The Fangirl Verdict

Completely biased reviews and fangirling

Flash Review: Page Turner

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I’m beginning to wonder if this is a Thing with piano-themed dramas; like, are they just consistently good? Coz I loved Secret Love Affair, and I really really liked this, and honestly, the only thing they have in common is classical piano. And this, when I’m not even a fan of classical music.

I started on this one when I was in a bit of a drama rut, where nothing that I watched seemed to grab me, and I wondered (all over again, as I always do, when I find myself in a drama rut), if I’d simply watched too many dramas and therefore had become too hardened and jaded to invest my heart in a drama. (Gasp! The horror!)

Well, whaddya know, I liked this one, and right away too. Very quickly into my watch, I was all, OMG I LIKE IT, AND I WANT MORE. RIGHT NOW, IF POSSIBLE. Clearly, it wasn’t my heart that was the problem, but Dramaland in general! Phew.

The great thing is, this stayed grabby-good through to the end. The only downside? It’s only 3 episodes. Sniffle.

STUFF I LIKED

1. It’s so engaging & well-handled

So engaging

I loved the feeling of watching this show; it all just felt so refreshing and real, even when certain story beats stretched the limits of believability. It reminded me all over again, of why I fell in love with kdramas in the first place. It’s not a complicated story; Show’s got its heart in the right place; it focuses on the characters and their dreams and relationships.

The characters feel real, their emotional journeys feel real, and their obstacles and conflicts feel real as well. There’s so much emotion and angst in this, that it almost throbs with feeling. It all comes together in a natural, organic-feeling, very feel-good sort of way, and I love it.

The bonus was that awesome feeling of being sucked into a drama right away. Unless most other dramas, here, there wasn’t a need to wait it out until setup was complete, hoping for the Moment that something would click inside of me, and I’d finally start to care. I cared about these characters almost instantly, and it felt fantastic.

So well-handled

I really love how efficient this show is. In each episode, I consistently felt like a lot of ground was covered in the hour, and effectively too. Time passes in a believable fashion, with Show lingering just enough on key moments, to bring them to life. [SPOILER] Like Yoo Seul’s (Kim So Hyun) confrontation with her mom (Ye Ji Won) in episode 2. It’s such an important conversation, and both mother and daughter end up in tears. But Show doesn’t linger on the aftermath much at all, simply showing us that Mom ponders it some more, on her own. Which is just enough to give poignance to the arc, but not so much that it slows down the pace of our story. [END SPOILER]

I find all the character behaviors believably written, in that I can believe each character’s emotions and decisions. [SPOILER] Like in episode 2, I believe that Yoo Seul would be so fiercely adamant on wanting to be independent. I also believe that she would choose Cha Sik (Ji Soo) over Jin Mok (Shin Jae Ha). I also believe Jin Mok’s guilt and desire to make it up to Yoo Seul, and to watch over her. And I believe Cha Sik’s determination as well. [END SPOILER]

Despite the relatively short screen time, I found that character decisions felt organic from beginning to end, which counts as pretty impressive writing and characterization in my books.

2. Great characters

Given that this show is all of 3 hours, writer-nim is wise to create a relatively small drama world and zoom in on our main characters, instead of trying to juggle a larger cast of characters. As a result, I found each of our 3 main characters nicely fleshed-out, and to our cast’s credit, well-delivered as well.

Each of our 3 main characters charts a journey of growth and self-discovery, and even though the screen time isn’t evenly split, each of their journeys is handled with care and given meaning. By the end of the show, I liked them all so much in their own unique ways that I found that I couldn’t quite pick a favorite.

Which, for the record, is No Small Deal, considering how goofy-grin adorable I found Ji Soo. ❤

Kim So Hyun as Yoo Seul

Kim So Hyun delivers an excellently layered performance as Yoo Seul, our resident piano genius with a wounded heart and hidden sadness and insecurities. With lines that are mostly all tough on the surface, Kim So Hyun does a great job adding depth and nuance that hint at the complex of insecurities that she’s nursing on the inside. [SPOILER] I can feel how hurt she is, and how hopeless she feels, that her mom only sees her as a piano genius, like life without piano isn’t worth living. That her existence will only be good enough, if she’s killing it at piano. [END SPOILER]

This journey, for Yoo Seul to find herself, consistently feels like a journey well worth taking, and I enjoyed watching Yoo Seul’s true self show more over the course of our story.

