Short Report Card

During these 3-months holiday spell, which is about to end real soon, I’ve watched quite a lot of k-dramas. Watched a lot and wrote less, as you can see. Before I forget everything I thought I’d better write a short report card on them all – dramas I’ve completed, dramas I’m currently watching, and dramas I put on hold.


Life Special Investigation Team – Eom Ki-joon was utterly convincing and swept me off my feet as the arrogant bastard PD in Worlds Within, so it was really surprising to see him bummy and dorky in this 12-episode drama. Centered around three members of the team: a very enthusiastic rookie, a problematic but skillful slacker, and a workaholic and competent lead agent – This drama is about an investigation team from an insurance company which basically inspects whether a claim is genuine or a fraud. Each episode usually takes on a fresh case, and overall I think it’s a well-written, though a tad predictable. But the last few episodes really notched it up. The tone is light and comedic but show manages to deliver some emotional depth, where the tone takes a sharp turn to melancholy, but generally it always goes back to its cheerful roots. The main characters are well-fleshed and fun, and I say the 2 main guys (Eom Ki-joon and Kim Heung-soo) both nailed it, while Shim Eun-jin is doing a respectable job. There is a love triangle but thank goodness, it’s never ubiquitous so I wonder why it’s even mentioned in the blurb at all. Recurring side characters are given quirks and personalities, which is always a plus. Oh, and I really like Solbi here.

Oh, by the way, I’ve noticed Kim Heung-soo is christened sexy bastard in other shows…. He’s so bumbling, dorky, and unsexy in this show it’s cute. Now I’m curious.

Sungkyunkwan Scandal – Started out really strong as a mania, eye-candy drama that also has a brain and a heart. I’m a sucker for the youth idealism and gender-equality theme, plus it nurtured an insane crush on Yoo Ah-in. Song Joong-ki too was a stand-out. Finally, a drama which doesn’t get overwhelmed with its own *Girl is surrounded by three cute boys! Boys fell in lurrrvee! Squeeeaall, they’re fighting over sleeping positions!!* but balances it with wit and idealism and fabulous friendship and camaraderie of the fab four. Unfortunately, at the last quarter it went exactly the oposite, overindulged with its own cutesy and romance and slowly I fell out of love. Plus I had a brief break from watching which did not help at all. What a shame. It could’ve been so great.

Mixed-up / Evasive Inquiry Agency – One of the best drama I’ve watched ever. Even if the first episode was good but not quite convincing (I kept watching for Hee-kyung and flying with colours testimonials I read), it’s one that keeps getting better and better. The thing is, I only expected what I signed up for, which is a fun comedic ride, and I got a whole, WHOLE lot more. Everything about this drama: theme, plot, characters, is so not as simple as it seems.
I felt pawned, in a ridiculously good way. It’s fun and wacky, moving and poignant, smart and detailed, and very endearing. Park Yeon-seon is quickly becoming my favourite script-writer. Also, all five leads really did a great job portraying their awesome characters. Special shout out to Yeh Ji-won who’s so entertaining as drama queen Hee-kyung. Every self-professed drama-addict should watch this.

Jejoongwon – This also started my and my mum’s crush on Dr Hwang Jung. Park Yoong-woo’s performance is golden – as the earnest good-hearted, determined, too-perfect-to-be-true butcher turned doctor. In the setting of Korea on the cusp of modernisation and Westernisation, this is ultimately an underdog story. Although a sageuk, this series is very easy to watch, not to mention extremely addicting. I love the show fiercely with all my heart, overlooking (the few) imperfections. I grew to be very fond of not just the three leads but also the many supporting characters like Translator Yu, Horton and Allen, Mong Chong, Mak-saeng, even the despicable Japanese-Korean mish mashing Watanabe. The visuals and the soundtrack were top-class. The last third or so got a bit calmer and not as gut-wrenching, but no matter. Jejoongwon seals the deal as an addicting and uplifting drama filled with heart, spirit and soul right to the brim.

My Girlfriend is a Gumiho – I watched every episode promptly but there’s no sense of urgency or infatuation associated with this drama, with this being the nth Hong sisters’ drama I watched. If this was my first, it would’ve been an entirely different story because objectively there are a lot of good things going on. The main pair is really really sweet, the reinterpretation of the gumiho folklore quite clever, Mi-ho’s quirks are cute and endearing, Dae-woong is such a dear, and the second lead guy is ridiculously pretty (if useless). Too bad. I think of Noh Min-woo’s character as the writings in front of Death Note. Informative and intriguing at first, then getting so tedious that I stopped caring. The noble idiot plot device is over-dominant even if this time they tried the darnest to create a somewhat decent reason for it.

