Hello world!

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Hey-hey-hoo!

Welcome to my blog! Thank you for checking this out!

I’ve had this blog for a long time, so long that now I’m wondering why I didn’t come up with a better name xD I named it after my old nickname, which is Mei. So feel free to call me that!

It started as a platform to just randomly upload Japanese song lyrics that I translated into English because I had no other real purpose for them. I started translating lyrics because I got tired of always searching for lyrics translations online and never really finding everything I was looking for so I decided to start making my own! I know there are always people out there looking for lyric translations, and I hope I can contribute in my own small and humble way 🙂 After that, I started thinking about doing more and sharing more of myself, so I also started adding drawings and info about my own stories and characters. Recently I’ve started adding reviews of Asian dramas (of which I watch A LOT). I felt that it was a waste that I watched so many and also forgot so many. I always have a lot of opinions about the things I watch and I could never truly share it with anyone so that’s why I decided to upload those here as well 🙂 Read at own caution 😉

So anyhow, recently I’ve started to become more active, mostly in posting Japanese song lyrics translations and writing drama reviews. When I find time again to work on my own story I will try and upload more about that here as well.

I hope this can be a fun blog for people to check out!
For now, here are my categories:

Nice Music
Seiyuu (Voice Actors)
Jinsei no Minna
Drawings
Drama Reviews

Feel free to comment and let me know if you like my blog! 🙂

Mei

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Quartet (2017)

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SPOILER WARNING: DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T FINISHED THE SERIES YET!!

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Quartet (2017)
(カルテット / Karutetto)

This drama has been on my list since it started airing on Japanese television begin 2017, I was in Japan at the time and I saw fragments of it but couldn’t watch it, so I decided to put it on my list for later. Now, one and a half years later, I finally watched it. And I have to say it’s one of the more interesting J-Dramas I’ve watched in quite some time.

The story is about 4 people, all musicians, who ‘coincidentally’ meet at a karaoke bar and then decide to spend their winter by rehearsing in the weekends in a villa in Karuizawa, owned by one of the members. They form a quartet called Quartet Doughnuts Hole, and start performing here and there.
The story revolves around these four people, who all seem a bit out-of-the-box, and they’re all really different, but still they turn out to be a very good team.
But as it turns out, they didn’t just end up meeting out of coincidence and they all have their own secrets and reasons for agreeing to spending the winter at the faraway villa.
At the center of the quartet is Mrs. Maki Maki (played by Matsu Takako), a veteran violist who decides to focus on the quartet after the disappearance of her husband in Tokyo. The other members knew her beforehand and somehow look up to her. I say she’s the center of the quartet because at least for two of the other members, their ulterior motive for joining the group was to get closer to this particular person.
As someone who has been admiring Maki-san since his high school period, Beppu Tsukasa (played by Matsuda Ryuhei), has been lowkey following her. After meeting her a few times by coincidence, he takes it on himself to believe it’s ‘destiny’ and even after the quartet starts living together, he feels more and more attracted to her. He plays the viola.
Sebuki Suzume (played by Mitsushima Hikari), a young and quite eccentric cello player, is approached by an old woman (later revealed to be Maki-san’s mother-in-law) to get close to and befriend Maki-san. In the past, she was used by her fraud father to act as a ‘magical wiz kid’ who could predict things (like guessing cards while blindfolded) and this put her future in jeopardy, forcing her to quit her former job and giving up on studying and working for a while.
Fourth, there’s Iemori Yutaka (played by Takahashi Issei), a kind of slouchy guy who plays the violin as well. He’s divorced with a young son he can’t care for and he feels like he can’t be a real father to him, but he hides his own sadness by putting up a nonchalant, sarcastically joking demeanor.
As these four characters start sharing a house, the four of them eat together, they go through awkward and hilarious situations together, they go through romantic and other kinds of tensions together, and all the while their main objective is to keep their quartet alive.

To elaborate a little more on Suzume-chan’s motives of joining the group: in the very first scene of the series, Maki-san’s mother-in-law (aka the mother of Maki-san’s disappeared husband) finds Suzume-chan while she’s out playing cello on the streets and tells her to get close to Maki-san. Eventually, as Suzume-chan starts cooperating, we find out that Mother-in-Law is convinced that Maki-san is responsible for her son’s disappearance and even suspects her of murdering him. In compliance, Suzume-chan records her dialogues with Maki-san in the house and meets with Mother-in-Law in secret to convey the information. However, after getting closer to Maki-san, Suzume-chan starts feeling bad about betraying her trust – she starts getting fond of Maki-san and doesn’t believe she killed her husband, so she stops cooperating. That’s about it for her initial motives. After that, she stays because she genuinely starts liking the quartet.
As it happens, it turns out that Maki-san’s husband is alive, he stumbles into Suzume-chan by chance and ends up at the villa. After talking things through with Maki-san, he insists on a divorce so that he can turn himself in to the police (he robbed a convenience store) without causing his wife any more trouble. With this, the tension between Maki-san and her mother-in-law is also straightened out.

I think one of the great things about the show lies in the dialogue. Even though some scenes seemed really trivial – e.g. whether or not to squeeze lemon over fried chicken- they all had meaning. To take this particular example: Iemori brings up the issue of squeezing lemon over fried chicken on the first night they eat together. It wasn’t necessarily about squeezing lemon over it without asking if everyone was okay with that, but about acknowledging the lemon as a possibility. Later, we find out that for Maki-san this is actually an important issue because she’s had a similar experience with her husband. She’d always squeeze lemon over the fried chicken without asking him, and she finds out via-via that he actually never liked that but never told her- one of the things that led to her realization of the end of his romantic feelings for her.
There were a lot of such seemingly trivial dialogues and references, but in the end I never found any of them truly insignificant. Because somewhere in the same episode it would be used in another context and suddenly the true meaning of it would become clear and it would all fall into place.
Another thing I really liked was the attention for detail. Little habits that the four of them had. For example, when about to perform, they were set apart by their individual ways of preparing themselves. Maki-san has the habit of moving her wedding ring from her left to her right hand, Suzume-chan takes off her socks/shoes, Iemori unbuttons the top buttons of his shirt and loosens his tie, and Beppu-san cleans his glasses. Another of Beppu-san’s habits that became more regular was that, when feeling anxious, he would start rolling up his sleeves (or trousers). This turns into kind of a running gag, mainly for comical use, for example in the case where he is accidentally locked up in the stockroom of his company and all the other members forget about him: when Maki-san finally frees him, we see that he rolled his sleeves all the way up to his shoulders, making it look like he’s wearing a tank top. When at the end of the series Maki-san has disappeared, Iemori stumbles upon Beppu-san in the sitting room with his trousers rolled up to above his knees, again making comical use of the habit.
Suzume-chan has the habit of saying ‘mizomizo shitekimashita‘, another expression I can’t fully translate into English, but in the version I watched it was translated as ‘much excite’. In the Translator’s note, it says that ‘mizo mizo’ is not an actual Japanese word, but I suppose she uses it in the way one would use ‘doki doki’ or ‘waku waku’, expressions that suggest ‘feeling excited’.

Although there are some romantic tensions within the story, the story doesn’t really focus on those. Most of all, I think, because they’re all unrequited feelings (Iemori towards Suzume-chan, Suzume-chan towards Beppu-san, Beppu-san towards Maki-san, Maki-san towards her husband), and the main point is that none of the members want these feelings to become stronger than their desire to remain this bond as a quartet.
Apart from Beppu-san, none of the other members actually really come clear about their feelings and they kind of just let it slide. Suzume-chan even starts helping out Beppu-san and Maki-san and is content with just dreaming about going on a date with Beppu-san herself. One of the most purest things she says is: ‘The person I like has someone he likes. And that person he likes is someone I like as well. So I want them to work out.’ When asked, ‘And what happens to your feelings then?’, she says ‘My feelings… are just laying around somewhere.’ Which is a reference to herself, as she is often laying around the house, sleeping.
Maki-san can’t reciprocate Beppu-san’s feelings, and says that she wants the four of them to stay together like this, because she likes it so much.
Iemori says he acts like he does because he knows that women won’t like him, and that he’s the type that ‘wants to be liked, but tries his best not to fall in love’. It’s a bit hard to read Iemori’s mind, because the way he holds himself seems like an act. You never know when he’s being serious or when he’s joking. He’s the kind of person who would have this joking smile even when he’s serious, and make a joke while he actually wants to prove a point. On the other hand, when he makes a joke or points out something trivial, he puts on his super serious, not-joking face. I also wasn’t sure of his feelings for Suzume-chan until they were clarified. But because he’s like that, it seems like he was always trying to get under everyone’s skin. He would address the most insignificant things as something serious, besides the lemon squeezing thing there was also the time when everyone used brand-names instead of the actual proper Japanese word and he lectured them on that. Things of which you’d think ‘so what?’ But that in itself made him the character.

I think the series is mainly about this weird but wonderful friendship between four weird but wonderful people, and that the friendship and trust that is established between them is stronger than any kind of tension or awkward situation.
When Maki-san finds out Suzume-chan has been recording her conversations, she isn’t even mad at her, although Suzume-chan feels terrible. When Maki-san confesses she isn’t Saotome Maki at all and that she betrayed all of them, they’re not angry at her at all.
You could say that’s soft or something, but I think it really proves how close the four of them got in the end.

I found the ending very strong. At first, Maki-san’s identity fraud is found out and she turns herself in to the police. This results in both her own and all the QDH’s members’ reputations to fall down rapidly and soon no one wants them to perform anymore. However, they find each other again and arrange to hold one more concert in a big hall in Karuizawa, which was their common dream as a quartet. They anticipated that most of the audience would turn up out of curiosity for the group of criminal misfits, and even though they got cans thrown at them while they played, even though half the audience left the hall after the first song – that wasn’t important. The most important thing was that they were there, that the four of them could play together on a big stage. And there were enough people who stayed for them.
To make a link to what I said before about their little habits: at the last concert, after they haven’t played together for a while, it seems like nothing’s changed: Suzume-chan takes her shoes off, Iemori loosens his shirt, Beppu-san cleans his glasses… and Maki-san finds herself searching for her wedding ring on her left hand when she realizes she’s not wearing it anymore. That was a nice little twist.

I think I’ve already summed up pretty much all there was to the story. It was only a 10-episode series, and there really wasn’t that much drama going on, so it’s easy to summarize. I’ll go on to my comments on the cast now.

