Housekeeping Issues

I know that we’re still seeing issues with posting and commenting on WordPress and for that I’ll say sorry, and here are some things I’ve found have worked better for me (which is slightly better than a sharp stick in the eye, as my dad would say):

  1. Don’t use Safari. If you’re on an iPad or iPhone the default underpinned browser for those devices is Safari too and it acts wonky no matter the device. Just don’t. I have sometimes had issues with Firefox, but few with Chrome, so opt for those alternates.
  2. I also prefer to use the old style Admin page for writing posts and editing. It just works easier for me and I can use either Firefox or Chrome without any issues.
  3. Use the WordPress app for reading, posting, commenting, etc. It’s not easy for tagging, or special features like adding photo galleries or adding the “read more after the break” kinds of things, but it isn’t bad for general purposes.

As for your posts, I’ve tried to add photos to the media folder whenever I can for you to use for illustration purposes when you post something. Please do use photos whenever they’re relevant because they make the posts more visually interesting and it helps a reader focus in on the cast or plot when looking for something or in whetting the appetite.

Similarly, please do use tagging for the show and the primary actors. I go back and add them to older posts whenever I have time, but it’s helpful when you do it. Nagging over, thanks for your help (and I’ll still go back and add tags and pics where I can)!

Dramas and Choices in these strange times

Hello everyone; yes, I’m still here! But I confess to being all over the place when it comes to choosing the things to do, whether it’s things I should be doing, or want to be doing (or even can do) — in other words, pretty much like everyone else! This has resulted in me suffering from a rash of completion issues, to the detriment of posting and updating posts on this site. I definitely need to have someone take a chancla to me (perhaps).

What have I been doing? Well, I was still obsessed with Joy of Life, so much so that I found the source webnovel and inhaled all 746 chapters (which I figure has to be equivalent to about 3500 pages). It’s massive, yes, but I didn’t regret a single moment. I often found myself holding my breath as I was reading — is reading apnea a thing? It just might be! I particularly enjoyed comparing how the novel was adapted to the small screen — a long, spoilery post will follow for those who have not seen the series (and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?) — and contemplating how they will adapt the balance of the novel.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This led me to reading a totally OTT BL webnovel (smut galore) that too was over 700 chapters! I might add that The Untamed still won’t let me go, so let’s just add in the source novel as well as pages and pages of fanfics for that. Not gonna lie, I’m more than a little obsessed with that series and its cast. (cough* Xiao Zhan), so sue me, I have eyes, don’t I? I even watched Xiao Zhan’s scenes in the forgettable and cheesy Oh! My Emperor (just because), his movie Jade Dynasty, and I’ll probably watch Fights Break Sphere too (bonus: little Fei Liu from Nirvana In Fire, Leo Wu is the lead).

I am watching dramas too, but haven’t been motivated to write about them, and that’s no reflection on their quality because if I’m finishing them and enjoying them, particularly XX, aka Dear My Ex, a short, 5-episode gem available on Kocowa (maybe Viki too). How can you not love a drama featuring a cocktail maker who names a drink “Adios, bitch” for her frenemy? I’m starting a lot of dramas and liking them, which means that hopefully I will finish them. I like Tale of Nokdu and My Roommate Is a Detective, so far, but nothing is making me lose sleep over them the way that reading those novels has. There are some dramas, like the Taiwanese short (13 episodes) time-travel(ish) Some Day Or One Day and the Chinese murder mystery Day and Night that I’m watching that fit this slow-watching mood; they are mood pieces or too gritty for big doses.

I am hopeful that a crop of new dramas will scratch that itch, but I’d like them to get a little closer to being completely finished on air, namely Hyena, Hospital Playlist, Rugal, I’ll Come to You when the Weather Is Nice, and so on — and let’s not forget Lee Min-ho’s new one coming up!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Which brings me to Crash Landing On You. I’m on “stalled” right now and I’m not exactly sure why. I like it well enough, plot-wise. I find Hyun Bin as ever easy on the eyes. But it’s just not what I’m pressing “play” on at the moment. I have 3 other in-progress dramas that I was watching when all the news starting getting grimmer and grimmer and I’ve yet to return to any of them. It’s like they’re infected somehow too and I’ve put them into a viewing quarantine. I plan to finish them, but time will tell.

