It’s already April (time really flies), and I thought I should sum up my 2015 with dramaland. My apologies for it coming so very late, but here’s the list of last year’s dramas I’ve completed and some thoughts about them. As usual, Korea has lots of titles to offer each year but abundance also means that really good dramas can be hard to come by. It’s almost a one in a million chance for us to find a show that can fully blow us away! However, that is also why I continue to be a drama fan even as time passes: because there are gems not to be missed 🙂 The drama choices we have seem never-ending now that there are cable networks (compared to just the Big 3 back then). Furthermore, 2015 is also the year I discovered some great shows outside kdramas!
Actually, most of the dramas on this list were only watched in December or January – most of the catching up was done then since I was having holidays. That’s how the list amounted to this; which is not much but I hope that you will find something from here to watch (if you’ve not caught it yet) 😉
The story and romance was pretty normal but I found the concept from which the show began its production refreshing. The characters had their comedic moments as well, which I found myself laughing over but one of the most impressive things about the show would be IU’s portrayal of Cindy. The depiction of her struggles were real and I was glad to see her overcome the odds at the end. Even actress Jang Nara said on Happy Together that she cried while watching a scene talking about Cindy from the drama. (The part starts at about 14:33) I would recommend this show if you want to see a different way of filming a kdrama. [Review]
Need I say more? Show was the hype while it aired and even after it ended! Most fans would have watched this by now. It’s a drama with action, romance and thrills all in one. Starring a lovely OTP in Ji Chang-wook and Park Min-young as well as veterans Kim Mi-kyung and Yoo Ji-tae, it was an enjoyable watch in terms of both acting and solid writing. I hope that Ji Chang-wook will not stay away from dramaland too long, I want him on my screen again soon! The actor has been filming in China for some time now, and I’m patiently waiting for his kdrama comeback after Healer. 😀
Masked Prosecutor KBS2
The premise and stellar cast urged me to watch this but Show failed to deliver as the writing was too weak to sustain the plot and character development, even with great actors at the helm. After a while, the story wasn’t as able to grab my attention. Having said that I adore all the main cast – Joo Sang-wook, Kim Sun-ah, Uhm Ki-joon as well as veteran Jun Kwang-ryul but the script didn’t do their acting justice. They were probably the ones who was my main motivation to finish the drama. I hope they have better luck next time
Kill Me, Heal Me MBC
This is definitely one of the memorable gems from 2015. Dramas dealing with mental disorders are not usually my cup of tea, so I am fortunate to have started KMHM on a whim and ended up loving it. I have to thank Ji Sung and Hwang Jung-eum for playing vital roles in helping me decide to pick up Show, because I absolutely loved Secret. With their already fantastic chemistry from the 2013 drama they generated all-new sparks in their psychiatrist-patient romance. Coupled with generally solid writing and Ji Sung’s amazing portrayal of his various personalities(along with a well-deserved Daesang at the annual drama awards), Show turned out to be one of the best drama offerings of the year.
Coming from one of Secret’s writers, I thought that I had to check this out. The premise sounded makjang but it wasn’t that much at all. And it was said to be a melodrama but I actually didn’t find it that melodramatic. Show struck a good balance between the romance and main plot driver AKA Mr Villain Suk-hoon’s revenge plan played by Yeon Jung-hoon. I applaud the actor’s performance as the Big Bad – by the end of Mask his portrayal of the character managed to evoke empathy out of me as a viewer. I also liked how we were shown two very distinct personalities of the doppelgangers Ji-sook and Eun-ha (both played by Soo Ae). It wasn’t hard to tell their character differences, which is certainly a plus point for the drama. Finally I have to compliment the stylists for Show: the outfits across all four leads were well-planned and every single piece of clothing was dazzling! I’m not even exaggerating, it was that nice.
