Saturday, February 3, 2024

Three Chinese Short Drama Apps to Download to Kill Time

 Hello readers,

I'm feeling a bit under the weather today with a sore throat and a headache, but I can't help not trying to blog some more today because inspiration is constantly coming to me. I know that I have a lot of topics that I did not write about on Wehaiyo! yet, but I will take it easy at least for this week.

I want to talk about some guilty pleasures today, which is Chinese 狗血 (gou3 xie3) or Dog Blood dramas, which means, according to yabla.com, melodramatic and contrived. I couldn't think of any term in Cantonese for melodramatic dramas that are over the top, but then whenever I watched Hong Kong television dramas or movies when I was young, the plot tended to be over the top anyway so that is probably just a normal story line for everybody. This was an idea of mine to one day post about my absolute pet peeves in Asian dramas.

As per Chinlingo.com, Dog Blood dramas originated from the Peking Opera who would use the dog blood to expel evil spirits. Or I have seen in Quora that somebody answered that the actors actually used dog blood at the Peking Opera as fake blood to do drama scenes on stage. Either way, I think of melodramas as dramas that have ridiculous and unrealistic plot lines.

The first term that comes to me is the Korean term, 막장 (makjang), for dramas with outrageous plot lines. When I first started watching Korean dramas, I thought the plot lines were kind of unbelievable and could not understand why almost every character is shouting as they speak. Korean male characters tend to throw anything in front of them or slam their fist into a wall in a fit of anger. Maybe, the first thing they want to do is punch someone and ask questions later. Either way, this is the type of drama I am talking about.

I can easily find Dog Blood dramas on Youtube. It was over the summer when I easily spent around two hours to watch a plot from beginning to end. Almost every scene had a character being slapped in the face either by a love rival or a parent. People who were not rich enough were constantly being berated and money is power. This type of  狗眼看人低  (gou3yan3 kan2 ren2 di1 in Mandarin / gau2 ngaan5 hon3 jan4 dai1 in Cantonese or Dog Eyes Look Down on People), the way people look down on other people, makes me want to slap them all in real life as well. 我睇唔顺眼啊 (In Jyutping: ngo5 tai2 m4 seon6 ngaan5 meaning "I can't stand it" or literally "what I see is not agreeable to my eyes").

There may or may not be subtitles in the videos, but I was still able to follow along with the basic knowledge of the language.

Being slapped is commonplace in a Chinese drama.

As a Chinese-American, I have never been slapped in real life by anyone. Also, I tend to stay away from trouble so unfortunately, there is really no rich CEO out there waiting to save me from evil rich families or people who want to climb up the social ladder. There is nobody out there claiming to be my long lost parent.

It wasn't long before I started seeing online advertisements to watch Chinese short dramas on applications.

I ended up downloading three English language apps where I can watch Chinese dramas (in Mandarin language):

SnackShort

Kalos TV

DramaBox

I am not including applications or streaming services that are well known to produce great Chinese dramas. This topic is more for the miscellaneous category where somehow these app companies are contracted to license these dramas onto the app.

These short drama apps are not for everybody because unless you are a paying client, free episodes are not free as it makes the user work to earn free episodes. There are a lot of traps in these apps so if you are not willing to put in the effort and not willing to pay money, this experience is not for you. 

Traps

Each episode operates on a coin system, much like reading webtoons or mangas or manhwas where each episode consumes some type of points or currency. 

Each app allows the user opportunities to watch advertisements for coins. However, there is a timer  time delay between each advertisement and I think it is a tactic to keep users on the app as long as possible. 

For each drama, the first few episodes are free to hook the user into the drama. Subsequent episodes of the drama will require coins to unlock per episode.

Each episode is less than two minutes long. Normally, each episode is longer than a minute. One minute does not move the plot along that much and can be a mood killer.

Paying for a subscription on the apps are usually very expensive.

Based on the above points, the apps are normally a time waster. I do not recommend the free plan for anybody who has no patience because unless the drama is really good, it is easy to give up on it due to all the blocking factors above.

Still, I keep them around because it's mobile and I can watch an episode whenever I want assuming that I have wi-fi and have a moment to spare and not really time to watch a 45 minute to an hour long episode of a drama.

The good thing is that an unlocked episode stays unlocked as long as the account is not deleted. I can re-watch the entire drama in full after unlocking all the episodes without interruption.

Keep in mind that the drama production is very simple with limited budget, the plot is limited, and the plot is often nonsensical. Sometimes rich people don't dress like rich people with extravagant clothes and in one case, I can see the actress wearing slippers underneath a party gown.

Also, I want to bring up the fact that the plot lines can trigger a lot of undesired themes such as rape, sexual assault, blood and violence, but nothing shown in a graphic way, . However, I can easily tell it is fake acting and not realistic. It is not uncommon that women are treated as objects in the story. If they are useful, they are loved, but once out of use, can be discarded like garbage.

Even watching advertisements has a limit each day. I think all this was designed to make the user come back every day to log in and use the application. There are coins that are received by logging in and consecutive logins usually will be rewarded more coins after the seventh day or on certain consecutive days.

Honestly, this business model is worse than watching cable TV or subscribing to a streaming service. At least, when watching cable TV or a streaming service, the user just need to wait to allow the advertisement to automatically come on, but in the app, the user must purposely click on the buttons to watch each ad that is minimum 30 seconds. Watching one ad is not enough to unlock an episode. It will take almost watching all advertisements to be able to watch an additional one to two episodes.

I would recommend to stay away from these apps as your main source of drama watching, but it is always good for an occasional view.

As a bonus, it is exciting to see some no-named actors and actresses be part of this low budget production, but then go on to act in bigger productions later on. I am also shocked to see various versions of the same storyline on Youtube, but with different actors and actresses. It is not uncommon for Chinese productions to recycle the same storyline. It could be that we are watching the same basic plot of revenge over and over again, but under slightly different circumstances.

Lastly, the apps are not really built for fast forwarding or rewind. The apps usually freeze when I try to go to an exact moment.

Which App is the Best?

After all the warnings above, I can tell some people might want to continue on and watch these dramas. 

I will list what I think about the apps that I mentioned from my favorite to my least favorite while not paying for a paid subscription, though I will mention the subscriptions for anybody interested in it.

Kalos TV

I see that Kalos TV is most active on the Tiktok social media platform. 

Their "Benefits" package has two paid plans (at the time this post was published):

Monthly package at $29.99 a month ($7.49 per week), providing 2100 coins and a bonus of 1350 coins, and extra 1800 coins per login per day, totaling up to 5250 coins in total. 

This plan is probably for the ultimate drama watcher, but I can't see how anybody would want to pay for this plan as there aren't that many dramas on the roster.

Weekly package at $14.99 per week, providing 1050 coins and a bonus of 630 coins, and an extra 60 coins per log in per day, totaling up to 2100 coins in total.

I am cheap so I do not have any subscribed plans. Subscribing to too many services will leave me broke so please don't forget to click on some Google Ads advertisements on this website so that I can earn some change.

Not only does this app have Chinese dramas, but they also have non-Chinese dramas as well. The acting also seems bad and low budget in non-Chinese dramas. 

There is a Highlights section to introduce users to other dramas.

I like how there is a "My List" section to show the dramas that I am currently watching so that my drama doesn't get lost in the drama list. It also shows percentages of how much of the drama I have completed so far. For the most part, there are English subtitles, but I don't like how they also translate the character's names to an English name as well, which is very unrealistic in China, at least. The character renaming is done in all the apps that I mention in this post.

Dramas that I have watched in completion so far:
Trio Tycoons Compete For My Heart- I had a bit of nonsensical fun with it and rising actress Zhang Ruo Nan is in it as the main female lead. Her latest drama to date on Viki is "My Boss". The male lead is also cute looking. Somehow, this rich lady in disguise has three brothers protecting her, but two of the brothers are blood-related so the title is misleading or did I miss something. I recommend watching this story instead of the same story on Youtube with different actors. I see at least two more of the same plot line on Youtube, but I won't bother watching it again for the same story line.

When Love Strikes Back - I wanted to believe in this couple, but the male lead is highly toxic, cruel, and it is very hard to root for him. I like the main actress though so I will look out for her other works on this app. 

Currently watching:

Little Cuties' CEO Daddy - This one seems refreshing with a couple who comes together on a contract marriage and they each have their own kid to create a complete family. 

When it comes to earning free coins, this app is the most easiest app. First, I recommend watching new episodes first. As long as those episode are not the last few episodes of the story, I am allowed to additionally watch one ad per episode without using coins, which is considered a really good deal compared to watching advertisements just to barely get coins. 

Unlocking each episode seems to require more and more coins as each episode progresses (45 coins for episode 28).

Afterwards, I recommend checking in on the app, which gives 10 coins, but the seventh consecutive day gives 50 coins. 

There is an option to "top up" to buy coins directly as an option, but I think it's very expensive.

After getting those ten episodes, I recommend going to the "Daily Watch Ads" section to watch ten ads with ten seconds of buffer between clicking to generate an ad. I would do this during times when you do not need your phone and let the advertisements run, so it is a multitasking job. This goes for the other apps I review as well.

I think each episode requires around ten coins.

If you happen to watch many episodes from other dramas, there are watching rewards as well at 6, 12, 20, and 30 episodes. I normally do not go past 12 episodes a day, but having an extra 25 coins because of it is not bad.

I can normally watch at least 12 episodes a day so that's maybe 15 minutes of drama watching on this app for free.

This seems to be the best deal out of all the apps that I mentioned.

Dramabox

For those looking for a subscription plan, Dramabox offers a yearly subscription for $199.99 (Wow! So expensive!) and a weekly subscription plan for $19.99 (still expensive). I definitely recommend the free plan and bare waiting each day to unlock free episodes. Rates are valid as of the time this article is published.

I just downloaded this app today so it could be too early for a review. They have a website, which I linked above in the title. They have the basic features that Kalos TV has including a browsing list.

This app is similar to Kalos TV in that it also has non-Chinese dramas on the watch list. However, I am interested in it for the Chinese dramas.

Unfortunately, compared with Kalos TV, I can only watch two episodes without coins by watching an advertisement compared to Kalos TV, which allows me to watch ten episodes with ads.

Their login rewards system is only three coins a day with five coins on the third consecutive login day, six coins on the sixth consecutive login day, and nine coins for the seventh consecutive login day.

Unlocking an episode seems to need around five coins to watch, but I am unsure if this amount would change as I progress.

