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TV Review: Goblin Episode 05

Year: 2016 – 2017
Other Names: The Lonely, Shining Goblin; Guardian: The Lonely and Great God; Prince Maker; Mr. Sunshine
Online: WikipediaMyDramaList,  HanCinemaKoreanDramaAsianWikiDramaFever
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Drama, Romance

After helping out the ghost of a recently deceased student,  Ji Eun Tak (Kim Go Eun) is asked by Kim Shin (Goon Yoo) to move into his place. After returning to the bridge where she first met our resident amnesiac Grim Reaper (Lee Dong Wook), Sunny (Yoo In Na) is finally able to go out on a sort-of date with the clueless immortal. This, unfortunately, results in him feeling more and more out of sorts as he had no name to give her. With Ji Eun Tak’s arrival comes the requirement for both Kim Shin and the Reaper getting a mobile phone for the first time.
Reaper enlists Ji Eun Tak’s aid in creating a name for himself to go by. Over the following days, we see Kim Shin’s growing jealous over the short periods of time she spends with Reaper. It brings to a head an argument between Ji Eun Tak and Kim Shin that adds to Kim Shin’s already difficult problem in being in love for Ji Eun Tak, the Goblin’s destined and the catalyst for his death.

Episode 5 sees the focus moving towards Sunny and Reaper’s relationship. It was neat seeing the awkwardness of Reaper’s character, showing just how inexperienced he is in dealing with living, breathing people. His issues with the forgotten bits of his past life make him a genuinely sympathetic character. He doesn’t know what actions caused him to not move on and therefore cannot make amends. The previous episode also showed that he is capable of being kind to the souls that he acts as a facilitator for. Sunny’s character is still a bit of an enigma but there have been hints from previous episodes that the Samshin Lady has some purpose for bringing the two together. The more that I watch the series, the more that I am convinced that it is less vindictive than I initially believed.
As for Kim Shin, we see his own awareness of his feelings for Ji Eun Tak becoming more and more difficult for him. However, this also makes the choice easier for him. He wants Ji Eun Tak to be happier and the last few scenes of the episode give the audience the impression that there is likely a lot of other stuff that is happening off-screen. We got a glimpse of this during the previous episode as well, with Kim Shin enlisting the aid of Reaper to speak with one of his wards for the last time. I am hoping that the focus on Sunny and Reaper’s relationship allows us a reprieve for a while as Kim Shin’s situation is dragging on a bit.
For the previous four episodes, we’ve seen both Reaper and Kim Shin continually using magic to move around. In this fifth episode, we learn the major problem that both face in regards to the house. Reliance on their magic has resulted in them ignoring simple things like remembering the security code for the house. In Reaper’s case, we also see a steep learning curve when he receives his first phone. As amusing as this is, the odd nature of these two immortals does threaten to distract from some other aspects of the story.

Whilst I enjoyed this episode, some things about it concerned me. This is less about what happened and more about my anticipation about how the writers will address the next half of this series. I am worried that some stuff will be dragged on for too long thus undoing some of the entertainment value of the series so far. I suppose that I will just have to trust that the writers had enough sense when they planned out the main arcs of the story.  Regardless, I will continue watching this series because there is so much to love. It is the attention to small details, the ability for those small details to tell us so much about the characters and their situation.

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TV Review: Goblin Episode 04

Year: 2016 – 2017
Other Names: The Lonely, Shining Goblin; Guardian: The Lonely and Great God; Prince Maker; Mr Sunshine
Online: WikipediaMyDramaList,  HanCinemaKoreanDramaAsianWikiDramaFever
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Drama, Romance

At the end of the previous episode, Kim Shin the Goblin (Goon Yoo) discovers that Ji Eun Tak (Kim Go Eun) can see the sword in his chest. He must now deal with the ramifications of this discovery. Where previously he liked the young woman but had resigned himself to continuing his search for the priestess that could remove the sword and put an end to his existence, he is confronted with the possibility that his days are numbered. Both Kim Shin and the Grim Reaper (Lee Doon Wook) begin taking anti-anxiety medication for their woman troubles, with amusing consequences.
As our resident Grim Reaper and Goblin begin tripping balls because of their issues, with Ji Eun Tak being put up in a nice hotel with Yoo Deok Hwa (Yook Sung Jae) being roped into helping her out. (The young man is still being watched like a hawk by his grandfather’s investigator.) The ghosts that Ji Eun Tak begin helping her deal with the girl that has been bullying her. However, she is getting more and more worried that Kim Shin doesn’t like her as much as she likes him. Eventually, Kim Shin visits her and the two go on some outings together, all the while Ji Eun Tak talks about the sword without realising that the removal of the sword is supposed to end his life.

