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Keep Hoping Machine Running ([personal profile] thefourthvine) wrote2011-07-06 10:00 pm

[Review] Coffee Prince, Episode One

Some time ago - quite some time ago - I offered to review something in exchange for a charitable donation to [livejournal.com profile] help_japan. I expected, quite honestly, to be subjected to something legendarily terrible, perhaps Spock's Brain or Highlander 2: The Quickening, but instead, bizarrely, a group of people banded together to get me to watch something good. I know. I don't understand it, either. Grateful but confused, that's me!

That thing was a Korean TV drama, and the bidders were, and oh how I hope I have them all listed: [personal profile] anenko, [livejournal.com profile] dormouse_in_tea, [personal profile] jamethiel, [personal profile] paxpinnae, [personal profile] pineapplechild, [personal profile] vass, and [personal profile] zeborah. Thank you, people. I have enjoyed the hell out of Coffee Prince. And really appreciated your patience. You are all made of entirely of shine. What you're actually getting is a weird review-recap hybrid. Hope it's what you wanted!

A Preliminary Note

I don't speak Korean and I've never watched a K-drama before. I don't know the conventions, I don't know the idioms, and I had to resort to google a lot. I am going to make cultural missteps. I apologize in advance. Pointers appreciated!

Also, the fansub I found for this one was a little antic. I'm used to anime fansubs, which are inevitably better than the actual official licensed translation. I did not get that sense with these subtitles, which were informative most of the time with occasional moments where they induced shrieking hilarity. Seriously, even if you have no interest in adorable romance, the fansubs are worth watching for those moments alone.

Coffee Prince in Relatively Few Words (For Me)

So, that said - Coffee Prince is a charming, crazy, fluffy romance. The central conceit is that one half of the main couple, Eun Chan, is a girl pretending to be a boy. Or that's how the summaries read. (They actually mostly said something along the lines of "she's given up so much to take care of her family - even her femininity.") That wasn't how I saw it, though. And I was not alone.

Right after I watched the second episode of Coffee Prince, I had to take the earthling to see his doctor. Afterwards, as is our custom, he picked out a treat from the small store there, and we sat at a table outside where he could watch all the cars and trucks go by.

There was also a middle-aged Korean-American woman sitting out there. (This may seem like a gift from the gods of recap writing, but in fact we were sitting in front of a Korean café and a Korean pharmacy, so not so much.) We started talking while the earthling consumed his treat one molecule at a time (because there were so many trucks to watch). We talked about kids for a bit, and then she asked me what TV shows I was watching. Normally, my answer to that question is an apologetic, "I don't watch TV," but this time I had an actual show to mention!

I said, "I'm watching - uh, in English it's called Coffee Prince?"

She lit up. "I loved that show so much!"

We talked about various aspects of the show for a while, including how we got hold of it (and why I chose to watch it, which was a whole thing to explain, let me tell you; I should have just said that I heard it was good). Eventually, I mentioned how great I thought the acting was. I said the actress who played Eun Chan did a fantastic job showing discomfort with femininity, using masculine body language, all of that.

She agreed, and said, "Watching that, I didn't think - I didn't think she was a girl, exactly. I know she was a girl, but I thought - you have to be one, of course, a boy or a girl, but I thought if you could be not a boy or a girl but a third thing, then that is what I would call her."

In short, even people who don't know the word genderqueer and affirmatively state that you have to be either a boy or a girl look at Eun Chan and decide she's not a girl pretending to be a boy, but rather a person being who she is. (I say she, by the way, because it's what she says. Or at least what the subtitles say she says.)

Or that's the impression I got from the first few episodes. I will be watching the whole thing - yes, I liked it that much - unless it turns out Eun Chan undergoes some kind of transformation into a beautiful swan because of the power of love or something, and then I will put my head down on my desk and cry.

So, yeah, that's the plot. There are these couples. They get together. The main couple has some tiny issues, in that the guy thinks the girl is, you know, a guy. And, okay, there's a lot of stuff about coffee and a coffee shop and some other supporting characters, but this is at heart a romance, and all of that is set dressing for the important task of getting the right lips on each other and having as many Key Emotional Sequences as possible. Fan fiction readers should understand this. (Because this is a good show, the set dressing is interesting. It's just - you know. The focus is on the couples.)

And, as I said, there are two of those couples. Let's talk a little more about them, shall we?

The Comedy Couple, Han Kyul/Eun Chan

HAN KYUL. Oh, man. Look, in my notes for this series I called him Jerkface, and trust me, he earns it. He's a smart rich kid who is totally in love with himself, and he's decided that his life will be easier and more fun if no one expects anything of him. Despite that, he has his noble moments, and just when you've decided what you most long for in the world is to see him get punched in the face, he'll do something that will remind you there's good stuff under the patina of asshole. In other words, I somehow ended up liking him while continuing to call him Jerkface. So, I mean - he's a jerk. I liked him anyway. There you go, the central problem of Coffee Prince.

EUN CHAN. She's a totally awesome mess, basically. She's uncouth! Unmannered! Clumsy! Disorganized! Constantly starving! She reminds me, on many occasions, of my younger nephew; she bounces off the walls, pokes at other people just to see what they do, says stuff without thinking, and breaks things. But she's also principled, moral, caring, and really fucking responsible. She's basically the inverse of Han Kyul; he has everything and refuses to try at all, and she has nothing but tries so hard all the time. At one point in the series, you get a look at her schedule. She has four hours blocked out for sleeping. The rest of the time she works and works and works, trying to take care of her mother and sister. And we've already gone into the gender thing, so I will just say: the actress OWNS this. All actresses everywhere who have to pretend to be a guy for a role: WATCH THIS SHOW.

