Review: Hotel Del Luna

THE SHORT VERDICT:

Show is easy on the eyes, with high production values that bring a creatively conceptualized fantasy world to life, a fabulously rich wardrobe for female lead IU, and several handsome leading men to top it all off.

IU delivers a strong performance, and her character’s personal journey fittingly forms the backbone of this story. On the downside, I did not enjoy the OTP connection between her and Yeo Jin Goo, and I also felt the writing weaknesses quite keenly. ‘Twas still worth the while, though, for various endearing characters whom I became quite fond of.

A pleasant enough watch, if you’re able to look past Show’s shortcomings.

THE LONG VERDICT:

Although I hadn’t loved a Hong sisters drama for quite a long time (I’d been underwhelmed by Master’s Sun, dropped out of Warm and Cozy very early, and studiously avoided Hwayugi), I was persuaded to give Hotel Del Luna a try, thanks to Show’s good reputation, IU’s reportedly amazing wardrobe, and the hopeful urging of those of you who took the time to write, asking me to check this one out.

The good news is, I didn’t hate it. The fact that I finished this one, even though I hadn’t lasted more than a single episode through Warm and Cozy, means that this is a step up, at least, from my last attempt to enjoy a drama by the Hong sisters.

The bad news is, I didn’t love it, either. If I had to sum up my issues with this show, I’d say that my problem with this show is that it’s better in concept than execution. I’ll talk (quite a lot) more about that in the review, but first, let me state for the record that Show has lots of fans, so just because I didn’t love it, doesn’t mean that you won’t, either.

THE BEST POTENTIAL VIEWING LENS

Here’s what I think would be the best lens to wear, in order to have the best possible chance of enjoying this show.

1. Think of this as more Man Wol’s (IU) story, than a love story. There’s an OTP loveline in here, but because (to my eyes, anyway) the execution of the love story isn’t very satisfying (more on that later), I think it would be helpful, and more gratifying overall, to prioritize Man Wol’s journey, during your watch.

2. Let go of your need for thorough and complete logic. Think more pretty form than solid substance, coz this isn’t the kind of writing that can withstand detailed inspection, and under too strong of an analytical lens, is more than likely to crumble.

If you’re ok to roll with these two points in adjusting your viewing lens, you’d have a decent chance of enjoying this show, I think. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t quite able to completely put away my critical lens with this one, so I found this experience a little underwhelming, overall. There were some bright spots though, which I’ll talk about next.

If you loved this drama, and took the trouble to suggest it to me, I’m sorry I didn’t love it as much you did. I did want to like it, and I did try to like it. But.. I guess sometimes things just don’t turn out the way we hope? 😛

A SLIGHTLY RANDOM TANGENT ON THE NAMING OF HOTEL DEL LUNA

I didn’t know where else to put this, but I just wanted to say, in response to viewers who remarked that Hotel Del Luna should’ve read Hotel de la Luna instead, that now that I’ve watched the show, I realize that this was likely a conscious choice by our writers. The hotel is named by Man Wol, who is vain, has a taste for expensive things and likes to feel elegant – but is not at all well educated. I can totally believe that Man Wol would have chosen a classy-sounding name for her hotel, without realizing that she was making a mistake. To that end, I actually applaud the writers, for this thoughtful detail.

STUFF I LIKED

There are quite a few things that I enjoyed about Show. I guess the problem is, they weren’t always the things that Show probably hoped that I liked most.

Show’s high production values

Immediately, it’s easy to see that Show is a higher budget production. Everything looks polished and the production values are high across the board, including the flashbacks. I felt especially impressed with the amount of time and money invested in making those flashbacks, because there are many of them, and each sometimes lasts only as long as about 2 seconds, but full-scale makeup, costuming and set preparation go into each one.

Additionally, IU’s wardrobe looks expensive most of the time, except for the flashbacks when Man Wol is shown wandering the countryside, and in the scenes during the Korean War. Other than that, her current day wardrobe, and even the hanboks that she wears in some of the flashbacks, look refined and luxurious.

There’s also a richness in color and texture that I associate with Man Wol’s current-day wardrobe; her intense, glossy red lips, and for example, in episode 3, her lustrous red leather coat to go with. It’s all a very opulent experience for the eyes, and I like it.

IU as Man Wol

Immediately, from episode 1, I felt that IU stole the show, not only with her stunning wardrobe and bodacious red lips, but with her delivery of Man Wol as an impossibly jaded soul, who still shows lashings of vulnerability, and touches of playfulness and humor. As far as IU’s delivery of Man Wol goes, I thought it was all-around very solid, and I’m more convinced than ever, that IU is a skilled actress with a very good range.

The thing though, is, when it comes to a character as a whole stealing a show, I realize that it’s not only to do with the delivery of said character, it also has to do with believable development written for the character, and I dunno, I didn’t quite feel convinced of Man Wol’s evolution over the course of our story.

[SPOILER] For example, when we meet her, she has no desire to cross over to the afterlife, but in episode 5, she has a sudden change of heart, and tells Chan Seong (Yeo Jin Goo) that she will be his last customer, and that he shouldn’t feel sad when he sends her off. That felt a little out of the blue, to my eyes, considering she’d never seemed eager to move on, despite feeling completely jaded with her existence. [END SPOILER]

I think another aspect of this, for me, is that Man Wol’s development as a character has a lot to do with her love relationship with Chan Seong, which grows over time. As you’ll see later in this review, I was far from convinced of this romantic relationship, and unfortunately, I think this bled into my ability to fully believe and embrace Man Wol’s evolution as well.

Lee Do Hyun as Chung Myung

I loved Lee Do Hyun as royal guard Chung Myung. We don’t actually see a lot of him in terms of total screen time, but I have to say, I perked up a great deal, each time he graced my screen.

As Chung Myung, Lee Do Hyun is melty, gentle and warm at the same time, which is just the sort of thing to make my knees wobble.

[SPOILER] For example, the way Chung Myung goes after Man Wol in episode 7, when he sees her shadow leaving, even though the princess (Park Yoo Na) has just arrived to see him, and the way he teases Man Wol so gently, while alluding to how much he misses her, is just very swoony. [END SPOILER]

Additionally, Lee Do Hyun showcases some impressive emoting (which I’ll touch on in the next section) in some of the more difficult scenes, which seriously lifts my impression of his acting abilities.

Chung Myung and Man Wol together

The single biggest hook for me during my watch of this show, was the backstory concerning Man Wol and Chung Myung. The actual backstory is revealed to us in fragments, but I felt completely sucked in and engaged by it anyway.

A large part of this arc’s appeal, for me, was the chemistry between IU and Lee Do Hyun, which I found strong, sparky, and natural. Whether they were exchanging blows or meaningful glances, there was a consistent electric quality to their interactions, which served to suck me in, all the more. This connection popped for me in a big way, and I loved watching them together.

Can’t lie; there were more than a few occasions when I wished that this had been the OTP relationship.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E8. Even though they don’t quite start a relationship, it’s clear that they care about each other a great deal. Chung Myung’s resilience in warmly teasing Man Wol, even when she gives him the cold shoulder, is seriously heartwarming, and I melt in the face of his enduring, unwavering warmth.

E8. How tragic, that they’d said their goodbyes, resigned to the fact that they couldn’t be together, and then Man Wol was then trapped, for yielding to the temptation of seeing Chung Myung, one last time. Because of that single decision, the princess closed in on Man Wol and her people, and Chung Myung was forced to say and do terrible things, just to keep Man Wol alive.

I’m sure that Chung Myung entered that marriage chamber with the intention of ending his life; he was not in wedding red but in funeral white, and he stepped in while holding his sword at his side. And so, he likely either didn’t resist Man Wol’s attack, or died by his own hand, which would / should have opened Man Wol’s eyes to the truth, that he’d done it all to protect her. The magnitude of the guilt weighing on Man Wol must be so great, that because of her one single decision, she brought about the death of so many people, including the two men who meant the most to her. It’s no wonder that she can’t forgive herself. It’s no wonder that she can’t move on.

E12. I think the most poignant reveal this episode, is that the firefly is actually Chung Myung, who’s been hanging around the tree all these years. He chose to stay around Man Wol, and even turned back on his way to the afterlife, so that he could be around her. How bittersweet and sad, that he’s been watching over her all these years, and she didn’t know. And how sad for him, that he’s witnessed her becoming more and more jaded, over the years.

E13. Right now, the only thing that’s keeping me watching this show to the end, is my affection for Chung Myung, and the poignant arc of the firefly, keeping watch over Man Wol and keeping her company through the changing years and seasons, without her ever being aware of his presence. How affecting.

E14. Given this episode’s developments, it looks like Man Wol really misunderstood Chung Myung for the last 1000 years. I’d thought that she’d known his heart and his intentions and that his hand had been forced, by the way he’d made it such that he’d died by her sword, while holding her in his arms, and that she’d been angry anyway, because the life he’d saved her for, was worse than death. But this episode, with the reveal of what really happened, she was able to empty her heart of her grudges. How could she have not known, by the way that he’d died? And the way that he’d spoken to her, lovingly, before he died?

The moment when Chung Myung took his human form in response to Man Wol’s invitation, was so, so poignant. The look in his eyes, as he gazed upon her, is so full of emotion: love, longing, regret, wistfulness. And when she tells him that he can leave now, and he says the words that echo his dying words, “This is the end for us, isn’t it?” his expression is just so beautifully, tragically poignant; so much sadness and lingering love, expressed in his face and in the single tear that falls from his eyes. Oof.

The other moment that really gets me, is on the bridge to the afterlife, when he looks upon Man Wol for the last time, hand outstretched, hoping that she will take it. There’s so much wistfulness and tenderness in that moment; I just feel like he knows it’s almost futile to ask, but he can’t help but ask anyway; she means that much to him. Augh.

[END SPOILER]

Lee Tae Sun as Yeon Woo / Young Soo

We don’t see very much of Lee Tae Sun on our screens as either Yeon Woo or Young Soo, but I quickly found him endearing, despite the short glimpses of him that Show served up. There’s a distinctly warm quality about him, and I especially found his smile very naturally disarming. There’s just a very friendly, genial, pleasant quality about both Yeon Woo and Young Soo that I enjoyed very much.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Of course, Yeon Woo’s arc, of being willing to literally die to Man Wol, makes him all the more appealing. When things fall apart in episode 8, Yeon Woo doesn’t hesitate for a second, to prioritize Man Wol’s life over his own; he essentially tells Chung Myung not to save him, so that Man Wol’s survival will be assured. So giving, so loving, and so self-sacrificing. Gulp.

I was really sad about Yeon Woo’s death, so when Lee Tae Sun popped up later in the show, as reincarnated Yeon Woo, now police officer Young Soo, I quickly grew fond of him too. Every time he flashed his warm smile, my heart melted a little.

Young Soo never becomes properly cognizant of his past life connection with Man Wol, but I really like the scene in episode 10, when he and Man Wol lock gazes; she with tears brimming in her eyes at the sight of her long-lost friend, alive and well again after so long, and he with a wonderment at the unexplained, unspoken connection that he feels with the stranger in red. So much is communicated in that one single gaze, and the connection between them feels alive, like something once left for dead, is now sparking again, and waking up. It’s beautiful.

After all that Yeon Woo went through in his previous life, I welcomed the idea of him having a happier personal story in this lifetime. However, I liked this better in concept than in execution, which I’ll talk more about later.

[END SPOILER]

P.O as Hyun Joong

I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed P.O as Hyun Joong.

There’s something so joyful, earnest and warm about Hyun Joong, no matter what he’s doing. I love the fact that he’s fond of Chan Seong, even while the other hotel staff remain ambivalent in Show’s early episodes. It shows how easily he gives affection, which I like. Plus, he’s just got this adorable goof sort of quality about him that I found very appealing.

[SPOILER] I also found it utterly poignant, that his arc mainly revolved around waiting for his little sister’s time to be up in this world, so that they could go to the afterlife together. What a sweet and loving big brother he is. [END SPOILER]

I’m also quite blown away by P.O’s acting chops, considering that he’s an idol actor who hasn’t had a whole lot of acting experience. He always looked completely natural onscreen, and he made Hyun Joong really pop as a character, for me. On top of that, he handled Hyun Joong’s most difficult scenes really well (I’ll talk more about this in the section which puts the spotlight on the penultimate episode), and made it look effortless, to boot. I am duly impressed.

Hyun Joong’s little loveline with Yoo Na

Fairly early in its run, Show starts drawing our two youngest characters Hyun Joong and Yoo Na (Kang Mi Na) together, and I was happily surprised by how cute these two are, opposite each other.

P.O and Kang Mi Na share a youthful, warm, sparky sort of chemistry that I found very believable and endearing. From the time that they first become friends, to when things turn romantic, I consistently found them as cute as a pair of puppies, even if the moment in question defied logic (like the one above, which I’ll talk more about later, in the section on logic stretches).

It says a lot about the wholesome charm of this pair of little lovebirds, that I enjoyed their loveline more than that of the actual OTP (heh. You’re right; I did enjoy just about every loveline in this story world more than I did the actual OTP. I’ll.. talk more about that later.)

Special shout-outs:

The hotel staff as a group

Over the course of my watch, I grew fond of the hotel staff as a group. From prim Manager Choi, to gruff Bartender Kim, to goofy Hyun Joong, they all brought something a little different to the table, and I liked that they were united in the way they found meaning and importance in helping their ghost guests fulfill the wishes they couldn’t in life.

Credit to Show, for bringing each of these characters to life by dedicating time to exploring each of their backstories, and making them pop as real people with real histories, rather than mere ghosts who happened to be staffing our magical hotel.

By Show’s final stretch, our staffers’ affection for one another – and for Man Wol and Chan Seong – is clearer than ever, and I very much liked watching them demonstrate care, concern and loyalty for one another, even as our story drew to a close.

Kang Hong Suk as the Grim Reaper

Grim Reaper remains on the periphery of our story all the way through, but gets a shout-out because I have an existing affection for Kang Hong Suk, and I feel that he gave our Grim Reaper a measure of warmth and a touch of comedy, even, which I appreciated. I would’ve loved to have seen more of the Grim Reaper, to be honest. Maybe Show could’ve fleshed out his backstory too, since we get to see almost everyone else’s backstories.

Cho Hyun Chul as Sanchez

Sanchez gets a shout-out purely because of Cho Hyun Chul’s personal affability and charm. I found Sanchez likable, even though I had problems with how Show utilized him more as a convenient prop with minimal feelings than as a proper character (more on that later). For now, I’ll just say that I thought Sanchez deserved more thoughtful characterization than what he got.

