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: (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)
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.


Nov. 7th, 2015 11:46 am
meganbmoore: (arang: smoochies)
1. The Librarians is back and I hadn't even realized z return date had been set yet.

spoilers )

2. Supergirl officially started! I watched the pilot when it leaked and it was mostly like I remembered it, though there were a few scenes I remembered being longer before.

spoilers )

Despite its issues, I really really like it. And sure, it's pretty 101 when it comes to feminism, but let's face it, unlike the bulk of the people criticizing the show for the heavyhanded feminism (and ignoring the ones who are trying to cover for being afraid of girl cooties getting in their superhero shows) the vast majority of people who watch superhero shows and movies don't spend hours a week directly or indirectly consuming information on or discussing feminist theory and intersectionality.  And even a lot of those have decently long passages that amount to "it has this thing which is actually a really good thing but I feel compelled to explain why it isn't, or should barely count."

3. Every new episode of Scream Queens makes me hope that i'll finally lose interest in the mystery and save myself from this garbage, but nope.

4. Mark Pellegrino playing Graham Norton's father in Quantico is very weird to me, since the only other thing I've seen either in is Revolution. (Where they both played much more endearing characters.

5. Sleepy Hollow continues to be better than last season, but not as good as season 1.

spoilers )

6  I've started watching the supernatural fusion sageuk The Scholar Who Walks the Night (AKA, romance between vampire scholar and crossdressing bookseller) now that it's over. It's a bit cheesy (a lot of which, IMO, is the soundtrack. Hard not to compare it to Arang and the Magistrate's excellent soundtrack, as both are supernatural fusion sageuks starring Lee Joon Ki.), but good so far. My problem with it, though, is that the antagonist is SO BORING so far. Part of it is that the actor is...not good. At all. Like, he fails embarassingly at "dangerously evil but sexy" (It takes more than lighting and eyeliner to pull that off.) and I just cringe at all his scenes. I'm apparently meant to believe that he's so dangerous that Lee Joon Ki's vampire scholar hasn't been able to kill him in 120 years of trying. I can only conclude that, all evidence to the contrary, Our Hero is just amazingly incompetent. I mostly want him to quit boring up my screen so more time can be spent on the protagonists and Lee Joon Ki's sidekicks and even the angstmuffin prince. (Who I do like so far, but he has the potential to go very wrong for me.) Everyone else in the show ranges from competent to pretty good as far as acting goes, and then there's Cardboard Guyliner Vampire. The tumblr tag for the show is about 85% him, though, so I guess others felt differently.c

7. I'm watching season 3 of Grand Hotel (aka, the first telenovela I watched back before Hulu and Netflix started carrying any, though only the first season was available then.) and it's the last season. The first episode (well, Netflix's first episode, Netflix breaks the 70-90 minute episodes into 44 minutes, which gets awkward at times) was rather awful, but it got better after that, though it's not as good as the first two seasons were. Largely because Diego's villainy is is almost comical in how over the top and extreme it's become. I keep expecting him to try to twirl his mustache.
meganbmoore: (hwajung: jeongmyung revealed)
Out of curiosity, I checked out the first episode of The Last Kingdom, mostly to see if I liked it more than The Bastard Executioner. The answer is, yes and no? In that, unlike TBE, I can actually see myself liking some of the characters if I watched more. but that's about it. The show is set during the 9th century and focuses on the Danish invasions on England, which was still smaller kingdoms at the time. The main character is a Saxon who was captured as a child and raised by a Danish family who treated him better than his own family did.

The first 20 minutes were boring and tedious, with way too much infodumping and Look At Me I'm Saying Something Important speeches. It got better once he was with the Danes, then the show (or Bernard cornwell, whichever) decided that a girl about 10-11 years old needed to be sexually assaulted to create a feud between adult men. At the end of the episode, this girl (now grown up) is being dragged off and about to be raped by the same assaulter, and her adopted brother is so busy wanting to kill someone that he can't be bothered to look around enough to notice that she's alive and being held prisoner. It has the same "grim and gritty HISTORICAL REALISM ABOUT FICTIONAL PEOPLE" thing going that all these shows seem to have going for them since Game of Thrones became popular.  Let's not even get into the whole thing where GoT is set in a fake world where seasons last for years and people who spent generations where DEADLY FIERY DEATH FROM ABOVE was a possibility but their strongholds are still open fortresses with no overhead cover.  I mean, it's been done to death.

