Japan is home to original concepts and genius story-telling. What fascinates me about Japanese drama is how it delves into the psychological and moral state of its characters. It can cater to extremes and somehow make it work, whether its raw and disturbing to plain and boring to crazy and weird. I also like how it always attempts to redefine humanity to a certain extent. It provides depth and breadth of insight unparalleled by any series produced by any other country. I actually liked Japanese dramas first before I dabbled into Korean and Taiwanese, which explains this relatively long list. Anyway, here are my Top 30 Japanese series aired before 2017 solely based on my level of enjoyment.
I see what they did there. Apart from the fact that the three divisions (Junior, Upper, and Team) were different for obvious reasons, the final three acts represented different genres of dance: Les Twins is hip-hop, Eva Igo is contemporary jazz and Swing Latino is ballroom. Coincidence? Most probably not, but do I hate it? No. It ensures that more people, and a wider variety at that, will watch the finale. It helps the show survive; thus, allowing dance fans like me to see more dance on TV, as well as the general public to get more exposed to dance.
The Season 1 winner, Les Twins, is consistent and entertaining. They’re not my cup of tea but I know they have inspired millions of dancers out there even prior to the show. They didn’t need the show to be considered dance legends but this win reaffirms that.
Anyway, it’s time for the list of my favorite numbers this season.
- Change (Kinja Bang) | Performed by Kinjaz
This was clearly the most memorable routine by Kinjaz on the show. It showcased their individuality and creativity. How they worked those panels was ingenious.
- Let It Go | Performed by SuperCr3w
This isn’t the WOD version but I really love their floor work in this routine. The musicality of the breaking was spot on.
- Someday | Performed by Keone & Mari
It was broadway infused with lyrical hip-hop and feels. I enjoyed the story they told.
- Ready Or Not | Performed by Eva Igo
Her lines were so clean and she gave powerful performances. I noticed two things though: one, her facial expression was always tense and two, the type of pieces she did was pretty much the same. I thought this was the number where her expression matched the dance best. I do hope she gets to work with better choreographers to help her get more accent, and help pull out more emotion in her dancing. I’d like to see those beautiful lines of hers in softer, well-thought-out pieces.
- Conga | Performed by Swing Latino
The song did a lot for them. It brought out the spice, the authentic Latin flavor which I felt was lacking in their previous performances. The vibe was great and their tricks were phenomenal. The hanging pose at the end was 🔥.
The Top 10 were exactly whom I expected. It is either I mastered how to pick out contestants from watching all the previous seasons or the producers have manipulated the audience into liking these dancers.
Anyway, on to the show… Wade is back. Enough said. LOL. I actually didn’t like the song choices tonight. The dancing was fabulous but without great music, it lacks that oomph to make it memorable. There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back, the track on Jenna & Kiki’s number was probably the most tolerable. I felt bad especially about the pieces choreographed by Travis Wall and Mandy Moore because they were visually stunning but the music ruined them for me. On the other hand, I thought the colors, the lights and the stage design were gorgeous. I guess they’re putting in more money on the production side of things this season.
My Top 2 favorite pieces tonight were Tyce Diorio’s choreography to Protocol performed by Logan Hernandez and Audrey Case (all-star stand-in for Allison)
and Tessandra Chavez’s choreography to Clown danced by Kaylee Millis and all-star Cyrus Spencer. Although the latter felt a little too busy and Cyrus basically just paced around as Kaylee danced, I enjoyed the emotion in this piece. I understood the story.
So who am I rooting for this season? Off the bat, I would say Gabby’s Lex Ishimoto and Allison’s Logan Hernandez. I’m really hoping that Lex gets a better piece to work on next time. We all know that his talent and versatility are insane. I pray that he gets the chance to showcase them soon. I’m also watching out for Kiki Nyemchek and Mark Villaver. I think I’ll be pleasantly surprised by them.
My bottom picks this week are Sydney, Dassy and Robert. One of them should leave next week.
My key takeaways in today’s victory group.
- How you respond to temptation is indicative of the status of your relationship with God.
- Lying reveals a lack of trust that the grace of God can deliver you from whatever the consequence of the truth is.
Here are my favorite Korean dramas aired prior to 2016. The only criterion is my level of enjoyment.
* Photos grabbed from Kissasian.ch
Two murder witnesses — one who eventually became a public defender, and the other a high school student who has the power to read minds –reunite to take on the murderer who is out to take revenge on them after being released from prison.
Genre: Law, Suspense, Fantasy
* This is my favorite K-drama of all time! I almost missed work because I couldn’t stop watching this. The story, the acting, the music — everything was excellent! The fantasy element was mixed in just the right amount. The different cases they worked on were thought-provoking and complex enough to leave me guessing yet were still very believable. It called attention to several ethical and sociological themes that I haven’t really bothered thinking about before. The villain was also super effective. I was genuinely scared of him to the point that whenever I see that actor in other dramas, I instinctively hate his character. And finally and perhaps most notably, I was very pleased that the noona-dongsaeng love story in this was well-developed and rightly paced despite all the legal hullabaloo.
