kaigou: Toph says: hell yeah, meeting adjourned. (2 meeting adjourned)
Per the poll in a previous post, I'm clearly not alone in being more likely to do the teeth-gnashing when it's a badly-written story with a theme I'm normally pretty invested in. And pursuant to that...

Dear screenwriter(s):

It's episode 14 of a 16-episode series, and I CANNOT TAKE IT ANYMORE. I get that you really wanted Miss Female Lead to be something other than a damsel in distress, and that's great. And I also get that you didn't want her being the usual thriller/action Action Girl, either, but just to be a relatively normal person stuck in a tangled web. That's fine. We could probably use more relatively normal people stuck in tangled thriller/action webs. But here's the problem: apparently in your dictionary, "agency" is spelled S-T-U-P-I-D-I-T-Y.

Let's review what Miss Female Lead knows to be the facts on the ground, shall we?

1. Her (biological) father is a Mafia boss in Thailand.
2. A guy, who works at some nameless IT corporation, likes her.
3. The guy has a brother (adopted) who works at the same company.
4. Adopted brother turns out to be her childhood sweetheart.
5. She likes Brother better than Guy.
6. Also, Father works at the same nameless IT company with his two sons.

What she doesn't know -- at first -- is that "nameless IT company" is really NIS (the kdrama's version of FBI/CIA/whatever, National Intelligence Security, I think it is). When Brother gets fired for mucking up his first mission, he realizes he now has time to actually, y'know, be a human being and possibly show some emotions (as opposed to continue being eaten up by the usual kdrama I Must Have Vengeance For My Parents' Deaths rigamarole). Anyway, somewhere in there, Miss Female Lead finds out that all three men in the family work for NIS. Then, tragically, Brother dies in Horrible Car Accident! Much grieving abounds.

...Three years later, Mafia Boss Dad comes to Korea, and in tow, is a guy -- we'll call Undercover Guy -- who looks exactly like her dead boyfriend! I'd say it's a kind of coincidence that only happens in kdrama land, except that I've seen the same thing in animanga, Hollywood, and probably one or two Brazilian soap operas. ANYWAY. So she briefly lampshades that this bizarre coincidence could only happen in dramas, but what does she do now?

Stab stab stab stab stabbity. )

Sorry, show, I know I stuck it out with you for this long, but I can't take it anymore. Stop loving me. REALLY.

kaigou: this is what I do, darling (2 olivia is not impressed)
The butcherblock I wanted may be out of stock, but at least I came home to stumble over this news on the 'net:
It is now confirmed that Fuji TV will broadcast a sequel to the 2009 drama series "BOSS" this spring. Starring Yuki Amami (43) as the head of a team of detectives, the show averaged 17.0% ratings with a peak of 20.7%, and many fans have been hoping for another season.

The story this time will continue from the final scene of the first series, with Amami's character Eriko receiving a sudden phone call as she is about to leave Japan, leading her to once again take the reins of the special detective unit. The main supporting cast will be returning, including Yutaka Takenouchi, Erika Toda, Junpei Mizobata, Michiko Kichise, Kendo Kobayashi, Yoichi Nukumizu, and Tetsuji Tamayama.

The sequel will air in the same Thursday 10:00pm time slot, starting in April.

Seeing how Osawa (Amani's character) is possibly the closest to a live-action Olivia Armstrong I've ever seen, I cannot wait for the second season of this series. Guess I'll just have to rewatch the first season to prep myself. Oh, the agony. Not.
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (2 angst!)

Jess, jess music! WTF, over.

3/4 of way through episode, characters arrive at music hall. Poster behind them of tall black man playing a saxophone. ahah. Jazz music.

Poker waltz, however, had me utterly stumped.

Until three episodes later, it's mentioned again, but this time with context of waiting for the 9 and 3/4 train or whatever it is.

