Saturday, December 31, 2011

K-Drama Review: The Greatest Love, Ep 1-2

Contains spoilers for episodes 1-2

Aejung is a D-list celebrity in Korea. She was once the most popular member of a famous girl group called Treasure Girls, but few people remember her name ten years after the group disbanded. Aejung's beloved family mis-managed her money, so now she has to do small guest appearances on radio programs and variety shows to support them. On the other side of the fame spectrum is the action-adventure star Jin who is known by everyone and is actually in the running for some parts in Hollywood. When Aejung keeps crossing paths with Jin, she finds out that he's a very selfish person, but their accidental interactions keep spurring her popularity and getting her more variety show appearances, so she can't help but appreciate that.

For Jin's part, he hates how Aejung keeps unintentionally sabotaging his pubic image, but he's still a bit drawn to her--not that he'd let anyone know that. A massive pile-up of misunderstandings, horrible timing, and face-saving leads to comic gold for our stuck-up hero and kind, plucky heroine. And Aejung is about to be cast in a dating show like The Bachelor, so this could definitely get interesting.

Things I Loved: 1. Aejung. What a great heroine! In an American movie, she'd be played by Sandra Bullock or somebody equally likable. Aejung is such a realistic in-between character that I have to love her. She's a girl next door, but she's not dull. She has a certain purity about her, but she's isn't all doe-eyed and cutesy. She's got a backbone and plenty of sass, but she only reveals them when necessary. She's brave, courteous, and yet flawed...why can't more heroines be like this?

Great Heroine? Or Greatest Heroine EVER?

2. The Meta-Reality and making fun of the entertainment industry. To me, it's always enjoyable to watch a show that pokes fun at or exposes the foibles of the entertainment industry, but this particular treatment of famous people is all the more funny for being set in Korea. Instead of performing songs at state fairs, like a D-list celebrity in America might, Aejung has to go on variety shows and perform crazy challenges like eating an entire bowl of noodles while riding a roller coaster. The things we do for money.

Note That the Bowl is Velcroed to Her Hand.

3. The supporting cast. They're all good at their parts and no one seems miscast.

Pil-Joo, Handsome Yet Socially Awkward Doctor.

Se-Ri: Beautiful Villainess and Former Bandmate of Aejung's.

Complaints: 1. Sometimes Jin pushes the man-boy act too far. Mostly, he's hilarious when he moves from deadly serious to childlike glee, but at times the over-acting is just grating.

2. Aejung's wardrobe. She gets put in the most drab and unflattering outfits in the world, but this is to highlight how undesirable and tossed-away she has become. Even so...

Were Beige & Rhinestone Shoulder Pads Really Necessary?


Heartbeats: The Treasure Girls' hit song "Thump Thump" plays in the past when Jin is getting heart surgery. In the present, he has a special heart monitor that he checks often, but his heartbeat often races around Aejung. Due to anger, of course! Also, whenever he hears the song "Thump, Thump", his feelings toward her soften, and he doesn't know why. I don't know where the metaphor starts and ends, here. His literal heart and his emotional are somehow connected by his buried memories of Aejung's band singing about heartbeats.

Sympathy: Jin is one cold dude, but Aejung does manage to appeal to his better nature by comparing her embarrassing situations with his own current embarrassments.

Cultural Observances:

Crying at awards shows: If you're a K-pop star and you win an award at one of the many, many, many awards shows, you are required by law to weep in public. The writers make fun of this by having Aejung cry in the past when the Treasure Girls win a competition.

Respecting your elders: In Korean society, this is way more important than in America. In this show, we see how awful it is when younger people do not show kindness to their elders, such as when a young girl group looks down their noses at poor Aejung when she greets them. They are her hoobaes (her juniors in the entertainment industry) and she is their seonbae (senior), and it's really disgusting when they refuse to acknowledge her.

Rain: Not the weather phenomena, but the K-pop R&B singer.

This Guy. 

They never outright mention Rain, but Jin is kind of an indirect parody of him because Jin wants to be in an American movie called Ninja Assault, while Rain was in an American movie called Ninja Assassin. Jin watches the American comedian Stephen Colbert on TV, while Rain has appeared as a guest on the Colbert Report.

New Words: "Uljima" is "don't cry", and "eotokke" is "how", but more like "what should I do/what do I do, now"?

Episode Evaluations: Hilarious and smartly written, but I won't be reviewing any more episodes of this show.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

K-Drama Review: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Ep 15-16

Read episode reviews for:

Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 1-2
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 3-4
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 5-6
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 7-8
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 9-10
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 11-12
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 13-14

Contains Spoilers for episodes 15-16

Thanks to Chi-Soo's dad's interference, Kang-Hyuk has to decide whether to give up Chi-Soo, his baby half-brother, or give up the ramyun shop and Eun-Bi's future. Eun-Bi herself finally understands that she's not really whole without Chi-Soo and that she's afraid of losing him. And at least she does acknowledge to Kang-Hyuk what an amazing person he is and how lucky she was to have him as a friend, even though she couldn't feel anything more.

Chi-Soo's dad has been a sweet fellow until now, but he is finally putting his foot down and getting tired of his only son turning his back on the family corporation. This is actually great for Chi-Soo's personal development because he's learning that he can't do whatever he likes whenever he likes, and he can't ignore important people like his family. He also owes loyalty to his makeshift family at the ramyun shop, which makes for a divided heart.

Enjoy the final episodes of this super-awesome drama! It has action, intrigue, comedy, sweetness, bravery, rescues, and all loose ends are tied up perfectly! Almost nothing about the ending went the way I expected, and I mean that as a compliment. The writing staff took a flurry of plot cliches and made them absolutely non-cliche. *slow clap*

And a final word of caution: if you don't get misty-eyed while watching these episodes, it's because you have a heart of iron and eyes of steel. Kleenex. You will need it.

Things I Loved: 1. The opening fairytale/dream sequence in episode 15. It encapsulates the difficulties inherent in Eun-Bi/Chi-Soo, and uses comedy to highlight what would have to change for them to work longterm.

Princely, But Somewhat Useless

2. Brotherly Love. Kang-Hyuk is the best big brother ever, and does what is best for Chi-Soo even when baby bro is acting snobby or rude. He even goes and fetches Chi-Soo when he's lost, and gives him advice about how to treat Eun-Bi.

Give Him a Good Ending, Writers!

3. Eun-Bi practicing singing "Good Day" by IU because she wants to serenade Chi-Soo. I know this song, so it's even funnier listening to Eun-Bi try to croak it out in front of the mirror in a forced cutesy fashion.

I Love You, Girl, But You're No IU.

4. Eun-Bi in a bridesmaid dress and fur wrap, brandishing a plunger while leading a mob of protesters. I'm not even going to provide context for this one. Watch it for yourself.

Because it is Glorious!

Complaints: None. This finale is dipped in pure televised gold.


Kid vs. Adult: Chi-Soo finally has to act like an adult, and the transition is hard for him. Kang-Hyuk highlights this difference when Chi-Soo wants to know what will happen if they lose the ramyun shop and he replies,  "Do you want the adult answer or the kid answer?" Chi-Soo requests the kiddie answer, followed by the grown-up answer. Chi-Soo really does start his full progression toward being a true adult when he becomes willing to give up everything he wants to keep Ba-Wool and Hyunwoo safe and happy.

Love and Money: This theme is awesome. Chi-Soo, who never met a problem he didn't throw money  at, is now willing to live in an impoverished fashion if that's what is best for his friends. He won't ask the guys for cash so that Eun-Bi won't find out and worry about him, and he has finally admitted that sometimes ready cash cannot solve life's most important issues. He asks So-Yi why she used to date him and she honestly replies that she enjoyed the expensive presents and wouldn't have dated him if he was poor. Chi-Soo says he knows Eun-Bi will still care for him without his fortune, but that fact bothers him too.

