Kdramas 2011: In Retrospect…

I’ll begin my first post for 2012 with this one, reminiscing all the dramas I’ve seen last year. 2011 was quite a good year for kdrama watching! It gave us a lot of love, a bunch of laughs, breathtaking suspense, heart-wrenching moments and birth secrets galore! It’s an interesting year wherein those I greatly anticipated bombed out while those I least expected to turn out decent came out to be the best. It was also a year of sageuks for me. I have never once thought that I’d be watching a lot of it this year. Maybe, part of it has something to do with the fact that the sageuks I have seen lately were shorter in episodes compared to the usual longer ones. Additionally, it’s been a year of tolerating my allergies towards certain actors/actresses allowing me to take joy in watching kdramas I would have missed solely due to them.

Notice that Secret Garden was no longer included since most of its episodes were aired in 2010 while I didn’t add What’s Up and Color of Woman since less than half of the total episodes haven’t been shown yet back in 2011.

Let’s go over them once more, shall we?

49 Days

Here’s one of the dramas that I’ve hesitated to see mainly because Nam Gyu Ri was cast and me having such an inexplicable aversion towards her just cringe at the thought of watching her opposite Jo Hyun Jae and Jung Il Woo even if Lee Yo Won was the main lead and not her. I mean come on what warrants her to land such an important second lead role?! So, it took some urging from my kdrama chingus to finally check it out. Surprise! Surprise! Nam Gyu Ri wasn’t as annoying as I thought she would be. In fact, I grew to love Ji Hyun or maybe it was because of Lee Yo Won’s portrayal that led me to like her. Setting that aside, I found 49 Days completely engrossing! Here’s a story of Song Yi Kyung who grew tiresome of living and tried committing suicide. Little did she know that said act would spring on a chain of events that eventually backlashes at her in both good and bad ways. I just love it when clever irony steps into the story! In the beginning, the story seems simple enough as Ji Hyun borrowing Yi Kyung’s body to obtain those 3 pure tears shed for her while she remains in a coma for 49 days. Easy as pie, right? Or so thought Ji Hyun, too! Then one by one the conflicts unfold before your eyes. By then, it’s no longer just a case of getting real teardrops, but rather it’s become an intricate web of deceit and half truths! I love how they do these in flashbacks from a different person’s perspective. How I marvel at the story so well-written about the hand of fate having its wicked way of righting a wrong with death justifying the means to a new beginning. The twist in the final episode certainly caught me unawares. I wouldn’t have thought it would all boil down to a birth secret. Haha! Kdrama indeed won’t be complete without its birth secrets! This one though how contrived the scheme of things were makes the discovery quite remarkable. Oh! I almost forgot to mention, this drama wouldn’t be the same without the smexy Scheduler! If the Grim Reaper is anything like him, I wouldn’t mind dying at all!

Athena: Goddess of War 

How can they #$%@! this up! The beginning was awesome and it was only a dream?!!! Make it a nightmare for the viewer! Major letdown! The trailers were great but the end product was much less desired. I only got until episode 7 when it lost me. I came to the conclusion that even having very appealing eye candy in the forms of Jung Woo Sung, Cha Seung Won and Choi Si Won weren’t worth my precious viewing time. The narrative borders on lame and felt forced. Moreover, I don’t sense the onscreen magic between Jung Woo Sung and Soo Ae and it irks me to no end that Jung Woo Sung is sharing screen time with Lee Ji Ah. I only came back to it when they did a short story arc on Kim So Yeon’s character from IRIS, Kim Sun Hwa. Now, that’s one epic episode! I guess, you can’t really judge a drama by its glossy teasers considering how Athena became the Goddess of Failure.

