I'm actually really surprised by the written language. I had always imagined it was like Chinese, because they use characters, so it was just a matter of memorizing a bunch of different characters. But in fact, it's a lot more like English, wherein they have vowels and consonants, and you use them to create words, just like English! But instead of words going left to right, the words are placed so that they look more like characters (like Chinese). Anyway, the whole thing is really fun and awesome.
I'm just bummed that due to work travel, I'm going to miss two weeks in a row. Argh! I'll be so behind. :( I hope I can keep up; I've felt really good about things so far and it would really be tragic if this ends up derailing the whole thing.
For my last few K-dramas, I seemed to be in a cycle where I was either watching a show where I liked the story, or a show where I liked the ship, but not both. >< This is unlike, say, Answer Me 1997, High School King of Savvy, and Oh My Ghostess, where I liked both of those things at once. (SIG was in all these shows in some capacity... coincidence?? ;) )
Strong Woman Do Bong Soon
In the category of a show where I liked the ship -- "like" is an understatement -- is Strong Woman Do Bong Soon. There was a period of time when I was super done with everything about it other than the stuff with the main pairing, but the other stuff was SO terrible that it was a really frustrating viewing experience. Buuuuuut they did right by us, mostly, in the final two episodes, so my overall lasting impression of the show is positive. I do plan, however, to create a supercut of the show that removes almost everything about the gangsters, and possibly some of the kidnapping plot as well, because both of those things were so poorly done.
As a whole, SWDBS was not a good show. Its massive success is wholly based on the chemistry between, and the individual charms of, its two leads. It also, occasionally, had beautiful cinematography. But that's pretty much it. The writing, story development, plot, pacing, and secondary characters all left so much to be desired. But the leads were so good, and their chemistry so wonderful, that I would still recommend the show to anyone (though I'd caveat it). That's pretty powerful!
- The final two episodes hit all the right notes. It was very relationship heavy and light on the gangters/kidnapping plot, and really, should have been that way all along.
- Jisoo was kind of wasted in the show. He did what he could with what he had, but he's a much stronger actor than he was able to show with Gook-du, and much more likable than Gook-du was.
- It was kind of silly that they tried to say he and Bong-soon actually liked one another at the same time, but he didn't know she liked him. Really? I don't know how much more obvious she could have been. jade_okelani also questioned why he had a girlfriend if he was interested in Bong-soon all along, and I have two answers here. 1) They backtracked on it, but he wasn't interested in Bong-soon intially. They only made that a thing when they needed a reason for him to suddenly be interested in her, further into the show. I believe that he could have liked her without knowing he did, as an adult; but they then showed that he had actually dropped hints to her while they were in school! 2) If we take what they told us at face value, and he actually did like Bong-soon all along, then if he believed she didn't like him back, I could see why he would have a girlfriend -- I mean, he'd want to at least try to have some semblance of a life, given that the girl he liked didn't like him back. (Seriously, that he wouldn't know Bong-soon liked him is the most unbelievable part.)
- I didn't particularly love the VERY end, end of the show, where Bong-soon is off fighting crime and Min-hyuk is at home taking care of the kids. I wanted my last image of them to be one big happy family, preferably one daughter on each knee, while taking a family photo or something. The fact that we never got to see Min-hyuk and Bong-soon together with their daughters is kind of a crime. I would have even given up some of the wedding porn for that. (Though I have to say, I enjoyed the wedding porn more than I thought I was going to.) Anyway... I didn't really want my last image of them to be one where Min-hyuk is tired/abused like Bong-soon's dad, while Bong-soon is short and impatient with him on the phone. Like, just no.
- Speaking of Bong-soon's dad, they had to walk back the whole abusive mom thing as well. They were CLEARLY implying that she was the one who gave him all those physical injuries, but because the show was ending and they didn't have time to do anything else, they were like, erase erase erase, she was never abusive, he fell on a sewing machine. Ummm... okay. The story planning for this show was especially bad, imho.
- Another indication of this? Kim Won-hae as "Cartilage." More on that in the rant in my next bullet.
- The show seemed to be in the hands of an extremely immature writer who didn't know how to weave a cohesive story together, nor use humor that wasn't too slapsticky or offensive/outdated. In the beginning, I gave them a pass on the stuff between Min-hyuk and Gook-du, even though people were already starting to grumble about the use of homosexuality as a punchline. The scenes were amusing, I loved seeing Hyungsik and Jisoo together, and it could be argued it wasn't so much their gay advances that made those scenes funny, but the idea that two guys, who hated each other's guts while sober, could get along so well while drunk.
