Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 End of Year Reflection -- Part 2

So after reading other end of year reviews from other bloggers who are more familiar with the K-dramaverse, I came to the conclusion that I am really a green newbie in this arena. I'm a whole lot more forgiving about certain drama series than others and I realized that I understand the situation. Where I stand with Hong Kong drama series is the same as where all the veteran K-drama netizens stand with their Korean entertainment -- tired, picky, grumpy, seen that, been there, why isn't there anything more refreshing?, and so on and so forth... It's like there's a want for new blood (or something like that).

HOWEVER, I will not refute the fact that I am a very simple person and that any television viewing experience can easily become entertaining for me. Case in point: I watched Taiwanese Idol drama Brown Sugar Machiatto and actually enjoyed it despite its total lack of a story line or great acting. It was funny, it was cute and it had the element of The Cute and The Pretty. I got out of it what I had expected going into it: A whole LOT of FLUFFY.

I'm not professional enough to determine whether or not Hong Kong drama series are on par with Korean drama series, or if they're better or worse. In my opinion, they are by far NOT as great as the few K-dramas I've watched in the past five months (then again, it could be because of the refreshing new experience I got watching them). I won't a hundred percent say that Korean dramas are worlds better than the stuff that TVB (main HK TV studio) churns out because I HAVE already encountered few series that were somewhat questionable. And as for TVB, it has its moments where a gem is created; this is not a regular thing though. I have in mind a handful of personal favorites from TVB that I loved deeply, but then there is also that ocean of series that really just stunk and survived on loyal viewership. I mean, for the Cantonese speaking population, TVB is really all there is because their competing TV studio doesn't quite make the cut.

And so maybe this is why I've come to my K-drama obsession so quickly -- there are a lot of refreshing plot devices, great actors, beautiful settings, and a whole new culture to experience. The humor is quite different than Hong Kong's humor and, by far, the people are a LOT prettier (men included). TVB has its crop of great actors and actresses (few of which I find attractive, and yes I CAN get superficial), but they are often led astray by crappy story-telling and poor direction. And while I've always loved TVB, I know that they COULD stand on par with K-dramas (the ones what aren't trying too hard to BE K-dramas with their perpetual dramatic cliches or the ones that are more serious than senseless -- yea, lately, TVB has developed a need to try imitating the K-drama trend of angst and makjang, but they don't quite do it right).

Basically what I'm saying is that like the K-drama veterans, I'm a grumpy TVB viewer -- more demanding, less forgiving, extra pissy at the poor quality of recent dramas being produced. I'm not saying that were a K-drama veteran to start watching series from Hong Kong that they would be giddy with excitement, but I'm saying that because of my grumpiness, the fresh new Korean culture has been quite attractive for me, personally.

Nonetheless, I have my few classic favorites that may not be the best series in the world, but they definitely hold memorable places in my heart. This will be left for a later post at a later time wherein I walk down memory lane and recount the various series from Hong Kong which have captured my heart for good (meaning that I would definitely re-watch them again when I'm in the mood and still enjoy them fully). For now, we'll focus on the more significant K-drama obsession at hand and discuss briefly my experiences with K-drama in this year of 2011. First of all, I'll note the few 2011 drama series I've watched for this 'Part 2' of the End of Year Reflection. Because my ramblings have ended up getting rather long, I will follow up with a listing of all the K-dramas (including series from other years) that I've watched and how they rank for me (including the ones from 2011), and then include any other little blurbs about K-drama that might seem significant, for 'Part 3' of my long-winded-ness.

So without further ado on my extremely extended introductions:

2011 Dramas
I will be listing them in order of my viewing of them.


Following the first Korean drama series I watched in 2011 (You're Beautiful) I followed through quite quickly with Heartstrings (aka You've Fallen For Me). I'm superficial when it comes to romantic comedies or any type of story line based on romance; Park Shin Hye and Jung Yong Hwa were charming in You're Beautiful and left me with that aftertaste for more of them. When I find a particular actor or actress who interests me, I search for other projects said actor or actress may have had in the past or will have in the near future (that's pretty much how I roll sometimes). And so imagine my contentment when I found out that they would be teaming up again in another series, nearly two years after their first collaboration. And better yet, I had just gotten into K-drama in 2011, which, omigod, ended up being the year that their newest series was due to be broadcast. A week or so after I officially finished viewing You're Beautiful, I climbed onto the Heartstrings bandwagon like the rabid fangirl that I am.

