The Fangirl Verdict

Completely biased reviews and fangirling


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Dear kfangurl: What are some romance dramas featuring regular guys?

Today’s post is inspired by Jesse!

In the course of one of our chats scattered across the blog, where I was trying to think of dramas to recommend to Jesse, I’d suggested Romance Is A Bonus Book. He’d ultimately sounded quite happy with this suggestion and said that he would probably check it out soon, but, he’d also said this, about the first time he’d considered watching the show:

“I remember at the time that I came across the show in a search awhile back, I saw the word “success” (as in Cha Eun-ho is a successful author) and completely lost interest. I didn’t want to see successful characters! I wanted to see losers and average Joes, because that’s who I could relate to at the time. I wanted to see love interacting with unremarkable people so I could nod and say, “See, Jess – it happens. Just you wait…”

..And that made me realize that Dramaland’s been so focused on creating everygirls and everywomen to give the female viewers (traditionally a majority) someone to identify with, that it’s forgotten that our growing number of male viewers would also appreciate an everyman to identify with. So I set about coming up with a list of dramas featuring regular guys – instead of the usual chaebol prince, or requisite geeenius – as romantic leading men.

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45 Comments

Flash Review: When The Camellia Blooms

Y’know, I’d gotten to the point where I was so tired of serial killers and murders being mixed with romance (what is up with that, Dramaland?), that I was ready to give this show a hard, blind pass, just for having the audacity to mix murder with romance, again.

But, the overwhelming positive buzz around this show piqued my interest, as did the high ratings, and the glowing, persuasive comments that a number of you left me, which is how I ended up checking out this show, in spite of myself.

With 20/20 hindsight, now that I’ve emerged on the other side, do I still think Show didn’t need a serial killer murder arc? BIG YES. Did I manage to enjoy this one, despite my by-now-very-firm serial killer drama allergy? Also, yes. I guess that means Show wins, overall?

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63 Comments

Review: Prison Playbook [Wise Prison Life]

THE SHORT VERDICT:

A show that takes the dark topic of prison and crime, and infuses it all with warmth and hope, Prison Playbook is the unlikely contender for your heart that will likely make you laugh, cry, wring your heart dry, and then fill it right up again.

Writer-nim weaves a story that makes primary and secondary character pop, while every actor in our ensemble cast breathes actual life into the characters, and PD-nim’s signature touch comes alive in both the palpable sense of community and the corny jokes. As a shining bonus, the bromance at the center of our story feels emotionally deep despite its often gruff surface.

Poignant and homey, despite its grim premise.

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Dropped: Hwarang

Ordinarily, I’d be the first to agree with the age-old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” – or, as the case may be, “Don’t judge a drama by its promos.”

After all, sometimes, the watch experience of a show really doesn’t jive with its promo material. Some shows have uninteresting promo material but turn out to be excellent watches (I mean, just think about the old-fashioned, ugly poster that belongs to the fantastic Healer), while other shows have amazing promos but turn out to be duds in the watching (Joseon Gunman comes to mind, among many others).

In this instance, though, I really should’ve paid (much more) heed to this show’s low-rent bad wigs and cheesy posters. On hindsight, I think they were trying to warn me that this show wouldn’t be worth spending hours of my life on, and – silly, foolish me – I didn’t listen. Which is how I ended up wasting 13 hours of my life trying to make the best of this show, before I realized that Show’s best really, really wasn’t doing it for me.

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Flash Review: A Werewolf Boy [Movie]

I think I may have trust issues with the English that comes out of Korea.

I mean, seriously, it’s right there in the title, but all this time that I knew this movie existed, I somehow had it in my head that this was a movie about a wolf boy, and not a werewolf boy. For the record, I can now confirm that this movie is, indeed, about a werewolf boy, and, happily for me, it is far from being a scary movie (unlike most movies about werewolves).

Also for the record, Song Joong Ki is absolutely wonderful and amazing in this (although, when is he ever not, right?).

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153 Comments

Review: Answer Me, 1988 [Reply 1988]

THE SHORT VERDICT:

Answer Me 1988 feels like a larger, bigger-hearted story than its predecessors, thanks to expanding its focus to its community of characters, rather than simply fixating on the leading lady’s husband and the lovelines that feed into it. The adult characters get as much narrative care and attention as their kids, and that helps to make this drama world feel altogether pretty balanced and whole. The entire cast is endearing and committed, and – despite a touch of green in spots with the delivery – exponentially add to Show’s generous earthy winsomeness.

It’s true that the handling of the ending is flawed, but overall, I still found this show to be charming, slice-of-life retro at its best.

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Flash Review: The Final Match [Last Match]

I put The Final Match on my watch list mainly because it’s one of the classic grandaddies of Hallyu.

Not only did it take audiences – fangirls, in particular – by storm when it aired in 1994, its presence can still be felt in dramaland nowadays, when, every so often, it gets referenced in dramas. Case in point: Answer Me, 1994, which not only played the famous rousing riff from The Final Match’s OST, but also mentioned characters from the drama by name.

I knew I had to watch this show, if only to acquaint myself with the drama that created the waves that it did, way back in the day.

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23 Comments

Dropped: Ho Goo’s Love

…And another one on my drama plate bites the dust.

I’m not in a dropping mood or anything, I swears. I promise that there are dramas that I’ve finished and liked, even. I just haven’t finished writing the reviews (they’ll come, honest!).

I really wanted to like Ho Goo’s love, and even stuck with it for 10 whole episodes, hoping that it would hook me properly at some point. 10 episodes into Show’s total of 16, though, I realized that this show simply wasn’t working for me.

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47 Comments

Review: Answer Me, 1994 [Reply 1994]

THE SHORT VERDICT:

Despite its flaws and indulgent streaks, Answer Me 1994 is a lovely little show that’s peopled by likable, bubbly characters that not only feel real, but also feel like they’re real friends with one another.

The characters and their relationships are the shining jewels crowning this show, and together, they shine so brightly that it’s not hard to overlook the occasional uneven writing, the consistently bloated episodes and the dreaded Who’s The Hubs game that Show inherited from its predecessor Answer Me 1997.

Far from perfect, but still So Lovable.

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Review: Feelings [Neukkim]

THE SHORT VERDICT:

One of the original trendies that helped to start it all, Feelings is as much of a nostalgic treat for seasoned viewers, as it is a novel peek into Hallyu’s beginnings for newer viewers.

An easy breezy story with a timeless appeal, Feelings follows a group of young people as they navigate the journey to adulthood, wrestling with classic questions of evolving identity and purpose. Of course, youthful impulsiveness, angst & good ol’ hormones intensify and amplify their emotions to a distracting degree. Because honestly, at that age, isn’t it really all about feeeelings?

The show’s 20-year vintage shows; the drama’s production values, writing and acting all veer on the side of earnest and a little clumsy. But the retro awesome, from early 90s hair and fashion, to the novelty of seeing established stars in their early years, makes up for it all.

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