So it’s that time of the year again to cast a retrospective eye on the events of the last 12 months. Kicking off the whole year-in-review process here at Midnight Express is my little tribute to the boys who contributed to many late nights and, uh, lost hours. Yeah, let’s just leave it as that.
But before we begin, a little song:
To All the Boys I’ve Loved This Year
To all the boys I’ve loved this year
Whose vids now clog my computer
Naked Shirtless hunks and high school hosts
I dedicate this post
To all the boys I’ve loved this year
To all the boys I stalked like mad
On Tumblr and the Internet
God, where did my time go?
I need a life I know
I swear I was never this shallow.
The year is coming to an end
‘tis now time to say goodbye
‘Cos other pretty boys are coming round the bend
And I’ve only 24 hours in a day…
To all the boys who shared my life
Who now are someone else’s vice
I’m glad you came along
It saddens me to say so long
To all the boys I’ve loved this year
(Adapted from To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before, by Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson)
This was written in a hormonally charged fog so if you’re hoping to glean some intelligent insight into the dramas of the past year, I’m afraid I’ll have to refer you to Dramabeans. Otherwise, welcome! *mild spoilers here and there*
Han Kang, 49 Days
If you were following the K-drama scene between March and May, you would have heard the rallying cry of “Kang-ah!” all over the blogosphere. Jo Hyun-jae’s post-army comeback role was an eye-opener (in more ways than one) and brought him to the attention of a whole new legion of admirers, yours truly included.
The trope of holding-a-torch-for-your-first-love is a pretty common one in K-dramas but Han Kang took it to the extreme by manfully pining for his girl for a good long decade, leading me to wonder more than once: did he even go out on a date during those 10 years he spent in the States or was he celibate during that entire period? XDDD
I know there’s a sizable Scheduler faction out there and while I loved his snark, I gotta say that I was always a Han Kang girl at heart. What got me was how ridiculously single-minded he was in his devotion to Ji-hyun, so much so that not only did he have all her quirks seared into his memory, it also turned him into a beastly wreck as he fought against his growing feelings for Ji-kyung. That scene in episode 8 where he trashes his office after seeing her in Min-ho’s apartment? Nothing says I am truly, madly and frustratedly in love with you like raging, inarticulate emotions. RAAAWR. (And the ending scene where he storms over to said apartment to bring her back to Heaven? RAAAWR x asakdjskf) I love that his heart recognises her long before he comes to terms with the bizarre situation that she’s in, not to mention the lengths to which he goes to save her father’s company. That to me is pretty damn romantic.
lookie62 is a Korean fan who makes amazing drama videos. Here’s one of my favourites from her 49 Days collection — Kang as the indignant, long-suffering boss. Be sure to check out the other vids on her site, if you haven’t.
Follow-up fangirling: I tried watching Only You. Unfortunately, my newfound love of Jo Hyun-jae wasn’t strong enough to help me endure the outdated wardrobe and ridiculous story (seriously K-dramas, what the hell? Why are 98% of your heroines always working some dead-end job? Are they not qualified to do anything else other than menial chores?) so I dropped it after two episodes.
My wish for JHJ in 2012: Well Jo Hyun-jae, I hope your attempts to break into the Chinese market take off and if you do decide to return to Korea, I will keep an eye out for your next drama. But please, no more roles where you play the preternaturally chaste guy like you did in Love Letter and to a certain extent, 49 Days. Let’s see you play someone with a bit more vim, okay?
Yoon Pil-joo, The Greatest Love
No question about it. If I were Gu Ae-jung, I would have braved
the door bitch Pil-joo’s mother to spend my happily ever after on the P-line. Unfortunately, the laws of K-dramas dictate that you can never win if you are going up against someone who is slightly unhinged because why settle for normal when you can have a life filled with excitement every single day?
To be honest though, it took me a while to see Pil-joo’s appeal. Sure, his credentials were impeccable and he had common sense (a rarity in the K-drama world, to be sure) but it wasn’t until he unleashed his secret weapon that I found my resistance crumbling like Johnny K’s self-control around jailbait of the XY persuasion XD
Behold exhibits A, B and C. The oriental doctor’s charms may not be evident at first but every time he smiles that guileless…
puppy dog grin of his, your heart melts a little.
And when he tries in his sweet, earnest way, to protect the woman he loves, it melts a bit more…
…till all that’s left of your heart is a puddle of goo. Speaking of goo, have you seen the hardware underneath that coat and all those preppy layers? All that’s missing is a sign that says ‘Drizzle with melted chocolate and lick.’ Maybe if you had bared your arms a bit or flaunted your six-pack, Miss Gu might have given her decision a bit more thought.
Perhaps then it’s no surprise that of all the songs featured in The Greatest Love, I like 나를 잊지말아요 best. Here’s the official MV to commemorate all those lovely and wibbly P-line moments:
Follow-up fangirling: Lost count of the number of times I watched the trailer for Phungsan Dog. Am waiting for subs but perhaps I should just watch it raw since Yoon Kye-sang doesn’t speak at all in the movie. Watched four episodes of High Kick 3. Loved what I saw, will marathon the rest some day. At the height of my YKS fever, I also marathoned Who Are You? and would recommend it if not for the fact that Kang Nam-gil’s buffoonish character drove me nuts.
