The Wednesday Four

What we are we even on? Oh, right, week 20. So much keeps happening. It’s hard to believe it’s already April. It feels like it should be the end of the year already.

Anyway! You’ll notice this week’s articles are a bit lighter than my normal selections. Sometimes that’s just what we need. Please enjoy them.

  • Lucian’s Trips to the Moon With his Vera Historia, the 2nd century satirist Lucian of Samosata wrote the first detailed account of a trip to the moon in the Western tradition and, some argue, also one of the earliest science fiction narratives. Aaron Parrett explores how Lucian used this lunar vantage point to take a satirical look back at the philosophers of Earth and their ideas of “truth”. (Public Domain Review)
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Sunrise today (c) Rachel Kramer

Series Review: Tokyo Tarareba Musume (NTV)

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(L-R) Tetsuro Hayasaka, Kaori Yamakawa, Rinko Kamata, Koyuki Torii, and Key

I don’t know that I’ve ever reviewed a Japanese drama on here (I just checked, I haven’t), that’s not to say that I don’t watch them, because I occasionally do. I used to watch them a lot more, but haven’t recently. This is for a number of reasons, the primary few being jdramas have a lot of overacting and I usually only want to watch a certain few actors (Hiroshi Tamaki, Kazuki Kitamura, and Takeru Satoh) but I have a friend who loves jdramas and I’ve started watching stuff that she recommends to me. Tokyo Tarareba Musume (Tokyo ‘What If’ Girls) was one of those and man, I’m so glad I watched it!

 Tokyo Tarareba Musume (henceforth known as TTM) is based on a manga of the same name and is the story of three women (Rinko, Kaori, and Koyuki) in their early 30s. Here’s a brief summary:

30-year-old Rinko Kamata works as an unpopular screenwriter. She doesn’t have a boyfriend, but she has two female friends Kaori and Koyuki. They meet regularly at a bar. There, they complain about their situations and go through what if scenarios. One day, Rinko Kamata decides to go for happiness at love and work.

That is sort of right, but the show is actually more about growing up than anything else. The “What If” girls of the English title basically mean girls (women) who daydream “what if such and such happened” which, to be honest, is something we’ve all done (myself included). It’s one of the things that makes this drama so good and relatable.

When I started watching TTM, though, I wasn’t convinced I was going to like it. I tend to like more serious dramas, ones without a lot of romance and TTM seemed like it was going to be lighthearted and have a ton of romance. In spite of myself, though, I found myself looking forward to each new episode and enjoying it quite a bit.

Rinko, as we know, is a screenwriter. Her best friends Kaori owns her own nail salon and Koyuki works in her dad’s bar/restaurant. Rinko, Kaori and Koyuki hang out at Koyuki’s restaurant and much of the show takes place there. In many ways, these three women reminded me of my friends. We don’t necessarily drink a lot, but we always have these conversations about love and life and work.

At the heart of the drama, though, are the three friends and their quest for husbands. It sounds silly, but it’s not. Rinko falls for a cute model/actor (Key) but also dates a movie-obsessed man as well as Hayasaka (one of her editors, though not when they’re dating) who she has a history with. Kaori tries to do match making/online dating, but keeps coming back to her ex-boyfriend, Ryo, who is now a famous rock star with a model girlfriend. And Koyuki ends up having an affair with a married man. These are all real stories — dating people you don’t fit with, being the other woman, dating your exes. They all felt far more real than expected.

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Rinko, Kaori, Koyuki, and, of course, Key

There are two things, though, that tie this drama together. The first are the three woman. Their friendship is the heart and soul of the drama and there are so many moments when you feel that and when I see, as I said above, myself and my friends in them. The second thing is Key. He has his own tragic backstory (which I won’t spoil in case any of you want to watch it) which explains his rather rude behavior to the women. He shows up in the restaurant during one of their girl’s nights out and proclaims that Rinko is a “What If” woman and sort of goes off on her.

While his delivery is bad and I don’t necessarily forgive him for the way he says it, he always has good points. But what makes it okay in the end is how Rinko, who does fall very much in love with him, stands up to him. Key tells her to grow up, to stop hanging out with her friends and she confronts him. In what is probably my favorite scene, Rinko tells Key that he’s wrong. That she’s been friends with Kaori and Koyuki through so much — that even when things are terrible, they’ve been there for her and if they weren’t around, things would be that much worse for her.

This was probably the moment when I most saw myself in the drama. My friend H and I have hung out on Wednesdays since 2011 and hung out even before that semi-regularly. There were days, back before we both had full times jobs and were working two jobs (sometimes in one day), when the only thing getting us through the week was the fact that we were hanging out. I know what it’s like to have friends that make your otherwise shitty life that much better and brighter. I looked at Rinko and I understood her.

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Koyuki, Kaori, and Rinko

Of course, things sort of work out in the end, but TTM isn’t a true romance. There’s no weddings at the end, no one is completely happy and that’s the message of the drama. Rinko comes to realize, and us with her, that what makes her happy isn’t having a boyfriend, a relationship, getting married. It’s not one thing that makes her happy. Instead, the fact that she’s happy — that’s happiness. It doesn’t matter if it’s because she’s dating someone or eating great food or just hanging out with her friends. Being happy is happiness and it was nice to see that in a TV show.

