A Newbie Reviews: Dramas of 2010

As the year 2010 comes to a close, I feel a little shell-shocked at how quickly time has passed by. Pretty soon, I’ll reach one year since I first become a fansubber/translator and since I started this very blog. By extension, this is the first year-end review I’m writing so please bear with me as I try to be as objective and impartial as possible. Not only will I be reviewing dramas that aired this year that I watched, but a few that I watched for the first time this year although they aired in previous years. Brace yourselves, this is going to be a long one.

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Possible Extension for Personal Taste?

I’m not sure how I feel about this. It’s difficult to think of a time when an extension benefited a drama, especially one where the pace is as good as that of Personal Taste. MBC is in talks of extending Personal Taste by 4 episodes, but has taken to polling netizens of what their opinions are about said extension. I’m just hoping the netizens they speak to are of the same mind as the rest of us are and say they’d like to keep it at 16 episodes. Sure, it’d be nice to see 4 more episodes of the wonderful chemistry between Sohn Ye Jin and Lee Min Ho, but not at the expense of the quality of Personal Taste. One can only hope, right?

Falling for Personal Taste

Just a disclaimer before I commence with this post… you’re in for a really long one. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya. 😉

There once was a woman named Park Gae In. She was a well-meaning but extremely naive young lady who clumsily stumbled her way through life, banging into things and unintentionally causing trouble but causing the people around her to ultimately fall for her charm and adorableness. She had only been in a few relationships in all her life because she was what could be considered the clingy type who usually fell head over heels without giving much thought to whether or not the man was worth her time. Although this could indicate foolishness on her part, Park Gae In is a woman who develops trust in people easily and is forever trying to see the bright side of things, always picking herself up after she falls.

She takes a huge tumble when she discovers that her best friend of more than a decade, Kim In Hee, has seduced her beloved boyfriend, Han Chang Ryul, all the way to the altar which is where she finds out about both of their betrayals in a humiliating, traumatic moment. Not even 24 hours later, she finds out that her old friend Lee Won Ho, steals almost all of her money and uses a lease on her house to pay back debts he has incurred after falling for a scam and her overbearing father is returning to Korea in a matter of a few weeks. But what does our heroine Gae In do? She mopes for a few days and then jumps onto her feet again, albeit in a bumbling manner, trying to get her life back on track.

Enter Jeon Jin Ho. Motivated and hard-working, there is very little to distinguish him from a human robot. All he focuses on is work, with his human side only coming out (tee-hee) when his mother is involved. He loves his mother more than anyone else in the world, you see. He encounters our blundering heroine Park Gae In by chance and they automatically are left with bad impressions of each other, she sizing him up as a stuck-up pervert while he considers her an inept old maid. However, they are inevitably thrown into a living situation that they both feel will be a dreadful experience, but which winds up humanizing both of them in ways they would never have expected.

Although they are against this living arrangement at first due to their mutual dislike of each other, Gae In’s incessant attempts to try and make nice with Jin Ho start having their effect. He begins to accept her eager, enthusiastic tendencies with resignation at first, but later enjoys her presence, letting her and her messy ways torpedo their way into his reserved, orderly life. And once that happens, he’s subject to assumptions and incredibly untidy houses, forcing him to endure it all gritting his teeth all the while.

But one day, Gae In and Jin Ho both find themselves warming up to the other. Gae In begins waiting for him on the stoop outside when he comes home late, and Jin Ho automatically races out the moment he hears her break something or yell out in pain, ready to pick up the pieces for her and chastise her for being careless yet again. They start to mean more to each other than they would’ve imagined, and despite the hindrance THE GAYYYY would normally present, they start developing feelings that push past the boundaries of friendship, although they aren’t aware of it yet.

Our clueless hero and heroine of the story have some great friends by their side that aren’t afraid to verbally slap some sense into their besties when they need a wakeup call, and we cue in Lee Young Seon and Noh Sang Jun, some of the most lovable sidekicks to our protagonists that I remember in recent k-drama history. Thanks to Young Seon and Sang Jun, the murky “friendship” that our lovely protagonists have cultivated grows more and more complicated. Despite their roles in mucking up the friendship between Gae In and Jin Ho into something more, Young Seon and Sang Jun provide hilarious comic relief with their great senses of humor and the great chemistry between the actor and actress.

