I generally have a wait and see attitude to korean drama remakes of famous tv productions - after all, you never really know if something succeeds or fails until you see it right? In the end, I found that the korean dramas, "The Witch's Romance" (the adaptation of Taiwan's My Queen) and "Fated to Love You" (the adaptation of the taiwan drama of the same name) provided their own flavour and was fun to watch. It's pretty funny that both of them were Ethan Ruan productions - Park Seo Joon actually did channel some of that Ethan Ruan boyish-type charm in The Witch's Romance but Jang Hyuk in Fated to Love You completely made the male lead role his own.
There has been more brickbats than bouquets for the upcoming korean drama remake of the Japanese manga, Nodame Cantabile. Most specifically, for the fact, that it has added a love rival for Chiaki, some completely new character, a Korean American cellist - who seems to be some korean remake of the manga character, the oboe player, Kuroki, who had a crush on Nodame in the manga the first time he saw her but was never a love rival in any remote sense in the manga. To be honest, I was pretty horrified by this change because any fan of the manga will know that the cast of characters in the manga is huge enough and one of the best things about Nodame Cantabile is that it was never a typical shoujo manga - both the female and male lead had to save each other in order to be the best versions of themselves - it wasn't a case of true love saves the day or Chiaki being the perfect prince (because he wasn't), but music being such a powerful force that brought two completely different people together.
I am starting to wonder if k drama remakes only succeed when the original story already has a love triangle built into the plot. Second case in point - TvN is remaking Liar Game (which I love love love) and its casting not only seems problematic but seemed to suggest a love triangle - and with the most ridiculous possibility...
There may be criticisms about the japanese tv and movie adaptation of the manga, Liar Game, mostly because of the difficult nature of adapting the very psychological mind play of the manga into an interesting piece of drama to watch, but I have hardly came across any criticism disputing the lovely chemistry of Erika Toda acting as Nao Kanzaki (female lead) and Matsuda Shoda acting as Akiyama Shinichi (male lead). Briefly, Nao gets invited to play the Liar Game, and she's so naive and stupid that she gets duped out of all her money due to her belief that people are good. She then finds Akiyama, who is a psychology genius and former con man who took down a multi-level marketing company after they cheated his mother and caused her to commit suicide, to help her "win" the Liar Game. In full and frank disclosure, I think both of them are so ridiculously pretty and I totally ship them. In fact any japanese production fan, will tell you how painfully little romance the productions had - but still, we squeal and replay every one of them.
Before, I flood this post with more pretty liar game fanart that I found from this wonderful todashota tumblr. We need to compare the above prettiness to the korean casting:
Kim So Eun as Nao Kanzaki
Lee Sang Yoon as Akiyama Shinichi
Shin Sung Rok as Leonira
Yes, oh gosh, Leonira is cast! If you don't know about the manga, Leonira is one of the hosts/dealers of the Liar Game - who is always masked and his real face is never seen. He is just one of the many hosts and has no romantic interactions with the female lead whatsoever (though out of all the hosts, he probably thinks most highly of Nao's ability to play the game). In fact, his role in the manga is pretty small since every game has a different host - so I have no idea what role exactly he will play in the drama.
I think Kim So Eun is pretty good casting - she certainly looks "fresh" enough. But, I would much prefer Shin Sung Rok as Akiyama instead of Lee Sang Yoon who looks too... for lack of a better word, positive? He seems like the kind of guy you want to bring home to see your mother, full of fresh sunshine and wholesome like white bread. That is exactly the opposite of what Akiyama is supposed to be - he is supposed to be the anti-hero, a kind of genius who sees through human nature and doesn't see any redeeming qualities, except he was moved by the stupidity and purity of Nao, who resembles his mother and a ray of hope he emotionally does not want to extinguish even if mentally it seems logically to do so.
It will be interesting to see what content/games the drama plans to adapt since the manga has moved on from the last productions - it is currently at Chapter 187 and in the midst of the final game. In the previous japanese productions, there were some guesses on what the real rationale behind the Liar Game was, but we don't really know the real reason in the manga yet. I'm still looking forward to the K drama remake- only because the source material just gets me in this nostalgia and emotional place - but cross fingers, it doesn't make all fans run in the opposite direction.
Now, feast your eyes on the beauty of the japanese Nao and Akiyama:
The final scene of Liar Game: Final Stage - they have finally been freed from the game, but Nao seems a little sad and wistful. Akiyama asks Nao if she wants to play it again - and she says no, never again... but it seems like he is going to disappear now. She says, almost hesitantly and fumbling - unlike her usual blunt straightforward honest self, that she has learnt that it is stupid to just blindly believe in people, she will change... even learn to lie... if... but before, she could voice that if or even a so, will you stay with me until I learn --- Akiyama says that she has graduated from the game, has learnt to lie and can do well on her own. She looks down, crestfallen, and Akiyama calls her a naive idiot again. She beams back calling him a hopeless liar, and he asks, with an almost slight nervousness, Can you live with it? My lies.
She takes in a deep breath and answers with a smile, If they are gentle and make people happy.
He gives a full grin - the first we had seen, since the ending of the first season when he told her it was ok to be a naive idiot. He turns around to walk away, and she follows smiling after.