July 10, 2013

Vampire Prosecutor Season 1 Revisited

I can’t really say why balmy nights turn my thoughts to the blood-sucking undead. Summer and vampires just seem to go together.

Since my dramas-to-watch list is ever-lengthening, I don’t usually watch one I’ve already seen. However, everything I liked the first time in Vampire Prosecutor Season 1 – acting, cinematography, music – is just as good the second time around. And the two episodes that wrap up the season are considerably clearer. I think I finally have a firm grip on the storyline.

Now that I’m free to focus on details other than plot, here’s what jumped out at me.



June 26, 2013

Vampire Prosecutor - Season 1 Review

In May, Korean cable network OCN released a lineup for 2013 that included a Season 3 for the popular vampire/crime drama, Vampire Prosecutor. Nothing more has been said, so who knows when (or if) it will happen. Fans have been waiting impatiently for quite awhile. Just in case, I decided it was high time I watched Season 2.

But first, I’m revisiting Season 1. I’m up to Episode 5, and finding it all makes a lot more sense when you’ve already seen the whole season once through. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that episodes 11-12 will be a little clearer the second time around.

If anyone knows where I can watch a version with subs other than DramaFever’s, please post a comment (Viki and Hulu both use the DF subs). I don’t know whether different subs would make a difference, but I’m curious.

You can read my episode reviews of Vampire Prosecutor Season 1 here.

September 16, 2012

Vampire Prosecutor Season 2 & Damo

The first episode of Vampire Prosecutor Season 2 is available with English subtitles on DramaFever and Hulu. I haven’t watched it yet. I think I’ll wait a bit until there is more than one episode, as patience is not one of my virtues. So no spoilers, please. I suppose I’ll have to avoid every other drama blog until I catch up!

Meanwhile, I’m continuing to watch Damo – another episode review is coming soon.

Vampire Prosecutor (Season 1) – Reviews

Also with Yeon Jeong Hun:
Can Love Become Money – Reviews

See all Damo and Lee Seo Jin reviews

July 7, 2012

Can Love Become Money? - Episodes 1-7 - Korean drama review

Yun Jung Hoon bites an award to test whether it is pure goldNow that Can Love Become Money? is available on DramaFever with English subtitles, I succumbed to the temptation to find out what it’s all about. Yes, I know I said in my un-review that I was happy to be free from the distraction of ridiculous plot twists. Perhaps I exaggerated a little.

Yun Jung grins evilyBut not about the plot twists – they are every bit as ridiculous as anticipated. Yeon Jung Hoon is deliciously slappable. Comic gifts that were merely hinted at in Vampire Prosecutor (mostly in scenes with Lee Won Jong), are given full rein in Can Love Become Money? His stock of sneers, pouts, glares, and evil grins is bottomless. We love to hate him.

However, there’s more serious subtext to this “romantic comedy” than I expected. We’re starting to see that even the characters we like are deceiving others for their own ends. A particularly nasty character brings this to our attention at the end of Episode 7. Despicable as he is, we have to concede the point. While the motivating backstories of unsympathetic characters unfold, sympathetic characters bare their claws, and it becomes harder to tell the difference.

A big initial turn-off was the implied rape and total physical subjugation of Uhm Ji Won early in the series. It’s supposed to explain her choices for the rest of the plot, but nothing so heavy-handed was necessary. Yoon Da Ran isn’t overly fastidious about ethical considerations. I’m seeing a lot of near and implied rape in Korean drama lately (two Vampire Prosecutor episodes, Love Rain hotel scene, etc.). In Can Love Become Money?, the perpetrators subsequently become comic characters, while Da Ran seems more traumatized when her underwear shows than she was by a group sexual assault. That’s troubling. People who write rape into plots should talk to some actual rape survivors first.

Yun Jung Hoon pretends to read a magazine while Uhm Ji Won chats interestedly with his blind date
However, women also fight back in Can Love Become Money? In Episode 4, Ma In Tak is mercilessly dressed down by the friend of a woman he has humiliated. Her no-holds-barred psychological profile of him is a revelation to Yoon Da Ran – who does her own venting later.
Uhm Ji Won takes a mallet to Yun Jung Hoon's windshield
The casting of 31-year old Wang Bit Na as an aging has-been actress is a puzzlement. Yoon Da Ran’s catty put-down of Hong Mi Mi (translated as “expired goods” in fan subs) was toned down to “she’s not so great” in Drama Fever’s subtitles. Was this because it was mean, or because Uhm Ji Won is actually the older actress (34)?? Hong Mi Mi is all over the place: seductive, whiny, confident, desolate, compassionate, calculating. I can’t figure out who she is.

