The Odaiba Co-Incidence

Over the last weekend, I ended up spending the entire Sunday afternoon watching old Japanese dramas on youtube (until my eyes started to hurt from staring at the laptop screen :P). On another note, it does feel nice to finally watch a drama proper as I have not been doing so for the past 1/2 year at least (even to my own surprise).

Ended up randomly clicking on With Love – an old old Japanese drama way back from 1998!! This was also the very first J-Drama that I watched (starting from NUS Days) – to which I even bought a VCD Boxed Set from a NUS Bazaar (back then there was no youtube, PPS, PPTV etc.). This was also the drama that I found Yutaka Takenouchi so drop dead handsome, hee ……

And this was also the drama that begin for me a life-long love affair with Odaida. I have visited Odaiba for my last 2 Japan trips, and will probably do so again once my 3rd trip (planned for later year) is firmed up. Yes, not only Love Generation has filmed at Odaiba (at the beach next to the Marine Park) ….. With Love also boasts of scenes right at the iconic Statue of Liberty replica (this Statue is a recurring theme/prop throughout the series) and with the Rainbow Bridge right in the background. A small pity will be the unclear youtube resolution (hopefully PPS/PPTV has clearer videos) ……..

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Drama Musings: I Need Romance Series

If some of you might have noticed, sometime this year, I have added on another page listing the dramas that I have watched this year to date. On average, I have averaged around 1 new drama per month (pretty productive as compared to year 2013). This streak has come to somewhat of a halt (co-incidentally together with my slump) after pratically watching and finishing up Golden Cross live.

Anyway this blog is not a drama review/overview by any means. Rather while randomly surfing on my iPad, I came across this dramafever write-up on the main writer for the I Need Romance series which was on tvN (a cable channel in Korea owned by the CJ group). Most of the korean dramas that were shown on our television screens when the Korean Wave was booming were mainly dramas from the big boys that were free-to-air (namely MBC, SBS and KBS). If my memory serves me correctly, I have never watched a cable drama until I started on I Need Romance 3 earlier this year.

Some differences I noted based on my experience of watching I Need Romance 3

* Shorter episode times (45 mins versus the usual 55 mins). This makes the plot go faster with minimal dragging and unnecessary subplots.

* More ‘provocative’ and ‘frank’ approach to love, relationships, and sex.

* Lesser censorship pressure (since its cable) thus more creative and broad-based approach to plot lines. The Reply Me series (which I have not watched a single episode of) is a good example in point.

After reading through the said article here, I really appreciate the script-writer’s perspective on women and their relationships (given thatI am also a woman in my 30s) …… and now I look foward to her next work – Discovery of Romance, which will be on KBS this August!

Drama Musings: 1st Half of 2013

Was browsing through my blog archives last week and realised a drama entry/update is way way overdue …… given that the last drama-related entry was in August 2012 …… and only a quick mention of the Japanese drama ‘Love Generation’ which I finished later on in year 2012 ……

Did a quick think through and realised that I really only watched ONE Korean drama in this half of 2013! Considering that I previously chased dramas up to korean live schedule (recall: ‘Bridal Mask’, ‘Fashion King’, ‘Nice Guy’ –  gave up halfway despite the good reviews) – ONE drama is paltry right? By the way, reading through complete episode synopsis on Dramabeans (via iPhone) does not count as drama-watching as it is more of wanting to know what happens at the end that’s all ……

‘Yawang/Queen of Ambition’ gets the honour of the sole Korean drama that I have watched from beginning to end in this 1st half of year 2013! Thinking aback now, what ‘pushed’ me to persist with this drama from beginning to end (24 episodes in total) is probably the fact that it was hardly recapped by the internet communityout there (notably Dramabeans) …… Whereas post ‘Bridal Mask’, I gave up on ‘Nice Guy’ (2012 KBS drama) half-way since there’s not much point carrying on watching something when the ending is all out there on Dramabeans …… while hearing great things about ‘School 2013’ (Lee Jong Suk is riding such a huge wave of success right now as I write this), never even get started given that all 16 episiode recaps were out there on Dramabeans as well 😛

