Thursday, September 6, 2012

Review: 12 Men in a Year (2012)



Grade: C+

Category: Urban rom-com

What it’s about
After breaking up with her longterm boyfriend, Na Mi Ru—a reporter at a women’s magazine—finds herself forced to write a column about dating men of each Western astrological sign. The extensive, “hands-on” research required could ruin her reputation and leave her single forever—or introduce her to her true soulmate.

First impression
A light and airy take on contemporary urban life, this show splits the difference between the zaniness of Queen In-Hyun’s Man and the candid naturalism of the original I Need Romance. I could do with a less love-obsessed heroine, but props to tvN for staying away from the safe, comfortable dramaland of the big networks and keeping it real(ish).

Final verdict
Overall a fun, involving watch, this show is at its best when it’s following Mi Ru on her quest to meet and date men from each of the twelve astrological signs. It creates a slew of amusing characters, breezes into their lives for an episode or two, and them leaves them behind. Unfortunately, though, 12 Men in a Year has a lot in common with its female lead: it sucks when it comes to building a lasting relationship. All too often the show’s boundary-breaking central plot and great supporting cast (especially Tanya, the quirky best friend), are downplayed in favor of the abrasive, unlikable female lead and her cold-as-ice relationship with her ex-boyfriend. Unlike so many Kdramas, though, 12 Men in a Year keeps you guessing until the very end about where Mi Ru’s heart truly lies. (And as an added bonus, it’s a smorgasbord of toothsome male actors.) The finale was almost what I needed to overlook 12 Men’s  sins, but it didn’t quite hit the necessary notes: I wanted more passion for the written word and a stronger sense that the women involved had triumphantly shrugged off the shackles of the status quo. Instead, the closing felt a little half-hearted and route.

Random thoughts
Episode 2. Now that was a good reason to wail “otokae” and dance impotently around. This show is a funny, youthful-but-mature change of pace. How did it fail to get noticed when it was originally airing?

—Newsflash, sweetie: You’re an alcoholic, and you deserve to be fired.

Episode 5. So the column the female lead is writing seems to be a two-page spread consisting of 150 words’ worth of easy platitudes and trite clichés. I can see why the reading public is eating it up...or maybe not.

Episode 6. Pinch me—I think I’m dreaming. Either that, or I just watched an episode of a Korean drama about (1) a woman’s right to enjoy physical intimacy and (2) a woman’s right to say no to said intimacy if she so chooses. I guess another possible interpretation is that the finale is the show’s way of reminding us what happens when girls step out of line and misbehave...but we’ll just pretend the last ten minutes didn’t happen, shall we?

Episode 8. As far as I can see, this show only has two weaknesses. Unfortunately, they’re big ones: Neither lead has any charm, grace, or depth, and when you put them together, they’re like a black hole where chemistry goes to die. On the bright side, the supporting cast is wonderful—especially the female lead’s no-nonsense best friend and police-officer mom. Plus, the plot is diverting fun: when it’s focusing on Sophia’s column, it’s zippy and entertaining. If only the lead actors and characters had been worthy, 12 Men in a Year could have been a truly great drama.

Episode 15. Wait. So Tanya actually owns some sort of home tattooing device? That’s not a great way to spread hepatitis or anything.

Watch it

You might also like
Both I Need Romance and I Need Romance 2012, for their candid, believable take on modern love

29 comments:

  1. Thought this one sounded interesting when I first heard about it, but now not so much. It's kind of funny to me that I'm relieved not to have yet another drama to add to my To Watch list. It's already so amazingly long. I don't know if I'll ever get around to watching everything. I have noticed in the last couple of months that I'm a lot more willing to quit a drama than I used to be. I guess my glasses aren't quite so rose-tinted anymore.

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    1. I actually don't regret watching this drama, but it definitely wasn't the best thing ever. If you're in the mood for a lighthearted, progressive rom-com, it's worth checking out.

      I know how you feel about the list of things to watch—at first it was exciting to watch it grow, but now it's getting daunting. How do you keep track of yours? I've been using mydramalist.com, which is actually really handy. (Before that, I just used DramaFever's "alert me when available" feature. You can't see a full list of shows you've done that to, though, so it was kind of a waste of time.)