They lost some of that credibility when they didn't take the obvious leap by making Gook-du actually gay, and then further when Min-hyuk felt he had to publicly announce his heterosexuality. The former I can understand, because it's a K-drama and, well, baby steps. The second I can even kind of, sort of, understand, because again, it's K-society and apparently it was affecting his business or whatever. I didn't like it, but I could overlook it.
BUT THEY DIDN'T STOP THERE. I mentioned before that I found the two gangsters who "fall in love" because of Bong-soon's mom's talisman was stupid and riding on the edge of offensive. This was then followed by Kim Won-hae being resurrected as "Cartilage," the doppelganger of his gangster's character, and who is totally over-the-top and stereotypical in his portrayal of a gay man. Then there's also Kwon Hyuk-su, who shows up as an effeminate "Indian" monk who... seriously, I don't even fucking know what his point is, because the whole gangster plot is so fucking stupid.
In any case, they drew from the same well again and again in their slapstick comedy. Effeminate men are gay and objects for humor, is apparently what this writer thought. Also bathroom jokes. Poop wine and Boss Tak waxing poetic on shit is soooooo hilarious. People beating each other up is funny too! Let's have the high school gang go to the hospital and beat up on the gangsters, that will be hysterical! UGHGHGHGHGHGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
- The show HAS actual funny moments, but I can't even credit the writer for them. It's mostly because Park Hyungsik is so disarmingly charismatic. His character is arrogant yet vulnerable, and it makes for some really amusing scenes. But given the writer's poor track record in just about every other respect, I credit Hyungsik (or the other actors) for them.
- I shipped the ship super hard. Like, they didn't earn most of their moments, but I shipped them so hard I didn't care. And long as they're together, and happy, then great. For example, I'm not sure how Bong-soon came to the realization that she liked Min-hyuk. We never see or hear her being torn about it, though we did hear how much she liked Gook-du. Why does she suddenly soften her stance toward Min-hyuk? I wanted to see her progression. We see it more in Boys Over Flowers with Jan-di and Jun-pyo, for god's sake. We never really see Bong-soon slowly soften toward Min-hyuk, or make choices that confuse her, but which we know is because she's starting to come around. Or if we do, it wasn't nearly enough, which is maddening considering how much screen time is devoted to completely useless storylines, like the gangster stuff. (I don't love the cop drama either, but at least I can understand why it's necessary.) We had a completely terrible episode 13, where Bong-soon basically hared off on her own, and didn't seem to give a shit about Min-hyuk at all. Her "breaking up" with him seemed less about wanting to protect him, and more about his getting in her way in her desire to save Kyung-shim. That's why it was totally unearned when, at the start of episode 14, they have that super touching scene on the couch where they declare their mutual love for one another. But, because I ship them so freaking hard, I was like, I will accept this.
- Bong-soon losing her power because of accidentally hurting an innocent person seemed sketchy in the extreme. I didn't even care that we didn't know a lot of the "rules" about her power, because that seems par for the course when it comes to superhero mythology in general. That and the inconsistencies of the power are things I am willing to suspend my disbelief about. However, it seemed weak in the extreme for her to have lost her power in that way. Bong-soon's mother was flagrantly abusing her power; it made sense that she lost hers. But when hurting -- not even killing -- an innocent person in the course of saving another innocent person does it too, it's like... really? I would think TPTB would be looking more for following the spirit, rather than the letter, of the law. If that's the bar, why didn't she lose her power when she injured Secretary Gong in that game of chicken? But whatever.
- I'm really happy with how she gained it back, however. I was speculating that I wanted her to get her powers back because she would have to save Min-hyuk somehow, but I thought it was going to be a final-two-episodes type thing, where he got kidnapped the way Kyung-shim was. But I'll give this to the show -- the way it actually happened was even better, with Min-hyuk staying with Bong-soon despite certain death, and her asking for help to save him. <3 And "Super Power Girl" playing during that scene made it even better. BUT I have to say: The two of them are TERRIBLE about making good use of their final two minutes of life. Tell each other you love one another, for god's sake.
- The fact that the bomb randomly turned into fireworks was kind of ".........."
- You know what I liked about Bong-soon's mom, despite so many reasons not to like her? The way she treated Kyung-shim.
- The show was super bad at making all the different storylines a cohesive whole. Who knows, maybe we could actually give a shit about the gangster stuff if it actually had anything to do with our main characters or the main plot. Maybe if the main plot affected our central characters more, it wouldn't feel like a completely different show (a cop drama) every time we switched to it.
