K-Pop and K-Dramas: BTS’s Magic Shop

Photoshoot image for BTS’s 5th Muster Concert featuring (top left) Kim Namjoon, (middle left) Jung Hoseok, (bottom left) Park Jimin, (top right) Kim Seokjin, (upper middle right) Kim Taehyung, (lower middle right) Jeon Jungkook, and (bottom right) Min Yoongi. Copyright goes to BigHit Entertainment and Hybe Corporation.

Hi! It’s Annie!

After BangBang Con, I couldn’t help but fall more in love with the concept of the Magic Shop. Especially after watching their 5th Muster concert and seeing how much they used of the Magic Shop story. That really was the concert for this concept, and it was one of the best concert concepts I have ever seen in my life. The Magic Shop is a visual that continues to be so significant to the image of BTS, which is amazing considering that the idea for this came out several albums ago. So, I kind of want to delve into the idea of the Magic Shop and the world that BTS created surrounding it. Because the idea becomes more and more interesting the more that you look at it.

Magic Shop (Song):

This song was initially created by none other than Jungkook (and also Namjoon who helps out with lyrics on pretty much everything). Seriously, Kookie is such a softie. Between ‘Begin’ where he credits much of his growth to the other members in his group and the story about him telling the others that he only faces issues when he sees the other members facing their own issues; it’s hard to overlook how much he truly cares. The Magic Shop was an idea he got from a book called ‘Into the Magic Shop’ by James R. Doty, but he changed this image so much that it is almost entirely based off of a fictional space he created himself. The ‘Magic Shop’ is a place to go for when ARMY is feeling down or depressed where they can relax and even discover their dreams. The idea for it is that this is the place where they would meet with BTS, have tea, and truly find peace again. The lyrics to the song completely reflect this as it describes the Magic Shop being exactly like this. It’s a place to close your eyes and visit the boys when you truly need them. In essence it’s a heartfelt song dedicated to helping and comforting ARMY.

5th Muster Concert:

The 5th Muster concert depicts several scenes from the Magic Shop on stage and also includes a few skits that also play into the lore of the fictional world. The train seems to be a part of the shop that anyone can enter or exit at will. In fact, it seems as though that’s the transportation to it. BTS arrive in the train at the beginning because the concert itself is the Magic Shop. They even have tea at one point, which is one of the things the lyrics of the song directly depicts. Within their skit the boys establish that the shop has anything you could ever want, such as the exact tea that you might want or DJ Suga playing the exact song that you want to hear. These little breaks do much more than establish the concert, they almost help create the fictional universe that they were starting on in their song. Eventually Hobi discovers a mailbox that contains unrealized dreams or worries and within it finds a note from a “mysterious” someone. This person talks about how they are worried about the first choreography they’ve done and want the group to perform it to put them at ease. This, of course, leads straight into ‘Spine Breaker’, a song that was hilariously choreographed by Jin. Even this comedic moment shows the audience a bit more of how the Magic Shop works.

5th Muster Video Intermissions:

If you’ve ever been to (lucky) or watched a BTS concert, you know that their stages are large and push the envelope of what anyone has ever done at a concert before. In order to set up for these stages, or even sometimes to thematically segway into a different section of the concert, there are pre-recorded videos that are usually the boys in several aesthetic video shoots. These are always amazing to watch and really set up for whatever you’re about to see next. The video intermissions for this concert told an entire story, which is not something I’ve seen them do before. A distressed Jungkook walks into the Magic Shop to find shopkeeper Jimin, who attempts to help him. Jimin arranges for Jungkook to go and see one of the assistants of the shop, a sort of doctor, that might help him with whatever issues he might be having. Namjoon is the first assistant he sees; a very all over the place destroyer of everything. He tries to help Jungkook through playing games like Jenga (which Namjoon always loses) and Jungkook does not seem to be getting any better. He goes through all of the rooms where Yoongi tries to solve his problems through sleep, Jin sits there like a King and tries to use food to solve his issues, Tae takes a lot of pictures, and Hobi dances. When none of this works they eventually find something particular to Jungkook; the shoes he wore for BTS’s first release. In the end it shows Jimin putting Jungkook’s file away after he leaves the Magic Shop and we see that there are files for every ARMY there. It’s clear through this that they are also reminding fans that BTS is not the solution to their problems, but they will comfort fans and try to help them towards finding the solution.

All of this is to remind everyone that BTS have proved themselves as masterful storytellers as well as everything else they’re already good at. They’ve created several storylines within their music before and some of them have even created stories for their music individually. The entire concept for the music videos in ‘D-2’ was the war between the old Agust D and the new one. All of them are so creative in this way. But I had to make a post about Magic Shop for several reasons. This is one of the storylines they have explored in the most depth as well as the concept that has comforted me the most. It’s hard not to return to the evolution of this song of comfort turning into an entire fictional world of comfort. Serious props to these boys for everything that they are so good at and also to Jimin who absolutely killed me as the Magic Shop owner.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Marvel: ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ Trailer

Poster art of Simu Liu as Shang-Chi. Copyright goes to Marvel Entertainment and the Walt Disney Company.

Hey! Hallie here!

This morning Simu Liu shared the poster for Marvel’s upcoming movie ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’. Obviously, he looks amazing and the costume is stunning. He also gave us the release date for the movie; September 3rd. All of that was exciting enough, and he was very excited to share all of it with fans on his birthday, but he informed fans they’d have to wait a few weeks for the trailer. Minutes after that post, Marvel released the trailer. Not only was it an amazing birthday gift for Simu Liu, it also gave Marvel fans a lot to talk about. This trailer looks sooooo good. I really want to just jump into the contents of the trailer, but I’ll start this off with a disclaimer that I’ve watched all the Marvel films but have read very few Marvel comics. If I miss a callback to the comics, my apologies. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the trailer.

The Action:

One of the major pulls of any Marvel movie are the action sequences. What’s the point of watching superheroes if they don’t fight? This trailer’s fight sequences are probably the best I’ve seen in Marvel ever. It’s fast paced and precise. Even the training montage in this trailer was a joy to watch. Some of the fight scenes have choreography that honors the best of the wuxia genre, including jumps and fast footwork that make the characters look as though they have the capability of flight. The general use of intensely impressive kung fu at such a fast pace makes every shot breathtaking. I’m excited to see this movie for the fight choreography alone. We also got an entire action sequence where a bus careened down a San Fransisco street. It was fun to watch Simu Liu save those in the bus from dramatically flying out of the bus windows, but I couldn’t help but notice they passed Ghiradelli before they managed to stop the bus. For those who don’t know, Ghiradelli is a chocolate brand from San Fransisco. The reference to one of my favorite chocolate brands gets added respect from me.

The Plot:

The plot is simple, but already interesting. The beginning of the trailer alludes to Shang-Chi’s childhood as the son of a master assassin, Wenwu, apparently associated with the Ten Rings terrorist organization we’ve heard about since the first ‘Iron Man’ film. (It also seems that one of the many names this character has gone by is ‘The Mandarin’ for those who were frustrated by the ‘Iron Man 3’ version of the character.) His father trained him harshly, even abusively, to follow his footsteps. But it seems as though Shang-Chi is both addicted to and resentful of the lifestyle his father forced him into. He continues to train as an adult but, as the voiceover tells us, he has left his father’s side. We see him in San Fransisco partying with his friend Katy, played by Awkwafina, and acting as a valet, attempting to live somewhat of a normal life. But it’s clear his father is done waiting after ten years have passed since Shang-Chi left. We see him refuse to rejoin his father, but he is frequently attacked by masked assailants and other expert martial artists. The creators of this movie have called the film a family-drama, and the trailer only reinforces the idea that the film will rely heavily on the poor relationship between Shang-Chi and his father. I’m excited to see how they explore a superhero raised by a villainous character.

