Well, it’s the last day of February, and it is special because we get one extra day this month thanks to the leap year! I think it’s about time for me to have a proper post to say goodbye to 2015. It’s late (I know, I know), but I can’t seem to sit back and write coherent sentences about the dramas I watched last year. Maybe because I don’t really finish that many dramas? That, and my attention span that is getting even shorter year by year. So, expect lots of rants and ramblings in this post while I reminisce about the dramas that made me experience a roller coaster of emotions over the year of 2015.
It was another year filled with dramas of all kinds, but in my opinion, the quality for most dramas was just okay. It was an okay year for the dramas in general, except for several gems which managed to shine even in the concentrated sea of dramas floating our way like an endless supply of comfort food. Having lots of dramas to choose from is something I have to be grateful for, but with greater number of dramas, came new issues that viewers like us have to deal with. Long gone the painful wait for subs to come out and videos to load; it’s the era of making a good choice picking dramas to watch and sticking with said dramas.
But hey, who said that we can’t drop dramas? That’s right, just drop whatever you don’t feel like watching because you will find yourself going back to them if you love the dramas (or the actors, whatever ricks your socks) enough to have it stuck at the back of your mind.
After going through all the drama for the dramas, I present to you…the dramas I watched and felt compelled to write about.
Kill Me Heal Me
It was the first drama I watched last year, and the drama made me do all sorts of things for it: recapping, translating previews, stalking DC, reading interviews, and going gaga over Ji Sung after a few years. Now that I think of it, maybe I was being deprived of him; the last time I saw him was in Protect the Boss in 2011, and I didn’t watch Secret back in 2013 because I chose to concentrate on Empress Ki AND I don’t really fancy melodramas. Still, I consider myself lucky to give in to that temptation of watching Kill Me, Heal Me one day, because I was completely sucked into the wacky world of Do-hyun and his six ‘brothers (and sisters?)’. It wasn’t a perfect drama per se, but it was one with heart. I shed lots of tears while watching and recapping it, but the funny moments were there to pick me up again after getting my heart feeling like it was being stomped by seven elephants. The mix of rom-com and psychology with a dash of thrill was done well, although the biz plot could see done better. Ji Sung could be said to be the saving grace of the drama after the casting drama behind it, but one would appreciate how much the work went into making the series; the production team, the writer, and the cast. There would be no Ri-jin that we loved without Hwang Jung-eum, and the brother-zoned Ri-on might not be as compelling as he was if not for Park Seo-joon’s portrayal of him, which captured many hearts, including the popular Ahn Yo-na.
Also known as A Fool’s Love, I consider it as the underrated gem of 2015. One shouldn’t be fooled by the title; it was actually a fun drama covering several heavy subjects in a light setting, but never brushing them off as slapstick comedy material in order to rake in ratings. Extramarital pregnancy and the public stigma against delicate issues were among the main elements of the drama, yet it didn’t make the settings weary; instead, the warm setting of the series made it easier for me to immerse myself in both the characters and the world they lived in. It was an eye-opener, both for the issues portrayed and the cast: Choi Woo-shik was adorable and endearing in his first leading role as the titular Hogu while UEE carried the arrogant but softie-at-heart Do-hee wholeheartedly, but Seulong’s Byun Kang-chul was a scene stealer with a twist, and Lee Soo-kyung made an impression as Ho-kyung. The family was a riot, but the most adorable character had to be Geum-dong.
Hyde, Jekyll, Me
I had the chance to marathon Hyde just before its final week, and I did like what I saw at first (except the gorilla, of course). The first 6 episodes were somehow enjoyable, and I couldn’t help but to think that the timing was to be blamed for the dismal ratings despite being Hyun Bin’s first drama ever since Secret Garden, and he’s being paired up with Han Ji-min, who had burning chemistry with him in the movie The King’s Wrath, despite playing the character that was his young step-grandmother. Everything sounded great on paper, but it went downhill when it was pitted against Kill Me, Heal Me. The reason? Both focused on the male lead’s multiple personality disorder, but Hyde, Jekyll, Me suffered from the viewers’ doubt on dramas in the beginning of the year. Things took turn for the worse when more problems surfaced in addition to the repetitive plot and questionable choices made by the writers in the middle of the series. There was a limit to some things even in kdramas, and no one would believe that a psychiatrist could put everyone under hypnosis like a magic spell. One thing it was successful was to prove the point to this day that not all dramas could be saved by top stars.
