Master Devil Do Not Kiss Me 恶魔少爷别吻我 (Season 1) Review

This review was written prior to the release/watching of Season 2 which directly continues from Season 1.

I never thought I would sink so deep into this show after starting it out of pure curiosity of its good ratings… but for all its light-hearted classic romance, comedy, and extremely easy-to-watch enjoyability, it was hard for me not to. uwu. I really enjoyed this and actually suffered withdrawal for once from this show…

Highly recommended: 8.5/10 (objectively) but 9/10 for enjoyment!

While Master Devil uses many familiar romcom tropes (namely Itazura na Kiss and Hana Yori Dango e.g. moving into male lead’s home, popular but unapproachable male lead, elite school etc.), the show stands out well in being a GOOD well-written romcom WITHOUT all the unnecessary angst, frustration over stupid/extreme characters or developments, and exaggerated/pointless drama.

Here, we have a truly independent and intelligent female lead Chu Xia who is given a lot of opportunities to develop her relations with other characters in a NON-hopeless-girl-against-the-whole-world context, without always involving the male lead Qi Lu. And for the male lead, contrary to the title, he really isn’t an unreasonable arrogant ass at all, even if he may be unfriendly in general. He still has ego issues and is reminiscent of the lovely-bastard-style character that was Ji Cun Xi (in Fated to Love You) even, but is still not that bad, for all his childish and nerdy hilarity. Really, to my delight, all of the characters are generally really nice and not hateful at all, which really makes the watching experience so much more easy to watch and enjoyable.

Perhaps given its short 20-minute-per-episode format, the plot moves relatively fast from one arc to another with a good balance between the leads’ romantic tension/development and relationships with other characters, ending on enticing previews and building on previously mentioned things (making the developments more natural and coherent). Although the characters all have a kind of general stereotype we can identify, their interactions with each other are refreshing and light-hearted and never fail to amuse me every time, especially with the male lead Qi Lu ;))

What is even better really is how the plot develops in a very reasonable and logical way!! (to think that most romcoms don’t even have much of this tho lol) To not be so hung up over a single kiss, to thank someone even though you don’t necessarily like them, for antagonists to also be reasonable rather than extremely single-mindedly bent on something??

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But seriously, there is only arguably ~10% of plot development that doesn’t quite make a lot of sense and requires some suspension of disbelief, such as the first episode lol. (But once you get over that bridge, all will be well ;))

Since many of the cast members are fresh faces to me, I am less able to vouch for their acting. But they still did a good job in my opinion to represent the characters with the depth and distinct personality to make the show reasonable rather than flat. (Also a plus since they all also have good looks haha)

The OST is amongst some of greatest faults of this show, other than the questionable fade-to-black transitions that the production team chose to use. Attributable to the lower web-drama budget of the show, the OST is definitely not spectacular compared to more popular OSTs, especially the opening theme which just makes me orz. Nonetheless, I managed to grow into the other songs of the OSTs with time in my bid to relieve withdrawal symptoms.

That being said, it’s very important to note that these 23 episodes CANNOT be viewed as a completed story, given the way it ended that leads in to the next season as if it were just another episode. Hence, despite the completion of a season, the story seriously is not over yet, given the number of questions left and the HUGE POTENTIAL for further romantic development that has left me in my current withdrawal state.

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As a result, the rewatch value for the show is definitely high for me, given the current anticipation for Season 2 and simply the fact that the show has such classic elements without causing the heartache, that there will always be something you can enjoy from watching it again. :))

Master Devil Do Not Kiss Me 《恶魔少爷别吻我》 Season 2 airs on YouTube (in raw Chinese) on March 8, 2017!!

EDIT: English Subs have been slowly added to the official YouTube releases searchable with the Chinese title”恶魔少爷别吻我” ! Season 1 has since been fully subbed and can be found on other drama websites while Season 2 has subs for at least half the season already.

~ Admin JY (Jayne)
(Adapted from my MDL review for this drama)

I Belonged to You 《从你的全世界路过》 Movie Review

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After listening to the OST very often even before the show released, I had been looking forward to this show JUST for the OST without much expectations for the plot or story.

Following the love stories of three men, I Belonged to You is a poetically written slice-of-life, but stands out even more for its absolutely beautiful cinematography and sound.

Given its slice-of-life nature, the plot wasn’t particularly exciting or notable, but   still good enough to find at least something to like, like the cute interactions of Mao Shi Ba (Yang Yang) and Li Zhi (Bai Bai He). In terms of acting and characterisation, characterisation was still commendable and reasonable given the short duration, and acting was solid, given the strong cast. (Especially after reading about the lengths Deng Chao went to prep for his role…) You probably wouldn’t bawl much over the story, but it can still touch you reasonably.

But seriously, that is not even the main point of this review. Because it is in the absolute beauty that is the cinematography and sound that alone justifies making this into a movie format as completely worthwhile.

As someone who usually doesn’t pay attention to cinematography, it must be said that nearly every scene in this movie was extremely beautifully shot – from cityscapes to character dialogue shots and nature landscapes. The aesthetics of this movie alone are to die for and 100% wallpaper worthy nearly everywhere. The production team really did amazing work to find such beautiful locations and capture those shots.  (Seriously the movie posters don’t do it justice.)

However, this show was not only a feast for the eyes, but also the ears! The OST that I listened to before watching also did not disappoint, with amazingly appropos timing with the story, to leave a good strong impression without being overused. Even the background music, the soothing voices of the DJs, and effects of setting on speech were immaculate. Never had I appreciated so much the SOUND aesthetics of a movie…

Overall, this would probably be a good light movie to watch to chill and relax to escape the problems of reality, with amazing aesthetics and sounds to recharge your senses, which would also make it enough to consider rewatching again at some point. 🙂

~ Admin JY (also posted here)

A Touch of Green 《一把青》 Review

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This is definitely not the usual type of drama that Shoujo Investigation would include into our recommendations. A Touch of Green  is consistently heartbreaking, heavy in its themes, yet amazingly gripping, painfully realistic and most importantly, so very human.

