The Untamed / 陈情令 [Chén Qíng Lìng] (2019)
[50 episodes, approx. 45 mins each]
Directors: Zheng Weiwen, Chen Jialin
Writers: Yang Xia, Deng Yaoyu, Ma Jing, Guo Guangyun
Cast: Xiao Zhan, Wang Libo
Available to watch for free on the Tencent Video youtube channel
I’ve seen bits of these types of historical or historical fantasy dramas in the past, which are popular and plentiful in China. I’ve never really tried to watch a series or even a whole episode because they also seem very intimidating. The Untamed is an adaptation of a novel in the genre of XianXia, in which stories are set in some period of Ancient China but also include elements of fantasy and Chinese mythology. There are also two versions of this show, the original 50 episode series and then a special edition 20 episode series that has some differences apparently. I watched the 50 episode series.
I think this drama starts off quite poorly with its narrative choice to jump around in time in the first few episodes. It starts with a climactic event that feels like the ending but it’s hard to care without any real understanding of the situation or even the character relationships. After this it jumps forward in time to only jump far back in time to way before that climactic event. It’s confusing and disorienting.
Continue reading “C-Drama review: The Untamed”
I’m Sorry, I Love You / 미안하다, 사랑한다 [Mianhada, Saranghanda] (2004)
[16 episodes, approx. 1 hour each]
Directors: Kim Jong-Sik, Lee Hyeong-Min
Writer: Lee Kyoung-Hee
Cast: So Ji-Sub, Lim Soo-Jung, Jung Kyoung-Ho, Seo Ji-Young
Available to watch for free on the KBS World Official Youtube channel
A Korean adoptee (So Ji-Sub) runs into a celebrity’s assistant (Lim Soo-Jung) working on a Korean video shoot in Australia. He helps her out after her luggage and passport are stolen and she returns to South Korea. Afterwards he sustains a head injury and with only a limited time to live he also returns to South Korea in search of his biological mother and coincidentally meets the assistant again. They become far more involved with each other than either could’ve ever imagined from their fateful first meeting.
This is one of the most popular Korean melodramas. Words such as heartbreaking, tragic and tearjerker are apt descriptions. Utterly ridiculous is another one. It’s mainly the set up in the first few episodes that requires huge suspensions of disbelief in terms of the sheer number of coincidences that occur. In fact, patience in the early episodes is necessary as I don’t think it really gets intriguing until maybe episode 4 or 5. But after all the main players are established and So Ji-Sub’s character, Moo-Hyuk, has a plan in place, there is a good pace. However, it sags a bit when one character becomes hospital bound. There are also a few episodes near the end that are completely drawn out with the characters just being totally miserable and moping around.
Continue reading “K-Drama review: I’m Sorry, I Love You”
99 Days with the Superstar / 僕とスターの99日 [Boku to Star no 99 Nichi] (2011)
[10 episodes, approx. 45 mins each]
Directors: Kunimoto Masahiro, Okubo Tomomi
Writer: Yuki Takeda
Cast: Hidetoshi Nishjima, Kim Tae-hee
Japanese w/ English subtitles
Available to watch for free on AsianCrush (Canada & USA only)
A man who loves astronomy but works for a security company is hired as a bodyguard for a rising Korean actress who’s in Japan to shoot a drama for 99 days. However, she is also searching for someone from her past and proves to be more than a handful for the bodyguard. In spite of their numerous clashes and near non-stop bickering, a growing attraction between the two develops.
The overall story is quite predictable. The setup is also nothing particularly original. But the characters are likeable and have funny interactions. The development of their feelings is done well with a gradual buildup of moments and small selfless gestures that bring the two closer to each other bit by bit. It’s an opposites attract scenario with the underdog and the seemingly unattainable star that actually ends up being fairly believable by romcom standards.
Continue reading “J-Drama Review: Boku to Star no 99 Nichi”
10 episodes (approx. 45 mins each)
Creator: Jonathan Troppe
Cast: Andrew Koji, Olivia Cheng, Jason Tobin, Dianne Doan, Joe Taslim, Kieran Bew, Joanna Vanderham, Hoon Lee
Based on an old pitch by Bruce Lee, it’s set in 1870s San Fransisco’s Chinatown during the Tong Wars. Chinese immigrants are hated by the Caucasian majority including the police and by the Irish who are unemployed due to the cheaper wages given to Chinese workers. The main character, Ah Sahm, comes to this city, literally fresh off the boat, to find someone but ends up being entangled in the Chinese triads.
This is an entertaining show with some sharply written characters. Each with their own views and agenda with no shortage of conflict. Ally or enemy, it can change depending on the day. The first four episodes do a good job of introducing all the major characters. Episode 5 is like a filler or break episode as it is pretty self contained but then for the rest of the episodes it continues the main story.