Ji Soo as Cha Sik

Ji Soo as Cha Sik is one of the most endearingly delightful things, ever.

Cha Sik is adorably dim and simple and loyal, and his kind streak melted my heart pretty much right away. He reminds me a little bit of Bok Dong in Angry Mom, in the best way possible.

One of my favorite things about Cha Sik is his hard-to-get-down good humor. He’s so adorably cheery, seriously. [SPOILER] I love that moment in episode 2, when Yoo Seul’s mom insults him, saying he looks like a hooligan, and he responds by jauntily showing up the next day wearing a suit, with his hair all slicked back. And then when she insults him again, he cheerily apologizes, and promises to improve his fashion to her satisfaction. More than that, I love his reasoning for his attitude: that he wants to make sure Yoo Seul doesn’t regret her choice, in picking him to be her guide. Aw. What a sweetheart he is. [END SPOILER]

The other thing I love about Cha Sik, is how hard he works, for his chosen dream, whether it’s pole vaulting or piano. [SPOILER] In particular, the montage of him practicing and practicing on the public piano in the tunnel in episode 2 touched me. It’s such a monumental task, but he undertakes it with hopeful determination, for the sake of making his dream a reality. [END SPOILER]

Essentially, Cha Sik is adorable in how simple and earnest and easily excited and happy he is. I just can’t help but want to root for him. I feel like I could watch Ji Soo be Cha Sik for 100 episodes, just earnestly living life and getting all excited at the small victories. Can someone make that happen, pretty please?

Shin Jae Ha as Jin Mok

Compared to Yoo Seul and Cha Sik, we spend less time with Jin Mok, but that doesn’t make his journey any less meaningful.

Jin Mok comes across as a quiet, conflicted personality, who feels he has so much to prove, and yet who seems to feel like he’s fighting a losing battle in trying to prove his worth. Shin Jae Ha does a good job portraying Jin Mok’s range of emotions, which range from frustration, to anger, to guilt, to even a measure of self-loathing.

I really enjoyed how Show brought Jin Mok’s journey to the fore by the end of our story, and treated his story with heart and poignance.

Quick Shout-outs:

The Moms

In a drama world which mostly revolves around our youthful main cast, these two moms were a good foil. Not only did they add an adult perspective to our story, they also contrasted against each other well.

Right away in episode 1, we see that Yoo Seul’s mom (Ye Ji Won) and Cha Sik’s mom (Hwang Young Hee) appear to be polar opposites. [SPOILER] One pushes her daughter ruthlessly, even when her daughter is facing a much bigger life obstacle: blindness. And the other one allows her son to grieve, before talking to him about how amazing he is, and how he’s got an amazing father, and how he’s going to be great because he takes after his dad. [END SPOILER]

I do like that ultimately, we see that they both genuinely love their children, and want the best for them, and I thought Show did a really nice job of showing that to us.

Oh Kwang Rok as Underpass Ahjusshi

I know this is rather random, but I really liked seeing Oh Kwang Rok as the Underpass Ahjusshi.

His general styling and vibe in this show is so reminiscent of his role in Healer that I couldn’t help but imagine that maybe he was playing the same person, just in a different context. Like, maybe when his character in Healer wasn’t hanging out with Ji Chang Wook, he might’ve been hanging out in this underpass – just coz sometimes he’d get to hear some amazing piano performances, heh.

3. The friendships & how characters affect one another

Besides the characters’ individual journeys, the other big draw of this show, for me, is how these characters end up affecting one another. In their own unique ways, our 3 main characters each end up being catalysts in the others’ struggles and journeys of growth, and that’s something that I enjoyed a lot.