Not only for its many levels of underratedness, this show deserves every 10/10, stellar rating and drama accolade it can get.

–> *100% RECOMMENDED*

Synopsis:

A Touch of Green  《一把青》 follows the lives of the wives and the pilots of the Republic of China Air Force 11th Brigade during the Chinese Communist Revolution (1945-1949) and beyond. The story begins by following Zhu Qing 朱青 (Cindy Lien), a university student whose life begins to intertwine with the charismatic pilot Guo Zhen 郭轸 (Chris Wu) through a chance encounter.


– REVIEW –

PLOT: It is hard to summarise this show into a seemingly exciting synopsis without sounding like every other historical drama. In fact, it’s because there are SO MANY THINGS happening that you are just pulled along with each episode without much time to think about what just happened. And things don’t necessarily happen in clear cut arcs either, unlike more simplistic drama plots.

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However, a more important reason for this is the sheer heavy nature of the show. The first third of the drama is still fairly easy to watch quickly given its relatively more lighthearted nature. The show even arguably has its fair share of unexpected comedy to balance the heartache.

But soon, you will realise the drama is gonna take you to discover new lows. Just when you think that things cannot get worse, the drama proves you wrong time and again. It seems nearly impossible not to cry at all throughout the entirety of the show.

Hence a word of warning for all those (planning on) watching this, this drama definitely requires mental preparation. There is after all a reason why both Admin JL and I took almost a full year to complete this drama. From our experience at least, it’d be hard on the heart to watch this all at one go.

However!!  This should never act as deterrent for you from watching the show! The story and characters are all so good there was no way we were planning to drop this.

In the words of Admin JL, there is basically a lot of “shit hitting the fan”.

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CHARACTERS: In this highly character-driven plot, the characters are the backbone, flesh and the shining glory of this drama in many essences.

For us at Shoujo Investigation at least, we adore well-written and three-dimensional characters. And this show precisely delivers and even takes the standard up a notch.

Again, it is hard to describe the main characters succinctly because it would do them no justice at all to create a stereotype for them to fit in. All of them are so complex and unique that the show definitely acts to shatter typecasting of the actors themselves.

In a nutshell attempt, Zhu Qing is independent and takes no BS from anyone yet beholds an unspoken innocence. Guo Zhen is also not just a charismatic and defiant pilot, but also harbours darkness in his heart only leaked through his sarcastic jabs and comments.

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A great source of enjoyment from this show was simply watching the character development of all of the characters, especially across the more obvious “arcs” across time. It was also brilliantly portrayed and written how the characters kept their quirks and personality in some way or form across time. Yet all of them also grew and changed because of their respective painful experiences into new roles that the audience would never have thought to expect from the characters.

Human nature is so strongly presented in this show to our delight~. None of the characters are stereotypically “good” or “bad”. Most significantly, the wives and their seemingly demure nature is contrasted with the sacrifices and moral dilemmas that they are willing to go through for their husbands.

The relationship between the main characters are also constantly changing with new events. While they are friends and love each other, they fight, they leave snide remarks, they seek forgiveness and even betray each other.

Sometimes the characters even do seemingly inexplicable and irrational things, yet that is exactly what makes the show so human and complex.

Even minor new characters are constantly introduced with almost none of them disappearing insignificantly.

So human, so complex, so realistic.

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STORYTELLING: Another part about this show I enjoyed very much was the narration/dialogue and many subtleties delivered in the filming direction.

Using the voice of Mo Ting, Xiao Zhou’s daughter and various objects in the show, many beautiful metaphors are delivered – the fake math equation 5×1=3 (五一得三), time being a drug with unknown side effects; a dove; plane 513; and the pilot’s bomber jacket next to Shi Niang’s qipao being kept.

There is simply so much depth being included into every scene whether with dialogue or not that not a single scene should be missed.

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OST: The main reason that I came to know of this drama was through Hebe Tien’s OST MV for this show titled 《看淡》 (As it is) roughly translated as “Numbed” or “Jaded”. This theme song alone epitomises much of the show’s heartbreak and complexity in its lyrics and appropos dramatism.

Clearly, the MV was enticing enough to reel me in to desperately find sources for it just to find out what this interesting-looking story was about.

CONS: If there is any thing to complain about this show, it’s that it can be hard to understand. The show uses specific and historically related references, so it’s easy to get lost and not catch why certain things are happening to the characters. Simultaneously, the characters themselves often use roundabout sarcastic jabs and often don’t mean what they say. So once you lose the context, it’s hard to understand what they really intended to mean.

However, the main problem for more international audiences with watching this show is the complete lack of English subtitle versions for this show, not to mention the already few sources online for the original raws. Considering how the show has been out for a year already, it seems unlikely that eng subs for it will come anytime soon either ;__;

So if you CAN understand Chinese, please do give this show a try!!
(do message us if you need help finding links!)

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In summary: 100% recommended, heartbreak warning, prepare tissues, amazing actors and characters, seriously great, please watch if you can!
It may not be your favourite drama, but it is definitely a GOOD drama.

~ Admin JY

Bromance – TWDrama Review

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Bromance the Taiwan Drama is exactly what it seems to be – the Taiwanese idol drama adaptation of a very cliché gender-bender shoujo manga that never existed.

Rather than a review, it would probably be more useful to judge whether this drama fits your personal preference and expected type of feels. So, here’s a list of what to expect in the show (with some commentary in between):

  1. Gender Bender
    It almost goes without saying that it would be a girl cross-dressing as a guy. This time, it is out of a school setting but into a slightly more adult context, eliminating the unnecessity of a male harem
  2. Super Nice Second Male Lead Childhood Friend
    Enough said.
  3. Action Setting with “Triad” Background
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    Every so often, a good shoujo manga comes along and throws in that tension and excitement with this “bad boy” context where he is STILL a nice guy, but badass and tough to everyone else is always a typical sort of appeal. (Not everyone can go into a military setting like DOTS, right?)