And, honestly, regarldess of my personal feelings about GoT, I'm completely willing to blame the shows for it. All these shows want to be "the next GoT." They get advertised as such,they get discussed as such. They never achieve anything close to the popularity of GoT because they are rightly perceived as trying to be GoT. But because of GoT's incredible popularity and frequently getting hailed as The Most Amazing Show Ever (less so now than a couple years ago, but still...) US period dramas have become more popular, but they all want to be "grim and gritty." Things need to be mostly about men because they hold the more important positions. Women are wives but one or two manage to be Better Than the others and become A Strong Female Character. Rape is just there. It is. Women just got raped all the time. Fact of life. I mean, sure, it's historical fiction and truly accurate historical fiction never actually happens and we get to pick and choose how we portray it, but, you know, rape. Gotta have rape so people know we take our history seriously.

This becomes really, really obvious if you watch Pillars of the Earth and World without End. They're two miniseries based on books by the same author with some of the same people behind the scenes, and they came out several year apart. There's rape in PotE, but the rape is shown through the POV of the victims. It's horrible and wrong and the narrative doesn't expect us to accept it as the norm. The rapists die horrible deaths, either directly or indirectly because of their victims. In WWE, there's a lot more rape (and unlike PotE, a lot of the rape apparently wasn't in the source material.) and it's detached in it's approach. The rape is just there. The victims are, in those scenes, objects getting raped. Now, the narrative still thinks rape is bad and the rapist still die horribly either at the hands of their victims or because of them, but the difference between the two is very, very notable. WWE is also more violent and more graphic in its violence and, yup, a lot more into the Grim and Gritty.

What happened in between? What happened is that Got Came along and women were getting raped as background scenery, men were monologuing while requiring two women to have sex in front of him, and a teenager fell madly in love with the man who repeatedly raped her, and it was OMG True Love. And people died horribly a bunch. And it was hailed as The Best Show Ever. Yes, there's more to GoT than that, but that's what Hollywood took from GoT, and incorporated into future shows. And don't get me wrong, I'm glad that GoT has made it possible for more period and fantasy dramas to be made, I'm just not a fan of how it influenced them.

TBH, I honestly believe that, before making a period drama about politics and war and revenge and all that fun stuff, TV makers should be forced to watch a hundred or so hours of Chinese and Korean period dramas. now, hear me out. Between wuxia, historical fantasy, and straight historical fiction, China puts out dozens of period dramas every year. Most of these are between 30-50 episodes (sometimes longer, rarely shorter) and air multiple episodes a week. They're incredibly popular, obviously, as, like I said DOZENS are made every year, and people devote multiple hours a week to watch them as they air. Korea doesn't put out as many sageuks as that (usually somewhere between 5-12 a year, I believe). These sageuks are 50-70 minutes per ep and air 2-3 episodes a week. It isn't uncommon for sageuks to dominate the ratings in their timeslot for their entire run, and while there are flops, more sageuks than not are popular, as far as I know. Now, there are plenty of reasons period dramas are more popular in China and Korea than in the US, not the least of which is being a major staple for years, but I'll talk a bit about the English language fandoms for a moment. I started watching Asian dramas in the early 2000s, before DramaFever existed and before everyone who could was using Netflix and Hulu. Way back then, you almost always had to download the raws of a episode and wait anywhere from a day to a week for fansubbers to release the subs, if not longer. That's if you were lucky enough for the series you were interested in to be picked up by a subbing group. Sometimes you had to buy regionless Chinese DVDs off ebay and hope the Engrish subs were good enough for you to follow. Every once in a while, a series would get a DVD release and you'd party in your mind while your wallet wept because those things were EXPENSIVE. (Kids these days just have no idea how good they have it.)

Now, here's the thing: People getting into Chinese and Korean period dramas often then often gave the same reasoning my friends getting into period dramas now give. They watch them because there are politics! Adventure! Epic storylines! There are popular shipping tropes (Enemies as lovers! Friends become enemies! Childhood friends fall in love! courtly love! Bodyguard/Lady! [and gender swapped! And subtext for both m/m and f/f slash!] adventuring buddies who become more! Forbidden noble/commoner!Engaged to one person FOR POLITICS but in love with another! And on and on.) And oh yes, women. Lots of women. Multiple women with important roles, even in male-dominated plots. Ladies, merchants, servants, princesses, courtesans, scholars, warriors, cooks, spies, priestesses, etc. all of the above types being portrayed are warranting respect and sympathy. Women who held independent political power. Women who did not have personal political power who who had incredibly devoted male followers who used their political power to further the women's goals. Men completely devoting themselves to women's goals and it being treated as as unusual, and other men not acting like those men have been emasculated. women allying themselves with each other. Women having feuds that have nothing to do with being in love with the same man. Women in love with the same man becoming friends instead of rivals. Women protecting their romantic rivals. Women who plot together and women who plot against each other.  women mentoring women.  And on and on.

