Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011 End of Year Reflection, Part 1

It's kind of stupid for me to be doing an "End of the Year" reflection piece, really. I haven't even had this blog for that long and my K-drama obsession has really only been less than half a year long. And while this blog is mainly for all things Asian drama and entertainment, let's face it, K-drama has been dominating for the most part. Before August, I was happily fulfilling my empty brain with finicky Taiwanese Idol entertainment.

But it's not like I didn't enjoy myself.

I spent around two months in the time right before K-drama immersing myself with the likes of Mo Fan Bang Bang Tang (模范棒棒堂) and Wo Ai Hei Se Bang Bang Tang (我愛黑澀棒棒堂), and other things TW Idol entertainment. I slept through a lot of it since TW Idol drama series run the same formula back and forth. So it's not like the beginning of the year was really THAT exciting outside of some time spent convincing myself that this old woman wasn't too old to enjoy some young teenage fluff of TW Idols. And so there will be mention of a few of the TW drama series I actually enjoyed and found wholesome rather than just full of pretty flower vases.

Plain Love II -- one of my favorite TVB productions from years past

In keeping with my fully Asian drama and entertainment oriented blog, I will also make mention of anything TVB (Hong Kong) related as well. I know that I've at least watched one Hong Kong drama series this year (but of course, I had to actually look it up since I wasn't sure if it was this year or last year) and have tried to start watching about three of them (with no success). I'm still a TVB hopeful, seeing as how I AM Chinese, I speak Cantonese, and I grew up watching TVB productions for as long as I can remember. So I after I ramble senselessly about the K-drama obsessions and whatnot, I'm going to also give a short span for TW Idol dramas as well as those HK dramas that I managed to look at for 2011.

This End of Year Reflection piece will be a two part, maybe three part article with this first article detailing more of my 2011 experience with Asian drama land.

And since K-drama was what ended up spicing up the end of 2011 for me with the likes of Lee Min Ho in City Hunter, CN Blue music with gorgeous Jung Yong Hwa leading them, Park Shin Hye's charming Heartstrings presentation, Lee Seung Gi and his music, and so on and so forth, the bulk of my reflection will include Korean entertainment. Because in the end, I really only have been keeping track of what K-dramas I've been watching; I don't even remember what TW dramas I've touched this year outside of a few of the 2011 ones (none of which I've managed to finish -- I'm so sorry to Love Keeps Going!!)

Excluding Coffee Prince, which I watched nearly a year before, I've totaled 18 Korean drama series that have been completely viewed and finished. Notable mention include such series as City Hunter, Sungkyunkwan Scandal, Hong Gil Dong, You're Beautiful, and Girl K, which rank among my most memorable. Then there were also the classics like Goong, Brilliant Legacy, Delightful Girl Choon Hyang and My Lovely Sam Soon, which were all good in their own ways. And then there were those I like to call sleeping dramas wherein you're not really paying much attention because very little is going on, but you still want to finish the entire show: Hero, God of Study, and the last half of Heartstrings.

My list could go on, but if I just keep throwing titles out there, what is there left of my rankings and listings later on? Well, it would cut short this incessant rambling, I guess, because, let's face it, I love to write until it gets a little (read: very) out of hand. There will be a proper listing of which of these 18 series I found better than the rest and so on and so forth.

Anyway, my list is not as many as others probably get through, but that's still quite a bit for five months of time considering other netizens get quite worked up over having watched around 20 or so within the year. And I'm thinking that I probably would have been able to squeeze some more into that list as well, but I dilly-dallied between series, not quite knowing where to begin my next journey. I haven't quite chipped the bulk of the 2011 drama series like the majority of K-drama elite viewers have done: Thousand Days Promise, Man of Honor, Dream High, Baby Faced Beauty, Sign, The Princess' Man, and so, so many more that, when I look at the list on AsianMediaWiki, I balk.

Have people actually managed to go through a lot of these?

I had even intended to try watching some series so that I could have it finished before the end of the year; sadly, I don't think that's going to happen.

I've considered watching Dream High, I've started on 49 Days, I've checked out Protect the Boss, and I've even stared at the poster for Thousand Days Promise multiple times. Instead, I ended up testing out OTHER drama series which didn't land in the year 2011 category.

And then that led me into the list of 13 drama series that I started watching, but never got around to continuing or finishing -- and for the most part, only two of the 13 have actually managed to get me passed the first episode: Damo (Episode 2) and Exhibition of Fireworks (Episode 8). Both of these series were incomplete for two VERY different reasons and only one of them will actually be finished (or neither, cause that conclusion is still up in the air).

