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Thursday, July 10, 2014

KDramaGuk’s Biased & Worst of 2013

Badasses & Bromances
A Year in Review


A Killer Year
This post was the monkey barracuda on my back. I actually did write half of it in 2013 November, if you can believe it, riding the kdrama high after coming back from an awesome vacay in Seoul. But the totally busy holidays pushed me off my productive rails. It still surprises me, so I can imagine it would surprise others, writing a blog even for leisure sucks away a lot of time. It’s enjoyable, but hard to find the precious life moments to do it. The real world always seems to get in the way of spending hours upon hours staring at a computer screen. But I remained determined to post my 2013 year end review, mostly because I didn’t do one in 2011, and whenever I see that gap in my index, it bugs the OCD hell out of me. Anyway, halfway into 2014, here it is, better laaaaate than never?

My time management issues aside, 2013 was a pretty fine year for me. I wouldn’t call it a year of drama gluttony, but definitely a year of being decently fed. I recall leaving the year quite satisfied and optimistic, having enjoyed unexpected flavors of dramas and actors and storylines that knocked some of my established fandoms askew, even created a few new ones. Any year that has a jaded fangirl like myself launching off into new directions is a pretty successful one. 

So, in sum, 2013 got punched, knifed, and shot, its top shelf survivors having been mostly a violent crew. I suppose it was great tv watching for myself personally because it just so happens that I totally love that ass-kicking stuff! Hyper skinny men kicked peoples asses (literally), awkward handsome dorks were recognized as swoon worthy by the masses, many drama heroes and heroines connected with their inner supernatural powers, and most all of the characters fell into some form of mismatched romance, especially bro on bro love stories. It was definitely a fun year for those of us who love the badasses and the bromances.




WINNERS OF THE YEAR
For me, it took superhuman restraint on my part not to give every single category to Heartless City, and well, even then I barely succeeded. It is clear who, why, and what I thought was uncategorically outstanding in 2013, but that obviously does not mean other dramas were failures, only that precious little could possibly compete in my head with a drama that I thought simply stole the heart and soul of an entire year.

Drama
Dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight.
Heartless City
Without a doubt, the sleaziest, most Seoul-ful drama to air in 2013, and for me, galaxies better than anything else that came along—in years. Was it perfect? No. Was it just Jung KyungHo love? He was mesmeric—but of course not. Was the story that twisted and original? Not really. Then why? What made this dark and twisty crime tale better than any other dark and twisty crime melodrama? All I can say to try for an explanation is that it hit at a mood and moment just right. It reinvented an old idea, pushed one context into another, a western sensibility into an eastern one, and just as the world excites over every new fusion flavor that comes along, this was a fusion flavor of television that tasted unusual, confusing, but delicious. When there is a story about a great ravaging storm that batters a ship on the high seas, the story follows the human drama as a ship splinters apart, but that’s the narrative, not the parable. The story isn’t really about the ship, but the storm itself, the brutality and unforgiving manner of its nature, how the wildest parts of our world can churn and crush, and be so beautiful as it destroys, so fateful, and how trivial the human element can be against its tide. The drama was about a Heartless City, it wasn’t merely about the crew of broken characters who suffered in it (although they were exceptional). This drama was detailing one sinking version Seoul, a new breed of city caught between east and west, and one so enamored with the darker side of wealth and power it was losing its humanity in the glitz of the night.


Actress/Female Character
What difference does it make whether the women rule or the rulers are ruled by women? The result is the same. 
—Aristotle
Kim YooMi
as Lee JinSook
in Heartless City
Aristotle definitely knew the way of it. Even a long dead fart of a philosopher that lived in the age of blood sport, togas, and dangling testosterone could not deny this truth. And while men of old and modern acknowledge the influence of the opposite sex, it is often with suspicion and a sneer. Women of ambition are often painted as whores by history, and it is no coincidence that history was written by men. Kim YooMi’s brazen and bejeweled character Lee JinSook was a street girl who had sold her body, but never her self-respect, but in her cruel world, she showed us it was always a blurry line between power and pawn for a woman, in survival, in love, and in simple existence. Her character was a fight rooted in ancient times, even Cleopatra was and is called a whore, and like the misunderstood and much maligned Mesopotamic queen often painted more as seductive whore than an educated, savvy ruler, Kim YooMi gave us a rare heroine in the kdrama pantheon, a woman layered in wraps of skin both uncomfortable and honest, pitable and admirable. She was valiant and vicious, sometimes even selfish and hateful, but we could never shake her pull on us. She was nothing less than fascinating in the way she played in a man’s world. In the end, she played men as they tried to play her. She was also the primary destructive force at the center of the entire violent storm. In fact, she was a woman that not only survived the storm, but was its creator—now that’s the kind of character worth remembering, male or female.


Actor/Male Character
A dark hero facing a darker city.
Jung KyungHo
as Jung ShiHyun/The Doctor’s Son
in Heartless City
Even though I said Heartless City wasn’t really about the characters, we can’t deny their misery was what colored everything. Before this role, this earnest-faced actor had been more frequently cast as a nice guy, my most favorite memory of him as the lovable dork who wooed Lee MinJung in Smile, You. I did not imagine that his skinny and twinkly looks would lend itself naturally to being a vicious killer, but alas, it seemed I only lacked proper imagination. One must wonder a little about what kind of hardships he faced during mandatory military service, for in his first role back, there hangs a haunted quality to him that was either rooted in something personal, or just damn good acting. I’m ok with either theory. I’ve gone on and on to a nauseating extent flattering this actor for his performance in this drama (read my review here), so I’ll keep this blurb brief-ish. Jung’s performance wasn’t the same kind of riveting eccentricity like his costar Choi MooSung’s delivery, but he was just fucking seductive as the mysterious druglord that had more mommy and daddy issues than possible considering he was an orphan. He wasn’t a big or loud character, he was all coiled restraint, and that was enough to keep most of us invested. Considering his exceptional lack of movement and words in this one, it was amazing that by the end of the show, it was like we as an audience could understand every miserable and sad molecule about him.


Supporting Actor/
Male Character
Gangster-lite, glare aplenty, he was a swoon-ami danger.
Kim WooBin
as Park HeungSoo
in School 2013
Two of my favorite shows this year defied the kdrama gods and went down a very anti-romantic road. Another thing Heartless City and School 2013 shared? Phenomenal supporting actors. You know, I would have given this category to Heartless as well, specifically to Choi MooSung who really gave Busan some scary street cred this year, but I already gave my top three slots away to them and this is me showing restraint. =) And possibly some biased fangirl love, which I am entitled to on my own blog! But mostly also because I do thinkie that Kim WooBin definitely deserves a nod for his turn as the quietly seething Park HeungSoo in this pretty angst-heavy teen drama. The actor was here and there in 2012, but when he made his glare-tastic appearance at the end of episode 3 in School, I think most of us who watch these things knew instinctively that the drama landscape was about to change. Kim WooBin didn’t outright steal the show from his equally charismatic co-star Lee JongSuk, but man, he was a supporting character only in name. There was no denying that his version of punk transfer kid was so interesting that it almost felt new, considering ‘punk transfer kid’ is about the most cliché thing about a high school melodrama. My favorite part of his character? Kim outpunked everyone just by raising one eyebrow, as if conveying both irony and murder. I loved that he always appeared so ironic about it all. He made the angry school punk angle something really worth enjoying again. Oh right, he also wrung out some tears, too, with some pretty damn good emoting.


Supporting Actress/
Female Character
A lawyer worth her salty tears.
Lee DaHee
as Seo DoYeon
in I Can Hear Your Voice
Despite being cast as a fairly dislikable pissy vinegar type of female character, a woman who was the privileged daughter of a rich and powerful megalomaniac, Lee DaHee managed to pull off a feat very difficult when she made more meaningful the flawed human elements in the role rather than spend the drama hours marinating in a caricature bitchy façade—she showed us a young woman riddled with insecurity and desperately seeking the approval of a father who never showed her any love. Despite a cast of better knowns like Lee BoYoung, Yoon SangHyun, and 2013’s boy wonder Lee JongSuk, I thought her emotional development of the character Seo DoYeon was the most naturally stirring of plot arcs within the show. In a drama where one-handed men bludgeoned people to death with steel pipes and boys could hear mind conversations, let’s just say the story of a young woman finding peace with her inner demons was a journey that resonated more realistically than any of the other vengeful plot shenanigans in this one.