  4. The “Strong” Female Lead
    Pi Ya Nuo starts off with a convincing enough neutral
    behaviour while showing off her (physical) strength and capabilities as a respectable (wo)man. However, Bromance suffers the same problem as many other gender benders – unrealistically effeminate behaviour that gets way too obvious for the context of hidden gender as the female lead falls in love.
  5. Second Pairing Just Because
    While I have nothing against the second pairing of Bii + Katie Chen, it is also just as unimpressive. Their only purpose seems to be to act as a foil of an ordinary relationship to the extraordinary circumstances of the main pairing.

    If there was any source of concern, it would be how their relationship develops:
    Katie Chen’s Nana character is a bubbly sunshine girl that talks almost one-sidedly to the stoic, unresponsive Qingyang (acted by Bii). She sticks to him and somehow, love blossoms~…

    Bii’s acting skills aren’t particularly impressive either to me, which definitely contributed to my disillusionment in an already far-fetched idol drama

  6. The Must-Have Getting-Together scenes (non-exhaustive)
    1. Accidental kiss, arising from an amazingly unrealistic set-uphttps://shoujoinvestigation.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/ceac2-screenshot2b2015-10-252bat2b3-47-322bpm.png?w=988&h=556
    2. Getting sick/injured for one another in dramatic fashions
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    3. The Long Lost Childhood Connection
    4. Increasing skinship (through outdoor camp scenario)
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    5. Second Male Lead’s interruption of interaction
    6. Being seen in girly female clothing (whether by accident or not)
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    7. Convenient and non-disruptive Discovery of Female Identity OR Acceptance of “Gay” Feelings
  7. Falling into Fanservice

It’s both a boon and a bane that Bromance has plenty of intimate and cheesy scenes of the main pairing after they get together in ways that would definitely give you your cheap feels fix. However, this ends up sacrificing the still-decent plot progression in the initial stages. At some point, you may begin to wonder, is there anything really going on as a driving plot anymore? Of course, if you’re just here for the second-hand embarrassment, then this should not be a problem

8. Behind the Scenes

The irony was that I probably found more enjoyment watching their behind-the-scenes (titled Men’s Talk) after every episode and skipped less of that than the main show. It was definitely amusing to see the actors also cringe and die of laughter from the second-hand embarrassment of the characters’ cheesy acts. If not, there are always plenty of jokes going around between the cast.

9. **SPOILER ALERT – The Reveal**

This used to be one of the most crucial turning points of any gender-bender – the lies, the feeling of betrayal, the angst, the fall out. However, following the path of non-angst in this romantic comedy, rest assured this is no longer the case at all. While there seem to be moments of confronting their love for a “male”, what was supposed to be a fall out dissolves into becoming an open secret that most accept with no qualms.

OVERALL:

 

Bromance is definitely one of the more recent epitomes of the classic Taiwan idol drama, in a slightly more updated and decently less brainless form. If you’re in the mood for good ol’ cheesiness, shoujo romance tropes and plenty of intimate fan-service scenes, then Bromance is definitely the drama for you.

Bromance is not for everyone, for example if you are looking for character development and plot. But in terms of being a reasonable enough premise for shoujo romance tropes to work, this drama fulfils its purpose and expectations well. After all, sometimes we can be suckers for some brainlessly satisfying romance.

 

Rating: 6.5/10

~ Admin JY

Screenshots from ninjareflection.com, dramakiwi.com, thesedramaticdays.blogspot.com

Koinaka ~ J-Drama Review

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Drama Synopsis

Aoi Miura was a boy who always botches things up at the crucial moment despite all his effort and hard work for preparation beforehand. Although he is constantly put down by others for his failures, Aoi always manage to revive his self confidence with the support of his childhood friend, Akari Serizawa. To the shy and indecisive Aoi, Akari’s bright personality and her willingness to accept him for who he is secretly paved way from friendship to love in the young boy’s heart. Unknown to Aoi, Akari also shares the same feelings towards him but the fear of losing their friendship should their love be unreciprocated has prevented either party from confessing to each other.

One day, a boy named Shota Aoi transferred from Tokyo to the same school as the childhood lovers in Toyama Prefecture. Through a minor event involving Aoi’s best friend, Kouhei Kanazawa, Shota became friends with Aoi and Kouhei, and subsequently came to know of Akari. Being a gloomy person, Shota was attracted to the cheerful and friendly personality of Akari, and fell in love with her at first sight.

Trouble brews in the mean time as Akari’s father becomes knee deep in debt. At the same time, an argument between Akari and Aoi has given Shota an opportunity to create a misunderstanding between the childhood lovers. Thinking that Akari might have feelings towards Shota, Aoi told Shota to go in his place with Akari to the annual Toyama Prefecture’s fireworks festival*. Disappointed that Shota came instead, Akari left to find Aoi whom she then confessed to indirectly through a kiss on his lips. Unbeknownst to Aoi, this will be the last that he will see of Akari until ten years later as she needs to escape from the debtors with her father.

Before leaving, Akari wrote a letter to Aoi in which she confessed her feelings and asked to meet him a year later at the place where she was supposed to meet him for the Toyama annual fireworks festival. This was, again, foiled by Shota who stole the letter before Aoi could read it, and went in place of Aoi to meet Akari. With both parties thinking that they were dumped by the other, they went on with their separate lives and only met ten years later in Tokyo when Shota arranged a meeting between the two. The reunion rekindled the buried feelings that Aoi had towards Akari but also feelings of bitterness towards Shota who is now dating Akari and being much more successful in life than him.

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!spoiler alert!

The drama revolves around how the Aoi grew as a person and mainly how the childhood lovers resolve their misunderstandings to come together eventually.

*In Japan, asking someone to go with you to the fireworks festival is usually an indirect way of confessing your feelings. Accepting the invitation usually also suggests that you are interested in the party who invited you.

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Review

  1. An asshole second male lead (but this probably shows that his acting was good)

When I watched the first 2-3 episodes, I almost felt like dropping the series because of how asshole the second male lead is in the drama. I really hated how he kept on trying to hurt the feelings of Aoi by showing off his relationship with Akari even though he is perfectly aware that he still has feelings for her. This is why it became absolutely unbearable for me to know that Akari has reached the stage of kissing with Shota kun or possibly even more because it felt like he tainted her somehow…(I was trying to convince myself that she went nothing beyond holding hands with that jerk…..TAT). But towards the last few episodes, I felt slightly better (only very slightly) about Shota since he did change to become a slightly better person.

