Friday, December 30, 2016

KDrama Review: Moonlight Drawn by the Clouds/Love in the Moonlight

The Gist: Hong Ra On (Kim You Jung) has always reluctantly lived her life as a man and in her teen years has taken up giving romance advice. This leads her astray when a friend/client gets entangled with the crown princess, sending Ra On, disguised as her male self Sam Nom, to deal with it. When she ends up facing Crown Prince Lee Young (Park Bo Gum), friction sparks between them. This friction sparks to an all out flame when Ra On ends up being sold to the palace as a eunuch. Yet as Ra On supports the prince in a time of unrest - the king is haunted by a rebellion that may not be quite dead and the prime minister and court officials are working against them - his feelings towards her begin to change, even before he realizes exactly who she is. It’s political intrigue, history, and romance today in MDbtC. Let’s go!


1. Crackling Chemistry!

Kim You Jung is a fabulous young actress. It is hard to believe that not only is her character in her late teens, but she is as well. She was amazingly expressive in Moon Embracing the Sun, so it was a real treat to see how she has grown as an actress in this series. Not everyone can pull off the gender swap convincingly, but I thought You Jung was simply stellar.

Despite the age difference between the two actors, Ra On and Lee Young had onscreen chemistry that was almost tangible. They were really well cast opposite each other. Although I suspect the very stoic way they kissed (did You Jung almost look afraid a few times?) was due to her young age, it still played very sweetly.

Bo Gum has a lot on his plate as the young crown prince, but he handled it with poise and a dedicated emotion that made this character instantly lovable. I liked the steel this character had, even while being incredibly sweet. The romance really is the star of this show.


1. Three Friends Tragedy

Let’s talk about the crown prince, his bodyguard, and the prime minister’s grandson. Spoilers to follow. All three were very close in childhood, but are torn apart by three separate causes. Lee Young is working very hard to protect his position as future ruler, the bodyguard Byung Yeon (Kwak Dong Yeon) is working with the rebellion to avenge his family, and Yoon Sung (Jin Young) is divided between protecting his family’s legacy and helping old friends. All are trying to reconcile their personal feelings with what they think are best for the country. I was really, really hoping that all three would survive, reunite, and use their separate positions as a way to work together.

That is super not what happened and I’m still kind of bitter about it. This is not to say that the character development wasn’t great or that the acting wasn’t perfect, all three did amazing jobs, but I feel like historical dramas never reconcile broken childhood friendships and it bothers me.

At any rate, Byung Yeon is kind of my favorite so I am glad he didn’t actually die. I also especially liked Lee Young’s unwavering faith in his friend. Despite all the warnings, his trust was rewarded and it’s nice to see such a strong relationship, even if we’re not sure how things work out for Byung Yeon at the end.. I wish I could say the same for Yoon Sung, who not only poses a threat to Lee Young’s throne, but falls for Ra On as well. It’s almost like a reconciliation then, that he gives his life to save Ra On and removes himself as a threat to Lee Young. It’s an ending that works, but it’s not exactly happy.

2. The Ending

Spoilers obviously. Don’t get me wrong - I love that Ra On and Lee Young end up together. However, I am a bit miffed that they aren’t married by the end of this. For Lee Young to really be secure, he needs a queen and an heir! I guess we’re supposed to imagine something of that sort happens later, but I was hoping that after we see Lee Young in his King getup (nice scene btw) that we’d get a glimpse at Ra On in her queenly outfit.

I do like that the King makes an effort for the would-be crown princess Ha Yeon (Chae Soo Bin) so that she can take her broken heart and find love elsewhere. I actually really liked Ha Yeon and thought she would have made a fine princess, which actually adds a bit of tension to the show. It would have been easy to hate her, but she is undeniably likable. In another show, she could have been the heroine.

Now, it is not to say that the end of this show is bad. It really isn’t. There is a satisfying comeuppance for those working against the crown and is all around about how you’d expect this show to end.

