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

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Missing Korea

미싱코리아 (mi-sing-ko-ri-a)

Screenplay: Kim Yeong-eon (김경언), Kwon Sang-hee (권상희)
KBS Mini-Drama
Aired 2015, Nov
Episodes - 6
Genre: Aspiration, Pageantry



This drama establishes a hypothetical situation that the relationship between South and North Korea thaws in 2020 -- five years from now.  And a Miss Korea pageant with contestants from South and North Korea is held under the circumstances. ~KBSWorld (with edits)


I liked it.

And, if it is true that they run these mini dramas as a way to gauge potential interest in a full-fledged 16 or 20 episode drama, then this should be a winner in that contest.

However, when researching Missing Korea for this blog, I found the following on IMDb :

Miss Korea
South Korean television series

Miss Korea is a South Korean television series starring Lee Sun-kyun, Lee Yeon-hee, Lee Mi-sook, Lee Sung-min, Song Seon-mi, and Lee Ki-woo. Wikipedia
First episode date: December 18, 2013
Final episode date: February 26, 2014
Network: Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation
Number of seasons: 1
Number of episodes: 20

The information is completely different, but the images that accompany the above bit of news were all of the Missing Korea mini-series.

The six shorts depicted three young ladies from North Korea who work at a work house, and they got drunk one night, boarded a parked bus thinking it was the camp's bus, and fell asleep due to their having imbibed.

By the time they awaken, it is too late and the bus has delivered them to a South Korean hall where the rest of the contestants in a North-South Beauty Pageant are stationed for the up-coming contest.

It's funny, it's a refreshing concept, and despite the hints of Cinderella-isms involved, it isn't overdone and neither are any of the catty bitch instances that are standard issue when a group of Korean women are thrown together for anything at all.

The leading man, Kim Jeong hoon, is dough-boy and boy next door, but he is a good actor and sings well, too.

There was no time for a relationship between him and the leading lady to really take off or actually go anywhere since they're from two distinct 'nations' as it were.

But if this ends up becoming full-fledged, I can see where the writers would have some fun working out the kinks in such a relationship.

There was some chemistry going on, but again, it is too short a duration to really gauge how well these two work together or mesh decently in order to make that kind of a call.

And, like always, I had to wonder who made the decision to cast the three ladies as ug, ugl, and ugly.

Ug being the least.

My personal taste said that the tall, thin one with long dark hair was far more appealing than the girl the writers chose to play the lead.

the one in the middle

Anyway, it would be nice to see this drawn out and played up because it'd be a bit fun to understand and view the inner workings of a Miss Korea pageant, and to watch as the three of them slowly but surely transform from hum-drum to wow over time.

That didn't occur here, except to see the gal on the far left (above) have her moment in the sun on stage.

Human nature insists that it would be far more interesting to watch the gal in the specs transform, right?

A funny thing about these mini series is that for years I (and likely others) wanted the folks over in Hallyu la-la land to cut to the chase and stop forcing us to watch episode after dragged-out episode of the same thing before ever reaching a climax (that usually fizzled and died instead of grabbing us by the throat and shaking us senseless -- the way a good story should).

And yet every once in awhile, when something like this comes along, I wish it was for a little while longer.

One aside.

The guy who played the nosy reporter, who kept accepting leaked information as gospel only to come out looking like a fool?

Dead ringer for Gomez Addams if KBS ever decides to do a re-make of the original Addams Family.

Or maybe a remake of the Pink Panther series as Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau

 If you missed Missing Korea, give it a chance and let me know what you think.

Concerto (1996 TBS)

Romaji: Kyosokyoku
Japanese: 協奏曲
Writer: Shunsaku Ikehata
Network: TBS
Episodes: 10
Release Date:  1996


Masakazu Tamura as Kosuke Ebisawa, Takuya Kimura as Kakeru Takakura, and Rie Miyazawa as Hana Sakaki


Love and ambition collide when two brilliant architects compete for the same woman and the glory of success in their highly competitive field. Kakeru, a young dreamer just entering the professional world, starts out with the goal of building a magnificent church. The story unfolds when a world-famous architect, whom Kakeru idolizes but has never seen, collapses in front of him on the beach. The skillful portrayal of the intertwined loves and professional trials of these characters makes for a suspenseful and inspiring drama. -- TBS


Their opinion and not mine.

