Monday, December 16, 2013

KDrama Review: The Heirs

The Gist: Poor but hardworking Cha Eun Sang (Park Shin Hye) dreams of running off to America to escape her life of too many jobs and a mute mother (Kim Mi Kyung). The chance comes when her sister, studying abroad, announces her engagement and Eun Sang dumps all her money in a plane ticket to move to America. That dream is short lived when her sister’s ‘engagement’ turns out to be her mooching off a sketchy guy and disappearing with Eun Sang’s hard earned money.  Stranded and alone in a foreign country, Eun Sang is saved by Kim Tan (Lee Min Ho), illegitimate heir to one of Korea’s biggest corporations living in America. Kim Tan falls for her fast despite having a contractual engagement to another one of Korea’s richest Yoo Rachel (Kim Ji Won), so far as to follow her back to Korea into a complicated and strenuous family environment. Luckily he’s not alone as Eun Sang’s mother has become a live-in maid in Kim Tan’s house, forcing Eun Sang under his roof. If the pressure from his family wasn’t enough, Kim Tan and Eun Sang’s relationship comes to a breaking point when they head off to Tan’s ritzy school, where Eun Sang has to pretend to be new money, lest she bring the wrath of Kim Tan’s old friend Choi Young Do (Kim Woo Bin) who is determined to kick the charity cases out of their school. 


1.The Characters

Ok, normally I’d list a few of my favorite characters in the love category, but I just can’t pick a few for this show. They’re all so interesting, well developed, and well-acted that I’m going to take a chunk of just listing out all the best things about everyone.
Cha Eun Sang – Not exactly original, how many times have we seen the poor girl, rich guy plot? Still, Park Shin Hye shows some serious acting chops as Eun Sang is thrown one obstacle after another and she handles them all smartly, plucking up the courage to hold her head up high in a tough world.
Kim Tan – Speaking of tough world word, Kim Tan’s story had my heart breaking: a mother he has to hide, a brother he loves who hates him, a background he has to be ashamed of, a lost best friend, a loveless engagement, and a father who has too much expectation without compassion. Yet, Kim Tan faces it all head on and with a smile, always trying to figure out how to help the people he loves without hurting anyone.
Choi Young Do – Speaking of heartbreak, I think everyone has to love this character by the end of the show. In another universe, tough guy Young Do would definitely get the girl. Young Do shows the most growth of anyone in this series, shirking his childish bullying ways to step into the responsibility his family bears. It’s also good to work towards some catharsis between him and Kim Tan as you can tell they care about each other.
Chan Young (Kang Min Hyuk) and Lee Bo Na (Krystal) – God, I love this pairing! It’s so nice to have a solid relationship not caught up in triangles and just dependable. Chan Young brings out and adorable side of Bo Na, an otherwise jealous and annoying character, and their support of Cha Eun Sung was an unexpected delight.  
Rachel – Like many of the young heirs, growth for Rachel comes in breaking down under terrible circumstances –a fiancĂ©e looking to leave her, an instable home life. She isn’t offered as much growth as say Kim Tan or Young Do, but she comes to a point of acceptance about her life and even gets a few moments of genuine connection with another human being and that person is…
Lee Hyo Shin (Kang Ha Neul) - His dry humor and wit lend a good humor to the stress that a lot of our characters are under, including himself. Under strict parents that don’t care about what he wants and an impossible love, Hyo Shin is on the upswing in this show, coming back from rock bottom to figure out how to get what he wants.
Kim Won (Choi Jin Hyuk) – Unrelenting in his harsh demeanor, Won had me angry at him from the start. Yet, when you understand how much he’s had to fight for in his family and out to realize his dreaming of running the company, his attitude becomes understandable. He and Kim Tan have opposite priorities in love and business, which means Won has to sacrifice his happiness to dedicate himself fully to his path.
The Moms – Kim Tan’s real mom (Kim Sung Ryoung) seems spoiled at first, but boy is her life hard. Her budding friendship with her maid, Eun Sang’s mom, had my heart full as she has no one else to rely on. There’s a nice parallel as their kids grow together, so do they.

So yeah, that’s a lot. But the show juggles its enormous cast gracefully, keeping you equally invested in many storylines. Several of the adults had me seething through the show, but the only one who really escaped any kind of sympathy or redemption was Hyo Shin’s parents.
2.The Beginning and the End

I’ve already mentioned a bit about the beginning of this drama in my sneak peak, but I think the time Eun Sang and Kim Tan spent getting to know each other, alone, in California is some of the strongest scenes in the show. There was a real plain and simple enjoyment out of watching the relationship develop before heaping on the obstacles. Likewise, the ending had a very smart finality to it. Instead of using the last episode as some grand gesture in their romance, it focuses more on the heirs coming into their own as several company and family crises force the younger generation to step up. The kids you know as high school students get a glimpse at adulthood, their chosen paths in life and a lot of relationships are still on the mend. It wasn’t tear worthy or perfect, but it didn’t yank our characters apart and focused on the bigger picture. 