I knew some of the actors, but they all showed me a new side of their acting, so that was a nice surprise. I only knew Matsu Takako from Frozen, since she sang the original Japanese version of ‘Let it Go’. I’d never seen her as an actress, so that was interesting.
I knew Matsuda Ryuhei from Eigyou Buchou Kira Natsuko, where he didn’t make a strong impression on me (I found the whole series kind of meh, to be honest), but I have to admit I fell in love with him a little bit in this series. He made Beppu-san such a character, a clumsy, stiff, but passionate person who couldn’t help himself and when that happened he would suddenly burst out in this adorable, awkward way. I don’t know why I’ve got a thing for this kind of awkward guy characters, lol.
I didn’t know Mitsushima Hikari, but Suzume-chan was definitely my favorite character, she was unexpected, cute, eccentric, honest and still mysterious.
I saw Takahashi Issei in multiple other series, and I feel he always kinds of gets the same kind of roles, roles that have this strangely sarcastic side. I particularly liked him in Tamiou and Boku no Yabai Tsuma. He seems to always have this dark side, even when he’s smiling. It’s kind of interesting.

Besides the main cast, there were some other interesting side characters, besides Maki-san’s husband and mother-in-law, the owners of the restaurant ‘Nocturn’ where the quartet was employed to perform during dinner hours. While the owners were a married couple, there was a young girl working there names Arisu (played by Yoshioka Riho). This girl is a bit crazy. On first glance, she seemed like this typical ‘cute’ girl, but Maki-san immediately points out the first time they meet that ‘her eyes aren’t smiling’. As it turns out, there’s definitely something wrong with Arisu, although I’m not sure what. I found her kind of creepy. She is the kind of girl that will pretend to be really friendly and then just stare at you with her fake smile and out of the blue say something really disturbing. She seems to be someone who takes life as a kind of game, she can just use people and push them however she wants. In the end, though, something bad almost happens to her and it seemed to me like that made her realize ‘uh-oh, this could’ve actually been really bad’. In the end she’s fired from the restaurant for trying to seduce the owner and at the last concert, she turns up with a foreign fiance/husband, laughing out loud that ‘life’s been a piece of cake!’ (she says choroi – damn these Japanese expressions without an adequately equivalent translation in any other language >_< but it basically means easy-peasy).

Even though the story itself is quite short and there aren’t that many characters, it’s enough to create a very simple story about real friendship. Even though it may not be uttered every single day, the bond that is established between these four people is made very clear, and in the end they just can’t feel at ease if the four of them are not together.

Also fair to comment on, I liked how all the guest appearances or characters that appeared just for one episode, were not just used as one-time guests, but were given a proper part in the development of the story. What I’m trying to say is that their appearances all had meaning and resonated through the rest of the story as well.
For example, I liked that they introduced Maki-san’s husband as more than just a weak guy and that they actually provided his whole perspective of what had happened as well, so that the audience could see for themselves what went wrong in their relationship and not just blindingly take Maki-san’s side.
I also liked that they introduced Iemori’s son and ex-wife. It didn’t only function as background for Iemori’s character, but for the first time we see his most genuine side and the whole thing makes him look more humane.
Basically, I liked how not a single side/guest character was a stereotype. Everyone had a unique trait. Iemori’s ex-wife had a peculiar name, the guy that was chasing him for information about her was always listening to the same song – all the people they encounter have something strange and interesting about them. And those little strange things make it so enjoyable and relatable to watch.
I agree most with what Beppu-san says towards the end, ‘I like the fact that none of us completely has his/her act together’ (minna no chanto shitenai tokoro ga suki desu).
It’s quite heartwarming, in the end. And it makes everything so simple. There’s no need for complicated intriges, everyone is just honest with each other. Whenever something seems off, they tackle the problem head-on. Maybe in the beginning t’s out of necessity, because they can’t rehearse when one person is troubled – but gradually they become genuinely taken with each other and sincerely care for each other’s well-being. It’s all established very naturally, but it never becomes boring.

I really enjoyed watching this, it was nice to see a J-Drama different from the usual genre, in terms of humor, character variety and development. I didn’t see many standard drama tropes, which I approve of. I hope to see more of this kind of genre.
Also, I’m definitely downloading that ending theme song.

Manhole

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SPOILER WARNING: DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T FINISHED THE SERIES YET!!

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Manhole
(맨홀: 이상한 나라의 필 / Maenhol: Isanghan Naraui Pil)

This drama was on my list after I saw a trailer in which the four main characters were doing a silly dance and I thought it looked funny and interesting. Especially since the summary said it was going to be about some people travelling back in time through a manhole, which sounded pretty original.
Just before this I watched Todome no Kiss, which also included time travel, so it was kind of fun to roll into another time travel story again, one of a completely different nature.

First of all, the story. It’s about Bong Pil (played by Kim Jae Joong), who is kind of a problem child; he is studying to be a police officer but keeps getting into trouble and is quite frankly all over the place. Especially when his neighbor/childhood friend/crush of 27 years Kang Soo Jin (played by Uee/Kim Yoo Jin) is getting married to a man she’s only known for a few months. He still isn’t over his feelings for her and he wonders where it went wrong because at a certain point in their pasts, he is sure that they liked each other. However, he was never able to confess his feelings honestly because he always freezes when that timing comes and always messes up in the end.
Soo Jin is getting married to pharmacist Park Jae Hyun (played by Jang Mi Kwan), who seems to be the very friendly and well-mannered ideal son-in-law.
Pil and Soo Jin’s other friends include: Yoon Jin Sook (played by Jung Hye Sung), Jo Seok Tae (played by B1A4’s Baro/Cha Seon Woo). Jin Sook is Soo Jin’s best friend, who’s secretly had a crush on Pil since high school but chose not to pursue it because she knew Soo Jin liked him too. Seok Tae is desperately studying for the civil servant exam, and is even a bit distant to Pil and the trouble he always brings with him, but he’s in love with Jin Sook and wants to impress her by passing his exams and becoming a civil servant with a stable job.
Then there’s their neighbors Oh Dal Soo (Lee Sang Yi), Hong Jung Ae (Seo Min Ji) and Yang Goo Gil (Kang Hong Seok). Dal Soo is a free spirit, later revealed to be a rich director’s son, but he chose not to follow into the business and start his own business with Jung Ae so they could stay together. Jung Ae has been in love with Dal Soo since high school. Goo Gil is a bit of a third wheel to the two, he is Dal Soo’s best friend but he is in love with Jung Ae and treats her really fondly, even though she always pushes him away.
Everyone treats Pil a bit indifferently since they all seem to be aware of the fact that he is a hopeless case, and that it’s his own fault for never facing his feelings for Soo Jin and they are all rooting for the newlyweds.
One night, when another conflict arises between Pil and Soo Jin in the park, Pil is sucked in by a strange manhole and is teleported back to his high school period.

That’s how it starts. First of all, I want to use this introduction to criticize the summary of this series that was written on wiki-d.addicts. The summary says, very compactly, that ‘Bong Pil and his five friends travel through time through a manhole to prevent a wedding from happening’. This, however, is not what the series is about.
For starters, Bong Pil is the only one traveling back and forth through time. His five friends never join him. Only Soo Jin joins him two times at the end of the series, but that’s it. They never travel together.
Secondly, the summary makes it sound as if Pil voluntarily and actively travels back in time to prevent the wedding from happening, or making sure Soo Jin and her husband never meet or something like that. This is also not true. I’m not even sure if you could actually say Pil ‘travels’ through time, since this suggests a voluntary action. Pil is being teleported and put back in time by this manhole against his will: he has no say in it whatsoever. That’s why, at the beginning of these teleportations, Pil has no idea what is going on or why this is happening to him. He doesn’t know if the manhole wants him to do something, and, if yes, what and how. He just slowly figures it out as he goes and then makes his own path and decides for himself what he wants to change. Actually, in the beginning he is so clueless that he changes a situation in his past and then, when he comes back to his own time, finds his own future has completely changed because he altered this certain situation. There are so many butterfly effect episodes in this series that at a certain point I found it hard to keep track of what was changed and if it was the past, present or future they were in now.
Because of all these things that happen in different timelines, a lot of it got mixed up in my head and I don’t even remember every single thing. It was quite a lot to take in and sometimes things were really confusing.

The series starts off as light comedy, where you’re just laughing at what’s happening and how bizarre it all is. Because first it seemed like every episode would just be ‘Pil goes back in time, changes something, and comes back to a present that’s different from his original one’ and it was funny to anticipate what kind of developments his past alterations would have on the future when he’d come back.
It gets more interesting when his past alterations also start changing the futures of his friends and neighbors, and starts pairing them up differently. In one changed future, Pil finds himself engaged to Jin Sook, and while Dal Soo and Jung Ae are a couple in real life, in another changed future Dal Soo chose to follow into his rich family’s heir position and Jung Ae ended up with Goo Gil. In another one, Jin Sook and Seok Tae are a lovey-dovey couple.
But then another plotline enters and creates a feeling of urgency to alter the future and, indeed, stop the wedding from happening. Now this is not because Pil is that selfish and he just wants Soo Jin to himself and doesn’t like the pharmacist so he wants to sabotage their wedding – no, he is actually, reluctantly but still, prepared to let the wedding happen if it makes Soo Jin happen. But the thing is, he finds out her husband is actual a really bad person and that’s why he wants to protect her. Jae Hyun turns out to be an ex-convict with serious anger issues, and he even starts beating people up in the streets at night randomly just because he feels agitated or angry.
Pil encounters several of these cases, each of them leading him a little closer to the truth about Jae Hyun. But how do you provide proof for things that you’ve seen in other timelines?

It takes Pil many many time leaps to get to the point where he’s able to show Soo Jin what a monster her husband actually is. And of course, Soo Jin initially never believes him, she’s disappointed in him that he’s so nasty to Jae Hyun and even breaks their friendship because of his accusations at a certain point (or should I say, in a certain timeline).
The moments that Pil manages to get emotionally close enough to Soo Jin still end up the wrong way, because there’s another malfunction in this manhole business: every night at 00:00, Pil is teleported back one way or another. So even when he’s in the past, and he’s just about to confess to Soo Jin, as the clock strikes 12 A.M., he is teleported back to the future. So there’s a lot of frustration from the viewers’ side, I believe. It takes a long time before the things are said that need to be said, before the actions are taken that need to be taken.

On the site where I was watching from, the series had a lot of bad reviews. Everyone was complaining about the series’ bad writing and their frustrations with the characters. True, there were a lot of situations that could’ve been handled more efficiently and just created frustrations about the characters’ unwise reactions. At a certain point, when Pil travels to the future for the first time where he has already become a police officer, he’s on the phone with Goo Gil, but then Goo Gil gets beaten up (by Jae Hyun). And even though Goo Gil already told him the location, instead of immediately running there or even calling for back-up, Pil just keeps screaming and asking into the phone what’s going on and if Goo Gil is okay, although he can clearly hear everything is not okay and Goo Gil is getting beaten up. On the other hand, I can fend for Pil’s character here that while he might already be a police officer, the Pil that traveled there hadn’t yet become a police officer. So he wouldn’t have known what to do in such a situation yet, while his future self would’ve. Sorry if this is confusing to read – I usually enjoy time travel stuff, but this one was really over-the-top with the butterfly effects that even as I was watching I was thinking ‘how am I ever going to write an understandable review about this’.