STUFF THAT WAS JUST OK

The writing

Overall, the writing in this show was just ok, for me.

The positives

On the upside, I thought the Hong sisters did a nice job creating our magical, ghostly drama world. I generally liked the concept of their ideas themselves, and mostly chafed more at the execution, where logic often took a beating (more on that later).

I also found the backstory that Man Wol shares with Chung Myung, Yeon Woo and the princess / Mi Ra (Park Yoo Na) completely absorbing; this arc always left me wanting more, and a good amount of credit definitely goes to the writing.

Still on the upside, there are some moments that I thought were written very nicely.

[SPOILER] For example, I really liked the way Man Wol articulates her feelings at the end of episode 6. Chan Seong comes to the hotel’s beach and sits her with, and remarks that the ocean is beautiful. Man Wol replies,”Yes, indeed. It makes me sad. I’m a little sad because the ocean looks more beautiful now… than it did earlier.” It’s a perfect callback to the flashback scene where Chung Myung tells her that things will look different to her because he’s with her, and yet, it’s vague enough to be opaque to Chan Seong. Very elegantly done, I felt. [END SPOILER]

The not-so-positives

On the downside, there were things that bugged me about the writing, and which took away from my enjoyment of the show as a whole.

Here’s an overview of what I thought were the main issues with the writing, in this show.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Connect-the-dots writing

E4. I feel like the Hong sisters started writing this episode wondering how to throw Man Wol and Chan Seong into a kissing type of situation by the end, because we get Man Wol insisting to Chan Seong that he sleep next to her, all episode long, even though it makes no sense that she’d be able to tell if he’s dreaming about her for real, and then finally, while trying to keep Chan Seong quiet so as not to draw the attention of the guest in room 13, she seals his lips by kissing him. Egad. That is so kdrama, I just can’t.

E12. At this stage of the drama, all the side stories are about grief and fear of loss, to provoke / prepare Chan Seong with regards to Man Wol’s impending departure. I get that concept, but it’s not so great in execution. It’s so obvious that each of this stories was inserted with that purpose in mind, and it all feels shoehorned in, rather than organically grown.

People not behaving like people

E8. I found the writing rather clunky this episode, with the old lady who created the imaginary spirit behaving like no human being would. Not only is the detour obviously there just to give Man Wol the idea of making an imaginary spirit, the old lady’s behavior is just so unbelievable. I mean, you walk into your private study, find strangers in it, and very quickly, send your son and daughter-in-law out so that you can sit down and chit chat with the strangers, admitting that you created an imaginary character in order to make your life more exciting? Who does that?

E11. The honeymoon couple was a weird arc as well. They don’t seem at all flustered to be staying at a ghost hotel, and even if they didn’t know it was a ghost hotel, they didn’t seem at all flustered to step out of the hotel room, and into a completely different place. Who behaves like that?

E11. It seemed really weird to me that the men in suits just appeared inside Sanchez’s house grounds without first knocking, and Chan Seong would just go with them, no questions asked. Who behaves like that? The second time the men come, they’re shown just walking through the gate, no doorbell or knocking whatsoever. It’s just very weird.

E13. When Sanchez sees Man Wol for the first time since visiting the hotel, he’s so matter-of-fact about it all, even though he now knows that she’s a supernatural being with powers. He doesn’t seem at all fazed by it, even though this is all new to him. That’s really weird, and not at all how I would expect a normal human to behave.

Characters used as props

E10. I am so underwhelmed at the treatment of the arc around Chan Seong’s mother. It was introduced so abruptly and randomly, and it exited just as suddenly and abruptly. It doesn’t feel at all well thought through, and I would have expected a lot more consideration for a key character.

Chan Seong doesn’t get any closure with his mother, whom he didn’t even know died. He doesn’t get any answers for why she chose not to be with him, or whether she regretted her decision, or if she thought of him. All he gets is one “sorry” and then she leaves? What gives? That is so unsatisfying from a viewer’s point of view, and more than that, so unfair to Chan Seong as a character.

I would have expected his mother to have stayed at the hotel for a while, because she’d regretted not getting to know her son, and then we could have seen Chan Seong talking with his mother, and there could have been some mutual healing, before he finally sent her off to the other side. Why didn’t we get that? And, if the writers hadn’t been prepared to deal with this arc in a manner that respected Chan Seong as a character, then why introduce it at all? I do not understand, and I feel frustrated on Chan Seong’s behalf.

E11. The Hong sisters seem to keep randomly introducing characters, mostly to kill them off. We had that with Chan Seong’s mother, and this episode, we have Sanchez’s girlfriend. We never even knew he had a girlfriend until this episode where he’s suddenly having a video call with her and talking about proposing to her – and then she dies. How sudden and weird.

It feels like she was introduced for the sole purpose of getting killed off, which feels quite unnecessary, really. With such a long episode, it would have been perfectly fine to do without Veronica and her death and Sanchez’s goodbye with her. It feels unnecessarily cruel, to do this to Sanchez. If this was just to have Chan Seong be confronted with the idea of loss, we could’ve done without this, and expanded his mother’s arc instead, and have him personally experience the loss?

[END SPOILER]

Yeo Jin Goo as Chan Seong

I really hate to say it, because I thought Yeo Jin Goo was flat-out amazing in The Crowned Clown, but I find Yeo Jin Goo rather, uh, uninteresting as Chan Seong. I know he’s capable of so much more range, nuance and intensity, but somehow, he just never popped for me, in this role. If I had to summarize it in a single sentence, it feels like he’s following the script and going through the motions, but not really feeling it, himself. I.. don’t understand it, and I know it’s probably an unpopular opinion, but that’s honestly how I received his performance as Chan Seong, overall.

I’m inclined to think that this is due to the writing, Yeo Jin Goo’s delivery, and the direction given by PD-nim.

Here are the three main things that bothered me about the treatment and delivery of Chan Seong as a character.

[SPOILER ALERT]

The funny seems to sit uncomfortably on him

Show has a bit of a comic bent and tends to pepper any given episode with some spots of funny. And I must say that Yeo Jin Goo commits 100% to all of Chan Seong’s flaily terror, which we see most in Show’s early episodes. However, I fancy that the funny doesn’t actually become him; I always felt at those times, that he was play-acting through the scene, but that it didn’t come across as authentic or natural.

Of course, this is my subjective observation, and it’s completely possible that this is just me and my usual struggle to jive with k-humor.

Character evolution sometimes doesn’t feel organic

When we are first introduced to Chan Seong, he’s a complete scaredy cat and is consistently flailing in terror in front of Man Wol &/or the ghosts in front of him. However, there’s a sudden shift at around the episode 4 mark, when Chan Seong suddenly develops a sassy side, which he isn’t afraid of showing when he talks to Man Wol. He even says to Man Wol that maybe it’s not that she forced him into working at the hotel, but he was drawn to the hotel himself.

Generally speaking, I found the sassy version of Chan Seong more interesting than the flaily version, but I found the change sudden and unexplained. On a related tangent, I also felt like the sass and the intended funny that comes with it, didn’t land so well, for me. Again, I’m referring to how I felt like Yeo Jin Goo’s delivery leaned perfunctory, even though he is actually putting in effort.

Chan Seong is written / delivered as overly stoic

Personally, I found Chan Seong oddly overly stoic as a character. There were multiple occasions where I felt like it would have been appropriate for Chan Seong to show more emotion, but consistently, he was so restrained that it kinda felt like he wasn’t actually feeling anything at all. I found this hard to engage with, and this made me feel alienated from Chan Seong as a character, unfortunately.

For example, it is very weird to me that the ghosts working at the hotel appear to have more emotions about the flowers wilting on the Moon Tree, than Chan Seong himself, in episode 13. I mean, I get that he’s accepted that his role is to help Man Wol move on to the afterlife, but the thing is, despite that, he’s still supposed to love her. However, we don’t see much in terms of any kind of wistful emotions, in their couple scenes.

And then when Man Wol tells him that she will remember him till her last step on the bridge to the afterlife, even though she won’t be able to remember him afterwards, I would’ve expected Chan Seong to have some regret or wistfulness or sadness – any emotion, really – in response to the idea that she will forget him completely and forever. Instead, what we get is a genial smile, with no hint of other emotions running undercurrent. I’m sorry, but this reminds me of Yeo Jin Goo’s outing as Zero Nine in My Absolute Boyfriend, because Zero Nine the robot was designed to be exactly that: genial, polite and agreeable; the perfect robot boyfriend.

[END SPOILER]

Mi Ra’s loveline with Young Soo [SPOILERS]

I get where Show is going with pairing up Young Soo and Mi Ra in this lifetime, because there’s that Korean saying, when people are bickering &/or fighting a lot, that they were enemies in their past lives.

The problem for me is, the bickering between Mi Ran and Young Soo does not come across as cute. In episode 11, we see Mi Ra arguing over the phone with Young Soo over something insignificant, and my sense was that Show intended this scene to be funny, but to my eyes, the scene was played too straight and hard to be at all funny or cute. I don’t understand why PD-nim approved the cut, honestly.

At the same time, given how Mi Ra had basically ordered Young Soo’s death in their past lives, it does feel unfair to me, that Young Soo would end up in this very uncute bickering relationship with her in this life. What I would have preferred, is if Mi Ra had been written to be completely and utterly smitten with Young Soo. This way, it would have felt like Mi Ra was making it up to him, for how she’d treated him in their past lives. That would have felt a lot more satisfying, no?

The hotel guest side stories

Generally speaking, I found most of the ghostly side stories on the “just ok” side of things. Like I mentioned earlier in this review, at a certain point, it felt like just about all the side stories were shoehorned in there, purely to mirror the main narrative in some way, or point our main characters in certain specific directions. That felt overly obvious to me, unfortunately, and took away from my ability to appreciate the side stories.

However, I did like these 3 side stories, for varying reasons.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E4. The arc of the old man and his dog was so very bittersweet. I felt so sad for the dog, who refused to leave his dead owner’s side, even though the door was open. But it was sweet – and yet, still sad – that in the end, the dog left for heaven, together with his owner. Sniffle. So poignant.

E6. I liked the arc of the actor ghost getting to fulfill his life’s dream of acting in the lead role that he’d prepared so hard for. That felt quite meaningful and momentous.

E7. The story of the vengeful ghost, who was a victim of being secretly filmed, and then having the sex tape ruin her life, driving her to suicide, hits really close to home, especially in the light of 2019’s sex tape scandals. It’s uncomfortable to watch, but perhaps this story will help bring some awareness and empathy for the plight of the victims.

[END SPOILER]

Seo Yi Sook as Mago

Seo Yi Sook hams it up for the camera as multiple versions of the deity Mago, and I was mildly amused at the idea that Mago has seemingly endless lookalike sisters who look just like her – and also, are her. Sometimes they appear to be distinct beings who have separate memories and at other times they appear to be one and the same. Kinda weird, sure. To rationalize this, I decided that the strange idea was just one of those supernatural things that the human mind can’t quite wrap around.

However, I did struggle with the idea of Mago being both benevolent and capricious; that didn’t quite sit well with me.

[SPOILER] In episode 14, I am annoyed and bemused by the way Mago basically purposely misleads Man Wol into believing that Chan Seong and Chung Myung were the same person. She doesn’t say the words specifically, but she says things that hint heavily that Man Wol is right to think that Chan Seong is Chung Myung, which then puts Man Wol on a murderous path, and essentially puts Chan Seong’s life in danger. Yes, I can rationalize that Mago probably knew that Man Wol wouldn’t actually kill Chan Seong, but because our characters are given free will, there was an actual chance that Man Wol might’ve killed him anyway. Playing around in a way that tests one person, but puts another person in mortal danger is not ok, in my books. [END SPOILER]

STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH

The romantic connection between Man Wol and Chan Seong

By this point of the review, you’d probably know that I just wasn’t feeling the romance between Man Wol and Chan Seong.

Perceived chemistry is a funny thing because some people might see lots of chemistry where others don’t see any and vice versa. And to be brutally honest with you guys, I didn’t feel any chemistry between IU and Yeo Jin Goo, from the beginning to the end of this drama, save for one scene in episode 11 where they laughed together, which had seemed more like the result of an ad-lib, than something that was actually scripted and planned for.

Whether Man Wol and Chan Seong were merely employer and employee, or just friends, or actual lovers, their connection just didn’t spark, for me. I just didn’t feel it, unfortunately, and that was a real downer on my watch, since this OTP relationship plays an important role in Man Wol’s personal journey, which is the whole backbone of this show.

Honestly, I would have preferred it if Show had kept Chan Seong’s connection with Man Wol platonic; a platonic soulmate, who genuinely cared for her and would do anything to protect her. I would’ve liked that a lot more, I think. Especially since this way, we would have been able to preserve the epicness of Man Wol’s love for Chung Myung, rather than dilute it with mild and unsparky feelings for Chan Seong. Having Man Wol’s connection with Chan Seong be romantic just invited comparison, and unfortunately, in this comparison, it’s Man Wol’s connection with Chung Myung that comes out as the sparky, organic pairing, hands down.

Because the OTP connection takes centerstage more and more as we get deeper into our episodes, I found my inability to jive with this OTP a distinct damper on my watch.

Here’s a look at my various thoughts on this OTP, over the course of the show.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E6. The running gag of Chan Seong nagging Man Wol to curb her spending and do more good, in order not to be reborn as a dog or cat is reasonably amusing, and I do appreciate that Chan Seong has good intentions and this is coming from a place of care.

E6. I can see why Man Wol might grow fond of Chan Seong. He’s not always in agreement with her, but he’s caring and decent, and he’s considerate of her. The way he went out of his way to get the autograph for her was thoughtful and sweet, and I can see how that would melt her down and win her over, over time. On Chan Seong’s side, I don’t feel any special feelings or intentions at this point. His efforts to take care of her feel guileless and pure, and quite platonic.

E8. In theory, I can understand why Man Wol would be drawn to Chan Seong, and why Chan Seong would come to care about her. But I’m just not feeling it. Even when Chan Seong is saying to Man Wol that he will never leave her side – a love confession by almost any kdrama’s standards – I don’t detect any lashings of romantic intention, only stoic seriousness. I hate to say it, but I feel like romance might not be Yeo Jin Goo’s strength. I love him as a dramatic actor, and the sweet, restrained, formal romance in The Crowned Clown suited him well, but other than that, so far, I’ve not found him to share believable romantic chemistry with anyone.

E9. The romance between Chan Seong and Man Wol is very subtle, to the point where I’m not feeling it at all, even though Chan Seong articulates this episode, that he likes her, and his deepest fear is her disappearing into nothing, and Man Wol consistently refuses to let him get into dangerous situations.