In the "Earn rewards" section, there are 15 advertisements that I can watch, but there is about a two minute delay between each advertisement before I can click on the button again to launch another one. That is a time waster. Each advertisement only brings me one coin as a reward. 

The app also rewards users with the time spent watching at five (one coin reward), ten (two coins reward, and fifteen (four coins reward) minutes.

Starting one new drama allowed me to make it to episode 19 in one day. I am not sure how the math added up to allow me to watch so many episodes. This benefit could be comparable to Kalos TV.

I am currently watching the drama, "Facing Facades: Love Beyond the Deal." It surprises me about the amount of distrust people have over anything the main character leads say in the drama. Nobody, even themselves, believes that the other person is an influential person. There are English subtitles.

My list of dramas had pre-selected dramas already on the list, but I can easily remove the ones that I am not watching for a clearer picture of what I am currently watching.

Like Kalos TV, there is also a "Top up" option to buy more coins. Their most popular plan is 200 + 20 coins at $19.99. Again, I find this very expensive as this is more than a Viki subscription per month with way more benefits.

Snackshort

Snackshort has a Youtube channel, which I linked in their title.

They have a paid VIP Express monthly subscription of $39.99 to watch all shows without interruptions. That would make most people go bankrupt. Rates are valid as of the time this article is published.

This app is a little different than Kalos TV or Dramabox in that there is no personal list that I can make of the dramas that I am currently watching. This is inconvenient to constantly search for the drama that I was watching the previous day. 

Unlike Kalos TV or Dramabox, Snackshort does not give any free episodes in exchange for watching an advertisement without coins. One episode a day is much to painful for me and I can't really recommend this app on top of the list. Snackshort calls their coin system Popcoins.

An Episode that I want to watch at episode 16 costs 80 Popcoins to unlock.

I am currently watching "Beg for Mercy My Ex-Husband" at a painful slow rate. There are English subtitles.

They have the usual login reward system to give ten coins a day except at day three and day seven with twenty coins as a reward. 

They allow the user to watching up to five advertisements a day for 10 Popcoins as a reward, totaling up to 50 pop coins a day. There is a two minute delay between clicking from one advertisement to the next advertisement. I find that annoying and also limiting to how much we can watch in one day.

They give bonus points for a seven-day consecutive check in (100 Popcoins), watching 5 videos a day (20 Popcoins), and a one-time Facebook sign in (40 Popcoins).

This app does not give many chances to earn coins. I recommend login into the app just to get free login bonus on days that you do not plan to watch anything just so you can get the coin bonuses and it will take a while to add up.

Conclusion:

I would stick to the free plans for all of these dramas. The subscription fees are unreal and unrealistic. I don't know of any person who would actually pay for a subscription plan. This is not a huge company with a huge catalogue like Netflix or Viki. I'm sure iQiyi, Youku, and Mango TV subscription are way cheaper than these prices.

If you only have a few minutes or don't want to watch a full-fledged Chinese drama, having these options is a good option. It is also great for me to have the subtitles in English even if I may not need them.

The apps are definitely a good time waster if you want to watch something on your spare time. The dramas do not overlap among the three apps that I mentioned so only a particular drama can be viewed on a certain app.

The apps are also great for anybody obsessed with collecting things like virtual coins. The Alibaba Express app also gives users coins as rewards on a daily basis just to use their shopping app. I guess Chinese apps like to reward their users for simply visiting the app. 

I am not paid to introduce these apps so feel free to explore on your own as desired.

Next time, you want to see a good slap in the face or faces or want to see some type of revenge where the good overcomes the bad people, try one of these Chinese short drama apps.


References:


https://chinese.yabla.com/chinese-english-pinyin-dictionary.php?define=gou+xie

https://www.chinlingo.com/articles/601283/

https://www.quora.com/What-does-this-Chinese-word-%E7%8B%97%E8%A1%80%E2%80%9D-mean-in-English#:~:text=In%20a%20modern%20context%2C%20%E7%8B%97,the%20actors%20of%20Peking%20Opera.

Monday, January 29, 2024

NCT Wish: The Aftermath of NCT New Team and NCT Universe: LASTART

Given all my NCT Universe: LASTART reviews on Wehaiyo!, I thought I would jump in to talk about the aftermath of NCT New Team, the newest and last official expansion of the NCT group. I would make sense that I write a follow up on how NCT New Team, which is now known as NCT Wish, is doing after their reality survival competition show ended. After all, they will officially debut on 28-FEB-2024 with their debut single, "Wish," in Korean and Japanese versions of the song. The wait is totally worth it.

If we already watched the journey to debut, we might as well watch the entire journey up until their official debut. When I saw their newest performance video today, I was too excited and wanted to write a blog post right away to celebrate this moment.

I will recap their journey after NCT Universe: LASTART.

NCT New Team: Hands Up

NCT New Team aka NCT Wish made their first official performance (sans Jungmin) in the "NCT Nation: To the World" concert in Osaka on the 9th and 10th of September, 2023 as a pre-show act. We could see in fancams how nervous the boys were as they could barely speak and greet the audience. I love all those long keychains that they were wearing on their pants.


I still think that SM Entertainment should have already come up with the official name and concept for NCT Wish in advance before they go on stage as NCT New Team. They lost some opportunities to brand this group from the beginning. I also suppose that perfection cannot be rushed. 

In the above video where there were numerous back-up dancers, who danced in the beginning, impressed me a lot. This was an ultimate opening for a rookie group. It was a nice idea to debut NCT New Team at a NCT concert. I wish I was there. For all members to suddenly appear behind the back-up dancers and then do their own moves to end the introduction music was epic. I made sure to watch it six times to see what moves each member performed to end the introduction. I like all the moves, but probably Yushi's move is the best because it looked to be the hardest to do. I think all those moves were part of the song choreography, which is cool.

All the members looked so clean and fresh with perfectly set hairstyles and looks. I think Riku is probably nervous, but he did not look nervous at all while performing the song. Sakuya also looked confident with a cute smile, but I think that is his special skill to not look nervous in front of people. Ryo is fitting his part so well with his vocals and dance moves. I was happy to see Ryo's voice blend in with Yushi and Daeyoung's voices as we did not particularly see this combination in the reality survival competition program. 

I love hearing some Korean words in the Japanese song because "Ola" or "올라" means to "go up." It sounds so natural to add some Korean words in there. I knew what "Ola" meant since I watched and listened to Woo Jinyoung's rap in in the song "No Name" in the reality survival competition show, "Produce 101 Season 2" where Woo Jinyoung pointed his finger up as he rapped "Ola ga". I asked my Korean husband what it meant and my husband said it meant to go up. That performance was iconic in many ways, but that will be for another topic.

I think nobody but Sion could do the body wave in the chorus part, so it is very appropriate that he gets the center position for it. Also, it would not be nice if a younger member did it as we have minors in the group. I will state is that Sion is very flexible.

Sakuya did a great job backing up Riku in rap parts, but Sakuya could also still stand out on his own with his own style during his verse two part.

I am super impressed with Yushi's ability to sing high notes. The "so let me see you fly" lyric was originally Jungmin's part, but went to Yushi to show his vocal skills. I do not particularly see Yushi as a powerful performer, but I think he has that ability should he choose to use it. The only thing I wanted to see is that he changes his facial expression when he tries to sing powerfully to not only let us hear it, but also to see it. Maybe he should scrunch his face to make a tight facial expression when he sings difficult parts.

I like this song because it has a lot of vocal parts and creative rap parts. Unfortunately, Daeyoung did not stand out. During the bridge part of the song, Daeyoung had to bend down during his solo part while singing, which is not that great because he lost his chance to shine in front of the audience. He did not get many highlighting parts. I think he was put in the back of the dance line because he still needed to improve his dance skill, though for me, he was not terrible because practicing dance will lead to a great performance, but he could use a confidence booster. 

I wonder how the Japanese members feel about performing in their home country. It must be thrilling and a source of pride. 

Sadly, before the pre-debut tour on 02-OCT-2023 and almost a month later after NCT New Team's first performance as a group, SM Entertainment announced on social media that Jungmin left NCT New Team due to health reasons and will revert back to being a SM Entertainment trainee. I lost a lot of sleep over this news because I saw how hard Jungmin worked in the NCT Universe: LASTART show. The whole reality of Jungmin's departure from the group came crashing down on me because all the NCT New Team fans were trying to hold on to the hope that he would return and now I have no idea how long I must wait before I see him in the K-pop entertainment realm again. Jungmin is my number one pick in the show.

From 08-OCT-2023 to 20-DEC-2023, NCT New Team embarked on their pre-debut tour all over Japan from Tokyo to Hokkaido with ten stops and multiple days, which is unheard of for a group that did not debut yet. However, this should be a special situation since they were part of a reality survival competition show so that meant that they were already known to the public. I have never seen a pre-debut tour with this many dates. NCT New Team wanted everybody in Japan to know who they are and that they are here to stay. Also, I believe SM Entertainment was testing the waters to see how well NCT New Team would be received by the public.

They will be in direct competition with &Team from Hybe Labels Japan, who debut in 22-DEC-2022 and is Hybe's answer to conquering the Japanese market. SM Entertainment will attempt to do the same with NCT New Team. The only thing I do not know is whether the pre-debut tour paid off and if NCT New Team significantly gained new fans. I did not see any significant statistics that showed NCT New Team's fandom growing significantly, although NCT as a whole is growing in popularity. I still see some hesitation on social media of fans not enjoying the fact that the new team will join the NCT group. For me, I am simply excited about all the possibilities. Even when SM artists collaborate with each other, I feel very giddy about it.

On the other hand, while I watched the reality survival competition show, "&Audition – The Howling" for &Team, I did not feel a deep connection with the members themselves except for member K, who I already knew from the "I-Land" season one reality survival competition show and K is someone who I know has a lot of talent. I am interested in learning more about the &Team, but I am super interested in NCT Wish as I am thoroughly invested in their career. SM Entertainment and their artists constantly grabbed my attention in talent. I won't bother mentioning looks because they can make a regular person into somebody that I want to get to know based on make-up, fashion, and video production methods and angles. SM Entertainment is the whole package.

For example, I think of Daeyoung from NCT Wish, who is now using the stage name Jaehee, as a bit of an awkward and slightly goofy guy, but after seeing his official photos, who would have known that he has this boy-next-door charm and seems like a whole new man with a fresh image. I really liked the name Daeyoung and I will no longer call him Daegu man. However, Jaehee seems to be a nice name for him too. He did not have to change his name, but I guess it is a personal preference. It seems we also have a lot of J names in SM Entertainment already, so not sure why the name Daeyoung was retired.

