Shine or Go Crazy 빛나거나 미치거나(2015) Quarter Review: Okay you charmed me!

Shine or Go Crazy 빛나거나 미치거나(2015) Quarter Review: Okay you charmed me!

#JangHyuk #OhYeonSeo #LeeHaNui #LimJuHwan #LeeDeokHwa #Kdrama #빛나거나_미치거나 #ShineOrGoCrazy

Hello. This is Prof. Akia with my “Quarter Quell” review of “Shine or Go Crazy빛나거나 미치거나(2015).

Okay, that is bad “Hunger Games 2” Joke.

At first, I was not particularly interested in “Shine or Go Crazy” (2015) because most of the recent period Korean dramas whether it be historical based or totally fictional were too convoluted in plot and too self-indulgent in many areas.

If you are not going to pay attention to world building and exposition, just make the story clean and simple. Not all needs to be twisted webs of intrigue and gibberish.

Thus, I just gave the first episode a quick run through and I was not impressed. It felt not self-indulgent but oddly goofy and cheap like some 90s syndicated shows such as “Xena”. So, I thought I would pass.

However, I was forgetting something important!
“Xena” was pretty good TV show.

I was just not in the right mindset partially because of “Jang Hyuk”. But I will get back to that a bit later.

Now to the plot. This is only up to episode 6.

The plot
What is great about  “Shine or Go Crazy” (2015) is that the story is nothing special and the show knows it. Thus, it does not try to shove a bunch of stuff down our throats.

The setting is a long time ago in the far far land of Goryeo. You have a cursed prince, Wang So, played by “Jang Hyuk”. Because of events not under his control, he is sent away into the wilderness for years during his childhood.

When he comes of age, the king calls him back but the king ends up getting poisoned by assassins who came from the near empire of China. While Wang So has a lot of issues with his father on how he was treated, he gets on the tail of the surviving assassin and ends up in China.

Going right to the point, the assassins were sent by some Goryeo Nobles who wanted to take control of the country. It is a tale old as time.

Tale as old as time
True as it can be
One day friends
Then those friends ties to kill you

So, Wang So starts from a nobody prince and goes on his hero’s journey.

Simple and straight forward.  

Since this is a Korean drama you need some melodrama. Thus, Shin Yool comes in as the love interest who is originally from Goryeo and runs a trading company in China. For some contrived reason, she ends up coercing Wang So into fake marrying her and also acquires a huge secret crush on him. They go their ways right after.

However, there is a saying that “Heroes are womanizers”. There cannot be just one!

There is also Hwangbo Yeo Won who is one of those nobles who scheme for the throne. Because of political shenanigans, she ends up actually marrying  Wang So. However, in practice, it is a marriage in name only since Wang So is doing a Zorro!

Zorro! What a classic tale!
For those who do not know about “Zorro”, it is basically a noble guy who is doing a hybrid of Robin Hood and Batman. Thus, Wang So acts as a playboy philanderer but is actually heading up a small group to find out who killed his father and protect the current king from the ambitions of the likes of his wife.

As shown by the many reincarnations of classic stories, there are a lot of pros to using a classic tale as the basis for a show even for those who do not use the exact copyrighted branding. And “Zorro” is a pretty classic tale.

It has action.
It has love.
It has interesting political aspects while not being totally about them
There is the secret identity stuff.

As I said before, “Shine or Go Crazy” (2015) is a rather very classic story which makes it versatile as a show. Rather than getting bogged down with convoluted mysteries, it puts more emphasis on the characters while keeping things concise which is rather rare in recent Korean dramas. This is possible because the plot is based on classic tales.

Compared to most Korean dramas, I actually find most of the main players interesting. Wang So with his goofy and laid back attitude meant to mislead his enemies is on an interesting hero’s Journey. Shin Yool is a female character who is able to live in a men’s world and flourish without becoming hard. It is interesting that she basically represents the modern meritocracy capitalism. Thus,  “Shine or Go Crazy” (2015) is a rare pro- capitalism themed Korean drama. Korean dramas tend to be more pro-socialism than the opposite.  

The opposite end is the villain in the “love-ish” triangle, Hwangbo Yeo Won. She more or less represents the feudal order. As a villain, she is a very smart cookie and I like that about her. It is great that all of the main female characters are very smart and competent.

Also a rare thing for Korean dramas.
Well one of the supporting female characters is an idiot though.