Most Spellbinding Performance
It’s always the quiet bearded ones that are most iffy, hm?
Choi MinSoo
as General Yeon Gaesomun
in The Blade and the Petal
This cranky bearded angerball had an army at his back for support, and if that doesn’t scare enemies, I just don’t know what could. General Yeon Gaesomun is a for realz Goguryeo historical figure, a military dictator whose name resonates today as both hero and traitor, and divides opinion even now among historical scholars as to which he really was in the annals of Asian history. I mean, the real figure was a man who not only dethroned a king, but also ordered said dead king’s corpse hacked up and tossed out like trash. Choi MinSoo is absolutely wicked awesome playing this murky military figure that was by all accounts a terrible and provocative man who could move men with his force of will. Choi gives us good cause to believe that the real man in history might indeed have been something like his take on the general, an intelligent, hawkish military mind, almost scholarly in disposition and temperament, handsome, and as quiet as a sheathed blade, but no less sharp or deadly in a reposed state. The most wonderful aspect to watch was that Choi gave us an epic monster that seemed too big to be real, and yet this killer was based on a real man. The depiction of real people who did atrocious things…are always fascinating to dive into…because they are so unfathomable to our modern minds, a colorful look at those who came before us and were so influential they shaped the world, had a part in who we are today. By far, Choi was the most interesting and human thing in a very prettily filmed but snooty drama mostly caught up in its own good looks.


Most Enchanting Performance
The original odd duck.
Gong HyoJin
as Tae GongShil
in Master’s Sun
Gosh, I remember Gong HyoJin playing the timid school girl who wanted to kill her abusive father in the film Guns & Talk (great film, go watch it). In that one, she moped after Won Bin in a cloud of weirdo sadness. A smallish role, but memorable. It’s kind of her trademark: weird endearing female. That was probably my favorite role of her to date—until now. She’s never been my favorite actress, but in Master’s Sun she convinced me that she’s not a script wrecker. While she has many of the elements that make her a good heroine, she’d never found the right balance for my tastes, always veering far to close toward simpering. As Tae GongShil, while she still played a victim of life, Gong was able to draw out humor and genuine vulnerability in this ghost-stalked woman. And not only was she likable, she was fun to watch, and by the end, the kind of gal I rather like in my dramas. And turns out, she’s goofy, unpredictable, and hilarious in real life as well. Ok, fine, HyoJin, you win, I guess I totally like you.


Most Handsome Performance
Wears white even after Labor Day.
Jung Woo
as Suhreki/Trash (Pre-Med Student) 
and Seo JinWook (Baker)
in Reply 1994 & You’re the Best Lee SoonShin!
Seems fitting this fellow is here since his real life girlfriend is above, too (Kim YooMi). This guy’s face would give any lady a happy emoji. Ok, wow, that unintentionally sounds out dirtier than I thought it would. Anyhow, Jung Woo, once upon a time ago just a skinny nobody punk in Glass SlippersIn 2013, far older, but still boyish, donned white as a pre-med student and bakery owner, and perfected a gawky handsome no one even knew was so irresistible until he came along and showed us that our perfect man doesn’t necessarily have to be a prettily coifed empty headed chaebol, but can also be a loud and clumsy poor boy next door. In the very flawed drama You’re The Best Lee Soon Shin that boasted of a likable cast in a dislikable story, he shined as a rough-edged baker boy who fell for one of the Lee sisters. In Reply 1994 he won an entire nation’s fancy as a pre-med student who was a dunderhead in love and a brilliant medical mind all at once, a simple guy struggling to make sense of 1994 as he fell in love with his best friend. He was not only wonderful as an actor, he was adorable as a boy-man.


Original Soundtrack
A great collection of tracks.
Heartless City
No brainer, right? In that, I’ve gone on and on and on about how much I loved everything Heartless City, what other drama was I gonna give the music nod to?



TOP 5 OF THE YEAR
My Personal Favorites 
Looking at my top five, I see they have one big thing in common: skin on skin action. All five were sexy things with lots of physicality, be it in skinship and romance, or violence and strangling.

1 : Heartless City
Why: Do I really need to gush again? Badass show that sucked me right in, chewed me right up, then spit me out like a citrus pulp. And, save me, I loved every minute of it. Exquisite pain.


2School 2013
Why: I had to watch this one twice to appreciate it, and I consequently developed a healthy fascination with stars Lee JongSuk and Kim WooBin. Attractive casting definitely was a part of the show’s appeal, I cannot deny it, but what made it a good drama was all the good acting found inside as well. If it had only been pretty to look at, it may have turned into The Heirs (bazinga!). Har. School 2013 wasn’t a romcom, it was a melodrama, and it attacked a lot of very real social issues that wanted discussing. In terms of scope, perhaps at times too simple-minded in its attack, but overall, the show had a timely message in this modern world and an abundance of genuine heart.


3: Master’s Sun
Why: So JiSub was heee-tooting-larious. I never knew the man could be so damn funny—intentionally, that is—I mean, his hiphop aspirations aside, which you have to agree is kind of a strange diversion for an actor such as So JiSub! Mostly when I think So JiSub, I think of bucket tears, restrained anger, and lots of constipated melodrama. Anyway, the writing powerhouse duo Hong MiRan and Hong JungEun that brought us such gems as You’re Beautiful and My Girlfriend is a Nine-Tailed Fox picked themselves up from a poor 2012 showing, thought up a clever fantasy horror scenario, glued together the unexpected but rocktastic celebrity pairing of So JiSub and Gong HyoJin, and suddenly we had a drama bomb of awesome that none of us could have possibly expected. I dunno, maybe smarter people than me did, but I was smashed to the floor in amazement at how fantastic this new drama couple brought the sizzle! So JiSub and Gong HyoJin were so perfect together that the plot was absolutely secondary, it was their combined power that made this drama the must watch romcom of the year. Are they dating in real life yet?


4 : Reply 1994
Why: This one was quite the surprise—for me anyway, as I never jumped on the Reply 1997 fan wagon. Devotees of the first one probably already had positive expectations. Anyhow, this was impossibly well-written, unbelievably well-produced, and ridunkulously well-acted. The entire cast was just so sweetly perfect, almost as if they weren’t recruited for the role, but as if every part was pulled out of the story of their own nostalgic pasts. Even now it’s hard to believe how completely these characters jumped off the screen and felt like real people. Possibly there were flaws in the details of the environment, but I didn’t grow up in 1994 South Korea, so nostalgia was zero factor for me, I simply accepted its context. It could have been 1994 Mars for all I knew, it was simply an engaging landscape, weird, alien in its experiences, and nerdy. It was a wonderful gift of a drama, at all times heartwarming, hilarious, and lovely, and I’m so glad I let the blogger fan tides of adoration convince me to give it a try.


5 : I Can Hear Your Voice
Why: Lee JongSuk, that’s why!


Honorable Mention : 
Last Cinderella
Why: Ok, not a Korean drama, but this Japanese charmer was very much enjoyed by me in 2013. Back when kdramas were less trendy and polished, they felt kind of like this one: earnest, unpretentious, and character-driven. Not having watched too many Jdoramas, I was at first surprised by how open the show was in discussing sex, but ultimately, found it very refreshing and titillating. That’s right, I said titillating. I think I rather like my dramas a little apologetically sexy.



NOTABLE MENTIONS
Actors and dramas weren’t fit into categories, but honors and non-honors tailored specifically for them.
 
Double Award:
Hottest Sociopath &
Most Watchable Part of The Heirs
Kim WooBin 
as Choi YoungDo
in The Heirs
I’m not saying I thought Kim WooBin’s character Choi YoungDo was well-written or even remotely sympathetic, because he wasn’t, I mean the kid used other kids as a punching bag for fun. I’m not a sadist, I get it. Hitting people is uncool. I mean he was in that whole other drama in the beginning of the year where he schooled me that bullying is not right. And in Heirs, he was a total irredeemable sociopath, but still we cannot deny the truth, the terrible truth that he was a totally awesome and hilarious sociopath. Seriously, I would happily hear him singsong insults at Lee MinHo and Park ShinHye all day long. And by being a totally Hot Sociopath with his completely monkey idea of morality and love, his wounded-boy insanity was the only genuinely riveting thing about the show. That and his wiggling eyebrows (if you haven’t already, check out Winner’s parody of Heirs on WinnerTV, specifically, Song MinHo’s interpretation of Kim WooBin’s overdramatic eyebrows—you will die from laughter). I mean really, it’s not like anyone else was in any way depicted with any semblance of reality, there was no reason to judge the crazy rich kid by any real world ruler either. If you think about it, the character was taekwondo chopped by his dad on a weekly basis, at least he had some kind of real reason for being messed up. What was Kim Tan so emo about all the time anyway? What little fire there was in this show, it was generated by this one very beautifully evil man. Frankly, Kim was the only one that managed not to embarrass himself.