The Heartbreaking Walk-Away: In dramas, if you love someone you've got to let them go and you have to make it look convincing. Chi-Soo pulls an Edward Cullen with Eun-Bi when he says that she's all wrong for him and that he never cared for her. But anyone in their right mind knows he's lying because he's on the verge of tears while shoving her hand away.

Bathroom jokes: Holy cow, I never expected the show to carry on with its running gag about constipation this long. But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't funny.

Mirrored scenes: Chi-Soo's dad blows up for once and calls his son a brat, then Kang-Hyuk calls him the same thing soon afterward.

Chi-Soo kept the Pororo penguin blanket from episode 5-ish, and still sleeps under it when he's lonely! It's probably the only warm and human object he owns--everything besides this child's blanket is totally expensive and totally replaceable.

The entire last 10 minutes of the final episode is a series of mirror scenes that make you remember all the great times you've had with the show.

Cultural Observances:

New words: "Uri" is "we" or "us" and Eun-Bi starts talking about herself and Chi-Soo in terms of "we".

English Bonus:

English songs: "Creep" by Radiohead plays when Chi-Soo learns that his presence at the ramyun shop is about to ruin everyone's lives and their source of income. It's the unedited version of "Creep", no less. Harsh much, soundtrack? When everyone is decorating the Christmas tree, "Jingle Bell Rock" plays in the background, though it's clearly a K-pop artist singing in English. When Chi-Soo is at the coffee chop with So-Yi, "She Will be Loved" by Maroon 5 plays. "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" plays at the opening of the finale.

Random words: Ba-Wool says "jingle bells" and "musicals". Hyunwoo says "Christmas"...well, really everyone in the cast says "Merry Christmas" at some point. Eun-Bi says the number "two". Chi-Soo writes "no problem" on a Christmas card.

Episode Evaluations: These are funny, dramatic, and touching episodes from top-notch series. I do not want for this to be over. But there are rumors of a season 2, so yay!

For K-Drama fans: If there's a show you'd like me to check out, leave a suggestion in the comments. I'd love to find the next awesome Korean drama to fall for and review.

Monday, December 26, 2011

K-Drama Review: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Ep 13-14

Read episode reviews for:
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 1-2
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 3-4
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 5-6
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 7-8
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 9-10
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 11-12
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 15-16

Contains Spoilers for episodes 13-14

Kang-Hyuk has finally admitted to Chi-Soo they are secretly half brothers with the same mother, due to a complex plot twist involving remarriage, terminal illness, and moving to and from Japan and back again. (Hey, I don't write this stuff, I just review it.) Now the complex character interaction is even more complex-ier. Chi-Soo and Kang-Hyuk are bonding in an odd sort of way, but they're still romantic rivals and Chi-Soo thinks Kang-Hyuk is out for money. Chi-Soo rains down insults, Kang-Hyuk starts removing doors from their hinges, Eun-Bi can't make a decision between other words, the competition is so on.

But Chi-Soo's dad is very concerned about his son's ongoing involvement with Eun-Bi and with the ramyun shop. Chi-Soo is a prince and his dad doesn't want him to risk hurting himself by hanging out in a world where he doesn't belong. When Chi-Soo insists on spending all his time with Eun-Bi (and he also seems to secretly enjoy spending time with his half-brother), his dad pulls out all the stops to ensure that Chi-Soo will climb back up to his ritzy hotel home and never go slumming again. The guys in the series have to make really big decisions because Kang-Hyuk has to choose between being a good brother and being a good potential match for Eun-Bi and Chi-Soo has to decide whether leading a happy life is worth doing without all the frou-frou of his dad's world.

Also...Kang-Hyuk is no longer comic relief. He's part of some funny scenes, but he's nearly 100% serious, which is just amazing.

Things I Loved: 1. Ba-Wool. His overprotective baby brother act is so endearing, and while he used to get fighting mad over his girlfriend So-Yi, now he's more likely to get fussy when people mess with his favorite "big sister" Eun-Bi. And his hand drawn flowchart of the Cha family's insane backstory is priceless.

Plus, His Hair Comes Right Out of "Grease" the Musical.

2. The Meta-Speak and Genre Awareness. Eun-Bi talks a lot about how unpleasant it is to be involved in a love triangle. Chi-Soo asks Kang-Hyuk, "Have you never watched K-dramas? The girl always ends up with the bad boy who has money", meaning himself. Kang-Hyuk and a friend joke about being secret relatives, which plays into him being actual secret relatives with Chi-Soo. The local ajummas (middle-aged women) say that Eun-Bi's life looks like a TV drama, then they mention several silly tropes that she is living out on a daily basis.

Also, when Eun-Bi worries about her love life, Dongjoo continually reminds her to "Just enjoy it!" which feels like the show's writers telling the audience not to flip out too much over this love triangle--just have fun with the show and don't get too angry with any of the characters. It's all done in fun. No hearts were broken in the filming of this drama.

Especially Not So-Yi's--Though She's Getting There

3. Eun-Bi's makeover for the dates. She looks so smooth and classy, and I think the audience appreciates it more because she hasn't shied away from looking grungy, athletic, bookish, or casual--now that she gets to look sophisticated, it feels like she earned the right. Eun-Bi is a knockout!

As GD and TOP Would Say, Aju Ppeogigayo.

4. Chi-Soo's unfathomably literal thought processes. Eun-Bi tells Chi-Soo that he shouldn't date her because he's like a lion, she's like grass, and lions can't eat grass. He is stricken for awhile, but then he shows up at her house in the middle of the night to let her know that a websearch reveals that actually, lions CAN eat grass. Ha! This guy simply cannot comprehend wordplay or figures of speech, not even in his native language. It's terribly cute.

My Internets Have Proven You Wrong, Milady.

Complaints: 1. That crushed water bottle prop is overplayed. Chi-Soo dramatically crushes his empty water bottle to make a point, then Kang-Hyuk grabs and reinflates it, then Chi-Soo yanks it back and crushes it again! Poor water bottle can't catch a break.

2. Not enough nice things happen to Kang-Hyuk to compensate for the bad things. He needs comfort!

Someone Give This Man Some Chocolate and a Snuggie.


Using the wrong name: Whoa, this one really comes around full circle. Kang-Hyuk always called Chi-Soo by the wrong surname, but now it seems like it was his way of focusing on Chi-Soo as a person and not as someone who had a different father and came from a different family; the Cha family instead of Choi. Also, Chi-Soo used to call Kang-Hyuk the Japanese word for "onion", and now it turns out that Kang-Hyuk spent a large portion of his life in Japan and his dad was Japanese. (But then why is his surname Choi, like his mother's?)

Family ties: Chi-Soo and Kang-Hyuk's mother becomes a kind of stand-in for Eun-Bi, with Kang-Hyuk saying that no one in the Cha family knows how to truly love and care for a woman, because Chi-Soo's dad did a poor job of taking care of their mother. As it turns out, everything comes down to family experience, even tiny little details: Kang-Hyuk always loved Eun-Bi's strength and I thought he was just a progressive sort of dude. Actually, he's attracted to strong, healthy women because his own mother was sickly and died fairly young. And Chi-Soo's seemingly random hatred of women who cry in front of him dates back to his childhood, when he heard his mother crying every single night. Yikes.

Mirrored scenes: Both Ba-Wool and Dongjoo ask Eun-Bi "Are you bragging right now?"

Dongjoo and Coach have to keep ducking and hiding from Eun-Bi, since they're secretly dating and don't want her to know. They wonder aloud if she's on some tour of Seoul, with the way they keep running into her.

