Korean Drama Review: Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo

The drama starts when a woman, Go Ha-Jin played by IU, from the 21st century was transported back  in time during the reign of King Taejo, the first king of Goryeo. She awakes in the body of Lady Hae Soo, a noblewoman living in that time.  Realizing that there is no way to get back in her own time, Hae Soo tries to adjust to living in Goryeo not knowing that she and her knowledge of the future will play a big part in history.

I found this korean drama in a list of korean dramas with the saddest endings. To be honest, I was very hesitant to watch this korean drama, sad endings aren’t really my thing. In addition to that, this drama had low ratings since it’s in the same timeslot as Love in the Moonlight. Nonetheless, I decided to try this korean drama. After watching this drama, I am both thankful and regretful of that decision.

Why am I thankful I watched this drama?

This drama is one of the best korean drama I have ever seen. I don’t think I felt this much emotion in a korean drama before. From the first episode until the last, I was in a rollercoaster of emotions. I was laughing for some time then I will cry a few minutes after. I have not seen a korean drama with so much substance as Scarlet Heart. You’ll just find yourself deeply immersed in the scene because everything is just so good. You’re going to laugh with them, cry with them and love with them. Every episode will really get you hooked. I had to take a break in the last few episodes though. Things got really heavy near the end that I had to watch cute and fun stuff to buffer my emotions. That’s how intense and great this drama is.

Another reason I love this drama is because of the characters. The drama explored every character deeply. As the drama progressed, you will realize that there is more to the character that meets the eye. There’s more than one side of them and the drama showed it to us in such a great way.  The male lead of the drama, 4th prince Wang So played by Lee Joon-Gi, was not the typical righteous hero. He had commendable heroic moments like how he defended the Crown Prince but he is also capable of doing dreadful things. Because he is imperfect, I think he’s a perfect character. The female lead is far from perfect either. Hae Soo actually made a lot of bad decisions until the very end. It doesn’t stop there. I think all characters here are great. I felt like there were more than just characters. Because the drama shows more than one side of them, you can connect to them well and have understanding of the character. I understood even the reasons behind the villain’s action. The well-written characters are then strengthened by the actors playing them. The acting here is commendable especially Lee Joon-Gi. Every emotions is evident in his face that you can’t help but be immersed in the drama even more than you already was.

Why am I regretful?

You must be wondering… If I love the drama so much, why did I say that I am also regretful of watching it? Just because of the ending. The blogger who said this is one of the saddest endings is not lying.Don’t get me wrong, I really think that the ending is beautiful. Still, the ending left me shocked and heartbroken. I feel like Wang So and Hae Soo’s story shouldn’t end like that. I desperately want a Season 2 even if it’s highly unlikely.

Overall…

Overall, I think this drama is close to perfection. I don’t think I will forget this any time soon. I think it will always be one of my favorites.

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Movie Review: The Beauty Inside

The Beauty Inside is a 2015 korean film based on a 2012 american film of the same name. The Beauty Inside is about Kim Woo Jin who changes his appearance every time he wakes up. His appearance may be of a woman or a man. He may be old or young. He may be of a different race. After years of this condition, Kim Woo Jin has accepted his life until he met Yi Soo, portrayed by Han Hyo Joo, who he fell in love with instantly. This movie mainly focuses on how Yi Soo adjusts into being in a relationship who is a different person every day.

Some movies give you a roller coaster of emotion. You’ll feel many emotions at the same time like there’s a storm coming and you’re in a boat in the middle of the ocean. For this movie, you are just sailing in a calm and beautiful day. Throughout the movie, everything feels like calm. It really didn’t connect to me much. It didn’t really make me feel anything. The emotions felt while watching this movie is just superficial. That is why, even with its high concept, the movie is just underwhelming.

Even when the movie is not great, it’s not bad at all though. I guess the reason for that is Han Hyo Joo who is just perfect for the role. Han Hyo Joo’s face is one of the most beautiful faces there is for me. Her beauty is both simple and elegant and you can see kindness in her eyes. Yi Soo is supposed to be a character with pure heart who can look beyond appearances and love what’s within. Han Hyo Joo was able to portray this character very well and I’m guessing she did it effortlessly too. All the actors who played Kim Woo Jin are commendable too. Because of their acting, it was believable that there is one person inside all those appearances.