This fourth episode certainly knows how to step things up a notch. Just when I thought that I had a decent grasp of Kim Shin, we see hiss reaction to the death of man that we met in a previous episode. It gave us more of a glimpse into his character, showing that Kim Shin has affected many lives over the centuries.
We also got to see the ongoing issues with Ji Eun Tak’s Aunt and cousins. We knew that magic had been involved but up until this point in time, it seemed like the gold bars were quite mundane. Between where they came from and the forgetfulness spell put upon the bars, the trio of nastiness and greed will likely be busy for a long time.
Finally, we see both Kim Shin and our Grim Reaper dealing with the implications of love. Whilst Kim Shin has a mortality problem, Grim Reaper has somehow lost the phone number of Sunny (Yoo In Na), Ji Eun Tak’s boss. Of course, he isn’t aware that Sunny is Ji Eun Tak’s boss yet but that will likely happen in the next few episodes. After all, there is only six more episodes to go and pacing dictates that it will have to happen soon.

Anyway, it was another solid episode and I look forward to watching the next. If you watched this episode, feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section. Until next time, have an awesome day!


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Manga Review: 18 Diary

Year: 2003
Author + Artist: Akira Shouko
Online: MAL, Kissmanga, Mangafox (MF version is incomplete)
Genre: Shojo, Slice of Life, Romance

18 Diary consists of three one-shots, each focusing on a separate couple. The stories are cute and surprisingly varied, showing the complexities of school and family life from the perspectives of young men and women in different situations. The time constraints still mean that some ideas aren’t explored but I don’t have an issue with that because it was easy to root for the success of these three couples. There are no issues with consent like a lot of modern shojo series, with the characters having agency in their own decisions.

  • Story 1: A young woman is in love with a long-time friend who has had a long-time crush on a childhood friend. When his crush starts dating a college guy, he decides that he wants to do something to impress her. He enlists that aid of his long-time friend to teach him how to swim, leading to him realising that his affections should have been directed elsewhere.
  • Story 2: An angsty girl hooks up with a guy from school at a party. In lieu of leaving her parents stolen divorce papers for some bizarre reason at the hotel where they bumped uglies, the angsty girl and her beau enact a plan that is soon rendered pointless but manages to help them strengthening their growing affections for each other.
  • Story 3: A young woman that looks after her little brother makes the acquaintance of a son of the manager of her school. In spite of her long-term jealousy of this perceived black sheep of his family, she discovers a rather complex young man that wants to become a professional dancer. The two quickly become friends and then smooch buddies.

The characters are allowed to succeed and fail, but some readers will prefer a bit more conflict. The couplings also made sense, each character complementing the other. I suppose that it wouldn’t necessarily be a romance if the couplings weren’t complementary.
The artwork is pretty standard in style for the time that it was written. Whilst certainly not exceptional, it does what it needs to convey the situation and emotions of the character. It may not be as pretty as some of the new manga series, but I still find myself enjoying it a lot more than some of the newer stuff.

All in all, this was a really enjoyable anthology of shojo romance. The pacing for each story was good, it was easy to care about each character and the artwork was good enough to convey the story. I recommend it to long-time fans of the genre. However, it might spoil newcomers to the genre as it is in my personal opinion of higher quality than a lot of manga in this genre.


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TV Review: Goblin Episode 03

Year: 2016 – 2017
Episode: 3/16 completed KDrama series (English sub)
Other Names: The Lonely, Shining Goblin; Guardian: The Lonely and Great God; Prince Maker; Mr Sunshine
Online: WikipediaMyDramaList,  HanCinemaKoreanDramaAsianWikiDramaFever
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Drama, Romance

I watched this episode more than a month ago and never got around to review it. Because I wanted to discuss it with the instalment fresh in my mind, I decided to rewatch it today. It turned out to be just as enjoyable as when I first watched it.