All That Glitters| Twinkle, Twinkle| Sparkling

Whew! What a mouthful of monikers for a drama! I’m still midway through with this one; mainly watching it for Kim Hyun Joo. Yes, it’s one of those switch-at-birth stories. What deviates it a bit from the usual birth swap slipups is that Hwang Geum Ran, the impoverished one became the antagonist despite her moving back in with her birth parents and being acknowledged by them while the protagonist,  Han Jung Won who grew up in luxury remained kindhearted and understanding despite the consecutive downturns her life has been put through. I would have continuously seen this if not for the fact of how annoying it became when the birth mother came across to me as plain stupid that she favors her birth daughter more than the daughter whom she has raised herself. It’s pretty obvious how devious her birth daughter is and yet it seems she’s turning a blind eye. Why, drama? I have yet to finish this one in the very distant future probably if ever I was lacking any dramas to watch which is next to impossible now.

A Thousand Kisses

I love it….at first, until it went south and became Birth Secrets R Us! What kept me hooked in the beginning were the first few episodes with Woo Jin and Joo Mi. Everyone who’s seen the way how their initial meeting went will certainly agree that it is how meet-cutes are meant to be! Moreover, their succeeding scenes together are just too adorable for words. I feel all light-hearted crazily squealing and cheering them on as they become more involved with each other in all sorts of amusing awkward cute ways. But I guess, all good things are meant to last. They got married and slowly became this semblance of an old boring couple. What a waste! I’m in episode 30 when I stopped watching and I don’t even want to know how Joo Mi’s pregnancy will turn out. It’s like everything and I mean everything now is gloomy and it sucks the energy right out of you and you feel tired after watching an episode. How could the writer get stuck with the birth secret? Surely there are more unexplored avenues of the story. Like for instance Joo Mi and Woo Jin’s age gap and difference in social standing. It’s quite meaningless showing a couple of episodes of them as a newlywed couple with the petty disagreements then all of a sudden in the succeeding episodes it seems like they’ve magically adjusted to married life. In addition, maybe, it’s a culture thing but I don’t understand what’s the big issue over Joo Young and Woo Bin marrying each other which irritates me to no end because it brings the story back to that darn birth secret which is no longer a secret now. I say move on, let bygones be bygones and create a new conflict that for once arise from the present and not from years gone by. I don’t know if I’ll ever pick up on watching this again anywhere in the future unless I hear something good about it having a satisfying finale but still to suffer those moments of agonizing over the problems brought about by the @#$%! birth secret will clearly make me think not only twice, thrice but even more than a thousand times! And there goes A Thousand Headaches caused by Birth Secrets R Us otherwise known as A Thousand Kisses.

Can You Hear My Heart? 

Who would have thought that such a pleasant-sounding title for a drama would have an underlying theme of vengeance? Rare are revenge stories done with heart. This drama is one extraordinary instance of it! The drama brief are as vague as they come and if not for Kim Jae Won headlining it, I wouldn’t have anything to do with it under any circumstances. I was already sold the moment it was disclosed that Kim Jae Won will take on the lead role but what it didn’t tip me off was how amazing the bromance was! When the bromance is this wonderful, who cares about the OTP?! I was even anticipating more scenes of them together as opposed to the OTP getting together. Speaking of the two of them, don’t get me wrong, I adore Kim Jae Won but him as Cha Dong Joo the deaf who can read lips and thus pretend to lead a normal life did not stand out as much as I’d expected him to given the difficulty of the role he’s portraying. Nam Goong Min, on the contrary was a revelation to me. Him being Jang Joon Ha, the dutiful adopted son of Tae Yeon Suk and ever supportive brother to Dong Joo, consummately depicted the anguish over his adopted mother’s betrayal and the misery of turning his back on the only brother and friend he’s had as he treads the path to the dark side. I’m so deeply moved whenever I see Joon Ha in agony. It truly breaks my heart as his tears flow freely from his eyes signaling how much pain and sorrow he’s had to deal with. Setting aside all the marvelous angst, this is one drama that provided us with that rare heartwarming finale. Though, I somewhat expected that sort of conclusion after all the emotional upset this drama delivered, watching it culminate as such was still a delight to viewers such as moi.