[SPOILER ALERT]

I loved that Cha Sik is the one who is able to get through Yoo Seul’s prickly shell to bring out her inner softness. I found it so fantastic that he basically wears her down with his persistent cheeriness. It’s like he rubs off on her, in spite of her steely facade. I do love the moment in episode 2 when she plays on the public piano, at Cha Sik’s request. It’s a moment that reveals her inner fear, that she can no longer play. The tears sheening in her eyes, as she plays, say so much. She doesn’t actually hate playing piano, there’s a part of her that cherishes it.

I love that Cha Sik brings her to this point, in facing – and conquering her fears – without even realizing it. I love, too, that he’s her protector and bodyguard. I love how he came to her rescue when she got into an argument with the unreasonable dog-owner, and how fiercely he defended her. Can’t help but melt at that.

I also really liked how both Yoo Seul and Jin Mok act as catalysts to Cha Sik’s piano diligence: Yoo Seul with her scary-teacher ways, and Jin Mok with his challenge to Cha Sik.

Perhaps most moving of all, though, is how Yoo Seul – who’d always been Jin Mok’s biggest (and very condescending) rival – is ultimately the one who liberates him from his crippling self-doubt, by giving him whole-hearted praise. That basically changed the course of his life, and I get chills thinking about how deep that is.

[END SPOILER]

As different as these 3 are, in terms of their backgrounds, personalities, talents and families, I love that their love of music – as well as their care for one another – is what unites them in the end.

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING

I really appreciate that the ending manages to inject a dose of reality while remaining true to Show’s spirit of optimism and its emphasis on following your heart and daring to dream big dreams.

I’m a little sad for Cha Sik that “Dad” wasn’t his dad after all, and that he didn’t feel ready to play during the competition with Yoo Seul.

On the upside, though, I’m glad that Jin Mok gets to receive meaningful and much-needed affirmation, even as he steps up to follow his heart. I’m also glad that Yoo Seul got to win a piano competition while actually enjoying the performance, and that Mom got to witness the joy on Yoo Seul’s face up-close.

And, I’m glad that Cha Sik channeled his rage over Mom’s lie, into the final push he needed, to be able to play the performance piece that he’d been working so hard to perfect. That is such an earnestly, positively Cha Sik sort of thing to do.

I love that Cha Sik got to give his very own impromptu performance to an appreciative audience, which felt extra special and personal, with Mom standing right there, tearing up at her son’s accomplishment.

Yet, at the same time, I love that Cha Sik was included in the three-way montage of the competition performance. I really like that he was not forgotten, and was part of the competition performance, even if it was virtually; that in that virtual space, he was performing with Yoo Seul, just as they had practiced.

All in all, this was an ending that left behind an aftertaste of satisfaction and poignance, even as I felt sorry to say goodbye to these characters that I’d grown to love in the short span of 3 episodes. I would’ve seriously loved the epilogue to have shown us Yoo Seul grumping and laughing with Cha Sik and Jin Mok over piano stuff, but I’m happy that we leave everyone in a happier place, following their hearts and daring to dream big dreams more than ever.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

As I gathered my heart to say goodbye to these characters, I wondered to myself why this show is titled Page Turner.

And then it hit me. That beyond the literal page-turning that these characters did for one another, they were metaphorical page turners for one another too; that they, each in their own way, acted as catalysts that helped the others to progress to the next page of their journeys. I really like that.

May we all realize our potential to be page turners; to help one another – in ways that sometimes we ourselves don’t understand – to keep moving forward in living our lives, and pursuing our dreams, and becoming our best selves, one page at a time.

And may we always take turns being – and being on the receiving end of – that supportive, appreciative audience in the tunnel for one another too. ❤

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Compact, efficient, and plain ol’ lift-your-spirits good.

FINAL GRADE: A

TEASER:

Author: kfangurl

Proud to be a k-fangirl since 2007. Main diet of kdramas with movies and kpop on the side.

