What I’m Listening To. . . . UP10TION, “Just Like That”

UP10TION
UP10TION

UP10TION departs from their usual upbeat tracks for “Just Like That,” from their 2016 mini-album, Burst, which has a slower tempo, sparse instrumentation and focuses on vocals.

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Kpop Dls. “[AUDIO/MP3/DL] UP10TION (업텐션) – JUST LIKE THAT [5th Mini Album – Burst].” YouTube. 20 Nov 2016. https://youtu.be/fP5cotQJ9d4, (26 Dec 2016).

Solid As A Rock: True Love in The Princess Weiyoung

Weiyoung (Tiffany Tang) and Tuoba Jun (Luo Jin), The Princess Weiyoung
Weiyoung (Tiffany Tang) and Tuoba Jun (Luo Jin), The Princess Weiyoung

While this C-drama revolves around the titular princess (Tiffany Tang), it’s really the relationships that drive the narrative. The relationship between Weiyoung and Tuoba Jun (Luo Jin) is unbreakable, while other couples fail miserably.

One of the things that makes the Weiyoung and Tuoba Jun’s relationship so strong is that they are individuals in their own right. Weiyoung starts out as a princess, a little willful, but with a strong sense of justice and personal loyalty. She never talks down to the servants and respects her father and grandmother. She’s been educated, and this will come in handy after her family is murdered and she finds herself in The Great Wei, seeking justice for her family and her people. Even under these circumstances, Weiyoung is shrewd yet kind. She treats her servants like sisters, and stands up for others.

Most importantly, she’s not just a pretty face. Weiyoung is smart. She’s like Sherlock in her ability to unravel the complicated schemes against her. They come fast and furious; it’s like, “It’s Tuesday, someone must be trying to kill me.” She’s also brave, talking back to the Emperor on the regular, especially when wrongs have been committed. She takes all of the negative insults people hurl at her and remains her own person.

Surely it is these characteristics that make her attractive to Tuoba Jun, who isn’t too shabby himself. Although he is a member of the imperial family, he lacks their ambition and violent tendencies. The year he spends roaming the world allows him to have more connection to regular people, and he feels for them. The Emperor talks about his people, but it’s Tuoba Jun who risks his own life to help them. Tuoba Jun is a cheery guy! He has a sense of humor, messing with his servants and Weiyoung. Most of all, he is consistent and persistent.

Admittedly, it takes what seems like forever for Weiyoung to recognize and respond to Tuoba Jun’s charms, but once they are a couple, they are ride-or-die. They work together. Tuoba Jun never belittles Weiyoung because she’s a woman, and Weiyoung never thinks that Tuoba Jun is weak because of his compassion. Tuoba Jun is vocal about his support and love of Weiyoung, and Weiyoung explains over and over again her loyalty to Tuoba Jun. They believe each other, and even when it looks like their love will fail, it comes back as strong as ever. They are committed to each other.

This is something TeamEvil fails to recognize, which is why their schemes always fail. The more they try to tear them apart, the stronger they get. Who is on TeamEvil in The Princess Weiyoung? Although they often act independently, there are several members who view Weiyoung as a threat or want to possess her.

First Lady of TeamEvil is Chang Le (Li Xin Ai). From birth, she’s been groomed to believe that she’s the best in the world. She cannot tolerate others even getting a little bit of attention. She is actively beating others down in the Li household, and her prime target is Weiyoung. It gets worse when Tuoba Jun returns from his year of living dangerously. While he’s been gone,  she’s been fantasizing about marrying him and ingratiating herself with elders to look like the ideal wife for him. However, by the time Tuoba Jun returns, he’s not giving her the time of day and Chang Le blames Weiyoung. In truth, he was never interested in her. She lacks the confidence and compassion of Weiyoung, and uses her powers for evil. Chang Le goes to crazy lengths to get rid of Weiyoung and look innocent in front of Tuoba Jun, but he knows about her evil ways.

Second-in-command on TeamEvil is Chang Ru (Mao Xiao Tong). She looks like she’s just as sweet as Weiyoung, but she’s even more scheming than Chang Le! Working in the shadows, she initially manipulates others in order to be recognized by Tuoba Yu (Vanness Wu). That sometimes coincides with helping Weiyoung. But like Chang Le, Chang Ru comes to see Weiyoung as a threat, and as a result, targets her for her machinations. She blames Weiyoung, first for “bewitching” Tuoba Yu, then for rejecting him. In both scenarios, she fails to blame Tuoba Yu, who pursues Weiyoung in an extreme case of one-sided love.