I guess I will recommend this movie to people who are looking for something easy to watch. If you just want to lie in bed and relax while watching a movie, this movie will be great for you.

Thoughts on Bride of the Water God (Episodes 1-4)

Bride of the Water God is one of the most highly-anticipated drama this 2017 especially by the fans of the original manwha of the same name. Even if I have not read the manwha, I am still one of those who were really excited about the drama. I have read the premise of the drama and I got excited. I waited for this and hoped for another good fantasy drama.

This drama is about Habaek who is destined to be the king of the realm of the Gods. In order to assume his throne, he must go to the human realm, find the God Stones and retrieve it from its guardians. The conflict arises when upon arriving in the human realm, Habaek has lost the coordinates of the god stones and also lost his divine powers. He must now find and rely on the descendant of the family who promised to serve the gods, Yoon So Ah. Yoon So Ah is a psychiatrist who initially thinks that Habaek is not a real god but is just delusional. The first four episode is all about Habaek and his ‘assistant’ Nam Soo Ri trying to survive in the human realm.

With four episodes so far, the drama didn’t get me hooked. I was only amazed in the first few scenes where Habaek played by Nam Joo Hyuk is still in the realm of the Gods. Nam Joo Hyuk’s look as a God and the setting itself was very visually appealing. However, there were only very few scenes and the setting shifted to the human world right away.

The drama heavily reminded me of Goblin and Rooftop Prince- two dramas that left a mark on my heart. Goblin is about an immortal goblin who is searching for his fated bride to finally find peace and Rooftop Prince is about a prince transported from the Joseon era to the modern world. I guess this is why I cannot connect to this drama. It’s like they did not offer something new like we’ve seen everything before. Of course, I know that it is very hard nowadays to have something completely original. However, some dramas have something different about it that sets it apart from the rest such as the adorable bromance between the Goblin and the Grim Reaper in Goblin.

Also, some dramas are really loved for their main characters. I don’t know why but I can’t seem to connect with any of the characters in this show. I fell in love Nam Joo Hyuk right away in Weightlifting Fairy. I’m also starting to get annoyed with Yoon So Ah but I guess it’s a bit early to judge the character. So far, I only like Nam Soo Ri. His humor and loyalty to Habaek is adorable.

Regardless, I am giving this drama a chance. It’s actually too early to judge this drama. It’s only been four episodes and there’s twelve more to go, still plently of chance for this drama to redeem itself. It’s not the first time I didn’t like a drama at the start. Some dramas get better the more you watch. I still think that this drama has great potential.

For a lover of fantasy romance like me, I think this drama is still worth  a try.

See my thoughts on Episodes 5-8 here.

TV Series Review: 3%

I’ve always seen 3% in Netflix but I’ve only decided to try it recently and it’s probably one of the best decision I’ve ever made.

3% is a Brazilian dystopian thriller set in a future where people are divided into the poverty-stricken Inland and the abundant Offshore. Twenty-year olds from the Inland have a once-in-their-life chance to go and live in the Offshore through the Process. The Process is a series of tests the applicants have to go through to prove their worth and determine if they deserve to live in the Offshore. Only 3% of the applicants pass the Process and succeed in going to the Offshore.

I started watching due to curiosity and I continued watching for the story. Each episode is full of excitement and thrill. Also, you will really wonder and think what the goal of each test really is and what the applicants will do in each test.

Along the way, there are twists like the characters are really not what you thought they are. There is a background of one character per episode so you’ll see their life from the Inland. This show proves that first impressions may be wrong. It’s one of the reasons I like 3%. The characters have so much depth. This show really invested in their characters and story.

And of course, a dystopian story is only as good as the society it focuses on. In 3%, we only get to see the Inland. We get to understand why the applicants strive so hard to pass the process. However, we only know what the applicants know about the Offshore which is close to nothing.  This adds mystery to the show. You keep on watching to know more about this promised land.

For lovers of dystopian worlds, I highly recommend to binge-watch this show next.

Trailer:

Movie Review: Okja

To be honest, at first I thought that this movie would have a typical storyline where the main character gets separated from his/her best friend. This happens in the movie, however, this movie is so much more than that. Okja is a masterpiece.

