進撃の巨人 (Shingeki no Kyojin)

This is what happens when live action creators take its source material at face value: Shingeki no Kyojin ended up as a typical kaiju (giant monster) movie, focusing more on the “horror” part instead of the potent story and characters’ complexities.

It has been reported that the movie would be deviating from the original story but I didn’t expect that it would completely change the nature and motivation of the characters.

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I’ve known ever since the casting news came out that Miura Haruma would be the perfect Eren Jaeger. True to his manga personality, Eren believed that they shouldn’t be living as  complacent “livestock” inside the walls. But more than that, his will to avenge his mother who was killed by a smiling Titan fueled his strong determination to protect mankind. Eren’s live action character changed from that brave,impulsive but passionate young warrior to a love struck slacker. It’s really sad because I’ve seen Haruma’s previous characters and most of them, angsty and dramatic. He tends to get a bit theatrical but under the right direction, he’s a decent actor. He could be a swoon worthy shoujo heartthrob as well as a spunky shounen hero but Shingeki no Kyojin’s script didn’t give him much to work with. When Shikishima asked where his parents were, he lethargically replied,”They died. I don’t remember.” When asked why he wants to kill the Titans, he replied, “Because I hate them.” Seriously?!! That could’ve been a powerful scene had the writer tried to exert some effort in fleshing out this character. Eren’s backstory should have been more heart-rending. These flashback moments are essential in making the audience root for him despite being the idler that the movie made him out to be. People who aren’t familiar with Eren’s character might think Haruma was overacting with all the angry outbursts but that’s exactly how he is supposed to be. He has deep compassion for humanity but has low tolerance for the bullsh*t around him, and yes he actually shouts a lot. He’s like a bomb that’s always ready to explode. That is why it is extremely important for him to have Mikasa and Armin by his side to keep his cool and his morality in check.

Kanata Hongo plays Armin Arlert. His knowledge of the existence of the ocean inspired Eren to pursue his dream for a life outside the walls. Their childhood includes constant battles against bullies together, and now as grown ups with constant battles against Titans, enough to trust each other with their lives.

Eren’s the tough and hot-tempered one who defends Armin, while Armin has the strategic mind whose quick thinking also saved their lives so many times.  The live action movie showed a lack of dynamics between the two and simply skipped to the ultimate bromance scene where Eren got eaten by a Titan upon saving Armin. It was a moment of pure friendship and sacrifice but the movie wasn’t able to build it up on a more emotional level because they absolutely showed nothing about how close they really are.

And then there’s Mikasa. The writer could take away the whole “siblings” treatment, because I get it, people want some romance but there was too much clichéd, young adult melodrama going on. They don’t need to take away the very thing that defined Mikasa: her relationship with Eren. She was Eren’s loyal protector. She didn’t even care about fighting, all she wanted was to live a peaceful life together. She wouldn’t have signed up in the military if it weren’t for him. Her fighting skills were even more developed because of the desire to protect him at all costs. Eren was basically her everything. She rarely shows emotions but when she does, it’s all for and because of Eren. Whoever harms Eren would incur her wrath and even the strongest soldier, Levi, was no exception.  Non-SnK fans don’t even know the story behind Mikasa’s most valued scarf, the one that Eren gave her during the darkest moment in her life, a metaphor of their inseparable bond.

In the live action, Mikasa was introduced as a timid girl who returned as the badass Titan-killin’ Goddess. Given that they wanted Mikasa to be more relatable, the problem is, we didn’t get to see how she evolved, what motivation she had and for what reason did she come back looking all bitter, treating Eren as if it’s his fault that the “world is cruel”.  Ugh, that scene with the piano and the chandelier and the freakin’ apple is just too cringeworthy. And the Titans have better facial expressions than Kiko Mizuhara.

As for the other canon characters, the movie succeeded in making me dislike Jean.

Jean and Eren have always had conflicting view points. They have a fierce rivalry which also resorts to violence but eventually but Jean respects Eren for his fortitude and even inspired him to let go of his own selfishness.

In the live action movie, they would just mock each other and exchange punches for no reason.

“You left your girlfriend to die.”, teased Jean.

“You’re scared of Titans.”, retorted Eren.

When Jean was asked why he hated Eren so much, he simply answered, “Because of his face.” O_O

There was nothing in this lazy script that would make us feel how desperately Eren wanted to save humanity. He was just being constantly worried about his love life. There was also nothing that would make us empathize with Jean’s internal conflict.