An alien gets stuck on earth for over 400 years and ends up looking after the most popular Hallyu star who looks like his first love in the Joseon era
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy, Romance
* The interaction between the two main characters who were polar opposites was really funny. I also liked how the alien couldn’t resist protecting and helping the girl out. He was always mindful of her and did sweet things for her discreetly. Moreover, I thought the segments that followed a sort-of documentary format wherein the characters were interviewed, and some scenes showing classroom lectures discussing philosophies on love and relationships, were utilized skillfully to reinforce the story and develop the characters.
A scholar from the Joseon era who supported the reinstatement of Queen In Hyun after being deposed, time travels to modern day Seoul and falls in love with an actress who plays the role of Queen In Hyun in a TV drama
Genre: Historical, Fantasy, Romance
* That library scene was the cutest ever! I re-watch that scene every time I’m bored and just want to feel happy. The female lead was so adorable when she made a move on that smart-ass scholar who kept on feigning ignorance.
Genius surgeon from North Korea flees to South Korea to find his long-lost lover
Genre: Drama, Medical, Romance
* The acting was impeccable and the storyline was brilliant. This is a heavy drama but Lee Jong-Suk’s character was so well-rounded that he was a little bit of everything — an action star at times, a comic relief, a prince charming, a drama king, and even a villain. It didn’t end up the way I wanted but I thought it was still a good ending for the series art-wise.
A boy whose family falls victim to bad media gets adopted into the family of the very reporter who caused his family’s ill-fate. To make things worse, he falls for the said reporter’s estranged daughter.
Genre: Politics, Romance, Melodrama
* I liked that the characters who were initially victims of circumstance turned things around and began commanding their lives. It’s an unlikely story but you get by through living off those brief, cheesy moments between the two attractive leads.
A female detective who can see and communicate with ghosts is partnered with a hotheaded rookie cop in the lost and found department. Together, they solve cold cases to help the ghosts to find peace.
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Romance
* This series was exciting not only because they were solving cold cases, but also because it was really hard to choose between the spirit ex-boyfriend and Taecyeon. My heart literally broke 💔, skipped, and jumped out on this one.
A news anchor finds nine incense sticks that allow him to briefly travel back in time to save his family, recover his love, and change the present.
Genre: Mystery, Fantasy, Suspense
* The story unfolded artistically. I like the concept wherein the character needed to solve the mystery given a limited number of chances and a time limit for each chance.
A love triangle between a successful furniture designer, her current boyfriend who is a romantic plastic surgeon, and her ex, a competitive CEO of an interior design company whom she has to work with for a major project
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Drama
* I like the structure of this drama. It used a stream of consciousness narrative mode depicted through interviews and flashbacks. It was creative. Apart from that, I pretty much hated everything else. The female lead was so indecisive all throughout and kept leading the men on. Also, the story romanticizes the fact that she cheated on her boyfriend with her ex using true love as an excuse. Anyway, considering it made me feel strongly against it this much makes it deserving to be part of the top 10.
A man who was trained to become a professional baduk player since he was young failed to achieve his dream, and is forced to enter the real world armed with nothing but a high school equivalency exam on his resume.
Genre: Business, Comedy, Melodrama
* Beautifully written. I love how this challenges conventional measures of a person’s worth. Character development was on point.
Ex-nobleman who witnessed the king murdering his father grows up to become a rebellious Robin Hood slash ninja crossover character sworn to take revenge.
Genre: Historical, Action, Romance
* This set the bar high for period dramas. The problem I usually have with period dramas is that it gets dragging after some time especially if the love story isn’t the main focus. Well, this is an exception. The storyline was intriguing, the fight scenes were superb, and I thought the main character was cooler than most modern superheroes. Lee Joon-Gi is an excellent actor.
Poor girl enters a university for rich kids and becomes BFFs with the richest and most popular boys on campus
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Melodrama
* No doubt a classic. This rendition wins in flair and romance. I had a really bad case of second lead syndrome. Anyway, the So Yi-Jung side story was cute.
The children of fallen soldiers who were killed by their fellow countrymen to prevent a secret mission getting exposed, are out to seek revenge on the politicians who ordered their parents killed.
Genre: Action, Politics, Romance
* The story was compelling. The soldiers were treated as dispensable tools to achieve political goals. It showed different perspectives on a tragic event: the idealism and patriotism of soldiers and how they risked their lives to complete their mission; the struggles of a politician, how heavy and complex the decisions they make are, and how they have to carry the burden of their implication; and lastly, the point of view of their families and other civilians. Overall, this series makes you reflect on how tragic reality is.
The captain of the royal guards from the Goryeo era time travels to modern-day Seoul and kidnaps a plastic surgeon to bring back to his time in order to save the queen’s life.
Genre: Historical, Fantasy, Romance
* It has the ingredients of a drama that suits my taste: has fantasy elements, has a manly, protective male lead preferably younger, and a smart, highly capable female lead preferably older. The historical setting is a plus. The most memorable scene was when everybody was shocked to see the doctor wearing shorts when she went to see the captain of the guards, and the captain rolled his eyes in disgust (or was it jealousy?).