N.B. Spoilers below.

After being kidnapped by debt-collectors of her horrible aunt, Ji Eun Tak (Kim Go Eun) is rescued dramatically by Kim Shin the Goblin (Goon Yoo) with the resident Grim Reaper (Lee Doon Wook) in tow. Over the span of the previous two episodes, Kim Shin has taken a liking to the young woman but has to deal with her attempts to not get her hopes up by relying on him.
In the midst of this, the resident Grim Reaper is reminded of his own situation. We also get to learn more about the organization that he works for, including talk of an upcoming Grim Reaper workshop and reunion. As Ji Eun Tak makes sense of how she feels about Kim Shin leaving for Canada, Grim Reaper meets Ji Eun Tak’s boss Sunny (Yoo In Na) at the stall of the magically disguised shaman lady that protected Ji from the Grim Reaper years before, making it apparent that she has her own plans for the pair.

This episode does a great job of kicking the second major arc into gear. Whilst we got to see the old shaman lady in passing over the previous episodes, we now get to see what she is up to. We also know that it has something to do with Sunny and Grim Reaper. There is also an emerald ring involved, something that is likely related to both of their past lives.
We also get to see the developing friendship of Kim Shin and Grim Reaper, after years of being at each other’s throats. We see that both are capable of kindness and that they heavily misunderstand each other. There is some nice commentary from the older of Kim Shin’s servants talking about how the two need each other in spite of their reluctance to accept this fact. Whilst Kim Shin has servants and memory of his life, we see the loneliness and frustration of the amnesiac Grim Reaper. Now, if only they’ll put aside the childish bickering…
As for Ji Eun Tak, we see her grow heavily during this episode. Her attempt to not rely on Kim Shin is endearing as it comes from multiple places: she doesn’t want to be an imposition on Kim Shin and she is also concerned that relying on other people will likely end badly. And yet, she makes a decision this episode that shows a clarity of purpose. She wants to be with Kim Shin. This decision also results in the confirmation of something that we have known for a while, that Ji Eun Tak is Goblin’s bride, the priestess that will be able to remove the sword that keeps him alive.

In conclusion, this episode knocked it out of the park. The character development and plot are moving along nicely, with some genuinely funny moments that add to the story rather than subtract from it. This continues to be an enjoyable series and I look forward to watching more episodes.


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Manga Review: Before Daylight Love

Year: 2010
Author + Artist: Mitori Fujii
Version: Dangerous Pleasure Scanlation Group
After Morning Love Online: MyAnimeListMangaFoxKissManga
Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Slice of Life, Romance

Back in June, I reviewed a short-run series called After Morning Love. Before Daylight Love is a follow-on story to the series, focusing on the characters of Tatsumi (Yakusa guy) and Daiki, the guy that is Rin’s boss at the bar. While we did get to see a bit of Daiki in the first series, it barely touched on Tatsumi’s situation.

After years of providing a safe haven for Tatsumi at his bar, Daiki is injured by thugs looking to kill Tatsumi. It leads to the realization that Tatsumi sees him as much more than a protector.

Whilst this series is cute, it wasn’t anywhere near as enjoyable as the first series. I would have preferred getting to know the two characters rather than be dropped into the middle of the situation. I like that sort of progression and it was done right in After Morning Love. I suspect that this choice was probably due to the chapter limitation. It also makes the assumption that we know a bit about the characters already. This is not a good idea if you hope to draw in new readers.
I like the characters overall, just as I did in the original series. Whilst Daiki is outgoing, Tatsumi is understandably reserved due to the need for secrecy in his criminal organisation. Their relationship feels right as well, with the two complementing each other well. Yes, there are some naughty bits, more than the previous series. Nothing explicit, mind you, and it certainly doesn’t fall into porn levels seen in some other Yaoi series. It focuses more on storytelling and character development.
Unfortunately, this story suffers from a bit of “telling, not showing”. This made it difficult for me to genuinely feel tied to their plight. It seemed like the characters were constantly trying to convince the reader that the situation was life-threatening rather than giving us a glimpse of the carnage going on when Tatsumi was out and about doing his thing. Much in all as this isn’t an action series, more violence would have shown the genuine threat that Tatsumi was facing.
Before Daylight Love also includes a continuation of the Animal Ears bonus story seen towards the end of the previous series. I would rate it as a “meh”. It was fluff then and this new instalment feels flat as well. For me, the bonus story would have been better omitted from both series altogether.