Let’s hope we all have the chance to finish the things we want to do, and spend our days doing things that are meaningful and that bring us comfort. Take very good care of yourself and your loved ones, my friends, and here’s hoping that things improve soon!

 

#crash-landing-on-you, #day-and-night, #dear-my-ex, #joy-of-life, #my-roommate-is-a-detective, #some-day-or-one-day, #tale-of-nokdu, #the-untamed, #xx

Joy of Life – Series Review

This is a review for Part 1 of Joy of Life; subsequent parts (planned to be 3 parts at this stage) are in development. It’s important to know this going in because the series does end with a major cliff-hanger which I’ll discuss in the spoiler section of this post. That said, please do yourself a favor and watch this drama! I haven’t been as caught up in a Chinese drama so full of plot twists and turns since Nirvana In Fire, and that is saying a lot (as anyone who knows me will understand).

Wan’er and Fan Xian

What is it about this drama that has captivated me so? Pretty much everything, so much so that I’ve taken up the source novel (available on Webnovel.com/app) to cross-check the drama against the source material and spend a little lot more time in Fan Xian’s world. Note: While tonally the drama is true to the source in terms of the nature of characters and basic aspects of the plot revealed in the novel, there are major changes to the timeline, most significantly when characters are introduced. I’ll do a comparison of book to drama post at a future date.

Chen Pingping

The series is introduced as the work of science fiction created by a student (Zhang Ruoyan) which he’s presenting to an instructor. His story begins with the circumstances of the rescue of the infant Fan Xian during a conflict in which his mother is killed. A mysterious blind man (eyes covered by a thin, ribbon-like strip of cloth) carries the infant to safety; a mysterious man in a wheelchair directs him to take him to the village of Danzhou to be raised in the home of his paternal grandmother. The blind man is Wuzhu, the trusted companion of the baby’s mother, and first mentor to young Fan Xian, and the cripple is the powerful spymaster Chen Pingping, head of the Overwatch Bureau founded by Fan Xian’s mother.

Fan Jian

Fan Xian is raised as the illegitimate son of Revenue Minister Fan Jian, another who is tied by love and respect to the dead woman, and tutored in poisons and medicine as a youngster by yet another Fei Jie. Fie Jie is one of the division heads of the Overwatch Bureau, and sees young Fan Xian as his most beloved pupil.

Fan Xian survives an  assassination attempt as a child, but is finally summoned to go to the capital 4 years later, ostensibly by his father, but in truth, there are other players working in the wings; namely Chen Pingping and the Emperor. Who is this young man, and why is he so sought after, and so skilled in many ways? Wuzhu has trained him physically, and gifted him with a book left by his mother explaining how to achieve grandmaster-level martial arts skills and manage his extreme levels of zhenqi and Fei Jie has taught him to cope with poison, but when you’ve had to deal with all he’s had to deal with, you either crumble or develop resources. Fan Xian excels at the latter. In addition to his physical skills, he somehow knows that he has the memories of another lifetime, another world (or worlds) ago, and uses that knowledge to dabble in literature and poetry (borrowing, let’s say, from the works of those long-ago, unknown in this time, authors), successfully publishing novels and poetry with the help of his half-sister, Fan Ruoruo.

Emperor

In the capital his fortunes and challenges rise and grow in complexity. He finds the love of his life early on, but their future is uncertain. She’s the illegitimate daughter of the Eldest Princess and the Prime Minister, and has been taken under the wing of the Emperor. Too bad that mother is a schemer and wants things that belong to others (namely, the treasury that once belonged to Fan Xian’s mother and now is held by the throne), and that there are a number of other hurdles (Crown Prince, 2nd Prince, etc.) to deal with as well.

