Thursday, August 30, 2012

Drama Review: Autumn’s Concerto (2009)




Grade: A

Category
Romantic melodrama

What it’s about
A spoiled rich boy with a tragic past and a bad attitude finds angst-ridden love with a cafeteria worker at the college his family owns. After separating them with a slew of soap-opera-style obstacles, the drama catches up with the couple seven years—and one illegitimate son—later.

First impression
After the incessant cheerfulness of A Gentleman’s Dignity, I’m hungry for something unapologetically melodramatic. Looks as if this show is going to fit the bill—there was a dead parent and an attempted child abandonment before the first episode’s opening credits even rolled. That must be some sort of world record for misery, and I, naturally, couldn’t be happier.

Final verdict
Some things are heart-warming—this epic melodrama is closer to heart melting. The 21 lengthy episodes of my first Taiwanese series flew by in a delightful blur of stabbings, terminal diseases, spontaneous amnesia, court trials, and ill-fated (but ultimately triumphant) love triangles. A distant cousin to the Endless Love series of Korean dramas, Autumn’s Concerto is less innocent than most Kdramas when it comes to sex and violence, but is still built of similarly good-hearted DNA. Showcasing a pair of so-beautiful-it-hurts lovers and their mind-bendingly adorable son, it pulls out all the stops when it comes to soapy tribulations, but never fails to keep a relatable human face on the madness. Its somewhat draggy final quarter and inexplicably random final episode didn’t even dent my love for this refreshingly bad-guy-less show, all thanks to its squee-worthy love story and the respectful way it treated its quirky cast of Gilmore Girls-esque characters.

Random thoughts
• I can’t remember if I started off feeling this way, but I love the sound of the Korean language—it has lovely, crisp consonants and pleasantly curvy vowels. Japanese is nice, too. But Chinese? I’m really having difficulty watching this show with the volume on because the dialogue is hurting my ears. In contrast to the other Asian languages I’m familiar with, Chinese is choppy and harsh. Here’s hoping it grows on me, or this might be a long 21 episodes.

• So is it a Taiwanese thing that drama end credits ruin the suspense of the story? “I wonder if the leads get together…but wait, according to the cuddly, sun-drenched closing montage in every episode, they must!” I like to know there’s a happy ending in store, but leaving a little something to the imagination is cool, too.

Episode 3. I can’t say that Vaness Wu is doing anything for me; he’s too much of an over-processed flower boy for my taste. The female lead’s gardening friend is another story—he’s just my flavor of cute. Clearly, second lead syndrome is going to be an issue in this drama. Finale update: Vaness Wu totally pulled a Gong Yoo—at first, I thought he wasn’t much to look at, but by the end of this drama I was ready to pack my bags and head to Taiwan just in hopes of camping on his lawn. His lovely, expressive face made the show.

Episode 5. So now I see what people mean about Taiwanese television. This show is like a giant Saturday Night Live sketch spoofing Korean dramas. The plot is so stuffed full of unbelievable, outrageous developments and coincidences that it already puts all 16 episodes of the lunatic Winter Sonata to shame: it has dead parents, abandonment, bullying, over-privileged schoolboys, near-rape, court trials, stymied artistic dreams, and terminal illnesses. What in god’s name is left to fill the next 16 episodes?!? (I’m waiting with bated breath, let me tell you.)

What’s this? Asian actors believably conveying physical affection? I never thought I’d see the day. ::fans self::

Episode 10. I’m not a big fan of the young of the species, especially when they suddenly appear in my television shows, but I’ll make an exception this time: the little boy in this drama is so cute my ovaries are all but exploding. On top of that, he actually improves the story, giving the plot more to do than simply split up the main couple and get them back together, time and again. Love the burgeoning family dynamics, love the male lead (now that his hair is shorter, thank god), love the show.

Episode 16. I’ve heard of hate sex, but a hate marriage? That’s hardcore.

Episode 18. Picture this: the female lead is locked in a phoneless bedroom by her scheming rival for the male lead’s attention. What happens? In a Korean drama, the girl cries a little, knocks on the door, and then waits to be rescued. In a Taiwanese drama, the girl finds a lighter and burns a towel, thereby setting off the smoke detector and sending the hotel staff running. Well played, drama.

