What’s Playing: Meteor Garden

Viewed: 2018. 09/30-10/20

Netflix episode list and trailer available here.

This post is in no way sponsored or endorsed by Netflix.

Sorry everybody, I meant to get this posted on Friday and it’s a couple of days late, for anyone eagerly awaiting my next foray into Chinese romantic dramas, here you go…

Meteor Garden was far from a disappointment. This series was originally a manga, although unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate it in print yet.

Dong Shancai (Yue Shen) may come from humble origins but when she lands entrance into one of the best schools of the country, it opens up a whole new world for her. Dong Shancai is accompanied by best friend, Chen Qinghe (Yinhao Liu), who would follow her anywhere. At school, the most popular group of boys, F4, are known for being masters of bridge (sometimes called poker in the series) and for punishing any students who lose bets against them.

There is Feng Meizuo (Connor Leong), the perpetual lover, never settling on a single girlfriend for long; Ximen Yan (Xize Wu), the tea-drinking enthusiast who strategizes romance like a general; Huaze Lei (Darren Chen), the quiet, artistic one; and Daoming Si (Dylan Wang), the defacto leader of the group and the meanest of the bunch.

When Dong Shancai offends Daoming Si, it begins a tumultuous love-hate relationship that spans the series (with multiple romantic triangles) as she pursues love and culinary excellence in her chosen field of study. I love cooking competition shows anyway so seeing a romantic drama with one built in was really quite a treat for me, although it’s far from the focus of the series, most of which revolves around life at school, and the attempts at relationships of the members of F4, with various romantic partners.

If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, I do recommend that you check it out. If you do, or if you’ve already seen it, please leave a comment below and let me know what you think. Got any other recommendations similar to this series? Don’t be shy — let me know! I’m always looking for the next bingeworthy series on Netflix. Have a terrific day and remember to keep reaching higher.

What’s Playing: Good Morning Call

Viewed: 2018. 07/15-07/23

Netflix episode list and trailer available here.

This post is in no way sponsored or endorsed by Netflix.

About a year after watching Diamond Lover, I accidentally stumbled onto Good Morning Call, the story of two high school students, forced by circumstance to live together, with just one catch, nobody can ever find out.

Nao Yoshikawa (Haruka Fukuhara) and Hisashi Uehara (Shunya Shirashi) are students at the same high school, but where Nao is a lowly freshman, Uehara is the most popular boy at school. After they are conned into renting the same apartment, Nao and Uehara begin to live together, but the animosity between them makes it extremely rocky ground for love to bloom. Uehara is bossy and picks on Nao, when he isn’t ignoring her entirely, and eats her food. Nao watches with interest as all of the girls chase Uehara, and gets somewhat of a thrill knowing that she sees a side of him that nobody else does, leaving her to wonder, what makes him so special?

As Nao begins to cultivate feelings for Uehara, Uehara’s childhood crush, Yuri, comes back into the picture, and Nao’s best friend, Marina, learns Nao and Uehara’s secret. There’s a lot of comedy in this one, with fan girls fawning all over Uehara, one of the schools top three most popular boys, as well as a classmate, who goes around confessing his love to every girl he meets. Intended for a younger audience, this is a charming, lighthearted romantic comedy that hits the right notes, based on a manga series of the same name.

I’ve been reading manga for a number of years but I haven’t found the books for this series (yet). I think that taking a chance and watching this series is what really opened up a whole new world of delight in the Asian romantic comedy, be it Chinese, Korean, Japanese, etc. I can’t tell you how much of this stuff is available on Netflix and once the floodgates opened, I found a lovely new genre that I’d never even heard of before.

Keep watching this space on Fridays, now for the next few months, as I share some of my other favorite finds that I’ve been binge-watching on Netflix. If this post inspires you to see the series for the first time, or if you’re a veteran viewer of Good Morning Call, please consider commenting and letting me know what you liked or didn’t like about the series. I look forward to hearing from you.

What’s Playing: Diamond Lover

Viewed: 2017. 07/11-07/16

Netflix episode list available here.

This post is in no way sponsored or endorsed by Netflix.

There was about an eighteen-month-gap between my first venture into Asian dramas, Atelier, and my second, Diamond Lover. This is not to say I didn’t find anything binge-worthy on Netflix, only that Atelier didn’t initially whet my appetite for more Chinese dramas. Instead, I went back to my old standbys, a mix of science-fiction, fantasy, historical romances and cooking competition shows, until somehow, luckily, I stumbled onto Diamond Lover, and found a worthy follow-up.

Diamond Lover begins with the comedic premise of an obese girl, Mi Duo (Tiffany Tang) who has a crush on Xiao Liang (Rain), the CEO of a diamond company. After a freak accident results in making her thin and beautiful, she adopts a new identity and goes to work for her crush. Xiao fails to recognize that the new beauty working at his company was once the shy, large girl he ignored. With a faithful friend in the wings who loves her as she is, and jealous office colleagues who would love to discover Mi’s secret, will Mi find love or will the truth, if discovered, repulse Xiao?

The synopsis is a bit more complicated than that but hopefully this overview gives you an idea of the fun, transformational premise of this Chinese romantic comedy featuring musical artist, Rain, in his film debut (he also sings the title number). Like most of these stories, there are love triangles for both protagonist and her romantic lead, and complications as they each strive for happiness, inevitably clashing along the way.

Luo Jin and Dilraba Dilmurat star as the contagonist leads, each trying to win the heart of Mi and Xiao (respectively). Not dissimilar from Atelier, this drama is set in the workplace and features a woman striving for acceptance and excellence in the diamond industry and happiness with a romantic partner.

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve seen this series, but I recall enjoying it and recommend you check it out if you enjoy the genre. Fun fact: Rain spoke in Korean for the role and was dubbed over in Mandarin. The jewelry is also a lot of fun to look at, but it’s far from the only eye candy in the series.

