I know, there is literally only 3 months left to 2017 – at this point a post for 2016 seems pointless, hah. As unbelievable as it sounds, this post has been in the works for the longest time, just that it never made its way to the ‘publish’ mode. I was actually contemplating to forget about it for good, but in the end I decided to put it up regardless of how late it turns out (I apologize).
This was the year I sorta rediscovered Japanese dramas, which felt both familiar and yet unfamiliar at the same time. Same but different, if you know what I mean. Just like Cdramas, it had also been many years since I last watched Jdramas. I’ll mention the dramas that kickstarted this [re]discovery, and hopefully open this space to the world of jdramas in a way! Once again, I’d like to convey my apologies for the extreme delay.
These are the jdramas I’d managed to watch; they are mostly either crime/mystery/suspense thrillers or medical dramas. And I found a new home I’d like to introduce: WOWOW, a cable network based in Japan. Most of their dramas are 5-6 episodes long (about half the usual length of a jdrama) and they happen to produce many crime thriller related shows, which is just up my alley 😛
- Cold Case (Shinjitsu no Tobira)
- Kageri Yuku Natsu / Summer Gets Dark
- Hippocrates no Chikai / Hippocratic Oath
- Yami no Bansosha / Partner in Darkness
- Medical Team: Lady Da Vinci no Shindan
- Ishi no Mayu / Stone’s Cocoon
- Suisho no Kodou / Crystal’s Beat
I highly recommend Cold Case, it’s a remake of the American television series of the same title but so well done. The scenes, music and everything that it encompassed; the feels were great. And it’s truly a blessing because they recently announced that a Season 2 is coming. YES! The drama gods heard us. I also thank Twitterverse for allowing me to find such a gem of a show ❤
Kageri and Hippocrates are my favorites in the list – they only have 5 episodes each, just nice for a quick watch. Yami was interesting too, as it takes one through the world of manga. I learnt a lot. The last two are linked: Suisho no Kodou is the sequel of Ishi no Mayu.
Cdrama: Rookie Agent Rouge 胭脂
As the name suggests, RAR is a spy drama through and through with spies, ploys, double agents and danger abound. It was pretty much a typical spy thriller cdrama; but definitely not short of suspense and thrill. It was quite random for me, I remember at the start of the year when I was just looking for something to watch and this popped up. Nothing really great.
Beyond this point I’ll be giving my two-cents on the kdramas from 2016. There are still (yes, even now) a few others on my list I have yet to check out – Memory, The Good Wife, Oh Hae-young Again just to name a few.
Remember – Son’s War
I guess I feel some special attachment to this drama, because I recapped it. The plot became draggy in the second half, but it was pretty well-acted for the most part. The standout performance came from Namgoong Min, who took on the role of the main antagonist. I personally think he outshone the rest, even if majority of the characterisations weren’t fantastic. In general, the camera work was good, coupled with pretty lighting.
Coming from one of my favourite writers in kdramaland, Signal turned out to be one of the very well-written (also well-directed) kdramas in 2016. No doubt her best work to date, Kim Eun-hee penned a dark, suspenseful crime story filled with tension in her attempt to reconcile the past with the present. It was an emotional ride and twists occurred at every other turn. (Trust me, you’ll need strength and tissues to get through it.) The cases depicted were actually based on real-life crimes that happened in the past, which made the feels all the more organic. Not to mention, we got near top-class acting from the cast and this includes the side characters. Applause for Jo Jin-woong, Kim Hye-soo and Lee Je-hoon who had to bear the emotional burden of the actual cases when playing their characters. I’m really glad their efforts paid off with the amount of pressure faced. Watching this later prompted me to write a post dedicated to writer-nim, heh.
One More Happy Ending
OMHE started out well, with both Jung Kyung-ho and Jang Nara delivering in the comedic acting. It was also the first role in which Jung Kyung-ho played a father, and I think he did a pretty good job. I actually liked the portrayal of friendship between the four female protagonists as well as how they showed the issues with each of their spouses or partners-to-be, but the writing faltered midway and lost the appeal it initially had when it first aired. More weaknesses showed when angst kicked in for majority of the couples, which was a pity. My personal favourite story would be the Da-jung and Geun-hak couple (characters played by Yoo Da-in and Kim Tae-hoon respectively). 🙂
Descendants of the Sun
I’m sure the whole world already knows about this drama, so I will just keep it simple: An overhyped romance drama disguised in a military and medical context. Full of cheese.