The Creative Team:

Hollywood, and all of Disney’s production companies, have developed the frustrating habit of creating movies intended to represent a marginalized group without putting a creative team that represents the group behind the scenes. It’s resulted in incredible failures, such as Disney’s live action ‘Mulan’ film. This movie has finally put the right people behind the scenes. We have Destin Daniel Cretton as director, who was born in Hawaii and who is of Japanese descent. He’s done mostly indy films, but he’s been praised for his dramatic works such as the 2019 film ‘Just Mercy’. Despite being open about not wanting to create a Marvel film in the past, when the film was announced as part of the MCU lineup, he immediately saw an opportunity to bring more representation to the big screen. Given that the original character of Shang-Chi was written by white writers, he’s talked about working with David Callaham, to rid the movie of such stereotypes. David Callaham is an American writer of Chinese descent who has worked on major action films such as 2014’s ‘Godzilla’ and ‘Wonder Woman 1984’. These are just two amongst the plethora of Asian creators working on this film. This combined with Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu, who jokingly tweeted at Marvel about the role when the project was announced and now has one of the most adorable stories about getting cast in a Marvel film, seems to set this film up for greatness.

That’s what we know so far about the movie! This was one of the best trailers I’ve ever seen for a Marvel movie. It doesn’t give away too much of the plot, but it shows just enough to hook you in. And, once again, the fight sequences are so stunning that it’s difficult to come away from the trailer without being completely amazed. I’m so happy this film is being released and I can’t wait to watch it when it comes out September 3rd. So far Marvel’s Phase IV has been completely overtaken by ‘WandaVision’, but I have a feeling this movie will give it some serious competition.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

K-Pop and K-Dramas: Cinderella and the Four Knights

Screenshot of (left) Park Sodam and (right) Jung Ilwoo in ‘Cinderella and the Four Knights’. Copyright goes to HB Entertainment and tvN.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I’m going to be honest, watching this show was a complete spur of the moment decision. When watching other K-dramas this one aways seemed to come up as suggested on Netflix afterwards. Of course, seeing it in my suggested that many times made me curious; but at the same time, this show was advertised as a reverse harem which is not necessarily in my wheelhouse. But after a quick search after I decided I didn’t want to leave romance drama world just yet, I thought the reviews made it look appealing enough and just took the chance. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the show, ‘Cinderella and the Four Knights’ is about Eun Hawon, a girl who lives with her cruel stepmother and stepsister and works several jobs. After she accidentally becomes wrapped up in the lives of the grandsons of an incredibly wealthy man, he tasks her to live at the esteemed Hanuel House with his wealthy grandsons and teach them some manners. The only rule; no dating. Obviously. There will be SPOILERS ahead, so tread with caution if that sounded interesting to you. If you want to know my recommendation before reading further, I would say that unless that description truly grabbed you, this one is pretty skippable. Anyways, let’s get on to the review!

The Magical:

The Female Lead- Yes, I actually really did like the lead in this one. Firstly, the actress who plays Hawon is best known for her role in ‘Parasite’. So, of course, she’s an amazing actress. Every scene with this character felt believable. I think one of the things I liked most about her was her unfailing ability to hold her own. Whenever one of the grandsons did something she didn’t like, she was quick to make her discomfort known and also twisted a few arms. There was one moment where she had to be saved, but at the time she was being pinned down by several people so at least it was understandable and consistent with her shown abilities. But, in the nature of Cinderella, she is an eternal optimist and bases most of her decisions off of the kindest and most moral thing she can do in that situation. She doesn’t always make the right choice, but it’s always believable and understandable when she doesn’t and it’s nice to see a flawed character.

The Male Lead- Yes! Both the female and male leads were good in this! Jiwoon is a character that you feel for from the very beginning because of the circumstances of him getting rich. He suddenly finds out towards the beginning of the show that he is a part of a rich family who cast out his mother and suddenly want to reconnect with him. When he tries to refuse, for obvious reasons, his grandfather destroys his life bit by bit until he agrees to live at the Hanuel House. Because of this we actually have a character with a believable reason to brood! And he’s not always brooding either; though he acts very negatively towards his situation, he is always kind and even friendly to those who he doesn’t view as responsible for the pain he and his mother were put through. He is also not creepy at all and is just a very genuine guy when it comes to the relationship in this. Also, Jung Ilwoo is an amazing actor, but I think we all knew this too.

Reverse Harem- You probably weren’t expecting me to put this here, but I had to simply because this show doesn’t actually feel like a reverse harem. I know this may take away some of the intrigue for people who really like that kind of show, and there is nothing wrong with that! But because of my personal opinion, I liked that this show didn’t really run with the motive to make it like that. Of the four “knights”, only three of them are actually shown to have feelings for her. Hyunmin has feelings for Hawon at the very beginning of the show, but we quickly learn that he’s projecting his suppressed feelings for someone else onto her. He gets over this pretty quickly. Then there’s Seowoo, a pure innocent bean who just has the purest of crushes on her. And even though his feelings are genuine (he even writes a song), he also becomes aware pretty quickly that his feelings are unrequited. Hawon only ever has feelings for Jiwoon and that’s the only romantic relationship that is truly developed regarding Hawon. This also gives them much more time to develop this relationship into something believable.

The Romance- I had my issues, but they were always so cute together. This show makes sure that there’s just as much footage of them being goofy and laughing together as there is of anything else. Though they do break up a couple times, like most couples do in dramas, there’s always some sort of understandable reason that doesn’t involve them blowing up on each other over a misunderstanding. They even tease each other for being jealous rather than take a misunderstanding too seriously. They seem to trust each other as partners in the relationship, which is nice. Also, the kissing in this show didn’t look like a hostage situation! Yay!

One Sub-Plot Romance- Once again, I find myself liking only one of two sub-plot romances. I feel like this happens to me a lot when I’m watching dramas and I’m really not sure why. But this one was probably the least developed and I still found it adorable. Seowoo, the pure singer bean, is one of the most supportive characters in the series and it would have broken my heart to see him left with nothing but unrequited love at the end. Fortunately, Hawon’s best friend Jayeong is a fan of Seowoo, as he is an international pop sensation, and is always there to lend a helping hand when he needs one. Watching them together is adorable because there are several times in the series when Seowoo is down because of his feelings for Hawon, and Jayeong always makes it her mission to make him smile. I only wish we would have gotten more of this.

The Wake Up Calls:

The Romance- Yep, this is here too. As cute as this was sometimes, there were also some issues with the relationship between Hawon and Jiwoon. Firstly, there are several times where Hawon talks to Jiwoon about how much her mother’s death has effected her and he often responds with talking about his own experiences; but the dialogue is not natural in these scenes. So much so that it begins to feel like Jiwoon is trying to point out how much harder his situation is than Hawon’s, which I know isn’t the intention for most of these scenes. I also have an issue with so many dramas feeling like the characters need to have a further connection and then just randomly write in that the characters met once when they were children. They don’t need to know each other their entire lives to be a good couple. As long as they’re a good couple now, you don’t need to convince the audience that there’s more reasons for them to be together. It just makes the entire romance feel more cheesy and unrealistic. There also was the fact that after the huge buildup of them getting together, their relationship moved at the speed of light. I would have liked to see more of them getting to know each other and just enjoying themselves as a couple.

