The Queen of Asian Drama is Back with more Irreverent Reviews and Snarky Commentary.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Honjitsu mo Hare. Ijo Nashi / 本日も晴れ。異状なし / Clear Skies, no incidents




A Japanese human interest drama that aired from January through March of 2009.

GOSH did I like this!
And, not just because it starred hunky Sakaguchi Kenji, either.
It's no surprise to me that anything I watch from this country will effectively manage to take me away and then help to make me feel better afterward.

I've said this before, but it bears repeating: Japanese screen writers are incredibly talented.


When I watch dramas of this caliber, it makes me feel like I'm watching something in black & white from 1940's Hollywood, and THAT says a lot about the storyline, the actors, and the direction.
I tell myself that it's probably something my parents would enjoy viewing, and that always makes me feel good.

Sakaguchi plays Shirase Ryo, a detective from Tokyo who takes time off work to stay for a year on a tiny island in greater need of a doctor than a beat cop.
At the start, Ryo is overbearing, loud, and impatient, which is in obvious contrast to the laid-back, simplified lifestyle the islanders are accustomed to living.
It's not clear at the beginning why he's actually there or what he hopes to accomplish by butting his nose in everyone's business all the time.
Ryo is obnoxiously enthusiastic in his bumbling efforts to make a good impression on the islanders, and he arrives at a time when most of them are at a crossroads in life, too.


The scenery was breathtaking, but I'm confused by the dramawiki remark that the island itself is 'based on' the real-life island of Hateruma.
?What?

Anyway, Ryo eventually blends in, makes a good impression, and works hard to help everyone solve or deal with their personal issues.
He fosters a teenage girl, Tamashiro Minami, and her baby brother, Shota, who lost their mother the day that he arrived on the island.
He visits daily with the sick & elderly, taking their blood pressure for them and listening to whatever it is they want to talk about.
And since he's a big guy, he carries heavy bundles or sacks of flour for the women, too.


He also helps out at the school, which is ready to close due to dwindling enrollment.



The island produces sugarcane, but only enough that one family is capable of taking care of the entire crop.
A majority of the island's inhabitants leave when they graduate high school, which means little in the way of hope for the survival of the island.

It sounds doom & gloom, but it's not that kind of a story at all.

Ryo sent a man to prison under false charges, and the mistake ate away at his conscience.
He's overly compassionate, so when he heard the old man singing a childhood tune, he requested to work on the island, where the old man once lived.

He rides a bike around the island each day, and every night, he records the same thing in a log book.




Twists & turns abound, with a smattering of humor and even a few tear-jerking moments as well.
Ryo puts out one fire after another while he's there, and despite the island's laid-back nature, he still maintains a modicum of spaz that helps to up the humor ante.

THEN his boss arrives to drag him back to Tokyo, where he believes Ryo is needed most.



Kataoka Shinichiro is a detective who first agreed that Ryo needed time off work to reflect, but after awhile, he grows restless and wants the no-nonsense, awesome fighter back on his team.
He phones Ryo to say he's coming for him, and when Ryo turns around, he gets kicked in the ass by Shinichiro.



At a meal, the elder detective insists that Shota eat something, scaring him half to death in the process and making him cry.



He then proceeds to follow Ryo around the island, curious to know what he's been up to for the past, few months.
He's not happy, and he ends up shoving his foot in Ryo's ass again, -




- but at the school, and the children there gang up on him, angry that he would hurt their hero friend, Ryo.

That night, we find out just why it is that Ryo is behaving so stubborn about remaining on the island and wasting his talent & time.





Ryo learns a lot about himself and others, which is the whole point of the story.
He also helps the man he sent to prison, though it seems totally pointless to the viewer up until the very end.

Shota misses his dead mother and has a hard time coping in & out of school.
Minami feels horrible about being obligated to Ryo and the islanders, so she continues to think up ways to leave.
A woman who owns a bar there is running from an abusive husband while her two, little boys think happy thoughts about the day when their father will return.
The young, female teacher (Saimon Ulala) hates her life and behaves differently in public than she does while hiding out in her room, hording beer & spam and wearing funky clothing.
The principal seems wimpish on the outside, but he's actually quite capable and much stronger than his younger, doctor brother, who refuses to live on the island where he's needed most.
And an elderly woman ends up being a foster mother to the man Ryo sent to prison.