I say “love-ish” triangle because Hwangbo Yeo Won is not actually in love with her husband Wang So. It would be interesting to see if she would end up having feeling for him or not. It is not totally required for the plot of the show but, if she had to deal with the emotional conflict between ambition and affection, her character would be richer. I am not sure if the show would actually go in this direction considering the further developments hinted by episode 6.

“Jang Hyuk”… Going full goofy?
Jang Hyuk as an actor who has been around for a long time . His first Korean drama was in 1997. Since then he has been in shows as the lead consistently. If you see his roles over the years, Jang Hyuk basically has two character roles. One is the internally pent up character with a crazy hothead streak and a slight goofy aspect him. The other is a more goofy character would jagged edges.

All of his roles are a mixture of both characters. The problem with Jang Hyuk is that sometimes the mixture is not well balanced and he ends up hamming it up too much. Well mostly in the area of goofy. This is especially more so if the audience is not given some time to acclimate to it.

He has a very strong taste to his performance that you cannot just take a bite out without proper mental preparation.
This is what happened to me with the first episode of  “Shine or Go Crazy” (2015). He was going too over the top and I had a bad reaction to his performance since the last time I cared for one of his shows was “Midas” (2011). I liked that show but he also had some balance issues with his character there too.

However, he seems to have found the right balance after the first episode which it impressive. In this show, the going for 60% goofy seems just right.

Future plot development
In many ways, I think episode 6 took a bad turn. The first thing is that  Wang So’s identity has been revealed to his enemy faster than it should have had. I expected that the show would go there after 12 episodes or so.

This creates a lot of issues including the fact that  Wang So looks more incompetent than he should be as he is bumbling around with  Shin Yool. His actions are only really wise when his enemies have no idea of what he is doing. If you rush into that direction without going for more of a slow build up on his part, the only logical story progression is to give Wang So a massive setback that he needs to crawl back from.

I do not think I would want that.
It would ruin the balance his character has achieved.  

The second issue is that this most likely crosses off the possibility of Hwangbo Yeo Won developing feeling for Wang So. This scenario would only be possible when she slowly discovers there is more to him than a playboy. Since she essentially suspects he is not already, that goes out of the window.

The other issue with the way the plot is developing is that the second male lead is ending up having not much personality and all his motivations are derived from petty emotions surrounding a woman he has not even revealed his feelings for and met a week ago. Compared to his sister, Hwangbo Yeo Won, he is just a dweeb! A dweeb I say.  

Okay not a dweeb according to According to its definition, a dweeb is “a person who behaves awkwardly around other people and usually has unstylish hair, clothes, etc.”

But you get what you mean. Since I have been away from America, I think my size of my vocabulary that I have easy access to is shrinking. Also I find myself getting more attracted to Korean female types more than when I was not here.

In any case, at least, have ambition like your sister, you second lead!

Minor stuff
Leaving aside the whole fake marriage thing that has been done in romcoms for ever, what is with Shin Yool falling for Wang So that fast?

At least be more subtle!

But there are more minor issues with this show. I assumed that an extremely feminine female in male clothes made everyone see her as a male in this show. However, episode 6 shows that it is only Wang So who does not recognize her as a female. I get if he did not recognize her as his fake wife since he only saw for one day 5 years ago. However, she is obviously a female.

There is a need to come to the conclusion whether the character skews more into the idiot direction or not.

Also, does Oh Yeon-Seo look like some other Korean actress a lot? I cannot put my finger on it. She seems to have been in a lot of shows but I cannot remember any of her roles. I just have the feeling that she looks very similar to someone my gut says is not her.


The conclusion
Shine or Go Crazy 빛나거나 미치거나(2015) is a charming show that won me over to a degree. It is lean and simply. It has some very talented actors who have interesting chemistry together.

Is it odd that I like the male and female leads as male BFFs than as man and woman lovers?

At the moment, I am not sure if the show will reach its potential. Most shows do not! However, it has enough qualities that I think it would at least stay interesting if it falls short of its potential. “Arang and the Magistrate” (2012) is a good example of this. It never reached its potential but I was not totally bored by it even when it jumped the shark hard.

At this point, I will give it a hard B+ with an expectation for it to get an A- at the end of its run.

Score: B+ or 7.5/10

Thank you for reading this article!

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Kill me, Heal me(2015) Mid-Run Review [link]

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