Asian dramas and women through the ages: Sungkyunkwan Scandal and The Glass House

For some reason, several of the dramas I’ve seen recently have tackled, whether as the primary topic or as a secondary one, the question of the role of women in society. They were set in vastly different times, and arguably conveyed similar messages about what women — and men too — should always try to do: something they love and can take pride in. Admittedly, this can seem difficult, especially in societies where financial stability is often placed above happiness. But whilst both dramas land on the same side of the debate, the way they were crafted produced different experiences for this viewer, one that I will look back on nostalgically, and one that I would rather forget.

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Secret Garden: jumping on the Oscar and Yoon Seul bandwagon!

aka the drama that was responsible for the funniest 60 minutes I've ever experienced...
aka the drama that was responsible for the funniest 60 minutes I’ve ever experienced…

Like any other category of media, there are K-drama titles that become the talk of the town. Secret Garden, a 2010 drama starring Hyun Bin and Ha Ji-won, is one of them. With ratings climbing to over 30% by the end of its run, it is still fondly remembered by Korean and overseas fans alike, and several of its locations increased in popularity as tourist spots. Personally, I’ll freely admit that I LOVED Joo-won’s house – it’s actually part of the training institute of the Maiim Group, a comestics and health food products company, but don’t you think it would be absolutely amazing to live in such an airy space? Though the heating bill would have been expensive!

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Look how stylish it is, both inside and out!!

Okay, okay, I’m done with that tangent – time to look at the drama itself.

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Memories of 2013: appendix

For the first time since beginning the ’12 days’ format, I’ve added live-action, both from East and West, to this list. There is a little bit of regret associated with this decision: if I’d done so last year, Les Misérables would definitely have made the list (and Utakoi would probably have been the one missing out). Personally, I just found this year to be a relatively weak one for anime. First of all, one of the series that I thought might end up here finished on a less than stellar note (Psycho-Pass, I’m looking at you); even though I still found it very thought provoking personally, the announcement of a continuation has me wondering whether my musings will have any grounds to stand on in a year’s time. Second, I’ve found myself incredibly low on time, such that many of the series I would normally watch had to be put on the backburner. Finishing Kyoukai no Kanata after I had written most of these posts didn’t help – the hilarity of the episode 6 spoof was a strong contender for a spot on the list of memories – although in hindsight, I think I’d stick with the moments I’ve chosen anyway. Finally, this was the first time I dropped a noitaminA series after starting it (Galilei Donna was good until episode 3, but I’ve heard that it crashed pretty badly afterwards due to executive meddling, and I’m just not willing to spend my precious time on it)!!! That’s why a full one-third of my list has deviated from what it’s traditionally been. But what’s past is past, and this blog is changing as my own life is, and as anime just doesn’t seem to hold all of my interest anymore. Where will we both be in one year’s time, I wonder? But that’s something I’ll put aside for the time being; instead, here’s the list of what I saw this year:

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Memories of 2013 part 11: Marital spat

The first K-Drama I watched this year, and the one that got me hooked onto them again (it was sooooo good!) was City Hunter. The show draws its name and basic inspiration from Hojo Tsukasa’s manga of the same name, though the story is mostly it’s own – a tale of family, love and revenge that was really hard to put down. But whilst it was generally a serious show, I also want to remember it for some of its light hearted moments: and this was definitely the best one.

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Memories of 2013 part 5: Game Over

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“It’s Game Over.”

On to the second K-drama snippet that stayed with me this year. Once again, Personal Taste has its own flaws, but it nevertheless brought me plenty of smiles. It also stunned me once again when I realised just how gorgeous Son Ye Jin actually is…how in the world did they manage to make her look so frumpy?!

Out of all the moments I’ve chosen this year, this is probably the one that should not be seen out of context. Basically, after 10 episodes of misunderstandings and lies, these two characters took the first steps towards clearing it all up. And omo…what a moment it was.

Just a little warning: a pretty big spoiler in this one!


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Memories of 2013 part 3: Gender bender

I may have to start watching Korean dramas more regularly, so that these moments can appear in the year they were actually broadcast on TV…but for the moment, this will have to do.

Over the last few months, a friend and I started watching K-dramas, partially because I’d wanted to learn some Korean for my studies. Since then, I’ve seen the better part of three dramas, and whilst each of them has had its flaws (two more than the third – or first, as the case may be), each of them has given me an unforgettable memory for the year.

The first that I will talk about comes from Secret Garden, a 2010 comedy about a couple from completely different social stratospheres who end up swapping bodies. (NB: I don’t really consider this a spoiler…because that’s how they marketed the show in the first place!!) And the very first episode where it happened had me quite literally rolling on the floor laughing my head off.