I've stated before: Heartstrings is really just a simple love story set in a youthful world of a college campus. It was fun and amusing in its own rights and I thoroughly enjoyed the most of it. Being one of the first K-drama series that I touched, the concept was fun and refreshing for me (because I'd just dropped off of a long line of shoujo manga and the like with bubbly, bumbling idiot female protagonists in every corner). Lee Gyu Won (Park Shin Hye) is a young woman who is anything BUT a bumbling idiot female protagonist; she's got zest, sass, ambition, dreams, and most importantly, she's got the charms of Park Shin Hye. And I loved that she was such a practical, down-to-earth type of young woman as the lead of a romance drama.

By all rights, Heartstrings really is as simple as a simple love story with side dishes of youth drama incorporated. The reason why it was fun was because it was about young people. The reason why it was heartwarming was because it showed a nice love line that made you smile at every and all antics. From Lee Shin (Jung Yong Hwa)'s development from jerk-face to perfect boyfriend to the build-up of our 100th Anniversary University Musical Performance, everything was just simple and fun.

And so it's rather unfortunate that the series ended up finishing on a rather lame note. Could it really have been that the production team was strapped for time after that unfortunate accident? Or was the series already starting to decline in its attractiveness? I don't know if there was really a way to tell. But one thing is for certain, the series really ceased to entice after the love line officially got its main couple to pair up; when Lee Shin confessed that he liked Lee Gyu Won, the story seemed to lose all of its steam after that. What was left was the anticipation of how the musical performance would pan out -- but even that ended up settling on dead weight (because we don't even get to see the entire performance).

Heartstrings is an entertaining series if you enjoy youth romance and lots of good music. For the most part, it didn't quite make it to the ending in a tightly wrapped package with a pretty bow on top. A lot of significant side plots were created and then resolved forcefully because it seemed like time was running out. However, as one of the first series I watched in my K-drama viewing experience, it's actually a rather memorable one.

City Hunter

Action, adventure, romance, revenge, justice, comedy (and angst)... With all of these genres packaged delightfully into an entire series, City Hunter ended up being one of my favorites for this year (and overall of most of the K-dramas I've seen total). Based on a manga of the same title, its only unfortunate downfall was advertising that connection as its selling point; because from what I found out among netizens, the Korean drama series itself was nothing like the beloved manga. I'll never know the difference considering I won't be enticed enough to read the original manga, but from what I ended up experiencing off of City Hunter... I'm not sure I really care.

As a series that starts off with suspense, action and a revenge plot to build its basis, City Hunter easily became so much more. I could go on about City Hunter; in fact I'm sure I did and ended up rambling on for far too long. City Hunter was my first Korean drama love. From the heroic and kickass hot Lee Yoon Sung (Lee Min Ho) to the spunky and fearless Kim Na Na (Park Min Young) along with the underappreciated, but beloved Kim Young Ju (Lee Joon Hyuk), this series boasted a lot of great story telling, direction and pacing, beautiful scenery and zippy camera angles as well as deep characterizations. The basic plot of hunting down five different baddies, one after another was also a really intriguing follow along -- although as I had mentioned in my discussion, I think I would have liked it more if the viewers could see the investigation more on Lee Yoon Sung's side, not knowing who the next target would be until he's revealed so that we could play detective too. Nonetheless, this wasn't just a series where you were intrigued by the suspense in the story line and awed by the action sequences; this was also a series where even the characters become relatable in such a way that you become invested in their plights -- even the supporting characters had background and lives of their own.

On top of all of that, character relations were quite complicated, but at the same time full of juicy detail and delicious excitement. You became attached to the love line, you "aww-ed" at the Yoon Sung/ahjusshi guardian/son relationship, you held your breath at the father-son struggle and intrigue, you grinned giddily at the potential bromance between secret hero and public defender, and then you cried for the hero's inner struggles and horrific revelations. And on the side, you had fun with all the side characters who lent to the growth of our hero. Everything about City Hunter hinged on Lee Yoon Sung's every action and reaction, but all of his actions were based upon his interactions with the rest of the world.

City Hunter is like crack for the K-drama addict's soul. It's not a perfect drama, but it really hits all the marks perfectly when you allow it to suspend you into its world.

