Review: Triad Princess (2019)

Triad Princess 2019

I was really excited for Netflix’s new original Taiwanese series Triad Princess but unfortunately my feelings after watching it are: salty and disappointed.

I can’t believe Netflix released a first “season” with six episodes that are ~40 minutes (the final episode is only 34 minutes!) and ended it on a cliffhanger. These six episodes not only felt like only part of the story, but they also felt extremely rushed and at times disjointed.

I really like both Jasper Liu and Eugenie Liu, and the premise of this series sounded like fun—gangster’s daughter meets and falls in love with the actor she’s always fangirled over! The action scenes in the show are purely comedic, cheesy, and just for fun. Sometimes it’s over the top, but I can accept that because at its heart Triad Princess is a romantic comedy not an action thriller.

Eugenie does a great job portraying Ai Qi (Angie in the subtitles), a fierce, bubbly young woman who tries to forge an independent path for herself. On the other hand, Jasper’s character Yi Hang felt underdeveloped. He’s a cute, charming, popular actor who loves elephants. That’s all I got from him. The relationship between An Qi and Yi Hang developed unbelievably quickly. Emphasis on unbelievable as in “I absolutely did not believe it.” It seemed more to me like An Qi’s fangirl dream was coming true and Yi Hang liked the novelty of someone new and fun. Interestingly enough, An Qi’s mother was also a celebrity so there are parallels presented but they are not adequately explored.

When Yi Hang and An Qi quickly face their first obstacle, I was still in disbelief that they had already fallen in love. These obstacles are all told rather than shown—various characters tell the main leads about the challenges and sacrifices that their relationship will cause, but we don’t see the damage that should have already been caused. In addition, Jasper is working on a secret personal project and I would’ve thought that perhaps the storyline would be that An Qi feeling used. I’m just skeptical that An Qi sees past Yi Hang being this dreamy actor she’s always had a crush on, and realizes that he is a real, layered human being with flaws. He could be an elephant pajama-wearing jerk! I’m not going to automatically be on Team Yi Hang just because Jasper Liu plays him and he has a cute smile, alright?

In comparison, I found myself liking Eddie Kim much more and thought the actor who plays him, Tsao Yu Ning, was excellent. He’s sweet, caring, and patient to An Qi, and at the same time, you know he’s a gangster’s son and there must be more to him. He’s an intriguing character and his moments with An Qi feel more genuine.

In addition, a lot of interesting side stories are introduced, including An Qi’s friend Ding Ding, the actress Ling Yun, and Yi Hang and Ling Yun’s manager Sophia, but none of them are developed nearly enough. Ling Yun’s storyline seemed to demand the most urgency and yet it only came into play when it was convenient. There’s a cute m/m side romance, although the scenes felt overly dream-like.

If Netflix releases more episodes (I mean, they’d BETTER!), then I will definitely continue watching but I wouldn’t call myself a fan of this series at this point. There’s so much potential but we’ll see if Netflix can fulfill it.

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Triad Princess (2019): Episode 1 Recap

Triad Princess 2019

I’ve been so excited for Netflix’s original series, Triad Princess, because it stars Eugenie Liu and Jasper Liu. After watching two out of the six episodes, I’m really enjoying this action-romance-comedy. Six episodes seems so short, so my guess is they’re waiting to see if it does well before ordering a second season.

Drama Synopsis: Eugenie Liu plays An Qi (the subtitles say Angie), the daughter of a mob boss who runs away from home to avoid an arranged marriage. Meanwhile, Jasper Liu plays Yi Hang, a popular actor known for his charming, warm personality, and it just so happens that Angie’s fierceness melts into a fangirl daze every time she thinks about Jasper. When Yi Hang’s reported girlfriend and actress Ling Yun, played by Cecilia Choi, receives a blackmail letter, their manager hires An Qi to be Ling Yun’s bodyguard.

Keep reading for my recap of the first episode!

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Review: Lucky’s First Love (2019)

The World Owes Me a First Love 2019

Also known as The World Owes Me A First Love, this 24-episode modern drama is available with English subtitles on Viki. It stars Xing Zhao Lin, best known for The Eternal Love, as Xia Ke, the CEO of a gaming startup, and Bai Lu, best known for The Legends and Arsenal Military Academy, as Xing Yun, the startup’s first employee.