However after my Japan trip in December 2012, I did start to watch Japanese dramas more intensively again 😛 ….. Re-watched ‘Nagareboshi’ (2010 drama starring Yutaka Takenouchi & Ueto Aya – gorgeous sceneries of Enoshima, will make it there one day!) …… ‘First Love’ (old 2002 drama that was on my to-watch list long ago and rediscovered again post-trip) ……

After getting my iPad, went through a movie marathon (mainly Leslie Cheung movies and some HK movies) before getting started on the newer Japanese dramas – namely ‘Last Cinderella’ from the Spring 2013 season, ‘Zenkai Girl’ from the Summer 2011 season and currently have on my iPad ‘Saikou no Rikon’ from the Winter 2013 season …… I guess one advantage of Japanese dramas is that they are shorter overall (average 45 min per episode and 10-11 episodes in total) which make for breezier pre-bedtime watching as versus to Korean dramas which tend to get a bit overwrought with makjang/dramatic historics and at times some plot drags as scripts and drama itself are completed almost on-the-fly/close to live broadcast …… ‘Yawang’ definitely was guilty of this plot drag and some pretty illogical writing towards the end despite the fact that Soo Ae did give a steaming performance as a villan-ness per se …… Also, with declining interest in all things Korean (KPop included), it may also explain why I am watching lesser Korean dramas these days ……

Also, at times, good ratings ≠ good/enjoyable drama. ‘Last Cinderella’ was a strong case in point. Despite doing well for Fuji Television after some middling ratings from the past few drama seasons, I for one think this drama was over-rated big time. Started on it intiitally based on great reviews from Couch Kimchi …… As I gradually caught up to live schedule (confirms that one is more interested in seeing through the drama till the end if on live schedule since there are no spoilers to fall back on + the excitement and suspense of knowing the ending makes things very compelling), started reading negative comments on plot pacing and script on Couch Kimchi as well. Chose to ignore it initially in order not to spoil my enjoyment of the drama …… but it was all painfully apparent and it was pretty much a torturous march towards the ending (episode 11). Responded by deleting all episodes on my iPad after finishing the series (to make room for better dramas) and sorry Miura Haruma fangirls – his acting is average at best!

Whereas ‘Zenkai Girl’  was much more enjoyable (in my opinion) despite the simple and ordinary plot. Where acting is concerned, it is competent with a lot of heart …… Despite reading quite a number of gossip articles depicting Ryo Nishikido as pretty much a douchebag in real life, at the bare minimum, this guy can act. And I like the fact that the heroine (Yui Aragaki) has her own journey of growth towards discovering what she truly values and wants out of her life. Check out the synopsis here courtesy of Koala’s Playground ……

Am on ‘Sakon no Rikou’ now after some very positive reviews at another drama blog – http://jdramas.wordpress.com/category/dramas/saikou-no-rikon/ ….. Another well regarded drama (acting and plot wise) despite average ratings when 1st shown. Will be ‘fairer’ to give my thoughts on it after finishing off the entire series ……..

So that sums up the ‘drama’ for 1st Half of 2013!

P/S: Before I forget, discovered this website which lists the filming locations of J-Dramas dating back to as early 90s. This is just wow!

Long Weekend Productively Spent

Took a quick look at the public holiday calendar before starting this entry … Not counting the National Day hols (was using that period of downtime to complete my M8A & M9A papers), this will be the last long weekend in a while (till end Oct) ……

Hari Raya Puasa which falls on a Sunday – means that the following Monday (yesterday) was a much welcome public holiday as well 🙂 …. My long weekend began with work appointment on Saturday late morning/noon … Lee Hom’s concert in the evening (Huge Highlight of the weekend) … HUGE siesta session / plentiful catching up on sleep … Another work appointment on Mon afternoon (ok can finally settle this case) followed by more tv-ing & slacking around to end off the long weekend ….