The thing I liked most about the whole series was the ending. As I mentioned, the last two times Soo Jin was for some reason also put through the manhole and traveled back in time as well. In the very last case, both Soo Jin and Pil (who actually died after being stabbed by Jae Hyun) are teleported back to their own original present, the one Pil originally left from in the first episode, back to the day of Soo Jin’s wedding. Soo Jin, with all her new memories intact, is now full aware of Jae Hyun’s true nature and there’s a sentimental ‘runaway bride’ moment where Pil comes dashing in and Soo Jin kicks Jae Hyun in the shins and they run away together. After that, they’re no longer summoned by the manhole and get married and they’re really cute together.
One compliment I have to give Kim Jae Joong is that he acted Pil’s feelings for Soo Jin really well. The way he looked at her, and just randomly took her face in his hands and hugged her… that was pure love acted out very well.
One thing about Pil’s character that was both interesting as bothering for me was that, in his high school period apparently he was in the track team, meaning he could run fast. But as kind of a running gag, they keep mentioning that he ‘always had a slow start’. And this keeps happening through the whole series. He doesn’t only have a slow start in running, but also in figuring out the whole manhole thing and… actually anything. It also kept occurring to me that in all the pursuing scenes, Pil was never fast enough. He always missed the culprit.
On the other hand, it was nice to see that throughout the series, Pil visibly became more mature. In the beginning he is a loose cannon, just running about, making a fuss about everything and nothing and just being dissatisfied with his situation and Soo Jin getting married. But as the time leaps keep happening, we see him gradually become calmer, more tired even, and in the end when he finally saves Soo Jin from Jae Hyun, he is actually more mature than we’ve seen him before. So the manhole also helps him become more mature I think.

The last ‘funny thing’ that happens in the series is also something I find very ambiguous. It is semi-revealed that the manhole thing is being executed by weird little firefly-like aliens. It is not revealed what they are or what their intentions are. However, in the end, they comment on Pil and Soo Jin and contemplate how interesting the love is that they feel for each other and that they want to experiment more than that. Looking for a new victim, their eyes fall on Goo Gil, who now seems to be kind of the fifth wheel, because Dal Soo and Jung Ae are also back together as if nothing changed. So then suddenly Goo Gil gets teleported and he comes running back to Pil and Soo Jin for counsel, and they just laugh at him and that’s the end. I didn’t really understand why they added that super-short new storyline, but oh well. At least everything ended well and everyone got together and Jae Hyun got psychological help and everything was well. But they sure went through a LOT to come to this final happiness.

To come back to the point of the weird aliens, there’s another thing that bothers me. Because even though the manhole seems to belong to these creatures, it seems that they have no hand whatsoever in what happens to Pil. In the end, when they see him and Soo Jin together, they just comment ‘Is he the one that’s been using our manhole?’, as if they hadn’t even noticed before.
So really, the intentions of the manhole aren’t clarified at all. It doesn’t seem to have had a logical reason for putting Pil back in time. Even if it wanted Pil to fix past mistakes and make sure he and Soo Jin end up together, take some responsibility! Because now it just seems as if the manhole acted by itself, and the alien thingies that supposedly controlled the damn thing weren’t even paying attention to what was happening or they didn’t care. They keep taking Pil, dragging him back and forth and then in the end it’s like they didn’t even have a reason, or they didn’t even do anything on purpose to let this happen. So the whole argumentation of what happened and why was kept really vague. Also what the heck was actually up with the manhole? It’s never clarified.

Now I would like to make some remarks on the actors. I actually knew Kim Jae Joong from a Japanese drama called Sunao ni Narenakute, in which he spoke Japanese. So this was the first time I actually heard him spoke Korean.
I didn’t know Uee, I’ve seen her name before, but I didn’t know her. I thought she looks a lot like Han Seung Yeon, or maybe the other way around. Han Seung Yeon could play Uee younger version, they have very similar face types.
For the rest I only knew Baro from God’s Gift 14 Days and I knew Jung Hye Sung from several dramas in which she portrayed her versatility and playing very cheeky and funny characters (Blood, Moonlight Drawn By Clouds, Oh My Venus). I’ve seen Kang Hong Seok once before in Chicago Typewriter. So a few familiar faces in the cast.
Also Jang Mi Kwan has played in one other drama, Strong Woman Do Bong Soon, in which he also played a psychopath/serial kidnapper. I hope they give him other roles as well so he doesn’t become a typecast actor.

Apart from the main cast, I want to give one minor character a shoutout for her acting. I’m talking about Jae Hyun’s ex-girlfriend, Park Young Joo, who keeps following him after he’s already married Soo Jin. She claims that she’s the only one who truly understands him, even though she becomes a victim of his anger issues as well. The actress who played this role, Park Ah In, was really good in my opinion. Because she had to play a mentally unstable role but still maintain a normal posture. The best acting was when Jae Hyun almost strangles her and lets go at the last minute: the way she acted out the after-reaction of being almost choked to death was really realistic, including all the weird and ugly gasping sounds. As I probably mention a lot, I respect Asian actors who really go all the way in their acting and throw away their shame, because I criticize the tendency of women in dramas to always appear ‘pretty’. It’s unrealistic. You can’t be pretty all the time. Not when you’re crying/gross sobbing, and certainly not when you’re almost strangled. So well done to this lady.

To sum it up, I had a lot of confused thoughts about this drama. I didn’t find it as good quality-wise, but it was definitely entertaining. It was a nice break from all the emotional stuff I’ve been watching lately.
I might even change the summary on wiki.d-addicts myself, because it’s really not a good synopsis of the series. In the end, Pil goes as far for Soo Jin as he can, and it takes seeing him die for Soo Jin to truly see that she’s loved him all this time, no matter how she covered it up. It’s nice that it had such a sweet ending, because at a certain point, after Pil messes up time(line) and time(line) again, as a viewer you start thinking ‘maybe they’re not meant to be after all’. And then they still prove us wrong.
The friends in the end didn’t really have that much to do with the time travelling, Pil never tells anyone (or he does and they don’t believe him). But it was important to see how the alterations affected them as well, because that’s what gave true insight in their personalities. Without the alterations, we would’ve never known how much Jin Sook has been suppressing her feelings for Pil. There were times she couldn’t suppress them and in such an occasion she even sabotaged Pil and Soo Jin’s relationship when he was in the army (by hiding Pil’s letters to Soo Jin and making Soo Jin think he never wrote her back). Without the alterations we would’ve never known what would’ve happened if Dal Soo took another path, what would’ve become of Jung Ae and Goo Gil and to their triangle-relationship. So I believe the happenings mostly helped create character development for the side characters and of course the main storyline of trying to unmask Jae Hyun was what was needed to re-light the love and trust between Pil and Soo Jin.
But I still believe there were a lot of small, unnecessary elements in there, ones I can’t even remember now. But I feel like I’ve seen so many things happen, and in the end it was really just about one thing: getting Pil and Soo Jin to finally confess their true feelings to each other and getting together. Even though the alien thingies that started everything didn’t even want to take responsibility for letting all of this happen.
It took Pil and Soo Jin a long, long, way. This time it was a bitchy manhole that brought them together, but maybe it can be seen as a kind of metaphor. And it’s a good way to look at relationships: to really make sure you have no regrets. Pil was vexed that he never got to say how he felt to Soo Jin and had to watch her get snatched away by someone else, a stranger, and the manhole started helping him get back at that. Starting sending him back to situations in which he could’ve confessed but he kept failing until he got the gist of what was happening.
Even though none of the characters seemed to be witty enough to get it fully, in the end it all came together and that’s what matters.
Sometimes things take a long way. The important thing is that it’s worked out, and then the long way just becomes the effort we put into it.

Love til the End of Summer

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SPOILER WARNING: DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T FINISHED THE SERIES YET!!

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Love til the End of Summer/Rush to the Dead Summer
(夏至未至 / Xia Zhi Wei Zhi)

This drama had been on my list for quite some time. I think I saw a trailer of it once and decided to give it a go. Although I don’t usually watch a lot of Chinese/Taiwanese dramas, this one looked like a good watch because it depicted both romance and emotional depth (concluded from reading the summary). And I also read that this drama would be special because it is one of the few Chinese dramas which aren’t dubbed, and only use the actors’ real voices. Since the dubbing is one of the reasons I don’t like most C-Dramas, this came as a big plus.

I knew the main actress from the Chinese version of Hana Yori Dango, which was apparently 10 years before this drama. She still looks exactly the same, super petite, skinny and doll-faced.
I’m not familiar with many Chinese actors so the rest I didn’t know. When I finally was about to watch it, I saw that it had 46 episodes -whoops- so I watched another drama simultaneously to ease the emotional tension. Even though it was 46 episodes, it still didn’t take me that long to finish because even though a lot emotional stuff happens, the story isn’t complicated so it’s very accessible to watch.

One of the things that immediately stood out to me was the cinematography. The shots are beautiful, expanded, almost panorama-like. They seem to have a knack for cinematic shots in Chinese dramas, to make scenery look almost idyllic. I guess dorms in Chinese schools must look like this, I think the rooms look very cozy and cute. Style-wise it was the closest to Korean drama that I’ve ever seen in a Chinese dramas, also in ways of more realistic acting and camera positioning. There were some true pearls in there, I was very impressed with the cinematography.

I will try and give a summary of the story before going into comments.
The story spans a 10-year period of time of a group of friends who meet each other in high school and after graduation still manage to stay together, even though everything changes.
Two best friends since childhood, Fu Xiao Si (played by Chen Xue Dong) and Lu Zhi Ang (Bai Jing Ting) are the two main heartthrobs at school, they always place 1 and 2 respectively at exams and they are the most popular guys in school. Xiao Si is the typical handsome genius who doesn’t show a lot of emotion. Zhi Ang is the only person he can truly be himself around. Zhi Ang is the complete opposite of Xiao Si. He is always energetic, cheerful and funny.
The two meet Li Xia (played by Zheng Shuang) when she is seated in front of them in class. In the beginning, Xiao Si and Li Xia can’t really see eye to eye, but some things happen and the romantic tension between them grows. Zhi Ang initially also likes Li Xia, but seeing the bond between her and his best friend grow, he decides to not be an obstacle to them. He always chooses his friendship with Xiao Si above anything.
Furthermore, there’s Cheng Qi Qi (played by Chai Bi Yun), Li Xia’s best friend. Qi Qi is a very social person, she’s from a rich but strict family and sees her time at school as true freedom away from her demanding parents. She has a talent for getting people to like her very quickly, a talent that the mild-natured Li Xia envies about her. However, Qi Qi is placed in a different class from the main trio and soon starts to feel left out, because she wants to be a part of their group as well but isn’t as much included in their activities together (both in and out of school) as she’d like. Contrarily, she starts feeling neglected and lonely. Especially because she falls in love with Xiao Si and starts getting hurt again and again when she is confronted with the fact that he only has eyes for Li Xia.
The last friend appears in the second semester, her name is Yu Jian (played by Xia Zi Tong). Due to her punk-ish way of dressing, everyone initially thinks she is bad news, a delinquent maybe, but Li Xia doesn’t buy it and starts standing up for her, gaining Yu Jian’s friendship. Yu Jian’s dream is to be a famous singer and have her own album produced.
The high school days are probably the most peaceful part of the series. Everyone is still very young and learning about everything, friendship, trust, love. And everyone still has big dreams and ambitions. They can’t even imagine what life will be like in 10 years.