In some ways, Chang Le and Chang Ru are different. Chang Le wants to marry Tuoba Jun as much for his power as for his personality. It’s about being gaining fame for herself and lording it over others. Chang Ru only wants to be recognized by Tuoba Yu. Her needs are few; she’ll settle for being a consort (maybe even side-consort?).  But, both fail to recognize that they are the problem. Chang Le is an entitled wench. She doesn’t care about Tuoba Jun; she just wants him as a possession. Chang Ru blindly pursues Tuoba Yu based on an incident from their childhood. They also fail to define themselves outside of these men. This is why Tuoba Jun and Tuoba Yu don’t reciprocate their feelings, and why the schemes of Chang Le and Chang Ru often fail. Both Chang Le and Chang Ru pursue the wrong men for the wrong reasons.

A surprising member of TeamEvil is Tuoba Yu (ok, not so surprising, given that he’s evil). While the women are all in their feelings about the men, Tuoba Yu is the same way about Weiyoung. Even though Weiyoung makes it clear on multiple occasions that she has no interest in him, he continues to pursue her. While Tuoba Yu seems to care about Weiyoung on some level, he, like Chang Le and Chang Ru, only wants to possess her. He doesn’t care about her thoughts and feelings. He only continues to save her so that he can, at last, say that she is his.

Meanwhile, Tuoba Jun and Weiyoung’s relationship withstands everything TeamEvil throws at it. They continue to love each other through attempts to poison Weiyoung, implicate her in national scandal and reveal her true identity. Even when she loses her position, she rises from the ashes. And right beside her is Tuoba Jun, always. In one scheme where it really seems that Weiyoung is the culprit and done for, Tuoba Jun says, “Even if she did this, she has her reasons. I believer her.” They believe each other, through extreme circumstances, because they are two individuals in a relationship who respect and trust the opinion and intelligence of the other.

TeamEvil pursues the opposite of what Weiyoung and Tuoba Jun have: a relationship based on mutual respect.

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Solid As A Rock: True Love in The Princess Weiyoung by CeeFu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Tuoba Jun. . . Is On My Mind!

Luo Jin as Tuoba Jun, The Empress Weiyoung
Luo Jin as Tuoba Jun, The Empress Weiyoung

Tuoba Jun (Luo Jin) is one of the male leads in the Chinese drama The Princess Weiyoung. He has quickly become one of my favorite characters of all time. Why? It’s not just because he’s attractive (in a C-drama, that’s a given). His character is very charming, unlike  other members of the power-hungry and scheming royal family (looking at you, Tuoba Yu (Vanness Wu). It’s probably because of his disinterest in the throne that he’s able to see the positive characteristics of Weiyoung, and value her intelligence and her loyalty. What really makes his character great is his constancy. He is down for his girl Weiyoung, no matter what goes down. No matter how much evidence #TeamEvil creates to frame Weiyoung, Jun is always on her side. He was also persistent!  When he pursues Weiyoung, he is not fazed by her rejection, even when she was not even trying to give him the time of day. At first he was disheartened, but then he just made up his mind that she never means what she says, and would just mess with her until she acknowledged that she liked him too! He has no problem showing her that he likes her, and doesn’t care that she’s not from the royal family. Weiyoung experiences nearly every level of society in the Great Wei, and Jun is with her no matter what. I love that man!

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The Supermen of Love Me If You Dare and When A Snail Falls in Love

C-dramas are bringing us male leads that are super smart and highly attractive.   Despite their socializing issues, they still manage to provide the romance that draws many of us to Asian dramas.  Both Bo Jiyan (Wallace Huo)  in Love Me If You Dare and Ji Bai (Wang Kai) in When A Snail Falls In Love are very good at their jobs, a little awkward with relationships and all the way adorable.

Jiyan’s interpersonal skills rank at -32 on a scale of 1 to 10. He’s a criminal psychologist who specializes in catching serial killers and even has had a run-in with one himself. He sees significance in seemingly irrelevant clues that others miss at crime scenes. He uses his powers of logic to predict the motivations of criminals and catch them, all the while making police officers look at idiots.