This was another crime drama which unfortunately got overshadowed by the acclaim and hype that Signal had. It also had a moving story, and a winning cast. I was happy to see Shin Ha-kyun in action again, since the last drama of his I saw was Brain in 2011. Yoo Jun-sang and Jo Yoon-hee had their characters pretty well-developed by the end of the drama, and gave commendable acting performances too. Another thing I liked was how the message at the end of Pied Piper was filled with hope; it felt fitting to the story told. Having said all these, this show is not for everyone but you might want to give it a try if the genre is to your preference or for the drama’s theme on crisis negotiation (which is not very common in kdramas).
Please Come Back, Mister
Taking on a broad comedy stroke, PCBM delivered in providing the exaggerated humour and silly laughs but at the heart of it was also filled with emotions that stirred the heart.
The only thing I liked about this drama was the interactions between Ji Sung’s character and the band members, as well as their subsequent growth after coming together. Despite each of them faced with their own issues and obstacles, being united in a band helped them to pursue their dreams in life. I guess that was the only takeaway I got, since most of the younger cast were fairly green in acting and the writing did not help much either.
I decided to give this a shot for Namgoong Min but turned out to be very surprised by Minah who played the titular Gong Shim. I loved her portrayal of the character and will definitely look out for her works in future. Dan-tae (Namgoong Min) and Gong Shim played a huge part in my enjoyment of this drama – they were adorable together. Namgoong Min also proved that he could do comedy well; the way he interpreted Dan-tae’s quirkiness and playfulness made Gongshim really fun. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy the later stretch of the show as much because it started to drag and characters also lost some of the traits that made them unique. Dan-tae for instance felt like a different person as the story developed; the initial focus on Gong Shim as a character seemed to shift away as well. Then when they tried to bring the cute and funny back, it just didn’t feel as fun as before.
This show probably has most of the typical kdrama tropes you can think of: a rich man and poor girl, terminal illness, difficult parents… you have it all. The drama, however, makes you feel genuinely for the characters in its world. It was brilliantly executed as a whole, and you cannot help but root for Hye-soo (UEE) and Ji-hoon (Lee Seo-jin) in their respective ordeals, even their love story. UEE was absolutely winning as a single mother, who had to bring her daughter Eun-sung (Shin Rin-ah) up in harsh circumstances. Lee Seo-jin also put up a good performance (let’s not forget his dimples) and the leads together also resonated with me as a viewer. By the way, the child actress is so good (and really adorable!). Do check it out, but prepare for tears.
Mirror of the Witch
Besides Remember, I thought that this drama also had good camera work – it captured the dark fairytale vibe pretty well in general. It was relatively well-paced at first, and I was really intrigued by the pilot episodes. The set-up was interesting and made you want to watch further. Still, I wished it had ended at 16 episodes because Mirror started to feel like a stretch in the later part. Being a fantasy drama, some parts were not explained well too. Lots of lost potential here because the focus on the black magic was lost. Nevertheless, props to Yum Jung-ah for making evil shaman Hong-joo so captivating.
Police Squad 38 / 38 Task Force
Unlike any of the previous OCN dramas I have watched, 38 was lighter in tone – there was comedy, and it wasn’t filled with mystery as with other OCN flicks. It also started out quite slow. Admittedly, I wasn’t really feeling it at first. It was only when the drama picked up pace that I began to appreciate it more. Ma Dong-seok and Seo In-guk made such a great duo; their unlikely bromance was one of the show’s best assets. Another thing was how we all knew scamming people was wrong, but watching the team just had me thinking how being a con artist was an art to master. The schemes were well thought-out, and I ended up wanting them to pull off the cons successfully. It was a clever show, and definitely knew where it was headed for. The lack of focus on the female characters in the squad, for instance Madam Noh (Song Ok-sook) and Mi-joo (Lee Sun-bin) was something I found a pity though. This is actually a weakness in most OCN dramas, I can only hope they realise it.
