The Fangirl Verdict

Completely biased reviews and fangirling


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Review: Itaewon Class

THE SHORT VERDICT:

An earnest, underdog story with lots of heart, Itaewon Class feels like a breath of fresh air, for a good part of its run. Even though the backstory hinges on the idea of revenge, this always feels more like a story of an underdog trying to make good, while collecting a found family along the way. In particular, I really appreciate the diversity that Itaewon Class embraces, in the course of peopling our drama world. I don’t think I’ve seen the same degree of diversity in another drama, to date.

Oddly, I feel like this drama is at once a Park Seo Joon vehicle, and yet, an ensemble drama, at the same time. Our protagonist Park Sae Ro Yi is the backbone of this story, and it’s his journey, his thoughts, his philosophy and his unflagging determination that drives this story forward. At the same time, it’s the ensemble of endearing characters around him that makes this drama world pop and come alive in such a heartwarming way. Altogether, an unusual dichotomy which I’m happy to embrace.

I felt the OTP loveline was rather too forced in Show’s final leg, and I also feel like Show’s focus shifts in the last stretch, such that Show loses some of its original charm, but I still enjoyed this one very well, overall.

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Review: The Secret Life Of My Secretary

THE SHORT VERDICT:

Show doesn’t reinvent the drama wheel by any stretch of the imagination, and I’d even say that Show’s got some flaws that I find hard to look past, BUT, this drama shows a nice chunk of heart for a good stretch in the middle (it started slow for me and I’m not completely satisfied with how the ending’s handled), which is very pleasant indeed.

Kim Young Kwang’s the meltiest I’ve seen him yet, Jin Ki Joo manages to be endearing despite some questionable characterization, and Kim Jae Kyung is a complete hoot as the feisty, unabashed, world-of-her-own Veronica Park.

A solid easy-breezy marathon, for when you just want to give the ol’ brain a break.

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Review: Find Yourself [China]

THE SHORT VERDICT:

A show that’s light, breezy and really rather slurpable, with a nice handful of thoughtful nuggets thrown in for good measure, Find Yourself might not be the kind of Amazing Drama that shifts the world under your feet, but it just might be the comfort food marathon that you need.

With a rather charming noona romance at its center, and endearing friends and family to round it out, this drama world feels a little bit like a family drama with romcom leanings. Our noona romance starts off pretty heady and cracky, but eventually gives way to an emphasis on soul-searching and finding your own truth. In the end, this gives us a story that feels nicely balanced, I think.

Even though the fangirl in me would’ve loved to have stayed in heady, cracky territory, the comparatively more muted later stretch, allowing our characters space to figure themselves out, is what makes this story and our characters feel more real than fairytale. And, who doesn’t need a down-to-earth fairytale right now, right?

PS: Did I mention there are cute pups in this show? And that they make repeated appearances? ❤

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Review: Crash Landing On You

THE SHORT VERDICT:

Show really is everything that many of us have come to love in kdrama. It’s gorgeous to look at, our actors are pretty darn capable all-around, our characters are mostly endearing, there’s amped-up, epic romance to be had between an OTP that shares solid, sparky chemistry, and, well, Hyun Bin is appealing in this, to a rather staggering degree. Flail. As a bonus, Show possesses a cheeky sense of humor around drama tropes, even as it revels in them. In addition, the glimpse into North Korean life feels fresh and novel as well, and is a major highlight.

On the downside, there’s a bit of drag in the mid-to-late episodes, which is compounded by rather heavy-handed narrative angst, and Show’s long episodes. That can feel a bit or a lot hard-going, depending on your appetite for angst.

Overall, though, Show does a great job bringing the feels, and is well worth the watch.

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92 Comments

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.

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Review: My Country

THE SHORT VERDICT:

At its heart, My Country is a polished, beautifully-shot tale of star-crossed brotherhood, and the search for acceptance, meaning, and self.

Granted, Show has its flaws. Sometimes the logic stretches require more suspension of disbelief than I would like; sometimes the emotional tension feels like it’s stretched out for too long and gets tiring; sometimes Show feels like it’s cycling in place, just a little bit. On the upside, though, Show is filled with strong performances from its cast, knows how to take us on our characters’ emotional journeys, and is scored with a consistently evocative soundtrack that is by turn gloriously epic and plaintively poignant.

If you’re able to roll with Show’s shortcomings, it’s not hard to get sucked into this one.

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Review: The Tale Of Nokdu

THE SHORT VERDICT:

Show starts off fresh and cute with an emphasis on hilarious cross-dressing hijinks, but changes gears abruptly in its second half with an amped up focus on birth secrets and political machinations. Viewers set on a fizzy rom-com might be turned off by this. On the upside, Show manages to retain its emotional core and heartfelt tone through to the end, and it’s not too hard to stay engaged with our main characters, even in the heavier stretches. And as a silver lining, the feel-good cute makes a comeback by Show’s end.

Jang Dong Yoon shines extra in the midst of a solid cast, and is break-out fantastic in his role as the titular Nokdu. His cross-dressing turn as a timid widow is so memorable, that it’s worth tuning in for his performance alone.

Show has its flaws, but is pretty solid, overall.

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Review: Be Melodramatic [Melo Suits Me]

THE SHORT VERDICT:

Be Melodramatic feels like a more grown-up version of Age Of Youth, in the best way.

Here are Show’s pros, in a nutshell. First of all, Show’s got a slice-of-life, quirky, imperfect feel, and possesses an off-the-wall sense of humor to go with. Secondly, Show boasts an ensemble cast of characters where everyone feels real and three-dimensional in all of their flawed, idiosyncratic glory. Third and best of all, the writing feels deft and insightful, as Show takes us on a journey with our characters, and at the same time, gives us a multi-lensed look at this unpredictable, tiring, messy yet hopeful thing that we call Life.

A refreshing, underrated gem of a show that’s funny and quirky, yet real and relatable, that often hits you with the feels when you least expect it.

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78 Comments

Review: Search: WWW

THE SHORT VERDICT:

A dark horse of a show that took a tiny bit of getting used to, but eventually surprised me by sneaking under my skin to grab my heart in a big way.

Search: WWW truly is a rarity in Dramaland. First of all, it’s women-centric and puts the spotlight on the relationships among our main female characters, which in itself is a big plus. But even more surprising than that, is that while each of our 3 main ladies has her own loveline with a perfectly matched love interest, those romance arcs never take centerstage in our narrative, even at their most melty. Instead, the romances are positioned as just one aspect of our women’s very full lives. Seriously, how refreshing and cool is that?

Thoughtfully written, solidly directed, and brimming with consummate performances by the cast, this is one drama that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

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Review: Suddenly This Summer [China]

THE SHORT VERDICT:

An earthy youth-to-young adult story of growing up, and learning to love yourself and others, Suddenly This Summer is understated, poignant and relatable in all the right ways.

Because Show is more slice-of-life than its cuter drama cousins like A Love So Beautiful and Put Your Head On My Shoulder, it can feel like a slow watch. But what Show lacks in trendy cuteness, it more than makes up for, with characters – even the secondary ones – who feel like real people earnestly doing their best in their individual life journeys.

Even though Show is heart-pinching at times, it feels refreshing in its gentle earthiness.

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