At the same time, he has some adorable traits that make him human. His relationships with his sidekicks are adorable. They include his particularly rambunctious pet turtle, Chen Mo (uncredited in the drama), his human friend Fu Ziyu (Andrew Lin) and his eventual girlfriend Jian Yao (Ma Sichun). While Chen Mo makes few appearances, they are always memorable. Apparently, Jiyan lets Chen Mo roam on his bed while he sleeps, but Chen Mo often ends up in other places too. In one episode, you can hear Chen Mo knocking over stuff, so Jiyan puts Chen Mo on a punishment by confining the turtle to a room (sad).

Fu Ziyu is Jiyan’s connection to people. Far more sociable, he is understands his strange friend the best.  He, coincidentally, is also smart and attractive: a computer genius who also seems to be independently wealthy and has an affection for extreme sports. Jian Yao, while not a genius like the other two, brings some much-needed humanity and emotion to their world. The fact that Jiyan has close relationships with them, despite making everyone else in law enforcement feel inferior, shows that he does have a heart. Jiyan will occasionally crack a joke, but when you mess with his people, he is all business.

Ji Bai may not be a genius like Jiyan, but he has more social skills.  He is respected by the members of his squad and jokes with his second-in-command. He’s also fashionable and jet-setting. He does the impossible as a cop (see the episode with the grappling hook), and knows how to solve a case using evidence and interrogate suspects. Yet, it seems that he is all cop all the time. So intense!  This can put a damper on his relationships, especially with his love interest, Xu Xu (Wang Zi Wen). Initially, he takes the “I’m going to pick on you” route, which turns into romantic feelings. However, he tends to rely on their boss-not boss relationship to express his concern. This makes him s kinda socially awkward also.  Like Jiyan, he shows his emotions when his people get hurt.

Both Jiyan and Ji Bai represent an increasingly popular kind of male lead, defined by their intelligence. They both have emotions, they just don’t show them, at least until they run across their respective love interests or when their people are threatened. They’ll engage in action, but the main focus of their dramas is suspense and mystery. All of this makes them super in a different kind of way.

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Hatin’ on Hae Soo in Scarlet Heart: Ryeo

iu_scarletheartryeo_koreaboo
IU as Hae Soo in Scarlet Heart: Ryeo

There are many aspects of Scarlet Heart: Ryeo that make it a worthwhile K-drama to watch, but there is one that is quite annoying.  Hae Soo (IU) is the female lead that drags this K-drama down. This is not a criticism of IU, who is supercute and an expert in the wide-eye closeup. This is also not an indictment of any of the actors who play the princes (Oh, I see you Wang So (Lee Jun Ki); there’s another post coming with your name on it). I know this is a remake of a very popular Chinese drama, but the female lead character was pushing all of the wrong buttons!

I’m always willing to suspend my disbelief for a K-drama, but Hae Soo pushes this to the limit. I can understand that, like any character who gets sent back to the past, there is a period of adjustment. After all, you are in an unfamiliar environment. But at some point, you just have to suck it up. You are not going back to your time period any time soon. Very often, you have two choices: either lay low or get in the middle of things. Hae Soo’s problem is that she does a poor job of laying low, and her actions repeatedly put her in the middle of things. She acts like she doesn’t know how things are going down in the palace. Girl, this is Goryeo! Get it together!

Once in the past, Hae Soo takes no responsibility for the way her actions cause harm to other people. She blames others, mostly Wang So. For example, she admits early that her grasp of ancient Korean history is spotty, yet she does not question the glimpses of “the future” she gets. She immediately believes that Wang So is going to be a villain, despite the  character of the man who is actually before her. In the end, it is actually HER actions that cause a lot of the tragedy in the K-drama. It’s Hae Soo’s fault that So doesn’t just get rid of Wang Yo (Hong Jong-hyun) when he had the opportunity, which would have prevented later tragedy. She constantly tells Wang So not to kill his brothers. Guess what? Some of them gotta go. It’s Hae Soo’s fault that Wang Eun (Baekhyun) and Soon Deok (Z. Hera), aka. The Baby Couple, are killed. She just leaves all kinds of evidence out in the Damiwon for Yeon Hwa (Kang Han-na) to find.  It’s Hae Soo’s fault that the Crown Prince (Kim San-ho) also meets an untimely end as a result of Hae Soo being the world’s worst supervisor. For Hae Soo, everything that goes wrong is all Wang So’s fault. Wang So is literally the only person who pretty much doesn’t kill anyone for the wrong reasons, but gets all of Hae Soo negative judgement. He, may I remind her, never killed his brothers in the way she assumed he would.