Continue reading “Warrior – Season 1 – review [Recommended]”
Amachan / あまちゃん (2013)
[156 episodes, approx. 15 mins each]
Directors: Tsuyoshi Inoue, Teruyuki Yoshida, Toki Kajiwara
Writer: Kankuro Kudo
Cast: Rena Nonen, Kyoko Koizumi, Nobuko Miyamoto, Ai Hashimoto
This is an asadora (aka morning drama). I’m not familiar with these and this is the first one I’ve watched. Although there are a lot of episodes, each episode is only 15 minutes and airs 6 days a week. The six episodes in a week all have the same title so they kinda form a larger 1.5 hour episode. In terms of total running time, you’re essentially looking at the equivalent of about 2 seasons of American TV of 20 episodes each, more or less.
Amachan stars Rena Nonen. It was apparently her breakout role although I first saw her in one of her later works, a live action film adaptation of Princess Jellyfish in 2014. It was her last movie before she mysteriously disappeared from the entertainment world. Very little info can be found about it but it seems likely that leaving her agency resulted in her being blacklisted from TV and film. She only recently returned in the last few years under a new stage name “Non”. She released some music and there is an “I am Non” youtube series about her making a film. In early 2020, she starred in a new movie, Stardust Over the Town. Her long absence was so disappointing but she’s still young and hopefully she’ll continue to get more movie and TV work.
Continue reading “J-Drama review: Amachan [Recommended]”
The Man Who Can’t Get Married Season 2 / まだ結婚できない男 [Mada Kekkon Dekinai Otoko] (2019)
[10 episodes, approx. 45 mins each]
Directors: Miyake Yoshishige, Takashi Komatsu, Hisashi Ueda
Writer: Masaya Ozaki
Cast: Hiroshi Abe, Yo Yoshida, Izumi Inamori, Mai Fukagawa, Takashi Tsukamoto
Japanese w/ English subtitles
I was very surprised to find out that a sequel season was recently made to Kekkon Dekinai Otoko. The added word “Mada” meaning “Still” or “Not Yet” so one could possibly translate this title as “The Man Who Still Can’t Marry.” That in itself will certainly disappoint some fans of the original which debuted 13 years ago. Hiroshi Abe returns in the main role of Kusano as do his family members except for an older actress who portrays his now teenage niece. The actor who portrayed his assistant also returns and he’s now Kusano’s partner at the architecture firm. None of the main female lead characters from the original return. But for those who wanted to see a happy ending for Kusano and the doctor, I would suggest watching the 2009 Korean remake (He Who Can’t Marry / 결혼 못하는 남자), which follows the same story very closely but then actually goes further with episodes where they date.
Continue reading “J-Drama Review: Mada Kekkon Dekinai Otoko [Recommended]”
Train Man / 電車男 [Densha Otoko] (2005)
[11 episodes, approx. 45 mins each + 2 post-series special episodes]
Directors: Hideki Takeuchi , Kazuhiro Kobayashi, Masaki Nishiura
Writer: Shogo Muto
Cast: Atsushi Ito, Misaki Ito
Japanese w/ English subtitles
This a pretty well known drama that is supposedly based on real events where an otaku rescued a beautiful woman from being harassed on the train. This lead to them dating with the Train Man asking for advice on an internet message board due to his lack of experience with women. There’s also a book, multiple manga adaptations and a live action movie. But I will say right off the bat that if you’ve never watched a Japanese TV drama before that this is absolutely not the one you should start with. It’s extremely exaggerated in a way that feels quite Japanese. It’s also a far-fetched fairy tale romance and while these stories can definitely work, this one is full of overblown, cloying moments and an annoying main character. No matter how fictional, a romance story only works if the couple feels somewhat believable.
Continue reading “J-Drama Review: Densha Otoko”
I’m pretty late with this but then again we had to go through all of 2018 without Kim’s Convenience but I guess the shift of the season premiere to January must have some benefits. Although season 4 has been greenlit with Simu Liu’s recent casting as Marvel’s Shang Chi, one does wonders if this will complicate plans for a potential season 5. But in any case, here are reviews for the first two episodes of season 3.
The opening is pretty funny. No gain without pain for Janet although what a sadistic thing for Appa to do. Speaking of Janet, her makeup seems different this season. The main plot of this episode is the search for a new dishwashing machine and the way Umma reminds Appa is pretty creative.
Janet is tries to stand out by changing her name after her teacher can’t find her website because of all the other Janet Kim’s crowding the search results. Umma tells Janet why she gave her that name.
We also see Jung dealing with the consequences of the season 2 finale and attempting to get his old job back. Cue the always enjoyable Shannon – Jung awkward interaction.
Best exchange is between Janet and Umma:
“Can you please call before coming over?”
Most jokes from the side characters aren’t good but the main cast have some good ones. The ending to the dishwashing machine plot is funny although I’m surprised nobody mentions all the money spent.
On to episode 2…
Continue reading “Kim’s Convenience – Season 3, Episodes 1-2”