Sunday, 26 July 2015

You know you’re a k-pop fan when...

Actually, my infatuation with all things k-pop has died down a bit in the past couple of years. I still keep an eye on the scene, but not with the same sense of anticipation as before.

But since I spent a lot of this weekend listening to Girls' Generation, I thought I’d sit down and write a list describing the signs that you’ve finally given in to the allure of k-pop. These lists are all over the internet, but even so they never really reflect how k-pop affected me. So here’s my personal list and maybe it’ll strike a chord with you.

1. When you listen to Western pop, you imagine a Korean act is singing it

Once upon a time, when I listened to a song, I used to imagine myself in the pop video. Not any more. Now I imagine acts like BigBang or Miss A instead. It depends on who I’m listening to, of course, but I’ve definitely noticed a tendency for me to imagine song X is a particular act’s first English release, and then I wonder what the video would be like, their appearance on Music Bank, etc etc.

2. You listen to music every day but you have no idea who is number one in your country

I used to have my finger on the pulse of the music biz. I worked for EMI for four years and I was quite the expert on upcoming acts. Then I lived in Italy for several years, but I still had an idea of who was big in the UK. Then I came back to England, discovered k-pop and then suddenly the UK top forty just seemed unnecessary. I was so out of touch that I didn't even know when a couple of bands I liked (The Lumineers and First Aid Kit) became successful.

3. You get annoyed when people confuse Korean, Japanese and Chinese pop cultures

Seriously, I never used to give a shit about this stuff, but then it started to really get to me (now, not so much. I just assume they’re being ironic and laugh it off). Even stuff like confusing Soju and Sake would annoy me. They’re completely different! If they weren’t different they wouldn’t have the different names! I mean, come on!

4. Saying “aishh” or “aigoo”

This is one that I’ve seen on other lists, and personally I thought it wouldn’t happen to me. But I must admit, if I get annoyed enough with someone saying something stupid, I find myself saying “aishhh” before explaining exactly where they’re wrong. Slightly embarrassing, and I hope nobody notices.

5. You feel sorry for people who don’t like k-pop

This one’s a bit patronizing. I mean, snobbish dismissal of other people’s tastes in music is common in school children, but just looks absurd when coming from a grown adult. This means when I meet someone who says they don’t know about k-pop, I have to bite my tongue to stop myself from saying “Really? So you have no fun at all?” Western pop tends to look like a dour mix of greys compared to K-pop's dazzling palette of primary colours. Having said that, I genuinely do feel sorry for anyone who hasn't seen The Genius and that's not patronizing: that's a genuine feeling of remorse for someone's misfortune.

6. You get far too excited when Korean TV shows a Korean brand that you use in real life

I admit when I saw episode six of My Love From Another Star where Jun Ji Hyun offers someone a coffee of the same brand that I buy, I felt strangely elated. Like it somehow validated my interest in K-pop, making me feel a little bit more... authentic, somehow.

7. You start feeling like you’re in some kind of social experiment

Ever stopped to think about how weird your situation is? You’ve decided to divorce yourself from the culture that surrounds you and adopt a different culture instead. Your conversational skills drop off rapidly as you can’t discuss the latest TV/music/films that everyone else has seen. In fact, it’s not that different from being old. You find that no one understands your cultural references and when you do speak, people wait patiently until you’re finished and then change the subject.

8. You’re surprised when people say they don’t like songs in a foreign language

This depends on where you grew up, of course, but in the UK foreign pop music has always been patronized, probably due to its connection to the Eurovision Song Contest, which is now more popular for the fancy dress parties it inspires that the actual music. But after years of listening to foreign music, it comes as a shock when I’m reminded that some people have a real issue with songs in another language. Maybe it’s because they can’t sing along. I don't know.

- - - - -

So that's my list. No idea idea if anyone else feels the same and I guess it's applicable to any xenophile, but I thought I'd put it out there anyway.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Currently watching: Tantei no Tantei

In this show a woman whose sister was murdered becomes a private detective to try and find the other private detective who she believes fed information to the person who killed her sister. And so she works for a detective agency as the only person in the “Versus Detectives” department, tracking down misdemeanors by rival detectives.

Episode one set everything up very neatly, with allies and enemies all put in place. There’s also some kind of connection to the murdered sister and a new detective who recently joined the agency. The storyline moves at a decent pace and it shows plenty of potential.

This show has a strong cast, and I'm especially happy to see Arata Iura as the head of the agency. But this is very much a Kitagawa Keiko vehicle. This means there's a lot riding on her performance. Despite her long and successful career, when I think of Japanese actresses best suited for a cop drama, her name isn't on the list. In episode one, she treads a fine line between looking stern and just looking miserable. However, I do remember her being the best thing in the film Elevator to the Gallows (although in a minor role) so I hope she can take this opportunity to show what she's got.

Furthermore, she gave a convincing performance in the flashback to the scene of the murder. Which is good, because I get the feeling we'll be seeing that flashback in every single episode.

Currently watching: The Genius The Grand Finale

* Spoilers for episodes one to three! *

* Don’t say you weren’t warned! *

There’s good and bad about this series. On the down side is the contestant Kim Kyunghoon. His character seems to be a desperate-to-please underling. A sort of Gollum to the other contestants’ Frodo and/or Sauron. I hope this will change in episode four. It's a little undignified.

But the good bit is that the games (so far) reward minority alliances. In series three, it seemed too easy to put together a reliable set of more than half the players and then steamroller the other remaining players. Not this time. In each of the first three games, it’s even been possible to survive without joining a team at all.

And this brings me to the real surprise of the series: Lee Junseok. Last time I wrote about The Genius, I said he’d probably go out early. But he has been a strong player and one who relishes the idea of a minority win. I admire that.

He’s also given us the best moment of the series so far. In episode three, the game revolves around ordering one of three types of food, and also guessing how many people ordered the same thing. In order to save a team member from coming last, he discovers his opponents plans and then goes against his own team’s plan in order to stop them. This kind of maverick thinking has made him an early favourite with me.

Another event of note is the crushing defeat of Lim Yohwan (second in season two, but notoriously bad at team games) by Yeonsung. I’m glad Yeonsung has retained his ruthless edge, and I hope he’ll go far.

Excellent subs by Bumdidlyumptious, as always.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Just finished: Tenshi to Akuma

Well, time has been in short supply recently, which is why I’ve not been writing much. Whenever I sat down to watch a J-drama, I thought to myself “I really should be working on the subs for Tenshi to Akuma.”

It helped that I enjoyed the series. I especially like Watabe Atsuro in the role of the pompous, cynical lawyer. Subbing his lines was a lot of fun, trying to get just the right level of likeable arrogance in his dialogue.

Gouriki Ayame had the right amount of self-righteous indignation and was not too smug when she turned out to be right. And the two leads had some good chemistry: I really enjoyed watching them play off each other.

The stories were nice and involved, too. The whole idea of the series (what if Japan tried doing plea bargains on certain crimes) allowed there to be, effectively, two criminals. Since your average whodunnit only has one, this extra suspect gave the stories a bit more depth.

As for the final episode...

* spoilers *

It was pretty good, but I couldn’t help but notice that the big secret that apparently drove all of these crimes was never actually revealed. This seemed a bit lazy but at the same time, whatever the secret was didn’t matter. This series was a buddy cop show with some entertaining banter and some nice crimes to solve. So what if the last one was a bit of a dud? By that time, I just wanted to see how it ended.

So, another subbing project over. While I was doing this, I promised myself this’d be my last, because it takes up so much time. However, a new project came up that I might not be able to resist...

More news as we get it!