3. Getting Ahead of the Problems

YAY! I was so worried about the reveal about Eun Sang’s financial status, but she owns it like a boss. In fact, I love the way the Heirs handles all its problems. Some of them are clichĂ©, some of them drag out a little, but they never lose their pacing in fixing things up in time for a nice moment before the next struggle. I’ve said it before, this show was just a simple joy to watch, fun if not a little thought provoking.


1.Control Freak

So while I loved the romance between our two leads and the chemistry between our favorite actors, there is a sweet spot in the middle of this show when Eun Sang just wants Kim Tan to stay away from her. He is not having any of it. Once you realize that Eun Sang doesn’t really want him to stay away, it’s cute, but initially it causes a lot of problems for Eun Sang and makes Kim Tam seem like a selfish jerk. 

2. How About Not?

So maybe I don’t understand about company and shareholding, but it seemed to me that when his father tried to tie him down by giving him a bunch of shares in his company, he should have just given them to his brother or his mom right then and there. Maybe he couldn’t since his father was his legal guardian, but I felt that he should have walked away a lot sooner to get control of his life again. That said, I get that he didn’t want to leave his mom in the house alone, but for an episode or two I was like why is this even a problem? He doesn’t even want the company!

3. Lengthy

Since I did like this show a lot, I minded its length much less than other shows I’ve seen. That said, I think this could have done fine in 16 episodes what it did in 20. It doesn’t lag at all, but I also don’t feel like we’re making big strides in the story in the middle section that we haven’t made already. However, I do appreciate the amount of its long run time it dedicates to a spectrum of character development rather than rehashing our main duo over and over and over again. 


1.No Son of Mine Will Ever Be Happy!

I’m not sure how many times I’m going to have to say that I’m so sick of the rich parent who doesn’t care about his or her child’s happiness. The Heirs is chock full of them, but Kim Tan’s dad is the worst. His sons hate him, hate their moms, hate each other, and are all in all just generally despairing all the time, but hey, as long as they’re rich, who cares? There always seems to be some hard lesson they’re trying to bestow, but not everything in life has to be a business transaction. Just once I want a decent rich parent! He wasn’t super rich but Chan Young’s dad was an exceptional parent. Gah! Enough with this storyline already!


So… I had my doubts about this show, about the chemistry between two big name actors, playing characters much their junior, but I liked it immensely without even trying. I didn’t have to make excuses, it was simply entertaining, heartbreaking and warming, with a somewhat unique take on a familiar tale. Would definitely recommend.

Final Grade: A-

Monday, December 2, 2013

KDrama Sneak Peak: The Heirs

So, it's been awhile since posting and that's mostly because I've broken my usual routine and started watching a show currently airing: The Heirs. Starring familiar faces Lee Min Ho and Park Shin Hye, the Heirs to me feels more like a Korean Gossip Girl than Boys Before Flowers kin (I mean, how Blair is Kim Ji Won's Rachel?). So I'm right about halfway though - I'm a few weeks behind - and I thought I'd put out my current thoughts. The opening episodes, I loved. There's a sort of mystic quality to the California episodes and our two leads get a lot of alone time before getting shuffled into a huge cast of characters. So far, every side character is impressively well developed. The flip side to that is the dynamics of the relationships between the characters can often be confusing. Kim Tan's family situation took me like four episodes to figure out.

Kang Min Hyuk's Chan Young is adorable and he charms in every scene he's in. Honestly, if this were  in the vein of Boys Before Flowers Kim Woo Bin's bad boy Young Do would have more of a shot with our leading lady. So that brings us to the sticky middle of this show. I find myself still enjoying the episodes but a few problems are developing. First, Kim Tan is getting a little pushy with his feelings. Eun Sang is just trying to survive and keeping her feelings in check helps her do that (Kim Tan is engaged, keep in mind). Therefore I feel for her when Kim Tan ignores her pleas to leave her alone, which is a problem, because I want my love birds to be happy together. For the moment, Kim Tan needs to back off and help Eun Sang in a way that won't cause more problems. I have faith that the show will repair this issue as it goes on, but it's a little frustrating in the mean time.