Sub-Plot Romance- The second sub-plot romance is between Hyunmin and Hyeji, another couple who have known each other since they were kids. The problem here was that I wasn’t a huge fan of either character. Hyunmin spent most of the series incredibly self involved with little character development. I actually found it so disappointing where the series ended with him, because I was just beginning to like him when the show ended. He was just starting to get character development! Hyeji was a character that I never liked. She was pretty manipulative from the start and often used Jiwoon’s early feelings for her in order to get closer to Hyunmin. There was even a point in time where she asked Jiwoon out right in front of Hyunmin to send Hyunmin a message. There was never a thought spared to how Jiwoon would feel in that situation. Also, Hyunmin’s change of ways isn’t explored in depth. It feels like it kind of just happens. It didn’t help that it felt like there wasn’t much chemistry here. This one didn’t work for me.

The Other Characters- The way this show treats some of the side characters is really inconsistent. The fourth “knight”, who is more of a bodyguard, is not a fully explored character and never seems to have a fully consistent personality. Though the show advertises him as part of the love plot line, that is not his purpose at all. Often it felt like his presence was completely unneeded. Even in the ending episode it depicts the three couples going on a picnic and him somewhere in the back third wheeling. Can you imagine third wheeling three couples? This poor guy. After the first couple episodes, Hawon’s stepmother and stepsister disappear from a lot of the show as well. Whenever they would show up again, my sister and I would look incredulously at each other and talk about how we forgot they were even characters in the show. Just figure that if the character isn’t part of one of the three romance plots, they probably aren’t developed or important aside from being a plot device. Except for the maid. She was amazing.

Cinderella- There are enough Cinderella references that you can see why the show is titled in the way that it is, but there are several times where the writers seem to feel that the audience isn’t getting it. Sometimes there are random Cinderella references that don’t make too much sense. I think they should have left it at the title and stopped trying to shove in more references.

The Hospital- I just have to say this because it really bugged me. What kind of shady hospital would do a life threatening surgery on a patient just because they insisted? I don’t think any hospital has ever allowed a perfectly healthy patient to give their liver to an unhealthy one with a surgery that has a high chance of killing them. What kind of shady hospital is this? Sorry, rant over.

The Pacing- I really think my biggest gripe with this show is that it moved so slowly. It felt like there were several filler episodes and then every once in a while you would get an episode where everything happened in it. It made the show feel much longer and sometimes even boring.

The Ending- This ending went out of it’s way to redeem every single character in the show for some reason. There’s such a thing as ending a show too perfectly, and the fact that every character (including the stepmother and stepsister) were just somehow nice at the end for no reason made the ending feel a bit cheap and unearned. Especially because the point here was to redeem them as quickly as possible rather than building up to their redemption. There was no build up, it just happened for the sake of a “perfect” ending. I love happy endings don’t get me wrong, but they are much more satisfying when they feel earned.

So, my verdict here is that there are much better shows to watch. I found myself bored through much of this show and stuck in character development no-man’s-land for almost all of the side plots. Some of the scenes with the main couple were cute and the actors were great, but in the end I really don’t think it was enough to save this show. Especially because there were chemistry problems between some of the actors. For it only being sixteen episodes, it feels like it took me forever to finish it. Which is definitely not a good sign considering how quickly I watched forty nine episodes of ‘Meteor Garden’ recently. There’s nothing super good or super bad I can say about this show. I just think it falls in the category of forgettable. But watching this show also made me realize how much I actually enjoyed watching ‘Boys Over Flowers’. The more time passes by, the more I think I underestimated that show.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

K-Pop and K-Dramas: Bang Bang Con 2021

Concert photo of Kim Taehyung, Jeon Jungkook, Kim Namjoon, Kim Seokjin, Jung Hoseok, Park Jimin, and Min Yoongi. Copyright goes to BTS and the HYBE Corporation.

Hey! Hallie here!

Yesterday (and for a lot of us, this morning) was 2021’s Bang Bang Con. Bang Bang Con was created by the members of BTS to give ARMYs an alternative to a concert while the pandemic was preventing BTS from touring. As this is still the case, this Bang Bang Con was a collection of past footage from three concerts. It was also free, which gave more ARMYs the opportunity to watch the stream on BTS’s official Youtube channel. I almost skipped Bang Bang Con this year. It’s not that I don’t love BTS! Because I do! It’s more that the concert started at 11pm my time and, with three concerts, ended around 7am. I like my sleep. But a friend of mine convinced me to stay up and watch the concert with her. While we didn’t make it through the entire experience, which I’ll talk about later, we did have a really good time. I had only seen a version of the ‘Love Yourself: Speak Yourself’ tour and it was in Tokyo rather than Brazil. Otherwise, I hadn’t seen the other two concerts at all. And I absolutely loved them. All for different reasons. So let’s talk about how amazing these concerts were!

The First Concert:

The live stream opened with ‘BTS Live Trilogy EP 1: BTS Begins’. This was a 2015 concert that occurred in Seoul, which means the boys were pretty young and BTS was only just starting to get large amounts of popularity. Several members of BTS also acknowledged that their families were in the audience, making the entire experience more personal. This concert occurred during BTS’s “bad boy” phase, which means we got songs like “We are Bulletproof” parts 1 and 2, and even “War of Hormone”, a song we aren’t likely to see them perform on stage again. The concept of this concert fell under the “school delinquents” concept BTS used for a lot of their music at the time. A good example of this is the music video for “N.O.”, which works with the song lyrics to criticize the pressure put on young people to devote themselves to the school system. In the intermission sequences we saw a teacher tell off the members for running around, the members being dismissed to a torn down music room, and the members continuing to dance and mess around despite apparent orders to clean the room. What I loved about this concept was how it came full circle at the end of the concert. The concert started with the members sitting in a classroom wearing school jackets and backpacks. Throughout the concert the members had several costume changes, but for their final song they put the school jackets back on. After they said their goodbyes to the audience, the school set reappeared behind them, this time complete with students and a teacher who yelled at them for not cleaning up the music room. It was an excellent concert and it was interesting to see how far the boys have come. While they were all excellent live performers, as usual, all of them were more visibly exhausted than I’ve seen in most concerts and there were a few occasions where they were so quiet, you could hear the backing track more than them. Their charisma on stage, however, has always been unmatched. Though their individual personalities didn’t come out as much due to the strict “bad boy” image they were sticking to, their connection with the audience was incredible. This concert was a great way to start out the night.

The Second Concert:

This concert was the ‘BTS 5th Muster (Magic Shop)’ concert. I’ve watched quite a few BTS concert footage videos at this point. But this concert was my favorite I’ve ever seen. It’s probably my favorite concert concept I’ve ever experienced in general. The entire concept of “Magic Shop” is so much like a fairy tale that the concert transports you to a completely different world. The background of the beautiful green hills of Busan only helped the fairy tale image. The concert instantly stole my heart when the magic shop rose out of the ground, all of the members sitting inside the set to sing “2! 3!”. After a few songs the members proceeded to start an entire sketch. It wasn’t scripted or cringy. The members were allowed to ad-lib, as Jin did when the members sat down at a tea table and he made up the different teas he was pouring for each member. Yoongi sat at his office/DJ set and played portions of songs chosen by the members. Each member got to dance around to the song they picked and explain why it was important to the magic shop before they transitioned seamlessly into the next song. Through intermission videos we saw Jungkook enter the magic shop, a shop run by Jimin meant to help those who enter achieve their dreams and find comfort. Jimin offered Jungkook rooms occupied by the other members of BTS, who were supposed to help him but were instead being the goofballs they are. Namjoon accidentally broke everything in his room, Yoongi was fast asleep when Jungkook entered, and all J-Hope wanted to do was dance. Eventually Jimin successfully guided him to a room where his shoes from his old practice days were. He proceeded to wear these shoes in the performance that followed, which was a throwback to old performances such as the “We Are Bulletproof Pt 2” performance at their first Muster. They also did more recent songs like “DDaeng”, which all of the members rapped, including the vocal line. This concert was not only fun, it felt much more true to the members. Instead of sticking to a specific image, like the first concert did, the members spoke to the audience about their personal experiences and were dressed in costumes that fit their individual styles. You could feel their personalities shine through each song.