So. These two people should be like watching a helicopter crash: flames and shrapnel everywhere, bystanders run for their lives. And the thing is, they kind of are. And yet they're wonderful together anyway.

Obviously, their main issue, at least at first, is that Han Kyul thinks Eun Chan is a guy, and, see, he's straight, and also he likes ladies, and what the fuck is with lusting after a guy? Whereas Eun Chan is frantically trying to keep all her plates in the air, and totally not be in love with Han Kyul, because he is not for her. This is, shall we say, not an unfamiliar dynamic for a slash reader. It's a joy to see this all done so well, and sort of weird to see it done with a het couple.

I'm not calling them the comedy couple, by the way, because they're comic relief; they have more Key Emotional Sequences than the other main couple, and definitely more than anyone else. Just. They are fun. That cannot be said of our next set.

The Tragedy Couple, Han Seong/Yoo Ju

HAN SEONG. Oh god his voice. I just want to say that here and now. Another reason this show is worth watching: Han Seong's voice. I want to listen to him talk all day long forever. This is a guy you would never want to work with, because you'd find yourself nodding in helpless agreement as he outlined his plans to set fire to the building. That's how good his voice is. As for the rest of him - he's Han Kyul's older cousin, and he's a successful music producer with a very adorable dog. He's also responsible and kind to Eun Chan. All these things made me want to love him.

YOO JU. She's an artist (a corporate one, judging by her paintings); she's very sweet and calm and seems to think before she speaks, which is a trait you don't usually see on television. She was with Han Seong for a long time, and then she left him for another guy, DK, and went to New York. Right before the start of the story, she broke up with DK and came back to Seoul. As the series begins, she's trying to rekindle her relationship with Han Seong. Han Kyul is also in love with her.

I liked Yoo Ju and Han Seong when they weren't with each other, and I loved Han Seong's voice, but after a while, I cringed every time we switched over to their storyline. These people bring the over-the-top angst in vats. Remember that time that you were in that totally serious, "oh my god we'll be together forever as soon as we're old enough to get driver's licenses" relationship? And then after four fabulous, incredible, soul-searing weeks it ended and you cried and cried and deleted all your poetry and cut your hair and wished it would rain so you could sit in the rain with your sorrow, like, why did you have to break up during the summer oh god your life is such totally fucking SHIT. Remember that? THAT IS WHAT THESE TWO ARE DOING. Except they are adults. Angst, whining, stupidity, and they own their own homes. It's not supposed to work that way. That shit is barely tolerable when you're 15, for fuck's sake.

A Note on Bodily Secretions

Anyone who has been assigned the bodily secretions square in Kink Bingo and wants to make a vid: Coffee Prince is the source for you. The producers of this show didn't really feel like they'd done their jobs until they had documented every single possible secretion on film. People poop and pee on camera (I am going to believe, for purposes of sanity, that they are acting); they barf pretty much on camera, and there is flirtatious nose picking, which I have to assume is one of those concepts that just doesn't cross the cultural barrier, because it is clearly supposed to be cute and instead makes me want to die.

So, fair warning: there are bodily secretions in this show. Far more than I want in my viewing experiences. I liked it anyway. See how I said this was the fundamental problem of Coffee Prince?

Episode 1

In other words: ALL THE COFFEE PRINCE DETAIL YOU COULD EVER NEED. If you need trigger warnings, please read the version of this with cut tags intact. I'm using nested cut tags for the one in this episode.

1: Everyone Says Hello and Then Something Horrible Happens

We meet Eun Chan delivering noodles to a bathhouse. The women, of course, assume she's a guy and shriek and flail and throw things at her. (I myself would be cross at her for slamming the food around like she had a personal grudge, but, you know, whatever.) She does that scene so beloved of Hollywood, where the presumed-guy in the full helmet takes it off and reveals that, actually, she is a gorgeous woman. Normally, this sequence involves the woman in question shaking out her lovely long hair, somehow totally unaffected by the helmet. Often in slow-motion. She is always wearing full, perfect makeup, again absolutely unaffected by the helmet or any activities done while wearing the helmet.

Eun Chan removes her helmet and has horrible, horrible helmet hair. She is, yes, exceedingly gorgeous - I don't think there's any way to make this actress anything else - but she's gorgeously androgynous, not markedly and obviously feminine. (The women still don't believe she's a girl, not even when she says so.) It's awesome; less than five minutes in, and my Hollywood-trained expectations have not been met, in an entirely delightful way.

Then we meet Han Kyul, who proves his essential dickishness in, like, twenty-five words or less. I could recount the whole horrible conversation, but you don't want to hear it and I would prefer not to remember it. Just trust me: he is a dick, and especially a dick with women.

After all that unpleasantness, we see him at home, taking a bubble bath, presumably to establish his masculine cred right out of the gate. Hell yes, he can own some damn bubbles. He also all but licks himself in a mirror. This is a dude who just really loves himself.

He's talking to his mother, who asks him if he's seen Han Seong yet. Now, I already told you Han Seong is his cousin and that they're both in love with Yoo Ju, but I ask you. If you had no idea what was going on in a show, and you saw a scene where a dude stared yearningly at a photo of himself, a guy, and a girl, and then said that Han Seong could damn well come see him if he wanted to, would you assume he was into the girl? He doesn't mention her! His mother doesn't mention her! The whole scene reads to me as, "MOM. We had a threesome and he freaked the fuck out, okay? Now we're both banging girls every night to prove we're straight." This led to some serious horror when I figured out that they were cousins.