28 thoughts on “Flash Review: Page Turner

  1. Thank you, Fangirl, for capturing why this was such a charming, heartfelt series. I loved the main characters and their journeys, and though it was short, it was very, very sweet!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Mary!! 😀 I’m so glad you enjoyed this one too! It truly manages to be more charming and heartfelt than one might expect, given its short runtime! I’d love to see a movie sequel or something, to catch up with the characters several years later. Plus, that’d give us more adorable Cha Sik, which I just can’t refuse ❤

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  2. Thanks for a wonderful review. Now I know why I liked this show so much!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree that this was a fantastic show…for 2 1/2 hours. Then it took a left turn. I am still grousing about the ending months later. Cha Sik really got shafted at the end. Not sure why the writer felt the need to do that. And his mom profiting off her son’s pain…that’s not cool.

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    • Aww.. I’m sorry the ending didn’t land so well for you, shamrockmom3!! I know what you mean about feeling like Cha Sik getting shafted, in a way. I see that as the writer injecting some realism into our story, since it’s such an impossible task that he undertakes. And in giving him his own moment of breakthrough in the tunnel, cheered on by his mom and his little audience, I feel like the writer was giving him his Moment too – just not in the way that he might have originally expected.

      And because Cha Sik does continue to pursue music (and by extension, love it), and doesn’t hold a grudge against his mom for her lie, I didn’t mind that she started to write her story about him. In that sense, I just saw it as a mom writing about her son, and a writer reaching to give voice to a story that is worth telling, rather than a mother profiting off her son’s pain. I hope that perspective helps take the edge off at least a tiny bit? 🙂

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  4. I guess the brevity of the show did a lot in making it a good one. I see it as one extended movie.

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    • I get what you mean.. the brevity did work to make this compact and efficient. Kudos to writer-nim, coz not all writers are able to work as well given the same amount of screen time. At the same time, there’s a part of me that wants more – more of these characters, more of their relationships, more of their stories. Augh. I guess it’s better to be left wanting though, than to suffer a story that’s overly protracted! 😛 *repeats to self*

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  5. While I enjoyed this drama, I did not like that Yoo Seul was kept in the dark about the last minute Cha Sik-Jin Mok switch. The deception marred my enjoyment somewhat and I wished they had addressed it. I also thought she would have been able to discern the difference in the playing. But I guess they had to package it all in three episodes and didn’t have the time. As usual, the fantastic Ye Ji Won was great here.

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    • I get what you mean about Yoo Seul being kept in the dark! That did niggle at me too, especially the part about her hearing the difference between Cha Sik’s playing compared to Jin Mok’s. As someone who plays music myself, I totally get that. You CAN hear the difference in touch and tone, and given Yoo Seul’s keen ear and general genius when it comes to music, I expected her to be able to tell the difference.

      But, because Show had “demonstrated” that she couldn’t hear the difference during the practice, I was willing to suspend disbelief that she couldn’t tell the difference during the performance either. I do think that Show should’ve shown Yoo Seul being told the truth after, and her meting out some kind of good-natured punishment to the boys for the deception. And THEN, to tell Jin Mok to his face how great a pianist he is, while knowing that it’s him that she’s praising. I would’ve loved that. 🙂

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  6. luv this short drama! within the short span of 3 episodes it was able to introduce 3 teenagers with their hopes & dreams, angst-filled moments & their bright future. kudos to the writer for making me ‘feel’ their journey and the people who luv them also. the actors are on point and did well in their allotted roles. it was a joy watching this show:)

    great review as always kfangurl!

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    • Thanks bugs_bunny, for enjoying the review! 🙂 And you hit the nail on the head – that writer-nim managed to make us feel so keenly for these characters, and so quickly too, is mad skillz. That’s always the key for me, really. If a show is able to make me feel for its characters, I’m usually willing to overlook quite a lot ^^ Happily though, there wasn’t much that needed overlooking, in this one!

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  7. Your flash review is so long! haha I enjoyed reading it very much though. Hehe thank you for this 😀 And Page Turner is a really heartwarming show, indeed. I became motivated to watch this after marathoning Angry Mom. And writer-nim penned I Hear Your Voice 😛 Really glad that I wasn’t disappointed!

