Friday, March 15, 2024

Year Eleven

Here it is the Ides of March! I almost missed it but here we are, just in time. We are eleven years in, and are still watching more Japanese dramas than Korean ones. We watched one Chinese drama this year. We've also watched a lot of old British shows like Jane Austin miniseries, the original All Creatures Great and Small, the Lord Peter Wimsey miniseries, and Call the Midwife


One Day Off

This is an interesting show about a teacher who gets out of town on her days off to de-stress and experience something new. The places she goes and the people she meets start to change her, which you slowly realize as you see flashbacks to her youth and compare them to her present. It's good.

Delivery Man

Should have been called Ghost Taxi. It's about a Young man who can see ghosts and starts to give them rides and grant their wishes. mediocre.

Finland Papa

A young woman who is looking for a job interviews at a restaurant that seems strange. They eat a meal with her and tell her she's hired. No one seems to know who the owner is. It turns out to have something to do with a childhood friend. not so good.

Twinkling Watermelon

The son of two deaf people, who is frustrated at always having to translate for them, gets sent back in time. He meets his parents as teenagers, plays in a band, and learns to assert himself. There is another person who time travels as well who keeps the story interesting. Very good show!

Unlock My Boss

A company president disappears. A young man who had applied to the company finds the president's smart phone, which claims that the president is trapped inside it, and coaches him how to take over and run the company. fun show.

The Matchmakers

This is a sageuk (historical drama) about a young widower and a widow who are tasked with arranging marriages for some women who have refused to marry. For political reasons. He is arrogant but awkward, and she is cheerful and confidant. As they get to know each other better they start to have feelings for each other, but by custom they are both forbidden to remarry. Excellent drama.

Stealer: the Treasure Keeper

A mismatched group including police and a vigilante try to retrieve heirlooms and cultural treasures that have been stolen by criminals. It's a little like Indiana Jones and a little like Healer. The first half was lots better than the second. 


Fake It Til You Make It

An office drama about a male investment banker and a female lawyer who meet by chance on a plane. They both have stressful jobs and difficulties in their private lives, and yet they strive to do their best and stay on top of the heap at work. They keep coming across each other because of their jobs and start to become friends. Very good drama.


On a Starry Night

This was one of several dramas about deaf characters this year. In this one, a female obstetrician loses her job because of a patient who died. The patient's husband stalks her and makes trouble at her new job in a small town. She meets a deaf man who is younger than she is and really doesn't have a filter, but who cheers her up. average.

Unexpected - Love Story in Maison Ginseiso

A graphics designer loses his job the same day his wife divorces him. His sister gets him a new job as a housekeeper at a boarding house, where he tries to help out the people who live there. It is not very interesting, even when (or maybe especially when) his ex-wife shows up again. mediocre.


A woman who works for a popular tv show is overworked and falls asleep and get fired. She finds a new job at a make-up company called Animal Beauty. mediocre.

Hold My Hand At Twilight

A girl goes to meet her boyfriend in Tokyo, but he immediately dumps her. She meets a struggling composer who helps her, and finds a new interest in high fashion. They both strive to do well and help each other succeed. low key but a very good show.

Is Love Sustainable

When her mother dies, a grown daughter moves in with her dad to help him. They both try to meet people and think about finding someone to marry. Mostly interesting, has a somewhat strange ending.

The Reason Why He Can't Marry

This is about a man who can't adjust to real life and always carries a doll around with him in a satchel. A woman kind of likes him and tries to help. I kept thinking it would improve but it really didn't. 

A Warmed Up Love

A woman works part time at a convenience store and reviews sweets on her blog. She is hired by the company owner to develop more sweets for the entire store chain. It's kind of interesting seeing what she comes up with. Kind of cute show.

Marry Me
The government tries to take care of NEETs by arranging marriages with government employees. The most shy guy in the department gets assigned to be the first test case. He is teased by his coworkers, but gets a soft spot for the woman he is paired up with. They start becoming friends. Their families have a lot to do with how things turn out. A sweet show.

Marriage With Me? Seriously?
A woman in her thirties has a good job designing homes but decides it's time to marry. She meets a man at a match-up party, and he proposes. He turns out to be a wealthy company owner so she decides to give it a try. She is an interesting character and I liked her, but he was very bland. Ok show.

Don't Call It Mystery Special
This is a sequel to the drama Don't Call It Mystery, which was pretty good, so we tried it. It's about a college student with frizzy hair who solves mysteries better than the police can, so they start asking him for help. The first half was the same as the beginning of the original drama. The second half was new but not as good. 

99.9: Criminal Lawyer
The owner of a prestigious law firm suddenly opens a criminal law department and hires an unusual young lawyer who has a huge drive to help defendants who are falsely accused. A senior lawyer is annoyed to be assigned to this department, as is an ambitious female lawyer. Very good show with lots of personality.

Why Didn't I Tell You a Million Times?
A woman reports that her boyfriend is missing and a detective realizes that he can see the boyfriend, and he is a ghost. The ghost talks to the detective and tries to help solve the mystery of how he died - because he can't remember. Very good show.

Restaurant From the Sky
This is a movie. It's about some organic farmers who try to produce the best vegetables, milk, and cheese, which they sell at a market. They get the idea to start a restaurant that features their food, but it proves difficult.  We like the farmers, the one family that has a young daughter, and the older man who makes the cheese. It's partly heartwarming and partly sad. 

One Day - It's a Wonderful Christmas Ado
This is a drama about police who are trying to solve a shooting, news reporters who are trying to get the news on the air (when the manager wants music specials) and workers in a cafe where the suspect has been. It all takes place within twenty-four hours on Christmas Eve day. The different storylines came together at the end of the drama. Very good drama, good characters. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Ten Years!


Ten years of Korean dramas, and you'd think we would have watched a record amount for the anniversary. But no. We only watched six Korean dramas this year. It's a combination of having been through a difficult year and not feeling like watching anything stressful, and not coming across many Kdramas that appealed to me. We are not fond of romcoms with serial killers included, and we've been burned by dramas that started out well and then tanked halfway through. So, we tended to wait for a while to get the buzz on a show before we tried it.