Then Eun Chan delivers some food to him. Jerkface - sorry, Han Kyul - invites her into his apartment while he's wearing only a towel. There is an interlude of what I will charitably assume is an unfortunate cultural misunderstanding between me and the musical director. She's staring at Han Kyul's legs and, the angle and her reaction strongly imply, his dick. He's lovingly stroking his own legs. The shot is in slow-motion, so we don't miss any of the glorious details of his legs and towels. AND THE MUSIC SOUNDS LIKE GERMAN OOMPAH MUSIC. No, seriously. They're having a moment, here, and my brain is thinking of heavily intoxicated men standing arm in arm and drinking from giant beer steins.

I chant "Cultural misunderstanding" to myself until the moment passes.

She flees from his Dick of Power and stands outside his door going, "Oh my god why is everyone NAKED today?"

In the meantime, Han Kyul is inside smiling at his own lap and saying, if the subtitles can be trusted, "Is mine really so scary?"

It is the first moment when BB and I don't actually hate him. He just looks so pleased with his scary dick. In fact, Han Kyul seems frankly delighted to have shown his junk to the delivery person, and BB and I are forced to pause for the first in what will prove to be quite a series of BB and TFV's Advice Column: Coffee Prince Edition.

TFV: Look, Jerkface, if you want to show your junk to strangers, fine. But they have to be strangers who want to see your junk.
BB: And they shouldn't be anyone whose job requires them to be near you. Unless their job is looking at you naked.

We exchange righteous nods and return to the action.

We see Eun Chan at another of her jobs, teaching Taekwondo to little kids. It is extremely adorable, except then it turns into an extended poop joke, complete with the cleaning out of a grotty toilet. Does American TV have poop jokes? Does American TV show people cleaning out revolting toilets? I don't actually know. A FRUITFUL AREA FOR FURTHER RESEARCH. Assuming I run out of elective dental procedures to schedule.

Then Eun Chan eats a popsicle without washing her hands. I actually miss the next, like, five minutes, because I'm too busy flailing in horror.

When I manage to join back up with the show, Eun Chan is talking to her sister, who is complaining that she's being harassed by a gangster. Eun Chan says, "What, you don't like gangsters?" That is not how I would respond to this complaint. For the record.

In response to the call, Eun Chan goes to a coffee house. Eun Sae, Eun Chan's sister, is there with the (according to the subtitles) gangster dude. He assumes Eun Chan is Eun Sae's boyfriend. There is a lively exchange of ideas, in which Eun Sae tells him, "You have no money, no education, and even your face is very plain." Dude, I have to tell you, I don't think you're going to win this girl no matter how many times you get beaten up by her sister.

We decide we like Eun Sae. In my notes, she becomes Evil Sister.

But since Gangster Dude can't win on points, and he can't beat up Eun Chan, he challenges her to an eating contest - whoever finishes five bowls of noodles with black bean sauce wins. And, presumably, wins Eun Sae, although I think she's going to have something to say about that. And it will probably be fairly direct, not to say soul-killing.

What happens with the eating contest is horrifying. It is absolutely, completely horrifying. I have seen and touched actual real dead people who were not even nearly this horrifying. I am going to attempt to gloss lightly over the whole thing, mostly for my own protection.

So, the soundtrack goes to the German oompah place again - apparently Eun Chan loves noodles just as much as she loves Han Kyul's dick, or else the musical director couldn't face watching this sequence enough to score it. (I would not blame him at all.) Gangster Dude and Eun Chan are eating; he's struggling, she's not.

Then Eun Sae chimes in by describing revolting things to Gangster Dude. Eun Chan is not bothered. He is.

Eun Sae, apparently deciding her verbal help is not enough, does something horrible with yogurt. Let me put it this way: if you ever need to ensure that you won't eat yogurt or noodles again - or if you just never want to eat actual food ever ever ever - watch this scene a few times. As we watch it, I decide that one of the primary reasons I love Best Beloved is that she has never asked me to eat anything this disgusting, and that the primary proof that she loves me is that she continues watching this scene despite her sensitive gag reflex.

Then Eun Sae seductively offers the most revolting foodstuff ever recorded on film to Gangster Dude, and Best Beloved actually barfs.

We take a prolonged break. BB departs to take a shower, saying, "We will NEVER speak of this again. NEVER."

2: There Are Inexplicable Gong Ringers, Velcro Ladies, and Excess Bodily Secretions

We pick up again with Han Kyul, who is having problems with his father, his mother, and his grandmother. We gather that he needs to learn some valuable lessons about family. I am hoping that he doesn't learn them from Eun Sae, because her lessons would probably be, like, "It works best if you smile when you stab them in the heart. Don't forget to wiggle the knife around!"

We learn of Han Kyul's grandmother's three step plan for bringing him into line. According to the subtitles, it is:

Stage 1: Get him under control.
Stage 2: Bring out the proof.
Stage 3: Get him, women.

We spend some time considering that misplaced (we assume) comma and giggling.

And then there is an incursion of SUDDEN INEXPLICABLE COSTUMED GONG RINGERS, apparently to indicate that his grandmother and mother are getting Han Kyul under control. I am not at all sure what connection gong ringers have to control, but presumably it is a strong one. Then again, this is the same show that showcased shit and barf in the first fifteen minutes, so it could just be that they felt like it was time for some gongs. I admit it: I am strongly pro-gong. It turns out that what TV has been lacking, for me, is in part gongs. We have to pause so I can stop giggling.

This part of Grandma's plan appears to be largely about telling Han Kyul what a jerkface he is, while he attempts to sweet talk his way out of it, with some success. We agree that he's a jerkface, and find ourselves rooting for him anyway. This is the entire problem with Han Kyul.

Then Grandma pulls out a photo, and we cut to an adorable small boy in Sherlock Holmes gear - no, not the coat, sadly, but the deerstalker - finding a sign that says Bring out the Proof, so clearly we have moved on to stage two.