Episode 20. Having caught up with Dramafever’s subbing of this series, I’ve reluctantly moved over to Dramacrazy for the last two episodes. The bright side? JKShows, whom I hereby nominate for the title of Asian drama fan of the decade, has been there first: he or she has made full-episode files available at YouTube. The not-so-bright side? There’s so much Japanese language subbing on the screen that it’s hard to keep track of what’s going on. It is amusing, though, to watch a character say the word “boss” in Chinese, which is the word “boss” in English, then see “boss” flash by in the Japanese subs, immediately followed by the word “boss” in the English subs. Talk about going full circle.

Episode 21. This wasn’t an episode so much as it was a 23-minute denouement nugget. Totally discordantly, every single plotline was given its own music-video style happy ending, with little or no connection to the rest of the drama’s narrative. Weird.

Watch it
DramaCrazy (look for the JKShows posts—they’re full episodes)

You might also like
The Endless Love series, for their fabulously over-the-top melodrama

(P.S.: So I figured out what was behind the missing comments—Blogger spontaneously decided they were spam, and hid them away. I've liberated them, and will keep an eye out for this in the future. [And think about finally making the jump to WordPress, where the cool kids hang out.])


24 comments:

  1. I couldn't leave a post about Autumn's Concerto without saying something. I love this drama to death. It really is my favorite drama and I've been waiting for something to come and out do it. It's every bit melodramatic, but I love melodrama as long as they use it fully and it keeps the show exciting. The family dynamic still kills me every time and it's what keeps me coming back.

    Vanness was so good in this drama and I wish he'd been as good in other dramas. It's a hard drama to beat because the story keeps me hooked from start to almost finish. (The end is still a bit iffy for me.)

    You might want to try the English Translation of the novel. I thought it added some fun background to the story. It's only the part after the time leap, but it's still so much fun.

    http://subsbymin.jigsy.com/next-stop-happiness-english-ver-novel-

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  2. Ah Vaness Wu...if only I could find a show with him in it that I unabashedly liked :( I liked AC but some of it was just odd, especially that crappy ending. If you really want a blast from the past you should totally look at clips of 'Peach Girl' because Vaness definitely ain't so pretty there...though still playing an adorable role. Weren't he and Ady An so pretty in this show though!

    I'm totally relating on the language issue though. When I first started Taiwanese dramas I had suuuuuuuuuuch a hard time listening to them, especially the girls for some reason. Give it time though and you'll get used to it. It doesn't bug me at all now- though I still have issues listening to Thai dramas at full volume.

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    1. Throughout the show, I kept calling Ady An "Taiwanese Barbie." And Vaness Wu's womanly eyebrows sort of freak me out, but I actually ended up really liking him as Ren Guang Xi. He reminds me of the Korean actor Kim Jae Won, though, in that he wears too much whiteface makeup and his nose probably looked better ten visits to the plastic surgeon ago =X

      Ah, there's a new world opening up to me: I literally didn't even know there was such a thing as Thai drama before reading this comment, although it stands to reason such a thing would exist. Why, oh why, are Asian dramas so much more interesting than American TV? And why did I waste so many years on this planet ignoring them? I'll never catch up now.

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    2. Yeah- Thai dramas might tickle your fancy and they are super popular with some people but I've tried and tried again to no avail. If Taiwanese dramas are Kdramas hyped up then Thai dramas (or Lakorns) are Kdramas on crack. They have some more normal stuff but there's a huge genre called slap/kiss Lakorn where the lead literally almost always rapes the female lead...kinda disturbing. There are less intense dramas but almost always they make Korean dramas look like feminist rights activists in comparison.

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  3. Ha ha this doesn't sound like something I would like at all, just the description makes me cringe lol, but I could be wrong, I have been before.

    Painter of the Wind is awesome BTW. I have just a few episodes left :)

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    1. I think it's safe to say that you can skip this show. I loved it, but the melo shenanigans would drive you crazy ;) On the other hand, I bet you'd really like 12 Men in a Year—it's a fun contemporary romance a little like I Need Romance. (It's not quite as great, as the lead couple isn't as compelling as the ones in either INR.)

      Painter of the Wind was so wonderful. Who knew fun gender-swap dramas could actually have things to say about art and how it's made and consumed? ;) Did you know that the leads are based on real, historical painters?

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    2. Hmmm... will definitely have to look into 12 Men in a Year.

      I am really blown away by the sheer beauty of Painter of the Wind, both in the visual and the storyline. That is so awesome that it's based on real people!! Itt's wonderful to know that there are people like that in the world.

