meganbmoore: (hwajung: jeongmyung revealed)
I've been watching MBC's latest sageuk, The King in Love, which is also the latest in the recent trend of youth fusion romance sageuks, though that little subgenre seems to have run its course.  (Hopefully the fact that Rebel: Thief Who Stole The People is the only sageuk this year that's really considered a success will influence future sageuks, though they seem to be over and done with for the year, unless we count Live Up to Your Name, which is very good, but also a time travel drama set more in the present than in the past.)  For the most part, it's been enjoyable, though I'm a couple weeks behind because it looked like it was headed toward one of several endings that I would have considered dealbreakers for the whole show.  (I haven't watched it yet, but I do know it does have my preferred ending, so I should catch up with it this week.)  The one area where it completely fails, unfortunately, is in one of its central conceits:  presenting a love triangle in which a woman loves  two men, and it's unclear which she loves more.  Discussing possible endings with a friend reminded me of the love triangle in one of JTBC's few sageuk outtings, Maids, which also had a triangle in which a woman is in love with two men, but does it much better.

spoilers for both series )
meganbmoore: (chae-ohk)
Continuing with comparing and contrasting Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People and Tree With Deep Roots, as of episode 14 of Tree. (More direct spoilers for both shows here than before, I think.)

here )
meganbmoore: (flower in prison: scenery)
I've been watching the 2011 sageuk Tree With Deep Roots, which is a political thriller about the creation of Hangul, which Six Flying Dragons is a prequel to. Tree should be watched before 6FD though. My first “I wish I’d watched this while it was airing” moment with it was the fight at the end of episode 7/beginning of episode 8. Because while I recognize that the flying/mid-air clashing effects were fairly advanced and cutting edge for 2011, they are…very dated, especially since I watched and rewatched the more advanced versions of that technology in Gil Dong and Mori’s fights in Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People earlier this year.

Speaking of Rebel, as I’ve been discussing with @dingax, who I’m watching Tree with, Tree is almost an inversion of Rebel. Or more accurately, Rebel is an inversion of Tree.

spoilers for both series )
meganbmoore: (Default)
For the interested, Netflix just added the cdramas King’s War (more commonly known as The Legend of Chu and Han) and Qin Empire Alliance (Which I THINK is the first of a now 3-part collection of series about the Qin Empire, but I’m not 100% certain-King’s War was easier to figure out because it has Peter Ho, whose series are easy to find descriptions of).

I don’t know who else pays attention to Netflix foreign acquisitions, but I do and it’s been...interesting. They’ve had a ton of Mexican telenovelas for ages and they used to have a lot of major network kdramas, a well as a lot of Taiwanese and Chinese dramas, but those dwindled down to almost nothing a while back. Then I think around the middle of last year, they started adding a lot of Turkish and Indian series-I’ve added some of these to my queue, but all I’ve watched so far is the first 11 episodes of Razia Sultan*, which I really like, but am stretching out as far as I can because there’s a lot more episodes that they haven’t added yet- and they started slowly replenishing their Korean and Chinese series selection, though they’re sadly light on historical and fantasy Chinese dramas, and the only sageuk they had is Tamra, which I’ve never managed to finish the first episode of. The last few weeks, though, they’ve been pretty much flooding the new additions with Chinese and Korean dramas. The Korean dramas are mostly cable network shows, particularly franchises-I Need Romance, Reply and Let’s Eat- and they’ve been pretty steadily adding Naver webseries for a while, so they probably did bulk purchasing from a couple of production companies, though they've also been purchasing exclusive international licensing for several series in recent months. The cdramas appear to be more random and a lot of them are ones I’ve never heard of, but I’m assuming there was similar bulk purchasing involved there. There have been some historical cdramas in the mix, but aside from the 2 I mentioned at the beginning and Ice Fantasy, they’ve been set in the 30s and 40s, and those tend to end up fairly heavy with the political propaganda.

There haven’t been too many series that I want to see added on the cdrama or kdrama front during this recent spurt, but I’m hoping this means more shows that I want to see will be added eventually, especially some of the recent cdramas that neither Viki nor DramaFever got.

*I should mention that there’s a truly cringeworthy quest arc at the beginning that I probably only got through because I’ve encountered far worse in anime and some cdramas, and the villains are sadly cartoonishly one note, but otherwise, it’s quite enjoyable.
meganbmoore: (parker and sophie)
Last weekend I watched all the available episodes of Lookout, and this weekend I’ve watched 7 episodes of Bad Thief, Good Thief (I had already seen and enjoyed the first 3 episodes well enough, but wasn’t invested yet.) For other kdrama fen who got over-invested in Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People, both of these series are pretty good followup series, though neither is a sageuk.

Neither series is perfect, but qualify for “Korean Leverage of my heart and soul” status. Bad Thief, God Thief, IMO, should have held off on various revelations until later on, and Lookout is...very clearly by a newbie writer at times-the male lead is over-complicated ( as opposed to complex) in that way where “morally ambiguous” becomes “convoluted and will anyone buy redemption at this point?” (the right actor could pull it off, but while this actor does smarmy well, he doesn’t have the screen presence and charisma to quit pull it off) and things don’t always come together the way the writer thinks they do. Bad Thief Good Thief has the more expansive and complicated plot tied to current and past politics (and almost 4 times as many episodes) but takes a few episodes to get going. It has a lot of narrative similarities to Rebel, and a few spoilery things actually had me looking to see if the two shows shared and production members or writers, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. They do share several actors, though. Lookout is much more fast paced with action scenes and a heroine who regularly is a gallant knight in shining armor rescuing other women.

They both get the “It” that Leverage had* but most shows of the type miss. That “It” is that it isn’t just cool people being attractive and witty and competent. It’s a wish fulfillment fantasy that there is someone who will see to it that the people who the law can’t or won’t punish will still be punished, an justice will be met. This is also the general “Robin Hood” fantasy, though the dynamics play out differently when it’s in a historical setting than when it’s in modern times.

