All the feels for ‘Age of Youth’

Yay long weekend! I just finished a 6 hour binge of 청춘시대 (Age of Youth). The last 4 episodes were such a rollercoaster – I think I cried in every single one. Ha.

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Given that I generally don’t like “slice of life” type shows–and the fact that the last Korean drama I actually finished was 마을: 아치아라의 비밀 (The Village)–I’m kind of shocked at how much I enjoyed this one.

The plot is pretty simple: Five young women in their twenties share a house together. We follow their trials and tribulations as they each navigate through their lives, and grow to cherish each other (and themselves). Each character has her own inner demons (almost literally) to face and overcome.

This show isn’t flawless by any means. The idea isn’t original; the writing, frankly, isn’t superlative either. There were some odd genre-bending shenanigans going on, which made me wonder at certain points whether I was watching a makjang or a mystery thriller or a romcom? In retrospect, it’s probably because the nature of each character’s inner demon is so different that we got a bunch of varying, and sometimes disjointed, tones in one show. There were plot holes and a couple of instances of really cringe-worthy writing (I’m shaking my head at some of Jong-yeol’s red-flaggy “romantic” one-liners) , but. BUT.

The one major thing this show does well, it does oh so well.

It is A+ at evoking the viewer’s empathy. The characters each have their foibles–and not insignificant ones–but ultimately you’re cheering for them. In my mind, that trumps all of the smaller narrative flaws the show may have.

The importance of empathy is actually a running theme throughout the show, and each character realizes it at some point. This sort of surprised me because I think that’s not something that comes easily to twenty-somethings, especially when you’re trying to get your own two feet on the ground, but the show pulled it off well, without sounding maudlin.

One of my favorite parts of the show is this exchange between Eun-jae and Ji-won:

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The show’s true OTP <3

(source)

사람마다 죄다 사정이란 게 있다는 거야. 그 사정 알기 전까지는 이렇다 저렇다 말하면 안 된다는 거고.

Every person has their own situation they’re dealing with. That’s why until you know their situation you can’t tell them to live this way or that way.

It’s easier to empathize with someone if you know what their “situation” is, but even if you don’t, it’s important to try to understand them anyway. Such a great sentiment.

There are parts of this show that would’ve hit me really hard had it come out 3-4 years ago. It’s interesting watching this as someone who’s close in age to these characters, but also just past the stage that most of them are at, and reflecting if the show really captures the worries and joys of 청춘 (youth). I’d say it does.

すみません vs. すいません

So, I’m not crazy.

I was re-watching きみはペット (incidentally, one of my favorite Japanese dramas) and I confirmed a long-standing suspicion. A lot of Japanese people pronounce すません as すません.

For years I’ve thought my brain was somehow not computing the み sound correctly until I actually saw it spelled with い in a manga I was reading.

The general consensus from all the language forums I’ve combed through seems to be that すません is a colloquial and more casual way of pronouncing すません. The latter is always used when you’re being exceptionally apologetic (as opposed to simply trying to catch someone’s attention) and/or speaking formally to superior.

Probably because I don’t know the language that intimately, I’ve always assumed Japanese to be a really rigid language compared to Korean. There aren’t any complex pronunciation rules like in Korean, hiragana/katakana spelling is pretty much 100% phonetic, and verb conjugations are shockingly regular…. I guess that’s why this ‘mispronunciation’ surprised me so much.

I am getting to the point in Japanese where I’m finally starting to pick up on colloquialisms and slang, which is kind of cool. (The first bit of Japanese slang I picked up was the word 「ちょう」). At some point I should graduate from reading manga to actual novels so I don’t sound like a middle schooler the next time I’m in Japan.

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On a related note, anime has been holding my attention far better than Korean dramas these days. (I couldn’t even make it past episode four of 마녀보감, the last drama I attempted to watch. Sigh.)

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ReLIFE has been my favorite this season (definitely one of my favorites in the last couple years too). The story hits home–a 27-year old man, recently unemployed, gets the chance to participate in an experiment that lets him redo his senior year of high school. The webcomic is also available to read for free on comico! I know I’ve written a ton about webcomics/shows that I never actually finish (heh), but this one I can recommend wholeheartedly.

마녀보감 and the 3 episode test

I’ve recently gotten more impatient when it comes to TV shows. If you can’t hook me in the first 30 minutes, I’m out. My circle of drama-watching friends are a usually more forgiving, though. They do a “three episode test” for every TV show and anime they watch, meaning no matter how mediocre the first episode is, they’ll give the show at least 2 more episodes before deciding on whether to give it up or not.

In the spirit of trying to rekindle an interest Korean dramas I decided to give 마녀보감 (Mirror of the Witch) the three episode test.

…And, well, it’s caught my interest.

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Can we talk about how Kim Sae-ron is fifteen years old?! When did that happen? (Won Bin fans might remember her as his co-star in 아저씨–she was a tiny when that movie came out!). Also I haven’t seen Yoon Shi-yoon in anything since Unstoppable High Kick which was. ages. ago.