City Hunter  

I say this is one of the best contemporary dramas in 2011! To be honest, there are times when I feel that Lee Min Ho is overrated. Hence, City Hunter is, too! Right, you’ve just got to hand it to my weird logic sometimes. So, I got around to watching City Hunter a few weeks after it finished airing. BIG MISTAKE! There I said it, okay. Lee Min Ho as City Hunter defines awesome in more ways than one! Picture this — Bruce Wayne/Batman with Darth Vader as his adoptive father. Even Lee Yoon Sung (aka City Hunter) has his very own Alfred in Bae Shik Joong.  Dark Knight – the kdrama version, that’s City Hunter for me!! I tell you I’m not in any way drunk as I’m writing this post so you’ve just got to bear with my odd perspective of things. Or if you’re not so keen with Dark Knight – the kdrama version, we can call it Secret Identities R Us! Why not, when most of the main characters in the story either sport a hidden identity or a facade by which people know them. Cool, right!

Going forward, there are a thousand and one reasons why I love this drama but for the sake of brevity for this post, I’ll limit it only to a few. What it did quite well was humanize City Hunter, our hero-vigilante. He gets hurt, poisoned and falls in love, too! He’s got his own personal dilemma; his surrogate father. It’s ripping him apart that whom he’s loved as a father can be so cruel and distorts the truth all in the name of vengeance. He fervently urges Jin Pyo to change his approach on avenging the deaths of his friend and comrades pretty much similar to how Kim Young Joo vehemently appeals to his father, Kim Jong Shik to own to the errors of his ways. How agonizing and exasperating it must have been for Yoon Sung to always be wary of his adoptive father’s warped hunt for justice. The brilliance of the drama is distinctly shown as it delves into the circumstances that one way or another stemmed from the transgressions of the Fab Five depicting those of the less privileged and oppressed by the system — the sibling who’d prefer to eat bread despite the allergy instead of having nothing to eat; the boy who wanted to buy something for his mom but was shunned for paying it with coins; the mom who was coerced to sign a waiver and the list goes on. Apart from that, it’s quite thrilling to watch Kim Young Joo, Lee Yoon Sung and Jin Pyo outsmart each other in this hide and seek pursuit of each other’s version of justice. In an alternate world Yoon Sung and Young Joo could have been BFF’s if not for that bad blood of some 28 years ago. Sigh. On top of everything, a drama isn’t complete without the OTP. However, this is one drama that I don’t really care as much as the OTP as I should have. I’m content that the romance part plays secondary to the more essential plot points such as injustice and revenge. Ultimately, it never ceases to amaze me how everything that has happened and will occur in a string of events in the story has been perfectly interwoven with each other, not to mention the heart-wrenching and breathtaking scenes that take you at the edge of your seats defining an adept execution of maneuvering the viewer’s hearts and minds to feel and think as such. Definitely, a must watch!

Dream High 

The fast-forward button came in very handy when I saw this drama, thanks to Hye Mi (Suzy) and Jin Gook (Taecyeon)! On the other hand, I enjoyed every bit of Pil Sook (IU) and Jason (Woo Young). It’s no wonder though that among the idols turned wannabe actors, Eun Jung snagged the character with more depth mainly as she’s the only idol in the cast further equipped with the acting chops needed to render the good girl gone bitchy bad rival Baek Hee believable. I don’t really expect this drama to be more than what was indicated in the synopsis as it’s merely a drama intended as fodder for the kpop idols market. However, there are times when I think otherwise, whenever Sam Dong’s (Kim Soo Hyun) onscreen presence surfaces. I have no complaints with the story since I have long accepted that it’s just your typical coming-of-age sort of story with the so-called fierce competition in the arts school as backdrop. In fact, I’m quite fond of how they engage the singing within the story plus the flash mob at the finale was quite entertaining as well. My only dissatisfaction was that the main OTP doesn’t work for me; I blame it on Suzy for being nothing but a pretty flower vase.