The movie starts with Lucy Mirando, the new CEO of Mirando corporation, telling the people about a new breed of pigs that are naturally bred. 26 piglets were then sent to different farmers around the world. There’s more though. It’s a competition, the best super pig will be awarded in New York 10 years into the future. Fast forward 10 years after, one of the piglets- Okja- is now huge super pig. We see the close bond between Okja and the girl who raised her, Mija. From all the scenes, it is obvious that they are best friends. However, Mija’s time with Okja is up. Okja is chosen as the best super pig, the winner of the competition, and will now be taken to New York. Of course, Mija will not let this happen. She follows Okja to Seoul and plans to take her back to the mountain. However, taking back Okja from a big company isn’t easy. Good for her, Animal Liberation Front helps her rescue Okja. Unfortunately, the ALF’s mission isn’t as straightforward as that. The ALF needed more from Okja to finally expose the animal abuse happening behind the environment-friendly mask of Lucy Mirando. The ALF’s mission is to install a hidden camera on Okja and send her back to Mirando Corporation.

First of all, this movie, unlike my first impression, is NOT a family movie. I don’t think kids can appreciate the message of this movie, furthermore, I don’t think that kids are ready for the truth and reality this movie aims to tell us. This movie is for those who wants to think and feel.

I believe that these movies are trying to deliver us these messages:

  1. It is shown here how easily we consumers can be lied to. We find out in this movie that Lucy Mirando was lying all along- the super pigs are not naturally bred but are synthesized in the lab. It is shown here that promotions can sound convincing and that these promotions can manipulate us into believing something else.
  2. It is also shown to us the reality behind food production.  Here, we see the reality we all wishes to ignore. It showed us what we do not want to see. Because maybe, if we don’t see it, we can imagine that they don’t happen. But they do. I have to admit that the scenes in the slaughterhouse is very hard to watch. It is very hard to accept that for us to have meat, the animals have to go through that. I really teared up on the last few minutes of the film.

Because of these messages, even when they’re hard to accept and uncomfortable to watch, I loved this movie. I admired this movie’s courage. It is, however, unclear to me what the film’s take on genetically modified organisms. Okja is a GMO and Lucy Mirando lies to the world to keep this truth a secret. She also says something like it’s not her fault the consumers are afraid of GMOs. I guess we can see here the good and the bad about GMO. GMOs, on the right hands, have great potential.

On a lighter note, I really loved that Steven Yeun and Devon Bostick are here. Steven’s character as Glenn in The Walking Dead and Devon’s character as Jasper in The 100 are very complex characters. Their characters here are complex as well and they portrayed them well. That’s another strength this movie has- the complexity of the characters including the villains. I mean, Lucy Mirando, is not evil. She has good intentions for the world but not so good means of achieving it. The characters in this movie has depth, they are coming from something.

Overall, I really liked this movie and highly recommend it to adults. I really hope that this movie can be as meaningful to you as it is for me.

Trailer:

Villa Escudero Plantations and Resort

Villa Escudero is not your typical resort. It is a working coconut plantation which was opened in 1981 to the public as a tourist attraction offering a glimpse of the Philippine country and plantation life. You get to experience and relive the Philippine country culture and history within a day in Villa Escudero.

It is located at Km 91, Maharlika Highway, Tiaong, Quezon, Philippines. It is actually in the border between San Pablo, Laguna and Tiaong, Quezon. Hacienda Escudero is easy to find when you’re in the highway since there is a big sign. After entering, the guard will give you directions where to go for the resort.

Day Tour Package (Adult)

The cost of the day tour package is not a fixed amount. It will depend on what time of the year you plan to visit and on what specific day. Prices range from 950 pesos to 1600 pesos. It costs 950 pesos from Monday to Thursday of non-peak season(September to November). From Friday to Sunday and holidays of non-peak season, day tour package will cost 1,150.During the peak season (December-August), the lowest price for the day tour package will already cost 1,450 pesos so I think it’s best to visit Villa Escudero during the non-peak season.

For the full list of prices and/or booking of day tour package, visit their website.

Arrival

Upon arriving, we were greeted by staff wearing traditional Filipino attires. Women are wearing baro’t saya while men are wearing camisa de Chino. At the reception, they will give you your tickets. They will also offer gulaman, a cold beverage loved by us Filipinos.