God, I feel old.

Anyway, let’s see if keep up with this one. I know sageuks aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but this is a good one if you like your historical dramas with a side of supernatural and a dash of folktale. It’s a good combination.

This seems to be the running theme of the show. It’s a good sentiment.

세상에 태어나지 말아야 할 사람은 없다. 어떤 사람이든 태어난 사람들은 저마다 하나씩 이 세상에 도움이 되는 이유를 가지고 태어난 것이라고 했다. 그것을 찾는 것이 인생.

There is no one who shouldn’t have been born in this world. No matter who they are, everyone who is born is born for a reason and purpose in this world. Life is about finding that purpose.

For the past couple years, when it comes to learning new Korean words, I’ve noticed that I’m relying less on memorization and more on Hanja. I’ve definitely been able to figure out the meaning of certain unknown words by breaking it down into its Hanja parts. (Studying Korean proverbs helps a lot too).

Take the word 마녀 (witch), for example. I don’t think I knew the word as a whole, but I did know the Hanja 魔 (마귀 마) and 女 (여자 녀). So 마녀 was ‘evil spirit/magic’ + ‘girl,’ or ‘witch.’

I think I first learned  마귀 마 (evil spirit, magic) after watching 마왕 (oh my god, that was also eons ago.) It’s amazing how many 마 words just naturally cropped up after that, especially after I started reading Harry Potter in Korean. Heh. Couple examples:

  • 마법 (magic + law): witchcraft
  • 마술 (magic + ability): sorcery, conjuring, spell
  • 마술사 (magic + ability + self): magician
  • 악마 (evil, bad + evil spirit): Devil
  • 마왕 (evil spirit + king): Satan

Back to the drama. Kim Sae-ron’s character is rumored to be a witch because she’s doomed to cause the death of everyone who loves her and everyone whom she loves. Yikes. It’s pretty clear from the first three episodes who the real witch is, though. It’ll be interesting to find out what her motivations are.

I haven’t gotten to the mirror part of things yet, though we’ve seen some hints of it here and there. Either way, I’ll probably keep watching and hopefully learn more words along the way.

Cheese in the Trap – 2

So I just finished reading season 1 of Cheese in the Trap, which is kind of a big accomplishment for me because I tend to drop webtoons pretty quickly. That, or I forget to check an update/ author goes on hiatus and it drops off my radar forever.

I like this one. I have no idea how close the author is to finishing it so the possibility may be high that I get caught up and it ends up dropping off my radar anyway, but hopefully not.

I think this is the first time I’ve read a webtoon where I actually really like the main character. Seol and I are actually very much alike. She’s smart but also hardworking, too busy to care about how she looks, struggles with her hair (see below), and is generally well-liked. There’s a part near the end of season 1 that I really identified with – Seol has to complete a big group assignment/presentation for one of her classes and all of her group members bail on her at the last minute. She ends up pulling an all-nighter and doing the whole thing herself… and still ends up failing the assignment.

 

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RUDE.

Seol is very much a people-pleaser. She’s non-confrontational; so much so that even if she’s not okay with something, she stifles it until she explodes. She will go out of her way to check her own behavior and desires to put the other person(s) at ease. It’s part of what makes her so likable but it’s also to her own detriment. She’s very attuned to peoples’ reactions to her and to others. It’s a harsh kind of empathy that makes her question everything she does and says.

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Actually me.

At the moment, I don’t really care for Jung. In the latter half of season 1 we get some insight into why he is the way he is. He’s from a really wealthy family; everyone is on their toes around them and for the sake of preserving the status quo, he has to be gracious at all times, even when he’s upset. When people upset him, he can only afford to get angry behind closed doors, so to speak; his comebacks have a particularly sadistic nuance to them.

Seriously, with friends like Jung who needs enemies? Luckily Seol has a wonderful group of friends. I freaking love Bora. When she overhears random guys “evaluating” how dateable Seol is, she completely flips out on them and then decides to set Seol up with the greatest guy in existence, Jung be damned!

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엄친아 스타일로ㅋㅋㅋ

I’m guessing there’s going to be an eventual romance between Jung and Seol? Jung definitely seems interested in her (whether that’s in a romantic sense or otherwise). Given the way season 1 ended, I have a feeling the happy times are coming to an end and the webtoon might turn rather dark, rather soon.

Overall I’m still having a ton of fun reading this. Onward to season 2!

Cheese in the Trap – 1

Okay, so I am BLOGGGG-ing about Cheese in the Trap. Only the webtoon, though, not the drama.

(I’m feeling meh about dramas these days. I’m almost finished with 마을 아치아라의 비밀 – a drama that is seriously making me question my liking for Moon Geun-young and one that I would’ve given up if it weren’t so deliciously melodramatic. But I digress.)

So anyway, Cheese in the Trap.

We’re following the story of Hong Seol, a college student heading back to school after a long leave of absence. She’s pretty normal. She’s smart (though the circumstances behind which she received her full scholarship is one of the mysteries of the story) and has a decent social life with a tight-knit group of friends. Surprisingly she’s not dirt poor like most K-drama protagonists, but she’s trying her hardest to not burden her parents with tuition fees (there’s a story behind that too).