Flower Boy Ramyun Shop

Boys Over Ramyun! Yum! Yum! This drama is beyond crack! Basically, walking the line between cliché and creativity, Flower Boy Ramyun Shop managed to place a refreshing spin out of the usual a bit out of luck plucky heroine and oblivious self-possessed chaebol guy mixed in with quirky characters and made it into one unconventional off the wall romantic comedy with food metaphors. Who can’t forget the cute bromance between Crazy Chicken Ba Wool and Innocent Mother Hen Hyun Woo; the benevolent sleepy giant Pillar Onion Kang Hyuk; the out of line philosophy of foolish two-timing Swan Lily So Yi; the endearing message ala-Love Actually of Coach towards Dong Joo at her almost wedding and most of all everything Chi Soo – Eun Bi (Fine, specially THE KISS!). It’s fascinating how it turned the half brothers fighting over the same woman hackneyed concept so angst-free. Also, it perfectly blends the funny, witty and the irony in the character’s remarks with the fact that hardly a minute or two pass by without a line that’s worth making a note of. Though the finale wasn’t as great as I envisioned it to be, it was more than satisfying, nonetheless. Truly, I never had a dull moment watching this drama!

I Need Romance

In spite of being dubbed as kdrama’s response to Sex and the City; with simply a story to tell and having no star power in the cast (not to mention it’s on cable and shown outside primetime hours), I Need Romance didn’t have that much viewership to count on. I’m glad that I chanced upon it while waiting for subtitles from last quarter’s foray of kdramas. Here comes an account of love and friendship from three different women: Seo Yeon, a liberated career-woman who dabbles in short-lived affairs one after the other; Hyun Joo, the exact opposite of Seo Yeon is an intellectual naïve virgin and In Young, sort of the derivative between her two friends contrasting perspectives. What sets this kdrama apart is that while it does involve relationships as its main theme, it has fully grasped that third wheels or family issues need not induce that typical turmoil needed to keep the story going. Instead, it comes forward serving us with an equally crave-worthy misery inducer in the form of the characters inner conflicts. Seo Yeon’s proclivity for affairs got her sued; Hyun Joo had a tough time reconciling intellect over emotions and In Young had to struggle from acceptance and that entire relationship cycle of breaking up, dating again and giving another go at a once estranged relationship. It’s more than giving those candid views on relationships that I appreciate about this drama, it’s about the dynamics between friends and how they tackle whatever life throws out at them that I cherish in this series.

Lie To Me

You lied to me! I thought you’re going to be beyond awesome, guess I was wrong! The casting of the main leads were so perfect that perhaps the writer was so overwhelmed and acquired writer’s block midway into the drama. The rehashed premise of contract marriage minus the actual contract could have been so good given that they got Kang Ji Hwan and Yoon Eun Hye to work with as the fake couple but the writer decided to bring in the sibling in love with your former flame and is currently falling for your fake wife trope and that my chingus ruined the drama for me. Let’s not even mention past love coming back and asking for a second chance (Ooops, I just did). Why must they go that doomed road, I have yet to fathom. Why can’t the story just continue with all the lying and forget having third parties for a change. It’s not really necessary for a drama to always have some male or female third wheel to dish out that conflict. Seriously, kdrama should at least learn to make it work without that constant nudging of the third wheel as unpredictable situations that arise could easily replace it. The conflict could have been how they will dig themselves out of each lying hole they dug themselves into each time without everyone knowing about it and the finale would have been everyone knew they’re lying all along but gave them the benefit of the doubt for their own good. Okay, that’s actually how I imagined the drama will turn out but again I’m greatly and utterly off the mark. Now, all I can conjure up in my memory with regards to this drama are those fleeting kisses because I can’t honestly remember how it went on halfway through much more how it ended up.

Manny

How adorable is the theme of a live-in male nanny! It had a pretty good start but midway into the drama it sort of became boring and that’s when I tuned out. No qualms about those sweet moments with the kids and the mom. Maybe I’m just expecting that the manny and the mom will do lots of bickering then having some inane way of making up which is customary when it comes to rom-coms and they did say that this was supposed to be a rom-com, right? So, it kind of fell flat for me in that manner. Let’s not even talk about how I can barely tolerate that Janice character. However, to be fair to Seo Ji Seok, I did put some effort of skimming through the drama with some assistance from my chummy fast forward button.