Korean Dramas

Avengers Social Club

Probably the Korean drama I enjoyed the most this year was one that originally aired five years ago, Avengers Social Club. It's about three women (and the stepson of one of them) who decide to avenge themselves of some rankling injustices. I'd heard that it was a fun show back when it aired, and  now that it appeared on Youtube, I was happy to try it. Very fun, especially in the first half.

Twenty-Five Twenty-One

A story about a girl who becomes famous for fencing, and a boy who becomes a reporter. The main story is framed by a secondary story of the girl all grown up and her teenage daughter, which takes places in Covid times and everyone wears masks. The friendships all through were good but the ending was disappointing. 

Business Proposal

The code word for this show is "archaeopteryx." A chaebol heir is tired of the blind dates his grandfather arranges and decides to marry the next person he is set up with. The lady in question pays her best friend to take her place. The first part is very fun, especially the grandfather, who just wants grandchildren. But the last two episodes fall into some annoying tropes and are sadly lacking.

Lovers in Paris

The owner of a car dealership and his hapless nephew both fall in love with the same woman, who is working as his housekeeper to be able to afford to live in Paris. The humor is run through by the first five episodes, the rest is very soapy and drags badly. The ending is confusing, with two alternate versions being shown. 

Reborn Rich

A loyal employee of a chaebol family is killed for political reasons and is reincarnated as the youngest grandson. He is smart and remembers a lot of important events from his life the first time around, and is able to make money big time. The boy who plays this character as a young teen was very good. The grandson interacting with his grandfather was the best part. 


A detective chasing a serial killer runs through a tunnel and comes out thirty years in the future. The detective tries to figure out all his cases, which are still unsolved. Eventually he figures it out and goes back and forth several times. Show is well done but I kept a running count of all the dead bodies every episode. 

Chinese Dramas

We watched only one of these this year, but it was maybe the best drama all year.


There's this bus. It explodes, and then time resets. It's like Groundhog Day, the two main characters are caught in a time loop. They use some of the time loops to figure out what is going on with all the passengers on the bus, and some of the loops to figure out how best to get help from the police. Very well acted, and tightly written. 

Japanese Dramas

We watched fourteen Japanese dramas this year. Not all of them were really good, but they were at least relaxing and easy watches. Just what we needed this year.

Sleeper Hit

Very fun drama about creating mangas. A woman who was an athlete training for the olympics is injured and has to change careers. She chooses to be an editor for a manga publisher. Her introduction to the CEO and her boss are priceless! Her supervisor with the man bun is the favorite character. She learns a lot from him as she copes with the artists of the mangas, some of whom have to be cajoled to do their jobs. 

Only Just Married

A career woman suddenly needs a lot of money to  help her grandmother, and agrees to a contract marriage to get it. The guy offering her 5 million yen is so nitpicky and such a neat freak, that she wonders if she can do it after all. He is covering up a case of unrequited love, but is quite clueless at how to interact with other people.

Rurouni Kenshin Origins

A movie about a samurai who has killed so many people he decides to not kill anyone anymore. He still fights, but holds his sword backwards so he hits people with the dull side. 

How to Get a Divorce for the Whole Family

An elegant fashion editor marries an ace member of an air force rescue squad, without really knowing each other very well. They have such different styles that they decide to divorce almost immediately, then discover that their parents are ready to split up as well. The man has a horrible harsh voice, but the two of them have great chemistry. It took a long time to get through the first couple of episodes, but we binged the rest on one Saturday.

A Girl and Three Sweethearts

A woman who is a skilled baker is laid off, and gets hired by a man she knows from school who runs a restaurant with his brothers. She seems to have crushes on different brothers at different times. One is friendly, and one is critical of her, and one is casual. A family secret is exposed and threatens the restaurant.

Oh My Boss Love Not Included

A woman applies for a job at a large company and is hired by the fashion department, which she knows nothing about. Her boss is like the boss lady in The Devil Wears Prada, very capable but hard to work for. Nevertheless, the fish-out-of-water girl starts to do well, and has two guys that like her. 

Don't Call it Mystery

A university student (with a huge head of fluffy hair) is detained as a suspect in a murder. He proves to be so good at solving mysteries that the police start asking him for help in other cases. All he really wants to do is eat curry. 

Heaven and Hell Soul Exchange

A female detective investigates a serial killer and during a full moon the male suspect swaps bodies with her. He talks her into cooperating to an extent so they can solve both their problems. We have to get into a backstory to understand what is happening. Very well acted, very engrossing show.

Full-Time Wife Escapist Movie

A sequel to the drama on which it was based, which came out a year earlier. A couple who had a contract marriage rethinks their situation, but end up together. He is shy and she is outgoing. 

Why I Dress Up for Love

This is about a group of people who live in a share-house. A woman is an Instagram influencer who is obsessed with making lots of posts wearing different outfits all the time. A man wanted to be a chef but now has a food truck. They both help a roommate who is an artist and having an exhibit.

My Cuteness is About to Expire

A man who trades on his cuteness to succeed at work and with his girlfriend, is told that he will soon lose his cuteness. The person telling him this is an unattractive man who claims to be himself from thirty years in the future. There is a love interest with a woman who is very stoic and never smiles.

Fight Song

A musician has written one song that was a big hit, but can't seem to come up with another one. A woman from a cleaning company tries to help him because his song has been a big encouragement for her over the years. She has an ear tumor and there is a possibility that an operation could leave her deaf. 


A high school student is going deaf and tries to hide it from his friends, so he cuts all contact. Years later they come across him again. His old girlfriend has another boyfriend, but dumps him because she is is still interested in this guy. He slowly becomes more comfortable, but remains quite depressed.

Hold Me Back

This is a movie about a woman who lives alone and talks to a voice in her head that give her advice when she doesn't know what to do. She starts to fall for a man she meets at work and worries about coming out of her comfort zone. There are story layers about loneliness, mental stress, and even magic that may be connected to folklore creatures called kappas. Very cute and thoughtful. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Nine, going on Ten!


 I knew there was another significant day in between Pi day and St. Patrick's. It's the Ides of March again already! This year we had a drama slump and watched a lot of old movies, but it may have been because many of the airing Korean dramas were dark or violent, and we prefer our shows to be cheerful. However, there is a new batch of fun shows, and now we are enjoying Business Proposal and Twenty Five Twenty One. I'll let you know how they turn out next year. This year we watched 13 Korean dramas (including a rewatch of Healer) and 9 Japanese dramas along with 5 Japanese movies. 

