K-Drama Report: Inspector Koo

Little by little, I’m getting a sense for the geography of South Korea. Of course, there’s metropolitan Seoul and Busan. You land in Incheon, a major city to the east. Jeju is a popular vacation spot. Irene and her accent come from Daegu. Now we have the setting for K-drama Inspector Koo, Tongyeong, a destination on the southern coast which CNN praises for its “fresh seafood, picturesque seascapes and quaint fishing village charm.” After only two episodes, I desperately wanted to visit. Who knew a murder mystery could be so flattering for a city, but every chase scene, every surveillance detail is another opportunity for a wide shot or roving camera showcasing the mountains or festivals or public gardens. This is a regular feature of the genre as I’ve witnessed it, that K-dramas are always selling something, and in total present the shiny artifice of a country at its best. How is it that every male lead is at least six feet tall and every female lead is five-foot four? And take a look at this black bean noodle – doesn’t sound appetizing, but it looks amazing. How about that sunset on the skyline? There’s a beach in everyone’s backyard here, but you fall in love on the bridge over the river. … More K-Drama Report: Inspector Koo

58th Baeksang Arts Awards

I’m such an idiot. See, a major awards ceremony in Korean entertainment and an Asian movie blog unfairly preoccupied by Korean entertainment should go together like peanut butter and bread, but I see Yoona and Seohyun and just think, “My, isn’t that lovely? I love them.” … More 58th Baeksang Arts Awards

Queendom of the Gods

First and foremost, congratulations to WJSN for winning Queendom 2, though the real winner of course was Taeyeon, filling in for Lee Da-hee. I got into Girls’ Generation a bit sideways, so I’m only now reconciling with the scope of Taeyeon’s celebrity. For anyone else who doesn’t fully understand, Taeyeon is an idol for idols. I’ve seen a number of other idols talk about how cool it would be to one day meet Taeyeon, and I saw Bomi all nervous before being in the same room with her. That’s one thing I’d love to really get, the X factor of knowledge that might come from growing up with all that pop culture. The implicit things like Taeyeon’s godliness or what do Koreans reference in their day-to-day? I’ve picked up on some of it, like references to White Tower or The World of the Married? Anyway, speaking of K-dramas, what was interesting about Queendom 2 for me was Bona’s return of the king, where she joined her group after having missed more than half the show due to Twenty-Five Twenty-One. … More Queendom of the Gods

Mid-Year Report 2022

You guessed it! Time for lil’ ol’ me to give a tally on the year so far, in the form of a Top 5 and Worst 3, anticipating our annual QNA Year End Review. How much will things change before we hit December? And of course, these are not all 2022 releases, just things I’ve seen this year. We’ll have more later, but a listen-back to “Twenty-Five Twenty-One” by Jaurim calls me here. That song obliterates me. … More Mid-Year Report 2022

New K-Drama Alert! The Witch is Alive

The Witch is Alive is the show that Lee Yu-ri cut her hair for, and what makes it unique for me is it’s one of those “first-sight purchases,” or whatever the real term is. The only reason I watched Twenty-Five Twenty-One is because it was the same team as Search: WWW, and the only reason I watched Search: WWW is because of Lee Da-hee. And all the K-dramas I’ve watched and all the ones I’ve loved, it’s never been the premise itself that hooked me. Or even the poster, but I got an eyeful of the one above (POV: being disposed of) and knew everything was gonna be alright. … More New K-Drama Alert! The Witch is Alive

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