1박 2일 (1N2D Ewha Women’s University)

I’ve been meaning to write something about Yoon Si Yoon being officially added to the crazy team of my beloved variety show but I feel like I had to wait for a while until the awkwardness subsides. It did, quite quickly.

To separate his acting persona with his variety one, 1N2D chose to call Yoon Si Yoon by his real name, Yoon Dong Gu. It takes some getting used to since I’m a drama fan and I prefer the sound of his screen name.

Yoo Il Yong PD took over the lead while Yoo Ho Jin PD is taking a break. The former used to work with 1N2D and is known to have extreme seasickness. The members don’t know what lies ahead under the new direction but they certainly couldn’t hide their excitement as Yoo Il Yong PD reveals that their next special will be held in an all-female university.

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Ewha University used to be exclusive for women but has opened its doors to men. The members who are dressed in their preppy “date” outfits act like exchange students as they received the IDs that placed them in a department that fits their character: CEO Kim Joon Ho in the Department of Business Administration; father of 3 Cha Tae Hyun in the  Department of Early Childhood Education; glutton piggy Defconn in the Department of Food and Nutrition; resident idiot Kim Jong Min in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences; rocker Jung Joon Young in College of Music, and bookworm Dong Gu in the Department of Library and Information Science.

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The members didn’t get to have their wish ‘to be university boyfriends’ granted but the excitement returned when PD announced the mentoring system. Each member will be accompanied by an Ewha student to explore the beauty of the university, learn about its history and accomplish their missions. But there was a halt in the celebration when they remembered that Ewha isn’t an all-female university anymore and one member gets to be paired with a male! They paired up by the traditional way of gathering items and picking their match. Most of them happy, one isn’t too lucky. (Although I actually think this member purposely chose his male mentor.) They walked around the campus with their mentors and some members were obviously more popular than others. Dong Gu has just gotten discharged from the army and is the last one to join the show but he causes hysteria wherever he goes. The lunch mission has to be done alone though. So the members set out to different school areas to accomplish the task on the paper that they’ve chosen. The thing is, returning first doesn’t guarantee your meal. They have to do their tasks completely and accurately to be able to enjoy the tasty items from Ewha’s campus menu.Screenshot 2016-06-27 at 9.58.38 PM.png

After the fun one-on-one interactions, the second part of the Ehwa University special features some group action. The show invited broadcaster Heo Jun, announcer Jo Eun-Jeong, and former football player Lee Chun-soo, as commentators for the members’ friendly soccer match against the incredible players of ESSA (Ewha Spor
ts Soccer Association). ESSA didn’t go easy on them but the 1N2D team played better than expected as they ended with 3 goals vs. ESSA’s 11. Every goal for ESSA is equivalent to one massage tool plus a bonus ₩1,000,000 for dinner if they score more than 7. The members, on the other hand, surprisingly scored 3 goals which exempts them from their morning mission.

The highlight came as the dinner bokbulbok was announced: an impromptu lecture. In a room filled with 500 students, each member should share “The story that I want to talk to about”.

Dong Gu went first and his earnestness shows. He started his speech with a thought provoking question, inserted some humor, a concrete example, his own experiences and a final message. It’s by the book but more than just fluency, his sincerity is in it. His words were so moving.

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How should I live? Everyone in that auditorium and most people who are watching this episode at home were probably asking themselves the exact same thing. I do too. Every.single.day.

Now I understand Yoon Si Yoon’s sudden disappearance from the limelight even though his previous projects were huge successes. I liked his dramas but I wasn’t really a fan ( I liked Joo Won more in King of Baking: Kim Tak Gu and I was rooting for Kim Ji Hoon in Flower Boy Next Door) but seeing this side of Yoon Si Yoon made me appreciate him more as a person and eventually as an actor. I am currently watching Mirror of the Witch and he’s doing a good job in it. Boryeong, Mokpo, now Seoul..  He was overly enthusiastic, slightly awkward, so-so at everything and terrible at table tennis but after this “lecture”, I’m impressed to know how he’s mustered up the courage to take the variety challenges and reveal all these weaknesses to the world. This is just his third trip and I can already see how much he’s embraced his Dong Gu persona as much as the audience welcomed him as the new member. And it’s a win-win situation for him and 1N2D to have him on the show.