Poker Waltz = Hogwarts.
kaigou: just breathe (2 just breathe)
So I'll just link outright: Nobuta wa Produce review: part one & part two.
Admittedly, Nobuta wo Produce hardly looks impressive on the surface, and can be dismissed by the casual observer as just another idoru vehicle set against the disposable backdrop of high school — with the fluff, the stereotypes, the puerile laughs — only to be swallowed in a sea of other mass-produced Jdramas of the same teen-wanking formula… But no. This one is different. Because once in a while we drama fans are gifted with a viewing experience so transcendent in both style and substance, a triumphant synergy of directorial creativity, of writing deep and resonant, and of characters so heartbreakingly authentic.

At first I was leaning towards dismissing the series as just another fluffball, if a slightly odd fluffball considering the only way I could handle one character's behavior/delivery was by seeing him as a permanently-stoned, slightly-tipsy, Spicoli done over as a Japanese idol. But before I knew it, the story grew on me, and by the halfway point (maybe even by ep3), I could see why the reviewer raves over the series. It's certainly not your average idol-based drama, that's for sure.

It's a little more insular than My So-Called Life, with its focus more on school-time; the characters' families or homes are in passing at best and afterthoughts at worst. The real focus is between the three leads; also, unlike MSCL's understated grittiness, and provocative introspection, NwP is really, as endersgirrrl puts it in her review, pure magical realism. A fair bit of goofball who's the wise fool, a withdrawn shy girl, and a lonely boy scared to reconcile his true self with his popular image... with Santa Claus, shared dreams, and piggy good-luck charms. Also, the granting of wishes, even if the one that comes true is the wish for curry bread.

Maybe someday I'll have the brain cells to tackle some of the marvelous ways this little fluffball-series showed a core of real passion and strength. Probably not today, though, so I must rely on another's review to do the convincing. All I can say is: it's a series worth watching.
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (3 missy in the lower-left panel)
It's a comedy series, so there's exaggeration for the purposes of humor, mostly playing on how (from a Korean perspective) the Japanese will bow, then you bow, then they bow, and you have to bow again, and it's never-ending.

A few comments. )
kaigou: Skeptical Mike is skeptical. (1 skeptical mike)
I am completely baffled, because here's a language for which no one gives subtitles.

In jdramas, I've seen people bow when they greet, when they depart, when they apologize, and when they congratulate. Often it's multiple bows in the same space of time, such as bowing in greetings, to which the other person bows, and then there's a response bow. (This got parodied wonderfully in a short segment in the first episode of the kdrama, Coffee House.) From CP and Japanese friends, I have some understanding of the basic etiquette of bowing... but it's not doing me much good in understanding the nuances when I'm watching kdramas. At least, I can't just assume the two correlate, because when you deconstruct kdrama bows, the details and style are different -- enough that I'm not willing to just take it for granted that they mean the same or should be applied/understood the same way.

Where, when, and who of bowing in jdramas, kdramas, and tw-dramas, with notes on what looks like the styles of bowing for each. )

I've found various essays/articles about bowing for Japanese culture, but none for Korea or Taiwan, and definitely none that compare the greeting/departure nuances between the three. If you watch any of those countries' dramas, or are familiar with any of the cultures directly, am I missing something that might explain the nuances? Do you see the same pattern, or do you see real-life patterns being different, and if so, any idea of why the drama-versions vary from real life and/or are so consistent in their presentation?
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (3 get down from there)
50 Things You Learn from K-Dramas - reposted by tashiichaan from a d-addicts thread

Archetype and Stereotype Writing Prompt by Christina Chang, Jaehong Park, Nina Lim
As Korean audiences ourselves, we realized that most Korean dramas have certain stereotypical ideas and values in their basic storylines. It is apparent that most of Korean dramas implement stereotypical formulas because those formulas usually guarantee success, as certain things are more likely to attract audiences proven by ratings of different dramas and stereotypes that were shown before. Although Korean drama industry has remains very conservative and reserved compared to many Western, American, or even Japanese dramas, we could cleary see that the Korean drama industry did make quite a bit of progress, becoming much more expressive. While many of the ideas and genres for a certain fixed audiences will continue to prevail in Korean dramas, with the sign of progress that has been shown, it is fair to expect innovative, more expressive, and exciting themes to be introduced in Korean dramas for a wider range of audiences for the future.