      And I'm more prone to give up on things nowadays, too. Like Gentleman's Dignity: back when I was new to Kdrama, I would have loved it just because it was so novel. But now that I've seen so many other dramas I immediately realized there were more enjoyable ways to spend my time, and dropped it.

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    2. I've actually never really tried keeping track of it. I too have used DramaFever's "alert me when available", which I agree is completely useless. Right now I've just got a very full queue on Dramafever. I've never been to mydramalist.com before today, but I think you've converted me already.

      I just put together a list of all the dramas I've watched. It is an amazingly long list and it made me think that I wish I had dropped quite a few of them. I've wasted an extraordinary amount of time. If only I had known then what I know now. :)

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  2. This one sounds like one I'm going to have to watch at some point for sure. Thanks for the review!!

    Right now I am watching Padam Padam in between TTBY and Arang and I cannot get over how incredible it is in every way so far. And how freaking ungodly gorgeous does Kim Bum look in this drama? It's no wonder they picked him to play the angel. He needs to always have long hair like that *sigh*

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    1. I'll look forward to reading your review of 12 Men if you do get around to watching it—I liked a lot about it, but the female lead just killed the drama for me. (Sadly, I can almost always judge how much I'll like a female lead before watching the show by looking at her haircut. And this one is a doozy.)

      I love Padam Padam *so* much. I went into it for Kim Bum, but came out liking the guy who played the male lead just as much. I can't believe the female lead went on to the hot mess that was Rooftop Prince, though =X

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    2. Oh I loved Rooftop Prince lol, it's actually one of my favorites. But you know I'm more prone to liking goofy campy dramas than you are lol.

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    3. Rooftop Prince seems to be another one that people either loved or hated that I really didn't have any strong feelings for. It wasn't bad and I'm one of the few that liked the end. Maybe because it was exactly what I was expecting.

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    4. I'm with the Dramabeans girls on Rooftop Prince—a good first episode and a good last episode don't make a good drama. But it was definitely harmless, as dramas go. Just not my cup of tragic, scalding-hot tea ;)

      And I have no idea what the hell happened in the final scene. Still.

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    5. I liked the whole drama and I really loved the ending even though it was somewhat ambiguous. But I liked the goofiness of the Joeson era guys running around Seoul having no idea what was going on lol. But you know I love that kind of campy humor and cuteness.

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    6. The Joseon guys were actually my favorite part of the show—I especially loved the warrior guy who had a quiet crush on the female lead. So cute!

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  3. I think I'll pass on this one too - at least until I finish the next 40 days worth of dramas Mydramalist says it'll take to go through my Plan to Watch list. Yikes.

    So, I'm miserable... I started Arang on my iPad, and now I'm almost caught up, and it's one of first dramas in recent weeks that I can't say no to watching just one more episode! What am I going to do???

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    1. Find a really good one to watch in between lol. I love it so far too!! My husband is even really interested in it. He was commenting yesterday on how much he even liked the music. I was shocked!!

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    2. This is exactly why I don't want to start Arang until it's done airing: I'm ready to be totally obsessed with it, and I want to be able to watch it all in one go.

      I'm between dramas right now, and have literally spent the last twenty minutes trying to decide if I want to watch Bridal Mask or Tree with Deep Roots. According to my drama cycle (picture me making the “loser” hand gesture in front of my forehead), I'm supposed to be watching something new right now, but none of the new shows are really calling me. (Except Answer Me, 1997, which is another one I don't want to jump the gun on. It's sounding more and more like my dream drama, and at half an hour, the episodes will go awfully fast.)

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    3. I'm definitely not watching Answer Me 1997 yet. Cheolte! Cheolte! Not watching it. And, I'm forcing myself to stop Arang - let's see how long my resolve lasts. I'm going to marathon the last half of Dal Ja's Spring to keep me occupied. Still watching it in German though, so it's making my brain cells actually work. But hey, at least my conversational German is back up to scratch.

      My queue right now seems pretty sparse. I haven't been able to persuade myself to finish either Tazza (which is really good, just too intense) or INR 2012 (I guess it's good - I'm just not in the mood to try and stomach it). So the only thing else I've got going right now is a very long labor-intensive trek with Flames of Desire (amazing.. but oh boy do those characters scare the crap out of me. I can only handle so much at a time).