3. The Pacing

I think that this show is too long. By the time I hit episode 13, I really wondered how it was going to take 5 more episodes to resolve this. While there was certainly action-packed episodes, I think the last third of this drama dragged a bit. I am stoked they didn’t extend this to 20 episodes, but I think 16 would have been a bit tighter. These dramas have too much of the villains sitting around discussing evil plans. Naturally, I suppose, you need a balance to the happier storyline, but it did weigh down a bit for a minute there.


Nothing really to hate, just a few missteps here and there.


So...It may seem like I am complaining about this drama, but I honestly really enjoyed it. The characters are well-developed and interesting, the actors were all phenomenal, and the romance was well-written with chemistry to back it up. I have a few grudges with the way the show wrapped up, but it was a very entertaining and heart-warming (for the most part) watch. I definitely recommend this one.

Final Grade: B+

Friday, December 2, 2016

Thai Drama Review: Kiss Me

Somebody help me - I cannot stop watching every remake this show seems to come up with. This show is based off of the same manga (Itazura Na Kiss) as Mischievous Kiss (Japanese), It Started with a Kiss (Taiwanese), and Playful Kiss (Korean). I’ve never watched a Thai show before, but when I found out about this…

Seriously. Send help. Can’t stop. Won’t stop. Let’s dive in.

The Gist: Childhood friends Tenten (D’Angelo Mike) and Taliw (Managing Sucharat) are reunited after spending most of their adolescence and teen years apart when Tenten’s family returns to Thailand from Japan. When Tenten joins Taliw’s high school, she is instantly smitten, even though she doesn’t remember their falling out many years earlier. Fate continues to draw them together when Taliw’s home is destroyed after a gas explosion, causing Taliw and her father to move in with Tenten’s family. Tenten still remembers their relationship as children, but is hesitant to pursue Taliw, who is much more outgoing, silly, and less booksmart than Tenten. Furthermore, Taliw’s overprotective best friend King (Phiangphor Sarasathapheng) is not shy about his feelings for her. It’s time for love in Kiss Me!


1. Changes to the Leads

Let’s start with Tenten. Yes, this is the same framework of the male lead from the iterations of this show, but Tenten pretty much knows he is in love with Taliw from day one, which is new and fabulous. I like the background story of having the leads know each other as children since their families are so close. None of the other versions ever explain why the kids haven’t met before or put all of this together. Having Tenten’s family move and come back is an elegant solution to this problem, but I digress.

Tenten recognizes Taliw immediately and seems to be in stages of realizing he likes her pretty early on. I think this story is more him trying to sort out how to make the two of them work rather than him being in denial for the entire series. For example, in Mischievous Kiss, I really believe that Naoki doesn’t like Kotoko for most of the show, but falls for her as time progresses. Tenten very early on is obvious about his feelings. For example, the classic tutoring scenes really show that Tenten is struggling with the fact that he likes Taliw. This is the only version where I really felt that the two leads were friends, rather than the girl just being someone the boy tolerates. This does make some of the ending scenes a little confusing, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

For our leading lady - Taliw - who has all of the qualities we come to expect from this role: not the brightest, but plucky and likable. I do have to say that I appreciate that they make Taliw a little more abled in this version than others. When she gets to college, we don’t focus on her struggling through school, but let her studies fade to the background as a non-issue. I liked this change as I’ve always been a little uneasy with this character being so inept and then moving into a health profession. Taliw is the only character I feel comfortable with her moving forward with her goals in life.

2. Some Very Sweet Scenes

So some of the benefits to the fact that Tenten is more attached early on means we get some very sweet scenes peppered throughout the show. I’ll touch on a few of my favorites (there will be spoilers!). Tenten seeks Taliw out after their graduation, just to spend some time with her, which leads to a cute hug with their first kiss not too long after. I was kind of amazed at this scene because I cannot imagine any of the other iterations of this character just coming to find her just to see her this early in the show. It was nice.

Second, when they go with their teacher to help build the school, Taliw gets lost when attempting to find help for a sick friend. Tenten is not shy about going out after her and when he finds her, they have a really adorable hug. Again, I imagine that if Naoki out of Mischievous Kiss was in this scene, he would have played off how worried he was about her and moved on. I like that Tenten takes time to comfort her and that builds up to another kiss later that evening.