In the summary of the series, it only tells about the high school phase and then how everything is suddenly different 10 years later. But that’s not how it goes in the series. It doesn’t suddenly jump to 10 years later, the thing mentioned in the summary actually only happen in the last 5 episodes or so, when everything is seriously messed up for a while. Up until then, we see everything that happens after they graduate, how they all move to Shanghai to fulfill their dreams and how some of them learn the hard way how naive they were in dreaming so big.
Yu Jian is the first one to move to Shanghai, having already made a deal with a media company there that promised her she would be able to sing. She even breaks up with her boyfriend to follow that dream. However, when she gets there, she immediately finds that they’re not just going to let her sing: she first has to ‘please’ some board members in order to get contracted. Refusing this, she ends up working in a convenience store and has to lie to her friends back home about how well her music career is going.
On the other hand, calculating Qi Qi isn’t as stubborn and won’t stop at anything to acquire fame, even if that means betraying her friends – which she does, multiple times. Her greed to receive Xiao Si’s affection only grows, and driven by that and her manipulative manager, she does some really nasty things.
Fu Xiao Si and Li Xia stay together. Xiao Si becomes a famous artist – he was always great at painting and won prizes at school as well- and Li Xia, who also likes painting, becomes his assistent.
Zhi Ang travels to Japan to study abroad there and meets Yan Mo (Zheng He Hui Zi), an immature but affectionate girl who becomes infatuated with him. After graduation in Japan, he comes back to China and for a while, all the friends are reunited at the same media company Li Tong. It seems ideal, who would have thought they would all be working together at the same company? Xiao Si and Qi Qi are artists labeled under the company, Zhi Ang and Yan Mo both become managers (Yan Mo’s father is the company’s owner). Yu Jian meets Duan Qiao (Pang Han Chen), a young man striving to become an architect who supports her to continue her singing career, and eventually also catches the attention of Li Tong. However, Qi Qi feels threatened by this new interest in Yu Jian and makes sure she can’t sign a contract with the company.
From this point on, everything slowly but surely goes downhill. As Qi Qi becomes more greedy, she creates more tension and instances where her friends are hurt. She even concurs a lie to Li Xia that she’s pregnant with Xiao Si’s child after a drunk night together and makes Li Xia leave Xiao Si. Zhi Ang accidentally stabs a hostile artist trying to physically harm Xiao Si and is forced to go on the run. Xiao Si is left without his two best friends and his eyesight declining and is completely distraught.

The last five or six episodes of the series were seriously almost unbearable. So much was already going on with Xiao Si and his reputation in jeopardy and Li Xia leaving, and then they also felt the need to let Duan Qiao die (which was really unnecessary in my opinion). He and Yu Jian were on their way to get married (of course) and (of course) he crossed the street without paying attention and (of course) there was a car that appeared out of nowhere. I really didn’t see the meaning in his death, it felt more like they were determined to make everything go worse and worse and hurt Yu Jian even more – she was just starting to open up again.

In the end, the company issues are solved by Yan Mo’s father (thank god) and the evil manager and director were chased away. Even though Qi Qi got away without punishment, she stopped being a backstabbing bitch and reflected (somewhat). She didn’t set right her mistakes and lies about being pregnant, which annoyed me. Because now Xiao Si and Li Xia’s breakup was based on a lie and they still could’ve been together. On the other side it made me doubt their relationship because it was so obviously a lie, but still Li Xia chose to believe it and leave Xiao Si in a time where he needed her most of all. Xiao Si was never good at expressing his emotions, but his love for Li Xia was so apparent – I was kind of disappointed in Li Xia that she believed her treacherous fake friend (and she knew Qi Qi was treacherous because she just heard everything she’d done in the past) so quickly over her ‘great love’.
They do meet again at the very end, when Zhi Ang and Yan Mo get married, but the series ends with them standing opposite each other. They couldn’t get back together like that, because we saw before that Li Xia already moved on, and was discussing marriage with her new boyfriend, so I didn’t really get why she came back and what her intentions were at the end.

So, that’s it for the story. I would now like to discuss the characters and the actors more.
First of all, I was impressed by the complexity of the characters. In the beginning everyone seemed to be pretty easy characters to grasp, the cold genius school prince, the cheerful best friend, the shy sweet girl who is ‘chosen’ by the popular guy… But especially through the long after-graduation part, the character development for each character is explored and we see many different sides of everyone.
Fu Xiao Si isn’t just the cold genius, yes he has an emotionless face, but he’s simply very bad at expressing his feelings and this leads him to many awkward confrontations and situations. I think he was very well cast, because he did have an emotionless face but he also exuded this kind of melancholy, which fitted his role as a misunderstood genius.
Li Xia – I actually have to say something about this. Maybe it was the actress, but I actually found Li Xia one of the most difficult characters to read in the whole series. She was described as ‘the sweetest, most charming girl you can imagine’, but I actually didn’t find her that ‘sweet’ all the time. She wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself and plain tell someone she didn’t like in their face that she wasn’t interested in listening to them. Other than that, she had a lot of ambiguous facial expressions that I couldn’t really put my finger on. She would look worried most of the time, and then suddenly show a little pout or smile. I also thought she was too lenient – whenever someone would say ‘I’m fine’ (even though they were clearly not), she would just be like ‘Okay then, then it’s good’ and not go into it any deeper. It definitely puzzled me in the case of Qi Qi, because they were supposedly best friends but clearly were not on the same wavelength at all. Of course, some things needed to be spoken, but when Qi Qi was feeling down it was so obvious something was bothering her, Li Xia should’ve pushed further more as in ‘What do you mean ‘You’re fine’? You’r clearly not.’ But she didn’t, so a lot of times it seemed like she just didn’t really wanted to get too close to people emotionally, making her seem more distant. Whenever the girls in her dorm would girl-talk or gossip, she also made clear she didn’t want to get involved. In that sense, I didn’t find her that typical ‘sweet’ girl.
When it comes to the relationship between Xiao Si and Li Xia, even though it was clear that there was romantic tension between them, there were a lot of times I found things a bit forced. For instance, Xiao Si seemed to dominate their whole relationship, making Li Xia seem like a will-less puppet at many occasions. He would just say things like ‘You will be by my side forever’ or ‘Be my girlfriend, I want to take care of you’, ‘Let’s get married’. Like, he wouldn’t ask her, he would just state it. And she always just went along with it with an awkward smile. Another thing I noticed was that they barely looked each other in the eye when they were talking about emotional things. When Li Xia asks him why he chose her over all the other girls since she’s so plain, she is constantly casting her eyes down. Xiao Si, on the other hand, is always looking her in the eye. His love for her -although not well expressed in words- becomes more than clear in the way he looks at her. But apart from the many mutual stare-moments, when they are actually talking to each other, in a lot of cases they weren’t looking at each other. Even when Xiao Si asks her to be his girlfriend – EVEN when he proposes her. In the case of the proposal it was even worse because he hugged her from behind and did all the talking from there, so they didn’t even have the chance to look each other in the eye while he was actually PROPOSING. I don’t know, that’s why it still felt very awkward between them, even when they were already together for such a long time.
Lu Zhi Ang is literally the most precious puppy I’ve seen in a drama. It’s been a long time since I would actually go ‘ohmygosh don’t cry puppy’ and ‘oh my precious baby’ on a drama character. What I loved about his character was that they gave him very good character development. He used to be this carefree, energetic, lovable, always smiling boy who would always sleep in class – and then before he even graduates his mother passes away and before anyone notices he’s grown up. I found that a very good piece, where Xiao Si tried to comfort him and he said something like ‘I’ve never seen anyone grow up within a matter of minutes like this’. This happening of course grieves Zhi Ang to the bone, and he does fall into a phase of rebellion because of it, but luckily not for long because he still realizes how much his friends worry and care for him. After that, he suddenly becomes a lot more mature, although his mischievous strike still remains.
I personally loved the relationship between Xiao Si and Zhi Ang. Their bromance was unequalled to any other one I’ve seen in a drama up until now. Even to the point of flirting with each other and rolling on the floor frolicking with each other like a bunch of kid dorks. It was really nice to see how many expressions Xiao Si was able to produce when being around Zhi Ang.
To be very honest, I didn’t really warm up to his relationship with Yan Mo. On the contrary, I found Yan Mo very childish and annoying. She initially forced a relationship on Zhi Ang, clinging to him while he was clearly showing dismay, and she would constantly jump to conclusions and pull stupid pranks on him. I didn’t think they were compatible at all. In the end, there were a few cases where I did like her, because she seemed to be the only one who actually saw what was going on in the company and that Qi Qi and her evil manager were the evildoers. And there were maybe one or two instances were she actually acted mature. But apart from that, she was so weirdly obsessed with Zhi Ang that it seemed to be all about him and her. Even when she turned out to be the director’s daughter and Zhi Ang was working under her, she used meetings and her position to tease him (which I thought was very immature).
Even when Zhi Ang was on the run, she asked Xiao Si ‘Do you think I will ever see him again?’ Not even thinking about how this must be for Xiao Si, to have lost his best friend of more than 10 years, she asks instead of we. Those were the little things that annoyed me about her.
The only moment I kind of approved was when Zhi Ang finally decided to turn himself in, and the sad smiles they gave each other before he was taken in were very effective. And the hug they shared when he came out three years later was very sweet. So in the end I kind of came to terms with their relationship, lol.
Qi Qi is probably one of the most complex characters to play in this series, so kudos to the actress. Her personality had many layers, and even though looking at it from one point of view it is very easy to say ‘that bitch!’ I have to say that there was some foundation to her actions. Especially the moments in high school when she felt left out. I could really understand how she felt, because I’ve felt it myself. On the other side I also know that it’s usually not done on purpose. The three didn’t mean to leave her out, they were usually just in a situation where Qi Qi wasn’t present, or made spontaneous last minute plans after Qi Qi had already left. Nonetheless, as I said, I could relate with Qi Qi whenever she heard afterwards that they had been hanging out again together and she was like ‘why didn’t you call me too?’, because her family situation was so upsetting.
Growing up like that, yearning for true attention and freedom she never received at home, it all went to her head when she got a whiff of the fame she had longed for for so long. I still think that it was wrong of her to let greed get the best of her and let her jealousy escalate to the point of hurting her only friends. There was one scene where she was alone in her dressing room and she was fighting these contradicting feelings, going a little crazy, and then in the end she put on new lipstick, saying to herself something like (I don’t remember the exact words, so maybe I’m wrong) ‘You can’t let people see you be ugly from the outside as well’. In the end, even though I was one of those people yelling ‘you bitch!’ in the back of my head as well, I think she was actually a really complex and interesting character and the actress portrayed her very well.
Yu Jian; I liked her from the get-go, the girl who looked like she came right out of a rock band but who to everyone’s surprise to be just a normal sweet girl! And she had a supercute boyfriend, his name was Qing Tian (Juck Zhang – I have to mention him because he was so cute). But when she stated her ambitions to him and asked him to go to Shanghai with her, he refused. At that moment I could already guess that Yu Jian was the one being naive, because her head was still in the clouds, and Qing Tian was the adult: ‘And what if we go there, where are we going to live? How are we going to earn money? Are we going to play music under a bridge? Been there, don’t wanna do it again. And I don’t want that for you, either.’ He was actually being sensible and she couldn’t stand him not ‘fully supporting’ her. So she left – he wanted to see her off at the bus terminal but was too late.
After being in Shanghai for a while, she eventually misses him so much she goes back – only to find him with a new girlfriend. Duan Qiao, already interested in her at that point, subsequently provides her with all the support she could ever want. She never shows the same affection to Duan Qiao she showed Qing Tian, but maybe this also has to do with her maturing. She is probably one of the more mature characters from the series. Even when Duan Qiao dies, we don’t get to see a full memorial service where everyone is gathered around grieving. We don’t see the others’ reaction to it at all. All that’s shown is Yu Jian’s response. The way she deals with it all on her own. In the end she returns home and reconciles with Qing Tian, although they don’t become lovers again. But it was nice to see them together again in a friendly way. Apart from that, Yu Jian seemed very stoic in the second half of the series. She would have a blank/neutral look on her face, the glimmer in her eye and the mischievous smile she showed during the high school period don’t come back except for a few small moments with Duan Qiao. And then there was the hair. I don’t know what this was supposed to be: in the beginning I really liked her hairstyle, her own color with some highlights. She was seen wearing a wig once, for a gig or something. But then, after she came to Shanghai, she was suddenly wearing this super obvious fake pink wig that didn’t suit her at all in my opinion. The fact that it was so obviously a wig really bothered me. And then afterwards she went for granny-grey, which made her look like a boy even more, but was still better than the wig. In-between there was one time when she had to pretend she was Li Xia and she suddenly had brown hair again -maybe that was supposed to be a wig? But it was clearly her real hair?- anyways, in the end she got her own real brown hair back which suited her the best.
This may sound unimportant, but details like this always make a big impression on me and also play in part in how much I take things seriously.