Unsurprisingly, both shows, like Rebel before them, are from MBC. While SBS is floundering all over the place to figure out how to still mostly depend on an international audience when they’ve lost their biggest outlet (China) and KBS is...doing something (Like, I dunno. They aren’t the mess that SBS is, but they seem trying really hard to make their mark different kinds of dramas this year more than usual, with mixed results.) MBC is pretty much running around yelling “VIVE LA REVOLUTION” at the top of its lungs. (Ruler: Master of the Mask is also pretty heavy on the political commentary, but it’s much more focused on “Puppet ruler under the control of unseen master, BAD IDEA” while Rebel, Lookout and Bad Thief Good Thief focus more on widespread corruption and abuse of power and social standing.)

As an aside, Lookout might require trigger/upsetting stuff warnings beyond what you’d expect for these kinds of political thrillers.

*ok, Leverage had several “It”s that other similar shows lack, but I’m talking about a specific “It” here.
meganbmoore: (hwajung: jeongmyung revealed)
See this poster for the newly-airing sageuk, Seven Day Queen? This poster is very pretty, and makes me very angry.

Park Min Young may be in the center, and she may be playing the title character, but she isn’t the POINT of the poster. She’s demurely looking down and away, and almost seems incidental to the poster. See Yeon Woo Jin and Lee Dong Gun there? they’re both looking directly at the viewer, and their eyes are ALMOST level. Not quite, and noticeably not actually level with each other, but close enough that, with both looking at you, THAT’s what demands the viewer’s attention, with Park Min Young conveniently positioned well below that focal point. The message the poster sends is perfectly clear regardless of if you know anything about the plot: The men are the point, their relationship or conflict is what’s important. The woman is there as the love interest for one or both, but not the point. or the show. (To be fair, while this is the poster for the show I’ve seen the most, it isn’t the only one. The other posters are better in that she’s more of a focus, but they’re also very clearly focused on the romance, and don’t give her the gravity or import that this poster gives the men.)

This has been aggravating me since it first showed up, and the previews (after the first with all the quick cuts and the white color scheme) only furthered the impression. I still held out hope (and still do-it was my most anticipated of the current crop of kdramas) despite the steadily increasing unease the promotional materials gave me, but the first episode seemed to reinforce that impression, with most of the gravitas of the episode of the conflict between King Yeonsan and Lee Yook/future-King Jungjong and their issues with each other and Yeonsan’s daddy issues. Our Heroine was endearing and plucky, but almost incidental to most of the plot in the episode, despite supposedly being the main character. As I said when I watched the first episode over the weekend, I’m hoping that the focus readjusts itself once the childhood parts are over and it ends up the show it could be instead of the show I fear it will be.

more sageuk babble )


Compare that poster to this poster of MBC's Hwajung (another drama about a female historical figure who rarely gets used in dramas set in her time period) from two years ago:

Once again, we have the female lead (and the series actually was originally titled Princess Jungmyung) centered between two of the male leads, and standing in front on them.  However,  Lee Yeon Hee is roughly eye level with Cha Seung Won and Kim Jae Won, and she is looking directly at the viewer.  Despite being outnumbered two-to-one, she is clearly the focus of the poster, and there's no doubt she's the lead and that this is her story, with the men playing parts in it.  Mind you the relationships are different-while there is romance and a romantic triangle (tough very one-sided) in Hwajung, neither of these men are involved in it.  One plays Jungmyung's older half brother, while the other plays her nephew (who is older than her, because, I mean, Korean Royals...) but the point and difference remain the same.

meganbmoore: (hwajung: jeongmyung revealed)

First teaser trailer for Seven Day Queen, about King Jungjong's first queen, Queen Danyeong, who was deposed and sent into exile only seven days after becoming queen because of her family's attempt to overthrow King Jungjong.

Probably my most anticipated of the upcoming sageuks for May (Ruler: Master of the Mask is the most likely hit of them, but only really on my list for the leads, and My Sassy Girl looks bad and everything I've read supports that, but I might check it out for Jung Da Bin if reviews aren't too bad) but i do worry that I, South Korea, and fandom in general might have a bit of a burnout with 3 sageuks set in the same basic period (7DQ is set in the overlap period between Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People and Saimdang: Light's Diary) in the first half of one year.
meganbmoore: (chae-ohk)
I wrote this for tumblr, where I've been writing about Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People a lot, and decided to crosspost this one here.

At this point, it’s actually a little sad that Saimdang: Light’s Diary and Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People are airing at the same time. Mind you, it’s not because one is easily one of the most hyped sageuks in years and isn’t performing well, while the other seems to have just been thrown out there as an afterthought and is pulling in good ratings, as well as better critical and popular response, it’s the content and themes. Personally speaking, I spent almost 2 years impatiently waiting for Saimdang, and was pretty sure it was going to be the best sageuk of the year when it did come out, something that I thought would hold true after watching the first two episodes. In contrast, Rebel was barely on my radar, and on my “watch now” list instead of “watch if people say good things while it airs” primarily because I liked Hwang Jin-Young’s previous sageuk (and only previous writing credit aside from a special) King’s Daughter Soo Baek Hyang. Halfway through their runs, Saimdang was moved to “I really like it but it could be better” status (with a lot of anger for how SBS execs screwed the show and LYA over, and now they’re taking their screwups out on the show, but I’m not going to dwell on that today) while Rebel has become the sageuk I just can’t see another sageuk surpassing it for a while. (Particularly since they all seem to at least partly center around the tropes and worldview that Rebel critiques.)

this ended up over 2500 words so here's a cut )
meganbmoore: (covert affairs: gimme tv)
1. I haven’t talked much about TV here recently, but I haven’t really felt fannish about US shows? Elementary and Madam Secretary are solid shows that I have great fondness for but little interest in initiating conversation about, though it is worth noting that MS is one of those shows that’s really going after the current political climate. Bones is on its final season and it’s still Bones, which mean that, like the last several seasons, it’s worth watching for the characters that I’ve been following for a decade, but not really a lot else. Supergirl is a show I was fannish about last season but am not really fannish about this season. I still enjoy it, and there are definitely very good things about this season, but the problems we were worried about when we learned it was moving to CW came to pass.  Rosewood is also still solid and enjoyable, though I'm slightly concerned that a miracle cure is in the works.

