Monday, April 27, 2015

KDrama Review: Blood

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The Gist: Park Ji Sang (Ahn Jae Hyeon) is a vampire. Or rather, he is infected with the vampire virus VBT-01, born to infected parents. After he uses his abilities to help a young girl, he decides to dedicate his life to helping people, rather than give in to his thirst. This proves especially difficult after his parents are murdered and he sets out to cure his illness and find the people responsible. This lures him to Taemin Cancer Hospital, where thanks to his non-aging, he is an incredibly young top surgeon. This irks Dr. Yoo Ri Ta (Ku Hye Sun), a fiery young surgeon, who also happens to be the girl whose life Ji Sang saved. Ri Ta is the least of Ji Sang's worries as the infected Director of the hospital tries to bring Ji Sang into the fold, while hiding the experiments he's performing in the poorest patients in an effort to perfect the vampire virus. Ji Sang's best friend Joo Hyun Woo (Jung Hae In) and coworker Dr. Jung (Kim Yu Seok) work alongside Ji Sang and Ri Ta to help combat the Director and find the cure. It's mystery and romance at Taemin, where everyone has secrets and some of them are lethal.


1. Ooey-Gooey Romance

I came into this drama with fairly low expectations. Vampires are falling out of fashion, although Ji Sang's Carlisle complex is fairly adorable. The main reason I watched this is because I really enjoyed Jae Hyeon in My Love from Another Star and I was curious to see him in a leading role. Except for the fact that he kisses sort of like a mannequin, I thought he and Hye Sun had excellent chemistry and really sold the often times corny lines alongside the dramatic ones. I wasn't crazy about Hye Sun as Jan Di in Boys Over Flowers, but she does play up that energy well. Honestly, I really loves that there weren't any love triangles happening, no one was shunned and unrequited, which was a nice change of pace from my usual fare. The romance actually takes quite some time to develop, but I didn't mind because it was just as much fun watching them become friends and frankly, there's a lot else going on in this story to keep you preoccupied. I also was totally in love with our secondary love storyline, but more on that later.

2. Action, Adventure!

So I went into this drama thinking it would be primarily romance, with some backstory filled in. I think now that the romance is, very cute, really just one piece of a larger conflict. I was surprised at how quickly I became invested in what was happening and felt very distressed alongside Ji Sang. I loved the crime fighting group we had by the end of it and that we didn't dance around the fact that Ji Sang is a vampire too long. I was kind of stunned to see Choi Kyung In, which you may remember as the horrible mother from Pinocchio (I know I do!). Minor spoilers ahead... I found it very interesting that her trajectory was pretty much 100% in the other direction from her character in Pinocchio. In Blood, she starts out so sweet and turns out to be so evil! I was shocked. Actually that brings me to the next point....

3. What a twist!

Spoilers. Obviously. So when Ji Sang agrees to take on Min Ga Yeon (Son Soo Hyun) as a residence, she seems like an innocent little lamb. I honestly thought her biggest threat was going to be fighting Ri Ta for Ji Sang's affections. How mistaken I was. When they reveal that she's actually been workign for the Director the whole time, I was impressed with how taken aback I was. I really thought she was trustworthy and I didn't suspect a thing. Normally, when there is a reveal like this, there is something to show for it to lessen the shock, but I was really just blindsided. And I appreciate that. It's boring when you know everything that's coming and although she dies in the end, you do get rewarded for your faith in her as she sticks to her guns against the Director in the end.

4. Luuvy

So, Luuvy is totally random, non-essential and I don't know who thought that a robot would make sense in this storyline, but I love him so much. He adds a lot of comic relief to a series that never veered too far into serious and really just teased our characters on how ridiculous they really are. It was an odd choice, but I think despite the logic factor, Luuvy is a fun addition to this show. 