Best Lookalike Casting
No YoungHak & Lee SangYoon
as Young Prince KwangHae & Older Prince KwangHae
in Goddess of Fire
Let’s face it, younger actors that do the drama groundwork before the older established stars show up often never really resemble the older cast. In this case, young Prince KwangHae looked dead on like the senior version of Prince KwangHae. It was almost creepy how much they actually looked like each other. Cool that there are two such pleasant faces in the world, but still an eerie evil doppelganger type of casting.


Most UnLookalike Casting
Yeo JinGoo & Park Yoochun
as Young Han JungWoo & Older Hang JungWoo
in I Miss You
Both Yeo JinGoo and Park Yoochun are good-looking human beings, absolutely, but they are not good-looking human beings that even remotely resemble one another. In I Miss You Yeo played the younger version of Park, and unless their character had some major reconstructive surgery, I say no way. Oh, maybe that happened in this weeper? Did the character have plastic surgery? Obviously, I never made it past the first few episodes of this one...



Best Non-Drama Drama
(aka Reality Show)
WIN: Who Is Next
Maybe you know, maybe you don’t, but I’m a Big Bang fan. When YG Entertainment announced they were introducing to the world what would become their next flagship boy group, there was no way I wasn’t going to check it out. The show was a competition-based reality show that pitted friend against friend, which fellow YG artist Psy described laughingly as cruel, for it was pitting family members against one another. Two YG trainee teams competed to win the honor of carrying the YG brand forward, and all of it was aired for the world to see and judge and invest. It was addictive stuff. It had as much drama twisty turns as scripted television (possibly even was scripted, as some accused - har), and was populated by a collection of lovable young dreamers that any drama casting director would have loved to recruit for the next hot new drama about young singing people. Since there was no Dream High or Shut Up Flower Boy Band this year, I got my singing drama fix via this weekly reality show. It was just gravy that the team I was rooting for ultimately won the whole thang.


Most Outside-The-Box Role 
Choice For A Pretty Star
Joo Won
as Park ShiOn
in Good Doctor
Probably to the annoyance of fans of the show (sorry!), I didn’t like the drama—the story, the setup, the conflict, none of it. I didn’t really think it lived in any kind of reality and I could not move past many of the bureaucratic issues in this kind of scenario, but with that said, I think the drama in its pieces managed to find very compelling moments. The actors were good. The message was noble. The overall tone of the show felt appropriate. What I found most worthy of praise was perhaps Joo Won’s delivery of Park ShiOn, a man who suffered a rather severe form of autism but dreamed of becoming a pediatric surgeon. Not only was the role a pretty daring choice, but Joo Won gave a gentle and sensitive performance. I respect and applaud the actor’s choice to pick a role that was beyond convention and have the restraint to deliver the part without overly slipping into mimicry or social stereotyping. This was a good part for him...an acceptable rebound after the early year exercise in drama pointlessness called Level 7 Secret Servant.


Supernatural Power Couple
(Cross-Drama Pairing)
Lee JongSuk & Gong HyoJin
as Park SooHa (I Can Hear Your Voice)
and Tae GongShil (Master’s Sun)

Not to squeeze out the sublime So JiSub, but come on, how awesome would it/could it have been if somehow/somewhere mind-whisperer Park SooHa crossed paths with ghost-whisperer Tae GongShil? Now that’s a noona-dongsaeng relationship that could be all kinds of wacky good times and supernatural sparks. I personally think they would look great together. Not to mention, they were also both such affectionate creatures with pretty bold personalities. Would they or would they not make a pretty amazing Seoul superhero couple!? If romance is asking too much, they could at least be friends? You know, like how friends cameo in on other people’s drama lives just to occasionally say hi and make fangirls like myself giggle in glee. Lee JongSuk could do some mind-reading for Gong HyoJin when So JiSub is misbehaving. Ok, that sounded kinda dirty. You all know what I meant, right?


Most Humble Performance

Go Ara
as Sung NaJung
in Reply 1994
Loud-mouthed, obnoxious, wild-haired hellion! And completely lovable. She was not your typical female character. She slapped. She bit. She shouted her lungs off. She sometimes wore a back girdle. And she was in love with an oppa she’d known all her life and did not know how to channel all that emotion. Go Ara delivered a performance that felt so spontaneous, so humble, we could almost see her type of daughter in every household under the sun, whether in 1994 or 2013. She could have been a cousin, a sister, a friend. She could have been me. Who doesn’t yell at brothers? Who doesn’t whine and shriek at parents? Another rarity about her version of Sung NaJung? She was probably one of the few ladies to pop up in a kdrama to actually rock a curly-Frodo hobbit hairdo without coming off like a punished poodle mutton.


Most[ly] Likable Despite
Being Stuck In Crap Parts
Jung YongHwa & Han ChaeAh
as Park SeJoo & Seo YooKyung
in Mirae’s Choice
I agree with everyone, this show sucked a lot despite having started with such potential. It was unbelievable how it spent every following hour undoing and wrecking whatever had come before. But second half show script suicide aside, two characters started out their story with so much to gain: Jung YongHwa and Han ChaeAh. They were meant to be together until Ahjumma Mirae went time slippy-sliding into the past to muck things up and tricked everyone into thinking the character Younger Mirae was the one all the boys loved—which was totally ridiculous. Just because the show is named after you doesn’t make you automatically the heroine. Oh, wait, it does…hmmm, I hate it when dramas are named after a character, no wiggle room in that, ya know? Anyway, Jung YongHwa impressed me with his major strides in acting improvement (it’s not his fault his character was written completely stalker crazy) and Han ChaeAh showed amazing depth for what could have been a shallow role. Poor Jung. He jumped off of the wreck Heirs right into another bowling pot of drama crap. Guess that is a situatio one would call Lose-Lose.



Kim WooBin v Kim WooBin
Who Could Kick Whose Ass?

(Cross-Drama Comparison)

Kim WooBin
as Park HeungSoo (School 2013) v Choi YoungDo (Heirs)
This is what I would call a Win-Win situatio! Not because I want to see Kim WooBin kick his own ass, of course, although we all know who would win (hint: Kim WooBin), but because it is completely impossible to speculatively guess as to who between the two was the bigger badass of 2013! Kim played two similar yet so different school jjangs. Both had hearts, neither knew how to activate that organ properly, and both had some serious street cred in the ass-kicking line of work. Although, not arguably, Choi YoungDo definitely came off more unhinged than the other, although in his pro column, he was a lot funnier! Nevertheless, again not arguably, both were very sexy damaged goods. I’m not quite sure how ballistic Choi YoungDo would have gone had he actually come up against himself, er, Park HeungSoo, at his rich kid school, but who wouldn’t pay money to see that schoolyard brawl (with whip cream)? Is it so wrong of me to so desperately want to see it happen if only to see Kim WooBin bromance himself?



Best Interpretation of a 
Cuddly Wuddly Chihuahua
(Not An Insult)

Yoon SiYoon
as Enrique Geum
in Flower Boy Next Door
I know being compared to a chihuahua is hardly a complimentary thing, but Yoon SiYoon’s bubbly and yappy delivery of the video game programmer in Flower Boy Next Door demands the association. Not only does he have sharp cheekbones and big brown eyes, the boy tossed out a whole lot of aegyo, did way too much jumping up and down, amazed with his vast collection of giggling, and ran his lines in furious machine gunfire speed. I mean he was pretty pugnaciously adorable, in that he attacked with his wide-eyed yappy cuteness. He was the kind of chihuahua-man personality where at first the receiver of all that affection is all “Oh my, too much, stop nipping at my heels!” to evolving into a fond resignation, “Well, alright, you are pretty damn cute. Here, lick my face.” Ha! Hard to believe he’s 28 years old and gone to the military. *sniff* See you in two years, SiYoon-shi.