As for Jo Yeon Woo, at first Kim Sun Woo seemed refreshingly likable. He gets a little ugly with Wang Bit Na, however, and what’s on his hidden agenda, anyway? In Episode 7, things with Wang Bit Na take an unexpected turn, and one wonders whether it can possibly end well.

Uhm Ji Won stares sadly after Yeon Jung Hoon through the bars of a gateSince I’ve seen a number of later episodes without subtitles already, I have some idea of what’s ahead. Transformations, for sure – a recurring theme in Korean drama. Sometimes it’s genderized, with love changing men to better human beings, while it changes women to better packaged ones (ala Love Rain). However, this time I think we are in store for personality changes all around. Do I even believe people can change that much? I’m not sure. But I love to watch the timid become brave, the selfish discover the suffering of others, and the crusty crack open to reveal a gooey center. Hmm, I think it’s lunchtime.

Also with Yeon Jeong Hun:

More Can Love Become Money? reviews
Vampire Prosecutor (Season 1) reviews

June 4, 2012

Vampire Prosecutor Season 1 – Episodes 11 & 12 – Korean drama review

You will want to watch the last two episodes of Vampire Prosecutor Season 1 in one sitting. It’s all about the hooded vampire and Min Tae Yeon’s back story now, and works best as one taut, ascending ride.

Although the action-packed two hours had the same plotting issues as earlier episodes (too many subplots, hasty and inadequate exposition of critical plot points, big holes), it was so emotionally satisfying that I didn’t really notice this until several hours later when the impact had worn off.

Somewhere along the line, reviews morphed into recaps, and have been getting longer and longer. There is too much story in the last two episodes to recap in detail, and I’m sure that’s already been done a time or two since the original broadcast in December 2011. The cloaked vampire did not turn out to be the person I thought I saw in the emergency room scene in Episode 10, but did turn out to be someone else I had suspected. However, there is another, much more surprising twist on the killings that ramps up the emotional volume to fever pitch.

SPOILER ALERT: stop here if you haven’t watched yet.

May 20, 2012

Vampire Prosecutor Season 1 – Episode 10 Korean drama review

men and women arriving with suitcases at a rural resortWe’re back to TV satirizing TV. Ahh. This time it’s a surprisingly compatible hybrid of finding-love reality show and English country house murder. The Vampire Prosecutor (Yeon Jeong Hoon) gets called away from the crime scene early in Episode 10, leaving Prosecutor Yoo (Lee Young Ah) and Detective Hwang (Lee Won Jong) to work the case on their own.

They’ve finally started to bond – she praises his interview technique and offers to follow his plan. He recognizes her persistence and thoroughness. They rib each other about romantic experiences, and we learn his sexism is fueled by an early disappointment in love (this is rot, of course, but Lee Won Jong is so likable he can get away with it).
Prosecutor Yoo and Detective Hwang listen closely to a witness
However, despite the growing camaraderie, they aren’t making much progress solving the crime. There are cameras all over the grounds, and the alibis all check out. Even the special insights of the Vampire Prosecutor aren’t much help.
SPOILER ALERT – stop here if you haven’t seen this yet.

May 12, 2012

Vampire Prosecutor Season 1 – Episode 9 Korean Drama review

Vampire Prosecutor wearing black shadesEpisode 9 of Vampire Prosecutor Season 1 is a tale of gangland infighting and seriously dysfunctional family relationships. Which is kind of the same thing, isn’t it? It opens with a ridiculously obscure scene, jam-packed with confusing intercuts, shifting camera angles and flashbacks, that is supposed to set up the whole storyline, but only makes sense after you have seen the rest of the episode – twice!
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t watched yet, stop here.

May 1, 2012

Can Love Become Money? – a Korean drama un-review

Can Love Become Money? continues to air without subtitles – and I continue to watch it that way. At first, this was a language exercise. Can Love Make Money? (as it’s also known) is more talk than action, and that’s just what I needed to acclimate my English-hearing ears to spoken Korean.