E10. The scenes between Man Wol and Chan Seong, where emotions are high and things get intense, just doesn’t pop for me. It feels like they’re going through the motions in a detailed manner, adjusting tones of voice and intensity of gaze accordingly, but, even though I get it in my head, it’s just not coming alive, for me.

E11. Man Wol’s bantering scenes with Chan Seong seem overly scripted and devoid of actual rhythm and chemistry. That moment, when Chan Seong said he’d eat Man Wol’s earrings and Man Wol laughed, was the only moment that felt organic and sparky between IU and Yeo Jin Goo, and this really seemed more like an ad-libbed scene than a scripted one.

E13. Romantic scenes between the OTP all fall flat for me, like when Chan Seong draws the moon symbol on his hand, and tells Man Wol that this proves that he is hers. It feels like Yeo Jin Goo is just going through the motions; it’s just not popping for me. Some of this has to do with the writing, because it’s true the writing is patchy. But it’s also on PD-nim, who’s definitely not directing Yeo Jin Goo in a way that’s helpful. And I wonder if it’s also Yeo Jin Goo’s lack of experience with romantic roles – reel and real. He’s got heaps of experience playing dramatic roles, and he truly excels in those, but so far, anything romantic I’ve seen him in – except for the muted romance with the queen in The Crowned Clown, which worked because of its restraint and innocence – has fallen flat.

E13. The flirtation between Chan Seong and Man Wol, where she threatens to take off his clothes and he dares her to do it, is supposed to be cheeky, funny and salacious, but it’s just not landing for me.

[END SPOILER]

The funny didn’t appeal to me so much

Generally speaking, the Intended Funny didn’t land so well, for me. This isn’t new for me, in the sense that I often find myself unable to jive with the Intended Funny in many kdramas. But, it is true that most of the time, when Show’s musical cues indicated that I was watching a funny scene, I found it more awkward – sometimes painfully so – than actually amusing.

However, there were a couple of times when I did feel genuinely tickled, so here they are, for the record.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E4. Chan Seong fondling all the bakers’ hands, in the name of finding the mystery guy that the blind lady ghost is looking for, is quite hilarious. Of course everyone thinks he’s a creepy weirdo.

E6. Lol at the drama mentioning The Moon Embraces The Sun, and spoofing The Crown Clown with that Crowned Queen parody. That was cute.

[END SPOILER]

Logic stretches

I know I said that it’s best to keep a looser grip on one’s need for logic with this show, because this general disregard for logical detail is pretty much how the Hong sisters roll, but I have to admit that the lack of cohesiveness, which reared its head quite often, bugged me and put a damper on my watch experience.

If you feel like it would be too much of a downer to look at all the logic stretches laid out next, feel free to skip to the following section, heh. Some logic lapses are smaller and easier to overlook, while others are bigger offenders and therefore harder to ignore.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E2. There’s a level of suspension of disbelief required, with watching this show. Like when Chan Seong lost his luggage, and then remarks that he doesn’t have it, and then we see him in the very next scene, with the lost luggage next to him. Are we supposed to infer that Man Wol got it back for him?

E2. Chan Seong is supposed to be able to see ghosts all the time, just as they are – after all, that’s the gift that Man Wol gave him. So unless she’s shielding him from it, he should be able to see everything. But when he goes to the hotel for the first time at night, it feels like everything is revealed to him in stages, like light switches being put on. I get that this is for dramatic effect, but I’m not sure I follow the logic of it. Is there a magical veil over the hotel lobby that needs to be manually removed, before anyone can see the guests?

E3. I feel that the lack of logic around the murdered girl and the necklace is typical Hong sisters type of glossing over. There’s no logic in the explanation that once the necklace is destroyed, the murderer cannot return to her body, and given that this is by the Hong sisters, I expect that there will be no further explanation given. Bleah. The best rationalization I can give, is that because the murdered girl’s grudge is said to be deep, and the necklace appears to mean a lot to her, once the necklace is destroyed, there will be no way of pacifying her, and she will never leave the murderer’s body.

E4. The set-up of the guest in room 13 is decidedly odd. We’ve been told that ghosts stay at the hotel in order to fulfill the dreams that they didn’t while they were alive, or complete any unfinished business that they might have. The hotel is also described as a place where ghosts stay to heal. So why is room 13 portrayed like some kind of dungeon prison? I mean, Chan Seong has to go through a dark hallway, then unlatch a door, before he comes to the cabinet in which the ghost stays. That doesn’t seem like a healing place to me?

E5. I acknowledge that the writers served up some twists with the ghost bride arc, but I personally don’t enjoy this style of writing. The twists don’t feel clever, they feel manipulative and deceptive. Like, one moment, everyone on screen seems to believe that the human groom will go through the ghost wedding like a quick nightmare, and be on his merry way, and the next moment, Man Wol is declaring that the human groom will die and go to the afterlife with the bride, and everyone’s scurrying to pass the red pouch around.

If Man Wol had known about this to begin with, she could’ve gone straight to the bride’s almost-dead boyfriend and invited his spirit to marry the bride, instead of the whole thing where Man Wol literally throws Sanchez at the red pouch, knowing that he’s Chan Seong’s friend. Also, the thing where the parents turn out to be parents of the guy and not the girl, seems tenuous at best. Just because his ring won’t come off his finger, they conclude that it’s the dead girlfriend refusing to leave him behind? It wasn’t even the case, in the end, since she’d been determined to go to the afterlife alone, until they arranged the ghost wedding. Man Wol’s declaration that the desperate wish sealed in the pouch belongs to the woman who must get married before she leaves, makes no sense either, since the ghost bride keeps saying that she’d prefer to go to the afterlife alone.

E6. The vengeful ghost from Room 13 seems to have died having suffered because of being used for some kind of porn. My question is, why is she able to touch humans, when other ghosts can’t? She holds the first victim by the head, and when the second victim is trying to run away, she grabs him from around the corner.

E6. The idea of Hyun Joong playing the piano on Yoo Na’s hands while reminiscing about his little sister is poignant and bittersweet, but there is no way that that sound could have been achieved by someone’s hands playing on another’s.

E9. This episode is an example of when things don’t seem so logically handled, in this show. It’s obvious that Chan Seong would be able to find the hotel again, given that he can see ghosts, and he can easily follow a ghost to the hotel’s new location, but this “twist” is played for drama. That fell rather flat for me, to be honest. But ok, I can rationalize that Man Wol thought that Chan Seong would jump at the chance of cutting himself loose from the hotel.

And also, given that Man Wol has poofed her way around before, I feel like the logistics around moving a large group of ghosts between hotel locations is also exaggerated. I don’t understand why they felt they had to hurry the ghosts who were ready, to get on the bus to the afterlife.

E12. Hate from netizens is giving the serial killer’s ghost power? But, why? And, how? This is a bit too hard to rationalize, for me.

E12. The logic around the parents’ lifelines being given to their son as a response to their desperation is shaky too. Who is granting these desperate wishes? The deity Mago isn’t interfering, and the Grim Reaper wants the soul, so it makes sense that we should be introduced to the force that is able to grant those wishes?

E13. Ji Won’s (David Lee) murderous ghost is handled very weirdly as well. I can buy that he would go after Chan Sung’s loved ones, and that’s why Sanchez is a target, and maybe even Mi Ra, but for the ghost to go after Young Soo too, is stretching it. And, while all the drama is going on in the movie theater, with Man Wol attempting to catch the ghost, and Young Soo knocked out cold on the floor, the rest of the audience in the theater just sits there without reacting? What?

[END SPOILER]

TANGENT #1: A COUPLE OF ALTERNATIVE ENDINGS / SCENE EXECUTION

Ok, so hear me out; I know the writers had their own Big Plan with regard to our characters and how they are intertwined by this Big Fate, but there were several occasions when I thought Show could have chosen a different direction and ending, and it would’ve been pretty darn effective – in my personal opinion, and if I do say so myself.

Indulge me a little, as I share ’em with you?

[SPOILER ALERT]

Alternative Ending #1

E8. Unpopular opinion: the show could’ve ended right here at the end of episode 8 – when Man Wol disappears together with the hotel, and Chan Seong is left crying by himself at a bus-stop – and I would’ve been happy. It’s the perfect bittersweet note on which to leave a story, with an open ending that hints at a forever of pathos. It feels like how a movie would end. (It reminds me of how A Werewolf Boy ended.)

Chan Seong’s brief encounter with the supernatural brought to an abrupt end; Man Wol’s tragic backstory finally revealed; Man Wol leaving Chan Seong and taking the hotel with her, to bear her burden alone, forever isolated, and keeping the memory of Chung Myung and Yeon Woo alive. Augh. That would’ve hurt so good.

Alternative Scene Execution

E13. The final scene of the episode, where Chan Seong exits the tunnel, and Man Wol runs to hug him, could have been played better, I feel. We know that this is supposed to be Chung Myung in Chan Seong’s body, because of how he cradles the back of Man Wol’s head in his hand as he holds her. I think the scene would have been so much more satisfying and powerful to watch, if PD-nim would’ve let us see Chung Myung holding Man Wol, just for a split second, before Man Wol pulls away and sees Chan Seong in front of her.

The main reason I think this would’ve worked better for me, is because I feel the angst between Man Wol and Chung Myung, so acutely, while I don’t feel the OTP connection, at all. If Show would’ve chosen Chung Myung to be Man Wol’s endgame (like in the next alternative ending), I would’ve much preferred it, and this scene, played out this way, would’ve been perfect.

Alternative Ending #2

E14. Show should’ve gone in a different direction, and ended with Chung Myung’s journey on the bridge to the afterlife. I feel like Man Wol should’ve gone with Chung Myung, on that bridge. She’s loved him for a thousand years, and the way he looks at her, hand stretched out, silently inviting her to go with him so that they can start over together, is so compellingly poignant.

Plus, Chan Seong’s role has always been to help Man Wol cross over. Yes, Chan Seong would’ve been left crying by himself at the bus-stop, but he had accepted that his love for Man Wol would end in goodbye after he’d helped her cross over, so this wouldn’t have been out of his expectations.

This would have been the perfect way to end the show on a narratively fitting, haunting, heart-squeezingly poignant-yet-romantic way: Man Wol and Chung Myung finally reunited in the cycle of life and death, while Chan Seong mourns her departure, alone, but forever impacted by the experience of walking her through to healing and the re-starting of her passage of time. Augh. How poetic.

[END SPOILER]

TANGENT #2: A HYPOTHETICAL SWITCHING OF MALE LEADS?

Lee Do Hyun would look pretty dapper as a hotel manager, yes?

As I became more and more bemused at how uninteresting I found the OTP pairing, and how much I did love Man Wol’s connection with Chung Myung, I began to toy with the hypothetical idea of switching male leads, and I came away very intrigued.

[SPOILER] For example, in episode 14, when Man Wol walks away from Chung Myung on the bridge to the afterlife, turning back towards Chan Seong, I’d felt like I wanted her to go with Chung Myung, even though that’s obviously not what the writers intended.

On the other hand, if Yeo Jin Goo had played Chung Myung, and Lee Do Hyun had played Chan Seong, I feel like everything would have been different, for me. I would’ve been on board with Man Wol going back to Chan Seong, because I would have felt convinced of the compelling connection and chemistry between Man Wol and Chan Seong. And, every romantic line Chan Seong had ever uttered, would have landed with more oomph, for me, if Lee Do Hyun delivered the lines the way he delivered Chung Myung’s lines to Man Wol. [END SPOILER]

This is the train of thought that made me think that my whole issue with the OTP could have been a simple casting issue.

SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]

We get some solid nuggets of narrative development this episode, but I have to admit that I still feel kind of meh overall, at the so-called key relationship of our OTP.

We finally get to see the backstory of Hyun Joong’s death, and everything gets turned on its head. It turns out that Hyun Joong never was a soldier, but had died in a soldier’s uniform because his best friend had threatened him with a gun, to swop clothes. How in character for Hyun Joong, to have made his dying wish that his friend take care of his sister.

I thought P.O did an outstanding job playing out the entire flashback, with his signature warmth and touch of goofiness, and yet, with so much burgeoning emotion, at the various story milestones. The shock, sadness and helpless was communicated so well, in Hyun Joong’s death scene. So good, that he had me tearing up as he teared up.

I have a small quibble with the fact that Yoo Na is able to bring the fake, living Hyun Joong to the hotel without an express invitation from Man Wol, but I’m willing to look past it.

I also liked the honorary graduation ceremony that they organize for Hyun Joong, and besides Hyun Joong’s pleased-as-punch smile from ear to ear, I also loved Grim Reaper’s pleased smirk in the corner, probably proud of himself for having provided a bus to transport all the ghost guests. Cute.

I also like the idea of Chan Seong visiting Man Wol Lodge, and getting to interact with the versions of Man Wol and his colleagues from that time. That was a nice touch of levity, and also, it was narratively important for Chan Seong to make that choice, not to drink the cup of wine that Joseon Man Wol offered, that would have allowed him to stay there and not have to angst over her impending disappearance, opting instead to return to the present, to await Present Man Wol’s return.

The thing is, though, everything else in this episode that is about Chan Seong and Man Wol’s relationship, falls flat for me. Man Wol mentions to Manager Choi that both she and Chan Seong are aware of her impending departure, but that neither of them talks about it. My issue is that there’s just not enough for us as viewers, in terms of glimpses into any inner conflict that they might feel about this.

When Chan Seong stops Man Wol from drinking the wine that would enable her to stay on as owner of the hotel, I liked how IU played Man Wol’s response. There is a mix of sadness and gladness in her response, as Man Wol thanks Chan Seong with tears in her eyes, and tells him that she loves him. But, Chan Seong’s response is weirdly flat. He simply smiles genially and tells her that he loves her too.

I don’t know if this is, at its root, an actor thing or a director thing, but since PD-nim would have had the final say on whether a scene made the cut, I’m putting this on PD-nim. Why have Chan Seong display so little emotion over the departure of someone whom he’s allegedly deeply in love with? That’s unbelievable and inorganic, and it takes me out of the scene, and the story, a lot.

From beginning to end, I have had trouble buying the supposedly strong love between Chan Seong and Man Wol, and thus, the scene where he picks her up off the suitcase and she points to the bedroom, was very awkward to watch, for me. It just felt very forced and unnatural. Sigh.

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

This ending was just ok for me, to be brutally honest. There were some things that worked better for me than others, and altogether, it works out to just alright.

The finale is made up of successive goodbyes, as each person on the hotel team takes their turn to move on to the afterlife. Bartender Kim goes first, after finally feeling satisfied that his name has been cleared to the maximum that it can be cleared – thanks to the intervention of Man Wol, along with the help of a literal ghost writer, lol.