It takes 10 episodes to get to that point and the journey is completely worth it. I loved TTM and I cannot recommend it enough. If you’re interested in watching it, let me know and I can point you to the videos.

Self-Care Friday (Week 8)

You’ll notice that I haven’t listened to a lot of music this week. That isn’t strictly true, most of my music has been from my YouTube Watch Later playlist. If you’re not a regular YT user (I am and ever since I subscribed to Google Music, I use it even more — it comes with YT Red, which means no commercials) you may not know what it is. When you’re logged into your Google account and go to YT, as you browse videos you’ll see something in the upper right corner of the thumbnail that looks like a clock. That’s the add to watch later button. You click that and then you can save it for later. I have been doing that a lot and I had a ton of videos in there. But in preparation for hanging out with N this weekend, I wanted to clear them out so it’s just filled of English subbed videos. That meant most of the stuff I listened to (still kpop, of course) was on YT and not Spotify or Google Music.

Anyway, onto the fun stuff.

What I’ve Been Reading:

No new read harder books this week, maybe something next week, we’ll see. I’ll hopefully be reviewing the Jack Cheng book at some point.

Completed:

  • See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
  • Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews (Kate Daniels, book 8)
  • Black Panther: a Nation Under Our Feet. Book Two by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze
  • What Did You Eat Yesterday vol 10 by Fumi Yoshinaga

Currently reading:

  • The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu (audio book – on hold)
  • Chapelwood: the Borden dispatches by Cherie Priest
  • Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino
  • Chimes At Midnight by Seanan McGuire (audio book: October Daye, Book 7)
  • What Did You Eat Yesterday vol 11 by Fumi Yoshinaga

What I’m Watching:

Completed:

I’m hoping to write up a review of TTM sometime soon, too.

  • Tokyo Tarareba Musume (Japanese drama)
  • Flash Point (HK film)
  • Brigadoon (1954)
  • The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years (documentary)
  • The Three Musketeers (1973)
  • Logan’s Run (1976)

Currently:

  • Totsuzen Desu ga, Ashita Kekkon Shimasu (Japanese drama)
  • Oh My Ghost (kdrama)

What I’m listening to:

Mostly a bunch of new groups. I can’t help it. It’s one of the best things about kpop, they’re the gift that keeps on giving. On Spotify, though, just two different kpop groups (one new, one not) and a great jazz musician.

Joey Alexander – Countdown

Seven O’Clock – Butterfly Effect

Monsta X – The Clan pt. 2.5 [Beautiful]

And a picture. Monsta X (above) is going to make their Japanese debut soon and their Japanese company has been releasing photos. Have one of my favorite member of Monsta X, Kihyun. I’ve shared him a lot, but he is my favorite, after all!

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Yoo Kihyun of Monsta X

The Wednesday Four

A lot happened in Week 19. One of the things was good, the rest … well, you know. And on this line of thinking, there is so much news that a few minutes, an hour, a whole night, away from your phone (or the news in general) feels like a vacation. My dad visited me last weekend and I didn’t spend a lot of time on my phone or looking at the news, but when I did, it was like getting crushed. BuzzFeed wrote a really great article about this, which you can read:

It doesn’t necessarily offer any solutions, but it does help to know that we’re all in this together. And now onto the links.

June 15,2007

blue jay. (c) Heather Kaiser

Series Review: Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (SBS)

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I said last week I’d write about this drama, so here we go. Back when it finished (November of last year) my friend N and I were barely halfway through, if that. We knew a few spoilers, but not a lot and the only thing I remember is that people were kind of pissed about the ending and, in general, didn’t really enjoy the drama. Now that we’ve completed it, I totally disagree with their assessment. Not that they’re wrong, but I actually found little to complain about.

For reference: IU is a singer, Jisoo and Nam Joohyuk are two popular up and coming actors, Baekhyun is a member of the kpop group EXO, Seohyun is a member of SNSD/Girls Generation, and Lee Junki is a actor/singer who I love. There are others, but those are the more famous ones I might mention.

Spoilers ahead!

The premise of Moon Lovers is that IU’s character, Go Ha Jin, travels back in time to Goryeo era of Korea’s history. She falls into the body of a young woman (Hae Soo) and basically becomes her. The fate of the real Hae Soo is most likely death, though this is not really explained, but instead inferred.

Hae Soo is the cousin of the wife of one of the kingdom’s many princes (sons of the current king) and goes from being in her 20s to being 16. The beginning of the drama is made of a Hae Soo trying to figure out her new body and life in Goryeo. Everything, from court behavior to the writing is complete foreign to her. The one thing she remembers from her history text is that the person who takes over from the current king will kill all of his brothers. This knowledge and the fact that she’s not supposed to meddle in affairs of state, are the two things guiding her throughout the whole drama.

Of course, as you can expect, Hae Soo fails at meddling. It’s not as though she sets out to mess things up, but that’s how it happens. You see, Hae Soo inadvertently befriends most of the princes and several of them fall in love with her. This is one of the ways her presence disrupts history, but both N and I decided that it didn’t actually matter what she did, things were always going to turn into the bloodbath at the end of the drama.

