Heisui: Hi I’m heisui and I mainly blog j-dramas, tw-dramas, and c-dramas over at My Drama Tea. I’ve gotten to know Caroline (carolies541) over the year and it’s been a lot of fun discussing tw-dramas with her!
Kat: Hello! I’m Kat and I watch/blog/fangirl about chinese language dramas (TW, HK and C) over at Dramapot.com. Thanks Carol for the opportunity to be a part of this mega post! It’s always fun to read a different perspective on a drama you’ve watched.
Soori: I’m Soori from shikidrama and I mainly watch Kdramas,Jdramas and TWdramas (and a little bit of Cdramas) – lately I’ve also started watching Thai dramas. Although I post review, I normally like to write my thoughts on certain dramas or scenes and characters.
For this year’s drama review, I decided to shake things up for a bit and invite guest bloggers to write their own perspectives on the dramas they’ve watch. With more bloggers writing, more dramas can be covered and readers can hear different opinions about the dramas they’re interested in. The rating system is further developed with a wider spectrum, instead of the old and simple”Strong, mild and weak obsession” rating system.
Opinions are always subjective so don’t refrain yourself from checking a drama you’re interested in even if our rating for the drama isn’t favorable. No drama will ever be perfect in my eyes but a good drama don’t need to be perfect, it just have to deliver the correct emotions and entertain me.
Comments are very welcomed, we would love to hear from you about the dramas you loved or hated this year!
BEWARE OF SPOILERS AND WEARINESS OF READING A LONG POST, PROCEED WITH CARE!
Rating system for this year:
STRONG OBSESSION, MILD OBSESSION, NEUTRAL, MILD DETACHMENT, STRONG DETACHMENT
Korean Dramas: Angel Eyes | Bad Guys | Can We Love? | Emergency Couple | Glorious Day | High School King of Savvy | It’s Okay, That’s Love | MAMA |Marriage, Not Dating | Misaeng | My Secret Hotel | Plus Nine Boys | Pride & Prejudice | You’re all Surrounded
Taiwanese and Chinese Dramas: Apple In Your Eye (TW) | Boss & Me (CN) | Back in Time (CN) | Fabulous 30 (TW) | Love Cheque Charge (TW) | Marry or Not (TW) | Mr. Right Wanted (TW) | Pleasantly Surprised (TW) | Rock ‘N’ Road (TW) | Shenzhen / Roommate Diaries (CN) | Sound of the desert (CN) | The Darker (CN) | The Virtuous Queen of Han (CN) | The Way We Were (TW)
Japanese Dramas: Alice no Toge | Boku no Ita Jikan | Border | Borderline | Dear Sister | HERO 2014 | Hirugao | Mozu Season 1 & 2 | Platonic | River’s Edge Ookawabata Tanteisha | Roosevelt Game | Shitsuren Chocolatier | Wakamono Tachi
– Toggle between tabs to check out reviews and opinions from different bloggers!
– Click on the spoiler buttons to expand/hide different review sections!
2014 Korean Dramas
In 2014, cable channels proved themselves to be powerhouses of the kdramaland (even the variety show world) by constantly delivering quality dramas. Not all of their dramas are great but the consistency level is much higher than the public channels. That’s probably because they had more freedom to explore on different themes, creating contents with diversity. As a viewer, I’m always thankful when TV channels offer more things to me and here are some of the dramas that I watched for this year.
Soori@shikidrama joins me for this year’s year-end review and she pretty much reviewed most of the kdramas listed below. Her reviews are actually more precise than my long-winded reviews (ha!) so feel free to check her reviews out for different opinions.
Starring: Lee Sang-Yoon, Goo Hye-Sun, Kim Ji-Suk, Kang Ha-Neul, Nam Ji-Hyun (Dramawiki)
Rating: MILD DETACHMENT
Verdict: The initial romantic and lovely atmosphere is bogged down by frustrating plot developments in the second half of the story.
The plot itself was already an ideal wet ground for makjang-germs to infest in but the execution was very lovely for the first half of the story that the drama didn’t feel insane and made me have the urge to roll my eyes on the plot. However, it’s a totally different case in the second half of the story and more onto that later. Kang Ha-Neul and Nam Ji-Hyun really slayed the first few episodes with their childhood version of the OTP, they were so engaging that I wouldn’t mind to watch a separate drama for their own. Lee Sang-Yoon and Goo Hye-Sun in my opinion are actually lovely together and their sweet chemistry resembles to their younger counterparts so I had no major complain about the transition. I also thought that this drama is Goo Hye-Sun’s best performance to date as she’s so naturally at ease with her acting. Even though the first half of the story had its flaws, especially in terms of the professional aspect of firefighters, it was still lovely as a whole so I enjoyed it.
Things take a bad turn once the heroine learns the truth behind how she got the donation for her eyes and the two leads have to go through a lot of “I love you but I have no choice to push you away” plot developments for so many times that I feel like there’s no end to their vicious cycle of noble idiocy. Plus the family angst frustrates me to no end, I understand that it’s inevitable but I would prefer the writers to execute them in a different manner that doesn’t frustrate me. It could have been a lot more than that, it showed its great potential in the beginning but unfortunately, the writing falters in the second half and I stopped caring about the characters. The writing is making waste of the great cast and lovely OST. Le Sigh….
Verdict: Forgetful drama with a lovely OST.
This drama is the type that starts well but along the way it becomes complicated for no reason. Although the actors did a pretty good job, I found the child/teen actors mesmerizing me with the way they build the two main characters. It was a shame that the adults actors, who are way longer into their acting careers couldn’t get a hold of what their younger contra-parts managed to show.
The story was good, pretty decent in terms of writing, but I couldn’t find anything that could actually attract me or draw me more into it to the point of watching it out of pleasure and curiosity. In the end the writer didn’t manage to showcase a memorable character nor story, yet I find it to be a shame since the premise was good but there were no feelings involved and just a plain train.
Starring: Kim Sang-Joong, Ma Dong-Suk, Park Hae-Jin, Jo Dong-Hyuk, Kang Ye-Won (Dramawiki)
Rating: MILD OBSESSION
Verdict: More masculine, rough and violent than your usual crime procedural dramas.
The pilot episode didn’t really won me over as it had a slower start but I think by the end of Ep3, I was craving for more violence. There are many crime procedural dramas that emphasize on using the legal and correct methods to punish the criminals but Bad Guys takes the totally opposite approach for that, they believe in “an eye for an eye”. Only the criminals could understand the mindset of the other criminals and it’s always satisfying to see the bad guys getting punished by bad guys that are equally cruel or even more cruel than them.
Initially, the criminals played by Park Hae-Jin, Ma Dong-Suk and Jo Dong-Hyuk all had their own agendas, they wanted to catch other criminals in order to shorten their term of imprisonment and thus, in the beginning, the team was a mess and overly scattered like a sand. However, as the story goes along, these beasts slowly feel the sense of achievement through catching the evils and helping the weak ones. They regain their feelings of empathy as a human, those feelings that they have became numb to as they committed so many crimes. This is not a story of how they gain forgiveness for their past crimes but instead, they’re becoming more human and regaining their own conscience in the process of cracking the cases. Park Hae-Jin was a difficult case to begin with as he was a psychopath who felt no emotions but he slowly warmed up to his team and slowly, a unique bond between these bad guys is formed.
It tackles on the topic of whether the evils need to suffer the same way as the victims or they should be punished by law. Will taking revenge satisfy the person or will it plant the root of another revenge in the future? Through this vicious cycle of inflicting harm and taking revenge on each other, there’s no end to it and the victims may become a beast in the process.
While it had a strong and well-rounded acting, the story wasn’t without any flaws. I thought that this drama was an overly-masculine drama because the female characters are so weak and useless, I know that the drama is already titled as “Bad Guys” but I had hopes that the writers could spare some character developments for Kang Ye-Won‘s police detective character because by the end of the series, I still don’t understand what’s her use in the story, HA! The ending also felt a little bit rushed and the explanation behind the mysteries were too predictable that it kind of loses its unique charm it had in the beginning. Maybe I just had higher expectations for this so I was a little bit disappointed for the last few episodes as I felt that the writers were being a bit lazy. All in all, it’s still a great series that’s worth a try.
Starring: Eugene, Uhm Tae-Woong, Kim Yoo-Mi, Choi Jung-Yoon, Kim Sung-Soo, Nam Sung-Jin (Dramawiki)
Rating: MILD OBSESSION
Verdict: A realistic, complex world that portrays the loves and lives of flawed adult characters.
Stories about long-withstanding friendship between mature ladies are always my cup of tea because the bond is stronger as they’ve known each other for so many years. They mature together and go through different phase in life together. “Can We Love” takes on a realistic approach for the friendship between the ladies and shows that people and friendship can change as they grow up as they’ve different priorities in life and sometimes, friends that live in different environment find it difficult to understand each other. Thus, the good rapport they had in their younger days become fragile and their friendship becomes sensitive to even trivial things such as “a word of advice” as the ladies will feel like they’re getting looked down upon or the friends being too meddlesome. Friendship between adults is always complicated.
Jung-Wan (Eugene) is a divorced mother that divorced her husband because she thought that there’ll be no future for them as the husband keeps on failing in his career but once he succeeds, she starts to regret her decision. Sun-Mi (Kim Yoo-Mi) is desperate to find a good marriage candidate and she’s jealous of Ji-Hyun (Choi Jung-Yoon)’s rich husband and happy family. Ji-Hyun’s seemingly picture-perfect family is actually not without flaws as she tries to hide her own struggles from her friends and puts up a facade that her life is better than theirs. I really appreciate that these ladies are not perfect in any way.
On the romance front, I thought I’ll be the most invested in the romance between Jung-Wan and Kyung-Soo (Uhm Tae-Woong) who are indeed cute together, but unexpectedly, I was the most invested in the fallout between Ji-Hyun and her husband (Nam Sung-Jin) when he finds out about her lies and infidelity, which didn’t really succeed anyways. Because Ji-Hyun’s husband knows nothing of the real her, she keeps a facade in front of everybody, she tells him that he’s her first love but in fact her first love is Do-Young (Kim Sung-Soo) who later on appears and complicate matters. Her husband also don’t know that his mother have been abusing Ji-Hyun emotionally for so many years but puts up a good mom-in-law facade in front of him. The whole family is so dysfunctional and their relationship was built on lies that I was breaking with Ji-Hyun when he tore down her mask. The seemingly perfect woman among the 3 friends was actually the one that’s been suffering the most and the fallout was so heartbreaking.
At first, Ji-Hyun’s husband was not in any fault as he was a loving husband but he became a monster when he finds out the truth because he was blinded by his anger and hatred. I can still somehow understand his actions so I don’t hate him as a character. Nam Sung-Jin and Choi Jung-Yoon are so good and sold their characters to me that I bought everything from them, their sorrows, anger, everything! In the end, he still choose to forgive her and I thought the ending was a satisfying close for Ji-Hyun as she resets everything from the start and it was an open-ending. I thought that their marital relationship was the most realistic one out of the 3 lovelines. The other lovelines didn’t engage me that much, especially the noona-romance between Sun-Mi and Yoon-Suk (Park Min-Woo) but Eugene and Uhm Tae-Woong’s relationship was serviceable. As weird as it sounds, most of my affections for this drama comes from the dysfunctional marital relationship between Ji-Hyun and her husband.
Verdict: A mature drama with a messy female line up characters.
I liked the focus on more women as they are trying to accept their personal struggles not only in their love lives but as they interact with family members and others around them. One important factor that made this drama interesting was the portray of the 3 women in a pretty realistically mannerism, I liked the equal importance of the 3 to the whole drama without making one stealing the spot light. Although the 3 had different living styles and more than that totally different personalities, it was refreshing seeing how they reacted to all kind of problems in their daily lives and as they interact with family members and what not, their lovers.
“Can we love?” tries to showcase the lives of strong women, however things don’t go as good as one may want. First we have Yoon Jung Wan, a divorced woman who lives with her son and mother; even though she is in a way the main out of the female cast, along the drama Jung Wan is forgotten as the writer starts to focus more on Sun Mi and Ji Hyun. Sun Mi was a well written and portrayed character until her wall crumbled down, she tries to look strong and independent yet all that is a lie the moment a man comes into her life. As for Ji Hyun, she has the most problems out of the 3, although Jun Wan and Sun Mi do have their own problems, the two do manage to get a hold of everything, on the other hand I had a feeling that Ji Hyun lost it at some point. Her main focus wasn’t that her teenage daughter got pregnant, for her it was more important what people will say about this when they will find out or more than that how the mother in law will react.
