Sunday, August 5, 2012

Upcoming K-drama Wrap-up

When a particular drama cycle doesn't meet all my expectations or leaves me wanting more, it's always a breath of fresh air when a new cycle starts to rev up with promotions and gets me chomping at the bit. That's more or less what happened with me this summer, with K-dramaland in particular being a disappointment. I had I Do, I Do which was sweet, but kind of like cotton candy--evaporated in my mouth before I got a chance to really taste it. Big was a fail of epic proportions, getting by only on its pretty factor and Gong Yoo's extensive acting chops. So, as you can see, I was grasping at straws trying to find something current to watch this summer, and instead spent my time going through older J-doramas instead. Alas, the summer cycle is over and we move into fall with much higher prospects right from the get-go. After the break are the K-dramas I've got my eye on in the upcoming months, in order of premiere date.

Haeundae Lovers

First up, premiering on Monday August 6th, we have Haeundae Lovers. This rom com stars Jo Yeo-jung as the daughter of a washed-up mob boss, pitted against undercover-detective-who-loses-his-memory-and-turns-gangster-for-real Kim Kang-woo. Let's be honest here, shall we? I'm just watching this for the premise. How can you not be interested in Kim's detective-turned-gangster-by-accident? Right? And look at that poster. Is that not the cutest thing ever? The drama was shot completely on location in Busan, but hopefully the actors' accents won't be too terrible to understand. I barely understand Korean as it is, and then to add a Busan accent just makes it impossible.

The Thousandth Man

Following the premiere of Busan-based Haeundae Lovers will be the gumiho fantasy rom com The Thousandth Man staring Lee Chun-hee as the titular "thousandth man" and Kang Ye-won as the liver-eating gumiho that he falls in love with. I'm excited about this particularly because I enjoy watching Lee Chun-hee, but also because of the premise. Kang's gumiho is 999 livers into her quest to turn into a real girl (a gumiho has to eat 1000 men's livers in order to become human), which is when she meets (and subsequently falls in love with) Mr. 1000 himself, Lee. This should be lots of fun hijinks, provided the execution pulls through. The Thousandth Man premieres next Friday, August 10th. No, I'm not kidding. This drama's going to be doing something a little unconventional by airing every Friday night for 8 episodes, which should make for a fun, short little comedy.


Following in the vein of Dr. Jin (but hopefully not too much... that drama makes me cringe more and more with every episode), we have another time-travel-medical-romance in Faith, which stars Lee Min-ho and Kim Hee-sun. Lee plays a Goryeo-era royal bodyguard who kidnaps Kim's plastic surgeon and brings her back to the past with him because he's in need of her medical skills. Of all the dramas on this list, this is the one I'm least excited about, for two reasons: first, I'm not a huge fan of Lee Min-ho like the rest of the known universe; and second, because Kim Hee-sun looks old enough to be his mother and I don't think I'll be able to buy into their romance at all. One thing I am intrigued by, however, is the time period in which the story will be taking place. I haven't heard of too many Goryeo-era dramas, as most of the sageuks on air in recent years have been about Joseon. Faith premieres on August 13th.

To the Beautiful You

Next up on August 15th, we've got the Korean flavor Hana Kimi. I'm still in the midst of finishing up the J-version remake, Hanazakari no Kimitachi e 2011 (which was so polarizing that there are camps solidly set up in favor of the remake as well as ardently against it), which I like just fine. I'd been avoiding watching any version Hana Kimi (kind of like Itazura na Kiss and Hana Yori Dango, both of which I eventually gave into) because the plot never sounded like it would hold up very well. But Hana Kimi 2011 has kept me steadily interested (though one might attribute that to Nakamura Aoi and Kiriyama Renn). Either way, the K-version of this drama stars Min-ho (apparently from SHINee? I know next to nothing about K-pop...) as the Korean Sano Izumi and Sulli from f(x) as the Ashiya Mizuki character in keeping with the trend of casting idols for high school drama leads. Playing second fiddle to Min-ho's Sano is the (not-an-idol) Lee Hyun-woo playing the K-version Nakatsu.

The basic story is about a girl who enrolls in an all-boys boarding school to get her crush, a prodigy high jumper, out of a recent slump. Doesn't sound like much, but if they go along the lines of the J-remake, I'll be content. The original story, of course, is based on a manga, and as I hear it, both the Taiwanese version and the J-remake followed the manga storyline much closer than did the original J-dorama from 2007. Either way, I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that this doesn't turn out to be this year's Heartstrings for me, though with a pre-determined story and such pretty actors, they're prepped for success. I hope.