Why Everybody Should Watch Korean Dramas (Even If You Can't Speak Korean and Hate Kim Chi) by Homegrown Social Critique
The joy of the Korean Drama lies in the lingering look, the hand that almost touches, but never does, and the enjoyment of an experience through the repetition of flashbacks. Wallace Stevens once wrote, "I do not know which to prefer, /The beauty of inflections/Or the beauty of innuendoes." In Korean Drama, it is definitely the latter.

Shafted, shafted, shafted: A Story of Female Second Leads by sevenses
This is just something I’ve noticed, but the amount of hate towards female characters almost always beats the hate for male ones. And while on one hand it’s seriously not cool, on the other hand I think the tired old tropes women keep being thrust into have something to do with it.
kaigou: pino does not approve of where the script is going. (2 pino does not approve)
If you haven't heard of the Bechdel Test (where have you been), here are the requirements for a movie, television show, book, play, etc to get a passing grade.
  1. It has to have at least two women in it.
  2. Who talk to each other.
  3. About something besides a man.
Given the plethora of dramas, movies, anime, and manga/manhwa I've watched or read in the past six months, I'm starting to think this just isn't enough. For instance, a lot of the k-dramas pass the Bechdel Test... on total technicalities. Women discuss: what they'll wear out that night; what make-up they use or their nightly moisturizing routine; doing housework; what kind of food to make or how to make it; how their current diet-fad works and whether it's working. It's a lot of women-are-talking ... about things that are stereotypically "okay" for women to discuss: all the things that, in one way or another, are part and parcel of the requirements society pushes onto women for being women.

Shorter version: there's a lot of Bechdel-Test-passing in which #3 is satisfied by conversations that, basically, revolve around the trappings of femininity. The resulting message is that if women aren't focused on men, then they're focused on what could make them attractive to men.

Thus, I suggest we need multiple levels of Bechdel. )

ETA: as usual, see comments for further discussion.
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (2 heero solider)
Came across this paper: Gender Differences In The Chinese Language: A Preliminary Report by Marjorie K.M. Chan, Ohio State University

Summary: "Research on language and gender interaction is well into its third decade and yet there have been surprisingly few contributions from the Chinese language to the explosion of cross-linguistic literature on the topic. This paper brings together both scattered observations and detailed published works on Chinese to provide a preliminary report on gender differences in the Chinese language."

I recently finished watching Sweet Relationship [美味關係 / Mei Wei Guan Xi ], which I'll review/comment on later, but just wanted to mention in light of the linked paper: the lead actress, Patty Hou, was criticized in an online review for having 'odd pronunciation' that the reviewer found annoying -- for being too precise. Perhaps, the reviewer said, this was because Hou was previously a newscaster (that is, had wrong/different training than an actress). Me, I found Hou's accent to be very familiar -- she reminded me strongly of the coworker who used to tutor me in Mandarin. (X. had a bachelor's in radio communications from a PRC university.) Hou's tonal inflections, like my friend's, are softer, yet she enunciates clearly. As my mother might say, Hou 'moves her mouth' -- something I can't say of many other Taiwanese actors and actresses (especially when you contrast male Taiwanese actors' near-constant slurring dropped-tones versus the extreme pitch-inflection of male PRC actors).

And here's a bit from the first section of the paper, about just that. For info on the meaning of [v], see the wiki page on labiodental consonants. In this case, the [v] means the labiodental is a 'veh' sound, where you make the sound by putting your lower lip against your upper teeth to make the start of the sound. There are a number of labiodental consonants, but you can check the page to see the rest of them.
Interestingly, in Taiwan as well, one frequently hears news broadcasters using [v] in their speech, and this is typically (though not exclusively) produced by females. Such production is not accidental, as one trainee for television news broadcasting in Taiwan recalls. In her news broadcasting class at TTV in 1989, trainees were separated by sex, with female trainees taught by female instructors (and presumably male trainees taught by male instructors). In her all-female class, the trainees were asked to repeat and imitate their instructor, who used [v] in such words as yi wan ... Those who pronounced such words using the plain labial approximant, [w], were corrected by her. ... In Taiwan and mainland China, news broadcasters are often females. Shih (1984:224) attributes the greater use of female announcers to their more standard pronunciation and clearer enunciation. [Female newscasters also speak with] with steadier pitch (less pitch flunctuations) and in a lower and deeper voice... (Shih 1984:225).