The Third Concert:

I’ll be honest, I had to look up footage of this concert earlier today because I fell asleep before it came on. Who can blame me? It was already four in the morning! This concert was the last of the ‘Speak Yourself’ tour, taking place in Brazil. The differences between this and the ‘Magic Shop’ concert were also major. Though their personalities were evident in both, this concert used their separate personalities as its concept. Each intermission video advertised which members would be performing their individual songs next. Then each member appeared separately to sing their own song on a set and in an outfit that matched the song’s theme. Jungkook came out in a flowing suit and flew above the arena to sing ‘Euphoria’. Taehyung started ‘Singularity’ in an overlarge bed and background dancers used props like masks to accentuate the song (Can we also talk about how good he looks every time he performs this song?). Jimin started out ‘Serendipity’ in a bubble full of gorgeous flowers and wore a sparkling black and white suit to dance in. Then, of course, we had moments where all of the members came together. They did so at the beginning to perform ‘Dionysus’, which is one of the most epic performances of any song you’ll find in a concert. They also came together to perform individual rap line and vocal line songs. This is where ‘Outro: Tear’ gave us Dior Hobi. For those who don’t know, the title refers to the gear J-Hope wears for ‘Outro: Tear’ and ‘Mic Drop’. The look is iconic. The end of this concert was especially emotional. It was the last concert of the tour and Jimin and Jungkook began to cry while thanking ARMY for their support. It doesn’t help that the concert ended with ‘Mikrokosmos’, one of the most emotional and nostalgic BTS songs. I nearly cried several times as it ended.

These were the concerts shown at this year’s ‘Bang Bang Con’! While I hope that next year the boys will be able to tour, I also hope that this continues even with fans being able to attend concerts. It’s an excellent way to give ARMYs who can’t afford concert experiences something to enjoy. I’m really glad I stayed up to watch (most of) the event. I had a lot of fun spending time with my ARMY friends and I’m not sure I would have been able to watch the 5th Muster if not for Bang Bang Con. I’m so incredibly grateful for the experiences and content BTS has given ARMY over quarantine. I don’t know where I’d be without them.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Marvel: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 5

Screenshot of (left) Anthony Mackie as Sam and (right) Sebastian Stan as Bucky from ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ episode five on Disney+. Copyright goes to Marvel Studios and Disney.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Here we are, back with the second to last episode of this series. The big build up everyone was expecting to the finale of this show. So imagine my surprise when I went onto Twitter this morning and found that the show was not trending at all. Not even on the entertainment page. After watching the episode I can definitely see why. This episode had its uses, but was no finale episode and was probably needed towards the beginning of the series rather than now. This also destroyed all my hopes for liking this series as a whole. I think I’ve introduced this enough, so let’s just get into it. As always, SPOILERS AHEAD!!

The Super Soldier Serum:

I know I usually talk about characters and not things, but this needed an entire section for itself. I’ve had small problems with the usage of the super soldier serum throughout this show; mostly having to do with the fact that it’s a shot kind of like a vaccine. This was something I dismissed though, because it’s been over seventy years since Steve got the serum and that’s a lot of time for science and medicine to advance. But then we got the conversation with Sam and Carl Lumbly’s character in this episode. He states that he, and the other men who were experimented on with the super soldier serum not long after Steve got it, were told that they were getting a tetanus shot when they were injected with the serum. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I seem to recall Steve being put in this large machine where he was injected with several vials of the serum and then blasted with radiation until his transformation was complete. Yes, science and medicine would have been able to change drastically in seventy years, but definitely not in one or two. I understand what they were trying to do with this character, but this is just one of the many examples of how bad the consistency in this show is.

Sam:

We needed this episode to be the second or third episode in this series and that is specifically for the character of Sam Wilson. I feel like this episode finally gave Sam at least a little of what he deserves. We finally got back to the storyline with him and his family, he was finally able to fully explain his decision to give up the shield, and we actually got to see him come to terms with the situation and begin to train. All of these things that I just mentioned are things that we would have ideally gotten from Sam long ago. This is actually stuff I would have wanted more developed and maybe even gotten to see throughout the entire series. Sam was funny, kind, and incredibly important in this episode. This is the Sam I was looking forward to seeing when this series was announced. But with one episode left, I just wish we would have gotten more of it. And his relationship with his sister because his sister is one of my favorite characters on the show for the short time she has had.

Bucky:

Another successful episode for the character of Bucky. This episode involved a very adorable scene of Bucky waking up and seeing Sam’s nephews playing with the shield. The smile on his face while watching this happen was so precious! I still can’t get over that scene. Though this episode didn’t focus too much on Bucky, he was constantly there as support for Sam. And Sam was also there as support for him. This episode actually focused on creating a bond between them, which is another thing that should have happened in this series a long time ago. Watching them banter is by far my favorite part of this series and it has happened too little. Sam advised Bucky to help people for the sake of helping people and acknowledged that he shouldn’t have handed the shield to the government, Bucky apologized for not considering Sam’s feelings about the shield in the first place and assured Sam that this wasn’t entirely his fault, and they just had a nice deep discussion. Finally. Bucky also spent some of the episode flirting with Sam’s sister and forgetting that his metal arm existed. On the other hand, we also finally got to see Bucky beat the snot out of John Walker and hand Zemo over to the Dora Milaje. Both of which were also great character moments.

John Walker:

Why do I care about this character? We saw him get beaten up again, but by Sam and Bucky this time, which is always a cathartic experience. He tore Sam’s wings, but he’s really no match for Bucky who’s actually experienced with super soldier abilities. He then spent the rest of the episode dramatically screaming to anyone who would listen that he is Captain America even as he got the title stripped from him. I think most of us would argue that he never was. And then at the very end he made his own DIY Captain America shield that’s definitely not made out of vibranium so I’m not sure how much that’s supposed to help. I have no idea what they’re gearing him up to do, but I can’t figure out how I’m supposed to care about this character as a villain or otherwise. I’m just hoping that they don’t try to pull him into the MCU after this, but I have a feeling that I’m going to be disappointed.

Sharon Carter:

Why do I even bother anymore? She was in one short scene of this entire episode that seemingly confirmed that she was the Power Broker like we have all been suspecting. But, I hate to say it, this reveal doesn’t do anything to help her character. Giving her a new title does not change the fact that she’s been barely focused on and has gotten pretty much no character development. Sam’s sister Sarah is a much better female character and has even gotten more in the series at this point. And Sarah is also barely in this series, so that’s saying something. This show has almost no focused female characters. Why even use Sharon for marketing if you aren’t going to actually use her in the show?

