The year 2013 is coming to an end and drama gods have been good to me overall. Even though there are several drama disappointments, the good ones overcame those bad apples and left a long-lasting impression on my mind. It’s apparent that my blog is pretty much dead over the past year but that doesn’t mean I’m not watching anything! It’s totally because I watched TOO many that I don’t know which one should I start writing about.
I’m just too lazy to post a review for every dramas I watched or maybe there’s not enough substance for a long review so I’ll rather keep it short. To compensate the half-dead status of this blog, I decided to write a year-end compilation of drama reviews and this took me almost a week to finish!
I’ll talk about Korean dramas, Taiwanese dramas and Japanese dramas I’ve either watched or currently watching. I’ll comment on the drama in terms of the cast acting, chemistry between the OTP, the story and the overall execution.
BEWARE: This will be a very looong
essay post as there are quite a bunch of dramas I’m gonna talk about.
(Jump to Read (CLICK): Korean Dramas Review | Taiwanese Dramas Review | Japanese Dramas Review)
List of Drama Reviews
(Dramas highlighted in bold are highly recommended)
KR-Dramas: Flower Boys Next Door | Ad Genius Lee Tae Baek | Cruel City | That Winter, The Wind Blows | Nine: 9 Times Time Travel | Special Crime Force: Ten 2 | The Queen’s Classroom | I Hear Your Voice | Master’s Sun | Monstar | Secret Love | The Heirs | Reply 1994
TW-Dramas: A Hint of You | Just You | IUUI | Falling | Two Fathers | The Pursuit of Happiness | In A Good Way
JP-Dramas: Saikou No Rikon | Last Cinderella | Take Five | Soratobu Kouhoushitsu | Hanzawa Naoki | Legal High 2
To be consistent with my blog title, I decided to rate these dramas using the “Obsession Level” criteria.
The fastest way to know what i think about a drama is to use this criteria and skim or skip the review if you’re lazy like me.
There are 3 different levels: STRONG, MILD and WEAK.
In brief, STRONG obsession level means that the drama is highly recommended, satisfying and have the potential to be the crack drama. MILD obsession level means that the drama is worth watching when you’re out of entertainment as It’s very enjoyable. WEAK obsession level means that the drama is only worth watching for the cast and the plot or execution is not very satisfying.
This is NOT the complete list of dramas I watched as there are many Japanese/Korean/Taiwanese dramas which I dropped halfway and too lazy to talk about them.
Some people may disagree with my opinion and I’m always happy to read different insights/opinions about dramas. Don’t hold me liable if you don’t like the dramas I recommended, haha! Pardon me for any grammar/wording mistakes as I simply wrote too much that my brain almost died and I’m not the most talented blogger in terms of writing :p.
2013 Korean Dramas
Let’s start with the most popular category, K-drama! I’ve been watching Korean dramas ever since I was a kid and “Star in My Heart” gotta be one of my very first K-drama. Over the years, I’ve seen the evolution of K-drama, it’s definitely improving. While there’s still many cheesy and cliche plots, they have expanded the usual romance genre with a mix of interesting elements (at times..). I have a very high standard when It comes to the execution of a K-drama, especially in terms of music and directing so I may comment on the execution of some dramas in this list.
Starring: Park Shin Hye, Yoon Shi Yoon, Kim Ji Hoon, Park Soo Jin, Go Kyung Pyo (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: MILD
The overall ambient is very laid-back, low-key and a bit of slice of life as the story portrays how Go Dok Mi (Park Shin Hye) starts to open up her heart through the help of Enrique (Yoon Shi Yoon) and starts to overcome her traumatic past that made her to be an anti-social. Our main OTP have a laid-back and feel good chemistry. I also think that their interaction is very subtle (aside from the comedy part) and thoughtful as they influence each other to be a better person and through companionship, their wounds start to heal.
Side characters acted by Go Kyung Po and Kim Seul Gi are outstanding as they’re the star of comedy relief for this drama. Second leads are distinctive in each to their own. However, I gotta say that Kim Ji Hoon is quite under-utilized as his character not as interesting as Enrique so I had no second-lead shipping syndrome here. Park Soo Jin portrays the annoying Do-Hwi well, I always think that Park Soo Jin tends to overact at times but it’s totally perfect for her character as she really look like the original manhwa character. It’s easy and fun to hate on her character, heh!
I love the natural lighting used in this drama and the music is subtle without being too jarring, it suits the atmosphere of the drama. I gotta say that even though this drama is easy to watch and have a pretty good quality, It lacks the addictive elements (probably due to the low-key, subtle vibe of the story). Despite having so many young and good-looking popular casts, the popularity for this drama is not up to expectation and it’s quite a pity. Overall, It’s definitely worth watching as it’s an enjoyable and breezy drama.
Starring: Jin Goo, Park Ha Sun, Jo Hyun Jae, Han Chae Young (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: WEAK
The advertising industry setting sounds interesting when I first heard of it. Plus, I always remember Jin Goo’s fantastic portrayal of the young Lee Byung Hyun in “All In” so I like the cast enough to give it a try. However, what starts out to be entertaining as the underdog Lee Tae Baek (Jin Goo) tries to challenge the famous elite (Jo Hyun Jae) in the advertising industry was dragged down by the romance part towards the end. The story feels uneven, It’s not downright bad but some parts are frustrate me. I’m not sure what’s the purpose of Han Chae Young and Park Ha Sun’s characters as they’re soooooo dull and boring that I almost yawn during their scenes.
I think there’s no problem with the cast acting but I just don’t feel any chemistry from the main OTP. This drama is definitely not Jin Goo’s best work as he didn’t showcase enough of his acting chops and Jo Hyun Jae kept on stealing his screen presence that I’m more attracted to his character. However, not all is bad as I kinda like it when the teams think of interesting advertising ideas, the process is much more fun than the romance part of the story. Overall, not the worst drama but also not the most entertaining drama so watch it only if you’re a big fan of Jo Hyun Jae.