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    4. I'm waiting to start watching Answer Me 1997 too. I've been able to hold myself back from this one, but not Arang. I definitely should have waited because I'm in the midst of so many dramas right now. I've gotten really good at juggling them.

      Bridal Mask is wonderful. It has it's problems, but I'm loving it. It gets lots of things right. Only two episodes left. Ottakae!?!

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    5. I will probably watch Answer Me 1997 after it airs and I will probably check out Faith at some point too to see if it is any good, but I keep finding good dramas to watch in between TTBY and Arang so I'm okay. I can't wait to hear what you guys think about Arang when you do watch it.

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    6. Is it sad that I really like squealing "Ottokae?!?" at really inappropriate times around my family, just to make them give me this smirky expression that says, "Really? Can you stop pretending to be a 12yr old Asian girl right now?" Hehehe. Also, "Kajima!!"

      I'm scared of Bridal Mask.. it's so long! Last 30 ep drama I did took me ages. And now that I've been experimenting with the uber-short Jdramas.. even 20 eps seems like a ton to me now.

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    7. Sara, Bridal Mask may not be for you. It's not only long at 28 episodes but can require breaks for recuperation as well. I love it, but I can understand that it's not for everyone.

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    8. A sparse drama queue? Now that's reason to whimper ottakae.

      I usually like dark and serious things, and actually watched the first few minutes of Bridal Mask last night. The costumes and sets seemed really chintzy, though, and when the male lead spontaneously started dancing on a nightclub stage, I decided I wasn't in the mood for it. My complaint was that it wasn't dark enough, although I definitely didn't give it a fair shake. Someday I'll definitely go back. I'm going to try Faith after it's done airing...I suspect I'll really like it, even though the reviews are mixed.

      Ironically, last night I moved from Bridal Mask to the latest episode of To The Beautiful You, which has somehow become my ideal drama. It's light, it's cute, it's funny...what's not to love?

      After loving 62 episodes of Family's Honor, I actually want to explore more long dramas. Someday I'll do the Jewel in the Palace thing...and maybe even Shin Dong.

      For now, I've decided to rebel against my drama cycle and watch an oldie: 9 End 2 Outs. (I love that Lee Tae Sung, and can't figure out why I've never seen him play lead.)

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    9. I think after Padam Padam I'm going to watch another Jdrama, Himitsu that someone suggested to me. She said it was another soul switching drama but it was pretty dark and she thought I would like it.

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    10. Huh. I just looked up the summary of that show...it sounds just like The Secret, an American movie that came out a few years ago. I wonder if they're related? If so, the Japanese version must be better—I only made it through the first fifteen or twenty minutes of The Secret before getting so squicked out I had to turn it off.

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  4. Lol, waiting to marathon Answer Me 1997 is a good idea. I've watched it as it aired and I love it. There's 13 eps subbed out of 16 right now, and the wait is torturous. If you liked Shut Up: FBB you'll almost definitely love this.

    Bridal Mask also finished today. I've mixed feelings about the drama: it has alot of flaws, but when it does things right, it's on fire. Might want to try watching that next now that it's done airing, but be warned: it's pretty dark.

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    1. I *loved* Shut Up, and am practically drooling over Answer Me 1997 as I type =X

      I was a total teen pop fangirl in 1997, which makes it seem even more appealing. I had/have no idea who these H.O.T. people are, but I saw a boy band that shall remain nameless like 30 times between 1997 and 2000. I'm clearly going to relate to Answer Me's heroine.

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    2. I just watched 4 episodes in a row of Shut up flower boy band.... Not sure I was prepared for this.... Wow Is it awesome..... And, and... Wow...

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    3. As far as I'm concerned, Shut Up is the most wonderful of all the Kdrama bromances. I love that the boys are closer to family than friends, and found the whole show to be refreshingly John-Hughes-esque. It makes me a little weak in the knees thinking that Answer me 1997 is that good ;)

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  5. I was wondering if you watched 'Flames of Desire'. Its a 50 ep on Netflix but the main character (older actress) is just amazing. Also, the story is quite riveting. Surprisingly, the men in the drama are spineless...

    Maria

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    1. Thanks for the rec! I haven't seen Flames of Desire yet, but it's on my queue. I've been longing for something long and melodramatic lately, so it might be next.

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