As I expected, 2018 was a very slow year for Korean drama since most of the staple male leads went to fulfill their military service. Anyway, here are my Top 10 picks. As usual, the only criterion is my level of enjoyment. (I’ll add my comments later.)
#1 The Beauty Within
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
#2 My ID is Gangnam Beauty
Genre: Romance, Comedy
#3 Parting Left
Genre: Drama, Family
#4 Come and Hug Me
Genre: Suspense, Drama, Romance
Genre: Romance. Melodrama
#6 I’m Not A Robot
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
#7 Longing Heart
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
#8 Something in the Rain
Genre: Melodrama, Romance
#9 Judge VS Judge
Genre: Law, Crime, Romance
#10 Suits (Korean Version)
Genre: Law, Crime
Sweet Revenge 1& 2 Wednesday 3:30 p.m. Hymn of Death
After pondering a bit on these dramas, I realized that the reason why I enjoyed them is that I can relate with the characters in one way or another, or at least I see some trait of mine in them. The story gives me a glimpse of what could happen to someone who has those traits. In effect, gaining insight to what could possibly happen to me. It might sound self-centered but that is the truth I arrived at.
Perhaps adaptations of foreign series are slowly becoming a thing now in Korea? I watched the Korean adaptation of Criminal Minds aired last year too. It lost some of the spunk and nuances but I don’t mind. I prefer the Korean adaptations because having an Asian cast and setting make it more relatable to me. I’m interested in how this would pan out.
Short and sweet. The plot is straight-forward and the characters are adorable.
花にけだもの (Hana ni Kedamono lit. Flower and the Beast)
It has a typical shoujo plot with a touch of realism. Having greatly flawed leading characters makes it both interesting and annoying at the same time. Anyway, I prefer Chihaya better than Hyo. I hope she chooses him in the end.
I’m currently watching The Great Seducer (위대한 유혹자), where Woo Do Hwan got his first leading role in a drama. They gave him another angst-ridden, mature character. Well, he really fits the bill. However I noticed that although he oozes with sexiness, he doesn’t seem to have a natural chemistry with the ladies he is paired with both in here and in his previous drama, Mad Dog. Or it could be that I ship him and Seo Ye-ji in Save Me so much that I’m still not over them as a potential couple. Anyway, I’m more curious about how the relationship between the three childhood friends will develop more than the central love story in this drama. I prefer Si-Hyun to end up with the antagonist instead.
The plot itself isn’t new and it isn’t as gripping as I expect it to be, but at least the cast and the acting are worth watching. Most of the cast are up and coming talents so they bring a sense of freshness. That is enough reason to stay tuned.
The gap between must-watch dramas and time killers is evident. Nothing comes close to While You Were Sleeping this season. Everything else that is currently airing isn’t gripping enough. I already dropped Black and Temperature of Love after a couple of episodes. Hospital Ship is getting boring. I think they’re becoming too desperate for ratings now that While You Were Sleeping is dominating their time slot. Their recent scenarios feel too forced.
Woo Do Hwan is literally the only reason to watch Mad Dog. The other characters are the wrong fit and the insurance fraud plot is uninteresting. They are trying to play some romantic tension between Kim Min-joon and Jang Ha-ri but for some reason, I’m not feeling the girl. I think it was in poor taste that the writer and director had to make Woo Do Hwan show off some skin in the latest episode. He is absolutely gorgeous but I don’t think it was necessary. Did they purposely do that to rival Jung Hae-in’s shirtless scene in While You Were Sleeping last week?
Witch’s Court seems poorly written as well. For a crime slash legal drama, the plot twists feel lacking. There isn’t enough punch to the case conclusions. The concept of having a female rapist and a homosexual victim was promising but it wasn’t developed well. The performance of the cast isn’t impressive either.
I remember Jung Ryeo-won from Medical Top Team. She and Lee Si-young from Lookout look so much alike.
Avengers Social Club
It is a series trying to tackle different social issues such as domestic abuse, bullying, and extra marital affairs. The trio just got together to form their revenge plan. I was curious how things will turn out but it turned into some childish comedy. I’m disappointed. I’m dropping this if it doesn’t pick up in the next episode.