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    • Lol. Thanks for enjoying the review, Jas – even if you felt it was longer than a flash! XD You’re the second person to tell me this post doesn’t quite feel like a flash, actually. 😛 I guess brevity is still something I need to work on!

      I loved Angry Mom AND IHYV too! And this lovely little show turned out to be so charming as well. ❤ ❤ I'd love some kind of quick sequel. Movie or drama special, maybe. 😉

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      • I’m not sure why but this felt longer than your usual flash reviews 😛 Not in a bad way though – I welcome more words and great viewpoints hehe. At times my posts get lengthy too, lol.

        Yup, I did as well 😉 Heee hopefully the drama gods hear your wishes! It’ll be great for all the fans of Page Turner.

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  8. YES I LOOVE this show!!!! ❤ I completely agree with the poster who said that they viewed this more as a long movie; and personally, I think it actually enhanced the show. I do wish they had a bit more explanation after the ending. It would have been nice to find out what happened to Yoo Seul and Cha Sik's relationship, and how Yoo Seul reacted after finding out (cuz she must have) that Jin Mok was the one who had played. And although for us music players, it does seem rather unnatural that she couldn't distinguish between Jin Mok and Cha Sik's playing (especially since Cha Sik was just a beginner), the FEELS when Yoo Seul praised Jin Mok was completely worth it. 😛 Otherwise, I may be in the minority when I say this, but I really liked the ending. It was realistic, but still touching. Really, it just felt RIGHT. And like you said, throughout the entire story, the show just felt very natural and organic.

    I have to say though, I completely fell for Cha Sik in this. He is SUCH a sweetheart. I've totally become a Jisoo fan now ^.^

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    • Woot! So glad to see more love for this little drama! 😀 I completely agree that I’d have loved to have seen more of what happened with our characters, in terms of their relationships, as well as how Yoo Seul would have totally taken the boys to task for the deception. Absolutely yes – the story felt perfectly organic from start to finish. So even though I wish that we could’ve seen more of our characters, the story is well-told and stands up well as it is. 🙂

      OMG Cha Sik is totally adorable. More than once, I wanted my own Cha Sik, seriously. 😍😍 I am most definitely with you on being a Ji Soo fan. I even did a Pure Pretty post on him after falling hard for his brand of adorable in Angry Mom. If you haven’t seen Angry Mom, I highly recommend it. You can find the Pure Pretty post here, and my Angry Mom review here, if that helps! 🙂

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      • I’m actually watching Angry Mom right now!! I was in the mood for more Jisoo, and after checking out your review on Angry Mom I just had to watch it. ^.^
        Just finished episode 7, and I just keep falling for him more and more. Personally, it’s good, but falling a bit under my expectations. However Jisoo is so brilliant, I wouldn’t regret watching this, if only to see him act.😛

        Perhaps I had too good of an introduction to kdrama, because now all the dramas I’m watching are all somewhat disappointing! 😅
        I read through your reviews, because I really agreed with your opinion on Another Oh Hae Young and Page Turner (loved them!!), but I didn’t particularly enjoy You From Another Star and what I’ve seen so far of Angry Mom.😦

        Keep up your good work, though! To be honest, I used to have a pretty unfavourable opinion of review blogs, but after reading yours, I was inspired to even write some reviews of my own!!
        Oh, and recommend me some dramas if you have any in mind.😉

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        • Hi there PTS.. So sorry this reply is coming so late, Life got rather hectic and I had to put aside the blog for a bit while that was going on.

          It’s a bummer that you’re not loving Angry Mom, but yay that you’re still enjoying Ji Soo in it – I loved him as Bok Dong, so freaking much! ❤❤ I love to recommend kdramas to others (it’s all about sharing the goodies, after all!), but I’m not sure what sort of dramas you’re looking for.. Could you say a little bit more about what you didn’t like about YFAS and Angry Mom?

          In the meantime, you can find a full list of my reviews here, which should be useful. 😊 If you’re looking for more character-driven dramas, Misaeng’s a good one. If you’re looking for light romance, Twenty Again and She Was Pretty are two relatively recent ones that I enjoyed. For something light and fun, Splash Splash Love and Sungkyunkwan Scandal are lovely too. Let me know if you’d like more suggestions!