What is worse, she lets other people off.  She never corrects Wang Jung (Ji Soo) for his ungrounded negative attitude towards Wang So.  They were all standing there when The Baby Couple met their end, but Jung decided not to focus on the fact that Yo’s men kill Soon Deok and Wang Yo himself shoots Wang Eun with two arrows. He also seems to repress Wang Eun’s death request. His takeaway is that So caused all the bloodshed, just by showing up way back at the beginning of the K-drama. Hae Soo never tells Jung that he’s wrong.  Wang Wook (Kang Ha-neul) is part of an attempted coup and is the mastermind behind the death of the Crown Prince, working in villainy with Wang Yo. Yet, Hae Soo never criticizes Wang Wook the way she criticizes Wang So.  When she leaves the palace, it’s a warm hug and smiles for Wook, like they are good buddies.

On the other hand, it’s always the side-eye for Wang So.  I’m not saying that he should have rolled ChaeRyung up in a rug, but I understand. And he outlines all the ways ChaeRyung has proven not to be a friend to Hae Soo, but she’s not trying to hear it. She seems to buy ChaeRyung’s “I did it for love” excuses and blames Wang So for ChaeRyung being used as a pawn by Wang Wook and Wang Won.

Others have suggested that the Korean version of this drama is pretty true to the Chinese original. There’s an online petition to get a second season. Nooooooooooo, not if the writers don’t tweak Hae Soo’s character. It’s not like Korean writers haven’t done it before when doing remakes (Boys Over Flowers, anyone?). I need Hae Soo to be “ride or die” with Wang So or Wang Wook or somebody other than herself. One true thing that Jung told her is that she needed to pick a side. She could have been an advisor to “the good brothers.” She could have been more like Ji Mong (Kim Sung-kyun). Instead of trying to be neutral (which never worked), she should have picked a side, or at least more actively tried to keep the brothers brotherly if she knew bloodshed was in their future. Instead, she’s too busy trying to kindle a romance with Wang Wook (as his wife is dying, REALLY?!!! Did we actually think that would end well?) and overlooking his opportunistic tendencies (he was shady from the start). While Wang Wook breaks promises, So is doing the heavily lifting, showing her that he likes her, being at her side and getting exiled for it.  In addition, she did nothing to help Soon Deok with her relationship with Wang Eun, because, sadly, Hae Soo is all about Hae Soo if you’re not a prince.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked Scarlet Heart: Ryeo, but Hae Soo has just hit number one on my Most Despised Female Character List!

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What I’m Listening To: Seventeen, “Love & Letter” (Repackage)

Seventeen
Seventeen

I’ve slipped into the shining diamond life with Seventeen and their repackaged album, Love & Letter! The group’s strategy is to not only use the power of the numbers, but also their unique sub-units, divided into the vocal team, the hip-hop team and the performance team.  The repackage provides some delightful versions of Seventeen’s songs.

Upbeat title tracks, “아주 Nice” and “Shining Diamond” make for good material for the performance team. I really like the use of the horns on “Nice” and the pop sound of “Shining Diamond.” On the repackage album, though, other tracks showcase the vocal and hip-hop teams, including rearranged versions of previous songs so cleverly done, I didn’t even recognize the originals. The hip-hop team version of  “만.세[Mansae]” has a completely different beat than the original. The vocal team’s version slow jam-y of “아낀다[Adore U]” sounds nothing like the original, and that’s not a bad thing.

 

Daebak. . . Is On My Mind!

