The Fangirl Verdict

Completely biased reviews and fangirling

Flash Review: Midnight Diner

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When Real Life eats up my available drama hours, one of my go-to alternatives is the web drama. Most often, that translates into a fluffy, simplified version of some kind of rom-com. And that can work quite nicely, too. Noble, My Love and Go Ho’s Starry Night are two little web dramas that I found very enjoyable indeed.

Sometimes, though, I want something that isn’t a fluffy, simplified rom-com. Sometimes – especially if I’m feeling physically or mentally worn out – I want the warmth of a family drama, but without the commitment. This little show turned out to be quite the perfect fit for that.

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

As much as thinking back on this show makes me feel rather warm and cozy, this one’s got its flaws too. So here’s a quick list of things to keep in mind, as you adjust your viewing lens.

1. The production values are on the more.. basic side of things. Everything looks and sounds like a set in a studio, rather than an actual place that exists.

2. Because there isn’t a major overarching sort of narrative arc, sometimes it feels like nothing much ever happens in this drama world.

3. Not all the stories have happy endings. A couple of the stories were rather sad, I thought. On the upside, quite a few of the stories are warm and uplifting.

4. Occasionally, Show takes weird side-steps into attempts at being chilling &/or creepy. Those episodes were not my favorites. Thankfully, this didn’t happen very often.

I also figured it’d be helpful to mention that I haven’t seen the original Japanese series that inspired this one, so I can’t compare the two, nor do I have any bias between them.

STUFF I LIKED

By and large, I found this to be a good stand-by drama to keep on the side.

When I didn’t feel up to a full episode of drama but still wanted a bit of feel-good something, I’d reach for an episode of this. And most of the time, Show would deliver pretty well too. Additionally, the beauty of this show, is that taking long breaks between episodes didn’t affect my engagement with this show at all, because the episodes mostly stand alone. So perfect, for an episode-every-once-in-a-while sort of arrangement!

Here are the main things I enjoyed about this little show.

1. All of the food

Since the main focus of the show is bringing healing to the random patrons of the diner, mainly through food, the food itself gets a nice amount of the spotlight. The food that’s served up is varied, and Show always take care to present it as deliciously as possible. Quite a few times, I’d want to try a dish, just because it got showcased in an episode. Yum.

2. Kim Seung Woo as Master

Personally, I found Kim Seung Woo to be a really good fit for the role of Master. He comes across as quietly observant, empathetic, and a little bit sentimental. And since it’s through Master’s lens that we see his customers and hear their stories, that’s the general tone of this show as well.

A lot of the time, Master appears to be more of an impartial observer and facilitator of the stories that unfold before him. But as we get deeper into the show, we also see Master taking a personal interest in his customers, and forming friendships with them. I liked that a lot.

Most of all, I appreciated Master for the dignified, measured vibe that he exuded, because that also defined the vibe of the restaurant. Thanks to him, the restaurant felt like a safe haven where people could escape from whatever storms they were facing.

3. The growing bond among the regulars

In the absence of an overarching story that ties everything together, it is the regular customers of the restaurant that help to offer a sense of continuity in this show. As I progressed through the episodes, I found it heartwarming to see the relationships between the regulars growing, until there was a sense of community among them.

Somewhere in the middle of the series, the credits also add to this sense of community. Show tends to do a whimsical sort of thing with its credits, where we get to see past patrons and consistent regulars spill out of the restaurant’s doors at random, almost always in a celebratory sort of mood. Yes, it didn’t make logical sense, but I felt it was a warm symbol of togetherness, and a nice nod to what they have all gained from visiting Masters’ restaurant.

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [MODERATE SPOILERS]

Show goes out on a warm note that veers on treacly, but it’s just earthy enough to still fall on the side of acceptably sweet.

I didn’t much care for Hong Seok Cheon’s cameo, purely because it felt like his character was more of a caricature than anything else. I personally found the flirtatious, hip-swaying persona they gave him disrespectful, and I would’ve much preferred a more down-to-earth, restrained treatment of the cameo.

Other than that, though, I liked the finale episode. In particular, I really enjoyed seeing all the regulars gathering around for a gizzard shad party. From their interactions, and from Cherry’s (Kang Suh Yun) personal messages to each of them, it’s clear that they’ve become so much more than mere acquaintances that happen to frequent the same restaurant. They’ve become friends who genuinely care for one another, and that’s feel-good, cozy stuff indeed.

The final montage of all the various customers from all the earlier episodes was the thing that I felt leaned a little over-sweet, but all in all, I enjoyed being reminded of all the people who had passed through Master’s doors, and the stories that they represented.