I like that this drama doesn’t begin with our two leads meeting, but after they’ve worked together for a couple years. Since they already know each other so well, Lucky’s First Love is about overcoming familiarity and realizing that you’ve fallen in love with someone who is already by your side.

That being said, it takes quite some time for the romance between Xia Ke and Xing Yun to develop. In the beginning (and this is not a spoiler since it the storyline happens immediately), Xing Yun dates someone else and since it’s her first time dating, she’s not familiar with what to expect. There are huge red flags that she rationalizes due to her lack of experience. I was cringing so hard. Then almost immediately afterward this storyline, there’s another “obstacle” between her and Xing Yun, and it was even worse. Although most reviewers called this drama “light and fluffy” it actually stressed me out because I was waiting so long for them to get together.

However, I did for the most part enjoy the supporting characters and there were a lot of humorous moments. Although Xing Zhao Lin’s acting isn’t always that great, and Bai Lu’s wig gets a little annoying (it just drives me crazy that she has that center braid hairstyle the entire way through!), I thought the two of them had good chemistry and I loved their scenes together.

If you haven’t watched this drama, here’s the trailer:

Additional thoughts with some minor spoilers follow!

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Review: My ID is Gangnam Beauty (2018)

My ID is Gangnam Beauty 2018

I usually don’t watch dramas starring the same actor or actress back-to-back. I like to take a break before seeing them play an entirely different character. However, my friend told me she had binge watched My ID is Gangnam Beauty and developed a crush on Cha Eun Woo, the lead actor, so I was curious even though I had just seen the lead actress, Im Soo Hyang, star in Graceful Family.

Overall Verdict: My ID is Gangnam Beauty is a thought-provoking drama that explores how society views beauty and how that affects people, from the way they see themselves to the way that others treat them. Although the main couple is sweet and easy to root for, I found the supporting characters to be this drama’s greatest strength.

Main Cast & Characters

I’m already a fan of Cha Eun Woo because I like K-pop boy group he’s in (ASTRO) and I was curious to see if he could also act. I thought he was alright and fit the character Do Kyung Suk well: the attractive but lonely son of a politician who is observant and astute but also standoffish and uncaring of social standing.

Interestingly enough, Im Soo Hyang is 29 to Cha Eun Woo’s 22. My ID is Gangnam Beauty is set at university so that was an interesting choice, but Im Soo Hyang pulled it off. Her character, Kang Mi Rae, is bullied throughout childhood for being ugly so prior to beginning college she gets plastic surgery done on her face.

Jo Woo Ri played the duality of the second female lead very well – innocent and likable but also observant and calculated. And last (but not least), Kwak Dong Yeon who I looooved in Love in the Moonlight plays the second male lead Yeon Woo Young. Woo Young is a senior classmate who is kind, calm, and sensible. He’s very likable but not to the point where you feel second lead syndrome (at least, not for me!).

Supporting Cast & Characters

Where do I begin? There are so many fun characters that make this drama feel real and relatable. There’s Mi Rae’s adorable parents, one of whom initially is unhappy with her undergoing plastic surgery. Mi Rae’s best friend and roommate Hyun Jung is an absolute delight but in the latter half of the drama, it feels like they cut back her storyline. I loved that she attends the same college as Mi Rae but studies a different field; they hang out together but aren’t always together, and they have each other’s backs.

There are a variety of different personalities at the university, both upperclassmen and first-year students like Mi Rae. There are a number of sexist male upperclassmen, some of whom try to be better and some who never change. I especially loved the variety in the girls – there’s one who is chubby, one who doesn’t dress in ways considered “feminine,” and a flirtatious girl who is initially after Kyung Suk but knows when to give up. Mi Rae makes friends with two female classmates, showing that there are good people out there and healthy friendships.

Despite Kyung Suk’s standoffish demeanor, he’s not entirely alone. His best friend is the laidback and exuberant Yoo Jin, played by Lee Tae Sun (who I’ve now got my eye on). I loved their friendship so much. Kyung Suk’s younger sister Kyung Hee was also a fun character, and I felt like her storyline was cut down towards the end as well.

Plot

My ID is Gangnam Beauty got off to a rocky start for me because it emphasized looks SO MUCH in the first episode. But that’s the point, it should make you uncomfortable to see how much appearances are valued by society. The pacing of the drama was great; a balance of heartfelt, emotional moments, and the fun and humor of young people entering adulthood.