Although it’s a cruel twist of fate, but I do have to admit that Akari probably wouldn’t be where she is today (being able to study to fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher and to be free from debt) if it wasn’t for Shota. If she had been with Aoi back then, it isn’t hard to imagine that they might have broken up because of stress from her financial issues and all (we do have to take into account that Aoi himself is not earning a lot of money unlike Shota who is a doctor).

Furthermore, Shota must have felt somewhere in his heart that it was wrong of him to have tried to come between Akari and Aoi. That is probably why he kept the manga book and Akari’s letter for all this time. Along with that, he also has to deal with his own insecurities about her ever going to know about his deeds, about his own guilty conscience and about their relationship in general. He still somewhat paid for his own actions although probably not in the way that many of us would have felt fully satisfied with.

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2. Weak and draggy plot

What I didn’t quite like about the drama is that the plot seems too weak to base the entire drama upon. There are quite a few parts of the drama that can be skipped without affecting how you interpret the story, so I feel that the drama could have been tidier if these parts are improved such that they add more value to the story. Although the drama did try to spice things up by including some stories for the side characters (Kouhei trying to woo Aoi’s sister, Akari trying to locate her father, Kokone who faces a similar situation as Aoi and Akari) but some of these side stories felt more like a device to drag time instead of adding more value to the story.

3. A nice portrayal of friendship + lovable side characters

The thing that I appreciate about the drama is the way they portray friendship. Kouhei is friends with both Shota and Aoi and he tried to be fair in his friendship with the both of them. I liked how he supported both of them and tried to spur them to give their best (encouraging Aoi to be more frank about his feelings with Akari, encouraging Shota to go fair and square with Aoi and to apologise to Akari for his deeds). I suppose the character that I liked the most in the drama is actually Kouhei? I also appreciated how they portrayed humans as shades of grey. While Shota tried to prevent Akari’s dad from contacting her ever again, but I can understand from his perspective that he was in his own way trying to protect her from the fact that her father left her with the debt and had started a new family. While Aoi can be all self sacrificing and considerate, but he does have sides of him that are negative (eg. Being mean and behaving immaturely because he is jealous about Akari and Shota). This goes to show that nobody is completely good or completely bad which is a more realistic portrayal of human nature.

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Overall Rating

All in all, I would probably rate the drama as 6.5/10. It is ok for passing time when you are bored but it is probably not a drama that you would highly recommend or watch again. Sure enough, there are certain parts of the drama which I felt was quite relatable to. The male lead’s innocence towards romance and self sacrificing sentiments can also be quite cute at times. However, I felt that there is not much in the plot to hook you such that you will have the motivation to carry on watching the next episode, and the ending is still quite predictable. BUT if you like to watch romance dramas for the angst and a predicted good ending, then go ahead! This is the thing for you!

~ Admin SY

Moon River 明若曉溪 – Speed Review

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What are you saying – this isn’t a good drama??

Expectations: Sounds like the Hana Yori Dango (HYD) premise

Reality: Is a less dramatic, less exciting, less angsty, less romantic drama of a similar premise

Rating: 6.5/10

While the good news is that this drama is less melodramatic version of HYD, the problem is that it is just as lacklustre in many other aspects of the drama. While it has the feel of a TW-drama and the budget of a C-Drama, Moon River ends up right smack in the middle of nowhere.

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Surprise surprise and welcome to nowhere-impressive-dramaland

Although armed a rather extreme premise similar to HYD’s and a character like Xiaoxi, none of the exaggeration is utilised to much benefit – little exaggerated comedy, few dramatic romantic feels, not even the most basic angst of people from different social stratospheres getting together, letting good potential go to waste. That is not to say that the drama did not have its fair share of tropes – familial obligations, guardian angel admirer, antagonistic childhood friend in love with male lead and even a dramatic revenge plot.

At the beginning of the drama, novelty still existed in how the characters would be affected and changed by the school based events, especially since it still seemed loosely inspired by HYD. However, as time passed, even the plot’s happier undertones faded and were replaced with sometimes illogical train of reasoning for the main leads to react to supposedly dramatic but draggy and sullen plot progressions.

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I cry everytime too when the drama gets draggy.

There was also little character development to speak of that was impressive, if any. Perhaps it was because I was too busy skipping long inconsequential conversations, but there often seemed to be a lack of logic as to why the main couple had to face their acting-like-married relationship struggles despite their obvious mutual affection. But then again, I don’t even remember when did they start expressing that mutual affection (especially on Xiaoxi’s part). Few characters changed other than at most growing to accept Xiaoxi as an amazingly influential person that brought positive effects on the school’s life (even though school increasingly grew irrelevant as the episodes passed).

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There were some still interesting points in the drama such as some unexpected change of hearts and lack thereof. It probably is a good thing too (in some ways) that despite being in love, Xiaoxi’s dowdy style of dressing did NOT improve, nor did her personality drastically change as a result. Similarly, I was glad that they did not completely forget the aspects of action that only Xiaoxi’s character would reasonably be involved in.

All in all, a good way to kill time, with an okay beginning and an unimpressive ending. However, being of both TW and C-drama origins, it could have lived up to better expectations especially on the feels, if not characterisation that never truly came through even if the plot was lacklustre.

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When you finally finish a meh-drama so you can move on with life

~ Admin JY

(A not that comprehensive review/rambling for this drama)

Emergency Couple K-Drama Review

Disclaimer: *includes minor spoilers*

Rating: 7/10 (if you can make it past the first 6 episodes)

A decently entertaining k-drama that delivers the romantic feels and cute feelings expected of a romantic comedy, but only if you can make it past the first 6 episodes… :/

SUMMARY + BASIC PLOT PROGRESSION

Episode 1:

As quickly as the young medical student acted by Choi Jin Hyuk (CJH) as Oh Chang Min and nutritionist Oh Jin-hee played by Song Ji Hyo (SJH) fall in love and get married, they also start to argue and reduce to emotional messes. Gone is the initial sweetness that lasted for about 5 minutes in their marriage scene. Instead, the highlight becomes a huge harrowing fight between them where they exchange shouts, screams and childish threats, the result of their deteriorating relationship. While this may have been an attempt at being comedic, the result is actually negativity between the couple that overwhelms any previously present positive vibes between them.