Starring: Song Ji-Hyo, Choi Jin-Hyuk, Lee Pil-Mo, Choi Yeo-Jin, Clara (Dramawiki)
Verdict: Couldn’t get into the main OTP, the execution wasn’t bad but it just doesn’t engage me that much.
This is one drama where I just couldn’t get into the main OTP. I have no problems with ex-couples getting together but I feel that their rekindled flame is a bit one-sided, with Chang-Min (Choi Jin-Hyuk) wanting to get back together with Jin-Hee (Song Ji-Hyo) but she’s probably be fine with it even if they went on separate ways. Jin-Hee suffered so much during her first marriage that I have a hard time believing that she wants a second try at it. One can argue that Chang-Min improved and they learnt to communicate better but I just felt that the “new and upgraded” Jin-Hee would be fine living on her own, as an independent woman as she starts to care more about her career and stopped making her world revolve only around “love”, but more on herself.
It also doesn’t help that I prefer the second male lead, Chun-Soo (Lee Pil-Mo) over Chang-Min because I feel like he’s the better fit for Jin-Hee, she needs someone that’s even more mature than her and not the other way round. Yes, Chang-Min became more mature, definitely better than he was in the past as the story progressed but I just don’t feel enough love from Jin-Hee towards him, their rekindled love feels pretty one-sided to me. The execution wasn’t bad, there were some great moments but I couldn’t enjoy the story as much as I want to because the OTP’s romance don’t engage me enough. Taste is very subjective so some people might enjoy this drama more than me.
Rating: STRONG DETACHMENT
Verdict: Okay, but that’s all.
In terms of plot, I actually liked this one, however I was actually disappointed in the acting department, probably because I was expecting too much from them, considering that most are already established actors/actresses, yet in terms of acting ‘Emergency Couple’ lacked a lot. The comical situations makes the drama easy to each, but as it went forward, the writer takes the easy way out and decides to use the normal Korean drama path thus the story kinda loses its flame.
Starring: Park Se-Young, Kim Mi-Sook, Lee Sang-Woo, Son Chang-Min (Dramawiki)
Rating: MILD OBSESSION
Verdict: Like a comfort food that lacks the presence of heavy spices but pleasant and easy to watch.
Weekend family-centric dramas can be really pleasant to watch if they don’t add too much heavy spices onto it and make it go the makjang route. Glorious Day is one example of a weekend family drama that’s comfortable to watch. While some people can think that it lack the sparks and excitement (as reflected from the low rating), I thought it was filled with heartwarming bonding moments between the families, especially the mom and daughters. Things start to get a little bit more complicated when Park Se-Young‘s family moves in next door to Lee Sang-Woo‘s house as the two families have no other choice than to get along with each other as they’ll be seeing each other everyday. Even though they clashed and bickered a lot at first, they start to care for each other and a strong form is bond between them.
On the romance front, Park Se-Young and Lee Sang-Woo are cute together as the OTP, their chemistry is less sizzling but more the reassuring and comfortable type of chemistry. While I didn’t go crazy over the OTP, they’re easy to root for. Furthermore, the second male lead (Kim Hyung-Kyu) is such a stiff actor that it’s so easy to root for Lee Sang-Woo. Maybe Kim Hyung-Kyu is pretty new so I felt like he couldn’t make the love triangle engaging enough because he’s so lacking in the acting department. Not that Park Se-Young is that great but she’s very natural as compared to Kim Hyung-Kyu. I kept on getting distracted whenever Kim Hyung-Kyu appears because he’s so bad in his line delivery and it’s like the OTP and him are in two different drama worlds. Kim Mi-Sook proves that the young guns still have a long way to go to catch up to the seasoned veterans because she’s the best in the acting department for this drama. One thing that’s regrettable is how the channel cuts short of the story due to low rating and the ending feels a bit rushed but still, Glorious day is recommended for those who are in the mood to watch light-hearted and heart-warming family dramas.
Verdict: Regrettable, it had the chance to become a great family drama.
I normally love weekend Korean family dramas because although the story becomes pretty heavy by the second half of its 44 episodes, the plot manages the keep the funny/comical parts giving the story a light hearted progress. Unfortunately ‘Glorious Days’ couldn’t keep the development on a straight line and everything become rather boring as the characters lost their flavor from the beginning. The drama did a good job showcasing forgiveness inside a family but only that couldn’t save the poor ratings from going downhill. I personally felt that the writer should’ve milked the love triangle between Da Jung and the two brothers a little more rather than making Da Jung and Jae Woo fall for each other, maybe this could’ve give more spiciness to the story but everything was rapidly wrapped up that they almost shoved In Woo away.
Starring: Seo In-Guk, Lee Ha-Na, Lee Soo-Hyuk, Lee Yul-Eum (Dramawiki)
Rating: MILD OBSESSION
Verdict: A few hiccups on the OTP’s romance because of age gap but as I’m watching the OTP’s relationship from an outsider’s POV, it’s still an enjoyable drama overall .
A romantic comedy about a high-school hockey player, Min-Suk (Seo In-Guk) who ends up as a high positioned office worker in place of his brother who couldn’t return to Korea from the States due to certain circumstances. Thus, the story begins with the double life of Min-Guk and the struggles he have to face to keep his real identity a secret from the rest. In the process of leading a double life, he falls in love with a contract employee of the company, Soo-Young (Lee Ha-Na) who views him as her superior at work. From the sound of the premise, you can already expect a lot of comedy and hide-and-seek, the tone is a bit cartoonish and whimsical but at times, the emotional scenes can be really raw which is such a contrast to their comedic scenes and that creates a real nice balance.
To be honest, the age gap is really huge in this drama’s context as the hero is still a high school student and the heroine is a mature adult, though she’s also a little bit too innocent in love for her age. But their presence encourage each other to grow to be a better person somehow overcome that gap (not 100%) and it made me feel less irked out about their age gap. I also thought that if you judge them based on their relationship minus the age gap, they’re actually pretty much on equal footing. Min-Suk made Soo-Young understand that it’s not right to keep on accepting everything without complains and she have to harden up a bit, making her grow some backbone. Min-Suk’s romance with Soo-Young also made him grow to be a better man as he learns that a real life relationship isn’t that easy and when he’s faced with a slump in his sports-life, Soo-Young is there to support him and encourage him to not give up.
I don’t know whether I like the ending or not because I definitely prefer them to have a timejump before getting married but I think it is somehow fitting with the OTP’s romance because they’ve always been such an unconventional couple. One can argue that Soo-Young’s decision was rash and immature for her age but I’m watching their relationship as an outsider and an outsider have no rights to judge a couple as long as they’re happy with their decision and relationship. What matters the most is they’re happy so I’m gonna throw all the rational thinking out of the window because from the start, the setting for this drama was never meant to be realistic.
Maybe because I’ve been watching at the OTP’s romance as an outsider, their romance never really hit home for me. Instead, I fell into the deepest pit of second lead shipping syndrome. This is the first time I started noticing Lee Soo-Hyuk as an actor, I’ve seen him in a few supporting roles in the past but I never really took notice of him as I always thought he was too skinny and vampire-like for my taste, ha! However, I feel like he reached his peak form in this drama as Jin-Woo, my inner shallow-self kept on ogling at him, HA!
Shallow thoughts aside, what made me feel attracted more to Jin-Woo than Min-Suk is because of how complex and restraint Jin-Woo is as a character. He’s definitely flawed and the way he treated Soo-Young in the first half of the drama was unacceptable, he was a jerk to her! However, even with so much flaws, I feel so much pity for him as he never know how to properly love a person because he was never treated with warmth in his family. It was too late when he finally realizes that he needs Soo-Young’s warmth as she already left him for Min-Suk. I honestly feel so much, so much for his regrets! Their relationship is so dysfunctional, the exact opposite of Min-Suk and Soo-Young’s cute, healthy, camaradie-like relationship. Furthermore, their chemistry was so sizzling and more age-appropriate than the end OTP that I can’t help but land myself on his ship. I know it’s impossible for Soo-Young and Jin-Woo to end up together but the fact that I know it makes my heart breaks even more for Jin-Woo. If Jin-Woo didn’t exist, I would probably be 100% on board on the main OTP’s ship. Lee Soo-Hyuk made me his rabid fangirl because of Jin-Woo.
The soundtrack is really fitting, I love the raw sounds to indie-rock soundtrack and the instrumental songs create the perfectly fitting ambient that elevates the drama scenes.
Rating: MILD OBSESSION
Verdict: Excellent acting but the love relationship was a big turn off.
This was probably one of the best dramas in terms of acting and character line-up, the writer did a great job bringing out well rounded yet subtitle characters. However, the romantic part was a huge turn off to me, especially since Min Seok was 17 years old. I wanted to see the woman Soo Young act as a society person and stop herself from developing her relationship with Min Seokl into a love relationship. But she didn’t, not even at the end of the drama where, most people expected a fast forward time movement. I wanted to see the mature side of Soo Young, not the woman who never experienced love, act like a high school girl. Although the acting was excellent, the way Soo Young was created made me re-think about the actual story and if I really enjoy it as a whole. Honestly, I wanted to overlook the fact that Min Seok was a 17 years old, I mean the way the actors portrayed was in a mature way that could actually overshadow the age part, still I couldn’t especially since Soo Young was constructed in a shabby manner just to bring out the comical part of the drama.
Another thing that I didn’t like about “High School King of Savvy” was the fact that the central conflict was thrown away near the first half of the drama and the main focus was on the love relationship.
Starring: Jo In-Sung, Gong Hyo-Jin, Sung Dong-Il, Lee Kwang-Soo (Dramawiki)
Rating: MILD OBSESSION – STRONG OBSESSION
Verdict: A beautiful story with pretty CF-like cinematography, pleasant soundtrack and solid acting. A feel-good drama!
The premise of “It’s Okay, that’s love” sounds like a melodrama to me but unexpectedly, the producers execute the story in a light-hearted and heart-warming manner. One thing I really appreciate about this drama is how the characters don’t dwell over their painful past or unfortunate circumstances but instead, they hold a positive outlook in life and live their life to the fullest. Often, characters with a hard past tend to be overly-dramatic and goes all melo about their circumstances, but in this drama, life goes on for these characters no matter what. The characters are all very layered and 3-dimensional.
Take the hero, Jae-Yul (Jo In-Sung) for example, he’ve a brother who’s determined to hurt him whenever he comes out from jail and even though he grew up in an abusive environment, he still lead his life normally like every other people and doesn’t see himself as unfortunate. Jo In-Sung is really brilliant as his character, he embodies the confident, playful and vulnerable aspects of Jae-Yul perfectly. One standout moment from him was when he realized that the high-school boy who have been accompanying him all along was all his own imagination and the boy is like a reflection of his painful past, that scene is still stuck in my head even until now and I think probably even for the next few years. That was so beautifully shot.
Jo In-Sung have so much chemistry with Gong Hyo-Jin that I’m totally head over heels for their romance. Both are people with painful past but they found solace by being with each other, the happiness they felt together heals their past wounds. Hae-Soo (Gong Hyo-Jin) is also a great heroine, she’s so professional at work and really good at what she does but as a woman, she’s full of charms. I don’t have much knowledge about psychiatrist but the professional aspects of the drama seems pretty accurate to me that it doesn’t distract me and I’m thankful to the writers for that.
There’s so many interesting characters in this drama and I especially love Hae-Soo’s roommates, Dong-Min (Sung Dong-Il) and Soo-Kwang (Lee Kwang-Soo), they’re totally scene stealers. The cinematography is so pretty that I’ve an impression that I’m watching a CF, instead of the usual kdrama. On top of that, they have such lovely fitting soundtracks that it’s hard to not love the feel-good ambient of the whole drama. Most of my favorite kdramas this year come from cable channels but “It’s okay that’s love” is probably one of the great exceptions from a public channel.
Rating: STRONG OBSESSION
Verdict: From head to toe, 10 out of 10!
Another drama with great acting and surprisingly good characters and story development. I had a lot of fun watching this one from the first episode until the last one, the love line was presented in a mature manner and despise of every characters’ struggles, every episode was relaxing even when the climax arrived, there was nothing too heavy nor too half assed made, thus the writer showed excellent writing skills throughout the drama.
