Tuesday, February 7, 2012

thoughts: Dream High 2 (Korean) -- Ep. 2: First Impression follow up

So, okay... There are specific reasons why the random musical numbers worked in the first Dream High. And now there are less specific reasons why the random musical numbers aren't working as well in (specifically Episode Two) of Dream High 2.

Let's start with the latter:

It starts off rather cutely. First we have the 'Trouble Maker' music over while OZ President is explaining the new rules to all of our Kirin students (the non-idol status ones). Basically he's going to forbid anything related to having fun, which pretty much would kill the mood of an arts school created for the sake of breeding future entertainers. But I'm sure OZ Agency has already got in mind what they're going to do with the original students of Kirin anyway -- the good ones may get to stay, but for the most part, Kirin has just become another branch of OZ for the sole purpose of letting their pet idols continue practice, training and have a place to stay. It's more business-oriented than it really is a place for youngsters to fulfill their dreams, so this will probably be a point that is addressed in coming story progress (if we get there). I thought the musical number for this was kind of neat; of course, it was also a bit strange, but in a more comedic sort of way. The OZ President and his assistant are doing a little twist on an MV-like number with dancing included. So I went with it -- it didn't cost me anything and it got its point across.

But then we enter into the second random musical moment in Episode Two... and somehow, we go a little overboard. And to be totally honest, I thought it was cute... the first part of it. The Kirin students welcoming the idol group with a little MV-style performance of T-ara's Roly Poly. It was pretty ingenious because it is a means of presenting a random music number in a 'musical drama' type fashion that suggests that, yes, Dream High is a musical drama after all. And it pays tribute to both T-ara members who are part of the Dream High franchise, Jiyeon and Eunjung. And it was cute.

But then it just kept going...

Onto yet another music video-like rendition of a song with our JYP's character Yang Jin Man in center stage.

And then even more continued musical numbers, fake microphones, different stages, backgrounds and dance numbers included.

It got annoying fast and the next thing I know, I'm sitting with my chin propped on my hand wondering what was actually going on and whether or not I'd stepped into a whole different series. There was no point going across except for "Extremely Long Welcoming Ceremony Comprised of Mashed Musical Numbers in MV Format." I was okay with the first part of it; I really DID think it was really cute. And I would have been okay with the part where two members of HershE sang back to the Kirin students. But any more than that and we find ourselves asking: "What the heck? What's the point in all of this b.s.?" Because unless those musical numbers served another purpose, it was just plain silly and a waste of time. We could have gone into more story development with those wasted five to ten minutes.

I mean, right now I'm dying for some more of the developing self-conflict that Hye Sung has been given: her pursuit of a dream that she might not be able to accomplish because she doesn't have even the basic talents to back her up. I found myself wondering, "Aww... So what's gonna happen to her?" In standard "Fight For Your Dreams" genre, we hope that something will happen and Hye Sung will either get an epiphany and suddenly have a better singing voice so that she can fulfill her dream. Or we hope that the story will come up with some other form of dream she can pursue in the same category so she doesn't feel like she's lost out. Or are we going to dash all those dreams altogether and just wonder whether or not she'll end up picking up a completely non-related dream and end up going for that?

I'm interested in what'll happen to Hye Sung in that aspect. Dream High 1 had given us a bunch of already pretty talented kids who just needed a chance to debut. Everyone from Jin Gook to Jason had decent singing chops and dancing talents, and even Sam Dong, the country bumpkin, ended up being a musical prodigy. I'm interested in seeing how Dream High 2 will deal with Shin Hye Sung's lack of musical basic skill and whether we'll be able to cultivate her from a talent-less dreamer into a top star. But in Episode 2 I wish we would have had a little more development and see some more emotional insight rather than just presenting the situation and then letting it roll right over. Give us more story so that I can care more about Hye Sung than the little that I care about right now (which doesn't really amount to much, honestly).

Instead, all we get is a whole lot of "let's dump all the characters' issues into a pile after the silly extended MV and try to go somewhere with it in one hour". And so I'm confused as to whether or not Dream High 2 really cares to show us what's significant in a more eloquent way, or if it's confused as to what conflict it wants to make use of first.