The romance between Kyung Suk and Mi Rae is a big part of the drama, and it is QUITE a slow burn. I appreciate that there is never any question that the person Kyung Suk cares about is Mi Rae, so it’s not stressful in that aspect. Instead, the biggest obstacles they each have are themselves. For Kyung Suk, it’s his lack of social graces due to growing up so lonely. For Mi Rae, it’s the deeply-rooted issues of self-esteem and fear of what others think. It might be easy as a viewer to think that she should ‘just get over it’ but the many years of bullying led to serious mental health issues for Mi Rae.

Kyung Suk has had an opposite experience; his visuals stand out and attract attention no matter where he goes, even when he ignores it and does the opposite of encouraging it. It’s a lot of pressure for Mi Rae to stand beside Kyung Suk knowing that people will compare their looks and potentially decide she isn’t worthy of him.

Despite all of Kyung Suk’s good qualities, there were definitely moments where he was rude and controlling and I wish there had been some reflection on his part about his behavior. I wished that someone would call him out on it. This sort of behavior often feels romanticized in Asian dramas.

Kyung Suk’s mom’s storyline was excellent and offered the perspective of an older character, with more life experience, on ideals of beauty, motherhood, and abuse.

My last annoyance at this drama’s writing is that it ended with a storyline that didn’t focus on the two main characters. It felt like an overly dramatic change of genre and hijacked the final episode. All I ask for is the sweet and fluffy final episode that we’ve earned!!!

Final Thoughts

Most of the time I find dramas too long, and 16-episode k-dramas are a nice change of pace. In this case, I actually wished the drama was longer so that the storylines of the side characters could be fleshed out more. There were so many great threads that were started but abruptly concluded. Overall, I still recommend giving this drama a try!

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Review and Ending Recap: Mountains and Ocean (2019)

Mountains and Ocean 2019

Mountains and Ocean aired in September 2019 and stars Zhuang Da Fei (aka Sabrina Zhuang) as Xia Rui Ning, a girl from a rich family and Ma Xin Yu as Shen Zhen, the daughter of a woman who works for the Xia family, who pays for her tuition to the same university. There is a bitter rivalry between the two of them. Huang Sheng Chi and Fan Zhi Xin also star as two brothers, Ye Lin and Ye Miao; Rui Ning has a crush on one brother, while the other falls in love with her. This drama is available with English subtitles on YouTube.

I knew this drama had a love triangle (kind of a square, actually)—and even worse, with two brothers involved. I was curious though, so I skimmed through episode 1 and 5, and then skipped to 10 and watched to the end (episode 24).

The dramatic first scene should have told me everything I needed to know about this drama. In his car, Ye Miao pulls up to a stop in front of the gate of his family’s mansion right before he would have hit Rui Ning, who is standing there with her luggage. Then the drama rewinds to the events of six years ago. It’s clear from this opening scene that this is not a lighthearted romantic comedy. From what I saw, the love triangle was handled well, and the worst part of this drama is the irredeemable second female lead, Shen Zhen. It’s pretty obvious which brother Rui Ning falls in love with, and I thought their scenes together were cute. The other brother is also likable and doesn’t become an evil, jealous schemer.

However, the final four episodes take an extremely melodramatic turn. If you’re curious, I have recapped the final episodes below.

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Can’t Wait to Watch… Triad Princess, Skate Into Love

Skate Into Love 2019

With so many dramas constantly coming out, I’m overwhelmed. These are two dramas I’m extremely excited for and that I may recap. Let me know if there’s anything else I should consider!

Skate Into Love

Admittedly, the thought of 45 episodes stresses me out, but Skate Into Love (pictured above) is an upcoming competitive ice skating romance drama starring Wu Qian (Janice Wu)! I’m hoping this is finally a role for her where she’s not a pushover. The male lead Zhang Xin Cheng (Steven Zhang) previously starred in My Huckleberry Friends, which I haven’t seen but did hear good things about.

It sounds like Skate Into Love is set in college, with the male lead as a talented ice hockey player and the female lead as a struggling speed skater. I saw some kind of trailer or promo video that looked really cute, but I can’t find the link anymore.