Falling for Innocence
Honestly speaking, I only finished watching the last two episodes this year. It started out great, but soon, it became clearer that there were SO. MANY. business talks happening over the course of the series, not to mention the dragging case that was being dragged around for way too long. Maybe it should be renamed as Falling for Business? Or Falling for Hermia? Plus, that company name made me think of herniated disc each time they mentioned it. There were lots of meetings, talks, conflicts, fights, etc. etc. focusing on the company, and it did make me wonder if it should be promoted as business/company drama. Still, the company was where everything started, from Min-ho’s background to Soon-jung’s loyalty, not to forget Joon-hee’s everything. Jung Kyung-ho could be regarded as the saving grace of the drama (although he was a total jerk in the beginning), and chemistry with Kim So-yeon was one of the good things about the drama. Although Jung Kyung-ho and his BFF Yoon Hyun-min were starring in this drama together, there was no trace of their Paksa-Soo bromance here, so consider yourself warned! But I have to thank the drama from giving a spotlight to Jin Goo. Aye.
Heard It Through The Grapevine
Well…to tell you the truth, I put this on hold. I actually loved the premise of an ordinary girl entering an elite family and climbing her way into her in-laws’ good books with her intelligence and with, but I was conflicted when the drama ventured into the topic of affair, which is not my favourite subject in dramas actually. It was nothing personal, but I just didn’t fancy it very much. However, the characters were hilarious (although they could be frustrating to watch at times) and I was rooting for Seo Bom to prove everyone wrong, outsmarting her husband and his family most of the time. Maybe I should get back to it later, because I adore Go Ah-sung and Lee Joon 🙂
Splendid Politics (Hwajung)
It was a long (read: LOOOOONG) journey, but somehow I managed to finish Hwajung after nearly dropping it several times. It was one of the failed recapping attempts I made this year, because the commitment was overwhelming. The plot development wasn’t as fast as Empress Ki (just to compare two long sageuk), and the conflicts presented in the drama involved lots of court intrigues and royal audiences, so it could be a snooze trip for those who don’t fancy historical dramas like this. The focus of the drama was the titular Princess Jungmyung, portrayed by Lee Yeon-hee, but Cha Seung-won took charge as the ambitious yet guilt-ridden Gwanghae in the first half of the series. I actually liked the romance part (although it wasn’t the primary focus) between Jungmyung and Joo-won, but character-wise, the supporting actors were memorable: Kim Yeo-jin, Jung Woong-in, Jo Min-ki, and the short appearance by Lee Sung-min.
The Girl Who Sees Smell
Oh, Smelly Girl. The leads were definitely the pulling factor, and Shin Se-kyung was great here! Her chemistry with Yoochun could be said as one of the factors for the drama’s enjoyable ride, but it wasn’t a smooth ride until the end. Although it focused on police investigation and thriller, the police stuff was unfortunately weaker than the average detective drama. It would fare better if the writer did a collaboration with another writer with better grasp of investigation dramas, which would make the plot tighter. But then, it was an enjoyable ride overall, with lots of cutesy and dorky scenes of the official mascot of Chunface. Do keep your eyes on Namgoong Min and Yoon Jin-seo in this drama!
Missing Noir M
It was a worthwhile journey watching this crime procedural drama not only for its genre, but also for the main cast: Kim Kang-woo, Park Hee-soon, and Jo Bo-ah. The drama was dark and creepy at times, and the cases became more gut-wrenching week by week. The only gripe I had was the way it handled the details of the case investigation. Hmmmm…how do I put it? The cases were often aired in two parts, and it could get confusing because the details were just overwhelming. One minute you were in the dark about the victims, and the next thing you knew, there were so many new details that you didn’t know which one to look at first. The first case was the best example, because I had to refer to the relationship chart released after I watched the first episode. This could be a turn-off for some viewers because they couldn’t understand the case through the episode, and trust me, not many people would like it when they have to do extra research outside the drama. That was the only complaint from me, and I still recommend it to fellow OCN drama lovers.