Kang-Hyuk always seems to be waiting in the same place for Eun-Bi when she walks home.

Chi-Soo's dad gives him the same speech as Eun-Bi about lions not eating grass.

Cultural Observances:

Inter-cultural dating taboos: Before Eun-Bi, Kang-Hyuk has only ever dated Japanese women because his father was treated badly for marrying a Korean woman instead of someone from his own country. I'm guessing that the stigma isn't so bad anymore, but Korea and Japan have a long and tense history.

Skinship: I think this word is a portmanteau of skin+kinship, and it means showing your closeness through touching. It's a little bit like the English term "PDA"(public display of affection), but it doesn't always have to be romantic and can mean just hugging your friends. Kang-Hyuk says that skinship with Eun-Bi is off-limits for Chi-Soo while they're both trying to win her heart. I guess he figures that Chi-Soo has an unfair advantage in this area, which he does.

K-Pop: During the Cha ramyun shop opening, "Gee" by SNSD (Girls' Generation) plays. Coach hears the music and asks if Girls' Generation is at the event.

New words: "Animyeon" is "either" or "or". "Moksori" is "voice", which Eun-Bi says wen she recognizes Chi-Soo's dad's vocie.

English Bonus:

Random words: Ba-Wool says "no problem", but pronounces it with like 5 extra syllables.

Episode Evaluations: Great character development for everyone, all around. I'm sad that there are only two episodes left.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

K-Drama Review: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Ep 11-12

Read episode reviews for:

Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 1-2
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 3-4
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 5-6
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 7-8
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 9-10
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 13-14
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 15-16

Contains Spoilers for episodes 11-12

Good grief. Way to make your audience want to cheer and cry at the same time, Flower Boy Ramyun Shop! As Episode 11 opens, Eun-Bi and Chi-Soo are finally getting their big epic kiss (yay!), but Kang-Hyuk sees it and is heartbroken (*sniffle*), and after he had just bought Eun-Bi a cute little present he saw her admiring, he gets abandoned at the movie theater. We just can't have any victories without also getting a punch to the gut, can we? The only thing that makes this more bearable is the fact that we know nothing about Kang-Hyuk or the depth of his thoughts or feelings--he's mainly in the show to be a complication, but he's still so sweet it's hard not to feel his (assumed) pain.

But all isn't settled. Chi-Soo still hasn't gained a full measure of emotional maturity and doesn't really know what to do with Eun-Bi, and he still isn't a kind or thoughtful person so he ends up insulting her instead of winning her over. Eun-Bi goes back to Kang-Hyuk who acts like he didn't see anything and steps up to be a very mature love interest. It only gets more complicated from there on, but rather than fighting Chi-Soo, Kang-Hyuk becomes his mentor. And Chi-Soo's dad still wants to buy out the ramyun shop, so their very "home" is under a bit of a threat, which leads everyone to ask themselves some important questions about how devoted they are to the life they've built.

Plus, there are epic 5-person Rock Paper Scissors battles, and whole scenes of the entire cast awkwardly making kimchi together. This show is made of win.

Things I Loved:

1. Chi-Soo delivering a long deprecating speech to Eun-Bi in a loving tone, then concluding his flurry of criticism with the line, "So, please stay by my side. Until I regain my senses." Horrible. Hilarious. Hilarrible. It's like the Pride and Prejudice insult/proposal scene all over again. But for all his meanness, the guy is blinking back tears when she walks away. You don't know whether to slap him or hug him.

I Am Just Like Mr. Darcy, Only More Insulting.

2. So-Yi showing that she really does care about Ba-Wool. The girl's heart is not made of stone!

Snow White Swan Princess Lily Flower Has Feelings!

3. Kang-Hyuk. Just...Kang-Hyuk. When Eun-Bi apologizes for leaving him behind, he just says "I'm thankful you came back to me". And he's this kind-hearted to everyone; he almost views Chi-Soo like a son and he worries about his welfare.

At Left: Chivalrous and Noble. Almost Tragically So.

4. The guys all humiliating Eun-Bi when she tries to explain to some neighbors why they're all living in the same house. Hyunwoo, Ba-Wool, Kang-Hyuk, and Chi-Soo respectively walk up and call Eun-Bi "Teacher, Noona, Wife, and Honey".

We're All One Big, Happy WEIRD Family

5. Chi-Soo and Eun-Bi's Big Epic Hug. It's actually better than the Big Epic Kiss from episode 10, because that was just a moment of passion--the hug is the very first example of Chi-Soo becoming a real human being and trying to love and comfort another person.

Pinocchio, You Have Now Become a Real Boy.

Complaints: 1. The Big Reveal about Chi-Soo's mom. Really? Did we have to do that? Isn't the story dramatic enough without getting ridiculous? Whyyyyy? And I think it takes away a little bit from Kang-Hyuk's awesome sweetness by giving him too clear a motivation for his actions.


Creating a Home/Family: Kang-Hyuk insists to Chi-Soo's dad that the ramyun shop is more of a home than a business. He says that his employees find the comfort of a home in this place, which absolutely seems true when you think of the family structure Kang-Hyuk provides for Ba-Wool, Hyunwoo, and even Chi-Soo. Everyone in the ramyun shop is missing one or more of their parents--Kang-Hyuk has no parents, Chi-So has no mother, while Eun-Bi's father is dead and Hyunwoo's father is missing, and Ba-Wool is a runaway. And yet they all take comfort in being together and forming their own home at the shop. Kang-Hyuk outright says that everyone at the restaurant is like his child and he'll continue to protect them as such. AWWW.

Romantic Competition: To Kang-Hyuk, not competing for Eun-Bi's affections shows his care for her and for Chi-Soo. To Eun-Bi, his not competing signals his indifference. Chi-Soo thinks he has won the competition regardless of what is happening at any given time.

Food as a reflection of identity/economic status: Chi-Soo says that since he can't eat ramyun (become a poor, lowly person), he'll turn Eun-Bi into someone fitting for him and make her eat caviar. He then proceeds to take her out for caviar, but she doesn't really like it. Eun-Bi uses food as a metaphor for her love life when she says that she's to old to want a quick romance that is easily replaceable (cup ramyun), but she'd like a solid committed love (ramyun cooked at home by an individual). She says Chi-Soo doesn't even know how to cook ramyun, which Chi-Soo takes in a literal way and decides to become a decent ramyun chef. Is there anything this guy does not take literally?

Mirrored scenes: Ba-Wool explains to So-Yi that Eun-Bi is his beloved noona (older sister/friend) in the exact same terms that So-Yi explained her oppa (older brother/friend) to him in a previous episode. In both instances, there is jealousy over the oppa/noona being mentioned.

Ba-Wool and Hyunwoo have a surprisingly deep conversation in the ramyun shop kitchen, while Ba-Wool brandishes a giant leafy onion. Next, Chi-Soo and Kang-Hyuk have a big convo in the kitchen, with Kang-Hyuk holding the onion.

Chi-Soo's dad asks Kang-Hyuk to fire Chi-Soo, and later asks Eun-Bi to rebuff Chi-Soo's romantic attentions.

Cultural Observances:

Love Confessions: I used to read a lot of manga/manhwa, so I was already familiar with the Asian pop culture trope called the "love confession", which is often referenced in FBRS. In American media, of course we do have plenty of scenes where a character confesses their love or admits "I like you" and so on, but these scenes don't quite seem to have the same impact and weight that they do in Japanese or Korean love stories. It's hard to say what the difference between the two types of revelations really is, but the fact that they call it a confession in Asian media certainly reflects the seriousness of admitting their feelings out loud. It really is like a proposal of marriage, but in miniature.

Wedding Preparations: Dongjoo says that when a person gets married, they're supposed to buy new outfits for their parents. First time I've heard of that custom.