Some highlights in pictures ….

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Had the famous Ah Lim Mee Pok along Upper East Coast Road after Sat’s meeting … This is one ba chor mee with minimal bar chor and plenty of prawns …. Delish!

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2nd Highlight of my Sat – Wang Lee Hom’s concert … The Singapore stop of his ongoing Music Man II World Tour ….

Instead of catching up on my Bridal Mask/Gaksital backlog over the long weekend, chanced upon an old Japanese drama ‘Love Generation / 恋爱世纪’ – a rerun of Takuya Kimura dramas …. Has been long since I watched a Japanese drama, so gonna put this on my to-watch list since the last time I watched it was 11 years ago (back in year 2001) 😛 …… Takuya Kimura was really young back in those days ….. times files indeed!

So that’s how my long weekend went! Feels good having the various activities that filled up the time and breezed by …….

City Hunter

Eating my Nissin cup noodle & catching up on City Hunter at the same time.

Once again, I have sucumbed to a very bad habit of reading spoilers from Dramabeans and started on a new drama – Lee Min Ho’s City Hunter (currently showing on SBS in Korea …… and coming soon on Starhub Ch823 ONE Channel) ……

As blogged here at the beginning of this year, was watching Dream High both concurrently online and on KBS World (back-dated episodes). The next drama which I’ve caught on (not blogged here though) was 49 Days – which is very different in tone to Dream High as it is a more contemplative story on life and afterlife. Thanks to the election fever (early May) and a ton of other stuff + spoilers on Dramabeans, I have been slowly and swimmingly finishing up 49 Days thanks to ONE channel’s 2 episodes a week!

So I need a fresh new drama to bring some much needed motivation (in the sense its something to look foward to after a long day at work) + also something to ‘indulge’ in as I came down with sore throat and flu and needed some eye candy distraction whilst resting over the weekend. Hence City Hunter after dripping saliva from all the spoilers! And of course Lee Min Ho to fangirl over all over again! (Recall the days when I did my CFP module 1 with watching Boys Over Flowers on the side :P) ……

Am up to Episode 4 at the time of writing. I must say, Lee Min Ho is back to top form post Boys Over Flowers. Yeah, he did have Personal Taste out last year and which I blogged about here, but I gave that show up after 3 episodes due to the slow streaming + ‘unengaging’ storyline (IMO). Anyway Yoon Sung in City Hunter is a definite upgrade and improvement (character structure and acting wise) over Boys Over Flowers (his first lead role) and Personal Taste.

I like the fact that they are not sticking to the original City Hunter manga storyline which has been remade by Jackie Chan previously and instead creatively put in some Korean sensibilities to make it uniquely Korean – particularly on war and political intrigue. The story is set up well – plot set-up wise, relationships wise (romantic storylines, sub relationships notably Yoon Sung and ahjussi who is such a loyal supporter and source of comfort), cinemagraphy and visual wise etc.

And of course, acting-wise, Lee Min Ho is a stud! Apart from having the looks, and looking real damn hot in this and oozing charisma, this role is definitely interesting as he brings a touch of humanity and vulnerability to Yoon Sung who is orginally meant to be a revenge seeking machine (with blood and no tears approach). An instance of this is that he sticks to his stand of no killing unlike his adopted daddy’s hardcore stance. And of course, which fangirl won’t swoon over the romantic chemistry that he has with the lucky girl – Park Min Young …..

Speaking of adopted daddy, I am glad that the veteran actor playing him finally gets to play a bad-ass character after being an adulterous husband/normal ahjussi in many dramas. As with 2nd male lead, the prosecutor guy is hot as well, has a nice personality as well, and probably has a righteous character (sign of relief that he’s not the typical baddie as in with 2nd male leads at times) – but am sure he’s not going to get the girl unless the script-writer decides to make a bizzare turn …..