I am still glad I made the decision to marathon it instead of live watching it, because I don’t think I would survive the drama. Maybe it’s just me and my overly sensitive Annoy-O-Meter, but the creeping girlfriends got very obsessive and annoying after a while. Same goes with the prickly director who got on my nerves more than once, but Byun Yo-han and Song Ji-hyo made the journey a whole lot more bearable. Axing down the episode count might be one of the greatest decisions ever made, because I am not sure whether I will be able to withstand another four episodes of the clingy exes. Maybe I can, because there’s Byun Yo-han (don’t throw the eggs at me please!).
My Beautiful Bride
One of my personal favourites this year, My Beautiful Bride took me by surprise. I did not plan to watch it while it was airing, but it was enough to say that I was hooked after hearing good words from my friends on Twitter. The premise was simple: a man who was about to get married found his bride to be missing one day, sending him into a long, arduous chase which would soon uncover the past the bride wanted to hide, as the man himself getting entangled in the complicated present. What hooked me was the editing of the series (which would wring some tears from you if you are a crybaby like me) and the man at the center of the story, portrayed by Kim Mu-yeol. Make sure to find the OST if you can, just to wring extra tears after you are done with the series (like what I did).
Penned by one-half of the writer duo of Secret, Mask didn’t turn out to be as melodramatic as its half-sister; in fact, it could be considered a mix of many things, from thriller to murder mystery. Soo Ae returned to the small screen in two characters of opposite nature but shared the same face. The doppelgänger was the root of all evil, as the leads were tricked into the web of deceit and lies spun by Yeon Jung-hoon’s character, Min Suk-hoon. It could easily go down a darker route but it made use of the best of both worlds, giving the sweet ending for the characters of Joo Ji-hoon and Soo Ae, while making an impact through Yeon Jung-hoon and Yoo In-young’s ill-fated relationship.
Scholar Who Walks The Night
aka He Who Can Also Walk in Daylight Because of His Special Hidden Overcoat. Yet another manhwa adaptation and I have lots of complaints with regard to the series. To think that I spent most of the time ranting about the series back then, it would have taken pages to type them all down, but I will just summarize them instead of boiling my own blood again thinking of them. Butchering the characters one by one was just the icing on the cake; questionable choices of the characters, over the top plot development, and flat plot twists…oh my, I will stop here. Lee Soo-hyuk definitely got the most out of the drama and his character is cool until the end. I will engrave Gwi’s name in my memory as the coolest Joseon Vampire. As for Kim Sung-yeol…yeah, you will go into my fifth good book.
Splash Splash Love
Okay, this wasn’t a full length drama but I think it deserved a mention here, because it managed to achieve what most dramas couldn’t. Splash Splash Love (or Splish Splash Love) was a two-part special starring Kim Seul-gi, Yoon Doojoon, Jin Ki-joo, and Ahn Hyo-sup, and it was also broadcast as a 10-episode web drama. The time-traveling rom-com was sweet and delightful, suitable for a quick drama fix whenever you feel like running from the contemporary dramas temporarily. I would put it in the list of dramas you have to show to your newbie kdrama friends, because it covered the best of kdrama world – both in modern and classical settings – without being too heavy and overbearing. Heh, the director also managed to sneak in some sageuk parodies inside the drama, and I’m sure it will be a fun watch for all!
Nirvana in Fire
After years without a c-drama, stars had aligned for me to watch not one, but three of them last year! Thanks to the rave reviews on Twitter, I decided to give Nirvana in Fire (Lang Ya Bang) a try, and the rest was history. Suddenly, I found myself burning the midnight oil watching as many episodes as I could, waiting with bated breath for new episodes to be uploaded and subbed, and giving in to the temptation by watching the unsubbed episodes. The episode count was daunting at first but towards the end, 54 felt too short, and I found myself pondering whether the ending happened too fast. The politics might be a turn off for some people but if you can handle fast-paced plot with intrigues and political machinations by an outsider, please give it a try!