Timeless wraps up the first season tomorrow.  It's not brilliant SciFi, but it is very entertaining SciFi, and is pretty good at calling out how much US history has erased and persecuted POC.

Star Wars Rebels continues to be great, but I wish it would fully commit itself to the Mandalore plotline that’s been building up instead of the endless build up. I’m very much looking forward to some things in the trailer that haven’t happened yet.

I still enjoy Emerald City despite its problems, and I have so many questions about the past that can’t possibly be answered in the last two episodes without putting the main plotline on hold. At least it looks like my questions about Jane might be answered next episode, though.

The only new show I’ve checked out (or really plan to) is Powerless, which is a sitcom set in the DC universe about the employees of a security firm who work on inventions to keep people and possessions safe from superhero battles. It also falls into the realm of “really like but don’t feel fannish about” but really is a delight. Of the shows I’m watching, it’s also probably the one most blatantly anti-Trump.

I haven’t watched How to Get Away With Murder since it returned from hiatus and I haven’t watched any of this season of Jane the Virgin (I’m spoiled about That Thing in JTV, though). I’ll probably watch both when Netflix gets them this summer.

Right now, I’m mostly waiting for Underground, Into the Badlands and Brooklyn 99 to return from hiatus, and wondering if Still Starcrossed will ever make it to my screen.  I think all my other shows are summer/late spring shows.

2. For a few US shows I’ve completely recently:

Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events was a delight, due in large part to excellent casting and the actors’ ability to maintain an almost impossible pace for something so dialogue heavy. It’s hard to make something that requires that much dialogue and whose humor requires the narrator to step in so much to work, but they did it. My favorite character was Jacqueline, who had maybe 10-15 minutes screentime total throughout the season.

LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures is a TV show set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi about a trio of scavenger siblings who come across a woman claiming to be a Jedi who survived Order 66, and help her look for the pieces of the kybersaber, a weapon that pre-dated the lightsaber. It’s an irreverent comedy that spends a whole lot of time mocking Palpatine and Vader, and the Empire in general. I kind of wish it was pat of the main Star Wars animated Universe canon, because there’s some good stuff in there.

I finally got around to watching the back half of season 5 of Haven now that netflix has it. I appreciated how fully it committed itself to its gothic horror roots and its devotion to the new mid-apocalyptic setting. I did not appreciate hoe it still felt th need to kill off any plot-important women who weren’t Audrey. It also somehow took an ending that SHOULD have been perfectly satisfactory to anyone and made it be awful and make no sense. Sigh.

3. I have been fairly fannish about kdramas and cdramas lately, though, but most of that portion of my friend’s list has migrated to tumblr, or are both here and there, so I forget to also talk about them here. Surprisingly, I’ve been fannish about Hwarang, which has been an admittedly fairly-average sageuk, but an enjoyable one, and utterly harmless. For an idol-heavy youth drama sageuk, it’s actually pretty decent, despite the almost universally-awful promotional material and trailers. It’s Silla-era and has enjoyable characters, and I’m easy there. It also has the worst fandom possible, largely due to stans of certain actors and their characters who believe the universe has horribly wronged them by not making the show and all the characters revolve around their favorite.

I’m also really enjoying Saimdang: Light’s Diary and Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People, but despite the split-timeperiods aspect of Saimdang, both are being fairly old-school in their approaches, and so things are really just getting started. (Unlike Hwarang, both are also excellent sageuks by any standard right now, but not to the tastes or the more vocal parts of kdramas fandom. As in, there are no idols, and they’re busy being Serious Business Sageuks.)

4. Slightly related to the above, I’m glad Moon Lovers brought a lot of people to sageuks last year, but frankly, that drama was mediocre. Entertaining and with some bright spots, but mediocre both as a sageuk and as a drama in general. It’s popularity was because of the popular idols in the cast, Lee Joon Ki fans, the fact that it wasn’t set in the Joseon era, and because it hit a lot of fandom’s buttons for character overinvestment, none of which are actually related to quality. I didn’t bother finishing it when I learned that the final episodes literally killed off every single female character except for the one history said that it absolutely could not kill off. But it got a lot of younger viewers interested in sageuks, and also got some not-so-young viewers in that didn’t typically watch sageuks, but now I can’t go to any drama sites with seeing other sageuks and popular ancient cdramas compared to Moon Lovers and somehow being found wanting, with people going out of their way to find ways to compare them. Hwarang fandom is probably the worst about that. But every drama I’ve seen compared to ML in the last 6 months or however long its been has, IMO, been a better drama.

5. Completely unrelated to TV, I’ve been checking flights for WisCon and the prices are almost double what they were two years ago. Hopefully they’ll go down in the next month or so, but I’m not holding my breath. (I also have no idea yet if I have roommates or need to start asking friends if they have room. I know one of my regular roommates isn’t going, but I haven’t heard back from the other yet. I don’t think most people start worrying about roommates in February, though…)
meganbmoore: (nancy drew: girl detectives)
Wanted is a recent SBS series about an actress, Jung Hye In (Kim Ah Joong), whose son is kidnapped the same day she announces her intention to retire from acting. The kidnapper's demand is that she create and star in a reality tv show called Wanted, which has to maintain 20% ratings throughout its run, with the kidnapper providing a "mission" for each episode. The director she recruits is Shin Dong Wook (Uhm Tae Woong), who is famous for being difficult to work with. They dislike each other for reasons the show never bothers to explain (I think the writers forgot they put that in for early conflict) and he initially refuses but then decides that maybe it'll be a fun challenge. It takes a few episodes for him to get his priorities in order. Choi Joon Goo (Lee Moon Shik) is a producer close to Hye In who joins them, and Dong Wook pulls in Yun Woo Shin (Park Hyo Joo) who REALLY dislikes him, but has her priorities a little more in order Rounding out the production team is Park Bo Yun (Jun Hyo Sung) who did not realize Dong Wook hired her to be his personal hacker. MEANWHILE, Detective Cha Seung In (Ji Hyun Woo) is investigating the case of a kidnapped girl and does not really have time for this high profile case every other detective is paying attention to that might just be a publicity stunt, until it turns out that his kidnapped girl might be related to the same case.