Me, Too Flower!

Lee Ji Ah, why must you be in this drama also? I don’t even get what the title means. Anyways, I still had to check it out all for Yoon Shi Yoon’s sake. Enigmatic wealthy guy pretending to be your average Joe unexpectedly falling in love with the usual indomitably principled woman isn’t anything new in the love story arena. I like the subtle humor in the drama but not enough to be all enthusiastic about. IMO, Lee Ji Ah doesn’t suit the role. She comes off as awkward to me. Same thing goes for Han Go Eun, I can’t quite put my finger on it but there are instances I find that she’s at a loss of what her character is supposed to be or maybe it’s just the skewed writing. Also, I can’t quite reconcile how they appear opposite Yoon Shi Yoon as both look too mature for him. Granted that Han Go Eun is supposed to be older than he is, still one can be older and not look oldish, right? Yeah, I’m shallow, so what? I just want my OTPs and even my female third wheels to look agreeable together at least. As for Yoon Shi Yoon, he’s on tip-top shape acting-wise as Jae Hee, though there are times when he exhibits too much makjang-ish angst for my tastes. In general, the story as appealing as it maybe briefly kept me entertained much more than its mismatch cast.

My Princess

It’s like The Princess Diaries meets My Fair Lady in full kdrama style. Totally my cup of tea! Despite my reluctance over two wooden eye candies being cast in a rom-com, curiosity got the better of me and caught it anyway. Shocking it may seem but Kim Tae Hee and Song Seung Heon completely had me with all their lovable chemistry together. As expected, in true kdrama form, it’s a love square of sorts embroiled in some contrived scheme to right a past misdeed. In short, it’ll be foolish to think much more of it so might as well enjoy the ride. Then…came the half-baked finale. This is supposed to be a contemporary fairy tale, I want a definite happily ever after! Instead they bring us this time jump and open-ended crappy conclusion. Sigh.

Ojakgyo Brothers

Though, it started a bit slow for me, I’m glad I hung on to it. Now I understand why many are so into Ojakgyo Brothers. It pretty much grows on you like how our leading lady, Ja Eun came to love Ojakgyo Farm. It’s got that inherent heartwarming feel to it not all weekend family dramas have not even for lack of trying. The characters are flawed and not as much caricature as what is usually portrayed in kdramas which makes them endearing and relatable to viewers. More so, I’m impressed by how the stories of the four brothers can actually stand on its own merit but still belong to the drama itself. It’s like watching five dramas rolled into one; the challenges of a family living in a farm and the other four starring each brother with his own tale to tell. Speaking of brothers, I adore how they bond over drinks and tell each other their woes. I even look forward to these drinking session scenes between them just for those intangible moments of brotherhood. Now moving on to the OTPs, we have four (Cheers to that!). The eldest, Tae Shik discovers love at forty with his erstwhile primary school classmate, Mi Suk. The youngest, Tae Pil pursues his noona-boss-aunt-in-law, Yeol. The third one, Tae Hee stumbles upon love with once family enemy now family friend and real farm owner, Ja Eun. However, it is the story arc of the second brother, Tae Bum and the bane of his work life, Soo Young that I’m so enamored with. Its so cliché what with the contract marriage thingy but then not really so. (You’ll have to check it out for yourself and you’ll see what I mean). I dare say that it totally pawns over all the other contract marriage-driven dramas of yore. Overall, I like it because it’s able to maintain that balance in the storyline and it doesn’t drag quite as much as weekend dramas tend to do.

