New Reviews: The Best Hit (2017), The Bride of the Water God (2017), All About My Romance (2013), One Percent of Anything (2003)

Fan art of Bride of the Water God by Xanddie Zoe
The Bride of the Water God. Fan art by Xanddie Zoe,
Autumn has arrived and it’s time to cuddle up in front of the screen. Here’s a new bunch of dramas I recommend:
The Best Hit (2017) – a great comedy about a 1990s teen idol who time travels to our present.
The Bride of the Water God (2017) – a fantasy romance about an arrogant water god who travels to Earth and meets up with a troubled psychiatrist. Mayhem ensues.
All About My Romance (2013) – a fun rom-com about two members of parliament from different parties who fall for each other. Scandal!
One Percent of Anything (2003) – a slow but sweet rom-com that avoids many of the current drama tropes.
Bride of the Water God fan art by Xanddie Zoe
The Bride of the Water God. Fan art by Xanddie Zoe,


New Reviews: The Legend of the Blue Sea (2016-17), Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo (2016) and Boss & Me (2014)

A young man and woman kiss on a path through golden grain.
The stars of Boss & Me, Zhao Li Ying and Zhang Han.

Here are the links for three new reviews:

Have fun!

New Review: Far Away Love (2016)

Far Away Love, Blog above textI’m always on the lookout for a good new drama in the tradition of the classic K-rom-coms – you know, with the traditional trope of a chaebol’s son falling for a poor, spunky heroine and lots of fun and screwball scenes amid the emotional drama. But these days they are hard to find. A lot of current K-rom-coms seem to prefer the weird and heavy. Nothing against weird, which can be intriguing and innovative, but it would be nice once in a while to watch a well-plotted K-rom-com with lead characters who are simply normal – and not heavily traumatized, socially disabled, schizophrenic or with multiple personalities.
Anyway, I just found a Chinese show that clearly harks back to the classics. Far Away Love is about a rich family’s son who finds himself intrigued by a 28-year-old who’s devoting her life to raising her nephew. Usually super non-confrontational, she’s feisty in her dealings with our hero – a dynamic that really reminded me of the interactions of the lead couple in Secret Garden. The drama hits all the right spots and thankfully the plot doesn’t go astray. It’s a fun watch.
The show was a huge hit in China. According to marketing research company VLinkage, the last episode, on March 18, 2016, was viewed by 130 million people and was more popular than that day’s episode of Descendants of the Sun (which was also a blockbuster in China). And the male lead, Park Hae Jin, just won the Actor of the Year award at the LETV Entertainment Awards in Beijing for his role.

Here’s the detailed review (for a condensed version and more K-rom-com recommendations, go here):

Far Away Love
Do you particularly love the classics when it comes to K-rom-coms? Then I’ll bet you’ll like this drama. It’s a Chinese production, released in 2016, but has the feel of favorite shows like Secret Garden (2010) or Lie to Me (2011). Maybe it’s because it was produced not long after, in 2013, when these K-dramas might have functioned as role models.
Right away, we have a similar set-up – a son of a wealthy family fighting with his mother about a woman not to her liking. In Far Away Love, it goes like this: Straight-laced and emotionally numb rich guy Shen An, a CEO of a food conglomerate, keeps having run-ins (and later gets entangled) with Meng Chu Xia (played by Li Fei Er), a clumsy, soft-hearted but stubborn 28-year-old who’s raising her nephew by herself. Then, in addition to this familiar K-drama premise, there’s the choice of a Korean actor – popular heartthrob Park Hae Jin from My Love from the Star and Cheese in the Trap – as the male lead, which enhances even more the Korean rom-com-feeling. But, most important, this drama has the same tone and similar structure as those archetypal K-rom-coms: Lots of funny, cute and screwball-ish parts in the first half of the series, while later episodes add emotional depth and drama. Plus an excellent ending.
Nitpicking: As I’ve noticed with other Chinese dramas, the beginning of each episode previews too much of the plot (to remedy, just skip the first minute and 40 seconds). The side stories about Chu Xia’s friend Fei Fei, who keeps dating different men, are a little boring and not really relevant for the main story, so in case you don’t like those, you can skip them and not miss out on the main plot. The OST is so-so. While the main song is fine, even if played a little too often, there’s also a truly cringeworthy song in Italian. And, in the second half, the drama drifts a few times into too-obvious soap opera territory (bad acting, super contrived set-ups, over-the-top-melo).
Otherwise, an excellent show. With 36 episodes (each 45 minutes), it’s longer than your usual K-drama but the storyline is great and it was so much fun hanging out with the characters that I didn’t mind the length at all. In fact, I could hardly wait for the next episode to start.
Excellent (minus)
Southeast and Guangdong TV (China). Written by Mi Tian Hui.