Newbie Idol Actor That 
Unexpectedly Impressed
Baro
as Bingure
in Reply 1994
This young rapper from melodious kpop group B1A4 is determined to be a serious actor. This idol turned actor’s following role after this one was playing a mentally handicapped young man—sheesh, this kid doesn’t go the easy route, does he? I mean, for his very first acting gig ever in Reply 1994, he took on a painfully shy introvert from an abusive home who was confused about his sexual orientation and his future as a med student. *mind boggle* That’s a meaty part. He was an angsty oddball, not a very charismatic character, although sweetly portrayed. And not to mention, his big bro/little bro journey with Jung Woo was one of the most quietly sweet storylines of the year. For a real life rapper with loads of swaggering stage bravado to shrink his personality down into a meek house mouse, and then to do it so successfully that I was actually taken aback by the singing story arc because I had actually forgotten this was really an idol, I give him major props. His character surely deserved more airtime, but what else could a big casted show like this show have done? With the world on edge over which suitor the leading lady would pick, his story was short and stifled, but as for the idol slash actor, I look forward to seeing Baro’s career grow.


“Why Didn’t I Love Him Before?” 
Stand-Out Performance
So JiSub
as Joo JooGun
in Master’s Sun
OK, this guy is hugely famous. He’s been around, you know, a really long time. I conquered his brand way back when…I was a fledgling drama viewer. He even starred in one of the pivotal kdrama moments of my drama watching timeline—he was the emo poor guy in Something Happened in Bali. It’s So JiSub! Everyone knows him. He was in 유리구두, Glass Slippers, that redunkulous mega tearfest. Iconic! And then he did a bunch of other boring things after that and I kinda lost track of him, until it was brought to everyone’s attention that the little adorable kid from film The Way Home grew up to look like So JiSub, so then he became the guy that Yoo SeungHo eerily resembled. AND THEN he started doing hip hop, sorta—


cr: CJENMMUSIC Official

—and I was all, “What the monkey hell is going on?” But thankfully, in 2013, he returned to a universe I understood and starred in a show called Master’s Sun, received all kinds of love (deservedly) for being awesomely hilarious and reminding us why he is an actor. JiSub went on the promotional circuit and showed judgmental cynics like myself a whole new side of himself. Not the quiet and aloof JiSub, but a wisecracking charming humor ball.  Ah, the power of a good role and the right leading lady to pull a guy out of his shell. Now, instead of being the ‘Famous Bali Guy Who Looks Like Yoo SeungHo and Does Recreational Hip Hop,’ as I’d come to see him, So JiSub is simply So JiSub for a whole new generation of drama fans. (So JiSub fans, please don’t be angry with me, I just can’t groove to his music, just can’t...)


Totally Delicous But Just-Needs-
The-Right-Vehicle Rising Star

Kim JiSuk
as Tommy Hong & Go YoungSoo
in Cheongdamdong Alice & Wonderful Mama
Every year, I am so sad for this dude. I really like Kim JiSuk. He is completely gorgeous, although I will acknowledge that his type of gorgeous borders on jerkbag good-looks, but there is a comedy about him that keeps him from pure villainy. If only casting directors could see his heart of gold! He’s a likable jerkbag. His star was rising for a bit, but now I see this former crooner is back to being stuck in dead end filler roles. That totally makes me sad. Here’s a thought: he speaks English very well, and we know dramas love having characters fly back after studying abroad, come on drama gods, give him one of those roles. I demand to see him in better parts, in better dramas!!! He doesn’t have to be the lead, as long as he gets landed in a show that isn’t crap for once.


Most Blech Drama Totally
Expected To Be Way Better

Gu Family Book
Two national darlings Prince Lee SeungGi and idol sweetheart Suzy paired up in a fang-tasy romance, the kind of drama that hoped to capitalize on the squee-weee-hearts of fangirls everywhere who dream twilight fantasies of taming a beastly man. These are not my fantasies, of course, and perhaps that explains why I found myself scowling at this drama more than swooning from it. I’m not sure any of these types of supernatural shows ever understand logic, but in this one, I didn’t even enjoy the magical nonsense. Fans of the actors and fairy tale type romances will probably still have a lot to enjoy, but for me, I was just glad it turned out to be the bouncy pad that served to launch my babe Choi JinHyuk’s career.


Subplot Couple:
Wished They Had More Story
Seo InGuk & Kim YooRi
as Kang Woo & Tae YiRyung
in Master’s Sun
I loved these two so much!!! If we consider that Gong HyoJin and So JiSub could fog up a window with their steamy humidity filled sexual tension just by being in proximity to one another, it speaks very highly for the two supporting actors that they were able to shine just as bright with the small roles they had to play in the megastars’ universe. Seo InGuk played stoic bodyguard with the cutest beauty mark under his eye (yes, the description is important, I’m thorough like that!) and Kim YooRi was the delightfully vain actress who wanted him all to herself. Their low presence in the show was one of my rare beefs with Master’s Sun, I definitely wanted more of these two, and less episodic ghost whispering.


Double Award:
Drama Golden Boy of the Year &
Drama Hottie of the Year


Lee JongSuk
as Go NamSoon, Park SooHa
in School 2013, I Can Hear Your Voice
Long explanation is obviously not necessary for this one (unless you’ve been living under a rock). He’s young. He’s easy on the eyes. He smells great, too (how could he not, he looks like a very hygenic young man). Lee JongSuk starred and drove two of the hottest drama bulldozers to air this year and…well, what else can I say? He seems a lovely guy in real life, too, and I liked both his dramas a lot. He shines mighty brightly and his acting, already pretty solid, will likely only get better with age.


Royal Couple I Would Have 
Totally Rooted For Instead!

Yoo AhIn & Kim HaEun
as King Sukjong & Queen InKyung
in Jang Ok Jang
My 2010 Biased & Worst’s Cross-Drama Pairing for “Most Perfect Sageuk Blind Date” (see here) ACTUALLY Became a real sageuk pairing! They weren’t the destined lovely dovey of the drama in which they united, for Jang Ok Jang’s entire premise was a recounting of history where King Sukjong and the historically disliked royal concubine Jang Ok Jang were the OTP. I admit I wasn’t a fan of the drama (Oh, Yooey, am I destined to only like you in films?), however, I definitely got the surprised giggles realizing that Yoo AhIn and Kim HaEun were brought onscreen together in the glory of beautiful Korean costuming. Yoo’s Crown Prince Sukjong and Kim HaEun’s Princess InKyung tied the knot to become a royal couple, if briefly. They did indeed look good together, as I’d long suspected. Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly the drama context I’d imagined between our former scholar rebel from Sungkyunkwan and my fave singing Chuno vixen...I thought their respective fiery screen personalities deserved their own drama pair up…I will keep on hoping.


Another Couple I Would Have 
Absolutely Rooted For Instead
Kim WooBin & Park ShinHye
as Choi YoungDo & Cha EunSang
in School 2013
Maybe it’s all in the eyebrows, but something about Kim WooBin comes across onscreen as a deeply wounded creature, dirt-smeared, and wild. On the opposite end of actor feel, maybe it’s because of her own lack of edgy eyebrows, nothing about Park ShinHye seems remotely in the vicinity of dark. She’s all clean looks and easy appeal, like a bar of soap, grime-proof. The most opposite of opposites as far as actors could go, and their Heirs characters also reflected that large real life variance (sociopath vs social welfare, edgy vs pure). Standing between this potentially magnetic pairing of opposites was Lee MinHo, an actor whose appeal is generally all around pleasant, but in this drama, his character was lukewarm at best, of middling glower power and filled with wobbly emo. He was the everyman. And in a show that was as windbaggy as this one, and let’s face it, full of unrealistic rich student shit, pairing a negative and positive charge would have made a way better and bigger explosion than the weeping sound of Lee and Park wallowing pitifully with each other. Kim WooBin’s Dark Prince and Park ShinHye’s Pure Cinderella might have been just the raw romantic conflict needed that might have made this show a runaway Boys Over Flowers type of insanity hit instead of the mishitting fizzle of fandoms desperately defending their favorite actors.