Second, the show is driving towards an inevitable collapse. When Eun Sang gets a scholarship to the rest of the cast's ritzy school, she gets caught up in a lie that she's "new money" so the kids won't bully her for being poor. Obviously, there's no way this can end well and in the mean time, we're just waiting for it to fall apart. I for one like a little surprise and when a problem just stares me down, it disrupts my enjoyment of the show. Still, I'll withhold final judgment until I see what grace the show deals with the fallout, but in the mean time, I'm pleasantly surprised. At the very least, it's getting the bad taste of Meteor Garden II out of my mouth.

Friday, November 1, 2013

TDrama Review: Meteor Garden 2

The Gist: Everything seems to finally be going right for poor girl Shan Cai (Barbie Hsu) when her wealthy boyfriend Dao Ming Si (Jerry Yan), flies her to Barcelona to propose. Good luck doesn’t last long when Si is in a car accident that wipes his memory. That leaves him lost and in the care of wandering artists Ye Sha (Michelle Saram), the other victim of the accident. Shan Cai calls in Si’s best friends and fellow F4 members Hua Ze Lei (Vic Shou), Mei Zuo (Van Ness Wu) and Xi Men (Ken Zhu) to help find him. Unfortunately, by the time they are able to locate him back in Taiwan, Si is not impressed with what he’s learned of his past self and wishes to stay lost with his new love Ye Sha. Even as Ye Sha tries to help new friend Shan Cai get Si’s memory back, she secretly loves him too. Shan Cai and Si end up torn between the relationship they had and the new mess they’ve fallen into.



Seriously the only redeeming thing about this season is the dedication of Dao Ming Si’s awesome friends. The way they look after Shan Cai is heartwarming and heartbreaking all in one fell swoop. The other versions don’t build as much of a friendship between them and I actually really liked that choice for this show. They do all the cute things for Shan Cai that Dao Ming Si is too dumb to do, like the Valentine’s Day radio dedication that almost had me in tears. Not only that, Mei Zuo’s romance and Xi Men’s father issues make up the best story lines, even if they only show up super late in the series. If there’s anything to like about this series, it’s the boys.


1. Qing He (Edward Ou)

Still fairly annoying, Qing He manages to not be totally expendable this season! With her romance in a catastrophic mess, Shan Cai needs all the friends she can get and Qing He is always happy to help. It plays up nicely when new girl Mimi (Megan Lai) takes to him to help lessen the tension between him and Shan Cai. Their scenes were pretty much filler, but it was at least a pleasant distraction from the horror show that was going on with the rest of the series.


1.Amnesia/WAY Too Long

 It’s hard to even know where to start with the things that I hated about this season of this show. First off, amnesia is the WORST plot device ever. It undid all the development up until that point and instead of building their relationship, you end up spending the series just trying to get back to where we started. Now if you have to do amnesia, keep it to an episode or two. MG2 spends the ENTIRE season on this one plot problem and it is painful. It takes them almost ten episodes to even find the darn guy after his accident and then it takes a whopping 25 episodes for him to get his memory back (that’s twice as long as most series!). Nothing about this is done well at all. I have never before this skipped scenes or episodes as I was watching, but I would never have gotten to the end without doing so. Just awful.

2. Poor Ye Sha

Oh my gosh. This poor character. She is spunky and nice and actually a pretty good match for Dao Ming Si (which is a dumb move, half the reason you love this story is because Shan Cai is the only one for him). If this was told from her perspective, it would be an absolute tragedy. A hot young guy falls in your lap, as much as you try to do the right thing and help him remember, you can’t help but fall for him. When she finds out he has a girlfriend, she willingly steps aside. She is awesome. However, the show only gives him his memory back in time to remember that he loves Shan Cai right after Ye Sha confesses. It’s awful. All the moments you want between Dao Ming Si and Shan Cai happen with Ye Sha. They travel, build a home together, have moonlit dinners. This whole show is romance between Si and Ye Sha only to have poor Shan Cai broken in the background the whole time. At the end of it – NOBODY IS HAPPY – everyone is worse off than when they started.

3. Poor Hua Ze Lei

One of the things I liked about season one was Lei wasn’t in such competition for Shan Cai’s affections. He steps aside for his friends’ happiness, but as Si is an idiot through this entire show, Lei is the constant pillar there for her. Like Ye Sha, Si’s memory only returns just in time to crush any chance he had with Shan Cai. Lei is the nicest, best character and he gets totally shafted this season.