And then, for those of you familiar with aegyo (see previous post with link spammage, for a link to a series of blog posts that went into depth on aegyo)... I came across behavior/speech in another drama that was almost identical to what I'd seen in kdramas. Honestly, for the first few minutes of the actress speaking, I couldn't even register her words as Mandarin, because she sounded like she was speaking Korean -- all nasalized vowels, drawn-out with complete exaggeration, and rising/falling tones where I least expected them.*

Check this out:
Gender differences in pronunciation may also be studied in association with a particular communication style, such as sajiao (撒嬌), analyzed by Farris (1995) in present-day Taiwan's setting. The sajiao style, which she describes as the adorable petulance of a spoiled child or young woman who seeks material or immaterial benefit from an unwilling listener, is analyzed as being marked for the feminine gender. Farris (p.16) reports on a friend's observation of a very nasal style in young unmarried women's use of sajiao with their boyfriends. Farris argues that the sajiao style indicates women's indirect and informal power in Chinese society; at the same time, it serves as a means to create and maintain that form of power.

...Zhang (1995) prefers the definition in the Modern Chinese Dictionary (Beijing: Commercial Press, 1979), namely, to deliberately act like a spoiled child in front of someone because of the awareness of the other person's affection. Zhang observes that in both mainland China and Taiwan, sajiao is a communication style that is typically used by children to their parents (to refuse things demanded of them or to get permission to do things prohibited by them), and by adults to their lovers or spouses (as a kind of romantic play)...

If I ever ruled the world and could change linguistic deliveries with one sweep of my hand, it would be to outlaw this style of petulant ultra-feminized delivery. I hear it, I want to KILL it. DED.

* by the 5th or 6th appearance from her, I started muting my speakers rather than listen to her. Thank the heavens for subtitles, because it was that or reach into the screen and seriously bitch-slap her for talking through her nose. Of a choice between listening to someone whine versus listening to nails on a blackboard, I'll take the freaking nails, any day.
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (4 oh em gee)
Class-passing: Social Mobility in Film and Popular CultureGwendolyn Audrey Foster

The first 6 pages are available as a google books preview. I'd quote more, but I'm not really up to sitting here typing in an excerpt from the book, so instead I'll just run a few review-excerpts past you. ) One of the points Foster makes is that class is a self-constructed (or socially-constructed) identity that can flux the way modern media/society will also flux gender. Although she doesn't say it explicitly (or maybe she does; I'm still working my way through the book), there are tells or signals that identify cross-classing in the same way that certain details will signify or indicate cross-gendering.

For some reason, in the middle of reading, I was reminded of the k-dramas I've seen that depict upper-class characters. Setting aside the culturally-loaded (or culturally-specifics) whistles of whether one eats with a fork and knife or eats with chopsticks, what one eats, and how one acts around the dinner table... in nearly every instance of a western-styled dinner table, I've had a strange knee-jerk reaction to the actors behind the characters.

The actors bite their forks.

You can hear the distinct clink of teeth on metal tines, and I can't help but be distantly amused at how this both annoys me to no end, even as it reveals (in me) a certain set of assumptions of what it means to bite a utensil. It's a major signifier -- or so I was taught -- of bad manners, hence, lower-class or less-class. Yet these are actors portraying supposedly top-of-the-heap (wealth-wise) characters, and in many ways, they have all the other trappings of class around them: cloth napkins, complex tableware, multiple courses delivered/eaten separately, and so on... and at the same time, they're displaying (apparently unconsciously) a complete lack of class (that is, table etiquette).