Starring: Song Yoon-Ah, Jung Joon-Ho, Moon Jung-Hee, Hong Jong-Hyun (Dramawiki)
Rating: STRONG OBSESSION
Verdict: Perfect example of excellent writing and acting skills.
“Mama – Nothing to fear” is the best Korean drama of 2014 – for me of course. I don’t have enough words to describe how beautiful it was. To be honest, at first I was rather skeptical about the show story because after reading the plot, the story did seem like a typical makjang drama, however ‘MAMA’ is far from being makjang. This drama showed the exchange of feelings and the strong bond between a mother and her son in such a soft but at the same time rigid manner. From my point of view, the female characters, especially Seung Hee and Ji Eun stole the spotlight, because although the main idea of the drama was to showcase the bond between the mother Seung Hee and the son, Groo, beneath all that, this drama had a side story, a story of friendship between two women, Seung Hee and Ji Eun. These two women are the best female characters I’ve seen in a Korean drama. Both were excellent in terms of writing, from the writer’s part, and acting, from the actresses’ part. I loved every single minute of “MAMA – nothing to fear.
Starring: Han Groo, Yeon Woo-Jin, Jung Jin-Woon, Han Sun-Hwa, Kim Hae-Sook (Dramawiki)
Rating: MILD OBSESSION
Verdict: Entertaining and satisfying romantic comedy with strong heroine. Lovely and pleasant to watch.
Han Groo really won me over for her performance as the strong heroine, Jang-Mi. In terms of “strong”, I’m referring to how she much courage she have for her love, she’s the type of girl that makes rash decisions like a train-wreck but she’s just so fun to watch because she’s so straight-forward. She’s like exact opposite of most meek heroines as she doesn’t know when to back down and doesn’t take any shit from anyone. Jang-Mi isn’t without flaws as her straight-forward and rash nature can be the good and bad points of her but she’s a heroine that’s easy for me to root for. Han Groo did great in JTBC’s Can We Get Married? but she’s even more lovable as Jang-Mi. I love this character so much and thought she’s the most badass heroine for this year, (last year was Hye-Sung from I Can Hear Your voice), HA!
It was very satisfying to watch her grow from a character who only knew about “love” to a character that starts seeing things from a wider perspective and reaches a self-realization that she, herself is more important than vying the love for somebody else. She totally worth the affections she get from the boys, Ki-Tae (Yeon Woo-Jin) and Yeo-Reum (Jung Jin-Woon) because she’s that awesome. I love that her positivity and courage also influence the people around her, especially Ki-Tae and his mom (Kim Hae-Sook) who always try to put on the perfect facade. Her appearance created a storm in Ki-Tae’s family and that was a long-needed storm to make them wake up and create a “real” family.
The main OTP are so cute together and Yeon Woo-Jin is really a good actor, he creates layers to the simple storyline. Truthfully, there’s nothing new nor creative about the plot but the characters are so great and entertaining that it makes the story very enjoyable. In the acting department, I feel like the second leads played by Jung Jin-Woon and Han Sun-Hwa, both idol actors are lacking as compared to the strong actors like Yeon Woo-Jin, Han Groo and Kim Hae-Sook. I’m just glad that they’re not the main OTP because part of why this drama works so well is the solid acting of the main leads. Overall, this is a very enjoyable and entertaining rom-com with satisfying execution.
Rating: MILD OBSESSION
Verdict: Good characters, lacking story.
For this drama, I liked the acting a lot, but the writing of the characters was a little tasteless. However, despise that, “Marriage, Not Dating” gets better as the story progresses, yet I didn’t felt like it was much of an improvement. I liked the two main characters together, they actually blend well as an item, they did manage to help each other with their past problems. But, although the writing (of the story) wasn’t the best out there, I feel that the writer did a good job with the character construction since we had different kind of characters and in a way somehow refreshing.
Starring: Im Shi-Wan, Kang So-Ra, Kang Ha-Neul, Byun Yo-Han, Lee Sung-Min, Kim Dae-Myung (Dramawiki)
Rating: STRONG OBSESSION
Verdict: Mundane theme with brilliant execution that makes it such a great, realistic slice-of-life drama. The bromance and camaraderie galore makes up for the lack of romance.
Misaeng depicts the story about the life and struggles of rookies in a huge international company. Our introvert, yet humble and diligent hero, Geu Rae (Im Shi-Wan) is a former Baduk player who ended up taking a vastly different route in life as an intern in a big company through a kind referral. Without prior experience nor good education, he’s looked down by his superiors and collagues. He often uses Baduk strategies to solve the problems he face in the office.
Workplace dramas are definitely not Korea’s forte as most of their dramas are fixated on romance and typical cliche troupes (even though we’ve been getting a wider selection in the recent years through cable channel offerings). However, Misaeng broke that stereotype I had in my mind, it blurred the line between reality and a drama. There’s a chinese saying – 戲如人生 (life is like a drama) and I think Misaeng fits that saying 100% by depicting a pragmatic workplace story without any lovelines or at least, minimal lovelines. I also feel that watching Geu Rae bonding with his superiors and his friends of the same cohort is much more satisfying than watching on-screen lovers kissing each other. I felt a lot of raw emotions when I watch Misaeng, it’s so real that it hurts.
There’s no dramatic “twist”, no typical troupes like the son of a rich CEO, no 100% villain, no fist-pumping moments, everything is done so calmly, so moderately, just like another mundane day in our own life. The characters are like people that we may see in our everyday lives, no outright bad people, just people with different positions and views and it creates organic conflicts in the office which is such a confined environment. It even talks about realistic topics like women being discriminated in the workplace by chauvinist male colleagues, the hardships faced by working mothers and office workers who work hard for themselves and their families. Sometimes, Misaeng can be so heartwarming that it’s so moving.
Misaeng is like the exact opposite of the mega-hit workplace Japanese drama, Hanzawa Naoki, our hero, Geu Rae is not as smart as Hanzawa Naoki and he can’t crush his opponents so easily like Hanzawa Naoki so it’s definitely not that kind of exciting fast-paced “climb-up-the-ladder” type of story. He’s just an average guy who spent his whole life trying to be a professional Baduk player but failed and he had to start all over again from scratch but he never blame on others or make excuses, he just put the blame solely on himself. He thinks that all of the failures happened to him because he didn’t work hard enough as he was lagging behind other people who had prior working experience when he focused on becoming a Baduk player.
Geu Rae is such an unconventional hero, he’s not the usual type of hot-headed rookie, he doesn’t have strong background, doesn’t have high education, he’s average and very humble. He’s like a blank paper that can easily absorb anything without any bias so he’s a fast learner as he’s very diligent and even when he’s facing a bad superior, he doesn’t complain and just accept his fate easily and try to work out of that situation. I think he’s definitely an ideal subordinate as his superior are able to teach him a lot of things since he’s such a willing learner. Maybe because he used to be a Baduk player, he often see things from the overall situation and think ahead instead of being fixated on the failure he’s facing right in front of him. That’s like the opposite of the highly educated intern, Jang Baek-Ki (Kang Ha-Neul) who is ambitious and often craves for instant success.
The series is further elevated by solid acting from the wonderful cast, Lee Sung-Min who plays as Geu Rae’s superior is always so fantastic in every role he plays, even the other rookies – Kang Ha-Neul, Kang So-Ra and Byun Yo-Han are nailing it. Supporting actors are all doing a great job and I think Im Shi-Wan broke that stereotype that idols can’t act as he’s so natural as Geu Rae that it doesn’t feel like he’s acting but he’s just Geu Rae himself! I’m also in love with the wonderful soundtrack which include songs from Indie artists – Rose Motel, Han Hee-Jung and Lee Seung Yeol. The first few episodes of Misaeng may be depressing for some people as our hero, Geu Rae failed at almost everything but he gradually improves with experience and hard work. It’s a satisfying process to see him becoming stronger through failures. I never learn life lessons through dramas but Misaeng taught me that people grow stronger through failures.
However, with all the good things being said, I felt that the last episode is a bit out-of-place, especially the scenes in Jordan. I know that the ending is connected with the opening but somehow, it doesn’t fit well with the overall tone of the drama. It’s not a perfect drama for sure, I’ll probably score this about 8.5/10 or a close 9. I never rate any dramas with the perfect 10 as I think a good drama don’t need to be perfect, it just needs to win my heart. Therefore, Misaeng is still a highly recommended series for people who are looking for unconventional realistic slice-of-life dramas! I will vote this as one of my favorite dramas for the year.
Rating: STRONG OBSESSION
Verdict: Simply Great!
The strongest point of this drama is the lack of romance. I like the focus on every character especially since Geu Rae, from the main characters falls behind and it’s more like a witness to what happens in the office. I don’t think I should say a lot about the acting except that the casting team did a great in choosing the actors for every character, everyone understood their own characters and successfully integrated their self into the characters of the manhwa thus giving life to them in a natural way.
Starring: Yoo In-Na, Jin Yi-Han, Nam Goong-Min (Dramawiki)
Verdict: What’s too much is too much.
This drama was good however it didn’t have a decisive factor to make me give enough attention to its story. I like that it had a delicate way of delivering the everyday life of its character but in the end there was something missing from the whole picture. I think the story could’ve been packed in a 10 episodes drama because more than 10 episodes made the drama seem dragged and at times messy. Still “My Secret Hotel” was a nice surprise, yet forgetful.
Starring: Kim Young-Kwang, Oh Jung-Se, Yook Sung-Jae, Choi Ro-Woon, Kyung Soo-Jin, Yoo Da-In, Park Cho-Rong (Dramawiki)
Rating: MILD OBSESSION
Verdict: Cute rom-com from the guy’s perspective and be prepared for 14 hours of eargasm for the large library of awesome k-indie music soundtracks.
A cute, light-hearted and heartwarming romantic comedy that follows the lives of 4 different boys (or men) from age of 9, 19, 29, 39 as they face hardships in life and love. It’s a common belief in Korea where the word 9 (Gu) brings bad luck and people that reach a certain age that have the number 9 will suffer hardships. The writers depict their romance very differently at different age stages. The romance for the 19 years old is depicted as an innocent and pure first love, the 29 years old is stuck in between friendship and love for his good friend, and the 39 year old man, the oldest one encounters his ex-girlfriend as they rekindle their affections for each other but had to face realistic barriers as his ex-girlfriend is now a single mother.
Kim Young-Kwang has so much chemistry with Kyung Soo-Jin as the 29 years old couple that I won’t get bored watching them interact with each other, there’s simply too much cuteness! Kim Young-Kwang’s dimples and bright smile is so irresistible. I was the most invested in their story as Kim Young-Kwang plays as the popular guy in the office, Jin-Goo and although he seems like a playboy on the outside, he actually sincerely likes his good friend and colleague, Se-Young (Kyung Soo-Jin). The playful side to him makes people questions whether he is being sincere or not but contrary to his outgoing front, he’s actually very sensitive and fragile inside. Their romance is further complicated by their mutual good friend’s growing affection for Se-Young and Jin-Goo had to internally struggle with himself, contemplating whether friendship or love is more important.
The 39-years old couple played by Oh Jung-Se and Yoo Da-In were a couple in the past. They faces realistic barriers as things have changed for them as even though Kwang-Soo (Oh Jung-Se) is still the same old him, Da-In (Yoo Da-In) have become a single mother. However, second time is the charm as Kwang-Soo learns from his past mistakes and correct the flaws in the way he treated her in the past. He wasn’t a bad boyfriend in the past but he was too busy with his career that he often neglects her feelings. It wasn’t solely his own fault as Da-In was also young at that point of time and she chose to endure everything instead of communicating with Kwang-Soo. They both work together to correct their past mistakes and work to rebuild their broken relationship.
What made Plus Nine Boys different from other rom-com is how we don’t get to see the point-of-views of the heroines but instead it’s the guys who are narrating their POVs. It’s such a refreshing change because we could fully stand and see things from the guys’ perspectives. However, because of that, the girls can be a little bit hard to read at first but things become clearer as the story progresses and more of the backstories are being revealed.
It isn’t perfect but it has the trademark flair of dramas from cable channels: attention to details and you can see how much effort the producers put into it. If you’re a K-indie music lover, be prepared to get eargasm treat as the large soundtrack contains a variety of atmospheric music from well-known Indie artists like Loveholic, Standing Egg and many more, the producers include a new song in every single episode, ALMOST WITHOUT FAIL. The soundtrack is just too lovely to miss out, it’s like 14 hours of Indie-music video, ha!