Museum and Carabao Cart Ride

From the reception area, we walked towards the museum. We also stopped by the ancestral house and took a few pictures. There is an area where you can leave your things because it is not allowed inside the museum.

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The museum isn’t what I expected it would be.. I read somewhere that the items featured in the museum is from the family’s private collection. For a private collection, they have a lot. Their collection is varied from church artifacts to ancient jars. There is also a display of an excavation site. It was really nice to look around the museum, make sure to read the descriptions. Also, photography is strictly prohibited inside the museum.

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After we went to the museum, we rode the carabao cart towards the area near the pool. In the carabao cart, you will be serenaded with old songs. It felt like I was transported to the past when these songs were still regularly played.

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Swimming Pools and Outdoor Jacuzzi

When I saw the pool area, I was really really amazed. Everything was just so beautiful.

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There is a playground on the kiddie pool so the children can enjoy the water and play at the same time.

There are two lifeguards that ensure the safety of everyone in the pool. There are also lounge chairs on the shallow part of the water. So cool! You can enjoy the heat of the sun and relax while still feeling the cool water under you.

IMG_2463IMG_2468Aside from the pools above, there is another pool, however, it is only for 18 years old and above. The water here is in 5ft and is quite deep. There is also an outdoor jacuzzi here, how cool! There are no lifeguards here so the age limit is understandable.

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Bamboo Rafting

Another activity you can enjoy in Villa Escudero is the bamboo rafting. The maximum capacity of the bamboo raft is 2 so you can enjoy rafting alone or you can have someone else to help you paddle. It’s my first time to touch a paddle my entire life so I had difficulty paddling. It’s heavier than I thought. In spite of this, I really enjoyed this. Labasin Lake is so peaceful and calm, I was really able to relax while bamboo rafting.

The water is up to 30 ft so life vests are really necessary. I was not scared though because the staff are really attentive.

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Waterfall Restaurant

I believe that this is the main reason people come here in Villa Escudero. My mother actually found out about Villa Escudero through an article about this waterfall restaurant. It is really quite unique- a restaurant on a waterfalls. From your table, you can see the Labasin Falls and feel its water on your feet.

The buffet restaurant is already part of the day tour package and you only need to give them your ticket. They offer Filipino foods like inihaw na Tilapia, kalderetang baka, sinigang and more.

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Cultural Show

During the weekends and holidays,  Villa Escudero offers a cultural show showing the folk dances in different parts of the Philippine like Tinikling, Singkil, Pandanggo sa Ilaw and many more. The dancers are really good and they have reenacted the old times well. While dancers dance on stage, traditional musical instruments and guitars are also played. Someone is also narrating a description of every dance so we’ve learn a thing or two about the history from the cultural show.

The show is held in a dining hall so you can order drinks and snacks while watching. My family tried pancit canton, chicken skin and fries. The servings are large so each meal is worth it.

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Overall, I really enjoyed our day visit and the money we spent are so worth it.

 

 

Singapore Trip: The City Tour

My family and I were able to wander around the city through a guided half-day City Experience Tour offered by AsiaTravel. You can choose between a morning city tour or an afternoon city tour. The city tour will last for 3 and 1/2 hours.

We were picked up by a driver from a hotel to a drop-off area where we transfer to a tour bus. Inside the tour bus, eating and drinking (aside from water) is strictly prohibited so it would be best to eat before the tour.

Along the way, our tour guide gives us a brief history of Singapore and stories about the every day life in Singapore. This, for me, is one of the advantages of having a guided tour- you get to hear stories about the place you visit. As we pass by buildings, our tour guide is telling us histories of some building and what these buildings meant for the locals. I believe that stories are what makes a place interesting.

Our tour guide described Singapore as a multi-cultural and multi-racial nation. As we go on the tour, I realized how true it was. Singapore is indeed home to diverse people and culture. It fascinates me how everyone can live together. Singapore is proof that a place can be home to people even when there’s diversity.

Another thing that really fascinates me is how environment-friendly the country is. There are really trees and plants everywhere- even on the buildings themselves! Some buildings are vertical gardens.

Our first stop is Merlion Park. Merlion Park is the iconic tourist attraction in Singapore. The Merlion is a statute of a mythical creature with the head of lion and a body of a fish spouting water from its mouth. Our tour guide joked that a photograph of you with the Merlion is all the proof you need that you’ve been to Singapore.