The villain is rather A-like initially, seemingly omnipotent with spy gear and a network of associates, except that not-A decided to target grownups instead of scared teenaged girls, and grownups are more likely to to successfully chase down your messenger and find the hidden camera and catch your flunkies and remember to bring along the strapping detective who knows martial arts when going into the creepy building. It quickly becomes apparent that not-A is using Hye In and the show to expose a network of conspiracies and corruption and is arguably doing things for the ultimate greater good, but the show never forgets that not-A abducted a small child and terrorized his mother, so we shouldn't find them TOO sympathetic. Like other shows with A-like villains, the plot quickly becomes labyrinthine when it comes to the mystery and previously-unknown character connections, but since it's a limited series and not meant to go on forever, they're able to actually tie everything together and resolve it before it becomes too convoluted, and none of the many, many cliffhangers and plot twists are left hanging. Even if they did forget to ever tell us why Hye In and Dong Wook disliked each other at the beginning. (Fandom jumped to the most obvious theory that they used to be lovers and he's actually the abducted child's biological father, but canon discarded any possibility of that rather quickly.)

There's lots of women mentoring/protecting other women, and Hye In is one of the few kdrama heroines I've seen who owns and drives her own car, though whether she's driving herself or being driven around by someone else largely depends on what the plot needs at the time. this may sound minor, but it's actually a pretty big deal for a woman to actually rive herself around in a kdrama. Usually they take buses, or are always passenger being driven around by one of the male characters, even successful businesswomen don't drive themselves around.

Like Liar Game there is absolutely no romance whatsoever to speak of, though the show has a clear preference if you want something to ship. I spent a lot of the series thinking about how, if this was a US series where they wanted renewals and to drag the show out as long as possible, there would be a romantic triangle between Dong Wook, Hye In and Seung In since romantic triangles always bring in the drama and often ratings. But since it's a limited series marketed as a thriller, they don't have to worry about having people come back for more next year, just in having enough ratings to not get cancelled. (And, I mean, the way Korean drama programming is set up, your ratings have to be really, REALLY bad to be cancelled, and then you still get to have an ending, just earlier than expected.) Mind you, Wanted DID have low ratings, just not low enough to be in danger. They did push the final week's episodes back because of the Olympics, though, which didn't make any of us happy.

It may not have been popular, but I thought this was a good thriller series that ended up more female centric than it initially seemed (at first I worried that Hye In would be the central character, but that any other women would have minor roles. The former was true, but not the latter) and managed to deliver a satisfying resolution too the A-like villain plot, which I always start off liking in the US shows but then they lose me because it gets too convoluted without resolving it.
meganbmoore: (hwajung: jeongmyung revealed)
The K2 and Moon Lovers were dramas with such huge potential that ended up such disappointments.

Two days ago, someone asked me whether or not I’d rec Moon Lovers and my answer was a longer version of “It’s a mess but it’s an entertaining mess with enough bright spots to make up for it.” (My favorites being the playboy musician Goryeo prince in love with the vengeance-seeking Baekje princess turned gisaeng, assassin and spy, and the Goryeo princess who starts a minor ambitious antagonist but later explodes in a flurry of righteous anger and ambition and a lot of hate for the men who keep trying to control her) But now I’ve read spoilers for the last 4 episodes and just...want nothing to do with the rest of it. It sounds even messier than the rest and possibly in a hurry to kill of as many female characters as possible. And, well, while both men and women have died because History Said So, no men have died for the primary purpose of furthering another character’s arc, but multiple women have. I just hope casting directors were paying attention to Kang Han Na during this, because she’s perfect for sageuks.

Then there’s The K2, which I thought/hoped would be an improved version of Yong Pal, which had the same writer, and a similar setup in terms of initial character positions and allegiances. Instead it dumped most of what was good about Yong Pal and replaced it with inconsistent and poor characterization more often than not. I was led to expect a drama about a politicians secret daughter who seeks revenge against her ambitious and ruthless stepmother and a bodyguard torn by loyalties between both. And I’m pretty sure the creators really did think that was the show they were writing. Instead they didn’t get the plot started until around episode 9, couldn’t be bothered to give the heroine more than the sketchiest development (what characterization there was mostly came from Im Yoon Ah trying her hardest with little to go on) and gave the most development to the villainess, who they gave sympathetic development to then told us she was irredeemably evil. I don’t even know what to make of the characterization of the male characters, as they seemed to be making their personalities up as they went along, along with the plot. Then the PD did an interview where he actually criticized Song Yoo Na for being a good actress and said it was annoying because her outacting everyone else was leading to fanon interpretations that he didn’t want.

These were my most (only, really) anticipated kdramas of the last round of dramas. Hopefully the next round will be better, and I might check out a couple others that people have talked about. Hopefully the next batch is better. At least The Flower in Prison hasn’t let me down? I haven’t watched last weekend’s episodes yet, but nothing about the first 47 episodes makes me expect disappointment for the last 3.
meganbmoore: (paladins: yan yu/mo le: pre-angstplosion)
I've started watching The K2 (I'm around 20 minutes into episode 2), and airing kdrama about a presidential candidate's secret daughter (who was locked away in a Spanish convent by her stepmother) and a former secret service agent who becomes her bodyguard, and the main thing I've gathered is that in Spain, it's totally normal for desperate women in white nightgowns with bloody feet to run through the streets like a gothic heroine fleeing a wicked baron's castle (or in this case, a convent where she's beng ilegally imprisoned?) regardless of what time of day it is.

Brief notes:

1. The fairy tale elements aren't as prominent as they were in Yong Pal, the previous series by the writer, but they're there, this time more along the lines of Snow White or Cinderella than Sleeping Beauty.

2. Hobo!Ji Chang Wook, you rescued Gothic Heroine from three pursuers already, why did you just thrown up your hands at the fourth? (Hopefully that will come back to bite him in the arse later on.)

3. Gothic Heroine's Scum Dad wants us to believe he's a tragic figure who loves but can't see his daughter in the same breath he states that he knows where she is and that she's desperate to escape, ut that basically too busy or whatever to go to her, and can't be bothered to do more for her than to forbid her being killed by Wicked Stepmother. I hope Scum Dad is the actual villain of the piece.