Starring: Jung Kyung Ho, Nam Gyu Ri, Lee Jae Yoon, Choi Moo Sung, Yoon Hyun Min, Kim Yoo Mi (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: STRONG
Cruel City (aka: Heartless City) aired on a cable channel, JTBC so be prepared to see some strong violence, gore and steamy hot provocative scenes in this drama. I never find Jung Kyung Ho this attractive before, he’s so damn FINE and smoking hot as Doctor (his character’s nickname) that every single of his scene almost made me suffer a heart attack. The strongest impression I have about Jung Kyung Ho is his cute smile so I really didn’t expect him able to be this intense as an anti-hero. Doctor has gotta be one of the most interesting hero in K-dramaland to date. He’s very loyal to the friends he trust but very cruel to his enemies. Plus, he’s certainly not the best person to mess with as he’s not only skilled in action combats but also very intelligent to be able to plot against his mafia boss.
One of the main attraction of this drama has got to be our main OTP with their sizzling chemistry. Everytime they exchange eye-contact, I feel the electric. I never actually watched any of Nam Gyu Ri’s works (even the popular 49days) but I find her screen presence to be very sweet, her acting is also very natural and she’s a heroine that’s easy to root for. Soo Min (Nam Gyu Ri) is probably the only one that makes our hero put his guard down even when they’re still considered as strangers. Soo Min is coincidentally the sister of Doctor’s first love and she’s planning to take a revenge on Doctor whom she suspected to be the killer of her sister (she never saw the suspected killer’s face and only know his “nickname”) so this creates a delicious conflict for our main OTP.
Even though Jung Kyung Ho had his breakthrough role in this drama, the other supporting characters are as interesting to watch as him, especially Kim Yoo Mi and Choi Moo Sung’s characters. They literally own every single scene that they’re in, their acting is so seasoned and intense which makes it so satisfying to watch them. I also love the bromance between Jung Kyung Ho and Yoon Hyun Min’s characters, they’re just so loyal to each other that it makes me wanna root for them to be the main OTP at times (LOL!), It also doesn’t hurt that they’re both handsome guys.
The execution of this drama is also icing on the cake as the action scenes are so intense and well-directed. The music scoring, ambience, stylish directing are just perfect for the dark and raw atmosphere of Cruel City. Overall, this is a must watch if you like action-packed, intense drama filled with intriguing characters. Never a dull moment!
Starring: Jo In Sung, Song Hye Kyo, Kim Bum, Jung Eun Ji (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: MILD
I only caught up with this drama after it have finished airing for a few months. The reason I was late into this bandwagon was because I wasn’t in the mood for a melodrama in the beginning of the year so even though I’ve heard so many positive reviews, I was still a bit hesitant to watch this drama. Even though I love Jo In Sung, I’m always indifferent towards Song Hye Kyo (her beauty is not my cup of tea but definitely super pretty in this drama) so it took me a few months before I surrender to boredom.
It may sound like I’m the odd one but I finished watching this drama without much feeling, I neither love it nor dislike it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a drama with great quality, the story, the acting, the breath-taking cinematography and even the music scores are fantastic. However, I wasn’t able to connect with the characters well enough and I just don’t feel that Song Hye Kyo and Jo In Sung match each other.
In a glance, it seems like they’re bringing their chemistry on screen but it’s not electrifying enough to get me obsessed with them. I actually find Kim Bum and Jung Eun Ji to have better chemistry than our main OTP. Another reason I couldn’t connect fully with the characters is because the plot isn’t my cup of tea, a con-guy trying to trick a blind woman for her wealth by pretending to be her long-lost brother just sounds wrong. I feel like our hero is making use of her vulnerability so even though our hero became a nice guy as the story progresses, I was still unable to fully feel his love for our heroine.
Anyways, taste is very subjective so even though I am quite indifferent towards this drama, I won’t deny it’s a very well executed. Overall, this is a drama worth watching and most people should find this drama to be moving and enjoyable (especially if you’re a fan of Song Hye Kyo or Jo In Sung).
Starring: Lee Jin Wook, Jo Yoon Hee, Lee Seung Joon, Jung Dong Hwan, Jun Noh Min (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: STRONG
Nine have the best writing in kdramaland history, fullstop.
Okay, that was too short as a review and it won’t do any justice for this fascinating drama. The writers are just too creative and smart to come up with such an incredible story. Nine has been a very engaging watch and it kept me on-edge even until the last seconds. I couldn’t know what was going to come up next as the developments are so unpredictable. Some screenwriters could learn a few tricks on how to write a good and proper time travel story from Nine’s writers. While some people commented that the first few episodes were a bit slow and wasn’t enough to engage them fully, I thought the beginning episodes were a nice build-up and it helps us to understand the story development better as it gets more and more complicated as it progresses.
The best phrase to describe Nine would be “Everything comes with a price” as the hero’s time travels may seem convenient at first, it’s also messing up with the lives of the people that are affected by it. Just like a domino effect, each time travel affects another time dimension and further complicates the lives of the people around our hero. Even with the changes made through time travels, our hero is unable to change fate of his loved ones as he’s only able to change the circumstances but not the people themselves. The most exciting part of this drama has got to be our hero is able to communicate with his younger self. What a scene! I’m quite indifferent towards the romance part of the story so I’m glad that it took a back seat. Lee Jin Wook and Jo Yoon Hee have a nice and sweet chemistry but it definitely pales in comparison with the fascinating story developments.
Overall, we had quite a strong performance from the whole cast. Lee Seung Joon who plays our hero’s best friend and the witness to the changes made through time travel delivers strong comedic relief. Jun Dong Hwan as a villain is so satisfying to watch and hate as his character is borderline caricature-like. Even Park Hyung Shik who plays as the hero’s younger self delivers and I find his performance in Nine better than in The Heirs but then again, his character in Heirs need not much acting ability.
Nine entertains my brain more than my heart but that’s thrilling enough to get me addicted to it and I can’t stop watching once I started. Overall, Nine is highly recommended and an incredible story that everyone should watch!
Starring: Joo Sang Wook, Kim Sang Ho, Jo An, Choi Woo Shik (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: MILD
The first season of Ten was simply one of the best drama for that year, every single case evoked emotions from me and there were some really disturbing and unforgettable cases. Ten 2 was aired in OCN, a cable channel so it’s certainly targeted to a more mature audience as there are some kind of strong violence involved in every case. My expectation for season two was simply too high as I regard the first season a masterpiece crime drama which is why it kinda ruined my personal ratings for this season. Don’t get me wrong, It’s still a lot better than your average crime dramas and there are many interesting cases in this season but It doesn’t feel as condensed or that fascinating as the first season where it had shorter episodes (9 episodes for season 1). The chase for our main antagonist “F” also don’t feel as thrilling as it was in the first season.