When we arrived in the park, there were already a lot of tourists that it is difficult to take a picture. However, if you are patient, you can get just the right shot for you. I actually regret that I spent all my time there taking a picture instead of just appreciating the view. The view from the Merlion Park is actually fascinating. You can see the Marina Bay Sands from there. Marina Bay Sands is a five-star hotel that looks like a ship on top of three buildings. The Singapore Flyer, a giant ferris wheel, is another attraction that you can see from Merlion Park.

After taking pictures with the iconic Merlion, we had a short river cruise. We rode bumboats from Merlion Park, went around Marina Bay a bit and the cruise ended in Clarke Quay. These bumboats and the Singapore River are actually very important in the history of Singapore for these are the means of trade way back. We were also told that Clarke Quay used to be warehouses back then. Nowadays, Clarke Quay is a place of restaurants and bars. We were able to pass by other important historical buildings and statues on our short river cruise. What these buildings are and their history was explained through a video presentation on the river cruise.

From Clarke Quay, we went to China Town. We stopped by a souvenir store called Gracious. Different souvenir items are available here like keychains, magnets, caps, shirts and more. Three shirts here costs 10 Singapore Dollars. My mother bought shirts here which we regretted because there are still lots of stalls in China Town with cheaper price. Aside from the temple we saw in China Town, all we saw are some stalls and men playing a board game that I did not recognize. That is why I think that China Town is more on for commercial purposes.

After China Town, we went to Little India. China Town and Little India are very different. In Little India, I actually caught a glimpse of Indian Culture. I can hear Indian music as I walked down the streets. There are lots of decoration and the place actually smells like their spices. Because we were already tired from the tour, my family and I didn’t get to look around much. We just stayed in one of the eateries there and tried Indian cuisine. Surprisingly, we loved it and ordered a lot.

After Little India, we were drove back to our hotel. Even if it’s just short, I actually enjoyed our city tour a lot. I think this tour is nice for people like us- first timers in Singapore.

Productivity Tip: Take A Break

Fighting all the distractions around is and being productive is a struggle for all of us. I have looked for several ways to be productive, tried many life hacks and I finally found the productivity method that works best for me- the pomodoro technique.

The Pomodoro Technique

The pomodoro technique is a very simple technique. All you’re ever going to need is a timer. Any timer will do whether it is a kitchen timer or the timers on your phone. There are also several apps out there that also uses the pomodoro technique. Using the apps may be more convenient for you.

What you”re going to do is to assign a specific time for work and after that take breaks. Instead of doing tasks for long hours, cut it short and squeeze in breaks in between. Set the timer for 25 minutes. This is the time where you do your work. Here, you only pick as specific task. During the 25 minutes, you work on this task alone and nothing else. When the 25 minutes is over, take a break of at least 5 minutes. After the 5 minutes, work again. Basically, the pomodoro technique will have this cycles of work and break. After several cycles of work and break, give yourself a longer break like 15-30 minutes.I think that 25 minutes is the standard duration of a “work time” and 5 minutes for “break time”, however, you can adjust this times in your personal preference.

Why does it work me?

The main reason why pomodoro is perfect for me is I take a break anyways. I always have the tendency to check my phone, check my social media accounts, play a game in the middle of a task no matter how important it is. With the setup of pomodoro, I have allotted a time for all those distractions. Without pomodoro, there was times when I was on facebook for almost an hour. I was not able to control myself and did not go back to a task right away. With pomodoro, I can keep track of my time in the internet. So far, it really works for me. I only use my phone and do some other stuff in my designated break time. Now, when it’s work time, it’s just work time. Also, long break times is the only time that I allow myself to watch something on netflix or read a chapter of a book. With this setup, I don’t get tempted to just leave my task behind and do something else because I know that there is a time for that something else. Because of pomodoro, I get more work done.

Another reason is it refreshes my mind. Before I encountered pomodoro, I studied for long hours. After a couple of hours, I’m already exhausted and I feel like I can no longer concentrate and I can no longer retain new information. I realized that I did not really remember everything I’ve learned. I felt like my brain is already saturated. When I use the pomodoro technique, I feel like my brain has a reset button whenever I take a break. After a break, even its a short one, I feel like I’m renewed and ready for more. With this,  I can actually study longer and get more things done.

