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First Impressions: Skip-Beat! (Taiwanese Drama)

Be prepare Dear curious minds and like Asian drama enthusiasts, this could get rather lengthy.

Before I jump into what I do and do not like thus far of the Taiwanese adaption of Skip-Beat!, let me first provide a very acute summary of the original storyline.

The story begins with a young 16 year old girl by the name of Kyoko slaving away in order to pay living expenses meant to ease the burden for her love interest and childhood friend, Shou, so he can fulfill his dream. Unbeknownst to Kyoko, Shou has been taking advantage of her generosity and saw Kyoko nothing more than a maid. One day, Kyoko finds herself eavesdropping on a conversation between Shou and his female manager in which Shou revealed his true cruel inner thoughts of Kyoko. Of course as you can imagine Kyoko becomes infuriated with this new found knowledge and vows to take revenge against Shou. But what possible way could Kyoko take revenge upon a man that could get much what he demands with the snap of his fingers? The only solution for Kyoko: to enter the entertainment industry and become an equal reveal to Shou and even more.

(just going to insert here about how you should go read the manga because, yeah, you should)

Fantastical set-up for a long and entertaining shoujo manga (although short but sweet anime adaption).

As of now there are 29 volumes of the manga and continuing! If it has continued this long, since 2006, then it's quite a success! That means there is a huge backing. And well, huge expectations. When I heard that Skip-Beat! was going to be made into a live action drama, no doubt I was excited. Knowing that it was going to be a Taiwanese adaption did not really create any bias before watching it. After all, being as I have been watching Asian dramas for nearly a decade now (cramming two decades of dramas and the current within that time slot), I'm well aware of the standards produced from each country. And if you dig further, by each company. When I discovered Taiwan making an adaption way back when, I purposely did not do any research thereafter because I wanted to be surprised.

Well yes, I am a little surprised, but I could not honestly say it is a whole-heartily good surprise. My first impressions are rather unfortunate one main reason being because with the title such as Skip-Beat! and it's grand following, you really need to bring your A-game, and thus far, GTV is slacking hardcore.

Ivy Chen as Kyoko Mogami (Gong Xi)
Choi Siwon as Ren Tsuruga (Du He Lian)
Lee Donghae as Shou Fuwa (Bu Po Shang)
Jin Qin as Ren's Manager, Yukihito Yashiro (Du Jin)

Into the guts of the delightful and the dissatisfying. (disclaimer: definite spoilers)
Only two subbed episodes are currently available on the web and so my opinions are drawn from the two, simply first impressions and thoughts. And to not have this first post leading out on a distasteful note, I will begin with the bad: voice-overs, that hell-ridden wig, CGI work, script rewrite to display Ren's character and the portrayal of the restaurant couple. And then I will lead into the good: Casting of Ren's manager, and Ivy Chen. Then end with a couple of notes.

The dissuading voice-overs. To begin, I have to start off with what puts me off more than anything else in the drama and that is the voice-overs for the two Korean actors, Siwon and Donghae. It drives me loony when sound is not synced. Something I don't understand is why cast those that you cannot formally portray their voice on film especially where there are an ample amount of attractive Taiwanese actors available? Am I the only one dissatisfied with this? I hate to say, but I began thinking that they're using the popularity of Super Junior in order to boost the ratings for the drama. If that is the case, I do not approve. If that is not the case...then, why?

Concerning the present choices for Ren and Shou, Siwon and Donghae, respectively, I did not watch Poseidon so I'm not really known to Siwon's acting abilities other than the few MV's with his idol group. That's not much to go on, but none the less, his acting is mediocre for me in the drama. Donghae shines in comparison and no, I don't believe it is because the individual characteristics the roles are meant. Not in the least. From what I gather from the first two episodes, it's him going. "Look at me! look at me! I'm so quite and collective. Aren't I pretty?"

After recent research, I actually found that Jerry Yan was the original casting for this part. ?!? However, I'll keep my small rant on this for later.

The hell-ridden wig. DEAR GOD. What was that monstrosity they put on poor Ivy's head during her hair transitions? If they were going to put such an awful wig on that girl, they should not have written in the hair-dresser scene. No one believes that was not a wig. Which, given the standards they should hold themselves to, the audience should believe whatever you lead them to believe. It's appearance was short-lived, but far longer than I wanted to see it. I was so happy to see that thing go!

CGI work. Not all was bad. They definitely put in a little effort from what I can tell, with my very minute understanding of the technical aspect.  However, there were a couple of things I wanted to point out accompanied with pictures!

In this scene, Kyoko (or Gong Xi, as they named her for this adaption) is racing toward a music distribution shop in order to get posters that were to accompany purchasing Shou's new CD (which she purchased, yet did not receive). She rides her bike ferociously to the shop and manages a 15 minute ride that would normally take 45 (I believe the episode mentioned -too lazy to double check-). And so the surrounding scenery on her trek is made to look like a blur stressing the speed she has accumulated. With this obvious green scene maneuver, it definitely gives some comical introduction, but I really believe it could have been upped slightly given today's technology. And what was with the white car speeding up when the police bike was driving up? (really unneeded additive).