Rating: MILD OBSESSION, ALMOST TO STRONG OBSESSION
Verdict: A drama with lovely story and characters and as bonus good acting.
“Plus Nine Boys” was such a lovely drama with a nice warm-hearted story, despise the crazy idea of people who have the number 9 in their age will face bad luck. From my point of view tvN casting teams do a great job at choosing actors or even idols for a certain role – even though there were also idols in this drama, the acting was good, also Kim Young Kwang isn’t a grated actors since he is also pretty new at this, but I did enjoy everyone’s acting more than the story. Overall, the drama gives a nice feeling, I like the idea of showing more the men’s point of view as they try to understand where they went wrong in their respective relationships.
Starring: Choi Jin-Hyuk, Baek Jin-Hee, Choi Min-Soo, Son Chang-Min, Lee Tae-Hwan (Dramawiki)
Rating: MILD OBSESSION
Verdict: A little bit rough on the romance part which started out strong but loses its steam midway through. Overall, it’s still enjoyable to watch as it’s very consistent in terms of the mystery and procedural plots.
Choi Jin-Hyuk and Baek Jin-Hee showcased so much chemistry in their flashback scenes and in the first few episodes that it’s such a pity that the romance take the backseat as the story progresses. I was hoping their chemistry could extend further even though the romance takes the backseat, but I don’t know whether it’s the fault of writers or the actors, their chemistry isn’t as good in the second half of the story. Fortunately, even though there’s less on the romance department, the mysteries and plot cases keeps on rolling with consistency and manage to engage me. For me, the addictive level became weaker in the second half of the drama but overall, I’m still invested in the cases.
There are many people that are constantly bugged by the prideful heroine, Yeol-Moo (Baek Jin-Hee) as she held a prejudice against Dong-Chi (Choi Jin-Hyuk), thinking that he’s one of the reason that led to her brother’s death in the past. Her prideful nature is definitely far from “endearing” as she’s reckless as a rookie and constantly go against her superior, Dong-Chi. However, everything becomes better once she became more capable as a prosecutor as the story progresses. I can also understand why is she spiteful towards Dong-Chi at first because she’s looking things from the perspective of the victim’s family, which is not the best position to rationalize things and her suspicions wasn’t without any basis. Most of the people pity Dong-Chi as he showers her with affections one-sidedly but she’s only giving him the cold shoulder, which is why people don’t really see things from her point-of-view.
I think this drama can do better in the romance department and how the writers handle the prideful heroine but I think they made a pretty decent effort on the investigation cases by linking separate cases with the past cases and expose the deeply-rooted corruptions within the legal organization. There’s a lot of grey areas to the wrongdoings of some higher-ups as without bowing down to the people with power, they can’t proceed further in their legal career and by not able to climb up the ladder, they can’t make a change to the corrupted legal world. The cases are the reason why I’m still with this drama even though the romance part slowed down a lot. I think it’s probably better to view this as a pure legal drama than a legal-romance drama.
Verdict: Okay, but I don’t think it can do much than it already did.
It’s nice to see more dramas where the woman isn’t poor and falls in love for the rich guy, although it’s a public broadcast company drama. A strong point from my point of view is that director decided to use young actors for the drama and in a way he shows their acting potential. Another strong point is that “Pride & Prejudice” makes the viewer use their brain by not having a single case per episode. But there are moments when I ask myself if the lead actress does have chemistry with the other two men or not, it’s a rather ambiguous thing.
Starring: Lee Seung-Gi, Go Ah-Ra, Ahn Jae-Hyun, Park Jung-Min, Cha Seung-Won (Dramawiki)
Verdict: Failed to live up with expectations and the plot wasn’t able to make full use of the great cast. Regrettable but not totally bad.
The premise sounds so fun and full of potential but the execution does not lives up to expectations and that’s such a shame! Cha Seung-Won is totally wasted in this drama as Pan-Suk, at least Dae-Gu (Lee Seung-Gi) had far more interesting storyline and development but I don’t see much development from Pan-Suk. It’s sad because I feel like Cha Seung-Won takes the backseat and not able to fully showcase his potential.
In the beginning, I had several major problems with Dae-Gu and Soo-Sun (Go Ah-Ra) as they’re not being professional at work and lost one person’s life for their carelessness. I understand that they were rookies but they really got onto my nerves at first, things got slightly better as they learnt from their past mistake but sadly, the plot doesn’t engage me that much. It did have some exciting moments in the middle part of the story but it just wasn’t enough to hold the story that’s falling apart. I had hopes that the camaraderie bond will be stronger between Dae-Gu, Soo-Sun, Tae-Il (Ahn Jae-Hyun) and Ji-Gook (Park Jung-Min) but I feel like their bond was very much on surface level and not deep enough.
As an OTP, Lee Seung-Gi and Go Ah-Ra are pretty serviceable together, they’re cute but that’s pretty much all. “You’re All Surrounded” is not all that bad, it have some great moving moments but the plot feels a bit scattered and overall, it’s uneven and leaves a lot of room, hoping it will deliver more than that.
Rating: STRONG DETACHMENT
Verdict: Better get a glass of milk for yourself and skip this drama.
“You’re all Surrounded” was a good fail! I feel like the writer wanted to challenge so many aspects of a story that she ended up making the drama fail. To be honest, the start was actually good, but the show as a whole didn’t had the vibe of a serious one, even so the writer tried to blend some comical scenes, serious ones as well sprinkled with a dark(ish) idea. The concept was okay but she didn’t manage to combine everything and the story got out of hand.
2014 Taiwanese & Chinese Dramas
New sub-section for this year’s end-of-year review – Chinese dramas. More c-dramas are being covered thanks to Kat@dramapot as I actually only finished watching a few c-dramas for this year. I didn’t add my thoughts on Rock ‘n’ Road and The Way We Were as they’re still kept on-hold and as for Lovestore at the Corner, I dropped it midway through, more on that HERE. This year’s tw-dramas are, in my opinion, a little bit disappointing as most of them didn’t really grabbed my attention. Most of them falter halfway through and that’s such a shame! Heisui@Mydramatea also joined me to review some of Chinese and Taiwanese dramas, be sure to check out Kat’s and Heisui’s drama reviews!
If Korean cable channels were the powerhouses for this year, then Chinese web-dramas are the powerhouses for Chinese dramaland this year. There were several Chinese web-dramas with interesting themes that could never be shown in public channels due to content restriction by the government. On top of that, the quality of web-dramas are actually much higher than most of the dramas from public channels and they made me see modern c-dramas in a brand new light. I used to think that modern dramas are not their forte but this year, there’s Boss&Me, Back in Time and The Darker that won me over.
Starring: Blue Lan, Amber An, An Zhe, Christina Mok (Dramawiki)
Rating: MILD OBSESSION FOR THE BLUE LAN AND FAMILY SCENES, NEUTRAL FOR THE ROMANCE
Verdict: Quality production and even though the plot is good at some moments, the romance couldn’t fully engage me.
Actually, I’ve only watched till ep9 but I was spoiled by Taiwanese netizens about the ending so I think I roughly know the range of my rating. The strongest point of Apple in Your Eye is really the quality of the production, it shows that the producers put in a lot of effort in searching the right shooting locations, prologue animations, cinematography and the music scores. However, the romance is just not my cup of tea. Coming from Mag Hsu, who wrote An Innocent Mistake and In Time With You, I had hopes that it will grab me like An Innocent Mistake but instead it left me with the feelings I had for In Time With You, detached most of the time for the romance. I’m watching the romance like an outsider and I’m not able to immerse myself into the story because of that.
Blue Lan is splendid as Yao-Qi, he embodies the prideful, stubborn, yet delicate and vulnerable nature of the character. Despite his arrogant facade, he actually have a serious inferiority complex as he didn’t come from the most complete family and having born that way, he keeps a lot of things to himself. He’s so gentle when it’s about his granny who brought him up but can be so playful when it comes to Ji-Wei (Amber An). There’s many sides to him, he’s a very well-layered character. I could buy Ji-Wei and Yao-Qi as siblings (even though they’re actually just friends who grew up together) but I have a hard time rooting for them because Yao-Qi himself already have a girlfriend and Ji-Wei have a boyfriend midway through the story. Whether the OTP end up together or not, it didn’t matter to me. I love watching them bicker with each other but not so much as a romantic couple.
Undoubtedly, Mag Hsu is still one of the best screenwriters in Taiwanese dramaland. She knows what is she writing about and is able to write intricate storylines. I especially love the family scenes between Ji-Wei and her mom and Yao-Qi with his granny. They’re just so touching together. Given that this is Amber An’s first try leading a drama, she actually did a pretty decent job. However, I’m indifferent to her character who can be a bit dim-witted at times and her persevering love for Yao-Qi can be a bit overbearing at times because it feels like her world just revolve around him and I want her to change that. I’m fine with her but she pales in comparison with Yao-Qi who is a much more interesting character than her. Overall, I think people who like intricate stories will like this series and taste is very subjective so other people might love the romance more than me.
Rating: MILD DETACHMENT
Verdict: Blue Lan is LOVE. The heroine…is not.
- BLUE LAN!!!—I last saw Blue in the mainland Taiwanese rom-com Easy Fortune Happy Life. I was under the impression that he usually plays the rich playboy characters so I thought he didn’t have a wide acting range. Turns out I was wrong, I totally love him in Apple in Your Eye!! I’M A NEW BLUE FAN! AHAHA!
- The heroine—The heroine is a sweet girl as I got further into the drama, she started getting on my nerves more and more. It feels like she’s just stuck in time for the majority of the drama. Even when there’s a time jump to the present-day, I thought she was around age 18-20 when in fact she’s supposed to be in her late twenties! T_T” Moreover, I just can’t understand the heroine’s reasoning behind her actions…it’s like her whole life course was planned based on her hopes of randomly reuniting with her childhood sweetheart. Good effort on the part of the leading actress Amber An but I just can’t connect with her character.
Starring: Zhang Han, Zhao Li-Ying, Huang Ming, Li Cheng-Yuan (Dramawiki)
Rating: MILD OBSESSION
Verdict: Super cute and sweet romance that it might give me cavities. Zhao Li-Ying is like a puppy that you can’t help to love her.
Adapted from the popular novel, Shan Shan Lai Chi by Gu Man, Boss & Me perfectly captures the light-hearted and cute romance portrayed in the novel. Truthfully, there’s nothing new nor creative about the plot, it’s your typical arrogant rich guy meets a cute and slow girl plot but there’s a reason why writers love to write cliches – because it works well most of the time. Watching Boss&Me is like – you know that candies are not good for your teeth but you can’t help but getting addicted to it and don’t mind getting cavities, ha! I love that the heroine has such a big appetite and their romance mainly revolve around “eating”, ha! It’s just too cute for me to handle and Zhao Li-Ying is perfect as Shan Shan, who is such a simpleton and cute girl. Usually, the “simpleton” aspect of a heroine can easily get on my nerves but she’s so naturally endearing that you can’t help to love her.
Zhang Han and Zhao Li-Ying’s acting are serviceable but it’s really the OTP romance that wins my heart. I just turn off my brain and stop rationalizing when it comes to them, how can you resist the temptation of a sweet candy?! In terms of flaws, I’ll probably say that the second leads are not as engaging as the main OTP and they pale in comparison. There’s a little bit of angst midway through but it doesn’t drag out for long as Feng Teng (Zhang Han)’s love for Shan Shan stayed strong and consistent from the beginning till the end. Their romance is very satisfying to watch. On top of that, they have a nice mix of soundtracks. Overall, Boss&Me is a light-hearted sweet rom-com that’s worth a try!
Starring: Yang Le, He Hong-Shan, Bai Jing-Ting, Cai Wen-Jing, Du Wei-Han (MyDramalist)
Rating: STRONG OBSESSION
Verdict: Criminally underrated gem. Perfectly captures coming-of-age story between the wonderful 5 high-school friends that spans from late 1990s to early 2000s.
A good coming-of-age story can be bittersweet and I really love Back in Time. It perfectly captures everything I want from an “old-school” themed drama set in the late 1990s and also delivers a realistic portrayal of the growing up story of the 5 high-school friends. The friendship between these adolescent characters are delicate and fragile, yet it can be stronger than friendship between adults because of their innocence. As students, their lives are simple and trivial matters like a school’s basketball match, skipping classes to watch TV or an idols like Backstreet Boys can mean the whole world to them. In the eyes of adults, they may be immature and silly but their times together will probably be the best and most precious memory in their life. Sadly, it’s impossible to turn back time and there’s nothing that is unchanging.