With that brief initial synopsis covered, let’s look at the elements that make this story work so well. First has to be the mixture of bravery, insouciance, moral strength, and zest for life that Zhang Ruoyan brings to the character of Fan Xian. I’ve read that he was not considered a good choice for the role and, in reading the novel, he doesn’t match the physical description (almost feminine good looks) of Fan Xian, but he has taken this character and made himself Fan Xian. There is no way they could recast this role with another actor at this point (as was done in Ever Night) because it just would not work. He’s not the only actor to make an indelible impression — even the youngster who plays Fan Xian as a child is remarkable! The choice of the script adapter to move up the introductions to the characters of the Emperor and Chen Pingping was a sound one; their interactions with each other and with Fan Xian are compelling and these veteran actors are scene stealers in their own right. I can’t look away when the Emperor is onscreen!

There are also touching and/or playful supporting characters in addition to the schemers and villains, such as the sly Wang Qinian, stalwart Teng Zijing, the graceful Fan Ruoruo, and more. Li Qin as Lin Wan’er is lovely and a touching counterpoint to the brash Fan Xian, and their love story, while a relatively brief portion of the plot, is well-told and is skillfully interwoven into the major plot points.

The world created by this story, the reasons for why Fan Xian is who he is, who he becomes, and the trials he faces kept me hitting the ‘next’ button far longer each night than I should, and at the end of the day’s viewing I would treat myself to letting the full outro song play over the ending credits and listen to the voice of Xiao Zhan lull me into the hope that things will work out for our hero. Take a listen, and I’ll get into spoiler territory after the video.

Continue reading

#chen-dao-ming, #frida-li, #gao-shu-guang, #joy-of-life, #li-qin, #li-shen, #li-xiao-ran, #liu-duan-duan, #song-yi, #thomas-tong, #tian-yu, #wu-gang, #xiao-zhan, #xin-zhi-lei, #zhang-hao-wei, #zhang-ruo-yun

Crash Landing On You – Episode 2

In This Episode…

Jung-hyuk has an unintended house guest who has special needs (like hot water bathing and meat twice a day) and a conspiracy in the making to unravel — just how did those 3 grave robbers happen to be run down by a truck, just like the truck that killed his brother? Turns out that he’s a super elite, son of a high muckety-muck in the Party, enough to have a general get him out of a mini kangaroo court and get access to a priority ride to whisk home in an emergency. Se-ri is overwhelmed by the situation and indulges in a brief spell of tears in front of Jung-hyuk after a fright, but is back to being inquisitive and unintimidated as she gets acquainted with her surroundings and his squad, spoiling the ending of Chuno for one. Just when her luck appears to run out, Jung-hyuk saves the day and makes a bold statement — “Would you not point a gun at my fiancée?”

Impressions…

Robin: As Dorothy, er, I mean Se-ri continues to experience this land out of time (as she knows it), she’s a little bit annoying (calling every 2 minutes to ask about items that a generally well-read person might understand to be unusual in a small, obviously poor village in North Korea, like body wash and scented candles) to being smart and quick-witted enough to identify the means to save herself. Sure, flirting with Jung-hyuk isn’t effective (and raise your hand if you chortled when he counter-thought about whether he should just kill her), but sizing up the who’s who of his squad and letting them know she’s willing to work with them if they’ll help her makes me like her all the more. I can’t wait for more “drama talk” time with the Choi Ji-woo fan (but I can only blame his poor taste in leading actresses on his being 10-plus years out-of-date on his drama watching).

When we see how sure she is that her disappearance will cause a major outcry offset by how hard her family is working to keep her status absolutely on the QT, even if we are treated to the very funny scene of her oldest brother’s wife in the church, it’s clear that that is one rotten family and something is behind all this secrecy. The fact that she thought taking hold of her father’s hand at her 1-year-birthday future divination celebration was a good thing (she even named her company “Se-ri’s Choice”) makes it even more an omen of ill things to come.