4. I agree with most comments I've seen that Wicked Stepmother completely steals the show and I hope she ends up more antagonist/eventual ally than villain. However, I've been following the tags off and on for the last week and am uncomfortable withow a lot of posts seem to be falling into the trend of disregarding/undermining the narrative of an abuse victim in favor building up the abuser. (Which, actually, is pretty common among fandoms for fairytale retellings/themed things in recent years regarding Wicked Stepmother characters, though that's at least in part because they're typically played by the more experienced actresses with larger followings.)

5. I can't remember how many episodes of Yong Pal it took for Yeo Jin to escape her medically induced coma, but I hope Gothic Heroine gets unleashed with just as much scorched earth vengeful spirit going for her, but without getting punished for it.

6. The only name know is Gothic Heroine's, which is Anna (because they say it so much), but I'm going to continue to call her Gothic Heroine until they get the poor girl some decent clothes and she doesn't have to spend all her free time plotting ways to escape a Spanish convent.
meganbmoore: (hwajung: jeongmyung revealed)
Maids is a recent sageuk set during the reign of King Taejong, about an arrogant young noblewoman, In Yub, who becomes a slave after her father is framed for treason. She's sold into the house of her former romantic rival, who proceeds to make her life miserable, and clashes with the existing servants of the household, who she had been arrogant towards before. The head of the household is a high ranking official, and In Yub sets out to find a way to prove her father's innocence, while trying to adjust to her new life. There's also the shenanigans by the ACTUAL traitors, and their plots to overthrow the king. Somewhere in the mix, there's the secret offspring of the king who various people are searching for.

As the title suggests, the main focus of the series is on the maids of the household. The political aspects drive a lot of the plot, but are secondary to the character stuff. In Yub isn't difficult to like or sympathize with at first-in the first episode, she throws a temper tantrum that results in the second female lead, Dan Ji, being severely beaten, and this is after several smaller acts of arrogance and mistreatment of servants. The show does make a point to say that she's usually much kinder to servants and is only acting that way because of stress, but it still makes her someone who takes out her frustrations out on people who can't fight back. Naturally, In Yub is pretty well hated by the other servants of the household at first, but since no one really wants to spend 20 episodes watching the main character be arrogant while everyone else bullies her, she soon grows up and becomes friends with many of the other servants. While her actual character arc to make her more likable and sympathetic is well written, I mostly credit the actress with the fact that I came to love the character as much as I did.

On the romantic end of things (it IS a kdrama, after all) In Yub's former fiance, Eun Gi, is also trying to find evidence that her father was innocent. I initially liked Eun Gi a lot, but he's a bit less upstanding than he initially seems, which I would have been fine with. I was not, however, fine with his being so determined to "save" In Yub that he ignored the fact that many of his efforts actually made things worse for her, and made her requests that he stop doing things that get her beaten, almost married off to human slime, and almost sold to another household as a surrogate and so on be all about him and his pain at being rejected. At one point, he starts bemoaning about how there's no one in the world who is more miserable than he is, referring to the fact that his ex is suffering a lot while he's off visiting gisaeng and eating well and wearing nice clothes and literally benefiting from her labor. On the flipside, we have Moo Myeong, the head servant of the household who many other servants consider to be hard and cruel, but is actually secretly trying to protect them. He may or may not be involved in all the political shenanigans, which puts a kink in his status as the better love interest. There's also a secondary romance between Dan Ji and the young master of the household, whose name I forget. I spent most of the series thinking she could do much better, but I guess he proved himself well enough towards the end. There's also, of course, plenty of femslash options around, given the setup. The most obvious one being In Yub/Dan Ji, but also In Yub and Sa Wol, her maid from before she was a slave, who eventually joins the household. Even the villain ships In Yub/Sa Wol.

A lot of the plot and developments are fairly standard for the genre, but the show manages to stay largely fresh and exciting by the writing and the acting. It also escapes one of the huge downfalls of many of its kind in that it never stops being completely In Yub's story, even at times when many series would cheerfully let the focus shift to the male characters.

Interestingly, Jeong Yu Mi and Lee Cho Hee (In Yub and Sa Wol) went straight from Maids to six Flying Dragons, which is about King Taejong in his younger days.
meganbmoore: (gfb: cute)
If you follow me on tumblr (and don't black out when I talk about kdramas) then you know that I spent 9 weeks devotedly watching this show, which I initially only checked out for Seo Hyun Jin and Kim Mi Kyung. Two women named Oh Hae Young (OHY for the lead and OHY2 for the secondary female lead) were in the same class throughout high school. OHY2 was bright, popular and pretty, the social center everywhere she went and consistently one of the top students in her grade. OHY was plain (or so I'm told by the Hollywood, "slightly less glamorously gorgeous and not fashionable" counts as "plain" here), always in the bottom half of the class, and always mistaken for OHY2 when it came time for bullies to come around, or rejected suitors to throw rocks through windows, and was constantly made fun of by their classmates.

As an adult OHY's life seems to have turned around, until her fiance dumps her the day before their wedding. In a grand case of mistaken identity, it turns out that OHY2 left her fiance, Do Kyung, at the altar, and Do Kyung, believing that OHY's fiance is the man OHY2 left him for, arranges to have the fiance's business ruined, resulting in the fiance being arrested for fraud. He later learns about his mistake and alternates between trying to make amends without revealing what he did, and pretending he never did anything (there's actually a point towards the middle where both he and the show seem to forget that he ever did anything to start with, though the show recovers from that). He also has visions of OHY which always come true. Shortly after, OHY2 returns to Korea working for the same company as OHY, upsetting both OHY's professional and personal lives.