And lest I forget, while rape isn't unheard of, it's rare enough to be surprising when it happens. And while there are frequent, bloody battles, Noble Deaths and gruesome executions all the time, they rarely feel the need to be gross or overly graphic on screen.

It should also be noted that sageuks became MORE POPULAR when they started having more women in the shows, and to try to appeal more to women. It's almost like Korea is 15 or so years ahead of the US in figuring out how to make period dramas more popular or something.

(I'm not ignoring or forgetting British period dramas here, but most of them aren't the type of show that I'm talking about, though shows like The White Queen definitely fall into the "historical accuracy is a joke, but we need plenty of rape and/or assault so we'll be seen as realistic." I will note that I enjoyed the first half of that series a good bit despite certain things, but the second did it go wrong. And I haven't seen enough period dramas from other countries to really be able to comment, though I have liked the Spanish telenovelas that I've watched.)

This went way, way off course from the post I started with, but I do feel better getting all that out there.

Getting back to just TLK, the original subject of this post, the Saxons and Danes in this version of history would be extinct in a generation or two anyway. Why? Because even including the extras in the villages, the men outnumber the women about 10 to 1. Society isn't lasting long unless they find a way to make mpreg actually happen.
meganbmoore: (wbds: ji: sword)
Soo Baek Hyang, The King’s Daughter is one of those sageuks whose title has a lot of variants when translated into English but that and just straight Soo Baek Hyang are the ones I prefer. I typically dislike “woman’s role and status determined by relation to male” titles, but in this case the designation is extremely plot relevant, and also not something that the main character bases her view of herself on.

The series is set during the reign of Muryeong of Baekje, though with impressive liberties. I mean, it is an MBC sageuk. Historically (as I understand it), Muryeong is believed to be the son of his predecessor, Dongseong, but is made Dongseong’s cousin for VERY IMPORTANT PLOT REASONS. Muryeong is in love with Chaehwa, the daughter of Baekga, the eventual assassin of Dongseong. When Baekga is manipulated into assassinating Dongseong by a supporter of Muryeong, Marshall Hae, Muryeong brings what can only be called unholy vengeance down on Baekga. He intends to spare Chaehwa but STUFF HAPPENS and Chaehwa is saved from a fire by a servant, Kuchon, who takes her to the neighboring country of Gaya, with bother believing Muryeong intended to kill her too.

Side note on Kuchon: Kuchon is a deaf mute (Though they seem to sometimes forget the deaf part, as there are a few times he’s definitely responding to sounds.) who was a Gogoryeo assassin who was captured and converted into an agent of Baekje by Marshall Hae and sent to spy on Baekga, only to dump Marshall Hae when he falls in love with Chaehwa. He is the guy who carries unconscious pregnant women dozens and dozens of miles without breaking a sweat, gets stabbed a bunch and gets back up, grabs swords with his bare hands, and takes a twig and beats down a dozen well trained soldiers for the crime of approaching his daughter in a threatening manner. Kuchon is what happens when you merge a wuxia hero with a shounen hero after his 4th or 5th powerup.

Getting back to the plot, unknown to Muryeong, Chaehwa is pregnant and names her daughter Seolnan, but also secretly names her Soo Baek Hyang, The name she had told Muryeong she would give their daughter, if they ever had one. Eventually, she falls in love with Kuchon, and a couple years later, they have a daughter named Seolhee. Meanwhile, back in Baekje, Muryeong is wallowing in guilt because he believes he killed The One Great Love Of His Life, and because he knows his cousin was killed to make him king, which is what happens. Then he happens to be watching his three year old son, Myongnong, playing with Dongseong’s son, Jinmoo. He notices they look almost exactly alike and hatches a plot to swap the boys. Both mothers are conveniently long dead, so there’s no one to yell at him about what an incredibly terrible idea this is. The official canon reasoning given is that this way, Dongseong’s son will still be king one day, and Muryeong will never be convinced to have Jinmoo banished or killed to secure his position if Jinmoo is actually his biological son. BTW, I’m only going to refer to Myongnong and Jinmoo by the names they grew up with after this. He also latches onto the idea of having Jinmoo raised by a supporter of Dongseong’s who hates Muryeong and thinks he had Dongseong killed to get the crown and wants vengeance. I mean, surely that setup won’t lead to Jinmoo being raised to hate Muryeong and think he has to avenge his father. NO, MURYEONG, THAT ISN'T THE OBVIOUS OUTCOME. NOT AT ALL.