Triad Princess

Triad Princess is Netflix original series coming out on December 6, and it looks like a fun, action rom-com. Listen to this premise: a mobster’s daughter becomes the bodyguard for the popular actor that she happens to be a huge fan of. The actor is played by Jasper Liu, who starred in the highly-popular Taiwanese drama Before We Get Married earlier this year. (I adore Jasper—is there a more popular Taiwanese TV actor right now?) I’m also excited to see Eugenie Liu play a female lead who isn’t the typical naive and kind-hearted girl.

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New Chinese Dramas on Amazon Prime Video: November 2019

Since I lasted posted about Chinese dramas on Prime Video in September, I’ve noticed some new additions!

Blossom in Heart (2019)

Deng Lun & Li Yi Tong’s new drama, also known as Begonia Rouge, is already on Prime Video! This Republican era drama is currently airing & concludes in December.
» Watch Blossom in Heart on Prime Video

Legend of Yun Xi (2018)

This historical drama was one of my favorites last year, with one of my favorite heroines ever. Yun Xi (played by Ju Jing Yi) is smart, generous, and skilled with treating poisons. Her arranged marriage with Zhang Zhe Han’s character blossoms into true love.
» Watch Legend of Yun Xi on Prime Video

The Disguiser (2015)

I don’t watch these Republican era spy dramas but if I did, I’d pick this one starring Hu Ge, Wang Kai, and several other familiar faces from Nirvana in Fire (my favorite drama of all time).
» Watch The Disguiser on Prime Video

Love Better Than Immortality (2019)

Here’s a recent historical fantasy drama starring Zhao Lu Si from I Hear You and Oh! My Emperor and Li Hong Yi from Master Devil Do Not Kiss Me. (They also starred together in another drama this year called Prodigy Healer.) There’s a time travel aspect to the plot, as well as a love triangle.
» Watch Love Better Than Immortality on Prime Video

Love Under The Moon (2019)

This 48-episode modern drama starring Victoria Song and Ou Hao seems slow, angsty, and sad…
» Watch Love Under The Moon on Prime Video

Our Glamorous Time (2018)

I don’t actually recommend this one and dropped it at episode 25. It also seems that Amazon is missing the last 10 episodes (for a total of 50). This drama about the business partnership and romance between a sharp soldier and a talented fashion designer seemed promising initially but became nonsensical and convoluted.
» Watch Our Glamorous Time on Prime Video

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Review: Graceful Family (2019)

Graceful Family 2019

I haven’t watched a Korean drama in a while, and Graceful Family seemed like the dark and intense mystery-thriller drama I was looking for. I watched it on Viki with English subtitles, and actually watched it as it aired. I rarely do this because I don’t like waiting every week for new episodes.

While Graceful Family started out strong, I lost interest at around episode 11. Since there are only 16 episodes in total, I powered through to the end. Unfortunately, it never won back my interest. The best part of this drama was Im Soo Hyang, who skillfully plays the main character, Mo Seok Hee, showcasing both fierceness and vulnerability. Mo Seok Hee returns to Korea after being exiled to the U.S. 15 years ago when her mother was murdered. Her grandfather wants her to be his successor, but her father has other plans. Meanwhile, Mo Seok Hee teams up with lawyer Heo Yoon Do to find out who really murdered her mother.

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First Impressions: The Love by Hypnotic (2019)

The Love By Hypnotic 2019

I’m pleasantly surprised by The Love by Hypnotic, a historical romance web drama currently airing on Tencent (concluding next week on November 13). The first few episodes had me laughing out loud non-stop, and I have reached episode 15 (out of 36) in just a few days. I’m watching on YouTube with English subtitles via Tencent Video. If you’re looking for a fun romance-centered historical drama, definitely give The Love by Hypnotic a try!

Li Ming Yue (played by Ling Mei Shi) is a princess from Xiyue who is brought to Beixuan to marry Li Qian (played by Alen Fang), a prince. Li Ming Yue has the ability of hypnosis, and after using it on Li Qian, he discovers that he is able to recover lost memories from his childhood.

For a historical drama, the plot so far has been very focused on their romance. Ming Yue is playful and spirited, in opposition to Li Qian’s calm and serious demeanor and their interactions are so fun to watch. Yes, I’ve seen so many dramas recently with cold/stony male leads, but I don’t consider Li Qian one of them because he does show emotions. (Also, the sleepwalking is hilarious.)

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