KDRAMAGUK : Korean Drama Soup

a landing site for quick, completely biased, and totally snarky korean drama reviews


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Diary | Crossing Imaginary Lines

If there are two things I love, it is kdrama and GD, and both are rocking my world right now. Unfortunately, I was not in LA, but of course saw the performances coming out of KCON 2013. G-Dragon rawked it, effortlessly cool, the right balance of hip hop and kpop. I always love the urban, chill version of him onstage.
Can’t wait for the rest of his album to drop! But he DID drop Pt.1, plus the intro MV Coup d’État, and both are ah-mah-zing. I love the layers of visual explosion that always accompany his videos. In Coup d’État, he’s talking about his money, his fame, and all his badassery, but the video takes the promise of world domination even further, beyond the realm of music...into a Gothic mind warp...to give us witness to G-Dragon overthrowing underlords, too?
His vid is all dark fantasy, a landmine of symbolism, an homage to himself and his already notorious legacy, a high concept extravaganza that is both surreal and evvvil—in the best way. Is he the king of the kpop underworld now, too? Yes, he is! If there is a kpop scene among the demented and decaying, I am sure this would be the version of GD reigning there. Either way, he makes it clear he won’t be kept imprisoned by chains of any kind, in the real world or a fantasy one. People can shoot at him out of fear of the unknown, but he’ll only rise up stronger, and knock down the wall with a pebble built of his indomitable will!
What makes GD such a fascinating artist is his aggression against conformity, his willingness to experiment with music beyond borders and into the crazy. Sometimes to iffy results, but mostly toward awesome. And there is no doubt the madness is his own, it is that original and bizarre. I think that is why he also appeals so much to international fans, his independent spirit, full of vigor and color, but not in a way that feels formulaic or contrived by a machine. He’s genuine. This is his vision, his world, and we’re just marching to the beat of his empire. Man, this autumn promotion period is going to be great. And is it just me, or did Jiyongie just drop Jung KyungHo’s hip hop soundtrack? Well, providing a killer drug dealer from a Heartless City can have an inner rap groove...

Ok, I’ma stop gushing about GD. I won’t apologize for it though!

Dramas I will spoil after the jump: Master’s Sun (Eps 7-8). I am still watching Who Are You, but I have little to say on it, other than Kim JaeWook continues to be a handsome spectral figure. Oh, and I had to officially drop Goddess of Fire. I hit my tolerance. Sorry, Bummie, I guess your cloak of fake flowing locks isn’t shield enough from the cracking pottery logic of your show.

Master’s Sun 
Episode 7
Ghost stories they may be, but they are also sad stories about human nature, and the pain we endure while alive. So much so that the pain lingers even in death, like an echo that won’t let sound go. The theme of this post seems to be pain and survival in the underworld, pain that threatens to swallow souls whole. Even little souls. The central story of this one deals with kids, who apparently, in their pureness, can see ghosts like HyoJin. Stories with transparent little kids with black voids for eyes are creepy, but this story doesn’t end as we expect.
There is a duo of puppies cuties that have been popping up here and there in this show, mostly to be fed by the main characters. This episode had three kiddie ghosts attaching themselves to the one on the right (see above picture). But when the ghost kids realize their target is loved by his family, they move on to find another child. The twist is that these aren’t evil spirits, but sad ones trying to help other children who are neglected and left to wither away on their own. Baaaaaahh, baaah, cry!
I won’t lie, I was crying shamelessly over this one, which ended up following a little boy who gets beaten by an umbrella by his mother and then locked in a wardrobe! By the end, the creepy ass doll that I couldn’t believe adults would let their kids haul around, was not so creepy afterall, but a really tragic thing. Just like the three abused kids who haunted the doll, its abused appearance reflected how the lost kid spirits had been treated in life by those who should have cared and loved them the most.
Just writing that brief summary made me cry again! Damn this show. I can’t write any more about that, it makes me too emotional. I hate stories about children being abused.

Onto the romance! Since JiSub was almost a casualty in last episode after helping HyoJin, he decides that he needs to keep more definitive separation between himself and his wacky sun. He decides there will be a “Tae GongShil Zone” where she is allowed to touch him, which is a scant piece of forearm. She’s not happy that he’s pulling away, but she does understand why he’s doing it. During this separation, however, both are clearly miserable to the max. He takes anti-anxiety pills that don’t seem to relieve any anxiety and she mourns that she wishes she could at least hear his voice to chase away her fears.
Thankfully, Secretary Kim rather adores HyoJin and the good effect she’s been having on his young master, so when he sees JiSub stubbornly trying to maintain a safe spitting step away from HyoJin, the crafty man feigns sickness. I mean, either he’s playing at matchmaker or he’s taking great advantage of an opportunity for some much needed vacay. Judging by what we know of him so far, I’m guessing he’s playing cupid.