Scent of a Woman

I really don't know what I can say about Scent of a Woman. It was a nice journey, to say the least, but in the end, the beauty of the series can easily be replaceable by any other melodrama masked as a rom-com about a dying woman's journey. Did I like Scent of a Woman? Yes. Will I remember it six, maybe seven months from now? I'm not sure the answer will be a positive one. Was there anything memorable at all about Scent of a Woman? Yes. Did I really care for most of them? Not really.

Uhm Ki Joon was a great asset to the series as the socially awkward, yet loving and caring doctor and friend to our heroine, and in fact, he's the only character who actually stood out among the rest. The beautifully shot scenes and the lovely soundtrack might be a factor that can be noted, but I may not be able to successfully detail why. Lee Dong Wook and Kim Sun Ah had great chemistry with all of their passion and breathtaking sensual-ness zeroed in on their tango scenes. As individuals, however, I'm not sure I would really say that they stand out.

Lee Yeon Jae's refreshing take on a dying woman's last few months of activity was actually rather nice, though. Instead of being melancholic, she chose to face her world and make the most of her life. Instead of waiting out her days until death, she chose to live until she died. There has been speculation about some of her actions: 1) Why didn't she just tell her mother about her cancer? It would have been less of an issue if she had just been honest? 2) Why did she choose to fall in love when she knew she was dying? It was unfair to Kang Ji Wook that he had to go through the pain of losing a loved one. Again.

While these thoughts had crossed my mind as well, I can't a hundred percent say that I'm resentful towards Lee Yeon Jae for all of this. For one, how easy is it to tell your own mother that you're dying; especially after she had already had to suffer through a husband with terminal cancer. Lee Yeon Jae's fear should be understandable; not everyone is a self-less noble who knows immediately what would have been the right actions to take. Maybe it would have been better if she'd told her mother earlier; but we don't know that that's a fact.

Secondly, everyone is entitled to live their life in their own flair until the day they die. Does a dying woman not have the right to fall in love? Lee Yeon Jae was acting selfishly, but she was giving herself a chance to be alive for once in her life. I can't completely condemn her for following her heart. Honestly, people were born to die; today I could get hit by a car, tomorrow you could fall off a building or have a heart attack. This is life. Knowing these things, we all still continue to live anyway. What makes anyone else's lives any different from a dying cancer patient's life? One happens to be shorter than the other, but by how much?

It's a controversial subject, I know, so I'll leave it at that.

Scent of a Woman was one of those experiences wherein it's awesome and exciting and touching, all at the same time while you're in that moment. I will agree that the meddling chaebol device was pretty much frustrating and unnecessary. There's no need for more angst when the main female lead is experiencing a natural angst of her own already. Setting all of that aside, the series itself wasn't too bad. But just as soon as the excitement is over... well, it's simply over. That's how Scent of a Woman felt to me: it came and went and now it's just a distant memory that I may or may not recall when in reflection a long time from now.

Warrior Baek Dong Soo

We all know how I felt about Warrior Baek Dong Soo. So let's make this short and simple because its not the prettiest picture I've ever painted (with words). I love action, adventure and martial arts combat. I love a good Chinese wuxia themed series. I love watching the "incompetent fool" to "seasoned hero" progression. And I love the side plots of romance, honor, brothership and justice. This is what Warrior Baek felt like to me as I cruised through each episode, one right after the other. It was an adventure in a world where there is no full out Black and White and where even the publicly acclaimed "evil" side has its own codes of honor and may not necessarily be the straight up "evil" side.

Baek Dong Soo (Ji Chan Wook) was the arrogant, unskilled brat turned great hero. He had a lot of unique, immature, cheeky moments during his younger (?) intervals of the series. It was one of those devices wherein it's only fun because you get to follow the brat as he matures and "levels up" through obstacles of heart, mind and physical training. These are the things that make up a great hero progression story line. And along the way, you get to meet all of his interactions: a love line, a brother-in-arms, an honor code, a master, an alliegance to a leader...

And it was ALL there in Warrior Baek Dong Soo.