Protect the Boss

It’s one of those modern day Cinderella tales where the boss fell in love with his secretary. Yeah, nothing new except in this drama everyone’s crazy! It feels like it’s mocking that familiar Cinderella story and having fun in doing so. It’s pretty cleverly done through the role reversals and yet still come across so meta to the fairy tale. Eun Seol maybe in somewhat dire straits but she’s not as helpless for she’s a fighter (literally). She lost her “shoe” in a fight which one way or another paved way for her to inevitably meet our frivolously childish prince in Ji Heon. Of course, if she’s run into the prince, our fairy godfather (well, sort of in Eun Seol’s eyes) isn’t far behind in the person of astute businessman Moo Won. Spoiled brat bitchy-ex, Na Yoon fills the shoe of the evil stepsister while her mother and Moo Won’s mom takes up being the conniving evil stepmothers. Chairman Cha and dear old Halmoni round up the cast as the King and Queen of this zany parody of Cinderella, except Cinderella isn’t the one who needs saving, the prince does! Yes, they did all live happily ever after. Evil stepsister turned over a new leaf; became BFF’s with Cinderella and hooked up with our fairy godfather Moo Won. The evil stepmothers mend their ways and now does community service with the King. Kidding aside, one great thing I’m so fond of in this drama is the bond between the characters. While some characters hate or dislike each other there’s always something that breaks off that resentment and shifts into some petty battle of wits, brute force and forbearance; take for instance Ji Heon and Moo Won’s shoulder slamming antics almost everywhere, from the restroom to the office hallways; or Na Yoon taking refuge at Eun Seol’s and Eun Seol taking her in despite their aversion of each other. Altogether, this is one charming wickedly outlandish drama that never fails to warm your heart and make you laugh out loud along the way!

Scent of a Woman

I do melodramas but not this kind. Having someone in the family diagnosed with a terminal disease has put me off from watching this type of shows. However, there comes a time when you have to lay these apprehensions to rest. What better way is there than the kdrama way, right? And yes, having Lee Dong Wook and Kim Sun Ah cast as leads do help. I geared myself for the foreboding angst, box of tissues within reach. I’m captivated by the story. It’s not Kim Sun Ah I see, only Yeon Jae and her intense desire to make the best of her remaining days. I have lost track of how many times I wept. I adore Lee Dong Wook as Ji Wook but in this drama, I rooted for Eun Suk (Uhm Ki Joon). How I longed for Yeon Jae scenes with Eun Suk. I’m so smitten with them together during Junsu’s fan meeting. What’s really touching about that scene is that though the letter was bogus, the contents of the letter were so real and only Eun Suk’s heart knows about it. It was so sweet of Eun Suk to decline joining Yoon Jae with her dinner date with Junsu knowing how precious that moment was for her. Besides, Junsu singing that song was indeed even beyond beautiful. Sorry, fangirling, here! Going back, there’s nothing grand with the finale, still I’m satisfied with it. Knowing that Yeon Jae lives and continues to fight for another day surrounded by friends and loved ones gives me relief on the whole.

Spy Myung Wol

The synopsis read as an elite female North Korean spy was enlisted to disrupt the Hallyu Wave by kidnapping one of its male top stars then hijinks ensue. The setup is so harebrained; I reckon it will be one of those madcap comedy of errors. Oh man, was I duped again! As if I never learned my lesson with Lie To Me, there I went and bagged another bummer of a rom-com. Both trailers and poster seem to be  amusing and yet the drama failed to follow through. What’s more interesting though was the drama that happened within the drama. I would have watch that drama-imitating-life-imitating-drama unfold, instead. It’s such a shame that this drama was promising from the start then went haywire goodness knows where. When this became out of whack I dived into the last episode to check out if the finale entitles this drama with my complete viewing commitment. Sadly, it doesn’t even come close to passing as it threw a curveball of more confusion down to the end. It left me lamenting over the wasted 9 hours of my life.

