Neighborhood Hero (K-drama) First Impression

First Episode Summary: The story drops the viewers in the middle of a spy mission in Macau involving agent Baek Shi-yoon (Park Shi-hoo,) Jin-woo (Ji Il-joo) and Seo-an (Choi Yoon-So.) In the middle of the mission, team leader, Jung Soo-hyuk (Jeong Man-sik,) suddenly aborts it.

The action sequence reminds me of Ocean’s trilogy and a lot of American series, which is typical of OCN. It works well in some scenes, but at times, it seems lame. The scene before the time skip is well done and although I have only known Jin-woo for mere minutes, I am sadden that we won’t be able to see him again.

The story jumps 3 years. I am left wondering how Shi-yoon have arrived to his current situation.

The scene moves to Im Tae-ho’s (Cho Seong-ha) family, which is quite cute. Tae-ho is a father/cop struggling to provide for all of his family’s lifestyle. Surprised by his drunken expensive buy, Tae-ho goes to the Neighborhood Bar. We are then introduced to writer Bae Jung-Yeon (Kwon Yuri) and the Neighborhood Bar’s owner, President Hwang (Song Jae-ho.) At the bar, Tae-ho weasels his way out of paying the mark-up for the alcohol he have ordered the previous night.

Later that day, Shi-yoon shows up at the bar while President Hwang is negotiating the sale of the bar. We know throughout the course of the episode that he is planning some sort of revenge. I like that he doesn’t have a clear enemy and that he must solve the mystery first. The first step in his plan is to gather information at the Neighborhood Bar, which is a local hangout for agents. During his reconnaissance, he encounters problem between Jung-yoen’s friend, So-mi, and Yoon Sang-min’s (Yoon Tae-young) thugs. Sang-min is seeking to evict the neighbors in order to build the Hallyu Core Mall. A masked Shi-joon beats up the dug and saves the two girls. Near the end of the episode, he takes over as owner of the bar.

In the meanwhile, Tae-ho seeks out an old and very shady friend who works as a sub-contractor for the government. He opens up a business that monitors retired agents. He hires police trainee Choi Chan-gyoo (Lee Soo-hyuk) and two other employees. Chan-gyoo clumsily tails his mark, Seo Joon-suk (Kang Nam-kil,) an agent who have warned Shi-yoon three years ago to stop the Macau mission.

Comments: Park Shi-hoo adds a wonderful presence and charm to his character. The only fault I could find in his acting is when he’s talking to his cellmate or when he pretends to be an average guy. It may be intentional, but when he tries to act innocent, it’s like an amateur theater actor pretending to be an actor. I get that his outside persona is supposed to be fake, but I am not convinced. If this is intentional, the director/actor is leaning toward a more lighthearted direction in order to contrast the dark and cynical nature underneath. I don’t know if I like that technique. I think Simon Baker does this well in the Mentalist, but his character was a TV psychic who entertains while Shi-yoon was a spy. I am only nitpicking since I know he is a very good actor.

Tae-ho is the best character and Cho Seong-ha is the best actor in the show so far. No one is more unpredictable and more thought out than Tae-ho. On top of my head, I can only remember having the same sort of uneasiness from Joo Ji-tae’s character in Healer. Cho Seong-ha displays some top-notch acting. *Bows*

Lee Soo-hyuk is very good in his role. Like Park Shi Hoo, he has a very distinctive feature that makes it very easy for people to recognize. He has the markings of a male lead character.

Mr. President, writer Bae and the rest of the casts are good, but I keep my focus attention on the three lead male characters.

Conclusion: The story-line and acting are seamless. The best thing about NH isn’t the action, but the underlying mystery and various connections between the characters. (My impressions are based on the first four episodes.)


Five Children (K-drama) First Impression

Cute, funny, and “child abuse” are the three things that popped up in my mind during the first 5 minutes. I then proceeded to cry after the initial narration. I could relate to Sang-tae’s family situation. Sang-tae (Ahn Jae-wook) is a widower and a single father of two children. His calm temperament is very similar to mine and even his parent (Jang Yong and Park Hye-sook) reminded me of my own parent.

I slowly warmed up to Ahn Mi-Jung (So Yu-jin) by the end of the episode. She is a divorced mom with three children. Her ex-husband left her for one of her friends. I think her story line is very relatable to a lot of women struggling as a single mother and divorcee. By the end of the episode, I am already hoping the best for the two lead characters and their children.

I like almost everyone so far, even Sang-tae’s in-laws played by Choi Jung-woo and Song Ok-suk. The in-laws were so irritating in the episode, which may feel exaggerated or overdone, but I think that was the intention.

I couldn’t stand Sang-tae’s brother Kim Sang-Min (Sung Hoon), but I think he has the most potential for growth. To put it lightly, he is a struggling film director… All right, he’s a free-loader, but at least he has a dream. I like the dynamic between him and the youngest sister, Lee Yeon-tae (Shin Hye-sun.)

Sang-tae’s sister-in-law, Jang Jin-Joo (Im Soo-hyang,) is the male version of Kim Sang-min, but without a dream and more spoiled.

Overall, it is a very enjoyable first episode. I don’t know if I can continue watching this because of my short attention span. If you enjoy a light family show, this may be the drama to watch at the dinner table.

Choco Bank (K-drama) Mini Review

I like the first episode even with the lame cliché meeting scene. The main plot that drives the story doesn’t make a lot of sense. However, it keeps me interested and makes me wonder about the back-stories of the two lead characters, Kim Eun-Haeng (Kim Jong-in/Kai) and Ha Cho-co (Park Eun-bin.) Eun-Haeng is intelligent and capable, but is unemployed. It is improbable, but not impossible to be unemployed for five years without your mother knowing… That may be a bit of a stretch, but it is K-dramaland. Kai was surprisingly natural in the role.

Ha Cho-co is struggling to run a new shop, the Choco Bank. She roped in Eun-Haeng to help her. I am mainly indifferent toward the character. I have seen too many characters like her. I thought Eun-bin was a new actress, but she actually debuted when she was only seven. By the way, Cho-co is a very cute, almost like a pet name.

Everything sort of fell apart after the second episode. The script wasn’t good from the beginning, but I thought the premise was interesting and it had the potential to improve.

The other characters, Bae Dal-su (Yeon Joon-seok) and Hong Chae-ri (Lee Chae-won,) were pretty bad. I don’t know if I should blame it on their acting or the director. There were two thoughts on my mind when they were introduced, “cringe worthy,” and “acting is a bit off.”

I forced myself to watch the fourth episode, so it wasn’t enjoyable at all. If this was a 16- episodes series, I would have stopped at four. I really wanted to like it because the opening was quite cute, but it was very difficult to watch. Half the time I was feeling sorry for the actors. I also blame the shaky camera style for giving me a stomach.

After watching Five Children, I was happy again and my stomach cleared up. I went back to finish watching the fifth and sixth episode. It was a bit better, but not by much.

Conclusion: This is probably not for the typical k-drama fan, but definitely for fans of EXO. This is my first review, so I may be a bit more critical than usual.

I normally watch k-drama for the sake of enjoyment, so it has been a very different experience for me to write down my random thoughts. It is just my luck that the first drama I clicked on to review have an EXO’s member. I have only focused on two K-pop groups in my lifetime, so I don’t know much about EXO. It is fortunate that Kai was one of the more like-able elements of the show.

If you enjoy this series, I recommend Sassy Go Go/Cheer Up. It has a similar cheesy and fun style. I absolutely adore SGG and the cast.