September 2022: Death, Psychiatry, and Webtoons

Happy Birthday to Jungkook. 

In September, I finalized my plans to go to Korea. It's my first international trip since December 2019.  After two years of Korean lessons, I am hoping I can handle some basic interactions. But really just excited to get out of town and be AWAY.  

And now for the monthly drama check-in...

Today's Webtoon

Kim Sejeong is absolutely darling in dramas and this one is no exception. It's a workplace coming-of-age story more than a romance, but it's an interesting collections of characters and the interpersonal dynamics drive the story.  There are some creative choices that come and go and maybe a little strained plot points near the end, but I was into the characters enough to overlook some unevenness. 

On Ma-eum (Kim Sejeong) is a top-tier national judo athlete who ends up quitting the sport and trying to get a job working in webtoons. She's taken on as a contract worker with the rag-tag crew at Neon who are fighting to keep their company alive. She starts at the time as full-time worker Goo Jun-yeong (Nam Yoon-su) who is as uptight as Ma-eum is heart-warming. Jun-yeong doesn't care about webtoons and seems to have a grudge against them. But he and Ma-eum are made editors and are put in charge of a number of webtoon artists to help them reach their goals and keep their deadlines. 

While the show leans on too many athlete metaphors up-front, eventually, we see how Ma-eum's training and enthusiasm serve her as she faces setbacks and struggles trying to learn the ropes of her new job. Dealing with temperamental and emotionally sensitive artists she has to be mother-friend-boss-nurse depending on the situation. 

The show tries to use some animated webtoons visually early on with the storytelling and then that seems to disappear. The strength of the show are the characters. We also learn to appreciate the grueling demands of creating art on a weekly deadline basis. Clearly this is a business but they try to show that this team cares about developing, taking care of, and growing their artists.  

We encounter characters who have tried for years to break into webtoons and have failed to find success.  We see new artists starting out and the difficulties they face.  These small heartbreaks teach Ma-eum about the business and what she will have to deal with as an editor. 

I'm not a huge fan of some K-dramas efforts to rehabilitate/forgive bad parents but there is a twist on this one that I guess I can forgive. 

It also feels like they wanted to add in a romance to the series but then were tentative about it so it drifts in at the 11th hour.  Let's face it, it's impossible not to fall for Kim Se-jeong. Her character is just so damn winsome, caring, and dedicated here.  

Also, shout out to the sunbae hottie Choi Daniel who plays Ma-eum's mentor. Would watch a romance with him. Just saying...

If You Wish Upon Me

Oh Ji Chang-wook. I cannot quit you. This is a not-great melodrama but he plays a wounded puppy of a man who falls for a character played by Choi Soo-young so I had no choice but to watch. 

It is a sappy, sentimental drama about abuse, healing, grief and loss. It brings together a group of misfits at a hospice, Team Genie, who grant final wishes to people who are dying. Yoon Gyeo-re (Ji Chang-wook) is a criminal just recently let out of prison. He is being chased by his former gangster boss and being hunted down by his childhood friend Ha Joon-kyung (Won Ji-an) who threatens to kill herself if he ever leaves her. The leader of the Genies, Kang Tae-shik (Sung Dong-il) tries to get Gyeo-re to help out as part of his community service and slowly adopts him like a son. Seo Yeon-joo is the nurse who works with the Genies and comes to care for the emotionally guarded Gyeo-re. 

Basically every single character is suffering and has deep wounds that they are all trying to heal. And I am a basic bitch sucker for this.  Nevertheless I did wish ill upon the manipulative Joon-kyung no matter what her sad backstory was. 

And yes things get weird and bonkers because its a melodrama and maybe there's even a musical scene. 

It's not a good series but I cried through the end as one has to. 

Poong, The Joseon Psychiatrist

This a quietly cute Joseon era romance with a royal mystery to be solved. It's not going to be taking home awards but I liked the characters enough that if it has a second season I would tune in. 

The leading doctor in Joseon Yoo Se-yeop  (Kim Min-jae) accidentally killed the King (oops) and now cannot pick up a acupuncture needle. He finds himself in the backwoods and roped into working at a medical clinic. There he meets (for a second time) a widowed woman Seo Eun-woo (Kim Hyang-gi) who has been trying to kill herself. known as Poong stops her and helps her out of her situation. She decides to study medicine with him and become the acupuncture hands he needs. They form a partnership. He will teach her and she will make him a better doctor. They also then Scooby-doo it and solve murders. 

I like a romance where the person falls for the other person's strength and conviction.  Poong is a bit in awe of her courage and dedication. She also helps him face his past so that he starts to unwind what ACTUALLY happened with the King and the death of his father. 

At only 12 episodes, it felt like they were leaving the door open for another season and I'd like to see where this couple Scooby-doos next. 

Once Upon a Small Town

I spent the entire time watching this show waiting for this story to "get going" and then it was over. So it was a low drama K-drama. Blink and you might miss it. 

And as someone else pointed's basically a lesser Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha with a city veterinarian moving to the countryside temporarily to take over his grandfather's vet clinic only to slowly fall for the small town charms.   

But unlike Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha the supporting characters are not as well-written and the raison d'etre is just a wisp of an excuse to make a show. The romance doesn’t have legs. The challenges aren’t really challenges. The conflicts are minimal. It's just a little dull. The community isn’t interesting or unique, except maybe that one elderly man who loved his bull (in a not gross way) who was dying.

I would not waste your time on this one.