Photo (above): Park Hae Jin and Li Fei Er aiming for the cutest selfie
Photo (below): Poster for Far Away Love

Far away love, blog below text


New Review: My Amazing Boyfriend (2016)

My Amazing Boyfriend, wide for blogWho would have thought that the first entry for 2016 in my best rom-com list would be a Chinese drama – albeit one with a Korean lead. Yes, I’m talking about My Amazing Boyfriend. It’s a fun rom-com action fantasy about an actress who gets mixed up with a handsome 400-year-old man with superpowers.

Here’s the detailed review (for a condensed version and more K-rom-com recommendations, go here):

My Amazing Boyfriend
A hilarious rom-com action fantasy about an unlucky actress, Tian Jing Zhi (played by Wu Qian), who awakens a mysterious 400-year old man with superpowers. Bound by blood ties to her, he moves in with the initially unwilling, rather volatile and very expressive Jing Zhi, looking for his mortal enemy.
Wait a moment … an actress and a mysterious being with superpowers? Doesn’t this sound familiar? Yes, this is the Chinese drama “inspired” by My Love from the Star and the looks of the male lead, Korean model Kim Tae Hwan, won’t let you easily forget it. But no worries: Even though there are some similarities, this is clearly not a remake. In fact, it is fun to see how the writer comes up with a different story, given the similar premise. The drama is also different in tone – more crazy over-the-top comedy chunks (balanced by some serious action/thriller aspects) and less heart-wrenching melo parts. It’s sort of like an indie version of the MLFTS blockbuster with its big stars and its big budget. Okay, enough of these comparisons. What I really want to say is this: This drama can completely hold its own and the sooner you abandon any comparisons to MLFTS, the more fun you have watching it.
Other details: There are 28 episodes but each episode is only 45 minutes long. So in the end, it’s more like a 21 episode K-drama timewise. The episodes’ intro section (about one and a half minutes long) gives away too much, so I highly recommend skipping it. Sometimes the show feels a little heavy-handed (e.g. there’s an episode consisting almost only of flashbacks) and the ending could be improved. These are minor issues. Two drawbacks, though: The intentional over-acting comes with a price – we are more amused but we are also less emotionally engaged. Plus, there is a change of tone and focus two-thirds of the way in from a mix of rom-com and thriller with a touch of melo vibe to mostly thriller. Some people might like that. Me – not so much. Very good (first 2/3), good (last 1/3).
MGTV (China). Written by Shui Qian-Mo.

Rescue from oblivion: My Fair Lady

My Fair Lady for blog nI’ve been rewatching some oldies but goodies, mainly just for fun but also to see if they still hold up.

The first one was My Fair Lady from 2009. It was one of the first dramas I watched. I know, I know – people almost always like their first K-dramas, no matter if they are any good. (We tend to be a quite emotional bunch, do we not?) In any case, I tried to be extra critical while I rewatched it. And when I was done, I still liked it a lot. So again, I’m completely baffled – why would this drama get so many low ratings? Maybe people measure all of Yoon Eun Hye’s dramas by the standard of cutting-edge Coffee Prince or melo-ed Princess Hours? I really don’t get it.

As a rom-com, My Fair Lady completely succeeds. Even the love-triangle didn’t bother me because I felt that both leading men were worthy to get the girl in the end (I really can’t stand love triangles in which one of the guys is a complete jerk and the heroine just doesn’t see it). And the mischievous ending is a cute touch. So, yes, after watching it the third time, I still think it’s a great rom-com. Here’s my revised review.