Most Touchie Couple
Gong HyoJin & So JiSub
as Tae GongShil & Joo JooGun
in Master’s Sun
If I were the significant other of either Gong HyoJin or So JiSub, I would have ripped someone’s hair off. Remember in High Kick 2 when the undeniable chemistry between Daniel Choi and Hwang JungEum was so hot that it created real life conflicts for the actress with her real life boyfriend? That’s kinda how hot HyoJin and JiSub were in this drama. Hey, it happens. I know acting is a job, but it’s a job that could require tongue baths with beautiful people. And no animal is immune to the green-eyed monster when your hottie is rubbing up against another undeniable hottie. Gong HyoJin and So JiSub had the same kind of “are they, aren’t they” sizzle that had everyone wondering and hoping and praying. The fact that the entirety of their drama was set around the foundation of constant grabbing and hugging only made us all the more suspicious, right? Basically, acting or not, in the script or not, it looked like these two were really, really enjoying their job. And we sure did enjoy them enjoying their job, didnt we?


Best Dead Couple
(Cross-Drama Pairing)
Kim JaeWook & Han BoReum
as Lee HyungJoon & Cha HeeJoo/Hannah Brown
in Who Are You & Master’s Sun
Both dead and wandering our world on a plane of existence beyond human ocular capabilities, Kim JaeWook and Han BoReum played characters that were reduced to silence, merely emoting with regretful ghostly eyes as they watched over the people they loved. Unfortunately, as much as dramas like to bend the laws of physics and sanity, love affairs between the dead and the living go beyond societal disapproval, it’s a matter of logistical impossibility. It puts a whole new spin on the idea of a long distance relationship when that distance spans spiritual dimensions. They may have to wait for reincarnation to reunite with their living loves, but in the meantime, these two sweetheart souls should try to find happiness in the afterlife with each other. Both seemed loyal, loving, and smart in life and death—I think they’d be a good fit! Being see-through doesn’t mean love has to be shallow, too.


Best Bedside Manners
(Cross-Drama Pairing)
Jung Woo & Joo SangWook
as Dr. Kim JaeJoon and Dr. Kim DoHan
in Reply 1994 & Good Doctor
I’ve never had a hot doctor, and I’m glad for it, because I cannot imagine if I walked into an exam room and saw either Jung Woo or Joo SangWook there with a smile and a stethoscope. I would blush, stutter, titter, and possibly faint and hit my head and die. If I wasn’t fortunate enough to be put out of my misery, they would think I was suffering from some kind of neurological disorder and ship me off somewhere in a strait jacket. It would just not go well. These two men played two very different types of doctors, one was a jokey and cheerful pre-med, the other a stiff and serious boss-MD. But both were devoted to their patients and dedicated to the job. And both were so ridiculously handsome.


Best Costuming
Heartless City
This wasn’t really a drama with a lot of words, it was more about capturing a feeling. The styling of this show was a feast for the eyes and ears. The clothing, for example, would easily be the envy of fashionistas everywhere, its view of the criminal underworld uniform something a hipster obsessed with prohibition era gangsters would wear about on a night on the town. It was noir in Seoul 2013. What does that look like exactly? Some men wore gaudy patterned shirts, flaunting their disregard for class, but others wore perfectly pressed pinstripes and loafers; and the beautiful women strutted around in glamorous cuts and tiny skirts that left little to the imagination. But costuming in this one went beyond just dress up in pretty wardrobe. One of the more unexpected but delightful way the actors dressed up their characters was in the manner of their speak—all the characters had a way of delivering their lines that was a different type of costume, a masquerade they played for us, the audience, and even with each other. They sneered, teased, taunted, and dripped their words throughout the show, and their manner of speech was at times even more colorful and vivid than merely the visuals.


When Bad Happens To Good People: A Perm Gone Wrong, And They Always Go So Wrong!
Yoon EunHye
as Mirae
in Mirae’s Choice
In 2012, I had the same category where Hwang JungEum and Lee SiYoung provoked my eyes with their awful hair. Every year someone rocks an awful perm, and this year’s most awful goes to Yoon EunHye. Poor Yoon has had a poor run of picking dramas (I Miss You, Lie To Me, Take Care of the Young Lady), nothing of late yielding her a runaway hit, which is somewhat surprising, because she’s a fairly lovable drama heroine with all her tomboyish charm. Add insult to injury, in Mirae’s Choice, not only did they curse her simpering female character to be wooed by both a narcissist and a stalker but also forced her to wear a poodle on her head. The calamity! Yoon’s earnest and not afraid to go humble for her roles, but she is definitely an actress that needs the right script to make it work. She’s unique enough that only a unique script would make her shine just right. She’s like a Goldilocks actress, she needs a script just right, not too trendy, not too melo (recall Missing You? UGH), and this goes without saying, not too stupid. I hope she finds better script mojo in 2014.


Most Victimized Character
Lee MinHo
as Kim Tan
in The Heirs
Maybe it might not be so obvious with my repeated Heirs bashing throughout this entire post, but I’m actually quite the Lee MinHo fan. I swear. I liked curly-haired playboy Lee MinHo in Boys Over Flowers, (unlike many) I liked faux gay Lee MinHo in Personal Taste, I liked macho nerd action star Lee MinHo in City Hunter, I even liked sageuk musa Lee MinHo in Faith. I dare say, none of those were wonderful dramas, but I still very much enjoyed watching the Lee MinHo. I even like Lee MinHo commercials. And this is why I disliked The Heirs so much. Not only is the full title ridiculous—The One Trying To Wear The Crown, Withstand the Weight - The Heirsbut it also made me dislike some of my most favorite actors, Lee MinHo especially. I hated his character. SO MUCH. Any show that makes me root for the psychopath (as hot as the psycho was) instead of the nice guy has problems. Why did Kim EunSook model the character after a petulant ten year old? What was she thinking? He was whiny, he was obsessive, needy, clingy, spoiled, poorly dressed, had bad hair, was oft bleedy, and also according to test scores, the dumbest kid in school. This was not my Lee MinHo. This was not anyone’s Lee MinHo. I don’t know what it was, but it sucked.


Most Visually Appealing Yet
Somewhat Uncomfortable Love Story
Jo InSung & Song HyeGyo
as Oh Soo & Oh Young
in That Winter, The Wind Blows
First of all, what is with all the drama titles trying to impersonate unfathomable lines of poetry? Ugh. I cannot ever remember how the English interpretation goes. They were obviously going for meaningful, but I simply found it strange on the tongue. I don’t want to spoil, but let’s just say that when the chiseled handsome of a nicely vintaged Jo InSung met up against the fragile rose beauty of Song HyeGyo, people liked the look of all the glorious pretty, too bad there was some really uncomfortable wafts of faux-cest. Their romance was always waffling back and forth over the fact that someone was pretending to be someone’s biological sibling! Talk about the inner self-hate one might feel if they were falling in love with their bio-sib...ewk.


Big Stars Galore Drama:
A Reunion Extravaganza
(Cross-Drama Reshuffle)
Go Soo (Empire of Gold, Ha JiWon (Empress Ki)
Jo InSung (That Winter, The Wind Blows)
Lee DaHae (Iris 2, So JiSub (Master’s Sun) 
Song SeungHun (When A Man Loves)
Song HyeGyo (That Winter, The Wind Blows)  
Lee Junki (Two Weeks, Son YeJin (Shark) 
Lee DongWook (Mandate of Heaven) 
Some industry A-Listers came out on the drama field in 2013, such as Lee DongGun (Mirae’s Choice), Choi JiWoo (Suspicious Housekeeper) and Han ChaeYoung (As Genius Lee TaeBaek). Although their individual drama scorecards ran the gamut from utter fail to wild success, the year was still one that was impressively star-studded. While sifting through names, I realized the small degree of separation between many, most of them having first rose to fame alongside one another in the early 2000s. This got me to thinking about how awesome it would be if these monstars were to be scooped into one MegaStar Drama since they are all active these days. It would be like throwing a bunch of rare golden sharks into one big golden tank, and for some, rather epic onscreen reunions. For example, a then big-haired Lee JunKi tried to get between the epic pairing of Lee DongWook and Lee DaHae in My Girl, the lady in question also having worked with Go Soo in Green Rose and Jo InSung in Shoot For the Stars. Song HyeGyo was romanced by Jo InSung in a windy winter in 2013, but he nearly destroyed the drama landscape with his explosive and dangerous chemistry with Ha JiWon in Something Happened in Bali back in 2003, where he pushed So JiSub out of a deadly love triangle. Coincidentally, Ha JiWon, Lee DongWook and Jo InSung have all shared passing screen time in the past as well. And what about handsome Song SeungHun on my roster? Well, he had an Autumn Fairytale with Song HyeGyo and then had a Summer Scent with Son YeJin. But Son YeJin wasn’t short on handsome suitors, she once had a sweet romance in one of my favorite K-films The Classic with Jo InSung. I probably could go on forever playing this game between the ten actors I want in my Mega Drama, but my point is made, it would be one epic romcom. Maybe we could throw in a sprinkle of my fave new generation stars just for the hell of it, just to spice things up, like these cool cats:


Favorite Bromance
Jung KyungHo & Yoon HyunMin
as Jung ShiHyun and Kim HyunSoo
in Heartless City
Underground narcotics mini-kingpin Jung ShiHyun was a complex character, his layers were many, but between all the lies and games, his steadfast loyalty to Kim HyunSoo was solid, his partner, henchman, muscle, and friend. One man was subtlety, the other all flash. The two men decided to take a stand together, and even when it seemed blood and betrayal waited for them at the end of the road, they were determined to cross the finish line together. We all know some shows don’t allow for this kind of love, and this was a show that didn’t allow for any easy relationships, but still their brotherhood was pretty plain to read: they loved each other enough to die for the other.


