Sunday, July 7, 2013

Battle of the Time Travel: Queen In Hyun's Man Review

Sometimes you go on vacation to Europe and don't have time to watch any tv or even use the internet for almost three weeks.  Then sometimes you get sick on vacation and spend an entire day holed up in a hotel room groaning and sending your husband onto the subway to find a pharmacy while you stay wrapped up in blankets.  Can you guess which was my experience? (It was only a 24 hour thing.  I spent all of today wandering around and stuffing my face with gelato, so I'm pretty sure I'm fully recovered.)

The upside is that I FINALLY got to finish Queen In Hyun's Man (thanks to the awesome Viki website, which streams to Austria), which I started almost two months ago.  As I watched, I couldn't help but compare it to Rooftop Prince, which also came out in 2012, and which I previously reviewed here.  In my mind, reviewing this drama makes the most sense in comparison to Rooftop Prince.  While most reviews seem to clearly prefer one or the other, I think both had a lot going for them in different areas.
Which time travel drama won your heart?

The Male Lead

This one goes to In Hyun's Kim Bong Do in an (almost) landslide. The man is a handsome, brave, intelligent, kindhearted genius ninja scholar-warrior.  He is the anti-chaebol, a genuinely nice guy who treats the girl well from the start.  In other words, he's a second male lead in a first male lead's body.  What more could anyone possibly want?


Ok, there is one little complaint: he's just a liiiiiiiiiittle bit too stoic for my tastes.  Because he makes the same exact face almost all the time, it was hard to tell if he was falling in love, just amused, or was holding in a fart for the first 7 episodes of the series. I was surprised when the couple first kissed because I didn't have any clear indication that he was falling for her at all.  WHERE ARE MY SMOLDERING LONGING GLANCES?????

If only he didn't make this exact face for 90% of the drama...

The Female Lead

I have to admit that I wasn't crazy about the female lead in either time travel drama, but I think this one goes to In Hyun as well just by default.  No matter how hard I try, all I can remember about Rooftop Prince's Park Ha is...that she was nice to old people? And smiled a lot?

At least Choi Hee Jin has some spunk.  Sure, her cutesyness goes a little overboard at times (and makes Yoo In Na seem ten years younger than she did in Secret Garden), but I love that she's nice without being a total pushover, and her cultural "lessons" (especially her version of greetings!) were some of the best moments in the show.

On the downside, why does she have to be an idiot? I don't understand this kdrama trope of pointing out over and over and over again just how stupid the female lead is. I get the sense that most kdrama female leads are somewhere between a cucumber and a herring on the intelligence scale, and it drives me crazy.
"My brain is so stupid, but look at what nice hair I have!" (Bats gigantic eyelashes)

Take Boys over Flowers as a classic example.  Poor ole cottonheaded ninnymugins Jan Di was two (or three?) full years behind Ji Hoo in medical school, and, as far as I could tell, Ji Hoo literally did nothing in school. He sometimes played violin in the forests and sat in a room with a globe in it, but that was it.  And Jan Di was STILL way stupider than he was.

At least in this drama, the male lead doesn't rub in his mental superiority all the time (like in Full House, which made me want to punch Rain in the face), but the imbalance is still troubling.

The Chemistry

Sometimes, I imagine that kdrama writer brainstorming meetings go as follows:

Team Leader: Okay, guys, we need ideas, and we need them NOW!  I want something fresh!
Writer 1: I was thinking we could have a haughty chaebol and a poor, hardworking girl--
Writer 2: Ugh, no!  SO overdone!
Team Leader: Yeah!  I said I need something NEW!
Writer 2: I'VE GOT IT! Instead of having the MAN be the mean one, let's have the WOMAN be mean instead!  It's so different!
Everyone (in unison): BRILLIANT!


What's nice about this romance is that no one is mean.  They're just two genuinely nice people who meet and fall in love without being terrible to each other.  And it works!  If I could go back in time and rewrite my "Best Kdrama Kisses" post to include this drama, I would.  Holy smokes, there is an amazing kiss in this drama, and the rest of their interactions are adorable, too.
This.

