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Secret: a flawed masterpiece

I’ve been a fan of Korean dramas since 2006. It’s almost been ten years, and I’m still besotted with their engrossing stories and beautiful ladies.

It's a great romance, but flawed story-wise.

It’s a great romance, but flawed story-wise.

I watched Secret Love on a whim. I hadn’t really been fond of Hwang Jung Eum because her face looks extremely plastic. I also wasn’t able to finish any of Ji Sung’s dramas, although I made it up to more than half of Royal Family. I came in expecting nothing. Since it was on a number of critics’ top drama lists, however, I jumped in.

It’s similar to the revenge-dramas I’ve watched before: Hwang Jung Eum’s character goes to prison for a crime her boyfriend committed, yet he leaves her in the lurch. Ji Sung’s character is the boyfriend of the hit-and-run victim ran over by Yoo Jeong(or Hwang Jung Eum)’s boyfriend, and so he seeks a way to torture her in prison and abrogate her parole. He eventually develops feelings after he realizes that she is a good person through-and-through while stalking her, and together they eventually unfold the secrets behind the accident and within their lives.

Secret Love’s strength is not in its plot. There are points where the plot seems to be all over the place, but I can’t really say more because I’d be spoiling a good drama. Its strength lies in its actors. There’s a reason why it won all four acting prizes during the year it was aired: the protagonists and deuteragonists are simply just that good. Hwang Jung Eum’s face even grew on me (I finally saw her beauty) when I saw her act so well. Ji Sung, as her partner, was no slouch either. Bae Soo Bin, as Hwang Jung Eum’s foil, also acted well. They carried the mediocre plot of the series and made it so deliciously addictive to watch.

The ending was very satisfying as well, because it did not rely on some deux-et-machina. The series is akin to Leo Tolstoy’s God Sees the Truth, but Waits placed in a more modern setting. I enjoyed it very much, but from an emotional standpoint. Ghost, on the other hand, was simply a masterful techno-thriller with an extremely sinister villain in Uhm Ki-joon. It was technically and story-wise a better drama, but it didn’t have the addictive factor of Secret Love.

When everything becomes F: episodes 5-10

And I already thought that the first four episodes were pretty good.

The third case is the series’s eponym, and I thought it was the best case in the entire series. Subete ga F ni Naru was complex, intelligent, and yet emotionally charged as well. It is the first encounter of Sohei with Dr. Magata Shiki, a person I could also call Irene Moriarty. I believe the writer of this series congealed both personlities (Adler and Moriarty’s) together, although Shiki has less murderous intent than Holmes’s Professor Moriarty.

The construction of the case was absolutely brilliant. In a hermetically sealed room, inside a closely-guarded laboratory on an island hours away from civilization, a corpse dressed as a bride came out of Magata Shiki’s room. The corpse had her hands and legs amputated, and she was riding on top of the delivery robot used to transport packages inside the laboratory. No one was noted to have come in or gone out of the room for fifteen years.

Who was the culprit? I admit, despite scratching my head and reviewing key scenes from the fifth episode, I could never have imagined such foresight and such daring in order for one to execute such a cunning plan so perfectly that there were very few hitches. Knowing the meaning of ‘everything becoming F,’ however, was a bit sad.

* * *

The ending of the series was quite good, although it still was a lesser case than the titular Subete ga F ni Naru. I think that the closing cases were more focused on the explication of the major characters’ perceptions and beliefs: I think it’s enough to say that I loved Saikawa’s character primarily because he mirrors my own. I’m not a very showy person, but I do treasure the people I love.

I can’t say anything more, can I? I just hope that you guys could give Subete ga F ni Naru a chance despite its jarring opening scene and Moe’s antics.

Subete ga F ni Naru: episode 1 – 4 impressions

I didn’t watch a J-drama for the longest time. The last J-series I completed was Proposal Daisakusen back in 2006. I am, after all, more of an anime and K-drama fan than a J-drama fan. I was intrigued, however, by the poster of this series. It was such a teaser. It hadn’t been anything deep as I didn’t look what Subete ga F ni Naru was about: I just knew I was going to give it a chance, and was going to watch its first few episodes.

I admit, this teaser was what hooked me.

I admit, the teaser was what hooked me.

Since I started working and had gone back to playing DotA 2, I forgot about this series until about a week ago. When I looked up the upcoming series for Noitamina (one of the best anime blocks ever), I saw F as an upcoming series. I then recalled about the drama, and decided to watch its first episode.

True to my intuitive side, I was hooked. The initial interview of a cute Emi Takei (of Rurouni Kenshin) towards a seemingly intelligent and twisted doctor was a bit out-of-place, but was entertaining enough. When the two leads started investigating the first case, I knew I was going to love this series.

When I was younger, I read most of the stories in a short story collection. One of them featured Jacques Futrelle’s The Problem of Cell 13. The story had impressed me a lot that I would often appreciate media featuring locked-room mysteries. Even before Cell 13, I had already read most of Poe’s Dupin mysteries, including The Murders at the Rue Morgue. I was attracted to the cases and their resolution as well, so it was no surprise when I was impressed at how the first case constructed the locked-room murder.

Two colleagues who were about to get married were found murdered in the middle of an experiment, and a locked room mystery was revealed. Like most good cases, there were quite a few red herrings, and the culprits weren’t whom I had expected. It was a good case, with a good resolution.

The second case, however, was more impressive. It was an even simpler locked room, with only one room and no other way to exit or enter. The resolution, however, was a bit more elegant. I was able to narrow down the culprits to two suspects, and I was right with my hunch. How the locked room was created, however, and how the murder weapon was conceived was a lot more creative than the first case.