The story of six students from different walks of life who are aspiring to become pop stars.
Genre: Music, Romance, Melodrama
* This was light and enjoyable. It was interesting to see how the characters dealt with their own flaws and insecurities. All the characters were likable but the country bumpkin was my favorite. He was sweet and sincere. He was cool in his own right even before his ‘makeover’. His character also had depth. I thought it was fresh how he was groomed as the ‘second male lead’ up until the latter episodes.
A tsundere vampire surgeon who suppresses his thirst for blood to save terminally ill patients finds himself attracted to a smart, rich and cocky lady doctor
Genre: Medical, Fantasy, Romance
* I like how the series talks about what it means to be truly human. The lead male struggled to overcome his vampire instincts to pursue higher morals and values that makes him more humane than most people.
Honorable Mentions (sorted by year)
Twenty Again (2015)
Kill Me, Heal Me (2015)
Sassy, Go Go (2015)
Dr. Frost (2015)
Divorce Lawyer in Love (2015)
High School – Love On (2014)
I Need Romance 3 (2014)
The Night Watchman (2014)
Liar Game (2014)
My Secret Hotel (2014)
Emergency Couple (2014)
Plus Nine Boys (2014)
Bride of the Century (2014)
My Lovely Girl (2014)
Medical Top Team (2013)
The Heirs (2013)
Dream High 2 (2012)
Love Rain (2012)
The King 2 Hearts (2012)
Arang and the Magistrate (2012)
Rooftop Prince (2012)
Shut Up Flower Boy Band (2012)
My Princess (2011)
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop (2011)
Mary Stayed Out All Night (2010)
Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2010)
King of Baking, Kim Tak Goo (2010)
Personal Preference (2010)
Mischievous Kiss (2010)
My Girlfriend is a Nine-Tailed Fox (2010)
The Return of Iljimae (2009)
You’re Beautiful (2009)
Shining Inheritance (2009)
Hong Gil Dong (2008)
Goong S (2008)
My Girl (2006)
In hindsight, here are my Top 10 picks for the best Korean drama series aired in 2016. The only criterion is my level of enjoyment.
* Photos grabbed from Kissasian.ch
Two women with the same name get entangled with a guy who has the ability to see into the future.
Genre: Melodrama, Romance, Fantasy
* The plot was good and the scenarios were well-written, but I’m not a fan of the male lead so this was slightly painful to watch. The female characters weren’t that likable either. I watched this purely for the story.
A guardian creature is looking for his bride who will remove the invisible cursed sword stuck in his body. He ends up living with a cynical and awkward Grim Reaper.
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Melodrama
* I didn’t care about the lead characters at all. The Grim Reaper and Sunny side story was the only reason I watched this. I like how put together Sunny was and how she commanded her life. I like how strangely attracted she was to the Grim Reaper who did very strange and confusing things (not to mention, cute). Oh, the OST was superb 👍 by the way.
Mermaid falls in love with a human con artist, who is the modern reincarnation of her ex-lover in the Joseon era
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy, Romance
* The story was so messy and the actors didn’t have chemistry. There were a handful of good moments but overall, it’s overrated.
A girl in her mid-twenties time travels to the Goryeo dynasty and is caught between the power struggle among handsome princes. She falls in love first with the 8th prince, then later on with the cursed 4th prince.
Genre: Historical, Fantasy, Romance
* Well, who wouldn’t enjoy a good reverse harem? I wanted the female lead to end up with the 8th prince though. I was so mad when she switched love interest.
The story follows the life of a collegiate female weightlifter and how she discovers love, friendship and herself.
Genre: Sports, Comedy, Romance
* The story was simple and realistic. Bok Joo was fierce. I like how strong women were celebrated in this series.
Famous psychotherapist moves in upstairs of a fortune teller’s cafe and the unlikely pair fall in love
Genre: Comedy, Psychological, Romance
* Another noona-dongsaeng series that was light and cute while sparking conversations on the spiritual and the scientific.
A tense love triangle between a wanted mercenary-turned-bodyguard of a presidential candidate, that candidate’s cunning, political savvy, emotionally deprived wife, and his illegitimate daughter who is suffering from psychological trauma from witnessing her mother’s death
Genre: Politics, Action, Romance
* I like the stepmother’s character better and her interactions with K2.
Accomplished flight attendant who recently broke up with a cheating boyfriend finds herself getting attracted to her new young stepfather who runs the family’s dumpling shop
Genre: Comedy, Family, Romance
* I thoroughly enjoyed the noona-dongsaeng love angle. I like how the male lead, despite being younger, was very reliable and protective.
A love story between a captain of the South Korean Special Forces and a volunteer surgeon set in the war-stricken country of Urk
Genre: Military, Romance, Melodrama
* Song Joong Ki’s playful portrayal of the lead male character made this worthwhile. I also liked the dynamics between the master sergeant and the army doctor.
Lead webtoon character comes to life and falls in love with a lady surgeon, who happens to be the daughter of his creator. The setting switches between reality and the world inside the webtoon.
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Melodrama
* It had interesting twists that made me look forward to every episode. Plus, I’m a huge Lee Jong-Suk fan.