I love the vivid characterizations of these characters, we have the meek and introverted heroine, Fang Hui (He Hong-Shan), the confident and rebellious Chen Xun (Yang Le), gentle Qiao Ran (Bai Jing-Ting), feisty Jia-Mo (Cai Wen-Jing) and the silly and playful Zhao Ye (Du Wei-Han). Even though the main romance is between Fang Hui and Chen Xun, I really appreciate that the writers balance out the story developments and focuses on each friend in separate episodes. Unexpectedly, my favorite character is the silly and playful Zhao Ye who is such a sincere guy. Out of the 5 high-school friends, his life went through the most drastic change midway through and my heart broke for him. Fortunately, it was a happy ending for him and Jia-Mo, the cute bickering couple. They’re the perfect example of “it’s easier for simple people to find happiness”. Even though it wasn’t a smooth journey for them, their ending was the best out of the 5 friends.
The romance between Fang Hui and Chen Xun was passionate, he believed that his love for Fang Hui will never change but he was still too young at that point of time. He doesn’t know what kind of future lies ahead of them. They’re the exact opposites of each other, Chen Xun is rebellious and reckless, he squeezed himself into Fang Hui’s heart who didn’t want him coming in at first. They were cute together but I feel that their love was immature because at that time of point, they were confined in school and there were no distractions. However, once he got into college, things changes for them as he falls in love with another girl and left Fang Hui heartbroken. Chen Xun is probably the character I hate the most in the series but find his actions understandable because in reality, most teenage boys are immature like him, they don’t fully understand the word “love” and the full weight of it. While Qiao Ran is swoon-worthy, he’s probably the most unrealistic character because he’s too perfect and I guess that’s a common aspect of every second male lead in romance stories. I feel bad for him because if he was as upfront as Chen Xun, he might already inhabited himself in Fang Hui’s heart.
I came watching without any expectations, I didn’t even know any of these rookie actors and actresses but end up getting myself fully invested in their story. I love the cinematic pretty directing of this series, it feels more like a movie than a series. Plus, they use such fitting music scores that elevate the ambient. If I have time, I’ll probably would like to create gifs for this series because there’s so many beautiful scenes that can be captured. I also love the references they had to Huan Zhu Ge Ge, Backstreet Boys, Slam Dunk, Playstation, Meteor Garden, F4 and many more old-school trends that I was into in the past too. It’s a bittersweet series that I can fully connect to and I have no regrets watching this wonderful story.
Starring: Vivi Lee, Albee Huang, Jennifer Hong, Darren Chiu, Danson Tang, Chang Han (Dramawiki)
Rating: STRONG OBSESSION
Verdict: Fabulously lovely and endearing characters with strong consistency in writing. Satisfying from the beginning till the end. Miracle of SETTV channel!
Lovely, lovely, lovely, the loveliness triples because of the 3 wonderful heroines and their strong friendship. This is such a miracle coming from SETTV which is notorious for constantly delivering dramas that falter halfway through. On top of that, this is a daily drama with 76 episodes but the writing was consistent from the beginning till the end. It was more than satisfactory! The dialogues are really witty, they use a lot of puns and it actually makes the drama a lot more interesting. What I love about the story is that it stays lighthearted throughout the whole series and the angst doesn’t drag out. It’s definitely very easy-to-watch.
The start was a little bit rocky as Wan-Ting (Vivi Lee) was a bit superstitious and keeps on getting herself into a lot of troubles. Even though it seems like the main story of the series is the romance between Wan-Ting and Wei-Zhong (Darren Chiu),their relationship was actually the slowest in terms of development but not the frustrating kind of slow, it’s very natural. At first, they became friends and slowly, Wei-Zhong feels something for her but he doesn’t confess his love because he’s so bad at love and is scared that he’ll break the friendship. Their chemistry is very reassuring and comfortable to watch.
On the other hand, the romance between Zhi-Qin (Albee Huang) and Ai De-Hua (Danson Tang) is so sizzling. Zhi-Qin is not your conventional heroine, she’s so straight-forward, carefree and wild. She’s even more aggressive and open-minded in love than Ai De-Hua who thinks he, himself is already a playboy. She’s the so-called “playgirl” because she live her life to fullest and have a lot of “boyfriends” to go to. Because of this, Ai De-Hua often hilariously acts like a nagging boyfriend (mom) that tries to hold her reins and prevent her from going wild. I love this pair so much. I admit that I was indifferent to Danson Tang and Albee Huang at first but I was hopelessly in love with them by the end of the series. Their romance is just too entertaining.
As for the other pair, Jennifer Hong is probably the strongest actress among the 3 ladies and her storyline is more mature because Wen-Qi (Jennifer Hong) have to struggle between her ex-husband, Zhi-Yuan (Hans Chang) and his mom. She clearly loves her gentle and kind husband but she felt so sorry for him because she often puts her work as her priority so she divorced him, in hope that they won’t torment each other as his mom wasn’t happy with her. Most of the angst from this series actually comes from Wen-Qi’s plot but it wasn’t draggy and I really appreciate that. The friendship between the ladies in their 30s are also fun to watch as they’re close like a family and they balance each other strengths and weakness with Wen-Qi acting like the stern dad, Wan-Ting as the gentle mom and Zhi-Qin as the wild daughter, ha! Overall, it’s been a pleasant ride and Fabulous 30 is probably my favorite Taiwanese daily drama.
Starring: George Hu, Phoebe Yuan, Xie Kun-Da, Jay Shih, Smile Weng, Jet Chao, Jessie Chang (Dramawiki)
Rating: MILD OBSESSION
Verdict: Fizzy romance and endearing main characters, however the antagonists are so annoying that they drag the story.
Coming from the team of writers behind Fabulous 30, I had a lot of high hopes for this drama. The dialogue indeed inherits the trademark witty writing from Fabulous 30, which is fun to watch but it wasn’t able to surpass the love I had for Fabulous 30. Even though Phoebe Yuan had a rocky start, she gets more into her character as the story progresses and when the romance starts between her and Bu-Fan (George Hu), the story really picks up. I also love the human-ghost bromance between George Hu and Xie Kun-Da who plays as Man-Man (Phoebe Yuan)’s ex-boyfriend, Bo-Hai. I actually find Bo-Hai’s undying love for Man-Man very moving as he’s willing to let her go even if he can’t be with her anymore. It’s really sad from Bo-Hai’s point of view as he gets to see the woman he loves everyday but can’t make himself known to her. Bu-Fan and Man-Man are the exact opposite of each other as Bu-Fan is always impatient but Man-Man is very slow but opposites always attracts. Their relationship have positive influence on each other, Bu-Fan becomes more patient with other people and less demanding and Man-Man becomes more efficient and regards her job more seriously than before. I love their romance and could watch them all day but sadly, like most drama OTPs, their romance will always face interference by antagonists.
Jay Shih and Smile Weng reunited this time round and even though they’re cute as a couple, they weren’t as engaging as the main OTP but I’m just glad that Jay Shih finally gets the girl after graduating from In A Good Way, ha! Jet Chao and Jessie Chang had a fast romance and quickly got into marriage but their happiness didn’t last that long due to the interference of antagonist, Rebecca (Cherry Hsia) which goes all makjang on her own accord, she’s totally insane and annoying. I’ve only watched till ep43 but I already read the spoilers of upcoming developments and I’ll say that even though the main characters are fun to watch, the antagonist can be very overbearing and they drag out the series. I think this would be a better series with less interference from the antagonists.
Rating: dropped after 20 episodes
Verdict: I guess I don’t like George Hu enough to complete all 74 episodes.
I like George Hu, a lot. He’s probably not the strongest actor out there but he’s quite natural. Did I mention he has a cute accent AND he speaks a lot of English in this? What an incentive to start watching right? But to sustain a viewer’s interest for 74 episodes I really need to like the leads AND at least one supporting couple to go the distance of approximately 48 minutes x 74 episodes = 3552 minutes or 59 hours. Unfortunately when I decided to drop this it was mostly because George’s nitpicky character, his refusal to admit he’s wrong and just his overall pride and stubbornness was actually getting on my nerves. In addition, I don’t think I ever warmed towards Phoebe Yuan’s character – the not the most intelligent but hard working older sister who will do anything for her three very young siblings aka the damsel in distress who needs rescuing… I don’t think one would expect SETTV daily dramas to have ‘inspiring’ storylines but I’m just not really in the mindset of watching this for another 50+ episodes.
The other deciding factor was the other couples – Jay Shih and Smile Weng were cute but I find the premise of their story rather thin. (ie. He falls in love with her because she looks like an anime character.) Also, from the first episode I had some hope in Jet Chao (who plays George’s brother)’s storyline, but they dashed my hopes very quickly by turning him into a lovesick puppy. I guess overall there doesn’t seem to be enough incentive to go the long long distance.
Starring: Tian Xin, Xiu Jie-Kai, Sean Lee, An Wei-Ling (Dramawiki)
Rating: NEUTRAL FOR THE LAST STRETCH OF “DRAGS”, MILD OBSESSION FOR THE ROMANCE
Verdict: Well-matched OTP, solid acting and lovely soundtrack.
This is another example where dramas should keep their length shorter because they had a solid beginning but the last stretch of angst was a little bit too overbearing. Fortunately, we live in the 21st century and the “fast-forward” button was invented to solve that kind of problem, ha! The main characters are all pretty endearing, Xiu Jie-Kai and Tian Xin are very well-matched as the OTP and they had sizzling chemistry with each other. Even the second leads played by Sean Lee and An Wei-Ling are so cute together and surprisingly, their romance was a lot more satisfying in the execution than the main OTP because they didn’t have unnecessary angst that separates them.
Another thing I have to point out is that there was a point in the drama where the heroine, Ya-Zhen (Tian Xin) craves for marriage because she enjoys her stable relationship with Zi-Xuan (Xiu Jie-Kai) but I felt that character development was a bit out of place and came too fast. Because Ya-Zhen just gotten divorced and now being a single mother, I can’t see why she would want marriage so fast, especially where she only gotten to know Zi-Xuan for a while. Zi-Xuan on the other hand doesn’t believe in marriage and this became a conflict between them. The catalyst for this conflict is Ya-Zhen’s ex-mom-in-law who wants to retrieve the custody of her child because she believes that a single mother having a boyfriend that won’t marry her is indecent in the eyes of others. I feel like the whole conflict feels a bit forced and at that point, I really hoped that Ya-Zhen can ignore the strange stares of others and be more courageous and stay true to her own feelings. Just when I thought that we’ve solve this conflict and we’re heading to a happy ending, the family angst emerges and everything becomes so draggy.
We got a great cast, solid acting, lovely opening theme song and ending song and a plot full of potential but the writers just keep on adding more and more things. The unnecessary addition became too much that my patience was running thin in the last 10 episodes. It would have been a much better series with around 25 episodes to be honest. The first half was a great watch but not so much on the second half.
Rating: MILD OBSESSION
Verdict: Charismatic leads, enjoyable storylines but nothing new to be learnt about marriage?
I think this drama has a decent storyline with likeable leads. Surprisingly what kept me watching was the two secondary couples which had good chemistry and enjoyable development. A lot of times their interactions overshadowed the main pair. Maybe it’s because the main couple of Tian Xin and Xiu Jie Kai got together quite early and the difficulties they encounter in their relationship were either boring family drama or a mentally unstable ex-girlfriend. Luckily, they were not over the top to the point where it would spoil the drama completely. In a way, there were so few lovey dovey scenes between Tian Xin and Xiu Jie Kai it was definitely a missed opportunity. Or they were all concentrated towards the beginning of the drama that by the end I finished it, I had forgotten already. (Since it took me some 8 months to watch 40 episodes…)
Overall, I would still recommend this. Although this drama is called ‘Marry or Not’ I don’t think I’ve gained new perspectives on marriage (like I did with A Good Wife!), but I guess it’s rare to find a longer drama where the three main couples were all likeable.
Starring: Sonia Sui, Yao Yao, Hans Chung, Christopher Lee, Jerry Huang, Zhang Shao-Huai (Dramawiki)
Rating: MILD OBSESSION – STRONG OBSESSION
Verdict: Unconventional, thoughtful and feminine story that tackles the topic of marriage and shows the lives of different people in episodic format.