Performance is strong throughout as Joo Sang Wook returns as our charismatic leader and Kim Sang Ho is simply wonderful in every single scenes. Choi Woo Shik is like a cute puppy just like his character in Shut Up Family and he got more to work with this season through the kidnapping case (I will not post spoiler about that here). Romance doesn’t exist in Ten series, there might some hints about Jo An harboring crush on our charismatic leader but everything is less than subtle. I would say the theme song for this season isn’t as goosebumps-inducing as “Breathe” by Mad Soul Child and some of the ballads don’t really fit with the atmosphere. I gotta say that the average theme song would be the main setback for this season. Overall, It’s still a must watch if you love a well-written crime drama and a fan of the Ten series.
Starring: Go Hyun Jung, Kim Hyang Gi, Chun Bo Geun, Kim Sae Ron, Seo Shin Ae, Lee Young Yoo (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: MILD
Amami Yuki delivered such an unforgettable performance as the cruel teacher from hell in the original Japanese version that I don’t think any one could surpass her performance. It also helps that she got this masculine and cool aura that fits with the character to a tee. That’s why I had very low expectation when I started watching the Korean version and it surprised me in a good way. I would say that every single child actor of The Queen’s Classroom is a star of their own, their acting is as good as Shida Mirai or some even better than her. Kim Sae Ron is so convincing as the cool-headed and mature Seo Hyun, Kim Hyang Gi is endearing as the girl who always try hard for her friends, Chun Bo Geun is simply one of the best child actor equipped with natural screen presence and Lee Young Yoo definitely made a strong impression as our main antagonist. Go Hyun Jung’s performance is fitting but definitely not as fantastic as Amami Yuki as she lacks the natural cool aura so sometimes It feels like she’ll crack her pokerface act at any time.
The story deals with the growth and development of the kids in our heroine’s classroom as she “torture” or shape them through extreme means. It deal with sensitive topics such as class bullying, troubled kids, peer pressure and the stress from the over-demanding parents in a more dramatic way. It’s definitely an entertaining watch and I really can’t choose which child actor act better as all of them performed even better than our adult actors. There’s not many deviation from the original story and everything is quite well-executed. Overall, It’s a good drama adaptation and worth watching If you like school and human dramas.
Starring: Lee Bo Young, Lee Jong Suk, Yoon Sang Hyun, Lee Da Hee, Jung Woong In (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: STRONG
If Secret Love hadn’t come out, this would be my only crack kdrama for the year. Noona-romance is definitely not my favorite genre but over the years, Kdramaland have delivered some of the most delicious noona-romance dramas such as The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry and I Need Romance where I was rooting for our second male lead played by Choi Jin Hyuk so hard. While I Hear Your Voice is engaging on its own without feeling too much for the Noona-romance, It’s Lee Jong Suk’s performance that sold the romance. Lee Bo Young’s character is the best heroine in kdrama history, I just LOVE LOVE LOVE our heroine, even more than our hero by a little bit. Our heroine is not perfect but she’s so strong-willed, intelligent and delivers good humor that I can’t help to love her.
Coming from the writers of Dream High, It’s definitely a pleasant surprise to me that the writer is able to deliver such a creative and interesting premise as I’m not the biggest fan of Dream High. The supernatural elements mixed into the courtroom and romance is definitely fascinating. I love how the writer make full use of our hero’s supernatural powers to help our heroine solving her cases but our heroine tries her best to not rely on it. I’ll always remember Jung Woong In for his creepy and chilling portrayal as a murderer that is chasing after our leads, his performance is so good that it kinda washes out the kind impressions I had of him from Ojakgyo Brothers. His character would be one of the most unforgettable villains as every single threat from him give me the chills and I was truly worried for the safety of our main OTP because of him. Lee Da Hee’s character is complex and endearing even though she’s supposed to be our heroine’s rival, I can’t bring myself to dislike her at all. Yoon Sang Hyun’s portrayal as the hot-blooded attorney and warm guy is so spot on but sadly, It pales in comparison to our interesting hero.
My favorite song from this drama will be “Why did you just come now?” by Jung Yeop as every single time it rings, it reminds me of our hero who is always taking care of our heroine silently. It doesn’t have the best directing or music scoring or the most accurate portrayal of a courtroom but everything is just so fitting and the story makes up for what it’s lacking. Overall, this is a must watch and definitely a drama filled with hearts!
Starring: Gong Hyo Jin, So Ji Sub, Seo In Guk, Kim Yoo Ri (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: MILD
Master’s Sun may be one of the most popular dramas this year and while it was not my crack drama, it was definitely super entertaining and staying true to Hong Sisters’ trademark rom-com. I just hope that So Ji Sub takes up more rom-com projects as he’ve done too many melodramas that a change is needed for him. I saw his comedic potential in the old school drama “Glass Slippers” but melodramas were the trend during that era so I didn’t had a chance to watch a rom-com work of him. Gong Hyo Jin is still as naturally endearing and warm as ever, she never overact and I feel like her characters are always sewn onto her that it feels so natural. Even our second leads are so endearing and there’s no annoying villain in this fast-paced drama.
I gotta confess that I’m a scaredy-cat when it comes to horror so the I always need to close my eyes during the creepy scenes in the first few episodes. However, for some reason the scary elements were toned down as the story progresses which make it easier to watch for me. I love that our heroine’s ability to see the ghost became the excuse for skinship with our hero, it’s just so squee-worthy. There’s so much chemistry between our main OTP that I can’t help but smile at their interaction. The directing, music scoring are fitting and the story is engaging. I think this is an easy watch and cute drama but just like most of Hong Sister’s dramas, I tend to forget them after I finished watching. Overall, It’s worth watching and recommended if you love an easy-to-watch and cute rom-com drama.