If this post inspires you to see the series for the first time, or if you’re a veteran viewer of Diamond Lover, please consider commenting and letting me know what you liked or didn’t like about the series. I look forward to hearing from you. Over the next few months, expect to see more updates of other Chinese, Korean and Japanese dramas and romantic comedies that I’ve enjoyed over the years, available on Netflix.

What’s Playing: Atelier

Viewed: 2016. 01/24-02/09

Netflix episode list and trailer available here.*

This post is in no way sponsored or endorsed by Netflix.

Atelier was my introduction to the world of Asian dramas available on YouTube. And there are so, so, many to choose from. Atelier, which is also branded as Underwear in some regions, is the story of Tokita Mayuko** (Mirei Kiritani), a young woman starting out in the couture lingerie fashion industry, and what sets her apart from other startup designers, is her obsession with fabrics. She’s a total nerd, seriously. It kind of makes her adorable.

Emotion, the company she goes to work for, is renowned for its excellence in lingerie, but its owner, President Nanjo Mayumi (Mao Daichi) is both a demanding employer and harbors ambitions and secrets far beyond the experience of little Mayuko, who must learn, in this coming-of-age Netflix Original miniseries, how to grow into the artist she longs to become, and navigate the treacherous world of the fashion industry.

This is the first extended TV series that I can recall ever watching in a foreign language and I admit, there is a learning curve. Unlike other binge-worthy shows on Netflix, dramas in a foreign language (thankfully, with English subtitles, or I’d be hopelessly lost!) do not allow you to follow the story in the background while you’re doing other things. If you don’t know the native language, you have to be paying attention to the subtitles. So yes, there is a lot of reading involved. Once I was able to transition past that, the subtitles fades into the background in the same way that a translator disappears, and you’re just speaking face-to-face with that other person, and focusing on their message, their story.

Albeit with some racy imagery (it is called Underwear for a reason!), you are left with an engrossing story that is universal in its application, if exotic (to Westerners like me), in its setting. And that is probably where I got hooked. The story is for mature audiences (in my opinion, probably teenagers or up), but if you are a fan of fashion workplace dramas like The Devil Wears Prada, you will probably enjoy giving this a try.

If this post inspires you to see the series for the first time, or if you’re a veteran viewer of Atelier, please consider commenting and letting me know what you liked or didn’t like about the series. I look forward to hearing from you.

Over the next few months, expect to see more updates of other Chinese, Korean and Japanese dramas and romantic comedies that I’ve enjoyed over the years, available on Netflix.

Author’s note:

  • The trailer is in the original language, without English subtitles, so try to focus on the story, not getting lost by the language (unless you can speak it of course).

** IMDB.com seems to list actor names in Western (first, last) style, and character names in Chinese format (last, first). Here, I’ve tried to include them all in Western style, (for the ease of my readers) and hopefully gotten the names down in the right order. Since I just starting out, if I’ve gotten the names backwards somehow, please let me know so I can edit this post and make corrections, thank you!

Reimagining the Ignatian Examen by Mark E. Thibodeaux

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The Specs:
Title: Reimagining the Ignatian Examen: Fresh Ways to Pray from Your Day
Author: Mark E. Thibodeaux, SJ
Published: 2014 by Loyola Press
Length: 123 pages
Amazon Categories: Meditations
Source: Overdrive (free); Kindle price: $8.79


 Every time I talk about Mark Thibodeaux’s book, I always get the title wrong but when I explain, I think you’ll understand why. While it’s true that the author reimagines the original examen of St. Ignatius of Loyola in a fresh way, after immersing in this book and its devotional exercises for prayer and meditation, I think you will find that it reignites your faith and prayer life. So, I wish on some level that the title was Reigniting the Ignatian Examen, because I think that the contents of this simple prayer has the potential to stir those coals in our hearts and reawaken the embers of our prayer lives. It certainly is rekindling mine.

The book isn’t terribly long for the price and that may be my biggest negative critique. I like a chunky book when I’m paying more than $2.99 for an ebook. But where Thibodeaux could have tripled the length of the book and bogged it down in unnecessarily long treatises on prayer and meditation, or on the background of St. Ignatius and the original examen, he chose to take a different approach.

The first few chapters talk about how he approaches the examen and on creating your own opening and closing ritual. The remainder of the book is thirty-four days of meditations/prayer with different subjects, building upon what you’ve previously gone over. Ideally, one for every day of the month, and a few extras in case one or two just didn’t click for you.

There is also an appendix where Thibodeaux talks about some of the terms he uses (like praydreaming and prayimagining), which helped me immensely as I began my own journey through the examen. For the sake of full disclosure, I am still working my way through the book and God willing, will continue to be doing the meditations for some time to come. Since the majority of the book is just the individual guided prayers/reflections, you’re better off reading them at the pace prescribed, rather than treating the book as something to be rushed through and checked off a list.

The author recommends beginning once a day and advancing to twice a day (at lunch, and at dinner) and when you reflect upon your day, you can reflect upon how your morning went, and how you expect the afternoon to go, and then at the evening examen, review how it actually went, and how you expect tomorrow morning to go. This idea of a daily review, or even a twice-daily review, can really be an excellent way of keeping God at the center of our focus.

The examen will prompt questions such as…

Are we really living each moment to please God? Where are we acting in the faith, hope and charity that all Christians should be? In what areas are we floundering? What can we learn about our mistakes and resolve to do differently the next time? What do we think that God is trying to tell us about this area in our lives (or the areas we are guided to by the reflections)?

If this sounds like something that you’d be interested in exploring, please check out Mark E. Thibodeaux’s book, and leave a comment below and let me know what you think.