New K-Drama Alert! “Our Blues”

This looks really great, and it’s special for a number of reasons. But first, especially after Twenty-Five Twenty-One, I appreciate an “older” cast. Older than 19, which is what Ji-woong was, by the way. Our Blues reunites Shin Min-a and Lee Byung-hun, two of Korea’s biggest stars who co-starred in A Bittersweet Life as well as a show called Beautiful Days, possibly as siblings. Also starring is Kim Woo-bin, who’s dating Shin Min-a in realidad. It’s like a big happy reunion, with at least one more notable name — Noh Hee-kyung. … More New K-Drama Alert! “Our Blues”

K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One Part IV – Endgame

As part of my tortured logic with “perfect episodes,” there can’t be more than one per show! There has to be a best episode, right? Maybe you can imagine, then, me biting my nails after making the declaration for episode 13, because episodes 14 and 15 were eliciting a more powerful emotional response. However, episode 15 especially showcases why structure is important in that make-believe conversation, because when Twenty-Five Twenty-One moves into the endgame, its units of story divide as sequences and then scenes. For me, the climax of Na Hee-do and Go Yu-rim’s story was the series’ emotional peak. We already knew the outcome, that Hee-do defeats her ultimate rival, so it’s doubly impressive that the match was so thrilling and the conclusion so cathartic. Striking right to the heart of the show’s themes, the duel also ropes in journalism, expressing how both athletes have matured. They’ve developed a trust that transcends direct communication. Instead of the victory screams that have punctuated the tournament, Hee-do pulls off her mask to reveal silent tears and Yu-rim does the same. I broke. This is a show that took its time, and didn’t mine breakups or sudden tragedies for repetitive drama. When the big hit came, it landed. And then I recovered, checked the runtime: it’s only half over. From there, the episode veers into unexpected territory, forfeiting its whole for the next phase of story — and it’s a doozy. … More K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One Part IV – Endgame

Your Guide to the History Behind Twenty-Five Twenty-One

The Korean drama Twenty-Five Twenty-One begins in 2021, a couple of years into the COVID-19 pandemic, before flashing back to 1998, a year into the “IMF crisis.” Director Jung Ji-hyun noted this parallel in a press conference, confident the historical event would resonate with modern audiences. Based on the show’s ratings and buzz, at the top of the charts week after week, it appears the analogy clicked – as but one gear in a clicking machine so engineered by Jung and screenwriter Kwon Do-eun. Twenty-Five Twenty-One is a beautiful television series, artfully composed and thrillingly performed. It’s the kind of production that inevitably spins out of passion, and maybe even mission. There’s a lot being said about Korean history and culture, so what were those events that inspired this story? … More Your Guide to the History Behind Twenty-Five Twenty-One

K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One Part III — A Perfect Episode

Just before starting episode 13, I wondered, “When’s the plot gonna start?” and on cue, it’s here that the story begins to come into focus. Or, if not “story,” at least the nexus of all the show’s elements, delivered by our most intriguing character, Coach Chan-mi. I think it’s a little bit funny how Twenty-Five Twenty-One posits that most ancient rivalry, between fencers and news reporters, but it does make sense especially when abstracted from the framing. Part of what weighs the drama of this episode is our knowledge of Baek Yi-jin’s struggle to regain his place in society. While bearing a his mark of shame, he’s taken up odd jobs and eaten a lot of shit at the bottom rung. Though every authority figure in his life advises against a personal relationship with Na Hee-do, he can’t simply leave the newsroom because we know what starting over means. And suddenly, standing there in the snow outside Yi-jin’s house, the times have once again conspired against Hee-do. … More K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One Part III — A Perfect Episode

New K-Drama Alert! Twenty Five Twenty One

As you can see, this is headlined by Kim Tae-ri, who I know from The Handmaiden but is also famous for Mr. Sunshine. In fact, the only thing I know about Mr. Sunshine is that image of her with a period rifle. Lookin’ good! But this is the first time it’s the behind-the-scenes personnel that’s claimed my attention, specifically the writer Kwon Do-eun, whose previous (and first) K-drama was Search: WWW, which I won’t shut up about and have more to talk about later. … More New K-Drama Alert! Twenty Five Twenty One

