Of Dramas, Novels, and Culture: My Never-ending Journey to Asian Culture

Okay. I am starting this blog with a joyous heart and emotional drive.

Before writing this, I tweeted my intention of creating a feature that eventually allowed me to realize how dramas moved me in so many ways. I have to admit that life isn’t always “ice cream with a cherry on top”, and sometimes I also feel that need to get out of the reality and unexpectedly, watching Asian dramas became one of my go-to fortresses.

 

Aside from watching Asian dramas (movies, including), I also read various Asian novels (the English translations of most novels I read were so hard to find back then!), manga, manhwa or webtoons especially if my time– or mobile data, for that matter!– permits. I cannot recall the time I started reading these kinds of contemporary Asian literatures, but reckon it started in 1997 where I discovered a book about Asian literature at the back of our house. It contained poems, narratives, and speeches of renowned Asian figures in the arts and literature.

Perhaps, the idea of myself as an Asian, who gradually developed a deep interest in Asian history and culture, pushed me to learn more and go beyond of what I am. Of what I already know.

So, my journey to discovering Asian culture did not stop at watching Asian films/dramas or reading Asian literature. I was about to take my MA in Asian Studies at a prestige university here in the Philippines, but upon weighing my options and thinking thoroughly about my life in general (long term goals, including), I opted to take MBA instead and put my “MA in Asian Studies dream” at rest for the time being (I actually had my credentials already forwarded for the MA exam in this university and at the same time passed the MBA qualifying exam at another state university).

Don’t get me wrong, I love my current program. It’s just that I love this part of me who loves all things ASIAN, more than the other part of me who likes being so… corporate.

The “Other Side” of the Coin

I’ve been working for an East Asian owned company for years, and during those years I realized that reality sure bites hard. I discovered flaws (which can be overlooked, of course!), and heard subtle insults (due to East Asian superiority complex, I guess?) to name a few. I eventually came into my senses that my fondness over things that relates to “Asian” shouldn’t cloud my whole perception of this particular race just because I was too exposed to its “glorified” packaging, all thanks to media.

There were times that I don’t want to watch a particular drama or read any literature from a certain country. I guess there are times that we discover or experience terrible encounters and inevitably, sucking them up just to get by. But, I am not generalizing. I know that we all are just the same, and there are people of different nationality who are as kind (or better!) as our own people. 🙂

Because of my experiences, I learned how to overlook racial flaws and decided to see through the mistakes and accepted the beauty of diversity, history, and culture. Although some nationalities that I have met no longer practice any of the tradition or culture that our books taught us, I still saw a thin line that connects a certain race to another race–a commonality.

The Drive That Makes Me Who I Am Today

My fondness over “Asian” things makes my day a little bit brighter. This fondness pushed me to create online platforms, not to attract attention, but to share knowledge and information with people who have the same interest. I am not saying that I’m a pro in this particular field — NO– in fact, younger followers of Asian popular culture actually know a lot more than I do. 🙂

We all feel the need to connect with people who share the same interest and opinion on a certain topic. Connecting with one another allows us to have a deeper understanding of who we are as Asians, sans the difference in culture, tradition, language, and lifestyle. While this can be regarded as one of the many ways to truly immerse, I think this journey of discovering who we are in this race called “Asian” will surely never end. 🙂

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3 Must-Watch Drama Adaptations of Popular Ding Mo Novels You Shouldn’t Want to Miss

With years of being fond of anything Asian, I haven’t heard of Ding Mo before, until mid-2016.

My first encounter with Ding Mo began when my fondness over a drama (which was based on one of her best-selling novels) grew. I thought the drama was cool, so I had a quick research online about the drama and there I also learned that she already wrote a lot of HE novels (Happy Ending =HE. thanks to 书声Bar!) which include When a Snail Loves 如果蜗牛有爱情.

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I thought Ding Mo was a guy at first, as most of her well-known novels were either criminal, psychological, or detective in genre. I failed to even bother checking out her name if it’s for a guy or girl as I was too focused on her novels, not to mention I’m not Chinese in entirety (1/4 Chinese 1/4 Spanish, 2/4 Filipino).

To tell you honestly, it wasn’t that hard to like her novels (maybe because these kinds of genres pique my interest the most). It wasn’t long until I finally read two of her novels and discovered that she’s actually a woman. 🙂

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Most of the drama versions that I’ve seen were under these genres and interestingly, the romantic plots in the dramas were either as endearing or as daring as the novel versions–except for one, so far.