That last part, about it being skillfully portrayed and suspenseful & inspiring makes me want to laugh.

It's my third viewing of this last-century drama, and I'm still undecided about it.

I didn't NOT like it, I can say that much, but I didn't think it was amazing, entirely memorable, or magnificent as so few Asian dramas ever really go.

It's always great fun to watch a favorite actor at work regardless, though.

The first time I saw it, I was thrown off by the title since it has zero to do with the story.

I didn't care for the out-dated soundtrack, either.

But, I did fall in love with the hot guy with the long hair (I remember that much)

Kimura Takuya

The second time around, I still didn't get why it's called Concerto (there isn't even any classical or orchestral music playing in the background . . . just a lot of old, dated stuff from the 1960s by Burt Bacharach)

I didn't like the girl (Hana) both guys were after all the way through this 10-episode melodrama about a budding architect and a seasoned veteran of the trade.

Still didn't care for the out-dated soundtrack, or the fact that the story kept going in circles without ever really getting to the point or making much sense.

But still, there was Takuya . . . 

Kimura Takuya

This time around, I'd have to say third time's a charm.

I also saw Hana as something more than just a ditzy go-between for these two guys, too.

She had heart and soul that made her not only believable but charming in a slightly ditzy kind of way.

That there is no tangible ending, though, still irks me.

I'd still like to know how and why the old dude ended up falling overboard as well, which is part of that unanswered questions dilemma with this one.

I wanted to see the little house being built at the end, and I wanted to know about the Connecticut library -- whatever became of the refuses-to-grow-up-and-act-like-a-man who ended up begging for their help.

In the last few scenes, they brought back the old lady and clued us in on her new life, but who cared?

I'll admit to there being great chemistry, but between the two men and not when either of them were involved with her Hana character.

But, again, it is quite rare to feel anything between man and woman when watching a Japanese drama. The complete lack of emotion and human contact make it extremely difficult to view them as 'romance' when I never see any romance on screen.

The old man I thought did a good job of acting natural, but in a stuffy, Japanese male kind of way, which probably just means he's really wealthy and has stepped into an elevated position with ease.

That being said, there was still Kimura Takuya.

Kimura Takuya

And, that's pretty much why I watched this one three times.


Sunday, February 07, 2016

Algernon ni Hanataba wo


Romaji: Algernon ni Hanataba wo
Aka: Flowers for Algernon
Based on the Daniel Keyes novel Flowers for Algernon, pub 1959
Related: Algernon ni Hanataba o (Fuji TV, 2002)
Format: Renzoku
Genre: Drama
Episodes: 10
Ratings: 8.53%
Broadcast network: TBS
Broadcast period: 2015 -Apr to Jun



Shiratori Sakuto (28) has the intelligence of a  six year-old. He works for a flower distribution center that provides employment for problem youth. One day he and a colleague, Ryuichi, deliver roses to Mochizuki Haruka. She works for a brain physiology research center where they study the improvement of mental performance. Success comes with a white mouse called Algernon. -- Jdrama Weblog (with edits)



I know this is a rehash of a 2002 version based on a 1959 novel, but it is a first for me, and probably because Yamapi stars, that made it all the more special.

And, just when I was starting to think that I might never see some of these guys again, it's been a pleasure to see them starring in things that are slow to appear to us Americans but DO find their way to subtitling and a spot at either Dramafever or or Dramanice.

Sakito (Tomohisa) lives much of his young adult life above a flower shop run by a kind man who takes in at-risk young males to help try and turn their lives around.

Yamashita did a great job portraying a mentally challenged young man, but there were a lot of instances where I had to wonder how many takes it took to film one scene. Did he end up laughing at himself, or did his co-stars laugh at him?

He's such a pretty man.

Tomohisa Yamashita
And talented, too.

As I get older, things become a bit more clear to me, and after having watched hundreds of these Asian cinema and television dramas, what stands out most in my mind is whether or not an actor has the ability to not just pull me in and make me watch, but if they are capable of convincing me that they are, indeed, the character that they portray.