Second Favorite Bromance
Lee JongSuk & Kim WooBin
A lot has been fangirled already about these two fellows—supermodel costars and real life cohorts—two dudes who starred in a few of the noisiest media machines this year (School 2013, I Can Hear Your Voice, The Heirs), but none of their independent works could compare with the love that kickstarted their love for one another and the rest of the universe’s obsession with them.
The duo showcased their out of this world chemistry in School 2013, a bromance so intense no girls were allowed to be the cheese in their bro-sandwich. The fact that the boys seemed to be besties off-screen as well only fueled the fangirl flames. We could all sense this was a forever bromance, timeless, and possibly with another costarring drama in the future?


Best Cinematography
The Blade and the Petal
Actually, The Blade and the Petal and Heartless City were both wonderfully lush on film. Their use of light on film to capture and convey both emotion and story was beautifully done, and so clearly an object goal for both shows. I ultimately gave the nod to Petal because beautiful traditional Korean clothing make my knees weak—they are luscious, sensual, and dramatic. Add that kind of gorgeous costuming to the sorts of vivid and rich stages set and every shot looked like a painting. Really, you could freeze frame practically every second in this show and it was eye orgasms all the time. This entire drama felt like some kind of existential exploration of the sensory genetics behind an action sageuk. What is the sound the wind makes when true love meets for the first time? How does the hair rustle when death is narrowly missed as an arrow zips by? How softly does the war torn land cry after a bloody massacre? And how does one screen the sound, smells, and feels of the world around us by light and color alone? The most chatty and enigmatic conversations that happened in this show in fact occurred between everything else but the humans. The scenery had a lot to say, and it had a good point: be wowed by how gorgeous I am. Kinda cool, actually, in terms of cinematic eyeball delight.


Most Adorkable Dorky Dork 
Cutie Pie, And He Sings
Jo JongSuk
as Shin JoonHo
in You’re the Best Lee SoonShin!
I am a huge fan of this guy. He’s hilarious, he can really belt out a song, he’s a great actor, and above all, he’s not your typical male lead. He’s pleasing to look at, but he’s not those run of the mill tall, pretty mannequin type of guys all over the drama landscape. No, Jo’s an everyday dork of a good guy type of handsome. I think dramas are desperately missing this type of male hero these days with feline male prettiness being the preferred type of face, so I’m grateful we have him to vary and warm up the kdrama leading men roster with all his earthy charms.


Best Teen Romance…
That Never Actually Happened

Lee JongSuk & Park SeYoung
as Go NamSoon and Song HaKyung
in School 2013
Lee JongSuk was a quiet, wordless fellow who slept through all of his classes. As a reformed gang member, he kept a low profile. Park SeYoung was the smartest girl in the class, beautiful and haughty, the kind of girl that would normally have nothing to do with the boy from the wrong side of the tracks.  If this wasn’t the most awesome foundation for an epic teenage romance between bad boy and good girl, I just don’t know anything about the universe.  The two ridiculously attractive and likable characters were given just enough space to grow affection for one another and just enough time to develop an interest two steps beyond mere friendship; they had a few noteworthy glances here and there, but ultimately, the script ran out of hours before that part of the story could be explored. Unusual for a kdrama, running out time before story, but it does happen, I guess. I was very sad to see that these potential lovebirds didn’t at least get a chaste little onscreen kiss to give us fans a smile for the love story that was destined to happen at university later. Right?


A Handsome Reason To Celebrate 2013
Choi JinHyuk
as Gu WolRyung & Kim Won
in Gu Family Book & The Heirs
After Pasta, I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting for this guy to blow up. In 2013, it finally happened, the ROK drama watching population finally got a load of his puppy brown eyes, lopsided shy smile, and devastatingly handsome head of hair and saw what I’d been drooling about for so long. Drop dead gorgeous, but with enough warmth in him that makes him come off a good guy. In Gu Family Book, he played an emo gumiho who fell in love then lost his supernatural nuggets to rage. In Heirs, he played Lee MinHo’s handsome chaebol brother. He was totally emo in that, too. Funny how his rise to fame came off two dramas I didn’t really like—but he had fabulous coif as both hairy supernatural fox creature and rich corporate mega-jerk who hated his family. I’m just glad his star has finally hit earth cus now he’s getting parts left and right and upside down! Woohoot. Now, I’m waiting for his fellow Pasta alum HyunWoo to blow up…can they be in a drama together again? Please Drama Gods, I desperately beg.


Most Taciturn & Invisible
Example of Handsome

Kim JaeWook
as Lee HyungJoon
in Who Are You
Kim JaeWook is a rock star—I mean, like, literally. He plays the guitar, sings, and is in a band named after a Beatles song. He’s just cool. He went away to mandatory military service, I cried, and now he’s back; Who Are You was his comeback role on the dramascape. I checked out the drama because of him. I think Kim is pretty awesome in everything and can really deliver a role when challenged, unfortunately, I don’t think he’s being challenged. (SPOILER ALERT) When the second male lead of the drama is introduced and killed in the first ten minutes of the show, I gotz a big ass problem with the show. When he comes back to the show in sporadic bursts as a ghostly manifestation that doesn’t talk, I got A REALZ BIG ASS problem with it! What kind of crack-brained show does this!? *so confused* Kim JaeWook looked absolutely great, but that’s hardly surprising. Welcome back to the drama world. I hope you got your feet wet, because next show, I want, expect, demand to see and hear more of you!


Most Uninspired Performance
Moon GeunYoung
as Yoo Jung & Han SeKyung
in Goddess of Fire & Cheongdamdong Alice
Am I never going to like anything recent that she is in? Honestly, aside from the really cool poster for Goddess of Fire, this ridiculous and lengthy historical drama loosely based on a real royal female ceramist was a major snooze fest. When Kim Bum and Moon GeunYoung were outed as a real life couple after wrap, I thought, hmph, usually people who dig each other in real life while filming have more chemistry. These two had surprisingly little television-spark. Were they trying to hide it? And then there was Cheongdamdong Alice which didn’t even have redeeming poster art. It was an exercise in pointlessly humiliating Moon’s character hour after hour. I’m left with one seriously lingering question: is it her drama selection I don’t care for, or just Moon?