K-Drama Report: My Name (2021) Follow-Up

Funny story with this one; I’d checked to see, “Hey, when’s that new Korean cool girl show out?” and it was that day, Oct. 16. Two thoughts seized me, then: “Yay!” and “I should write about this.” See, I’ve been on kind of an SEO tear lately, which is partly why the last several posts have skewed entirely Korean. That seems to be the country of the week, and I’m glad there’s a country of the week at all. I just happened to see the SNL Squid Game parody, and that’s how you know you’ve made it, aside from the massive revenue. The recent post I did about Squid Game, in fact, was a cynical product, and even a bit rushed as a result — a hastily-thought-out premise effecting a strange contrarian opinion. But once I read that review of Parasite, I couldn’t let it go. And then comes My Name, yet another Netflix K-drama, and this one — unlike Squid Game — actually appealed directly to my sensibilities (which probably makes for a less compelling post, because I tend to say the same, uncomfortable thing). But because I’d checked, I had the opportunity to post something that very premiere day. … More K-Drama Report: My Name (2021) Follow-Up

K-Drama Report: My Name (2021)

I’m three episodes into My Name and already desperate to continue. On paper, it’s tailor-made to my sensibilities, those which I’ve struggled to communicate on this blog. My only remotely successful With Eyes East YouTube video is a wild-eyed plea to Hollywood, or Indonesian Hollywood, or anyone with a camera and a gallon of fake blood, to cast Julie Estelle and contribute to her undoubtedly skyward journey. I hardly got this point across in the video, but Estelle represents, to me, a new kind of action star. Where the Hong Kong heroines from the ‘60s through the‘90s were simply working with a different sort of market — less bloodsoaked and crazy, with notable exceptions — and modern actresses dip from time to time into action with mixed results, say Kim Ok-vin or Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the image Julie Estelle has built for herself so far has the potential to stay gory at the intersection of Indonesia’s auteurs and the international market’s appetite. … More K-Drama Report: My Name (2021)

Madame Antoine: The Love Therapist | Recommended Korean Drama

As is customary with the “Recommended K-Drama” feature, I’ll explain my choice, though as always, I’d really rather not. “OMG, actress X” is one thing, but just wait. See, I first heard about Madame Antoine via YouTube, mentioned in a video essay about sexual assault in K-dramas. I’ll be sure to link the video in the future, but not in the context of this post. Specifically, the video discussed female perpetrators, for example the “ajumma” trope, where middle-aged women flock together and harass the young male lead. The problem, the video emphasizes, is that these scenarios are comedic. These women have no compunctions about inappropriate touching, and the usually strong man can’t speak against it because of Korea’s social hierarchy. A cultural thing, but this should ring familiar to anyone well-acquainted with American pop culture, where sexual assault is funny when a lady’s doing it. Accordingly, the video cites a moment from this show Madame Antoine: The Love Therapist, where a girl — a noona, not an ajumma — forcefully kisses a guy under the guise of helping him practice kissing the girl he’s actually attracted to. It’s also a “no becomes yes” scene, for anyone playing trope bingo. Please understand that when I say what I’m about to say, I’m not winking. Sexual assault is always wrong, and that’s a baseline for membership into human civilization. But the truth is, I proceeded to watch Madame Antoine because this scene sparked in me a perverse desire. … More Madame Antoine: The Love Therapist | Recommended Korean Drama

Search: WWW | Recommended Korean Drama

“Give me Cha Hyeon,” Ga-kyeong says, and as the scene whips between reaction shots and the music swells, I’m bouncing the iPad on my knees, making a positively indescribable noise. Search: WWW often shocked me like this, inducing so much excitement and even dread, then clocking me square in the stupid grin. It was urgent somehow, to even process my experience with it — but I couldn’t. Perhaps it left me feeling so much that my thoughts were annihilated. I’d like to recommend it, but where do I even start? … More Search: WWW | Recommended Korean Drama

K-Drama Report: Man in the Kitchen (2017)

This writeup is destined to be a report card, something I’ll gladly refer back to once I’m more secure in my ability to assess Korean dramas — this is where it began. At the moment, I’ve had a spotty track record. The first drama I’ve watched to completion remains the only: Cheer Up!, which was my QNA pick for greatest entertainment experience of 2019. It’s a colorful, heartfelt melodrama that soars so high yet explores surprisingly wrenching emotional depths. Being used to the 13 or 24-episode counts of American TV shows, I was devastated to find Cheer Up! is 12 in total (and that was before I saw it ends in the middle). I’m currently watching Man in the Kitchen, and by episode three, a thought crossed my mind that draws the sharpest distinction between the two shows: “Okay, I understand why this is 50 episodes long.” It was not a good thought. … More K-Drama Report: Man in the Kitchen (2017)