- Also, we don't know why the Kidnapper did what he did, other than being a two-dimensional, mustache-twirling evil dude. What was the backstory there? I mean, I no longer CARE, but if they had made us care about it, it would have made for a much richer show.
- Secretary Gong turning out to be gay was pretty cool, except he deserves so much better than Cartilage. :P
- It's interesting to me that Bong-soon and Min-hyuk had sex before marriage. It sometimes seems like K-society is super repressed, but I've often wondered how much of that is just drama portrayal rather than real life. The fact that Bong-soon and Min-hyuk got it on before they were married is an interesting entrant into that discussion... it tells me that it can't be THAT taboo in K-society, or they wouldn't have gone there (and Bong-soon's mom probably wouldn't have been so insistent on seeing them sleep together). So it seems that their drama content is more sanitized than what actually happens in real life, which is kind of a relief, because I sometimes picture how shocked/appalled/horrified the girls must be after they get married and they realize what their husbands want to do with them.
- The existence of the kid gang might have earned their place from their final scene alone, as they sing along to "Super Power Girl." :)))
- I'm really glad Bong-ki didn't end up with Hee-ji. I just really disliked her character. I want him or Gook-du to end up with Kyung-shim.
Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo
The opposite of SWDBS is Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo, which was written by the same writer who co-wrote High School King of Savvy and Oh My Ghostess, both of which were really good in all ways. WFKBJ was a good show, with great writing, pacing, plot development, secondary characters, etc. The leads weren't, in my opinion, as strong as SWDBS (I know Tumblr would shout me down on this one; the couple seems universally beloved). They were good, but I never shipped them the way I ship
I never really got into the lead actress/heroine (way too much crying and wailing for my taste, and I do not understand their coloring choices for her at all), and while I did like the lead actor/hero, I wasn't quite as into him once he was completely defanged (just like Spike!). People seem to love that both Ahn Min-hyuk and Jung Joon-hyung are both nice guy heroes, and while I definitely like that too, what made them interesting was that they both also had a bit of an asshole sheen. I particularly liked Joon-hyung for not getting sucked back into his ex-girlfriend's BS.
Answer Me 1994
This is another one where I liked the story a lot more than I liked any of the ships. It was actually a near-miracle that I ended up finishing this one at all, considering how much I disliked the heroine initially. In the end, I was fine with her, which is a good thing since I have to watch her opposite Park Hyungsik in Hwarang at some point. But the ship was... so meh. It says a lot that jade_okelani and I thought watching all of 1994 was worth it just for the brief cameos that SIG and Eun-ji did... it speaks to how little we were into 1994, and how much we loved the ship in 1997.
- Their forced dramatic tension with wedding and "who's the husband" worked much better in 1997 than it did in 1994, and that's something I never thought I'd say, because it was pretty obvious from the first frame who Shi-won was going to end up with. But at least there were moments of uncertainty because she actually did get together with Tae-won for a bit, and they spent some time on the triangle. In 1994, the romance was as straightforward as a romance could possibly be, right up until the final three episodes, in which they finally decided to try and ramp up the triangle angst.
- Na-jung and Trash just kept getting closer and closer, until they were engaged. And it was just so laughable that they were trying to be like, "But who's Na-jung's husband in the future?" In order to force that tension, they actually broke them up when she has to go to Australia for work. They'd been attached at the hip all their lives until then, and THEY COULDN'T SURVIVE A ONE-YEAR SEPARATION. OMG, if I had actually shipped this ship, I would have been livid!! They came up with the stupidest reason to explain it away too -- oh, we cared about each other so much, we didn't want to bother each other with the problems we were having (LIKE TRASH'S MOM'S DEATH WTF).
- If they were going to do a potential triangle, they should have started it MUCH earlier. A perfect time would have been when the mall tragedy happened. Na-jung was so worried about Chil-bong, and Trash had just given up her seat at the wedding or reunion or whatever it was, to his first love. He hadn't confessed that he liked her, even though he knew she liked him. (At least... I think he knew. Can't remember exactly when that happened.) It would have been totally understandable if she had attempted to move on, at that point. But they didn't take it!! They just let that moment pass! The result was that Na-jung never showed ONE IOTA OF INTEREST in Chil-bong, and was all-in on Trash. At least with Shi-won, she didn't know her own heart and there were moments when you weren't sure she was ever going to come around about Yoon-jae.
