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  • Reviews - The Great Doctor
    irmar
    irmar

      10

    I really loved this drama, and I'll try to explain why.
    First of all, the story was gripping and overall it made sense. The period in which it takes place is very interesting, the historical moment in which a Goryeo king decides to do something about the Yuan protectorate/domination and claim national pride for the first time.
    Almost all the characters were very-well written. The coming-of-age of the young king was beautiful to see, as he struggled to claim his and his country's dignity, he struggled to understand who was really on his side and whom he could really trust, he struggled to keep his humanity and his responsibility as king. His love story with his queen, a quiet and loving woman with a very strong personality, was one of the most endearing.
    Choi Young, the main lead, was a very believable character, the silent type, a loyal and reliable kind, who however is not simple-minded soldier but can be a wise pupil of a martial arts teacher who doesn't only teach war skills but life lessons as well. Lee Min Ho, who is not of course the most awesome actor out there, but is a solid professional, still gave a very good interpretation here, one of his best. He did speak with his eyes a lot of the time, and I loved how soft-spoken he was, signifying that a strong person doesn't need to yell to make an impact.
    The lady doctor was a strong heroine, strong from beginning to end, never going into helpless damsel in distress mode, even when she would be excused to be so. I didn't like how they wrote some of her exaggerated reactions in the first half of the series: for instance, when she finally understood where she was, why did she keep using English words etc? If I am on vacation in a small village, for instance, and have a conversation with an old fisherman, I will not use English words because I know he won't understand. Yet she, for months and months, keeps spurting out those words unnecessarily. She also doesn't change her clothing and hair style, so that she sticks out like a sore thumb. But her character development once she starts being in love makes up for all of that.
    Thinking about it, all the ladies in the show have strong personalities. Think of court lady Choi, and the Fire Lady. The two villains, while equally cruel, were nicely diversified as personalities. One extremely intelligent, a driven man with a burning thirst for discovery and knowledge. Born in a different situation, he could have become a great explorer or scientist. The other one, a lazy hedonist who just thinks of how to make life easier for himself.
    The pace was just right, the flashbacks kept to a minimum, where really needed, the excitement didn't stall, and you kept wanting to see what comes next. The explanation was clear and the ending very satisfying, although brief. So this is one of the very few dramas with a good, clear and satisfying ending.
    Yes, there were flaws. First of all the super-powers. They were not really needed, the drama would have been exactly the same without them. But seeing that they are there, they are not properly exploited, we aren't told how they work and why they are not used when they are not used, what are the side-effects and so on. Choi Young used his power very sparingly, so we are left to wonder, but even the villains didn't use them and just duelled with swords when they could have finished everything in two seconds using the superpowers.
    This brings me to the manga minions. Apart from the poor acting, the roles themselves were not well-written. Their presence was very repetitive: they just did their thing and left. Therefore, even if the actors were good, they weren't given a lot of scope and I'm not sure they would have been able to redeem their characters or make them more interesting. The love of the white-haired flutist for his fire companion was hinted at in the very beginning, and then at the very end, but that's about it.
    The biggest waste was the role of Royal Doctor Jang. It could have been a lot more interesting, but he served almost no purpose. So was the mute girl. Back story? Motivation? Important role? Was this written originally and cut? Were these two roles the remnant of a first draft?
    The fight scenes were not always good, you could see that someone did a really acrobatic thing without even touching the opponent. The armors looked very obviously rubber. I get it that leather and metal would have been much more expensive and the drama already cost too much. Obviously because of financial problems, the troops towards the end always consisted in ten people at the most and I suspect that if I watched closely, I would find out that they were always the same ten extras, playing the good troops and the bad troops alternatively. The opening bird's-eye view of the palace, which was the same all the time. How much trouble was it to shoot two or three different ones and alternate for variety?
    And there were a couple of things which were quite illogical. Small things, such as... why did the lady have a film roll with her? Who uses film rolls today anyway, who uses analogical cameras with actual film except for professional photographers? An aspirin bottle could have been more logical. There were some sloppily convenient little details like that, which I won't list right now, as they are not that important.
    As a side note, I would have liked some more passionate kissing between the leads. It wouldn't need to be a real one shown in detail: they could show it from afar, just to suggest they are kissing. There were some scenes where any normal couple would kiss, and yet they restrained from it, and it seemed very weird.
    But well, now the drama is finished - since a long time ago - so it is what it is, take it or leave it. As it is, I think it's one of the very good ones, a keeper. Do watch it.