Yamashita is one of the actors who can make the transformation --

I'm not just staring at a handsome actor on the screen but a handsome 'character' fulfilling his role and making me forget that it is Tomohisa playing the part.

It can be a tough call sometimes, too, but for me, it's a sign of a great actor.

Also, and it's been noted before, but the guy just exudes a sense of warmth and humor that makes you wish you knew him personally.

Back to the JDo --

Sakito comes in contact with a woman who works in a research lab that has developed a serum to enhance brain function, and when a backer pushes for results in order to help save his own daughter, Sakito ends up becoming somewhat of a human guinea pig.

But if I tell you anything more, it'll surely spoil the plot.

There were four love stories that slowly developed, some tear-inducing moments, and a couple of frustrating situations that make you shake your head in wonder.

It also had laughs and a few disturbing moments to make this one a well-rounded ten-episode melodrama.

And as with nearly every Japanese drama I've watched, the subs were awful.

It is family-oriented and loaded with ganbatte stuff as well as the over-use of the "God Hand" thing, but don't let any of it stop you from watching this one.


Saturday, February 06, 2016

For the Emperor

Movie: For the Emperor
Romanization: Hwangjereul Wihayeo
Hangul: 황제를 위하여
Writer: Lee Yong soo, Kim Sung dong
Genre: Ganseuteo
Set: Busan
Release Date: June, 2014



Yi hwan (Lee Min ki) is a former professional baseball player. He was involved in fixing games and lost everything. Gang boss Sang ha (Park Sung woong) runs a money lending business and a gambling parlor. He makes Yi hwan work for him. Yi hwan falls for bar owner Yeon soo (Lee Tae im). ~ AsianWiki (with changes)


Mixed messages about Lee Min ki and his military requirement. If he enlisted in August of 2014, then he'd be away until August of 2017, right?


For the Emperor was a bloody and violent depiction of kang pae life in Busan, and Lee Min ki's Yi hwan makes it all the more so after he's busted and has to forfeit his baseball career.

Lots of knives, sound effects, blood and gore to keep me averting my gaze every few scenes, but I made my way clean to the end and still liked what I'd just watched.

The inevitable ending was weird, and with a touch of poignancy that would have made me laugh if it wasn't for Min ki's being there.

I love him.

Honestly, truly, and faithfully adore this guy and his work.

Oh, and because this was a MOVIE and not a drama, there were some sex scenes,

and I do mean sex SCENES.


Gotta love it!

But, this post is more about Lee Min ki and not so much this particular movie.

I've been binging on his art lately, having missed him for so long, and it strikes me as very odd that he looks different every time I see him.

Long and lean here, and if I'm not mistaken, he's 86'd the lisp, too, sad to note.

I watched this at Dramanice, but I think it's also available at YouTube (just not with English subs?)

Next on my watch list is Booyong of Mt. Kyeryong -- probably quintessential Min ki -- and I'm looking forward to seeing him again, but it would be nice if he signed on for a period drama since I'm curious about his depth of range.

Also, what I wouldn't give to see him in another romantic comedy!

He seems to prefer movies over dramas, but something along the lines of  Dal jah's Spring would be nice, too.

Maybe I've seen too many of his serious works and want to have some of that silly Min ki magic back, who knows.

I recommend this one; just be prepared ;-)


Friday, February 05, 2016

Shoot Me in the Heart

Movie: Shoot Me in the Heart (literal)
Hangul: 내 심장을 쏴라
Novel: Nae Simjangeul Sswara by Jung Yoo jung
Genre: Mental Illness, Human Interest
Release Date: Jan, 2015
Runtime: 102 min.
Distributor: Little Big Pictures



Set at a psychiatric hospital. Soo myung's guilt over his mother's suicide causes him to suffer from schizophrenia. He meets Seung min, who is forcibly hospitalized by his wealthy family's inheritance fight. Dreaming of getting out of the hospital, Seung min constantly tries to escape, and Soo myung begins to follow. ~ AsiaWiki (with changes)


This was a good one.

Simple yet elegant in its portrayal of two patients at a psychiatric hospital reminiscent of 1950's America, which gave the backdrop a little bit of a chilly, Cuckoo's Nest feeling.

