Monday, June 23, 2014

First Impressions: Nobunaga no Chef

Poster for Nobunaga no Chef based on the manga by Mitsuru Nishimura and Mitsuru Nishimura

Ken (Tamamori Yuta) a modern day chef, suddenly finds himself in 1568, the volatile period in Japan's history when Oda Nobunaga was working towards the unification of Japan. As if that's not problematic enough, he has lost his personal memories. While he retains his cooking skills and knowledge of history, he doesn't know who he is, or how he slipped back in time.

Nobunaga no Chef is based on the ongoing manga written by Nishimura Mitsuru and illustrated by Kajikawa Takuro which began publication in 2011. Though the drama plot follows the same path, its divergent in the details, presumeably to include more action and intrigue right from the start, and to expand the role of the female lead. While the manga's story has more integrity, the live action is still entertaining, so I try not to compare the two too much.

Oikawa Mitsuhiro 及川光博 as Oda Nobunaga stands in battle gear over Tamamori Yuta 及川光博 as Ken 玉森裕太 (たまもり ゆうた) who is laying in a battle torn street.

Ken is thrown right into the thick of things as Oda Nobunaga (Oikawa Mitsuhiro) defeats a horde of soldiers in the street around him. The action throughout the episode is done well and Oikawa is very believable as the ruthless and autocratic Oda.

Shida Mirai 志田未来 (しだ みらい) as Natsu and Gori ゴリ as Kinoshita Tokichiro Hideyoshi watch as Ken looks through ingredients

Ken gains help from the swordsmith, Natsu, who is masquerading as a man being that she lives alone. I'm not a big fan of Shida Mirai. She plays Natsu exactly as she played a high schooler in 2010's Hammer Session. I understand that she's not supposed to have any feminine charm in this role, but while her overly exaggerated facial expressions and silliness could work for an annoying teen girl, the same is not appropriate for a swordsmith in the Warring States period.

Nobunaga and his warriors consider Ken and Natsu in the forest after battle.

Though the events that led to Oda's retainment of Ken in the drama are not as natural as those that occured in the manga, the story is still believable knowing Oda's love of innovation would make him curious about Ken's wondrous cuisine.

Ken resolves to use Natsu's knife as his weapon.

Ken realizes that his life is in danger and he must fight using his cooking skills. The situations he finds himself in are inconceivable to his modern mind, but he stands by his convictions.

During Ken's first cooking challenge, he fries duck breast, flambays it, peels, dices and cooks persimmon.
The food porn portion of the drama is underwhelming. I was hoping for more interesting preparations filmed at romantic angles, but this can be overlooked...
Ken's duck breast dish with mountain ingredients is something never seen before.
... in part because the final products are beautiful and the tasting is satisfying to watch. Ken's mastery of cooking techniques, unheard of in that era of Japan, put him in good stead with Oda who realizes that Ken can be put to good use as more than just a personal chef.

Nobunaga holds a sword to Ken's neck.

That doesn't mean Ken has carte blanche, though. Being in close proximity to those in power brings danger from all directions. Tamamori Yuta expresses Ken's maturity well as he rises to meet each challenge and struggles to regain his memories.

The moon rises over a Japanese castle

Visually, the sets and establishing shots do ensconse the audience into the past authentically. I was hoping for a more epic feel similar to Jin, another time travel drama, but it seems that Nobunaga no Chef  has a lower budget with their limited locations. Nevertheless, it is still visually pleasing.

Ken boils konpeito down to make a spun sugar bloom in both live action and manga panels

While it's best not to compare the storyline details of the manga and the live drama, if you have read the manga, it's fun to see how certain scenes are brought into motion. If you've been meaning to read the manga, I'd suggest waiting until after you've seen the drama since the manga is the more serious of the two.

Nobunaga, Ken and Luis Frois sit together in a drama scene and manga panel.

The best thing about time travel dramas is getting to glimpse history and perhaps the fictional way our hero may have influenced events. Episode one features the meeting of Oda and the Portugese missionary, Luis Frois, who gifted him with a bottle of konpeito while seeking permission to spread  Christianity in Japan.