Starring: Ha Yeon Soo, Yoon Joon Hyung, Kang Ha Neul, Ahn Nae Sang (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: MILD
Musical dramas are usually not my thing but Monstar is an exception as It’s such a cute high-school romantic drama filled with endearing characters. This is my first time seeing Ha Yeon Soo in action and she’s so natural and cute like a small puppy! The heroine is such an oddball that is so unpredictable that our hero is taken aback at times. Yoon Joon Hyung may not be the best in acting but he fits the star-personality to a tee, I feel like he’s actually playing his own real persona. Kang Ha Neul rounds off the love triangle between our main OTP as he plays the exact opposite of our star-rebel hero. The chemistry between Kang Ha Neul and Ha Yeon Soo is decent but our main OTP’s chemistry is sizzling so there’s no chance of suffering from second male lead syndrome here.
While I think that our sweet main OTP is the star of this drama, their classmates also shine on their own. We get to see the story behind every classmates as every single episode focuses on one side character’s development. The youthful energy, friendship, romance, uncertainties and finding oneself is truly a wonderful journey to watch. Thanks to Monstar, I got to know many nice songs from idol bands and I think that these songs are certainly better than the title songs they’re usually promoting. I didn’t mind the open ending as it’s clear that our main OTP will end up together in the end, it also portrays the uncertainties youth are facing as they’re still in the process of growing up. It’s just such a pity that the ending felt kinda rushed. Overall, Monstar is definitely a high school musical drama that’s worth watching if you like a cute rom-com!
Starring: Hwang Jung Eum, Ji Sung, Bae Soo Bin, Lee Da Hee (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: STRONG
Usually, I need to be in the mood to watch a melodrama but a good melo can easily set me on fire and Secret Love is the prime example. In summary, our heroine (Hwang Jung Eum) takes the blame of a hit-and-run done by her long-time boyfriend (Bae Soo Bin) and went to jail for it. Coincidentally, the victim of that accident is our hero’s (Ji Sung) ex-girlfriend so he decided to take revenge on her, to make her life as miserable as him when she comes out of the jail. Doesn’t it sound super Makjang? When I first heard of the premise, I was taken aback as this kind of “tortured-love” is not my thing. By chance, I was bored and decided to click on episode 1 and the rest is history. The drama that sounds so makjang became my drama crack and even earned lots of tears from me. I swear I almost die from dehydration for the first 6 episodes, too much tears!!!
What makes Secret Love a quality melodrama is the twist and the “secret” mysteries over the case. It all started with a hit-and-run accident and our leads find their fates intertwined. The story kept me on edge as every single scene is so intense (even when it’s a silent scene), there’s so much deep and intriguing emotions portrayed by our leads. Every character is so complex that it’s fun to analyse every single expression, movement and dialogues of them. From the sound of it, it sounds like they’ll be super dramatic but no, they’re portrayed so realistically and not the usual Makjang-style of exaggerated acting. The reasons behind the characters’ actions is reasonable and sounds like what a real person would think and do of. That was why I was able to connect to every single characters even our main antagonist, Bae Soo Bin.
Our heroine may sound like a Mother Theresa but I feel like to a certain extent, it was for herself as she believed in love and blinded by it. Our hero on the other hand never believes in love and was dysfunctional as he didn’t know how to love a person. He was selfish as he couldn’t throw away his wealth to be with his ex-girlfriend so his revenge on heroine is partly to vent his self-loathing, regret. Revenge is also an “excuse” and motivation for him to keep on living. Everyday, he needs to know what is our heroine is doing and slowly, it became a habit and obsession.
Bae Soo Bin’s character had at least felt guilty at the start for having his long-time girlfriend take the blame for him but status and his career were far more important than our heroine. Once he made a mistake, it was difficult for him to stop as he needs a mistake to cover another. Thus he became such a complex and conflicted character. Bae Soo Bin’s performance is so strong that I’ll think it’s unfair if he doesn’t get an award for it. Same to Hwang Jung Eum whom I think got her best performance to date through Secret Love. Ji Sung and Lee Da Hee’s performance were intense and all of them really deserve to get a credit.
The OST is pretty fitting with the ambience of the drama and there’s some very addicting ballads. One the best part of the execution will be its directing as the director is able to capture and highlight the emotions and state of mind of the characters by through different angles and scene settings. The writers definitely know what are they writing about as every single hints given in the beginning of the story is consistent with the consequent revelation and in the end of the story, there were some surprises that blew my mind. The consistency level is very high in this drama and while the romance is filled with delicious angst, I was more engaged in solving the mysteries and seeing how every characters interact with each other. The scriptwriter for Secret Love is a newcomer and he won the prize for a scriptwriting competition in KBS. Thus, it was rewritten to be a mini series and It definitely deserve the win.
Overall, this is a complex and suspenseful melodrama mixed with mystery elements that breaks the stereotypes of the usual makjang plots so it’s definitely highly recommended! Secret Love is like an addictive drug that gets better and better as the story progresses.
Starring: Lee Min Ho, Park Shin Hye, Kim Woo Bin, Kim Ji Won, Choi Jin Hyuk, Im Joo Eun (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: WEAK – MILD
To summarize what I think about the mega-popular drama, The Heirs, it would be “What a waste of potential!”. Maybe if I was younger by a few years, I’ll be able to fully enjoy The Heirs but as I grow older, I’m also becoming more picky in my taste of dramas. I think the California scenes were the best part of the drama even though I had to endure some really cheesy and bad acting from the American actors.
At least when they were in California, there weren’t any family or unnecessary angst. Granted, I do feel that our hero falls for our heroine a tad bit too fast but the process is quite pleasing to watch. In California, their interactions were natural, sweet and had a very nice laid-back chemistry. Our hero was thoughtful and kind towards our heroine, it went against the usual bantering couple types. Our main OTP were in an unfamilliar country, far from home and the companionship eases the loneliness of each other. It had a low-key vibe, different from the usual Kim Eun Sook style of writing so I was very hopeful when I first watched The Heirs. I thought It would bound to get better when they return to Korea but it turns out to be lack-luster as the story is over-crowded with cliches such as family pressure, weak heroine, overly-aggressive second leads and etc. It lost the laid back charm and the thoughtful interactions in California.