Anyway, that’s the official canon reasoning. The real reason is so that there can be a lot of fake-cest wallowing later on.

Moving on to the main plot (gotta love how long it takes to explain the essential back story in sageuks) Seolnan and Seolhee grow up in Gaya, blissfully ignorant if their parents’ pasts. Seolnan is perfectly content as a mountain peasant. Seolhee has a hefty dose of typical petulant "But I deserve SO MUCH MORE. I should have been born someone IMPORTANT." teen stuff going for her, which escalates quite a bit before long. Myongnong grows up superresponsible and becomes Muryeong's spy master in between crown prince duties (In another drama, Muryeong would be a cold jerk. Here, he's ruthless can can be standoffish, but is pretty much relentlessly good intentioned, and only ruthless or cold out of absolute necessity, and has few moments that comes close to jerkishness.), and Jinmoo grows up a playboy who bounces between "I HATE MURYEONG AND WILL AVENGE MY FATHER" and "I really really really want Muryeong to like me and we can bond over board games and maybe one day he'll be proud of-WAIT WHAT AM I THINKING?"

Things go bad when, on a political trip to Gaya, both Jinmoo and Marshall Hae learn that Chaehwa is living there an has a family. Marshall Hae goes to Muryeong with his tail between his legs and prepares his "So, uhm, you know twenty years ago, when I told you I'd learned Chaehwa was dead? Well, I sorta-kinda-maybe lied about that-FOR YOUR OWN GOOD-and have felt really guilty ever since. Anyway, she lives here now and has a family. Including two daughters. One of whom is probably yours. I kinda neglected to tell you she was pregnant due to the whole lying about her being dead thing." speech. Jinmoo's reaction is more along the lines of "I WILL HAVE BLOOD AND VENGEANCE. BRING HER TO ME. But don't hurt anyone. I WILL TORTURE HER AND HER CHILDREN BECAUSE HER FATHER KILLED MINE. Hey, don't hurt anyone, ok? This is, like, a peaceful, non-violent kidnapping. FOLLOWED BY VENGEANCE AND TORTURE." Jinmoo rather sucks at being a tortured-half-villainous bad boy. Too bad he's so good at causing destruction anyway, because things go TERRIBLY WRONG and people die and Chaehwa is blinded with she and her daughters are the only survivors of their village. (My personal opinion is that Jinmoo's guardian pulled his men aside and told them to be sure to murder everyone from the outset, but I have no proof.) Chaehwa dies of her wounds, but because of Plot Significant Hairpins she thinks she's alone in a cave with Seolnan and unknowingly tells Seolhee that Seolnan is Muryeong's daughter, and how to prove it to him.

Later, Seolnan is determined to find the bandits and GET VENGEANCE AND JUSTICE for their village (it's a genetic thing) and Seolhee fakes her death (except Seolnan takes the evidence she leaves behind as indicators of abduction by bandits, not death, and adds AND SAVE MY SISTER to her vengeance plans) and travels to Baekje to convince Muryeong that she's his daughter with Chaehwa.

And all this is just the setup.

Eventually, Seolnan meets Myongnong and becomes a member of Bi Mool, Baekje's secret band of spies, and they totally-do-not-fall-in-love. Except for the part where they do. Naturally, at some point, one of them learns that Seolnan, not Seolhee, is Muryeong's daughter,, resulting in a lot of "OMG NOES I AM IN LOVE WITH MY HALF-SIBLING. THE ONE GREAT LOVE OF MY LIFE IS MY SIBLING. I MUST PULL AWAY AND NOT TELL THEM WHY BECAUSE I CAN'T LET THEM SHARE IN MY AGONY." Seolhee successfully passes herself off as Muryeong's long-lost daughter and becomes increasingly involved in court politics. And maybe becomes reeeaaallllyyy close to Jinmoo, causing Muryeong to engage in some "OMG NOES, INCEST. YOU TWO CANNOT BECOME CLOSE FOR REASONS I CANNOT TELL YOU EVEN THOUGH IT WOULD BE PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE FOR COUSINS TO GET MARRIED AND IT WOULD ACTUALLY BE A POLITICALLY SOUND MOVE BECAUSE THEN MY DETRACTORS WOULD SHUT UP BUT IT CANNOT BE BECAUSE OF INCEST THAT I CANNOT TELL YOU ABOUT."

