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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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: 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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Review: My Girlfriend is an Alien (2019)

My Girlfriend is an Alien 2019

This was such a fun drama and despite some flaws, is one of my favorites of 2019.

The summary I’ve seen for My Girlfriend is an Alien makes it sound so bizarre but the basic premise is: the female lead, Chai Xiao Qi, is an alien who gets stuck on Earth unintentionally and needs to get her homing device back from the male lead, Fang Leng, a CEO who happens to suffer from a specific kind of amnesia that causes him to forget the women in his life when it rains.

Wan Peng and Hsu Thassapak were so great as the leads and had a lot of chemistry. I thought Wan Peng really pulled off the clueless boy-crazy alien without being annoying. (Maybe a hint of cringeyness at times, but overall I thought she was endearing!) They had plenty of cute moments and kissing scenes, and I laughed so hard when Xiao Qi kept trying to touch his chest. I really loved that this story wasn’t instalove for her (just instalust, lol), and she approached everything with a positive attitude.

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Review: Conspiracy of Love (2019)

Conspiracy of Love 2019

Conspiracy of Love is a 2019 iQiyi web drama consisting of 24-episodes. I previously wrote a recap of episodes 1-3. This is a suspense/mystery drama with a twist.

My immediate reaction upon finishing this drama was: wow, what did I just watch?? But not in the good way.

I really liked the first 9 episodes. When the story seemed to be about the female lead trying to uncover the truth/get revenge using all kinds of methods and entering a partnership with the male lead, it was enjoyable. They were an even, balanced match—both smart and driven, with their own goals. I thought they were a pretty cute pair. The male lead’s best friend is also a fun, kind-hearted character.

But after episode 9, the plot becomes increasingly convoluted and nonsensical. There are so many different people involved, their motives were murky (I never did understand Xia Yu Xuan), and a certain aspect was pretty far-fetched. From episodes 13-21, the plot just kept going back and forth with no progress, and then in episodes 22-23, the characters finally just flat-out explain everything. Even the final episode was disappointing; I was hoping for some fun scenes to reward me for getting through 23 episodes of ridiculousness. If you are watching for the romance, you’ll be especially frustrated. *sigh*

Note: On iQiyi, this drama is separated into two seasons of 12 episodes each.

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Review: Love Is Deep (2019)

Love Is Deep 2019

YIKES. After I wrote such a positive First Impressions & Episode 1 Recap, Love Is Deep turned out to be overwhelmingly disappointing. This drama is frustrating 40 episodes long because the same issues kept arising but the characters never seemed to learn and grow from them. I began watching half-heartedly in the second hand and the final storyline was awful. I can’t believe how they wrote the ending.

Ding Ding, the female lead played by Kang Ning, dreams of designing pet toys and finally begins pursuing her dream, facing the challenges of running an online shop and creating original designs. I loved that this was a major storyline that didn’t get pushed aside for the relationship. In fact, Ding Ding actually put her work first at times, which I really liked. That’s a valid choice! 👏

Ning Wei Jin, the male lead played by Hu Yun Hao, is a talented young surgeon, and although unexperienced with love, he is reliable, caring, and mature. I personally didn’t swoon over him but he was excellent boyfriend material. I liked his relationship with his younger sister Ning Wei Xuan and his best friend Gao Ren. He (and his sister) have a difficult relationship with their father.

The real highlight of this drama was Ding Ding’s best friend Xiao Feng, who gave the BEST advice. You could always count on him to call her out on her behavior. Basically, every time Ding Ding’s ex-boyfriend re-appeared in the storyline (which was way too many times), it would cause an issue between Ding Ding and Ning Wei Jin. It made Ning Wei Jin feel like Ding Ding wasn’t letting go of her ex, and Ding Ding never seemed to understand or care about how he felt. It seemed hypocritical on Ding Ding’s part given how she felt when she saw Ning Wei Jin with his close female friend.

As for the supporting characters, Ning Wei Xuan is a really energetic and lighthearted, and relentlessly pursues her brother’s best friend Gao Ren. Their scenes initially are so much fun—another highlight of the drama for me—and had me laughing out loud. However, there was a point when she really crossed the line and I no longer found her antics funny. I really wanted her to reflect over her actions and grow up a little. Also, while I loved Gao Ren, the introduction of the other doctor really showed how immature he was in comparison. (That other doctor deserved better.)

In conclusion: If you start to feel like you want to drop the drama, especially because of the storylines with the ex, then you should probably drop it before the last few episodes.

SPOILERS FOLLOW!

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Review: Go Go Squid (2019)

I watched this drama as it aired in July, but I wanted to think about it more before writing my review. Surprisingly, I found Go Go Squid! enjoyable from beginning to end. It’s really Han Shang Yan’s story, a young man approaching the age of 30 who holds grudges and regrets, single-mindedly pursuing his dream of winning a cybersecurity competition for China. The romance storyline helps him let people into his life again and let go of the unhappiness he’d bottled up in his heart. There are much more flashback than I expected, but I loved all the team and competition scenes.

This 41-episode drama is available on Viki with English subtitles and YouTube.

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Review: Unrequited Love (2019)

Unrequited Love 2019

Unrequited Love was featured on my Netflix homepage (here’s the direct link) so I decided to give it a try. With a title like ‘Unrequited Love’ I had previously been hesitant to watch this because I thought it’d be too sad or angsty. However, this has turned out to be my favorite modern c-drama of 2019 so far! I loved it from start to finish, and enjoyed not only the central storyline but the wide cast of characters. Set in college, the drama features several different relationships, exploring unrequited love, the choices we make, second chances, and feelings not being black & white. There are a lot of moments of reflection and self-aware, relatable characters, and many moments that made me laugh out loud.

This drama is 24 episodes that are ~35 minutes each so it does not drag on, and is super easy to watch multiple episodes at once. I watched this right after Put Your Head On My Shoulder, and while they’re both set in college, they are so different—Unrequited Love is so thoughtful and mature, while Put Your Head On My Shoulder is light and fluffy.

It’s worth noting that this drama is based on a novel by Ba Yue Chang An (I’d like to read it), who also wrote the novels that the dramas My Huckleberry Friends (2017) and With You (2018) were based on. I haven’t watched either of those because they’re set in high school. There’s also a second adaptation of this novel that’s supposed to come out in 2020 starring Yi Tian and Hu Bing Qing and I plan to watch it as well.

Continue reading for my full review—there are no spoilers (aside from references to the promotional summary).

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Review: Fall in Love (2019)

Fall in Love is a Chinese web drama from YouKu that was released in June-July 2019. You can watch it on YouTube, although the subtitles are automatically generated and not particularly accurate.

I came across this drama on my YouTube homepage and randomly decided to give it a chance. The summary on MyDramaList was so vague that I had no idea what to expect, but I soon understood why.

Short version of my review: in the beginning, curiosity about the mysterious female lead compels you to watch Fall in Love, but once all the pieces are on the table the story becomes rushed and uneven and falls into some classic drama clichés.

Continue reading for my spoiler-free full review!

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