But of course since this is a k-drama, there are second fiddles for both of our protagonists (with Jin Ho having multiple fiddles). It seems that the evil witch In Hee has conspired to make her ex friend Gae In’s romantic life a living hell, not seeing it as enough that she stole Chang Ryul away, she decides to go after Jin Ho as well, despite her initial belief that she wasn’t the right gender for him. She refuses to accept that He’s Just Not That Into Her (Javabeans’ clever usage of the tagline from the book and movie) and relentlessly pursues Jin Ho, despite his numerous shutdowns of her advances. On the flip side of Jin Ho’s romantic dilemmas, there is Choi Do Bin. He is much more discreet about his feelings towards Jin Ho, the sincerity of his interest in him simultaneously heartbreaking and innocent. On Gae In’s side, her wishy-washy ex Chang Ryul has crawled back, regretting wholeheartedly his foolhardy decision to dump her for her witch of an ex-friend as he attempts fruitlessly to get Gae In to care for him again.

Despite all of these obstacles that plague Gae In and Jin Ho from all sides, nothing can get in the way of their twoo luv. What Jin Ho needed was not a shameless barracuda like In Hee but someone to balance him out, provide some yang to his yin and complement his reserved personality which Gae In does perfectly. And what Gae In was in dire need of was a revelation that the way she staunchly remained an optimist despite numerous disappointments could ultimately be her own downfall. Jin Ho being the ultimate realist was just what she needed to disillusion her lingering feelings for Chang Ryul and see him for the simpering, sweet-talking wolf in sheep’s clothing that he really was. As they shared drinks on the deck of Sanggojae, shared an umbrella in the rain and played shooting games at the arcade with her decked out in men’s garb complete with a mustache, Jin Ho and Gae In accepted their feelings for each other and recognized how vital the other person is to their very existence. In order to humanize Jin Ho from the robot he was before and Gae In from the constant ball of hope she was prior into someone a little more realistic, they needed to fall in love.

After a long period of suffering through simmering frustration and giving up on pushing away their feelings, Jin Ho and Gae In have finally accepted their feelings for each other despite the assumption of THE GAYYYY constantly posing as the biggest foe to their love. Jin Ho has let this charade go on for so long that he’s lost for a way to clear up the misunderstanding, while Gae In is in turmoil because she’s fallen for someone whom she believes to be gay, and wants nothing more to be able to stay by his side in whatever way she can, even if she’s ruining her life by committing to love someone who could never love her back. However, once Jin Ho hears the admission of Gae In’s feelings the moment she confesses to Chang Ryul about her revenge plan, all of that falls away and all he can see is her. In a scene fraught with intensity and tension, Jin Ho strides to his love, forcing her to face him and announcing that this game is officially over. And following this declaration is one of the most passionate kisses I’ve ever seen from a k-drama or movie that sent me into a tittering frenzy and drove me to rewatch that very scene at least a hundred times. After seeing Lee Min Ho‘s subpar kisses with Gu Hye Sun in Boys Before Flowers, I figured that was the way he normally kissed, but he blew me away as he deliberately pulled Sohn Ye Jin towards him and met her lips with his. I’d been on the fence about whether or not I found him attractive because I couldn’t move past his Gu Jun Pyo, but this kiss shoved me off said fence to the OMG-Lee-Min-Ho-is-so-FINE side of the pasture. I still get breathless when I rewatch the end scene of episode 10 and fantasize about what it was like to be Sohn Ye Jin in those few minutes. I’m anticipating next week’s episodes so much that it’s probably unhealthy to be this obsessed, but I’m feeling slightly guarded because I’m afraid the kiss possibly wasn’t Jin Ho’s confession of his love for Gae In. The niggling thought that it might have been Jin Ho’s fantasy came to mind (just like he imagined dragging Gae In out of the hospital away from Chang Ryul). If the kiss wasn’t a fantasy and actually did happen, then what if Jin Ho tells Gae In afterwards that he did it so they could finish off the revenge plan with a bang? What if he’s so afraid of making it known what his true intentions were moving into Sanggojae that he retracts this declaration of love and goes back to the aggravating Jin Ho of previous episodes? Only time will tell. With this, I will leave you with one last reminder of the wonderful, wonderful kiss of episode 10 to tide y’all over ’til Wednesday rolls around. Hope you’ve enjoyed this very long post and until next time!