Korean Dramas

Navillera was a surprisingly touching show about a young male ballet dancer and a retired man who had always wanted to dance and was never allowed to. Now Grandpa wants to take lessons, and over the course of the story, he wins over his family as well as the young dancer and the audience at home. Very heartwarming, with some beautiful dance scenes. *****

Suits is a show from a few years ago. It's about a young man who couldn't go to college because of money problems but who studied law on his own. He gets a job even though he's not licensed, because of his knowledge and his perfect memory, and has to keep everyone from finding out. It's worth watching for Park Hyung Sik and Jang Dong Gun. **

So I Married the Antifan is one we watched because we liked Soo Young in Run On last year. It'a about a reporter who loses her job and gets talked into making a documentary with a pop star who she had clashed with, and it had made the headlines. Guess what? They slowly get to like each other. She was still fun, but the plot was lacking and the villain was way annoying. **

Hyena is about a woman lawyer (Kim Hye Soo from Signal) who will go to any lengths to win a case. She is very smart, and gets hired by a big firm. They think they can use her as a scapegoat, but she has a big twist of her own she is hiding. The first part is better than the last. **

Startup is about young people trying to start their own tech companies. There is a contest where the winner will get help from a larger group. There is a genius guy (Nam Joo Hyuk), a scrappy girl (Suzy), and her grandma who helps another older guy (Kim Sun Ho) who makes it big first. Kim Sun Ho was much loved by the audience and fondly called Good Boy. ***

On the Verge of Insanity was perhaps the best drama of the year. It's about a home appliance company that is doing poorly and laying off employees. The HR team leader (Moon So Ri) has to carry out the layoffs, and a senior engineer (Jung Jae Young) tries to keep his job as well as help all the development teams. Great characters, a lot of humor, and a dishwasher that catches on fire! *****

Hospital Playlist 2 was not as good as last year, but still fun to watch because of the characters we have become fond of. This season follows the love lives of our five doctors, with an especially cute storyline for Kim Dae Myung and Ahn Eun Jin. We also have a variety of weekly hospital cases. ****

Kimchi Family is an older drama we found, also known as Fermentation Family. It's about a family who runs a traditional restaurant on the outskirts of town, the father who disappears, and the two daughters who struggle to keep it going. They have an "uncle" who helps, and an ex-gang member who has childhood memories of the restaurant and tries to discover his past. ***

Hometown Cha Cha Cha is a fluffy drama about a female dentist (Shin Min A) who loses her job and relocates to a small town on the sea. She and her hygienist meet colorful local characters such as a handyman with a secret past (Kim Sun Ho again), a shy policeman, and a spunky sushi restaurant owner. It is mostly just fun to watch for the small town and the scenery. ***

One the Woman is a comedy about a chaebol daughter-in-law and a crooked prosecutor who look alike and are mistaken for each other. Honey Lee is amazing in both parts, and also good in the fight scenes. The chaebol daughter-in-law disappears, there is a mystery, lots of shenanigans, and a little hand-waving to achieve a satisfactory ending. ****

Healer is a classic adventure show that is reminiscent of the Bourne movies, with parkour scenes and fights where the hero can beat up anybody. He gets involved in a mystery about some rebels from a generation ago, and a child who disappeared then and is now grown up. His sidekick, Hacker Ajumma, almost steals the show, and the now-grown-missing-child and her adoptive dad are heartwarming. Still excellent as a rewatch. *****

Dali and Gamjatang is one of those shows that forgets it's supposed to be a comedy but you keep watching because you want to know what happens to the characters. Dali is a woman from a rich family that suddenly loses its money. She inherits an art gallery and tries hard to keep it going while remaining polite and elegant. She tangles with a creditor who is from a lower-class family which suddenly became rich, and retained their loud vulgar ways. ***

Ghost Doctor (picture at the top of the post) is about a genius but irritable doctor who goes into a coma and is able to take over the body of a slacker intern. They are played by Rain and Kim Beom, and they are hilarious together. There are other ghosts, pranks and tricks, some heartwarming side stories, and a satisfying conclusion. Very fun show. ****

Japanese Dramas

In-House Marriage Honey is a very sweet show about two people who get into a contract marriage for different reasons and unexpectedly find they work at the same company.  While trying to keep that a secret, they grow to like each other, and it's very believable how their relationship moves ahead in a different way from people who are dating. ****

Danger-less Detectives is about a couple of detectives who try to slack off and stay away from danger, but keep accidentally coming across clues to their cases. Very silly and fun, a relaxing watch. ***

Lock On Love is a teen movie about a high school guy who is good-looking and thinks he is irresistible to girls, and yet the one girl he asks to be his girlfriend is not interested in him. Very cute, and with the nicest loan shark ever seen in a show. ***

Kiseki - Sobito of the Day is a movie about the real-life story of four dental students who become a popular singing group. They conceal their identities, at first to not upset their parents, and then to not jeopardize their dental degrees, or their dental practices. Still today their identities are not known. *****

Heavenly Forest is a movie about a man who meets a sweet, childlike woman in a forested area near town. For a while they go there a lot to take pictures and then they get separated. There is a mystery about her, and the ending is somewhat bittersweet. **

Again is a wonderful movie about second chances. It's about a college student who helps her professor organize baseball games for adults who had played in high school and college. She is interested because her father had played baseball but has died. She tries to find out more about him by interviewing some of these ball players, who had been his friends. **** 

Fukuyadou Honpo: Kyoto Love Story is about a family that has run a traditional sweet shop for 400 years,  which is in danger of closing down because there are no sons to carry on the family line - or the family business. The mother tries to get the daughters to marry someone who can step in and keep the business going. The daughters object. Lots of nice pictures of the scenery around Kyoto and traditional activities. ***

Tremble All You Want is a movie about a girl who seems popular and friendly and has a crush on a boy. You think the story is going a certain way, and suddenly in the middle there is a twist that changes everything completely. It was getting a little dull until the twist, and then it was fascinating. ***