The start of the madness

The start of the madness

Sadly, screencaps and descriptions are never going to be able to convey the sheer hilarity of this one episode. I laughed so hard so many times that I actually had to pause the video to catch my breadth – one of the two friends I was watching this with got pretty annoyed with me for that! But honestly, all I can say is, care to give it a shot?

Nodame Cantabile: it’s otaku power that rules the world!

This year, sadly, saw the end of one of my favourite series. After almost 10 years of bewitchment, Ninomiya-sensei finally drew the curtain on her window into the lives of Nodame, Chiaki and friends. If I were to pick out exactly what it was that wove its spell around me, I’d have to say it was Tamaki Hiroshi’s Chiaki conducting that final concert at the end of the Japan arc. Rousing and majestic, I’ll never again forget Beethoven’s Symphony no. 7. But going deeper, I would say that it was the rich feelings of love that this story is steeped in, a demonstration of how ardent love is key to so much in life. Whilst it is sad to say goodbye, I will never forgot the important lessons that I learned from this wonderful story of life, love and music.

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Antique: do you like what you do?

If you don’t like cake, if you don’t live it, how can you sell it?

That line, of course, isn’t actually from the film…well, not that I remember. But that’s essentially what patissier Seon Woo (Kim Jae Wook) asks his employer – who also happens to be his first crush – Jin Hyeok (Joo Ji Hoon), once he realises that the latter actually can’t stand eating sweets…

So why does Jin Hyeok run a cake shop, despite the fact that he despises sweets? The answer lies in a traumatic experience he had as a child. Kidnapped and held for two months, the only thing he remembers is that his kidnapper fed him cake everyday. Opening a bakery to assure his mother and grandmother that he’s recovered from the ordeal, Jin Hyeok’s ulterior motive is to try and draw out his kidnapper.

However, despite this overreaching storyline, the predominant attraction of Antique are its characters. A prim owner who can turn on the charm when he needs to; a master patissier, also known as the “Gay of Demonic Charm” because no man, gay or otherwise, can help falling for him; an eager ex-boxer whose other great love is of cake; and a simple but loyal follower. Hiring a gay man, especially one of that reputation, to work in a cafe staffed entirely by men can only be insanely stupid, right? But it made for great comedy and mouth-watering cakes! I particularly enjoyed the sequences of Jin Hyeok’s crash course in baking and the hectic preparations for his Christmas delivery…and did I just want to have a taste of those desserts myself! However, the little scenes here and there, which demonstrated how much this group of four men grew to care for each other (with or without the homoerotic subtext), were the highlights. If there was one thing I didn’t like, it was Jean and how he was so easily forgiven – violence is unforgivable, no matter who it is! But I guess you could say the story was realistic in that sense.


And the eye-candy was quite nice anyway…pardon the tangent. (^_^)

However, what remains with me is still the question I started with: if you don’t like cake, how can you sell it? It expresses a very pertinent point about life in general. Do you like what you are doing? If you do, well, you’re one of the lucky ones whose managed to combine your passion and your career. But if you don’t…do you leave to find something you like? Or should you try to find something within that career that you like? Not that Antique proposes any answers to these questions, but is that not something each person is meant to find out for themselves?

Year Review 2009, part 2

Favourite Character

Takizawa Akira. I was actually going to choose Hitagi (who’s apparently more popular with women than with men…at least according to the seiyuu…), but the romantic in me won out. Tak-kun may be unpredictable and hard to grasp, but if I ever found a guy like him, I’d probably take Saki’s lead and never let go of him. Last minute change (sorry, Tak-kun! Eden not ending on time really isn’t doing it for me!). Can’t help it, I find Leopard absolutely hilarious!

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Review: Coffee Prince

After the craziness that was Gung, I took a very long break from Korean dramas. I’m sure that if I really checked them out, I’d add way too many things to my watch list, so I just ignored them until a friend really really strongly recommended Coffee Prince. It probably helped that we’d just been to Seoul then (though I must say – I didn’t go looking for the shop featured in the show).

Go Eun Chan’s life is not easy: as the main breadwinner in her family, she works at several different part time jobs, the demands of which have forced her to give up her dreams and even her femininity. She runs into Choi Han Gul who, mistaking her for a man, hires her to play his gay lover so that his grandmother would stop arranging dates for him. His grandmother has also put a decrepit coffee shop under his control in a last-ditch effort to make him grow up and take some responsibility. Shortly after, two of Eun Chan’s part-time jobs fall through, and she ends up begging to work in that coffee shop…around which they and several others start to weave a complicated web of feelings.

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