I don't think that double-meaning is intended in the original text, to be honest. I think I'm supposed to see the characters are being the ultimate in cosmopolitan, genteel, upper-class crust; at least, that's what the context appears to be saying. But just as I find myself recoiling whenever a supposedly upper-class character sticks his napkin in his collar (a bib? at the dinner table? are you kidding me?), I do the same when someone lets teeth come down hard on a fork or spoon.

As a result, I find myself reading into the text the sense that these characters are all falsehoods. They're duplicitous, attempting to pass themselves off as classy, when in fact a little detail like this reveals their overall failure to pass as upper-class... even as I intellectually am aware that it's more likely it's the actors playing a role of being wealthy characters (a kind of faux or temporary 'passing' in itself). It's a good chance I'm seeing a signal from the actor's personal backstory that indicates the actor was not raised with these little [western] etiquette rules; this lack of background/personal knowledge means the actor probably isn't aware s/he is signifying clearly the lack. I get that, but it's still hard to avoid making a connection/conclusion per the characters enacted.

Still. Untangling my own upbringing from my reactions to an onscreen story just reminds me all over again that I don't think we can underestimate just how much, as an audience, we infer into and out of a story... even when we're not consciously aware of what's driving our response. The reaction exists all the same.
kaigou: (1 mushu reads the news)
In US/EU television or movies: can you think of any female characters that are genuinely stupid?

I don't mean the dingbat of the screwball comedy, unaware of the 'real world' but savvy about people. I don't mean the so-called dumb blonde (who actually manipulates really rather cunningly to obtain the material goods she desires, when you really take a look at her). The most common form of 'stupid girl' characters I can think of in western media are usually like the bubbleheaded archetype of the daughter in Married... With Children or Chrissy in Three's Company: the kind of person who stands around, helpless, while everyone tries to diffuse the bomb, and at the last second says, "why don't we just unplug it?" and reveals she's been standing next to the outlet for the bomb's timer. Her apparent bubbleheadedness is meant to show she sees the world in simpler terms, and therefore isn't fooled by certain behaviors/appearances that fool everyone else (even as she's otherwise fooled by everything that anyone else finds commonsense).

In a sense, I guess perhaps I'm looking for the female equivalent of the stereotypical 'dumb jock' -- all brawn, no brains, and not even any perceptiveness or flashes of intuition, let alone an ability to see to the (emotional) heart of things. Just plain, well, stupid.


ETA: was on TVTropes (and managed to make it out before dark!) and came across this instance of The Ditz. It's a classic example of what I mean when I say "stupid/airheaded/scatter-brained in some ways, but then shows flashes of insight, intelligence, or some other kind of savvy -- sometimes to deliver an emotional message (usually to one of the main protagonists), sometimes for the sake of a punchline o' irony. In this case, the purpose is the latter (comedic irony):
Rose, confronted by a robber at the front desk of the hotel the girls are running, is too ditzy to even realize that she's being robbed. The robber eventually leaves, with nothing, in frustration. The trope is subverted as Rose immediately calls the police, providing a detailed description of the robber, where he's headed, what kind of car he's driving, etc., ending with "Who is this? Oh, just someone who's not quite as dumb as she appears," much to the delight of the audience. The subversion itself is then subverted as we hear Rose's next line into the phone: "Oh, this is four one one?"

However, when I say "stupid," I mean a character who wouldn't just be unaware s/he is being robbed... but then wouldn't even realize after-the-fact, but would just carry on. Like an extreme of Ignorance is Bliss, perhaps.
kaigou: (1 buddha ipod)
Women in Movies and TV: Why Does Hollywood Always Portray Women as Weak and Helpless?
So brainwashed is the public that women should always be portrayed as weak, hapless and defenseless, that a most-brilliant Nike commercial was pulled shortly after it was aired on TV: Woman is sleeping. Man with chainsaw breaks through front door. Woman bolts awake and escapes through window into the dark. The chainsaw man storms through house and out same window. Woman is running through woods. Viewer hears chainsaw man in pursuit.