My wish for YKS in 2012: That High Kick 3 gives his acting career the boost that it needs.
Special Mention: Dokko Jin and Hyung-kyu
These two had me at “cow moustache”. I didn’t buy the drama’s main pairing but their buddy relationship helped make it go down a lot easier. Also, I didn’t want Hyung-kyu to be stuck in his dysfunctional household with his father and grandfather (who, let’s face it, are not terribly good role models) as the only male figures in his life. Whatever I may think of Pil-joo, it’s obvious Ding Dong had his heart set on having Iron Man be a part of his family and who am I to deny a seven-year-old that wish?
Oscar M. Himejima and the Hana Kimi 2011 boys
I think it’s pretty well-documented how much I luurved Hidenori Tokuyama’s portrayal of Oscar. Not to mention, he was the one who ended my self-imposed exile from J-drama land (yes, I am a little embarrassed to admit that of all the things that could have sucked me back in, it was Hana Kimi 2011. Standards, I have none.)
The last time I watched a J-drama, Akanishi Jin was still a member of Kat-Tun. I had no idea that during the years I had stayed away, the Japanese entertainment industry had spawned so much fresh meat for the lusting. Watching Hana Kimi 2011 made me realise that I had a lot of catching up to do. What was a D-boy? Why were all the fan girls talking about Tumbling whenever Tomo and Shohei appeared in a scene together? Could Tomo get any prettier? (Ans: Yes, refer to Shinsengumi Peacemaker.)
How on earth did I not know about Miura Shohei? (Ans: Because yours truly had been living under a rock.) Nishii Yukito — one to watch? (Ans: Yes, apparently he turns in equally first-rate performances in Confessions and Suzuki Sensei.)
If there was one thing I took away from Hana Kimi 2011, it was the fact that there was a whole new world of
hot guys talented young actors waiting to be discovered and time was of the essence.
Follow-up fangirling: Inhaled Tumbling and discovered the current Lust of My Life. Confessions and Suzuki Sensei on to-watch list. Wasn’t planning on watching Hungry! but the news that Miura Shohei will be appearing in it has made me rethink my decision.
My wish for the boys in 2012: For Tomo, a drama that allows him to stretch his acting chops (i.e. one that lets him play a role other than the gay/sensitive schoolboy.) For Nishii, that he won’t be typecast as the gay schoolboy or precocious misfit. For Renn, that he’ll eat more and stop looking like his ribs would crack if someone breathed on him. For Tokuyama, that he’ll star in a drama or movie that I would want to watch, and not just because he’s in it.
The Boys and Men of J-dramas Past
Chiaki Shinichi, Nodame Cantabile
2011 was a year that saw me plundering the J-drama backlist and discovering for the first time the sculpted wonder that is Tamaki Hiroshi. I have no idea how the director told him to prepare for his role in Nodame Cantabile but my guess is that one of the instructions was to incite female viewers to undress him mentally. I’ve never seen an actor work a dress shirt and trousers the way Tamaki did during his Chiaki period. (I think it’s a Nodame Cantabile thing because my hormones were extremely well behaved when I saw him in Love Shuffle and Shikaotoko Aoniyoshi, probably because he looked so malnourished in those dramas.)
Follow-up fangirling: Recent pictures of Tamaki tell me that he is eating normally again. Thank god. I am trying not to jinx Taira no Kiyomori by getting too excited about it but it’s like NHK decided to cast a harem of hot guys this time round. How’s anyone supposed to keep from getting sparkly-eyed?
My wish for Tamaki Hiroshi in 2012: Please continue eating your meals regularly.
Hikoichi and Ryota, Ninkyo Helper
Kusanagi Tsuyoshi isn’t someone most people would associate with the words “deadly”, “menacing” and “masculine” but Ninkyo Helper had me looking at him in a completely different light. Who would have thought that the reediest and most unassuming member of SMAP could headbutt like a seasoned street fighter? Or that he could make you think thoughts normally reserved for his more virile bandmates? *coughKimuracough*
But as revelatory as Kusanagi was in his role, it was Kato Seishiro, playing the lonely Ryota, who left his fingerprints all over my heart. The boy might only have been eight when he was cast in this drama, but he has been working since he was two and it shows. He turns in such a mature, pitch-perfect performance as a boy grappling first with loneliness and then later the debilitating illness of his mother that he gives most of the adults a run for their money. Mark my words: you will fall in love with him and if your heart doesn’t break during the course of the drama, it will by the time the credits for the SP start rolling.
Follow-up fangirling: Kato is starring in Miike Takashi’s Ninja Kids!!! (lol at the gratuitous use of exclamation marks. Oh, Miike’s never been one for restraint all right. If it isn’t blood and violence, it’s punctuation. Haha.) I’d watch this solely on account of the fact that he looks so adorable I want to squish him.
Takenaka Naoto (Franz Stressemann from Nodame Cantabile) is in it as well and the trailer looks suitably manic and insane so my interest has been piqued. Have a look for yourself:
My wish for Kato and Kusanagi in 2012: Is it terrible that I want Kato Seishiro to remain 10 forever? The kid has talent so let’s hope he survives the minefields of adolescence and doesn’t become another casualty of the child star syndrome.