Chingu: Lots to love about this episode but I think my favourite scene was where she’s about to bash him over the head with a plant and then just bursts out crying when she sees that it’s him..I loved that finally we see that beneath all that bravado and cockiness the girl really IS scared and is reacting..as any one with any common sense would..at finding herself in this dangerous pickle! I so related to her in that moment!

Course..who could resist further evidence that beneath the beautiful deadpan face is a soft heart…so adorable in all ways..bras..candles..cream..what more could she ask for..lol?? Ok..scented would have been perfect I guess. His thoughtfulness and willingness to please comes almost a little too early (for me)..I think I would have preferred maybe another episode or two before those traits were in evidence..but I will take it.I think that the scene at the beginning where she’s trying to use her charm on him while he’s wondering if he should kill her didn’t work as the writers hoped..empty threats rarely do..and we ALL know that this guy doesn’t kill..at least not until he has no other choice!

Robin: This episode gives us a little more to drool learn about Jung-hyuk (along with the village ladies), but it was odd that Lt. Commander Jo did not know that he was an elite — even odder that he did not suspect that he was with an impeccable record and a blank family record. Jo and his boss at the State Security office should have been more circumspect and respectful because they should certainly know what those things add up to: ELITE. But enough about that, let’s talk about Jung-hyuk; he cooks (nangmyeon noodles from scratch!) and shops for her (was that product placement?), picking up illicit SK skincare, and tacitly approves getting her back home with the help of his men. Plus, he too has a tragic past… an older brother dying in a mysterious car accident, rammed by one of those monster trucks, it seems, and an application to go to a music conservatory for piano, it seems. Omo! Did he give up his piano career to join the service to track down the mystery of his brother’s death?

The smaller moments of the episode were amusing too, like the search and (non)seizure of illicit goods like the talking rice cooker (didn’t Hyun Bin do commercials for Cuckoo rice cookers a while back?) and outing of a cheating husband, but the best ones are those with the men (and boys) of the 5th squad. So far it’s just the baby (who doesn’t even have briquettes to light fires at home), the drama addict, and the drinker who’ve gotten much to say/do, but they’re a cute bunch.

Chingu: The neighbours are interesting (and all my favourite actresses too) but I think that I can only take them in small doses..however…I can take LARGE doses of those sweet soldiers..hehe..they are just so adorable and so individual (something that isn’t always the case in other dramas)..they have been nicely fleshed out and we instantly know what their weaknesses are which makes them really interesting from the very beginning.

Robin: I’m not keen on the introduction of the swindler to the mix yet, but I find it intriguing that people looking to hide out from the law would be a profit item for NK, and I like Kim Jung-hyun as an actor (glad to see he’s back from his earlier troubles), so let’s see where this takes us.

Chingu: Love the final twist..though have no idea where they go from there!! Will ANYONE ask the question: “what is your fiancée doing hiding in the kimchi cellar”??? Probably not..lol..at least not until they get over their shock..can’t help but admire his quickness though..he had to think of a story while he was getting out of his car cause he would have had no idea whether she was caught or not would he?

Episode 1 < > Episode 3

#crash-landing-on-you, #ha-suk-jin, #hyun-bin, #kim-jung-hyun, #oh-man-suk, #seo-ji-hye, #son-ye-jin

Crash Landing on You – Episode 1

In this episode…

We meet Yoon Se-ri, a clothing and accessories entrepreneur who uses her charm and looks to keep her brand public in the minds and imaginations of consumers with a celebrity-like lifestyle. She’s estranged from her family (2 good-for-nothing brothers with requisite greedy spouses, a sour-faced mother, and shady-ish CEO father), but has made something of herself since leaving home 10 years ago. In testing out new products, she is caught up in a storm and finds herself across the border in No Man’s Land — North Korea. There she meets Captain Ri Jung-hyuk, out on a routine patrol on his last day in the sector before a shift change. He’s got a reputation for being a by-the-books stickler, looks damn fine in uniform, and has command over a small squad of goof-ups. Now, how can she get back across the border?