In Progress

Dream High – Oh hello new crack! It’s this close to reach the dizzying heights of SKKS and You’re Beautiful, I’m so looking forward to each new episode. It’s been a while since I watched a high school themed Asian drama, so this came at the right time. Besides, Dream High has an underdog misfit storyline for which I’m also a sucker, and the drama somehow got addictive after Episode 4. Half of this is because I have another insane crush on Kim Soo-hyun. Never watched any of his serious melos before but! He’s so cute it’s insane. Effortless actor, gorgeous face too. Besides, him earnestly shaking his booties are seriously a sight to behold. Eom Ki-joon is solid as usual (although I find him more endearing in his other works, but he still does very well as expected), while Park Jin-young who looks like a pissed off gorilla proves to be awesomely shameless. So is Teacher Kang’s hilarious noona whom, by the way, is also Chul-soo’s noona in What’s Up Fox? While for the rest of the idols, I think Ham Eun-jung is doing a good job, Suzy badly needs facial expression – lucky the show compensates by making her character icy. Anyhow she kinda grows on me so that’s ok. IU and Wooyoung are blessed with a cute overload – cute and good-hearted characters, cute love story, and it’s great that their storyline starts to step up with IU’s transformation to purrty, which I think is handled very decently. Taec is good-looking and good in looking cool. All the friggen time, I don’t know how he manages that. Actingwise, ehh…

Flames of Ambition – I LOVE this show. Fierce, intense, unapologetic, and extremely riveting. I’m not up to date yet because of subs, but I caught up to episode 22 and so far the story gets more and more addictive. It’s amazing how these characters are written and how my feelings about them change as the show went on. I started off with being ok with Young-min but right now I dislike him a lot, favouring Young-joon much more. Not just the writing, the stellar acting too is such a treat. Shin Eun-kyung the actress is awesome, as awesome as Yoon Na-young the character. Although she’s obviously portrayed as a bad person from the start: an ambitious and greedy woman who’s done many despicable actions, she’s excitingly unpredictable and I can’t help but root for her from time to time. I’m glad that Seo Woo has cut down on the overacting, and Yoo Seung-ho, good acting aside, looks unsettlingly too young.

Secret Garden – 3 episodes on. A good start, some LOL moments, and Hyun Bin and Ha Ji-won of course did a great job. Although when stripped to the very basic premise, the rich cold jerk meets hardworking poor lass is nothing new, overall it’s fresh, slick and fun. The characters are interesting too. What’s with Ra-im and her sometimes tough and strong, sometimes frustratingly and meekly apologetic attitude to her snobby superiors? Joo-won with his jerkish exterior and obsession to shiny tracksuits is fun too, although he starts to become more and more of an arse. And Oska! Like! He’s hilarious as the pampered Hallyu star with tons of diva attitude. One thing: Boy these people speak really fast. I want to see their faces but it’s kinda hard if I’m inundated with lines and lines of subs. It’s hard to concentrate on anything else when these people talk. So of course I missed a lot of details and this is where Dramabeans recaps come extremely helpful. Oh, and there’s something off with Philip Lee’s face. Objectively he’s pretty good looking, but I think he doesn’t look like a person. He looks like a terracotta warrior.

Alone in Love – If Flames of Ambition is explosive and fiery, Alone in Love is the exact opposite. It’s an awesome drama in its own unique way: languid, moody and contemplative, and the jazzy laid-back soundtrack fits perfectly. It has a subdued energy, but the atmosphere is very very lovely, in fact this reminds me a little bit of the Thai/Japan movie Last Life in The Universe, albeit a more cheerful and real one. At the same time the show is unexpectedly hilarious. I acquire a very peculiar way of watching this show which has never happened before: slow, even rewatching a few times. I just don’t want the goodness to end so quickly.

On Hold

Shin Don – I recklessly download about ten episodes because of some glowing recommendations. So far so good. Complex, well-written, lovely setting with the Mongol and slight Middle-Eastern influence, the main characters are riveting with multiple shades of grey. All the characters are amazingly layered – Jung Ha-yeon does his things really well. I especially love Jung Bo-seok’s Prince Gangneung, the Old Master, and Oh Man-seok’s Won Hyeon, and the serene-looking camel. I can’t wait what’s in store for Prince Gangneung and Princess Noguk’s relationship. However, I do think watching this together with Flames of Ambition is a waste of Jung Ha-yeon’s goodness, and since Shin Don hasn’t reached the addictive stage (yet), I think I’ll push it back and continue when Flames is over.

Assorted Gems – I watched about 8 episodes and I’m really tempted to drop out. It’s slightly above average, but not that good. I can’t bring myself to like the Goong sisters as much as I want to, although the grannies are awesome. I need a fresh motivation and I might pick it up again when I’m craving some familial affection drama, but the odds are low.

Oh,  X’s subs. My first time too. English ain’t my mother tongue and I used to avoid Literature like a plague in high school. Up till now, Shakespeare and olden English scare the crap out of me. Still, I actually enjoy his subs, which is distinctive and oddly humorous. It’s a really good way to get on and try to improve my English. Some phrases instinctively induce giggles although I absolutely don’t have any idea what they meant. After referencing to the dictionary, I giggled some more. However, it’s a double edged sword, i.e. non-fluent English users who might easily be turned off. (And I suppose a considerable number of k-drama lovers belong to this group.) Unless, it they’re preparing for the SAT and/or prepared to go crazy ala the Korean. Heck, several years ago I’d have been turned off. Still, I have heaps of respect for his work and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And for the more popular dramas, if the English level scares the audience off, there might be alternatives, like commercially available subs or viki or the like.

Holy, it’s not so short after all. Don’t worry, I’m done.


About toopai
part time couch potato, full time movie and drama enthusiast.

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