There was one character that only really appeared during the high school phase. The girl Li Yan Ran (Wang Yu Wen), who was Xiao Si’s childhood friend and she was so in love with him that before Qi Qi became obsessed, she was the ‘bitch’ that kept sabotaging Xiao Si and Li Xia’s relationship. After an ‘accident’ (later also explained to be Qi Qi’s doing – even though it was obvious from the beginning for me because Qi Qi was already starting to get a bit twisted then) a staging consisting of a huge pile of boxes for some sort of party event at school collapses on Yan Ran as she’s fighting over Xiao Si with Li Xia. Xiao Si jumps in and saves Li Xia, but Yan Ran’s leg gets caught in the rubble and she even breaks her leg, causing her desired dancing career to become uncertain.
Now even though Yan Ran was just a little jealous girl who couldn’t get the boy she was in love with to love her back, we meet her again in the future, where’s she shopping for a wedding ring with her fiance. Zhi Ang bumps into her and we see how mature Yan Ran has gotten, talking about her crush on Xiao Si as a silly infatuation, and that she really wishes Xiao Si and Li Xia to be happy together. It is also thanks to her that the truth about Qi Qi comes to the surface, as she reacts rationally that she’s not surprised that ‘that calculating girl’ made it that far in the entertainment business and she also reveals that it was Qi Qi who was responsible for the accident that time. It was really nice to see at least someone mature enough to acknowledge their youth naivety and has now gotten over it and went on with her life.

I need to make two more compliments to minor characters: the homeroom teacher Miss. Wen Ren (Ni Jing Yian) and Li Xia’s high school roommate Song Ying Ying (Zhao Yami).
I really liked the homeroom teacher, she was perfectly casted. She was the so-called ‘Ice Queen’, the unyieldingly strict teacher that everyone was afraid of, but secretly she really cared about her students and stood up for her class to the director every time. The series actually starts with graduation day, when all the students are emotional because they don’t want to part from their teacher. Seeing that, I thought ‘wow, I’ve never seen such a sentimental class’. Then it started all from the beginning, where they were still very intimidated by their teacher and it was nice to see how this relationship between teacher and students also developed. The woman playing the teacher portrayed the character very well, I think, because she had this hard poker face but when she smiled, she looked really kind.
Ying Ying instantly jumped out to me from her first appearance. At first I was just laughing about this one girl who was acting so intensely, but instead of getting annoyed about her exaggerating, I actually found it really refreshing. You don’t see a lot of this over-the-top acting in Asian dramas. And it wasn’t over-the-top as in ‘too much’ or ‘fake’, but it remained credible because the actress was acting with full commitment. They say that when you have to act really over-the-top, people will find it fake if they see you yourself don’t take it seriously. As long as you take it seriously, no matter how weird it feels, the public will believe you. And this girl really succeeded in that. She used all the muscles in her face without a glimpse of hesitation or shame, she wasn’t scared to show weird hilarious expressions and positions – even at the end, during the wedding, she took the spotlight by actively screaming for the bride’s bouquet – and I always admire that kind of commitment, certainly in Asian dramas where the focus still mainly seems to be on looking pretty/handsome.

Another thing that couldn’t NOT be noticed: the freaking sponsors. At first I just thought ‘wow, they drink a lot of Coca Cola in this series’. But then it became more obvious with the episode. Not just the Cola. Coca Cola, KFC, Lux, Unif Instant Noodles, Three Squirrels peanuts.
Everything had to be pronounced by its name, as if it was some sort of commercial:
‘Here, I bought you your favorite Lux shampoo.’ ‘Let’s eat some Unif instant noodles.’ ‘Give me some of the Three Squirrels nuts. Which ones are there? Peanuts, walnuts, pecans *insert several more kinds of nuts*’. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen so many sponsors so obviously promoted in a drama series. Also, did they really repeatedly drink and eat all this? Because every single person in this drama was hella skinny. Even the food-obsessed roommate who was supposed to be ‘chubby’ wasn’t really chubby. There was one scene when all the roommates had to help her get into a dress and it ripped because she wasn’t skinny enough… I don’t believe she wasn’t actually able to get into that dress. That was the only thing, if you want to make a stereotype, make it a good one.

As for the continuity of the series’ timeline: I liked that they used the development of mobile phones as a way to show the changing of times and the growing accessibility to keep contact. In the first break from high school, no-one had mobile phones yet so they couldn’t contact each other at all while everyone went home.
At a certain point I think the fast forward shots (I don’t know what they are called in cinematography terms, the shots where you have an overview of a city and it’s played in fast forward that it becomes night and day again) were meant to indicate the passing of several years. Because from one episode onto the other they would suddenly say about something that happened 10 minutes earlier in the episode that it was something that had happened a year ago.

Overall, it was a very eventful series and not one episode was boring. There was a very natural build-up in the story and the characters’ development and relationships. I think it gives a very good image of the innocence of youth and how ‘life’ can suddenly be more painful and harsh than you’d imagine. The most important thing is to search for the warmth of the people you know care about you. As long as you are surrounded by that warmth and support, there will be a way out of the dark.
None of the characters ends up living the future that they’d dreamed of in school. They all get shit thrown their way, they all get to face difficult choices and especially in the entertainment industry, the dog-eat-dog business mustn’t be underestimated. I think it’s a very good coming-of-age story, depicting different kinds of people who chose to go different kinds of ways. Some are blinded by success -or the illusion of success- that they are prepared to give up everything for it. One of Qi Qi’s best quotes at the end of the series was ‘I’ve gained the world. But still I feel like I’ve gained nothing.’
The importance of friends, especially in dire straits, the importance of trust and support. It may have started out as a simple romantic high school drama story, the way it turned out after depicting ‘what happens after school’, is what made it a real story about real life and real people and how they deal with all kinds of miserable and difficult situations, but still have each other to come back to.
One of the better Chinese dramas I’ve seen so far.

Todome no Kiss

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SPOILER WARNING: DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T FINISHED THE SERIES YET!!

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Todome no Kiss
(トドメの接吻(キス) / Todome no Kisu)

The reason I started watching this drama in-between was -again- because of a gifset on Tumblr. This time it wasn’t a gifset depicting any content of the story, but a simple two-frame gif of Yamazaki Kento making a funny face. That was the initial reason I looked up the drama and started watching it. I watched this in-between because the other drama I’m currently watching is longer than I expected and I needed some light J-drama humor in the meantime.

When I started watching the first episode, I was torn by two different emotions. On the one hand it starts off really intense and angsty and creepy, but on the other hand I also found it hilarious and couldn’t really take it seriously.

The story is about a male host, ‘Eight’ – real name Dojima Otaro (played by Yamazaki Kento), who seems to be the most superficial host there can be. His acting performance is on point, he is the most popular host in his club and he has many female customers he occasionally sleeps with and meets up with outside of work. He only takes the richest customers because of his obsession with money, and apart from that he doesn’t care about the women’s feelings at all. He’s repeatedly called ‘scum’ by both his customers as other people who know him.
However, one time during his job when he is alone in the host dressing rooms, a strange-looking girl suddenly appears behind him, telling him that he will die, and she kisses him. As she kisses him, Otaro feels his heart stop and he falls down dead to the floor.
The next moment, he wakes up 7 days earlier in the past.