I also welcomed the interplay between the two major characters, because the lady, despite being intelligent, has an obvious crush on the even more intelligent professor. Both of them have a history, and while the professor cares for the lady, it remains to be seen whether he will realize his emotions by the end of the series. (When Moe solved the difficult math problem mentally, I knew I would have a hard time letting go. Intelligent heroines do me in.)

Some drawbacks of the series include the cheesy multiple-personality synthesis of facts by Professor Saikawa in his resolution of the case, and the occasionally saccharine desire of Moe to be, at least, tended to by her professor. Other than that, the construction of the cases were very well-thought of. The high incidence of suicide among the cases also offer more color to the series, leading to the difficulty of actually guessing the culprits. To be fair to the series, however, careful, analytical viewing leads to results: at the very least, it will help remove the red herrings of the series. Since I didn’t pursue a major in Physics, the science is sometimes beyond me, although I was quite impressed with how the weapon in the second case was constructed.

Fans of quirky detective cases with colorful main characters will probably like this show. I like this show doubly because there is an undercurrent of romance present. As with my favorite anime series, I love shows that have romance as a focus, yet the romance is not its sole focus. That was the case with The Tatami Galaxy, illustrating a bildungsroman with a romance; that was also the case with Steins;Gate, being a science-fiction story with a romance as well.

I hope you guys could give it a shot.

Cunning Single Lady: the modern-day Persuasion

Elizabeth had succeeded at sixteen to all that was possible of her mother’s rights and consequence; and being very handsome, and very like himself, her influence had always been great, and they had gone on together most happily. His other two children were of very inferior value. Mary had acquired a little artificial importance by becoming Mrs Charles Musgrove; but Anne, with an elegance of mind and sweetness of character, which must have placed her high with any people of real understanding, was nobody with either father or sister; her word had no weight, her convenience was always to give way — she was only Anne. -Persuasion, Jane Austen

This is my drama of the year (so far).

This is my drama of the year (so far).

I watched Cunning Single Lady with the shallowest of reasons: I have been a fan of Lee Min Jung ever since I watched Big, simply because she is a beautiful lady. I have followed her series since (I also watched All About My Romance) last year. I like her because alongside Kim Tae-hee, Min Jung seems to have the least amount of plastic surgery done on her face. I doubt if any of them had their face done, however. Read the rest of this entry »

Shark (K-drama): thoughts

I think the only point I was a bit turned off by Shark was when Yi Soo finally found out the truth behind his father. His breakdown, or ‘heroic blue screen of death,’ was a bit over-the-top and funny. Other than that the series was, at least for me, quite a well-planned series. I can only compare the show to movies like The International and The Parallax View: similar to both those films, Shark doesn’t really have a happy ending. Realistically speaking, however, I think that’s what happens when one tries to take down a person in the highest echelons of society: one must wade in the muck, and at times get dirty, to drag that person down to justice. Without really breaking any laws (other than his initial spark with Jung Man Chul), he dived deep into the mud and yet never really strayed again toward murder until Chairman Jo was caught. He still couldn’t escape Jo’s power, however.

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Do I think it’s a fitting conclusion for him? No, because Kim Nam-gil is a great actor and I could really empathize with Yi Soo’s search for balance and justice. Realistically speaking, however, he was going to be incarcerated for murder; he would have had to still die for the sake of Yi Hyeon if he was going to save her. I have much respect for the show because they used ‘autoimmune hepatitis’ as a disease entity. We had one small-group discussion regarding that disease, and no one in our class got it right. It’s a bitch of a disease because of its protean manifestations: when I speak of protean, I pertain to non-specific signs and symptoms that may be confused with diseases which are more obvious. These are examples such as fatigue and malaise. When it comes to the point of Yi Hyeon (and we’ve been introduced ever since the earlier episodes that it wasn’t really just starting), it may have been a progressive disease that led to cirrhosis. Complications of cirrhosis include coagulopathy, which means that clotting is impaired. I think Yi Hyeon’s encephalopathy was reflected by her persistent loss of consciousness in the car. I’m no gastroenterologist, but the show was pretty accurate with the disease they chose and its manifestations: in intractable cases of hepatitis, liver transplantation is the only answer.

It was undeniable that he was going to give his life up for the sake of his sibling; he was already willing to pay for what his father had done, but most of the affected people (even Yi Soo) had moved on from the past and essentially just sought justice.

I don’t find the non-love story between Yi Soo and Hae Woo to be tacky, essentially because as a rational man, Yi Soo never really took advantage of Hae Woo as regards to her emotions toward him. He loved her, and that was reciprocated, but he never even dared to have sex with her even though it was obvious that she wanted it despite the fact that she was married. He wanted her near him, but it never really got beyond his kisses and hugs. The status quo in the love triangle was essentially maintained: Joon Young loved Hae Woo even though he knew she still loved Yi Soo all those years. I doubt whether they’d still have a child after all that but only time will tell. She probably wouldn’t betray her love for Yi Soo again, though.

It’s not as complicated and as intelligent as Joseon X-Files, but it’s one of the better dramas I’ve seen. The foreshadowing was well-done, the intricate exchanges and the chess game between Chairman Jo and Yi Soo were properly thought of for the most part. There’s just a little bit missing, but I certainly wasn’t disappointed in it. I loved how Yi Soo tried to pay for the sins of his parents after he realizes he was deeper in the muck than he initially imagined, and made peace with the people his father victimized. I like it better than the brutality of Devil, and it certainly had more closure than that series, although of course I wished for the more hopeful light of Resurrection. I wasn’t disappointed with what I watched, though: in the end Yi Soo became someone I could really cheer on because he did it his way, and did the right thing.