A lot of the series is Seolnan and Seolhee involved in (and in Seolhee's case, sometimes causing) political intrigues not only in Baekje, but also in other countries. There are some filler bits, but overall, it's stuffed with plot that manages to be consistently interesting, with great characters.

cut for length )

I eyed the series when it was airing but was leery about the "enemy sisters" aspect, and then one day I looked and saw there were about 90 episodes and went "Nuh uh." Later I learned that it was a daily drama that was 108 episodes. Unlike most dramas, which air 2 60-70 minute episodes on two consecutive nights, daily dramas air half-hour episodes Monday-Friday. There are even fewer sageuks among daily dramas than in your average kdrama percentages. Like their hour-long countparts, daily drama sageuks are more expensive and difficult than contemporary-set dramas, but with less exposure and typically lower ratings, making it harder to get big-name actors, which sageuks often rely on, and they also have to film more scenes per week because they have to have an extra half-hour of scenes per week. I actually only know of one other sageuk that's a daily drama.

I actually find 108 half-hour episodes less daunting than 54 hour long episodes. It's a lot easier to sit down and know you have time to finish an episode when it's short episodes. That's just me, though. The different format is that it also allows for different narrative structures. An obvious one being that, if needed, an episode can focus exclusively on one character or plot, without actually losing momentum or distracting form all the other plots going on. For, example, Seolnan barely features in the episode where Seolhee first presents herself to Muryeong, but features heavily in all the episodes around it, so the show was able to exclusively focus on that one important plotpoint without losing focus or momentum for everything else for the week. Later on, there's an episode that's almost entirely two family members who thought the other dead for two years barely missing each other the whole episode, to be finally reunited in the last couple minutes. Normally, that'd have to be split between other plotlines in the episode because a series couldn't devote half its airtime that week to it, but here they can comfortably fit it in while still keeping everything else going for the week as a whole. Airing 5 consecutive days and never having more than 2 days between episodes also means that the series could do cliffhangers and storyarc climaxes in ways that other dramas can't do. Certain cliffhangers are just fine for a 24-hour wait, but not a 5 day wait, so they could end on a rising BAM moment anytime they wanted without worrying about viewer frustration.

There are some things that rely on irritating contrivances, like the toddler-swapping (MURYEONG THAT WAS SUCH A TERRIBLE IDEA DESTINED TO BACKFIRE ON YOU) and times when characters are clearly not knowing about something or being kept out of something purely because ever so much could be cleared up by their seeing something or hearing a description, but the overall drama and plot and characters are great enough that I could usually roll my eyes and move on. I think I watched this in the space of about 3 1/2 weeks, if that.

Hulu has it but, sadly, neither Netflix nor DramaFever do. It is very, very worth watching, though, and everyone should hunt it down and watch it so we can talk about it.
meganbmoore: (yona: fanservice)
I realized the other day that I haven't posted on any anime in a while, even though I've been watching some.

Akatsuki no Yona and the second season of Kamisama Kiss I did post on a bit, I think. Both seasons covered parts of the manga that I'd already read, and pretty faithfully. Yona switched up the order of a few things, and KSK added some stuff to wrap up the season, but those were the main changes. If you like either manga or liked the first season of KSK, you'll like them. Yona is probably my favorite new anime in a while.

Wolf Girl and Black Prince is about a compulsive liar creates an imaginary boyfriend so she can one-up her friends when they talk about their boyfriends, and shows them a picture she took of a random boy when they demand proof. It turns out the boy goes to their school, and he agrees to pretend to be her boyfriend if she'll be his obedient "dog." It's weirdly addictive and I spent the first half of the season condemning myself to a Feminist Pit Of Shame for liking it so much. About halfway through, it gets the awful setup out of its system and become a more typical shoujo romance. Pretty much, I liked it and will probably eventually read the manga, but can offer no real justification.

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works, which is based on a VN that I haven't played, though I did watch the series from several years ago, which followed a different game route, and the prequel series, Fate/Zero. I'm mostly watching for Rin and Saber and Rin/Archer and Rin/Saber. And Ilya and Sakura, but they aren't in this one much. This one has a more interesting plot than the first series and some impressive animation at times, but also does some things I'm meh about. It's pretty enjoyable, though. It just finished airing, but I have a couple episodes to go.

Fairy Tail is my endless shounen comfort series. That's about it, really.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which I've started several times over the years, but only made it a few episodes in each time. This time I powered through it for the Magical Girls panel and Wiscon and...still am not a fan. I get why it's popular, it's brilliantly constructed, it does what it wants and the art direction is amazing. I just don't like it. It's brutal deconstruction for the sake of deconstruction, and it's deconstruction that is deliberately NOT for the target audience (young girls). It removes the empowerment of the genre but doesn't build anything up in its place, and way too much hangs on BUT TEENAGED GIRLS ARE JUST SO EMOTIONAL. And, as tends to happen with Urobuchi, an awful, abusive system is set up and he draws attention to it and has his heroines aware of it, and...leaves it in place to continue to be an unchallenged, horrible system indefinitely.
I am glad I finally watched it and I'm glad the people it works for have it, but it wasn't for me.