A few things we learned, or didn’t learn:

—It is not yet confirmed whether JiSub’s dyslexia is cured by contact with HyoJin, and the fact that we’ve not gotten an answer yet leads me to think it just might...

—We’re beginning to realize that JiSub needs HyoJin more than she needs him. Granted, HyoJin was a skittish personality when we first met her, but she was still kind-hearted and open to the world. JiSub, on the other hand, was a closed off master hiding in his tower, standing apart from people and observing them through a telescope from a distance. But now he is slowly growing more and more heart every episode, and like HyoJin’s gift of vitamins to him, he finds it a bitter pill to swallow, but it is healing him.
Just as an isolated prince in a tower knows little about the toils of his people and therefore can do little to help them, JiSub is stepping away from the telescope and learning about the people who frequent his mall.

—We can see the intimacy of their constant physical contact is now beginning to affect HyoJin in the heart fluttering kind of way. For her, touching him has become almost as scary as not touching him. By episode’s end, we get the first hint that JiSub also feels something more with every contact. Oh, and apparently, her hair does not smell bad to him anymore.

—HyoJin’s Jesus Save Me pajama is hilarious.

In more humble corners of the kingdom, InGuk has been observing from the sidelines and gets increasingly jealous at the closeness growing between master and maiden, which leads him to resort to some petty snooping. He finds pictures of JiSub’s dead ex in HyoJin’s desk at work. Dun, dun, dun.
The look on his face is full of dismay and betrayal. We’ve learned through Top Star YooRi that he’s been sent to watch over JiSub and protect him, but mostly because JiSub’s father isn’t completely convinced that JiSub didn’t see his kidnappers all those years ago and wants a spy’s confirmation of that fact. Speaking of YooRi, she continues to do her buzzing around of the security guard, and all her questions seem to be of the same variety: do you or do you NOT like HyoJin? InGuk also has a habit of leaning very close into her face with his handsome one when he speaks to her, and it clearly gets her all hot and bothered and confused.

Episode 8
Less plot, more love, and even more foreshadowing. So let’s see, what happened…most adorably, we get to spend more time with actress singer YooRi and InGuk. Our second man has unfortunately taken jealousy a step in the wrong direction and snooped into HyoJin’s personal desk drawers, finding a picture of Cha HeeJoon, dead ex-girlfriend, played by Han BoReum. This has lead him to mistakenly suspect HyoJin of being a conspirator in the past or at the very least, connected to her in some way in the present.

Ripping out his own heart in the process, he tells a surprised HyoJin that he never actually liked her. He lies that she was foolish for thinking candy-giving and theater-inviting was an indication of amorous intent when it was only pity. He then proceeds to do everything possible in this episode to ensure he does not get The Girl. And the cold way he tramples HyoJin’s heart, I’m sorry to say, is the kind of thing that earns him a solid red card. And it is the only scene he really shares with her this episode, so it was almost like he really did get banned from playing the field for the rest of the match.
Luckily, his scenes with YooRi are uber wonderful. I totally love this couple as much as the main. She’s very much like UEE’s role in You’re Beautiful and there’s a charm and vulnerability to her despite the vapid vanity. And InGuk’s such a stiff figure, they are a perfect pair. Imagine if Jung YongHwa’s character had had a lovely side romance with UEE? Anyhow, this second pairing would most certainly work as a first couple in any other drama.

Our main couple, as usual, are left alone to have at their ghost-busting job. HyoJin hates all ghosts related to water, but JiSub has one trying to drown Kingdom Hotel pool partiers.
Since he has arrived at an intersection in the emotional journey where he sees HyoJin less as nuisance freak and more a person, he feels guilty at the idea of sending her off alone to tackle a water ghost when she is clearly crazy afraid. So he creates an elaborate scenario where he closes off the hotel pool, buys her dinner, and even buys her a fancy dress. He totally Pretty Woman’s the whole evening and confuses the heck out of everybody.
These are all well-intentioned bribes, but the hotel staff understandably misunderstands the event being planned and salivates at the idea that he’s planning a special event for his lucky lady love. HyoJin also starts to get the idea that perhaps JiSub is planning a romantic evening for her. She is, of course, crushed when she realizes this isn’t the case. A humble creature but a female in a kdrama she is, as well. Imagine expecting wine and champagne and getting…a killer water spirit? Sucks. She’s pretty cool about it though and doesn’t create a dramatic fuss. She blames mostly herself for being foolish. It is most refreshing that she doesn’t get all sobbing dramatic over it, and even more so when she rationally explains to him why she misunderstood. To which JiSub says he understands why she thought so. But a safe emotional zone eludes her when she’s almost as equally moved when she realizes all the subterfuge was because he felt guilty about making her face water ghosts.