So with all the fondness I have for her works, including the drama versions, here I am sharing 3 Ding Mo novels-turned-dramas which all couch potatoes can binge watching on. 🙂

# 1 Love Me if You Dare (AKA When He Comes, Close Your Eyes; Close Your Eyes, Stay Close to Me) 
Mandarin: 他来了,请闭眼
First episode date: October 2015
Final episode date: 4 January 2016
Episodes: 24

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Love Me if You Dare is about an *anti-social* but brilliant criminal psychologist Simon Bo, played by Wallace Huo, who can analyze violent and mysterious behavior. Aside from being a criminal psychologist, Simon Bo is also a professor at The University of Maryland and works as an analyst as well as an advisor on the police department’s most violent or difficult cases.

Sandra Ma played as Jenny Jian, a young assistant who helps Simon in analyzing and delving into the thoughts and intentions of a criminal mind. Jenny helps Simon open up emotionally as they work together to solve crimes.

So, I watched this drama because it was a suggestion on a drama website I used to visit before. Although I have to admit, it is also BECAUSE of Sandra Ma’s beauty that made me watch the entire first episode, staring intently at her, then BAM. I saw Wallace Huo. 🙂 So then, I finally managed to finish the whole run, not just because of Sandra’s beautiful face, but also because of Wallace Huo. 😀

“Love Me, If You Dare” is a 2015 Chinese drama series directed by Zhang Kai Zhou. It is based on the novel Close Your Eyes, Stay Close to Me by Ding Mo.

# 2 When a Snail Falls In Love (AKA When A Snail Loves)
Mandarin: 如果蜗牛有爱情
First episode date: 24 October 2016
Final episode date: 12 December 2016
Episodes: 21

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Wang Kai starred in this drama as Ji Bai, a well known police detective who excels in his field as an in-charge of the Violent Crimes Unit while Wang Zi Wen played as an intern criminal profiler Xu Xu. And as Ji Bai’s case partner, Xuxu discovered that both of them have their own takes in solving crimes, but eventually, with their odd looking partnership, they managed to get the whole job done with an unbeatable track record for solving crimes. When Ji Bai found himself falling in love with Xuxu through their close working relationship, Xuxu is quite slow in learning (and returning, for that matter!) about his feelings.

What I like about this drama is, of course, Wang Kai (haha!). I’ve seen him play in Love Me if You Dare, but I like him better in this drama. When A Snail Falls In Love allowed Wang Kai to showcase his acting prowess and there were scenes that will knock your feet off. Talk about the stares and subtle opportunities!

“When a Snail Falls in Love” is a 2016 Chinese drama series directed by Zhang Kai Zhou. It is based on the novel Ru Guo Wo Niu You Ai Qing by Ding Mo.

# 3 Memory Lost 
Mandarin: 美人为馅
Number of Seasons: 3 (Season 1: October 24, 2016, Season 2: November 14, 2016, Season 3: December 12, 2016)
Final episode date: 12 December 2016
Episodes: 36

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This drama adaptation of Ding Mo’s novel, Memory Lost is about Han Chen, played by Bai Yu, who suffers from amnesia and struggles to find his lost fiancée – a woman who does not exist according to people around him.

In a small town, he meets a female detective Bai Jingxi, played by Yang Rong, a girl full of personality. Bai Jingxi is struggling to discover her mysterious past, a past of a blank background for the last five years.  As both were entangled in complicated murder cases and faces near-death situations, they slowly uncover the secrets to their lost memories.

This drama was released as a web series on iQiyi on the same date as When A Snail Falls In Love’s.

With all honesty, I’ve already read the novel before watching this drama. I was quite disappointed in a certain degree as the drama did not follow the novel quite clearly enough. The characters from the novel were tough and some scenarios in the novel contain witty comebacks from both leads. I guess this drama made a few adjustments, to give favor to those who want a milder take on the novel *fan service*.

*****BONUS*****

# 4 Our Glamorous Time

Airing TBA
Story Synopsis:

Lin Qian (will be played by Zhao Li Ying), once thought the man she wanted would be handsome and formidable, able to “create clouds with one turn of the hand and rain with another turn” in the business world, causing her to look up to him in admiration. There would be nothing he could not accomplish.

But when she finally met the one that fit this (will be played by Jin Han), she realized how much she liked his impassiveness, his quietness, his persistence, and his loyalty. She liked him to the point that she was willing to be with him, to stand side by side with him in this callous business world that is full of bloodshed. To be reckless in these years of our life, irrespective of the future.