The Duo

Honestly, I checked this out for the bromance. It was one worth remembering, the bromance, I mean and not the story really. It’s a sageuk birth swap which leads us to that makjang road more travelled by the likes of this genre. Only three characters left a good impression on me. Chun Doong, born a noble but lived a beggar existence; Gwi Dong, born a beggar but abide a noble’s life and Dal Yi, Chun Doong’s loyal childhood friend and later on wife. It’s interesting how Chun Doong and Gwi Dong’s dislike of each other slowly dawns into friendship through their petty juvenile rows. It was slightly comical watching them fight. Gwi Dong treats Chun Doong to a meal first before they begin their match or both takes a break roughing it out then Gwi Dong offers water for Chun Doong to drink. Love these baby steps to friendship! Then they grew up and I began to resent Chun Doong for making idiotic decisions one after another. Likewise, I adore the younger version of Dong Nyeo compared to the bitch she’s matured into. I feel torn over this drama. The story’s mucked up at certain points but I can’t resist the bromance! My only consolation was, at least it wasn’t anything similar to one sageuk I’ve seen wherein it butchered both the bromance and the story!

The Greatest Love

The Greatest Love, thy name is Dokko Jin! This drama won’t be the same without Cha Seung Won’s winning performance! He’s absolutely flawless as the absorbed never been in love abrasive movie star at the height of his career. In like manner, Gong Hyo Jin slips into Ae Jung, the ill-fated earnest has-been so effortlessly. It was such a blast watching them trade barbs at each other coupled with their hilarious shenanigans resulting one way or another to that unprecedented attraction that we all look forward to. The rollicking laughter and the stirring flurry of emotions far outweighs the simplistic plot of the top star falling for a has-been, giving an entirely new meaning to being “star-crossed” lovers. For this, there will always be a special place in my heart for the Hong Sisters brand of witty heartfelt writing that never fails to transport us into whatever make-believe world of their choosing.

The Princess’ Man

Being tagged as a sageuk Romeo and Juliet, primarily spells out uber angst fest to me. If not for my mother pestering me to download and watch it with her, I wouldn’t have touched it since I’m dreading the end that was yet to come and we all knew what happened to Romeo and Juliet, right? Rarely do dramas give you goose bumps instead of making you cry a river when distressing situations arise, this is one of them. Even recounting those poignantly tragic scenes that befall these characters coupled by this haunting background music, just sends chills down your spine. Acting was excellent all over! Equally as impressive is the way everything’s been drawn up as it captures thirst for retribution, merciless killings, quest for power, ferocious greed and most of all, ever enduring love. The love story is indescribably riveting the way it moves alongside an already evenly dynamic plot that eventually intersects forming a more elaborate scheme. On the subject of love, I personally prefer that of Princess Kyung Hye and Jung Jong over the main leads, Se Ryung and Seung Yoo. Sure, Se Ryung and Seung Yoo have the forbidden love, one that consumes their whole being in which they almost died upholding but Kyung Hye and Jung Jong exudes a more genuine sentiment about the love they shared. For Jung Jong, this is what love for Kyung Hye means and I quote from this rather familiar verse; Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance … love will last forever! And yes, it did; for Jung Jong passed on and Kyung Hye lived on with the strength of that love. This my chingus is what love is, the true kind at least! And by the way, I’m in bliss that Se Ryung and Seung Yoo didn’t die. I thank you almighty drama gods for answering my prayers!

Tree With Deep Roots

If mental and emotional gymnastics are your thing, then you came to the right drama. The plot is loosely based on the history surrounding the creation of the Korean alphabet. While that may sound a little ho hum, I tell you it’s not. Who knew creating an alphabet could be this deadly? The entire drama is perfectly paced, each episode unraveling the cliffhanger of the one prior to it and then sashays enticingly towards the start of a new one taking its time to refresh our memory of what transpired before which left us reeling as it goes on in building that spectacular climax and does so, from start to finish. The intrigue and tension is palpable throughout, while managing to break it with some mushy interludes along the way. Additionally, those scenes so masterfully engineered showing a bit of the character’s thought process; the young King Sejong as he tries to crack that puzzle or Cha Yoon as he deviously plots to assassinate King Sejong to mention a few, add that distinctive layer that solidifies the soundness of its outcome. Frankly, it’s not easy to talk about this drama and not babble about all the great things about it so I’ll just leave it at this; splendid performances, ingenious writing, nifty editing; those sorts of things all make this one exquisite masterpiece.