Scholar Who Walks The Night MBC
The dedication from the cast members of Scholar was my source of comfort throughout most of the drama, because the plot went haywire and character development wasn’t done well. I personally think Lee Soo-hyuk got his breakthrough in playing the main villain vampire role Gwi – hands up for the actor! Changmin as Crown Prince Yoon was another surprise. It showed his improvement as an actor as there were many times my heart broke for Yoon. And of course our seonbi-nim Sung-yeol, Lee Jun-ki’s acting did not disappoint despite the writing. And Lee Yoo-bi… I felt that she did quite well in her role, but her character felt so underused. There was so much lost potential in this one given how much I had looked forward to it. But if you’re a fan, watch for Jun-ki or the other actors in it ^^ (Review coming)
This is in my opinion, the most underrated drama of the year in terms of buzz. The TV ratings at home were quite good, just that it wasn’t the talk of town online while it aired. Nevertheless, Show received lots of love from fans gradually and the cast was under the limelight for a while. All the roles from major to minor were played by good actors and under good direction by the production team. Everything, from the main plot to the character relationships was delicately handled and definitely praise-worthy. One of my favourite dramas of the year, this is a highly recommended legal thriller. If you miss the drama’s male lead Kim Rae-won by any chance, he has a movie The Prison coming up later this year and it also stars veteran actor Han Suk-kyu.
Pride and Prejudice MBC
I checked out this drama for (1) the leads Choi Jin-hyuk and Baek Jin-hee (2) the show’s premise. It started off pretty well, with strong groundwork and a solid backstory but there was so much lost potential in terms of the plot and the characters’ development. Although I did like P&P’s portrayal of the real world in terms of corruption, the rich-poor divide and maybe some politics. At some point, it became confusing for me: the direction in which the story was going and a number of unexplained points… or maybe it was just too complicated for me to understand.
Falling for Innocence jtbc
I’ve said this before, but the writing department for this drama was not-so-good. I swooned over the OTP’s romance – Jung Kyung-ho’s and Kim So-yeon’s characters were lovely; not to forget Jin Goo and Lee Shi-un for playing the best boyfriend and comedic secretary respectively. Stayed for all of their interactions! And if only Yoon Hyun-min’s villain role was written better… Still, the love story was worth the watch and even more so if you are a fan of the cast!
Missing Noir M OCN
Known for their slick crime procedurals, Show is another piece of great work by the network. Despite being only 10 episodes long, the cases presented were not skimpy on the details and was not lacking in the darkness. Each character was interesting, and I liked how the drama showed that the criminals were as human as the good guys were that sometimes my heart broke for them. In addition, we have a great M team: Gil Soo-hyun (Kim Kang-woo) and Oh Dae-young (Park Hee-soon) the different but same work buddies plus Jin Seo-joon (Jo Bo-ah) the resourceful hacker! Worth it for the smoothly executed cases and some good twists. And Kim Kang-woo for sure. 😉
My Beautiful Bride OCN
The drama that followed right after Missing Noir M which I was thoroughly impressed by. I may be biased saying this (because thriller is one of my favourite genres) but it had a good story and direction – I pretty much fell in love from the start. Intrigued from the first episode, I then became really invested in the characters and their emotions. Kim Moo Yul was definitely the star of the show: he made me wish for Do-hyung’s happiness quite early in MBB’s run. Despite most of the show being in the dark territory (lots of fighting and bad guys), the romance was worth rooting for – I believed that Joo-young (Go Sung-hee) and Do-hyung really loved each other. They were met with countless obstacles but the love stayed true and overcame everything. This was also the drama that triggered my urge to watch Heartless City (another crime thriller on jtbc) as I found out after MBB that it was penned by the same writer. And it was also nothing short of amazing. Certainly worth giving it a try.
I was so happy and excited about this, because: (1) Joo-won. (2) Interesting premise though set in the medical context. It was such a hit in terms of ratings, coupled with a strong start. I enjoyed the action and the happenings, until about one-third of Yongpal. The show decided to shift its main focus and as a result, lost the appeal that it had in the beginning. At first the character development was not bad, but towards the end it started to feel minimal. I also wasn’t convinced enough by the love story between Tae-hyun (Joo-won) and Yeo-jin (Kim Tae-hee). It could have been better developed instead of giving the impression that it was a little abrupt. There were still some good scenes and story bits here and there, but Show never quite regained the momentum from the front episodes.