          PS: Thanks for the encouragement on the reviews – it’s so great to know that you’ve been inspired! 😄

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  9. I started this show after peeking at your rating, and I loved it! Reading your review takes me back to the sweet, poignant moments in the show… I might have to re-watch this later 🙂 I wanted to take a break from Lee Junki’s intensity (in Scarlet Heart Ryeo and Arang, although five episodes in, Arang still hasn’t truly grabbed me). This gem of a story really gave me the break and smiles I needed. I’ve not seen Ji Soo in anything other than Scarlet Ryeo (where he is being underused), but here I can totally see his potential. His youth and exuberance truly are his strengths, and he used it to full effect in Page Turner. I liked him a lot in this. Kim So Hyun is also a truly excellent young actress. I first saw her in Moon That Embraces the Sun, and thought she was great (although not as good as Kim Yoo Jung)… Here she proved she can hold her own as the lead actress. I’m tempted to start Let’s Fight Ghost because of her (are you watching it? Any thoughts so far?).

    Thanks for the review, you’re on point as usual. I just started Dream High, also based on your high rating, and I’m well and truly hooked. I’m totally shipping Sam Dong and Hye Mi, although I dreadfully suspect she’s going to end up with Jin Guk 😦 He’s OK but man he’s so vanilla 😦

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    • Ah, yay that you enjoyed this one, neve!! It’s such a little charmer of a show, and I was only sorry that it’s a mere 3 eps long. Kim So Hyun is quite the powerhouse, really. I used to think that Kim Yoo Jung was the stronger actress, but I’ve since changed my mind. I do think Kim So Hyun is the stronger actress, especially when the scene calls for deep emoting. I thought she was wonderful in I Hear Your Voice, and she did great playing twins in Who Are You-School 2015. 🙂

      I’m enjoying Let’s Fight Ghost, and she’s got good chemistry with Taecyeon, who’s definitely improved since Dream High. I think it’s a nice little watch. 🙂

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  10. I watch this drama after seeing your rating (again ^^) and i love this drama. I’m left with wanting it to be longer, maybe 2 more episode because i just love their interaction. I’m zero talent and zero knowledge at music, so i know nothing about page turner, it’s my first time knowing that there are people who help turn the musical note page at piano performance and have a crucial part at it too. Oh ya, is it normal to play piano that good with just 3 month practice? Or its just cha sik is a genius? I mean, even you practice hard, maybe you need to have great talent to be that good with short time practices. Overall i love this drama, it’s heartwarming, great journey yet it feels real, like you say it organic. And i fell in love with ji soo, such a good actor he is. And eventhough i dont like kim so hyun (i dont know why but i dont like her), but she is always good at her acting. She is quite productive too, take one project after another. Maybe I need to watch more project of her to like her 🙂

    Ps: in another comment you say that you review witch romance and i see that you really put it on your full list show, i’m sorry i didnt see it. I will watch later when i had a chance, thank youuu kfangurl 😉

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    • Oh, I’m super pleased that you checked out Page Turner and ended up loving it, San!! 😄 To answer your question, though, no, it’s not normal at all, to be able to play like that even with 3 months of very intense practice. Most people take years to play like that, so it’s a huge stretch to believe that Cha Sik was able to achieve what he did in just 3 months. Still, Ji Soo makes him so earnest and lovable that I happily suspended disbelief so that I could root for him. 😉

      I didn’t used to enjoy Kim So Hyun so much, partly because she always got given either prickly roles or broody roles or weepy roles. But I recently really enjoyed her in Let’s Fight Ghost, where she got to display some lovely aegyo. It’s a pretty solid little show, which I do recommend if you’re in the mood for a little bit of ghostbusting. 🙂

      Ah yes, Witch’s Romance! I did enjoy that one very well! It does slump a little in the middle section, but overall, it was a fun show with a solid cracky factor. Park Seo Joon is 😍😍😍.

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  11. Pingback: Year In Review: 2016 | The Fangirl Verdict

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