I have also seen in social media that some fans think fellow brother group from SM Entertainment, Riize, fits the image of NCT and also can be catered to the Japanese market. While this can be true that Riize can have success in Japan with one Japanese member and former NCT member Shotaro and also another former member of NCT, Sungchan in the group, they will not specifically be focusing on Japan as their main business. I believe Riize will focus more on the Korean market. I think SM Entertainment has a specific plan for them to secure the home base in Korea as a priority. However, I want to add that I like their "Love 119" song, which also has a Japanese version. Either way, the "little neos" as NCT Wish can be affectionately called, will pave the way for NCT glory in Japan.

On 19-OCT-2023, it was fitting that NCT New team released their pre-debut digital single, "Hands Up" as they should strike the iron while it's hot so to speak. All I could think about was finding the missing seventh member in the choreography and that is why I thought having Daeyoung (Jaehee) dance in the back looked a bit awkward. Since the song's release, I watched or listened to the music and video dozens of times as I can never get sick of this feel good, playful, and youthful track.

Another reason why I tried to watch this video dozens of times is because I needed to keep watching to understand the story line. I think the music video story line is a bit hard to understand as the sequence of events could jump back and forth. Basically, our little neos are fighting green blobs that are invading what looks to be Japan and their fictional school (though the video was shot in Korea). The scenes are very fast so it is easy to miss seeing what is happening in the story. NCT New Team are students at school and also part of the baseball team. 

We see a great playful friendship between Ryo and Sakuya and a more mature friendship between Sion and Riku. Daeyoung is looking more like a baseball teammate and competitor with Sion, which is the arc I am using to make the story interesting. Meanwhile, Yushi is also by himself dozing off on a train in a strange nightmare where everybody on the train is gone. Yushi is seen as the ace, the pitcher of the team, which is fitting as he is the person who has the most attention, the center. Sion's leadership qualities are still there as he appears to encourage Sakuya and Sion is the person with the most interactions with other members of the group. Sion is also the last person to enter the locker room as everybody rushes in for safety after seeing a big, green blob.

Somehow, everybody thinks wearing baseball gear and having bats and balls will destroy the blobs, although Sion did make a small blob explode upon contact with the blob by swinging his baseball bat at it in the locker room. This is the first time I see the green blob, which I assume represents NCT, as a bit of an evil presence.

It's interesting to see Sion nod to Riku before they leave the locker room to battle. They are the two most senior members of the group. Sion is seen as the ace of baseball bats with a specific shot of him swinging his bat on a green blob on the school rooftop. I actually don't know why they would pick going to the rooftop as there is no way to escape easily and they can be attacked by blobs from every direction as opposed to on ground where they can use obstacles to hide or block themselves. 

Oddly, the king of blobs explodes in the NCT New Team member's faces to sort of confuse them in the green whirlwind mist. For a second, I thought a little bit about the Ghostbusters story except there is no slime. NCT members appear to stand in the whirlwind in confusion. Maybe there is a bit of mind control involved to get them to be NCT zombies. Because our hero Yushi was already dozing off in dreamland, he might be too refreshed and confusion had no effect on him. He was able to psychically communicate with Sion with a nod and threw Sion a pitch for Sion to knock it out out of the whirlwind to hit one of the other green blobs. Somehow, hitting this green blob causes all the surrounding blobs to explode. I guess this is one powerful "NCT New Team" ball that maybe has some invisible ricochet powers.

Hilariously, in the next scene, NCT New Team are dancing among the green blobs in the baseball stadium. They are no longer afraid of these green blobs, and maybe they embrace them or they can control them in some way, though the previous baseball stadium dancing scene already showed them not being afraid of the green blobs. 

All the green blobs explode like bubbles and become twinkling dots of light above them. This must mean something as if  they have some neo powers. Too bad I didn't get to see the rest of the team fight the blobs except Sion and what looks to be Yushi, who would theoretically need to carry many baseballs on him if he is going to throw them at all the blobs. I wonder if only NCT New Team baseballs would work and not a standard baseball. The last scene is of Yushi, who is still on the train, dreaming, but his NCT New Team baseball has been infected by the green magic.

I would like to give my personal thoughts on the NCT New Team members and their roles, which I think alludes to their roles in real life.

Sion: Team Leader and Star Batter

It's great to see Sion dancing in the middle as he always gives over 100% in his performances. He mentioned that he was not good at baseball, but in the music video, he looked like a professional. He is the only one in the music video who seemingly has a good rapport with all the other members as there was little interaction among the members with each other.

Riku: Catcher and Sub-Leader

Riku appears to be a no nonsense man in the music video with mostly a serious look. He has a good rapport with Sion and Sion appear to be someone that Riku can trust. In the absence of Sion, I felt that Riku would be the next person to lead the team as Sion checked with Riku before leaving the locker room. Riku can be a all rounder as even though he looks to be a catcher, he is also holding a bat, which implies that he is also good with a bat so he can be a jack of all trades.

Yushi: Star Pitcher and Center of the team

As my husband, a baseball fan, always says, the pitcher is the most important player in baseball. Yushi might not be a great pitcher in real life, but his role in the music video was pure star material. His storyline is the most interesting as we cannot tell if he is or is not in a dream while sitting in the subway car. The entire story could have been his dream or it could have happened that the NCT glow affected his NCT New Team baseball first so that he gain neo powers. However, as he threw his ball away more than once, there needs to be logic there that the green glow affected all his NCT New Team baseballs for the magic to work. In addition, the NCT glow needed to also affect Sion's baseball bat as well and all the equipment that the NCT New Team uses in their battle. Yushi seems to be the origin of it all. Yushi also seems to be a loner as he has almost no interactions with the members except for that psychic communication with Sion, which implies that he is the most close to Sion and they have a deep friendship and understanding, a relationship without needing words. In a typical story, I can see that a baseball team would have internal relationship struggles before they reach success as a team. Because Yushi acts like a loner, he cannot be a team leader or sub-leader. In the beginning of the video, he was seen as the only one left behind in the hallway of blobs.

Ryo and Sakuya: Substitute or Other Positions on the Field

I will mention Ryo and Sakuya in the same group as they are good buddies in the music video and they spent the most time together. They act as the youngest of the group with a youthful energy and when it comes to suiting up to kill the blobs, they seem to be in place to become the next Riku and Yushi with Ryo putting on a catcher's helmet and Sakuya wearing a baseball glove, though that could also mean that Sakuya has experience on the field too and not necessarily a pitcher. However, I see a flaw later on when Ryo was carrying a bat during the hallway scene and is not wearing a helmet anymore. On the rooftop, Ryo only has a baseball glove and his bat. Ryo was simply trying to survive or he lost his helmet and along the way. When I rewatch the locker room scene, Ryo seemed to have decided not to wear the helmet in the locker room and I think probably because he did not want to impair his vision while fighting. Sakuya was also carrying a bat in the hallway and is also wearing a glove on the other hand on the rooftop scene. Ryo and Sakuya act like twins, each with a glove and bat, though it would be hard to fight with only one hand holding a bat and what would be the purpose of wearing a glove in the other hand? Swinging a bat with two hands would be the most powerful way to fight. Sakuya's scene while looking outside at the green blobs in the locker room indicates that he would be the worrywart of the group. There isn't much plot with the two of them so they become supporting characters.

Daeyoung: Rival Batter

I wanted to give Dayoung a more important role in the story because otherwise, he would not have much of a story line. Daeyoung could be striving to surpass Sion's skills as a batter and could have potential disputes with Riku to become MVP (Most Valuable Player). However, once the blobs appear, it seems that his confidence took a dip as he is also a bit like Sakuya, worrying about the unknown. While walking and fighting through the hallways, Daeyoung is at the back of the group, which can possibly indicate that he is afraid. During the NCT whirlwind mist scene, he seemed stunned. In the end, we all need a character that brings some adversity and shake things up, so Daeyoung's the perfect character to do it. In real life on the NCT Universe: LASTART show, he also brought a bit of a stun to the other contestants as he joined midway into the competition and he persevered into debuting with NCT New Team.

Anyway, the music video was very enjoyable and it's more enjoyable when I wrote down what I think is the plot line. We can make a movie about this story.



NCT New Team: We Go


Complementing NCT New Team's first single is the "We Go" secondary track song. 



There is a dance practice at least that we can view, which I appreciate. In the choreography, I see it begins with the three senior members, affectionally known as Onriyu, in the front and center. Now, I understand why their outfits have a lot of star shapes on them as they became NCT Wish now. It seems to be a story in continuation of the "Hands Up" story as all of them are wearing their corresponding uniform numbers in this dance practice video as well. Their pants are a little strange to me as they are considered long pants with some short style pants linked to it.

As usual, Sion and Riku gave really great facial expressions while performing the song. Sion dances beyond 100% effort. Yushi is not always looking at the camera during his part so he is sometimes in his own world. Once again, Ryo and Sakuya are paired up again for the choreography in the middle of the song. Daeyoung is mostly dancing in the back again, but it makes me wonder if Jungmin was supposed to be there too in the original choreography. 

As for the song, it is really upbeat and bright. I love Riku's "We go" parts. After some time, I start to hear "wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle" instead. I feel like NCT New Team's songs are meant to be like how NCT Dream started with upbeat and inspirational songs. The song has upbeat and high notes at the same time, which was recorded well. 


Updates regarding the NCT New team were far and in between, but fans were able to see a glimpse of their life as they were touring during the pre-debut days. 

NCT WISH : WISH for Our WISH


On 17-JAN-2024, NCT New Team's name was updated to NCT Wish in preparation for their actual debut. SM Entertainment almost waited until the last weeks to confirm the NCT Japanese unit's name. We are officially in blast off mode as NCT Wish is now gearing up to debut. NCT Wish is expected to promote their songs in both Japan and Korea.


In the introduction concept of NCT Wish's Youtube video on 17-JAN-2024, "Wish for Our Wish," NCT Wish sets out to fulfill our wishes and dreams through music. However, it sounds as though we need to fulfill their wishes to debut and have a thriving career.

At this time, I got the shock in social media that Daeyoung changed his stage name to Jaehee. At first, I thought, who is this person in the teaser? Did we get a new member all of a sudden? A side profile picture of Jaehee also throws me off.