The show has two main alternate titles, Oh Hae Young Again and Another Oh Hae Young. When the title is OHYA, it's from the perspective of OHY, and referring to OHY2 entering her life again. Both Hae Youngs have depression (OHY2 also has anxiety) though neither presents in a way that we immediately associate with depression, and both live in a constant state of impostor syndrome. OHY is lazy and cheerful and willing to laugh along and even joke at her own expense, but will speak out if you go too far. But she's also a complete mess inside, and aside from the laziness, much of her public persona is a defense mechanism. OHY2 continues to present as open and cheerful and, friendly but if you look closely, she doesn't actually have any FRIENDS. Instead she's the bright star everyone orbits around, but no one seems to truly care about or really know. Even before she returns to the main story, we know from flashbacks that she exists in a state of near-desperation for approval, without letting others know how insecure she is. OHYA is about both women coming to love themselves and dealing with their jealousy towards each other (OHY2's reasons for jealousy don't get revealed until later on) and coming out better for it, with a hefty romance plot to go along with it.
AOHY is from the perspective of DK, and his realizing his mistake and trying to deal with it, while also falling for someone he unintentionally hurt, as he deals with his own enormos load of problems. For better or worse, AOHY is the route the shows opts for, with OHYA being the secondary focus. While I really, really like AOHY, OHYA is the show I wanted.

Along with the Hae Young's, the best characters are OHY's parents, who are poor in money but huge in personality and cooking skills, and Soo Kyung, the extremely weird boss of the OHYs and DK's older sister, who has her own weird romance plotline with DK's playboy best friend (and the one who co-plotted the destined-to-misfire revenge while extremely drunk).

The show had a two episode extension that it really didn't need, resulting in some things dragging out much longer than it should, and DK is difficult (to say the least) for a lot of the show. There's also a lot of toxic relationships and some secondary focus on the affects of bad parenting. In addition to the sometimes laggy middle, some things towards the end were blatantly manufactured for the greatest drama. Despite that, and it not going for the focus I wanted, I think this is one of the better kdramas I've watched so far in 2016.
meganbmoore: (detective dee: red)
Something about Jeong Jo's reign seems to inspire short sageuks. Or at least, 3 that I've watched (maybe 4...I can't recall when Joseon X-Files was set). Jeong Yak Yong is an 8 episode procedural sageuk about the titular Joseon Scholar. Framed for charges of corruption, JYJ is stripped of his official title and sent to by a minor official in a small province, where he promptly proceeds to start coming across murder investigations and helping/annoying the local police.

The cases tend to focus on social ills and abuses, and should probably include warnings for rape and suicide, and spousal abuse in the first episode. Nothing close to most US procedurals or "grim and gritty" shows in these regards, but moreso than most sageuks. I should mention it ISN'T a "grim and gritty" show-it's lighthearted when it comes to character interactions and serious with the cases and social issues. Aside from JYJ, the main characters and his partners are Seol Ran, a female police officer who is a baby social activist (and who JYJ has a crush on) and his bodyguard Moo Young, who doesn't actually have a lot of personality. His main job is to look pretty and save JYJ from getting killed a lot. And Seol Ran, sometimes, but she's less prone to needing it. There's also Seol Ran's boss, and thief JYJ occassionally employs, the mother and daughter who runs the inn he stays at, and a mentally ill young man who has latched on to JYJ. The supporting characters are largely used for comedic relief, sometimes well, sometimes not so well.

Since it's episodeic in nature, almost all the usual sageuk faces show up at some point. My favorite is the not-so-regular-in -sageuk guest appearance of Yoon Ji Min, who I loved in both Chuno and Warrior Baek Dong-Soo. I really wish she got more sageuk roles, or major roles in general. I found it hilarious that she was playing a well known and respected investigator here, since she played an assassin in her other sageuks, even though they came after.

Overall, I thought the series was pretty good, though I did briefly think I'd have to anti-rec it after something in the last episode, but it fixed that at the last minute.
meganbmoore: (city hunter: na na/gun)
 One of the kdramas I bingewatched recently and keep getting sidetracked from writing up is Healer. Thankfully, I eventually remembered that [personal profile] skygiants did a writeup that covered about 90% of what I would have said. (The other 10% involves things like shouting KOREAN SUPERMAN and talking about how no one outside of anime REALLY does all that Parkour stuff, and non-awful-if not 100% consistent-handling of autism, anxiety and depression.)

So go read their post here and then watch the show.
meganbmoore: (hwang jin yi)
I'm very pleased to report that the first 2 episodes of The Flower in Prison, the latest superlong MBC sageuk from Lee Byung-hoon about a woman, Ok-Nyeo, who is born and grows up in a prison and wages war against social and legal injustices as an adult (plus romance and political shenanigans), lived up to my expectations.

A few brief notes:

1. This girl playing teenaged Ok-Nyeo is proof that sageuks tend to get the most talented child actors. (I mean, she's probably 16 or so, so older than most child actors, but you know what I mean.)

2. Most sageuks of this type tell us most or all of the main character's origins in the first episodes, but here we barely know any more than Ok-Nyeo does. I suppose they can get away with that since she's completely fictional (afaik) as opposed to based on a historical figure. Even The Royal Gambler has a protagonist based on a prince who died in infancy.

3. I guess it's because the characters are probably going to be close in age to the actors, but it's really, really weird and slightly uncomfortable that they didn't get a younger actor for Tae Won (Official Love Interest) for the episodes when Ok-Nyeo is only 15. Granted, people physically change less between their 20s and 30s than their teens and 20s, and he (thankfully) isn't displaying even the vaguest hint of romantic or sexual interest at this point, but it's weird watching an actor in his 30s playing a character in his 20s against a teenager, knowing the same actor will be romancing the character when she's being played by someone else in her 20s and he'll be playing the same character in his 30s.

4. These are apparently the nicest and most helpful prisoners ever? I mean, granted, we mostly see them interact with Ok-Nyeo, who is a kid who does favors for them, and who many have known for years, and they don't seem quite as nice when she isn't around to see, but I was expecting something of a harsher environment? It does look like Ok-Nyeo is going to grow up a bit darker and more devious than most sageuk heroines are, though.
meganbmoore: (hwajung: jeongmyung revealed)
Trailers for 2 upcoming sageuks that I plan to watch:

Mirror of the Witch:

It doesn't really give anything away as it's the first teaser trailer and they probably haven't filmed much, but it certainly looks pretty. I'm somewhat leery of the age difference between the leads, but we'll see how it goes.