Now up until this point, I was like ‘okay what the heck is going on here’. I have to say the first episode immediately piqued my interest because from the start there were already so many questions I wanted answers to. Who is that woman? Why does she want Otaro dead? Why is he going back in time? It gave me some serious Re:zero vibes as well, as he goes back in time every time he gets killed, gaining more information along the way.
Even though in the beginning Otaro is super confused and scared and tries to change the situation so he won’t encounter the ‘kiss woman’ again, she keeps on finding him and kissing him and he keeps dying and going back to the past. After a while, though, he starts getting the hang of it and learns from it and uses the information from each time leap to his advantage.

Otaro has a tragic background story which has led him to become such a snob. When he was a young child, he and his little brother Kouta snuck on board of a cruise ship of which their father was the captain. At that moment, a rich family was holding a special party on that boat. Somewhere in the night, a terrible accident happened and the ship capsized, causing a great scandal and catastrophe. Otaro and Kouta, who had just managed to save a little girl that had fainted, also got caught within the crisis and little Kouta was swept away by a sudden wave of water.
After that, Otaro’s father got the blame for the whole accident and Otaro was bullied for being a ‘murderer’s son’ and when financial problems and loan sharks started targetting them as well, his father left his mother and him. His mother, struck by grief and unable to let go of Kouta, kept saying she believed he was still alive and even kept searching for him. Otaro got enough of his broken family and started working jobs, getting abused, until he got himself into selling his body. He uses the money from his host work to pay off his household’s debts.
‘His advantage’ here including seducing a certain socialite’s daughter whose heritage is about 10 billion yen – the other story line in the series.

During the series, it turns out that the ‘kiss woman’ whom he thought was targeting him for some reason, is actually trying to save him. The girl, named Sato Saiko (Kadowaki Mugi), somehow gained the power to kill someone by kissing them and whenever that happens, she too dies and goes back in time. It is later revealed that she was the little girl Otaro and Kouta saved on the ship 12 years ago, and she gained this power after surviving the incident.
She manages to save him from an obsessive stalker colleague at the host club called Kazuma (Shison Jun), using her power to bring him back to life rather than kill him. After using her power several times, and continually getting closer to his 10 billion-prize, Otaro offers Saiko to make a deal with him: she will agree to kissing him when he wants to go back to change something again, and in return with every kiss he will grant one of her wishes. Saiko agrees, and they proceed with the ‘no-emotions-attached-kissing contract’. However, as they experience many personal and emotional things together (including saving his own mother’s life and giving Saiko the chance to say goodbye to her grandmother before she passes), a bond of trust begins to grow between the two and before long Otaro doesn’t treat her the same way as the other girls.

In the meantime, to go a little bit further into the second storyline, there is the plot of the Namiki Family, the socialite family Otaro is targeting. As it happens, it’s the same rich family aboard the cruise ship at the time of the accident.
Their daughter Mikoto (Araki Yuko) is supposed to take over the family business, but the board won’t let her do it alone -because she’s a woman I suppose. She needs to marry first. She has an older brother, Takauji (Arata Mackenyu), but he is adopted and not officially allowed to take over the group. To complicate matters even more, Mikoto and Takauji are secretly in love with each other.
When Otaro sets his eyes on Mikoto, he unlocks way more than just the suspicion of the Namiki group, he comes across a secret that is way bigger than that: the fact that Takauji was actually responsible for the cruise ship accident and the fact that his uncle is using the evidence to manipulate him into taking over Namiki Group by forcibly marrying Mikoto. He doesn’t want to at first, but as things get more intense and Otaro starts butting in more, Takauji is overwhelmed by feelings of greed and his desire to protect Mikoto at all costs, so he becomes a bad guy.

The series is only 10 episodes, so to make a long story short: Otaro goes back in time a lot of times (while everything together adds up to six months in real time he only spends two months in time-leap time) and in the end everything checks out and they are able to catch all the bad guys and lock Takauji up and he is able to marry Mikoto and his dream finally seems to come true. The 10 billion is about to be within his grasp…
And then Takauji escapes from prison and attempts to assault Otaro at the wedding and Saiko jumps in front of him and gets killed. And that is the moment that Otaro realizes he is actually in love with Saiko. But now that she is killed, kissing her doesn’t work anymore. And then he is left alone feeling anything but happy.

One of the things I liked about the drama is that the ending was actually really interesting. They didn’t go for a standard ‘happily-ever-after’ ending. The whole ending was based on Otaro’s character development. We could see how much he’s grown from that snobby host into this person who’s seen and experienced death and was able to go back and even in a certain way gain control over life and death for a while. We see that he slowly but surely starts reflecting on his actions and becomes a better person to Saiko (and because of Saiko). And then, when Saiko dies in front of him, we see him fall apart and that was some amazing acting (well done, YamaKen).

Throughout the story, as a seemingly comic relief kind of character, there is a homeless person called Harumi (played by the impeccable Suda Masaki) who, always surrounded by his homeless friends, sings songs and comments on Otaro and Saiko as they pass and sometimes even seems to know things about what’s going on. Something also feels off when he kisses Saiko and nothing happens.
In the end, after Saiko’s death, he comes to Otaro’s house and reveals that he – just like Saiko – is someone who can go back in time by kissing someone. He also survived a near-death experience through which he gained this power. He gives Otaro the idea of going back again, but warns him that through him, Otaro would go back not 7 days but 3 months. Which means that when he goes back, Saiko won’t even know his name yet and everything they have built up in the past 3 months will be wiped clean.
My first thought was: isn’t it better then to wait 3 months and then go back to save her at the right moment? That way she’ll still remember everything.
But Otaro chooses to go back anyway and go for a clean slate. Starting off with his pursuing of Namiki Mikoto. When he returns in time, he just deals with everything from the get-go: he urges Mikoto and Takauji to just tell each other how they feel, he takes the evidence tape from Takauji’s uncle and destroys it on the spot, he tells everyone what they need to change and do and so creates a future in which everything he fought so hard for the previous 3 months will never even start happening. Takauji comes clean to Mikoto about the accident and everything and they decide to get married. Otaro deals with Kazuma before he can get too obsessive and makes sure he gets fired from the host club.
Otaro meets Saiko but, as Harumi predicted, she doesn’t know anything about him yet and it leaves him heart-broken but still relatively okay.

There is a 15-minute special following 1 year after the end of the last episode, in which Saiko -her interest piqued by what Otaro told her- visits Otaro and he tells her about his ‘dreams’ (the things they went through together). In the end, she tells him she can’t give up on searching for their memories together and that’s she’s interested in getting to know him better. So you could say it’s still a happy ending for them.

One of the main interesting points in this series (imo) was that in the beginning, our main character -and thus the character perspective that we follow- is an unsympathetic person. Otaro initially acts like a real scumbag, not caring about anything or anyone but himself and his own happiness: obtaining 10 billion yen even if that means marrying a woman he doesn’t even love. Lots of times I was just shaking my head at him, mumbling ‘you jerk’, along with the rest of the characters. It was kind of typical that Saiko would be able to change that part of him and then he would turn into a good person, but it all happened very naturally. It wasn’t like from one episode onto the other he was suddenly a softy or anything. But we can see him slowly get less excited about the 10 billion and even though he goes through with the marriage, we already see he’s not really okay with it. It really took seeing Saiko die for him to fully realize what was important to him – and then it was too late. But as the audience, we still don’t feel a 100% affection for him (at least I didn’t). Of course, he changes and he does become a better person in the end.
But I find it interesting when the main perspective we follow as watchers is one that we can’t fully empathize with.

I learned that there would be a second season called Todome no Parallel, which tells every episode from the original series from a different point of view. The most interesting thing – and I really hope I can explain it well – is that in the last episode Harumi tells Otaro that whenever he goes back in time, the timeline that he leaves at that point doesn’t disappear, it goes on. So in that timeline he will still die and with that that world will go on. So they made an episode for everytime that Otaro went back in time, showing what happens after he time leaps. The happenings that he ‘erased’ still happened in parallel timelines. I’m a scifi/time travel geek so I’m kind of psyched about this and I really want to watch it.

Okay, so that’s most of it for the story. I want to point out a few actors that particularly stood out to me. First of all, Yamazaki Kento himself. I know he’s super popular and in the last couple of years has appeared in a LOT of dramas and movies, most of them also anime-adapted movies like Chihayafuru, Shigatsu ha Kimi no Uso and Orange and now even Saiki Kusuo no Sainan. I personally have only seen two things, Suki na Hito ga Iru Koto and Orange and in both of those he played a very subdued character, someone who doesn’t talk much, and is even a bit aloof. So it was really interesting for me to see him play such a charai host character, including the smirks, the touching his bottom lip with his finger, the hairwax, everything. It was really refreshing to see another side of his acting. I’ll probably watch more of him, see if there’s still more he can deliver.
Then there was Kadowaki Mugi. I didn’t know her, I saw she played in Tantei no Tantei but I didn’t recognize her from that. But she immediately piqued my interest. In the beginning of the series you think she’s a very creepy woman since she keeps appearing to ‘kill’ Otaro, but when it becomes clear she means to save him she becomes this super cute awkward little person and even though maybe some people might think she’s not that pretty or something, her acting compensated that well enough. I actually thought she was really cute, especially because she wasn’t a standard pretty girl. I actually thought she was prettier than the actress playing Mikoto, who was supposed to play a beautiful rich girl.
Also, Takauji. From the first appearance on, I was already kind of interested (excuse my menkui). When he loses control he gets these dead-killer eyes which made him look very scary… But it was really funny to see, when Otaro goes back 3 months in the end, that at that point he was still the puppy Takauji who wasn’t being manipulated yet. At a certain point, in his madness phase, he has a monologue about his love for Mikoto which was so. freaking. good. I don’t know the actor from anything else but well done!

I wasn’t really sure about what to think of the ending. On the one hand it felt legit that Otaro wanted to see Saiko again and I can’t disagree that everything that happened and the reason why she died wouldn’t have existed if he hadn’t insisted on pursuing Mikoto. In the end, he also sees that his greed for the 10 billion wasn’t worth losing Saiko for, and that is probably the most important message of the series.
On the other hand, it felt like everything that had happened, the whole content of the drama, was annulled. Because he went back and made sure everything was solved on the spot so none of the drama afterwards would happen. I feel like that is how we feel too at many moments; ‘If only I could go back and make sure that didn’t happen in the first place’, ‘If I’d known that before, I would’ve done something about it earlier’.
This drama clearly played with that, and Otaro keeps on finding a way back. I liked that both he and Saiko died for real at a certain point and each time they would still find a way to reverse it, even though in those cases it meant kissing another person.
Right, I want to give Japan a big applause for allowing this: a woman kissing a woman and a man kissing a man. On national television. And not modestly, no, full mouth-on-mouth. I was kind of surprised because normally they don’t do this in Asian dramas. But the moments I actually cried out ‘oh hell yes’ were when Saiko resorted to kissing Mikoto to go back, and Otaro having no choice but to kiss Harumi. I can only imagine how this must have been for Yamazaki Kento and Suda Masaki, I can’t help but laugh just by thinking about it.