Because the only other aspect of this series I care for so far is truly the budding love line (or lack thereof, presently) between Hye Sung and Yoo Jin. I'm under the impression that these two will be the main couple already. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it because the promotions as well as the chemistry makes it quite clear. Yoo Jin is already showing signs of care (and possibly more?) towards Hye Sung, because if a guy like him didn't care about a girl in his school, he wouldn't be making such a strained, concerned expression about her well-being. He's already shown signs of annoyance at her fangirl love for JB, and then he goes and offers her his sleeping corner when she can't get back into the dorms. If he really DID find her that annoying, he wouldn't care that Hye Sung's dreams had just been shattered; he'd just jeer at her for picking up a dream she can't possibly fulfill. It's getting somewhere already, the love line, and it's cute enough for me to get little smirks in here and there.

And so because of that, in my mind, this series has just been downgraded to standard rom-com set-up with nothing much else to look forward to aside from our main couple coming to terms with their feelings, and then a few randomly scattered side plots to propel the story forward. It just so happens that this rom-com takes place in the Dream High alternate universe with music, talk of dreams, and the like.

And so, at least I'm liking the two main characters even if I don't care a lick about the rest of the kids in this school (except maybe Jiyeon, but that's because I'm being biased). I'm glad that these two have great chemistry together and that, as I'd already mentioned in the first impression post, we're not averse to showing a sillier, less elegant side of Kang Sora as Shin Hye Sung (cue random seance scene gone bad). It's also a plus that Jung Jin Woon is showing the world that even idols can present good enough acting skills for you to follow him through; coupled with Kang Sora, I'm not at all worried for the fate of emotions being tied in with both their respective stories as well as their love line. They're delivering just fine, even if not the best (at the very least better than the rest of the idol/actors in the series).

And that's about it.

I mean, I see the main conflict... but it's like all I really see is a recapped summarization of it. Jung Jin Woon is carrying his half of the character conflict really well, and so despite Jin Yoo Jin being a pretentious prat, I'm sailing in his camp because I'm feeling HIS dilemma. On the other hand, JB... I see his point. However, since I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel for this guy, his character does not make a very convincing, passionate, self-confident argument. And then what it ends up coming down to is that I really just DON'T care about the conflict at all now. Although I DO see the potential of it now that the idol group has moved in with the underdogs and maybe some light will be shed between one side and the other with Hye Sung propelling a possible "make up and get along" movement? I don't know, I'm just making random predictions, but this is the typical course of action for a lot of set-ups like this.

Which is why I'm not excited about it.

But I'm still holding out that Dream High 2 is just starting off on rocky footing like the first Dream High had done. Despite the fact that I was hooked immediately to Dream High 1, I will admit that it wasn't the best of build-ups, although by the time Episode Two of the first Dream High rolled around, we already had some foundation to work with: the Misfits class, the more emotionally deep rivalry between Baek Hee and Hye Mi, the love line developments, a more convincing anticipation of our Underdogs' dreams, and the side love line with Jason and Pil Suk...

Right now, in Dream High 2, I'm not exactly sure I know WHAT I'm looking forward to seeing aside from the love line (because, and I repeat, even the central conflict between the two leading men does NOT entice me). I'm hoping that JB can contribute to his role a little bit more; he has a cute little scene wherein he's scared to death that someone has found his questionable CD with possible adult-rated material on it (yes, I blanked at that one too, but it WAS extremely hilarious in a silly way; and Kang Sora's expression is great upon discovery of what the CD has on it) and he plays that role rather well. But give him a lot of angsty emotion and the like and I'm head-desking (if everyone thought that Suzy was unable to emote, at least HER character role was written to actually BE robot-like and emotionless). JB is a well-thought out character with a great central conflict and some interesting little personal quirks that can be seen in hindsight; but JB as an actor is just not grasping that part of the role very well. Which is disappointing because I WANT to know how he's feeling and what he's thinking.

But let's do some back-tracking to my intended point of this article to begin with: the musical numbers.

In Dream High 2, Episode One, the musical numbers made sense. Two stage performances, one street performance, a random serenade... In Episode Two, the musical numbers were cute... But what the, huh? The extended music video was lost on me. Completely.