I also like Sasha because more than just being the Potato Girl, she has sharp intuitions and strong hunting skills, hence the archery. The lack of character introduction in the dense screenplay makes it seem like it was stupid that she has a bow and arrow. It wasn’t just a homage to the Hunger Games. Sasha may not look like it but she’s one of the strongest in her squad.

As Hans (Hange Zoe), charming Satomi Ishihara made the audience laugh, albeit, for a few seconds. BUT! Considering she’s a Survey Corps veteran and a squad leader, messing up the 3D Maneuver Gear in front of the novice soldiers was just all kinds of wrong.

For the non-canons, I am slightly irritated with Shikishima’s forced attempt on looking “cool”. I didn’t appreciate the way he was directing Eren how to fly, looking all narcissistic but just basically standing there as Eren lost his leg, and he commented, “Oh well, sometimes we’re unlucky.”  I refuse to accept your pseudo-Levi-shness. He looks somewhat OK in the promo posters but in the movie, he’s a total jerkface.

But the biggest WTF moment goes to Hiana. It’s unfortunate that her scene, the funniest thing in the movie, isn’t even meant to be funny: b00b grab and Eren getting c*ckblocked by a Titan. Ⓦⓗⓐⓣ(☉൧ ಠ ꐦ) This cheap and unnecessary scene made the whole film look like a parody.

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I’ve been reading a lot of comments from people saying we should not compare this movie with the manga/anime. Get real. No one expects any movie to be completely the same with the source material but since it is a live action adaptation, comparison is inevitable. If they don’t want to be compared, they shouldn’t have adapted Shingeki no Kyojin at all. They have written an entirely different story anyway. They had it coming when they decided to go for an obvious audience draw. Shingeki no Kyojin has a big fanbase that guarantees this film to be a box office hit. The manga/anime earned its huge following so it’s totally unfair if the live action doesn’t even give its loyal fans at least half of the satisfaction they got from the original. Besides, even as I watched this movie as a stand alone, disregarding all knowledge about SnK, it still comes off as a mediocre horror since the focus on the Titans and the rest of the CG stuff undermined the development of the central human characters.

Original Eren’s deep loathing stemmed from traumatic experiences and his fury plays a huge factor in his Titan transformation. What exactly would live action Eren’s motivations be? Please tell me it’s more than just, “My girlfriend died, I couldn’t save her, oops she came back but she’s giving me the cold shoulder.”

And the rest of these so-called soldiers should at least learn how to use their 3D Maneuver Gears. How did they manage to pass the training without even knowing the basics? I wonder.

HUMANITY FIGHTS BACK? I really hope that the sequel would find its direction towards the greatness of humanity. Because so far, with all the jealousy,whining and childish bickering, the movie only highlighted the worst.

On a technical aspect, the film color appears dreary and suffers from an utterly bad screenplay plus abrupt shift of melo-horror and vice versa. But there is still hope. Though Shingeki no Kyojin Part 1 is underwhelming, I don’t think it is as terrible as most critics say. There’s Dragon Ball Evolution and The Last Airbender live action. Those two are pretty hard to beat.

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너를 기억해 (I Remember You Finale)

Is a happy ending possible?

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Well, it depends on one’s definition of “happy”. Some people might think it would be Min’s death and Lee Joon Young’s incarceration. Others might agree with the writer: Min’s survival and Lee Joon Young’s continuous wandering would be better.

I actually hoped that Lee Joon Young would be caught. He has created too much damage and has taken a lot of lives. Regardless of his seemingly “noble” motivation, murder is murder and a man like him,sadly,should be isolated from the world. That lady in white was simply a plot device. I’m thankful she stopped Hyun from committing a crime but if she’d been there from the beginning, Lee Joon Young wouldn’t have envied the brothers’ relationship. All Joon Young ever wanted was for someone to understand him. I think that lady understood him enough. They could’ve just lived together instead of Lee Joon Young asking Hyun and Min to run away with him.

Anyway, I’d take the closest thing to my “happy ending” aka “whatever happens as long as Min stays alive”. Whether as Hyun’s brother or not, I’m fine with that. And it’s not just because Park Bo Gum is the cutest psycho ever, but it’s mainly because I sympathized with his character all throughout the show. Just as young Lee Joon Young (played remarkably well by Exo’s DO Kyungsoo) said;”there is a critical period for humans: a significant time of development that once already established, cannot be easily changed.” Joon Young has already passed that stage and ended up as someone who deserves to be locked up in jail, but Min hasn’t gotten there yet. Hyun could’ve prevented it too, but he himself was misunderstood and the revelation of what happened that day when their mom died, also broke my heart as it did Hyun’s.