20th Century Boy and Girl
One of the better time killers. It has a female lead that looks like a Korean Namie Amuro and an unknown ordinary-looking guy as a male lead. The adults are not as good-looking as their younger selves. I can’t help but think they made this drama to introduce these young actors.
SF9’s Kim In Seong
FNC’s Kwon Do Kyun
KNK’s Park Seung Jun
I’m still observing Go Back Couple, Revolutionary Love, The Package, and Because This is my First Life. Nothing noteworthy so far. I’m starting to feel the loss of the staple leading actors. I hope the next generation male leads bring up the heat. Woo Do Hwan, Jung Hae In, I’m counting on you!
Thanks to the massive success of W Two Worlds, Goblin, and Legend of the Blue Sea, Korean dramas in the fantasy genre are on the rise. Another trend that I’m seeing is the noona-dongsaeng love angle becoming more popular with the age gap getting wider and wider. I’m not sure how wide I can tolerate but it’s all good so far. There are a lot of great series this year. Here are my Top 10 picks. As usual, the only criterion is my level of enjoyment.
A fated encounter between a girl who can see the future through her dreams and a prosecutor who might be able to change the future
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Law
* I’m biased. I admit reserving the top spot for this drama all year. I’m a huge fan of Lee Jong Suk and writer Park Hye-run’s work. First two episodes in and I already knew this drama lives up to the hype. Creatively utilizing a stream of consciousness mode of storytelling, it’s a drama that playfully mixes memories, dream sequences, and reality. I’m not worried about Suzy’s inability to express emotion through her face because I’m confident that Lee Jong Suk will carry this drama to greatness.
A psychological thriller about a mischievous bunch trying to save a girl and her family from a pseudo-religious cult
Genre: Psychological, Suspense, Drama
* This drama has earned a spot in my all-time favorites list although I felt that they could’ve given it a better ending. It was convenient how all the conflict suddenly converged at Guseonwon. The writers have given Sang Hwan every opportunity to reestablish himself as the male lead in this episode. He had to literally save everybody. There wasn’t enough catharsis either. I felt the villains deserved worse. Things started to go downhill the moment Dong Cheol voluntarily stayed behind to let Sang Hwan go and save Sang Mi. It felt unnatural. Obviously, an external force a.k.a. the writers made this happen. All this time Dong Cheol was doing most of the work and was interacting with Sang Mi the most. Honestly, he was better off as the male lead. They really downplayed him in the end. Anyway, that’s how it is. The ending wasn’t that bad nor was it great. At least, this drama really showcased Woo Do Hwan’s potential as an actor. Surely, there are great things ahead of him.
This drama didn’t need supernatural elements to be scary. The theme itself is intriguing and disturbing. I could only watch re-runs in the mornings because I’m too scared to watch it at night. It is one of those series that I really looked forward to new episodes every week. The production was topnotch. I liked how the colors were always grim and dark even when they shot morning scenes. The background music perfectly set the eerie mood. The cast was excellent. I also liked how there’s a reversal of roles and how it aggravated the sense of helplessness among the characters. People like the police, religious leaders, and politicians who were supposedly the ‘good guys’ since we go to them for help and protection are actually the bad guys, while the stereotypical bad guy personas like corrupt officials, ex-convicts, drop-outs, psychiatric ward patients, and nobodies get to save the day. It is beautiful how it depicts humans in shades of gray.
It is a cute love triangle between a girl with superhuman strength, his childhood crush who is now a cop, and the young CEO of the gaming company that she is dying to join. The trio work together to solve a serial kidnapping case of young women in their district.
Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Mystery
* Do Bong Soon is adorable. I just love capable female leads. The story is light and sweet but is not dumbed down at all. It’s a good romcom for drama newbies. Storyline and characterization are good. The OST is catchy. However, what is most memorable is Jang Mi-Kwan’s portrayal of the psychotic criminal. No one expected such a hottie behind that creepy mask. He totally set the new trend of extremely handsome drama villains. Although Lee Soo-Hyuk may have started it with his character, Gwi, from the Scholar Who Walks the Night, he wasn’t as effective as Jang Mi-Kwan.