  • Reviews - Oh My Ghostess
    irmar
    irmar

      9

    It has never happened to me again. To cry so much even days after completing watching a show.
    Not even with “Rooftop Prince”: because at the end of Rooftop prince there is some balsam poured on your wound, some relief, you have the certainty that those two souls are meeting again, although after a long wait.
    Not here. We knew that a love story between a living man and a dead person is doomed: for starters, he cannot even see her unless she possesses somebody else’s body, not to mention that she has to leave at a certain date unless she wants to become an evil spirit. So we knew from the start that it couldn’t end well. But I was not prepared for this. It was just devastating. It’s been a week now and here I am crying again.
    However, do watch it. (Even if you’re not a masochist). It’s well made and you’ll enjoy it.
    First of all the premise of story is interesting and fresh, the plot is well developed in a plausible way, the three main characters were nicely drawn, and the actors did an amazing job.
    Park Bo Young as the shy kitchen scullion is sweet and cute and manages to sound uncannily like Kim Seul Gi when she is possessed by her (you immediately know which is which just by her acting), and does a good job of gradually evolving.
    Kim Seul Gi herself is a first class actress in her own right, really shining both in her spunky, independent, sexy, no-nonsense mode and in the poignant, heartbreaking mode of the last episodes.
    Jo Jung Suk as the sexy chef manages to sound both assertive as a boss – while always keeping his voice low, no need for Gordon Ramsay flaring up and swearing! – and very vulnerable, relying mostly on subtle face expressions.
    I also liked Im Joo Hwan as the policeman. Can’t say much about his role without spoilers, but he did a really good job, especially at the end. And the director was brilliant, most of the time, drawing the best from actors and his material.
    Speaking of the screenplay. Yes there are plot holes. For instance, we come to know the “rules” of possession by a nice ghost, but what are the rules about evil possession? Contrary to the former, in this case does the possessed person partially know what is going on and is able to resist to some extent, exerting his own will? We are never told, therefore we are unable to understand some crucial happenings in the last few episodes.
    Or, how “conveniently” the hero discovers he had feelings all along for somebody, when we were clearly shown he didn’t, and for the first few episodes he was clearly still in love with somebody else, that classmate of his? (Sorry, I know I’m vague, but I don’t want to spoil).
    These are big flaws in the script. And the “comic relief” of the kitchen staff sometimes gets tiresome and crude. Why does the flower boy sous-chef (played adorably by Kang Ki Young) act completely gay and yet at the same time gushes over beautiful women? So is he or isn’t he? (Not that we particularly care, mind you, but he does give mixed signals).
    Also, who keeps a knife on the back seat of his car, even if he’s an occasional killer? Why on earth does the hero choose, out of the blue, to open another eatery? Totally unnecessary and unexplained.
    And the last episode includes the king of all k-drama last episode clichés - I don’t want to spoil it for you, you will know it when you see it. The part where you exclaim: “Oh no, not AGAIN, not THAT!!!”. Oh, wait, actually there are two k-drama clichés, I almost forgot about the memory loss, LOL!
    And how about the second lover, the one from the prestigious cooking school, who never even gets to confess his love, sacrifices himself and remains in the shadows? No closure for him? OK, that’s the third k-drama cliché I’ve spotted.
    However there are so many nice touches, and well-made scenes that you forgive the writers for their shortcomings.
    The totally poignant interaction between father and daughter, the dialogue between two people where one does not know who the other is, and yet senses the affection and gives it back; the blossoming love where, again, one of the two characters is oblivious while the other enjoys a bittersweet happiness she knows is stolen and will end soon; the relationship between the ghostess and the loud shaman lady, who ultimately shows a very human and caring side.
    And lastly, the character development of the leading character, the ghostess, who, lives, during a few precious months, all she wasn’t able to live while alive, and ultimately, through the power of love, is able to achieve for herself much more than she was expecting, and leaves having helped others (the couple but also her family) understand more about themselves, deal with their losses and live a better, more fulfilling life.
    She may not have ended up with the guy, and we knew she wouldn’t right from the start, but she has grown by leaps and bounds, and now is finally ready. Probably not without regrets, but at least resigned and ready, with no unsolved issues to burden her and tie her up on earth.
    This was the most satisfactory part, the only thing that you feel good about at the end. I would have liked a slightly different last goodbye scene with more from him, but OK, I understand.
    It’s difficult to explain why I loved this show so much, why it affected me so deeply. But it did. Try it and you’ll see for yourself. You are drawn in, little by little, without realizing it. Incredibly, there are very few comments on the screen, which is a sign that the viewers were gripped as well.