The Flag Smashers:

Again, pretty much nothing. Almost hilariously nothing. I still have no idea what their goals are or even what they’re about. The main villain is female but all of her backstory has been told so far through short scenes of entirely unnaturally spoken exposition. She hasn’t really gotten character development either. And this episode she complained about how no one ever treats them like human beings, referring to the fact that John Walker killed her friend even though they have had no problems with civilian casualties before. She then (gasp, big reveal) brought in a an extremely small inconsequential villain that Steve Rogers beat up at the very beginning of a Captain America movie before and declared war. These are some of the most confusing and useless Marvel villains I have ever seen.

Zemo:

Bucky handed him over to the Dora Milaje and Zemo did the incredibly decent thing of helping Bucky atone for his past through him. That was just a really nice move. Surprisingly, I kind of hope we see more of him in the future.

And that’s it! This episode felt like a mix of filler and scenes that we should have gotten a long time ago of Sam as a character and Sam and Bucky bonding. All of this is weird considering there’s only one episode left. But, with one episode left, I can confidently say that this isn’t really a series worth watching. Maybe look up some Sam and Bucky scenes later, but if you’re on the fence my advice would be to not waste your time. I could have done without watching this entire series. But I guess we’ll see if the ending is good. I have a lot of doubts considering that it will focus on the villains, all of which have been my least favorite part of this series. This show wasn’t written well, guys. At all. I keep waiting for it to get better and it doesn’t. Sam and Bucky both deserve so much better.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

K-Pop and K-Dramas: Understanding Taehyung

Shot of Kim Taehyung (V) from a promotional photoshoot. Copyright goes to BTS and the HYBE Corporation.

Hey! Hallie here!

Anyone who’s stuck with this blog for a while knows that my bias in BTS is J-Hope. I’ve talked about him pretty often and I love him a lot. But Taehyung is my bias wrecker. His personality tends to draw me in. But coming into BTS as ARMY, it took me the longest to warm to Taehyung. He was quiet and sometimes standoffish in interviews, he seemed childish at times, and many ARMYs spoke about how immature he had been in years past. I couldn’t really seem to get a handle on his personality. Now that I’m much deeper into ARMY, I find him to be the most relatable member in BTS. I don’t know him personally, and I’m certainly not saying I truly understand him because that isn’t possible for someone who has never met him, but I find I can connect to a lot of the things he says and does. For the people who are also struggling to wrap their heads around Taehyung, here’s what I discovered about him over time.

Interviews:

I’m going to start by talking about interviews because these are what I watched first in an attempt to get to know the members a bit better. If you’re from the US, like myself, and are using mostly American interviews to try to get to know them, it’s important to be aware of how bad some American interviewers are. They can be really invasive and insensitive to Korean culture. Earlier in their career, when Namjoon was the only English speaker, Namjoon was able to filter out more offensive questions or statements to keep things light. Now that the other members understand quite a bit of English, this isn’t really the case anymore. And Taehyung is one of the people who becomes the most protective and annoyed when these questions come up. Sometimes he’ll shut down and refrain from speaking. Which is actually a very professional response to rude comments. Other times he’ll add in a sarcastic jab or a sideways glance. But he’s never rude. He’s always pleasant and attentive, regardless of the nature of the interview. In more respectful interviews, like those in Korea, he’s almost adorably pleasant especially when the subject of ARMY is brought up. Taehyung knows he deserves a level of respect. It’s why he stays off of WeVerse when something comes up in his personal life or jokes with fans about how strange it is that so many of them want to marry him without knowing him. It’s admirable of him to know how BTS should be treated and to prioritize it the way he does without bringing any self-centeredness into it.

Childishness?:

I’m not talking about immaturity here. I’ll talk about that in a second. I’m talking more about his sudden goofiness. Taehyung will switch between stoic to adorably hilarious without any notice whatsoever. When I first saw it, I mistook it for childishness. Like he was hiding his more goofy nature behind a stoic facade that he was always ready to drop at a moments notice. My thoughts about this were furthered when I heard him described as “innocent” by Jimin in a few interviews. I can say now that Tae isn’t faking stoicism and his innocence has nothing to do with his goofiness. Tae is very open about his emotions. More than most people. Namjoon has even talked about how his openness threw him off at first. When Tae’s upset it’s clear, just as when he’s delighted or when he’s tired. It’s cool to see how in touch he is with his emotions even though he’s talked about how he feels like he isn’t in touch with them enough. While I can’t exactly pinpoint what Jimin was talking about when he described Tae as “innocent”, I can echo Tae in his assessment of himself. He views himself as a curious person who is still trying to figure out more about himself and the world. The way that he chooses to embrace himself in order to learn more about himself is something I wish I was capable of.

Immaturity?:

A lot of baby ARMYs hear about how immature Taehyung was in the past. Taehyung has written a song about how much he’s grown up over the years, “Inner Child”, and Tae and Jungkook had a conversation in ‘In the Soop’ where Tae tried to bridge a gap between them that he felt occurred when Tae became more mature. Watching ‘Bon Voyage’ showcases just how much he’s grown. He went from wandering off on his own while the staff specifically attempted to prevent him from doing so, to ensuring his adventures were enjoyable for all parties involved. In early seasons he would try his best to get out of doing chores whereas he later decided to completely take over dish washing because he felt bad that he couldn’t cook. And, as you can see, these are all small signs of immaturity. He wasn’t self absorbed or rude, but he was a bit of a troublemaker. He’s been generously open about his journey growing up, especially in the Korean music industry, and it’s entirely relatable. His youth has been very public because of his profession, but he’s promoted the importance of change through that and it’s pretty incredible.

And that’s it! I love talking about Tae because he’s such a unique personality in the music industry. He’s genuine without ever being self-absorbed. He’s open about his journey but knows what situations call for privacy. In a group with Namjoon and Yoongi, it can be easy to miss how intelligent the other members are. But all of them have their own lessons to teach and unexpected wise words. It’s just another reason why I love BTS.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

C-Dramas: Is ‘Meteor Garden’ Better Than ‘Boys Over Flowers’?

Screenshot from ‘Meteor Garden’ (2018) of (left) Dylan Wang as Dao Ming Si and (right) Shen Yue as Dong Shancai. Copyright goes to Hunan Television and Netflix.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I just finished binging this series in four days. If that’s not a testament to how little I have to do right now during quarantine, I really don’t know what is. But I was thoroughly intrigued by this series after my recent rewatch of ‘Boys Over Flowers’ because of how many people were saying that this series was better. Now, I’m not saying that I disliked ‘Boys Over Flowers’. I don’t really think I particularly liked or disliked that series. It was a pretty cute watch but there were also a lot of storylines and character arcs that weren’t written that well in my opinion. ‘Meteor Garden’ is an adaptation of the same manga, so it’s difficult to look up ‘Boys Over Flowers’ and not see people comparing the two. What really made me want to watch it was the seemingly universal opinion that the main romance was better here; even from people who preferred ‘Boys Over Flowers’. So after watching all forty nine episodes of this, I want to actually compare the two and see which one I actually found to be better. My opinion on this in particular changed towards the end of watching this series, so I’m not exactly sure what the result will be yet. Let’s see, I guess! MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!! You have been warned.