In the end, it was a funny fiction story, but there was an important message in it as well. I think it has a lot to do with making the right choices, thinking about what is most important. It isn’t always something you can see from the start – and of course in reality we don’t get the chances Otaro gets to go back in time to save people and change happenings. So it’s important to set our priorities straight and be aware of what we hold dear. It might take a while, and we might need other people to show us the way, but if it can save you from opening up other wounds, it will be worth it.
I’m looking forward to watching the sequel.

 

Valid Love

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SPOILER WARNING: DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T FINISHED THE SERIES YET!!

800px-Validlove
Valid Love
(일리있는 사랑 / llriittneun Sarang)

I watched this drama in-between because (again) I saw a gifset on Tumblr which made me go ‘ohh romance’ and I checked it out. In the end it took me longer than expected to finish it, and it was also a heavier drama than I’d anticipated.

The series had 20 episodes, which is kind of long for a regular K-drama I think. Also, each episode lasted and felt especially long because so many emotionally draining stuff happened in each chapter, ans so it took me quite some time to finish as I couldn’t watch it in one go. I also happened to be involved in a fight with someone at the time I started watching, so a lot of things hit close to home in a certain way, so that’s also why it took a little more emotional effort finishing this.

Let me start with why I started it in the first place. First, Lee Shi Young always delivers. I really like her as an actress, I’ve seen several different dramas with her and she always plays a different character. I’ve never seen her play the same kind of character twice. The last I watched of her was Lookout, which I really liked, in which she was tough but also really angsty. Other than that, I’ve only seen her in comedy roles, she’s never afraid to show weird and ugly sides, and I admire that. I liked her character a little less in this drama because it was such a typical kind of person and I guess I prefer her acting when she’s a little bit extra. That’s why I really liked her in the beginning, when she was still an energetic and eccentric high school student which allowed her to show another fun and weird side.
I also knew the actor who played the second male lead, Lee Soo Hyeok, so I was curious what he would bring to the table. For some reason he always plays an unsympathetic character. I think this is the third drama I’ve seen of him after White Christmas and King of High School (I’ve always called him ‘alien vampire’ because of his unique face) and in all three of those dramas he plays a cold, distant guy. Interesting choice to put him beside the versatile Lee Shi Young.

Okay, so here’s the story. Kim Il Ri (played by Lee Shi Young) was an eccentric student at an all-girls high school, she would perform dance rituals so that aliens would pick her up and take her to Andromeda, and so her classmates teasingly called her ‘Andro’. Unconcerned by this, she lives her own outgoing life. Then, a temporary new biology teacher enters, Jang Hee Tae (played by Uhm Tae Woong) and Il Ri falls in love with him, even though he is much older than she is. He specializes in fish, and she fondly calls him ‘Myung Tae’ (‘pollock’). She swears to protect him and even confesses her love. In the beginning, Hee Tae writes it off as a teenage phase, but he slowly gets more interested in her eccentricity as well. At a certain point after she’s told him she can’t help how she feels, they’re almost hit by a car and Il Ri pushes him out of the way, causing her to get hit instead and she falls into a coma. Distraught and feeling guilty, Hee Tae leaves for the sea, where he works as a fish researcher on a boat for a long time after finally returning.
He coincidentally meets Il Ri again, completely recovered and working as an interior painter. The only side effect that remains from her coma is hyperventilation syndrome, which occurs whenever she’s very shocked or upset by something. She greets him again as if nothing has changed, the two hit it off and not long afterwards, they get married.
During their married life of seven years, a lot happens which we don’t see, because we skip right to the part where the ‘affair’ starts. So the only parts we see are the high school flashbacks where they first meet up until the accident, the moment they meet again after several years have passed since the coma, and then when they’ve already been married for seven years.

I may not have made this clear from the start because I started about Il Ri, but the main narrator of the story is Hee Tae. We hear his thoughts most of the time. Even though the summary on dramawiki said that the viewpoints of both Hee Tae and Il Ri would be covered, I found that most of it is filtered through Hee Tae’s point of view.

Even though they seem to be a desirable couple, they still get confronted by other people with the fact that Il Ri is still very young and she has married the first man she fell in love with. She never experienced dating, or a passionate fling, or anything like that. She fell in love with a grown-up man and married him. She never looked at anyone else.
That’s why it might not seem too crazy when she suddenly meets another man, closer to her own age, who makes her heart flutter. She’s not used to experiencing that, so it both amuses and confuses her (amuses, mostly, in the beginning, until the guy starts acting on it).
This other man is Kim Joon (played by Lee Soo Hyeok), a carpenter with a workshop nearby. He works alone, and values his privacy. He meets Il Ri when she is sent by her company to help paint his workshop in the final stages of its completion. In the beginning they don’t really take well to each other, finding each other disrespectful etcetera. But you know how it goes in K-dramas, the best relationships often commence with a rocky start. Tension between then occurs after Il Ri has a hyperventilation attack in front of him and uses the palm of his hand as her airbag to have something to blow in. This brings about some complicated passionate feelings from Carpenter Kim’s side.

Before going into much detail, I want to talk about something else which is a very important but also complicated part of the series: Hee Tae’s family.
Hee Tae is the oldest of three, and the whole family was living in the same house until Hee Tae married and moved somewhere else with Il Ri. But the house is still a regular visiting place. They mostly visit to see Hee Soo, Hee Tae’s younger sister, who seems to be paralyzed and can’t move or speak.

We meet Hee Soo in the high school flashbacks, before she becomes like this. She is very tall and skinny, a dancer, and she seems friendly enough. However, it becomes clear later on that she collapsed on the day Hee Tae and Il Ri got back from their honeymoon and after that somehow she never got better. Exactly how she collapsed or what happened, is never specified or shown – we just have to accept that she ‘collapsed’ and then was paralyzed and became a patient in her own house.
The interesting thing is that even though her character is immobile throughout the whole series, she plays a really big role. We see her walking around the house, eating with the rest of the family, taking walks with Il Ri, dancing through the hospital halls, clipping her nails and stretching in her room. None of this is real, but I suppose this is what she is doing in her mind. She’s also talking a lot, with everyone who comes to visit her, but in real life she’s not saying anything and no one can hear her. It was kind of complicated and I’m still not sure what exactly the point of it all was. Every dialogue she had in the series, and everything she was doing was not real. Maybe it was to show that even though she couldn’t move anymore, she was still mentally a very active person. But this was one of things that I didn’t really understand. Also, the change of hairstyle.
When she was still healthy, she had long wavy hair, but after she became immobile they supposedly cut her hair. I thought that maybe it was because they wouldn’t be able to take care of her long hair anymore, and to save everyone from the trouble of brushing it for her? I couldn’t help but wonder why, instead of just cutting her hair, they had to give her that weird bob haircut. I almost didn’t recognize who she was supposed to be when she was first shown with the short hair.
But what puzzled me a bit (or at least made me wonder if there was a reason for it) was that sometimes during her imaginary outings outside of bed they showed her with her long hair, and sometimes with her short hair. I couldn’t help wondering if there was a reason for that difference, or maybe I just missed it (because I do, I’m not someone who always immediately sees all the symbolism and references).
Anyhow, after Il Ri enters the Jang family, the task to regularly take care of Hee Soo fell to her, no matter how much her own mother disapproves of that. She never argues with it, she is fond of Hee Soo and enjoys spending time with her, but as her own daily life starts changing because of the ‘affair’, cases in which she neglects or plain forgets about leaving Hee Soo by herself occur more often. One time she even forgets leaving Hee Soo alone on the balcony when it starts raining heavily and her mother-in-law finds her and scolds Il Ri for it.

You might say there is a lot left to be desired in the relationship, Hee Tae and Il Ri don’t have a lot of romantic moments, it’s all grown-up stuff and taking care of the in-laws. So when suddenly this younger handsome guy appears who has nothing to do with that and shows genuine romantic interest, I guess you could understand how that would make Il Ri’s heart flutter.

However, and this is one of my main critique points for this series: until what point is something defined as an ‘affair’? I watched a Japanese drama about affairs before (Hirugao), and there I completely disagreed. In the case of Hirugao, the two persons involved were both married, but they found a certain tenderness in each other that they couldn’t feel with their spouses, but in the end they only held hands and kissed maybe once before already ending it for the sake of not wanting to break their marriages. In the case of Valid Love, there were a few passionate kisses, but they were both quite aggressively initiated by Kim Joon, and here too, Il Ri insisted on ending it because she didn’t want to ruin her marriage. It got out because of a leaked sabotaging photo Hee Tae got on his phone, and all hell broke lose.
I think it’s good to critically look at these situations. In the case of Hirugao, I was shocked to see how the two ‘cheaters’ were treated like they’d committed some inhumane criminal act and they were torn away from each other like animals when they were found. That’s where I found myself thinking ‘why would love be a criminal act?’ Most of it was because the spouses were too busy to think about romance. They didn’t even sleep together, they ended it after one or two kisses, is that really an affair? In my opinion, an affair is something that people continue to do whilst being fully aware of the consequences. Voluntarily committing to a second relationship even though they are legally bound to someone else. In this case, it wasn’t like that.
Il Ri’s heart was temporarily swayed by someone else, and for that she got scolded and kicked out of the house. Hee Tae was really angry with her, and even though she first tried to make things better, he couldn’t forgive her. When he finally started remembering the good times again, it was too late for Il Ri. Their feelings passed each other there.
Kim Joon still tried winning Il Ri, but after they stop seeing each other one-on-one, Il Ri never shows the same interest in him again as she did in the beginning. Maybe she still likes him, but it wasn’t really clear to me. Honestly I didn’t think they made a very good pair, I didn’t feel their chemistry and was rooting for Hee Tae. First of all because of the depth we are given regarding the relationship between Il Ri and Hee Tae. And secondly because Kim Joon in my opinion was really selfish throughout the whole story. He only cared about his own feelings, he didn’t even care about Hee Tae and the attachments Il Ri had to the Jang family. When they were about to divorce he just plain asked Hee Tae if it was okay if he would take Il Ri then, not even flinching at the realization that he was partially responsible for ruining a married couple’s relationship. He even decides by himself to take Il Ri away to live somewhere together, telling Hee Tae of this plan before he even asks Il Ri herself if she’s even up for it (which she isn’t).

I remember one scene that I really approved of was when Il Ri sat around the table with both men and came clean about her feelings. It’s common in K-dramas that conflicts arise because there’s always someone not telling the complete truth about how they’re feeling so this was very refreshing. She just told them straight that she had feelings for them both and that she couldn’t help what had happened. The rest was up to the two stubborn men. Il Ri gave her own kind of strength, because she was caught up between two alpha males who tried to shove her aside whenever something was happening (‘go back inside, let the men talk’ etc.) but she never complied with that. She was like ‘no way, I’m involved in this too’, and I admired her standing up for herself like that. She didn’t let the men handle her, she handled herself.