Out of all the medical kdramas I’ve watched, this is definitely the most light-hearted one. I’m not even sure if I can call it a medical one, since the focus was mainly on the romance. The relationships between some characters were nice, particularly Ji-hong and his father. Some cases thrown in the mix were interesting and there were nice cameos, but ultimately this was pretty much a forgettable show. Kim Rae-won’s smile is worth remembering though. 😉
Second to Last Love
I originally picked this up for Ji Jin-hee, but Kim Hee-ae was lovely too. The drama charted their characters’ life journey in adulthood, as well as their individual growth. It was nothing really special for a family weekend drama, but I enjoyed it for its heartwarming quality and also for the fact that it made me reflect on life and appreciate things more. I was personally hoping for the OTP to get together earlier so their relationship would be explored more, but overall it was an ok watch.
Moon Lovers – Scarlet Heart: Ryeo
I was looking forward to this for Lee Jun-ki, but it was unfortunate that Moon Lovers fell short of any expectations/anticipation from its fans. Uneven acting, inconsistent writing and poor editing plagued the drama. There were also various versions of episodes floating around because of editing issues, which resulted in differences between the international broadcast version and the one that had aired in Korea. There were some good scenes in between, but the drama felt flat as a whole and didn’t seem to have a clear direction either. I get that they were trying to follow the Chinese original, but the show ended up losing its own essence which is a waste. Nevertheless, the cast bonded really well together through the drama; both Lee Jun-ki and Kang Ha-neul also did a fantastic job with their roles even though it wasn’t enough to save the drama.
Neighbourhood Lawyer Jo
I checked this out in a marathon after hearing good things about it. Nothing phenomenal, just about a lawyer who hit rock bottom fighting injustice with his team in a small place. Park Shin-yang came back on the small screen 5 years after Sign, and he does a fine job as the underdog lawyer Jo Deul-ho. It’s a feel-good show, and follows a rather formulaic track with not much surprises – still it was enjoyable to see Lawyer Jo’s journey with his team and their interactions. However, both Kang So-ra’s and Ryu Soo-young’s characters were pretty underused. I personally felt their story arcs could have been explored more.
I am still questioning myself why I watched this drama after the experience with Yongpal… this was a total waste of my time. I have to say though that I am no big fan of Ji Chang-wook so this was really a stretch. Even with Song Yoon-ah gracing my screen, it couldn’t make up for the inconsistencies and the drama overall. I want my drama hours back!
On The Way to the Airport
This has got to be one of my favorite kdramas for the year – cinematography ⭐ it was well-thought through and pretty well executed overall. Characters were written well and interestingly, even the second leads (which is not the case mostly) and side characters. I think what I really liked was the fact that all of them were flawed as individuals which made it realistic because they are people whom you would think exist in real life. It was still dramatized at some parts, but the drama had a quiet vibe around it in general which I liked as well. However, OTWTTA deals with the sensitive topic of affairs, and opinions differ with regards to this issue so not everyone would like it. Furthermore, it is rather slow-paced which means that the show’s other aspects would have to draw you in.
Dear My Friends
I think this is writer Noh Hee-kyung’s best work to date – a simple slice-of-life story with a winning cast of veterans and cameos from Jo In-sung and Lee Kwang-soo. The feels you would get are ever so abundant, the OST would make you want to cry; it is truly a lovely, quiet gem. The realest. Prepare the tissues, and slowly take the journey to appreciate the lives of a group of old people and their families. Watch it and you’ll know.
Tree with Deep Roots (2011)
I am ~6 years late with this, just felt like I should mention it too. The drama became addictive for me at some point; I was drawn to the tight writing and TWDR had great opening and fighting sequences. Overall it was filmed nicely. Han Suk-kyu did not disappoint as King Yi Do, and I really loved his bromance with Jo Jin-woong’s Moo-hyul. The side characters were interesting too. Most importantly, it made me appreciate Hangul a lot more. A sageuk not to be missed 🙂
- Page Turner
- Be Positive/ Positive Physique
- Gogh: The Starry Night
Out of the few listed, I recommend Page Turner. It’s a simple high school story, but uses lots of imagery to teach us about life: dreams and hope in particular. Or check out Puck! if you are a fan of Kwang-soo.
Thank you for reading ❤