Yep, we’re rich, famous, and in love—fans, deal with it! 
Most Unexpected Superstar Couples 
Totally Awesomely Outed In 2013
Won Bin & Lee NaYoung 
Rain & Kim TaeHee 
Teddy & Han YeSeul
Kim Bum & GeunYoung 
Kim WooBin & Yoo JiAhn
Sung Joon & Suzy 
Sooyoung & Jung KyungHo
Lee SeungGi & Yoona 
Jung Woo & Kim YooMi
It was a big year for celebrity love…revealed. And fan heartbreak. I think a lot of fans like to stay in denial about the love lives of our favorite actors, but at the same time, we are just dying to know who’s hookin’ up with who! Am I right? My jaw dropped when I heard megastar Won Bin was caught sneaking about with fellow megastar Lee NaYoung. And Rain and Kim TaeHee, a little random, but both very pretty people with a track record of bad dramas. Ha. Kidding, kidding - I love Rain and Kim. Teddy and Han YeSeul totally make sense to me, with both of them having strong ties to the States. These are all seriously attractive and well-matched power couples. And I dunno about anyone else, but the duo I’m most fascinated with is Jung Woo and Kim YooMi—damn. Now that’s an explosive combo. We all fell in love with the dorky Jung Woo, of course. Kim YooMi was hands down the most killer female character of 2013. Both gave magnetic performances that blew me away. And then I learned these two charisma individuals were a charisma pair in real life. Amazing. I guess it is true, birds of a feather…you know, share a feather bed. (Disclaimer: I do not know if these couples are still together at the time of this posting, you know, romance can be fleeting among the beautiful)


Sweetest Moment
Stuck In a Pig Pit With A Prince
in Goddess of Fire
Before the more credentialed and older (and yawner) cast of Moon GeunYoung, Kim Bum, and Lee SangYoon took over the storyline, the younger cast lead by spunky Jin JiHee and No YoungHak spent a few episodes getting us ready for the love triangle to bore us come, setting up the love connection between poor pottery genius and earnest young royal. The first meeting between pottery student and princeling happened in the least romantic of places, in a dirty pig pit. No YoungHak fell in, Jin JiHee grudgingly tried to pull him out…and they both ended up trapped in the dugout. They blamed each other for causing the tumble into it, and then snuggled the hours away for warmth. They didn’t immediately like one another, of course, for she was way too feisty and loudmouthed for his liking and he was way too smug and perfect for hers. Naturally, they kinda felt the first pangs of young love for each other. Cute. When she realized he was the prince of her entire kingdom, you can imagine how she freaked out. CUTE. She rather liked her head attached to her shoulders and so wanted nothing to do with him. The prince, however, had different plans regarding their future. Sad to say, this was only the beginning of the constant threat of beheading that awaited the poor ceramist.


Most Badass Moment by 
a Badass Mofo in a Suit
Corridor Fight Scene
in Heartless City
Inside a narrow corridor leading into a dark factory, a dozen footsteps trampled the quiet, their footsteps splashing water and concrete. Suddenly, from behind, the Doctor’s Son, Jung KyungHo, appeared and men crumpled to ground. An entourage of goons, as one collective identity, turned around, almost in slow motion, to face their one man attacker. The man in the suit was after another drug lord, who stood in the back, watching. Our hero grabbed a fallen man’s knife and jacket, wrapped his blade hand with the cloth, and lunged forward. And through the narrow, dimly lit tunnel, our lone wolf started his graceful dance, and it was beauty in motion the way he killed. And so easily he did it, the blade flashing and slashing, systematically stabbing and cleaving through the necks of every obstacle in his way. He ended his ballet of death with his own personal blade. The Doctor’s Son had carved his way to his target, who was the only one left standing. His prey backed away from the approaching hunter, waiting for the inevitable.


Sexiest Moment
Manly Pillow Fight!
in School 2013
I could have gone with something obvious, such as all the sexy sex and glaring that happened in Heartless City, or all the gratuitous grabbing and rubbing skinship that happened in Master’s Sun between Gong HyoJin and So JiSub, or even all that noona lovin’ in I Can Hear Your Voice, but I’ll go unconventional sexy and choose pillow fight! After 15 episodes of two angry boys throwing fists and eyeballs of hate, they made up! And I guess this is how boys reconcile their differences? They read comics books and have pillow fights! What’s sexy about this? What isn’t sexy about it? Do you even see those uniforms? Can those pants be any more tan or fitted? I think not. Sure, there’s no flying feathers, but there are flying cute boys!


Most Slyly Charming Moment
There’s Lipstick On Your Shirt
in Master’s Sun
Along with everyone else, I was completely charmed by the many aspects of this supernatural fantasy. I, too, fell for the main couple of Master’s Sun, but to my complete surprise, I might have loved the sub-couple even more! Their unpredictable porcupine romance was delightfully quirky—Seo InGuk kept running and Kim YooRi kept chasing. I love a good chase scene! Most ticklishly, when it became clear to Kim YooRi’s character that her heart’s desire wanted someone else, she showed ladies everywhere the best way to quickly and cleverly mark a girl’s territory when the boy you want is trying to run into the arms of another girl—just spit on him. Or, in this case, lean in close and surprise him by pressing your perfect red lips right onto his starched white shirt. That’s as loud a sign as any! HANDS OFF, HO! Lipstick is very difficult to remove and it definitely tells a story, one that no rival lady could misunderstand.


Total WTF Moment Hours
All of The Heirs
Although Heirs did have moments I enjoyed—and by moments, I of course mean Kim WooBin’s war on normal social behaviorthe rest of it was disaster. Many, many scenes made no sense. Its filming style was musical histrionics, its writing direction even more so, and worst of all, none of the characters ever showed any genuine moments of being from planet earth. It screened like the summary of a drama—we’ll hit this point, then this point, then Lee MinHo will do this, then Park ShinHye will feel this, then Kim WooBin will glower like this, then everything will go nuts, then happy ending—it felt pointless from beginning to end, no real emotions between the mile markers. Penned by the writer who gave us such drama opinion dividers as A Gentleman’s Dignity and Secret Garden, dramas that have avid detractors as well as devoted fandoms, but who was also the writer of full-hearted dramas like City Hall and On Air, which featured strong and unique characters in a relatively coherent setting. Much of this show felt like the pandering and chasing of ratings, and frankly, every new hour was a cruel disappointment. Certainly many who do not like Kim EunSook’s writing style probably hadn’t expected much in the first place, but with her name behind a collection of so many big names, this drama fan, however, foolishly did.


Laugh Out Loud Moments
Every Drinking Scene
in Reply 1994
Imagine if someone recorded the antics of you and your closest friends while y’all were getting slosh-faced—well, the seven friends of Reply 1994 often gathered in a circle to knock back a few dozen. The drinking ritual started early in the show when they were merely boarders living under the same roof and continued on as they became best friends. What didn’t change was that each and every one seemed to have their own drinking peculiarities, which often made for laugh out loud hilarity for the tv voyeur watching…and of course, the very awkward consequences the characters faced the next morning were just as entertaining. And oh my funny bones, all the drunken winking and biting by Go Ara...


Favorite OST Song

src: newkpopmelody20
Every Day
by 조정희 (Jo JungHee)
from Heartless City
I love this song. The voice. The longing. The misery. It hits all the right notes and fires them into the chest. Makes me want to know more about this woman who sings with so much pain about the man who is making her wait in the dark. Will he ever come to her? Or will she wait forever, wondering, wanting. The song feels so much, tells its own story about the nature of love; this song forgets the umbrella, just stands in the storm with a face lifted to the drenching.


Second Favorite OST

src: newkpopmelody20
Touch Love
by Yoon Mirae
in Master’s Sun
This simple but sweet ballad went up against GD’s onslaught against the charts last fall, and even came out on top a few times. Battle of the hip hop heavyweights! Not only did Yoon Mirae’s song capture Gong HyoJin’s sweet longing for So JiSub’s love so tenderly and sum up the mood of its drama Master’s Sun perfectly, this little song has since debut and chart topping become a favorite parody song to use in Korean variety when pushing together mismatched couples who cannot be together, but oh so desperately want to touch love. When it plays over any scene, one immediately recalls the hilarious and sweet nature of Master Sun’s main couple, then transplants that irony right onto whatever couple is being mocked! Pure comedy gold. Only a song that carries so much in its DNA could accomplish such cultural notoriety and become a pop culture stamp.


Most Underrated & Misused Cast
You’re The Best Lee Soon Shin!
How many people suffered through all of this one? I bet a surprisingly large number despite the wreck of a show. There were many in the cast—cute IU, adorable Jo JongSuk, Jung Woo, Lee JiHoon—that made us all grudgingly tune in for the sporadic amounts of cute. So much wasted talent. I mean, this show had a lot going for it, there was no need for the writers to try so hard to ruin every moment. And yet, they found a way. As they always do.