Hyun Joong leaves next, after his sister Hyun Mi finally dies. It’s an emotional reunion for Hyun Joong, who’s waited 70 years for his little sister, and also, it’s an emotional goodbye for him and Yoo Na, who makes a last minute rush to the heavenly tunnel with a bunch of magic lilies, which she negotiates from Mago, in exchange for a promise to live well.

The two little lovebirds share a tearful farewell, as she tells him that he doesn’t have to worry about her, and he thanks her, telling her he won’t. They both cry their hearts out, as he leaves in the limousine with his little sister, and she watches them go. Aw.

Young Soo and Mi Ra make marriage plans, and bicker over which refrigerator to buy. Man Wol drops by and in a rather clever PPL insertion, buys the couple a flat-screen TV that pivots as a congratulatory gift, while squeezing in a bit of hypnotic threatening, telling Mi Ra – well, Song Hwa – that she better treat Yeon Woo right, or she would turn her life upside down just like the TV. Ok, Show. Hur.

Manager Choi leaves next, after an emotional conversation with the mother of the unborn baby who will be born to her husband’s family line, where she realizes that whether the baby is a boy or a girl, its mother intends to raise the child herself, without any help from the baby’s father’s family.

Before Manager Choi boards the limousine, she and Man Wol share an emotional hug, finally articulating thanks, comfort and concern for each other, that they’ve kept in their hearts all along.

Man Wol grows sleepy as her time to depart draws near, and Chan Seong and her take a nap, where they dream the same dream, and learn that when Man Wol was a child, Chan Seong had found her and comforted her about her dead family, telling her about the Guest House of the Moon. And so, it finally makes sense now, why he’d be the one chosen to send her away, from the same guest house that he’d once told her about.

At the heavenly tunnel, Man Wol tearfully expresses her love and thanks to Chan Seong, telling him that she doesn’t want to leave him behind, and asks that they meet again in their next lives. Chan Seong remains fairly stoic even as he cries a little bit, and they say their final goodbye.

We soon see Man Wol walking along on the bridge to the afterlife, looking back with a peaceful smile on her face, while Chan Seong finally cries out loud at her departure, as he stands alone at the entrance to the tunnel.

To be honest, I feel quite underwhelmed by this goodbye scene, even though I get the idea that Chan Seong is holding back his emotions so that Man Wol can leave him behind with a lighter heart. Compared to the goodbye scene between Hyun Joong and Yoo Na, which had felt equally wistful and poignant on both sides, this felt a lot more.. lopsided. It felt like all the emotion was on Man Wol’s side, while Chan Seong was overly stoic. On top of that, he said so very little to her. It would’ve been nice if Chan Seong had expressed himself more, instead of leaving all the love confession and emotional outpouring to Man Wol. He could’ve comforted her and told her not to cry (or that it was ok to cry); he could’ve assured her that they would meet again; he could’ve told her he loved her.

In a scene where Chan Seong emotes so little in the moment, and says so little as well, it feels like we’re not getting anything from him, really. If he’d been more expressive in his facial expression, his gaze, and his body language, then perhaps the “Goodbye, Man Wol,” would have felt like enough. But because he’s so stoic through her departure, it just feels frustrating that there’s so little coming forth from him, given that he’s supposed to love her so much. Even his tears after her departure feel like they’re not enough, to my eyes. I just wanted something more from him, y’know?

Given that this is a goodbye scene that Show’s been working up to over the course of its entire story, this feels extra underwhelming to me, unfortunately.

Unspecified (and to my eyes, quite sudden) time skip later, we see that it’s winter and Chan Seong is preparing to leave for New York. We also learn that he’s given the special medicine that Man Wol had left him, to Yoo Na, and that it’s helped her enormously in being able to focus on her studies, because she’s no longer distracted by her ability to see ghosts.

The scene then (quite suddenly and weirdly, I might add) changes to an unspecified location, where we see our various characters all over again. Bartender Kim jogs in the park, Manager Choi plays with a little puppy, Hyun Joong plays basketball, and Chan Seong sits reading on a bench, while Man Wol arrives to sit with him and lay her head on his shoulder.

Show is vague on what this scene is supposed to mean, but I rationalize that Show is probably trying to say that sometime, some place, somehow, our characters are (or will be) happy and no longer holding grudges in their hearts. Show then closes off with an epilogue of a very dapper Kim Soo Hyun, opening the new hotel, named Hotel Blue Moon, for business.

I do like the idea of the hotel continuing with a new and different owner, and Show manages to make the new owner seem immediately intriguing, with his whiskey-swirling ways, slow deliberate swagger, gold rings and snazzy appearance, which makes me think that there will surely be interesting developments at the new hotel. That’s quite a lot communicated in a few short minutes, and I’m quite impressed.

Overall, though, I’m left feeling rather underwhelmed by Show’s finale because the closure of the key relationship in this story didn’t feel sufficiently satisfying, to me. However, I’m quite content with Man Wol’s choice to walk the bridge to the afterlife alone, while she smiles back upon her life. That seemed quite fitting, I thought.

Also, I take the idea that Show serves up, that everything moves in seasons, including love, relationships and friendships. As each of our hotel friends’ seasons at the hotel came to an end, there were wistful goodbyes, but there was also a consistent sense of looking forward to an as-yet-unknown future. And even though, according to Show’s lore, our characters won’t remember any of the memories that they made together as fellow caretakers of the hotel, it doesn’t take away from the value of the season that they shared.

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Creative concept, but the execution leans blah, unfortunately, underneath Show’s shiny surface.

FINAL GRADE: B-

TEASER:

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107 thoughts on “Review: Hotel Del Luna

  1. karenedramaddictions

    Glad to know that I’m not alone when it comes to the OTP chemistry here….It fell flat for me and I was on the Man Wol-Chung Myung ship throughout the drama, even though it was eventually revealed that Chung Myung betrayed Man Wol (despite the circumstances, a betrayal is still a betrayal). I just didn’t, couldn’t feel for the OTP. Switch the actors around? Not sure if it will work either. I can’t decide if the lack of fizz is due to the plot context (how can anyone beat a tragic love story which spanned over a millennium – poor firefly!) or whether due to the acting. It would have worked for me if Chan Seung and Man Wol remained platonic friends and Man Wol gets reincarnate either with Chung Myung or a while after Chung Myung leaves. I don’t really care if she still holds feelings for Chung Myung (what a tiresome love she must have felt, even after Chung Myung kind of redeems himself), and I just wanted closure for her.

    Reply
  2. Prashil Prakash

    Hotel Del luna was the Second review I ever read on your page (and first one to make me come back)

    After revisting a bit of IU(her songs ) I came back to revisit your review on it.

    It’s been at least 2 months since I watched the show and reading your thoughts on the show, I’d say I certainly liked it more than you did, Lol.

    I’ll say this show definitely won’t stand scrutiny as it hangs more into the surreal, which I did like. And surrealism works great with great production value, and my word! the shows aesthetics are just… Well..I don’t think I’ve seen better aesthetics in a kdrama yet (Goblin sorta comes close I guess but I think this one is clearly a winner by a long shot.)

    Your idea for viewing this show as Man-Wols story is so on point. Cuz that’s how I viewed it and that’s probably why I liked it.
    And yes it is quite ironical that the OTP itself is the weakest among the other pairings which existed in the show but I’m sorta glad it’s like that cuz it caused the story to be more central towards Man-wol, instead of the “Love”.
    And by not indulging on love so much the show fleshed out a lot of their ideas on life and afterlife, which works for the benefit for what they are going for.

    Contrary to your thoughts on Mi-Ra and Young soo, I found them really adorable, and its total a perspective thing. But their fights are simple result of their love. It’s a bit of Irony but closest comparison would be reply series parents. Specially Reply 1997’s earlier episodes where their dialogues simply sound like a marriage gone bad, on surface, when in reality they are head over heels in love for each other.

    Also their loveline is kinda important as it talks about how their past life is not who they are now, and the people who they are now is what they should be looked as.
    Reminds me a little of ‘Mystic pop up bar’ (Prince’ Mother’s storyline)

    No matter how I look at it. This show doesn’t come under the ‘feel good’ catagory, and they managed to keep that till the end. The ending is vague but talks about a hopeful future. And I don’t know if it’s bittersweet or just poignant. I felt empty. (Now this is not a criticism, just an observation on the effect of the show)
    The fact the you lose your memories of this life is seriously the saddest thing ever. As life is literally supposed to be a sum of all our memories, which is why dementia is basically considered first death.
    Ugh. Show! why you make me sad!
    (Club that with the beautiful song ‘Lean on me’ by 10cm)

    IUs performance were fantastic (not even a tiny bit surprised) but Damn! She was so beautiful! The work that went on her wardrobe and her appearance must be a lot! Put Ji-an(from ‘My Mister’) next to Man-wol and you are sure to be baffled thinking they’re the same people.

    It’s nice even though some of our thoughts on the show are different and I think that’s the beauty of it.

    P.S. Man-wol’s sass is Pure Fire, lol.

    Cheers!

    Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      Hey there Prashil! I completely agree that us as viewers having different reactions and thoughts on the same show, is part of what makes Dramaland so interesting and varied! How boring it would be, if we all thought and felt alike! 😅 This was truly Man Wol’s story, and your perspective that the loveline was muted in order to keep that spotlight on her, is quite helpful. I personally would have still liked a strong loveline, with Show still managing to keep the focus on Man Wol (like in Romance is a Bonus Book), but your way of looking at it does help to mitigate the disappointment. 😉

      And YES, IU’s wardrobe was Something Else, in this show! So luxuriously curated! 🤩 Not my style by far, but I still liked looking at her pretty things. 😆

      Reply
  3. JN

    Thanks for the review! I have just completed the show.

    Actually, I was rather engrossed until episode 14. Then I came to realize that it is the Man Wol/Chung Myung arc that kept me going. Along the way, I manage to ignore/forgive all the inconsistencies and lack of OTP chemistry as you have highlighted.

    I don’t really like how the show concluded this arc though. I think it can be fleshed out better.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Hi JN, thanks for enjoying the review! 🙂 Same here, it was the arc between Man Wol and Chung Myung that captured my heart, and I was a lot less interested in the the OTP story, unfortunately. 😛 No regrets watching it though, for Chung Myung! 😍😅

      Reply
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  6. Sunny Lady

    When was my last comment? Maybe 2 years ago??? If not three??? I finished watching Hotel Del Luna today. I managed to reach the end because I watched with my sis… As always, you worded everything so perfectly. Clearly the romance between Man Wol and Chan Sung wasn’t organic. I mean, what was the point of that kiss in Episode 4??? There’s no talk about it afterward. I just knew it wouldn’t work for me. I also believe this hairstyle doesn’t do Yeo Jin Goo justice to play a suave cool male lead #isaidwhatisaid … His character was so dull while Man Wol was all fleshed out. At the end of the day, we know she likes expensive stuff, she likes eating, she likes drinking, she has an outfit for every type of dish, she enjoys watching dramas, she’s smart but not that much educated, we get to know her entire life… What do we know about Chan Sung? What does he like to do except taking care of others? Who is he except for the fact he’s a Harvard graduate? Being good to other people doesn’t mean you don’t have a personality. His storyline with his mom was so so so disappointing… So pointless. Especially with the backstory of Manager Choi. Again, he could have chosen not to ask his mom what happened, but I was hoping for a little bit more of conflict on his part, that was his moment and Show focused only on how Man Wol wanted to comfort him. So back to their romance… What was the point? They just embrace each other and look at the stars? Then once in a while they joke about sleeping together… How is that supposed to be funny? I mean, if there was a rule for them not being allowed to more physical contact, okay? But getting one kiss at episode 4. A clear confession around episode 8/9… Man Wol gets to say she fell in love with him… He says she’s the woman he loves, he’s the person who loves her the most… And then what?

    Anyway, I’mma try to stay in this dynamic and watch My Mister because it’s on Netflix too. Wish me luck.

    Reply
    1. seankfletcher

      In my view, My Mister is worth every second. I even found myself holding my breath when watching it because I was so concerned that Writer Nam would mess it up. As I have said elsewhere, My Mister is in my top three shows of all time (By that I mean out of every show I have ever watched from around the planet).

      Reply
      1. John Max

        My Mister is a wonderful show; better in many ways. But Hotel del Luna gives you much more of IU who is definitely the successful star.

        Reply
    2. kfangurl

      Sunny!! <3 It's SO good to see you around here! 😀 It has been a while indeed!

      I'm so happy to hear that you're still watching dramas – even though this one didn't end up blowing your socks off. 😛 I chuckled – ruefully – at your rant about the OTP connection; I fully agree, and I feel your frustration, so much! I also felt the OTP loveline was weird and forced and quite pointless. I think it would've been much more interesting if Man Wol's loveline had been with the Captain. They had a more interesting story together, and they also shared more chemistry. Why didn't they go with that??? 😩😩

      My Mister is AMAZING, so I'm really excited that you're going to check it out! It can take a little while to settle, because it does appear dark and sad at first, but give it a chance, and you'll also see a lot of warmth and beauty. <3 I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it, my dear! <3

      Reply
  7. Gradiva

    I thoroughly agree with your review and yes Chan seong was not as lovable as the captain of the soldiers. I would have grabbed his hand and gone off to the after life with him!!!!

    Reply
  8. Prashanth Kotian

    Different Concept and it’s worth watching, superb cinematography, Class acting by all especially IU… She should get an award though👌👏👍

    Reply
  9. liability

    I think your review perfectly explains just how I felt about the show.
    When I finished this,I felt my eyes getting misty and not over koo chan seong and jan man wol’s seperation but because of her relationship with chung myung.
    1.Because they never even got to be together,like not all. My poor ship didn’t even have a chance.
    2.Because of the wasted chemistry between IU and Lee Do Hyun. I found myself more drawn into their story than with Yeo Jin Goo despite that being the main ship. I genuinely wished for a happy ending for Chung Myung and Man Wol. I totally agree with your point on delivery from yeo jin goo falling short (unfortunately with the part where he has to part with IU, I didn’t feel anything there in comparison to her scenes with Lee Do Hyun where my heart ached for them)

    I started getting into IU’s music this year and so I haven’t watched many of her acting gigs which I will definitely look into after this. I really enjoyed her acting in this one because she brought something special to Man Wol.There’s this scene in episode 6 where they’re talking about the beautiful sea and the way IU just looked at him when she was talking about how sad it was,that was the highlight of the episode for me.I don’t know much about the technicalities of acting but that made me feel something. I’m excited to see more of IU in shows.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      I feel you, liability! I didn’t feel anything for the official OTP as well, and the only time I actually found a lump in my throat in this show, was for Chung Myung’s scenes. 😭😭 Lee Do Hyun did a beautiful job of it, I feel.