One-Page Love is a 6-episode drama about a teenage girl who falls in love with a guy who visits a vacation resort run by her family. He says he will return in four years but doesn't, and she goes to the city to try and find him. Turns out he works for a loan shark and things get kind of sketchy for a while - we almost dropped the show. Then it seems like there are three men who like her, and the story improves and ends ok. **

An Incurable Case of Love is a rather cheesy story about a girl who gets a crush on a doctor she sees once, and becomes a nurse so she can go find him and marry him. She gets a job at his hospital, and right away blurts out that she likes him. The staff all tease her about it; she makes lots of mistakes from nervousness. **

You, Me, and Bach is a very heartwarming drama about three people who are all at a low point in their lives. At a mall they see a promotion for violin lessons, decide to change their lives by doing something new, and sign up for lessons. This unlikely group becomes friends when they get put in a class together, and support each other through learning to talk things out, keeping confidences, and deciding if a relationship is love or not. *****

Super Rich is about a woman from a wealthy family who loses everything when she starts her own company, and tries to make a comeback. Her employees admire her for different reasons, but some seem to be trying to pull a takeover. Rather disjointed story, unconvincing characters, lots of plot holes. **

Three Star Bar in Nishi Ogikubo is about three friends who are all at loose ends. One is an author with writer's block, one is a chef who lost his sense of taste, the other is unhappy with his job. One of them inherits a neighborhood pub and they decide to keep it going for a while at least. Different patrons come in each episode, with their own problems. Nice pleasant watch, 5 episodes.****

Tokyo Noodle Factory is a cute 6-episode show about a small cafe that is already short of staff when they get a new manager who doesn't know anything about food service. They have problems but make do, everyone pitches in, and things seem to be going better until we get an unconvincing ending. ***


Boring - Sometime we drop shows because they are slow and boring, or just because there is something else on that interests us more. Secret Royal Inspector and Joy is one of these, and Would You Like a Cup of Coffee is another; we watched 4 or 5 episodes of each and just quit. Racquet Boys got one episode, and so did Yumi's Cells. Deliveries from the Heart got a couple. I don't know if Captivated By You was more boring or just didn't make sense. Sisyphus was perhaps more confusing than boring, but it was also annoying for things like the hero taking forever to program a car to start or to make bottle rockets, while the bad guys just stand around and wait. 

Violent or suspenseful - Usually I can tell by the synopsis whether a show is violent, and I'll just avoid it altogether. Sometimes I try it out and decide it's not for me, as with Alice in Borderland. As for Kairos - if there is a kidnapped child, I'm out. Vincenzo was one I dropped when a favorite character got killed off, but tried it again later and dropped again when I heard that the ending was very violent. The Silent Sea also got one episode, after watching that ship crash, and seeing Bae Doona stare down the stairs to creepy music.

Annoying - I've had enough of villains that are evil just for the sake of a plot. I dropped Doctor Romantic 2 after a couple of episodes because we had gotten rid of a really annoying villain in the first season and they brought him back. Our Beloved Summer just recycled the main couple's spats, and neither one could talk things out. Forecasting Love and Weather had completely unlikeable people that fought all the time. The one Chinese drama we tried, Go Ahead, was dropped because of the awful mothers who deserted their families. 

Racy - I am more comfortable with family-friendly type shows. A lot of the Japanese dramas that show up on Viki are more racy than I like, such as LDK Two Loves Under One Roof. There are quite a few that pair a student with a teacher, like A Story to Read when you First Fall in Love. Some are just creepy, like My Fair Prince. Some try to make sexual harassment look romantic, like Love is Phantom and also Can't Run Away from Love. I screen them by the synopsis, try them out, and sometimes drop them in just a few minutes. 

Monday, March 15, 2021

Who would have thought eight years?


The Ides of March has come around again and it's time to take stock. It's hard to believe we've been watching Asian dramas for eight years. This year we finished 17 Korean dramas and 5 movies. We watched 7 Japanese dramas and 6 movies. And we saw 3 Chinese dramas. I must admit that we got a little tired and took a long break during Christmas to rewatch some of our favorite older movies. And lately we've been watching the Star Trek movies and Discovery. Some of the Short Treks were pretty cute, and germane to the plot. 


Hospital Playlist was maybe the best drama of the year. It's about five friends from medical school who all end up working at the same hospital. We get stories of their lives, and you haven't lived until you've seen Darth Vader walk into a hospital. It has a lot of heart, and we get both successes and failures of the patients. *****

Spark is a very forgettable mini drama about someone who is touched by a shooting star or something, and thereafter emits electric shocks to anyone who touches him. *

I'll Go to You When the Weather is Nice is a very slow drama that has Park Min Young and Seo Kang Joon living in a small town in the countryside. He has a bookstore and has a secret house on a nearby hill. She helps with her aunt's boardinghouse and discovers secrets about her mother's past. ***

Reply 1988 is an older show we luckily decided to watch. It's about the intertwined lives of the families in one neighborhood, and their five teenagers who are all friends. Crushes on each other come and go. Park Bo Gum is a professional Go player and Song Dong Il is everyone's favorite dad.Very strong show for most of its run, but with a weak ending. *****

One Spring Night is about a couple who meet when the woman stops at a pharmacy and finds she has forgotten her wallet. The pharmacist lets her take the items on the honor system and they slowly get to know each other after that. A little draggy. ***

Champion is a movie about a Korean-American who returns to Korea for an arm-wrestling contest. He gets tangled up in what is possibly his birth family and a couple of cute kids. Stars Ma Dong Seok and Han Ye Ri. Pretty good but not as engaging as I expected. ***

Kkondae Intern stars Park Hae Jin and Kim Eung Soo as a young business manager and his previous boss who becomes an intern in his department. The previous boss had been very mean to him and he is sorely tempted to pay him back. Quite a cute show that peters out in the end. ***

Train is a sci-fi drama about parallel timelines. Yoon Shi Yoon is a successful detective in one timeline and a drunk cop in the other. A murderer gets rid of bodies by dropping them off of a train when it crosses occasionally into a different dimension. Interesting and suspenseful, holds up all the way through. ****

My Unfamiliar Family is about a family of mostly nice people who can't seem to quite get along. Han Ye Ri is the younger daughter who tries to please everyone. The parents are about to get divorced because of secrets they have been keeping for many years, and just can't trust each other. If they would just TALK! ***