As for Kusanagi, let’s hope we don’t have to wait for another fracas with the police before he’s offered a role that lets him connect with Dark Tsuyopon. His role as Hikoichi demonstrated his versatility as an actor and I’d like to see directors exploit this more often.
Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori
Okay, it’s time to come clean: Had I not decided to read the manga, I would have dropped the Ouran drama after the fourth episode. I had no knowledge of the source material going into it and while I found bits and pieces of the drama amusing (mostly the scenarios involving the twins), I also found it difficult getting into the story because everything was painted in such broad strokes. I could get the gist of it but felt that a lot of details had been left out (through no fault of its own. The drama runs for 11 episodes and each one is less than half-an-hour so cuts are inevitable.)
However I liked the tone of the drama and the cast (not to mention the fandom was lots of fun) so I decided to read the manga to find out what it was really about before axing it. And it turned out to be one of my favourite finds of 2011. I know I’m really late to the party but if you haven’t read it yet, I can’t recommend Ouran High School Host Club enough.
Truth be told, the drama didn’t prepare me for how deliciously self-referential, funny and smart the manga would be. I wasn’t taken in by Yamamoto Yusuke’s portrayal of Tamaki but once I started reading the manga, things started to make a whole lot more sense and more importantly, I fell in love with everyone, not just the main characters. In fact, a lot of my favourite people did not make it to the drama: Kasanoda, the lovable and soft-hearted yakuza heir with a face only a mother could love, and Kanan, the fiancé of Kyouya’s childhood rival, to name a few. Not since Sungkyunkwan Scandal have I wanted to be a cross-dressing student this badly.
To get the full Ouran experience, reading the manga, I feel, is a must simply because there’s so much more to the characters than what the drama hints at. And if Kyouya is your favourite, as he is mine, it will make you love him even more. He’s such a ball of contradictions — calculating, clinical and aloof but also fiercely loyal and someone who will go to great lengths, without being asked, to help those he holds dear to his heart. Volume 11, where he has his stand-off with Tamaki, is one of my favourites because it reveals so much about what makes him tick and the later chapters where he orchestrates Mission: Reconcile Tamaki with His Mother had me wibbling to no end. OH KYOUYA. Now if only you would be less dishonest about your feelings…
Follow-up fangirling: Bought all 18 volumes of the manga. Named my laptop Kyouya and found an alternative use for it as a bed warmer. Plundered the Internet for Ouran fanfiction and found AJ Rayne’s livejournal site, which is home to some of my favourite fics of all time. Her characterisation is so spot on and her one-liners such a pleasure to read that if she weren’t on hiatus, I’d be pawing at her feet asking her to write more.
My wish for Bisco Hatori in 2012: That she (or rather her publisher) will not make us wait too long before releasing her next series. And also, to give Kyouya his own one-shot. You can’t leave him a spinster, Hatori-sensei. You just can’t! *sobs and shakes fist ineffectually*
Daito Shunsuke, Tumbling, Ouran High School Host Club Live Action and My Inner Mind Theatre
When I decided to watch Tumbling, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had picked it up thinking that I’d finally find out what the deal was with all the TomoxShohei shippers. Little did I know that by episode 3, I’d be saddled with a new research subject whose body of work demanded immediate attention.
My research led me to Ouran, which proved a little problematic because how is one supposed to analyse anything when the subject is wearing so many layers of clothing?
Speaking of which, this scene is wasted on Haruhi. If I had been in charge of the script for the last episode, there would have been no one to stop Tamaki from resigning from the Host Club because Kyouya would have been too busy discovering new uses for his tie in
Haruhi’s my apartment.
Sadly, there is only one scene where you can carry out a study of his assets in Ouran.
Fortunately, however, the directors of his earlier dramas were a lot more understanding of the need for critical analysis. I’ll let the pictures below speak for themselves.
RESCUE is not my cup of tea but if I had to sit through the first episode again, it would be for these two reasons alone:
Futatsu no Spica, on the other hand, is actually a very decent drama that often slips under people’s radars, which is quite unfortunate because they obviously don’t know what they’re missing.
On a separate note, if this is Atlantis’s way of drumming up publicity for their newest agency member, all I will say is that he should have made the switch earlier.
My wish for Daito Shunsuke in 2012: Isn’t it obvious? For him to grace *that* special issue of An An (I will fill in for the Ukrainian model XDDDDD)
Hormonal ravings aside, Shunsuke-kun, now that you’ve switched agencies, I hope you get access to better scripts. I don’t necessarily think you need to play the lead but a strong supporting role in a well-written drama would nudge your career in the right direction. As much as I like to watch you strut your stuff on screen, I do think you should work on your range and take on characters other than the cool/alpha-male dudes you’ve been playing, er, 84% of the time. Here’s hoping you get the chance to work with the right people and find your breakout role. Ganbatte, Shunsuke-kun!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my 2011 Roundup. *glances at calendar* Hopefully it’ll be up before the end of the year…