Impressions…

Son Ye-jin and Hyun Bin are going to make one exceptionally appealing couple; and they hit the ground (pun intended) running with their immediate chemistry. It helps that they already have had a chance to explore that chemistry in their film The Negotiation, even if they had little face-to-face acting time, but the way she boldly plays him and he, in turn, focuses those knife-sharp cheekbones and laser-like evaluating eyes on her worked for me from the start.

While it seemed initially as if Se-ri was somewhat frivolous and shallow (setting up a faux-celebrity romance with an actor – cameo Jung Kyung-ho – for publicity purposes), it seems like they’ve put some thought into her character and are giving us tidbits to build on and perhaps form a backstory of our own with the conversations with her family. She’s the one who walked out of the family, doesn’t take handouts, and there appears to be some deep, longstanding issue with her prune-faced mother (who, to be fair, is the only one who looks sick as a dog when Se-ri goes missing). I liked the fact that she’s fully invested in the success of her business, wanting to be there at the forefront, confidently trying that paraglider to demonstrate its placement in her sporting goods line. Son Ye-jin, standing on that hill with a smile on her face, excited by the experience to come, looked 10 years younger!

As for Captain Ri (which would be Lee or Yi, south of the border)… I’d like to know how his uniform (and him in it) looks ever so much finer than the South Korean counterpart’s, because it does and he does. His brief encounter with the apparently-venal State Security Officer played by the nicest guy, Oh Man-suk, was a fairly predictable set-up (especially in light of what we learn later in the episode about that guy at the end of the episode) to establish Jung-hyuk as a “Dudley Do-right” kind of guy, the type who excels at everything he does, and always stands by his principles. I like that he’s stern but tolerant of his squad’s foibles and shares the blame when things go a little pear-shaped. He also appears to be a pretty fine mentor to his young squad member (letting him deactivate an old landmine). Oh, and tolerant even of the one on guard tower duty who was distracted by a scene from Stairway to Heaven (yes, I recognized that scene with Choi Ji-woo and Kwon Sang-woo)!

This is Storytelling Set-up 101 kind of stuff, introducing characters and their worlds in quick, broad strokes, but it’s done with a light touch and a big dose of quality in terms of casting, costuming, sets, camera-work, and direction. Sign me up for more!

Episode 2 >

#crash-landing-on-you, #hyun-bin, #kim-jung-hyun, #oh-man-suk, #seo-ji-hye, #son-ye-jin

Looking Back at 2019’s Dramas

Most people do their year-end summaries at the start of the new one, but my January was a mixed bag of one never-ending mutating cold virus requiring lots of time indoors doing nothing (but watching more dramas, of course). Better late than never, perhaps, are my thoughts about my drama-watching experiences of 2019.

Winners

I’m giving the nod to Search: WWW for my favorite drama of the year. I didn’t write a review for it due to laziness on my part, but I loved it all the same for it’s portrayal of intelligent women who are able to focus on their work even in the face of dramas in their personal lives. It introduced me to new actors and let me spend time with those more familiar favorites in new settings and I enjoyed it from start to finish.

I know, I know… Her Private Life was the ultimate in fan service for many of us with its extensive scenes of our attractive lovers, but come on, it’s a long overdue opportunity for Kim Jae-wook to shine as a romantic leading man and he lived up to and exceeded expectations! Park Min-young was a lovely counterpart, a woman who’s not afraid to get into a good kiss scene. I never mind when a story focuses on the hows and whys of attraction, and friendships in the support of a plot, and this one satisfied on all counts.

A number of other dramas really hit their marks last year, including Ever Night and The Watcher. The hero’s journey tale told in the former never lagged and had me sucked into the story of the young hero and his true life partner (even if I did fast-forward through some of the repetitive evildoers posturing stuff). I’m sad that Arthur Chen won’t be back in part 2, but I hope for the best. In the latter, I was fully engaged in the struggles of Seo Kang-joon (he excels in dark and story roles) and the rest of the cast, and for a crime/mystery drama it was well done, with plenty of suspense.