The surviving relatives of victims of injustice team up to take down criminals who weren’t punished by the law. The team consists of a priest, a detective, a prosecutor, a hacker, and a CCTV expert.
Genre: Action, Politics, Crime
* The overall plot is predictable but the characters and their back stories are interesting enough to want to watch it. They are an interesting mix. There were subtle hints to a potential pairing but it wasn’t developed enough. To me, this drama is all about the OST. Watchman of Dawn (새벽의 파수꾼) by Kebee is the perfect ending theme. I searched everywhere for this song immediately after I first heard it but to no avail. No one could tell me the title of the song or the artist who performed it until a month after the drama ended. I’ll always remember it as the mystery song.
A slice of life drama about the life of the doctors and staff on the hospital ship.
Genre: Medical, Melodrama, Romance
* This was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t expect this to be good but I was hooked. It bumped off dramas in my Top 10 this year. Kang Min Hyuk proved to be worthy male lead material. He held his own very well alongside seasoned actress Ha Ji Won. The breathtaking views and the lovable characters make up for its cliche plot. It also has that laid-back, island feels, which brings an air of innocence and purity.
A group of lawyers and prosecutors chase after a psychopath, serial murderer
Genre: Law, Romance, Mystery
* The villain, played by Dong Ha, was more interesting than the protagonists. His character had depth. His acting was compelling. The whole story revolved around him and his back story. One of the better parts was when Go Chan-Ho was first groomed to be the murderer. I thought the Strong Woman Do Bong Soon trend of having good-looking villains rubbed off on this too. Well, Dong Ha isn’t bad either. Oh, the plot twist at the end was great by the way.
A high school student who dies from a car accident and gets accused of murder comes back to life 12 years later with super human senses.
Genre: Family, Romance, Fantasy
* It is a heartwarming melodrama with fantasy elements. The noona-dongsaeng tension at the start was good but became cheesy as the story progressed. The ending didn’t make sense. I wasn’t sure if it was only symbolic that Hae Sung reappeared at the end. It could mean that he will forever be with Jung Won in spirit because she keeps him in her heart. Or was it literal? Did he really come back…again? If so, that makes no sense. It defeats the essence of the whole plot. Now that I think about it, Hae Sung’s super senses didn’t even play a significant role in the story. This drama has its own charm but I guess it ended with a lot of plot holes.
It is a straight-forward love story between a genius music composer for a famous band and a high school girl with a golden voice.
Genre: Romance, Music, Melodrama
* This is based on the Japanese manga, Kanojo wa Uso o Aishisugiteru by Kotomi Aoki. There is nothing complicated about this. It is a light, feel-good chick flick. The actors are relatively new so the whole drama feels fresh. The songs are nice. I added Crude Play’s In Your Eyes, and Joy’s Shiny Boy to my playlist. Lee Seo-Won and Kim Sung-Joo from Uniq, the Chinese-Korean idol group, are the new actors from this series to watch out for.
It follows the cases handled by the National Criminal Investigation.
Genre: Mystery, Action, Suspense
* It is a great adaptation of the American series. They picked out cases with psychopath culprits with a sob story. It started out with a bang but slowly became boring towards the end. I guess you can blame it partly on the law of diminishing returns. Anyway, the actors did their characters justice. It was fresh to see Lee Joon-Ki take on a role outside the period drama genre.
An introverted CEO of a public relations company falls in love with his loud, obnoxious employee, who is the younger sister of his deceased former secretary.
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Business
* Finally a series that deals with this theme at the forefront. I like how they depicted the challenges introverts as well as the people who try to relate to them face everyday. It also brought to light how some workplaces and even society in general is somewhat biased against introverts. It’s cute how socially awkward Eun Hwang Ki is and how greatly misunderstood he is by people around him. I don’t care so much about the female lead. This series is all about Eun Hwang Ki and his superb (and hidden) dancing skills.