The first lecturer was a tough act to follow but with dinner on the line, the other members were unwavering. Defconn spoke about his struggles and his miracles. Kim Jong Min showed his evolution from handsome to stupid and impressively ended his speech with a quote about being positive in life, and sometimes the perks of being negative. Jung Joon Young talked about what he knows best: women and music. He gets plus points for serenading the audience. Kim Joon Ho shared the secret to his longevity in the world of comedy and devious as always, he used Dong Gu for a special impromptu fanservice moment. I also personally liked Cha Tae Hyun’s lecture. Instead of saying something, he acted as a listener and genuinely answered questions from the audience. He admitted how the media has romanticized his marriage. He also implied that his most recent movie was a flop. He never should’ve agreed to it anyway. My Sassy Girl without Jun Ji Hyun is impossible. But amidst the failure and questioning his self worth, he encouraged the students to overcome the hurdles just as he does. His line “Live as __” hit me hard. I’m a 20 something and the 30s is just around the corner. I see my friends getting married, having babies and travelling the world. The woes of being a constant social media user: I can’t help but compare my life with those that I see online, forgetting the fact that people mostly post the good things and try to hide the bad ones. I sometimes forget how to properly live my life since I’m too busy wishing to live someone else’s.

I thought I was able to successfully hold back my tears after all the members’ heartwarming speeches but when an unfamiliar lecturer walked in and shared her ups and downs in life and in school, there’s no holding back anymore. It was an emotional and deeply inspiring moment. Her words are exactly what the students need to hear these days. What I need, too.

The audience made their choice and the results came as no surprise, with the top lecturer receiving an overwhelming number of votes. The sleeping  bokbulbok, however, was so lame they edited the entire thing out. We didn’t even get to hear the sleeping mission rules. Good thing, the members don’t play by the rules as the mat hyung-maknae status was  disregarded when Kim Joon Ho let out his deadly gas and Joon Young got his revenge by farting straight to Joon Ho’s face! Gross! But it was so funny I didn’t mind not seeing the sleeping game after all. hahaha.

It’s only been a few episodes since Dong Gu joined the gang and “Tired Lobster” PD even took a break but 1N2D maintains its energy. It deserves the top spot among its competitors on the same time slot as it manages to give me another memorable episode: one that makes me laugh and cry as much as I did with their ‘Seollal in Seoul’ and ‘Harbin’ specials.

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HiGH&LOW The Story of S.W.O.R.D.

It usually takes three episodes max to make me decide whether I’d drop a show or not while the really good ones only take one episode to get me hooked. Well, I enjoyed watching HiGH&LOW so much I finished the entire first season in one sitting.

HiGH&LOW is an entertainment project featuring artists under LDH Inc. management. It is said to be the first of its kind since it will be reaching out to different forms of media: television series, movies, manga, SNS accounts, an original soundtrack, and a live show tour.

HiGH&LOW The Story of S.W.O.R.D. aired from October 22 to December 24, 2015. Written by Team HI-AX, the story is set in a town that was once under the rule of a group called “Mugen” and the drama starts in media res as they go head-to-head against the Amamiya Brothers who defy them. Hence, the eventual downfall of the powerful organization. Since then, the town has been divided into 5 districts called S.W.O.R.D., an acronym based on its 5 lead gangs.  

Sannoh Rengokai– The protectors of SWORD led by two original Mugen members: Cobra and Yamato.

Song: Do or Die- Doberman Infinity

White Rascals– The sleek, all-white clad scouts

Song: WHITEOUT- PKCZ feat. EXILE SHOKICHI

Oya KouKou– The Crows-like school yankiis

Song: Jump Around- Doberman Infinity

Rude Boys– The energetic guardians of nameless street

Song: Run this Town- GENERATIONS

Daruma Ikka– The vengeful hooligans in red 

Song: Voice of Red- DJ Daruma from PKCZ

The project has “fanservice” written all over it and I reckon it won’t be easy to remember the long list of cast members but the show has surprisingly given each group and its characters some distinct features plus short but solid backstories that make them worth the recall. Each gang’s own action style also has a background song as befits their nature. My favorite theme is Daruma Ikka’s ‘Voice of Red’ but as for the action scenes, it’s the Rude Boys with their flawless parkour flips and bboy flares. This gang is the complete package! They have Masataka Kubota’s incredible acting skills, GENERATIONS’ member Reo Sano’s dance agility, real life traceur ZEN’s jaw-dropping stunts, and Tasuku Nagase’s bad boy charms.

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The premise of HiGH&LOW might initially seem like the typical “the strongest one shall conquer this town” but I’m pleasantly surprised with the engaging narrative and the way the characters adhere to strong brotherhood. Director Shigeaki Kubo succeeded in making me care about the characters.

All the SWORD leaders are equally charismatic that I literally had goosebumps when they finally gathered in the same room and they all possess some kind of noble delinquency, if such a thing exists.