Inagaki Goro 稲垣吾郎 as Akechi Mitsuhide sticks his face into Ken's
Other prominent figures that are established in the first episode are Kinoshita Tokichiro Hideyoshi (Goro) whom Oda refers to as Saru, and Akechi Mitsuhide (Inagaki Goro), one of Oda's vassals who later rebelled and brought upon his death. I'd suggest reading about them briefly. Brushing up on the history of the time may be spoilerish, but enhances the entertainment value overall. Stop rolling your eyes, Batzy-chan!
Ultimately, Nobunaga no Chef's entertainment value outweighs its faults and gives us two Johnny's boys as a bonus. It aired from January to March of 2013 and brought in a decent Kanto average rating of 10.8. On 10 July 2014, a two hour special will air in which Ken regains part of his memories and finds a way back to the present.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Review:// Bride of the Century

Bride of the Century 백년의 신부 poster with Lee Hong Ki 이홍기 as Choi Kang Joo sitting on a throne and Yang Jin Sung 양진성 as Na Doo Rim and Jang Yi Kyung standing on either side of him.

At the heart of this drama is a 100 year curse that claims the life of the first bride of each first son of the Choi family. Of course the Choi family is extremely affluent, as they run Taeyang Corporation, the largest conglomerate in South Korea.

Serving women gather to gossip about the curse. / Yang Jin Sung as a traditional bride with her new groom sit at a table after the wedding ceremony.
We start in the past with servants gossiping about the curse that will soon claim their master's new bride. Meanwhile in the newlyweds' chamber, Yang Jin Sung plays a bride, who presumably will have a connection with a one of her modern day counterparts.
Na Doo Rim peddles in the street to a crowd / Choi Kang Joo walks through his department store with his entourage as saleswomen bow.
Our present day leads come from two different worlds. Na Doo Rim (Yang Jin Sung) is a hardworking country girl, beloved by everyone. Choi Kang Joo (Lee Hong Ki) is the rich chaebol son, stepping into his father's CEO position.

Jang Yi Kyung and Shin Eun Jung 신은정 as Ma Jae Ran scheme to beat the curse.

Our villains come in the form of mother/daughter team Ma Jae Ran (Shin Eun Jung) and Jang Yi Kyung. After discovering Na Doo Rim who looks exactly like Yi Kyung, they devise a plan to beat the curse and save their company in the process. The two women are a perfect pair; cold and ruthless with flickers of humanity. Dim flickers.

Choi Kang Joo watches in shock as a tomato heads towards him, while Jang Ah Young 장아영 as Lee Roo Mi stands stunned and Doo Rim moves to block.
Doo Rim is thrown into a world that she doesn't really fit into, between the iceberg, Choi Kang Joo, and his suspicious assistant, Lee Roo Mi. Second Leading Lady? Yes indeed. Jang Ah Young plays the cold and poised daughter of decent pedigree, and who has an earnest heart, in a way that evokes both resentment and sympathy.
Kang Joo scolds Doo Rim / In the ovie theater, Kang Joo gives Doo Rim a look.
The chemistry between Kang Joo and Doo Rim is the best thing about this series. Doo Rim's mistakes and bright bumbling personality get under Kang Joo's skin which Lee Hong Ki expresses in such a gratifying way. His exasperation, wrinkled brow, looks of disgust and fits of frustration are all steps on a familiar path that we all know and relish; kdrama love!
Kang Joo kicks up his legs after getting kissed.
The funniest kiss I've ever seen in a Korean drama, or any drama for that matter, is received by Kang Joo, whose sound effects are not to be missed. 

Sung Hyuk 성혁 as Jang Yi Hyun eats with Doo Rim / Doo Rim fixes Yi Hyun's tie / Yi Hyun stares after Doo Rim.
Jang Yi Hyun (Sung Hyuk) is our sweet and protective Second Leading Man. Though the situation may be a little on the weird side, you have to love a man who really only cares about the person on the inside, ignoring everything else.
Jang Yi Kyung and Na Doo Rim stare at each other across a reading room.
Yang Jin Sung played both the good and evil archetype so well, it's hard to believe this is her first leading lady role in a drama. I really saw her as two different people, despising Yi Kyung and adoring Doo Rim. The different makeup styles had a part in it, but Jin Sung has a separate aura and look in her eyes for each character that is undeniable.
Kim Ah Young 김아영 as the spirit stands with a bright light and wind at her back / Park Jung Hak 박정학 as the shaman, gives a reading in front of his altar / Jun Jin Seo 전진서 as child Kang Joo leans against the spirit.

Getting back to the curse, the supernatural element of the story is portrayed with lighting and wind. Nothing fancy, but it does set the tone satisfactorily without detracting from the story. The spirit attached to the family provides mystery and suspense which gives rise to more questions. However, it all makes sense in the end.
Kim Ah Young 김아영 as Sung Joo Shin, standing with other members of the Choi household more than 100 years in the past.
A shift back in time is shot beautifully and gives us insight and understanding as dots are connected and karma is generated. Even after everything falls into place in the present, the past makes one last appearance to complete the puzzle and you just have to wonder how boring life would be without misunderstandings.