Hi Bye Mama is a fantasy where Kim Tae Hee plays a ghost who keeps hanging around her family to watch her young daughter grow up. Starts cute but then wallows way too much in grief, which is very irritating. *

Into the Ring is a funny drama about a woman who makes so many citizen complaints to the city government that they cringe when they see her coming. And then she decides to run for city council. She is very energetic and is able to engage people in her projects, but of course has run-ins with the higher-ups. Stars Nana, *****

#Alive is a movie about zombies taking over Seoul. Yoo Ah In and Park Shin Hye are holed up in their apartments when they see each other across the courtyard and try to help each other escape. ****

Stranger 2 aka Forest of Secrets 2
 is the return of Bae Doona and Cho Seung Woo as a warmhearted police detective and a prosecutor who can hardly connect with emotions at all. They try to cooperate in investigations when their departments are at odds, jockeying for position over each other and concealing evidence. Great sequel to a great original drama. *****

Mystic Pop-up Bar features Hwang Jung Eum as a Joseon-era ghost who has to pay for her misdeeds by helping 100,000 people. She is still trying to finish this task in the present day, and runs a snack tent where she meets people who might be good subjects. She enters their dreams to give them ways to confront their problems. ****

Reply 1994 is the last of the Reply series we watched. It's about a family who runs a boarding house for college students. Go Ara plays the cheerful, energetic daughter who has a love triangle between athlete Yoo Yeon Seok and med student Jung Woo. My opinion, she chose the wrong one, but you could see it coming. *****

Do Do Sol Sol La La Do looked like a super cute drama, with Go Ara as a very cheerful pianist who makes friends with a mysterious neighbor played by Lee Jae Wook. The acting was good and the story was good too up until episode 12 when it tanked. Don't say I didn't warn you. Very bad ending. **

War of Prosecutors aka Diary of a Prosecutor is a slice of life drama about a prosecutors' office in a small town near the seacoast. Jung Ryeo Won plays an over-achieving new prosecutor who tries to take on everyone else's cases. Lee Sun Woong is the long-suffering, kindhearted, experienced prosecutor who has to live away from his family. Relaxing, low-stress drama with many good cases-of-the-week. *****

Mister Zoo is a movie that tries to be cute, with a person wearing a panda suit trying to stand in for a real panda that is stolen. Mostly inept shenanigans but probably good for kids. **

Okay! Madam is a hilarious movie featuring Uhm Jung Hwa, about a family that wins a free trip to Hawaii. On the plane are North Korean agents, a retired North Korean agent, a South Korean agent, a retired South Korean agent, a crew member who always wanted to be an agent, and a terrorist. Hijinks ensue. *****

Your Honor is a story about identical twin brothers, one of whom is a judge, and the other is a criminal. The judge suddenly disappears, and the criminal takes his place, trying to keep the office intern from finding out. Yoon Shi Yoon plays both brothers and Lee Yoo Young is the intern. It's really well done, and you can always tell the brothers apart by their mannerisms. The mother is a piece of work. ****

Run On is a cute, light drama with nice romances. There is a professional sprinter and a translator who does movie subtitles. They amazingly can always talk things out, but they are not as cute as the secondary couple. A businesswoman admires some paintings and wants to meet the artist. He is a sweet and trusting college student, and different from anyone else she knows. Im Si Won, Shin Se Kyung, Sooyoung, and Kang Tae Oh star. ****

Space Sweepers is a motion picture starring Song Joong Ki about people who collect space debris and sell it for recycling. They hear about a dangerous robot made to look like a little girl, and then find her on a derelict ship they haul in. Good special effects, and nice found family story. ****


Princess Jellyfish is a cute drama about extreme fangirls who live together in a share house and try to raise money to keep it when the landlord decides to sell. Tsukimi designs a dress inspired by her favorite jellyfish, and they make more to try earn money. A fashion show put on by shy nerds and a crossdresser is a novelty. ****

Criminologist Himura and Mystery Writer Arisugawa is an easygoing drama based on characters resembling Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. The cases seem to be separate at first, but then they become interconnected. ***

Is This Love Checkmate? A shy salaryman meets an older woman who plays shogi. Fairly light except for the stalker storyline, that doesn't really fit in. **

Under the Miracle Cherry Tree is about a high school student who had died and reappears seven years later. His friends react in different ways, some with complacence, some with nostalgia or regret. Over time we find out why he came back. Very thoughtful and sweet. ****

You Are My Destiny is about a woman who is a doormat and people at the office put sticky notes on her for jobs they want her to do. She has a drunken one-night-stand with an heir to a big company, who encourages her to be more assertive but then leaves her.  And she finds out she is pregnant. Very forgettable, unsatisfactory ending; I had to look it up to see what this was. *

Choose Spouse by Lottery is a drama inspired by the low birth rate in Japan. The government sets up blind dates for people, hoping for marriages and more babies. We get to know a core of people and problems they have that explain why they are still single, and would be difficult match up with a spouse. They are coping with Asperger's, overweight, shyness, over-high expectations, are stuck on someone they can't get, or are gay. This is very thoughtful actually, and has well-drawn characters. ****

Ex-Enthusiasts is about people who keep longing for their ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend. We get someone who is afraid to commit, one who longs for someone who married someone else, and one who gives up a relationship to move away for a better job. Some of these resolve and some don't. ***

My  Retirement, My Life is a movie about a widower who thinks he can veg out and relax when he retires, but his daughter is tired of taking care of him and has her own plans. He makes friends with people at a neighborhood exercise class, meets a pretty divorcee, and joins an odd-jobs group. Quietly entertaining, sometimes funny. ****

Tori Girl is a movie about a girl who joins her college human-powered flight club. They are competing with other colleges to fly over Lake Biwa, and they recruit her because she is a good cyclist. She is interested because of a cute boy in the club. Well done and amusing, sometimes exciting as well. ****

Today's Kira Kun is a boring movie about a high school girl who is bullied and then befriended by a popular boy, who her parents don't want her to date because he has heart disease. The official synopsis is annoying because it touts a parrot who sits on her shoulder. There is no parrot. There is a cockatiel, but it doesn't sit on her shoulder either. I would've given more points for the parrot. **

Till Death Do Us What is a different sort of movie about a man whose wife has died, and he keeps seeing her everywhere, and even talks to her. He has written up their story in a blog, and she wants him to make it into a book and put more of her own viewpoint into it. Sweet and thoughtful. ****

All of Them are Troublesome is very irritating movie about a young male teacher who can't deal with some brash girls in his classes who flirt with him and try to get him into trouble. It is one of those genre of shows where the kids are smarter than the adults. *

Anokono Toriko is a movie about three childhood friends who promised they would become famous some day. By high school one of the boys is a popular actor and the girl is a professional model. The other boy has been too shy to accomplish anything, but he gets his chance in this story. The actor does a good job growing from quiet and shy to more confidant. The best actor here is Ishitani Goro, who played the director and was decisive and had great presence. 