More importantly The Flower in Prison:

It's directed by Lee Byung Hoon (Dae Jang Geum, Yi San, Dong Yi, etc.) and about a Joseon-style female litigator.

I've been watching The Royal Gambler, in which the firstborn son of Choi Sukbin and King Sukjong doesn't actually die in infancy like he does in history, but is hidden away and grows up a peasant, but don't think I'll watch more. It's not BAD by any means. Good production values, pretty good acting all around (with plenty of reliable sageuk faces), interesting enough plot, but it just isn't working for me. If there weren't multiple sageuks coming out soon (in addition to the above, I am most definitely watching Shin Saimdang: The Herstory later this year, will most likely at least check out Scarlet Heart: Ryou and may give Hwarang a chance) I'd probably watch more to see if it grabs me more, but for once I have enogh new stuff coming my way soon that I don't need to worry about being left bereft.

I actually have a LOT of TVs that I need to post on: Maids, Liar Game and Healer on the kdrama from, The Legend of Hua Mulan (I watched all 48 episodes in under 2 weeks. Take that as you will.) for chinese series, and a bunch of British dramas that would take too long to list off. Plus Wynonna Earp and maybe The catch for US TV.

But writing them up takes away time from watching TV and reading books...
meganbmoore: (arang: bedsharing)
Set in a fictional alternate-Joseon, Scholar Who Walks the Night is about a vampire scholar, Sung Yeol, who battles the evil vampire, Gwi, who has secretly ruled Joseon through a series of puppet kings for centuries. When he was human, Sung Yeol served a prince who was trying to expose and stop Gwi. The prince wrote a book that supposedly holds the secret for how to kill Gwi, but it has since been lost, and Sung Yeol hires Yang Sun, a book merchant who is a young woman who dresses as a man, to find the missing book. There's also the CURRENT prince, Lee Yoon, who wants to avenge his father, also killed by Gwi, and who thinks Yeng Sun is a lot like his missing childhood best friend, who was a boy, as well as Hye Ryung, a young woman who was sold to Gwi as a child, and who is the spitting image of Sung Yeol's dead fiance, Myung Hee, who was a victim of Gwi's fridging spree. The rest of the cast are a bunch of court officials who are hard to keep straight aside from the king and Hye Ryung's scumbag father, and then Sung Yeol and Lee Yoon's sidekicks.

The first episode, which is Sung Yeol's origin episode, tries to kill you with the cheese, amplified by the cheesiest overly melodramatic soundtrack ever. It pretty much consists of having Sung Yeol find out that vampires exist, become a vampire, an dthen having Gwi kill off pretty much everyone Sung Yeol knows for maximum fridging effect. The cheese factor steadily decreases after that and is at an acceptable level by around episode 4 or so. Except for with Gwi. I can only assume they amped up the cheese there to try to mask the fact that Gwi is the boringest of boring fantasy sageuk things. Maybe a better actor could have made the character work, but the actor did nothing for me on any level. I struggled to pay attention during his scenes until about 2/3 through the series, when more interesting things started to happen around him because of other characters. (He also doesn't come across as remotely dangerous or scary to me, which sometimes made me wonder if Sung Yeol was just incompetent.) That said, about 80% of the tumblr tag is people loving him, so it could just be me.

Despite finding Gwi boring, I did really get into the series after a few episodes, and liked all the protagonist characters.Sung Yeol has a fair number of Jerk Vampire Boyfriend moments early on, but he gets over them and the romance ended up pretty enjoyable. Yang Sun has GREAT reactions to Angsty Vampire Exposition. Her reaction to the whole I am a vampire and you must hate me now. Let me display my powers a bit to make sure you understand how I am Very Bad Wrong For You and I'll go back to may angsty and lonely immortal existence" is "A. Why did you think this would make me stop liking you? B. I know you have a good memory so you better not have forgotten I ever existed in a few decades since you still spent some time mooning over your first girlfriend, and C. THANK GOODNESS YOU DID NOT DIE CHECK IN WITH ME WHEN IT LOOKS LIKE YOU DIED BUT YOU'RE OK, WILL YOU?" I do sideeye some of the things that didn't clue her in, since VAMPIRE WHO SECRETLY RULES THE KINGDOM is a rumor that's been going around for centuries, but I've seen worse. The final arc has Yang sun actively weaponizing popular fiction and urban myth, not to mention saving Sung Yeol and Lee Yoon with her fanfiction, which made me forgive a lot.

The show is also blessedly free of romantic triangles. After being hit by a figurative bulldozer on meeting Hye Ryung, Sung Yeol switches to mostly being weirded out by someone looking exactly like his dead girlfriend wandering around town once he realizes that she has no relation to Myung Hee, and is just kind of vaguely uncomfortable around her but there's no interest at all on either side. (There is an arc where there's a bit of gaslighting to make him think it's the whole "she was secretly turned into a vampire and must be saved" thing, but it lasts about 5 minutes.) For a bit, it looks like Lee Yoon might be falling for Yang sun, but he categorizes her as "adorable little sister" instead of "woman I cannot have" and his only reason for having an issue with the Yang Sun/Sung Yeol relationship is the fact that he's a vampire who likes to battle an evil vampire who likes to eat young women. One of Sung Yeol's sidekicks, Soo Hyang, has a jealous period, but that's more "I thought you never looked at me that way because you were Permanently In Love With the Tragically Dead Girlfriend, but you were in love with this girl after about a month so I'm kind of wondering why I never had a chance..." than anything else, and she gets over it before long.

It's not the best of the fantasy sageuks in recent years (ignoring the time travel ones-because I haven't seen most of them-I think that's still Arang and the Magistrate) but I ended up really enjoying it. I will admit that I probably would have lost interest if I'd tried watching it weekly, but it works really well for a bingewatching show. (And I don't do well with watching kdramas as they air anyway.)
meganbmoore: (covert affairs: gimme tv)
I have not died, I've just been on a bit of a culling spree in my apartment. I've also been binging on kdramas, though that really means that I've been alternating between multiple kdramas.