Shirobako is an anime about making anime. Like most PA Works shows, it's laid back and slice-of-life. It isn't about the dream of making anime, it's about the work and the tedium and repetition, about working with creators and getting all the different views on the same page. And it's especially about how you won't make it in the anime industry unless you really, really love anime. It's a meta series, though it doesn't rub your face in it. One of the most telling bits is probably early on, when the producer of the anime they're working on in the first half announces that they have to completely rework the main character's personality, because girls will identify with her, and boys won't like her enough. It actually wrapped up a month or two back, I just haven't watched the last few episodes yet.

Ore Monogatari is a shoujo series about Takeo, a huge teenaged who looks like a thug but has the heart of a marshmallow. He always reaches out to befriend people, but they always prefer his standoffish, handsome, friend, Suna, including all the girls Takeo likes. When he saves a girl named Yamato from a groper, he assumes that she, too, likes Suna, but she actually likes Takeo, who is now trying to matchmake Yamato and Suna. It's hilarious and so sweet I'm in danger of getting cavities every episode. The manga it's based on is by the writer of High School Debut, which gives you an idea of what to expect.

Not anime, but since last Friday, I've watched the first 60 episodes of Soo Baek Hyang, The King's Daughter, a Baekje-set sageuk. It's a daily drama, so the episodes are only 32 minutes each (35 once you factor in hulu's commercials) as opposed to the normal hour+. I was off work for a couple days last week, which accounts for a decent bit of that episode count, though. It's my 4th sageuk in a row to have the "secret princess" theme (well, I suppose Hwajung is actually a "lost princess" plot, as opposed to a "secret princess" plot, but still!) I swear I'm not seeking the theme out.  The series follows the general sageuk formula that MBC seems to like.

It's incredibly addictive, though I haven't quite figured out how to put why I love it into words, aside from blathering a bit about the fake!cest in IMs. It's 108 episodes total, and I may just set all my other shows aside until I finish it.

Though, may I just say that it seems to be trying to win an award for the slowest slow burn ever? I'm sitting here going "OMG, you two, we're over halfway there! Make at least SOME progress before plot things come out and you spend who knows how long thinking you're half siblings!"
meganbmoore: (batb: partners)
1. I watched the 5th and final season of Covert Affairs. While I was iffy about parts of the first half of the season, I really enjoyed the second half. You can tell they were hoping there might still be a 6th season when they wrote the ending, but I'm pretty content with how things ended up.

2. Beauty and the Beast is back! I thought the return was pretty good.

spoiler )

3. The 4th and 5th episodes of Wayward Pines were better than the first 3. I think the show would have benefitted enormously from spending less time trying for "WTF?" and trying to be MYSTERIOUS and SHOCKING and gotten to the revelations in episode 5 around episode...2. 3 at the latest.

spoiler )

3. Netflix put up the back half of season 2 of The Fosters and hulu is getting the new episodes, so I'm actually current there. I did watch I think 9 episodes in 1 day, which was a huge mistake, given how emotionally draining it is.

Is it a spoiler to say that I'm glad someone finally commented on how ridiculously luxurious Wyatt's hair is (boy is practically a walking hair product commercial. Fabio sees his hair and runs to look at the billionty romance covers he posed for to remind himself that he will always be the cultural icon for men with long, luxurious locks.) even though I didn't care for the circumstances at all?

4. While I really enjoy CW's The Messengers, I didn't care for the reveal in the latest episode at all.

5. I tried out Jejoongwon a sageuk from a few years ago that had sounded interesting at the time, about the formation of Joseon's first western medicine hospital, but was mostly bored by the first episode. I decided to give the second episode a chance, but realized halfway through that I'd paid attention to maybe 5 minutes out of 30-something. Does anyone have any opinions as to whether or not I shouod give it another chance?

6. I also watched the first episode of Wolf Hall, the Masterpiece series about Thomas Cromwell, and was also and sadly bored by it.

7. I thought the second and third episodes of Stitchers were stronger than the first, though certain parts of the worldbuilding that were established in the pilot (particularly regarding Kirsten's condition) are already breaking down. Salli Richardson-Whitfield and Allison Scagliotti are still the main reasons to watch.