The Romance of Tiger and Rose is about a drama writer who wakes up one day to find herself in her own drama. She asks people what episode she is in, and keep saying that she knows what is going to happen because she wrote it herself. Very cute drama, very appealing characters, last third is slow. ****

My Roommate is a Detective is a fun, light drama about a really smart Sherlock Holmes type who gets hired by the police chief to help his solve cases. There is conflict between the Europeans, who run their "concession" areas, and the local Chinese criminal gangs. New story every couple of episodes. ****

Le Coup de Foudre is a slice of life drama about some friends during their college and young married years. It is told in flashback style and it takes them a long time to realize they like each other. One of the men goes to school in England, and the woman follows him there to try to find him. ***

These are the shows we watched and finished. There is a much longer list of shows that we watched one or two episode of and dropped. Or even watched 10 minutes of and dropped.That accounts for having so few low scores. 

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Veteran of Seven Years of Asian Dramas!

Spring Turns to Spring

It's the Ides of March again, and now it's been seven years of watching Asian dramas. This year it turned out to be 20 Korean dramas and 16 Japanese, with one Chinese movie. That doesn't count all the ones we tried and dropped! There were a lot of good ones this year.

Korean Dramas

Spring Turns to Spring: Two women are given a drug that copies their DNA to each other. In effect, they turn into the other person. They try to keep this a secret and impersonate each other, which is hilarious because one is a shy retired actress, the other is an outgoing news anchor. The news anchor is one of three orphans who happened to come to an orphanage at the same time, and were named Il Bom, I Bom, and Sam Bom (One Spring, Two Spring, and Three Spring). Mostly very funny, drags a little in the last third. ****

Romance is a Bonus Book: A woman returning to work after a divorce is hired at a publishing company where one of the editors has had an unrequited crush on her since his teen years. She does well but gets in trouble for having pretended that she had no degree and been hired under a trainee program. I did not like her, partly because she seems selfish and partly because she has a child who she shipped off to boarding school and is never talked about again.  ***

Touch Your Heart: An actress has a chance to play a lawyer in a drama if she works in a real law office for a few months. She seems to be a real ditz at first but then she improves. This is fun partly because it's a reunion of Yoo In Na and Lee Dong Wook, who were together in Goblin. Park Kyung Hye was a hit as a lawyer who specializes in divorces. ****

Her Private Life: This show starts as a cute love story between Park Min Young and Kim Jae Wook but disintegrates into a sad backstory in the last few episodes. She is a curator at an art gallery and a big fan of an idol singer in her off hours. He is an artist who has quit painting and now runs art galleries. Would have rated higher except for mopey ending. **

My Fellow Citizens: Choi Si Won plays a con man who marries a woman who is, unbeknownst to him, a police officer. He spends a lot of time trying to keep her from finding out. He has conned a loan shark whose daughter comes after him for revenge. Her big idea is to have him run for office so she can have a tame congressman. Kim Min Jung steals the show as the loan-shark daughter. *****

Chief of Staff: This came in two seasons. It started out good with the story of a man who is chief of staff for an assemblyman, and tries to get justice for the oppressed. But we got tired of the main plot of more and more people becoming corrupt. After watching a couple of episodes in Season 2, which starts by killing off one of our favorite characters and then recycles that main plot too many times, we skipped to the last episode to find out what happens in the end. **

The Secret Life of my Secretary: This should have been called The Secret Life of Veronica Park, because she was more interesting than the lead. The main plot is about a businessman who is face-blind, and his faithful secretary who helps him cope. There are waaay too many dramas about face-blindness. Veronica is a selfish rich girl with heart. ***

Designated Survivor: 60 Days: This is a remake of an American show of the same name. In an alternate universe, a terrorist bombs the main government building in Seoul and kills the president and all the senior officials. The only cabinet minister who is left, who has little political experience, becomes president. This had good suspense and good characters. We admired the newbie president, and Secretary Cha became a favorite. ****

Rookie Historian Goo HaeRyung: A saguk in an alternate universe in which a group of women become historians in the palace. One of them falls for the prince. The side stories about things like combatting smallpox lifted the tone of the drama. This was very watchable and the characters were
likable. ***

Melo Is My Nature

Melo is my Nature: A quiet, sometimes melancholy but very strong drama about three women friends who support each other through thick and thin. One is a drama scriptwriter who, we find out through little hints, is writing the drama we are watching. The second one arranges product placement for dramas and has a young son. The third is a producer who loses her husband and falls into a deep depression, so her brother and these two friends move in with her to help. Possibly the best drama of the year. *****

Search:WWW: Three women who were friends since school, work for search engine companies. The plot about the ethics of their business highlights the strength of these women. It is better than the side plot about the love stories, which only ends well for one of the women. Scarlett is awesome, and you need to see the scene with the baseball bats! ****

Extra-ordinary You: This is a story about high school students who discover that not only are they all characters in a manga, but they have been recycled from a previous saguk manga. It starts out great with a perky lead girl and some mystery. Some early scenes hilariously parody Boys Over Flowers. Unfortunately the story fell apart in the latter half and the ending was indeterminate. ***

The Fiery Priest: Kim Nam Gil is alternately awesome and hilarious in this story of a priest who had once been a special agent. The first episode is quite heavy ground to get over, as they kill off someone in order to bring the priest to the point of deciding to clean up the town. His fight scenes are great though! This is another contender for best drama of the year. *****

