Monday, July 7, 2014

Kdrama Review: Rebirth - Next (2005)

Rebirth - Next

Drama watchers rejoice: it's the review you've all been waiting for! No, it's not, and actually you've probably never heard of this whimsically romantic drama before, but that's okay. I'm here to change that. Rebirth, Next, Reincarnation, whatever you want to call it, is actually five stories about the same four people who meet in the present, and in four different pasts. Each time they're reincarnated (in four conveniently romantic historical Korean eras) their lives are plunged into chaos and angst, into brilliantly reworked and unique love squares, and when they die they don't remember each other in the next life. Or do they?

There is an overarching story set in the present timeline, which weaves in and between the historical eras, and that story is probably the wildest of them all. It's where we meet our main characters for the first time though. Ryu Soo Young is the neurosurgeon Min Ki Bum; Jang Shin Young plays Kang Jung Hwa, a starving stage actress; Lee Jong Soo is her colleague and almost boyfriend Min Ki Soo; and Park Ye Jin is the psychologist Lee So Hyeon who begins treating Jung Hwa with hypnosis, while possibly revealing their intertwining pasts.

Rebirth - Next is cheesy, epic, romantic to a fault, and great for those rainy days when you just want to whine about love and be overly indulged. And here's the best part. Once you've watched it through, you don't need to rewatch the whole thing. Just pick which era and storyline you liked in particular, and that two-episode era will be quite enough to fullfill all your nostalgic wants. Confused? Follow my guide with accompanying non-spoilery descriptions below.

Rebirth - Next Episode Guide:
  1. Present
  2. Present
  3. Joseon Era - Part 1
  4. Joseon Era - Part 2
  5. Goryeo (Mongol Invasion) - Part 1
  6. Goryeo (Mongol Invasion) - Part 2
  7. Present
  8. Present
  9. Japanese Conquest - Part 1
  10. Japanese Conquest - Part 2
  11. Proto-Three Kingdoms Era* - Part 1
  12. Proto-Three Kingdoms Era* - Part 2
  13. Present
  14. Present
*The listed era is only my best estimate for where these episodes take place in early Korean history. I am no scholar, and the drama is non-specific (at least in the English language). The drama is probably not partial to complete historical accuracy either, so I cannot be positive. I came to this conclusion based off geographical mentions and by how the society seems to function in the context of history. If you know more than me, please let me know!

Episodes 1 & 2 "Present" serve as an introduction to all the characters mentioned above, and it's a rather somber start, I'll be honest. The characters are moody, possessive, a little bumbling, but they certainly set the context of the story: that is, that they need, crave, and are drawn to each other, and not in a line up that will make everybody happy. Fair

Episodes 2 & 3 "Joseon Era" is our first dash back into history somewhere during the Joseon Dynasty, though the story less dynastically focused, than it is limited in scope to the love affairs of our favorite four. I like these episodes least of the eras simply because they resemble so many other Joseon-centered Kdramas, and they offer nothing much unique in that context. Fair

RSY - A worthy young nobleman due to marry a lord's daughter, and drawn to a servant
JSY - Noblewoman turned serf caste, and sadly in love above her station
LJS - Poor silk merchant who wants nothing more than to marry a girl and live happily ever after
PYJ - Agrieved lord's daughter, torn between her wronged friend and her wavering fiance

Episodes 5 & 6 "Goryeo" are by far my favorite in the entire drama. It's also the most lush, and sippingly romantic story of all! I'm a sucker for star-crossed lovers, and if I was going to pick up a cheesy novel, I'd want it to read like this. Outstanding

RSY - The 'barbarian' Mongol commander, out to destroy Goryeo as we know it
JSY - His random Mongol female retainer who sits around either scowling or moping
LJS - Goryeo soldier who aims to seek out the Mongols' weak spots
PYJ - The plucky maiden sent to spy on the commander, and instead falls in love

"I have an incurable disease in my imagination, but my past life is real."

Episodes 7 & 8 "Present" suddenly suck us out of the past, and back into the dull world. Jung Hwa is pretty sure she's remembering past lives, including the people in them and her hypnotist So Hyeon is starting to believe it may all be true. And she's not sure how she feels about that since their past lives center upon the same man of destiny, Ki Bum, and the same competition apparently still applies in the present day. Good

Episodes 9 & 10 "Japanese Conquest" take us on another adventure during the Japanese domination of all Korea, and 'viva la resistance'! Wrong language, I know, but it's a fun two-parter (probably the best of the drama) with lots of action and suspense, even if the plot isn't the most original. Still, the all around characterizations are at their finest here, which is to say it's all pretty good.  Outstanding

RSY - A courageous freedom fighter, wounded in a skirmish, in need of care and a place to hide
JSY - His dutiful but otherwise dull housewife, who quietly picks up the wreckage of their home
LJS - Collaborator out to earn his keep for the imperialist Japanese government
PYJ - A loyalist nurse caught in the crossfire, in war and in love

Episodes 11 & 12 "Proto-Three Kingdoms" is the last era, but earliest age, where oracles ordain how people live, city-states strive to live another day, and forbidden love takes the cake. Get ready for slow moving angst mixed with a decently stacked plot.Oh, and everyone's just so pitifully in love or puffed for vengeance and it is glorious. Good

RSY - Son of a general, protector of the state
JSY - Warrior daughter who like's men's clothing, on a mission of infiltration, not love
LJS - Her patriot brother, whose job it is to make sure she doesn't stray
PYJ - Lovely mystic, unfortunately in love the general's son too

Episodes 13 & 14 "Present" are the modern day conclusion. Finish the tale at your own risk. Fair

The best part of these 'stories' is that each one ends a little different, despite there being some prevalent themes and motifs. Best of all, it's not always the same characters who fall in love or get the man. And sure there's some nonsense thrown in about fate and destiny, and if you want to pick at it you might could spend some time unravelling whether or not each of them really lived all these lives and if there's a greater meaning to it. Or, you could just watch the drama and swoon a little and be carried away as if by a set of short stories with parallel themes. I can tell you that that's what I do.

Technically, I should rate this lower. Rebirth - Next doesn't have a high production value, the acting isn't stellar, and the plots are pure drabbles written and expanded to be sensational in everything they do. But you know what, I can find plenty of better dramas. Sometimes I just want something sappy and just a little bit tragic. I don't try to make it into something it's not, and therefore this makes me happy.


  1. I love this. It's very addictive. Watching on Viki.


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  2. Hmm idk if i should like a drama that doesn't have a defined otp.

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