She Was Pretty MBC
One of the lighter dramas I saw in terms of tone, it cracked me up a lot. The show was filled with funny moments, with humour coming from most characters. Comedy was there, but there was nothing unusual in terms of story for a romantic comedy like this one. The chemistry between the leads Park Seo-joon and Hwang Jung-eum is already off the charts as we’ve seen from their sibling love in Kill Me, Heal Me. It was nice to see them reunite on-screen again ❤ Choi Si-won delivered a fantastic performance as Kim Shin-hyuk, making me laugh and cry all together. Another thing I loved was Go Joon-hee as Min Ha-ri – her friendship with Hye-jin (HJE) was gold and her character’s individual development till the end of the series was nice to see 🙂 Perhaps what could have been better was the business explanation. [Warning: spoiler ahead] Instead of just saying “You only have 3 months” an explanation or a basis behind it would have been good. Something like a dip in sales, or any simple reason would do the trick. Nevertheless, SWP is a watchable option for rom-coms! And for the four leads XD
Side note: Their KMHM co-star Ji Sung treated them to samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup) in support of their drama! The picture above was posted on Park Seo-joon’s Instagram with a banner that says, Today is the day to eat samgyetang! My treat! So adorable haha~
I Remember You / Hello Monster KBS2
I feel that this was the most underrated drama of the year in terms of ratings, which were dismal but thankfully the show gained a significant international fanbase. The series explored a genius and psychopaths in an interesting manner and didn’t forget to pose some questions for us to ponder over: about a person’s identity which could have been shaped from certain circumstances or any situation. The OTP was unique in their own way, whether it was in working together or the romance. IRY definitely made me want to check out Seo In-guk’s other projects. And more Lee Chun-hee! XD Short review here.
If you’ve seen enough medical kdramas, you would know about the typical hospital politics and clashing ideals used in the plot. These are also seen in D-Day, but it is still a special drama being South Korea’s first disaster drama. I must commend the cinematography in Show for their relatively realistic depiction of what an earthquake is like – from the imminent happening to the aftermath. The filming and editing were of good quality and the story was fairly well-paced except for when it began to feel like it was going in circles at some point because similar elements were used more than once. However, since medical dramas are usually human dramas in fact, I would have appreciated the drama further if more time was spent on the characters’ relationships or interactions rather than merely moving on for the story’s progress.
Oh My Ghost tvN
I would usually turn away from dramas with the horror element, but I heard many good things about this. Hence I decided to check it out and indeed, it showed a sweet romance between a girl who can see ghosts and a restaurant chef! Bong-sun’s development was notable and I liked that she was able to show another side of herself although it was through someone else at first. Park Bo-young was able to act out the two very different characters with good balance. This is the first drama that I met such a friendly ghost in Soon-ae (Kim Seul-gi) and promptly fell in love with the actress! The relationship between her and Bong-sun was humanised and was able to wring tears because it just felt so real at that time. I have to give special mention to actress Lee Jung-eun starring as the shaman Seobinggo. Without her, OMG would have been half as entertaining. Finally to Jo Jung-suk playing Chef Kang Sun-woo, swoon ❤ ❤ ❤
Web dramas / Drama specials
This web drama with 18 10-minute parts grabbed my attention because of TOP (from boyband BIGBANG) aka Choi Seung-hyun who plays Woo-hyun, an aspiring photographer. He gets to know a Japanese lady, Haruka (Ueno Juri) by chance and through text messaging they find a connection and fall in love. Unlike TOP’s usually more sombre roles in his movies as well as dramas, Secret Message showcased his humorous sides, which is perhaps closer to his real life personality. The best part was that he lent his singing voice for the drama ❤ (Have a listen below!) In terms of story, it got kinda frustrating when Woo-hyun and Haruka had yet to meet. I wanted them to meet so badly but it kept being delayed and felt so close yet so far, if you know what I mean. When it comes to web dramas, I feel that it is important to be precise about the scenes with the limited time each episode has. They should have met already. Could have been better.