The photo is of Han Kyul smooching a boy. He looks tolerantly amused, as one who should say, "Ha! As if I could be gay. Come on, the ladies LOVE me." That train of thought is going to come back to haunt him, I suspect.

We cut to the best weird interlude yet. It's of a team of girls wrapped in giant puffy suits made entirely of Velcro. They are running with great difficulty, as one does when covered entirely with Velcro, towards a big black wall. They hurl themselves at the wall, which is made of the other half of the Velcro, and stick there. The signs on their back spell out, you guessed it, "Get him, women!"

Back in reality, Grandma insists Han Kyul get married immediately. He counters with an offer to go on a matchmaking date, but only if the girl is very pretty. Very, very pretty. He is not thinking of himself, here; only of the next generation.

Then there is an awesome interlude in which all three of them apparently communicate telepathically. I am not kidding. So what we have here is an awesome rich family of telepaths whose arguments are punctuated by random people appearing with gongs and Velcro.

I am prepared to be a part of this family at any time.

I am less prepared to be a part of Eun Chan's family, mostly because in the next scene she comes home to her mother, who is apparently thriftless (and careless with other people's expensive things), and Eun Sae, who is apparently entirely willing to sit on the toilet with the door open. Looking directly into the living room. Which is also where they EAT. No. NO. There are doors for a reason, particularly as the argument that follows mentions that Eun Sae is pooping. (The line as translated in the subtitles: "Why do you have so much rubbish to say while you are pooping?" A question for the ages, I think we can all agree.)

I will be honest: we are now way over my limit for shit references in one single work of fiction.

BB and I take another break and hope to return to a less poopy show.

3: Plot Complications Develop and Are Totally Overshadowed by the Discovery That Our Hero Is Made of Sparkles

And we do! We meet Han Seong, who instantly becomes Big Fluffy Dog Dude in my notes, because of his incredibly awesome dog. Who is big. And fluffy. When we first see Han Seong, he is getting the mail; one of the items he gets is a bun with a paper flower on it. He brings it inside to join an entire heap of buns. I am mystified. Best Beloved is mystified. After some thought, I can only conclude that some time ago he joined the Bun of the Day Club and he keeps forgetting to cancel, even though he doesn't really like buns.

Han Seong exhibits the early symptoms of an extremely moody character: he stares at a model plane and thinks back on earlier, happier days. These days involve a) Yoo Ju and b) nose picking. OKAY I AM DONE WITH THIS FLASHBACK NOW.

Then we meet Yoo Ju in the present day, out with Han Kyul. BB and I can't figure out if they're dating or if Han Kyul is trying to get her back together with Han Seong, but having seen more of the show since then, I can tell you: both things are true. Han Kyul has depths.

At the end of the date, Yoo Ju is robbed and Eun Chan saves her with a seriously impressive helmet throw, except then it turns out the robber is Gangster Dude, who was only doing it because he loves Eun Sae so much and wants to pay her school fees. My thoughts:
  1. Apparently there are only about eight people in all of Seoul. Just like Los Angeles and New York! At least in movies and TV shows.
  2. Gangster Dude, she made you puke. If there is one thing I have learned about love, it is that you shouldn't spend your life with anyone who makes you vomit.
And I would have had more thoughts, except then the subtitles say, and I quote - let me just set this off with a carriage return for maximum effect:

"You, snatch thief! How dare you steal!"

BB and I are forced to pause for a lengthy period while we consider the concept of a snatch thief. We wonder if there is a matching wang thief who serves the penised portion of the population. And then we remember Pussyman's Snatch Attack, a porn title we both read on the now defunct Brunching Shuttlecocks website, and we have to move on very quickly or risk seizures.

Key plot stuff happens, but unfortunately I become seriously distracted by Han Kyul's outfit, which consists, from the waist up, of a sleeveless sweater vest over a t-shirt of almost the same color. Yes. He is wearing a t-shirt and a sweater vest. Dude is rocking.

Eun Chan gives Gangster Dude a chance to escape, except a) he's stupid and b) she can't act, and so Han Kyul comes to the conclusion that they are working together. (She calls Gangster Dude a sweet carrot, by the way. I am calling everyone a sweet carrot from now on. In fact, if you are reading this, I want you to know: you are my sweet carrot.)

Then we have to pause again while I adjust to the knowledge that Han Kyul's sleeveless sweater vest is sparkly. As though covered in glitter. Seriously. While I am coping with this knowledge, Eun Chan is apparently trying to cope with the knowledge that she's seen this dude's cock. Actually, I'm impressed that she recognized him with his pants on. I don't recall her ever actually looking at his face.

She visibly - very visibly - checks out his package, maybe to assess its scariness quotient now that it's contained, and then attempts to leave, but Han Kyul has to be a jerkface first. He gives Eun Chan his card. In a very jerkface way, I'll just say.

Her scooter is damaged. She loses her job. LIFE HAS GOTTEN HARDER FOR EUN CHAN.

4: Eun Chan and Han Kyul Finally Get Together, and I Guess I Shouldn't Have Been Surprised about Where

Eun Chan is delivering milk (one of her many jobs) to Han Seong's house; she plays with his dog through the fence, making me like her even more. She tells the dog her problems and talks about how cute his owner is. And Han Seong is right on the other side of the fence, listening. I recoil, my embarrassment squick triggered so hard I almost faint.

We hope that it is now firmly established that Eun Chan's life sucks, and maybe we can move on to the rest of the show, but no. Her family's rent is raised. The lady whose ring her mother lost wants it back now or else. We have to pause for BB to explain some details about time travel romances of the '90s, which have apparently been pissing her off for more than a decade. It's a fascinating digression, but when we come back, Eun Chan's life still sucks.