Super spoilers. Seriously. While I was mad they messed up the rain scene (we will get to that!), I must admit, that proposal was so ridiculously adorable, I was squealing for like a half hour. It does a really nice job of bringing up their childhood relationship to the forefront of the moment by having him read the letter he wrote so many years ago. It also says a lot about his feelings for her that he kept it all this time. It makes their relationship seem much less one-sided. It is actually also a really earnest moment from Tenten. Just lovely.


1. King

So this character always gets the short end of the stick, but wow I feel like this version leaves him high and dry (some spoilers). Despite the fact that we can tell early on that Tenten does really like Taliw, King is still firmly working his way in for a chance with her. We all know he’s going to get his heartbroken, but because this story ends much before the source material, King goes forth without his happy ending. In other versions, this character eventually finds another to love and comes to acceptance about the leads’ relationship, but this show pretty much decimates his feelings and then just ends the show. I almost felt like I was missing scenes in this show because it seemed really cruel to just close it out that way. Anyway, for fans of this story, prepare for this character to be just trampled.

2. Namkang and P’Dan

So, in all versions there is a smart girl that works as a bit of a foil to our dim leading lady. Namkang (Bubear Pim) is that character for this version. While I don’t mind her being in this story, we spend a weirdly long amount of time with her and P’Dan developing a random side story that has very little to do with the rest of the situation. I wouldn’t even have minded the amount of time we spent with them if it wasn’t for two things. The first is that it took a lot of time out of Tenten and Taliw’s relationship development. Second and more importantly, there was very little payoff for them (more spoilers). At the end of this, P’Dan really just takes off and Namkang, who might just be getting over Tenten is left alone… again. I feel a little like everyone but Tenten and Taliw get screwed over by this ending. It made me feel a little confused that I just spent a bunch of time in the later episodes getting invested in these characters and then they fell apart. Seriously though, did I miss some episodes?


1. Let’s talk Some More About that Ending

OK. Besides the fact that King and Namkang get really horrible endings, I had some beef with the way things wrapped up with Tenten and Taliw. So Nana (Pimpatchara Vajrasevee), an ex girlfriend of Tenten shows up for the last few episodes of this show. It’s not really shocking, some variation of this character shows up every time.

However, the changes they’ve made to Tenten make this plot totally bananas. Tenten has already decided pretty concretely that he likes Taliw and has gotten pretty close to her. Yet, he pretty much ditches her as soon as Nana shows up. We don’t really know too much about what’s in the past between these two, but it seems really counter to this character for Tenten to just bail on Taliw. In other versions, the Naoki character spends a lot of energy denying his feelings and trying to like this other person. Yet, Tenten isn’t really doing that so much, so I was super confused about this turn of events.

Finally, the reason we are usually able to forgive this plot development in the other versions is because there are added stakes. For instance in Mischievous Kiss, Naoki agrees to an engagement, despite the fact that he is falling for Kotoko, because it will save his father’s business. It adds a layer when Naoki decides that Kotoko is even more important than helping his family. In Kiss Me, there are no extra strings attached. It really is just that he seems to kind of waffle for awhile before really deciding that he does, in fact, like Taliw better than Nana. The whole thing seemed weird and off-putting after his sweet sides to her through the show - I mean, don’t get me wrong, he is still hot/cold - but he’s definitely more affectionate than other versions.

I guess the proposal makes up for this somewhat, but I still felt like the ending was executed in a way that is clumsier than the rest of the plot.


So… I did enjoy this show, as I do every version, but I think it had some pretty big missteps. I loved Tenten and liked to see the relationship develop much differently between him and Taliw than the others, but the second half of this show had some confusing plot developments. Ultimately, the ending of this show left me feeling a bit mixed, despite the happy ending for Tenten and Taliw. I would say it’s worth a watch if you like this storyline, but it is definitely not my favorite version of this show.

Final Grade: C+