For a tiny island with few inhabitants, Ryo has his hands full trying to keep up and solve their everyday problems.

In one scene, Ulalah confronts Ryo about not giving Minami money when she asks for it.
Turns out she ran out of feminine stuff, and when Ryo wouldn't give her the money unless she told him what it was for, she turned to the teacher for help.

Ryo and Ulalah end up working together to make changes happen, falling in love in the process.

At the beginning of Honjitsu mo Hare, Ryo helps Shota by letting him paint a mural on the wall outside his 'police box' home, and Ryo is somewhat disappointed to discover that Shota drew everyone but him.



At the end of the drama, he returns to the island with the assistance of a cane, and he's overwhelmed to see that Shota drew a great, big picture of him at the end of the wall.







~He's got the look~

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Glass Slippers - 유리구두 - Yuri Gudu



A March to July, 2002 Korean drama that starred SO JI-SUB as Park Chul-woong, the muscle-bound son of a chauffeur, who's boss is the president of a media conglomerate.

The story revolves around two, young sisters living with a single father who is not only dying of leukemia, he gets hit by a car and dies, leaving them stranded & alone in a poor, seaside hamlet away from Seoul.
A boy and a gang mess with the girls, causing them to get separated, and while Jang Jae-hyuk (Han Jae-seok) seems like a nice guy, his intentions are anything but honorable.

And as MOST Korean dramas go, surprise-surprise! the girls are actually blood-relatives of one of the richest men in all of Korea.
And yes, he's the media mogul So-fine's character's old man chauffeurs.

Kim Tae-hee (Kim Ji-ho) and Kim Yun-hee (Kim Hyun-joo) become separated when the street gang messes with Tae-hee, and Yun-hee runs in front of a pick-up truck, gets conked on the head, and ends up with amnesia.
Naturally, the trucker is a no-account gambler not interested in going to jail, so he takes Yun-hee home, where she ends up being enslaved by the guys caustic girlfriend and verbally abused by her young daughter, Woo Seung-hee (Kim Min-sun).

Yun-hee is wearing her mother's wedding ring about her neck, so she figures her name is Lee Sun-woo, and that's who she grows up to become.
She's an adorable, little girl with a pleasant nature and overly optimistic yet entirely unrealistic outlook on life based solely on the way she ends up being raised.

The beginning of this drama could have been explained in 2 episodes and not 7, but whatever.
Tae-hee is helped out by Jae-hyuk, who takes her to her grandfather, the rich guy from Seoul.
Then, they spend the next, several episodes worrying about, wondering about, crying, and trying to find Yun-hee.

Naturally, Yun-hee grows up in a deplorable environment while her older sister is thriving in the lap of luxury.

sigh

BUT THEN PARK CHUL-WOONG APPEARS AND MY INTEREST SUDDENLY GROWS!

He's a hot guy punking at a billiard hall, and a local gang of thugs shows up to give him a hard time when Yun-hee's character happens upon them, looking to collect the dishes she delivered.
Chul-woong proceeds to kick everyone's ass with his 'I'm a Bruce Lee wannabe' persona, and some damn, sweet moves ~ and then Yun-hee conks him on the head with a tray, demanding that he reimburse her for the dishes he broke in the melee.

Chul-woong & Su-tak

I'll bet you can see where THIS is going, eh?

Meanwhile, in 'every Korean's dream-land', rich Tae-hee is excited that her long-time crush and first love, Jae-hyuk, is returned from the USA, where her grandfather sent him after he delivered Tae-hee to the manse in Seoul.

The caustic bitch stepsister, Seung-hee, intercepts a letter to Yun-hee, asking about her lineage, so Seung-hee does what ANY person would do - she pretends SHE'S the long, lost sister to that wealthy, pie-in-the-sky dreamland otherwise implied as Korean nirvana.
Seung-hee steals the wedding ring from Yun-hee and arrives at the doorstep of the manse, where she proceeds to fit in surprisingly well - which made me laugh since she didn't, actually show her true colors until WAY later in the game.