In Dream High 1, I don't think I had a problem with ANY of the random musical numbers. The auditions were purely a talent contest so singing was a must; same goes for the examinations. So they weren't really random since Kirin Arts School in the first Dream High really was a school that tried to cultivate young talents for the entertainment world. Even the random street performance by Sam Dong and Hye Mi was cute and served a purpose -- the kids were lost, needed to find a way back to their hotel, needed money for taxi fare and food, and so they did what they did best: they sang and performed on the street for money. I mean, it would have been a lot cooler had the series allowed an acapella performance for that, but I bought it anyway because it was fun and cute (and didn't last for twenty minutes). The random dance off that happened afterwards was... well, it was random, but it was also really cool and ALSO served a purpose. I mean, as much as I love Sam Dong and Hye Mi, they really were trampling into the Japanese street performing group's turf to begin with and so the dance off wasn't too bad.

Some of the musical numbers may not have made sense; but for the most part, they were actual musical numbers performed by our kids in the series rather than like that long-drawn out mash of music video in Dream High 2, Episode 2. The musical performances in Dream High 1 may not have all been purposeful, but at the very least, they were presented in a way that made sense to me. The street performance of SNDS's Genie by our Misfits was golden! The school showcases were pretty nice to watch, and otherwise, the only other random musical number that I remember from the first Dream High was in the beginning when Hye Mi sang 'Only Hope' while trying to go to the bathroom out in the middle of nowhere (because no matter what, I wouldn't be able to carry a tune very well if I was taking a dump).

Dream High 2 is only into its first few episodes, and I guess it's still too early to give it so much grief. But the fact is, if this weren't part of the Dream High franchise and hype, or if it wasn't a sequel or if it were some other series altogether with no connection to Dream High... I might have already checked out of it. I understand that a lot of people are saying: give it some time to get better. But really now, with so many other series airing in the next few weeks and so many other series currently airing that I haven't gotten to, do I really have time to waste on a series that's not going where it had promised to go in the first place?

Nonetheless, I will admit that for the mere fact that I'm waiting on Hye Sung to have her dream realized and for the resident love line, as well as even for hope that Jiyeon's role will become more significant with time, I'm sticking with Dream High. I just hope I'm not putting too many false hopes into this; and I'm also really doing my hardest not to make too many comparisons, but damn if it isn't a difficult task. And so I apologize for not being more objective, but then again, did anyone really expect the comparisons NOT to be made in the first place?

I will say that I liked some of Dream High 2's "behind the high school idol" concepts, such as the entertainment news at the beginning of Episode 2 interviewing the OZ kids, HershE and Eden, about transferring to a new school. It incorporates things like this rather well only because I'm sure this is how things are in the entertainment world anyway. I also like how Ri-an's (Jiyeon) conflict is coming about too: the fact that she has wanted to become an actor, does not have the skill for it, and so debuted as a singer in order to short cut into acting, but is getting her opportunities dashed because her acting skills are NOT improving. And so this ties into the same boat with Hye Sung's desire to be a singer, although not having the vocal chops to make it happen. At the same time, JB is shown as wanting to be a "true" musician rather than an idol who dances along to techno-style music with flashy lights in the background -- he wants the talents that Yoo Jin has, but lacking that, he takes the short cut to stardom as well to try getting there.

It's a great concept that I wish the story would just jump into rather than dragging out so much build-up detail for two episodes straight. A lot of things could have been cut, down-sized to Episode One, and then we'd be able to start the heart of the story line and the conflicts in Episode Two. I would totally be less frustrated.

But I guess, to be fair to the Dream High franchise overall, I admit that there's a big difference between one series over the other. My mindset, walking into Dream High 1 was of the bored and "Do I really want to watch this teeny-bopper dribble?" type of thoughts. And so it was surprisingly satisfying when Dream High 1 ended up being such a great sixteen hours worth of cracktastic fun. My mindset walking into Dream High 2 was of a more expectant type akin to "Yay! Dream High, redux! More musical fun!!" crossed with "Let's let the glory of Dream High continue one!" with a dash of "I hope all this hype lives up to its expectations." And so unfairly, I might have actually expected a whole lot more of that grandness and glory that I had not expected from the first Dream High.

However, it still doesn't deny the fact that, even by the end of Episode Two of the first Dream High, I was already feeling the heart that it had; whereas in Dream High 2, I'm really wondering where that heart went, which DOES make things a little disappointing.


Related articles:
first impression: Dream High 2


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