Love Me If You Dare
A psychological thriller adapted from a novel of the same title (in Chinese), the series started out pretty well, even after I accidentally spoiled myself watching the long trailer. A friendly warning: don’t watch the 15-minute trailer to spare yourself from the major spoilers. That was probably one of the reasons I found the series slightly flat in the later episodes, and it could do with less. The police and crime investigation aspects were done well, although more details and explanations regarding the cases would be a nice addition to the thrill. I’m no Bo Jinyan, so I can’t really understand the cases well. I haven’t read the novel, but I felt that the drama Jian Yao didn’t really contribute much to the investigations, especially in the later episodes. She just became ‘the assistant’ instead of actively solving cases, and Jinyan was the one doing most of the work. Well, he probably didn’t mind it since he was a genius, and he got Ziyu by his side.
It aired before Nirvana in Fire but was only picked by Viki to be subbed after Nirvana ended. An exciting story of spies and undercover agents in 1940s Shanghai, the cast were mostly Nirvana alumni and fans were intrigued to check it out. Although the main lead, Ming Tai, could be a bit on the bratty side in the beginning, his transformation from a playful, hot-blooded Young Master of a rich family to a skilled agent was worth rooting for. Together with Ming Lou, the brothers braved the watchful eyes of the Japanese government in their independent movement to liberate the country. The agent thing was cool, but it could do without the love conversations in the middle of a life-or-death mission. It was too…cheesy? I’m putting this on hold since I could sense the torture scene coming up, and I can’t really stomach it.
Answer Me 1988 (Reply 1988)
Having witnessed the shipping wars for Reply 1994, I have sworn off rooting exclusively for one guy for the next installment of the Reply series while hoping that the husband hunt won’t be the prime focus of the drama. At first, the poster gave a glimmer of hope that Reply 1988 would be focusing on the families, but the production team suddenly announced that there would be another husband hunt this time. Perhaps, they were well aware of the majority of the viewers being younger fans, and what would be better than turning the viewers into raging hunters while fishing for higher ratings? It was a genius move, but I couldn’t help myself from being disappointed that the compelling and touching family and friendship aspects of the story ended up being overshadowed by the minor plot that was the love line. Still, I am glad that the older cast received lots of love, and my favourite characters were Ra Mi-ran’s Mrs Cheetah and Choi Moo-sung’s ‘bear ajusshi’, because they’re awesome in their own ways. Too bad we didn’t get much insight into Dong-ryong and his family because I would like to see more of Mr Ryu the School Principal, and they ended up like a detached family from the rest.
Six Flying Dragons
Despite the controversial earlier episodes, the series is still keeping me on edge with its cliffhangers every single episode, and the second half is even more thrilling. I had to stop watching for a while because I almost fell out of love with it, but love rules..and here I am, waiting anxiously for the next episode. I am jealous of those who will get to marathon this series later, because they won’t have to wait for new episodes (and waiting is slowly killing me). Although both history and its (sort-of) sequel are spoilers for the series, it doesn’t mean that Six Flying Dragons is just a recycle of commonly known facts and scenes. In fact, the plot is moving even faster now that we are getting closer to the finale, and just like every exciting long dramas I have seen before…all of a sudden, 50 episodes seem so short! I would advice future viewers to find a character to root for, because it will be easier to follow a long drama when you have something to focus on (apart from the story and direction, of course). At this point, I am happy to report that rooting for a hero turned antihero is paying off, and I can’t wait for Bang-won to reach a new height in everything, even more than what he has shown so far.
My watchlist isn’t what it used to be few years back, and I am content with following three airing dramas at one time instead of five (or even eight!) in the past. There were several 2015 dramas that I intended to check out once I find the time and mood for them, but I am not forcing myself to commit to dramas I don’t have patience with. I am probably more forgiving of myself these days when it comes to completing dramas, and I don’t really hesitate to drop shows that I can’t seem to like. There’s no requirement of what and how many dramas we have to watch, and the important things is to enjoy whatever you are watching! Here’s to a better kdramaland in 2016, if it’s not too late to have a wish.