Jung Hae In 정해인 as Choi Kang In smiles and winks
As a bonus, we have eye candy in Jung Hae In who plays Choi Kang Joo's idol brother, Kang In. He is a bit like Doo Rim with a positive attitude and indomitable spirit. While our leads give us plenty of comic relief, Hae In provides breath-of-fresh-air relief. Hopefully his part will be bigger in The Three Musketeers which starts filming next month.
The cast and crew of Bride of the Century pose for a group photograph.
The cast is well rounded with subplots that are tended to, and come to fulfilling conclusions. Together with a ballad rich soundtrack, beautiful locations and soft focus photography, Bride of the Century is a decidedly romantic drama with a heavy dose of intrigue.

Monday, June 9, 2014

First Impressions:// Border

BORDER ボーダー graphic with Oguri Shun 小栗旬 (おぐり しゅん) as Ishikawa Ango, running.

Although BORDER is listed as a mystery/suspense, it's more of a supernatural crime drama. It's dark with offbeat characters that stir your interest. The first episode seemed rather simple, but I gave it another shot and was glad I did. Though episodic, it seems that the cases will be varied, and there are a couple questions that I suspect will string us along until the end.

Ishikawa lays on the ground in a pool of blood / a graphic of a skull with a bullet in it.

Ishikawa Ango (Oguri Shun) is a competent and ambitious detective with a serious personality. He has no personal life due to his career, and possibly his cold demeaner. The series starts with him hanging between life and death after being shot in the head.

Ishikawa falls back against the wall as he sees the married couple that just died, standing before him.

Ishikawa recovers and gets back to work, but is surprised to find that he can see and communicate with the case's dead victims. The ghosts don't have a special appearance and it feels a bit like The Sixth Sense where ghosts appear as normal people.

Ishikawa with Ichikura played by Kenichi Endo 遠藤憲一 (えんどう けんいち)  and Tachibana played by Aoki Munetaka 青木崇高 /  Akai played by Furuta Arata 古田新太 (ふるた あらた)  watches from the shadows

Ishikawa's unpersonable disposition is further emphasized, contrasting with detective Tachibana's (Aoki Munetaka) boisterous character.

Akai (Furuta Arata) is a mysterious underworld figure who does favors for a price, and is surprised when Ishikawa approaches him. Whether they have some significant connection is yet to be seen.

Ichikawa meets Higa Mika played by Haru 波瑠 (はる) outside the first victim's home / Ishikawa and Higa working together in the office.

Higa Mika (Haru) is the coroner who works with such thoroughness that she seems like another detective. She's smart and serious, the female version of Ishikawa and they collaborate well. This being a Japanese drama, I don't expect any romance to develop, but it would be interesting to see if their composures would crack at all in a social situation.

Ishikawa stares at Hacker Simon played by Hamano Kenta 浜野謙太(はまの けんた) and Hacker Garfunkel played by Nomaguchi Toru 野間口徹 (のまぐちとおる)  as they sit in front of a huge photo of themselves.

A bit of comic relief is subtle and comes from quirky characters that Ishikawa interacts stonefaced with. His silent prolonged stare does, though, speak volumes, and you can't help but feel affection for him.

The police observe as Higa performs an autopsy.

I was surprised at the outfits in the autopsy room and I wondered if they really wear those clear plastic getups in Japan. Although the police work doesn't always feel authentic, it does follow a logical progression and moves the story along smoothly.

Ghost Murakami Kazuo played by Maruyama Tomomi 丸山智己 (まるやま ともみ)  points and laughs.

After the first episode, I was afraid that Ishikawa would just go around being helped by ghosts, and his main challenge would be to find evidence to support what he already knew. However after watching episode two, I am reassured that the ghosts will be varied and can complicate matters.

Overall, my first impression of BORDER is that it's a low-key series with a bit of eccentricity to make things interesting, and definitely worth a try.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

SAT:// Kim Young Ok

Kim Young Ok 김영옥 banner for She's All That - International Fangirl

Kim Young Ok; if you're a kdrama fan, chances are you've seen her even if you may not realize it. She's been in so many dramas including fan favorites like Boys Over Flowers and Coffee Prince. She has a broad range, giving such perfect performances in roles ranging from the quintessential refined woman, shrewd loan shark, thug grandma and dementia suffering grandma. In all her roles, she exudes a spunky energy that is undeniable.

I don't know who made this, but it's brilliant!