With their childish 5-year old behavior, SJH’s pathetic state of affairs and CJH’s self-centeredness amidst their desperation, it is no wonder they got divorced. With little explanation on context of their desperation, it was hard to find reasons to support their eventual expected reconciliation at all. It would have been perfectly fine for the plot to stop here. However, of course, years after, they meet each other awkwardly with the same off-putting immaturity between them.

With the lack of more appealing drama options at the time, I struggled on.

Episode 2-6:

For a romantic comedy, Emergency Couple does not deliver on its namesake for a surprisingly long period of time. Instead, it is filled with drama, bitchiness and world building.

For most of episodes 2-6, the focus is placed on Oh Jin-hee as she faces challenges adapting to her new work environment, facing discrimination for being an older but not exceptional student along with her own personal and family affairs. Amongst her challenges are not screwing up in her work and getting fired, specific hospital emergencies, dealing with her family problems, and facing Chang-min and her dreaded ex-mother-in-law.

In this period of time, Chang-min as a character is generally sidelined, hence removing the possibility of romantic interaction between the two anymore. In fact, Chang-min’s character becomes somewhat antagonistic due to his childish pettiness, in a bid to protect his own interests. There is little room for redemption of his character at this point since he is solely focused on acting like an arrogant, rich and pampered high school student.

Add to this equation his crazed protective mother. As one of the most immature and unreasonable mother characters in K-dramas I have watched to date, Chang-min’s mother seemed to be able to throw tantrums at any given moment, with her childishness on par only with her supposed level in high society. Thus, it was somewhat inevitable for Jin-hee to gain audience’s sympathy despite her unsophisticated quirkiness. This turned out to be my main if not weak reason for continuing the show – to watch Jin-hee become the underdog.

The characters of the other fellow doctors are also established in during this arc, such as the Head Doctor (for lack of a better term) and the other interns.

Episode 7-9

If you have made it this far in the show, congratulations, you would have finally seen some light near the end of the tunnel.

Thanks to the development of relationship of the Head Doctor (2nd male lead) with SJH/Jin-hee, CJH/Chang Min’s character has finally changed for the better as he slowly notices his lingering feelings for SJH. For this reason, his character’s bastard-like personality slowly changes to be nicer, or at least more like a funny but angry lover who doesn’t admit jealousy.

At the same time, other relationships between the characters form, including potential alternative pairings for both CJH and SJH with the supporting characters. In addition, SJH’s character has finally made some breakthrough in gaining confidence as a doctor even though she may not have escaped trouble completely.

Episode 10-13

From Episode 10 onwards, Emergency Couple finally functions truly and reliably as a typically good K-drama. This short arc in particular is where the cute and romantic interactions and feels come in and in full swing.

CJH evolves into a caring and very sweet (unofficial) boyfriend even as his relationship with SJH and her feelings remain unclear. He unexpectedly acknowledges his feelings upfront for SJH quickly and declares “war” with the 2nd male lead as well. Their interactions also allow them to reflect on their earlier marriage, with flashbacks that shed light onto their previous relationship.

Episode 14 -21

Here on out, the drama arguably descends from its climax and enters an arc of falling action of sorts. With the main characters’ relationships status still unclear, SJH’s potential feelings for the 2nd male lead and CJH’s familial crisis, the hope and happiness of episodes 10-13 die down.

CJH begins to question his suitability for SJH should they reconcile (despite having asked a few times already) as he struggles with familial expectations and problems that will eventually change his mother’s attitudes for the better. It is ironic that CJH does not acknowledge SJH’s feelings even when she decides to finally agree to reconcile with him. It is also interesting that the 2nd male lead’s chances are not destroyed or subtly removed completely until near the last few episodes.

Fortunately, the crisis and tragedy-arc is not as longwinded as the first arc. After CJH and SJH agree to get back together, they enter another phase of sweet romantic interactions, even with SJH’s nephew (Baby Gook). From the family crisis, CJH’s mother eventually shows more likeability as a character as she mellows down from the incident and has made it clear that she will not be interfering with their relationships anymore and even formed a subtle understanding with SJH’s mother.

Meanwhile, all the other couples and supporting characters either do get pairings or seem to get paired up with someone else by the end of the show. While the ending is predictable in a decent way, thankfully there was no rush for CJH and SJH’s characters to both get married as a way to end the show.

That’s all for today.

~ Jerna (@jernahorizon)

For sources of GIFs and more drama content, check out our Tumblr @ shoujoinvestigation.tumblr.com!

Healer K-Drama Review

RATING: 2.8 stars out of 5 OR 6.5/10 score

Who doesn’t like the occasional eye candy? I admittedly am still in a drama rut, but out of curiosity, I went to find out about what shows Ji Chang Wook (JCW) was in after seeing him in a mainland China variety show. Although I started because Park Min Young (PMY) was also in it to give the show more credibility in acting props, I probably stayed for JCW in the end.

 

Summary:

Arguably a media-based alternative to City Hunter, Healer predictably features a handsome male lead at odds against the elite and bigshots of society. Using questionable, shady but cool methods, the main characters seek truth and justice from the secrets stemming from their parents’ generation.

Due to the similarities between City Hunter and Healer, there will be plenty of City Hunter comparisons, for better or for worse.

(Scroll to the bottom for a TL;DR :P)

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Story:

Just as Healer is a mystery to those who know him, the story begins with a lot of question marks as well as the audience is thrown into one action-packed job of Healer. The relationships between the different characters are then slowly established just as the fates of the main leads slowly become intertwined again. There is a certain air of uncertainty as a result to how the story would progress. How would the leads meet and get to know each other? How would their respective pasts relate to each other?