The Heirs have an assemble of young, good-looking and talented casts but they were so wasted! Lee Min Ho’s performance was better in City Hunter and Park Shin Hye definitely did better in Flower Boys Next Door. Plus, I’m so frustrated at Choi Jin Hyuk and Im Joo Eun being so underutilized as they’re such talented people who always manage to steal the limelight from the leads. GAH! I gotta say I really dislike Kim Woo Bin’s character as he’s just a plain meanie at first so when he suddenly change for the better, it felt forced and unnatural (I personally like Kim Woo Bin though!). In terms of his bromance with Lee Min Ho, I’ve seen the better bromance in School 2013 where he was paired with Lee Jong Suk and he also had a stronger performance in that drama.
The music and directing is average at best as I wasn’t addicted to any of their songs and parts of the directing felt very dull. The main flaw of this drama will be Kim Eun Sook’s writing as I’m suspecting whether she really knows what is she writing as for now, it looks like she’s throwing and mixing in makjang, cliche elements just for the sake of making a glossy drama. Even though Kim Eun Sook dramas are usually filled with cliches but the fast-paced, quick-witted dialogues and fun characters compensate for it so I am really disappointed this time round. Everything felt so uneven and characters are mostly frustrating.
Overall, The Heirs had a pleasant start but it slowly turned into an over-crowded glossy mixed-bag without substance. It’s only worth watching if you’re a big fan of the cast or for the shallow eye-candy reasons, heh!
Starring: Go Ah Ra, Jung Woo, Yoo Yeon Seok, Min Do Hee, Kim Sung Kyun, Son Ho Joon (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: STRONG
Reply 1994 is still airing so there may be a change of opinion after the ending but I place good faith in the writers as they had written a thoughtful and engaging story so far. This drama has the best love triangle as I’m so torn apart between Team Chilbongie (Yoo Yeon Seok) or Team Trash Oppa (Jung Woo), how I wish that our heroine has the ability to clone herself and everyone will not get hurt. I’ve watched Reply 1997 and love it but Reply 1994 is even better as I connected with every single one of the characters. The end OTP was obvious from the start in Reply 1997 so the husband guessing game was easy for viewers but It’s not the case in Reply 1994 as the writers are toying with us on purpose! Damn You!
I have so much love for the whole cast even the side characters like Samcheompo (Kim Sung Kyun), Yoon Jin (Min Do Hee), Binggeure (Baro) and Haitai (Son Ho Joon), they are such fun characters. I totally love Kim Sung Kyun’s performance as the grumpy and uptight Samcheompo, he got the perfect comedic timing and expression that I just can’t help but to enjoy his scenes. Min Do Hee’s is pretty new to acting but she’s so natura as the hot-tempered girl and her interactions with Kim Sung Kyun is too sweet and funny. These side characters make the whole drama alive, the friendship of the people in this boarding house is heart-warming.
Go Ah Ra’s performance in Reply 1994 is probably one of her best as I was pretty indifferent about her before this drama. It doesn’t feel like she’s acting as it’s so natural for her to be Na-Jung, our heroine. This is my first time watching Jung Woo and Yoo Yeon Seok, I gotta say they’re both damn fine in terms of looks and acting. It doesn’t hurt that both of them also have such great chemistry with Go Ah Ra that I’m so torn between the love triangle. The interactions between our delicious love triangle always manage to make my heart flutter and grin until my mouth ache. The story feels more like a peek into the daily lives of the people in the boarding house that it have a laid-back atmosphere.
The staffs had done a great job in assembling the vintage props items, they’re all pretty accurate for that era. “To You” have got to be the most infectious theme song for this year as the melody perfectly fits the sweet atmosphere. Overall, this is a drama filled with warmth, hearts and engaging characters that everyone should watch!
2013 Taiwanese Dramas
Usually, Taiwanese dramas are 20+ episodes or a few shorter ones but as only one episode is aired per week, each dramas take at least 4-6months to finish their run. This is the main reason that in a year, the amount of Taiwanese dramas available is only half of what Korea and Japan have. Over the past two years, Taiwan’s broadcasters are trying to make a change by adding daily dramas to create more choices for the audience (Eg: Two Fathers, Ti Amo Chocolate, Inborn Pair, etc). I definitely love that idea as a viewer as watching a weekly drama is a painful process despite the fun. Most Taiwanese dramas I watch are SETTV channel productions and they’re probably one of the most widely-known channel to international audience.
While Taiwanese dramas may not have Korea’s skilled cinematography or glossy feel, a good Tw-drama would have a feel-good, realistic and laid-back vibe. They also have many OTPs with great chemistry which always manage to make me squeal in delight.
Starring: Michael Zhang, Li Qian Na, Jay Shih, Yin Fu, Chang Han, Danson Tang (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: MILD
A Hint of You couldn’t escape the SETTV channel curse which makes good quality dramas turned draggy towards the end. For the first 30 episodes, my rating for this drama will be pretty high but then everything drags so bad after that. I skimmed through towards the end as I couldn’t stand the angst between our main couple as our heroine is trying to be the noble idiot.
The best thing about this drama would be our main OTP, I can’t get enough of their chemistry. This would be my first time watching Michael Zhang as the protagonist and I think his screen presence is definitely enough for him to be a lead. Lee Qian Na is relatively new but she had won a best new actress award under her belt which explains her natural style of acting. Even though I have no problem with her performance, her character became such a weakling as the story progresses that it feels like I’m watching a totally different character, she loses her spunk when she’s facing the antagonists.
At least it was an entertaining drama that managed to capture my attention so I gotta give some credit for it. The directing is very stylish when they’re shooting the process of cooking and it never fails to make me hungry as the food looks extremely appetizing on screen. Prepare some snacks if you want to watch this drama as the cooking part of the story is drool-inducing. The songs are just SO SO SO pleasing to my ears and they fit the drama to a tee. Overall, It’s an enjoyable drama even though it’s frustrating at times when it gets draggy so watch it only when you’re out of entertainment.
Starring: Aaron Yan, Puff Guo, Dean Fujioka, Lin Lyla, Katherine Wang (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: MILD
“Turn off your brain while watching this” and I’m serious about that. It’s a fluffy entertainment without much substance except for the sake of eye-candy as our main couple are so good looking and both have sizzling chemistry. The story can get ridiculous and exaggerated at times but It’s definitely entertaining if you turn off your brain during the watch, LOL.