Young Ok's nickname is Bockenem Grandma, which as this article points out, sounds like Eminem. She has the verbal power to live up to the name too, as you can see from the Old Miss Diary clip below.

And here in Robot Taekwon V, her verbal assault defeats the villain:

Unfortunately there isn't much information available (at least not online that I can find) on Young Ok's early works, and scant photos. I wish all the hamonis would have their own websites where we could see photos from their youth and early performances! She started acting in her 20's and I would love to watch her as a young woman. However her current performances more than satisfy, so I can't complain too much.

Kim Young Ok in Dal Ja's Spring 달자의 봄 Kim Young Ok in I Hate You But It's Fine 미우나 고우나 Kim Young Ok in Le Grand Chef - Kimchi War 식객 : 김치전쟁 Kim Young Ok in Boys Over Flowers 꽃보다 남자 Kim Young Ok in Children of Heaven 천국의 아이들
Kim Young Ok in Assorted Gems 보석비빔밥 Chuno 추노 Kim Young Ok in Protect the Boss 보스를 지켜라 Kim Young Ok in My Love, Madame Butterfly 원더풀 마마 Kim Young Ok in Wonderful Mama 원더풀 마마

Here is a sampling of Young Ok's grandchildren. She's played halmoni to an illustrious bunch!

Cha In Pyo 차인표 from Her House 그여자네집
Lee Seo Jin 이서진 from Since We Met 그대를 알고부터
Lee Jae Ryong 이재룡 from The Maengs' Golden Era 맹가네 전성시대
Jang Na Ra 장나라 from Successful Story of a Bright Girl 명랑소녀 성공기
Gong Yoo 공유 from Coffee Prince 커피프린스 1호점
Chae Rim 채림 from Dal Ja's spring 달자의 봄
Yoo In Young 유인영 from I Hate You, But It's Fine 미우나 고우나
Eric Moon 에릭 from Strongest Chil Woo 최강칠우
Yoon Kye Sang 윤계상 from Beyond the Clouds 태양은 가득히

In 2011, Young Ok won the Lifetime Achievement Award for Protect the Boss at the SBS Drama Awards. Her co-stars were on hand for picture taking.

Young Ok winning the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2011 SBS Drama Awards / Young Ok poses with Protect the Boss co-stars, Kim Jae Joong 김재중 and Wang Ji Hye 왕지혜.

2011 SBS Drama Awards: Lifetime Achievement Award (Protect the Boss)
2009 MBC Drama Awards, Golden Acting Award - Soap Opera (Assorted Gems)
2005 KBS Entertainment Awards Lifetime Achievement
Award (Old Miss Diary)
1993 KBS Drama Awards Best Actress
1992 The 28th Baek Sang Arts Awards - TV Segment
Popularity Award
1979 15th Baeksang Arts Awards - Television

Kim Young Ok shares her wedding photo in KBS2's Mom

Young Ok shared her wedding photo on KBS2's broadcast of Mom in the fall of 2013. Close-up please!

This photo was first posted on naver in 2008 and appears to be an agency picture. I can't say for sure if it's the same Kim Young Ok, but it was taken in 1976 when she would be 39 years old (her birthday is 1937 Dec 05), so the age seems to fit.
Kim Young Ok with her brother in North Korea.

On SBS's February 16, 2012 broadcast of Good Morning, Young Ok talked about reuniting with her brother in North Korea on August 15, 2000. She hasn't seen him since and doesn't know if he's alive and well.


DramaWiki, AsianWiki and even the Korean Wiki weren't complete in listing Young Ok's work, so I've cobbled them together and added what I knew was missing. There could be more.


Make a Wish (MBC, 2014)
Beyond the Clouds (KBS2, 2014)
Bride of the Century (TV Chosun, 2014)

Yeon Woo's Summer (KBS2, 2013)
Ruby Ring (KBS2, 2013)

Oh Ja Ryong is Coming (MBC, 2012)
My Love, Madame Butterfly (SBS, 2012)
Haeundae Lovers (KBS2, 2012)
Standby (MBC, 2012) cameo
Love, My Love (KBS2, 2012)
K-POP - The Ultimate Audition (Channel A, 2012)

Brain (KBS, 2011)
Saving Madame Go Bong Shil (TV Chosun, 2011)
Just Like Today (MBC, 2011)
Protect the Boss (SBS, 2011)
Love Manmanse (MBC, 2011)
The Women of Our Home (KBS1, 2011)
Paradise Ranch (SBS, 2011)