However, I suspect I enjoy this drama a lot more than I would if I actually knew what was going on. I watched the first 2 episodes with subtitles, which was plenty to establish the utterly makjang nature of the series. Since then, I’ve diligently avoided recaps and reviews. The result: I’ve been free to enjoy marvelous acting without the distraction of ridiculous plot twists. And thus is born – the un-review!

Ma In Tak is a plum role for Yun Jung Hoon, who gets to demonstrate an impressive range of emotions and attitudes. They come through loud and clear, using the time-honored techniques of body language, tone, and facial expression. Although his Vampire Prosecutor is an intriguing and engaging fellow who grows and develops over Season 1, Ma In Tak covers a lot more psychic ground in his character development. That transformation is by far the best thing about Can Love Become Money? I wonder whether I could fully appreciate the rich nonverbal nuances of Yun Jung Hoon’s performance if I was focusing only on the words?

It’s a little harder to tell what’s going on with Uhm Ji Won sometimes, though that’s probably not her fault. Korean drama scripts are forever freezing heroines like deer in the headlights at pivotal moments, as if they themselves don’t know what they are feeling. SO annoying. Really, writers, this is NOT consistent with the Spunky Heroine persona, nor flattering to female viewers, who know women are more resilient than that!

There’s a second couple in Can Love Become Money? I have no idea what their relationship to the primary couple is, but it’s interesting to watch the shifting dynamics in the interactions. Jo Yeon Woo’s facial expressions are particularly effective at communicating an extreme range of reactions through the subtlest changes. If I go back to watch once subtitles are available, he’ll be the main reason why.

Maybe I’ll try subtitle-free watching from now on whenever actors worth watching appear in a series that isn’t. Try it – you’ll see what I mean!

UPDATE, July 4, 2012: DramaFever is now offering subtitled episodes, though they use fan subs, so the pace of release for each ep is still agonizingly slow. Don’t get me wrong, fan-subbers, I love you to death. Seriously, I am so, SO grateful for all the time you put into making Korean drama accessible to us monolinguists, and I aspire to one day become fluent enough to help out. It’s just that my memory is not that good, so long gaps between episodes means I have to go back and remind myself where I left off. Come to think of it, I enjoy that, so I’ll just shut up now and try to cultivate a zen state of timeless mind. What I started to say, dear readers, was that I will probably, eventually, write a non un-review of this drama. Got that? [Further update: I did. Several, in fact. All episodes are now available on DramaFever.]

Also with Yeon Jeong Hun:

More Can Love Become Money? reviews
Vampire Prosecutor (Season 1) reviews

April 30, 2012

Vampire Prosecutor Season 1 – Episode 8 Korean Drama review

Episode 8 of Vampire Prosecutor, Season 1 opens with a car chase.

Looking out Detective Hwang's windshield at Detective Yoo's car blocking his way
Detective Hwang (Lee Won Jong) pursues a suspect fleeing from a murder scene. He calls for backup, and is startled when Prosecutor Yoo (Lee Young Ah) responds. Working together, they manage to corner the suspect, but
SPOILER ALERT – If you haven’t seen this yet, stop here

April 27, 2012

Vampire Prosecutor Season 1 – Episode 7 Korean Drama review

TV mocking TV is one of my favorite things. Episode 7 of Vampire Prosecutor Season 1 opens with Chae Wook’s Invective Show. Invective. Now there’s a word you don’t get to use every day – not in my line of work, anyhow. Did you have to look it up to refresh your memory? Me too.

The fictional talk show seems mild by American standards. A supposedly ruthless host lures notorious guests onto the show with promises to avoid unwelcome topics. Naturally he breaks that promise the moment they are on the air. You’d think the title “Invective Show” would tip them off, wouldn’t you? Maybe they neglected to look it up.
talkshow set with semicricle of plastic lawn chairsfor the female audience
It’s hard to be sympathetic towards people who are not only pretentious, criminal and even murderous, but terminally gullible on top of it. And what is up with the entirely female audience on plastic lawn chairs? But I digress. The point is, when the host is murdered, suspects abound. Topping the list is a head-tripping self-styled psychic who predicted the death. Lee Won Jong’s questioning of this suspect, who bedevils him with cryptic nonsense, is a high point of the episode.

In this episode, we learn what happens when
SPOILER ALERT – stop here if you haven’t watched this yet MORE…