Splash Splash Love
After Oh My Ghost, I found Kim Seul-gi here! Along with Yoon Doo-joon, Show exceeded my expectations in every way possible. The story knew where it was going all along. Although time-travelling is not really my thing, I enjoyed it very much. From how the OTP met, got closer with their interactions to the romance. References to other historical names from sageuks were made, and the overall effect was good. It was only 2 episodes but Show left me wanting more, lol. Having said that, the ending was satisfying. If you want some comedy and something with warmth, Splash Splash Splash Love is the one for you.
Beyond the borders of Korea
TWdrama – Someone Like You 听见幸福
The literal translation of the Mandarin title is Hearing Happiness. Show tells a heartwarming tale of a blind man and an ordinary girl – how they meet, work together and subsequently fall in love. The premise sounded familiar but what I like about Show was the way it touched hearts. Kingone Wang (王传一) plays Fang Zhancheng, the owner of a departmental store who became blind after a car accident that killed his fiancée. He walks out of his darkness-filled world with the help of Chen Yuxi (Kirsten Ren 任容萱) who takes up a job as Zhancheng’s caretaker to raise money for her brother’s medical fees. Seeing how well Zhancheng treated Yuxi and wanted the best for her, I was so touched by all the little things he did to make her happy. And that was before the actual romance started. In short, the story is well-paced with strong emotional beats. It was great that we didn’t spend a long time on the angst that all romance-centric stories have – it was over pretty quickly. And there was good acting from the leads as well, this is definitely a TWdrama of high quality in the recent years. Oh and I have to give special mention to William Shen, Zhancheng’s personal assistant. I think most TWdramas have secretaries/assistants of the male leads that never fail to crack me up haha. And his bromance with Zhancheng is precious. Show guaranteed to make your heart melt!
Cdrama – Love Me, If You Dare 他来了, 请闭眼
I watched this almost after I Remember You, and found that Bo Jinyan (Wallace Huo 霍建华) was similar to Hyun in IRY in terms of certain character traits. It was also the same case in the way both dramas worked, since they were crime procedurals. I felt that the first few cases in Love Me If You Dare were better than the cases in the later half, for the way they were executed and had felt more relatable. The cases were rarely what they seemed to be in the first place, and I enjoyed the process of revealing the truth bit by bit with the characters. Jinyan’s bromance with long-time best friend Fu Ziyu (Yin Zhen 尹正) was probably one of the best things in the drama. And Li Xunran (Wang Kai 王凯), a police officer who is good friends with Jian Yao (Ma Si Chun 马思纯) was such a charming character!
Cdrama – Nirvana In Fire/Lang Ya Bang 琅玡榜
I practically dived right into the drama without knowing anything about it, so I got quite confused at the start because of all the introductions to the ensemble cast. And I needed some time to get accustomed to a historical cdrama (since I hadn’t watched one in a long long time). [To prevent that from happening, it might be good to read the background story beforehand] But it didn’t take me long to get into Show’s heat, with its fast-paced plot and interesting, well-written characters. I loved how progressive the story was despite its 54-episode length, and it proved to be one of NIF’s greatest strengths. Everything was well-planned to head in a certain direction right from the outset and showed no sign of wavering. I became addicted to it long before I even reached the half-mark and it was definitely worth all the hours I spent. I think the addiction came from how the story was driven by politics, and then later how I came to love the people in NIF’s world. Perhaps, the way to enjoy this drama is to follow the plot closely for better understanding.
To conclude my year-in-review, I’ll list my (ultimate) favourite dramas and OSTs 🙂
- Nirvana In Fire
- Someone Like You
- My Beautiful Bride
- Splash Splash Love
Favourite drama OST
There were a number of great OSTs in dramaland last year, but if I had to choose it would be Punch’s.
Other nice ones include:
- Kill Me, Heal Me
- She Was Pretty
- Nirvana In Fire