She goes to an angsty butcher (really!) to attempt to borrow money. He is downcast because he has had a poem rejected; he describes to her the contents of the piece, and I will quote from the subtitles:

"Life, sadness, loneliness, setbacks, anger, knife blades, love, and fish sauce."

I can't understand why it was rejected. I would read the fuck out of a Sherlock story with that summary.

He refuses to loan her money. She has no one left to turn to! Except Han Kyul, whose card she has. Hmmm.

In the meantime, she has work in a wine bar, for which she has to wear a slit skirt and high heels. She is really, really not happy. She also cannot really walk. Eun Chan is not at her best in the trappings of femininity.

And then there is a seriously uncomfortable interlude with Han Kyul a club. I - I don't want to get into too much detail here. The best part is definitely a guy telling Han Kyul that he should just satisfy a girl for once. The worst part is definitely after Han Kyul gets unwillingly drunk and his friends laugh as a girl he didn't want to have anything to do with feels him up and takes him to a hotel and gets him naked and sleeps with him. Ewwwwwww.

Meanwhile, Eun Chan has decided that between pride or money, she'll take money, so she calls Han Kyul to ask for a reward for saving Yoo Ju. He agrees that she can come by.

The scene where she asks him for money is too much horror to be related. Except for the bit where she falls on top of him. That part is okay.

He refuses to give her money and insults her father, and so she follows him around all day as he goes places, including to his matchmaking dates, demanding that he apologize.

She even follows him into the men's room. At this point, we are not surprised, just grateful that he's only peeing. She demands an apology yet again, and he gets a brilliant idea.

"Hey," he says. "Do you want to be my lover?"

And that is the end of episode one. In a few days: episode two, where things really start to get cracky.
dragonfly: stained glass dragonfly in iridescent colors (Default)

[personal profile] dragonfly 2011-07-07 05:51 am (UTC)(link)
I'm guessing the people who bid on you did so because they wanted some good press for this show and to attract some fans.

They've accomplished that with me!
torachan: (Default)

[personal profile] torachan 2011-07-07 06:25 am (UTC)(link)
Same here. I had heard the name of this drama before, but not really heard anything about it. And I'm not super keen on watching kdramas in the first place, because I can't understand Korean and hate to have to rely on subs. But this post has convinced me! I'm off to find and download it right now!

via_ostiense: Eun Chan eating, yellow background (Default)

[personal profile] via_ostiense 2011-07-07 06:06 am (UTC)(link)
I owe a thank you to the bidding consortium, because your writing is hilarious and Coffee Prince is my current TV love, and the two combined are perfection!

Or at least what the subtitles say she says.

In Korean, gender pronouns are rarely used, but it's hard to translate what's being said into English without using them. Eun Chan does call herself a woman sometimes, but it's usually in the context of being a "failed/bad woman." Anyway, this linguistic gap will cause some "bzuh?" moments later in the show, when the subtitles have character A referring to Eun Chan as "she" and apparently letting the cat out of the bag to someone who doesn't know her secret--that's because the characters aren't actually using gender pronouns with each other.

Btw, dramafever.com streams CP for free (with ads), and it has official subtitles. The translations are generally good, although there are some funny moments (the translator chose to use "charnel house" for "place where ashes are stored," which, okay, is accurate, strictly speaking, but colloquially, that's not what a charnel house means, which made me laugh until I cried at the line "let's go visit ___ at the charnel house.").

In the meantime, Han Kyul is inside smiling at his own lap and saying, if the subtitles can be trusted, "Is mine really so scary?"

It's been a week since I watched this episode, but IIRC, it's something like, "Must be impressive--he took a good look."

"gangster" -- a 깡패 is a gangster, true, but in this context, it's more like thug. Min Yeop's a little small time to be a gangster.

In short, even people who don't know the word genderqueer and affirmatively state that you have to be either a boy or a girl look at Eun Chan and decide she's not a girl pretending to be a boy, but rather a person being who she is

I love how much Eun Chan chooses not to participate in the performance of femininity. It's a huge thing -- her hair, makeup (none), clothing, and demeanor are all vastly different from female gender norms.

"You, snatch thief! How dare you steal!"

I'm curious about the subtitling team for the episodes you downloaded, because I thought MBC America's subtitles showed that they didn't run any of their subtitles by native or completely fluent speakers, but at least they got this bit right ("snatcher," as in "purse snatcher").

In the meantime, she has work in a wine bar, for which she has to wear a slit skirt and high heels.

When I watched this episode, I still hadn't clued in that Eun Chan was female--I thought she was male, and that it was unusually progressive of this wine bar to hire Eun Chan and have him cross dress. Either that, or it was a transvestite wine bar or the skirt and sequined vest was the mandatory uniform for all staff. I love the scene where Eun Chan's hauling two giant bags of garbage and singing and dancing and spinning around in heels. She's so unapologetically herself, and so cheerful!

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[personal profile] jamethiel - 2011-07-07 08:48 (UTC) - Expand

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[personal profile] via_ostiense - 2011-07-07 16:35 (UTC) - Expand

CONTAINS SPOILERS

[personal profile] via_ostiense - 2011-07-07 16:34 (UTC) - Expand
stasia: (Default)

[personal profile] stasia 2011-07-07 07:50 am (UTC)(link)
Oh! I read bits and pieces of this to Geordie, and we both ended up giggling ourselves silly. I think I'll have to check this drama out!

However, what I most want to know is BB's rant about time travel romances of the 90's.

Stasia
feanna: The cover of an old German children's book I inherited from my mother (Default)

[personal profile] feanna 2011-07-07 08:47 am (UTC)(link)
"However, what I most want to know is BB's rant about time travel romances of the 90's."

I totally want to hear about this too!