But, this wasn't about psychiatry from the Seoul perspective and didn't go into analytical details about the system or its current plight.

What it did do was tell us a story about two young men caught in dire circumstances who end up in a psychiatric hospital for two separate reasons.

We are introduced to a lot of fellow inmates and learn a few of their sad stories, and the supporting cast were marvelous.

Still, the two male leads are the main focus throughout, which is much appreciated by the viewer.

Funny, terrifying, and thought provoking scenes littered this tale, but none of it detracted from the premise, which is to discover why these two are there and how or if they plan to break free.

The soundtrack was wonderful.

Looks like Lee Min ki is out of the military now, and while he appeared beefed up and masculine in the 2013 movie, Monster, in this one he appears to be a tad on the gaunt side, but no less sexy.

Yeo Jin goo did a great job portraying a young man lost inside his own world of self-doubt and horror after discovering his mother's lifeless body at a tender age.

He's got a sexy voice, and I adored him with his long hairstyle, but in the end, it is replaced with a modern shave.

As someone on the outside looking in, I find it incredibly difficult to understand how Korean movies can be this far removed from their drama counterparts.

Perhaps their cable and local channels never run movies, and therefore it is safer to show real life, reality-based themes, and sexual content in a movie?

The two are like night and day content-wise, and I often wonder why they never at least mix it up a bit and add some spice to their dramas or a little cutesy to their movies.

Since I started watching their stuff back in early 2000, I've liked both but will easily tire of the drama fluff and so switch over to their movies for a time -- just to get some balance and perspective on what is real and what is make-believe over there.

I still prefer their dramas but adore their movies and wish our Hollywood was more like this and then I might be more interested in going to the theater.

Thursday, February 04, 2016


Movie: Monster
Romanization: Mon-seu-teo
Hangul: 몬스터
Director: Hwang In-Ho
Genre: Horror, Suspense, Comedy
Released: March, 2014



Bok soon (Kim Go eun) lives with her younger sibling. She runs a street stand. Bok soon is slow, but when people anger her, she goes crazy. That's why she is known as the "crazy woman".
One day, cold-blooded killer Tae soo (Lee Min ki) appears in front of her.
Filmed in May, 2013, in Chuncheon, South Korea.


Crazy sh*t!

But, Lee Min ki never looked more fine

Lee Min ki

He should be wrapping up his military duty about now, I hope.

Anyway, this is about a mentally challenged young girl living with her younger sister in a rural village, and Bok soon sells vegetables to help the two parent-less siblings survive.

Tae soo is a psycho living in a beautiful house on the mountainside in this village, and his hobby includes pottery (l'ing ol for a reason).

He's the youngest of three brothers, and as a child, the two older brothers manipulated and lied their way into adulthood, leaving little Tae soo to take the blame and get punished (meant to explain his psychotic mental state as an adult).

The oldest brother asks the middle brother to retrieve a cell phone from one of his female employees.

Tae soo is ordered to retrieve the phone, and he kills her in the process before discovering she has a ten-year old sister inside the house.

He kidnaps the girl, takes her back to the lovely chalet, and tells her that she has until he finishes a glass of wine to run and hide. If he finds her, he will kill her, and if she tries to enlist the aid of anyone, he'll kill them as well.

The girl runs to Bok soon's house and the girls keep her there, but the next day, on their way into town, they bump into the inevitable and the story takes off at a gruesome yet fast pace.

We learn more about Tae soo and discover just how feisty Bok soon can become (to explain the 'comedy' aspect -- that isn't a type-o).

Lots of gore and violence in this one, but with just as much terrify to make this a good one if you're really into this kind of thing.

I'm not, but when I saw Hotty's name on the playbill, I had to watch!

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Falling for Challenge

Aka: Falling for Dojeon
Genre: YA Romance
Writer: Seo Dong seong, Woo Soo jin
Episodes: Six
Release: October, 2015
Theme Song: You Are The One - Xiumin


Jang Hui ryoung as Gi Yeo woon, Xiumin as Na Do jeon, Kim So eun as Ban Ha na, and Jang Yoo sang as Nam Gong dae


Na Do jeon (XIUMIN) meets Ban Ha na (Kim So Eun), the leader of hobby club ′One Plus,’ and they work to meet challenges head-on while chasing their dreams. ~Wiki


Xiumin wants to be a professional clown (Pierrot, as they always refer to it) and he meets Ba HA na, the creator of a college campus club titled One Plus (never makes English sense) that is meant to help people aspire to goal greatness (somehow) but there are no takers, and so the Dean is determined to shut down the club and take back their tiny, closet-size room.