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Sandaime J Soul Brothers’ Iwata Takanori as Cobra is perfect as the prototypical bad boy. As a leader, he is a man of few words but he is shrewd and cool-headed. He’s got both potent speech and astonishing strikes that other SWORD leaders can only marvel at. And yes, he’s the same guy who played Satomi Ishihara’s super sweet best friend Eito (Hachi) in Dear Sister. *mind blown*

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Oya Kou’s class rep Murayama Yoshiki would fit right in with the cast of Gokusen, a uniform-clad character perfect for a coming-of-age trope. His one-on-one showdown with Cobra is certainly one of the highlights of this season. Yuki Yamada, known for his role as Kinnosuke Ikezawa in Itazura na Kiss: Love in TOKYO, is cute and for some reason, some of his mannerisms or facial expressions remind me of Yamapi’s character Akira in Nobuta wo Produce.

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EXILE The Second’s Kuroki Keiji plays Rocky. He dons some chic monochromatic white ensemble but his braces make him look like a goofy or ruthless character. Neither. Rocky turns out to be a cool leader who protects women and despises drugs.

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Hyuga Norihisa is a loose cannon but in spite of his thirst for revenge, Daruma Ikka’s leader managed to show (though he may not want to admit it) that he empathized with Noboru. Of all people, he understands what it’s like to be away for a while and still have a place to return to. Kento Hayashi is one of the most versatile young actors I’ve seen. I can still remember him in the live-action adaptation of Arakawa Under the Bridge. He looks so much hotter now, with the whole big hair and psycho glare.

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Smoky is the reason I started watching this series in the first place and Masataka Kubota delivered another remarkable performance. He’s a fine actor who can switch from adorkable to tough guy roles so effortlessly. He stands out in a room full of fierce fighters, no brightly-colored hair and extravagant styling necessary.


HiGH&LOW‘s major draw is definitely the visual and audio elements. The narration is good, the camera angles and the flashback shots vary. I feel like I’m watching a coming-of-age drama/ contemporary action movie/animation/indie/futuristic music video all at the same time and they’re done in smooth transitions that don’t make the show look like a meandering mess of variegated genre.

I can’t stand it when dramas that claim badassery end up being cheesy with excessive sententious rhetoric but most of the show’s episodes are filled with stylish kinetic action that I can actually turn a blind eye on its thin plot. And as expected from a cast comprised of musicians, EXILE TRIBE no less, the soundtrack is superb but the music overlays don’t diminish the impact of its action sequences.

So, On a scale of 1 to Crows Zero, how badass is High & Low?

It’s as badass as Crows Zero 1 and 2 meets Tokyo Tribe meets EXILE music videos!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

운빨로맨스 (Lucky Romance Ep.1)

With Hwang Jung Eum’s She Was Pretty reinforcing her romcom prowess and there’s all abuzz about Ryu Jun Yeol getting his first lead drama role after the nostalgic Reply 1988, it’s not even surprising that Lucky Romance premiered with a 10. something rating, beating its competitors; Entertainer and Master – God of Noodles.

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Hwang Jung Eum plays Shim Bo Nui. Looking like your typical Cinderella complete with a mop and a kerchief; she does various part time jobs to support her sister’s medical needs. She’s a firm believer of fortune telling which somehow contradicts the fact that she’s highly competitive in the IT industry: a field that relies on logic more than superstition.

When Bo Nui’s sister’s condition worsened, she refused to give up even when the doctor asked her to do so. She ran to seek help from a shaman who advised that the only way to save her sister is to catch a man who was born in the year of the tiger. She needs to meet one and sleep with him.

I’m not sure about the male-female ratio but I’ve read that South Korea has a population of almost 50 million. That many people in the country but the coincidence cliches will only definitely lead to one person: Ryu Joon Yeol plays Je Soo Ho, the wunderkind CEO of Zeze Game Corporation. Following the usual formulaic characters of a romcom genre, the billionaire child prodigy has some troubled past beneath the strong facade and supercilious behavior.

The whole set-up is overly familiar except for Bo Nui’s ridiculous credence in fortune telling. I read that this story was adapted from a webtoon,hence I treated it as if I were watching an anime so I wasn’t bothered by that much slapstick. I’ve also seen wackier plot lines in Japanese dramas so I am more tolerant of exaggeration.  Hwang Jung Eum still reminds me of her previous role in She Was Pretty;though it seems that she’s donning Min Ha Ri’s hair style this time. But thanks to Secret and Kill Me Heal Me, I have learned to appreciate how she gives a certain depth to the over-the-top and ditzy characters she plays and Bo Nui has some solid cause on why she’s so resolute on following superstitions.

I think my problem is I am still not feeling the chemistry between the leads YET and I can’t feel the comedy in this romcom since the supposedly funny scenes were done a bit unnaturally.