      IU’s a good actress, but I haven’t loved all her shows. My favorite though, is My Mister. It’s not a romance, but it’s such a beautiful story of humanity. I loved it. <3 Do give it a try? 🙂 IU was fantastic in it. Jaded too, like Man Wol, yet COMPLETELY different!

      Reply
      1. liability

        For some reason,I hadn’t got the notification for your reply.Thanks for the recommendation, I will definitely check out my mister! I’ve heard so much positive stuff about it.

        Reply
  10. Pingback: Dear kfangurl: What are some OTPs that didn’t work for you? | The Fangirl Verdict

  11. cdee

    I thought it was just me who did not really feel the OTP and who was rooting instead for Chung Myung and Man Wol, LOL. That’s why the ending with respect to the OTP did not really affect me.

    Love love love the OST, though!!!

    Thanks for the very insightful review, as always!

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Oh, you’re definitely not alone on not feeling this OTP, cdee! 😆 I really tried to get on board with this OTP, but it just never popped, for me. Hi5! 😆 Thanks for enjoying the review! <3

      Reply
  12. Tara

    Hey, thanks for the great review. While I was pretty invested in the show and binged it over the course of a few days, I was left feeling a bit dissatisfied and couldn’t quite figure out why. A lot of the issues you pointed out in this review made a lot of sense and helped me realize why it didn’t quite hit the mark for me. It’s such a popular show, I think I was just expecting to love it, so I watched it with that lens.

    That being said, we differ on one point- the flashbacks! 🙂 I found them a bit unnecessarily drawn out and somewhat predictable. They had pretty good chemistry (better than the OTP!) but to me the plotline of Chung Myung allowing himself to be viewed as the “villain” in order to keep her alive was a little cliche…or something. Also I think I felt like they were a bit repetitive, with similar scenes being shown multiple times from different perspectives. Rather than spending so much time on the flashbacks, I found myself wishing that they had invested more energy on the “ghost of the episode” storylines. That had a lot of potential to be interesting. Instead, like you said, most of them were pretty flat. I also agree with your frustration about how the episode with Chan Seong’s mom played out. What a great opportunity for Chan Seong to hit some emotional beats and for the writers to add depth to his character, and they blew it!

    I thought your idea of switching the leads was really interesting. Man Wol and Chung Myung certainly had better chemistry, it’s possible that could have helped. Then again, with the writing the way it was it might have turned out the same.

    Great review, thanks!!

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Hi Tara, thanks for enjoying the review! 😀 I’m glad it helped you process your thoughts about this show. Yeah, this show has lots of fans who love it, but it just never popped for me the way it did for them. Yes, the flashbacks were a bit repetitive, though Show does take pains to reveal different little facets from time to time, so that we learn a little bit more about what happened back in the day. I was ok with this, but I can understand how this might wear thin on someone else. 🙂 And YES, that thing with Chan Seong’s mum was so weirdly handled!! A huge missed opportunity, especially since I was just waiting for Something – Anything – to make Chan Seong pop more, for me. I think a well-handled emotional arc with his dead mother would have gone a significant way, in helping me feel Chan Seong as a character more. Just very strangely directed and written, overall. 🤷🏻‍♀️

      Reply
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  14. Pingback: دانلود سریال کره ای Hotel Del Luna 2019 – KDramaTube

  15. Naomi

    This was a great review. I’ve heard so many people emphatically say that “it’s a great show —you should watch it!” But never really explain why. I love IU. Her elegance is beyond… (In my next life I want to be IU)
    So I started watching and made it to episode 3… but found myself still wondering what the plot/point of this show was…(IU is glorious a glamorous badass, and all her costumes were to die for), I felt they somehow lost something in all the crazy amounts of pretty cgi effects that everything was layered with…. heh. Once I made it the LJG cameo… (and squeeeed) I literally couldn’t keep going as I just spent the rest of the episode and the next comparing Yeo Jin Goo to LJG…. and…. ended up dropping the show.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Thanks for enjoying the review, Naomi! 😀 I know lots of folks loved this one, so I’m not surprised you received glowing recommendations. But, as always, a drama that works for one person might not work for another, and this show was just ok for me, especially on the writing and OTP fronts. I absolutely can’t blame you for dropping out early! 😆 I stuck it out for love of the second male lead character, coz I found him so sweet and melty, but I think this show is far from being a must-watch! 😉 Also, it probably wasn’t wise of Show to serve up a pretty vanilla male lead, and then throw in an Lee Jun Ki cameo, as a contender for the male lead’s position at work, no less. Makes people naturally wonder what the show would’ve been like, with Lee Jun Ki as our lead! 😜😆

      Reply
  16. Miss Ruby

    I absolutely loved the wardrobe for IU in this drama but I ended up stopping somewhere in the middle because I wasn’t feeling the chemistry unfortunately. I loved this review!

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Thanks for enjoying the review, Miss Ruby! 😀 I completely agree with you in not feeling the chemistry.. I just wanted to see more of the Captain – now he was bringing some much-needed feels in this show! 😉

      Reply
  17. Larius24

    Even tho I am not a fan of IU (Sorry if I offend someone with that statement) I gave it a shot. The storyline sounded very interesting even tho I dislike cold female leads.
    But theory and execution are to different things .. the theory was great – the execution not so great.
    After two episodes I had to stop… she threatens him like every five minutes to kill him and he can’t run away… then I read a spoiler that they will fall in love. I mean where I am from that is called Stockholm sydrome just saying.
    I heard so much good about the supporting roles and I kind of want to watch it just for especially P.O and Mina but I can’t bring myself around to do so.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Honestly, I enjoyed the supporting characters more than the lead ones, but if the main story bugs you that much, I don’t think it’s worth pushing through just for P.O and Mina.. Overall, I don’t think you’re missing much, by skipping this one – unfortunately! 😝

      Reply
        1. kfangurl

          Thanks for trusting me on this one, Larius! 🙂 I personally don’t think you’d be missing a whole lot, with this one. But, there are folks who legit love this, and you and I do differ in our tastes about half the time, so.. maybe you might like it after all..? 😛😜

          Reply
  18. usagi7777777

    If you want to see a drama that fires on all cylinders: Masterful script (tight with no useless filler), very intriguing time travel mystery plot, epic romance with amazing chemistry btw leads, and quality production, please watch “Someday or One Day!” I’ve been watching dramas since 1997 and have become so picky that if a drama has a below average script, I won’t touch it. Lately, nothing’s been impressing me until this Taiwanese drama, out of nowhere, came out and stole my heart.

    Not since “Nirvana in Fire”, “Ten Miles”, and “Healer” (aside from the conspiracy plot ending) have I seen such an amazingly written, acted (two leads made me feel their love was real and I LOVED their chemistry and facial expressions), and produced series. There’s so much crap today that nothing’s been catching my interest until I caught avenuex’s youtube review of this. Boy, she sure wasn’t kidding when she labelled it the best contemporary drama she’s seen since starting her channel.

    Finally, a romance with the most intriguing time travel mystery plot that’s intricately written and doesn’t fall apart. This is the time travel story I’ve always wanted to read or watch: Main girl time travels into the body of another girl and gets that girl’s crush (male lead) to fall hard for her (he didn’t like the original inhabitant). I’ve always wanted to read about a romance plot like that because it’ll be such fun to watch the male lead slowly fall for someone he’s never liked, but now is drawn towards only due to the main girl’s soul inhabiting the body. It’s like he truly falls for her soul/spirit and not the body. Sooo romantic!!! And the drama does such a good job at showcasing the male lead’s “falling” process layer by layer and doesn’t rush it. So delicious and swoonworthy!!!

    No episodes feel like filler and such care is placed into the narrative and character development. The ending (happy, yet bittersweet) totally justified the means and resolved the narrative in the best way possible. It’s both an incredible love story and a story about self-worth and the drama achieved both without seeming forced or preachy. I couldn’t believe how seamlessly the writers were able to intertwine both the love/self-worth plots without sacrificing either. Both heavily overlapped with the other, so it was impossible to become invested in one and not the other -I loved this as I hate too many plot threads that go absolutely nowhere.

    “Someday or One Day” is an absolute masterpiece and will go down as one of my favorite dramas of all time along with “Nirvana in Fire” and “Ten Miles.” I just want you to know that 2019 has churned out a drama that’s very much worth your time. If you care about romance, characters with amazing chemistry, an intriguing time travel story with a carefully constructed script, please give this one a go. You won’t regret it. Right now, I’m jealous of anyone who hasn’t seen it yet as I want to erase my memories so I can watch it for the first time again.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Wow. That is high praise indeed, for any show – I am definitely intrigued. I actually planned to check out the show, because I’d seen some very positive comments about it. Now, with your glowing recommendation, I’ll bump it up my list. It’ll be the next new drama I check out, once I clear some stuff off my drama plate. Thanks for taking the time to share! ❤😘

      Reply
      1. usagi7777777

        No problem; I’ve always enjoyed sharing what I love to others. Also, I love your blog and value your tastes in dramas.

        Your review of “All About Eve” delighted me to no end as that was one of my favorite retro dramas (my 2nd Kdrama; 1st was Autumn in my Heart -both captured my heart and will haunt me forever) of all time. The only other retro that moved me in the same way was a 1998 Cdrama called 永不瞑目/Never Close Your Eyes. All three have incredible OTPs.

        Dramas back then had simpler plots and most were romantic, but they were better written and executed. I much rather a simple plot, carefully written/executed than an complicated one, terribly written/executed. These days, drama quantity has increased, but quality control has decreased. This is esp. true when it comes to romance dramas: Nowadays, they either have no plot (Heirs, Descendants of the Sun) or have too much going on, ending up with an incoherent plot (Strong Woman Do Bong Soon). Since I mainly watch Asian dramas for romance (that’s what they’re best at), this downturn has been extremely sad/frustrating. I also love masterfully made fantasy/historical dramas like Nirvana in Fire, but there’s not as many of those around. Most of a similar ilk fall apart in the second half and don’t deliver to the very end the way NIF does.

        I desperately want more well-written plots/OTPs like the ones in Autumn in my Heart (best all-time love triangle), All about Eve, Eternal Love/Ten Miles, Healer, and now, “Someday or One Day.” “Someday…” was the only recent romance drama since Ten Miles and Healer that thoroughly hooked me! I hope you’ll enjoy it the same way. I understand no matter how impressive a drama is, there’s no guarantee someone will connect with it, since the effect a drama has on an individual is all subjective. I’ve come across dramas that fires on all cylinders (writing, acting, production, etc.) that should have hooked me, but didn’t. I hope this baby will hook you -the plot definitely should!

        Reply
        1. kfangurl

          Aw, thanks for loving the blog, usagi! <3 I had no idea that my review of AAE was one of your favorites! Thanks for letting me know – I was very late to the party, but I did find AAE a lovely watch, even then! 😀 I do agree that some of the older dramas are gems, and they just don't make them that way anymore. For example, I really loved In Time With You when I watched it recently, and found the lack of Extra Drama very refreshing. I loved the focus on the interactions and conversations between our leads, and it felt so raw and real. I feel like AAE was quite similar in that way. I remember finding the conversations quite refreshing. 🙂 If none of the more recent shows are tickling your fancy (though I personally find a number of them quite excellent, like My Mister, and Secret Love Affair), maybe it's time to revisit some of the classics? 😉

          I really hope Someday or One Day works for me the way it worked for you – I'll start on it soonish! <3

          Reply
          1. usagi7777777

            “My Mister” is neither a romance or a historical fantasy, so I’m not very interested. But I may give it a watch in the future since it’s rated so highly by you and many others. As for “Secret Love Affair,” I really need to be in the mood to watch a drama with a story like that (much older woman/much younger man affair). I don’t think I’ve ever been into an “affair romance” where the FL’s 20 yrs. older than the ML.

            I’m so so jealous you still haven’t seen “Someday or One Day” and I hope you end up hooked just me -happy drama watching!

            Reply
            1. kfangurl

              Ah, I see! I didn’t realize that you prefer romance &/or historical fantasy dramas. I can see why you might hesitate with My Mister. If it helps at all, the show is rather vague about the connection between the leads. Some fans insist there is romantic love between them, while others don’t feel the same way. I personally prefer the story without romance, but it’s vague enough that fans of romance have satisfied themselves that there really was romantic love between the main characters. Not sure if that helps! 😅 As for SLA, I thought the connection between the leads was very well done. It feels like a meeting of soul mates, and the age difference is secondary. Worth keeping on your list, for when you feel ready to give it a try, I think 🙂

              Since you like historical fantasy, I’m wondering if you’d enjoy Love and Destiny.. It’s nothing new in terms of the fantasy story, but the chemistry between the leads is good. My sister liked it a lot, and AvenueX (her channel is here) enjoyed it too, for the leads. 🙂 And yes, I’m excited to check out Someday or One Day soon! 🙂

              Reply
              1. usagi7777777

                “Love and Destiny” is too similar to “Ten Miles” that I’ll just end up comparing the ML to Ye Hua and will find him lacking. Plus, I don’t find him attractive and that’s a no no when it comes to romance movies or dramas (the ML has to appeal to me). I also heard that the FL does more of the chasing this time around and I’m not a fan of that, preferring the ML to do most of the chasing. But overall, I think it mainly comes down to the fact the the ML just doesn’t do it for me.

                It felt like forever since I found a romance-focused drama like “Someday or One Day” that appealed to me in all areas (script, acting, production, attractive leads who stole my heart) that I don’t think another similar one will pop up any time soon…

                Reply
                1. kfangurl

                  Ahh, I see what you mean. Yes, Ye Hua is so swoony, that a comparison would be quite unfortunate! 😅 Perhaps it’s time to revisit some of the classics then, if none of the recent dramas are appealing to you. 😉 I wonder if you’ve watched Taiwan’s In Time With You? I was late to the party on that one, but found it a lovely watch, which featured leads that felt real and relatable. If you haven’t seen it, I do recommend it. 🙂

                  Reply
  19. streusalkuchen

    I totally agree with you! Chan Seong, as a character, felt really stiff and unrelatable to me. IU kicked ass, as always and her scenes with Chung Myung were so cute!! I wish we could have seen more of that.
    I just finished watching Crash Landing On You and I think you’ll love it. It’s one of my all time favourites now!!

