Thursday, May 28, 2015

KDrama Review: Sensory Couple/The Girl Who Sees Smells

The Gist: Choi Eun Seol's (Shin Se Kyung) life is derailed when she arrives home after school and a serial killer has murdered her parents. In the process of fleeing, Eun Seol is hit by a car and the murderer has the name tag ripped right off her uniform. The night is further twisted when the murderer heads to the hospital to off the witness and ends up killing the wrong school girl with Eun Seol's name. When Eun Seol awakes, she can literally see scents and one of her eyes has changed color. Along with her new ability, her memory before the accident has been wiped. Wanting to protect her, one the officers on the case adopts her and changes her name to Oh Cho Rim, erasing all signs of Choi Eun Seol. Jump forward several years and Choi Mu Gak (Park Yoo Chun), older brother to the girl who died in Cho Rim's place has become a cop to bring his sister's murderer to justice. The chance comes when the serial killer strikes again close to home. Mu Gak and Cho Rim cross paths, where they combine her unusual skill with his intuition to help solve crimes, leading up to the crime that changed both their lives.

And that's just the first episode. O.O Let's dig in!


1. Lieutenant Yeom (Yoo Jin Seo)

Seriously. Lieutenant Yeom is totally my hero. It's nice to see such a strong female character in what is essentially a romcom ... or a rommurdermysterything. Anyway, moving on. I love that she comes in and takes charge and the men are all respectful and deferential to her. She is their leader and that commands some real respect. I love it. I was worried we were going to have a weird love triangle with her and Officer Choi and Oh Cho Rim, which I think would have been a big mistake. But! They never do go that route. I am happy to say that Lieutenant Yeom and Oh Cho Rim pass the Bechdel test with flying colors. For those who don't know, the Bechdel test is when two women talk to each other about something other than men. Cho Rim is still fairly concerned with Officer Choi through most of the show as I can't fault her for, but I really love Lieutenant Yeom representing a well developed strong female character.

2. Originality

How about that! A romantic drama with originality. I love the emphasis on the senses in each of our characters. Cho Rim's ability is very unique and the effects for it were done well. It definitely had some questions - how does she not just get lost in a fog of smells. She seems to only see one at a time. Oh well, not thinking about it too hard. Officer Choi's narcolepsy/can't feel pain situation was also a new one for me and together you can really see the physical manifestations that their tragedies have had on them and how they cope with it.*SPOILERS* Ok, let's talk about our murderer for a minute here. Celebrity chef Kwon Jae Hee (Namgung Min) is our murderer and while he's not the world's most interesting murderer, his prosopagnosia is an interesting twist and at least patches up the plot hole of how he managed to murder the wrong witness.

3. Mu Gak

I'm going to give it to Mu Gak, I was consistently impressed with him throughout this show. Minor spoilers to follow. I was really worried about how he was going to react when he found out Cho Rim, the girl he loves, was meant to die instead of his sister and honestly, he took it like a boss! He took a minute for himself, but could then accept that it wasn't her fault and didn't blame her for what happened. Which, is better than how either Cho Rim or Lieutenant Yeom reacted. You go Mu Gak. I also really love that he pulls Cho Rim in for their first kiss after she hesitates. That could have been creepy, but it's pulled off real sweetly and I watched that scene like three times :)


1. Comedy... WHY?

So, I really wish I just jumped every scene relating to Cho Rim's comedy group. She is terrible and it never gets better. It really just detracts from the meatier scenes that I am actually interested in seeing. Also, Mu Gak's comedy bits just made me super uncomfortable, even if he's better at it than Cho Rim. I think the interspersed deadpan humor doesn't quite work out and I kind of just cringed every time. Not the best plot device ever.

2. Sugar-Coated Cotton Candy Sickly Sweet Romance

So Cho Rim and Mu Gak have great chemistry, but they are also corny to the point it's almost too much even for someone like me. Spoilers ahead. I think the epitome of this for me was the marriage proposal. He's going just so far over the top that I actually scrolled quickly through some of those scenes (balloons in the trunk - ah! I would hate that). Ultimately, the perfume thing was perfect for Cho Rim, but that episode was laying it on a little thick. They're adorable, but I think a little softening would have gone a long way. I do have to admit, though, I appreciate that Mu Gak is willing to set his pride aside when it comes to Cho Rim and go all out for her. It's a nice development from his stoicism at the beginning of the series.

3. Not Enough Side Quests

I get that we're working to catch a serial killer, but I think the best parts of this show are when they're solving the smaller crimes that we can really have fun with using Cho Rim's skills. Honestly, I'd prefer if this was more like Scooby Doo or CSI and less like ... I can't even think of a good comparison. Would have enjoyed more episodic crimes to solve!