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My take: This upcoming drama is so controversial that I feel sorry for Jerry Yan. But anyhoo, I shall see this drama once it’s out so for now I might read the novel first. 🙂

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Whew. This is quite a long run down. I hope that many would try seeing at least one of these drama adaptations, as I see all these so worthy to watch. 😉

Love,

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When King of Masked Singer Had Me Crying Over Old Korean Ballad Songs

I wasn’t really going to watch King of Masked Singer.

I was actually planning to catch up on the series that I have been following since May but given that the Viki app hasn’t uploaded a new episode during that time, I decided to browse on Viu and looked further instead and hence, led me to this interesting singing variety show.

Faux Marriage, Living Outdoors, and This

I have seen a lot of Korean variety/reality shows before. I must admit most of them are interesting  including We Got Married, Three Meals A Day, Fantastic Duo, Return of the Superman, just to name a few.

The truth is, I like these shows so much, but I couldn’t help but feel disappointed at some point as I am aware that these shows are scripted–and as much I would want  Wooyoung and Park Se Young to end up together IRL, I knew that my wishful thinking was a long shot in the dark. #HOPELESS

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Although a program or show being produced is most of the time scripted (a basic TV show formula), I still find these shows I mentioned worthy to watch, especially if your mood throughout the day did not go well on your favor. Having experienced this kind of situation myself, it eventually led me checking out King of the Masked Singer (this is what I call my Eureka moment as I always get to know AND learn new stuff due to my excessive and incessant curiosity attacks) and surely, the outcome did not fail me.

Singing Skills and Identity Behind the Mask

To be honest, most contestants were endowed with the same timbre, style, and sound (it might be because they were singing in their language, or probably they share the same style) and because of these factors, I find it hard to determine who the person was, behind the mask, given the confidence that I might know them due to my dedicated following to Korean music (yeap, clinging on to familiarity).

I managed to watch a few episodes from the last year’s run, and I managed to watch Soyou, Hyolyn, Ailee, Gilme, and Whale participate in the show. The common denominator that I noticed is that they all looked and felt like a different person behind the mask. Some were surprisingly shy and some were oozing with self confidence. It must be the magic of the mask, well, psychologically speaking.

THAT PART THAT THEY NEED TO WIN EVERYONE’S EARS, HEART, and VOTE

Since the 2nd round of the battle required the contestants to level up their game, I noticed that a ballad song is enough to win everyone over.

But forget about the aesthetics and skills—It was their performance that surprised me; all the more with their song choices and their weakened voices while on a note. I thought this was normal since it’s a ballad– anyone can be carried away with a ballad song. But I was surprised that I began tearing up as well, even though I don’t understand Korean at all!

Also, there was an episode where Hyolyn cried when rehearsing a ballad song for KMS and it was… aww.

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So then after tearing my up my heart over the heartbreaks of other people (LOL), I ended up searching and researching Korean ballad songs from the 80’s up to present.

So here’s what I got so far:

Lee Moon-se’s Gwanghwamun Love Song” (광화문 연가 )  – Listening to this song reminds me of ballad songs my dad use to sing.

Byun Jin-sub’s “Becoming Alone” (홀로 된다는 것) – This particular song reminded me of a Filipino ballad song “Bawal na Gamot” sang by Willy Garte.

Byeon Jin-seop (변진섭)’s Like the birds – Probably spelled as ‘Byun Jin-Sub’, listening to this song reminds me of Karen Carpenter’s voice.

Jun In-Kwon (전인권)’s Don’t worry dear – Personally my favorite. I got teary with this one as I listened to this while reading its lyrics in English. This song is also featured in episode 03 of Reply 1988. Also, during the 52nd Baeksang Arts Award last year this song was performed by Jeon In Kwon himself & Hyorin (OHHH MY QUEEN!!)

AND

Well, these tracks aren’t ballads but they are Cho Yong-pil’s.

This list is not complete without having Cho Yong-pil who is dubbed as the “National Singer” and “King of K-pop” and is basically a living legendary figure. His songs comprised of different musical styles and knowing how dedicated he is in music, he is able to adapt his songs to the trends of the general public.
Bounce (바운스) (2013)

Hello (헬로) (2013)


If you want more ballads and other musical reference, I suggest visiting these informative sites 🙂

Korean Culture Blog

Following KPOP

Hope you had fun discovering all things ASIAN as much as I did today! Hope to see you coming by for more. 🙂

Love,
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