The series’ title is not only a word pun (because apparently ‘ilri’ means ‘valid’), but it’s a good title because the main theme throughout the story was if Il Ri’s love was ‘valid’. She experienced her exciting ‘first love’ and her stable ‘last love’ in the opposite order (quoted from dramawiki because it’s such a good way to describe it). However, since the narration was mostly from Hee Tae, I can’t really say that I understood how Il Ri felt about everything. She got someone’s interest by being her giggly and talkative self, maybe she didn’t even want it to happen, but it did. The real thing to consider, I think, is what weighs the most: all the good times you’ve had and the trust and the stability of being a married couple for 7 years even though maybe the magic has worn off a bit, or the one time that one of you makes a mistake (and immediately corrects it).
Asking each other ‘When was the last time your heart fluttered for me?’ was a key dialogue in that. Not being able to answer the question was too.

In the end Il Ri still felt too much commitment to Hee Tae and his family to leave for good. Even if she would leave, she’d somehow come back again.
So many people, including her mother, her younger sister and Carpenter Kim told her that she needs to leave there, she shouldn’t be asked to take care of both Hee Soo and her mother-in-law when she starts developing dementia, but she still wants to stay. There was no moment in which she thought ‘You know what, you’re right! I’m not wasting my life like this anymore!’ No, she would say ‘Don’t talk like that, you don’t understand. I want to take care of them. They’re my family.’                            This made me think of Taiwanese drama series My Life Plan A and B, in which the female lead is in fact almost like a slave to her in-law family and does feel this way, like she isn’t appreciated enough and she wished she’d chosen her own career over staying with her husband’s demanding family. I think this says a lot about Il Ri’s sincerity, others might think she’s being pressured by her in-laws, but she never thinks of it like that herself.

The plot of Hee Tae’s mother developing dementia initially felt a bit unnecessary for me, but in the end it kind of bound everyone together again. We’d just had this whole ‘affair’ drama, things were super tense between Il Ri and the two men, and then this happens and they find themselves involuntarily getting involved with each other again. I feel like the main motive for Mrs. Go’s dementia was to get Kim Joon more involved in their family as well. Mrs. Go mistakes him for a younger version of her husband and starts visiting his workshop several times. She calls him ‘Mr. Jang’, and Kim Joon doesn’t tell her otherwise so she accepts her illusion as the truth.
When Hee Tae and Il Ri find out about it, they initially try and play along and urge Carpenter Kim to keep pretending to be Mr. Jang, but when the real Mr. Jang finds out it leads to rioting fights in the house, because Mrs. Go doesn’t recognize her real husband anymore which is really painful for the whole family.
Mrs. Go is a really proud woman, so she doesn’t even fully acknowledge her own illness in the beginning, and the rest of the family is constantly smoothing out all her actions with things like ‘No, you can’t help it, you’re just sick, we don’t blame you’, but I’m glad that there was a confrontation where she was faced with her dementia and the fact that she was unable to recognize her own husband.
I don’t know, I think it’s good to take things into account and know when to be subtle when it concerns a sick person, but I feel like in the end, what the sick person needs to know and wants to hear is the truth about what’s wrong with them, no matter how difficult, and that they will appreciate that more than when everyone around them has to pretend everything is fine.

In the end, Hee Soo passes away and I think that with this a lot is solved. Hee Soo was always aware that she kept people worried and she felt like such a burden and honestly, what she had wasn’t life. She wasn’t living, she was a vegetable. She had nothing left to live for, she would just lie on a bed without being able to speak a word or move a muscle and only watch as her family bustled about and talked to her about things which she could never experience herself. The only way she could communicate was through her eyes, through blinking (once for ‘yes’ and twice for ‘no’),  piercing stares and tears. The moment where she expresses that she wishes to die was a very emotional moment, because she couldn’t say it. She said it, in her mind, but nobody could hear her.
So I really thought it was a good thing for her that she passed away. She could finally be free and that made her the happiest. After that, I felt like a lot of tension disappeared, Il Ri didn’t really have a legal reason anymore to keep visiting and she initially leaves, but then meets Hee Tae again and they somehow end up reminiscing again and rediscovering that fluttering feeling they used to feel for each other. It’s better that they were able to make a clean start like this, after the whole aftermath, and after all the stress was gone and the anger about the ‘affair’ had also passed. In the end, Hee Tae and Il Ri get back together and Kim Joon moves away on his own and they’re all more or less at peace with everything.

In the meantime, there is a little comic relief created by Hee Tae’s younger brother Gi Tae  (Park Jung Min) and Il Ri’s younger sister Yi Ri (Han Eu Ddeum), who are polar opposites and always fighting, but they end up falling for each other as well. I’m not sure if this is going to work out, because they’re legally in-laws but it was a bit of light and sweet within all the heavy emotions.

Conclusively, I’m still mostly confused about Hee Soo’s function, although I do feel that she wasn’t only something that kept binding Il Ri to the Jang family. There is a bit of foreshadowing in the first episode where we meet Hee Soo before everything happens and Hee Tae narrates that ‘she would later become Il Ri’s poltergeist’. So I thought that maybe she would be a super mean sister-in-law but in the end it took a very different turn. I don’t really see her as Il Ri’s poltergeist, though, but maybe indeed a as a factor keeping her close. At a certain point there seemed to be a parallel between her and Il Ri, where she was maybe even a mirror for a moment.
Hee Soo was alive but she wasn’t ‘living’. She missed taking walks, dancing, moving, as she used to be a very physically active person.
Il Ri used to be very active as well, running around, dancing to Andromeda, but after all that happened she was derived of a lot of that past eccentricity.
I believe towards the end she said something to Hee Soo like ‘I feel like these days I’ve been breathing but not really ‘living’ doing things I like’. This becomes even clearer when Il Ri has another hyperventilation attack and doesn’t wake up for about a week. Just before passing away, Hee Soo visits her (in her head, I suppose) and suddenly Il Ri becomes like Hee Soo, sitting up straight in bed while actually she’s still unconscious.
Hee Soo tells her that she needs to wake up, that she still has a lot of things to do, things she likes.
After passing away, we also see Hee Soo with a bright smile running along the streets, dancing, taking pictures in the park – finally free from her physical imprisonment.

Overall, it was a very heavy emotional drama which dealt with complicated emotions and the ‘validness’ of certain emotions. In the end, the shared experiences and memories of a 7-year marriage were strong enough to bring Hee Tae and Il Ri back together and get over one instance of wavering trust. I think that means that the bond between them is that good. If it wasn’t, it would’ve probably ended a lot easier for both of them and they would’ve been able to say ‘Okay bye then’ a lot quicker. But it was so clear that they both still had so many lingering feelings and a mutual feeling of responsibility towards their in-laws. They would never be able to become strangers after that, to just let it go and start new lives. Their bond was too strong, even a younger handsome distraction couldn’t break that.

It occurred to me that we always look for reasons and explanations when it comes to feeling. Why do we feel like that? Is it okay if I feel like this? But you know what, feelings don’t give a damn about ‘why’ or ‘how’. They just happen. The thing with marriage is that you’re lawfully bound to one person and you’re not supposed to go beyond those borders. But feelings don’t care about borders and laws. If you’re married but your heart flutters for someone else, that’s just that. What you do with it is up to you. It’s our own reactions to those feelings that make things complicated. Sometimes you have to let it go, sometimes you feel like you have to act on it. It differs per person.
But I still think it’s wrong to get angry at a person for falling in love, because no-one can help falling in love. There is no logic or science to feelings, the heart responds as it likes.
So looking for the ‘validness’ of feelings seems a little much to me. Because it tries to put rules and regulations on invisible things we can’t control.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying cheating is legit. People who are actively having an affair definitely have something to explain and apologize for. And you can get angry at them for being unfaithful and breaking the trust, that’s all normal. But I don’t think you can get angry at them for falling in love with someone else.
Because that’s out of all our hands.

 

Namida ga Tomaranai no ha (Studio Live Version)

Standard

Lyrics: Fujita Maiko
Composition: Fujita Maiko

4. Namida ga Tomaranai no ha

The reason why my tears won’t stop
is because I’m vexed not being able to ask how you feel
Before the cherry blossoms fall,
I want to know your feelings

The first time I saw the night scenery from the bay bridge
the way home, the park where we talked until late

Even the day where I was shy
and wore my slightly fancy one-piece dress
I couldn’t say it
There were also days when we showed each other our weaknesses

Are we sounding each other out?
Are we understanding each other?
Can’t we become lovers?
I want to draw a future with you

The reason why my tears won’t stop
is because I’m vexed not being able to ask how you feel
I want to believe you, I can’t believe you
It’s no good not having the words

Before I knew it, somehow a distance was created
Was it just my imagination that you’d opened your heart?

Why aren’t you trying harder
to get to know me?
Maybe me too, and you too
is it because we’re scared of getting hurt?

If it so happens that you don’t have any feelings,
don’t be nice to me
Don’t make me expect things
I can’t just ask you ‘Do you like me?’
because if I do, everything could collapse

I want to hear your voice
I’m searching for reasons

The reason why my tears won’t stop
is proof that I’m thinking about that person this much
But I can’t put it into words
It won’t reach you

The reason why my tears won’t stop
is because I’m actually waiting for your words
Before the cherry blossoms fall,
I want to know your feelings

Orange

Standard

Lyrics: Fujita Maiko
Composition: Fujita Maiko

2. Orange

I wonder why… Why is it you…
In the room where the smell of oranges remains

You’re sleeping so peacefully I almost get envious
I’m looking at you, sleeping with your mouth open

It’s not like you’re a beauty
that everyone would acknowledge
It’s not like you are, but

I love these eyes, I love this nose, I love these lips
The more difficult it becomes to say you’re cute
it becomes precious, it’s strange
These revolutionary feelings
are probably love

On top of the table, I saw an orange that was left behind
For a moment, I thought it looked like you

It’s fine just being friendly, when you take off the hot peel
It’ll become complicated, my body is filling up

The impossible continues
The accumulated stress
clashes with me, but

I got to know strength
I got to know weakness
even so, you are good
Even though it’s important
and there’s also days where we hurt each other
The reason I hold out my hand again
is probably love

Like tying a shoelace that came loose
The place where I am always able to reset my own heart

These hands are good
These shoulders are good
This existence is good

I love these eyes, I love this nose, I love these lips
I don’t know the reason,
It becomes endlessly precious, it’s strange
These revolutionary feelings
are probably love
They’re probably love