The Main Plot/Romance:

I’ve talked in depth about my view of the main relationship in ‘Boys Over Flowers’. It wasn’t believable and, to me at least, it sometimes bordered on creepy. Especially towards the beginning. When I saw that people were saying that ‘Meteor Garden’ modernizes the story in some much needed ways, I was hoping that this would mean some of the creepiness would be taken out of it. Thankfully, I was correct! (With the main relationship at least, but I’ll get more into that later.) Dao Ming Si is thoroughly dislikable in the beginning, but his actions are (for the most part) redeemable. At least more than Jun Pyo anyways. He never kidnaps anyone and this show also takes the relentless bullying out. Sure Si insults people sometimes but he doesn’t throw many tantrums, send other people to beat up people he doesn’t like, bully people to the point that they decide to jump off of a building, or ask anyone to lick his shoes at any point. In fact, F4 aren’t bullies in this show. They’re just popular and a little bratty and I liked that much better. The red card is for people who challenge them to poker. The attempt to forcibly kiss the main character is still here unfortunately, but whenever this character does something wrong he automatically shows remorse for his actions. That’s more than I can say about Jun Pyo. It’s much clearer that the relationship between him and Shancai is end game here. The love triangle isn’t given as much time and definitely doesn’t continue until the end of the show. She barely ever goes back and forth between the idea of the two guys, she chooses pretty early on. Certain elements of the plot are actually changed around so that this couple actually only breaks up a couple of times throughout the series. They aren’t as on again off again. And this time they actually look like they enjoy each other’s presence when they’re together! Wow! Another thing I really liked about this couple was that the show lasted long enough for the audience to see how they actually operated as a couple. There was a moment in the show where Shancai’s friend was heartbroken, so Shancai called Si so that they could take her friend to karaoke to cheer her up. Watching them sit in the back of that karaoke booth practically falling asleep on each other while still trying to support her friend was adorable. It was the type of couple content that most romance based shows view as unneeded, but I like seeing that stuff just as much as I like seeing them fall in love. I also need to talk about how much better the kissing was in this show. Yes, the scene where Jun Pyo gets out of the car to kiss Jan Di on the side of the street is romantic. But I much prefer when it actually looks like the female character wants to kiss her love interest. ‘Meteor Garden’ definitely has the superior couple.

Side Characters:

I have to admit, ‘Boys Over Flowers’ did this better for the most part. Ji-Hoo definitely gets more character development compared to Lei. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved Lei to the point where I’m not sure I could choose between him and Ji-Hoo. Though he didn’t get as much character development, he was given an amazing sense of humor and his relationship with the other members of F4 seemed so much stronger. Lei’s quiet sarcasm never failed to make me laugh and I always looked forward to the scenes with him in it. He was almost like a perfect mix between Ji-Hoo and Yi-Jung. But Ji-Hoo got all that development about the death of his parents and his relationship with his grandfather, all of which are not present here. Actually, most of the side characters in ‘Boys Over Flowers’ get much better development even though it’s a shorter show than ‘Meteor Garden’. The larger character arc with Yi Jung, for example, is hinted at before it starts, lasts over several episodes, and is explored in depth. We get to see his acts of kindness before his character arc even starts and when the show actually does jump on that storyline, it’s something that we’ve all been waiting for. ‘Meteor Garden’ introduces character arcs for the side characters quickly, tells as little of their story as possible, and then moves to something different. This happened in all storylines that weren’t the main one except for one sub-plot romance that felt very disconnected. I also want to say that this show spent less time developing F4 as a friend group as a whole. Sure Lei and Si are much closer in ‘Meteor Garden’, but you don’t get any scenes like the masked hide and seek game from ‘Boys Over Flowers’.

Sub-Plot Romance(s):

If there’s one thing that ‘Boys Over Flowers’ did better, it’s the sub-plot romance. ‘Meteor Garden’ actually has two sub-plot romances involving the two members of F4 that aren’t as focused on. Except, with one of them, the side-plot romance becomes a story that isn’t about the member of F4 at all. His love interest even ends up with a different person. Considering that the characters in this storyline besides him are not directly connected to the main characters or the main plot, it starts feeling like you’re watching an entirely different show. Every time they give screen time to this plot, it feels like a waste. They could be giving that much needed time to characters that the audience actually care about. We have no idea who these people even are. I just wanted to get past them and return to the main plot whenever they were on screen. The sub-plot romance that is the equivalent of Yi Jung and Ga Eul was nothing short of disappointing. It felt like whenever they were on screen the show was trying to just get through this as fast as possible so they could get to a different part of the show. Neither character is very developed or likable. Xiaoyou changes various parts of her personality for Ximen’s benefit even though the show uses the main couple to teach that this is not something you should do. The show even makes some pretty awful statements about sex. (Don’t worry, the show ages up all the characters so that they’re in college instead of high school.) Xiaoyou believes that Ximen will want her to have sex with him, because he is a playboy, and decides that if you really want to be with someone you should be prepared to do whatever they want. I’m sorry, excuse me???? Earlier in this show Shancai tells Si that she wants their relationship to be equal which means she needs to make decisions for herself sometimes. Is this the same show? They teach some pretty good lessons for their young audience through the main couple and then for some reason go back on that the minute the sub-plot romance comes on screen. It’s like they were purposefully trying to make this couple unhealthy. I knew I was going to be biased because I like Yi Jung and Ga Eul so much, but this was extremely bad in comparison.

The Ending:

I you do decide to watch ‘Meteor Garden’, I would recommend skipping the last three or four episodes. The ending to this show was awful. I thought I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending of ‘Boys Over Flowers’, simply because I’m not a huge fan of amnesia plot lines and I didn’t really like Jun Pyo and Jan Di together. But in comparison, that ending looks fantastic. Towards the end of this series it really feels like they ran out of story and the show should just end, and then you realize that there are still a few episodes left. In these episodes they shoehorn in a storyline where Si’s Mom decides to try and separate them for a final time and they both decide that if they can’t be together they would rather starve. I am never a fan of plot lines like this, I think these kinds of plots are usually added dramatically without actually putting care into handling the situation. When his Mom finally relents, the characters are both so weak that they pass out and then a series of really weird events happen that have made audiences question whether or not the end of this series really happened. After some filler stuff, the main character winds up at a weird version of her wedding where there’s a really disturbing dance that Si’s sister does (My Netflix account thought the dance was just as bad as I did apparently because it crashed part way through), and then guests suddenly appear and they get married. This is followed by a “honeymoon” that can only be described as a long advertisement. These scenes are nothing but product placement. Some people think the ending for this show was a dream the main character had, others think that the characters died and this is the afterlife, others think that the show has done crazy enough things for this to be a real ending. I’m not quite sure what to think other than I wish these episodes weren’t in the series. It felt like they were only there to fill an episode count and I would have much rather ended the series with the two characters planning their wedding. That’s where I’m going to pretend the ending was anyways. At least Jun Pyo getting his memories back from Jan-Di falling in the water was kind of cute.

The Music:

I just had to add this in here. ‘Boys Over Flowers’ all the way. ‘Making a Lover’ is such a good song and I got so tired of hearing the same two songs over and over in ‘Meteor Garden’.

Though I gave more points here to ‘Boys Over Flowers’, I definitely wouldn’t say that it’s the better show. Especially because ‘Meteor Garden’ has a much better main romance and has a more cohesive plot. If you would have told me that the events of ‘Meteor Garden’ are in a completely different order before I watched this series, I would have been extremely skeptical. But somehow it makes the story make more sense. Seriously, this couple was so cute and I would definitely rewatch certain episodes of this show. But there were several things about this show that also weren’t as good. I guess choosing between these two shows is a matter of what you’re looking for. If you want nostalgia, something pretty cheesy, and some great supporting characters watch ‘Boys Over Flowers’. But if you’re watching for a good romance, go for ‘Meteor Garden’ all the way. Just…maybe skip those last few episodes. Either way you go, I actually found both shows to be cute and worthwhile despite some of my problems with them. There’s also plenty of travel in both if you’re looking for escapism right now, because I know I am!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

K-Pop and K-Dramas: “Dynamite” Hit 1 Billion on Youtube!