Japanese dramas and Viki (and correspondingly me, the viewer) were winners too, for finally bringing more content to us. I thoroughly enjoyed Overprotected KohakuCaution: Hazardous Wife, and Pretty Proofreader, plus Tokyo Tareaba Girls, for starters. Over on Netflix, I took in the second season of the charming Midnight Diner and enjoyed it as much as season 1.

The other big winners were some attractive new faces, with Lee Jae-wook at the top of the list. This busy young man was in three major dramas in 2019, with Memories of the Alhambra, Search: WWW, and Extra-ordinary You. He also had a supporting role in the movie The Battle of Jangsari. Even more remarkable was the fact that he was filming the latter 2 dramas simultaneously, playing the earnest young actor in one and the tormented school bully in the other.

I would also add the names of Rowoon (from group SF9 and the drama Extra-ordinary You) and Kim Kwon (from the drama He Is Psychometric) to the list of young faces adding to my viewing enjoyment!

Losers

For me, there was one clear-cut “winner” in this category, the Chinese drama Well-Intended Love. I should have dropped it like a hot potato after the big reveal of the big plot point about episode 11 which was so infuriating but I did not just because I wanted to see if there was any possible way they could make sense of it all (and not waste the efforts of two attractive leads). Nope. What’s more remarkable is that they’ve filmed a sequel, due to drop soon. Cue the head scratching…

I would add Before We Get Married to this list too, but I’ve had a really hard time pushing the play button on it. Love Jasper Liu but the tone of the first few episodes made my skin crawl a wee bit too much. I doubt I’ll finish it.

Let me know what you think in the comments below, and check out my complete 2019 viewing list here!

 

Arsenal Military Academy – Series Review

Arsenal Military Academy was one of several popular Chinese dramas in 2019 and it’s one of the titles that I chose to close out the year and it was a pleasant diversion for a number of reasons, but primarily because of the performance of Bai Lu as Xie Xiang, the young woman who takes her deceased brother’s assignment to a military academy in order to fulfill his dreams. Is she a convincing young man? Of course not, but total props to the actress for going all out to behave like a boy to the best of her abilities; a real tomboy with courage.

The other reason to spend time with the idealistic soldiers in training is the manga-come-to-life actor Xu Kai, playing the rebellious bad boy Gu Yanzhen who torments his new roomie (Xie Xiang), learns her secret, and becomes her protector. (Can it really be a spoiler to tell you all this when it’s a preordained trope of all cross-dressing dramas? I don’t think so!)

When it’s not focused on the drills and training at the academy, the hazing and schooling, and game-playing, the story is all hot on Japan’s incursions in mainland China, and their evil oppressiveness, foreshadowing the role of these future young soldiers in training will play in kicking them out of their country. Surprisingly, they allow these kids access to the arsenal, so to speak, in a number of deadly operations, so it’s not all school-based, kids in love hi-jinx.

In addition to our main couple, we have another suitor for Xie Xiang in her feminine form, another classmate, Shen Junshan, played by Toby Lee (who looks like a young Eddie Peng). He is pursued in turn by a young woman who has a foot in the Japanese camp (Gao Yuer, who looks like a sister to Korean actress Han Yeseul). There’s another romance between an actress and Shen Junshan’s older brother, so in between the training, there’s plenty of couples bickering and making up.

Truth be told, the story is a little lot jingoistic in tone with some of the ‘we will overcome’ messaging, and some of the acting is a little very broad, but the main characters have an appealing chemistry, a carryover no doubt from previous dramas in which they costarred. Enough so that I’d say yes, give this one a whirl.

 

#arsenal-military-academy, #bai-lu, #gao-yu-er, #liu-si-bo, #toby-lee, #wu-jia-yi, #xu-kai