Yes, I am aware that I went a tad bit overboard with the screencaps for the kiss. But can you blame me? ^^

The Halfway Mark II

A tangent before I start my second installment of The Halfway Mark.. getting good, clear screencaps is a lot harder than I thought it’d be. Just sayin’.

As of now, Personal Taste is still 16 episodes long, which makes me feel that the drama has been going at a great pace. It’s not draggy or boring at all, and I’m loving how the writers are making progress with the storylines that seemed to be connected haphazardly at first because of the faulty editing, but now have been showing an improvement in flow.

Sohn Ye Jin is by far the best thing about this drama, and watching her act as Park Gae In has solidified my major girl-crush on her. Although the drama itself has been pretty light and fluffy until the most current episodes, her acting has been anything but. She manages to bring depth to a character that could come off as foolhardy and irritating so that Gae In is lovable and naive, but not stupid. Gae In knows what’s what, and despite spur of the moment decisions she makes usually because of her endless reservoir of empathy for others, she knows when to say no and what situations call for fighting back.

But the great thing about Sohn Ye Jin in Personal Taste is that she’s masterful at balancing both Gae In’s cute, almost child-like side with her serious side as well. I’ve only seen Sohn Ye Jin in some of the movies she’s been in, and I never would have expected that she could pull off acting so adorably clueless, but I love that she wasn’t afraid to “tarnish” her image as many netizens have been claiming she’s been doing as Park Gae In. In my opinion, being able to feel secure enough to appear onscreen in sweats and no makeup unlike every other actress in k-dramas (*ahem perfect Lee Da Hae in Chuno) is testament to SYJ’s abilities as a serious actress. And I think she still looks beautiful in spite of the au naturale look.

Lee Min Ho is also a winner in his portrayal of Jeon Jin Ho. His coming out scene in episode 7 was beautifully executed, with outstanding acting from everyone involved, but Lee Min Ho brought tears to my eyes as he painfully squeezed his eyes shut before making the false admission that he was gay. I’m not going to deny the fact that I was highly skeptical of Lee Min Ho‘s ability to be a successful counterpart to Sohn Ye Jin in terms of acting because SYJ is so amazing, but despite the fact that he’s not quite at her level yet, he’s definitely proven to me that he’s come a long way since his Boys Before Flowers days.

The friendship between Jin Ho and Gae In has been in murky territory for a few episodes now, but both sides have taken significant strides in realizing and dealing with their feelings (Jin Ho more aware of his than Gae In is of hers), which I’m excited to see unfold even further in the episodes to come. At the table readings before the drama aired, witnesses gushed that Lee Min Ho and Sohn Ye Jin had amazing chemistry, which I heartily agree with. Not only do they look so effin’ good together, but I can see that Lee Min Ho is playing off of Sohn Ye Jin‘s strength as an actress, and that in turn is doing wonders for his character as well. Their camaraderie is apparent and I’m thinking they’re in the running to making it onto my favorite couples of k-dramas list.

I know that my entry is getting entirely too long, but I just have to gush about the best friends of the main characters before I conclude. Jo Eun Ji who plays Gae In’s best friend Young Seon came off as slightly typical at first as the female lead’s BFF, but Jo Eun Ji has been great at making Young Seon utterly likable. Jung Sung Hwa is a riot as Noh Sang Jun, Jin Ho’s sunbae and friend, and I love his chemistry with Lee Min Ho. Sang Jun is the perfect man for someone like Jin Ho to be friends with, because despite the fact that they are polar opposites, they balance each other out and complement each other nicely. (Gotta love some bro-lovin, especially when Sang Jun is involved.)

In short, Personal Taste has vastly improved as it has hit its halfway mark, and I’m greatly pleased at its progression so far. I left out some things I wanted to discuss (such as how much the character of In Hee infuriates me and the sheer greatness of Ryu Seung Ryong‘s Choi Do Bin) but I can save that for a later post. Thanks for reading, and hope you’re enjoying Personal Taste as much as I am! And with that, I’ll leave you with this final screencap:

Because you just know that this is bound to be the next pig-rabbit. I personally think this is way cuter than the pig-rabbit, but that’s just me. 😀