8. Hwajung is still my favorite thing I'm watching, and I should actually say something of merit about it instead of just repetively saying I like it. (Do tumblr picspams count?)

9. Not TV, but I finally got around to watching the latest Cinderella movie. After the Snow White movies from a few years ago and Maleficent, I expected something a bit more...revisionist, and maybe even deconstructive? It was a pretty straightforward adaptation, though, and an enjoyable one. I appreciated how they just completely ignored any ideas about "historical accuracy" in the costuming and went "this is a movie about a girl who goes to a ball in a pumpkin pulled by mice" and just went to town on the costumes. It was less of a mashup of the original Disney version and Ever After that the trailers and reports would imply, and that's ok, though there were scenes that were clearly modelled after Ever After scenes, to the point where I was surprised when they played out differently (such as Ella watching her father leave down the drive) as well as other Cinderella adaptations. I thought the cast was pretty good (though I was strangely and shockingly underwhelmed by Cate Blanchett until the last half hour or so) and it did what it wanted to do well.
meganbmoore: (hwang jin yi)
Congratulations, Ja Myung Go, you are the first kdrama I actually regret watching the entirety of.*

I'm not going to worry about spoilers here, because this drama is 6 years old and was massively overpowered by Queen Seon Deok when they aired, and so not likely to be on many people's "to watch" list.

Very brief summary of the plot, which is based of the folktale "Prince Hodong and the Princess of Nakrang": Nakrang and Goguryeo are two warring countries. Nakrang is small but fertile, Goguryeo is huge, but mostly barren, and the king of Goguryeo wants to conquer Nakrang for it's resources. In the beginning, the future king of Nakrang has two wives who are pregnant. There's a prophecy that if he has a daughter, she will bring about the fall of Nakrang. Both queens give birth to daughters on the same night. The second queen conspires to save her daughter, Lahee, by having it declared that Ja Myung, the daughter of the first queen is the prohecied destroyer. Ja Myung is supposedly killed and set adrift in a boat with Il Pum, the toddler son of one of the first queen's attendants, FOR REASONS. Strangely, not fake!cest reasons, as Ja Myung and Il Pum are possibly the only m/f attractive adopted siblings in kdramas to appear to have a completely platonic relationship throughout. Like, ever. (This doesn't prevent Hulu from having one of their banners for the series be one that makes it look like Ja Myung and Il Pum are the Epic Lovers of the series. Clearly, Hulu knows that Il Pum is the best of the male characters in the series.) There're a number of episodes where everyone is running around doing political scheming stuff, and the series will periodically cut to BABIES SLOWLY DYING AT SEA that starts to look neverending. Thankfully, they eventually end up in China and get adopted by the circus and procedd to have the least sucky lives of anyone in the series for about 18 years. Fast forward, and the king of Goguryeo decides to engage his son, Ho Dong, to Lahee as part of his Take Over Nakrang plan. Hodong has rather epic issues that largely stem from the fact that his mother was from a not very popular tribe, and there are various plots that center around trying to replace him with his stepmother's son, except the king of Goguryeo refuses to have anymore children. Between the king's emotional abuse and her father's "give me a grandson to make king or die" antics, the queen's frustrations build up a bit too much and she kinda sorta tries to kill her beloved-until-then stepson. That relationship tuns rather sour, and gives both even more epic issues.

Fast forward a bunch and grown up Hodong is still trying to get Lahee to fall in love with him so he can take over her kingdom, Lahee doesn't trust him but can't help falling for him, and Ja Myung is getting ready to leave the circus and try to get back to Nakrang to find out who she is. Ja Myung and Hodong fall in love and a lot of plot happens before she eventually leaves him (note that Hodong spends their entire relationship trying to seduce Lahee and attacking her insecurities any time she expresses her doubts that are actually completely right about him). By the time we catch up with the folktale, Ja Myung has gone home and become the Priestess of Nakrang and constructed the mystical drum named after her, and Hodong is still hung up over their Epic Forbidden Love even as he marries her sister. (Ja Myung appears to be mostly over their Epic Love Story at that point, despite not being remotely over Hodong himself. Sadly, her pragmatism gets forgotten at a rather crucial point.)

Ok, listen, this is an Epic Sageuk. That WAS really brief.

Here's the thing: I knew going in that I wouldn't like the ending. I mean, the folktale it's based on pretty much goes "Hero manipulates Heroine into betraying her country, Hero betrays Heroine, Hero's father betray's Hero and everyone dies." it took me over a year to finish despite my really being into most of it because I knew it was going to end with a lot of death. Ja Myung Go follows the (now mostly abandoned, I think) sageuk tradition of opening the series with scenes from later in the series before going back to the beginning. In this case, instead of spending a few minutes in the future, Ja Myung Go spends and entire 2 episodes on the events after the fall of Nakrang, and does so in a way that is actually rather amazing and creates a lot of pre-investment.