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The Princes and Hae Soo
(L-R) Won, Eun (seated), Jung, Wook, Hae Soo, So (seated), Baekah, and Yo.

Hae Soo has several love interests throughout the drama: including Baekhyun’s prince (the youngest) Eun, Kang Hanuel’s princes, Wook, Junki’s So, and, the always adorable Jisoo’s Jung. Eun does find love, toward the end of the drama (and his character’s life). He is a cute character, often providing comedy, but toward the end Baekhyun’s acting comes through and you do care about Eun and his wife, Soonduk (she is amazing and kick ass and played by singer Z.Hera).

The main people, aside from the characters above, of importance to Hae Soo are the Crown Prince, Moo, and two of the brothers, Yo and Uk/Baekah (the latter played by Nam Joohyuk). It’s a lot of characters to keep track of — and that doesn’t even include Baekah’s love interest (played by Seohyun), the two queens, Wook’s (late) wife, and his sister. But that’s more detail that is needed in this review. Instead, if you do want to know, watch the drama.

Hae Soo is favored by the Crown Prince, who becomes king when his father dies. She discovers, by accident when he’s still the Crown Prince, that he has a medical condition. Under the training of Court Lady Oh, Hae Soo begins to work in the palace. This happens because she’d been living with Wook and his wife, who dies and though Wook and Hae Soo are in love, things don’t work out and she can’t stay with him so she moves to the court.

Much of the drama focuses on Hae Soo and her interactions with the princes and the people who surround them. As time passes Hae Soo changes from her 21st century self into a proper Goryeo court lady. Both N and I began to question whether she would go back to her former life at the end of the drama. As Hae Soo became more a Goryeo woman, her love changed, too. Wook’s sister didn’t like Hae Soo and along with two of the brothers Yo and Won, caused her lots of problems. When Wook should’ve stood up for Hae Soo, his sister threatened him and forced his hand, showing us his true feels.

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Lee Junki as Prince Wang So

It was Junki’s prince, So, who ended up standing up for her and, eventually, falling in love with her. Prince So was feared, both because he’s a ruthless killer and because he always wears a mask due to the scar on his face. His mother loathed him and she tried to kill him, failed, and left his face scarred. So, on the other hand, both loves his mother, even while he hates her and it’s not until he meets Hae Soo that he begins to understand friendship and love.

Of course, all of the romances in this drama are doomed. The king who becomes Gwangjong kills all of his brothers in order to attain the thrown and this is what Hae Soo fears. As the drama passes, she begins to think that So is going to be the next king and that he will kill his brothers. She tries, at different times, to prevent this from happening, but history as a way of working itself out and no matter how she tries, it fails.

But outside of the court intrigue and Goryeo politics is a love story. Where Hae Soo loved Wook, when he turned away from her, she too turned away from him. It was So who ended up putting the pieces of her heart together and this is the romance that spans the rest of the drama. Much of the criticism of this drama involved Junki and IU’s acting, but I found it to be very, very good. Their romance as believable, well-acted, and often quite emotional. Both N and I did a lot of crying as we proceeded through the episodes.

In the end, So does become king and most of his brothers die — though not complete by his hand. There’s much in this drama that I’m leaving out, but I do want to talk about the ending. Hae Soo learns she cannot marry the King (So) and he won’t let her leave the palace, even though she’s dying. The body she’s in has a weak heart and it’s slowly killing her. Eventually Jisoo’s prince, (and my favorite), Jung, comes to the rescue. He had always been in love with Hae Soo and had convinced his own brother (Yo) who was briefly king, to proclaim that he could marry Hae Soo. He presented this information to the So who, with a tenuous grasp on actually being King, had to enforce it. This, it turns out, was the only way Hae Soo could leave the palace.

Spoilers — seriously more spoilers.

Jung and Hae Soo leave and he cares for her as she struggles with child. It is, of course, the King’s daughter and Hae Soo does not live long after her child’s brith. But as she’s dying, she sends letter after letter to the King, who doesn’t open them as Jung had put them in envelopes and the King had dismissed them. When he does open them, it’s too late and Hae Soo has died. Everyone is miserable and we cried along with Jung and the King. Then, of course, we skip forward to the present day where Hae Soo, back in her body and known as Ha Jin, is living her life as normal. We learn that she’s been in a coma for a year and she doesn’t remember what happened to her.

She does remember, it’s so sad and heartbreaking and then the drama ends. There is no extra episode, no epilogue and we don’t know if they (So and Ha Jin) find their way to each other. That being said, the ending fit perfectly. Life is open ended, we don’t ever know what happens or what’s going to happen.

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Hae Soo and Wang So

I really liked this drama. IU’s acting was very good and her chemistry with all of the princes was incredible. There were some bad points and plot holes, but what drama doesn’t have them? Since this is a fantasy-historical fusion drama, it might not be for everyone. But definitely give it a try if it sounds interesting. Spoilers don’t really take away much from the drama, mostly because it is 20 episodes and there’s so much more that happened.

You can watch it on Dramafever.