I put this K-drama down for a minute, but I had to pick it back up once I realized that it had the Triple Threat!!!! First, Choi Min Soo as King Sukjong! He is one of my favorite actors, and he apparently is the founder of the School of Chill Acting. No matter the role, he’s in permanent chill mode. In Daebak, he’s mostly just chillin’ on the throne, drinking tea, incense swirling around him, peering over his glasses (is that historically accurate?) condescendingly at his lackeys. Or chillin’ in a pavilion. Or chillin’ in his inner chamber. But don’t let his laid-back demeanor fool you…he knows EVERYTHING going down in the kingdom and he is not to be trifled with! Second is another alumni from Warrior Baek Dong Soo, Yeo Jin Goo, who plays Prince Yeoning,  who gets treated badly by the royal ministers because he’s the son of a water maid.  Baby Baek Dong Soo is all grown up. He’s just trying to get justice for the people and perfecting his placid  “I’m going to stand here and let you yell at me/I did exactly what you told me not to do” look in front of the King. I’m loving those closeups too! Third is the Prince of Asia, Jang Geun Suk as our hero, Baek Dae Gil! Goofy as ever, he’s doing a good job of playing the tragic gambler. I really need him and Yeoning to be friends.

But there’s a bonus!!!  Ahn Kil Kang as old school swordsmaster Kim Chae Gun who takes on the task of whipping our titular hero into shape. Together, they are the best reasons for watching this K-drama!

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Awkward Girls Making Friends in Kimi ni Todoke and RELife

In anime, school comes off as an emotional battleground that is especially perilous for socially awkward girls trying to make friends. Kimi ni Todoke and RELife both show the courage of the introvert.

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My Favorite…Solo Male K-pop Artists!

I’m back with another installment of My Favorites! This time, it’s solo male K-pop artists, the Kangta and Wheesung Edition. Wait! Before you even ask, “Where is [insert Rain, Park Hyo Shin, your favorite male solo singer, your cousin], these are male artists that I like. They are also primarily solo artists, not current members of groups with solo projects (that’s another post–I see you, Taeyang and Heo Young Saeng!). #sorrynotsorry

Continue reading “My Favorite…Solo Male K-pop Artists!”

Manchild in Animeland: Barakamon

Seishuu and the kids, Barakamon
Seishuu and the kids, Barakamon

A few weeks ago, I extolled the virtues of adults in anime. While adults (when they live) contribute to the wellbeing of children, sometimes you have adults who ACT like children. Such is the case with Handa Seishuu (aka “Sensei), who is grown man with a child’s disposition, who is forced to spend extended time with actual children in Barakamon.

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EXO’s Lucky One. . . . Is On My Mind!

EXO
EXO

“Lucky One” is one of two comeback tracks for EXO’s EX’ACT album. You know I am down for this disco-infused extravaganza! I also like the video (which opens with a shot that takes advantage of D.O.’s natural lack-of-expression) and gestures back to previous EXO concepts, including the superpowers, the EXO-planet and the team jerseys, which lends a sense of continuity. I’m not sure if the video matches the song, but I like the song and I like the video so I’m calling it a WIN!

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How to Diversify Your K-pop Roster

If you’ve been a K-pop fan for a while, you might run into this problem. Sure, you have mad love for your favorite K-pop groups, but we all know that K-pop promotions run in a cycle. What do you do when your favorite groups are MIA? FIND MOAR!

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Can’t We All Just Get Along?: Kangin and Super Junior

The minute somebody says something about getting Kangin to leave, the mud-slinging starts (i.e. “you’re not a true fan,” “you’re an ANTIFAN!”). This is not confined to K-pop fandoms, but still. Why can’t we disagree and refrain from calling each other names? We all know this is not Kangin’s first trip to the trouble rodeo. Fans aren’t wrong when they say that his behavior has a negative effect on the team. At the same time, K-pop fans are very forgiving, and want to give him a second chance. See what I did there? That’s looking at the issue from both sides. No fans were hurt in the making of this post.

Power in Unity!: Ideal Masculinity in Descendants of the Sun

Song Joong Ki as Captain "Big Boss" Yoo Shi Jin, Descendants of the Sun
Song Joong Ki as Captain “Big Boss” Yoo Si Jin, Descendants of the Sun

We all know the primary reason we are all over Descendants of the Sun is Captain “Big Boss” Yoo Si Jin (Song Joong Ki). He’s become one of my favorite male protagonists in a K-drama, so central to the story that he takes attention away from the female lead. At the same time, he reinforces male friendships.

Continue reading “Power in Unity!: Ideal Masculinity in Descendants of the Sun”