Just You manage to entertain the shallow part of me as Aaron Yan and Puff Guo is damn cute together. It also helps that the angst level in the story is pretty low and the main antagonist doesn’t pose much threat to our main OTP until the last few episodes. However, the development and ending of our main couple is very satisfying that It’s enough to compensate the flaws of the story.
The OST is pretty standard for an idol drama with some nice ballads and upbeat songs which is quite fitting. Directing is pretty average at best that It’s not really worth mentioning. Overall, this is an cute and enjoyable watch If you’re able to turn off your brain. It’s also worth watching just for the main couple played by Aaron Yan and Puff Guo.
Starring: Chloe Wang, Jasper Liu, Yin Chong Zhen, Suzuki Yuki (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: MILD
IUUI had so much potential to be the next type of In Time With You but It kinda lost its cute charm as it progresses. The story centers around the siblings who are not blood-related and the heroine’s becoming aware of her own feelings as her brother got his first girlfriend.
Chloe Wang and Jasper Liu are so cute together as siblings and as the main OTP. I actually like the hero’s girlfriend as she started out to be pretty cool, independent and very different from our heroine. However, she started to change and fall into the annoying second lead character once she gets jealous of the siblings tight relationship. As the girlfriend told off our heroine to stop depending her brother, she decided to leave home to Japan for work and tries to become independent. In Japan, she meets a Japanese guy which is our almost-perfect second male lead. In the second half of the story, I felt like our hero is very indecisive about his feelings as he clearly loves the heroine more than his girlfriend but he didn’t want to admit. Even until the end, I felt like it was our heroine that’s more pro-active in loving the hero and only her character kept on improving as the story develops.
The one thing I have to give credit for this drama is their graphic design as the visuals are just so stylish to look at. The OST is pretty fitting and the cast perfectly fits their character but the writing turns into an indecisive mess towards the end. Overall, I think only the first half is worth watching for entertainment and the writing wasted its potential. I think Just You is the better Tw-drama compared to IUUI as it was at least entertaining till the last seconds.
Starring: Jade Chou, Esther Liu, Huang Jian Wei (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: STRONG
Falling is an award-winning mini human drama that depicts a realistic view of a modern woman and deals with sensitive topics which most women would definitely agree and empathize on. The heroine is an average woman who’s in her early 30s and having to face the reality to deal with her pushy family, loneliness and lack of personal life. She’s a sweet, kind and sheltered lady that’s an easy target for people to push responsibilities onto her due to the lack of assertiveness. We follow the journey of the heroine’s self discovery as she moves out to live on her own and encounters a new neighbor, Jill (Esther Liu) who is the exact opposite of her. Jill is a confident and independent woman who just broken off an engagement with her long time boyfriend as he is a Mama’s boy. The two ladies bonded in a short period of time even though they’re of exact opposites of each other and the story centers around the lives of these people. As the story progresses, we see our heroine becoming more confident and knows how to speak for herself.
It portrays how modern women are stuck between modern values and traditional perception of a society towards female as most people think that it is a woman’s obligation to get married and give birth. Marriage is definitely not an assurance for happiness and it should not be the main objective of a woman. The story touches on topics such as the sexual needs of a woman, pushy family, gays, troubled marriage and mama’s boy who is becoming a common trend over the years. There’s even some very disturbing provocative scenes that I won’t spoil on. Jade Chou had to put on special make-up that made her look average with those untidy eyebrows and freckles even though she’s beautiful in real life. Esther Liu also won the best supporting actress award for this drama and I also think that her performance as the hot and confident lady is unforgettable that it left a strong impression on me.
The directing is very pretty to watch as the director often uses colorful flowers to style the fantasy-sequences and it’s consistent with the chinese title as “含苞” means flowerbud (direct translation of the chinese title 含苞欲坠的每一天 would be The Daily Life of a Falling Bud). Some of the scenes were shot like a documentary film which further dramatize the feeling of human drama. I think both the writer and director did a great job in making a pretty and sensible feminine drama. Overall, Falling is a thought-provoking human drama that had me reeling for quite some time after I finished watching and it left a bittersweet taste on my heart. Definitely a must watch for the mature audience so don’t miss this hidden gem!
Two Fathers 兩個爸爸 (73ep)
Starring: Leroy Young, Lin Yo Wei, Megan Lai, Liang Jin, Le Le (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: MILD
I’ve only watched until Ep21 and It’s still too early to give a verdict right now but so far, It’s an adorable drama that mixes cute kids, cute daddies and cute bickering couples. However, I’ve heard many reviews that It’s bound to drag somewhere starting in the middle so I’m watching this with an open mind but so far it’s very entertaining and I totally understand why is it so popular in Taiwan when It was on broadcast.
First and for all, the little girl (Le Le) is DAMN cute and I like her a lot better than the other hot Tw-child actor, Xiao Xiao Bin. She’s just so natural in her acting and has great chemistry with both dads. The producers are smart at trying to market this drama with two hot guys acting as daddies of a cute little girl. Leroy Young and Lin Yo Wei are just so precious and they totally act like a couple that’s married for a long time. It’s so hilarious that Lin Yo Wei acts like a nagging
mom dad that always complain about how Leroy is so dirty and always giving in to their daughter when she want candies. They’re my favorite couple in this drama as they portrays the best loving couple bromance ever. Leroy’s performance as the lawyer with a sharp tongue is totally on spot with his annoying expressions when he bicker with our heroine, Megan Lai.
Even though I think Leroy and Lin Yo Wei makes the best couple in this drama, Leroy’s chemistry with Megan is also filled with sparks as they’ve coupled up before in the vintage-drama Story of Time. To make things more complicated, It seems like Lin Yo Wei is also slowly falling for Megan Lai who is the homeroom teacher of his daughter. So I predict that there will be a lot of angst in the future and I will miss the cute interactions between our two dads. Two Fathers is still worth watching for the cute daddies and kids.