But something is peculiar here. The woman is running with beautiful strides, easily clearing forest-floor obstacles, and doesn't stumble! The scene switches back and forth between the agile woman and the increasingly out-of-breath man. Woman continues to run effortlessly, while man eventually slows, panting heavily, stops completely and can barely catch his breath.

Next scene against a black screen are the words: Why sport? It just might save your life. Nike. Just do it.

This brilliant ad was pulled because of complaints it was "offensive." Shame on anyone who complained. These overly sensitive viewers just couldn't grasp the concept of a woman outrunning a man. Yet I wonder how many of these feeble-brained viewers have enjoyed movies and TV shows showing women clumsily running from men, then tripping and falling, then being captured by the men.

A solid rant, with several good points to keep in mind when it comes to those damned drama wrist-grabs. Sheesh....and more. )
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (3 scare the devil)
I cannot recommend enough the Taiwanese drama, Black & White. On the surface, it's a cop-buddy series, with a kitchen sink of multi-layered, intricate, very-few-holes, plot that twists, twists back again, and then comes around to get you at the kneecaps. Politics, murder, suspense, procedural, a little bit of romantic triangle but leavened by some good male-female friendships, too. But what really makes it worth watching is that it is an entire series jam-packed with awesome female characters.

Here's a small taste of the kind of awesomeness I mean: the mob boss' daughter is shown as a little spoiled, definitely headstrong, but as one raised within the triad, she sees all the "brothers" as her "uncles". She's not so good with the hand-to-hand self-defense (and she's also teeny compared to most of the men in the cast), and it's a running joke how she keeps trying to flip various good (and bad) guys and never can manage it, but she also visits the range regularly & is a decent shot. Unfortunately, being the daughter of the mob boss means she's a target for anyone with a bone to pick, so it's no surprise she ends up hog-tied and laying across the train-tracks. Good thing she's alerted someone and a rescuer comes to save the day. (Not naming the rescuer because that'd be a major spoiler.)

They're getting away from the bad guys, but then the rescuer is shot and the motorcycle goes down. Now the bad guys have them cornered. Mr Rescue pulls two guns out from under the bike seat, puts 'em together, and tells her that he's going to run to the right and draw off the bad guys' fire. While he's doing that, she's to run to the left, get away, get help. Off he goes. Bad guys shoot. Just as the would-be self-sacrificed Mr Rescue ducks behind a barrier, the mob princess steps out from behind the first barrier and shoots both of the bad guys herself.

It's not treated as a kick-ass feminist moment (in terms of the music or other cues). It's not treated as comedy. It's not even treated as much of anything, other than the mob boss' daughter refusing to leave one of her men behind. So she joins in the fight rather than run away. (Later, one of the main protagonists runs and leaves men behind, and I think her reaction is also meant as echo/contrast to the protagonist's cowardice.)

For that matter, the top dog barely puts up any complaint, other than remarking that those weren't his directions. She just shrugs it off, and the matter's dropped. (I had expected the usual Hollywood fashion of the next ten minutes being him yelling at her about it, but we got none of that.)

That's just one instance in an entire series of instances where female characters don't cower helplessly or lie there waiting to be rescued (and the only reason the mob princess does that one time is because she's unconscious). For that matter, not a single female character calls herself stupid, nor do any of the male characters say that of the female characters.

Nor is there any nonsense of telling the woman to step down and go hide because the man feels compelled to protect her, as though she's a burden on him. In the scene described above, the dynamics are different, because Mr Rescue's instructions are nearly identical in spirit to instructions given to the actual mob boss, in earlier scenes (when his underlings willingly sacrifice themselves so he can get away). It's not a matter of, "I can't do my job if you're here being all need-my-protection," it's a matter of "my job is to protect you, so if you get away safely, I've done my job properly." The difference is that Miss Princess shows the same guts as her father (and uncles), and refuses to leave a man behind. While it may be striking to have a female character shooting back (and afterwards showing little to no remorse in doing so, yay!), the actual dynamics are no different from previous displays of male-underling-male-boss.