Drama is up live at half-way point (episode 10) ….. looks like story will start to take its turning point admist more twists and turns! Am Anticipating and chasing this live right to the very end!

Paul Coelho & Dream High

I don’t usually read fiction books …… much less Paul Coelho’s most known work ‘The Alchemist’. However yesterday evening (Sunday), I came across a blog posting of his on one of my friend’s Facebook wall titled “Past and Present“.

The simple yet powerful message is a mark of how good a writer Paul Coelho is …… but 0f course the most important message remains that if we do not come to terms and make our peace with the past, there is no way we can treasure the present and look towards the future.  And also a very important point – Enthusiasum! Trust me, it can be very challenging/discouraging when having to deal with mean people, or rather to put it more aptly – difficult people …… a very common occurence in my work day in day out. And the irony of it all is that I actually have such a situation placed onto me today. Talk about irony!

While thinking about it and deciding what to do, I guess the best way to move ahead is to sleep on it and hopefully ‘see the light’ going foward (I think I roughly have some answers to the problem) ….. in the meantime, feel free to check out Paul Coelho’s blog as well 🙂

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On a unrelated note, as blogged on Sunday, I’m currently watching Dream High (KBS Mon-Tue drama currently ‘live’ in Korea) …… and blogging while catching up on Episode 6 online as well.

Some preliminary thoughts in the meantime (before I get down to doing a full-fledged review) …..

* I was actually looking for a new drama to watch/chase after finishing up Sungkyunkwan Scandal but none of the newly debuted 2011 dramas really interested me (not even My Princess) until I came across Episode 1 on KBS World (as in my past tweets) …… and yes, interesting enough to continue further.

* Dream High is probably less talked about and hyped as compared to some of the current dramas like Secret Garden and My Princess starring major Hallyu names as it consists of mainly a pop idol cast.

* Still pretty solid cast of supporting actors with cameos from Bae Yong Jun & Mr JYP himself. Time files. Bae Yong Jun is now an ahjusshi.

* Frankly I won’t say you’ll get the wittiest lines or the best acting from the lead cast (the young idols) but without a doubt, it is a very charming drama.

* Pretty simple plotline of young hopefuls gathering in a arts high school (or rather a school that specifically trains the stars of tommorrow i.e. a reference to the current trainee system in Korean entertainment) …… but what I like about the drama is the innocence of these young hopefuls going and reaching for their dreams. As we are grinding in and out of the rat race day in day out, we tend to lose sight of our dreams, innocence and idealism, as compared to when we were younger.

That’s all for now I guess …. Need to finish up Ep 6 and sleep soon 🙂

Old TVB Drama: 天地豪情

Came across a repeat showing of this old drama 天地豪情 Secret of The Heart on Starhub (ch855 & 856) …. This was an old drama shown in year 1997 in HK & repeated subsequent times on tv ….

13 years on, as I rewatch it again for the nth time, it is pretty nostalgic in a way as majority of the leads – the ‘it’ actors & actresses of the 90s like Gallen Lo, Ada Choi, Sunny Chan, Felix Wong, Jessica Hsuan .. have become veterans going into year 2010 and beyond ….

There was one particular actor who really stood out as the resident villain of the drama – 张家辉 Nick Cheung …. I still remembered at that time, he was not exactly considered to be a 1st line actor aka ‘siu shang’ until this role catipulated him into stardom / major leading man territority  ……

And he would go on to be a 6-7 time ‘Best Actor’ Award winner (including the prestigious Golden Horse Awards) for his role in “The Beast Stalker” ….. What’s even more amazing, the above mentioned siu sangs and fa dans never made that type of breakthrough into films/movies ……

Of course, the grand productions that TVB produce these days rarely measure up to the older classics in the late 80s and 90s ….. I thought this particular review sums up very well the whole essence of the drama, so here’s one for the nostagia!