Triple Award:
Worst Drama of the Year,
Stupidest Drama Name of the Year,
& Most WTF Writing of the Year

The Heirs
Well, at least the actors had fun making it. Does it feel like I’m picking on this show? Well, that’s what happens when a woman’s anticipation has a face full of mud thrown into it. Those who wear the crown, apparently, not only feel the weight, but get crushed by it. You would think there couldn’t possibly be a wrong turn with any show that puts Lee MinHo, Kim WooBin, and Park ShinHye in a school uniform and then forces them into a love triangle (literally forces them into an inexplicable love triangle). The universe always has a way of reminding us that crap can always be farmed. Seems rough to call Heirs the worst drama of the year with such tough competition (cough, Level 7 Secret Servant) but this one did something to personally offend me: it collected three of my favorite—my favorite damnit—actors and then proceeded to do all it could to absolutely destroy their acting credibility. Can a bad drama make even good actors look like bad actors? This was a show that had me shaking my head at even Park ShinHye, and she’s my girl! I guess I now have a definitive answer: a rotten script corrupts absolutely and completely.


Most Overrated Yet Underrated
I Can Hear Your Voice
My award title makes no sense? Well, this was a ratings success and established Lee JongSuk as a solid actor that could carry a romantic lead role and not just a rebellious boy drama. It was overrated in that people focused a lot on the noona-killer construct, so much so that the ridiculous plot was forgiven. It was not as good a show as everyone thought. It was also not as bad a show as some others did. It was underrated because I know a few drama watchers who thought this show was ass dumb, people who weren’t Lee fans and therefore nothing worked for them. I think that’s unfair. Even if the clearly pandering nature of the show of pretty young boy and older woman loveline was taken out, I thought there were some pretty solid performances in this one that made it a well done effort. 


I Must Give It Another Try…
One Day

Nine: Time Travel Nine Times
I’ve received a few emails from fellow drama fans this year who adamantly asserted that this drama was mind-blowing twisty great. I’ve read other bloggers say the same. I don’t know if it was because I was burned out from all the time travelling of the previous 2012 year, but I could not get in the mood for it. I did watch the first episode, and it was okay, but it didn’t grab me. I told myself I would go back and watch it later, and now in 2014, I still haven’t watched it. With the piles of accolades it has received from drama fans, I know this is a drama I must keep on my watch list. Does anyone have anything that might cajole and motivate a fangirl to take the plunge sooner?


What A Way To End 2013
A G-Dragon & Kim WooBin 
Bromance Beginning
Who knew Big Bang’s leader G-Dragon had a long line of male admirers wanting some affection from the rapper? Ever since GD won the best couple award with the comedian HyungDon last year, he appears willing to accept applications for his next bromance. And the male stars out there are circling for some action. As far as applicants go, I think GD could do a lot worse than one of the hottest stars of 2013. When Kim WooBin, actor and host for music program M! Countdown announced, somewhat shyly and a little out of nowhere, that he’d like to befriend G-Dragon because he’s a huge fan but lacked the nerve to approach the megastar, the teasings of bromance began. M!Countdown connected a surprised WooBin to G-dragon by phone, and it seemed a new hyung-dongsaeng relationship was now in the works. To have seen Kim WooBin boyishly pump his fists in pure fanboy delight when GD cheered "WooBin Fighting!" was to see total cuteness. Their entire convo was too adorable. We all know what this means, right? Now GD is pals with THREE vampire idols from Vampiretus (ha) and a Lee JongSuk by association. Rumor has long had it that anybody who tells GD that they love him will get the sentiment fairly easily parroted back. 
Apparently, it’s true, he’s easy (to love): in a delightful twist, during the phone chat, GD kindly said that his own 2014 New Year’s resolution will be to get closer to Kim WooBin. *clunk* That’s the sound of me fainting and hitting the ground.

13 comments:

  1. It's here!!!

    I truly enjoyed reading this as I've always loved your year-end posts. So humorous and so accurate! If I tried to talk about all the things I agree with you about, then this comment would end up way too long, so I'm not even gonna bother :D But it definitely seems that we see eye to eye about almost every drama we both watched in 2013 (with a few exceptions perhaps ;D). And your awards and titles go to the right people and dramas indeed.

    So once again, a truly awesome post. I'm glad you found the time to finish it up. It was worth it :)

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  2. Hahah -- Indigo, you always say the nicest things!!! And you are always so kind to take the time to comment! I know, I too noticed we have very similar drama tastes - dare I say, good drama tastes? ;-P Have you checked out High School Love On at all yet? I don't know if it's just me, but I just find it really quite charming.

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    Replies
    1. Actually yeah, I've been planning to check out High School Love On. I was a little bothered by the age difference between the main leads, but I've been told that they're keeping it very innocent. I'd honestly be creeped out if there was any real kissing. Otherwise, I have only heard good stuff about it, so I might try it out if I find time for it.

      Delete
    2. It is an insane age gap on the wrong end of the age gap ruler -- agree! But the show is really innocently sweet, part of why I like it maybe? =)

      Delete
    3. Just dropped by to say I started the drama. And you're right, it's pretty darn cute ;)

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  3. Dnoella!!! :D I loved reading this! SO. MUCH. ❤ Thank you for pushing through to actually finish this post, even though it's much later than you intended.

    Real Life's been really hectic, so to read this entire post meant that I didn't shut down my laptop and had this page open for 3 days straight (I *think* it was 3 days!) while I read this epic post in portions, so that I could not only digest properly what you say, but also savor the writing, coz you always have such a delicious way with words. (Yum!)

    I particularly agree with the accolades for Kim Woo Bin (Woobie my Wuv ❤).. With an objective a lens as is possible for a fangirl with hearts in her eyes, I think your praise for his performances in 2013 are well-deserved. ;)

    I also completely agree - with every! molecule! in my drama-loving body! - on what you wrote about Heirs. How bad it is, how badly written the characters are, and how it ruins our impressions of actors. I really liked Lee Min Ho after City Hunter, but Kim Tan made me so bleepin' mad that LMH has been relegated to my bad books. Well, until he blows me away with a good showing in a better role and a better show, that is. Until then, though, Kim Tan has ruined LMH for me. Such an awful character that I couldn't believe I was supposed to root for him. Ugh.

    As for Nine.. I liked it on a mental level.. it was twisty, interesting and kept me on my toes. But weirdly, it never hooked me emotionally, even though I sometimes even shed tears for the characters. I can't explain it. I'm not in the majority, certainly, even though I know other viewers who felt similarly. My point is.. maybe Nine's just not your thing?

    Thanks again for a wonderful read, Dnoella! I'm selfishly hoping you'll manage to post more - just so that I can read you more! ^.~

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    Replies
    1. Hey kfangurl! Long time no chat! I know what you mean about real life being hectic, I feel you girl! Thanks so much for taking the time to read it all!!! It was a looong post. =)

      Ah, Kim WooBin - what a lovely man. Between the two of us mega Kim WooBin fans, we might have to change our blog names! LOL. But I'm so glad you thought the same as I did about Heirs - I just didn't get that show - how it could be so awful with such great actors. It was a freak of nature, that one!

      I think you are right about Nine, maybe it's just not for me. But I hate feeling like I'm left out, you know? Heh. Everyone else loved it, why can't I get into it?

      =)

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  4. Thank you thank you for showing that the Emperor has no clothes -- "Heirs" was absolutely the worst script for all involved. I'm a die-hard Lee Min Ho fan but I cringed through the whole series, while hoping that something, anything would save this storyline. I ended up just watching it for the "scenery". And I agree that the bad boy should have gotten the girl...

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    Replies
    1. I love that -- Emperor has no clothes -- probably the most perfect way to sum up this drama, just brilliant.

      Delete
  5. It's so true about two underrated and under used two Kims, Kim JuSuk and Kim Jae Wook. They deserve something better.What happened to Kim Jae Wook? He was cast out in the middle of Inspiring Generation. After he was gone in the drama, there is nothing inspiring in the plot!! Both shine despite of their often second lead roles, I must say.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hey, Dnoella!

    I just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for The Sunshine Award. If you have time, I've got some interesting questions to ask you, here’s the link: http://saryre.blogspot.com/2014/10/you-are-my-sunshine-aka-sunshine-award.html

    ReplyDelete
  7. i didn't know whether you get it or not, my whole ramble on how much i loveeeedddd your blog and how our taste in dramas is always the same.

    i click the publish button and the post are missing. *cries hard* if somehow you didn't get the post, can i just suggest to you the two dramas of 2014 you should've watched?? its Liar Game because its my fave of this years and Angel Eyes because i wanted you to become a fan of Lee Sang Yoon as i've become this year :PP have a nice day and i hoped to hear from you soon XDD

    ReplyDelete

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