Tag Archives: Korean drama

Kdrama Review: Inspiring Generation

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  • English Title: Inspiring Generation (also known as “Age of Feeling”)
  • Revised romanization: Gamgyukshidae : Tooshinui Tansaeng
  • Hangul: 감격시대 : 투신의 탄생
  • Director: Kim Jung-Kyu
  • Writer: Bang Hak-Ki (comic), Chae Seung-Dae (ep.1-10), Park Kye-Ok (ep.11-24)
  • Network: KBS2
  • Episodes: 24
Inspiring Generation-Kim Hyun-Joong.jpg Inspiring Generation-Lim Soo-Hyang.jpg Inspiring Generation-Jin Se-Yeon.jpg Inspiring Generation-Kim Jae-Wook.jpg Inspiring Generation-Kim Kap-Soo.jpg
Kim Hyun-Joong Lim Soo-Hyang Jin Se-Yeon Kim Jae-Wook Kim Kap-Soo
Shin Jung-Tae Gaya Teguchi Kim Ok-Ryeon Kim Soo-Ok Doyama Denkai
Inspiring Generation-Choi Jae-Sung.jpg Inspiring Generation-Son Byung-Ho.jpg Yoon Hyun-Min Inspiring Generation-Song Jae-Rim.jpg Kim Sung-Oh
Choi Jae-Sung Son Byung-Ho Yoon Hyun-Min Song Jae-Rim Kim Sung-Oh
Shin Young-Chool Choi Soo-Ri Aoki Denkai Mo Il-Hwa Jong Jae-Hwa

First and foremost, I loved Inspiring Generation, despite it having many, many, many, many faults and flaws. I loved Kim Hyun Joong and his character, Shin Jung-Tae. I loved the period setting, the sets and the costuming. I loved the artwork and promotional posters for the series, which are just visually stunning. I loved the young actors, who played the main characters in their youth in the first four episodes of the series. I loved the brilliantly choreographed fight scenes, despite them being quite violent and bloody. I love that the drama had a cast of thousands – well not quite a cast of thousands, but I loved that the drama was populated with so many characters big and small, which gave it a more realistic feel too it.  But while there was much to love about Inspiring Generation, there was also many, many, many, many faults and flaws with the series as well. And it should be said these many faults and flaws were not inconsequential.

Based of the comic of the same name which was published in the Sports Seoul from 1985 until 1988, Inspiring Generation (also known as Age of Feeling) is set during the 1920s and 1930s against the back drop of the Japanese occupation of Korea and China. A film-noir style drama, it spans a period of more than 20 years and travels between Korea, Manchuria and Shanghai. It tells the tale of Shin Jung-Tae, a young man from a poor family, who becomes a street fighter and smuggler, in order to aid his family.

When news of Inspiring Generation first hit dramasites, I was very excited to hear that it would include two of my favourites, Kim Hyun Joong and Kim Jae Wook. It was therefore quite disappointing when Kim Jae-wook, whose character was to be the second male lead, bowed out of the series after appearing in just three episodes (with his last appearance being in episode 8).

Kim Hyun Joong has long been one of my favourite Hallyu stars. SS501 is one of my top five favourite kpop idol groups and I love his solo music. One of my favourite things about Kim Hyun Joong has always been his personality: not only does he come across as being very down-to-earth and blunt (which I love), I am a big fan of his sense of humour which can be best described as both deadpan and 4D (a Korean term for eccentric, quirky, off-the-wall personality/humour). I particularly loved watching him teamed up with Hwangbo in the Korean variety show, We Got Married, where you really got to see his hilarious and eccentric sense of humour.

Kim Hyun Joong’s first drama was Boys over Flowers, which helped skyrocket him into becoming one of the biggest names in Hallyu. Despite loving him in Boys Over Flowers and later Playful Kiss, the reality was that his acting wasn’t great. So as keen as I was to watch him in Inspiring Generation, I did approach the show with some trepidation because of this. But I think its safe to say that Kim Hyun Joong did a great job at silencing his critics and surprised us all with how much he has improved as an actor.

Unfortunately, however, despite some very fine acting from Kim Hyun Joong and many other of the cast members of Inspiring Generation, as mentioned the series had many, many problems and faults. From the beginning, the series was plagued with a seemingly never-ending series of financial and production problems. Not only were (and still apparently is) problems with actors not being paid, actors dropping out of the series (such as Kim Jae Wook who played Kim Soo-ok) there was also changes in writers. And while I love the fact that the drama was filled with “a cast of thousands”, so to speak, it also should be said that such a large cast did also contribute to creating some of the problems with the series – for example making it difficult for some characters to be fleshed out and remaining underdeveloped due to pressures to develop new characters or other characters. All of this, unfortunately impacted on the quality and direction of the drama. The initial change of writers at the end of episode 10 didn’t have as big an impact as I had original expected and for the first 14 or 16 episodes of 24 episode series, the writing was fairly consistent and reasonably good. However, towards the end of the series, the writing consistently went down hill.

Not only were there big gaps in the plot and character developments, many central characters were just left to flounder (e.g. the female lead of Kim Ok-ryeon played by Jin Se-yeon and Song Jae-rim’s character of Mo Il-wa). Other character’s storylines became confusing and nonsensical (such as Um Tae-goo’s character of Do Ggoo). Whole storylines were either put on the back burner, forgotten or abandoned, such as the backstory of the freedom fighters opposing the Japanese occupation which was one of the things that initially made me excited to watch the drama, but also the storyline around Shin Tae-jung’s missing sister (which was originally a central driving force for Jung-Tae’s actions).

But despite this and at times feeling quite frustrated with the series (especially towards the end), I still loved it. Perhaps this is because it was possible to visualise very clearly what the series could have been, if it had been able to rid itself of such faults and flaws. I think if it had been able to do that, than Inspiring Generation would definitely have shot up into being one of my top 5 favourite Korean dramas, but alas that has not been the case. I think the reason I am still able to love the series, despite all its faults and flaws, is because the writers and producers initially did such a good job with the series in the first quarter of episodes. As a result, it made it possible to retain a lot of goodwill towards the rest of the series, even as its faults and flaws began to mount up.

So despite all of this, I still would recommend checking out the drama, not only to check out Kim Hyun Joong vastly improved acting skills but because there is still a lot to enjoy about the series,  including some wonderful quirky and fun characters, some terrific acting by many of the central characters (including by the young actors depicting them in their youth), the brilliantly choreographed fight scenes and much more. And hopefully, you too will fall in love with series like I did.

 

 

 

Inspring gen 3 in one posters

inspriing gen - tripcast costumes inspiring gen

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K-Drama Review: Shut Up and Run! (aka Shut Up! Flower Boy Band)

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  • English title: Shut Up! Flower Boy Band
  • Alternative English title: Shut Up and Run!/ Shut Up and Let’s Go!
  • Revised romanization: Dagchigo Kkochminambaendeu
  • Hangul: 닥치고 꽃미남밴드
  • Year Released: 2012
  • Episodes: 16
  • Director: Lee Kwon
  • Writer: Seo Yoon-Hee
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Sung Joon L (Kim Myung-Soo) Lee Hyun-Jae Yoo Min-Kyu Kim Min-Suk
Kwon Ji-Hyuk Lee Hyun-Soo Jang Do-Il Kim Ha-Jin Seo Kyung-Jong
(leader and vocals) (guitar) (drums) (bass) (keyboard)
Shut Up Flower Boy Band-Jung Eui-Chul.jpg Shut Up Flower Boy Band-Jo Bo-Ah.jpg Shut Up Flower Boy Band-Kim Ye-Rim.jpg Shut Up Flower Boy Band-Lee Min-Ki.jpg
Jung Eui-Chul Jo Bo-Ah Kim Ye-Rim Lee Min-Ki
Yoo Seung-Hoon Im Soo-Ah Ye-Rim Joo Byung-Hee

A coming-of-age story about an underground high school rock band called, “Eye Candy”, which explores the friendship and rivalry between six “deliquent” working class boys who make up the band. Made up of band leader, charismatic, free-spirited vocalist Joo Byung-hee (Lee Min-ki); his best friend Kwon Ji-hyuk (Sung Joon), the guitarist with the band; quiet and serious drummer, Jang Do-il (Lee Hyun-jae);  cassanova bass player, Kim Ha-jin (Yoo Min-kyu) and loyal keyboardist, Seo Kyung-jong (Kim Min-suk).

In the aftermath of Joo Byung-hee’s death (at the end of episode 2), the rest of the band try to come to grips with the death of their friend and begin a journey to not only honour his memory and legacy but also – unbeknown to them – also a journey of self-discovery about themselves. The drama is atypical of normal “music dramas”, with the focus actually being more on the journey of the friends, rather than the music itself.

I had not expected to end up loving this drama. I decided only to watch it because I had watched TVN’s other two “Flower Boy” dramas and because I liked Lee Min-ki as an actor and had enjoyed watching Sung Joon in Gu Family Book and wanted to check out more of his work. The drama surprised me with not only its wonderfully down to earth scripts but also characters, who were not your usual cardboard cuts outs that are often found in drama shows (both in Korea and internationally). Over all, the vast majority of the characters, both the lead and supporting, were nuanced, layered and really wonderful to watch.