Although this would mean that Healer’s plot and pacing would be less action-packed and tightly woven than City Hunter’s, I highly appreciated this aspect of Healer. Healer is able to let the audience experience the story and atmosphere the same way that the characters would – with uncertainty and questions. In addition, the absence of City Hunter’s parental revenge plot as the main plot driver spared the audience from unnecessary angst, pain, darkness and heavy hearts, enabling Healer to become a more light-hearted drama.

The uncertainty and constant air of mystery creates a good atmosphere for slowly revealing the antagonists that the characters are against as a result. Moving towards unknown circumstances and unknown enemies, the audience would be intrigued to see what strategies and methods they would use in their counter-attacks. After all, the concept of using the media to attack as well as protect oneself is not commonly explored in dramas.

Healer also performs well in allocating good focus to each of the main characters and the antagonists, hence diversifying the perspectives of viewing the circumstances given individual character’s stakes and attempting character development.

In terms of plot progression, Healer was fairly good in providing rising action and new sources of conflict, albeit not providing much clarity on the motivations behind it necessarily. However, over time, I felt like the rising action soon plateaued and the climax that should have come never did.

Similarly, the potential that Healer had slowly got diminished as the drama end drew closer. With more mysteries than answers, it is no wonder that rushed plot holes were eventually resorted to in order to end the story on a good note.

While my enjoyment of the show never reached that of true fangirl-ing, it was greatly affected as the drama soon drew to a close and the last final showdown arc was disappointing to say the least. There were many aspects of the story that I questioned throughout the last episode which either confused me or made no sense. In some ways, it was also anticlimactic for the characters in how their relationship with each other suddenly made up and got better. However, those details will be spared here to avoid spoilers.

As for action scenes, not being an expert in action choreography, I will keep it brief. Having less sources of action than City Hunter, there is admittedly less action and fighting scenes in Healer than City Hunter. Most of the fighting is hand-to-hand combat in which Healer rarely ever fails. In contrast to the raised stakes and hastened heart rates when City Hunter’s life hangs in the balance, Healer’s action scenes seem less exciting since there is little threat to Healer’s physical existence.

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In terms of romantic development, the aspect of shoujo feels will be discussed in the last section of Enjoyment & Feels.

In terms of plot however, Healer is not spared from its fair share of cliches and tropes. Much of its romantic interaction stems from a very predictable set that dramas often use. This includes saving the damsel in distress (very often) to being saved from complete emotional breakdown only by the female lead, and the unexpected childhood relationship shared between the leads (to increase their fated-to-be-ness). Thankfully while tropes are in full use, they are still not used to the point of frustration or leaving a bad taste in one’s mouth.

With a relationship that is rather enshrined in tropes, Healer takes a lot of hints from City Hunter in terms of romantic development. This begins with protecting the girl with your amazing alter ego to getting close to her in real life in a work environment, out of curiosity and also by fate making them both cross paths time and again. This curiosity and eventual infatuation would then conflict with their alter ego’s position whereby they would have to try to distance their alter egos from their loved one in vain.

It should no longer be a secret that Healer will eventually reveal his identity or acknowledge it to the female lead, but unexpectedly Healer is able to make some minor changes to this scene from City Hunter. Due to the lightheartedness of this show, there are probably more scenes of romantic interaction in absolute numbers than in City Hunter. However, rather than being dispersed throughout the show in City Hunter, my qualm with Healer is in how the romantic development is concentrated in specific arcs rather than slowly nurturing support for their relationship. There was even a point in the drama where their romantic relationship was so strange and odd that their actions could have been interpreted in a completely satirical way to portray them as delusional.

On a personal note, although both leads did their roles well, I did not feel the chemistry between them as a couple.

Nonetheless, the romance between Healer and the female lead should still be notably commended as it includes GOOD COMMUNICATION!!! (*claps for you*)

This is because Healer spares audiences from the unnecessary angst and frustration from the stereotypical eye-roll-worthy scenes. Namely, this would be the typical act of “leaving your loved one for their own good” without a proper explanation even after getting together. Hence, the loved ones are left in the dark about the life-threatening circumstances the main character face alone, which may or may not cause misunderstandings (which I’m sure City Hunter had). Instead, the female lead acted by PMY is kept in the loop when it comes to important decision-making after their getting together, and provides emotional support to JCW in times of desperation.

Altogether, Healer is City Hunter’s less-intense substitute in which 30% of City Hunter’s action would be replaced as 15% light-hearted comedy and 15% more attempted character development and romantic interaction (which will be discussed later).

 

Healer V.S. City Hunter Similarities:

  • Character mold for male lead
  • SAME FEMALE LEAD ACTRESS
  • Romantic role of female lead towards emotional strength of male lead
  • Parental generation feuds/struggle/call to revenge
  • Fight against the elites and echelons of their society (albeit different industries)
  • Male Leads’ fathers are no longer alive
  • Male leads’ mothers are alive, but their relationship is estranged (for various reasons)
  • Helpful older sidekick/advisor –> Ahjumma in Healer and Ahjussi in City Hunter
  • The romantic sitting-in-bus scene reminiscent of City Hunter
  • Male Leads’ “bat-caves”: Healer’s is more lazy and abandoned while City Hunter’s is more amazingly modern and rich
  • Keeping distance away (in alter ego identity) from female lead to “protect her” form harm, but ends up protecting closely anyway
  • CHARACTER DEATH to raise stakes
  • Complicated truth behind parentage

There’s probably much more, but there is not much point in continuing the list now.

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Character

Being in the range of typical k-dramas (refer to: City Hunter), it is not surprising that character development is not its main strength. Honestly, all the characters in Healer have remained generally 2-dimensional stereotypes and molds in my impression. However, oddly enough, there were aspects of Healer’s characters that made it slightly more unique. For instance, some of its characters had somewhat more unusual character molds and hence actually had more potential for realistic portrayal even if that potential was not realized.