They are:

Oh My Venus: Airing drama that's a romcom about an overweight woman and a hollywood fitness trainer. On paper it's everything wrong with romantic fiction, but in practice, it's actually very very delightful, largely because od Shin Min Ah and So Ji Sub. I freely admit that I wouldn't have bothered with it if I didn't like both leads. There's definitely some fatphobia going on, but not nearly as much as I feared, and they do at least try to avoid the worst of it first by having him decide to help her lose weight not because he thinks fat=yucky, but because she's doing harmful things to her body to try to lose weight. They also attach her weight to an initially-undiagnosed medical condition, which I sideeye because the real world medical profession tends to dismiss a lot of issues as being the result of weight instead of exploring other possibilities, but at least they tried. There's also a secondary romance between a boxer who is So Ji Sub's foster son and an idol who is his fan that is simultaneously hilarious and semi-cute, and offputting because she pretty much stalks him. I'm hoping they move past the stalking soon and they have real conversations, because I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to want them to get together. I haven't seen the most recent episode yet because I'm watching on Hulu and they don't have it yet, but am current otherwise.

My only big "OMG NO NO NO" moment was actually entirely unrelated to the romances and all about someone soing CPR by pressing on the top of the sternum. YOU DON'T PRESS THERE. THE POINT OF CPR IS THAT YOU'RE FORCING THE LUNGS TO WORK BY MAKING THEM PUMP AIR. THE INTERNAL ORGANS ARE ENTIRELY UNAFFECTED IF YOU'RE JUST PUSHING AGAINST UNRELENTING BONE AND CAN'T GET TO THE ORGANS. *medical pet peeve to end all pet peeves*

Yong Pal: About a medical student who secretly provides medical aid for criminals to earn money, and an heiress who is being kept in a coma by her evil brother. (Who actually seems very fond of her in the one flashback we had of them pre-coma? WHAT HAPPENED BESIDES HER RUNNING AWAY TO GET MARRIED TO SOMEONE UNAPPROVED?) I wasn't interested in it but tumblr made it look interesting when it was airing, and I like Kim Tae Hee, who plays the heroine. The actor who played Myong Nong in Soo Baek Hyang plays the evil brother, and I still haven't quite accepted that. It's a Sleeping Beauty story, something they keeps hitting us over the head with. Episode 4 literally begins with "here is our version of Our Hero having fought his way through the wall of brambles (or in this case, absurd levels of corporate hospital security) to get to the sleeping princess, and we'll tell him she's Sleeping Beauty in case anyone in the audience has missed it.' Hopefully, now that he's found her, she'll wake up soon and set out to get her revenge, which is what I signed up for. I had just started episode 4 when I realized I should post about the shows I've been watching.

Jung Yi: Goddess of Fire: Drama based on Baek Pa-sun, a Korean potter during Gwang Hae's reign. (And will have what i'm pretty sure is a 100% historically anachronistic romance with him.) I'm still in the childhood parts, so it's pretty much the teenagers who play kids in all the sageuks running around being adorable dorks and the adults who are in all the sageuks doing Important Political Scheming Things while the importance of pottery and ceramics is drilled into us. So, normal MBC sageuk biodrama stuff. Very delightful so far, though I'm only 3 episodes in.

Queen In Hyun's Man/The Queen and I fantasy series about a scholar/swordsman who served Queen In Hyun accidentally travelling through time and meeting a woman who is playing Queen In Hyun in a drama. This was seemingly universally loved when it was airing and I've neber encountered anyone who didn't like it, but I bounced off the first episode several times ober the last few years. I finally finished the first episode (3 episodes, actually), and I do like it, which I always assumed would be the case if I finished the first episode though I can't say I'm in love with it.

Maids: My favorite so far of the completed dramas I'm watching. An arrogant young noblewoman becomes a servant in her romantic rival's household after her father is accused of treason. Romantic interests are her previous fiance and the head servant of her new household. Said head servant is played by Oh Ji Ho (who is likable cardboard in modern dramas, but does the "stoic and serious sageuk action hero" thing very well) so we know who will be the final love interest even when the current plot makes it seem very implausible. As the title implies ,most of the focus is on female servants, with the politics providing the B plot. I hadn't realized this drama had been completed after the fire/death of a crew member made production stop after the first episode aired last year until I saw it on hulu. It's kind of unrelentingly angsty and depressing so far, but then, I'm only watched 4 episodes.

I also watched the first episodes of the Chinese series Perfect Couple, but it was a little too OTT for me, and the first episode of the Japanese series Atelier. I actually really liked Atelier, but it was a bit confusing hearing Japanese when my brain kept expecting to hear Korean because of all the other shows I'm watching, so I'm saving it for when I've finished a few things.

For US TV:

The Librarians has almost finished its second season. I don't like this season's ongoing plotline as much as I did the first season's, but the entertainment level is just as high, and it's been doing some nice character stuff.

Into the Badlands ended and no second season has been confirmed yet. I really really hope there is one. For better or worse (depending of whether or not you cared about them) I probably won't spew a thousand words about the last 2 episodes, but I have a lot of feelings about how incredibly satisfying Quinn's villainous comeupance was, and about The Widow's dual role as protagonist and antagonist, so I may post about those on tumblr. If there is a season 2, I hope they don't keep locking M.K. up in cages and boxes so much. Just let the poor kid go find his mom already!

I'm watching Jessica Jones and it's going slowly because of the content and because of some of my issues with it (mostly race!fail stuff, but also the fact that I'm apparently not meant to hate the entitled annoying Jessica-hating cop guy) but I do like it. I do really appreciate how the writers were clearly aware of fandom's tendency to woobify villains and went out of their way to give nothing to grab onto for woobification or logical sympathetic interpretations of the character, or any reason to find him interesting in and of himself. I mean, it didn't work, but I really appreciate the effort. Trish (which I always type as "Patsy" first) is my favorite, despite her awful taste in men, and I thought she and Hope were the same character in gifs I saw. Pretty sure the resemblance is deliberate for maximum levels of investment for Jessica.

This reminds me that I really need to post of several dramas I bingewatched over the last few months.


meganbmoore: (Default)

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