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 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 4 Favorite Melodramas

Sometimes you want a big, soapy kdrama that you can flail at and/or throw pillows at, depending on the day. Here are my four favorite melodramas, which made me cry, made me throw things, and/or gave me all the feels:

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.

 

Scent of a Woman (SBS | 16 episodes | July 23 to September 11, 2011)

It’s a terminal illness melodrama that sometimes verges on inspiration porn and occasional makes me want to tear my hair out and in a few memorable instances made me cry. Watching the heroine reclaim her life  and do the things she had put off for a future she no longer had was a delight, whether that was give herself a makeover or go on vacation or quit a job she hated or take tango classes. When the hero wasn’t being ridiculous, the romance was great, though the second leads could be less than pleasant from time to time.

The ending is contentious: I was in the camp of mostly liking it, but it didn’t make everyone happy.

 

Punch (SBS | 19 episodes | December 15, 2014 to February 17, 2015)

If modern-day political thrillers featuring a cast of mostly morally bankrupt characters sounds exciting to you, then this is a show you’ll want to watch ASAP. Even though I spent a good chunk of the time wishing violent, humiliating failures on 90% of the cast, Punch was a compelling, fast-paced drama fueled by intense performances, constant backstabbing, and a time bomb in the form of a terminal cancer diagnosis. Despite some serious missteps in the final episode, Punch delivered (and raised my blood pressure) every week. A not insignificant portion of my love for this show is due to the powerful ladies who fell on different spots in the character alignment chart.

Nice Guy/The Innocent Man (KBS | 20 episodes | September 12 to November 15, 2012)

Honestly, this is the closest kdrama has ever gotten to making me ship horrifically toxic relationships, on both sides of the love triangle. Self-loathing Ma-ru went to prison for his girlfriend, Jae-hee, only for her to betray him and marry a wealthy, older businessman. Upon his release, he tries to seek revenge on her by using Jae-hee’s adult stepdaughter, Eun-gi, who is fighting not to be ousted as successor to her father’s company by Jae-hee (and Jae-hee’s son, her half brother). A twisted love triangle ensues, which cannot be stopped by car crashes, brain damage, amnesia, or creepily obsessed secretaries.  The ending is a mess, but it is a delightful, if occasionally frustrating, ride.

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”