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Yes, Chan Seong was really unrelatable to me too, I feel you! And yes too, to more Man Wol and Chung Myung. That would’ve made a more compelling OTP for sure. 😍

      I’m still a few eps away from finishing Crash Landing, fingers crossed that I’ll love it as much as everyone else! 😅

      Reply
  20. imaginexa

    Yay! This review is finally here!!!! This show is very special to me as its the first kdrama I finished watching. (Watched 12 before it) and a lot of it has to do with the set, costumes and cinematography. I found the ghost world to be very entertaining. Same with the hotel guests. But I have to agree with you on so many points.
    Yeo jin goo is seriously underutilized as Chanseong. He always makes me empathize with his character in dramas but this time it took me EIGHT episodes to feel anything for Chanseong. All due to the fault that he seems to have no role than to carry Man wol’s story forward.
    The episode of him meeting his mother was just……..you said exactly what I felt.

    In the beginning, I loved how chan seong seemed to be so different from other kdrama leads in that he has 0% of the typical ‘coolness’ or ‘hotness’ factor, if you will. Most guys in real life dont have epic background music playing behind them as they beat up a dozen bad guys. He was no hero who comes to the rescue. He was a human with a ‘boring’ life. I liked that. But they didnt show any of his vulnerability at all (save for the bustop crying scene which I think yjg nailed) so he became super bland. It could have worked really well if only they’d let him show more emotion and also gave him a goal to reach towards.
    As for our otp, oh man, how I wish it was platonic love! That’s what I was rooting for from the beginning. So when other people said they felt a lack of romantic chemistry between them, I was just confused cause I wasn’t expecting it in the first place.
    This is so why the rice cake scene was so good because it did not have the above mentioned shortcomings. Chan seong making man wol laugh was a glimpse into how amazing the otp relationship could have been if it was platonic and if chan song’s character was handled better. (I guess something like the relationship in my ahjussi which is on my watchlist btw.) The goodbye would have been gut wrenching.
    (The interactions between yjg and iu behind the scenes are super cute though)

    All this aside, at the time I watched the show I remember looking forward to every episode. So it will always be memorable to me. It also gave a lot of exposure to lee do hyun which he deserves (when is he getting that lead role?) and introduced me to IU’s music which I’ve become a fan of. (Also I checked out the crowned clown after I watched the first episode of hdl and I have fallen in love with yjg.)

    Superbly written review by the way. Looking forward to more! ^_^

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Hi there imaginexa, thanks for looking forward to this review! 😀 Congrats on finishing your first kdrama! I’m quite impressed that you kept going in trying out new dramas, when you didn’t finish the first kdrama you tried! 😉

      I so agree that Chan Seong’s character was underutilized. I suppose it’s a bit of role reversal, since we’ve seen other kdramas where it’s the female lead that’s underutilized, and there just to be a foil to the male lead (Memories of the Alhambra comes to mind). But that doesn’t make me appreciate the underutilization more, that’s for sure! And absolutely yes, I would’ve been glad to root for a platonic connection between Man Wol and Chan Seong. In that sense, I do think that My Mister will meet that desire of yours quite nicely. Many viewers wanted a romantic connection, but Show leaves it vague, and I personally prefer to interpret it as a platonic bond. 🙂

      Lee Do Hyun definitely impressed me in this. If you haven’t seen Thirty But Seventeen, he’s quite endearing in that, and I enjoyed the show itself very much as well. I hope you’re enjoying The Crowned Clown as much as I did. Yeo Jin Goo really is so excellent in it! 🤩

      Reply
  21. rainmakermelody

    AHHHH goodness gracious, you’ve finally finished this drama! I watched it about a month ago honestly because I enjoyed the two main leads (in other dramas, ofc) as well as seeing headlines about guest stars that made cameos. Right away, I found it so aesthetically pleasing, and I absolutely was a sucker for IU’s wardrobe. Thank goodness I’m not the only one that couldn’t wrap my head around the main OTP! I almost felt like I had missed an episode somewhere because there wasn’t much that indicated that they liked each other?? I do agree the scenes in the past with Man Wol and Chung Myung were adorable and heartwrenching, and I wish they were on my screen more. I thought there would be a (cliche) twist where Chung Myung would take over Chan Seong’s body and force Man Wol to choose who to stay with, or something of that sort! Instead, we get stuck with whatever this blasphemy was.

    I actually have enjoyed quite a few Hong sisters’ dramas (I watched Hwayugi for Lee Seung Gi, and it wasn’t… bad?) But I tend to enjoy fantasy, murder, horror, crime (I grew up basically on CSI; Criminal Minds; NCIS; Murder, She Wrote; Bones; Forensic Files; you get the picture LOL). This drama I definitely did not like as much. Something about this drama’s pacing and treating each guest as an individual case was odd too (definitely agree on the fiancee’s death and Chan Seong’s mom??? Getting barely an episode???) I mean, in the end, I’m not mad at this drama; I just wish it could’ve been written a bit better. Definitely agree on keeping the relationship platonic.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Hey there, rainmakermelody! Good to see ya! 😀 And yes, I finally finished this one. 😅 It was a longer watch than usual, because I was watching with a friend and we only watched episodes when our schedules matched. It turned out to be an excellent decision to watch with a buddy, because we could check with each other every step of the way stuff that you wondered, like, wait, did I miss something? Did you feel that, or was that meh for you too? Did you also find that weird? And, Eeeee!!! Chung Myungggg! 😍😆

      I’m right there with you, about not feeling the OTP connection. I thought the writing around that was too skimpy, and the direction didn’t help. Keeping them platonic would have conveniently fixed a lot of stuff, I feel. Same, I’m not mad at this drama either, but it’s a pity that it wasn’t better, overall. Still, I do give it brownie points for how endearing and melty Chung Myung turned out to be! 😉🤩

      Reply
  22. Aqua

    Your review confirmed to me this show wouldn’t really be my speed (sadly because I love Yeo Jingoo).

    Was wondering if you watched Perfume? I’m only a quarter of the way in but it’s pretty zany in a cool refreshing way.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Oh, this drama does not do Yeo Jin Goo any favors, unfortunately. His character is oddly written, and the direction is also a bit strange, I thought. So yes, if you’re in it for Yeo Jin Goo, then it would probably be better to give this a miss.

      I mostly don’t do well with zany in kdramas, so I gave Perfume a pass. Not quite my speed, as you say 😉

      Reply
  23. BE

    I started watching this with a real enthusiasm because I loved IU’s performance in My Mister, and because as a star performer, she is so easy to root for, and this true for women and men, young and old. She has that “it” charm, charisma, talent, and artistic creativity, making this so. I also really admired Yeo Jin Goo in The Crowned Clown, the way he inhabited a role, already played and played well in Masquerade, by one of the best Korean actors alive, Lee Byung Hun.
    But…I dropped it early on. First of all, it struck me as far too gimicky, all shine, little substance. Fantasy is the most difficult genre to pull off in either serialized or single film visual media. Really interesting fantasies come along about once every ten years. The reason for this is that of all genres suspension of disbelief to stay with a narrative is the most demanding. If a viewer does not buy into the basic premise or the rules of the fantastic world, forget about it.
    But I was also seriously disappointed with the lead actors. For me, IU’s greatest strength as an actress and composer/singer/performer is her down to earth humanity and fellow feeling and cheerfully hip observation–for example, the tough girl strut with which she performed her character in My Mister. In this show, she just seemed to much the girl playing adult dress up with too much lipstick on. It is not that I think of her as a girl, nor someone in anyway lacking in fashion sense, but there is more there there than that. Personally, in such a role, I think an older or older looking actress, someone who has had more mature role experience, someone like Han Ye-Ri or Shin Se Kyung, would have given the role more heft.
    And Yeo Jin Goo seemed even more ho hum. If I had not seen him in The Crowned Clown, I certainly would have quickly forgotten him completely, and chocked him up to be one of an endless number of young, pretty faced leads who are fairly wooden in their performances. Here again I cannot help but think of an actor that brings more weight to such a role. Albeit it was an entirely different, and far better show, but when Yoo Ah In was 29, he played a 19 year old in Secret Love Affair, that brought both the innocence and passion of youth to a role without sacrificing depth.
    I do not really like spending a lot of time commenting on shows not my cup of tea, but I guess given the possibilities not to mention the money for production these two young star performers bring to the table, I would like to see more meat on the bone.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Hi there BE, thanks for weighing in on this – that’s a very interesting issue that you raise, about the fantasy genre being the hardest to suspend disbelief for. I hadn’t thought about it before, and I do think you have a point. With most kdramas there’s already a need to suspend disbelief in various areas, so to have the weaknesses of a fantasy world added to that burden, would feel tiresome for many viewers. In the case of this drama, though, I was personally more frustrated with the suspension of disbelief required around character development, than in any lapses in logical detail in the fantasy construct. I’m starting to see that character development is a Big Thing for me, and if a show doesn’t do a solid job of it, it really is a downer, for me.

      I do agree Yeo Jin Goo was miscast, and that a different actor would have probably lifted the role more. I do think IU has the capacity to bring heft to the role though, given what she brought to the table in My Mister. I personally feel like the writing and the directing were the main things that took away from Man Wol as a character. Well, and from Chan Seong as a character too. I just found this OTP pairing very awkward, and the fact that OTP relationship factored so strongly in Man Wol’s personal journey just didn’t help things. 🤔

      Reply
      1. BE

        Yes character development is the number one element, and in this case that was a major problem for me. As far as IU is concerned I think one issue she is facing is that she has been making the transition from Korea’s kid sister to its biggest (and thus very glamorous) international female star as a young adult. In a way, bear with me here, this kind of reminds me of Leo di Caprio, whose first two films displayed a talent for character far beyond his years, but after Titanic was always cast in romantic leads, wherein his character acting chops went for a long time by the wayside. Even in her music videos, glamor is something she puts on and takes off, something playful, not really anything more than a pose, but at least in the beginning episodes of Hotel it served as a shorthand for characterization. My Mister allowed her to act without any varnish, the realism, even sentimentalized as it was at times, gave her an opportunity to really buy into Lee Ji-an and despite how creepy her behavior was–I mean who among us wants anyone listening in on every moment of our lives–really care about her fate, really feel her when she breaks down, when she expresses her unvarnished truths. I do think it is because I admired her so much in My Mister, and think her musical career so creative and interesting, that I probably expected too much. After all, I am also hoping every time I see Jang Hyuk, he will be cast is something as great as Chuno or Deep Rooted Tree again–to which I often have to tell myself, “good luck with that.”

        Reply
        1. kfangurl

          That’s a very interesting insight, BE.. that IU is basically being packaged into a particular glamorous “type” which can get in the way of her exploring and showcasing her talent. I do agree that in Hotel Del Luna, that Man Wol’s glamorous styling was a kind of character shorthand. I also fault the writing, because I think if the writing had been more robust and thoughtful, that it could have overcome the character shorthand that was employed, and I do think that IU could have and would have risen to that. With IU, my personal experience has been a little patchy. Sometimes I think she’s amazing, and sometimes I’m underwhelmed (My Mister vs. Scarlet Heart, for example), and my conclusion is that the writing is a big factor.

          As for Jang Hyuk, I am with you in hoping to see him in something amazing, again. I did love him in Money Flower, which I thought was an excellent show, and which I thought showcased his talent very nicely. <3

          Reply
  24. Ness

    The OTP conundrum reminds me vaguely of the gumiho drama. The potential for an age-defying saga but the heroine for your average Joe.
    Hotel del luna was weirdly written OTP wise. The strength of a 1000 year old angst and love in the fantasy world was so epic and had potential for so much more… I mean Man wol lived for thousands of years, her connection to Chang sung never felt drastically so out of the ordinary (aka how she quickly fell for him.)

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Yes, I have to agree that I found Man Wol’s love for Chan Seong weirdly sudden and quite random in terms of the watch experience, even though I could rationalize why she would be drawn to him. I mean, I rationalized it, but I never actually believed it, y’know? 😅😆

      Reply
  25. Kay

    I tend to be a fan of most Hong sisters’ dramas, and I did like this one for the most part. It was a bit lackluster and draggy in parts, but the concept, atmosphere, and IU mostly made up for that.

    I did like Yeo Jin Goo here too, but I don’t think he was given a lot to work with with his character. We all know what an amazing actor he is, it’s just this character seemed a lot more simple and didn’t ask much from him. I still enjoyed him in the part though and think he did what he could with what he was given 🙂

    I agree, it always felt more like Man Wol’s story though, and IU absolutely knocked this one out of the park. Definitely a wonderful performance from her! 🙂

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      I’m starting to see a pattern here, Kay – you and I have rather different drama tastes! 😆 I mean, I recently found out you like a bit of murder with your rom-coms, while I would actively avoid a show for having a murder rom-com premise. And here I am, not having enjoyed a Hong sisters’ drama in quite a while (though I did take to their earlier works), and you’re generally a fan of their dramas! It’s all good though, coz it means between us, we end up loving Dramaland quite holistically! 😂😂

      Reply
      1. Kay

        Haha, well, I’ve been following your blog for many years, and I would say we tend to be about 50/50 in our drama tastes. We definitely love a lot of the same dramas, but we differ on certain genres. Like you enjoying pure rom-coms more and tending to appreciate slice of life and more realistic dramas more than I do. While I definitely also enjoy rom-coms and lots of heart, I also crave thrills and angsty melos.

        You actually helped me a lot in my early drama watching days years ago. You would frequently point out if a rom-com got all angsty in the second half as a negative for you, and I learned that would mean it’s a go for me! lol 🙂 And when I shared my love for the drama My Love Eun Dong with you, you recommended Love Rain despite not loving that one. But the rec was spot on, and I sure loved it. It’s one of my faves to this day 🙂

        But that’s what so great, we can all love dramas that are sometimes the same and sometimes different, but there are so many insights to gain from each other. I’m pretty good as gauging what dramas I will like these days, but I love reading your reviews since they give me a different perspective and still help me consider some dramas I might not have otherwise. Because as you know, no matter how many years we watch dramas and think we know what we like, there’s always a drama out there ready to take us by surprise 🙂

        Reply
        1. kfangurl

          That’s really interesting, when you lay out the similarities and differences in our drama tastes like that! Especially when you say that Love Rain is still one of your favorites! 😳 I always say we all have different drama tastes, but it’s still amazing for me to put it side by side in my head, my lack of enthusiasm for Love Rain, right next to your enduring love for it! I should probably start looking at your reviews the same way you look at mine: what works for you might be a no for me, and vice versa! 🤔😆 How funny, and how perfect! Still, very glad that the Love Rain recommendation worked out the way it did! 😀 And you’re absolutely right, no matter how well we think we know our drama tastes, there’s always a drama that’ll surprise us. Like me and Designated Survivor, which I never thought I’d like, but which I enjoyed surprisingly well!