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I don’t really want to criticize Ryu Jun Yeol’s looks because I like him. To have 7 films in a year and to be able to match Hwang Jung Eum’s vivacity, this is definitely an acting feat.  But for a character as smart and cheeky as Je Soo Ho, the actor should be on a certain level of hotness, which I think Jun Yeol fell slightly short of. It also doesn’t help that Soo Ho reminds me of Hyuga Toru, the IT genius in Rich Man Poor Woman as well as Cha Ji Hun, the handsome boss who suffers from panic attack in Protect the Boss; both of which were played by extremely charismatic actors, Oguri Shun and Ji Sung respectively. I’m watching Another Oh Hae Young and Beautiful Gong Shim these days and there are times when I can’t help but imagine Eric or Nam Goong Min acting as Je Soo Ho instead. I’m going give this a couple more episodes though, since I believe Jun Yeol can make women fall for him just as much as when he played Jung Hwan in Reply 1988.

Just as most people would probably continue debating about Ryu Jun Yeol being attractive or not for the role, I think Lucky Romance is also going to be an ‘either you like it or not’ kind of drama. It’s totally subjective and so far, I don’t like it that much. But I don’t hate it enough to drop it.

또! 오해영 (Another Oh Hae Young Ep.1)

One of my Korean students is a colorist for films and TV dramas. She worked on Signal, one of my all time favorites from TVN; Fabricated City, an upcoming film starring Ji Chang Wook; The Wailing (Goksung), currently breaking Korean box office records and Train to Busan, a film starring Gong Yoo which was screened at the Cannes Film Festival. I mentioned her because she has worked on real life successful projects but as a colorist, she is often the last person the audience think about when they watch a movie or TV series. They are just as essential yet underappreciated as sound directors.

In TVN’s lastest hit series Another Oh Hae Young (Another Miss Oh/ Oh Hae Young Again) , Eric Mun plays Park Do Kyeong, a sound director. The more I watch him do his job in this drama, the more I appreciate the sound effects in the shows that I’m currently watching. So now aside from cinematography, I also pay more attention to the sound of the leaves rustling in the wind, the galloping horses,the clanks in an action-packed fight and the melancholic raindrops in an unspoken farewell scene.

Do Kyeong’s line of work totally matches his character : the listening type. And we rarely get to see sensitive guys in a drama.

Our female lead Oh Hae Young, works in the back office of a branched out restaurant/catering service company. While we often see the chef and the waiters, we forget about the committee that gets their creative juices flowing to give us innovative and satisfying dishes. So in a way, her job is also something that is not easily recognized in their industry.

Once again, TVN continues to offer something new by bringing us main characters who are passionate about their jobs but aren’t usually given enough credit since they work behind-the-scenes.

However, even though I thought Oh Hae Young would be an unusual kind of female lead since she was introduced as someone who called off her wedding the day before the actual ceremony, she turned out to be another brokenhearted woman just like Han Groo’s character in PD Song Hyun Wook’s previous drama, Marriage Not Dating. Good thing, Oh Hae Young is more endearing and relatable compared to Joo Jang Mi.  Hae Young tries to survive the brutal heartbreak while trying to look all nonchalant about her situation and saving whatever pride she had left.

By mere character introductions alone, I am convinced that Do Kyeong and Hae Young are made for each other but the drama presents a more complicated relationship between the two that’s beyond the typical ‘simple girl meets cool guy’ narrative. It is quite a revelation that Do Kyeong has committed an irreversible mistake which eventually led to Hae Young’s disintegrating life. It’s like some sort of domino effect after the shameful ‘wedding that didn’t transpire’.

This case of mistaken identity is a bit overdone and is actually a major plothole (I mean , why ruin a man’s life so hastily without even doing some background check and all.) but thanks to Eric’s careful handling of his character, we get to acknowledge Do Kyeong’s good side before being bothered by his flaws.

Seo Hyun Jin seems to have a lot in common with Oh Hae Young since she’s an attractive actress who’s been in movies and dramas for a decade but people have only been giving her attention now. It’s not that easy to recognize her out of the sageuk costume but at least I remember her in The Three Musketeers, another TvN drama that sadly failed to live up to expectations. The Three Musketeers didn’t get a go signal for a second season but things are currently going well for Seo Hyun Jin as Another Oh Hae Young continues to climb in ratings and is reported to have been extended for 2 more episodes.

The drama offers a combination of old tropes and fresh execution with its unpredictable story line that manages to balance its humorous and serious contents. The realistic leads and over-the-top side characters equally exist in one world. There’s also a touch of the supernatural aspect as we could see that Do Kyeong has the ability to witness a glimpse of what’s to come.

With the plethora of romcoms that we have seen through the years, kudos to Another Oh Hae Young‘s screenwriter, our heroine’s namesake Park Hae Young, for coming up with some entertaining twists for this often so saccharine and overwrought genre.