But somehow, the progression hit a nice little snag as well as multiple time skips (which I realize were employed to force a new plot twist and a new story arc per each time skip). The obstacles became mere anecdotes that were never elaborated and the side plots for supporting and/or second main character growth hitched on the side of the road. While we continue to follow the protagonist and antagonist pair, the rest of the world started to simmer slowly until everything just boiled away without a trace and we're left with a scorched pan without even understanding why (the fire was turned off too quickly yet everything STILL disappeared).

Warrior Baek Dong Soo ended up a chaotic mess of "we're not sure where this story is taking itself, but we REALLY want to go from A to Z as we skip around some letters, leave others out and then also include some symbols and double digits." It got REALLY messy. Because as the viewer, you KNEW where the story line was leading, but when it never got to its intended location and instead detoured a few times before getting onto the wrong track or just simply falling off a cliff, things just started going terribly wrong.

I enjoyed Warrior Baek Dong Soo if only for the opening scene and the glory of Yoo Seung Ho's Yeo Woon. The bromance wasn't too bad either, but that's a moot point when the ending came into play. The setting was beautiful, shot with gorgeous background scenes accompanied by a score of wonderful music numbers and insert songs. And to be fair, the direction was also done very exceptionally well. It was the story line that pretty much broke it for Warrior Baek: lost story arc conclusions, incomprehensible build up, strange plot twists that lead nowhere... And the romance? Don't even get me started on the pathetic love lines.

The only reason I would ever rewatch this series, I think, would be for the action sequences (which were merely decent, at best), Yeo Woon, and the great Choi Min Soo. Was it memorable? Yea. Unfortunately it was memorable for all the wrong reasons, which doesn't make it a good thing.

Lie to Me

I am hesitant to talk about this series because I may end up ranting off onto an entire ten pages worth of Lie to Me hopes and disappointments. To be brief, as many would point out, it isn't easy to take an overdone cliche and turn it into a refreshingly unique story. The contract relationship has been done to death already, but we still love this device because (like my favorite cross-dressing love) it has potential to spiral into all sorts of amusing fun and delight.

Lie to Me had two great things going for it: Yoon Eun Hye and Kang Ji Hwan. In fact, I considered watching this series only because of Yoon Eun Hye and finally picked it up and sat through it because of Kang Ji Hwan. And so, as I have mentioned time and time again, I really, really, REALLY tried to like this series. I kept giving it more and more chances and I kept making up excuses for it.

Fact was, when all a series has is a premise without a well thought out story line, you end up like all the unfinished rom-com stories I have ever started writing -- you lose sight of where it is you SHOULD be going and come to a road block. But in the case of Lie To Me, we climbed over that road block and tried to force our way through the unfinished construction so that we can get to the other side of the bridge. And so you see only the road leading into the mess and the small strip of concrete on the other end. In the middle, it's just chaotic and unconnected and you wonder why you even bothered to travel this disheartening distance that the workers have no intention of fixing.

And THAT was Lie To Me in all its disappointing glory. On the off chance that such a series had been created for a two-hour movie and had cut out all of that awkward mess of scattered plots in the middle, I think the story would have fared a whole lot better and we would still be able to get out of it the fluff piece with Yoon Eun Hye and Kang Ji Hwan, but with more optimism and more forgiveness. I'm more forgiving when it's a movie with time restraints that creates the excuse of having no time for development of more plot -- Lie To Me could have totally used something like that.

Flower Boy Ramyun Shop

This is the newest drug on the market; it's like crack boiled into the soup base of its ramyun delicacies.

I'm not quite sure that I can completely give justice to the greatness that is Flower Boy Ramyun Shop without taking up five or six separate posts (just like I've been doing for the entire month). There is just so much about this series that makes it such a symbolic, unpredictable, unique piece of work filled with what javabeans likes to call the "Trifecta" of great drama creation: story, direction, and acting.

I've been in awe of the editing, the pacing and the smooth transitions from one mood to another from the first episode onward. There has been over-the-top hilarity which eventually slides into more melancholic mood swings which then throws us for a loop with some heartwarming moments. And never once have I ever felt awkward watching these scenes play out; okay, maybe once, but it wasn't really a big deal and it still worked even if it was only slightly awkward. But for the entirety of Ramyun Shop's greatness, I'm willing to overlook a few flaws here and there.