The Tale of  Nokdu: This saguk starts out as a lighthearted story of a man dressing up as a women in order to investigate a suspicious widow's village. Halfway through, it morphs into a political story of murder and revolt against the king. Still interesting, but not what we signed up for. Kim So Hyun does well as the archer girl, and Jang Dong Yoon wows us with his fan dance. ***

Hotel del Luna: This story about a hotel for ghosts had a hard time getting up to speed, but the world building was great and IU with an attitude and an amazing wardrobe was stunning. At the hotel, the ghosts are supposed to rest and let go of their resentments and regrets and be ready to pass on to the next life. Some ghosts learn to forgive,  but those who can't manage that get dissolved into sparks by the Reaper. I thought about this theme a lot after I finished the drama. The bell-hop and the half-ghost girl were cute. *****

Live Up to Your Name: This is a time-travel saguk in which a Joseon-era doctor appears suddenly in modern times and gets to know a female surgeon. They cross over the time periods several times and come across a mystery of another time traveler. He learns that there are as many corrupt rich people in modern times as in his own, and she comes to appreciate his traditional methods. ****

My Holo Love: This is quite a successful story about the limitations and worth of artificial humans. A woman gets to be the beta-tester of special glasses that let you interact with a holographic companion. The hologram is kind and helpful and of course she falls for him. The genius designer of this program is hard-nosed at first, but she softens him up. They run into seemingly insurmountable difficulties, but pull it out of the fire and give us a good ending. ***

Crash Landing on You: Son Ye Jin plays a super-rich South Korean woman who goes hang-gliding and gets swept over the border into North Korea by a freak storm. Very freak. Hyun Bin, as a North Korean soldier, discovers her and tries to get her home again. Our favorite characters are the village ahjummas who support each other through thick and thin, and the squad of soldiers who can take anyone on in a hand-to-hand fight but are terrible shots . ****

Stove League: An off-season look at professional baseball in Korea. A new general manager tries to deal with the problems of the last-place team, while the owners are secretly trying to get rid of the team and throw all kinds of stumbling blocks in their way. Namgung Min outsmarts everyone as he copes with bribery, bullying, money shortages, and army service issues. The story stays strong most of the way through but has a weak last episode. ****

Japanese Dramas

Sumika Sumire
Sumika Sumire: A magical cat (who can turn into a man) befriends a 65-year-old woman who has never been allowed to make her own decisions. He turns her 25 again and helps her realize her lifelong dreams. They run into troubles and hard decisions (and another magical cat). Very cute. ****

Time Taxi: A magical taxi takes its passengers back in time - for a fee. The first episode is a giant shock, the second is rather dull. The rest are pretty cute, some humorous, some more serious. At first they are episodic and then the stories begin to link together. A fun watch. ****

Osaka Loop Line: This is an anthology of stories about things that happen along the rail line in Osaka. There are three seasons; we saw the first. Some are mildly interesting, most not so much. **

Stay Tuned: A radio station in Hokkaido hires an inept girl just to see how creative she is and if she can shake things up. She does, more than they expected. Made for the anniversary of a real-life station, and shows the workings of the radio station. Entertaining. ***

May I Blackmail You? People who have been wronged and can't get redress in a normal way, hire a blackmailer to get their money back or get revenge. We dropped this one at the end of Episode 3 because it ended in an illogical way, but picked it up again later.  It proved to be interesting as we got to the underlying plot of what's up with the family of the rich girl who has offered to give out money if people bypass the blackmailer. We also discover the backstory and goals of the blackmailer. ****

Good-by, Enari-kun: A goblin follows a woman around and possesses the bodies of various men who date her and causes them to be complete jerks. She learns to recognize this, and is able to sprinkle the goblin with salt and make him leave. *

Your Home is My Business: A slightly obsessed real estate agent claims that she can sell any house, and can find a house for any customer. The case she handles in the first episode doesn't make sense, but the others are engaging. She copes with difficult customers as well as slacker staff, and often surprises everyone with her solutions. ***

In Time With You
In TimeWith You: A man and a woman who have been friends since high school make a bet about which of them will marry first. They start out both interested in different people and then start to realize they actually like each other. Pretty cute show except it drags on too long and has rather an open ending. ***

Takane and Hana:  A woman refuses to go to an arranged marriage meeting, so her high-school age sister takes her place. The man in question is intrigued by her because she's the first girl he's met who didn't pander to him for his money. Hana is spunky and keeps thinking she's gotten rid of Takane, but he keeps turning up! ***

Erased: When dangerous events occur around him, a man involuntarily jumps back in time a few minutes, which allows him to prevent it from happening. Finally one day when his mother is attacked, he jumps back 18 years to his childhood, where a series of child murders is going on in his town. This is well done but quite dark and suspenseful. ***

Tuna Girl: This is a movie about an intern at a scientific institute trying to devise a way to breed tuna commercially. She is clumsy and inept at first, but slowly learns what she is doing. This is kind of like a documentary and kind of like a Disney film for kids. **

Ramen Shop: A Japanese chef whose mother had died when he was a child, travels to Singapore to find out more about her family. He locates his grandmother, who initially doesn't want to see him. This is somewhat like a documentary too, about high-end ramen. **

When One Day I Will Sleep: This is about a high school girl who is in a bus crash during a school trip. She meets a grim reaper who tells her she has to resolve her regrets about three people before passing on: a friend, a boy she likes, and her grandmother. This is thoughtful and sweet, and somewhat predictable until the big surprise in the last episode that will make you view the whole story in another light. ****

Hoping to Give You a Big Hug Tonight: A kind of convoluted love triangle between a college student and her long-lost first love and several other people - something, something, I forget. *

Secret Unrequited Love: A high-school age couple have liked each other since their childhood. Unfortunately he has a bad heart and decides to avoid her so she won't be so upset if he dies. The girl doesn't know how sick he is and overtly pursues him. Their moms as well as another girl who also has a bad heart, try to separate them. Rather open ended. **

Chinese Movie

Railroad Tigers
Railroad Tigers: I watched this on Chinese New Year, and it's the one Chinese thing I finished this year, a 2016 Jackie Chan movie. It's a romp, not meant to be taken seriously, and a fun watch. During the Japanese occupation, a Chinese resistance group tries to blow up a train bridge. ***

There you have it, the seventh year of dramas! The ones we are watching now are I'll Go to You when the Weather is Nice and Hi Bye Mama. They will undoubtedly start off next years' list.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Six Years Now of Asian Dramas

Ever Night
It's becoming more true that I watch Asian dramas and not just Korean ones, which I began with and are more widely available. This year I have watched just as many Japanese dramas as Korean. And there are a couple of Chinese shows to add. 