Arang and the Magistrate

But it seems Beautiful You will be following in Heartstrings footsteps, rating-wise, at least. That poor drama went up against City Hunter last year and never made it out of single-digit ratings through its run. Premiering head-to-head against Beautiful You on August 15th is heavyweight sageuk fantasy-action-comedy-romance Arang and the Magistrate. I kid you not. This drama has so many subgenres that I'm not sure what it will churn out. Arang stars megastars Shin Mina as the titular Arang and Lee Jun-ki as the titular magistrate in his first post-military drama role. The posters and stills that have been released so far look adorable, and Shin pulls out all her gumiho experience to bring Arang's ghost character to life.

The drama tells the famous Korean myth of Arang, the ghost of a woman who was wrongly murdered, and the magistrate who helped her avenge her murderer. This version likely has Arang's ghost falling in love with the very-much alive magistrate, and hijinks ensuing thereafter. With all its star power and the general popularity of the myth, Arang and the Magistrate will likely come out on top over Beautiful You in the ratings. Either way, I'm looking forward to seeing how everything unfolds.

Panda and Hedgehog

As lackluster as my excitement is for Faith, the complete opposite is true for Panda and Hedgehog. I'm so in the mood for a light, sweet romance right now, and I'm hoping this show will fit that bill. It stars Donghae from... Super Junior, I think, who just wrapped up Skip Beat over in Taiwan last year. Here he will play the titular Hedgehog (his Korean name in the show, Ko Seung-ji, is supposed to be a shortened version of the word for hedgehog, koseumdochi). Playing opposite Donghae will be Yoon Seung-ah as the titular Panda (literally... her name is Pan Da-yang). You might remember her from The Moon that Embraces the Sun. Second fiddle to Donghae's leading man is Choi Jin-hyuk, of whom I know almost nothing about (other than his turn in last year's I Need Romance). Apparently, this is not the first time he and Donghae will be working together, as they were both involved in It's Okay, Daddy's Girl, the badly acted Moon Chae-won drama from 2010. To round out the love square, we have Yoo So-young (Dream High 2).

Anyway, Panda and Hedgehog tells the story of small-time bakery owner Pan Da-yang and her new hire, the prickly but talented baker, Ko Seung-ji. Over the course of working for her, Seung-ji falls for Da-yang, and she becomes his first love. Aw, she's his boss and his first love? So. Cute. Choi will be playing the chaebol heir of a large baking conglomerate (they have those?) who wants to buy out Da-yang's shop, Choi Won-il. Yoo will be playing Da-yang's bestie-turned-worst-enemy who works for Choi's conglomerate and turns against Da-yang when she finds out Choi is in love with Da-yang. Pretty straightforward stuff, but still sounds adorable. P&H premieres on August 18th.

Nice Guy

Last on my list is the only melodrama on the list. I almost never watch melos for any reason. I'm not even going to watch Joo Ji-hoon's return to entertainment in Five Fingers. I just can't stomach them. Still, Nice Guy sounds like it's going to be pretty good, and it has a fresh-faced enough cast, so I'm looking forward to checking it out. It will star Song Joong-ki in the title "nice guy" role, Moon Chae-won as his current lady love, and Park Shi-yeon as the nice guy's ex-girlfriend. Not much to say about the cast other than that Park Shi-yeon looks way too old to be playing Joong-ki's former yojachingu. 

The drama is about nice guy Kang Ma-roo who is betrayed by the woman he loves, Han Jae-hee. He comes out of the experience wanting to get revenge on his ex by any means necessary. This is about the time he meets Seo Eun-ki, a cold chaebol heiress who's been groomed her whole life to take over the family business. Eun-ki somehow loses her memory, and Ma-roo takes this as his chance to pounce, wanting to use her to get back at his ex-girlfriend. Shiver. Talk about hearts made of ice. Nice Guy as yet doesn't have a premiere date, but will air in September after the conclusion of Gaksital.

Well, there yah have it. This fall is certainly going to be a busy one. I'm also pretty stoked about City Conquest, the new manga adaptation starring Kim Hyun-joong, but I omitted it from the list because it doesn't have a premiere date or even a broadcaster yet. Another drama worth mentioning is May Queen starring Han Ji-hye, Kim Jae-won, and Jae Hee, although the premise doesn't really make me want to watch it much. May Queen premieres sometime in August.

[Photo and info creds to Dramabeans, AsianWiki, and Google Images]

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