There’s a little bit of J-drama feel to “Mr. Right Wanted” because of the episodic format but the writers were able to glue the separate episodes as we follow the journey of the heroine, Hai-Ning (Sonia Sui) meeting up with various potential marriage candidates. At first, meeting with the marriage candidates was supposed to be a part of her job as she’s a chief editor of a publishing company and she wanted to use marriage meeting as a research topic for her new book but soon, she finds them interesting. Unconsciously, she starts to change slowly as she learn the different lives of different marriage candidates, they widen her perspective and views on her life, about marriage and about love.
Even when I reach more than half of the series, I still don’t know who will Hai-Ning ends up with so it’s definitely very unconventional. The series is solely focused on Hai-Ning’s life and her struggles when she broke up with her long-term boyfriend and how she become stronger and grow as a person through meeting different people. What I love about these marriage candidates is how some of them who I thought are the stock for comedy can be so unexpectedly sincere and they bring interesting dynamic to the whole story. Even though the stories of these marriage candidates are separated, they’re all inter-connected through Hai-Ning’s point-of-view and how their stories influence her as a person.
Truthfully, I’m totally fine if Hai-Ning still ends up alone in the end as she had always been a person that doesn’t believe in marriage and doesn’t crave for it at all. However, through meeting different marriage candidates, she may really find the right person for her and that person might change her views on marriage. There were a few standout potential bachelors in the series, played by Christopher Lee and Hans Chung but I wouldn’t be surprised if the writer decides to not let Hai-Ning end up with either one of them.
Side characters and marriage candidates are all very brilliant, especially Yu Zhou (Zhang Shao-Huai), I love how blunt his words are but you can’t help but to like him because you know no matter how unpleasant his words are, he is telling the truth and in that sense, he’s a sincere person that will never lie. He’s such an eccentric character and probably my favorite one in the series. I love the extended list of marriage candidate cameos which include established actors like Chris Wu, Zhang Shu-Hao, Sunny Wang, Sphinx Ding, Vince Gao and many more.
To add frosting on the cake, Mr. Right Wanted has one of the most beautiful lighting and cinematography in Taiwanese dramaland, as pretty as Amour et Pâtisserie. They include several old-school songs for the soundtrack and the whole series feels more like an episodic drama-film than your regular series. Overall, I think Mr. Right Wanted have the highest quality in terms of production and writing out of the Taiwanese dramas that aired this year. Note that I’ve only watched until ep14 and it’s still currently airing but I highly doubt my rating will change with only 6 episodes more as the writing have been very consistent.
Starring: Puff Kuo, Jasper Liu, Jolin Chien, Lene Lai, Sean Lee (Dramawiki)
Rating: NEUTRAL FOR THE SECOND HALF OF THE STORY, MILD OBSESSION FOR THE FIRST HALF
Verdict: A pity that the cute romance in the first half of the story get dragged down in the second half. Love the cast but not so much on the writing.
The premise is cute as we got a cold and mean girl (who’s actually a softie inside) versus a warm and friendly guy, which defies the norm of stereotypical cold guy versus cute girl. I really loved the light-hearted tone in first half of the story, there were some angst but it didn’t drag for too long and the conflicts were resolved in a few episodes. Plus, they had more emphasis on the pretty-looking French cuisine in the first half of the story so I was excited for every episode. The OTP had cute and comfortable chemistry, while it wasn’t the sizzling kind of chemistry that I usually like, I enjoyed their interactions. I wasn’t crazy about the OTP but they worked well for me because I’m biased for Jasper Liu, ha! Even side characters are cute as they aren’t your typical antagonists and every characters in the French restaurant grow on me. There’s so much to love about the cast of Pleasantly Surprised, they’ve great rapport and their positive synergy is apparent from the series alone.
However, it was cute only until they made Kai-Qi (Puff Guo) guilty for the coma state of Ah-Jie (Jasper Liu)’s brother because her father was a part of the kidnappers that brought harm to him. The couple became separated because of Kai-Qi’s self-loathing and even when Ah-Jie told her to become more selfish and stop caring about what other thinks, she still couldn’t forgive herself. I could understand her self-loathing but the whole conflict feels so out-of-place and forced. It’s like the writer just wants to add some weight to the light-hearted tone by sprinkling some “angsty” dust and everything feels so sudden and it’s like a whole different drama! On top of that, there was minimal character development for Ah-Jie and Kai-Qi in the second half of the series and that frustrates me a lot. Even if I’m Jasper Liu biased, I gotta say that the second male lead, Hao-Wei (Jolin Chien) got better character developments than Ah-Jie in the later parts of the story.
In terms of acting, I think the young cast were pretty serviceable, none of them really stood out to me but Puff Guo‘s improvement is apparent to me. It may be because she suits the prideful heroine a lot more than the cutesy role she had in Just You. As for Jasper Liu, as much as I love him, I’m always sad that he never gets characters that’s interesting enough but I’ve always been in love with his off-screen personality more than his acting projects actually. I would describe Ah-Jie as vanilla, he’s sweet and pleasant but there’s not enough taste to it. Overall, Pleasantly Surprised had a great cast with a lot of potential but sadly, the second half didn’t deliver as much as the first half of the story.
Rating: MILD DETACHMENT FOR THE PLOT, STRONG OBSESSION FOR THE SECOND LEAD
Verdict: The casting directors hit the jackpot with the Figaro Cuisine crew – they had such great chemistry on and off screen. The plot however, is mostly forgettable.
If I was rating this drama for the plot alone it would barely be a 5. The main ideas of switching the stereotypes (instead of nice girl/mean guy we now have mean girl/good guy) and setting the story around French cuisine are good. However, in your typical film-as-you-air fashion, the attention to details which would make this a great drama is definitely lacking. I guess SETTV’s method to compensate the audience is good looking leads. It’s no secret that this drama turned my casual liking of Jolin Chien into full blown fangirl mode. His character, Cheng Hao Wei earnt himself a place as one of the most self sacrificing second leads despite a rocky start. To be honest, Hao Wei was the one who kept me watching every week.
So back to the leads. Jasper Liu and Puff Guo are both very likeable and Puff has improved a lot since Just You. I’ve only seen a few episodes of Jasper’s earlier drama Amour et Patisserie so I can’t comment on his acting progress but his character Ah Jie fits his happy, sweet image. Maybe it’s my bias talking but Ah Jie started off strongly but his character faded away as the story progressed into less enjoyable territory. Pleasantly Surprised is more memorable than your run of the mill idol drama because not only the main leads had great chemistry, but every staff member at Figaro Cuisine (the restaurant this drama is set in) had this family feeling – you can see that all of the cast members worked well together through the behind the scenes videos and their frequent postings on social media. As a testament of this, the cast is still having regular get togethers, eating hot pot together, going to watch Jasper’s band Morning Call in concert… So despite the illogical plot at times it was like visiting your favourite family members every week and enjoying their interactions.
The most annoying thing though, was some unresolved matters at the end. (eg. Le Xuan’s lost of taste) I can accept the messy kidnapping, sudden pairings of the Figaro Cuisine staff but writers – at least get your act together so we tie up ALL the loose ends?
Starring: Kimi Hsia, Chris Wu, Nita Lei, Mike Lee (Dramawiki)
Verdict: Bell curve drama, OK start which builds up to some of its best episodes in the middle then ran out of ideas in the end.
Kimi Hsia’s character was annoying at first (she was the stereotypical loud and naive female lead) but luckily it tones down to a reasonable level as her character matures and goes on a journey to become an A-lister. Chris Wu is charismatic as the successful music producer who lost his career and his long-term girlfriend then hedges his bet on the ever optimistic dreamer. Even though Chris and Kimi are now allegedly dating (not sure whether they started during or after filming?!), I didn’t really feel any “explosive” chemistry between them. They were an enjoyable pairing, but I didn’t ship them.
Since this is a drama based around the music industry, Rock N’Road had a great soundtrack. The shortcoming was the leads are not singers and they had to lip sync most of their performances. That was kinda weird. When they sang in their original voices though, it propels the scene to a new level giving it a genuine quality.
For Taiwanese dramas, SETTV has pretty much dominated the overseas market but it’s great to see TVBS promoting its dramas to an international audience as well. I feel that the difference between SETTV and TVBS dramas is that TVBS has more attention to detail and feels more sincere. (Whilst I get the feeling SETTV churn out idol dramas like a factory line.) In terms of the story, Rock N’Road suffers towards the end but I really loved the episodes in the middle during the road trip to promote Wei Zhen (Kimi Hsia)’s album. At least the ending did not disappoint.
Starring: Alan Luo, Mao Jun-Jie, Qi Ji, Emma Wu, Ao Quan (Dramawiki)
Rating: dropped after 8 episodes
Verdict: Not funny and not interested in the melodramatic storylines.
I guess I’ve already summarised the reason why I ran away from this. Sometimes I wonder, did Show Lo read the script and thought – wow this is a great story so I want to be in this? Or did he just look at the money being offered? I firmly believe that if you want to make a slapstick type comedy, then commit to it. However, Shenzhen Roommate Diaries switches between lighthearted situations Show Lo’s character encounters moving into an apartment with three girls, to your typical c-drama power struggle plot involving some rich guy hung up over the female lead and Show’s ex-girlfriend who dumped him for a rich guy. It’s tiring just to type it out. Imagine watching it for another 40 plus episodes.
Sad thing is I rather liked the cast – I meant Show Lo + Gui Gui + Ao Quan. But both Show and Gui Gui looked like they seriously need to catch up on some sleep, so they didn’t have that energy and seemed rather dull. Ao Quan was surprisingly funny, although he didn’t have a lot to do in the episodes I watched. I guess it’s possible Shenzhen improved in future episodes, but I ran out of patience to find out.
Starring: Liu Shi-Shi, Eddie Peng, Hu Ge, Han Dong, Fala Chen (Dramawiki)
Rating: MILD OBSESSION – STRONG OBSESSION
Verdict: Fearless OTP that defies the social norms of that era. The romance is awesome!
Coming from the same writer of Bu Bu Jing Xin (BBJX) and having read the novel itself, I came in with a lot of expectations. At first, I had my doubts about the casting as I didn’t think that Eddie Peng is a good fit for Wu-Ji but he proved me wrong and he brought so much energy to the character. He’s like a more boyish version of Wu-Ji but also perfectly embodies the assertive and confident traits of Wu-Ji. Wei Wu-Ji (or known as Huo Qu-Bing in the novel) is my favorite character in both the drama and the novel. Truthfully, I’m not the biggest fan of period dramas except for a few exceptions because palace politics are not my cup of tea so I’m glad that in this series, we have less scenes confined in the palace and the overall tone is more light-hearted than in BBJX.
The strongest point of this series is definitely the fearless OTP because we got a courageous heroine, Xin Yue (Liu Shi-Shi) who doesn’t care about what other thinks and even if she can’t get married to Wu-Ji, their love stayed strong throughout the whole series. She was even willing to carry his child out of wedlock, which is totally unimaginable in the ancient era. I love how they turn a blind eye to their surroundings and cherish every second they have for each other. I’m just so in love with this OTP!
Sound of the Deserts is not without its flaws as even though I prefer the fearless romance of the OTP than the tragic romance of BBJX’s OTP, I don’t think it will replace BBJX’s position in my heart. The palace political conflicts in this series are not as organic as in BBJX and the casting for Qin-Xiang (Fala Chen) feels so wrong and that character annoys me to no end because a lot of the sacrifices wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for her. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Fala Chen‘s acting, it’s just that she doesn’t fit the image I had in mind for Qin-Xiang from the book. Another thing I have to point out is Liu Shi-Shi’s acting, she’s serviceable but it’s like her acting stayed stagnant and there were many times in the beginning of the series where I felt like she’s Ruo-Xi (from BBJX) instead of Xin-Yue. I can’t put all the blame on her though since she filmed Sound of the Desert right after BBJX so I’ll cut her some slack for that.
One thing I feel the same from the novel to the drama is Meng Xun (Hu Ge) because I was frustrated by his character in both the book and the drama. He could be happy with XIn-Yue if he could show more courage but sadly, he’s the exact opposite of the OTP, always over-thinking and such a coward. I can understand his inferiority complex for his disability but if Xin-Yue said that it doesn’t matter to her, he should believe more in her love for him. Thus, when he finally realized what he did was wrong and he regret it, I didn’t feel much pity for him. It was only until the ending that I started feeling pity for him because his ending is so tragic.