5 of the 13 series I began never even got me to finish the first episode, but not all for the same reasons. The curiosity series include The Return of Iljimae, 49 Days, and Coffee House of which I DO plan on finishing. I watched the first ten to twenty minutes of these three episodes just to check out the subtitle quality as well as to see what type of setting or mood the series was going to convey. These three series I DO hope and plan on continuing to watch soon. The other two of this little group would be When It's At Night and Chuno (yea, I know) wherein I managed to get through the first ten minutes of both and then had to call it quits cause somehow, I just wasn't really figuring it out. We may or may not revisit When It's at Night in the future since I've grown an attachment to Kim Sun Ah. Chuno is a different story altogether and unless I end up growing a passionate love for Jang Hyuk's handsome wonder, I probably won't touch it again.

The rest of the 13 were the one episode curiosities, all of which I have the intention of continuing, but few of which I might actually do so: Secret Garden, Iljimae, Full House, Once Upon a Time in Saengchori, Protect the Boss and Joseon X-Files. I know for sure that I want, dearly, to finish Joseon X-Files and I also know that I'm 90% close to just giving up considering Full House. I also know that Secret Garden is a sure in for watching, but there's no telling WHEN I'll get around to it because it's just not enticing to me at the moment. As of the publishing of this article, I have already managed to jump into Protect the Boss, reaching Episode Three; I continue to be curious about Once Upon a Time in Saengchori.

Finally, the list of 18 Korean dramas viewed within these past five months doesn't even include the two that I've begun watching and are still ongoing: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop and Me Too, Flower. Both of these series, I will address at the end of the K-drama reflection (Part 2 of these articles). There's also Tree With Deep Roots, which could go under the category of the One Episode Curiosities, but since it IS still ongoing, I might end up watching the rest of it, notably for the first few episodes of Song Joong Ki, as well as to check out the wonders that netizens have been raving about concerning this series.

The only unfortunate aspect about me watching a historical Korean drama series is that the term "lost in translation" becomes a bigger barrier than if the series were more modern. Tree With Deep Roots is a thriller and mystery surrounding the creation of the Korean alphabet system, which I'm sure will involve a lot of language knowledge that may not carry over into English. Joseon X-Files is ingenius and deep, which has so far managed to lose me a few times within the first episode alone; it's intriguing and I WANT to watch it, but I'm worried that I may not understand its glory just because I don't understand the language. Series like Sungkyunkwan Scandal, Hong Gil Dong, The Return of Iljimae and Iljimae were more fusion with modern characteristics and so the language doesn't bother me. As for Chuno... well, it DOES depict more action and adventure than politics and the like, so it wouldn't really bother me either.

Since the year is yet to be over, there are still new series beginning that I haven't had the chance to touch yet. For one, I am totally going to start watching Color of Woman, which just began airing not long ago. I'm becoming more and more curious about Vampire Prosecutor if only because I love the case-by-case criminal investigation types, which from what I've read about it, is what Vampire Prosecutor is going for. But other than that, I haven't quite established what other series I'm going to be watching as well within that pile of Completed K-dramas that I've been considering since I fell into the obsession in July (Yes, the blog began in August, but that's after a month of viewing and planning).

In fact, I currently have a slight conflict concerning two pretty boys and which one of their recent projects I may pursue as my next watch. Being that I'm currently basking in the delights of Flower Boy Ramyun Shop and Me Too, Flower!, I've come to fall for both main leads in both of the series. Jung Il Woo is cute and wonderful with his vast range of emotion and expression concerning Flower Boy Ramyun Shop's Cha Chi Soo. I'm pretty much in love with that spoiled brat in spite of all of his abnormal qualities. Yoon Shi Yoon plays a character who is almost the opposite of Cha Chi Soo, a young man named Seo Jae Hee who has spent his life building an empire of business with his talents while struggling through his past horrors to survive. His range may not be as vast as Jung Il Woo's, but his emotions are still conveyed really well through his actions, his expressions and ESPECIALLY his eyes. I love a man who has sharp eyes that emote like there's no tomorrow (Lee Min Ho happens to be one of those). And so without even needing words, Yoon Shi Yoon brings a story to the screen.

It's only unfortunate that while one character has depth and unpredictable goodness, the other is starting to fall into a more standard male lead type than what I'd been expecting. Nonetheless, I've still come to like both of these actors for superficial reasons (The Pretty) as well as more "professional" reasons (The Acting).

And so I'm stuck on the decision for my next watch. Will it be 49 Days or The Return of Iljimae for more Jung Il Woo goodness? Will I try my hand at my first ever Korean makjang series with Baker King Kim Tak Gu for Yoon Shi Yoon's expressively hot eyes? On a completely off-subject side note, I DO find Yoon Shi Yoon's adorable, pretty and cute look more attractive than Jung Il Woo's more refined, handsome and hot look. But that's not really going to sway my decision on which way I end up going... so it's a moot point. I just wanted to be superficial for a few seconds, so let's continue on.

At the finish of this article, I've already given the first episode of Baker King a glance at for ten minutes and HOLY darn if I don't understand the makjang concept yet! Within that first five to ten minutes, I already figured out exactly what was going to happen just because the devices are so, so, SO standard. And so what did I do? During the entirely serious plot building device of those first ten minutes, I was laughing my ass off at the predictability of the entire situation and I understand what the equivalent of Korean makjang is to Hong Kong's "Grand Production" series is now.