      Ugh, even though my old job was so stressful, I am the type of person that is very passionate about everything I choose to do and teaching is a particular passion that I am very serious about, especially students with disabilities. So I poured myself heart and soul into my job for two years and my boss sent out a really touching email today about how I had completely changed the special diploma program and made such an impact and that did it,. I have been an emotional wreck crying like a baby for hours because I feel like I am leaving a piece of my soul behind. And then the other administrators and staff were so sad I was leaving it made it even harder. So anyway, after this long probably very boring story the point is that I am in bad need of kdrama therapy. I may have to revisit Coffe Prince for the umpteenth time lol. Maybe that's why I love YEH so much, she seems to be similar in that way. I remember her crying in that behind the scenes episode you told me about because she felt like she was leaving a piece of her behind when CP finished.

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    3. (I swear I have left a comment here before, and I come back later and it's gone - not just on this blog either. Weird!)

      This does sound like something I would watch - come some rainy day. I've been eyeballing it on DF for a long time now, and I've seen it well-reviewed and -recommended many places.

      Having recently watched more Coffee Prince (last night) - ahh it is just the medicine for every situation. Crazy to say though that I have rewatched the first half several times.. but I haven't until now rewatched the latter half... oh why? why haven't I memorized this all yet! It's so beautiful! When he gets so mad at here.. "Please tell me you didn't lie! Because you don't do that to someone you love!" Ahh.. it's not just angsty drama.. it's so real, I can feel his heart breaking and exploding over and over again. Siiiigh.

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    4. I'm a complete crier—I've literally lied about my last day at previous jobs, just so I could avoid the trauma of saying goodbye =X Of course, my theory about YEH crying at the end of Coffee Prince is that she knew Gong Yoo was off to the military, so their secret love would be thwarted. But clearly that's wishful thinking ;)

      I'm going to start rewatching Coffee Prince this weekend, and maybe even recap a few episodes. I've always wondered what recapping is like, and it seems like it would be especially amusing with a show I am so deeply obsessed with. It will be a chance to ramble on about it *forever.* (The other candidate for possible recaps? BoF. Because if there's anything more fun than loving something, it's mocking it.)

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  4. Just wanted to return the visit! I really liked your Gentleman's Dignity commentary--that show was a Did Not Finish for me as well, though I've been checking in with Dramabeans to see how it ended. I'm letting someone else do my suffering for me on that one. :-)

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  5. Vaness Wu totally pulled a Gong Yoo—at first, I thought he wasn’t much to look at, but by the end of this drama I was ready to pack my bags and head to Taiwan just in hopes of camping on his lawn
    ^lmfao, and I thought I was alone on this whole Gong Yoo thing! *relieved* I watched Coffee Prince partially for YEH, but mainly for only the hype. Now I can't get enough of the man (waiting for my Big DVD box set to arrive in mail as we speak -____-lll)

    I already liked V-Wu from his F4 days so getting into his character in Autumn's Concerto was about as much as seeing him in his first scene with a half buttoned-up shirt. I think I said this in my own review a while back— technically with his acting, I found he occasionally did overact... but he more than made up for things with his natural charisma and genuineness. And of course, his cleavage worked miracles, too, lol (please make some camping space on his lawn for me as well? X))

    Agreed that the last quarter of the series was draggy and the ending was slightly questionable but like you, it didn't deter from my love for the series. I wouldn't have minded more actually if it meant we got to see more of the Vanness+Ady+XiaoXiaoBin family scenes... those ending credits were so ridiculously cute.

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    1. The sheer awesomeness of Gong Yoo in Coffee Prince has made me love him forever, no matter what. Video of him clubbing baby seals could show up on YouTube, and my only response would be "He looks so handsome in that parka!"

      I've never seen any of the Meteor Garden shows, so had no preconceived notions about Vaness Wu. (He would have made a great Jun Pyo, but it looks as if he was one of the other F4...?) I wish somebody with decent streaming service would carry those series :b

      I loved those ending credits, too, and in fact wish they'd replaced the whole last episode with footage of Sunday brunch with the trio ;)

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  6. Please link to youtube vid! I love seals! I went to entered "gong yoo seals" in the search bar but did not seem to get anywhere ^^;

    Vanness played the role of Meizuo, the equivalent to Woo Bin in Boys Over Flowers. I loved both actors' portrayals but Vanness' silky, shiny hair in MG really takes the cake for me. Would highly recommend you try to watch MG. Not sure what you thought of Boys Over Flowers but I personally thought BOF is by far the least moving adaption of the three known live-action versions.