          Reply
          1. Kay

            Yep, it fascinates me too when we compare all of the different drama tastes out there. And even those who have very different tastes from each other can usually find at least some dramas that they both like. It’s just so interesting to see what works and doesn’t work for everyone.

            Haha, yeah, you didn’t care much for Love Rain back when you watched it, and I would venture to say you would probably like it even less now! 🙂 I still like that style though, so it holds up for me. It still bums me out that they don’t really make dramas like that anymore. New trends have taken over. Which is fine, because that’s how things work, and there are plenty of great dramas to still check out now 🙂

            Although we have some differences in genre tastes, luckily, we both love many of the same dramas…Healer, Money Flower, Padam Padam…and a whole bunch in your B grade that we feel similar about. So we can definitely fangirl together! 🙂 🙂 🙂

            Reply
            1. kfangurl

              Yeah, they generally don’t make dramas like Love Rain anymore.. random possibly related tangent: did you watch Just Between Lovers? It kinda-sorta gives me classic Hallyu melo vibes, in the OTP childhood connection, tragic shared angst, meeting again in the present sort of way. And there’s definitely angst to be had, while the adult characters try to figure things out and heal from the past. I found it a bit hard to watch, though meaningful overall, so if you haven’t seen it, it might just work for you, I’m thinking. 🙂 I also sampled E1 of Chocolate and found that it gave me classic Hallyu melo vibes, which might work for you too 😉

              Yes, it’s fascinating and mysterious how people with very different drama tastes can still find dramas in common to love. We are so unpredictable and complex! 😆 But as you said, that’s a very good thing indeed, to have drama love to share! 😀

              Reply
              1. Kay

                Oh yes, I did watch Just Between Lovers (romance melo and all, hehe), and I did like it quite a bit, for all of the reasons you listed. It didn’t quite have that old school, grand melo romance feel to it, but it had most of the elements I enjoy 🙂

                And I have heard so many good things about Chocolate! Along with the comparison to old school melos. I also tend to like the writer a lot. Only issue, I actively avoid medical dramas! So I probably won’t be watching that one unless I get in an extremely brave mood 😂

                Reply
                1. kfangurl

                  Ah, I feel you, on actively avoiding medical dramas! 😂😂 I haven’t managed to really like a medical drama yet, so I feel your wariness about Chocolate! But I’m definitely planning to make an exception for the hospital drama coming out from the folks behind Prison Playbook. 😍 Also, I’m told that that hospital stuff is about a hospice, and that the individual patient stories are quite beautiful. Can’t vouch for it myself, but hopefully that helps you! 😀

                  Reply
                  1. Kay

                    Haha, well hospice is worse than hospital in my book! 😂 I accidentally watched a hospice drama once (Andante) and was not happy about it. I did complete it, and it was a good drama with lots of nice healing stories (aside from everybody dying that is, hehe), but I regretted it, lol.

                    Yep, Wise Doctor Life is another painful one to avoid. That cast is something! You know, it seems like we’ve had a whole lot of medical dramas lately!

                    Reply
                    1. kfangurl

                      That is an excellent point. Hospice settings can make for such sad storylines! 😭😛 It’s one of the reasons I’m shelving Chocolate for the time being. Gosh, I didn’t realize Andante was a hospice drama! I’d tried around 2 eps, before dropping out for lack of interest.. Now that I know it’s a hospice drama, I’m actually even more glad that I dropped out..! 😅

                      That’s true! We’ve also had Romantic Dr. Kim, and then there was Dr. John, earlier.. too many medical dramas for me, but big yay for those who actually like them! (I found out that my friend actually enjoys medical dramas! Mind blown. 🤯😆) Wise Doctor Life is one that I’m quite sure I’ll check out, though.. I mean, that cast, in the hands that brought us Prison Playbook and the Answer Me series? I just can’t say no! 🤩🤩

                    2. Kay

                      Yep, I thought Andante was just a coming of age story in a town with a weird preoccupation with death. Next thing you know, everyone’s involved with a hospice! It was too late for me though as I was already invested in the characters, so I stuck it out. It was a good watch, but I vowed to be much more careful in the future, hehe

                      Oh yes, those who like medical dramas really have it good these days! I just have to sit here on the sideline and see many of my favorite actors pass me by, lol. Missing out on Ji Sung was disappointing and now this amazing cast in Wise Doctor Life. I’m glad you’re checking it out though so that I can at least read about it more in depth. Hopefully, that cast and team should be enough to make it a great watch for you 🙂

                    3. kfangurl

                      Lol! Yes, I can imagine that you’d be much more careful with drama premises, after that experience with Andante! 😝 Actually, speaking of Ji Sung, have you seen Save Your Last Dance For Me? It was the first time I ever saw him, and I was quite smitten. 😍 Of course, it was only my 2nd kdrama ever, so my drama taste wasn’t very refined yet, but I think you might enjoy it, if you haven’t seen it. It’s old school retro romance melo, with a good helping of amnesia-related angst, and I loved it. The music is quite a strong presence, but I personally loved the music too, the violin crescendoes still give me the feels if I listen to the music again now. If you’re in the mood for old school, this might be worth considering, if you haven’t already seen it. 🙂

                    4. Kay

                      I actually haven’t seen that one yet. Been on the list for ages (like everything, lol), but never got around to it. It sounds like it would be right up my alley. Old school romance, angst, and there’s nothing like some good music utilization. Plus, Ji Sung is one of my faves, so that makes it that much more appealing. I may just have to see if I can track that one down sometime soon. Thanks for the promising rec 🙂

                    5. kfangurl

                      Yes, do track it down! I sampled a bit of E1 and E2 the other day, to get a screen shot for a post that I’m thinking of putting together, and it brought back lots of memories, so much so that I seriously considered an actual rewatch. 🥰 The amnesia-related angst was quite nicely handled I thought. I did find Lee Bo Young rather annoying as the second female lead (she had this tendency to hyperventilate to show that she was upset, which I didn’t care for), but on the upside, there’s the amusement and thrill of watching all this go down, and know that actually this is where Lee Bo Young got her man, even though her character didn’t! 😆

                    6. Kay

                      Nothing like a little nostalgia to get you in the mood for a rewatch 🙂 Happens to me all of the time when I’m updating drama lists and such. And that’s how I actually heard of the drama the first time because it was where Ji Sung met his lovely wife, hehe. Too sweet! Definitely sounds exactly like my kind of drama 🙂

                    7. kfangurl

                      I do concur that it sounds like something you’d enjoy! 😀 If/when you do get to it, I’d be super curious to hear how you like it! 😉

  26. Simeon

    Loved this review!!

    It’s unfortunate you didn’t love this show as much as I did 😫 but I agreed with nearly every point you brought up. I think I’ve kind of just ignored the OTP segments and focused on Man Wol’s journey and her dealing with all of her angst, pain and guilt. Reading your review made me realise how much of a concept-driven drama-watcher I am since I didn’t even pick up on the problems in the show until you pointed it out (looking back I can see that I did had some questions here and there but I got distracted by everything else LOL).

    And the way you described the relationship between Man Wol and Chung Myung brought back ALLLL the feels that I just want to rewatch their scenes together 😍 I hope that at least the romance between Man Wol and Chung Myung made the show worth watching 😂 and yes, throughout the show I kept thinking they should just swap the male leads or at least, have Man Wol endgame with Chung Myung. 😆

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Hi there Simeon, thanks for enjoying this review – even though I spent most of it talking about why I didn’t like this show as much as you did. 😜😅 I need to learn how to be more concept-driven, perhaps, since that enabled you to enjoy the drama a lot more than I did? 😆

      But oh yes, I did very much enjoy the scenes between Man Wol and Chung Myung! The feelss! 😍😍😍 It felt weird to me that Show would know how to bring forth the feels so strongly, and then not accord the OTP with similarly strong feels. How are we supposed to actually root for the OTP when the OTP is played so cold in comparison? It would be easier if the OTP relationship was more separate from Man Wol’s personal journey, but it’s supposed to factor in, in a big way, so I was pretty meh about it all. 😑

      Hi5, I thought Show should’ve made Chung Myung endgame for Man Wol too – that made more sense to me. And, despite all my dissatisfaction with Show’s flaws, it really was worth it for Chung Myung, so thanks for getting me to give this show a try! 😘

      Reply
      1. Simeon

        To be honest, I was quite surprised at how much I ended up loving the show. But if it were any other actress with weaker acting skills, I might have dropped it halfway 😂 I think it’s okay that you didn’t like it! In fact, reading your post made me question how did I come to love this show so much LOLOL.

        I feel like the success of Man Wol and Chung Myung might have less to do with the show and more the strong acting and natural chemistry between IU and Lee Do Hyung. Of course, the show did have a talented crew as seen from its beautiful sets and costumes. Honestly I just think Yeo Jin Goo was a miscast and maybe he and IU just lacked that spark. The relationship between Man Wol and Chan Sung had a lot of potential if executed with more nuanced acting…maybe.

        My romantic heart wants Chung Myung to be endgame but the cynic in me prefers that Man Wol crossed the bridge herself. Altho the best ending would be Man Wol and Chung Myung reincarnates into another life and starts all over again while we conveniently forget that Chan Sung ever existed…😶

        Reply
        1. kfangurl

          Lol! I find it quite funny how our different reactions made us both question ourselves and why we liked or didn’t like this show. 😆😆 I do agree that there was some very nice, strong chemistry between Man Wol and Chung Myung.. The writing around their tragic story was reasonably good too. I liked it; I just didn’t like how Man Wol proceeded to misunderstand him for the next 1000 years tho. 😝

          I have the same conclusion, that Yeo Jin Goo was miscast.. I still do wonder if a different actor with the same directing style, would have made much of a difference though.. If we’d have someone more intense like Yoo Ah In, but if he was directed to be just as weirdly stoic as we saw with Yeo Jin Goo, I think I would probably still feel quite meh about the OTP loveline. 😛 And the writing certainly didn’t help coz it was particularly weak around the OTP, like, how they fell for each other etc. 😬 Also!! I really did giggle out loud at your alternate ending, where everyone conveniently forgets that Chan Seong ever existed. OMG you are hilarious! 🤣🤣

          Reply
          1. Simeon

            HAHA I mean…I’ve always liked the shows you recommended on your blog! But it’s also nice to talk about differing opinions and the fact that you go so deep into the details makes the discussion much more interesting 🤣 Somehow I didn’t see Man Wol’s resentment towards Chung Myung as a misunderstanding…since Man Wol never quite “forgave” Chung Myung. But that segment was also quite vague. I saw it as Man Wol somehow knew Chung Myung didn’t outright betray her but she was too consumed by hatred to care and so proceeds to vent 1000 years of resentment onto Chung Myung while also half-pining for him (not sure if this was the writers’ intentions or did I just rewrite the entire segment in my head LOL)

            I doubt that the stoic acting is a result of the directing since I didn’t find the character stoic but just…………flat 😆 and yeah I agree, the writing around the OTP wasn’t great which was probably why I kind of ignored the entire segment HAHAHA

            Ahhh I’m glad you enjoyed my alt ending!! If they took out Chan Seong and focused solely on the tragic love story that is Man Wol x Chung Myung…that’ll be really interesting. Tragic but interesting 🤣🤣

            Reply
            1. kfangurl

              Ahh, I like your explanation of Man Wol’s attitude towards Chung Myung, that she knew he didn’t outright betray her but was too consumed by anger or hatred to care. That makes more sense. But.. it then begs the question of how she then managed to release all her grudges at the end, once she understood the full story of what happened. If she’d already known that he hadn’t betrayed her of his own volition, then a simple explanation of what happened wouldn’t have cleared her heart of all her grudges, just like that? 🤔 I.. conclude that the writing in this show really doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny at all, since either way that we slice it, something doesn’t quite add up! 😆

              That’s true that Yeo Jin Goo came across as pretty flat.. but I reason that it was the PD that passed those takes? As in, we know that Yeo Jin Goo’s fully capable of showing more emotion when required, but the Chan Seong that we saw was weirdly lacking in emotion. The PD could’ve told him to act it differently and done another take, which might have improved our experience of Chan Seong overall? 🤔

              YES to making Man Wol and Chung Myung’s connection the story’s actual OTP. I think that would’ve been way more interesting to watch!

              Reply
              1. Simeon

                Yeah that was my question too. The way she just happily let go of her grudges after like 10000 years???? So much potential in that storyline for some complex storytelling and exploration of human emotions. But nope. LOL.

                Ahhh I haven’t seen Yeo Jin Goo’s other shows so I had no idea. Hmmm, there’s a number of different reasons as to why a show ends up this way or that. The film/TV industry is full of complications. So I guess we’ll never know 😪 It’s a waste of Yeo Jin Goo’s talent though, seeing as you did raved about him quite a bit on your blog 😂

                Might have to resort to fanfiction for that 😫

                Reply
                1. kfangurl

                  Oh! I had no idea that you haven’t seen Yeo Jin Goo’s other shows! I do recommend The Crowned Clown. I thought it was sooo solid, and he was fantastic playing both king and clown. I think that would give you a good idea of his acting abilities, and also, why I’m so stunned at how flat he comes across as Chan Sung. Just the first episode was enough to blow me away, honestly! Here’s a collection of 3 teasers, which might help to give you a small taste of the show:

                  Reply
                  1. Simeon

                    I’ve just watched them!! They look so good ahhh my drama-watching list is never gonna end LOL. But it looks soooo good I might get around to it soon. I’m currently watching Reply 1988 and I love it!

                    Reply
                    1. kfangurl

                      Eee!! I’m so happy to hear that you’re watching R88 and that you love it! 😀 It’s my favorite of the Reply series, so YAY that you’re enjoying it!! Can’t wait to hear your thoughts when you get to the end! 🙂 And yes, I do think Crowned Clown is worth adding to your list. Some folks were not too happy with the treatment of the story, but I feel that it helps a great deal, if you think about the show as 2 different acts. 🙂

                    2. Simeon

                      I can see why Reply 1988 is your fav! It’s so dynamic and full of depth. Watching 1988 made me forget what happened in the prev two instalments LOL and I’m not even finished yet.