It is interesting to see how in the story that the NCT Wish members were still in school, but have now graduated by throwing their graduation caps in the air. That is my assumption because why include a scene like that if it wasn't about them? This could be a little bit like a mellow aftermath to "Hands Up."  The boys walk out into the school yard with Yushi having his arm around Sion's shoulder. Riku is walking alongside Sion. Ryo runs past Sion, breaking the Yusion (Yushi and Sion) pair apart while Sakuya runs after Ryo. Honestly, I am not so sure if Sakuya would put that much energy into chasing Ryo because Sakuya seems to be a mellow boy in real life and mentally a bit chaotic and I mean that in a good way. It's still nice to see young boys enjoying their youth. 

Yushi hangs upside down on the side of a soccer net (Is that safe?) to observe Riku reading a book and Jaehee listening to music. Sakuya kicks a soccer ball up and down by himself while Sion and Ryo are in conversation. A drop a rain falls on Yushi's face. Rain comes pouring on the members so they run underneath a nearby tree for cover. Everyone starts to have fun and lighten up in the rain.

A clear umbrella swooshes by and Sakuya is the first to run to take it. The members then start stealing the umbrella away for fun. They then run to an overpass and then to a seemingly abandoned mini van. They first get rowdy in the van, but eventually calm down. Riku, Sion, and Sakuya look outside with pensiveness. Rainbows come out after the rain as the members are asleep in the van. Riku wakes up to see the rainbow and Sakuya is already outside, but standing on top of the van. Sakuya likes to be special. 

The NCT members are now walking past a lighthouse, but in different outfits so I guess some time has past. Riku's cap is blown off his head by the wind. He goes to chase his cap back. Somehow, all the NCT Wish members run and Riku can suddenly jump abnormally high. Each member starts jumping high as well. Then, rainbow bubbles fill the air. This now reminds me back in the "Hands Up" video why the green blobs look like bubbles because bubbles seem to represent wishes. Some animation is shown and the members are floating among the bubbles. They are now sitting or lying on the ground on the rooftop in their original school uniforms so maybe the last scenes were all a dream since it did not make logical sense that they start jumping high and floating among bubbles. 

Sion, who was leaning on Yushi, wakes up first and Yushi wakes up after Sion gets up to look at the rainbow. All the members stand around Sion to look at the rainbow and this is NCT Wish.

NCT : Dream Contact 'Our WISH'

On 22-JAN-2024, the SMTown Youtube channel released "NCT : Dream Contact 'Our WISH'".


The video is the video we needed to connect all NCT members together. It starts with Chapter zero where Taeyong, the unofficial leader of all of NCT is standing outside and looking at his phone. He is then in his studio composing music, but as he is composing and adjusting knobs and playing on his synthesizer, there is a connection to each NCT Wish member. Interestingly, Taeyong keeps hitting on the A key, which is the note that orchestras and bands use to tune their instrument so that every instrument can be in sync. 

Chapter one begins with Yushi taking a vision test with one eye covered with a metal spoon. He is able to name everything on the vision board except for the letter N where the boarders were glowing green. Later on, Yushi is sitting at the optometrist's desk, but is attracted to the green and white pills in a jar. Yushi puts down the jar upon the optometrist's return. The optometrist does not believe Yushi has any vision problems and that he is in good health, but the optometrist has never heard of not being able to see one letter only. Yushi gets distracted by the glowing N, but the optometrist taps his pen on the table to get Yushi's attention again. Yushi tests again on an autorefractor machine where he sees a little red house that blurs into two more red houses before it becomes one again.

In an oceanside scene, Sion is dressed in all white, sees footprints coming to him, but could not tell who it is since the figure is glowing all white. Sion wakes up in a bathtub of water with his white clothes on, which is strange because why would he do that? He dips his head back into the water to see the visions of the glowing person again. I think he probably immerses himself into water because he can see some type of vision. He thinks about himself dressed in white as he lays on the sandy beach and also in his bed. I think he senses that he has a calling to become leader of NCT Wish. 

In Chapter two, the A key for universal tuning is pressed by Jaehee. He lowers his ear next to the key to hear the A key, but that, to me, is an unnecessary action unless there was a lot of surrounding noise. Jaehee begins to play the upright piano in a large living room that has the insides of the piano exposed. Jaehee is probably the most musical of the bunch. I read that the song he played is possibly related to the NCT Wish song. He stops playing when he finds a key that is out of tune and proceeds to retune it.

A boy comes into the room and mentions to an older woman that the piano upstairs was acting weird. The older woman asks Jaehee to take a look at the piano upstairs. He seems to work in a piano school as I can hear music from other practice rooms on the second floor. It is in this room that we can see the word, 소망 (somang), which means a spiritual hope or a general hope for everyone and that is the name of the piano school. This is different than the word, wish or 소원 (sowon), which is a personal desire. My daughter is also named Sowon, and unofficially her name meant wish, but was officially updated to mean beautiful imperial garden with a different set of Chinse or Hanja (Chinese characters used in Korean writing) characters.

While Jaehee was testing the piano on the second floor, once again the "A" key is featured, but has a problem as no sound was coming out when pressed. Jaehee opens up the top of the piano and takes a look inside. There is a lot of green lights and a black cat's green eyes at the bottom. 

Riku is outside feeding a black cat. He names the cat, "Koo." He was holding flyers and he tapes up a flyer on a window before he walks away. Strangely, he holds another cat, which becomes a flyer when he attached it to a store gate. There are already 20 cat flyers around the flyer that he just posted. A fan theorized that each black cat represents an NCT member. Then, I was thinking what about the black cat named Koo? Was that Jungmin who was left behind? It looked like Riku just met Koo as he just gave Koo a name. The story gets strange and Riku found what looks to be Koo playing with a seashell in the overpass and behind Riku are 18 black cats behind and around him. A fan theorizes that there were once 18 members of NCT in their first group album in 2018. Riku looks at the seashell in curiosity.

In Chapter three, Ryo, with a lollipop in his mouth, is on his computer trying to find out if anybody knew the name of the strange star he saw in the sky. He looks to be at home with a big telescope in his room. Ryo logs into the astronomical community forum to ask if anybody knew the star that he saw. The comments flood in, but nobody has seen the star. Ryo goes back to his telescope to check again. While Ryo is checking for the star, another comment is sent by username "Sakupang" (I believe it is Sakuya in combination with his love for bread) who also saw the green star.

Sakuya is outside the train station, sketching the green star that he sees. The train station is named "夢駅" (Dream Station or Yume-eki). Sakuya takes a bite of his green bread. I had to laugh because this is overkill, but I like Sakuya's humor. It looks as if Sakuya is dreaming of him walking through the snow towards a castle and he can hear a chime. The chime continues two more times and Sakuya stops to turn around to see a big green star in the sky. Perhaps this was not a dream, but Sakuya recalling his memory of how he discovered the star. I also thought about the beginning in which Taeyong was using various sounds that is somehow connected to the NCT Wish members.

Sakuya is back in the present at the Dream station while Ryo calls his name. Sakuya shows Ryo his drawing and they continue to look at it on the train. As Sakuya and Ryo kept discussing the star, the people on the train begin to disappear. A fan theorized that this became a train to Kwangya, SM Entertainment's virtual world, but I still would like to think that they are in some type of dream.

In Chapter four, the train doors open and Ryo and Sakuya step directly on sand, but they are now dressed in white. The other four members were waving to them on the sandy beach. Once Ryo and Sakuya were close enough, the six of them run across the beach. Jaehee stops briefly to turn around and ask the other to catch up.

In what I think is a pivotal moment, Sion stops and turns around to see Yushi walking behind him. Now, Sion can see who the figure was in his vision. All members look into the ocean, but can see an inverted ocean also above the ocean and what appears to be a sunrise on both sides, although this sun has a green tint to it. This is where our NCT link story begins. I saw a comment that stated Taeyong's seventh sense was activated. The next NCT group album is going to be super fire.

I am impressed by the cinematography. All members did a great job and two bad it was so short. I would like to see more, but I am getting greedy.

Am I then thinking too deeply that NCT 127 is the home base, NCT Dream's dream power allowed the NCT Wish group to dream, and WayV's rainbow led the way to NCT?

NCT WISH 엔시티 위시 'NASA' Performance Video

I am finally at the main point of this post, which is to write about the "NASA" performance video. Just like Riize released their performance video, "Siren" before debut, NCT Wish also released a pre-debut performance video, "NASA." The video was released exactly on 28-JAN-2024, a month before NCT Wish's debut.

I found it odd that they released a song that is based on the USA's space agency if this group is focused on Japan, but I don't mind this dance track as it is more NCT-like music. When I showed this video to my nine-year-old daughter, she said, "That is not what NASA looks like!" She is funny.

This is another song about going up, so basically NCT Wish wants to "rise" up like Riize.


I am seeing a whole new side to NCT Wish.

I never knew Yushi had a alluring deep voice at the beginning of the song. I thought he was good at high notes, but his low voice is just as attractive. Also, I don't think I ever heard him speak English. If this is his voice, his English is very good. It is a good thing that we have the practice video because at some point, I lost where Yushi went after Riku went under his leg and Yushi magically appeared on the right side of the screen. 

Just like the "Siren" performance video, I saw the "NASA" video many, many times including the practice video to look at how well each member performed. 

When Sion is shown wearing Neo green pants, I immediately had all eyes on him. It is fate that my favorite color is green. This is probably my favorite Sion outfit. As usual, Sion is dancing at over 100% effort and I have to appreciate his dance style. I thought his silver hair also fits the theme of NASA.

In this scene where all members are wearing different outfits, I loved how it shows individualism, which is the SM Entertainment strength. This is how I envision the ultimate group to look where everybody is strong in their own way. This is exactly how I see all SM Entertainment artists. 

The move in which Riku slides under Yushi's leg with Jaehee's knee support is pretty awesome. We don't get to see many sliding movements in K-pop today. I hope that move doesn't hurt Riku's knees though.

The one leg squat from one side to the other side that all the members do looks super difficult. I think I would be in so much pain if I tried that move. Yes, I tried it and I can't get up. 

Yushi, Sion, and Riku definitely shined in the dance as they have the ability to lead the group well. Having Ryo and Sakuya dance together on the sides is also very complimentary. I can understand why the choreographer would want to put these strong combinations of dancers together this way. 

The NCT Wish members are not phased by a ball of light hitting a white star, turning it green. No, the dance goes on. It is also wild that fire sparks are going off everywhere and the group keeps on dancing. 