Boy bands: Eun-Bi tries to have a discussion with Chi-Soo about the 90's boy band Shinhwa, but they're before his time.

New words: "Geokjeongma" means "Don't worry", which Chi-Soo tells his dad. "Banhae" is to fall for someone or to become infatuated.

English Bonus:

English language music: As Chi-Soo insults Eun-Bi, a wistful song called "Your Eyes" talks about feeling "lost in a crowded room". This song has a neat and weird international bonus: it's from a 1982 French film called La Boum (The Party) 2, but it is sung by British new wave group Cook da Books. Later, "You Are My Destiny" by Paul Anka plays. Where do the K-drama soundtrack people even find this stuff?

Random English words: Kang-Hyuk says that he and Eun-Bi are no "Romeo" and "Juliet". Thank goodness--that means this show won't end in a double suicide. Chi-Soo and Eun-Bi say "caviar", which I wrote down as an English word, but it's actually French. *facepalm* Kang-Hyuk tells his boys to "sit down" and eat. Chi-Soo says "Got it?"

Episode Evaluations: When I can compare anything to Pride and Prejudice, it's a good sign. And it's so, so, so funny!

Scripture Sunday: The Book of Romans

Romans is Paul's letter to the church--the group of believers in Christ--in Rome. It 's a theological book that explains a lot of Christian doctrine, and it can get rather complex at points. To me, the ideal way to understand Romans is with the aid of a good trustworthy commentary, though there are still plenty of nuggets of truth we can pick up for ourselves without added help.

One of the first well-known verses in Romans is 1:16, where Paul is discussing the possibility of coming to preach in Rome and says he is prepared to do so, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." I like this verse for a few different reasons. At the end, it reminds us that the salvation of Jesus was offered to the Jewish nation first. Christianity was for the Jews, but God extended his mercy to the Gentiles also, not as secondary citizens but as a kind of additional blessing to the family of believers. I also love the first part, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ", which people often quote by itself because it is so powerful. It's so easy to be shy about your faith in the Son of God, but we're called to be brave and forthright about it. There's no shame in loving the savior!

Chapter 2 has some good counsel about sin and hypocrisy. Verse 1 says, "Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things." There's no room for any human being to say that they are perfect while tearing down others for their sins. Gross sin and wrongdoing are easy to spot in others, but we rarely want to turn that same level of judgement on our own selves. Verse 6 reminds us that God "will render to every man according to his deeds". We will all get a recompense one day, and it will be in line with our actions on earth.

Chapter 5 has some beautiful points about Jesus' sacrifice for our sins: "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (5:6-8)"  This passage highlights that Jesus did not die for us because we were worthy of his sacrifice or because we had earned it or ever would earn it through good behavior--he took our punishment even when we had done nothing to deserve the exchange. He did it out of love, and all that remains is for us to accept him and live our lives for him. No fear of eternal punishment is left after we decide to serve Jesus; "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

Romans is an intense theological book, but it's also a very rewarding book to read.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

K-Drama Review: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Ep 9-10

Read Episode reviews for:
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 1-2
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 3-4
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 5-6
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 7-8
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 11-12
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 13-14
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 15-16

Contains Spoilers for episodes 9-10

Chi-Soo has come to the end of his wits, regarding Eun-Bi. He can't stop thinking about her and even though he sees her every day at the ramyun shop, he's not satisfied. But since Chi-Soo doesn't understand human emotions (he aways has to ask his best friend "What is jealousy? What is compassion? What is pity?), he doesn't know that he's in love with or at least severely infatuated with Eun-Bi. For her part, Eun-Bi finally realizes that she's in the middle of a love triangle and it dawns on her that Chi-Soo and Kang-Hyuk both like her, but she doesn't know how she feels about them at all.

Chi-Soo and Kang-Hyuk are having some epic verbal showdowns, but they don't do it when Eun-Bi is around. The tension continues unrelieved until Kang-Hyuk asks Eun-Bi for a date to the movies. But Chi-Soo is a bit of a stalker and can't help but follow them, so the triangle continues. Bwa-ha-ha.

Things I Loved:

1. New Perspectives. I really enjoy seeing scenes from the previous episode re-shown from different viewpoints. Now we know why Kang-Hyuk showed up out of nowhere and punched Chi-Soo in episode 8! This is a very clever filming technique, and it's really the only time when we get something akin to Kang-Hyuk's POV.

Does Not Get as Much Screentime as Chi-Soo

2. The wacky humor. At one point, I complained about the sort of slapstick comedy and cartoony humor that detracted from the seriousness of this show, but now I'm thankful for it. The audience would be either crying or biting their nails through the whole show if we didn't get these breaks to laugh. Bring on the absurdities!

This Guy's Hobby is Knitting. Even Funnier Than It Sounds.

3. At the hair salon, while Eun-Bi is feeling good about herself for connecting with Kang-Hyuk, 2NE1's song "I Am the Best" plays in the background.

"Naega chae chalaga!"

4. Finally, we get a kiss! After 10 episodes, it's ABOUT TIME. And literal bells ring, just like Eun-Bi was told they would back in episode 1.

1st Kiss Gets Bonus "Cool Points "for Being Beside a Motorcycle.

Complaints: 1. In Ep. 9 when you think the song-selecting plot device is going to bring some resolution to Chi-Soo/ doesn't! Argh! Foiled again.


The power of music: Chi-Soo remembers how Eun-Bi said that a certain song was basically the "our song" for her and Jaeho, so he tries to find the song. Chi-Soo's dad frequently listens to a song that was his "our song" with Chi-Soo's mother. Aww! Chi-Soo's dad deepens the concept by saying that the person you love always has music associated with them. Chi-Soo embraces this information as evidence that he does not love Eun-Bi because he doesn't have a song that reminds him of her.

Almost-magic: This is not a paranormal show, but there is the occasional sort-of supernatural element, like when the woman in episode one gave a prediction about bells ringing when Eun-Bi kisses her one true love. In Ep 9, we see more of this type of magic when Chi-Soo employs an iPod app that selects random songs, but the songs actually match his feelings for whichever person he's looking at. Chi-Soo uses the magical iPod app to determine his feelings for Eun-Bi, but this time, it's not 100% accurate.

Incorrect names: Kang-Hyuk has now called Cha Chi-Soo by the surnames Kim, Park, Jung, and Lee. Choi and Kwan are probably next.

Mirrored scenes: So very many. In Ep. 9, Kang-Hyuk emerges from a shop while drinking from a giant carton of milk with a straw, which is reminiscent of his first appearance in episode 3, when he gets a similarly jumbo sized drink.

Kang-Hyuk and Chi-Soo walk into the same music store to request a CD, hum the same song, and then offer similar compliments to the unhelpful music store clerk.

Chi-Soo gets a bloody lip from Kang-Hyuk's punch, which matches the bloody lip Kang-Hyuk had from Chi-Soo's punch, back around episode 5.

Eun-Bi has to ask Kang-Hyuk how old he is and he replies that he was born in the year of the Rooster. Eun-Bi has flashbacks to when she assumed Chi-Soo was older based on his zodiac year, but it turns out that although Chi-Soo and Kang-Hyuk were born in the same type of year, they are 12 years apart: Chi-Soo is 19 while Kang-Hyuk is 31.

Cultural Observances:

Chicken feet: Eun-Bi chows down on barbecued chicken feet like they're steak, while Chi-Soo, spoiled rich boy that he is, looks on in abject horror and says that this is not a part of the chicken that should be eaten.

New words: "Gasum" is "heart", and hearts are mentioned often. "Ddong" is "poop", and it is mentioned often as well. For some reason, this romantic series does not shy away from poop jokes. I think I hear Hyunwoo call Kang-Hyuk "sunsangnim" which is like "teacher" or instructor, but I don't get the connection, because he's Hyunwoo's boss, not his teacher. "Hajiman" is "but" or "however", a frequently used conjunction.

"Oppa" gets special attention again because So-Yi introduces Ba-Wool to another oppa of hers, but doesn't really make it clear whether she means a just-friends/older-brother oppa or an I'm-dating-this-person oppa. Ba-Wool assumes the latter, and is undoubtedly right. Later, Chi-Soo flies into a jealous rage when Eun-Bi describes Kang-Hyuk as her oppa, again, because the context is not clear and Chi-Soo guesses that she means the romantic oppa.

Despite Being Younger, I Thought /I/ Was Your Oppa?

English Bonus:

Random words: Eun-Bi says her ramyun is "hot" in English, and she says "thank you" to Chi-Soo who replies "no problem". Ba-Wool says "recipe". Chi-Soo says he likes "Paris Hilton', but it turns out that he doesn't mean the socialite--he has named his car Paris Hilton. A kpop song says "be happy!"

Episode Evaluations: So many confounded expectations. So many dramatic declarations. Yay!

Friday, December 23, 2011

K-Drama Review: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Ep 7-8

Read episode reviews for:
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 1-2
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 3-4
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 5-6
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 9-10
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 11-12
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 13-14
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 15-16

Contains Spoilers for episodes 7-8

Eun-Bi and her acquaintance/friend/business partner Kang-Hyuk are running the ramyun shop now, and they've hired three highschool guys as part-time helpers! Let's see what new troubles arise at the freshly remodeled shop.

It's nice that Chi-Soo is back to causing trouble for Eun-Bi. In the beginning episodes, he made her life very difficult, but then for Ep 5-6 he was basically at her mercy, though she didn't know it. Turnabout is fair play, and now Chi-Soo is complicating Eun-Bi's life again by working at her ramyun shop and interacting with her every day. Chi-Soo passes off his job at the shop as a way to learn managerial responsibility, but everyone knows that Chi-Soo has all the innate responsibility of a kindergartner--he's really at the shop to get his daily Eun-Bi fix. He still has a constantly morphing illness (which the audience knows is lovesickness), and now that his stomach isn't hurting any more, his eyes are in pain. The only cure for his eye-strain is to see Eun-Bi all the time.

And oh, the ramyun shop environment itself is grand--it's the ideal excuse to keep all the main cast in the same place. Eun-Bi is in her element, with lots of hard work ahead of her and lots of people to boss around. Ba-Wool and Hyunwoo are funny guys with contrasting personalities that make for plenty of laughs, and it's very charming to see the female clients of the ramyun shop giggling over their waiters. Dongjoo and Coach come visiting to give Eun-Bi some added support, and their scenes are great as well--I only wish there were more of them. Then there's Chi-Soo in the corner of the shop, magnanimously dispensing pickled radish as if he were signing autographs for rabid fans.

In other words, life is going well until Eun-Bi's ex-boyfriend Jaeho returns, throwing everyone's emotions into turmoil. Will Eun-Bi reunite with this jerk? Will Chi-Soo finally recognize his own feelings? Will Kang-Hyuk do anything besides be funny? Dun, dun, dun...

Things I Loved:

1. The balance of the character development. This show is really excellent at taking turns putting its characters under pressure, then easing up. Early on, Eun-Bi's life looked like one long shame spiral, but then she got her act together. Next, Chi-Soo became so imbalanced, he seemed ready for a mental ward, but then he regained his composure and his attitude. Now, it's Eun-Bi's turn to be off-balance and flustered. This is such a neat trick the writing team has mastered; make a character hilariously upset and then relieve the tension by moving on to a new victim target.

We Take Turns Being Crazy. Today is Not My Turn.

And if Eun-Bi and Chi-Soo take turns being the "martyr" of the cast, Eun-Bi and Kang-Hyuk take turns being the grown-up or the parent of the cast. See? Balance.

2. The new shop. It's clean and bright after the redecoration, and it looks like the kind of place you'd want to spend your free time. The set designers did a good job with the place.

Come for the Noodles, Stay for the Drama.

3.  Chi-Soo getting even with Eun-Bi by saying weird things to Jaeho about their fake relationship.

Has the Worst Make-Believe Boyfriend Ever

Seriously, Chi-Soo should get a special award for his inventive cruelty. He hates backpacks, but he buys a backpack specifically so he can emphasize to Jaeho that Eun-Bi is pathetically dating a highschooler. And in the scene where Chi-Soo is talking to Jaeho about Eun-Bi, I nearly died laughing when I recognized the song playing in the background as SHINee's "Noona Neomu Yeppeo" or "Older Woman, You're So Pretty". Someone in charge of the soundtrack definitely had a sense of humor.

4. The power of music. Episode 8 does some amazing things with exploring how closely songs are associated with our memories and with our feelings.

Complaints: Uh. Nope, surprisingly, no criticisms. I am let down by Eun-Bi's entertaining the thought of dating Jaeho again, but she adored him for years and years, so her one-time feelings for him have to be dealt with in order for her to progress as a person. It makes sense, but it still hurts to see her reading Jaeho's blog posts and trying to interpret everything he says as meaning something about her. Oh, girl. *air hugs*


Hyper-Femininity vs. Feminine strength: So-Yi is ultra-feminine, but while she's not a villain, I think she's the girl least worthy of respect in this show because she uses her charms to make other people do what she wants. On the opposite side of this spectrum, we hear Kang-Hyuk say he admires Eun-Bi most when she's using her strength, and I think the audience probably feels the same way.

Taking care of your friends: Everyone else in the show has done a good job of this, but Chi-Soo is trying to be a good friend for the very first time by having his father's guards look out for Hyunwoo. But this is a drama, so the attempt at caring for others goes drastically wrong and everyone blames Chi-Soo. But he gets an "A" for effort! His attempts to pay off Hyunwoo's dad's debts are rebuffed also.

Using names correctly: Kang-Hyuk intentionally forgets Chi-Soo's last name, but if he ever says "Cha Chi-Soo", like he ought to, he's trying to get Chi-Soo's full attention. And when Chi-Soo calls Eun-Bi "Yang Eun-Bi" instead of "intern" or "that woman", he's trying to have a sincere conversation. So-Yi always seems more sincere when she's calling Ba-Wool by his name instead of the manipulative use of oppa. Kang-Hyuk does still say "Kim Chi-Soo: and "Park Chi-Soo" and has now added "Jung Chi-Soo" to the repertoire.

Mirrored scenes: Eun-Bi is baking and her hair keeps falling in her face, so Kang-Hyuk ties it back for her. Kang-Hyuk does sweet, thoughtful things like this all the time and not just for Eun-Bi, so we expect it of him. But then he leaves and Eun-Bi's hair falls again, and someone starts to fix it for her, someone who's guy-bracelets look familiar... I think the wardrobe department for the show probably assigned Chi-Soo these certain bracelets just so that the audience would be able to recognize his hands when his face is not in the shot.

A Double Dose of Romantic Hair-Fixing

Cultural Observances:

Not very many new ones this time around.

New words: Ba-Wool calls Kang-Hyuk "Hyung-nim", which I think is a more polite way for a guy to say "older brother". It's very cute that he's putting Kang-Hyuk on the same older-sibling level as Eun-Bi. "kamsahamnida" is "thank you", and we hear it a lot at the shop as customers thank Chi-Soo for bowls of pickled radish. "Jagi" is like "honey" or "darling", and that's what Eun-Bi calls Chi-Soo when she's pretending they're dating.

English Bonus:

Random words: A K-pop song playing in the background contains the words "be happy". Kang-Hyuk says "chicken curry" in English, Chi-Soo says "no problem" in English, and Eun-Bi says "thank you" in English.

Episode Evaluations: It's more complicated than ever, with plenty of fun and intense emotions.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

K-Drama Review: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Ep 5-6

Read episode reviews for:
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 1-2
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 3-4
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 7-8
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 9-10
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 11-12
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 13-14
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 15-16

Contains Spoilers for episodes 5-6

Eun-Bi's world is turning upside down yet again. She has lost her student-teaching job and is staying at her father's house, wondering what to do with his run-down ramyun shop. Turns out, the shop isn't hers to deal with because her father has willed it to Kang-Hyuk (in a notarized document written in crayon!). And dear old dad also seems to have arranged a marriage for Kang-Hyuk and Eun-Bi, as evidenced by the fact that Eun-Bi is already being called "wife" by this sweet yet clueless guy.

Meanwhile, Chi-Soo is in serious emotional trouble, but he misinterprets his heartsickness over Eun-Bi as medical distress. The guy actually develops a wide variety of unpleasant symptoms that can't be traced to any source, but he knows that his breathing constricts and his head hurts when he thinks of Eun-Bi. He also has stomach pain, nightmares, and hallucinations. Aww. Chi-Soo's overreactions to his feelings, plus the fact that he doesn't understand that he has feelings, are incredibly funny. He gets very inventive and creative with his attempts to find Eun-Bi, but when he sees her practicing volleyball, he falls even harder for her--but still thinks he's got some weird disease. *headdesk*

Eun-Bi resents the ramyun shop and says she'd like to sell it, but Kang-Hyuk wants her to care about what happens to the shop because it represents everything her father worked for and believed in. Eun-Bi finally makes peace with the memory of her father, so she is getting calmer and more grown-up in some ways, just as Chi-Soo seems to be on the verge of a psychotic break, poor guy.

Kang-Hyuk decides to hire part-time workers for the ramyun shop, so Ba-Wool and Woohyun are drafted into working and living at the restaurant. Chi-Soo decides to take the job as well, so that he can cure his obsession with Eun-Bi by being around her all the time. (Yeah, we'll see how that works out for you, buddy.) Finally, finally, finally, the show's title makes sense and we have a ramyun shop that will be run by flower boys!

As for the side characters, Ba-Wool is still in love with So-Yi, and So-Yi is still seeing other people. I don't really know what this girl's problem is. Does she really not know or care when she's hurting Ba-Wool's feelings? Grr. I'm also hoping that Coach and Dongjoo get together because he certainly didn't seem happy to hear her engagement announcement.

Things I Loved:

1. Eun-Bi somehow not noticing that she's been sharing a house with Kang-Hyuk for four days. It is hilarious. She's suffering from grief, but seriously now. I real life, she would notice.

How could you not see this guy, Eun-Bi?

2. Re-visiting old scenes. I love how this show replays a scene from the previous episode, but then gives you more dialogue and more info than you had before. It's not as boring as a simple recap, and it refreshes your memory of what has happened before while shedding new light on people's attitudes because now you know the whole story, like with Chi-Soo and Kang-Hyuk's argument in the ramyun shop.

Chi-Soo humbly requests to be called by his full name!

3. Chi-Soo comparing Eun-Bi to a mermaid and saying her hair is like a unicorn's. Yes, a unicorn.

Likes mythical creatures and Eun-Bi. Sometimes confuses the two.


1. The confusing order of the scenes. I thought Chi-Soo was in a coma because you see him react to bright lights on the highway like he's going to crash, then the next thing you see is him underwater in a pool, looking like he's drowning. I thought waking up underwater was art-film code for "in the hospital, about to die". No, we've just skipped from a driving scene to a scene where he's at a pool, struggling to stay afloat.

2. The big shift between drama and comedy. Most of the time, I enjoy the broad humor and then the serious scenes, but sometimes there's a whiplash effect where the mood will be incredibly serious and then something goofy will happen.


Importance of Food: Eun-Bi's dad used to talk about how people basically need to eat hot, nourishing food in order to grow into better human beings. Ramyun was the equivalent of soul food for him, and it's the same situation with Kang-Hyuk. He loves to cook for people, and his argument with Eun-Bi is ended after she eats the ramyun he makes. Kang-Hyuk is happy while watching Ba-Wol eat his cooking, too.

Avoidance of proper names: Kang-Hyuk is often referred to by nouns that describe his height, like "the post" or "the column". I'm assuming that's somewhat rude in Korean, because they place such significance on what one person calls another. Chi-Soo sometimes calls him "Onion". I think Eun-Bi avoids Kang-Hyuk's name because she sees him as an annoyance, and Chi-Soo avoids his name because he sees him as a threat. Oddly enough, his actual name is used so rarely, I had to look it up on a drama website. In my head, I called him "Lee Ki Woo", the actor's name, because the character's name is spoken so rarely.

Kang-Hyuk also refuses to call Chi-Soo by his correct full name. It's Cha Chi-Soo, with "Cha" being the last name, but we hear him called Park Chi-Soo and Kim Chi-Soo, two common Korean surnames. It becomes almost a game to see which incorrect name Kang-Hyuk is going to assign to Chi-Soo next!

Moral responsibility: Eun-Bi keeps saying that Chi-Soo has no conscience and no concept of right and wrong. At one point that seemed to be accurate, but it's gradually becoming less true.

Female athleticism represents independence: Ba-Wool discovers Eun-Bi's old volleyball jersey and says that she was so much cooler back when she ruled on the volleyball court. He essentially says that her killer instincts and brave spirit were more apparent when she was playing sports and that being a proper career woman does not suit her. When Eun-Bi finally practices volleyball again, she remembers an important part of her past that she tried to leave behind. Also related to this topic, Chi-Soo may think that he prefers Eun-Bi when she's cowering, but he clearly likes her better when she's doing the athletic thing and not caring what anyone thinks of her. Women+athletics=awesomeness.

Yang Eun-Bi: Athlete. Noona. Hero.

Mirrored scenes: Kang-Hyuk entertains a little girl on the train, and makes funny faces to get her to smile. Later, the same little girl takes care of Chi-Soo by giving him her Pororo blanket and some candy.

Chi-Soo tries to create a mirror scene by getting So-Yi to put her hair in a ponytail like Eun-Bi's, but it doesn't work.

Ba-Wool and Chi-Soo have a fight in the ramyun shop that is identical to the fight they had at school, right down to the yelling and Ba-Wool getting trapped behind sliding tables.

Cultural Observances:

New words: "Chingu" is "friend". It's used when Eun-Bi discovers that Kang-Hyuk is the son of her father's friend. "Wae" is "why", and Eun-Bi says it all the time but draws the word out like wehhhyy? "Arasso" is like "I've got it" or "fine!" or "gotcha"--it seems to imply that you get the other person's conversational point.

Noraebang: Yay, I love seeing the activity! It's Korean karaoke, and it's apparently featured in every K-drama ever produced. When Dongjoo announces that she's getting married, Eun-Bi and Coach go to noraebang with her. Coach's hoarse bellowing of his song is brilliant.

Boy bands: Eun-Bi has an alarm clock with a piture of the 90's kpop boy band Shinhwa. In ep. 5, Ba-Wool finds an actual poster of Shinhwa in Eun-Bi's closet and announces that these guys were "the SHINee of their generation". I'm guessing that SHINee fans loved that reference.

English Bonus:

1. American songs. At the rather underpopulated club Chi-Soo visits with his friends, "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO plays.

The marquee at the theater Chi-Soo leaves advertises in English: "Romantic Moment at Sweetbox Premium" and "Sound Really Matters--Beats by Dr. Dre". Huh? Are these films that are playing, or advertisements of the theater sound system?

2. Random words. Eun-Bi accused Kang-Hyuk of being a "stalker" and says the English word. Chi-Soo still pronounces Manhattan as "Manhat". Eun-Bi says "bingo" when Kang-Hyuk figures something out. Chi-Soo yells at his friend Woohyun to come help him "right now"!

Episode Evaluations: It's getting good. Eun-Bi is fierce. Chi-Soo is crazy. Kang-Hyuk is...tall.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

K-Drama Review: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Ep 3-4

Read episode reviews for:
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 1-2
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 5-6
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 7-8
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 9-10
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 11-12
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 13-14
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 15-16

Contains Significant Spoilers for episodes 3-4

Eun-Bi's student-teaching is not going well and she is having more trouble than ever from her rich student Chi-Soo. Eun-Bi does not know how to read Chi-Soo's behavior, since he ignores her most of the time but seems to flirt sincerely on occasion. Eun-Bi's dad has a medical emergency and is hospitalized, and a man named Kang-Hyuk arrives in town. Kang-Hyuk is a young friend of Eun-Bi's dad, and he thinks that he needs to care of their ramyun shop and take care of Eun-Bi as well. The only real problem with Kang-Hyuk is that he seems to be selectively narcoleptic. When faced with a problem or an important decision, he will immediately lay down on the floor and go to sleep.

Eun-Bi's teaching troubles continue when she has to conduct a gym class where Ba-Wool is ready to kill Chi-Soo. Later, Eun-Bi gets so infuriated by Chi-Soo, she spikes him with a volleyball to the head in front of half the school. Chi-Soo spends some time in the hospital (what a baby!) and meets Eun-Bi's dad just before the dad dies. Eun-Bi has to pull her life together when teaching falls through and she has to live at her dad's  abandoned ramyun shop.

One great thing about these two episodes is the intensity of emotion. Prior to now, Chi-Soo hasn't been genuinely angry about anything other than losing his driving privileges, but Eun-Bi embarrasses him badly enough that he loses it and starts yelling. This may not sound like a positive thing, but at least Chi-Soo is getting outside of his own head a little. It's nice to see some character progression from Chi-Soo even if he's moving from arrogant indifference to paranoid anger. He's making a concerted effort to understand normal human emotions like sympathy, and it's fun to watch the "Prince" become a regular human being who has to cope with failure and work toward his goals.

Also, Eun-Bi's scenes of mourning for her dad are wonderful and very touching. They're tear-jerker moments, which are all the more surprising because I was so certain that this show was all comedy. Watch it with tissues nearby.
Things I Loved:

1. Eun-Bi and Ba-Wool's friendship. It's a relief to know that there's no chance that these two are going to be a romantic pairing. They have a genuine sibling-like interaction onscreen, with Ba-Wool always overreacting to things and Eun-Bi slapping the back of his head to bring him back to reality. There's plenty of genuine annoyance and genuine affection in this relationship. Their celebratory dance when they're winning a basketball game is insanely cute.

Precious, Even When Fighting
2. Kang-Hyuk. He is so incredibly sweet, it's easy to forget that he's a total loony.

Falls Asleep for No Apparent Reason

Complaints: 1. Kang-Hyuk's lack of backstory. Is he supposed to be mysterious? Because he comes out of nowhere with an undefined connection to Eun-Bi's dad who he calls "boss", and very few of the facts make sense. Eun-Bi's dad calls Kang-Hyuk instead of calling his own daughter when he thinks he's dying--why? Kang-Hyuk says he already knows Eun-Bi from the past, but doesn't recognize her at the 7-11 store, but then later at the school he does recognize her--why? Good luck answering these important questions, fair viewer, because the show does not fill you in.

2. Ending the teaching job. The plot works overtime to get Eun-Bi fired from her student teaching, but then she gets a full reprieve on two occasions (once from Chi-Soo's father, who owns the school), and we don't even get to see the scene where she irrevocably loses the chance to come back. It's like the writing staff wasn't sure how to force Eun-Bi to stay at the ramyun shop, so they just gave up trying to make it work out logically and said, "Oh well, she loses her temper offscreen, and that's the end of the teaching".


False Romance: Eun-Bi overhears Chi-Soo advising his friends on how to get girls to shut up--compliment them, then kiss them on the forehead so you will seem tender and sincere. Eun-Bi is shocked to hear Chi-Soo reduce romance to a few trite gestures designed to produce a certain effect, but Eun-Bi herself was trying to use romantic shortcuts in Episode 1 when she thought that wide blinking eyes and the use of the word "oppa" would instantly charm her romantic target. But Eun-Bi's attempts really were very innocent, while Chi-Soo is intentionally manipulative. And I think So-Yi's attitude toward Ba-Wool is also a type of false romance, because she keeps stringing him along and offering no real affection or respect.

Visual impact: Much like with Chi-Soo, Kang-Hyuk makes all the ladies swoon and sigh. The difference is that Kang-Hyuk is not trying to charm anyone, and Chi-Soo is. It's also interesting that early on, the camera is focused on reaction shots where instead of the audience seeing Kang-Hyuk, we're seeing other people's reactions to his handsomeness. With Chi-Soo, we're always looking right at him.

Female strength and society's reactions to it: Eun-Bi is known for her strength (though the actress playing her probably only weighs around 90 pounds). When Eun-Bi boxes against a coin-operated strength measuring machine, her BFF Dongjoo is horrified because Eun-Bi is acting unfeminine in public, but Kang-Hyuk happens to be watching and he thinks she's awesome. Eun-Bi's friend Coach also admires her athletic abilities and mourns whenever Eun-Bi acts helpless. It's interesting that the male characters affirm Eun-Bi's strength, athletic ability, and assertiveness, but her female friend cautions her against such displays.

Mirrored scenes: It's laugh out loud funny when Kang-Hyuk is introduced in the exact same way that Chi-Soo was. Kang-Hyuk sits in the same airplane seat across from the same girl as Chi-Soo sat opposite in episode one, and the camera pans in the same soft-focus sweeps while the same dreamy music plays. Only Kang-Hyuk is totally different from Chi-Soo and rather than being a false charmer, he's much more genuine. And a little bit weird.

Cultural Observances:

New words: 1. "Aboji" is "father", and the word is mentioned a lot because Eun-Bi's father plays a big role in these episodes. 2. "Seonbae" is a term of respect for upperclassmen or someone who is your senior in sports or some other organized activity, and Dongjoo calls Eun-Bi her seonbae because Eun-Bi is older, and they were friends in school and teammates in volleyball. This surprised me though, because I would have thought Dongjoo was close enough to call Eun-Bi her "Unnie" or "older sister".

Food as a reflection of economic status: Eun-Bi tells her dad that she doesn't want to eat ramyun all her life; instead she wants to eat rice. I'm guessing that ramyun (ramen) is just as cheap in Korea as it is in America and that rice represents eating better and living better. Though in my mind, rice is super inexpensive as well, so I don't quite get the connection, but Eun-Bi may be saying that she wants to be independent of her dad's shop and wants to earn her own living.

Hanbok: Eun-Bi wears a special kind of formal black dress for her dad's funeral. It looks like a kimono, but it's Korean instead of Japanese.

Wearing gloves while eating: Eun-Bi, Coach, and Dongjoo eat barbecue so hot they wear plastic gloves to keep from hurting their skin. Wow. We probably have this in America, but I've never seen it.
English Bonus:

1. American songs. "Step Into My World" plays yet again when Kang-Hyuk is introduced. "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz plays when So-Yi and Ba-Wool are having lunch.

2. Random words. Dongjoo and Eun-Bi both say the English word "something" in conversation. Eun-Bi counts to three in English when she hits Chi-Soo with the volleyball. Chi-Soo always calls Eun-Bi "intern" in English.