In general, all the characters are fairly likable, or at least not hated on, from the main characters to the antagonists themselves. There are visible attempts at character development that should be commended upon. From creating tragic backstories for the main leads to giving the perspective of the antagonists, Healer does well in giving balance to all the characters’ roles in the story. Unfortunately, “attempts” is the key word as these attempts seem incomplete and lack depth to be truly impressionable and break free from stereotypes as described below.

 

JCW: Healer – City Hunter’s Alter Ego

Simply: the cool, handsome, ultra-skilled but sometimes awkward source of comedy

A mystery from the start, Healer’s origin and motivations are unclear, except for the fact that he practically wants to be a hikkikomori on an uninhabited island he wishes to purchase (as revealed in the first episode introduction) using his earnings from dealings as Healer. And then you wonder “What does owning an uninhabited island as a goal have much to do with the plot/Healer (as a character)?”

(Seriously, dude?)

The answer is: It doesn’t. Perhaps it was an attempt to show character development in Healer’s motivations (aptly compared in GIF form on Tumblr) as it changed in the show, but I did not personally feel it. (GIF set found here: http://itsloveitsokay.tumblr.com/post/110835451058/e01-vs-e20)

Generally, I don’t have the strong impression that Healer had strong character development of any kind. While he faced challenges and problems as the main character, it is hard to say that he actually experienced much difficulty overcoming them. Rather, he more or less always coolly saved the day or damsel in distress even if there was some slight hiccup.

Unlike in City Hunter where Lee Eun Song often faced life-threatening situations, Healer’s greatest threat was in fact the possibility of revealing his identity to the world, the police and any other people who wanted to hunt him down or attempted threats to his loved ones. The irony is that when it did eventually happen, the threat that it posed seemed to be swept under the carpet. :/

The greatest appeal of Healer was perhaps how it extracted some of the fun concepts from City Hunter and took the opportunity to maximize its potential, namely the necessity to dress up in different outfits and act with different personalities. Hence the existence of 2nd alter ego Park Bong Soo, Healer’s undercover identity to work at the third-rate media company where the story unfolds.

    

Compared to City Hunter where Lee Eun Song’s personality remains cool and charming no matter in real life or as City Hunter, Park Bong Soo was well-utilized in Healer as a source of comedy and plot mechanism to let the main characters have more interaction with each other.

Ji Chang Wook hence earned his fair share of eye-candy points with his performance as the cute, bumbling, weak and awkward Park Bong Soo while balancing his cool, capable but lazy real identity as a 宅男 (shut-in/hermit guy), *cough* I mean, Healer.

Another less prominent personality that JCW undertook was the punkish, unknowing, happy-go-lucky Seo Jung-hoo (Healer’s real name) that supposedly returned from abroad and got into contact with their old family friends (from the first JCW gif).

JCW even got a chance to show his acting props with an emotional arc as well when the necessary character death is utilized to pull emotional heartstrings.

In general, while JCW’s performance was pretty good and convincing, the character of Healer and his many other alter-egos were limited by standard character stereotypes and clichés such as having only the female lead be his “weakness”, only revealing his “true self” to her and being completely invincible and infallible.

PMY: Chae Young Shin – The (Chosen) One

Simply: “bright/cheerful and mediocre, less-skilled but unique sunflower in the ocean of other people” female lead.

It is hard not to compare Healer with City Hunter thanks to the added fact that both female leads were played by Park Min Young… Thankfully, there have been changes made to the female lead’s role in the show compared to Healer.

While in City Hunter, PMY’s Nana character was truly an outsider from the entanglement brought in by her love for the City Hunter, Chae Young Shin in Healer is a pivotal character in the storyline where her involvement is essential.

In the beginning, CYS is portrayed as a cheerful, optimistic and ambitious young reporter, but with mediocre skills, qualifications etc. However, it soon becomes increasingly clear how incredulous and unique her background truly is, not only with her biological family but also her upbringing in her foster family.

However, despite some unique attributes given to her in that respect, CYS’s character also lacked good character development despite its potential. For example, CYS’s fear of watching violence not only left unanswered questions onto her childhood experiences but also became the excuse for Healer to swoop in and save her without outright describing CYS as “weak”.

Although there were attempts to show character development in her becoming a better reporter, those changes were not particularly significant in my opinion in changing how she would be as a character throughout the show. Even though she became more capable in terms of reporting skill, it is hard not to consider it something that was “bestowed” upon her by the two male leads of Healer and her daddy-long-legs equivalent, Kim Moon Ho who gave her plenty of guidance and opportunities before she rose to the challenge herself.

One commendable point for Chae Young Shin was probably how her character was naturally quirky especially with her interactions with Park Bong Soo that Park Min Young was able to showcase well. Not being the tall beauty stereotype, her character was given its imperfections through her quirks such as her strange behavior after getting drunk.

Compared to Nana of City Hunter, CYS is notably less capable. However, thankfully CYS’s character did not simply collapse into being only a romantic interest in the show like Nana eventually did in City Hunter. Where Nana was slowly becoming an annoyance and hindrance to City Hunter’s operations, CYS was able to play a useful sidekick next to Healer.

While not a completely useless or stereotypical female lead, Chae Young Shin started out as the persistent, persevering, optimistic and strange sunbae (senior) and pretty much remained the same until the end.

Kim Moon Ho– The Merlin

Simply: the expert, well-known power player in the societal context that decides to bestow his skills and influence to help the main leads which have become his “chosen ones”.

The brother of the shady antagonist, Kim Moon Ho is an unusual character type to expect in such a drama. KMH is introduced as a famous reporter who stubbornly pursues controversial stories despite repercussions on his company and superiors. His job is ironically saved by the backing of his brother who is also in the media industry even though KMH’s reporting seeks to expose secrets and dealings like those of his brother.

While KMH’s character role is first unclear beyond being the inspiration of CYS, it slowly becomes evident that he holds crucial information relating to the main leads as he soon becomes involved in their lives and realizes their true identity and relation to himself. From then, he becomes a protector character to a displeased Healer and an unknowing CYS.