Overall, the female characters are quite capable of protecting themselves, far better than just about any other police-drama I can name, Western or Eastern.* Strong women, full agency, not a stupid one in the bunch, and all of them very capable -- and allowed, by the script, to be completely capable. There are other reasons to speak highly of the series, but the strong female characters have got to be at the top of the list.

(* A rare competitor for "way strong female roles" would be the Korean movie, Secret Couple, aka My Girlfriend is a Secret Agent, aka Grade 7 Civil Servant, and no I haven't the faintest which is official -- you can find the movie under any of those titles.)
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (3 love the stars)
There be spoilers in this post, which is both analysis & recommendation for a Taiwanese drama, Gloomy Salad Days. If you're worried about the subjects tackled by the drama, I'll be going into length, so at least you'll know what you're in for (with the cost of not being surprised).

First thing to realize: the entire series (twenty episodes, now fully fansubbed by SUBlimes -- google it) is inundated with pop-idols. You've got your current pretty-face stars, your rising stars, even bit-parts populated by various winners of various reality-show-idol-competition whatsahoosies. The entire cast list (outside of the few adult roles) is, well, mostly pop idols -- and it does seem that this may be the first major acting many of them have done. If you keep that in mind, you may find yourself not irritated at the low level of acting ability, but instead impressed at just how well many of the young cast members pull off some damn hard roles and storylines.

Second thing: the series is loosely based on a Japanese anime, Jigoku Shoujo (Hell Girl). The Taiwanese version was originally to be titled, "Death Girl" (and that right there is an important distinction); I think the final title is because of the song used as the opening, which fits the dark and often hopeless mood of the interior stories rather well.

I make note of the Hell Girl vs Death Girl, because if the Japanese version is strongly Buddhist, the Taiwanese version has major Taoist leanings instead... so a large chunk of the story has been shifted for the difference in world-view. Comparing the two versions, and overviews of some of the storylines, especially the one revolving around a transgender student, and the one tackling the issue of bullying. )

Much shorter version: the series is dark, melancholy, at times hampered by inexperienced acting (but not nearly as much as you might expect given the relative inexperience of the cast overall), but the script is solid and thoughtful writing, and it keeps its sympathetic focus entirely on the outcast characters, whatever their role. Transgender, gay, lesbian, abandoned child, child-prostitute, and so on. Some of the episodes are stronger than others, but that's to be expected with such a large and continually changing cast. All in all, though, this isn't your usual candy-fluffy pop-idol drama where someone's making sure the camera always gets the good sides, and the fact that this was marketed for and broadcast to 10-14 year olds just boggles me... and impresses me mightily. Overall, it's a damn gutsy television show.

Lastly: the final four episodes attempt to tie up the connection between Shen Qi and Death Girl, a la the original Jigoku Shoujo... but it's too much at once. The previous episodes had kept a better balance of how much melodrama was piled on, mostly because each storyline focused on a specific part/type of dramatic incident. The final four episodes throw in everything and the kitchen sink, including the dreaded "inappropriate feelings between siblings" (with the nearly-throwaway line to alert you to fake-out, that both siblings were adopted) -- and frankly, even the two experienced leads don't have the chops to keep the melodrama from crushing them. I've mostly browsed through the episodes, only stopping randomly.

You may enjoy the final four, or you may MST3K it out the wazoo, but if it helps, the final four episodes are not really required for any overall understanding. Each two-episode storyline could be considered reasonably standalone (with the possible exception of episodes 7-10, since Li You's story comes into play in Xiao Ju's story).

ps: I guess the wiki entry got un-reverted, because every change I made is now in there. *whistles*
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (3 scare the devil)
I just finished a series that retells a Korean legend and also riffs off the story of The Little Mermaid. As for the issue of feminist critique, well, the Hong sisters really hit it out of the park with this one. Like, into the next state. With bonus sparklers.