Episode Evaluations: Getting less realistic, but still compulsively watchable.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

K-Drama Review: Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Ep 1-2

Read episode reviews for:

Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 3-4
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 5-6
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 7-8
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 9-10
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 11-12
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 13-14
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Episodes 15-16

Contains Spoilers for episodes 1-2

This is my first time to watch a subtitled Korean drama, and I thought I'd write out my thoughts about the episodes as I view them! When some element of the show helps me understand a piece of Korean culture, I'll make note of it, but for the most part these shows aren't cultural guides, but heavily exaggerated forms of media--like a non-trashy soap opera combined with a sitcom, minus the laugh track.

In Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Eun-Bi is a young woman determined to pass her civil service exam and become a schoolteacher. Her longtime boyfriend is returning from military service, and she's ready to start the next phase of her life as a successful grown-up with a steady job and a solid love life. But a fortune-teller says that Eun-Bi will only succeed if she holds her explosive temper (which won't be easy), and also says that she will hear bells ringing when she kisses the person she is destined to be with for life. Eun-Bi finds out that her boyfriend is dating someone else, so she's ready to find a new person who will make those bells ring. Sadly, the person she initially crushes on is Chi-Soo.

Chi-Soo is adored by everyone he meets. He charms all the young ladies with compliments, and he even manages to wink at them without looking like an idiot. But Chi-Soo's father is the president of a huge corporation and he insists that Chi-Soo go back and finish his senior year of high school since he has blown all attempts at studying overseas. Unluckily for Chi-Soo, Eun-Bi is his student-teacher and they've crossed paths disastrously a few times already, most notably when Eun-Bi mistook him for a 30-year-old and asked him out. In reality he's 19 and she's 25, he's rich and she's dirt poor, he's fastidious and prideful while she's messy and assertive. There's no way these two can keep from killing each other before the semester is over, right?

Chi-Soo makes Eun-Bi's life more difficult in several ways. His father's corporation wants to buy her father's ramyun shop (noodle restaurant), for one thing. Eun-Bi has serious father issues, and just being around her dad and his shop is enough to stress her out. Also, Chi-Soo starts dating a girl beloved by Eun-Bi's young guy friend Ba-Wool, which causes a lot of fights that Eun-Bi has to referee. Tension! Anger! Noodles!

Things I Loved:

1. Eun-Bi. She's so hardcore about her studying and about her life. She works hard and doesn't accept trash talk from anyone. And she usually looks like this:

I give this show props for allowing their main actress to wear sweatpants and unflattering shirts, and to have genuinely messy hair instead of Styled for Two Hours in Order to Look Messy hair. The actress is gorgeous, but you never get the sense that she's trying to pose or preen for the camera. She's like Eliza Doolittle, all rough manners and emotional intensity, only she doesn't actually need to be transformed into a lady--she just needs to find out who she really wants to be. I really respect the actress and I love the character of Eun-Bi.

2. Chi-Soo and Ba-Wool's classroom fight. Lots of sliding desks and shouting, mostly on Ba-Wool's part. It's a very fake fight, but very fun.

Complaints: In episodes 1 and 2, the title does not match the show at all. We see Flower Boys (handsome, well-dressed guys), and we see a Ramyun Shop, but the two things do not in any way coincide.


Economic status: So much of the characters' behavior is actually determined by their economic status. Eun-Bi really wants to become a teacher because it means financial security for the rest of her life, not because she likes teaching, and she's very embarrassed by her father's run-down ghetto restaurant. Chi-Soo's own wealth enables him to move about freely in society, but only so long as his father funds him. In contrast, Chi-Soo's friend Woohyun is working a part time job (rare for a highschool student) because his absent father has amassed a serious gambling debt.

False Romance/ Romantic trappings: Oh, boy. Chi-Soo embodies everything about stereotypical romantic heroes, at least young Asian romantic heroes, but it's all 100% fake. When we first see him, the camera goes into this misty soft-focus to make sure that the audience knows he's a dreamboat. The air around him is filled with CGI sparkles that make a twinkly noise, much like Edward's skin in Twilight. Yet for all his sparkliness and charm, Chi-Soo is a spoiled brat who cares more about his expensive car and his pricey clothes than about other people's feelings. He's the farthest thing from his gentlemanly image, so the reality does not match the romantic hype. As an example of fantasy and reality colliding, I love the scene where a heartbroken Eun-Bi is weeping in Chi-Soo's car and instead of offering some comforting words and a shoulder to cry on, he goes, "Get out of my car. I mean it. GO NOW."

Eun-Bi also sees a lot of false romance in her best female friend Dongjoo's life, because Dongjoo has a half-dozen boyfriends, but really seems to be enjoying playing the field and garnering so much attention. Eun-Bi tries to turn on her own fake charm like Dongjoo (and like Chi-Soo, for that matter), but she's not very good at it, and her flirting attempts end disastrously.

The theme of whether you can love more than one person at a time is also brought up. Chi-Soo says that love is a game meant to be played by many people, but Eun-Bi thinks his philosophy is disgusting. Ba-Wool certainly doesn't think that dating more than one person is a good idea, and he's floored when So-Yi decides to split her time between him and Chi-Soo. This in-show discussion is interesting because most romantic TV shows (this one included) are actively enticing their audience with multiple love interests, but while viewers like seeing this on TV, most people aren't at all pleased with the idea of having to share sweethearts in everyday life.

Mirrored scenes: Chi-Soo jumps into a girl's car and asks her to drive away with no questions so he can get away from his dad, while Eun-Bi later jumps into Chi-Soo's car and asks him to drive away so that she can dramatically leave her ex-boyfriend.

Cultural observances:

1. Districts. Chi-Soo says he doesn't want to stay in Itaewon because it's full of foreigners and he just came from America. I found this funny because I already knew that Itaewon was the "foreigner" district in Seoul.

2. Mandatory Military Service. In Korea, all healthy men must serve two years in the military. We see this fact as a part of everyday life when Eun-Bi's boyfriend returns from the service, and when Eun-Bi is suddenly more interested in Chi-Soo because he says he was born in America and therefore does not have to join the military at any point.

3. Flower Boys. They are Korea's equivalent of "metro", guys who are super fashionable and pay loads of attention to their hair and clothes.

4. New vocabulary words. "Yeppeo" is "pretty", and Chi-Soo throws this word around like it's going out of style. He tells every girl he sees that she is "yeppeo", but it's clear that he doesn't mean this, it's just his standard line. "Oppa" is an even more interesting word--it means "big brother", but a girl can use the term to refer to her literal brother, her older male friend, a guy who is being nice to her, or her boyfriend. Before she knows his real age, Eun-Bi asks Chi-Soo is she can call him oppa. He finds this hilarious, since she's the wrong age to call him that, no matter what context she's using. And the word oppa is like kryptonite for poor Ba-Wool, who will do anything in the world for So-Yi if she calls him by this endearment. "Noona" is the counterpart to "oppa", and it can mean girlfriend or literal older sister, but Ba-Wool calls Eun-Bi his noona to show that she's a trusted older friend.

English bonus:

1. Several English songs play in the background. A cover of "Step Into My World" plays when we first meet Chi-Soo, when he meets with his friends, "Sweet Escape" by Gwen Stefani plays. In Ep. 2, "Grenade" by Bruno Mars plays as Chi-Soo and So-Yi have coffee, then "The Lazy Song" by Bruno Mars is playing in the very next scene where So-Yi is sitting with Ba-Wool. Someone working at that coffee shop must be a Mars fan.

2. We immediately know that Chi-Soo is not fluent in English even when he pretends to be, because he pronounces Manhattan as "Manhat". His way of saying "Hey buddy!" is also pretty hilarious.

Episode evaluations: Funny and intriguing. Keeps the audience hooked with humor and surprises.