Rating: MILD OBSESSION
Verdict: I watched the drama for only one character and I don’t regret it. I’m a new Eddie Peng fan!
- The male lead, Wei Wu Ji, played by Eddie Peng—Wei Wu Ji is all I need in this drama. If you think Eddie isn’t handsome or charismatic, just wait ‘til you see him as Wei Wu Ji. Eddie is literally oozing with charisma and charm in every single one of his scenes. Granted, Wei Wu Ji isn’t anything new—he’s still the usual ‘prince charming’ kind of character—but Eddie’s portrayal makes him into a very memorable character.
- Strong female characters—There are no damsels in distress in DMY. Not only are the female characters smart and self-sufficient, but some of them know martial arts, horse-back riding, and archery.
- Conventional plot—Although DMY seems to be different from Bu Bu Jing Xin on the surface, in reality it’s pretty much the same scenario. It’s the usual story about a smart, pretty heroine who’s in a love triangle with two verrrry eligible bachelors AND gets involved with the struggle for the throne. Although the drama tries hard to make the plot all complicated, ultimately it just comes off as predictable and draggy.
- Mediocre acting—I don’t wish to criticize Liu Shi Shi too harshly, since after all DMY was filmed soon after BBJX. So I don’t think we can expect Liu Shi Shi’s acting to improve dramatically within such a short time after BBJX. One thing is for sure though: Liu Shi Shi wasn’t at her best in this drama. I know she can do better than this.
Starring: Guo Jing-Fei, Gan Lu, Li Min-Cheng, Li Qian, Jing Chao (Dramawiki)
Rating: MILD OBSESSION – STRONG OBSESSION
Verdict: Sleek and witty detective story with interesting main characters. The main antagonist is actually more like an anti-hero than a totally bad guy.
Fast-paced and interesting crime procedural drama with sleek cinematography, fun characters and witty dialogues. I also love the fact that the producers created different new opening sequence for every cases that usually lasts for 2 or 3 episodes. The different opening sequence are all so pretty and creative and they’re all correlated to the elements of the cases. I really love the effort they put into the series. As I’m not a c-drama frequent watcher, I don’t know much about the cast but my friend highly recommended this series to me and boy, I was so glad I didn’t skip this out. The cases actually reminds me of a modern version of New Detective Alliance (DBI), a crime-procedural drama set in the 1940s as the cases are all pretty interesting and made sense.
The premise of The Darker is simple – an anti-hero called The Darker appears out of nowhere in the city and sends death notification cards to the people who committed crimes in the past. Thus, Darker and the protagonist’s special investigation team of detectives got into the battle of wits. Their battle is further complicated by the increasing number of supporters for Darker by people who deemed him as the hero that eliminates crooks of the city. However, Luo Fei believes that crooks should be punished by the law and doesn’t support Darker’s way of punishment as he thinks that he’s just being self-righteous.
The special investigation team was off to a rocky start as each of them think that they’re more intelligent than each other. At first, most of the characters got on my nerves, with the exception of the protagonist, Luo Fei (Guo Jing-Fei) but as they spend more time together, they form a unique bond and all of the characters grow on me by the end of the series. I also appreciate that even though this is a crime-procedural series, the tone is very light-hearted as the characters can be humorous and crack dry jokes at times. As the team work hand-in-hand to prevent Darker from killing the crooks, they become more united as the story progresses. The darker is another example where recent Chinese web dramas have better qualities than the dramas they put out for public channels. It’s a bit ironic actually but I’m really glad that I stumbled upon this series. Sadly for the non-Chinese speakers, there’s only 8 episodes that’s been English subbed on youtube channel.
Starring: Wang Luo-Dan, Raymond Lam, Niki Chow, Xu Zheng-Xi (Dramawiki)
Rating: MILD DETACHMENT
Verdict: Questionable historical accuracy, not enough characters or subplots to sustain that many episodes.
I haven’t watched that many Chinese dramas this year mostly because it would require a lot to tempt me. Usually, that means a cast consisting of some favourites. For The Virtuous Queen of Han, that was of course Raymond Lam although I like Niki Chow in general. The story is ok – nothing new and if you’ve seen Beyond the Realm of Conscience (BTROC), some elements are very similar. Considering this is Mui Siu Ching & Lau Ka Ho’s first series since leaving TVB, that is expected. Like BTROC, The Virtuous Queen of Han tries to convey a positive message of doing good deeds. I have no objections to this but what about if it means sacrificing historical accuracy? I only read Wei Zi Fu’s story from Wikipedia (so I can’t guarantee it’s 100% accurate) but there appears to be some alarming omissions of her life in this series, the parts which would contradict the overall ‘positive’ message this drama is trying to portray. Right or wrong? I’m not sure. I just feel uneasy about it because if you’re going to have a drama based around Wei Zifu’s life, I don’t expect every single detail to be correct but at least the overall gist should be.
Historical accuracy aside, the story in general was quite restricted. I mean that for a 47 episode drama, there aren’t that many supporting characters or subplots. Issues were always resolved in the same way. Since Wei Zifu was the ultimate good character, there was hardly any development. She was the kind soul from beginning to end. Luckily, two of the supporting characters really shone. That’s Niki Chow’s Princess Pingyang and her real life beau, Jeremy Tsui who plays Duan Hong. Duan Hong is your self-sacrificing second lead whom you can’t help falling for, while Princess Pingyang is a strong character despite all the hardships she had to endure. The sets and costumes are what you would expect in a palace drama these days – nothing extraordinary but does the job. But of course I’m biased towards Raymond Lam’s opening and ending theme songs, I probably like the opening song more.
Starring: Ruby Lin, Leroy Young, Melvin Sia, Tiffany Hsu, Jasou Tsou (Dramawiki)
Rating: MILD OBSESSION
Verdict: A solid yet slow-paced drama that explores nostalgia, friendship, and heartbreak.
- The acting, especially on the part of Ruby Lin & Tiffany Hsu—The Way We Were has an all around strong cast, but the actresses are the ones who left the most lasting impression on me. I’m impressed by Ruby’s acting chops and production skills, and Tiffany totally blew me away!
- The OST—This is one of my favorite drama OST’s of the year. I especially recommend the ending theme song “Don’t Be Friends Anymore” by Eric Chou, and the song “I Don’t Know What Love Is” by Eve Ai.
- Noble idiocy in the later episodes of the drama—I never expected The Way We Were to go the route of the noble idiocy plot twist. So I was really disappointed when it made one of the main characters into a frustrating wishy washy noble idiot. It’s definitely a plot twist that the drama could do without.
2014 Japanese Dramas
Jdramas are always so short and fast-paced, which is always a double-edge sword because their fast-paced story can sometimes prevent me from getting invested into the characters in emotional storylines but it works really well for procedural plots. One thing I love about jdramas is the diversity in their genres, less on rom-coms that’s so common in Korean and Taiwanese dramaland but more on crime procedural stuffs (almost too much!). However, in 2014, the drama genres are more balanced out and less heavy on crime-procedural dramas like the last few years. Soori@Shikidrama and Heisui@Mydramatea also joined me to review some of the jdramas listed below, be sure to check out their reviews!
Starring: Ueno Juri, Nakamura Aoi, Odagiri Joe, Tanaka Naoki, Fujiwara Norika (Dramawiki)
Rating: MILD OBSESSION
Verdict: Good main characters but forgetful story.
Normally it’s really hard for Japanese producers and writers to make good well-rounded revenge plots, especially since the style of Japanese dramas are more on the soft side and revenge isn’t their strong point. However “Alice no Toge” was a well made revenge story of a girl who has to give up her life to make the people responsible for her father’s death pay for their sins. The forte of the story were most definitely Odagiri Joe and Ueno Juri who managed to pull the story from a typical one and create intelligent characters who slowly manages to attract the viewer’s attention towards the footers of the drama.
Compared to Odagiri who has a very free style when it comes to acting, Ueno never fails to amaze me with her desire of challenging new and different characters with every project. I don’t remember seeing her having other negative character until now, she did stole the show as Mizuno Asumi. She was convincing as Azumi, a woman filled with the desire for revenge.
But if I am to talk about the drama as a whole, somehow I do think that the production itself could’ve been done better because “Alice no Toge” had a lot of potential to bring its story upfront to surpass other dramas.
What I really didn’t like about “Alice no Toge” was that the next step could be predicted really fast and in a way this was regretful and probably this is what took the drama off the radar. Regardless, I don’t regret watching it.
Starring: Miura Haruma, Tabe Mikako, Saito Takumi, Kazama Shunsuke (Dramawiki)
Rating: MILD OBSESSION
Verdict: Great deliver for the story but it may be hard to understand the cellars of the main character.
“Boku no ita Jikan” was the drama I most looked forward to especially since I am a sucker for human dramas. Although I do watch a lot of dramas that show the behiths of human nature, on another note it’s heartbreaking since most of these stories are taken from reality. This is also the case of “Boku no ita jikan” as it tells the story of Sawada Takuto, an University student who finds out that he has ALS. These types of dramas always make the viewer look into their own lives and understand what’s important within the hardships we all stumble upon.
I really wondered if Miura Haruma can deliver such a hard character of a person who unfortunately finds out that he has ALS more than that that he doesn’t have much to live. Yet, to my surprise, Miura managed to show a good performance while growing together with his character.
To be honest, I always thought that dramas can educate viewers/society regarding a certain subject; The same as the classic drama “One liter of tears”, “Boku no Ita Jikan” explains the hardship of people who have to struggle with unfortunate news in their life. Despise the heartbreaking story of a young man who has to deal with the sudden breaking point, Takuto managed to accept it and decided to live without thinking that he will die but rather enjoy life and finding out what he wants to do in life. Kudos to Miura and to the writer for an outstanding character that learned to enjoy and respect everything despise the devastating disease he has to live with.
Starring: Oguri Shun, Aoki Munetaka, Haru, Endo Kenichi (Dramawiki)
Verdict: As the story is highly dependent on the cases, the tone feels a little bit uneven. Doesn’t leave much impression on me.
Oguri Shun is definitely one of the deciding factors for me to watch this series. I love good crime procedural stories but Border is probably just at a “pass” level. The story is highly dependent on the cases, there were some really touching cases but most of the cases left me cold and even the protagonist is not interesting enough. It’s definitely not the kind of drama that leaves a lasting impression on me as I could only remember 1 or 2 cases from the story. It could have been executed better but I feel like the writers wasn’t able to fully expand the consequences of the bullet in Ango (Oguri Shun)’s head, it didn’t feel heavy enough.
Even side characters were forgettable and there’s nothing interesting about the main characters of the story, I was detached from the characters. It’s ironic that some of the ghosts are actually far more interesting than the main characters. If it wasn’t for Oguri Shun, I would probably have dropped the series. Fortunately, the last few cases became slightly interesting and it’s also reflected in the rating, Border scored its highest rating near the end of the story. In terms of story-telling, Border didn’t manage to keep me on edge and the tone feels uneven at times. The premise had a lot of potential but the story-telling is a bit lacking and wasn’t able to fully grab my attention.
Rating: MILD DETACHMENT
Verdict: Good watch but I don’t remember much from the actual story.
2014 had a wave of mystery/detective of Japanese dramas, “Border” succeeded to step a little further and obtained the viewers attention with the cold(ish) attraction for the story. I personally don’t like episodic dramas, dramas that tell a new story each episode however I managed to finish “Border”, yet I did find it pretty boring at times but there were also moments when I wanted certain stories to follow in the next episodes as well.
The acting was good, no such things as awkwardness or incomplete movements thanks to the actors that delivered a bold performance for their characters to come to life.
Starring: Koike Teppei, Kakei Toshio, Yamaguchi Makiya, Tokui Yuu, Fujiwara Norika (Dramawiki)
Rating: STRONG OBSESSION
Verdict: Heart-tugging, low-key human drama about the lives of firefighters. Feels like a documentary because of the realistic portrayal.
Borderline is like a documentary drama of firefighters because of their realistic and accurate portrayal of the professional aspects and lives of these heroes. In a sense, it’s actually like the drama version of Korean’s underrated firefighter-themed reality show, Heart is Beating. It’s what I wanted Kdrama Angel Eyes to deliver in terms of their professional aspect but failed. The protagonist, Akira (Koike Teppei) is a rookie firefighter that have no motivations and passion in his firefighter job, he doesn’t want to put in full effort in his job and questions why the firefighters have to suffer and sacrifice themselves for so many ungrateful people. He only applied for the firefighter job because he thought it’s a stable government job and he applied to be part of the administrative team and not the ones in actions.
