I present to you… Korea’s Nodame!

Naeildo - The Korean version of Nodame

Nae-il – The Korean version of Nodame. Credit: asianwiki.com

Dawww! Doesn’t she look adooorable? And very Nodame-ish, at that.

I really hope that Naeil’s Cantabile (aka Tomorrow Cantabile; the Korean remake of the hit anime adaptation / Japanese drama Nodame Cantabile) will live up to my expectations – which are really high at the moment – mainly because of the leads, Shim Eun Kyung and Joo Won. Aja aja fighting!


Drama Review: Tomato

Credit: doramax264.com

Credit: doramax264.com

The plotline

Initially I was drawn towards the plot because it breathed an air of freshness into the rich man-poor woman (replete with a bitchy second lead), formulaic kdrama setting:

An incisive development of love and achievements in young people. A drama on the conflicts and love of two characters working in the shoe business. Ha-ni used to work at a department store but then she applies for a design certificate and becomes a shoe designer. By chance, she gets acquainted with Seung-jun, the son of the chairman at her company and subtle conflicts with her frenemy Se-ra arise. Sae-ra approaches Seung-jun for her ambitions but success and love all come to Ha-ni.

[Credit: doramax264.com]

My thoughts on the series

I’m inexplicably biased towards kdramas (and shows in general) from the nineties, and so I began watching the drama with high expectations. The first few episodes were light-hearted, very 90s and trendy. From the get-go, Se-ra’s character – cunning, complicated and calculating – was the most appealing of the lot. Ha-ni is your average kdrama Candy: kind, guileless and ever well-meaning; nonetheless, misfortune never seems to leave her alone.


Oh.the.chemistry! Credit: hancinema.net

It’s a shame that there was almost zero character and romantic development as the series progressed. Every episode seemed repetitive and worn-out, especially after episode 7 / 8. Don’t get me started on the endless trail of failures. Oh puh-leez, even an idiot could do better. I remember thinking for the umpteenth time, this is it! Perhaps Ha-ni will finally succeed in something. Or, at least the guy will muster the guts to speak up (I’m not specifically referring to his feelings. I just never saw him own up, despite him being “righteous” and all)… or, give Ha-ni a back-hug… or, at the very least, wrist-grab her? Nope. Mr Hopeless Lawyer was frustrating to watch till the very end.

Even the last episode appeared to head nowhere… it seemed as though the series needed 10 more episodes to wrap up. And it did, except that it settled for a very rushed and dubious ending instead, which I did NOT buy. The writer concocts a massive concoction of WTFery and, out-of-the-blue, expects us to believe that all is well, no hard feelings? Riiiight.

Tomato_08[15-53-45]Acting-wise, the second leads were consistent and did a good job throughout. Both characters were layered and complex: Se-ra was detestably duplicitous and Ki-Joon was a-mysterious-weirdo-in-lurrrve. While the female lead was cute and likable, I hated how utterly clueless she was (most of the time). The male lead is a limited actor, in my opinion. I couldn’t warm up to him. He was so spineless and unmanly that he can’t even be termed a “noble idiot”. Oh, and except the second leads, every other character seemed unbelievably childish and caricature-like.


Credit: hancinema.net

As for the whimsical title, it hints towards the fact that the leads grew closer together through caring for tomato plants. Uhhh, it still sounds weird. After all, how many kdrama titles out there are well thought-out and / or appropriate?

My verdict

Nothing ground-breaking or distantly memorable. Overall, a disappointing series.

Rating: 5/10

Second Impression: It’s Okay, That’s Love

Mian-hae! I’ve been in a state of torpor during the last two weeks. Time for updates…

It’s been a while since I’ve dropped It’s Okay, That’s Love. Despite liking the premier episodes, episode 3 gave me the notion that the show was trying too hard to be fresh, blithe and modern (a.k.a immoral) – just that it got on my nerves instead. I struggled to finish the episode, by the end of which it became clear that the central theme of the drama had shifted from mental illness (the main reason I was looking forward to the show) to will-they-won’t-they-go-to-bed? – thus rendering the show cringe-worthy and pretty much unwatchable for me.

No sense of morals let alone Faith, materialism in full glory, wanton / unnecessary skinship, fan-service outweighing the actual storyline, hackneyed plot elements and lack of originality are some phrases that can be used to describe recent kdramas. What bothers me is that most of the audience is totally cool about them. Aigoo, the world has become so ugly.

After being disappointed by a number of dramas that I’ve picked up over the last few months, I’ve reverted to watching a couple of old dramas for the time being. I treasure old-fashioned, Islamic values such as chastity and no-sex-before-marriage a whole lot, which is why I can’t help but wistfully wonder: whatever happened to the golden, good ol’ concept of “platonic love”?

First Impression: It’s Okay, That’s Love

It’s Okay, That’s Love (2014) tells the story of Ji Hae-Soo (played by Gong Hyo Jin), a sassy psychiatrist, and Jang Jae-Yeol (played by Zo In Sung), a naughty mystery writer and radio DJ. Read more about the synopsis and cast here.