Chinese Dramas

The Disguiser: This is a show set in Shanghai during the Japanese occupation. Three brothers pretend they are collaborators with the Japanese and the Nationalist Chinese think they are really working for them. In reality they are Communists. **** 

Ever Night: This is a fantasy with interesting characters, beautiful scenery, and great fight scenes, some magical. The main plot is about the hero getting revenge for his family being killed. He is a fun, cheeky, ultra-confidant kind of guy. *****

Caution Hazardous Wife

Japanese Dramas

Yae's Sakura: A historical drama about a real woman who became a skilled rifle shooter, taught others to shoot, and helped defend her hometown during the Japanese civil war that went on when the Tokugawa Shogunate was overturned. That's the best part, anyway. ****

Partners By Blood: About a rookie cop who is assigned to work with his father, from whom he has been estranged. Very funny show until the last couple of episodes, which pretty much tanks. ***

Satorare: It's about a genius young man whose thoughts can be heard by everyone around him. No one is allowed to let him know, for fear that it will mentally unbalance him. Different sort of show and very interesting all the way through. *****

By Chance: A Japanese man sees a picture of a Chinese woman who looks like his fiancee, who has died. He invites her to come to Japan for a photoshoot so he can have pictures of his lost love, or at least that looks like her. Movie. ***

Doctor X, Season 1: A woman doctor free-lances at different hospitals, usually coming up against doctors and administrators who are not as good as she is and mostly interested in their own status. Pretty much a different story in each episode. ***

Switched: A high school girl jumps off a building and switches bodies with another girl who is watching her. I thought this was good, and I don't usually like high school dramas. ****

Mary and the Witch's Flower: Animated movie about a girl who finds a magic flower. **

Love and Hong Kong: An actress is shooting a variety show in Hong Kong when she gets abducted by someone who thinks he is meeting a woman he met on the internet, who had mendaciously used the actress' picture as her own. The first episode is boring but needed for setup. The rest is good. Four short episodes. ****

Trumpet on a Cliff: A woman goes to Okinawa to recover from a heart transplant and becomes unaccountably enchanted by a man she meets by the ocean cliffs. Movie.***

Overprotected Kohoko: A girl whose mother has always run her life for her, suddenly has to grow up and think for herself. She is unbelievably childish at first, but progresses well; there are several surprises along the way. ****

Caution Hazardous Wife: A secret agent quits her job, marries, and tries to live a normal life. She gets entangles in her neighbor's lives and falls back on her secret agent skills. It was fun to watch her be pretty much invincible and beat up all the bad guys. *****

Pretty Proofreader: A woman who has always wanted to be a fashion editor is hired instead by the proofreading department and finds that she has an unexpected aptitude for it. You think that she is flighty, but she turns out to be pretty smart. *****

My Long Awaited Love Story: A woman who designs dating games is hired as a consultant by a big company. The CEO asks her for advice with his own dating problems. They are cute. Movie. ****

A Sharply Graceful Girl:  A magazine writer is sent to Kyoto to do articles to interest tourists in the city. He meets a local woman who tells him about many little-knows places. This one grows on you. Four short episodes. ****

A Poem a Day

Korean Dramas

Twentieth Century Boy and Girl: Four friends from high school days, three girls and a boy, look for love. Kind of dull, but kind of nice as a filer.***

A Poem a Day: A slice-of-life comedy about the staff of the rehab department of a big hospital. The story is often thoughtful and touching, often funny. It's augmented by poems every episode. ****

Switch Change the World: A con man impersonates a prosecutor who looks just like him, assisted by a junior prosecutor. Not too violent and not too exciting either. One episode in the middle made me pretty angry. ****

Miss Hammurabi: a beginning judge bucks the system in an effort to achieve fair judgements. There's not much of a romance except for a secondary couple that was quite cute. There are a lot of cases about women's rights. ****

Are You Human Too? A woman builds robots that look like her son, and when the son is injured, uses the robot as a replacement. The first half was very good but it fell apart and got sloppy in the end. ****

Witch's Love: Three witches live under the radar running a popular restaurant. That is, no one knows they are witches. A man looking for information about a traumatic incident in his childhood identifies the restaurant as the site. Pretty cute, not too intense. ****

Thirty But Seventeen: A woman who was injured and in a coma for 13 years wakes up and tries to reclaim her life. She finds a new family in her house. Slow moving with a lot of misunderstandings, but quite a popular show. ****

Five Children: A widower with two children meets a divorcee with three, and cope with family difficulties in trying to put a family together. Three other couples get together as well and are more romantic than the main one. *****

Room No. 9: A body-switch story between a lawyer and a prison inmate who was falsely imprisoned. There is a boyfriend, but not much of a romance. The detective and the inmate's bestie are the best part. ****

Ms. Ma, Nemesis: A woman is framed for killing her daughter, escapes prison, and tries to find the real culprit. The storylines are taken from several Agatha Christie Miss Marple books. It has a rather lame ending. ***

Solomon's Perjury: high school students give up on the police ever solving the death of one of their friends, and conduct their own trial at school. This is a crime show without teenage shenanigans. *****

Feel Good to Die: A notoriously crabby boss drives everyone crazy, but one day someone wishes he were dead, and he suddenly dies. Then the day reset as in the Groundhog Day movie, and the characters live the day over. This happens several times and then things change up when he realizes what is happening. ****

Memories of the Alhambra: A video game company develops an augmented reality game that can be played in certain cities around the world, and then people start dying from the game. This started out intriguing, and then began to fall apart. I lost sympathy when my favorite character was killed off, and was annoyed that the female lead never did anything but cry. ****

Wind Bell: a Korean who was adopted to America returns to Korea to try to find his roots. Very short web drama, but you still get a good feel for the characters and what is going on.***