I love Ryo's blue and white wavy sweater and fire-colored pants. This video is over the top. 

I think it is unfortunate that Jaehee did not get a chance to shine in the dance performance. In the practice video, I can tell he worked really hard. However, he is not marketed to be a dancer. I hope he gets more chances to shine in their debut single.

The beginning and ending are so appropriate with Yushi standing in the middle of the rocket launch in the beginning while Sion is standing middle at the end with the members linked in a circle around them during those two times. The dance concept of a rocket ship launch is genius. I will be watching this over and over again.


This NASA performance goes to show that NCT Wish is capable of upbeat songs and also crazy fast dance songs. The NCT group is made to be flexible and innovative.

I am so excited to see the debut of NCT Wish and I "wish" them all the best. I am happy to see the results of how SM Entertainment created a new group and I will probably write another post about the official debut of NCT Wish. 

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Game Review: NCT Zone

 Hello everybody and happy 2024! I am now going into new territory: a game app review.

As this is related to the Korean entertainment world, and I previously reviewed a BTS book, I might as well also venture into reviewing video games. This is not a professional review, but a casual player review. I am not paid to write this review so please support my efforts by visiting an AD on this website.

I consider myself a casual gamer who loves simulation and idle games because I simply have no time for games. Currently, I have 56 game applications on my iPhone so this is a hypocritical statement, but I do not play all 56 games regularly. I also want to give a shoutout to my brother who works as a Senior  Software Engineer for a game company, but I will not consult his expertise in game development for this review because this is a casual game review. I don't consider myself an excellent game player or the smartest player or the person who spends money on games as I am a F2P (free to play) player. I suppose playing games is meant to relax me and I have played war games in which my heart was pumping so I want to stay away from those thrilling games like PUBG or LoL (League of Legends). I liked RPG or MMORPG games when I was younger, but now I have no time for it.

Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NCT_in_2021_Universe.jpg

I spent some days playing NCT Zone. For fear of copyright, I will not be posting any direct pictures of the game in this post so this will be strictly based on the review.

 SM Ent. & TakeOne Company has launched a card battle and building application game on 27-DEC-2023 based on the members of NCT. Anyone who is a fan of NCT and/or any of the NCT subgroups should play this game. However, there are no NCT New Team members featured in this game, but I am not sure if they will be added to the game at a later time because that is a possibility. Business is business, so if they end up adding the NCT New Team members, I would be thrilled. I also think this game could be geared slightly towards females with gift-giving and intimacy levels with the members involved, but I think male players can also have fun in the game.

Source: https://picryl.com/media/bts-at-the-white-house-on-may-31-2022-02-f522f7

For those who are a BTS fan and have played "BTS World" before, which is also a card battle application game from the TakeOne game developement company, then they will see that it has similar gameplay. I started playing BTS World a long time ago, I think, in 2019 for a short while at a time when I didn't know who the members of BTS were and who is who. I knew their music, but I am not at the level of knowing each member's names. This game, in a way, helped me recognize each member of BTS. However unfortunately, life got in the way and I stopped playing the game. The game itself has shut down recently on 26-DEC-2023, one day before the NCT Zone game launched. Is this some type of conspiracy or has the TakeOne contract simply expired with BTS World? However, Netmarble is also involved with the BTS World as the game publisher, so maybe things simply didn't work out among the three companies along with Hybe Corporation, BTS' management company. I wish I played the BTS World game a little longer so that I can do more comparison for this review. If any readers played BTS World and NCT Zone, I would like to read up on the comparisons between the two games.

Seeing how BTS World shut down eventually, I am not having a good feeling that NCT Zone game will last forever, so I recommend trying this game as fast as possible to play it before NCT Zone possibly suffers the same fate or however their collaboration contract is written.

I am aware that SM Entertainment has a "SUPERSTAR SMTOWN" rhythm game to tappity tap, but I am not interested in rhythm games in general. Again, it makes my heart pump with stress so I just stay away from it. I love music, though as you can tell from my blog, but I don't think I can handle the rhythm game stress. My daughter loves rhythm games though. My thumbs would probably die and I was once a avid piano player.

Before I begin to write about my review, the "NCT Zone" game can be found at the following official link https://nctzofficial.com/ so those who are interested can obtain more information or play the game right away for free where purchases are optional.

The game is available in Apple store or Google Play.

However, for those who download the game on their phone, please note that they would need extra storage in their phones because while the game itself has a 315.5 MB file size, once they download the game, they need a lot more to download all the videos and more videos of the boys as they collect them. They can't download this game when their phone storage is about full so I recommend to free up a few hundred MBs of space to start the game.

It was a bit funny to think about now, because initially, before the game launch was revealed, NCT fans thought that "NCT Zone", when registered as a trademark, may be the name of the new NCT New Team, but come to find out, it was the name of the new NCT application game.


I like their OST song, "Do it (Let's Play)" for the game. I'm glad they released it for our audio pleasure. The above video seems to be the instrument only with background voice track. The below OST song seems to only have a few NCT members singing the actual song: Jungwoo, Jeno, Yangyang, Chenle, and Xiaojun.


Sypnosis:


There is a storyline in this game. The player has entered the dream world in which all the NCT members, who are agents, have nightmarish dreams. The player's job is to clear those nightmarish dreams with card battles in Kwangya so that the NCT members can have sweet dreams again. Nightmares causes the Neozone where the NCT members reside to collapse in toxic fog. Basically, the player is on a dream cleansing mission. However, in the NCT member's dream, the NCT member must not know that they are in a dream. If they realize that it is a dream, the dream will collapse. This logic gives me the "Inception" movie vibes.

At the same time, players can rebuild the Neozone, a place where all the NCT members gather to make items, collect items, and expand the neozone territory with sweet dreams.

Players need to collect each NCT player's CCOMAZ, like a communication device so the player can communicate directly with the NCT member. The CCOMAZ can be leveled up so that the NCT members can perform more tasks.

Once the NCT member's CCOMAZ is collected, players can gave the NCT member different outfits and also give the NCT member gifts to increase intimacy. As far as I know, increasing intimacy only gives me rewards, but no other game benefits.


Positive Points:


The storylines are fun to read and experience. I like how some of the Kwangya missions are tied to the members in real life such as the Haechan 37.5MHz radio mission and Nana's coffee lab mission. Haechan has his own radio show called "37.5MHz HAECHAN Radio" and Jaemin is known to be obsessed with coffee.

Watch one ad a day in the game to collect a reward. This is an optional task. This is better than watching multiple ads a day or throughout game play, which disrupts the game play.

If the player collects multiple NCT CCOMAZ and more than one NCT member is roaming in Neozone, players can move the NCT members onto each other and any nearby NCT members will also join in dancing to NCT songs in Neozone. This is so cute and never gets old (or tire out of it).

Players can choose their favorite NCT member to be displayed in the main Lobby menu, assuming that they have the NCT member's CCOMAZ device with the outfit and background that was selected in the "member room."

I love Haechan's voice whenever he announces "Combo!" during card battle. He is so enthusiastic and into character. I love using his cards and hearing his voice, especially his idiolect.

I love Taeyong's reactions to me giving him a gift with a slight surprise. He says, "Wah. Kamsahamnida." I am motivated to give him all my gifts. By the way, I selected Taeyong as my first CCOMAZ contact since he is THE leader of NCT. If one does not talk to the leader when there is trouble, who does one talk to?

Taeil's video is creative. When you give him a gift, he catches a gift box and exclaims, "Thank you" in English.

Depending on which menu the player goes to, there is different NCT song. This could be a positive or a negative aspect of the game because while it is nice to listen to different NCT songs, if I leave my phone open for a while, the same song is repeating over and over again and for those who are not super NCT fans, this could be exhausting to hear the same song.

When card battling, there is no time pressure, which I like, but who knows? The developer might decide to have PvP battles in the future where players can battle each other and I would think it would be real-time battles. As a normal battle tip, I recommend setting up all the elemental battle items by color before dragging the items to a card. If there is a color item where I do not have a card with the same color, I set them up in combinations of three as much as possible before I drag a different color item to its corresponding card to eliminate the unneeded elemental items.

I learned something about NCT along the way. I didn't know who the caracal flag represented so upon a Google search, it was meant to represent Johnny.


Negative Points:

There is a lag in the game in which clicking on a menu or item has a delay. This could be frustrating as playing a game should not have any lag. This is my biggest complaint about the game. I have a iPhone 14 Pro Max with 1 TB of storage space (though obviously some of that space is used), but still, there's lag.

Loading screens can also take some time.

Storage item inventory count takes a while to update. If my storage is full and I use some of the items, it takes a while before the system recognizes that the storage room is no longer full. I keep clicking on the storage room to update the inventory count.

I wish there was a way to control the quantity of items I want to use because it is a bit hard to control, such as when upgrading NCT cards with NCT memory chips. Either I click on the item once to add quantity or I have to click on a slider to indicate the quantity which is hard to control. When I am creating an item, I have to drag it to be made. I wish I can press a button to get it on the queue automatically to be made.

There is a friend feature, but I don't see too much benefit in making friends in the game. We can help each other create items, send gifts, but there is no real benefit to making friends as we do not directly play together. I saw some Korean user profiles state that they only want to be friends with Korean speakers only, but really, there is no conversation between friends in this game, so why would that make a difference?

If we go based on what happened to the "BTS World" game, then this game might be only available for a limited time. This is only my thought, but there may be a possibly that the game may shut down if it is not profitable in the future. Or this game may be so well received that NCT fans are going to keep it going for a long time.

Every gift received goes into the mailbox to claim. I would rather all the awards go directly to storage as this is an extra step to claim the awards.

As far as a FAQ or how to play, the game doesn't explain it too well. I don't see any game explanations on the website either. I didn't know how to make NCT dance together until I consulted videos on the internet. I had no idea how to complete the mission. I probably slept through some instructions.

As far as NCT cards are concerned, the Normal cards are useless. I have never used it once during gameplay, but probably great just for the collection of it. I am also beginning to wonder that it is probably not worth upgrading rare status cards either. I would only concentrate on SR (super rare), SSR (super super rare?), and I think there are higher cards than SSR, because I have seen it somewhere on social media.

Some NCT members are really into character in the videos and audio files, but others are not too enthusiastic into their character. In the voice files, I was disappointed in some of the members voices when I hit combos or mega combos with less than enthusiastic voices.