It's Okay, That's LoveI was initially disappointed by its plagiarized teasers, but I’m happy to report that, minus the night club / bikini club scenes, the show is a pleasant mix of psychological and rom-com. I love that it is quirky, feel-good, witty and original. Consistency in the rom-com genre is a rare find but I sure hope the drama stays this way. Be sure to check this kdrama out. It promises to provide you with insights on mental illness! And love~!

First Impression: Dae Jang Geum

Dae Jang Geum posterWatching sub-par (but ratings-wise, popular nonetheless) so-called sageuks such as Jang Ok Jung, Living In Love (2013) and Empress Ki (2013) made me lose what little hope I had in finally discovering a brilliant (or likable!) sageuk … that is, until I came across Dae Jang Geum (2003).

I have been putting off watching it ever since I came across a snippet of it on BTV – perhaps in early 2013? Somehow I found the drama visibly set-like, tedious and generally off-putting. I could not be more wrong; reminds me of the time I was terribly mistaken about my Drama Love: First Love.

I wasn’t aware that sageuks could be so heartwarming, entertaining and historically accurate at the same time. One episode was enough to hook me. It gave me First-Love-ish feels with its fast-paced, engaging and endearing storytelling. While acting can make a world of a difference to a drama’s execution, tight writing and adept directing can raise a drama to “masterpiece” status. In this drama’s case, I believe writing, acting and directing are all spot-on.

I love how satisfying (but addictive!) Dae Jang Geum is. I’ve only watched 3 episodes so far (back-to-back) and it’s still too early to predict how it’s going to turn out. However I’ve only heard (ahem, read) praise about the drama and can only hope that this drama will (in sha Allah) be the first sageuk to steal my heart. Ameen! ^^

My Drama Love: First Love

First Love poster

24+ year-olds playing teenagers has never been THIS good

First Love (1996) is the highest rated Korean drama of ALL-TIME; period. Speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

Although I started watching this drama because of its ridiculously high ratings, having completed this series, I can say without a doubt that popular doesn’t always equal mediocre or cheesy (which I believe is true in most cases). In fact, this drama’s a classic, one that will forever remain a gem-of-a-show.

So, what’s the plot about? The title gives it away, actually!

Choi Soo Jong has the role of the elder brother of Bae Yong Joon in a drama that gives us the impact of having love for the first time. He plays the role of Sung Chan Hyuk who is gifted with artistic talent. Bae Yong Joon plays the character of Sung Chan Woo, who gives in his secret first love to his older brother and tries to become “a seed ofthewheat” by sacrificing himself for the family’s happiness instead of going after his own ambition. (Quoted from Asianwiki)

Admittedly, this drama didn’t hook me the first time I started watching it and I don’t know why – I must’ve been drunk! (Hint: It’s a bad joke. I do not drink in reality!)

After a time-lag, I decided to give it another chance, and voila – I got hooked into it instantly. Under normal circumstances, I don’t watch dramas exceeding 20 episodes. Moreover, I’m a reaaally picky viewer – c’mon, time’s precious so I ought to watch something I’ll love instead of wasting my time cursing it. The fact that First Love has 66 episodes, each an hour long, is what scared me most when I started watching it. However, the fluidity of the storytelling is what makes this drama so watchable (and addictive).

Of course, that’s not it’s only plus point. It’s witty, funny, realistic, poignant and everything else that makes for a wonderful time-pass. 66 gigantic episodes, yet never a dull moment! This one’s a characteristic, old school 90’s drama – perhaps that’s one of the reasons why it stole the heart of this 90’s girl. The starring actors were the top stars of the time, and consequently they’re all great actors. I believe that they’re largely the reason why this drama secured its soaring ratings. The screenplay is light years away from that of your average family drama – it’s nuanced and truly well-made. What I love most about this drama is its feel-good factor. For me, a drama is a winner when it makes you smile or relieve your stress no matter how downcast you may be and ‘First Love’ triumphs on that.

Badass Bae Yong Jun

Yep, that’s a very young Bae Yong Jun

The only issue I have with this drama is that it’s got a lot of drama, at times dipping into melodrama. However, it must be stressed that drama is one of its charms – it’ll succeed on drawing your sympathy, but you can’t help but feel that it’s not exaggeration, that rather it’s the ugly truth. Truth be told, First Love is the only kdrama to date that has moved me to the verge of tears. OK, to tears. In case you didn’t know, I’m stone-hearted!

Special mention goes to Oh Dong Pal (played by Bae Doh Wan), my favorite character here. Yes, I even like him better than Sung Chan Woo – an uber cool character. Dong Pal is just such a good person, be it as a friend, a son or a husband. For me, he was the most likable character here. *strokes own nose with thumb*

Heck, all the good guys were oh-so-endearing!

My rating: 10/10

The Winter Sonata OTP

The Winter Sonata OTP

FUN Fact:

Winter Sonata (2002) co-stars Bae Yong Jun and Choi Ji Woo had a love-line in First Love.

Fans of this OTP must check the drama out!