Anyway, like I said, I knew I wouldn't like the ending going in, but I had heard a lot of good things about its characterization of women and focus on their choices and decisions, and it's sensitive and sympathetic portrayal women who are usually dismissed or straightup villified by sageuks, and I can usually handle an ending I don't like if if getting there is worth it, and for the first 34 or so episodes it was great.

The I got to the final arc. And I know that a lot of it is because they had to cram about 15 or so episodes of character developments and motivations into just a few episodes because of the network cutting back on the run, and things get lost there (the last 2 episodes really felt like a cliffnotes version of 5-6 episodes to me) but they could have done better. I couldn't help but think they completely sacrificed all of Ja Myung and Lahee's intelligence to force the plot to where it wanted to go. With Ja Myung, that's mostly concentrated around her decision to burn the message from Goguryeo even though she knew not to trust Hodong because her womanly feelings just overpowered her intellect there, but it was pretty much complete character assassination. Yes, Lahee tended to be ruled by her emotions when it came to Hodong (my read on Lahee's tendency to be irrational there has always been that Hodong is the only thing Lahee ever really let herself want her herself, and he spent most of their adult lives manipulating and emotionally abusing her to encourage the emotional independence) but part of her always knew he was untrustworthy and maintained some caution (which, as I mentioned earlier, he always used to attack her and make her feel like the villain for not blindly trusting his lies and manipulations) but all that goes out the window. I mean, he takes her to Goguryeo, reveals that he's betraying her, turns over her countrymen to his father to be slaughtered, and then spins his story about how if she destroys the mystical drum, no one will be hurt and Goguryeo will welcome the people of Nakrang with open arms. And she believes him and gives her reason for agreeing as not wanting him to die.

Excuse me while I barf in my mouth a lot.

Fast forward a bit, and we get to the scene where Lahee is being stoned to death for betraying Nakrang while Hodong sits in his room being tragic and regretful. As Lahee is being stoned to death because of him, the show plays sad, tragic music and has a romantic montage of scenes where Hodong is seducing/manipulating Lahee to use her and Nakrang to try to become king of Goguryeo. I mean, clearly his angst and guilt are the most important factors here.**

And then we have the end, where the show decides that Ja Myung and Hodong must die together for their Epic Love, and seems to have Ja Myung agree that they can't live without each other, even though I think that's COMPLETELY contrary to her characterization for the entire series.

There's also the final battle, which felt gratuitius to me and like the show was just going "nope, we need to kill off more characters. You just THOUGHT some of these secondary characters were safe because they were mostly offscreen all episode."

Things I did like about the ending:

1. Uhm...I'm pretty sure Hodong's aunt lived, along with Ja Myung's circus parents, so there's that. They probably didn't have enough time to work in death scenes for them, though. Or they went by so quickly that I missed them.
2. Maesolsoo won, which part of me secretly wanted all along, even if I shouldn't have.
3. Ja Myung's "Screw you and your speeches about our epic love, you killed my sister" when Hodong starts up on that again. Too bad we couldn’t keep that until the end, and have her get on with her life.

Between this last arc and the last arc of Queen Seon Deok, which I also only recently finished, I'm actually getting scared about the end of Hwajung (still my favorite thing I'm currently watching) despite the fact that it won't end for several months yet.

*Ok, TECHNICALLY the second, but Goong was one of the very first kdramas I watched and it was The Drama at the time and I kept watching it out of completionism and to try to understand why everyone loved it so much. If I were to try watching it for the first time now, I'd quickly realize that it wasn't for me and move on after an episode or two.

**I get Hodong and why he is the way he is. I just never managed to sympathize with him, at all once he was an adult. Part of it is that his entire arc is his singleminded obsession to become king of Goguryeo to prove he's his father's son, not his mother's. There's never really any indication that he thinks he's what's best for Goguryeo, or really that he cares a lot about Goguryeo itself. In comparison, Lahee has it drilled into her from birththat she's not only the best choice for Nakrang, she's the ONLY choice, and that she can never have any desires for herself, only for the wellbeing of Nakrang. And while she makes some epically bad choices (Mostly in trusting Hodong. Ever.) her choices are guided by what she thinks is best for Nakrang and it's people, not in her desire to rule Nakrang. Which is why I can sympathize with her even when her choices are bad or selfish, but couldn't really sympathize with Hodong.


meganbmoore: (Default)

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