There’s one thorn in her side though – the campus Mr. Perfect, Yoo Jung, who happens to be the reason she ended up taking a break from school in the first place.

This dude is weird. Outwardly, he’s bizarrely perfect: good-looking, smart, polite, kind… all the girls love him and all the guys want to be him. Except Seol notices some inconsistencies in his behavior. Sometimes he’s nice, sometimes he seems cold and condescending, and sometimes he’s outright mean to Seol. I’m 30 chapters into the webtoon and I don’t know what this dude’s deal is. Seol thinks he’s playing mind games with her by orchestrating situations that make her highly uncomfortable. But she has no proof and sometimes she just thinks she’s being overly sensitive. That was a year ago. Now she’s back in school, and he seems like he’s trying really hard to be her friend for some weird reason….

So there are basically two different timelines being told in parallel – we’re privy to Seol’s flashbacks from one year prior ago as well as the present day storyline, so I don’t know (yet) what it was that made Seol quit school, but it definitely had something to do with Jung.

I’m still at the start of this series (about 75% of the way through part 1 of 3) but I’m enjoying it so far. There’s a touch of mystery, touch of comedy, touch of romance…. The characters are great, including Seol. She’s hilarious.

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Seol freaking out about selfie she took with Jung.

Also this random sunbae of hers. I don’t know if he’s going to play a bigger role later in the webtoon, but look at him. You can’t not like that face.

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입이 찢어질 듯

It seems like figuring out what the heck Jung’s deal is will be the focus of the bulk of the webtoon. My guess is that he’s the really sheltered son of a mafia boss who is on some kind of undercover mission at the university. Never mind, Jeannie tells me this isn’t true. I could’ve sworn… he’s so good at those arcade shooting games too!

I’ll probably blog on and off about the webtoon here. Is anyone else reading this or watching the drama? Let me know what you think (but no spoilers please).

And if you’re not comfortable with reading it in Korean, there’s an English translation too!

Mandarake – (Used) Manga Paradise in Japan

Okay, so imagine you’re in Japan.

For lovers of Japanese fiction/non-fiction, there’s Kinokuniya.  For lovers of manga, light novels, and anime merch, there’s Animate.  And then, my friendsthere is a store for those of us who like all of the above but are on a budget.  That’s Mandarake.

Image courtesy of Lisa Pinehill (https://www.flickr.com/photos/ginkgraph/8093211245)
Image courtesy of Lisa Pinehill (https://www.flickr.com/photos/ginkgraph/8093211245)

Mandarake (まんだらけ) is a multi-story anime/manga media store found in a number of locations throughout Japan.  The store is chock-full of anime CDs, DVDs, even VHS tapes (it’s true!), collectible figurines, cosplay gear, toys and cell phone charms, fan-made doujinshi and, best of all, a jaw-dropping quantity of used manga.

I went to two different Mandarake’s when I visited Japan: one in Akihabara (Tokyo) and one in Namba (Osaka).  The photo above isn’t mine, but that’s the Namba branch of the store.  And no, your eyes do not deceive you:  Those are shelves of used manga literally chilling outside the building.

I very often delude myself into thinking I know Japanese better than I actually do, especially when it comes to reading.  I’m horrible at reading Japanese.  You’d be amazed how undeterred I am by that fact when I am in store such as Mandarake.  One of the most difficult things about this store was actually navigating around and trying to find a specific title.  The manga seemed to be classified by genre first, and then by the magazine it was serialized in, and then by author.  So basically, I was wandering like a lost sheep most of the time, under the guise of “browsing” casually.

I did spot some familiar titles.

Throwback to early high school.  You will not believe how emotionally invested in Marmalade Boy I was.  Funnily enough, it’s one of Theo’s most memorable mangas too.  We don’t overlap a ton in terms of what we’ve read or watched so that was pretty interesting to find out!

Believe it or not, it wasn’t too difficult to walk away empty-handed from normal bookstores like Kinokuniya.  One tankoubon at Kinokuniya is $6.20 in the U.S. and roughly the same price in Japan; I wouldn’t save money by buying manga or novels in Japan.  But used manga in Mandarake run as cheap as ¥200 (1.60 USD) and are in practically new condition.  That was true temptation.

In the spirit of bonding over manga that we’ve both read, I picked up volume 1 of a couple of Theo’s favorites.  Orange in particular was quite popular, probably because the final chapter release a few months ago.  There’s apparently going to be a live action movie too, releasing in Japan this December.

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Slowly, but surely, my Japanese bookshelf grows.  One of these days I’ll actually finish something on it.  My first ever Japanese novel was 告白 by Minato Kanae, the novel which gave rise to one of my all-time favorite movies.  A friend gave me the novel… oh, three or so years ago.  And I still can’t make it past the third sentence without stumbling across kanji that I can’t read.

One of these days!