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feanna: The cover of an old German children's book I inherited from my mother (Default)

Warning: Grossness ahead

[personal profile] feanna 2011-07-07 08:37 am (UTC)(link)
"Gangster Dude, she made you puke. If there is one thing I have learned about love, it is that you shouldn't spend your life with anyone who makes you vomit." - So, I'm guessing you're making sure that your BB never reads this post?

The only thing I honestly gagged at watching was that video thing that was going around of two girls pooping and then eating their poop like ice cream. I turned it off before I actually puked though (I didn't get very far into it).

I do remember that time on a school trip where we had some thick green soup with some white bits (a bit salty, which all the soup was, which I maintain was to get us to pay for beverages, the food was free, drink was not) and every time this one girl would lift her spoon one guy would go "SLIIIIIIIIIME" and she'd drop it again. I finished my whole plate. I can talk about everything. (Except actual puke at that point, because I used to be emetophobic, I'm a bit better about that now, mostly my horror concentrates on catching contagious versions.)

Hm, maybe I should add a grossness warning to this comment, I'll put it in the subject like, it'll be a new experience, because I never use it, because I always forget about it.
zeborah: I found this humerus (humorous)

[personal profile] zeborah 2011-07-07 08:44 am (UTC)(link)
Whee! I've just gone from having an unnecessarily stressful day to laughing so hard I induced an asthma attack.

I'm going to have to try and get hold of this now (streaming sites never work for me, I'm in the wrong country, but there are often downloads available somewhere) and watch myself, it sounds fantastic (albeit mixed with moments in which one can only stick one's fingers in one's eyes and sing "La la la can't see you!")

Thank you!
jamethiel: A pink lotus flower (LotusFlower)

[personal profile] jamethiel 2011-07-07 08:52 am (UTC)(link)
*cough* Go join [livejournal.com profile] jdramas over at lj. Search for the coffee prince tag
... NOT THAT I AM PIMPING OR ANYTHING

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jamethiel: A pink lotus flower (LotusFlower)

[personal profile] jamethiel 2011-07-07 08:59 am (UTC)(link)
I'm so SO SORRY that we made BestBeloved puke. Please give her my apologies.

(I will say that as a not particularly finicky Aussie, the scene with the yoghurt made me feel queasy. The scene later, where all the baristas are in the manager's apartment made my skin CRAWL WITH HORROR at how dirty it was. I had to take several showers.)

I'm glad you're enjoying it! We weren't sure if you would--we were going to get you to watch episodes 9 and 10, but decided it would be a little cruel to throw you into a KDrama right in the middle, so decided to go with 1 and 2 instead.

Han Kyul is TOTALLY a jerk, but you can't help but like him! Even his Grandma (who is a TOUGH COOKIE) has the same reaction, so don't feel so bad.

Eun Sae is an AMAZING BITCH. I love her to pieces. She does go through a bit of a hard time and learns not to treat people with utter contempt and then expect them to do things for you, but she never loses her essential bitchiness so that's ok.

One of the reasons I love this show is--well, apart from being AWESOME on a lot of feminist levels, is that it feels a lot like fanfic. There's MARGINALLY less gay, but it's got the same aesthetic, I think?
jmtorres: From Lady Gaga's Bad Romance music video; the peach-haired, wide-eyed iteration (Default)

[personal profile] jmtorres 2011-07-07 09:06 am (UTC)(link)
Ahahahaha no, American TV doesn't do that so much with the poo and all. In fact, there's the famous ongoing question of DO Starfleet spaceships have lavs, we have yet to see one. Firefly was all edgy with that by showing not anyone doing their business, no, but Mal closing up the fold-away toilet *after* doing his business. THE ADMISSION THAT THE FACILITIES EXISTED WAS EDGY.

If anyone explains secretion-related cultural differences in comments, will you mention it in your next recap entry for the edification of us all?
dzurlady: (Default)

[personal profile] dzurlady 2011-07-07 12:32 pm (UTC)(link)
But then there are all those movies with toilet humour. (Not a fan.)

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ybbravo: (Default)

[personal profile] ybbravo 2011-07-07 09:32 am (UTC)(link)
I haven't finished reading, but I would like to thank you and your bidders if only for one reason: for YEARS, literally up until five minutes ago, I thought that the Korean drama "Coffee Prince" was somehow related to the Japanese manga "Koucha Ouji" (literally translated: Tea Prince), which is a wacky high school romance involving magical beings from the Tea Kingdoms (primarily, Tea Prince Assam and Tea Prince Earl Grey), who seem to spend most of their time as little 4 inch tall sprites. But that's not what Coffee Prince is about! Which makes far more sense from what I had heard about it. Thanks!

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anenko: (COFFEE PRINCE: transformation)

[personal profile] anenko 2011-07-07 10:26 am (UTC)(link)
♥ It's been years since I watched Coffee Prince (my first Kdrama!), so some of the things in your recap came as a bit of a surprise. I really shouldn't have been surprised by the poop; it's a thing in kdramas (I will never get over the bathroom scene in Fantasy Couple. Never.)

There's a bit of a pattern in romcoms: the heroine's life sucks, the hero is a jerk. They bicker and constantly run into one another. They begin to bond. MASSIVE ANGST. MORE MASSIVE ANGST. Happy ending!

There is, I believe, a final swan transformation in the final episode. A lot of people I know don't like the last episode.

I notice you asked about MVs in another comment. There are a good number of them at YouTube.
jamethiel: A white water lily is reflected against dark water (NightLily)

[personal profile] jamethiel 2011-07-07 11:04 am (UTC)(link)
I... didn't think there was? She grows her hair out a bit, and is wearing a shirt that shows slightly more of her chest than when she was binding, but she's still not the most feminine of women. It's nothing like what she wore for Han Seong.