                      Ahhhh sounds interesting!! I hope it comes out on Netflix tho since Viki isn’t available where I am 😣

                    3. kfangurl

                      Ahaha! Yes, that’s quite true for me too – to me, the other Reply installments do pale in comparison to R1988! All the characters are just so real and so lovable. I fell in love with them all. 😍😍 Savor your watch, I say.. Personally, I was so sorry to get to the end. :’)

                      Aw, I hope you’ll be able to check out The Crowned Clown sometime.. Netflix seems to be acquiring more dramas all the time, so maybe it’ll pick up Crowned Clown soon enough! 🙂

  27. shorterthanparkboyoung

    Agree with you on the Hong Sister’s Dramas. I only checked out Hwayungi because I loved My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho and Vagabond so I went on a Lee Seung Gi phase and checked that one out. But I barely managed to make myself finish it, despite loving Lee Seung Gi.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Ooh, I loved My Girlfriend is a Gumiho too! 😍 Among the Hong sisters’ works, I also liked Delightful Girl Chun Hyang and You’re Beautiful, but I haven’t loved any of their other shows. Lots of folks loved The Greatest Love, but it was just ok, for me. 🤷🏻‍♀ Guess I’m not quite their target audience, after all! 😆

      Reply
  28. Carrie Bloom

    Ha! This drama is definitely one of those weird cases where I recognize its many, MANY flaws, but its so tailor-made for me and my niche tastes that I’m willing to forgive it and love it regardless. (Flower Boy Next Door is another drama that falls in this category. The plot was SUCH a mess at times, but the drama captured my personality like no other. Also the OTP was my everything and…wait a minute, what drama were we talking about? Moving on).

    Regardless, ALL your criticisms were spot on! For instance, like you said, the story arcs with Chang Seong’s mom and Sanchez’s girlfriend seemed cheap and underwritten. Reuniting with the mom that abandoned you? Losing your fiance in a tragic accident? These are things that would have a HUGE emotional impact on a person, yet the characters moved on so quickly. It’s as if it never even happened. Excuse me, what?! GOD, that was poorly handled–and for a main character, no less!

    I will say, however, I actually liked the OTP. Not a “shout it from the rooftops” devotion, but I enjoyed them for what they were. (Admitedly, I think I’m just a sucker for the “spoiled, heartless girl & the stoic, patient guy” dynamic…I blame Jane Austen’s Emma :P) Yeah, the chemistry wasn’t anything to write home about, but it is was fine enough. For me, good chemistry doesn’t necessarily make a good pairing (I recall the two leads in W: Two Worlds having fantastic chemistry, but still I couldn’t care less about their romance). At the very least, I understood why Man-Wol and Chang Seong would like each other, and that’s good enough for me. Also, I felt their low-key relationship was fitting for both their characters and their gloomy circumstances. OF COURSE, I may just be grasping at straws, because I enjoyed this drama so much.

    Like you said though, had they stayed platonic, I wouldn’t have minded either way. The romance is definitely NOT this drama’s selling point. Luckily, I watched this drama more so for Man-Wol’s story than the romance, and despite the drama’s flaws, I absolutely adored the complexity of her character alongside IU’s performance. Plus, the aesthetics in this drama were my everything…it’s as if the producion team raided all my Pinterst boards, lol. Sometimes, that one special element in a drama can make up for a myriad of sins.

    Anyway, sorry for writing so much; your review was fantastic as always! I’m always excited to read your well thought-out opinions, even when I know it’s criticizing a drama I love. They’re always so on point!

    (Also, as a side note, there were a lot of people that wanted Man Wol and Chan Myung to have their own happy ending instead, but I disagree. One of the main themes of this drama was the concept of forgiving the past and moving on, and I feel like Man Wol and Chan Myung getting their romantic reunion would have defeated the entire purpose of Man Wol’s character growth…but that’s just my take on it!)

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Hi there Carrie! Thanks for enjoying this review, even though I spent most of it talking about what didn’t work for me, in a drama that you love! 😅😘 You are very sweet. <3

      You're very right to say that sometimes just one thing in a drama that appeals to you, can make up for a multitude of sins. And, personal context counts for a lot too, as your sharing about Flower Boy Next Door demonstrates. 🙂 And I do think that perhaps the aesthetics of this drama, and your enjoyment of IU's character and performance, probably helped you feel more kindly towards the OTP. And perhaps you managed to see more chemistry between the OTP, where I failed to see any. 🤔

      I'm intrigued by your comment, that having Chung Myung and Man Wol have a reunion, would have defeated the idea of forgiving the past and moving on. I.. don't think that's necessarily the case. Having a reunion between Chung Myung and Man Wol could definitely have incorporated the idea of forgiving the past, since Man Wol held a deep grudge against Chung Myung. If she could have resolved the grudge to reach understanding of why he did what he did, and forgive him for it, before reuniting with him so that they could move on together, that would arguably have been well within the theme of forgiveness and moving on. 🤔

      Reply
  29. Timescout

    Logic’s not part of it when I watch fluff or romantic shows. 😛 Those are not generally my kind things anyway, so…

    You know, I haven’t loved one single Hong Sisters’ drama. Liked a few, but that’s about it. Hotel was ok but then I watched it with the trusty FF button, heh. I always thought this as mostly just Man Wol’s story and everything else was more or less extra dressing. I think Jin Goo wasn’t right for the part too. He still feels like a kid and puting him in suits does not change that. 🙂 Yeah, not much chemistry, at least not of the right kind. They would have made a great platonic team though.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      YES. I would’ve much preferred IU and Yeo Jin Goo’s characters to have been platonic. Then I wouldn’t have struggled so much with their lack of romantic chemistry! 😅 I think more kdramas should explore the idea of a strong, platonic OTP. Yes, romance is a strong point in kdramas, but they are literally everywhere and therefore, in some ways, overdone. Strong platonic OTPs are far from overdone (I can only think of School 2013 and arguably My Mister, off the top of my head, if I don’t count female friendship-centric shows like Search WWW and Age Of Youth).. I’d definitely be down for more of that! 😀

      I’d actually thought I’d enjoyed more of the Hong sisters’ works, but I took a look at the list just now, and realize that I only really enjoyed 3: Delightful Girl Chun Hyang, You’re Beautiful, and My Girlfriend is a Gumiho. The rest were either meh or just ok, for me. 😜

      Reply
  30. My2girls

    This is very timely for me. I started this show ages ago and then just stopped. I attribute that to a complete lack of interest. But just last week I was going through my list of incomplete shows and decided to give some another go. This was one of the few I completed – with heavy use of the FF button. I came away from this feeling EXACTLY the same things as you did – which is no surprise to me as we are usually on the same page. But I mean EXACTLY the same. Which I find kind of spooky. Thank you (once again) for your brilliant insights and observations.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Uncanny!! 😱😄 It never fails to amaze and tickle me, that we are so much on the same page, Amy! Are you my long-lost twin, by any chance? 🤩😉 Hi5 that we feel so similarly about this show – adding to our long list of shows that fall into that “SAME! ME TOO!!!” category! ❤😘

      Reply
  31. ummukholis

    “(heh. You’re right; I did enjoy just about every loveline in this story world more than I did the actual OTP”
    ☝ my thought exactly.
    I rather she end up with CM and am sad he was not given the equal treatment like other of having another new life.
    Definitely not going to rewatch Hotel Del Luna again 😅

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Ha, you too, ummukholis?! 😆 Even the very subtle, obtuse hints of an affection between Bartender Kim and Manager Choi worked better for me, than the OTP relationship, to be brutally honest! 😝

      I’m ok with Chung Myung not having been reincarnated into a new life, during our story, since he was busy watching over Man Wol in firefly form. That idea of him turning back from the bridge to the afterlife, was poignant enough, for me to buy into it. And he will get a new life eventually, after crossing over to the afterlife. I hope that helps you feel better, tho yes, I wouldn’t rewatch Hotel Del Luna either..! 😆

      Reply
  32. Mywebfoot

    For someone who didn’t quite like it… you sure wrote a lot about it! Reading this made me wonder if you were trying hard to like it, despite all its flaws.
    I totally agree with you btw. IU was interesting but the plot felt mashed together, and the lack of OTP sizzle made the whole thing just fizzle out for me.
    Like you I wanted to like it, but in the end I just kept track of what happened via Tumblr

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      My mum’s a retired teacher, and she always used to say that the students whom she could remember over the years, were only the most outstanding ones, or the naughtiest ones. Everyone else was a blur, because they didn’t stand out at either end of the spectrum. I think a similar thing happens with me and dramas. I think that it’s the shows that I either like a lot, or that I have massive problems with, that get the most words outta me. 🤔 I wrote tons for My Mister which I loved, but I also wrote tons for Something in the Rain, which drove me batty. 😆

      And yes, I do think that you’re right to say that I tried hard to like this show – and Something in the Rain. I stuck it out instead of dropping out, because in both shows, there was something that intrigued me enough to stay (like, what is Something in the Rain trying to say? And, in this case, I was taken with Man Wol’s arc with Chung Myung). But in staying, I struggled to make sense of both shows’ shortcomings – which resulted in fairly long, massive reviews both times. 😛 I guess it’s my way of processing..? 😆😅

      Reply
  33. seankfletcher

    What do you do with a show that is a sumptuous feast for the eyes but has a steady start, where episodes 12 & 13 seem to take forever to get to the point and has a final episode that you just don’t like?
    Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters – ah nope, take a dive in and read kfangurl’s blog instead 🤩

    I actually gave Warm and Cozy a higher mark than H del L, and I liked Masters Sun a lot. Overall, I have to agree that the show went in directions which were rather pointless. H del L had all the right ingredients except for the Goo Train. The actor of the hour was quite simply a decoration. He is far too talented for that. IU was delightful, dressed beautifully and delivered some scenes reminiscent of The Champagne Chick 😂😂😂

    I didn’t appreciate the whole fire fly thing, although I get it. Perhaps, one day kdramas might have a decent mythical tree as well, but I digress (Well, Forest is doing a good job on that front so far). Many out there commented that they wanted the Man Wol and Chung Myung scenario. Although I liked their history, for me it needed to stay in the past.

    I loved the concept, many of the other characters and the hotel itself, then the final moments of H del L were to me how the show needed to be and I thought to myself – oooh.

    I managed to finish Diary of a Prosecutor and Hot Stove this week. Two awesome shows. There was also My Holo Love where the second half was much better than the first half and delivered a much better outcome than several other AI shows of late 😜

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Aw, thanks for enjoying the review, Sean! 😀 A drama ghostbuster – that’s not a bad title, actually! My mission: to help ensure that bad dramas don’t haunt you..! 🤣🤣

      I have to agree that the casting of Yeo Jin Goo was quite awkward and strange.. it’s hard to imagine that Yeo Jin Goo’s performance was one of the show’s biggest problems, but if my biggest problems with this show, are 1, how oddly stoic Chan Seong is, and 2, how the OTP has no chemistry (even though IU has good chemistry with both of her other male co-stars), it does seem like the casting of Yeo Jin Goo turned out to be Show’s weakest link. 🤭

      I was personally quite taken with the idea of Chung Myung being Man Wol’s romantic endgame, and while a lot of that has to do with the strength of that arc, it also has to do with the relative weakness of the OTP. I think if the OTP had been written and delivered more strongly, I wouldn’t have been so intent on having my preferred alternative ending. 🤔 I must agree, I was quite intrigued by the last few moments of the show, when they showed the new owner of the hotel. I felt like I would’ve seen interesting and engrossing things, if I’d had the chance to watch that hotel in action. 😜

      I’ve started on Stove League and I’m liking it very well, so it’s great to hear that you give it the thumbs up, overall! I’ve got Diary of a Prosecutor on my list, but will probably defer it for a while, since I just started on Black Dog. I can’t handle too many workplace dramas at a time – or multiples of any genre, really! I’ve had My Holo Love suggested to me and I was hesitating coz I haven’t loved Go Sung Hee in anything yet. But your positive take definitely makes me a little more intrigued! 😉

      Reply
  34. Lady G.

    I started this drama over the summer and dropped it after 2 episodes, I think I meant to go back but never did. I actually really liked Hwayugi way more than I ever thought I would. And I studiously avoided that too. And I eventually watched Master’s Sun which I avoided forever but then I really missed So Ji Sub and caved.

    I find IU a better singer than an actress somehow. But maybe I just haven’t seen her in anything I really liked because I do believe she has acting talent. I’ve also been meaning to watch Yeo Jin Goo in the robot drama, I loved the Japanese version.

    Jeesh!! My heart is still beating out of my chest, you gave me a jump scare with that screen capture of the girl in the cabinet!! I couldn’t scroll past it more than once. LOL.

    Honestly haven’t loved anything from the Hong Sisters. I think I liked the eternally panned “Big” and “Hwayugi” the most if I had to choose.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Eep, sorry for giving you a scare with that screenshot! 😝 Did you like what you saw of this show’s first 2 eps? If you did, then you probably have a decent chance of enjoying this show as a whole. Coz even though I found a lot of fault with this show, it has a lot of fans. And, you managed to enjoy Hwayugi, which I couldn’t get into, so it’s possible that you might like this one too. 🙂

      IU is a very solid actress, from what I’ve seen. I echo BE’s sentiment, that if you haven’t seen My Mister, her performance in there is quite likely to change your mind about her acting abilities. 🙂

      As for So Ji Sub, I realize that the show I’ve loved him in the most, is Terius Behind Me. If you haven’t seen it, I do recommend it. He’s lovely in it. 🤩😍

      Reply
      1. Lady G.

        I think I will eventually give Hotel Luna another shot, I never thought I’d watch some of the other Hong dramas but I did and enjoyed them. I haven’t seen My Mister, I meant to. I forgot about that one, and i remember it did solidify IU as a good and capable actress for other sceptical fans. So Ji Sub was awesome in Terius Behind Me. He tends to play quiet and retrospective characters, but Terius was allowed to show all different emotions, and I love his deadpan type comedic style. As did Master’s Sun. Terius was real swoony though. I’d love a neighbor like that! lol.

        Reply
        1. kfangurl

          That’s true, you did manage to enjoy other dramas by the Hong sisters, and this show is pretty consistent with their general style, I think. 🙂 My Mister is beautiful; much more beautiful than I’d thought, even though I’d already heard people raving about it. I highly recommend it! <3 And oh my, YES, I'd LOVE to have Terius as my neighbor – provided he's presented in the person of So Ji Sub. 😍😍😆

          Reply
  35. Julianne

    This is EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING I had qualms with in this drama. I LOVE all your alternate endings. I also felt negative chemistry between the main OTP and was rooting 100% for Man Wol and Chung Myung. 200%. I didn’t end up powering through this show (only got through about 4 eps, watched all the Chung Myung/Man Wol cuts and read some recaps lmao.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Hi5 Julianne, that we feel so very similarly about this show, AND the OTP, AND the alternate endings!! 🤩❤ Given how you felt about the show, I think you made a very smart move, watching only the Chung Myung / Man Wol cuts, and filling in the gaps via recaps. I kinda wish I’d done that too! 😜😆

      Reply
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