Call me crazy, but I actually forked out a 3-figure sum to buy a DVD set! That was how much I liked the drama “Kill Me Heal Me”.
Note: Contents of the director’s cut package are protected by strict copyright, so I won’t be sharing very specific contents. All photos have to be watermarked also. This post is only meant to be a review of sorts.
I placed the order way back in April, but the set was only released in mid-October after many hiccups during the pre-production process. But before I go on, I presume not many foreign fans of Korean dramas would be familiar with a director’s cut set (since most of the info is usually written in Korean), so I’ll touch a bit on the basics first.
Firstly, what is a director’s cut? It is a limited edition DVD or Bluray collection with the drama episodes re-edited by the director. During re-editing, the director may choose to improve on the editing, sound and/or colouring of the video, and also include deleted scenes that did not make the final cut when the series first aired on TV due to the need to adhere to the running time of 60-70 minutes per episode. Those who have seen enough Korean dramas should be aware of how the live shooting system in Korea can result in silly editing mistakes because the crew had to do their filming and editing in a rush. Well, this is also the chance for the director to clean up such mistakes. The director’s cut will also typically contain additional footage such as behind-the-scenes, NG out-takes, cast interviews, episode commentaries etc, along with goodies such as a photo book, post cards, posters and even replicas of certain props used in the drama.
Unfortunately, not every Korean drama gets released as a director’s cut. This is a premium product that is released based on demand since profit margins are low, especially given the fact that most people would rather download videos for free than pay for physical disks these days. While the drama is still airing on TV, a group of Korean fans (which can be loosely called the “initiative team” since they are the ones who initiate the project) will usually approach the TV station, the production company and a distributor to request for a director’s cut to be produced. The fans will then conduct a survey to gauge demand for a director’s cut, and if the numbers are favourable, the parties in charge will give the green light and commence on producing the set after the drama ends. The distributor will work with the initiative team to collect feedback from fans as to what goods and extra footage should be included in the director’s cut package, come up with interview questions to pose to the cast, decide what the cast should discuss in the episode commentary, and even decide on the design of the package. As you can see, there is a lot of fan input, and this comes as a surprise to me as I doubt other countries have such a practice when it comes to producing a director’s cut.
Anyway, the production of the Kill Me Heal Me (KMHM) Director’s Cut was filled with a lot of drama of its own, mainly because fans found out about the poor track record of the distributor that was handling this project. The company had previously produced director’s cut packages for other dramas, but the packages contained many defects and the company even had to issue a mass product recall. Fans were naturally upset with the choice of distributor and went on a boycott to demand a change of distributor, even to the point of threatening the initiative team with a lawsuit. This was the first time that I realised how dangerous fan-girling can be, and there was even a possibility of me not getting back my money since I had pre-ordered the disks.
As contracts had already been signed between various parties, it was not possible to switch the distributor by then. The distributor then tried very hard to pacify fans, and ended up throwing in a lot of goodies into the director’s cut package. So, the KMHM Director’s Cut that was initially a laughing joke among Korean netizens who paid attention to this saga, became the envy of many fans of other Korean dramas who wished that the director’s cut of their own favourite drama was as impressive as this. Why is it impressive? We shall see.
Firstly, I was already impressed by the quick delivery service. I ordered the set through Yes24, and the official release date for the director’s cut was set for 15 October 2015. However, Yes24 decided to mail out my package from Korea on the 13th, so I was caught off guard when I received a call from the DHL courier on the 14th (the very next day!) who said he was outside my house with the parcel. But you are one day early! I checked the DC forum and found that the Korean fans were also receiving their parcels on the very same day. Since I don’t live in Korea and it takes time to ship the parcel overseas, I was expecting to receive my package at least 3 days after the Koreans, but definitely not on the same day as them! Not sure if this was a calculative move by Yes24 and the distributor, or was it merely a case of DHL being faster than the Korean postal service.