  • irmar
    irmar

      9

    This is the first and only Chinese drama which I have watched until the end so far, without skipping anything (other than the opening and closing songs). It was cute and very realistic. All the little details that make school love were there, and that's exactly how it happens in real life: on some days a nice word or a smile, on some days a disappointing interaction, sometimes you don't get to talk to your crush at all because other people keep snatching your attention. Some people compared this drama to "Playful Kiss". I don't think there is a comparison. Although it has some plot similarities, I thought it is much, much better, the characters much more nuanced. Especially the male character is much more well-written. He is serious and has a huge communication problem, but he's also mature and kind. And, although he enjoys spiting her to see her reaction, he never really bullies her in a hurtful way. Importantly, we see that he starts to become interested in her quite early on - although he doesn't realize it until later He gives her signs of care early on and he saves the day for her more than once, when her reckless behaviour gets her into trouble. In his quiet way, he's her knight, and she feels it too. So he's not as monolithic as the Itazura Na Kiss male lead, and less cartoonish. The actor is better too. Although still green and still a bit awkward (he often makes the mistake of confusing the aloofness of his character with wooden expressions), he has the potential to evolve well. The girl? What can I say? She is much, much less annoying than the Playful Kiss girl, both the Japanese and the Korean. Her acting didn't go overboard, she didn't do those clownish exaggerated expressions - or let's say she kept them to a minimum. She didn't try to act mimicking an anime character. But... that smile! She is the kind of actress who can build a whole career on that smile, that's how golden it is. Irresistible. Some people wrote that this love is "toxic". I couldn't disagree more. It is a relationship which develops very naturally, organically, taking its time, but with deep, strong roots. It doesn't come out of nowhere, and it is obvious that from a certain point onwards they both care equally for each other, although they don't show it in the same way. And they also act as friends for each other, having each other's back, collaborating on projects, being part of a tightly-knit group. Even when there are love triangles, nobody ever forgets that they are friends above all. The rest of the characters are also very well-drawn and human, not cartoonish at all. There isn't the usual fat friend used for comic relief, the super-nerd who seems an alien and all the other stereotypes which plague a lot of Asian (and other) dramas. Her best friend is beautiful and a good student, but as badass as they come. The glasses guy wears glasses not because he's a nerd but because of computer games, and he's a bad student. The second male lead is a bit too perfect and a little too insistent, but hey, there are people like that in real life too. Even the antagonist female is a sincere, serious person most of the time - she does only one b*chy thing and she apologizes for it afterwards. There is even a very realistic and very sweet secondary love story, which develops so nicely that the audience is genuinely interested in those two. Then the parents and teachers: they are also not the usual stereotypes we see in k-drama and probably c-drama (I am not a c-drama lover so I wouldn't know): they are quirky and interesting, with their good and their bad sides. but all in all lovable. I would recommend this series. It isn't a masterpiece, but it's sweet, well-done and very relaxing, the perfect ending to a stressful day.