Screenshot of Jeon Jungkook, Kim Seokjin, Min Yoongi, Kim Taehyung, Kim Namjoon, Park Jimin, and Jung Hoseok in the music video for “Dynamite”. Copyright goes to BTS and the HYBE Corporation.

Hey! Hallie here!

BTS is constantly breaking records. From individual mixtapes hitting unseen highs for Korean artists, to new songs topping the charts immediately after release, there’s always some sort of congratulatory hashtag trending on Twitter. To many people, the constant onslaught of BTS’s successes has become background noise. But BTS deserves the high praise no matter how many times they start trending on Twitter. A Korean group dominating worldwide, including in markets that still have major issues honoring non-white and non-English-speaking artists, is insane. Even putting that aside, “Dynamite” hitting the 1 billion mark is one of the biggest record-breaking acts to celebrate right now. And it’s not just because the song is catchy.

The Grammys:

ARMYs know that the Grammys was, as usual, absolutely awful to BTS. They nominated them for only one Grammy after all the records they broke, announced the winner of the Grammy in a pre-show rather than during the actual awards, and still shoved BTS’s performance until the end of the show in an attempt to profit off of the views ARMY would give them. All of that and BTS didn’t win despite the fact that they were clearly the best suited to win the award. When all of this happened, the majority of ARMYs decided to turn their attention to something far more productive than trolling the winners of the Grammy BTS was up for. Instead, in order to demonstrate how well loved and appreciated BTS and “Dynamite” are, ARMYs decided to get “Dynamite” to 1 billion views on Youtube. The music video was already in the 900 millions, but there was still a long road to getting the video to the 1 billion mark, especially with the strange discrepancies in Youtube’s view counting. And here we are, less than a month after the Grammys aired. This milestone proves to the industry and those willing to brush off BTS that they can’t be ignored. Even without winning a highly controversial award that has somehow received the reputation of being a sign that an artist has “made it” in the music industry, BTS is more popular than ever. Their exceptional singing and dancing has earned them such a large fan base that the Grammys are irrelevant. There’s a reason the Grammys attempted to use BTS for the views of their fanbase.

ARMYs:

This isn’t just a major accomplishment for BTS. It’s a major accomplishment for their fanbase. The love that ARMYs show for BTS is immense and ARMYs mobilize quickly. ARMYs have mobilized for excellent causes, like BLM. And similarly, ARMYs mobilized to get “Dynamite” to 1 billion to critique the racist industry that takes BTS for granted because they’re Korean. Obviously ARMYs have proven time and time again that they shouldn’t be messed with, but this feat specifically says a few important things about the fanbase. One is that this fanbase does not only consist of young girls. The sheer amount of people that consider themselves ARMYs and participated in the road to 1 billion far exceeds the amount that can just be brushed off as teen girls. The other is that women have created one of the biggest and most active fanbases of all time. Because yes, ARMYs shouldn’t be written off as just a group of teen girls because there are plenty of people of various different identities who enjoy BTS’s music. But the fanbase is still largely made up of women, and these women are now well-known for being far too powerful to push around. Just as BTS has shown they can’t be ignored, ARMYs have done the same.

The Downside:

Despite all the amazing reasons why we should be celebrating “Dynamite” right now, it’s important to stay cautious. “Dynamite” has received worldwide acclaim, but why this song? BTS has released hundreds of songs, many that are considered far more masterful than “Dynamite”, but this is the one that has seen the most attention. Why not something like “Black Swan”? It’s because the song is in English. This song was written by a team of writers in order to appeal to American and English-speaking audiences. The members of BTS usually have a large hand in writing and creating their songs, but this song was (mostly) an exception. So not only is it their only English song to date, it also was devoid of their writing and general themes. It’s a cute song, but it’s clear that there are other songs in their arsenal that should have been more popular than this. They simply aren’t popular because those songs are in Korean. BTS themselves are aware of this fact, often joking to talk show hosts that suggested they release another English song that the talk show host should write the lyrics for them. When creating the ‘BE’ album the members of BTS even rewrote songs they had initially written in English to ensure all the songs on the album were in Korean. They don’t want to give up singing in their native tongue, and they shouldn’t have to. BTS should be appreciated for their Korean songs just as much, if not more, than for their English ones. While getting “Dynamite” up to 1 billion views is nice, it’s just a small step in the huge goal to make sure BTS is acknowledged for their major accomplishments regardless of their nationality or the language they speak.

I don’t want to leave this post on a downer. “Dynamite” hit 1 billion views! We should be celebrating! All of the ARMYs who took time out of their schedules to watch “Dynamite” multiple times should be proud of themselves. And even if you couldn’t, just watching the video once or listening to the song on any streaming service is worth giving yourself a pat on the back. Any kind of support adds majorly to the amount of voices aiding BTS in the journey to eliminate racism from the music industry. It’s definitely a cause worth celebrating.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

K-Pop and K-Dramas: The Best Romance in ‘Boys Over Flowers’

Screenshot of (left) Kim So-Eun as Chu Ga Eul and (right) Kim Bum as So Yi Jung in ‘Boys Over Flowers’. Copyright goes to KBS.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I promised another post about my recent re-watch of ‘Boys Over Flowers’ and here it is! I wasn’t originally planning to separate the two posts, but this one had to be pushed back because of a previous ongoing series of posts. Sorry! Trust me, I would have rather posted about this. In my previous post about ‘Boys Over Flowers’, I talked about the main love triangle and what I though of each romance plus each character individually. But my favorite romance from this show had nothing to do with the love triangle. The sub-plot romance surpassed it by a long shot. Seriously, it was so much better and so insanely cute. This was possibly my favorite part of the entire series. But, once again, I have a lot of thoughts about why this couple worked and the main couple didn’t, so let’s get into it!

Ga Eul:

Ever the voice of reason. When Jan Di is freaking out or blaming people that she shouldn’t, Ga Eul is right there to give her advice. I loved her character right from the start because of her ability to stand up for herself and others as well as how intelligent she was, especially compared to a few other characters in the show. In one of the first scenes with Ga Eul and Yi Jung, he basically tells her to warn Jan Di not to get involved with Jun Pyo. Ga Eul is having none of this, tells him off, and then leaves. It was such a cathartic scene. In situations where Jan Di won’t stand up for herself, Ga Eul always will. When Yi Jung takes Ga Eul on a “date” during a time where he is very emotionally unstable, she throws a drink in his face when he’s a jerk to her. Ga Eul felt like one of the only characters in the show who was never willing to compromise her morals. Several people called her a “good girl” throughout this series, and she never disputed it or changed herself even though this is always used with a negative connotation against her. While Jan Di was constantly getting saved throughout the show, it was nice to see a female character who could take care of herself. (Jun-Pyo’s sister was pretty great too though.) I do wish we would have seen more of her family life and gotten some more character development that focused completely on her. Unfortunately, we didn’t get much of that. The series is, understandably, more focused on Jan Di and the F4.