Starring: Sonia Sui, Tony Yang, Zhuang Kai Xun, Aggie Hsieh (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: MILD
As this is a drama that’s still airing, I won’t give a verdict yet but so far, I feel that the premise turns to be quite aggravating at times. To be honest, It’s a very thoughtful drama with a realistic tone that reminds me of In Time With You and it’s quite understandable as this comes from the same producers so I was quite hopeful when I first watch it. However, It doesn’t have the same writer whom I think is the best thing of In Time With You as she is one of my favorite screenwriters in Tw-dramaland with several great dramas like An Innocent Mistake, Story of Time and Mars under her belt.
The writing for this drama is uneven and makes me bipolar at times as I feel that the heroine’s (Sonia Sui) pursuit to get back her ex-boyfriend (Zhuang Kai Xun) and long time friend felt “cunning” as It was unfair to his current girlfriend (Aggie Hsieh). I can understand the defeated feelings she had when the fifteen years of waiting and hoping vanished into thin air just for a girl whom the ex-boyfriend knows less than a year but It doesn’t give her the rights to be the third wheel or ruin a couple’s relationship. She thinks she understand him the best so she felt that his current girlfriend isn’t right for him but she really had no rights to decide on that. A person’s happiness can only be decided by his/her own. It was fortunate that the plot to get back her ex-boyfriend lasted for only a few episodes if not it would be really frustrating that the writers spend so much time wasting on this plot instead of focusing on our main couple’s developing romance.
While some may say that the drama pacing is a bit slow, I think that it’s a good build-up for our main couple and even wish for the hero (Tony Yang) to fall in love with the heroine much slower as he was supposedly to have just given up on his dream girl (Aggie Hsieh) not long ago. The main couple have a great chemistry and what I love that they’re healing each others’ wounds through companionship of each other. Plus, the cohabitation plot makes their interaction to be so cute as they have a lot of excuses to spend more time together. They’re probably the best thing in this drama other than the friendship between the girls. I feel that our heroine is unafraid of showing the ugly sides of her in front of our hero and they really bonded through showing their most vulnerable state to each other.
I love the OST as it contains a song from one of my favorite band “Frandé” but I like the songs by Wen Fang Wu the most as the lyrics totally fit with the situations that our main couple is facing. However, I think the music director tend to go overboard with filling every scenes with a background music as I would have prefer some silent scenes that will evoke stronger emotions during sad scenes. The directing is very pretty with a touch of fantasy when our heroine is deep in thoughts, It’s definitely as expected from the producers of In Time With You. Overall, even though I’m not too obsessed with this drama due to some aggravating plots that I dislike, It’s still worth watching for the main couple.
Starring: Lego Li, Kirsten Ren, Jay Shih, Smile Weng (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: STRONG
There’s only 4 episodes that’s been released yet I’m so obsessed with this drama and I think I made it very obvious from the number of posts about In A Good Way in my blog. The main OTP just hits all my right notes as they’re TOOO cute and perfect together that I’m so unhealthily invested in them. Just one simple gaze will make me squirm like a fanatic and every single scenes of them make me grin so much that my mouth ache.
While some may compare this with Reply 1994, I definitely think it’s totally different in terms of plot and tone. It feels much more like the hit Taiwanese movie, You’re the apple in my eye as both are about school romance, youth, characters’ growth, uncertainties and the feeling of hope about the future. What I love the most about In A Good Way is that our main characters develop feelings for each other slowly but romance is not their priority as they have so many other things to do as a college student. This makes their whole relationship feel very realistic and subtle. Lego Li is totally slaying it as Liu Chuan, he’s plays such a perfect hero with warmth that makes him difficult to not fall in love with. He have such an electrifying and attractive gaze that always burn the screen whenever he appears. Kirsten Ren still feels green as an actress but she’s naturally endearing and don’t overact which makes her perfect as the innocent yet determined Jia En. It’s only icing on the cake that she’s one of the most thoughtfully written character in this drama as she learns and grow to become a better person in every episode.
In A Good Way should win the best soundtrack for Tw-drama of this year as the producers find so many nice old-school songs that fit with the scenes and I also love the opening and ending theme of this drama. This is definitely a must watch if you need a breathe of fresh air and some feel-good campus romance.
2013 Japanese Dramas
There are so many Japanese doramas that I dropped or not interested this year that I’m only left with a few to talk about out of so many dramas that aired this year. These are the only few doramas that made an impression on me for the good or wrong reasons. Japanese dramas are very episodic which makes it challenging to be fully connect with the characters but on the upside, it makes up for it with its pacing. Plus, I always love the manga-type of comedic humor in Japanese dramas, they’re SO hilarious. However, as Japanese dramas tend to be short and have entertaining characters that are not so complex so don’t expect me to write a long review about these dramas.
Starring: Eita, Ono Machiko, Maki Yoko, Ayano Go (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: MILD
An interesting premise where the two couples are kind of switched up and became a complicated relationship. I have a mixed feeling for this drama as I think while the acting and writing had no problems, I had a hard time liking these characters as they’re so indecisive and flawed. It’s apparent that both couples still love each other deeply but due to the long years together, they started to forget the love for each other and takes their other half for granted. I felt like this was one big round of circle as I thought that there might be real switch of couple but it didn’t happen in the end and I was a bit disappointed.
Even after I finished this drama, I still can’t decide whether I like it or dislike it as there were some entertaining moments but mostly frustrating characters. Even though Eita’s character was frustrating at first but he was the character that I like the most out of the 4 leads as his grumpiness actually becomes one of the best comedy in this drama and he was the character that was the fastest in identifying the problem that lies in his marriage. His cat is also the star and the cure for this uneven drama so I gotta give him some credit for it, heh!
Starring: Shinohara Ryoko, Fujiki Naohito, Miura Haruma, Otsuka Nene (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: MILD
A premise with a lot of potential and the writers want me to root for the Noona-Romance but I fell in love with the good friend of the heroine instead. I would like to confess that I never find Shinohara Ryoko attractive in any way and the way she is styled in this drama succeeds in making her looking even more plain. However, I have to give credit for being a talented actress that’s always good in her performance. I’ve watched several Shinohara’s dramas but while I do like her performance, I never fall in love with any of her characters and It’s quite a pity that this drama failed to do that too.