I totally thought of TVB series Heart of Greed when I  saw Baker King's poster.
The "sequel" spin-off to Heart of Greed called Moonlight Resonance also uses the same poster set-up, but let's just leave it at that.

Hong Kong TVB is totally guilty of overdoing the typical cliches for the most dramatic effect in a lot of their Grand Production series; I don't even know if we have a word for it outside of Grand Production (maybe 争鬥; zang dau in Cantonese, which means struggle or war; in this context it depicts the power struggle among family which is the most common plot device employed in these series). In truth, Grand Production is typically used as a term to describe the series that TVB dumps a ton of money into (including gathering some of the most high-dollar actors and actresses in the company) in order to create an outstanding, highly anticipated series (but for the most part, high dollar productions does not equal great drama series). Grand Production always associates with predictable story lines though, that stem from predictable plot devices running on predictable cliches for twists and turns in the telling (for example: birth secrets, secret affairs, half-brother power struggles, over-powered mistresses, poor family daughter or son with a passionate desire for revenge against the rich family for tearing his or her family apart, rich and poor sons switched at birth by a manipulative mother, stealing of children to use against social enemies... I could go on).

I long ago stopped watching these TVB Grand Productions just because I got tired of the standard power struggle cliches. I think the last one that I actually watched and enjoyed from TVB was Cold Blood Warm Heart (天地男兒) in 1996. After that one, the following Grand Productions began to twist their logic and endings to ways that I was never able to accept. These types of series really aren't for me, I found out.

And so basically what I'm trying to say (after a long detour) is that if I'm going to watch Baker King, it will one hundred percent be for the sake of Yoon Shi Yoon. Yes, I can guarantee that I will love him THAT much to go through that; much like I would sit through more makjang for Yoo Seung Ho's Flames of Ambition (although I've heard that this one's actually not bad and so we've got another dratted series thrown onto my list).

On top of these two Pretties, I've even also chosen two other series that I would like to watch as well. I'm being drawn closer to Protect the Boss (by continuing it) just because it's been hyped about and Ji Sung is good looking and Choi Kang Hee is rather cute and I'm intrigued by Kim Jaejoong's break-out performance... And then there's Dream High for some giddy, teeny-bopper-ish crack-like fun that people are also raving about (I'm not really a fan of 2PM, so it's not really like I'm in it for Taecyon, so there goes the Pretty reasoning out the window).

And so I think these past five months of K-drama viewing have been pretty good. The next couple months of K-drama viewing will be even better (which tells me that I've fortunately made it passed a five month mark and will continue this obsession, unlike my manga and anime plight).

Not all of this five months had been spent watching just drama series, though. There's also the massive amount of time I spent watching 53 episodes of Running Man variety program and 20 episodes of Strong Heart talk show. I've also spent some time perusing K-pop like I've always been interested, and had taken a break from drama to finish reading two non-Asian media related books. I spent a lot of time reading recaps and Korean entertainment news from various sources and I've also spent a lot of time writing my own discussion articles, summaries, random thoughts, and then screen capping the heck out of drama series for all the pretty pictures to share.

These past five months in K-drama land have been quite productive, I will say. There have been moments where I've gotten so lazy that I just don't care anymore, but then one or two drama series just manages to hook me right back in. I end up forming opinions, I end up writing it all down, and when the article is done, I go on ahead and collect my screen caps and finish up the article while I'm on a roll. Unfortunately, there are currently around ten or so articles I've already finished writing. They aren't being published any time soon because I've been too lazy to collect my screen caps for them; these are older series that I keep telling myself can wait another day or two or thirty.

And so thank goodness for all the great series I've been coming across that are currently airing. If not for Flower Boy Ramyun Shop and Me Too, Flower!, December would have been pretty quiet. If not for Warrior Baek Dong Soo, October would have been a rather uneventful posting period. And I don't even know HOW I got through November, but I did, so it's all good.

As a conclusion to this first part of my End of Year Reflection, I might go ahead and include some outlook for 2012. Now that I've sort of gotten a good foundation down for the drama zone, I'm planning on slowing my postings down quite a bit. I've got a lot of articles that need to be finished, but I've come to the conclusion that the more I force myself to finish something, the more I rebel against myself. The currently airing series are typically more attractive to me and motivate me to get discussions written and out there just because of the ongoing current status.

Since I ramble on uselessly for the most part, what started off as an introduction to my End of Year Reflection turned into an entire article post (it's probably long enough to be a post on it's own), so I won't drag it out by including my view on specific series as well as listing my favorites of 2011, my favorites of all 19 K-dramas (which includes Coffe Prince, if anyone is wondering) I've seen so far, and any other Korean entertainment indulgence I might have had.

This reflection will be a three part article only because of this introduction piece, followed by my opinions on my first "year" of K-drama obsession, finally ending on a more thorough reflection to my growth and development with Hong Kong drama series.

Stay tuned...

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