While Shut Up and Run!/Shut Up! Flowerboy Band  displays many of the standard kdrama tropes, it delves into them in an atypical way, bringing a freshness to many a tired trope and plot twist.  This can be seen for example, in the way the drama deals with the standard triangle relationships often found in kdramas. In Shut Up and Run!/Shut Up! Flower Boy Band, there are two triangle relationships, one between Ji-hyuk, Su-ah and Seung-hoon and one between Ji-hug, Su-ah and the deceased Bung-hee. It’s the second of these two, which is the real triangle relationship that needs to be overcome. And while the focus of most k-drama loves stories are the two lead characters in Shut Up and Run!/Shut Up! Flowerboy Band , the central love story in this drama is not the love story between the lead male and female characters, Ji-hyuk and Su-ha but between the boys in the band. It is a love story about their friendship, loyalty and dedication to each other.

One of the standard tropes used in kdramas is class conflict, between working class and wealthy elite characters. What I loved about Shut Up and Run!/Shut Up! Flowerboy Band  was that it actually treated the class back ground of the boys in the band as something genuine and as something that shaped their world view and actions. Often a nod is given to this in dramas, but then its ignored. With this particular series, it was a constant presence in the drama, one which wasn’t dealt with lightly or with little regard or treated as a mere plot or comedic device.

The other thing I loved about Shut Up and Run!/Shut Up! Flowerboy Band  was its depiction of the female characters. Far to often in kdramas (and non-kdramas) the women characters are frustrating – often portrayed as weak and/or meek and/or shrill and/or mean and/or just there to prop up the male lead’s ego or to pander to his every whim. They often lack any real separate identity, depth or agency, which is annoying and frustrating.  What is outstanding about Shut Up and Run!/Shut Up! Flowerboy Band , is that on the whole most of the female characters in this drama are realistic, have a strong identity of their own, separate from the male lead characters and have agency in spades. While some of the supporting female characters can be criticised on some levels, on the whole even they, along with the main female characters, are strong willed with a backbone and minds of their own. They are not cardboard cuts out and are shown to be independent and capable.

While I enjoyed all three of TVN’s “Flowerboy” shows, this was probably the one I enjoyed most.  It stood out because not only did the series circumvent and recreate in its own image many of the standard k-drama tropes but because it was not your standard love story.  And it was the atypical love story about the boys, their friendship, loyalty and dedication to each other which gave depth and heart to Shut Up and Run!/Shut Up! Flowerboy Band

K-Drama Review: The Return of Il Ji-mae

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  • English title: The Return of Il Ji-Mae
  • Alternative English title: Moon River
  • Revised romanization: Dolahon Il Ji-Mae
  • Hangul:돌아온 일지매
  • Year released: 2009
  • Episodes: 24
  • Director: Hwang In-Roe, Kim Do-Hyung
  • Writer: Kim Kwang-Sik, Woo-yeong Ko (comic)

  • Based on the serial comic strip “Iljimae” by Woo-yeong Ko, which appeared in the Daily Sports from 1975-1977.

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Jung Il-Woo Yoon Jin-Seo Kim Min-Jong Jung Hye-Young
Il Ji-Mae Wol-Hee Ku Ja-Myeong Baek-Mae


A Robin Hood story set in the Joseon period, the Return of Il Ji-mae is about an abandoned orphaned boy who grows up to fight corruption and greed and side with the poor and marginalised. The story is based on a manga/comic book hero, drawn from Chinese folk lore. While the drama offers all the fun and action of a Robin Hood story, it also avoids all the usual cheesiness that often goes hand and hand with such stories. Instead, it offers a beautifully told story which explores what it is to be human.
While it took me a few episodes to get into the drama, I soon fell completely in love with it.

Return of Il Ji-mae is blessed with a fantastic script, brilliant acting, gorgeous production, wonderful music, as well as reasonably positive gender politics in the portrayal of the female characters. The acting in the series is flawless, particularly from the two main leads and the two sub-leads. Jung Il-woo as Il Ji-mae is just brilliant.  He is an actor I already enjoyed watching, but he has now shot up to being one of my all time favourite Korean actors. This is the first drama I have seen Yoon Jin-seo in, but her depiction of Dal-yi and Wol Hee is just wonderful. Given she is playing two characters, she has done a wonderful job of giving them their own personalities and distinctiveness. I particularly love the fact that the drama also gives the two leads a realistic love story, devoid of all the dodgy gender politics found in many other kdramas.

Return of Il Ji-mae quickly climbed into the ranks of my top 5 Korean dramas. Without a doubt, I love the beauty and wistfulness of this drama, as well as the humour, adventure and nuanced story telling and acting. Definitely a 10 out of 10! My only serious criticism of the show is in relation to the action sequences – while the fight scenes are fantastic, diverse, well executed and a lot of fun, the wire work (at least in the early episodes) is rather amateurish. But if you can look past that in the first few episodes, you will probably also fall in love with the Return of Il Ji-mae.

Opening title sequence of Return of Il Ji-mae

Original Sound Track from Return of Il Ji-mae – Place of My Dreams by Yoon Jin Suh