I am not a big fan of waiting for items to be created so I usually do the Neozone activities on the side when I am working or not actively playing because normally there is a wait time to create items. However, I like that there are different activities to do besides card collecting and battling.

As I mentioned earlier, I would like to have the NCT New Team added to the game in the future.


Conclusion:


The "NCT Zone" game is here to stay with plenty of things to do in the game. So far, I like the cute graphics and it has a lot of what I like such as card battling, card collecting, making a NCT Neozone town, NCT character dancing, NCT videos and audio. NCT fans would have fun. There is certainly room for improvement to make the game even better with more features, but that would also mean we need to download a bigger file to play the game.

I would like to also write a note of caution that this is only a game and players are not actually meeting NCT in real life so players should plan to not spend too much money on a game and have a budget in place. The situation can easily get out of control once real money is spent on the game to get all the benefits from the game. This advice can apply to any game with pay to play features. Card collecting in the real life world is already big business so just keep in mind these are digital items.

With that stated, I hope everyone enjoys the game and it could be pretty fun and time consuming. Maybe I'll see my readers in NCT Zone. I look forward to collecting all the members!

If this becomes a hit, maybe we'll see an Aespa game within Kwangya.

If you would like to know what I have so far, my player ID is BoChui, level 12, and I have Taeil, Taeyong, and Kun so far in Neozone. My dream lab is level 10 at the moment. Feel free to add me. Do it! Let's play!


References:

https://nctzofficial.com/

https://www.takeonecompany.com/

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/superstar-smtown/id890937532


Sunday, November 19, 2023

Book Review: Beyond the Story by Myeongseok Kang


Note: The above link is a affiliate link to Amazon.com

 

Below is the short explanation of my review for those short on time:

Synopsis:

This is a ten-year-detailed biography book about the career of the male Korean idol group, BTS, with direct quotes from their experiences of their music and career. This version of the book is in English language and is translated from the original book written in the Korean language.

Reasons to read it:


If you are a semi or big fan/ARMY of BTS, the book goes behind the scenes to bring readers the story of how their albums and songs were created and how BTS's musical career went through ups and downs before rising to global fame. If you are interested in the career side of BTS, this book has a lot of details and I am sure every fan or ARMY will learn something new from it.

The book is also interactive in that you can scan QR codes in most pages to supplement what you read in websites, Soundcloud, and Youtube links.

Reasons not to read it:


If you are a reader who is not a BTS fan or have no interest in them, there is no reason to read this book as the reader will be lost and have no idea what the book is about. A bit of Korean music industry knowledge is recommended and at least a little bit of background in K-pop in general is recommended to enjoy the book. Each chapter is around 50 to 100 pages long. If a reader does not care about BTS, I don't recommend reading through 495 pages of BTS history and buying the book, which is not cheap. If you are not sure whether to buy the book, borrow the book from your local library to see if you would enjoy the book first.

If you are a BTS fan or ARMY who wants to read this book expecting to find gossip and juicy details about BTS' personal lives, this book is not the book to read. This book is a historical book that focuses on BTS' career and not so much their personal lives.

The lesson learned from this book:  

Keep chasing your dreams and results will follow. Follow your own path. Success occurs because you never give up.


Buy the book at 

Note: The above link is a affiliate link to Amazon.com


Wehaiyo’s Book Recommendations:


Unfortunately, I have never read a biography of a K-pop idol/group before. I hope there are more biographical books about Korean celebrities. I have yet to recommend a similar book. Please leave a comment if you, the reader, have any recommendations. I can recommend a good K-pop fiction book and probably will review K-pop fiction in future book reviews.

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A few weeks ago, I have been seeing the official BTS book at Target, Amazon, and even my local library. Even though I am not a deep BTS fan, I was curious. The book is 496 pages long with each chapter about 50 to 100 pages long. I had to ask myself again as a K-pop fan: Why am I not a BTS fan? The Korean male group, BTS, has been all over the USA in recent years. I was happy for them, yet I do not consider myself an ARMY (dedicated fans of BTS), but a casual listener who appreciated some of their work. I do not take offense every time I tell somebody unfamiliar with K-pop music that BTS is the first name that they think of when I mention K-pop. A lot of people assume that just because I love K-pop, I am automatically a fan of BTS, which I am, but not at the level of being part of the fandom and collecting all of their albums. I do have a BTS album that I bought only because it was on clearance at Target. I can't tell you which one it is unless I go specifically check for it though I have a feeling I know which album. One of my co-workers wished my last journey to Korea to be "smooth like butter." However, I must admit that after reading this book, my appreciation of BTS has risen. I wish that there were other books about other artists as well because reading the book could potential turn me into a fan or at least, in this case, a fan who has a lot of respect for BTS. This is a review of the book and also my personal journey with BTS. I am a K-pop fan from the second generation onwards, but I do have my passing experiences with BTS.

The book begins with portrait photos of each member with a whitish grey background and white clothing. Each member has three photos: one standard photo looking straight ahead, one photo with a pose, and one photo with their eyes closed It signals to me that the members of BTS were ready to bear telling their true feelings and personal stories about their lives, only that it wasn't totally the case. The book mostly referred to their thoughts about their career and not really about their personal lives too much. The book does not even mention the member's birthdays. Therefore, this book is not about gossips or the personal lives of the members. Even though I know about BTS, the group, I still struggle to figure out the names of the members so the portrait shots are helpful to give a bare bones introduction. By the end of the book, I felt confident that I can recognize each member of BTS. 

The book has seven chapters, divided by a certain period in BTS's life, and in a chronological fashion, which helps me understand the history. The QR codes in the book especially helped me appreciate what the book was describing by leading me into website links, audio files from Soundcloud, and Youtube videos. Because of this interactive experience, the book took me three or four times as long to read through and experience all the content. I admit, I fell asleep many times while watching almost an hour long video. However, I have never read a book this way with QR codes and I think this could be the future way of reading books.

I will break down what I think are the highlights of each chapter.

Chapter 1: Seoul

I like this chapter because it explained the personal lives of the members as trainees before they became BTS. This is probably my favorite chapter of the entire book because it describes their personality and their personal experiences. This chapter focuses on how the BTS members joined Big Hit Entertainment company (now known as Hybe Corporation) and how they first arrived at the dorm. RM (the book does not normally use his old stage name, Rap Monster, so I will do the same to refer to RM by his current name) and Suga were already living in the dorm, but the book began with j-hope arriving at Big Hit Entertainment. 

RM was from Ilsan and interestingly, I went to Ilsan Lake Park during the summer time. It was way too hot and the heat was intense. Suga and V were from Daegu. Jung Kook and Jimin were from Busan. Jin was from Gwacheon and j-hope was from Gwangju. It seems to be fate that these boys came together from all over the South Korea to become Big Hit's next male idol group.

At the time, Big Hit was a  small company and pretty insignificant in the k-pop industry. The book stresses this fact until BTS became undeniably successful. An interesting fact was that 2AM, mainly a ballad group, was co-managed by JYP and Big Hit entertainment. I never knew that fact, but maybe it should not be a surprise to me when founders Park Jin Young (JYP) who founded JYP Entertainment and (Hitman) Bang Si-Hyuk who founded Big Hit entertainment were friends and former roommates.

Sleepy of the hip-hop duo group, Untouchable, was interested in RM's work, and recommended RM to Pdogg, a Korean producer, composer, and lyricist for Big Hit. That was how RM joined Big Hit Entertainment. All the male trainees at Big Hit were rappers or hip-hop fanatics as the book describes it. From what I read in the book, RM and Suga were the main rappers of the group and the two members/trainees who studied and breathed rap the most. j-hope, Jimin, and V had prior dance experience. Jung Kook came from the "Superstar K3" auditions as a performer, but he wasn't sure what he wanted to do at the time and had a lot of options. Jin thought that he would be an actor. Ultimately, j-hope was also considered a rapper/hip-hop expert and the other four members, V, Jin, Jimin, and Jung Kook, were considered part of the vocal group. Jung Kook was ultimately inspired by RM and RM's talent and RM was the reason why Jung Kook wanted to be part of Big Hit and BTS.

Both V and Jimin were scammed by the cab driver, who charged them 38,000 won (around $38) for a short cab ride to Big Hit Entertainment as their first trip to the company. Honestly, I would have been scammed too even in today's world as my husband told me that there were premium taxis.

My initial thought from reading early K-pop news articles in general that BTS couldn't dance at all and they worked hard to improve their dancing skills was that I knew they were a hardworking group of guys, but this book goes into depth on how hardworking they were in the past decade.

Jin was also the cook of the group, making meals when j-hope was only "eating to live" according to the book. I thought that was sad and it is not uncommon to hear about k-pop trainees leading a grueling life for the mere chance of debuting with an entertainment company.

From what the book describes, it seems Big Hit's previous girl group, Glam, were not very successful, which led Big Hit to stake everything on BTS as it seems the company might go bankrupt and it was their last chance for success. BTS indirectly knew they would debut when the majority of the thirty trainees were let go, especially to make space for the dance practice rooms.

I learned what Kalgunmu or "razor-sharp group dancing" meant. BTS had to practice repetitively until they mastered Kalgunmu and under Bang Si-Hyuk's direction, every angle and pose of their dance must be perfect. At the time, Kalgunmu dance was very popular (and still is in my opinion), even though BTS is more of a rap and hip-hop type group in which we expect them to act more like a YG Entertainment artist on stage with swag more than choreographed dance. BTS ended up in the overperformance category when they did some acrobatic moves where Jung Kook lifts Jimin up to do his scissor kicks on the backs of the rest of the BTS members for "No More Dream." 

Unfortunately, I initially came to know the "No More Dream" song not through BTS, but through the idol reality survival competition show, "Produce X 101" in 2019. Only one of the contestants assigned to the song, Kim Hyun Bin, knew about this song and became the leader of the group to perform "No More Dream." At that time, I felt as though I discovered a hidden treasure song from BTS. This scene from Produce X 101 and trainee Kim Hyun Bin is etched into my mind forever. After reading the book, I realized BTS worked a thousand times as hard to put together that perfect Kalgunmu performance, which makes the "P.T.S." produce X 101 team look like nothing as the team only had a week to practice it. It was a shame that I did not pay attention to or "slept on" BTS at the time.