Seung-hee pretending to be Yun-hee

I thought she was pretty, then ugly, then pretty again - I never, quite knew WHAT to think.
At least she got to wear a lot of totally cool clothing instead of the dowdy, frump attire MOST actresses wear in these dramas.

Ok ~ this is where things get Korean-tricky, so try and keep up ~

Bitch, Seung-hee is crazy about hot-ass Chul-woong, who falls in love with poor, pathetic Yun-hee, who's rich sister, Tae-hee, is in love with supposedly good-guy Jae-hyuk, who bumps into and falls desperately in love with Yun-hee, who gets a job working at the media empire first as a maid, and then as an office assistant because Jae-hyuk can't control himself.

MEANWHILE, Chul-woong's gorgeous, younger sister, Yeong-woong (Kim Jung-hwa), meets Tae-hee's equally gorgeous cousin, Yun Soo-jun (Kim Chung ryeol - no data), who owns an America-style bar, but Chul-woong's adorable friend, Su-tak (whom I'll assume here was Seo Hyun-ki since there's NO info on the guy), has a mad-on for Yeong-woong.

Su-tak and Yeong-woong

And since stereotypical nonsense MUST abound, we have the ubiquitous and worn-out adages re: social status thrown in the mix.
Rich stay rich or die trying whilst the poor stay poor AND die.

sigh again!

The point of Glass Slipper was supposed to be (at least I think it was) that Yun-hee was meant to suffer since she's got such an awesomely UNrealistic personality.
The same for poor, sweet Chul-woong, who though a gangsta, remained trustworthy, honest, upright, and grounded while still ending up at the wrong end of life's unpredictable club despite his best efforts.

However, rather late in this 40-episode drama, it was revealed to us that Seung-hee's character was the actual star of the story - in a pretentious, quirky sort of way at any rate.


Everyone was in love with someone else, and no one (save Park's beautiful sister and the rich, hot cousin) ended up finding true happiness.

This is probably going to be the LAST Korean drama I watch this summer.
Maybe for the rest of this year, unless something spectacular comes along online to change my mind.

I know they're old, and that the world of Hallyu may have changed since 2002, but the feeling I get after watching stuff like Glass Slippers is too haunting, too dreary to make me want to do it again any time soon.

This was an intense drama, and old in that they used a lot of the whirlwind, make-you-wonna-vom camera spins, the slow-paced start that made me want to drop out after the 4th episode, and that annoying recap/repeat at the beginning of each episode.

It became SO repetitive in fact, that by episode 12, I gave it a two-day break.
When I went back to it at aznv.tv, I was SHOCKED to discover that it wasn't a 20, but a freakin' 40 episode drama!
Thank the Lord it starred So-fine, because there's NO WAY I'd have given Glass Slippers that much of a chance to impress me.

Again, I understand that they air these things once a morning or night over there, so 40 episodes would be good in that instance.
The anticipation factor alone would make a drama of this caliber worth tuning in to see what happens next.
Undisciplined in the art of moderation, however, it's practically impossible for someone like me to 'watch just one' a day.


and now for my personal observations ~

I never, quite got into Han Jae-hyuk -
he reminded me a lot of Judd Nelson from
The Breakfast Club



really loved his apartment though!
neon-blue everywhere.
Isn't that dangerous, or lethal or something?


his assistant, Oh Hwan Young (Son Young Joon) made me nervous.
Was he in love with Jang-hyuk, or what?
He was a hotty, though!


Makes me wonder if and WHY guys like him, Kim Chung ryeol, and Seo Hyun-ki faded into acting oblivion after making a drama.
Why isn't there any, further info on these two?

Isn't this gorgeous?
I want to walk down this street at night when I visit Korea



She was pretty in a Liv Tyler kind a way


you always know THIS'll never happen when it's said or even implied


for a guy with no job, yea?
I mean, where did Chul-woong get the $$ for this awesome bouquet?
It's beautiful, though.


I'm in love cuz you remind me of my 38-yr-old aunty from Queens


what would a Korean drama be if it didn't have
the prerequisite, middle-age BITCH whose only job it is
to make everyone else miserable?
This one needed a good lay ~ BADly


and here it is again!
the dead sea-slug hug!