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cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)

[personal profile] cyphomandra 2011-07-07 11:28 am (UTC)(link)
I got a paragraph through your detailed episode recap and then had to go watch it on streaming. Pausing every so often to read your recap, which is a thing of beauty, and which would have helpfully warned me about the noodles sequence if I hadn't jumped over to the actual show. I had finished eating by then, but largely because the toilet cleaning popsicle sequence had completely put me off food.

(also, the scene where Han Kyul reveals his junk was made even more impressive by a 4.4 aftershock, just in case I'd failed to appreciate it enough!)
dzurlady: (Default)

[personal profile] dzurlady 2011-07-07 12:33 pm (UTC)(link)
She agreed, and said, "Watching that, I didn't think - I didn't think she was a girl, exactly. I know she was a girl, but I thought - you have to be one, of course, a boy or a girl, but I thought if you could be not a boy or a girl but a third thing, then that is what I would call her."

In short, even people who don't know the word genderqueer and affirmatively state that you have to be either a boy or a girl look at Eun Chan and decide she's not a girl pretending to be a boy, but rather a person being who she is. (I say she, by the way, because it's what she says. Or at least what the subtitles say she says.)

That's awesome!
allburningup: Art of a brown-skinned, purple-haired, green-eyed woman with an orb of light hovering between her hands. (Default)

[personal profile] allburningup 2011-07-07 12:38 pm (UTC)(link)
This show is available on Hulu, btw. Subtitled.
foursweatervests: Natasha, hidden (Default)

[personal profile] foursweatervests 2011-07-07 02:32 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, I CANNOT WAIT. This is so much fun to read. :-DD
celli: a woman and a man holding hands, captioned "i treasure" (giggling Heroes)

[personal profile] celli 2011-07-07 02:52 pm (UTC)(link)
I cannot watch this show for multiple reasons, some of which I'm sure you can guess. But I could read you recapping it ALL THE LIVELONG DAY.

...my sweet carrot.

*peals of laughter*
paxpinnae: Inara Serra,being more awesome than you. (Default)

[personal profile] paxpinnae 2011-07-07 03:03 pm (UTC)(link)
YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS IT'S HEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

*goes to actually read*
paxpinnae: Inara Serra,being more awesome than you. (Default)

[personal profile] paxpinnae 2011-07-07 03:29 pm (UTC)(link)
Wow. I'd forgotten how many gross scenes there are in the first episode. There's, uh, less of them as the series goes on. I'm glad you enjoyed it, despite the bodily functions, and I'm REALLY glad you're planning on watching the whole thing!

Also, can I just say that this is EVERYTHING I HOPED FOR when I suggested a group Kdrama bid? Nicknames! Subtitle jokes! Wider fannish exposure! A fresh approach to a different culture's genre conventions! IT IS AWESOME.

We agree that he's a jerkface, and find ourselves rooting for him anyway. This is the entire problem with Han Kyul.

It's not just Han Kyul. A basic requirement for any male kdrama lead is "Must be able to be a complete asshole and still engender sympathy."

Han Kyul thinks Eun Chan is a guy, and, see, he's straight, and also he likes ladies, and what the fuck is with lusting after a guy? Whereas Eun Chan is frantically trying to keep all her plates in the air, and totally not be in love with Han Kyul, because he is not for her. This is, shall we say, not an unfamiliar dynamic for a slash reader. It's a joy to see this all done so well, and sort of weird to see it done with a het couple.

This is why my standard recommendation for CP when talking to fannish people starts with "it's like a bunch of slash fangirls took over a production company, only someone made them write genderfuck." It's a classic slash storyline... with a het couple. It's wonderful! Everyone should watch it!

SPOILERS (POTENTIALLY)

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ranalore: (anyband boa salute)

[personal profile] ranalore 2011-07-07 03:25 pm (UTC)(link)
This is very awesome! I love the series, and this makes me want to watch it again.

All the pooping and peeing is a cultural thing, I've learned. It's kind of like showing a character brushing their teeth or hair, or washing their face. Asking a family member if they're regular is apparently like asking if they're feverish, a semi-casual way to establish baseline health. So you might want to brace yourself, because it never really goes away.

Eun Chan sort of attempts a half-assed transformation at a point later in the series. It doesn't stick, possibly in part because Han Kyul doesn't really react to it, which is awesome. There's another transformation in the very last episode, less visually extreme, but I found the potential attitude change as signaled by dialogue more worrisome. Still, a precedent has been set for believing that transformation to be temporary, too, and it makes me happy to think so.

Also, in case nobody else mentions it: piggy back rides are a Big Deal in kdramas as a symbol of couplehood.

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musesfool: Gus/Shawn=OTP!!! (not inclined to resign to maturity)

[personal profile] musesfool 2011-07-07 03:31 pm (UTC)(link)
I've had this on my "to watch" list for a while now (um, since the writers strike, apparently), but I will definitely be bumping it up if you're going to recap it.
solo: (Car shrimp)

[personal profile] solo 2011-07-07 04:29 pm (UTC)(link)
Some friends have been trying to get me to watch this. You may be the one who actually succeeds. :-)
alianora: Sakurai Sho from Arashi, hand over one eye (TOGETHER: Cocky Bastard)

[personal profile] alianora 2011-07-08 02:08 am (UTC)(link)
Han Seong's actor is frequently called "The Voice" by kdrama fandom. Much as Hot Waffle Guy is known as Hot Waffle Guy, regardless of the fact his name is actually Kim Jae Wook.

and MMMM, Hot Waffle Guy. YUM.

I love Coffee Prince, it's fabulously cracky and genderbendy and then it punches you in the kidneys a few times, but it all comes around in the end.

Eun Sae is one of my favorite people ever, as is her man-whore (the gangster). She's so bitchy and evil and fabulous, and I love her entirely too much.