Last Cinderella is one example where the downside of the fast-paced Japanese drama can make a romantic relationship difficult to connect with. I just simply felt that the romance between her and Miura Haruma is too fast and I don’t feel that their chemistry is strong enough to portray a couple deeply in love. Maybe It’s because Miura Haruma still feel too feminine in terms of looks and too young for Shinohara that I don’t buy their romance. Fujiki Naohito on the other hand has such a strong chemistry with Shinohara that I wished they’re our end couple. However, I think It was quite reasonable that our heroine didn’t choose Fujiki’s character as she only treats him as a friend but I also didn’t want her to end up with Miura Haruma’s character as their romance felt superficial as it was developed too fast that It felt like our heroine only accepts him as she was lonely and at that time, someone is after her so they got together.
Overall, It was quite an engaging drama with some frustrating executions that I personally dislike. I just wished that the writers took more time to develop the romance between the end couple so It’s more reasonable.
Starring: Karasawa Toshiaki, Matsuyuki Yasuko, Matsuzaka Tori, Inagaki Goro (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: MILD – STRONG
Whenever I think of Take Five, I will always remember the tune of the theme song which is also titled Take Five, a cover by JUJU of a classic jazz piece with the same name that always ring when our gang is in action. This is an entertaining action drama done right with engaging characters.
Karasawa Toshiaki is naturally charismatic as the gang-leader of the Take Five thieves that I can’t help but to adore him. Matsuzaka Tori and him has such a great bromance despite the huge age gap between them and they are the highlight of this drama. Whenever they interact, there is so much sparks that It makes me feel like they’re the main couple of this drama, heh! I do feel that Matsuyuki Yasuko tends to go overboard on her serious face that makes her look stressed all the time and her character is the least interesting. I also think that the background music rings at a perfect timing that further emphasize the thrill and excitement of the gang’s action. Overall, this is a fun and engaging action drama with lovable characters.
Starring: Aragaki Yui, Ayano Go, Shibata Kyohei, Mizuno Miki (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: STRONG
Soratobu Kouhoushitsu took me by surprise for its realistic and thoughtful approach in portraying the lives and hardships of people working in the air force department. This is my first time seeing Ayano Go playing as a protagonist instead of being the usual antagonist or annoying characters. He is really talented and diverse in types of characters he’s able to play. His performance as the creepy child-abuser in Mother and the indecisive annoying character in Saikou no Rikon are so memorable that I was hesitant to watch this drama because of him. However, he proved me wrong by playing as a protagonist with broken dreams but is always earnest and hopeful. It’s impossible to not root for his character and now the shallow side of me finds Ayano Go to be very attractive because of this drama, haha!
In addition to his wonderful performance, his chemistry with Aragaki Yui is sizzling that they make such a cute couple that makes me wanna squeeze them. Soratobu Kouhoushitsu has the best romance in J-doramaland this year as the main couple budding romance is so realistic and endearing. They are people with broken dreams who bonded through understanding the pain of and giving encouragement to support each other. They were attracted to each other as they’ve seen both the vulnerable side and admirable actions of each other which makes their attraction so natural. Aragaki Yui’s character is a well written character as she grows from an insensitive and career-minded reporter to an understanding person that’s able to put herself in other shoes.
Besides the cute romance, the portrayal of the dreams and hardships of people who works in the air force just motivates the audience to work hard for their dream no matter what. Even with a broken dream, there is always a way out to ease the pain. I love all these positive and uplifting messages conveyed by this drama and there are so many moving moments in this drama. The theme song “Contrail” by Namie Amuro has such an upbeat melody that fits with the hopeful vibe of this drama. Overall, this is a pleasant watch with positive messages that is uplifting.
Starring: Sakai Masato, Ueto Aya, Oikawa Mitsuhiro, Takito Kenichi, Takito Kenichi (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: STRONG
The highest rated J-drama of the year and well-deserving for its high numbers. A premise that sounds boring on paper but well-executed in an electrifying pace that kept me on edge as I can’t help but to root for our smart and upright underdog protagonist to defeat the corrupted upper-management people. Never a dull moment as our protagonist is always facing a challenge in having to deal with the corrupted nature of the bank people and the higher-ups. The actors are so intense in their acting and this actually felt more like a play instead of a drama.
While It may not be the best written drama, a story of the underdog overcoming obstacle is always everyone’s favorite. Honestly, our protagonist felt a bit too perfect as he always succeeds in solving the problems but the process is satisfying enough to make me glued to the screen. I also think that the format of the story is brilliant as It’s divided into two parts and the story took place in two different banks as our protagonist moved up the career ladder. Five episodes were used to finish telling the story that happen in a bank and that made it easy for me to connect with the protagonist and side characters as the episodes were inter-connected with each other. I hope that more J-doramas will try to adapt this kind of format so viewers are able to connect with characters fully. Overall, this is an exciting and thrilling office politics story with lots of addictive elements.
Starring: Sakai Masato, Aragaki Yui, Satomi Kotaro, Taguchi Junnosuke, Okada Masaki (Dramawiki)
Obsession Level: STRONG
Legal High proves that law can be such a fun topic with its ridiculous cases and funny characters that I can’t help but love its zippy humor. The second season is as strong as the first one in my opinion even though the main rival in season one was clearly the stronger competition and much more in sync with the hero. Even though It’s still currently on air, I think it’s safe to give this drama my verdict as japanese dramas are usually episodic in terms of story and Legal High is almost finishing its run so I don’t think I will change my opinion about it.
Sakai Masato’s performance as the money-minded, sarcastic and sharp tongued lawyer deserves to win a best actor award! I don’t know in what way he could memorize all those super duper long dialogues and spouts them out as fast as a machine gun. His performance is totally in perfect pitch with his character and his exaggerated expressions are just so priceless that I could screencap every single scene and get entertained. With this kind of performance, It’s no wonder he is quickly rising as one of the most popular Japanese actor that’s been garnering high ratings through Legal High and Hanzawa Naoki.
This season, we have the addition of Okada Masaki as our protagonist main rival and even though I prefer the rival in the previous season, I actually kind of like the idea of some romance being added into Legal High as It’s clear that this new character have feelings for our hot-blooded lawyer assistant (Aragaki Yui). It’s not really necessary for them to be together in the end but the romance element makes quite an interesting change for this drama. Overall, this is definitely a must watch if you love a good comedy and entertaining characters.