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“I’m glad you didn’t live as Lee Joong Min’s son.”, said Hyun at that time when one of their father’s enemies was out to get them for revenge. “I was definitely born this way.”, said Min when he realized that Hyun might blame himself once he regains his memories. This kind of bromance is simply one of the most heart tugging ones in Kdramaland. Which is why Cha Ji An’s alternate reality became all the more poignant. The thought of growing up and hanging out as normal kids would’ve been possible if it weren’t for the wrong choices in the past that could never be undone. Planning Officer Hyun started a series of unfortunate events when she made a deal with Lee Joon Young which she thought was harmless at that time. Hyun’s father also doubted his son instead of confronting his fears head on. Lee Joon Young shouldn’t have taken Min with him, but he and his twisted mind, decided that separating the brothers would be what’s best for them.

Image result for park chun hee i remember youThe time jump and Min’s sudden resurrection seemed a bit off,making the ending feel like it was rushed but that’s exactly what I wanted for Min. To be given another shot at life: a choice as to whether he’d continue to live as a free man under someone’s identity or own up to his mistakes and deal with the consequences. As himself. With Hyun by his side.

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I’ve been a fan of Seo In Guk since Reply 1997. I’ve read that Hyun’s role was offered to other older actors before they casted him. I also doubted if this would work despite his age difference with Jang Nara but his manly built and male equivalent of a resting bitch face convinced me that they hired the right actor for the job.

Park Bo Gum totally killed it in this drama. Both literally and figuratively. I’ve seen him play a minor role in Gaksital and a non-canon major supporting character in Naeil Cantabile. In this show, Bogummy proved that he’s just perfect in a role that requires him to switch from an adorable sweetheart to a murderous villain in a sec. And instead of hating him the way we curse other serial killer characters, his teary eyes and innocent good looks just make you want to hug him.

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Rounding up the perfect psycho trio is Choi Won Young. Such a brilliant character actor,one of the most familiar faces you’d see on films and TV, but is just as underrated as the drama itself. Choi Won Young has a natural reticent aura that makes Lee Joon Young more mysterious and his ability to fit in to society without looking suspicious makes him even more dangerous. He was able to effortlessly humanize the “monster” that most serial killers are deemed to be and even make us want to sympathize with him. He just wanted to be considerate all along. The way he thought he was saving kids, the way he thought he raised Min for his and his brother’s sake, the way he tried to give Ji An the closure he thought she wanted. I marvel at the way his twisted mind works.

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Cha Ji An! I didn’t expect to love her character as much as I do now. She’s upright but not naive, clumsy but not a coward. I’m glad we’re getting more heroines like her instead of the usual Candys and Cinderellas. Jang Nara was awesome and unexpectedly sassy.

The romance wasn’t always the focus of the drama, but when it’s there,it’s THERE. Nothing was ever forced for the sake of shipping. I was pretty impressed when Ji An was kidnapped but confident that Hyun would find her; at the same time, Hyun was worried but confident that Ji An would survive.  It was mutual trust that gradually developed into something real and romantic. Throw in the usual Kdrama trope of forced cohabitation and it’s perfect! Aside from their characters’ deep connection with each other, even the actors themselves showed some apparent chemistry. In the beginning, I thought a younger actress like Go Ara should play Cha Ji An but Jang Nara’s babyface and comedic timing perfectly matched Seo In Guk’s mature looks and cold personality. Speaking of Go Ara, I liked her in Reply 1994 so I thought it might have been a good idea to pair her up with Reply 1997’s leading man just for the feels, but I remember how she was in You’re All Surrounded and I was quite disappointed. And now I’m feeling a little bitter that that show actually got decent ratings even though it has some pretty lame detective team. I Remember You’s Investigative Team, led by dorky but dependable Park Chun Hee, could kick their @$$ big time.

Image result for park chun hee i remember you The IRY squad also includes the usual: the kickass female lead, a funny sunbae, a shady hyung and an adorable maknae. But more than the detective stereotypes; there were episodes,however short, that highlighted each of the members’ significance on the team and on the show.

Author Kwon Ki Young succeeded in making me “care” about all the characters. I Remember You is certainly one of the best but underrated dramas on my list of favorites. Despite the abysmal (but totally undeserved) ratings, I hope it would at least get some technical and acting awards. This is one of the most well-thought-out storyline and fleshed out characters I’ve seen recently. Rating? 100+α!