All My Love (MBC, 2010)
Gloria (MBC, 2010)
Chuno (KBS2, 2010)
God of Study (KBS2, 2010)

Assorted Gems (MBC, 2009)
Everybody Cha Cha Cha (KBS1, 2009)
Children of Heaven (SBS, 2009)
Partner (KBS2, 2009) cameo
Boys Before Flowers (KBS2, 2009)
Glory of Youth (KBS1, 2009)

Family's Honor (SBS, 2008)
Strongest Chil Woo (KBS2, 2008)
Aster Liar (MBC, 2008)

New Heart (MBC, 2007)
I Hate You, But It's Fine (KBS1, 2007)
Fly High (SBS, 2007)
The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince (MBC, 2007)
Crazy For You (SBS, 2007)
Dal Ja's Spring (KBS2, 2007)

Miracle (MBC, 2006)
Snow Flower (SBS, 2006)
My Life's Special (MBC, 2006)

Let's Get Married (MBC, 2005)
Hold My Hand (KBS2, 2005)
The Bizarre Bunch (KBS1, 2005)

Land (SBS, 2004)
Old Miss Diary (KBS2, 2004)
Tropical Nights in December (MBC, 2004) cameo
More Beautiful Than a Flower (KBS2, 2004)

Pearl Necklace (KBS2, 2003)
Bodyguard (KBS2, 2003)
Yellow Handkerchief (KBS1, 2003)

Trio (MBC, 2002)
The Maengs' Golden Era (MBC, 2002)
Solitude (KBS2, 2002)
Since We Met (MBC, 2002)
Successful Story of a Bright Girl (SBS, 2002)

Splendid Days (SBS, 2001)
Father and Sons (SBS, 2001)
Her House (MBC, 2001)
Morning Without Parting (SBS, 2001)

Aunt (MBC, 2000)
Wang Rung's Land (SBS, 2000)

Oh! Happy Day (KBS2, 1999)
Magic Castle (KBS2, 1999)
Beautiful Secrets (KBS2, 1999)

You and My Song (KBS2, 1998)
Please Find Your Dad (KBS2, 1998)
I Do Not Know About Anyone Love (MBC, 1998)
Gift Bird (MBC, 1998)

Bride's Room (KBS2, 1997)
Beautiful Sin (SBS, 1997)
The Reason I Live (MBC, 1997)
Golden  Feather (MBC, 1997)
Bujayuchin (SBS, 1997)

The Scent of Winter (KBS, 1996)
The Most Beautiful Farewell (MBC, 1996)
Until We Can Love (KBS2, 1996)

Start Another (KBS2, 1995)
Road (KBS2 1995)

Matchbox Girl (SBS, 1994)
Buddha Table on theh Street (MBC, 1994)

Mr Byeong Gu Sunndalsora okju Mr Yang (MBC, 1993)
Chapter Torah (SBS, 1993)
Third Republic (MBC, 1993)
Is To Live (SBS, 1993)
Wild Chrysanthemum (KBS2, 1993)
Old and Childhood (KBS1, 1993)

Old Geumjandi (KBS2, 1991)

My Mother (MBC, 1990)
The Women (MBC, 1990)

Armband (MBC, 1989)
Carousel (KBS2, 1989)
Flowering Nest (KBS2, 1989)
Wang Rung Family (KBS2, 1989)

Last Idol (MBC, 1988)
Teacher, My Teacher (MBC, 1988)
Forget Lee Tomorrow (MBC, 1988)

Love and Ambition (MBC, 1986)

Gaetmaeul (MBC, 1985)

Saeahssi, (MBC, 1981)

Happiness Sale (MBC, 1978)


Spring Snow (2012)
Sunny (2011)
Le Grand Chef - Kimchi War (2009)
Our School E.T. (2008) 
Public Enemy Returns (2008) 
Big Bang (2007)      
Soo (2006) cameo       
Old Miss Diary (2006) 
Springtime (2004)     
Spring Breeze (2003)  
White Valentine (1999)
Recessed Baemi Love (1990)
Rainy Day Watercolor (1989)
Arm Chef (1987)
Be Afraid of the Night, Two Women (1986)
Spoiled Mistress (1968)
Polish (1961)
Passing Clouds (1959)
Bear (1959)
Open the Genuine Door (1958)
Go To Sorrow (1957)

Voice Acting

Solar Boy Esteban (1987)
Alice Paul (1977)
Robot Taekwon V (1976)
Mazinger Z (1975)

Young Ok is known for being a master of insults, but she's also nuturing to her young co-stars and patient when they make NGs. She seems to be a lovable rascal both on-screen and off.