1. Yeah, that's a lot.

Spoilers and spoilers on spoilers. So, I really really really hate that Cho Rim's father decides to just lie to her about her past. I get not wanting to just put that trauma on someone, but she's got to know sometime and I think not having the back story doesn't give her any time to cope about it. The biggest issue I have with this is that it puts her at really serious danger. He doesn't know that the murderer can't recognize her and even though they moved and she changed her name, it never occurred to him that he was connected with the case and might be tracked down? Honestly, Cho Rim was a champ, but the whole thing weirded me right out. It also, you know, doesn't help when she gets involved in the investigation anyway. I also really dislike that Officer Choi's sister died for Cho Rim. They move forward, but how is that something you ever get past in a relationship? This stupid murderer has decimated both their lives. Honestly, this point I feel a bit better about, but it really bothered me whiel I was watching it.

2. Can we catch this moron already?
More spoilers. So, the pacing of this show has some serious issues. Basically, once we find out that the murderer is Jae Hee, the chase is just drawn way out. Some shows can show who the murderer is and still keep it tense and interesting. This didn't. For me at least. We spent way too long with everyone knowing what was up and then not being able to do anything about it. Also, why would a serial killer become a celebrity? Now if anyone saw him, they'd be like, yeah it's that guy on TV. Being instantly recognizable has got to be the most unhelpful thing for a murderer. Anyway, I appreciate that he was smart, but every time I was like yes, finally, we're going to catch him! And then we didn't. Ugh. Too long. Also, I can't believe they just dangled Cho Rim in front of him and was like yeah, I'm sure this will go well. I'm willing to suspend my disbelief, but when she gets kidnapped, I'm almost like well, what did you expect? Also, while this isn't the worst amnesia plot I've seen, I was really hoping Cho Rim's memories would come back early enough to be helpful. But they really just came back late enough to be painful. Exciting at times, but paced poorly.


So...I was interested in solving the murders and figuring out the meaning behind the barcodes, but I think either they revealed his identity too soon or the show went on too long. I feel conflicted about a murderer who is equally super smart and just so dumb. I think this show was worth watching for the originality and some great chemistry, but I definitely was ready to be done with it before it was over. I thought this was going to be 20 eps. and I almost died. 16 was too long already. Fine for one watch, but will probably fall off my radar immediately.

Final Grade: C+

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Itazura Na Kiss - Brought to Life

Hello, lovelies! Now that I have finished the second season of the Japanese remake of Itazura Na Kiss, I think it's time to discuss the differences and similarities of the Taiwanese, Korean, and Japanese versions of this show. I have always loved the original story, which has an impressive scope  and a warm romance. Hence, two of these versions are in my top 10. Anyway, let's dive right in!

Source Material: Itazura Na Kiss - Manga by Kaoru Tada
Itazura na Kiss.jpg
Volumes: 23
*Note: Kaoru Tada unfortunately passed away before finishing her story, but her husband has informed shows of the intended ending so that each story can choose what they want to do with the ending of their story.

Taiwanese Version: It Started with a Kiss/They Kiss Again
It Started With A Kiss-poster.jpg
Years Aired: 2005-2006, 2007-2008
Episode Total: 50
Stars: Ariel Lin as Ziang Qin, Joe Cheng as Zhi Shu, and Jiro Wang as Ah Jin

Korean Version: Playful Kiss

Years Aired: 2010
Episode Total: 16 w/ Several YouTube Specials
Stars: Jung So Min as Oh Ha Ni, Kim Hyun Joong as Baek Seung Jo, and Lee Tae Sung as Bong Joon Gu

(Recent) Japanese Version: Mischievous Kiss: Love in Tokyo 1 +2
Itazura na Kiss-Love in Tokyo-p2.jpg
Years Aired: 2013-2015
Episode Total: 33
Stars: Miki Honoka as Aihara Kotoko, Furukawa Yuki as Irie Naoki, and Yamada Yuki as Ikezawa Kinnosuke

Best Chemistry:

I think this one has to go to the Japanese version with Honoka and Yuki expertly cast in our leads. I think there's this comfort and teasing these two have off-screen, find some behind the scenes things if you can, they're adorable. Honestly, I was floored to find our there was such a startling huge age difference between the two of them because they're so well-matched. I honestly like the Korean and Taiwanese casting as well, but I think Honoka is our best leading lady. She's got a bit more personality than So Min and is a bit more put together than Ariel. I think a stronger case would have been made for our Korean couple if the story had gone on further.

Best Side Characters:

I'm going to split this one up.

I really love Kin in the Japanese version. I think he comes off as the least creepy/crazy of the three, if you can believe that. I think he comes through as a really solid friend. I love the scene where he goes to find Naoki when his brother is in the hospital. He puts his jealousy aside for the larger issue at hand. I love him.