Chapter 2: Why We Exist

BTS debut on June 12th, 2013 without much public enthusiasm. Some thought "Bulletproof Boy Scouts" was a ridiculous name. I personally thought it was creative and endearing because I have such a pure image of boy scouts. SM Entertainment, one of the top three Korean Entertainment companies, debut their newest male group, Exo, earlier in the year, so that already meant the competition was tough. V was Big Hit's secret trainee, who was only revealed at a later moment prior to BTS' debut while other members were already known to the public for months.

Without the backing of a top three agency in Korea, BTS's beginnings were humble. They maintained a blog and constantly released teasers and other organic content. While BTS looked up to a popular hip-hop, dance, electronica group such as Big Bang, some people accused them of trying to ride off of Big Bang's success. RM, Suga, and j-hope were already lyricists from the start of their first album, "2 COOL 4 SKOOL."

j-hope strained his leg during his "We are bulletproof PT.2" performance due to the need to put on a perfect performance. This was followed by the other members having their own special moments on stage, which awed the audience. If I am reading this correctly, their career should have gone well with these performances alone. BTS' performance ended up attracting a lot of attention and intrigue. Then, there was the famous "one row" of a dozen fans who came to watch BTS' live debut. Normally, having many fans attend a live music show performance is a indicator of the artist or artist group's clout in the industry, but BTS is forever grateful to those one row of fans.

I was sad to read that backstage in the green room, BTS had no industry contacts or peers in their network and had a hard time networking with everyone else. It is definitely not the case in today's world where new artists are doing dance challenges with other senior groups or artists and mingling a lot.

BTS won all the rookie artist awards except for MAMA. At that time, the group, SHINee, from SM Entertainment won artist of the year at the MMA (Melon Music Awards). Meanwhile, Exo had six albums in the top 10. BTS was clearly the underdogs of the boy groups.

That same year, BTS also released their follow-up album, O!RUL8,2?. I never knew what that title meant until I read the book. The title means, "Oh, are you late too?"

"Paldo Gangsan" was an interesting song on their album that combines Korean dialects into one song, raps about their hometowns with j-hope rapping from Gwangju, Suga from Daegu, and RM from Ilsan in the Gyeonggi province. Suga wanted BTS to become the bridge between idol and hip-hop music. Ironically, I find a lot of their recent works very much pop-oriented and catered to the American public.


The most interesting part of this chapter was regarding the diss that RM and Suga experienced on the podcast, "Kim Bong-hyun's Hip-Hop Invitational" show where rapper B-Free directly dissed them several times for being idols and not true rappers. I remember from watching the Youtube video about  RM and Suga being made fun of for being idols who wear make-up to perform. It was sad to know that the Korean public is against celebrities becoming idols in general. The public is critical (and still very critical) about how idols look and act. RM and Suga gave mature responses and that showed what types of people they really are and what they hoped to accomplish. I think this is the difference between Korea and the USA. USA rappers would have escalated the situation with retorts, maybe physical altercations, and even worse if guns and violence are involved. RM and Suga peacefully stated their opinions and nobody was physically hurt at least and mentally, it was a different story. I am sure B-Free will never live this moment down.

"Skool Luv Affair" was released as BTS's third album. Their "Boy in Luv" song was met with a positive reaction. I also did not appreciate this song until it was featured in a idol reality survival competition show, Produce 101 Season 2 in 2017. At that time, I was closely following the Nu'est members in this competition show and Baekho aka Kang Dong-Ho from Nu'est gave this song its true title, "상남자" (Sang Namja), which has the meaning of a "real" man. This song is really about a boy trying to act tough in front of a girl. Not only did Baekho act the part, he was also notably musically aware that his competition was singing or doubling the bridge part, "지금 달려갈 거야" (I'm going to run to you now) with three singers instead of two singers and called them out for it. Because of this show, I came to appreciate the Boy in Luv song of BTS.


After reading about "Just One Day," I listened to the song and was hooked on this song ever since. This song could easily be one of my favorite BTS songs and it is a short song or at least it feels like a short song. I have to listen to it on repeat for several times before I am satisfied. I normally do not listen to songs on repeat. It seems to be BTS' most romantic song. 


I thought it was also exciting how the book described the 2014 MAMA awards in which BTS strived to exceed Block B, another hip-hop idol group, in popularity. How funny to realize that former member of Block B, Zico, and his self-owned agency, KOZ Entertainment is under the Hybe umbrella of companies right now. On the surface, both groups had a collaborative stage, but in reality, the viewers would compare the two groups and ultimately one of the groups would be crowned better than the other group and ultimately, as the book says, one of the groups would become the "next generation of K-pop." 

I can't imagine that BTS was mocked for not being first place or ignored because they were not winners at music shows. BTS took this experience as a lesson learned and vowed to do better so that nobody would look down on them. I think it is this very attitude that is the foundation for success. They cannot become complacent and they aimed to rise above any challenges that they faced. Before going up on stage, RM would tell his members not to get excited as they are "nothing special."

Their fourth album, "Dark & Wild" did not do so well in sales. Unfortunately, BTS was staking their career on this album. I didn't think any of the songs struck me as a favorite.

I thought it was interesting that the book wrote that the most awaited content from fans of K-pop idols  were:

1) New album promotions
2) Concerts
3) Variety Shows

The chapter ends with some exciting drama regarding Bobby, a member of the group, iKon, who released his song "GUARD UP AND BOUNCE" and "Come Here" where Rap Monster was targeted as one of the rappers that Bobby dissed. This was especially dramatic because Bobby's diss track was released a day before the MAMA stage in 2014 where BTS was already busy preparing for the show. 

BTS prepared an explosive stage to their song, "Danger" with numerous back-up dancers, j-hope's knee-pounding landing, Jimin's shirt tearing apart due to his "sheer willpower and determination" as the book describes, and finally RM's response to Bobby's diss track. Reading about this moment in the book was exciting and I felt that I did not need to watch the video to see it happen.

Chapter 3: Love, Hate, Army

This chapter focuses on their "The Most Beautiful Moment in Life" series whereas the previous three albums were referred to as the "School trilogy" series.

Strangely, despite having some success, BTS found themselves still in uncertainty and success was not yet attainable. Suga tirelessly began working on their next album. After all, every other album was deemed a failure so far.

Within "The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Part 1" album, I found more songs that I really loved: "I NEED U" and "Dope."

The original "I NEED U" music video had scenes depicting violence and emotional trauma, which the book states is unheard of at the time of K-pop and could have been career suicide for BTS. Personally, I love the typical dance or upbeat tracks from artists, but it made me appreciate the different approach that Big Hit took for BTS' career. I always forget that the "U" is spelled" "U" and not "You." 

This song also had great meaning for me when Jungwon's team performed this song on their "I-land" idol reality survival competition show in 2020. 



If BTS didn't start having a music show win, it is unlikely that they would be invited back to perform again on a music show. The stakes were high. Also, this was not described in in the book that winning first place is a huge indication that the artist or group has "made it" and advertisement revenue for the artist or group would rise substantially in general.

BTS' fanbase grew so much that the song became a huge hit and their first hit. Opportunities were opening up for BTS.

The title of their song "Dope," known as jjeoleo in Korean had an interesting meaning. Jjeoleo is commonly known to mean something like "awesome," but for this song, BTS used it to mean "to stink with sweat" according to the book. I thought that was very interesting, but the music itself with the intense music and saxophone going crazy in the chorus part was a huge highlight for me. This song is also one of my top BTS song favorites. The song was also meant to describe BTS as the underdogs of the K-pop industry.

The "V live" application became popular and a great tool for BTS to become closer to their fans. Personally, I am not a big fan of V lives in general as I never have the time to sit and watch idols for that long and also clicking on the buttons to support them is a pain in my fingers. To this day, I don't normally watch V lives, but I'm sure a good soul will highlight the important parts for me.

The book descries what "checks" and "BUMP" (Bring Up My Post) means for anti-fans. In checks, anti-fans will fact check and bring up negative information to shame the artists. Anti-fans would bring up past issues and make topic controversial again by bringing those old comments back to the top of the screen, making them relevant again. Seriously, anti-fans have way too much time on their hands. If they had that kind of time, they can help me write up articles on my blog instead and channel their energy for good though I read somewhere in psychology that it is easier for a human to hate than to love because hate is easily executable while people can hesitate to love.

In the next album, "The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Part 2," I am definitely interested in "Butterfly" though this song highlights BTS's uncertainty about their success. I always thought the song brought hope like Mariah Carey's song, "Butterfly." However, I obviously did not pay attention to the meaning of the lyrics. This song was also performed by Lee Heeseung and Lee Geon Woo in "I-Land." I should have known the meaning because they performed it in a sad way.


I learned what a "topliner" means, which is a person who writes the central melody and key lyrics. Bang Si-Hyuk is such a person. We can learn industry terms from reading this book. The book did not generally cover the process of how Bang Si-Hyuk helped with all the BTS songs. That would have been interesting to know.     

In the special album, "The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever," we have the previous music from the past two albums and also the iconic song, "Burning Up (FIRE)" or ""불타오르네 (Fire)"" and "Save ME," which are really good songs. Of course, these songs are also covered in "I-land" as well. I am familiar with these songs due to idol reality survival competition shows. After Rain, one of the show's guest judges in Part 1 of I-land shows how he raps the first line of "Fire," the first line is forever in my head: "When I wake up in my room (room)."


Chapter Four: Inside Out

This chapter highlights BTS' next albums, "Wings" and "You Never Walk Alone." 

It was amazing to see how V was juggling his acting job in the drama, "Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth" and his music job simultaneously. It didn't seem easy and it looks like V himself wasn't satisfied with his work when it was done under so much pressure. At this point in time, BTS experienced continuous struggle as they try to stay alive in the music industry. Therefore, there was little time to waste as they prepare new music and V's acting career.

In the album, "Wings," I enjoyed the songs "Lie" and "Blood Sweat & Tears." BTS interestingly wanted "Blood Sweat & Tears" to be ambiguous and play characters who are neither good or bad. There is also the element of sex appeal in this song, which eventually became a global sensation, spawning a world tour for BTS including the Americas. I remember thinking this was a great vampire song and kept thinking that BTS was singing "money, money, money" when they really meant to sing "원해 많이 많이 많이 많이" (Weon hae mani mani, mani mani) meaning to "want it/you a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot."

In the song, "Lie," Jimin was going through a lot of emotional turmoil to bring out such an interesting and striking song which took two weeks to record and re-record to perfect it according to the book. When Enhypen's Niki performed this dance, I was blown away by this song and thus realized this song is very unique. It has elements of evilness and the feeling of being trapped and helpless. The chorus tries to go into a major chords, but then falls back to the minor chords to signify evil. The song is also so short. I have to listen to it multiple times to be satisfied.