As for the story and the writing -- I don't remember the last time I've been this satisfied with every direction that a series has been taking since day one. My true love of this series has mostly to do with the fact that, while it employs a lot of common tropes and cliches, it doesn't drag them out into exhaustion. We start up one plot device as a short story arc and then we resolve it within two episodes (or less) and then we move onto another one. And as most would have never believed possible, each little story arc helps to progress the main story line forward as we watch the series' characters grow. On top of that, the attention to the smallest, most trivial details had me so impressed: from Ba Wool and Eun Bi's Coca Cola substituted for soju drinking scene, to that darn Pororo blanket that Daddy Cha ended up becoming jealous about, and also Chi Soo's continued vanity for his physical appearance.

I will admit that the main basis of the story line isn't exactly readily picked up by viewers who don't fall into Ramyun Shop's addictiveness immediately. Is it about a makeshift family banding together to run a little ramyun shop? Is it about a noona-dongsaeng romance? Is it about our spoiled, rich brat's development into a more normal, compassionate human being? Or maybe we're actually following the self-discovery of our main female lead as she learns to accept herself for who she is. Ramyun Shop is all of these items mixed together, I would say, and so, so much more. It might sound like a chaotic mess of a story line, but when it all comes together, everything falls right into place.

What takes the cake for Ramyun Shop is one factor whom I've been doting on since the moment he started becoming a temper tantrum of immature man-child: Cha Chi Soo played by the ever awesome Jung Il Woo. To talk about this guy, both actor AND character could take days because there is just so much love going into my impression of him. But there is no doubt at all that, if City Hunter was the crack that started me in on my K-drama addiction, then Jung Il Woo's Cha Chi Soo will be the supplier who's giving me the means to continue my addiction -- and happily at that. Of all the 2011 series I've seen (which are few) Cha Chi Soo is definitely my pick for favorite character, hands down.

I think the only unfortunate set back about this series (as if there really were a set back) is that in order to love it, you have to be sold on its comically created over-the-top world. Once you've entered it with all the love you have, there is really no turning back.

Me Too, Flower!

There was a quirkiness to Me Too, Flower! that had drawn me into it. It could have been the non-standard character roles of a cheeky and easily tempered heroine, a sardonic and also cheeky hero, or even the asshole of a shrink (also cheeky) who was delightfully likeable at the same time. Maybe it was The Pretty (a Yoon Shi Yoon young'un trying to act like an ahjusshi who's pushing thirty with all of life's experiences and who drunkenly points at little Jo Maru and calls the kid "Baby" when obviously he's the one with the eternally baby-looking face). It could have been the well-written recaps at Dramabeans by orangy911 which allowed me to understand the premise of the series before I even started watching it.

The idea of the female protagonist NOT being a bubbly dimwit, but on top of that having an easily tempered personality and possible mental instability was attractive -- her depression and sense of self-worthlessness is also a nice area to explore since all rom-com female leads have always been the standard bubbly, cheerful type of bunny sunshine optimism. The male protagonist with a dark past is an overdone cliche in a lot of stories I've read, so that part wasn't as intriguing -- however, the willingness of Seo Jae Hee to break down and show his weakness to Bong Sun was a refreshing concept from most recent episodes.

No matter what it was that had me watching Me Too, Flower! doesn't matter anymore. What mattered to me was that I was sold and I was hooked. Of course, I DO admit that the extremely non-standard hot kissing scene (though forced into the story line) did sort of motivate me to start watching the series from beginning to its current status.

To be honest, everything about Me Too, Flower! had been going alright -- in fact, I might be brave enough to say that this series is one of the better ones I've seen in a while. There were a lot of obvious editing issues when certain sequences ended up presenting a bit awkwardly (such as the forced kisses, which were also forced kissing scenes) but they were happily overlooked for the bigger picture. There is a lot to explore concerning the human mentality of emotions, and when your biggest enemy or rival happens to be your own self-conscious, it gets a little more enticing. I mean, who needs actual, physical human love rivals when Cha Bong Sun's own emotional instability starts rearing its ugly head against her chance at a happy love line? Of course, I will admit that I'm very forgiving in my drama series viewing (just like I've been quite forgiving about Seo Jae Hee keeping secrets even though I know that Bong Sun has every right to be upset with him for a long time to come).