- Chil-bong, due to his profession, was also very segregated from the others. He never got to spend that much time with Na-jung; I would have believed Haitai/Na-jung before I believed Chil-bong/Na-jung, if only for that reason! He holds a torch for her for FIVE YEARS. Why?! He barely knew her, honestly, and for most of that time she was in love with someone else, which he knew!
- It was frankly ridiculous that they tried to suggest, in any capacity, that any of the other guys were remotely serious contenders, to the point that their faces were blurred in the wedding scenes. Samcheonpo, really? Haitai? BINGRAE???? Bingrae was the most ridiculous of all, because HE WAS SO CLEARLY GAY. So not only did they compromise the main ship due to their stupid forced "who's the husband" schtick, they also compromised a character who was clearly gay, so that he could have potentially been one of Na-jung's suitors. Bingrae spends most of the series in love with Trash -- I'll fight anyone who says otherwise -- and then toward the end he gets to know a woman and uses Yoon-jae's line from 1997 ("Confirm") when he kisses her. It's not quite clear in the translation, but I *think* they were trying to say that he was exploring his sexuality, and by kissing her, he was confirming whether he was actually attracted to men or women? And apparently he was attracted to her, so he was heterosexual after all? I mean, it was just so stupid. He could have been bi, show. I would even have preferred it if he married her, but it was clear that he was conforming to society's values or something. But nope, they just glossed it over. Oh, Bingrae was never gay, he was just confused.
- Jade and I had the best story for him, too. There's a point where he's standing on the sidewalk, waiting for his significant other to arrive. And you see a sports car in the distance, and Jade I were like, OMG, it's Joon-hee!!!!! From 1997!!! How great would that have been, if Bingrae had been Joon-hee's myterious ride at the end of 1997? SO GREAT. But nope, they passed that up, too. 1994 was all about passing up chances for good storytelling, apparently.
- OK, so what did we like about the show? The overall story, the relationship between all the boarders, all the friendships, that's what was good. It's not even explainable; you just felt their connection, and how they eventually went from being misfit strangers to being a family. That was well worth watching.
- We both liked Haitai a LOT. He was always at his best when he was being a great friend to the others; he was one of those guys who seemed super self involved and flaky, and then when crunch time came, there he was. <3 One of my favorite characters, for sure.
- I liked, but was on the side of ambivalent, about Samcheonpo and Curtain, both as a couple and as individual characters. I definitely liked them more as a couple than I liked Hak-chan and... I can't even remember the girl's name, from 1997, but that's partly because I was *so* into the 1997 main couple that I didn't like anything taking away from their screentime, and partly because the 1997 crew were younger, so their "problems" just seemed petty by comparison.
- I did, actually, like Chil-bong. Neither he nor Trash were very attractive, though if I had to pick, I'd say Trash was the more attractive of the two. But there was something about Chil-bong that appealed to me; I liked that he was brave enough to tell Na-jung how he felt. I like that he was a talented ball player. I liked that he never let his fame go to his head. I DIDN'T like how he behaved in the final 3-4 episodes, but then, I didn't like how any of the characters of the triangle behaved.
- The reason Na-jung and Trash kind of made me hate them both, for giving up on their supposedly magical relationship so easily. I hated that neither of them apparently cared enough about each other or their relationship to make a simple call to fix things. I hated that after they broke up, Na-jung was apparently totally fine with it until she runs into him again. I hated that Trash was ill at home, and she was at the hospital daily to take care of Chil-bong because he hurt his shoulder. It was all SO DUMB. Seriously, if I had really shipped that shipped, this is the sort of thing that would have made me put my fist through the monitor!
- The bigger mystery, rather than who Na-jung ends up with, was who the young man was at the beginning that she seems almost motherly to. Initially we had guessed that Trash and Na-jung adopt those two boys at the hospital who lose their mother, but that happened so early on in the show that it seemed so unlikely. Yet, given the timeline, he couldn't have been Na-jung and Trash's progeny. He was clearly an older teenager, while any child of theirs would have be, at most, 12 years old. It turned out that he was Sook-sook, Na-jung's much-younger brother who her mother accidentally gets pregnant with! <3
It also turned out that he was played by Yook Sung-jae, who I recognized from two things: 1) Goblin, playing Duk-hwa, aka the only character I like on that show. And 2) School 2015, which I had only seen the pilot of, but I recognized him from the show's artwork. I have much more to say about YSJ, but I'll save that for another post, and finally will let this one be done!
I was going to include two other dramas in this post, but if I do that, who knows when I'll actually post this thing? So -- the end! (For now.)
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