Disclaimer: I’m a Korean drama enthusiast, not an expert. These recommendations are based on my personal experience as beginner to the genre. If you have any wisdom you might want to share on this topic, please feel free to let me know in the comments!
For those of you who have been reading my posts for a while, you might remember that I did a piece on the Korean drama Coffee Prince a while back. It was my first time watching a Korean drama, and I instantly feel in love with its unique mix of underdog story wrapped within a comedy, love story, and drama.
I liked it so much in fact, that I got scared to watch more K-dramas. After watching Coffee Prince I thought to myself, “this is amazing! But what if this one is so good that I’m setting my expectations too high for other Korean Dramas?”
A few months passed as I looked longingly at the Korean television shows on Hulu, reading synopsis after synopsis as if I were going to be quizzed on them. Would this one be too serious? This one not serious enough? Would this one be too lovey-dovey?
But finally, I decided to take the plunge. The result? Along with my regular anime lineup, K-dramas have been the only thing filling my screen recently, and I can honestly say that I’m loving every minute. Continue reading
Yi Soon Shin (All four issues)
It’s funny how this book is about a naval commander when I came across this book per chance of fate. Ships that pass in the night, and all that. I could have easily passed over this comic, and never even realized that it existed. The creator of this comic, Onrie Kompan, was at New Orleans Comic Con pimping his work and caught my attention. I was able to get all four comics at a low price, along with his signature. Being a starving writer myself, I sympathized and gladly took up the comics to give them a chance. Not to be one to just sympathize and ignore, it seemed only fair to read these comics and tell you what I thought.
As the title confirms, this comic is about Yi Soon Shin (sometimes spelled Yi Sun-sin). Yi was a famous naval commander during the Japanese invasions of Korea during the Imjin War. If you ever visit Korea, chances are you might see a couple of statues in his likeness. While revered in Korean culture like Patton or Washington is in American, Yi was not well liked in his own time. Even when he was facing down staggering numbers of Japanese ships, he had to deal with the corrupt politics of lazy nobles and overly ambitious military leaders. Yi had a lot on his plate, but this comic tells us the story of how he never gave up.
You don’t have to be an expert on the Imjin War to understand this book because it goes over the major points of Japan’s first invasion fairly well. This book is an historical drama obviously written for people who don’t know that much about history. The only problem is that motives and characters are simplified rather than given historical context. Toyotomi Hideyoshi, for example, is portrayed as a ruthless thug of a leader, rather than the ambitious warrior king that he is famous for being. Such a portrayal allows the comic to simply vilify the invaders instead of taking the time to explain why Japan feels it needs to expand. Several other small details seem to be off in the name of dramatic effect, but those not up on the history probably wouldn’t even notice.
Even with some minor issues I had with historical accuracy, I enjoyed reading this comic. The writing can be a little melodramatic, but that goes in line with the brutal tone the book maintains throughout. Both writer and artist work to establish a vivid portrayal of the horrific actions of war, and the savage characters it brings out. It’s not just war scenes that are brutal mind you. There are several interwoven subplots that can be just as bloody, if not more so. It is enjoyable, but not for those with weak stomachs.
These four issues are supposed to be the first volume of a trilogy, continuing the story of Yi fighting against the advance of the Japanese forces. I’ll be on the lookout for the future volumes, and let everyone know if I hear anything. The chances for a sequel, of course, depend largely on the success of this book. This problem is compounded by the lack of a large corporate structure to pimp the book for them. I hope these guys find the success they need to bring us more stories, but the art world is just as harsh as the rest of it. Indie Cred FTW!
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Big Bang. Image via Wikipedia.
As I’m sure you’ve seen in past articles, I absolutely adore Asian music and music with Asian influences. As I’ve already covered J-Pop, anime music, Asian instrumental music, and even some Japanese Christmas music, I thought it was high time that K-Pop, (short for Korean pop) got the spotlight it deserves.
Growing in international popularity at noticeable speed, Korean pop is slowly taking over iPods and YouTube alike, with many of the more popular Korean bands getting between 20-30 million views per song.
And it’s not just coincidence; as this excellent Reuters article points out, Korean musicians have a big incentive to appeal to an international audience, as their own music market is fairly small, and large telecom companies, (not the musicians themselves), control most of the revenue.
However, all of the shop-talk aside, one of the things that sets K-pop apart is the enthusiasm. It’s infectious, to the point where you just want to dance, even if you can’t always understand the full meaning behind the songs.
While there are a large number of wonderful K-pop bands and singers to choose from, I’ve created a list of five musicians and bands who are among the most popular in Korea and abroad.
So sit back, listen, or get up and dance if you want to. But above all, enjoy! Continue reading
Since a good number of you have been enjoying the J-Pop article I posted at the beginning of summer, I decided that it was time for another music article: one that will help usher in the beauty of fall with gorgeous instrumental music from composers, groups, and musicians from Japan and other parts of Asia.
And, for those of you who are dealing with the back-to-school grind, many of these songs make wonderful study music.
So crank up your speakers, headphones, or ear buds, and prepare to take a journey through the gorgeous melodies of these amazing Japanese and Asian musical masters.
As I mentioned in my J-Pop article, Utada Hikaru is one of my favorite artists of all time. She is fluent in both English and Japanese (having grown up in both New York and Japan), and is best known for her two songs “Simple and Clean” and “Sanctuary,” which appeared in the game Kingdom Hearts.
And while I could go on about her amazing music for far longer than you’d care to listen, it is her “Relaxing Orgel ~Letters~” album that I’m highlighting in this article, as features the instrumental versions of her most popular songs played using the hauntingly beautiful sound of the orgel.
Don’t believe me? Listen and see if this sends a small chill down your spine. Continue reading