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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Review: Put Your Head On My Shoulder (2019)

Put Your Head On My Shoulder 2019

Put Your Head On My Shoulder is a 24-episode Chinese drama that aired in April-May 2019 and is available on YouTube with English subtitles.

The story centers around two college students pursuing very different fields, who find themselves living together due to their mothers being friends. As graduation approaches, they make decisions about their futures and fall in love with each other. This is a light and fluffy series with very little drama. If anything, the leads’ biggest obstacles are themselves, learning what they want and how to communicate it. It’s very much about navigating a relationship for the first time.

I really loved the first half of the series and found it charming and funny, but in the latter half I lost interest (a mix of it being slow, frustrating, and boring). While it was enjoyable, I don’t think this drama will make any of my best-of-2019 lists nor do I think I’d watch it again.

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Review: Goodbye My Princess (2019)

Goodbye My Princess (东宫) is a 52-episode historical drama based on the novel by Fei Wo Si Cun. It’s available on Viki with English subtitles, but worth noting that an uncut version without subtitles is on YouTube.

I watched the Viki version (what I assume to be the TV version) but skimmed through the first few episodes of the uncut version to see what the difference is. The uncut version totals 55 episodes and there’s more character development and context in the beginning.

This is a story of ill-fated lovers, a prince who ruthlessly seeks revenge and a princess who is torn between love and hate, duty and emotion. I really enjoyed the first 15-20 episodes, but soon after that this drama started to drag. I didn’t care about the political storyline at all, and only finished it out of curiosity about how exactly it’d end. It’s possible that I would have enjoyed the uncut version more.

There are no spoilers in this review.

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Review: Le Coup de Foudre (2019)

Le Coup de Foudre 2019

Le Coup de Foudre (我只喜欢你) is a 2019 Chinese drama that really surprised me! Adapted from a novel based on the author’s life, Le Coup de Foudre is the sweet story of two high school classmates who grow close only to be separated for several years, and meet again as adults. You can watch it with English subtitles on Viki or on YouTube.

This is a lighthearted series with little drama and a likable group of characters. There are plenty of fun, humorous moments, as well as a lot of emotional depth when it comes to family and relationships. Note: There are no spoilers in my review.

In interview-style scenes throughout the drama, the main characters reflect and reminisce about the events of their past with the wisdom of hindsight. The story initially alternates between various time periods in their lives but soon stops bouncing around, and the high school portion does not dominate the drama.

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