Vampire Prosecutor

One word to best describe this drama: KICKASS! I was kind of wary if this theme would actually click since recent mainstream TV shows and movies (of the US kind) sort of @#$%^! up my respect for vampires. Now, here comes a show trying to redeem it and does so superbly! It made being a vampire cool again; add being a prosecutor at that, more so! It’s an episodic crime procedural, with each episode leaving us some hints to the converging plotlines. Though, it has a supernatural element to the series, it’s not the be all and end all of things. Having a vampire on the team just hands them somewhat of an edge of which only Soon Bum, the detective sidekick knows. I loved how the team dynamics gradually developed which further establish how each member is integral to the team. I found four out of the twelve already amazing episodes more exemplary in terms of the intricacies presented in the case. First one involves a crime which unknowingly was committed by a person with multiple personalities. Here we’re also given a glimpse of the gangster background of Jung In, our female idealistic rookie prosecutor. Secondly, when Tae Yeon was outsmarted by a female prosecutor and lost the case due to a technicality. Third was finding out the killer of the contestant in a dating game which exposed not one culprit but all of the remaining contestants being responsible for carrying out the crime. Lastly, one in which the main antagonist was revealed and in doing so brought back some troubling memories for our vampire prosecutor. The finale was undeniably astounding and I couldn’t wait for them to get cracking on Season 2.

Warrior Baek Dong Soo

How I loved the first half and hated the latter half! The saga began so magnificently. A child was born from a long line of great warriors and many people searched high and low to get rid of him. Fortunately, due to a sacrificing ally he lived. Sadly, he had some kind of deformity and grew up with a bamboo cast around his body; until one fated night that turned his life around when he had to rescue a friend from being burned alive. Then, the writer went crazy past halfway in the drama and the story metamorphosed into The Escapades of Emo-Nun! Can someone tell me how in the world did emo-nun Ji Sun take center stage in the story? Here I was thinking the drama was all about Warrior Baek Dong Soo, but apparently it wasn’t. The drama lost its focus when it kept flaunting the useless emo-nun every chance they got. It pains me that someone who’s more deserving of attention and respect (Hwang Jin Joo) was completely neglected except when they want her to suffer and suffer she shall. Rehashing all those tragic experiences that she has gone through in my mind makes me feel distressed all over again. It’s like a thousand times more painful physically and emotionally than even what Baek Dong Soo had to endure. It’s so lame that what was supposed to be a warrior was held somewhat catatonic by the loss of emo-nun?!! Talking about lameness, Yeo Woon gains brownie points on that as well. He’s likewise infatuated with emo-nun that he goes stalker mode in order to save her ass. At least their predecessors, Chun and Gwang Taek had better taste in a woman (Ji). Do I even have to say how much I abhor the finale? It’s an abomination!!! There, I rest my case.

You’ve Fallen For Me

I’ve fallen in love with you, indeed! How can I resist, when  it stars former A.N. Jell band mates Jung Yong Hwa and Park Shin Hye?! Never mind if the story reworks the ever familiar tradionalist versus contemporary route paving the way for love to blossom. As long as the music is good and it can dole out a few lighthearted moments mixed in with some delightful banter, I’m undeniably sold. Regardless of the aforementioned, I’m not in any way blind to its faults (that’s why I’m keeping this brief), it’s just that I’ve decided to brush them off and chalk it all up wholly for my love of kdramas.

Bottom Line: Top 5 Dramas of 2011

  1. City Hunter
  2. Tree With Deep Roots
  3. Flower Boy Ramyun Shop
  4. Vampire Prosecutor
  5. Can You Hear My Heart

Special Mentions: The Princess’ Man, 49 Days, Protect the Boss, The Greatest Love, Ojakgyo Brothers and Scent of a Woman

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