In conclusion, as much as I like this story, it wasn’t as good as its predecessor. I felt removed from Daiki and Tatsumi. It was a bit of a let-down for a series that had so much promise.


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Manga Review: Atashi wa Sore o Dekinai

Year: 2004 (4 parts, three stories total)
Author + Artist: Maki Enjouji
Version:  Viscans [English translations]
Online: MyAnimeListKissMangaMangaFox
Genre: Josei, Romance, Drama, Smut

Atashi wa Sore o Dekinai is an anthology of three Josei Romance stories. It features sex scenes and the classic “main guy is a jerk” cliche so common in both Josei and Shoujo. Whilst I do have some issues with the characterization in the three stories, the artwork is attractive and the characters are easily defined by Maki Enjouji. I wouldn’t say that it is a bad collection but I wouldn’t say that it is good either. If you are looking for an introduction to Josei Romance, there are certainly better anthologies and long-run series out there.


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Manga Review: Biyaku Café

Year: 2008 – 2011 (34 parts)
Author + Artist: Ayane Ukyou
Version:  Decadence [English translations]
Online: MyAnimeListKissMangaMangaFox
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, Drama, Smut

Kaoru Iseya was just fired. After accidentally kicking a can into a door of the only cafe open late that same night, she is accosted by the owner of the establishment. After accepting the offer of a cup of tea, she wakes up naked next to him the following morning. As she is about to leave, he points out that she never paid for the tea or damages to the door and that she must work it off at the Cafe. She agrees. So begins Kaoru’s job at a very unusual host cafe. [The summary at MAL is garbage.]

Biyaku Café is a collection of stories set in a very unusual cafe called Aphrodisiac Cafe that intersect with the main arc of Kaoru (the girl that has bishounen-like qualities) and Kagetsu’s amusing developing relationship. Sure, the premise of having to pay off a debt is nothing new to manga, but it plays out in Biyaku Café in a unique and interesting way. This premise is used to tell not just one story but is a way to also introduce us to several others. This is somewhat charming even if a little cheesy at times. However, be prepared for the occasional sad story in amongst the silly fun that is Biyaku Café.
I was familiar with Ayane Ukyou’s work on the Yaoi series Kuroneko Kareshi series going in. Though I found this other work flawed, it still had a character and a story arc that suggested that Ayane was capable of something beyond smut. Oddly enough, I only found out that it was the same author and artist after looking at a few frames. The art style is very similar to Ukyou’s work on Kuroneko Kareshi but focuses a lot less on the intimate relationship of the characters. My one criticism of the artwork of Biyaku Café is that some of the characters were very similar in appearance making it periodically difficult to differentiate them. However, the linework was still neat and the settings were pleasing on the eye.
Whilst Biyaku Café does have some non-explicit sex scenes, these scenes are used to push the story of Kaoru and Kagetsu forward.  Whilst the romance in Biyaku Café predominantly focuses on hetero couples, we also see the complication of one of Kagetsu’s male admirers. Each of these arcs is addressed in a satisfying and meaningful way over the span of the series. Instead of judgement, it offers a voyeuristic look into the relationships of the various characters. It is so gratifying to see each of these characters find happiness. Whilst not all characters find love, we do see some well-needed closure that allows them to move on with their life.
As a side, there does appear to be some discussion in the manga reading community over favourite couples of the series. Each relationship plays out in an entertaining fashion. If I had to choose a favourite couple in Biyaku Café, then it is definitely Kaoru and Kagetsu followed closely by Omi and Tomomi. Why? Because there is less resistance to their attractions showing these four characters to be a lot more in touch with their own emotions and willing to act upon it as adults.

I really enjoyed this odd little series. It might be a little cheesy and some of the character art needs further differentiation but it was a really fun and unique series. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a mature Shoujo romance series.