The second CGI work I wanted to bring up might be myself being a little picky.

Kyoko's apparitions. Something bugged me a bit, wanna take a jab what it might be? Try guessing before continuing from this point.

Have something in mind? Well, frankly, it's the apparitions' hair! The scene in the screen cap Kyoko has long hair, although it's not visible by this angle. Why aren't the apparitions' hair long? The apparitions also appear when Kyoko is wearing the hell-ridden wig. But the apparitions didn't have hell-ridden wigs. Since the beginning, the apparitions have Kyoko's final hair cut. For some reason, I just could not look over it. Don't misunderstand, the detail in the apparitions I approve greatly! They turned out well, but the hair didn't match the owner like in the manga. I'm not sure how much work goes into making that hair for the apparitions, but I guess a lot if they decided to overlook it. That, or they were just lazy. And I'd like to stress once again, with a big name like Skip-Beat!, laziness will end in disapproval.

Anchorman Story. Now, I'm wavering a little bit with my opinion on this only for the fact I cannot remember if it was in the manga or not or if it was added in by the script editors. I plan to read back in the manga to find out, but as my mind stands now, I felt it was a poor indication of Ren's personality. If you're not sure what I mean, it's the man at the beginning who asks for Ren's autograph for his daughter. Though the story can be heart-felt, I believe it was poorly conducted. And by the end of that whole bit, Ren's character seems like an afterthought. I felt this could have been done another way.

Japanese restaurant Boss and Boss's Wife. You know, the lovely couple that lets Kyoko room upstairs, as she pursues her new ambition? Now, this could be me forgetting details again, but what was with the scene of them as Doctor and Nurse? I wouldn't really consider myself a prude, but were they displayed in such a way in the manga? Since they are just minor characters, I don't really care that much that the writers turned them into role-playing enthusiasts, but I had the initial reaction, 'wha the....'.

On to now what I liked.

The casting of Ren's Manager. What follows was my reaction when I first saw Ren's manager: "WHAAAAAA!!!! It's that guy!!!! AAHHH!! I said I wished to see him again in another drama and now here he is!!! YESSS!!" Yes. I honestly don't know what my deal is, but I once saw Jin Qin in another drama in which I can't properly recall. ^-^; But! Whatever drama that was, I remember saying that he had such an adorable face and I hoped to see him again. And Wah la! Now, I did do a little research to figure out what drama it could have been that I saw him in, and the only one I could find was ToGetHer, but I'm not positive. :/ I'll have to do further research. But anyway, other than the fact I was excited to see him again, he does well in this role. I greatly approve. And one last thing concerning him: yellow phone.

The casting of Ivy Chen. It works. She's decent at being loud, spontaneous, and not afraid to put herself out there. Concerning her acting, my only previous experience with Ivy's style was from Smiling Pasta, which roles greatly contrast. With that said, I don't have a lot to go on. I felt in her portrayal of Kyoko, she put off a lot of vibes as if she were Ella Chen's and Rainie Yang's love child. If you have seen many dramas with Ella and Rainie, you know of what I'm talking about with Ivy's Kyoko. However, that is just an initial impression. I definitely plan to continue watching to see Ivy's efforts. Especially with Kyoko's 'acting' scenes soon to surface.

Unfortunately, that's truly all that I really comment about of the good. There was another moment in the beginning of the second episode where she turned from the cab the casting manager got in and speaks into her watch, "Partner!" and her bike zooms past her and she cries, "Partner, Where are you going!?" This moment was probably the first time I truly laughed within the drama.

Side Notes.
Original Casting. As I mentioned before I never researched the casting until just yesterday. With this, I found Jerry Yan who was in the popular Meteor Garden, Meteor Garden II, Down with Love and many others; and Ariel Lin, known to me by the Taiwanese version of It Started with a Kiss and Love Contract, were to be the original Ren and Kyoko. WHAT?! How I wished that happened! Ivy has appear so far to do the role fine, so I'm not as depressed over Ariel not being Kyoko, but Jerry in my opinion would have been great for Ren! Now, I plan to give Siwon more time, but Jerry I have no doubt would have done the role well. But, there isn't much we can do about things that could've been.

Ending Words.
The overall product from the first two episodes are a bit faltering and lagging. If I were someone working on this project, I would try to give it my best in order to produce something phenomenal (although that could be my inner fandom speaking). But what doesn't leave my conscious is the simple fact this IS a huge title and so extra efforts should be made, though were these efforts misplaced by having Super Junior there?

In order to continue with an informed mind I plan to re-read the manga because little details I'm not sure about drive me crazy. But that shouldn't be difficult since I do enjoy the manga.

And despite all the negative I had to say about it, I do plan on sticking with it. I'm curious to see after the initial introduction of characters, if they really develop the interaction between characters. I'm mostly curious to see more out of Siwon since he has not done enough for me to consider him a leading role. Donghae in that respect has done well enough. I guess we'll see.

Until the next release!


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