In conclusion, I can say that pomodoro actually changed my life. It helped me manage my time better and develop focus. It also enlightened me on what productivity really means. I used to think that if I spend hours in doing tasks, I was productive. Now I know that productivity is not about quantity but quality.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

You have been in every way all that anyone could be.… If anybody could have saved me it would have been you.

All the Bright Places is about two broken teenagers- Violet and Finch- who met in one of the most unusual ways- at the top of the bell tower where Finch had to talk Violet off a ledge and save her. From then, Violet becomes Finch’s reason to stay Awake and not fall into the Asleep, a metaphor for his depressive episodes. Finch also helps Violet come to terms with her sister’s death. This book is about two people who wants and needs to be saved.

In many ways, I see this book as similar in other young adult contemporary books that I have read- two broken teenagers, adventure and a rollercoaster of emotion. Violet is a girl who belongs to the “popular” crowd but doesn’t really feel like herself around her peers. This kind of girl is actually repetitive for several young adult books. On the other hand, Finch is an “outsider” who doesn’t feel like he belong with anybody at all. Again, a typical boy in a young adult book. Violet and Finch also gets to go on an adventure for a school project. Another typical element. What’s different here is how mental disorders are depicted. What I find different here is how mental disorders are depicted. I don’t think I’ve ever understand mental health the way I did in this book. Another thing that’s different for me is that I desperately longed for a happy ending. In these kinds of books, I accept that the story may end tragically from the beginning or middle of book to save myself from more pain. In this book, I couldn’t do it. I let myself believe that this story may have a  happy ending after all.

In this end, this book left me heartbroken. It is a good read for it opens your eyes of the reality of some other peoples’ lives. Yes, Finch is a fictional character but there is someone out there who might be fighting to stay Awake just as Finch does. Maybe there is someone out there who is desperately searching for something to live for. Maybe that’s why the story ended the way it did. It’s not telling us that there’s nothing to be done. It’s telling us that we need to act for something to be done. It makes us think about all the ways things could have turn out differently. So maybe, in our real lives, we can be more attentive. We can seek more help. We can try harder not to give up on other people. Some say that this book does not focus on hope. And yes, I do agree. This book focuses on regrets. And for some, this is  a better fuel to act.

Korean Drama Review: Goblin

Kim Shin (played by Gong Yoo), gifted with immortality as both a reward and punishment, has lived for more than 900 years as a Goblin. He may only die and be at peace in the hands of his fated bride- the only one capable of pulling out the sword that killed him a long time ago. After 900 years of searching for her, he finally found her.

I fell in love with this drama. However, it’s actually not the main plot that made me love Goblin. For me, the main plot is typical- an immortal being waiting for the one fated for him. What made me love the drama are the little moments. I really liked the bromance between the Goblin and Grim Reaper. It was their moments I looked forward to rather than the relationship of the main leads. I actually liked the character of Deok Hwa very much that I cannot imagine the drama without him.

This drama is a combination of funny, intense and heartbreaking. The start of the drama was actually very funny though it’s mixed with intense moments. I actually considered this as a feel-good drama at the beginning. The latter parts are, however, very intense and heartbreaking. I actually wept a few times while watching this drama.

Another thing I loved about this drama is the acting. I actually noticed Gong Yoo’s superb acting in Coffee Prince and Train to Busan before watching this drama. His eyes can tell a thousand stories which made me fully immersed in the drama. I liked Gong Yoo from Episode 1 until the end. It was actually different from Kim Go-Eun as Ji Eun Tak, the Goblin’s bride. I actually didn’t appreciate her much from the start but I was deeply moved by her at the end. I cried with her so much as she cried on that rooftop. I think it’s quite impossible not to be affected with her crying in the last few episodes. Lee Dong Wook as the Grim Reaper was exceptional as well. He was just so perfect for the role. I’ve read somewhere that he had to really work hard because he really wanted the role. We are very fortunate that he was able to get it because he really did a great job. Because of this three people, this drama was unforgettable for me.

Overall, this drama is one of the best there is. It left me deeply heartbroken. I felt really empty inside after watching this drama because I can’t let go of the characters. Even with my heavy heart after it ended, every minute watching it was worth it. I really recommend this to everyone.