Yi Jung:

Yi Jung was a character that I wasn’t sure I was going to like at the beginning. Towards the beginning of the show it was very clear that the narrative was doing a lot for the two members of F4 who were a part of the main love triangle and pretty much nothing at all for the other two members. Then Yi Jung started getting more stuff, like his one on one talks with Ji-Hoo when he and Jan-Di were competing against Jun-Pyo to see if they would have to leave the school. Slowly we got more character development from him. Such as him visiting his father at work and warning a woman his father was seeing that his father had no plans to commit to her. His quiet acts of kindness made him one of the most intriguing characters in the show. On my first watch of this I was pretty scared that they were going to leave it at that, but then they did a fully developed character arc for him that involved exploring his depression due to his past, his parents, and his responsibilities. It almost felt like this is what they were trying to do with Jun-Pyo, but on a smaller scale and this time it actually worked. Unlike Jun-Pyo, we saw Yi Jung’s softer more respectful side come out throughout the series and Yi Jung actually showed remorse for his actions. There are a couple things that Yi Jung did that were absolutely horrible during his character arc. Such as treating Ga Eul in the way that he did at the dinner with his father and harassing a woman at the bar when he was absolutely wasted. But, all things considered, they made his actions understandable and eventually redeemable. (I will admit, there are several things about this show that didn’t necessarily age well.) But he really did feel like what Jun-Pyo’s character could have been if the writing had been better.

The Chemistry:

It’s really interesting when this romance first starts out because you can tell that both characters are interested in each other, but are very wary of each other at the same time. Yi Jung has a reputation among women, which is never a good thing at all. Ga Eul is understandably skeptical of him because of this. But he’s equally afraid of her because the failure of his parents marriage, the nature of his father, and his past experiences have made him afraid of commitment. There’s an interesting moment with his father where their conversation reveals to the audience that Yi Jung’s playboy persona came about because of his frustration with his father and his hope that his father might see what he was encouraging his son to become and feel remorse. Of course, his father couldn’t care less. This paired with the fact that his former girlfriend, that he still isn’t over, decided to start a relationship with his brother behind his back, makes him extremely skeptical of anything involving relationships. He rejects Ga Eul because she believes in a soulmate and he doesn’t want to disappoint her because he’s past believing in romance at all. The best part of this? Ga Eul isn’t there to fix him. Sure, she helps him back on his feet, but she also makes sure that he knows that changing is something he’ll have to do himself. She can’t do that for him. By the end of the series he still isn’t quite ready for a relationship, but this is something the show acknowledges. Instead of asking Ga Eul out, he informs her that he’ll be leaving for four years and that he will look for her when he comes back, but he isn’t expecting her to wait for him. Of course, Ga Eul believes in soulmates and waits for him, but I think it was a really responsible thing for the writers to make sure the characters waited until they both were ready. Not only is this couple both responsible and supportive of each other, they’re also so cute. She learns pottery for him and he gets back at a cheating boyfriend for her. It’s just so cute seeing this relationship grow without either character sacrificing parts of themselves for the other person.

I think I’ve gushed about this couple enough for now, but I still can’t get over them. Every time they came on screen I started smiling like an idiot. I’ve heard that a lot of people prefer this couple to the main one and I have no questions as to why that is. Right now I’m watching the 2018 ‘Meteor Garden’, which is a Chinese drama based on the same source material as ‘Boys Over Flowers’ so this will not be my last post about this show. As soon as I’m finished with that series I’ll at least have one post comparing the two. I think I might already know which show I prefer, but I’m not finished yet so I guess I’ll have to wait and see!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Video Games: Why You Should Play ‘Hades’

Art of Zagreus from ‘Hades’. Copyright goes to Supergiant Games.

Hey! Hallie here!

‘Hades’ seems to be the game everyone has been talking about recently. Especially since the game was released for the Nintendo Switch. But this game has also chased many gamers away. After all, roguelike games are frustrating by nature. Roguelike games rely on the player having to start from the beginning when they die. No saving after you beat a boss. No being able to leave an area behind. If you lose to the final boss (and you will) you have to face all of the other bosses you’ve defeated before you get a retry. And even after you beat the final boss, the game encourages you to do so again, multiple times, in order to fully complete the story. So why is it getting so much attention? This was my first roguelike game and I recently beat the final boss for the first time after many, many, tries. Here’s why the game kept pulling me in without making me want to chuck my Switch through a wall.

Story and Characters: This game has a surprisingly in-depth story, with various subplots to explore as you play as well. All of these plots are heavily character driven. You play as Zagreus, the son of Hades and Persephone, who has recently discovered that his father lied to him about who his mother is. With the knowledge that his mother is Persephone, and that she has mysteriously decided to reside solely aboveground, Zagreus decides to escape the underworld so that he can meet his mother. Zagreus is a fun character on his own but, having grown up in the underworld, he’s developed strong relationships with multiple famous figures from mythology. For example, his tutor and father-figure Achilles, his mother-figure Nyx, and even Cerberus, his childhood dog. Each character can be found within the House of Hades, which is the base you return to after you die. The only way to get to know these characters to the fullest extent is to constantly speak to them every time you return to the house, and even gift them with supplies you collect during each escape attempt. Doing so will unlock side quests and meaningful interactions with the characters. They also come in and out, so you never know who you’ll be able to see and who will be missing each time you return to the house. Not only that, but some characters will randomly appear while you’re out attempting to escape the underworld, and these characters are just as important. They often connect to characters inside the House of Hades, meaning it will take multiple escape attempts to correspond between the two characters. This is especially rewarding in cases like Achilles and Patroclus, who have been separated for a long time. There’s always something new to discover amongst the characters. Even amongst the Greek gods, who will offer you help during each run. And on top of all that, the character art is gorgeous. There’s nothing not to like!

Variety:

The worry a lot of people have when it comes to roguelike games, is that it will feel like you started from the beginning each time you make another attempt at getting through the game. This isn’t true for ‘Hades’. Firstly, the gods that aid you during each escape attempt are different. So you might be greeted by Athena at the beginning of one run who will offer you a choice between defensive abilities. However, on the next run, Ares might greet you with some much more violent options to add to your arsenal. The areas you traverse through also change each escape attempt. You’ll enter different rooms in different orders, and the game will even allow you to choose which rooms you enter based on which reward you want. For example, if you’re in need of health you can choose a room that offers health, but if you want some coin to pay for more abilities to help you through the run, you can choose a room that offers you coin. Even before you start a new escape attempt the House of Hades will give you options to shake things up. Early on you’ll be given access to a mirror in your room. Go up to it, and the mirror will offer you various permanent upgrades to your character to ensure you’re stronger each time you decide to fight your way out of the underground. You’ll also unlock an entire arsenal of weapons to choose from as you play, all of which have permanent upgrades you can unlock. Sometimes a weapon will have a dark mist covering it, indicating it will offer more power for the next escape attempt if you choose to wield it. No two escape attempts are the same and there’s so much to unlock and upgrade that you can’t get bored.

Production: This game was highlighted by various gamers for one very important reason. The production of the game lacked crunch time. Often times when a large company announces a release date for a new game, it is far too soon. This leads to companies encouraging employees to work long hours with very little sleep in order to make the deadline, or crunch time. As always, when production is rushed and employees are sleep-deprived, the finished product isn’t anywhere near as good as it could be. It’s certainly not worth practically abusing employees over. Games like ‘Cyberpunk 2077’ were heavily criticized for using these methods to meet a deadline. ‘Hades’ avoided this entirely. The game was created gradually, with no definite release date. As a result, the game is amazing, it has plenty of quality content to keep gamers coming back, and employees were able to maintain their physical and mental health. With crunch time becoming the norm in big video game companies, it’s important to praise the games that were made without the added stress.

Obviously, I think ‘Hades’ is an extremely lovable game. As a Greek mythology fan, I appreciate all of the references in the game. But you don’t have to know mythology to appreciate the amazing character writing and the investing story. This game can be frustrating, as all games are. But it offers up so much that it isn’t monotonous. It’s definitely one of my favorite games I’ve played recently and I’d highly recommend it.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie