites and see just how well they hold up under fresh eyes. Time to dig up some snacks and settle in for a long weekend.

white-christmas#1 – White Christmas (Yes, this is a bit of a cheat since I’m already planning and organizing a rewatch of it over the Christmas holidays, but still.)

One of my all-time favorites, so much so that I nearly broke my own classification rules and put it on the full-length list. While the majority of the cast is (sometimes painfully) green, this is an intriguing psychological thriller that turns into the best/worst kind of can-and-mouse game. The cinematography and soundtrack are some of my favorite things about the show, as is the relentless focus on the show’s central question: are monsters born, or are they made? While a few final act plot holes prevent White Christmas from achieving perfection, this cult classic deserves eight hours of your time. I’d even go so far as to say it deserves a rewatch, because you’ll definitely pick up on new things the second time around.

Pair it with: Pancakes and despair. Continue reading “5 Kdramas That I Need to Rewatch Soon”

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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?