There's a lot of different places to begin, so instead I'll start with two videos. Might as well get it out of the way that GU MI-HO -- a mangling of the Korean title for "nine-tailed fox", "gumiho" -- played by Shin Mina -- slays me with the cute. Every time those dimples appear, I am down for the count. Lee Seung-gi plays opposite her, as CHA DAE-WOONG, and his dimples aren't bad, but she steals every scene and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

About the Hong sisters' retelling of an old Korean legend, the Hans Christian Anderson story 'The Little Mermaid', and the questions of earning humanity and deserving love. ) I won't tell you how the Hong sisters tweaked the last few fox-tails of the Korean legend, but I will tell you that if you want a feminist (or proto-feminist) retelling of a horrific fairy tale that's long overdue for a serious woman-positive reworking, then you need to find yourself a copy of My Girlfriend is a Gumiho. Even if you do risk death by dimples before the first episode ends.

Trust me, you'll find it's neomu neomu neomu neomu neomu neomu neomu neomu worth it.
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (4 pretentious with style)
I finally tracked down a copy of Legend, aka The Story of the First King's Four Gods, aka The Great King and the Four Guardians. It's got every button I want pushed: major themes, intricate relationships, major politics, a solid dose of the fantastical, a little bit of humor, continuous character development, and life and death on the line. With punk rockers. (No, really. There's fusion and then there's fusion.)

It also has Ming the Merciless! )
kaigou: first I'm going to have a little drinkie, then I'm going to execute the whole bally lot of you. (2 execute all of you)
I've been watching a kdrama called Sungkyunkwan Scandal (which I will probably never be able to pronounce, and here I thought Nurarihyon was a tongue-twister). There's a short summary at mehanata.net (along with dl & subs, if you're interested) but the gist is that it's a cross-dressing/genderbender storyline. Girl must pretend to be a boy for various reasons; the stakes are definitely life-or-death (due to historical injunctions against women in neo-Confucianism).

In the most recent episodes, the main love interest has struggled with his growing attraction to our heroine, whom the hero believes to be a boy. It's the same angst-fest (more or less) as in many other genderbender storylines. From what I can tell, one thing that appeals to modern readers about genderbenders (and I'm not counting cross-dressing stories where the intent is farcical) is that on one level, it's illustration of the notion that "girls can play equal to boys", even if this does require that part of "being equal" requires, well, not being a girl. Meanwhile, readers also get to enjoy seeing a boy grapple with his sexuality before coming to the love-affirming position that the sex of the beloved doesn't matter, that his love transcends physical sex. (I also think this decision is seen as affirming because the reader is in on the knowledge of the girl's true identity, so the stakes -- at least for the reader -- are never quite as high as they are for the hero going through the process.)

I know [personal profile] branchandroot discussed this at some point in the past, but I seem to recall her commentary mostly discussed the end-point of any genderbender, which is that ultimately everything does end up heteronormative. The hero's heterosexuality is confirmed when the girl reveals herself to be a girl; the girl takes off the pants and puts the skirt back on; the world returns to its comfortable heteronormative place.

There's two things I recently realized, while watching SKKS and reading various genderbender manhwa, and if you can think of other examples (or anti-examples), help me out here. )
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (3 break out of prison)
[note: incomplete research leads to reporting historical inaccuracies, but I just haven't had -- and knowing me, may never have -- a chance to fully/properly edit the post. please read the comments to see the corrections.]

I recently finished watching Hong Gil Dong, a retelling (and remixing) of an eponymous Korean novel. With a basic premise with the same archetypal lines as the West's Robin Hood, the Korean version was by Heo Gyun and was published somewhere around the late 1500s. (There seems to be some dispute as to whether Heo wrote the story, and I've even come across an article discussing a current-day historian's attempt to recreate/rediscover the footsteps of a 'historical' Hong Gil-dong. I'm as dubious of that project as I am of attempts to rediscover a historical Robin Hood or King Arthur, but I suppose there'll always be someone who thinks legends need a 'real' person behind them.)

About Gil-dong, monarchies, breaking history, cultural ownership, the historical Gwanghae, possible historical parallels, insider versus outsider representations, and a few other things. )


kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
锴 angry fishtrap 狗

to remember

"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

October 2016

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