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헬로 몬스터 (I Remember You)

After the disappointing end of Who Are You’s shipping game, it took me a while before I finally decided to watch the consequent drama on KBS. Based on Asianwiki, Hello Monster/ I Remember You is about “Lee Hyun (Seo In-Guk) , an excellent criminal profiler who possesses a spiteful tongue. Cha Ji-An (Jang Na-Ra) is an elite detective. She observes Lee Hyun. They work on solving cases and develop a romantic relationship.”  – The plot description is so vague,I expected a mere noona romance disguised in a detective/thriller genre the same way Who Are You: School 2015, a teenage romance, was disguised as a mysterious coming-of-age drama.

I Remember You didn’t get that much local viewership. Good thing I don’t easily get swayed by ratings. I really don’t understand what the Korean audience’s preference is. Put an A-list actor in a drama with a lame plot, it gets more than 20% ratings, but little gems with strong characters and a thought provoking story like this gets below 10%.

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I was initially a bit uncomfortable with Seo In Guk and Jang Nara together since I could still remember their School 2013 and High School King of Savvy characters. Jang Nara looks like a teacher chasing an unruly student, asking him to go back to school. It was awkward for me to see Seo In Guk patting his sunbaenim/noona’s head the way Jo Jung Suk pats Park Bo Young’s in Oh My Ghostess. But I’m pleasantly surprised I Remember You explored the whole romantic aspect carefully: their development based on shared past, mutual “enemy” and complementing personalities; making Cha Ji An a Perfect Fit for Lee Hyun’s immeasurable “alpha”. pun intended. She can certainly hold her own in the world of a male-dominated police headquarters and a room full of psychopaths.

(Perfect Fit is the title of Seo In Guk’s 2012 mini-album. ^_~)

I’ve never seen a Kdrama with one too many psycho lead characters, openly and intelligently discussing crimes over dinner. It’s amusing;situations like when someone knows but pretends he doesn’t know the real identity of the person he’s talking to but that person also knows that he knows and he’s just pretending that he doesn’t know. It’s confusing, and at the same time, it’s not. It plays with the audience’s psyche while reiterating the existence of two personas in each of us.

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Misunderstandings are often used to provide conflict and excitement, but I Remember You puts the concept of misunderstanding into a whole new level. Like when young Lee Hyun told Lee Joon Young his secret, the latter escaped from prison, broke into Lee Hyun’s house and killed his dad. It was clearly an unforgivable act of murder but for Lee Joon Young, he must’ve thought he saved Lee Hyun and his little brother that night.

Cha Ji An’s father was the nicest human being in the world, just as any father would be in their daughter’s eyes. He was the prison guard in charged of Lee Joon Young’s transfer. Lee Joon Young killed him too,but his death or survival’s in question, making him an accomplice to his escape, leaving Cha Ji An alone in a harsh society that treated her as a criminal’s daughter. But the doting father in Cha Ji An’s household may not exactly be as kind as she thinks he is when he’s at work. It seems that he regularly abuses Lee Joon Young behind bars, causing him to spite him and literally bury him on the ground.

Min is a case of “what could have been”. He claimed that he was definitely born “that way”. But would he have grown up differently if he were raised by Hyun? There’s a big chance that he would but I guess we’ll never know because it’s already too late. He was with Lee Joon Young the entire time, thinking that the brother he looked up to, regarded him as a monster. This resentment and feeling of abandonment only fed the bad “wolf” inside him.

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What I love about this drama is that it doesn’t merely distinguishes its good and bad characters based on stereotypes.It doesn’t make me want to root for the protagonist completely. The way he treats people like they’re all insignificant, the way he mocked criminals and smirk at the news of a newfound corpse as if investigating a murder is child’s play– Hyun isn’t always exactly the good guy. It doesn’t make me want to condemn the antagonist too,because, as twisted and immoral as it seems,sometimes Lee Joon Young actually has a point. 

Even the supporting characters were written in such a way that we could imagine their backstories regardless of their short screentime. The moment Lee Hyun’s art gallery director informant told him that Eun Bok was from an orphanage, I knew that time will come and he’d be revealed as something more than just a member of the special investigation team. They wouldn’t cast the actor who previously played Healer’s young Kim Moon Sik for no reason. It’s just unfortunate that Planning Officer Hyun died at this crucial time. The police force lost a formidable member, Lee Hyun lost his adoptive mother but Min’s reaction moved me the most:

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Cold, cruel, but true.

As usual, there are two sides to every story.

Sadly, there are only 2 more episodes left for this drama… 😦