I had ordered the DVD set, which comes in a pink hard case with a label bearing Cha Do Hyun’s face. Those who ordered the Bluray would have received a violet case with Shin Se Gi’s face on the label instead. For those rich enough to afford a Bluray and DVD set, you can place them side by side, and the labels will form a picture of Cha Do Hyun and Shin Se Gi looking at each other face-to-face. Goes to show the amount of thought put into the design!
The “freebies” were packed separately. It is standard practice in Korea for distributors to reward those who pre-ordered the director’s cut with special goods. Those who order after the pre-order period will have to pay the same price, but they are not entitled to these special goods. In this case, the special goods include 1) the scripts for episodes 1 and 20 and the best scenes from selected episodes, 2) a limited edition Special Book containing documents from Omega’s scrapbook in the drama and a text interview with the script writer, 3) a special DVD containing extra footage, and 4) Cha Do Hyun’s black card.
In the drama, Shin Se Gi likes to show off The credit card that Cha Do Hyun owns to prove that he has money. The black card in the director’s cut set is in reference to said card in the drama, and is designed like an actual credit card. It bears a serial number of sorts to certify that this package is an authentic product. The last four digits is the unique number for each set (only 3998 cards were issued, so the last number in the series will be 3998). The string of numbers in front has significance related to the drama, in particular, the date and time that Shin Se Gi first met Oh Ri Jin. The little icons above the numbers represent each personality of Cha Do Hyun. For instance, the bomb represents Ferry Park while the glasses represent Yo Seob.
Removing the cover of the main package, we get this — the set of special features on the right, and the postcards on the left. The Special Feature set comprises of 4 DVDs (total running time: ~800 mins) which include commentaries for the best scenes of every episode by the 3 main leads and the director, interviews with the director, main leads and supporting cast, behind-the-scenes footage, unreleased footage and NG out-takes. Based on what I understand, it is rare for director’s cut sets to include 800 minutes worth of extra footage; 400-700 mins seems to be the norm.
Every package comes with a set of 5 postcards bearing the pictures of Cha Do Hyun, Oh Ri Jin, Oh Ri On, Cha Ki Joon and Han Chae Yeon, along with printed signatures of the respective actors.
Next up, there’s the OST album, which comprises of 2 discs. The first disc contains the vocal tracks and instrumentals that were already included in the normal OST album that was released for sale after the drama ended, but several unreleased instrumental tracks were added on. The entire disc 2 contains instrumental tracks that were featured in the drama but were not released for sale before. I personally love listening to drama OSTs, including instrumental tracks, so this was something that I had been looking forward to when I placed my order. It always fascinates me how the composer can make use of the same song, but give it a different vibe each time by changing the tempo or musical instrument used.
The 20 episodes of the full drama were split into 2 separate sets, each containing 5 DVDs, with 2 episodes per DVD. English subtitles are included. Cha Do Hyun’s picture is printed on the first set for episodes 1 to 10, while Oh Ri Jin’s image fronts the second set containing episodes 11 to 20. The colour of the DVDs inside are also different — pink for set 1 and purple for set 2. When you remove each disc from the case, you will see memorable quotes from the drama printed on the inner surface. Wasn’t expecting this! I like the attention paid to details.
And lastly, we have the photo book! The book has about 140 pages packed with stills from the drama and behind-the-scenes photos, many of them not released to the public before. I was expecting some pages to be quite bare or even blank, which is a cheap trick used by many photo books to make the books look thicker. But in this case, every page was filled with high quality photos; the paper quality and printing quality were also good.
And that’s it! Apologies for all the ugly watermarks on the photos, but they are necessary due to copyright controls on the product. I haven’t managed to find the time to watch all the DVDs or read all the books in the package, but everything looks well done based on external appearance alone. It seems like the distributor really went to great lengths to ensure that the final product had minimal defects so as to redeem themselves. All the better for us anyway! But really, ensuring the quality of the final product should be a basic responsibility of the distributor, and it should not be something that is done in response to complaints from customers.