1. Plot hole?

So, I was able to mostly look past this, but I was confused about what exactly was special about Ji Sang. The Director goes on and on about how he needs Ji Sang and how special he is, but aside from being immune to death serum, he seems to have all the same problems that regular vampires do and he gets super weak around blood, which is worse than regular vampires. He extolls all this effort to find Ji Sang and then get him to like him and then force him to find a cure for the side effects. It's all just not clear why he even cares if Ji Sang is alive or around, other than the fact that his parents weren't supposed to conceive. So, kind of sloppy writing, but oh well, we move on. 


1. Was that even an ending??

Eh. Not really. Despite the cheesiness of the romance and the overdoneness of the vampire story, I was really ready to give this show a grade somewhere in the A-range, right about until I watched teh last three episodes of the show. Let's break down this non-ending and ready, set,go (Spoilers - Ahoy!)

First, Yoo Ri Ta gets totally screwed over. I am stunned that the Chairman and the Asst. Director had her parents, and almost her, murdered to get hold of the hospital. After all the love and support, how does someone ever recover from something like that? She has a line in this episode about how her heart is now an empty room and it's true! Everyone she cares about has pretty much betrayed her in the worst way possible. They both get their comeuppance, but it doesn't really mitigate the horror that Ri Ta is going to be left with. Yikes, that got dark.

Speaking of dark and Ri Ta getting screwed, second, we find the cure, yay! But Ji Sang has to die, maybe? Even though they're testing blood that has been drawn, somehow he has to be injected with the something to make something to cure the patients? Or something? See how skeptical I am. So, that's totally cruel to Ri Ta, but it gets worse. We never get to see if the patients are actually cursed and somehow at the end, Ji Sang is somehow not dead, but there's no explanation, no nothing, except for what seems to suggest that he is still a vampire and no human, which leaves his romance with Ri Ta right about where they started. Annoying.

Speaking of death and romance, thirdly, Hyun Woo, no!!! So right after he gets a happy little romance and potentially finds a cure, Hyun Woo is murdered, brutally and sadly. I hate this. I don't mind any of the other deaths, but Hyun Woo is an absolute good. Again, I think the end of this show got surprisingly dark for how balanced the rest of the show is. Really, once I got to the end of this show, I was kind of angry and confused and disappointed. Which is all too bad for a show I really was enjoying.


So... if the worst issue we were going to face was that Ji Sang isn't obviously special enough, then I really enjoyed this show. Unfortunately, a really confusing and dark ending overshadowed what was otherwise a gripping thriller with a lovely romance underneath. Such a pity. Although, I do look forward to what Jae Hyeon is going to do next. He has that comedic yet brooding thing down. So adorable.

Final Grade: C

Monday, April 6, 2015

KDrama Review: KPOP Extreme Survival/The Ultimate Audition

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The Gist: When Ji Seung Yeon (Go Eun Ah) fails out of her classical piano training in England, she returns to Korea with a dream of singing her kind of music. She arrives at an interesting time as her uncle, Director of a talent company, is in the process of revamping one of their more popular bands, M2. M2 is headlined by the mega popular star Woo Hyun (Park Yoo Hwan) with the bad attitude, who clashes with his band members. Much to the dismay of their team manager, Director Jang is pushing for graduation of the clashing members. To fill in, he announces an open audition where anyone can apply to be in M2. To help her best friend Kwon Ji Woo (Kwak Yong Hwan), who has stage fright to the point of immobilization, Seung Yeon submits his audition and with it, her own. Due to her boyish looks and style, she passes no problem. Eight candidates make it to the final stages, where they must compete but also form a solid team. While Seung Yeon pursues her dream, she also finds herself thrown together with Woo Hyun, who is confused by the strong chemistry they have together.

1. Smart Choices

So, I'm betting this whole set up sounds pretty familiar. This show's premise borrows really heavily from the framework of You're Beautiful (girl undercover in a boy band with a moody, but so handsome talented leader). Yet, I'm thinking that KPOP makes some smart changes. First, I appreciate that the entire show isn't stuck on Seung Yeon's insignificant girl problems ("OMG! Where do I put my tampons?"). I like that in her relationship with Ji Woo, she plays the protector role and she's not focusing on how to walk and talk like a man. Honestly, she really is mostly just being herself. Although, I think that taping up her chest really doesn't totally disguise her hourglass figure and I found it a little distracting in certain scenes that it's so obvious she's a girl! Anyway, more on her passing/not passing later. I was also totally thrown by how much Yoo Hwan looks like his brother, known by me for his leading role in Rooftop Prince. Yet, Yoo Hwan totally stands on his own as Woo Hyun. He's got a lot of talent. I hope we see more from him in the future. 