KMH becomes the Merlin, or fairy godmother in fact, to CYS when he hears that her aspirations are to be a good reporter like himself. He takes her under his wing by pulling his brother’s strings, once again, to mentor her directly at her third-rate news company. With KMH as the main strategist in their media exposés, KMH becomes the leader in their makeshift combined attack against Healer’s enemies and the unknown bigshots driving the inequalities and injustices of society.

Despite the strange character type that KMH is, his character is appropriately flawed in ways that affect the plot. This includes his self-protectionist mentality, his secretive nature and his internal conflict between his family and justice given his position. KMH was also given opportunity to have some negligible character development in the form of his previous failed relationship.

As a whole, Kim Moon Ho was probably the most interesting character even though there was also minimal growth in his character as well. Although his character was not really likeable in my opinion, I enjoyed how the actor managed to inject charm into KMH.

Ahjumma – That Always Invincible Hacker

Simply: the reliable and highly important background technical support and advisor to Healer

I thought it would never come, but even Ahjumma has a backstory given to her!

Although she remained a mysterious figure whose skills and abilities were not discussed for 80% of the drama, her “origin” story provides a more realistic understanding towards her motivations. However, given the little screen time that Ahjumma has other than simply deftly typing away fantastic code commands into her computers, it is only understandable that Ahjumma’s backstory still leaves many questions unanswered about her.

This is somewhat of a pity to me because the development of her backstory would probably be quite interesting in my opinion.

The Korean Illuminati: Kim Moon Shik – The Shady Antagonist
+ The Elder – The Shadier Older Antagonist

For Kim Moon Shik, his existence as an antagonist was interesting thanks to his position in the parental generation secret, his troublemaking brother, as well as his love for his wife. Although he was one of early antagonists, his role as the instigator gradually faded out into that of an executor of orders as the Elder character showed up. Although his methods are indeed rather ruthless, when KMS’s motivations and past are revealed later in the story, his character’s internal conflict made him one of the more realistically written characters.

The Elder, put simply, is the head of the hinted equivalent of Illuminati in Korea. Headed to choose the leaders of the next generation and manipulate the greater society for their benefit, they would govern and rule others just like stubborn old men would – assuming they are always infallibly right and forcing others to listen to them because of their seniority (and power) alone. All powerful and all-controlling, the Elder with the Illuminati becomes the formidable opponent against the small band of people related to Healer by controlling a band of other shady lackeys meant to find, beat up and capture those people related to Healer and Healer himself.

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Music / OST
For this K-drama, I surprisingly was not able to find many popular fan videos using the OST on YouTube to give me a preview and trailer of the show. And after watching the show, the reason became more apparent.

K-dramas are probably known to be consistently good in the production of their Original Soundtracks and provide such a good curation of music that can be used for every emotion being squeezed out of the audience’s heart. Strangely though, this drama did not have a good OST to me.

Other than the first title track with no vocals, I did not find any of the songs memorable, and sometimes even found them somewhat annoying in the show. I was not inclined to find out what were the songs played at certain instances (except the Healer title soundtrack here) and only remember the existence of 2 other songs that were played in the drama despite its somewhat extensive listing.

While some songs were directed towards certain dramatic emotions, I did not appreciate the singing that became repetitive and in hindsight reminds me of melodramatic crying/moaning. For me, some of the songs in fact interrupted the otherwise good atmosphere created in the show which made me want to remove the soundtrack from a few scenes altogether.

For the one title song Healer that I actually appreciated, it caught me on first impression. It captured the cool, somewhat tech-related feel of the drama with its electronic sound, but provided bursts of energy and had its own rise-and-fall in mood that it created. Just as some fans had noted that they will remember Healer running across rooftops to this song, I will remember Healer with this song alone.

Other than that, it seems that Ji Chang Wook actually sang a song in the OST listing of this drama. Of course I have zero recollection of hearing anything that sounds remotely like Ji Chang Wook though. So perhaps when I am bored I should go find that song of his just to see if I remember hearing it at all.

Ji Chang Wook’s Healer OST Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPxI2WebjjE

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Feels & Enjoyment

Finally, it has come to the discussion of Shoujo Feels~. It’s no secret that I often watch dramas to satisfy my need for shoujo feels. Unfortunately, I would not consider Healer a very good source for it at all.

This is because for much of the first half of the drama, there is little romantic interaction and reason to support them romantically. For the little interaction they might have had, perhaps their chemistry as actors was insufficient for me too. As mentioned before, Healer has a major problem of distribution of romantic scenes in which they were mostly compressed into 1 episode specifically.

SPOILER (?) ALERT: The 10 minutes of compressed romantic interaction in a single episode did not earn much of a single internal squeal for me. Other than those 10 minutes, real romantic interaction did not amount to much. While they did have quite a number of kissing scenes, it seemed disappointing that their relationship had no development in other aspects to make me want to support them as a couple in the show. They even had a very similar romantic scene of sitting next to each other at the back of the bus, reminiscent of City Hunter even though it was completely unnecessary in this context.

It was more disappointing personally, having seen some clips of those romantic reactions well documented on Tumblr and having raised hopes that my feels would be satisfied.

However, apart from the lack of feels to enhance enjoyment, Healer was still fairly enjoyable to watch for its strength in plot (for the most part) and of course, Ji Chang Wook. With the increased comedy aspect of Healer, just watching JCW acting as a lazy shut-in or being bullied as Park Bong Soo was adorable. In addition, Healer added a component of romance that City Hunter had failed to include: the Meet-the-Parents session. Apart from JCW, much of the comedic relief otherwise came from the office co-workers to CYS’s father and family friend and their interactions, giving them good value as characters to be noticed.

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TL;DR: Story – Media-version of City Hunter, more comedy, more romance, less dark and serious

Characters – Somewhat different with good potential but still 2-dimensional

Romance – Meh. Not great, really.

Enjoyment – Not that bad, good for casual drama entertainment

In conclusion, Healer is fairly decent as a casual k-drama to watch. While its premise and romance are fairly cliché and predictable, its unique portrayal of plot and somewhat different characters give audiences something refreshing at the same time.

Apologies for the super long review. -.-”

~ Jerna (@jernahorizon)

Credits/Links to all the GIF sets used from Tumblr: 1, 2, 3, 4