Saturday, August 29, 2015

Skip Beat! (live action TV series), via DramaFever

Skip Beat! is a Taiwanese drama based on Yoshiki Nakamura's manga of the same title. Most places I've checked list it as being 15 episodes long with an hour or more for each episode, so I guess DramaFever must have cut the episodes differently, because the series is 23 episodes long there, with each episode only 45-46 minutes long.

The TV series follows the manga fairly closely (with some differences that the series then had to scramble to explain), covering events up through volume 13, for the most part. The most significant difference is that nearly everyone has been renamed. Ren is Dun He Lian, Kyoko is Gong Xi (once called Xiao Xi, for reasons I didn't understand), Sho is Bu Po Shang, Moko is Qin, Yashiro is Mr. Du, Lory is Luo Li, etc.

Shang was supposed to inherit his family's inn but ran away with Gong Xi in order to become famous. Gong Xi was his devoted supporter, working multiple jobs so that he could live in luxury, until she found out that he just saw her as a maid. Determined to get her revenge by becoming more famous than him, she auditioned to join LME, a rival talent agency.

I watched this series in record time, finishing the entire thing in slightly over a week. The first few episodes were the hardest for me to get through, and I almost quit watching. I had forgotten how difficult early Kyoko was to take, and Gong Xi was no different. There was something odd about Shang and Lian's mouth movements - I late learned that their actors had mostly been speaking Korean and had had their voices dubbed over. Also, this series was cheesy as heck. Every over-the-top thing that happened in the manga was translated into live action, including the grudges (represented as little floating CGI beings) and Kyoko's ability to outrace a car on her bike.

However, I persevered, and I'm glad I did. This series was so much fun! The turning point, for me, was probably episode 7, in which Gong Xi got to act in front of Lian for the first time and did an amazing job, despite her injured ankle.

Gong Xi was a bit hit-or-miss for me. She was supposedly college-aged, and yet she often behaved and sounded like a child. Even so, I couldn't help rooting for her as she fell more and more in love with acting. It took me a while to warm up to Lian, too – I had forgotten how cold Ren was early on in the series. Like Ren, Lian gradually thawed. Mr. Du and I both had fun watching his feelings for Gong Xi blossom. By the end of the series, he was positively sweet.

I appreciated that this series was not just about Gong Xi's potential romance – the relationship between her and Qin got a good bit of screen-time too. In fact, I'd say that Gong Xi's friendship with Qin progressed in a more satisfying way than her romance with Lian. When they first met, Qin was dismissive towards Gong Xi. Gong Xi's enthusiasm eventually won her over, and Gong Xi made her first female friend (not entirely true – one difference between this series and the manga was that Gong Xi had a friend at the sushi place she worked at, so the Taiwanese series had to bend over backwards to define that person as “not really a true friend,” which was kind of annoying). When Gong Xi was having difficulty portraying an angel character, Lian was the one she called first, but Qin was the one who helped her figure out what to do. I loved seeing the bond between the two of them grow, although it was kind of sad that Qin faded into the background by the end of the series.

I knew from the start that the ending was probably going to be frustrating. The manga is still on-going, and the live action TV series was following it fairly closely, so I didn't expect there to be declarations of love between Lian and Gong Xi. Unfortunately, the ending was even crappier than I expected, a very rushed attempt at something like a wrap-up. Considering how addictive and fun the bulk of the series, this was extremely disappointing.

All in all, I enjoyed this series and could see myself rewatching it, although I'd probably skip the first 6 episodes and the final episode. I'd love it if another season were made, but, considering that the last episode aired back in 2012, I don't know how likely that is. Maybe if I'm lucky?

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