Ultimately, that’s the thing that kept me coming back to this show: the idea that everyone has a story, and that everyone has a safe place where they can share their stories, and their lives too.

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Warm, simple and feel-good. Kinda like bite-sized servings of chicken soup for the soul.

FINAL GRADE: B

TEASER:

Author: kfangurl

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

14 thoughts on “Flash Review: Midnight Diner

  1. I watched the first episode of the Japanese version on Netflix a week or so back. After reading your review of the Korean one, I watched ep 1 on Dramafever. The stories are completly different. Then I watched the second episode of the japanese one. Based on just those 3 episodes, I would say the Japanese original is better. Although I will check out more of the K version.

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    • Shinya Shokudo is a wonderful slice-of-life drama, a genre the Japanese excel in. The feel the drama exudes is very difficult to duplicate. Kobayashi Kaoru as Master, and the stories the drama weaves are among the key reasons why the series has gone to 3 seasons. I encourage you to watch the rest of Shinya Shokudo.

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    • I’ve heard that the Japanese one is the better one between the two, but I haven’t checked out the J-version and therefore can’t comment. I found the K-version a nice watch, considered in isolation from its source material. But perhaps you might feel differently, if you’ve seen the J-version and are comparing versions. 🙂

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  2. Very interesting Drama. It sounds really good.
    Maybe I’ll watch it too but I need it in Ger Sub hehe n_n

    ~ Karin from http://thekoreanlove.blogspot.de ~

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    • Hi there Karin! Yes, this is a nice little watch, although I’m sorry to say I haven’t come across German subs for it. Perhaps you could try it with English subs? 🙂

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  3. I love the original Japanese version (well, the fist two seasons, S3 wasn’t quite up to par), so I never got past the first fiew episodes of this one. It felt so… staged, something the original never did. I could have sworn that small byway actually exists somewhere in Tokyo.

    Oh, and everything junny wrote. 🙂

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    • Ah yes, the obviously fake set definitely took away from the feeling of realism in this show. Because of it, I was always aware that this was a drama taking place on a set, and not an actual place. So it’s great that the J-version didn’t have this problem. 🙂 Perhaps I ought to add the J-version to my list after all!

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  4. I haven’t seen the Japanese version yet. But I really loved this drama. Yes, I felt the “Creepy” episodes were out of place too, bordering on dumb – really, a female vampire dentist? Then again, with dramas like Blood and Vampire Doctors…

    But all in all, I loved it for the same reasons you wrote. I fell in love with the Master. And Kim Seung Woo’s velvet deep voice just added to that. I truly wanted to know HIS story, how he got his scar, what pain is he hiding? If any. There’s a reason why he opens a restaurant at these hours and serves that tasty food the way he does.

    He just whips up what they ask for. It’s almost mystical.

    I made the butter rice after this and it was deliciously simple. My nephews loved it too.

    I wish the filming was different, not on videotape, I’m never a fan of that stagey look. It pulls me out of the story and keeps reminding me that it’s all a set. A lot Daily dramas are still filmed that way to save money I suppose.

    I could truly go for a sequel to this drama. I also loved the theme song. It’s beautiful and breezy.

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    • Haha, yes, the attempts at creepy were really quite odd, I thought. And when Show did it 2 eps in a row somewhere in the middle, I actually re-evaluated whether I wanted to keep on watching the show! 😆 But my mom was watching it at the same time as I was, and she assured me that the other episodes had returned to being more normal, so I kept on watching.

      Oh, yes, I did wonder about Master’s scar too.. I wondered if maybe he was a retired gangster or something. That would’ve been interesting, if that were the case, since Master comes across as so gentle and peace-loving! 😂

      I attempted the butter rice one time on a flight when the in-flight meal didn’t appeal to me. So I put some of the butter for the bread roll into my rice. No soy sauce though, so it didn’t turn out as nice as yours probably did. But it tickles me that we both tried the butter rice! 😂

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      • I tried to be cute about it and do the counting with the boys when it came to the butter rice. haha. It worked pretty well. Some days I make the best pot of rice, and other times its mush. I think I finally got the water just right for the kind of rice I’m using. The Goya Canilla brand.

        The only other episode that made me feel iffy was the pornographer one. I heard in the Japanese version the Master is actually coaxed into starring in one of his films! x-o But not sure about that.

        I thought the Master was an ex-gangster too!! Perhaps working late at night in the alley gives him a low profile just in case any of the “boys” are out looking for him. lol (always writing fanfic. 🙂

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  5. Does anybody know, if the korean stories are originals, or did they adapt the japanese stories?

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  6. I thought this was an overall satisfying watch when it aired and have always meant to watch the Japanese version. Sometimes you want something a little different. I agree they definitely found the right actor to play Master.

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