Coupang Play’s “Anna” might have initially received a lot of attention and praise, it soon became a hot issue between the platform and the director.
Something rare happened in kdramaland, a dispute so public between a giant platform and a director over a project spilled over, and people, including me, got to understand some of the writing and editing choices in the drama, for better or worse.
Note: the below discussion contains spoilers of the entire drama
A recap of “Anna” controversy
Back in early August, the legal representative of Director Lee Joo Young, the woman who wrote and directed “Anna,” told news outlets that their client is seeking to sue Coupang Play over the drama.
The director was not happy with the changes made to “Anna.” Originally, the drama was intended to be eight episodes but was reduced to six episodes. Lee Joo Young’s lawyer says Coupang Play made changes without input from the director and released a 6-episode drama. The lawyer argues the filming, editing and narrative were all damaged due to the platform’s actions.
In addition, the director wanted her name to be removed from the credits for the 6-episode version. The lawyer argues that Coupang Play infringed on the director’s copyright with their actions.
After that, the editor of the drama also came out with a statement via Facebook alleging that the current version of the drama was not the same one he worked days and nights on with the director. He also requested Coupang Play to remove his name from the credits but alleges they didn’t respond.
In response to this, Coupang Play said,
But here is the catch, while it is true that Coupang Play said “Anna” would release an extended version back in July, they did not specify, at the time, that it will be the director’s cut.
This was addressed in the follow-up statement by the director’s lawyer. Coupang Play then announced the release of “Anna” the extended version in the middle of August.
However, the situation only got messier and it appears it won’t be getting resolved any time soon. On August 22, the director’s law firm released a statement claiming a private meeting was held between both sides and they apologized for the editing controversy and said they would be removing the names of the director, editor, and 6 other staff members.
Within hours of this statement being released, Coupang Play issued its rebuttal firmly denying it had made an apology and even accused the lawyer of the director of being unable to understand that an agreement was reached at a private meeting on August 19 because ‘they were drunk.’
Coupang Play asserted they will remove the names from the credits because the director conceded that Coupang did not unilaterally re-edit the show. On top of that, they announced their plans to take legal action against both the director and her lawyers.
This is still a developing story, you can stay tuned to the blog for more updates!
The differences between the Kdrama “Anna” original and the extended version?
There are obviously many differences, most notably in the editing department.
The first obvious thing is the dramatic editing in the original version [shortened to OV from now on] versus the calm editing in the extended version [shortened toEV from now on].
In the OV, the drama references many pivotal moments as the opening sequences, one of which is when Anna/Yu Mi gets out of the car on that fateful day and another one that references her life in seclusion after her disappearance over narration. I liked that a lot.
The EV uses classical music more, there are also more quiet moments, and tonally, its a lot calmer. The EV has issues with pacing in certain episodes and I am guessing this is why Coupang Play had a different idea of how to handle it.
The editing in the EV makes it sound more boring, it also strikes as a character study rather than a thriller or a suspense drama. While both feel disconnected and uninterested in engaging audiences beyond the pure intrigue behind why Yu Mi made those choices, one does it better than the other.
Personally speaking, I liked the editing choices for the OV much more as I felt they added more spice to the drama that felt a bit disconnected [from the audience] at times.
In the EV, some editing choices towards the second half is not to my liking, in the sense that the color palette used was not nice [in scenes referencing the 1980s and 1990s], it contrasted with the overall feel the drama gives. I didn’t understand why the greyish, brownish color tone was used like that.
Editing in kdramas is not often discussed but it is very important, you only notice it if its butchered, or in this case you have two drastically different editing versions to judge from. There have been other kdramas in the past that I found issues with in terms of editing but generally speaking, its not something I often bring up.
The second biggest obvious difference is the run time. The EV clocks in at 8 episodes opposite the OV which had 6 episodes. I believe both have their set of strengths and weaknesses.
In my review of the ending, I noted how I wished the drama had around two more episodes to wrap up perfectly, and while I will not say I was completely satisfied with the EV either, I still believe that the project makes more sense in the extended intended version.