V's "Stigma" song was also worth mentioning as I realized that V actually has a great deep voice and he used falsetto that was ad-libbed to perfect his song.


BTS started working on a lot of solo work, but still under the name of BTS. The letters B, T, and S became a common search term on the internet to represent BTS more than their other aliases (방탄소년단/Bangtan Sonyeondan/Bulletproof Boy Scouts/Bangtan Boys). BTS never expected to have fans all over the world when they haven't released any music in a foreign language. 

Even as they were winning awards left and right, anti-fans continued cyber attacks whenever they won and award or had a concert, which is unfortunate. I never understood why people go through great lengths to hate somebody. From what I read, it seems every time BTS attended the MAMA awards, their performances were legendary and much talked about by the viewers. Unfortunately, I slept through BTS.

In the "You never walk alone" special album, I personally started paying attention to BTS when they released this song, "Spring Day." I remember the song sounding so sad every time I heard the song. I had no idea that fans had a theory that the song was about the Sewol Ferry incident that happened in April 2014. BTS left it open for interpretation, but I think that is what it was meant to be. Originally, RM wrote the lyrics as a message to his friends who he is no longer in contact with or has left his circle of life. It was sadder to read that Suga attempted to reconnect with one of his long lost friends and made efforts to contact this friend, but they would never meet again (at least that we know of from the book). I remember this was one of the two songs that took my attention away from the Produce 101, Season 2 show (with the other song being "Can't Cry" by Seventeen. The song is so sad like a farewell.


Chapter 5: A Flight That Never Lands

This chapter will go over the "Love Yourself" series and BTS' soaring popularity.

I remember when BTS won "Top Social Artist" at the Billboard Music Awards. I was actually puzzled when it happened because I had no idea how popular BTS was abroad, but also happy that a Korean music group penetrated the American music market. At this point of the book, BTS continuously won awards, left and right. I would have thought it would be a happy ending from hereon. However, BTS had internal struggles. The drama could almost be a movie, but it was also their lives.

BTS thought about quitting since they were so overworked and overwhelmed. They had no days off and they were exhausted according to Jin in the book. Imagine the book ending right at this point if BTS decided to call it quits. I am a little bit bewildered because I thought this type of lifestyle of creating music, touring, creating content, and winning awards was the goal for BTS. It sounds crazy to think that they would think about quitting. Most people would have just taking a vacation to recharge if a burnout is imminent. BTS also cannot go anywhere without being recognized at this point. They also have a lot of pressure to act perfect in public and not step out of line. 

In "Love Yourself: Her'," there isn't any song that stood out for me. I knew DNA was a popular song, but that song never stuck with me. Basically every song BTS produces that has any indication of being a romantic song, is about their love for their fanbase, ARMY. That is probably fine, but for me, I rather live in a fantasy instead where I imagine a love story between two people and not a love story between an artist and their fans. Interestingly, BTS said the original melody of the song, "DNA," was bad and Bang Si-Hyuk had to rewrite the melody to improve it. This was a good example story of Bang Si-Hyuk as a topliner.

Jimin's "Intro : Serendipity" song is beautiful. I came to appreciate Jimin's voice in his solo works. He has such a great soprano voice. First, it was the "Lie" song and now this beautiful "Intro: Serendipity" song.


BTS was invited to the American Music Awards in 2017 and that was also another defining moment for them to be recognized in the United States of America. BTS was so lucky that they have a relatively good English speaker in the group: RM. I think if all members couldn't speak English fluently, the group's global power would potentially diminish due to people's lack of interest and understanding of what they do. In fact, I am amazed at how there are so many BTS fans listening to BTS rap tracks when I am not sure if they know what the lyrics mean or at least the fans would have to get a translation of it and even the translation is not enough for them to completely understand the connotation of the words and phrases. j-hope had a lot of anxiety not knowing English and he took it hard according to the book. I understand that feeling as I would love to be fluent in Korean, but I don't memorize words and phrases that easily. I have to really understand the words, the connotation and its meaning for me to feel confident. Even though RM spoke English fluently, he had pressure to not speak out of line and cause tensions or misunderstandings between the two countries of USA and Korea. This sounds like it is a UN job on top of an artist job. 

I enjoyed reading about BTS dark moments of depression that they went through as this is the side of artists that the public does not get to see and even BTS themselves wanted the public to see the positive side of them rather than the dark side of them, though we still get to hear these moments in their music.

Amazingly, BTS's original contract was five years and they extended their contract to a longer period of seven years with Big Hit Entertainment, which is not the normal industry practice. On the other hand, BTS seems loyal to Big Hit and Big Hit gave them the opportunity to grow and expand to limitless heights. I would not think that is crazy, though having a longer contract benefits the company and not the artist, but if there is a deep trust between the two parties, I can only hope that there would be no big relationship dynamic changes and it could be a great cooperation between BTS and Big Hit Entertainment. BTS also believes that there is no BTS if at least one of the members left the group. A loss of a member would mean that BTS would disband rather than carry on without a member. There is a big sense of loyalty at every level. Sang namja (상남자), right?

BTS' next album, "Love Yourself: Tear'" was almost not made because of the pressures of their career, contract renewals, and their frustrations due to fame. I wonder if that is the reason why they put a tear in the title. Thankfully, songs like "Fake Love" and "Intro : Singularity" entered the world.

Surprisingly, the song, "Fake Love," was about BTS' unsure feelings of what they were showing their ARMY fans. Yikes. I guess, when I think about it, a fan's relationship with their idol can never be that of true love anyways. I'm fine with that. I don't have to marry my idols in real life. There is also that sense of intimacy, which is one way of course from an idol to his/her fans. However, BTS really meant that they didn't know if they were staying true to their fans and that worried them so it's not a romantic meaning, but just a doubt that they had within themselves to live up to their fan's expectations.

V singing "Into: Singularity" sounded very relaxing. However, I checked into the lyrics and it does not sound like a good thing at all. The lyrics are dark.

In the final series of "Love Yourself" comes the final repackage album of "Love Yourself: Answer." I believe that I own this album. I always heard of the song, "Euphoria" on social media and wondered where this song comes from and now I know that this song was sung by Jung Kook. I have heard this song being featured in Instagram videos a lot. He apparently excelled in his singing skills for this song according to the book.

For this album, j-hope started the dance challenge as a promotional tool for their title song, "Idol." Before this, fans never took part of dance challenges that have become normal and expected for song promotion in today's K-pop world.


Chapter 6: The World of BTS

This chapter covers the "Map of the Soul" album series. BTS seemed to be transcending into deep philosophical thought.

BTS' album "Map of the Soul: Persona" crashed the Melon (music streaming service) servers. At this point, fans are camping out just to see BTS and BTS began to be compared to the level of Beatles stardom, which is wild. I didn't know stadium tours for BTS were so exhausting because the stage is so big. 

Because of their exhausting schedules, BTS finally took a month-long break in August 2019. Since they decided to take a break, the "Map of the Soul" series went from a trilogy of albums to just a duology of albums. In this case, time really trumped the money that they could have been earning but I would say that I would not have it any other way. Mental health and rest are very important in life. However, BTS are workaholics and some of the members like Jin and j-hope didn't feel entirely comfortable with a break. The biggest takeaway was also for BTS to have a different perspective of life. The change in environment helped Suga slightly ease of his feeling of needing perfection in his work. j-hope went to work on a new album during his break. So much for a break! Work was "relaxing" for him. This reminded me of the "Fresh of the Boat" TV show quote, "Work is a vacation from poverty."

What struck me about Suga was when he mentioned that besides music, he would like to be a licensed psychological therapist who can help similar artists like him. Imagine the stories he would hear if that really happened. That thought also showed me a huge indication of the type of person that Suga is because I am also very similar to him. I always aim to help others and I can't imagine my life without this type of attitude. This is the reason why I started so many blogs. 

Chapter 7: We Are

We go into the COVID era of BTS where they had to promote their songs, "Dynamite" and "Butter" remotely, but still managing to gain more fans. BTS sorely missed their fans and the feeling of being back on the stage overwhelmed them. BTS is lucky that their career still thrived through the pandemic. The music industry took a hit during COVID times. 

The song, "Dynamite," was only created due to the pandemic to cheer up everybody affected by self-isolation and possible illness. If not for the pandemic, BTS would have continued their linked song series by creating a song that would answer their early song, "No More Dream" to perhaps, "Dream." Also, "Dynamite" is BTS' first English song and they worried whether they can pull it off. Recently, I saw a headline where Bang Si-Hyuk wanted to remove the "Korean" word from "K-pop" to just "pop" as this type of music is for the American pop audience anyway. I feel like K-pop music is morphing with every year and sometimes too fast for my taste. 

I found it funny that the young Jimin in his trainee days asked RM how he can get charisma. As per the book, RM replied that RM did not know either. I guess you have to get it through natural experience.

During the entire period of "Dynamite," "Butter," and "Permission to Dance," I was still a bit oblivious to who BTS was and why fans are so obsessed with them. I wasn't obsessed with these songs and in a way, the songs were being played everywhere so I wasn't too thrilled to hear it repetitively.

Amazingly, in 2021, BTS went from debuting in America at the American Music Awards to winning "Artist of the Year" at the American Music Awards. This is really unheard of from a foreign group who was also invited to give speeches at the United Nations.

Honestly, didn't understand why people thought BTS should be exempt from the Korean military service, but now after reading their book, I understand that they made huge contributions to the world. The topic is probably too late to discuss as BTS members are either in the army or going to the army soon for their mandatory service. The book didn't mention the fact that BTS announced that they will be doing solo projects from 2023 while each member goes to do their mandatory military service. It could be that maybe the book was already in print and couldn't include recent information as BTS is still history in the making. 

This book really opened my eyes to who BTS was/is, their music, and their history. I appreciated learning so many new things from reading the translated version of the book in English. There were times in which I questioned the translations, but in the end, I think I understood the overall meaning. This book only covered a decade so I wonder if a second book will be published ten years later to cover the second decade. If so, I will also be willing to review it for you.

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Credits:

Big Hit Entertainment/ Hybe Corporation
Youtube
Beyond the Story by Myeongseok Kang
Wikipedia
Lyrics translation sites: https://genius.com/ and https://doolsetbangtan.wordpress.com/bts-albums/