This episode’s watery ghost ended up being a woman who long ago won a prize to enjoy one of Kingdom Hotel’s more lavish suites, and now lying in a coma, her longing spirit has come back to the hotel where she had once found happiness.
While her family waits for her to wake in a hospital bed, she enjoys one last night in the elegance and glamour of the magical Kingdom, watching fireworks with HyoJin and JiSub. It is in this moment watching fireworks that HyoJin realizes that her place in the Kingdom is also a fleeting happiness, her contentment at JiSub’s side a temporary invitation. Like the woman who spent a moment’s happiness in JiSub’s Kingdom, she is also just a guest with a free gift pass who would one day have to return to her own world where she belongs.
It is my most favorite scene so far. I love how perfectly the moment evokes a feeling that conveys that love can be so wonderful, so perfect, but already the beginning of pain. It’s wistful, romantic, and full of shadows. As they watch the fireworks, JiSub asks if the ghost likes it. Pretending it is the ghost’s words, HyoJin tells him, “She says it’s like a midsummer night’s dream; a dream that left her dizzy and dazzled, stirring her heart, making her happy, and hurting, too, because the view from here was so great.” They study each other, and we can see JiSub maybe suspects HyoJin is not speaking for the ghost but for herself. We can see the couple falling in love, their hearts in their eyes, both ensnared by this spot that is romantic but not a date. We also see how much they both fear it, are afraid of wanting and needing too much, afraid to hope to hold onto someone that will only slip away.
It is for different reasons they are defensive—he is afraid because he was hurt in the past and she because of her lack of confidence. HyoJin breaks eye contact first and clears the mood. This is a moment that feels like a hello, the first touch of real love, but a goodbye, too. This drama does these types of poignant scenes so well, really allowing viewers to empathize and understand the developing feelings of all the characters. Everyone is falling in love but not a one yet can believe it is love. As Yoon MiRae’s Touch Love tender melancholy soundtrack sighs, it is a lonely love.

InGuk told HyoJin earlier in the episode when he “broke up” with her that “Even if the heart can’t be honest, pain will reveal the answer.” He said this to her as he realized that HyoJin never liked him, and the phrase later resonates with HyoJin as she realizes she must have feelings for JiSub for her heart does reveal an answer. The saying, unfortunately, for all its sincerity, is sourced from a cruel location. Turns out, it was something Han BoReum used to say to JiSub before the kidnapping, that she would like it if he felt lots and lots of pain over her. Hmmm. Not very romantic. The phrase leads JiSub to connect that InGuk is a spy for his father. But the better question is, how the hell does InGuk know the saying? It seems JiSub’s father is also keeping secrets.

HyoJin made plenty of good attempt to become more independent from JiSub in this episode after he revealed that he is definitely affected by her constant touching, in a negative way. Specifically, he doesn’t want tongues wagging. In a delightful twist, he is the one who spends the majority of the hour trying to grab her hand. At one point he even challenges after taking hold in a tight vise, “Let go if you think you can!” But what I loved even more than JiSub doing the reaching was that he also displayed trust. Unlike InGuk who immediately thinks the worse of HyoJin when he finds incriminating evidence, JiSub trusts HyoJin implicitly. Even when she’s quoting his dead ex-girlfriend, his first thought is to ask where she heard it, not how she’s connected to the big evil dead girlfriend. Not only does it speak to faith, but also that he knows her very well now, believes in her goodness without reservations.

The episode ends with another intense ex-girlfriend appearance and the ghost refuses to reveal the name of her accomplice behind the kidnapping because she must protect that person. This is another emotional punch for JiSub, the idea that this woman who betrayed him once and broke his heart is betraying him yet again even in death, choosing to protect his kidnapper instead of settling peace with him.

He tries to remain in unmoved…and in rare show of weakness, asks HyoJin to stay by his side and protect him.

The show continues to be a tearjerker with its ghost stories, but more surprisingly, the romance between the all the couples continues to explore deeper valleys. One would not think there would be so much real emotions to mine in such a fantasy world, but the parallel between dead ghosts and living ghosts seems a really effective one.

The romance in this one works so well because it is based on need. Certainly there is attraction, everyone is very good-looking, but this is also about finding a place in the world that is safe. When one finds the person that brings peace in a world of madness, isn’t that love? When the ghosts, real phantoms or the inner demons that haunt from the past, fall silent, isn’t that a shelter, a home, a place to settle? More dangerous than aimless spirits are the memories that haunt our living characters. And they are all trying to find haven from hurts they’ve already suffered. Many kdrama couples often feel unbalanced, all the power and charm held by one side, but here, all the people seem to carry strengths that balance well against their partners.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your "GD-ness" thought, seemed like last promotion he did very well, got more global recognition and entertainening as hell lol.. I'm so happy!! hope this year will be bigbang year


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