The only unfortunate turn out of this series so far, however, is that it's starting to fall into a more standard rom-com progression, utilizing all the frustrating cliches that we love to hate. Noble Idiocy takes a swing, and even though it didn't last long, it still hurt. And now we're seeing the rise of the "evil female love rival" who'd been simmering in creepy possessiveness from Day One of the series and then subjecting one of the more potentially likeable side characters into that resentful chess piece position. We have a "Project: Break-Up the Happy(?) Couple" on the horizon (and I use the term "happy" loosely just because this couple really has more inner demon struggles than even any love rival can supply). Why another standard cliche that will only end badly for everyone involved? And then the other issue of our psychiatrist making the moves on his patient; while I like seeing the main male lead get all worked up and jealous over his girl, I really hope that our lovely Dr. Park will only remain as a good friend and lend an ear rather than try to worm his way into the fluffy romance.

And now finally the all aggrieved BIG MISUNDERSTANDING plot device, which leads into more little misunderstandings, which eventually build into "all the reasons why our main couple cannot be together even though they're hopelessly in love".

Needless to say, I'm getting frustrated, but I still want to see how the rest of the series pans out.

To put it simply: I'm a sucker for fluff. I know that the current angst and frustration is anything BUT fluff, but by golly if the main couple didn't have such crazy, goosebump inducing fluffy romance montages when they were happy together! I haven't been this giddy about a lovey-dovey couple in a LONG time, and at the risk of turning the series into a monotonous dribble of cute, lovey-dovey fluff and nothing else, I am really, really shooting for seeing more of Seo Jae Hee and Cha Bong Sun just amping up the adorable sweetness. In all honesty, this is what's keeping me glued to Me Too, Flower! right now: the rekindling of the love line after a frustrating non-break-up and The Cute factor. Jae Hee and Bong Sun just seem to fall into place together after they could finally admit their feelings for each other; it's only unfortunate that they suffer from a common relationship cancer (of sorts) called "Lack of Communication" thus leading to "Lack of Honesty" which will eventually develop into "Lack of Trust." If only they could climb over that barrier and be The Cute that this couple can manage, then I'd be extremely ecstatic.

What I wouldn't give to have a female lead NOT have the heebie-jeebies whenever her boyfriend gets force-kissed by a persistent home-wrecker. Then again, it wasn't like Jae Hee was trying that hard to resist; I mean, how much of a force is Kim Dal anyway? It also doesn't work in his favor that he's currently 2 for 3 on secrets kept and NOT revealed by himself to his girlfriend -- can't expect a girl to give you trust if you haven't exactly been very convincing.

Looks like this ended up becoming an update on my opinions of this series... Must learn to shorten ramblings in the future. My apologies... With few episodes left for me to watch, I've been struggling about writing more discussion articles to follow along with Me Too, Flower!'s progress.

On a side note, I'm not opposed to getting rid of the string puppeteer, Miss Creepy Possessive Representative, which would solve so many problems, so that our couple can focus on working out their own inner demons (which will probably take another five extra episodes to fight about) to bring the originally quirky and non-standard story line back on track.

Girl K

What can I say about Girl K? It was action-packed, it was dark, it was moody, and it really was just an adrenaline rush of excitement. It was carried by great atmosphere and acting and housed a spectacular break out performance by Han Groo in her first ever role in a drama series. It was everything you could have ever asked for in a story line following a teenage assassin. For all its brief glory, Girl K was an absolutely addictive watch carried from beginning until the end in fast-paced action and the strength of raw emotions.

And to be totally honest, I see Girl K more as a three-part extended movie rather than a three-episode mini-mini-series. Because Girl K reminds me of the action-packed, young girl kicking ass as an assassin movies (none of which I can recall right now). And I think its success is truly the abruptness of its crammed story arcs. And so I disagree with a lot of netizens that Girl K should have been a lot longer in order to elaborate on the little side plots that revealed themselves: the could-have-been cute high school love story, the revenge plot, the high school girl moonlighting as a trained assassin basis...

As it is, it gave you small bits and pieces of temptation and then left it there for you to interpret as you liked it. And it concluded rather nicely without too much dead space filled with unnecessary detail.

Because essentially, Girl K follows, more than anything, the revenge-motivated actions of our teenage assassin; once that's over, there's nothing else left for her. From the moment that she is set on avenging her mother, she has been able to see nothing else and so I'm almost too glad that her revenge was executed early and we give her a chance to rekindle a reason for continuing on with her life in the form of the BIG BADDIE, her biological father. This was a story arc that gave her reason and allowed her to continue on as well as allowing the viewers a hopeful open ended conclusion to Girl K's short three episode run.