As far as our Christine goes, I hate the Korean version (she's not cute and has no development), I'm OK about the Japanese version, though she's a bit of a caricature, so I'm going to give this to the Taiwanese version. I think her relationship with Ah Jin had the most time to develop into something real, so that she got to be a well-rounded character.

For that reason, I think the friends of our leading lady are also the best developed in the Taiwanese version, the immense length of that show lends itself well to developing side characters.

The family for me has to go to the Korean version. I love the baby Baek brother and think he was the best cast of the three by a long shot and I also think the mom in this version has the best balance of crazy and caring.

Best Intimacy:

You get one guess. ONE. Duh, it's always the Taiwanese version. As with pretty much all Taiwanese versions, they don't kiss like they're made of glass. The Korean version is seriously lacking intimacy, the Japanese second season has a fair amount, but the Taiwanese version had me actually fanning myself through their honeymoon (whew! So hot.) Let's look at their first kiss, sweet and innocent in the Japanese and Korean version, but obviously tense and passionate in the Taiwanese version. It's pretty much the reason to keep going to that well. Lovin' it. I mean, It really started with a kiss ;)

Best Framework/Pacing:

So, I'm usually in favor of concise and brief shows. That said, I think the shortest of the three, the Korean version has the best pacing for the first season (except the Christine story-line) but really only tells half the story. Really, this story without the marriage is just not complete. Now, the Taiwanese version rounds out its characters well, but sweet Jesus, it is really long from start to finish. I'd say the end of the first season of the Japanese version is rushed, but the overall pacing and framework of the show is the best.

Best Ending: 

To me, this has to go to the Japanese version, no question. Essentially, the Taiwanese version doesn't end so much as stop, and the Korean version, even with the specials is still missing a bunch of the story. The Japanese version feels complete. Well done!

Worst Choices:


This has got to be a split between how awkward their wedding was (and the fact that the picture of it is literally hanging over the entire second season) and the total abrupt replacement of the younger brother with a terrible actor somewhere in the second third of this show.


Christine. I'm not going to go into this too much as I've touched on it already, but she is abysmally done in this version.


I'm going to make this a tie between the Rika episode and Kotoko's overwhelming incompetence as a nurse that just won't quit. We all know you can do it if you apply yourself Kotoko! Do it!

Since I can't really pick just one...

Best 3 Scenes of Each Version:


1. I mentioned the honeymoon before, but I actually really love the scene where Zhi Shu asks Ziang Qin's dad if he can marry her. I love this scene in every version, but this scene is the longest, where they are holding hands while Ziang Qin is actually processing what is happening to her. I think it's especially sweet.

2. I love the jealousy scene in the Japanese version too, but I think I like it better in the Taiwanese version. When Zhi Shu finally comes to term with the fact that he's jealous over her and pretty much proclaims his love loud and proud in their cafeteria. Touches my heart!

3. You know, I actually think Ah Jin and Christine's romance coming to fruition after her injury is probably my third favorite thing about this show. Christine is such a sidelined character in the Korean version and doesn't get full development in the Japanese version, that I'm going to give their confession my number 3 spot favorite scene!


1. I really love the moment when the brother is in the hospital and Seung Jo comes in and Ha Ni is rattled, trying to figure out where she left her phone and is clearly trying to hold it together with eerie calm. Seung Jo wraps his arms around her and says thank you. She just breaks down and it just warms my heart.

2. In that same vein, I love the balcony scene after Seung Jo essentially proposes. I think I just love when he has his arms around Ha Ni. Adorable.

3. I'm not sure why I love this scene so much, but I really love the scene where Ha Ni is trying to talk Seung Jo into taking the entrance exam, explaining about how he has so much to give to the world. It's a good example of what works in this one.


1. You have to read my review to know how much I love the coffee scenes. That very first coffee scene where Kotoko is pretty much glowing is actually one of my favorite scenes in all the versions.

2. I love the pillow-talk that Kotoko and Naoki have when she stays over after the hospital scene. I hate that Ha Ni and Ziang Qin make such fools of themselves in this scene in other versions. Kotoko holds herself with grace, they get to know each other better, and there's a nod to the coffee. At any rate this combined with the kiss back at the hospital make this one of my all-time favorite episodes.

3.  Let's give this spot to the scene during the episode where Naoki accepts a medical internship out of town. It seems at first that he doesn't care that he's leaving Kotoko, but we overhear him talking to her father about how hard it's going to be on her to complete nursing school without the support of her friends when he's working all the time, but that he's about to break and bring her anyway. SHUT UP. I love the following scene where Kotoko explains how well she's going to do and be strong and Naoki just interrupts her with a lovey kiss. It's a great marker for how much their love has grown.

Let's finish up by saying the kiss in the rain confession works in every version. AH! Even though I know it's coming every time, I just squeal like a school girl. Wonderful!