I’m going into this series knowing nothing about the live action series it’s based on, nor knowing what to expect from it. I knew only that it had to do with a girl who wants to be a cook in a castle.
Before getting to the first DVD, I notice the box set is attractive and includes an insert with a good number of poster cards, with the English text “Pictorial Collection” on the part of the DVD box containing these. This is the type of thing which makes it worthwhile buying the DVDs rather than turning to the Internet to download the series without paying. If American releases of Japanese DVDs came with pencil boards (not sold separately), that might not increase sales, but it sure would improve the quality of the items for those who purchase it. Janggeum’s Dream has already been awarded points before I even put the first DVD in my computer.
Putting the DVD in, Janggeum’s Dream gets more points. It instantly is at the main menu, with a song playing. No sitting through FBI warnings, so sitting through previews for other shows. This is a DVD collection done right.
The menu gives four options, which unfortunately I don’t know what they are due to not knowing Korean. Clicking on the first button starts a sequence with a different theme song. Perhaps this is the “Play All” button, so back to the title screen I go. The second takes me to the episode selection screen, with soothing music playing in the background. Back to the title screen I go, to check out the other two buttons.
The third button is what I was looking for. It’s the subtitle selection screen, and in English words reads Korean, Japanese, English, and None. English for me!
The fourth button brings up a screen with three menu items, the third starting with “SD”. Perhaps these are bonus items on the DVD? I’ll check them out later. Instead, my stop will be menu item two, first episode. Actually, this looks to skip the opening theme, so the first menu item will do for me.
After watching the episode, I discovered something interesting I had forgotten some time ago: reading subtitles is troublesome. When I watch something in Japanese, I know enough of what’s being said in Japanese to simply glance at the subtitles without actually reading them, and I follow along completely. Watching a series in Korean means I won’t be able to rely on the audio. It doesn’t help that some of the subtitles have misspellings, improper pronouns, and everyone refers to Janggeum as “he” or “boy”.
The animation for this series is top quality for a series. Due to being based characters from a popular live action series, as I understand it, it may have had a decent budget. Also, because a lot of Japanese series are animated in Korea, the style of animation wasn’t anything unexpected.
As for the content of the episode, it used a nice mix of taking two separate storylines (the young king hunting a large, wild boar, and Janggeum’s events in town), and pulling them together (when Janggeum and Dongi find the young king wounded in the forest. I don’t know who all the main characters will be, but I have a good idea based on what I’ve seen.
The wild boar scene felt like something out of Princess Mononoke. The visual animation can’t compare, as Janggeum’s Dream has simpler backgrounds and use of colors for characters, but the feel is still there. This scene introduces the young king and an archer, perhaps the king’s faithful bodyguard.
The archer is highly skilled in what he does, with fast reflexes and strong balance. This is shown both in the boar scene and in his chase after the assassins through the forest. As for who the archer is, the young king says to him, “There’s a marriage of the second cousin of your father,” which should be the marriage in Janggeum’s town. If he’s from Janggeum’s town, then there’s a chance he’s encountered Janggeum before, unless he hasn’t been back home in a number of years. Also, the deepness of the archer’s voice took me by suprise. It’s deeper than I expected upon first seeing him. I’m sure I’ll get used to it quickly enough.
And the young king, I keep wanting to refer to him as a prince due to his youth. If he’s king at such a young age, then something may have happened to his parents, leaving him orphaned and having to take his place as king earlier than normal. I don’t know anything about Korea’s past, or if they had castles and kings, so I don’t have any information to go on beyond what the series presents to me. It’s actually rather exciting in this way.
About the young king, either he has full confidence in his abilities to stay safe, or he has lived a sheltered life, and doesn’t expect there to be assassins out to kill him. This is troubling if assassins killed his parents, in which case he really needs to be more cautious. Having arrows suggests he’s been trained as an archer, so he might not have been too sheltered. Maybe he’ll begin to think things after after waking from the fall he took during the assassin attack.