Yes to the embarrassment squicks and issues with bodily functions. You'll get used to it and they will wind down quickly. It's like they want to weird you out at first and then things get a little less gross.
shayheyred: (Rude)

[personal profile] shayheyred 2011-07-08 03:25 am (UTC)(link)
Hot Waffle Guy is my personal coffee prince. He was even more adorable in Antique as the Gay of Demonic Charm, and I never would have thought that possible.
Edited 2011-07-08 03:26 (UTC)

(Anonymous) 2011-07-09 08:41 am (UTC)(link)
Based on the being a dick with women and "He also all but licks himself in a mirror. This is a dude who just really loves himself" I am insta-shipping Han Kyul with Damon Salvatore from the Vampire Diaries. ;D
prettymanly: sang min, h50 episode 1 (Default)

*driveby* Just passing through with recs

[personal profile] prettymanly 2011-07-10 05:56 am (UTC)(link)
Popping in via... toft, via bethbethbeth, via... I'm not sure. *browsing history tangled*

The actor for Han Seong is in a srs business medical politics drama called "The White Tower" which is hosted for free streaming at crunchyroll.com - though you'll have to up with ads. It's a really, really good Korean-culturized adaptation of a Japanese story (the original writer popped on board as a consultant/co writer). The main draw of the show was the main bad guy due to his... smallville-style If Lex Luthor Were Real Life properties. He's also in another drama called Pasta, which I think was better suited for him. He seems more comfortable if he's not asked to be relentlessly nice.

If you liked Coffee Prince, you might like Sungkyunkwan Scandal as well - cross dressing and sexuality confusion with potential deathly repercussions in historical Korea! And for the more comedic crack side (well, at first until the drama kicks in) There's You're Beautiful.

[personal profile] tevere 2011-07-13 01:23 pm (UTC)(link)
Ahahaha, after reading your summary I downloaded the first episode, and it's the crack! I love Eun Chan to tiny pieces-- her hair! her energy! her clothes! her jumping kicks and dogged determination and her pride and financial responsibilities! *loveheart eyes* I love Eun Sae for being totally evil, and Han Kyul is an endearing immature stupidface. He has such simple brain processes, I kind of love watching him rub his two brain cells together *g*.

What's funny, though, is that from your recap I was expecting absolutely epic levels of bodily fluid jokes and so forth, which I generally don't like! But it all fell well within my comfort levels, so maybe that's the proof of my Asianness or something *g*.

And-- oh man, for whatever reason I found that noodle scene one of the most hilarious things I've seen in ages-- like, I was rolling around in bed just cracking up. Undignified eating by the female lead! (Undignified eating portrayed as cool and awesome!) Gross-out talk from the stereotypically pretty sister! And there's just something about bloody yoghurt and noodles in terms of sheer ridiculousness that's hard to top. I mean, hyper-sweetened flavoured yoghurt isn't really a traditional part of the Asian diet (though god knows it's been popular in the parts of Asia I've lived), which is what I think helps make it funny. Kind of like the 'yoghurt battle' on the Iron Chef rerun I caught on TV the other day-- never have I (a) seen such a hilarious 'oh, fuck' face such as that pulled by the Chinese chef when the challenge theme was announced, and (b) such an unfortunate combination of foodstuffs produced as a result of that challenge. YOGHURT SHARK FIN STEW, WTF.

This is a great pick for a first kdrama-- I'd been meaning to watch one for ages, given how ridiculously popular they are in South-East Asia. Looking forward to watching the rest of the eps now!

ETA: Omg, cannot get over how much Han Seong reminds me of James Spader. THE VOICE.
Edited 2011-07-13 13:42 (UTC)

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[Ep 3 spoilers]

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[identity profile] ileliberte.livejournal.com 2011-07-07 05:34 am (UTC)(link)
My streams are crossing, kdramas on Thefourthvine's journal! I do not have a Coffee Prince icon, but am substituting other kdrama icon in its stead (my favorite kdrama ever). Coffee Prince was very cute. Cracktastic and kind of whimsical and ultimately, quite satisfying. Also, Yoon Eun Hye (Eun Chan) is really cute. I got hooked on to this drama at the same time as another kdrama, also starring Yoon Eun Hye, where she sported extremely pretty, very girly clothes including incredibly formal Korean wear. The disconnect while switching between episodes of the two shows was very interesting.

[identity profile] thefourthvine.livejournal.com 2011-07-07 06:48 am (UTC)(link)
BUT NOW YOU HAVE TO TELL ME ABOUT YOUR FAVORITE KDRAMA! I got the title of it from your icon list (and, let me just say: you have the most gorgeous icons EVER), but I wish to know MORE.

Coffee Prince really is cute. It is just CUTE, is all. And Yoon Eun Hye is SWOON-INDUCINGLY cute. (Actually, all the people in this production are ridiculously gorgeous.)

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[identity profile] schemingreader.livejournal.com 2011-07-07 05:34 am (UTC)(link)
OH wow, I laughed so hard at this summary. I love the oompah band and the bodily secretions...gosh.

[identity profile] thefourthvine.livejournal.com 2011-07-07 05:50 pm (UTC)(link)
Yay! I am glad. I also loved the oompah band (the bodily secretions, not so much), and, really almost all of Coffee Prince.
ext_7903: (Default)

[identity profile] ramble-corner.livejournal.com 2011-07-07 05:36 am (UTC)(link)
/delurk
Yoon Eun Hye (the actress who played Eun Chan) is awesome. She couldn't be more girly when she was in a girls singing group and in Goong so it was awesome the way she pulled off this boyish character

[identity profile] thefourthvine.livejournal.com 2011-07-07 05:57 pm (UTC)(link)
Yoon Eun Hye really IS awesome. I was so impressed with the way she handled this part!

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