I am still baffled by Coupang Play’s decision to cut down on the episode count. 8 episodes is soooo short in comparison to the regular 16-episode format we’re so used to, was it necessary to cut down two more episodes? Mind you, some episodes were close to 45 minutes long. The OV cuts off some pivotal moments especially towards the second half.
When I first heard the news of a mess, I knew the bulk of the difference would be centered around the last two episodes.
There aren’t many differences in terms of scenes in the first 3 to 4 episodes of either version, however, as we move to the second half, it felt that many scenes in the OV were missing additional context, the editing felt choppy towards the second half in that version too when you take in mind the fact that many scenes were missing.
In the EV, it flows much much better. We get to understand certain scenes a lot better because we’re provided a backstory to why these characters were placed in these certain situations.
But in the EV, some editing gives away the plot, it seems that the director didn’t really aim to hide the fact that Choi Ji-Hoon was a rotten apple while the OV format did attempt to delay the reveal a bit more.
Some of the scenes that were edited out in the OV added to the suspense in the series and I was more on the edge of my seat watching it. Granted, it could also be that I knew what was going to happen, hence, I looked at the EV with more critical eyes.
In the EV, Lee Yu-Mi seems more human and less distant, she has more scenes with her parents as well which help show she wasn’t all that bad back in the day.
Another massive difference is the backstory of Choi Ji-Hoon, which is gravely missing in the OV.
In the EV, we find out more about his complexes, how he became so ruthless, and how he wasn’t always that terrible. I wished it delved a bit deeper into his character and his descent into madness.
The kdrama “Anna” is not perfect, neither the EV or the OV, however, I would say it was still an enjoyable watch and an interesting story.
I have a couple of complaints, most of which center around how distant Yu Mi feels. I wanted to know more about why she kept going in that direction, why she chose to carry on with this lie, I wanted to know more about her, did she feel torment?
I wanted to know more about the struggles she faced on a moral level a bit more. Its only when she’s confronted with the fact that he’s a total psycho that she decides to take care of it. Up until that moment and before the real Anna showed up, she wasn’t all that interested in really doing anything about him or exposing herself.
I believe the director didn’t want us to necessarily sympathize with her but I would have loved to see a bit more depth on that part. It wouldn’t mean I sympathize with her but I understand her a bit better, understanding the angle someone comes from doesn’t necessarily mean you excuse their behavior. Aside from the obvious, she truly wronged her parents and treated them badly, they deserved better.
I also would have loved to see more of what happened that led to the real Anna’s death and that particular scene. Even in the EV version, thats not properly explored even though it holds importance in the plot. Honestly, I expected to see that scene closely in the EV but it didn’t happen.
Regardless, I still believe that “Anna” is Suzy’s best work to date and her best performance to date too. Jung Eun-Chae and Kim Joon-Han give AMAZING performances, honestly, it was a pleasure watching them act.
Suzy truly sheds her warm image we’re so used to, and I love seeing somebody disappear into their character. Her acting has definitely improved over time and if anyone tells you she can’t act, show them this drama.
Even with the mess surrounding the drama, “Anna” is still fun to watch. Its also short so even if you were left a bit unsatisfied, at least, the screenwriter didn’t waste 16 hours of your life to give you this conclusion.
Comments on the controversy
I feel bad for the cast and crew of the drama for the way things were handled. Now, their hard work is overshadowed by what might become a long drawn-out legal battle if both parties don’t settle. Now, people won’t remember the drama for its interesting plot or performances but rather for the fight between the director and Coupang Play.
I can feel the immense hard work that went into this and I appreciate it. I don’t know who is right or wrong here since its a he-said, she-said situation as of now but I am interested in seeing how this will unfold.
For the record, Coupang Play is part of Coupang, the biggest online marketplace in South Korea. Its one of the biggest and most powerful conglomerates in the country. So this is definitely a big deal in the industry because we rarely see directors go up against giants like this or publicly air their grievances with them.
All I can say is…. I feel bad this happened.
So, what are your thoughts on the kdrama “Anna”?