The festivities in town are also a nice change of pace. I do enjoy Japanese festivals, but I’ve seen so many Obon festivals, so many maiko dances, and the like. Being able to see another country’s festival performs presents unexpected events, a breath of fresh air. I don’t know many of these performances might actually take place in Korean festivals, or may have in the past, but that doesn’t affect ones enjoyment of watching an animated series.
Judging by how they act, I imagine Janggeum and Dongi to be at least young teenagers.
Janggeum is introduced as being very athletic. Or caring very much not to let food hit the ground. When Mongmong caused the bowls of noodles to fall, I was expecting Janggeum to jump in, spin around, fly through the air, and save the noodles.
There are a couple of items to take notice of with Janggeum. Not noticeable early on is the rings she wears, and loses one of. She mentions her mother’s ring, so these much have been her mother and father’s wedding rings. After they died, these remain as mementos of Janggeum’s parents. The ability for them to latch together was a nice design idea.
The second item of Janggeum’s which I’m keeping an eye on is the little doll figure worn at her belt. Is it a good luck charm? A reminder of someone from her past? What significance does it have?
Dongi is one of the first “hefty” boys I’ve seen without being overweight in a series. Usually series I watch lack someone hefty, or if they include one, it’s an overweight hefty. Dongi is just the right size.
The other character’s from Janggeum’s home are the dog, Mongmong, with its brightly-colored vest, and Dongi’s parents. It seems they’ve adopted Janggeum as their own daughter.
On the castle kitchen’s side, there’s the kind lady who may be the head of the kitchen, and the lady who scolded Janggeum and was uncertain about the “tadpole noodles”. I expect the latter to be troubled by Janggeum in the castle kitchen after Janggeum gets a job learning to be a cook there. Also, the latter’s telling another girl about the importance of noodles shows she has experience. It would be a shame if a child became an apprentice cook and outdid her.
When the king and the archer are going to the house in town to stay, Janggeum runs by to get the items for making the noodles (which leads to the adorable scene with her smiling while the strainer on her head falls over eyes). Does this mean the archer has some relation to Dongi’s family?
On Janggeum’s end, her part in the series is set up in time, at its own pace, within the episode. Her mother loved to cook and make people happy with her food, and Janggeum holds the same dream. She wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps, and believes her best chance is to learn to cook from the castle’s cooks.
The reactions to the noodles by the guests is priceless. The king may be young, but his opinions appear to hold a lot of weight among the people. Or, perhaps they felt at ease trying out the noodles after the king said they tasted good.
One thing I may have to read up on is how Korean names are ordered. If they’re anything like Japanese, then Janggeum’s name is Seo Janggeum, with Seo being her family name.
Above, I’ve referred to the archer as “the archer”. The assassin says “There are only one warrior Min, Jeong-ho.” Ignoring the use of “are” in place of “is” in the subtitles, the dialogue tells that Min Jeong-ho is the archer. Jeong-ho. Now I want to know Dongi’s family name, and know if Jeong-ho is related to him in some way. Either a relative of Dongi’s was getting married, or he and his family were helping out with food preparations at the wedding.
The person the assassin speaks with says to bring the ChungNaBee when going after the young king and Jeong-ho. What is this ChungNaBee? Is that the assassin with the butterfly tattoo? And more importantly, why does this guy have pumpkins growing on the roof of his house?
The little things add to the animation in a series like this, such as the squirrel running by as the young king and Jeong-ho are on their morning ride to hunt the large boar.
When the ninja assassins fled, it was rather obvious that they were leading Jeong-ho away. Still, the look of panic as the one assassin was breathing heavily while hiding was worth having Jeong-ho led chasing the two away from the king.
The scene with the unconscious king and Janggeum standing up to the assassins shows her stubbornness to not let someone be harmed. This may be only the first of a long line of struggles she’ll be presented with, and hopefully she’ll come across an encounter where she is unable to stand up against the enemy. Adversity and all that.
As the episode comes to a close, Janggeum knows about the butterfly tattoo, Jeong-ho has one of Janggeum’s rings, and the young king will be left in the dark about who saved him (unless the doctor knows Janggeum and Dongi).
After the episode, the DVD goes right to the next episode. The ending theme song will probably show up after the end of the last episode.