2. It's Cute

So, this show is super easy to binge watch. I was sick last week and now that I'm all caught up on Blood, I needed something to watch. KPOP was on Netflix, so I just started it on a whim. Those episodes go down easy as ice cream. They touch on a lot of the standard issues, but always stays pretty light and enjoyable. There's a nice undercurrent of friendship and teamwork, but the romance is also just adorable, if not totally sizzling. I pretty much just awwed my way through this show. I honestly just wanted to keep watching it once I started.

3. Jealousy

So, I really loved that the way Woo Hyun and Seung Yeon work out their feelings for each other is by making each other jealous. It was honestly just funny because neither of them can hide their emotions at all. It's written all over their faces when one of them is hurting and you can see the recognition as they play off each other. While they fight a bit, I think the best moments is when they're a little insecure and they push each other's buttons to get some validation. That's maybe not healthy, but it was still really cute. 


1. Music

For a show that's pretty much all about the music and loving music, the songs weren't great. The juniors go to song was a bit disjointed and Seung Yeon sings in a tenor only dogs can hear. It's so obvious she's a girl! That said, I'm so impressed with the pipes on Ji Woo. There wasn't a point in this show where I thought, I want to listen to this song again or download it or anything, which seems like a missed opportunity for me.

2. Ji Woo

AH! I'm so frustrated. *Minor Spoilers* I was super in love with Ji Woo and Seung Yeon's friendship. It is so rare that shows will allow a man and a woman to be friends without a complicated triangle. While I appreciate they didn't draw it out so much, I felt like Ji Woo's confession came totally out of left field. They seemed so platonic and then suddenly he wants to be her boyfriend. It was weird. Also, isn't there some thing where people who are friends when they're really little and grow up together hardly ever become romantically involved? Anyway, I really wish that they had just left Ji Woo as a supportive friend. It really bummed me out.


1. Director/Team Manager Romance

Ugh. This was really the worst part of this show. It's obvious they're in love and for whatever reason, they won't just work it out. Then there's some bull side plot with the flower girl and honestly the whole thing just had way too much screen time. I just didn't care and wasn't sure what I was supposed to take away from the whole plot. Spoilers ahead. So, I'll get to the ending as a whole in the minute, but the ending for this storyline is just jarring. Team Manager Han bails on the director and the company and runs off to America? I can't believe they never got back to him chasing after her. So what, did he just end up with flower girl? Who he obviously doesn't like? The whole thing was unsettling, but I thought we'd at least get a nice confession. Don't bank on it!

2. That Ending

OK, so I must say I was prepared for this to end poorly. Other reviewers had thankfully warned me that this show got cancelled two episodes short of its original run and the ending really suffers for it. For a typically well paced show, the ending tripped all over itself. We have a quick reveal that Seung Yeon's a girl, but we don't really see or understand how that wraps up. Is she staying in the Juniors? Is she pursuing her own thing? It's all so vague. Also, Woo Hyun's ex taking the fall for that is sloppy and doesn't make sense at all. Really, it just doesn't have time to answer the questions it has asked or have any followup at all for the characters. It's presumed that the juniors will debut, but who knows how it goes.

Honestly, the saddest piece about this whole thing is that this show is pretty meta. These actors really are doing this to pursue their dreams and the show getting cancelled is like double crushing their characters and themselves. I hope we see some more from some of these actors in the future because I actually really enjoyed this show.


So... the ending of this show is a hot mess. There's no getting around it. That said, I'd say the first thirteen episodes are a solid A. The last episode is probably about a D. So, if you go in prepared, I think it's still worthwhile, but it will certainly build up some expectations and then let you down, not very gently either.

Final Grade: B+