This chemistry may partly stem from the real-life romance that blossomed out of the show.  The cynical side of me reads that story and says, "It'll never last.  It's just a publicity stunt."  The hidden fangirl inside of me says, "Shut up! It's truuuuuuuue loooooooooove!" and then melts into a puddle of giddy bliss. 

Everything Else

Lest you think that Queen In Hyun's Man beat Rooftop Prince outright, the things that made it delightful were also its biggest weaknesses.  This show is all about the central couple, and that's about it.  Sure, there is a conspiracy going on in olden times that the hero needs to thwart, but that storyline was so repetitive that it wasn't incredibly compelling.  Grumpy man with scraggly hair laughs at evil plot!  Chase scene in the forest!  Kim Bong Do figures it out and thwarts them! He almost dies and disappears!  I KNEW they were overdoing it when one of his attempted suicides got no bigger reaction than "Again?  Really? Is now a good time to run to the bathroom while the characters are all crying in a splitscreen for 5 minutes?"
The crying gets tiring, but that intensely expressive neck vein popping out to the right does not.


The same goes for the modern plotline.  Aside from her best friend, who added some occasional humor, the other characters didn't even really need to be there.  This is a sad contrast to Rooftop Prince, where the prince's sidekicks were the highlight of the show, and the villains, though completely one-dimensional, at least got you emotionally invested in thwarting them.

Part of this complaint also cycles back to the male lead.  He's so smart that nothing fazes him at all, even when he first passes through time.  I think they missed out on some comedic gold there by having him catch onto every single thing without blinking an eye.

Overall, I really enjoyed most of Queen In Hyun's man, but for completely different reasons than I enjoyed Rooftop Prince.  I flew through the first 9 or 10 episodes in one lighthearted, breezy sitting.  The last handful of episodes were a bit harder to get through, but it's still a solid romance worth a watch!

6 comments:

  1. I loved Queen In-Hyun's Man more than Rooftop Prince by far. I go mostly for chemistry between couples and this one did it for me. In Rooftop Prince I was bored and it really didn't make me laugh. Anyway I love this drama and I am so glad that you reviewed it! (For the most part I skipped past the political parts) :)

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  2. I LOVE this drama. It had everything I wanted in a drama. Plus it was the first drama that made me cry. I was literally crying in every episode, and forget about the ending, I was crying so hard lol. But I agree with ista. I couldn't get into rooftop prince. I wanted to like it but some scenes were just too dumb (like he couldn't seriously hear a car coming?) but overall this drama is on my top 5.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, if you're looking for a romance, this one wins for sure! I can barely even remember anything about the relationship in RTP except for the very last scene.

      There WERE a lot of ridiculous plot points in RTP, but at some point they kind of grew on me. Awww, look at how terrible this supposedly genius prince is at solving murders!

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  3. I love Queen In Hyun's Man and have already watched it twice. One of the things I *most* like about it is its avoidance of the standard fish-out-of-water comic trope. I really, really like the fact that the hero is a quick learner and not fazed by the changed world he has to adapt to. This goes beyond K Drama, pretty much every time travel story milks the disorientation for laughs and/or pathos and this series got big marks from me for being the first I can remember having seen that did not do that. It's also worth remembering that it was the heroine who insisted on calling herself stupid, and the hero did a good job of rebutting that view in one key scene.

    For the rest, I pretty much agree with your review. It is all about them, and in consequence could have been better as a shorter series, perhaps 12 episodes like My Shining Girl. But then we might not have so many wonderful scenes between Queen In Hyun and her man. I only started watching K Dramas seven weeks ago, and have only watched seventeen series, but of those seventeen, the romance in this series is right near the top for sweetness and believability.

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  4. "He's just a liiiiiiiiiittle bit too stoic for my tastes. Because he makes the same exact face almost all the time, it was hard to tell if he was falling in love, just amused, or was holding in a fart for the first 7 episodes of the series. I was surprised when the couple first kissed because I didn't have any clear indication that he was falling for her at all. WHERE ARE MY SMOLDERING LONGING GLANCES?????"

    THIS. I thought the same exact thing. I loved the character, but I think the actor had only one expression. The thing I love is seeing that exact moment when the male lead falls in love with the female lead, but in this series I never really saw it. But the kisses were GOOD. And I'm rooting for the couple in real life.

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