Banana enlists the aid of the Mime wannabe and her good friend meets a loud guy who is full of himself, but she is smitten and so he reluctantly agrees to her demands.

The four of them have their separate ideas of stardom, but they collaborate on a few part-time acting jobs as cartoon characters for kids' parties and make some money that way.

They get into a shouting match when they all think one person's dream is getting more attention than another's, and then they make up and go their separate ways.

And, yes, they achieve their goals as well.

Another Korean short, six fifteen-minute long episodes that wrap things up real quickly while managing (maybe not too much in this case) to solve the initial dilemma right quick.

I still enjoy these mini series and will continue to watch them -- and review if I think it's worth the effort.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Love Cells 2

Title: 연애세포 / Yeonaesepo
Also known as: Romance Cells / Dating DNA
Genre: Romance, comedy, fantasy
Format: Web drama
Network: Naver TV Cast
Related Series: Love Cells


Kim Yoo jung as Navi, Im Seul ong as Tae Joon, Jo Bo ah as Ye Bom, Park Eun ji as Hye Ri, and 
Choi Young min as Yoon Hwan


Based on the popular Webtoon “Love Cells“ by 김명현 (Kim Myung Hyun) published in 2010.
In Season Two's bittersweet love story, Navi (Kim Yoo jung) acts like a navigation of love in the relationship. She leads the way for the main characters to piece together their long lost memories of love.


At first, I wanted to search for and watch the first season, but when that proved tedious, I just went ahead and watched this second season, and I'm glad that I did.

Another short-but-sweet Web drama (meaning 15 minute shorts) with 2 a.m.'s Im Seul ong starring as Tae joon, a determined chef who is in the habit of saying Let's wait, Not now, Some day, and Later until his sweet girlfriend (Ye bom) has had enough and ends the relationship.

Jo Bo ah as Ye Bom

All those with a broken heart who can't seem to get past that phase are encouraged to visit the Love Cells clinic and have their love cell removed -- storing their beautiful, pink ball of fluff in a cryogenic fashion until such a time when they might need or want it back.

Love cell

Tae joon does this, and five years later, he's a celebrity chef of sorts, creating artful dishes and working with a sexy host on a television cooking show.

The sexy host, Park Eun ji as Hye Ri, is desperate to get with Tae joon, but without his mojo, he's not interested in love, relationships, or feelings and only lives to fulfill his career goals.

Hye ri somehow gets the clinic workers to steal his mojo and return it to Tae joon so that she can fulfill her dream of having him love her in return.

The plan goes awry, though, and a stray tuxedo cat ends up swallowing the pretty, pink ball that escaped the cryogenic tube.

Now the cat, Navi, has to figure out a way to get Tae joon to want the cell back himself so that she will have her dream of becoming a star fulfilled.

Tae joon is stubborn and refuses to take the cell back.

He's happy with his life and doesn't want to be bothered with love this time around.

Im Seul ong as Tae joon

Meanwhile, Ye bom is in a 500-day relationship with a young hotty with great hair and model-like features: Choi Young min as Yoon Hwan.

Choi Yeong min as Yoon hwan

Very nice.

He's crazy about Ye bom, but she is hesitant and we all know why even if he doesn't.

Navi gets mixed up with He ri and is threatened with extinction if she doesn't get Tae joon to reinsert his mojo, and Navi is determined to get what she wants as well, so she sides with He ri.

However, after Navi bumps into Ye bom a few times, she realizes that love is a bit stronger and more important than superficial and personal gain.

Kim Yoo jung as Navi

Episode nine was missing at, and episode Ten had screwed up subs there and at Dramafever.

Still, I watched the whole thing in less than an hour, and it was a fun thing to do.

The acting is good, the story line is fun, and I enjoy the slice-of-life aspect these web dramas bring to the table.

Love Cells 2 Wallpaper