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  7. one of my favorite too! i never expect vanness wu would take my breath away... because of his long creepy hair in meteor garden. have you try Material Queen?

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  8. No one seemed to like the ending in here. I LOVED it. I mean after all that ridiculous drama (I loved every part of it. Hu hu hu~) they deserved a weird cheesy where-on-earth-did-this-come-from ending! My friend hates sad dramas, I forced her to watch this one and she loved lol.

    This is the only drama that made me cry, laugh and giggle at the same time. Every time the main couple fights it would tug at my lil heart. Ah~~~ I even loved all the mean people in the drama, (ie mother-in-law), I feel every character had their reasons to hate, love, and cry. I just couldn't judge him.

    I also made my mother watch this drama, and to this day she'll say "Miss You, miss you!" whenever I mention a new drama I'm watching hahaha.

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  9. OMG! I just finished it. In less than two days.10/10. Best drama E.V.E.R.!!!

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  10. Found for blog today Amanda and I absolutely love your posts as well as reading your readers comments!

    I actually felt Autumn Concerto was more kdrama like compared to typical taiwanese drama due to the melo-ness of it. With that said, I just had to put out a recommendation, since I see that your opened to watching Taiwanese dramas. A really good one that I enjoyed and got hopelessly addicted to (as well as my mom, and she typically hates watching cheesy corny taiwanese dramas lol) is My Lucky Star. I find that it has similar elements to Autumn Concerto but it's definitely a charm on its own. So hopefully if you have time to check it out, I would love to hear your thoughts on it. Fun fact, the main actress casted for this drama is Korean though.

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  11. To be honest, I really find the logic that started this plot to be... twisted (or to be more crude screwed up) what in the world is with the whole mentality of ditching causing big misunderstanding and the I did it for my son and I dont. DONT love you cliches..... =.= I will forgive them for
    1) The super cute xiao xiao bing
    2) The really superb music (They totally squeezed my tears out of me; but then again, I am ALWAYS jumping at the scenes where the Manchus appear etc everytime I see Disney's Mulan for like >14 years....can I say I watch it hundreds if not thousands of times that my siblings practically remembers every scene till now....ps:I still get jumpy..... ><)
    3) It doesn't hurt that the main leads are eye candies....
    4) The director really did pull this off~

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  12. About the Chinese accent thing, I think it's more to do with the fact that it's a Taiwanese drama. Take Legend of Zhen Huan (Empresses in the Palace) for example, which was a really popular Chinese drama back in 2012 throughout China and Taiwan, the voices were practically ear candy. I've watched my fill of Korean dramas, but this drama really stood out to me because of the gorgeous voices. Betty Sun was charismatic as hell too. I suggest you give it a try, it's as good as Jewel in the Palace, if not better. Too bad it's so underrated among non-Chinese speaking populations.

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  13. I'm from the USA and I have watched several Asian dramas and Autumn's Concerto is the best one I've ever seen. No other Asian drama compares.

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  14. Nice smile, and soft spoken love story without all the lustful sex scenes. I didn't like the violence, but it is true that this happens to our girls all over the world.

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  15. My sister finally got me to watch this drama. I don't like foreign dramas because they are too silly for my taste. And degrading to women. But I'm happy to say this isn't the case with Autumn's Concerto. This is a masterpiece! It takes you through the emotions of being happy, sad, crying, joy, mad and finally back to romantic bliss. I highly recommend this drama. A true masterpiece.

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  16. I am watching this drama now and haven't slept for almost 24 hours now. Would I be able to move on from this drama (I guess no)? This drama is just an absolute perfection! I really love how they crafted it. How the main characters (Mu Cheng and Guang Xi) are so similar yet so different but perfectly compliments each other ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! *heart beating fast* The story line is full of cliche' (rich boy meets poor girl,amnesia and whatnot) but how can they handle it so well? How can they snatch my heart and make it giddy all at the same time. The kisses are so realistic, you can actually feel that they were so in love in the broadest sense of the word! This is by far the most engaging, compelling and heart warming drama (may it be asian or western) I've ever watched in my entire life. <3 I will never forget this. E.V.E.R <3 Y_____Y

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