There is one thing I DO agree with, however, and that is that it would be nice to see a sequel which would utilize our Girl K and her skills for some other reason. Maybe these three episodes could have been a prelude to a longer running episodic drama series in the near future, setting up Yeon Jin's training and knowledge of the darker aspects of the world, and then catapulting her into a young high school (or college, I guess) student moonlighting as an agent of some form.

I can see that happening and I would jump on that bandwagon pretty quickly.

Protect the Boss

I first picked up this series right after I completed Heartstrings. I watched the first episode and then I dropped it because it didn't quite pull me in. In fact, I never even really finished the entire first episode those few months back. After watching a movie that had Choi Kang Hee, I considered picking up Protect the Boss once more, but that was merely a flitting thought. And then I read about the raving of Kim Jaejoong's break out performance and saw a lot of the hype going around about how Protect the Boss was such a great series. It even got an extension (which doesn't always mean it's a good thing) but which means that the series was so popular that the production staff felt inclined to continue the hype by tacking on three more episodes.

So far, I've finished the first three episodes, and I must say, I'm quite sold on this world. I think I've been hovering around so many formulaic rom-coms in recent years that I grasp onto any chance that a drama series is NOT a typical romantic comedy with all the typical romantic formulas. I'm also a sucker for kick ass strong female leads, and so when No Eun Seul opens the series with a "gang fight" during her high school years, I wanted to like Protect the Boss. Why it didn't hook me in the first time around, I don't know. But I'm certainly intrigued by it now and am willing to sit through it despite all the mixed feelings that netizens are harping on about.

So far, I'm sold. Every character is so non-standard (ever since Me Too, Flower! I've been using this description too much, methinks) that it's actually pretty refreshing. Everyone seems to have an awkwardly insane (term used true to definition rather than for sake of slang complimenting) quality about them. No Eun Seul is already quite plucky as the fighting, easily tempered female lead with half a brain; Cha Ji Heon is the typical arrogant second (or third, I guess) generation chaebol son who has his OCD-laced, child-like tendencies of immaturity wielding the other half of that brain. Then there's Cha Moo Won who is like the omnicient gentleman, confident and reliable, but strangely turns sixteen years old in mentality at all the right(?) times when faced with Cha Ji Heon's own immaturity. Finally, Seo Na Yeon... well, let's just say that she's not that refined and classy young lady with that true to form holier than though attitude that most female love rivals are known for (nor what I'd expected). Instead, she's still the arrogant rich chaebol daughter, yet houses a much more comedic and screechy (causing my WTH blinkiness) unstable personality of a twelve year old brat who must resort to telling herself that she is "an educated person" so that she won't rush across the room and rip another girl's hair out.

Current impression of what I've seen so far: I'm liking it. I will continue to watch it. Because as outrageous as these characters seem to have been created, I kind of like the dysfunctional world they encompass. Cha Ji Heon's family also gives me that WTH vibe as well, but in a good way.

At risk of being flamed by JYJ fans, however, I DID want to mention that I'm not quite seeing the "breakout performance" of Kim Jaejoong -- yes, he performs decently, but it doesn't really seem as outstanding as everyone is making it out to be. Maybe I'm just not seeing that charm, or maybe he's being overshadowed (severely) by Wang Ji Hye's Seo Na Yoon, whom I am extremely loving as opposed to her role as Kim In Hee in Personal Taste.


And so there you have the 2011 K-dramas that I managed to watch within the past five months. While Me Too, Flower! has recently finished airing, I haven't had the chance to finish it yet, but I will be looking forward to the end (and hoping that things turn for the better). I will finish watching Protect the Boss fairly shortly as well as I'm quite enjoying the strangely weird characters; unless something else comes around to entice me, this will be the next series I finish. I make little mention about Tree With Deep Roots only because I haven't been following it even though I saw the first episode; everything I wanted to say about that first episode is included in my first impression post, so I would just be on repeat if I talked about it here too.

Soon will be Part 3 of this End of Year Reflection. It is unfortunate, however, that there's a possibility it won't be posted until after the new year. This is what happens when I'm drowning in ramyun, flowers, and laziness.

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