4. Poor Shan Cai

I’m just going to keep on feeling bad for everyone. Shan Cai is interesting to watch because she’s hardworking and feisty. She’s like a zombie this season, eaten alive by sadness and there is just no advancement for her except to get beat down harder and further. After spending so much time with her and season one, it was awful to see her go through so much abuse.   

5. Who the heck are these people?

Seriously, just when the show tries to make any kind of progress, it throws in a whole mess of ensemble characters we don’t like or care about, and then spends a bunch of time with them. The restaurant workers at Si’s job and the country bumpkins Shan Cai stays with are two prime examples. Their story doesn’t add to the main one, but rather pulls us way off course. I honestly jumped every scene with these characters after getting the gist because this show was already WAY TOO LONG.

6. The Ending

So, after all this ranting, you must be thinking, why did she watch this whole show if it was painful? Hope. I had hope that this tried and true loved story would pull out a redeeming ending that made it all worth it. But did it? NO. *Spoilers* After starting with an almost proposal, I can’t believe they didn’t ever actually get back to him proposing. If I’m going to sit through 30 episodes of garbage, there better at least be a happy marriage montage at the end. But no. It was just like welp, sorry I love someone else too. I thought for sure when he got his memories back he’d run to Shan Cai, apologize, and love her. Instead, he doesn’t tell anyone and just mopes that two girls love him instead of one. BOOHOO YOU SUCK. 


So… it finally happened. My first F. This show is not only a complete an utter failure, but a long drawn out betrayal. Hana Yori Dango is my most favorite and I can’t stand to see the show butchered like this (it was actually worse than the Korean version omg). It’s like having your own sister kill your dog. It’s not just sad, it’s personal. Nothing about this show works and I wish I had amnesia so that I could forget all the hours I spent on it. Just. Awful. 

Final Grade: F

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Overall Drama Review by Grade

I was asked by a commenter on my Playful Kiss Review to organize my posts by grade. Since I don't know how to do that - I've put together this post of all the dramas I've reviewed up until this point and sorted by rating. We start with the best of the best all the way down to my least favorite, adding Japanese/Korean/Tawainese and release date. 

-Hana Yori Dango 1+2 (JDrama 2005/2007)
-Faith (KDrama 2012)
-Shut Up Flower Boy Band (KDrama 2012)
-Playful Kiss (KDrama 2010)
-Mary Stayed Out All Night (KDrama 2010)
-Ikemen Desu Ne (JDrama 2011)
-Coffee Prince (KDrama 2007)

-Lie to Me (KDrama 2011)
-The Devil Beside You (TDrama 2005)
-Meteor Garden (TDrama 2001)

-Heartstrings (KDrama 2011)
-You’re Beautiful (KDrama 2009)
-Paradise Kiss (JMovie 2011)
-It Started with a Kiss 1+2 (TDrama 2005/6)
-Ryusei no Kizuna (JDrama 2008)
-The Moon that Embraces the Sun (KDrama 2012)
-Full House Take 2 (KDrama 2012)
-Last Cinderella (JDrama 2013)

-Gokusen Season 1 (JDrama 2002)
-Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge (JDrama 2010)
-Lovely Complex (JMovie 2006)
-Flower Boy Next Door (KDrama 2013)
-Kyou Koi wo Hajimemasu (JMovie 2012)

-Sprout (JDrama 2012)
-Liar Game (JDrama 2007/2010)
-Gokusen Season 2 (JDrama 2005)
-Love Shuffle (JDrama 2009)
-Orange Days (JDrama 2004)
-Kimi wa Petto (JDrama 2003)
-To the Beautiful You (KDrama 2012)
-Smile (JDrama 2009)
-Monstar (KDrama 2013)

-Goong (KDrama 2006)
-Mei-chan no Shitsuji (JDrama 2009)
-Gokusen Season 3 (JDrama 2008)
-Kimi Ni Todoke (JMovie 2010)
-Romantic Princess (TDrama 2007)
-Nobuta wo Produce (JDrama 2005)

-Personal Taste (KDrama 2010)

-City Hunter (KDrama 2011)
-Hana Kimi (JDrama 2007)
-Dream High (KDrama 2011)
-Nodame Cantabile (JDrama 2006)
-Shiritsu Bakaleya Koukou (JDrama 2012)

-Boys Before Flowers (KDrama 2009)
-Bloody Monday (JDrama 2008)
-Kurosagi (JDrama 2006)
-Yankee-kun to Megane-chan (JDrama 2010)

-Zettai Kareshi (JDrama 2008)

-Secret Garden (KDrama 2010)

-Flower Boy Ramen Shop (KDrama 2011)

Haven't flunked anyone yet :) Let me know what you agree with or what you disagree with.