Akira is the exact opposite of a hot-headed rookie, he’s pessimistic and he doesn’t care for his job that much because he only wants to lead a stable life without getting into any troubles as he doesn’t want to leave his single mother alone. His pessimistic views about firefighters actually make sense as most people who doesn’t aspire to be firefighters will probably think like him. However, as he learns the consequences of his actions which may cost a person’s life, he slowly got into the job as he have no choice but to be more serious at his job. By the end of the day, he have already fallen in love with his job unconsciously because it feels great to help someone in need. I love his subtle and slow character growth. There’s a brief time skip for each change and it makes the plot developments feels very natural.
There’s a lot of positive messages in this drama as the team of firefighters struggle between the borderline of their own well-being and death everyday. They’re always prepared to sacrifice their lives but is it really worth it? Because not everyone will express their gratitude to these saviors and their family members may not 100% understand their job as they may think that they’re putting other people’s lives at higher priority than the feelings of the family members. It made them rethink what does their firefighter job truly means to them. I think 5 episodes is the perfect length for this drama as it doesn’t leave any room for draggy developments. Overall, it’s a highly recommended series for people who likes to watch a good heart-tugging and low-key human drama.
Starring: Ishihara Satomi, Matsushita Nao, Katahira Nagisa, Iwata Takanori, Tanabe Seiichi (Dramawiki)
Rating: STRONG OBSESSION
Verdict: Fun and heart-warming story of a pair of sister with fizzy romance. The melodrama elements are executed in light-hearted manner, making the series very easy-to-watch.
Definitely my favorite Jdrama for this year, it’s just so pleasant to watch. It had a slightly rocky start as Misaki (Ishihara Satomi) seems like a manipulating sister at first and I was pretty worried that Ishihara Satomi will be playing another similar character to Saeko from Shitsuren Chocolatier, but in fact, she just love her sister too much. Her sister-complex is seriously so cute.
Misaki and her older sister, Hazuki (Matsushita Nao) are like two people on different spectrum, Misaki is outgoing and carefree, while Hazuki is rigid and stubborn. Hazuki often view Misaki as a trouble-maker and the source of misfortunes in her life. In the beginning of the series, she showed strong distaste of Misaki’s actions and was annoyed that Misaki moves into her house all of a sudden. However, once she get used to Misaki’s presence in her house, she actually starts to miss her once she’s gone. It shows that they’re just like any other close siblings, they bicker and clashes at times but at the end of the day, they still care for each other’s well-being.
Even though the lovelines in Dear Sister are cute enough, especially between Misaki and Eito (Iwata Takanori), but it’s really the heart-warming relationship between the sisters that tugged onto my heartstrings. Misaki actually did a lot for Hazuki without her knowing and even though Misaki seems irresponsible and naive on the front, she’s actually the more mature one as she constantly worries for that stubborn personality of her sister. There’s a little bit of melodramatic elements that exist within the story but they execute it in a light-hearted manner and the fast-paced nature of a J-drama really works well in this context as the misunderstandings and conflicts are resolved pretty quickly. Dear Sister is such a fun, fizzy and light-hearted series that makes me feel that time flies very fast when I’m watching the series. Definitely highly recommended for those who likes light-hearted and heart-warming rom-com.
Rating: MILD OBSESSION
Verdict: Enjoyable but the writer should’ve managed her flow of melodramatic ideas.
“Dear Sister” climbed fast in my top favorite Japanese dramas of 2014. I was looking forward to something else and not another detective drama and this one came at the right moment. “Dear Sister” it’s about two sisters who (of course) have opposite personalities thus a lot clicks between them and their mother. I’m also a second child and I may not be fair when I say that I liked Misaki more than Hazuki, although both had their charms, ups and downs. Even though Misaki was more on the childish side and always showed a bright(ish) image, people forgot to look over her mask and misunderstandings were bound to happen with the two sisters.
There were a lot of complains from Hazuki towards Misaki who seemed like she wanted to rumble her older sister’s life; Even though Misaki wanted to help her sister use her full potential in her daily and professional life, her method was a little too straight forward. Meanwhile Hazuki who made a pattern of putting the blame on Misaki for everything bad in her life she forgot that the mother asked only her for advice and she was the only one with a more solid educational background between the two. As for Misaki she was treated as the youngest and the cutest of them, yet she had her own share of sufferings.
Regardless of the complicated lives of the characters, everything mashed well together and in the end it was an enjoyable show. It had a good amount of romance and social and family problems so “Dear sister” still the script went flying as the story went forward, everything get more and more complicated and almost made this drama look like a Korean makjang.
Starring: Kimura Takuya, Kitagawa Keiko, Sugimoto Tetta, Hamada Gaku, Masana Bokuzo (Dramawiki)
Rating: STRONG OBSESSION
Verdict: A good news to the HERO fans!
When I first heard that they will try to revive the popular drama HERO, I wondered if they really want to milk the success of what HERO was and personally, I almost didn’t want to watch because I was afraid that the new season may turn bad considering the high expectations. Yet, HERO 2014 was a good surprise, they handled it well and the new season turned out to remind us about the good old dramas times.
As I said about “Border”, I normally don’t like episodic dramas, but for me “HERO” will always be an exception because Kuryu Kohei can never fail.
Starring: Ueto Aya, Kichise Michiko, Saito Takumi, Takahata Atsuko, Suzuki Kosuke (Dramawiki)
Rating: MILD OBSESSION
Verdict: Atmospheric execution of an adultery story, can be pretty moving at times but I was only into Ueto Aya’s story.
Adultery can be such a sensitive topic because if the writers don’t put enough attention to the characters’ actions, it may leave a bitter taste in the mouth of viewers. When it comes to a drama about adultery, I always try to switch off my moral button because it’s easier to enjoy the story that way. What makes the story interesting is the motives of these women, what lead them to commit adultery and why? Hirugao managed to create breathtaking atmosphere for the key moments and the music scores are brilliantly infused to compliment the intensity of their forbidden affairs.
At the end of the day, Hirugao isn’t trying to condone adultery but instead, it becomes a reminder to people that communication, constant affections and care are very important in a marital relationship. Take Sawa‘s (Ueto Aya) husband for example, he’s so immersed about taking care of his hamster that sometimes he treats Sawa less than his pet. As the love between the married couples transforms into familial love, women, especially housewives will slowly forget that they’re a woman. Their husband and kids will call them as “wife”, “darling” or “mom” but their own names will be slowly forgotten.
As strange as it sounds, Sawa’s forbidden affair with Yuichi (Saito Takumi) actually feels like first love because she have forgotten the feeling of loving someone for so long. Even though their relationship is bound to doom from day 1, I don’t think Sawa will regret it because he made her grow as a person and he made her see things in a wider perspective. I think out of all the characters, Sawa have the most character growth and I’m glad that she have at least learnt something from the mistake she made. Hirugao isn’t perfect but I enjoyed the ride.
Rating: MILD DETACHMENT
Verdict: Not really my kind of dramas, it just didn’t hit any mark for me.
A woman whose husband kinda ignores her and a new man with whom she feels secure. I’m not really into ‘adultery’ dramas, but this year the writers were in a mood for cheating dramas so somehow I ended up watching “Hirugao”.
In a way, “Hirugao” wanted to show the limit of human morality and how far can a person go or where it may stop, however the story just didn’t appeal to me. The start of the story was okay but as it progresses, some characters started to get out of hand and it turned weird. I didn’t like the glamorization of cheating, and despise the fact that they wanted to show like the women had a “shelter” it didn’t hit me in the end.
What I liked about the story was the ending. It showed that everything that happened was a process for them to get to know more about themselves.
Starring: Nishijima Hidetoshi, Kagawa Teruyuki, Maki Yoko, Namase Katsuhisa, Yoshida Kotaro (Dramawiki)
Rating: MILD OBSESSION FOR SEASON 1, MILD DETACHMENT FOR SEASON 2
Verdict: Nishijima Hidetoshi’s hotness makes up almost 50% of the plot. The corruptions and plot didn’t manage to fully engage me but I was totally in love with the cinematography.
Border aired around the same time but for some reason, Mozu’s rating kept on dropping, while Border’s rating was on a constant rise. Mozu is probably harder to digest than Border because of how serious the tone is. Furthermore, the pacing can be a little bit slow at times but the suspense and mystery keeps me wanting to know more in Season 1. However, the plot revelations and resolutions wasn’t satisfying enough in season 1 and even though some of my questions were answered in Season 2, I felt even more detached by the end of the story.
There’s a strong cinematic feel to the directing, it almost feels like a dark noir film. The lightings are amazing and it fits well with the gruff, violent world of MOZU. Most of my affections for this drama is probably because of the intelligent directing, the director knows what he’s doing and he’s able to create a dark ambient through various angles and experiment with the lighting. The music director uses intense instrumental tones which elevates the suspense. It definitely shows that the production is high-budgeted. Truthfully, I don’t feel much for these characters but the shallow me finds Nishijima Hidetoshi super hot in his suit! The acting from the cast is very solid, it’s just a pity that the story didn’t manage to intrigue me from the beginning till the end. Season 1 is a lot better than Season 2 in my opinion.
Rating: STRONG OBSESSION
Verdict: Intense and suspenseful with great action scenes and a powerhouse cast. Unfortunately the story itself makes no sense.
- Nishijima Hidetoshi + Maki Yoko + Kagawa Teruyuki combined—This is the power-house cast from the previous WOWOW x TBS collaboration, Double Face. I love seeing these three collaborating together once again. If you enjoy watching Nishijima Hidetoshi brooding, wearing suits, and fighting in action scenes, this is the drama for you. Both Maki Yoko and Kagawa Teruyuki got the short end of the stick in terms of character development but still round out the cast quite well.
- The quality and intensity of the drama—Season 1 is super intense, dark, and full of action. It also has a high quality OST and cinematography, which draws me right into the drama.
- The story/writing—Sadly enough, the major failing of MOZU is its plot/script. Everything else is so darn good except for the story!! The plot just makes no sense especially once it gets into the second season. Don’t watch MOZU for the plot, because chances are by the end of it you will have more questions than answers.
Rating: STRONG OBSESSION
Verdict: I love it, from the acting to the production. The story gave out stabile characters that focused more on the story than the development of the actors, yet that was what I loved about this drama.
MOZU was my favorite drama of the year, although there were a lot of complains and to be honest it had flaws, I still loved every minute. It most definitely lacked in detail structure and story sharpness on the other hand the actors did get to take MOZU out of a whole and bring it to the light. The production planning (I’m excluding the writing out of this) was good, the production company took care of a delivering the action to the viewers. As I already mentioned, in terms of acting, MOZU has a big fat point from me because all the character had a lot of importance to the story and it also showed from the acting – there were a lot of “eye acting” that gave hints about what it may happen next or what the character may be thinking – but that’s of course when you get Academy winners, established actors and new perspective in the Japanese filmography.
My favorite character has to be Osugi, compared to the other two main characters or even the negative ones, he is smaller in importance, but at the end of season 1 Osugi showed his potential as a great detective. He pretty much stole the episode and put the puzzle together to find out the details of the actual event (I won’t say much about what he did because I will give out spoilers).
My second favorite character has to be Shingai – I really love Ikematsu’s acting and character construction especially in this drama where he has to act out two characters with two different personalities and he simply put a wall between them without bringing any similarities.
Although the first season lets the viewers questioning a lot of things, the second does give some explications also the production company announced a MOZU movie where they will reveal everything.
Starring: Nakayama Miho, Domoto Tsuyoshi, Yoshida Eisaku, Nagano Mei, Koizumi Kotaro (Dramawiki)
Rating: NEUTRAL – SLIGHTLY MILD OBSESSION FOR SOME PARTS
Verdict: Platonic love that’s not very platonic. Had some great moments and solid acting but it was a bit too abstract for my taste.
Platonic depicts an interesting relationship between a young man and a divorced mother that managed to engage me in some parts but not strong enough for most of the parts. There’s definitely a special bond between Sara (Nakayama Miho) and the young man (Domoto Tsuyoshi). Sara’s love for her daughter is undoubtedly amazing, having to take care of the bed-ridden girl for so many years without complain. She was on the verge of breaking down when she approached the young man on the suicide website, hoping that someone who doesn’t mind dying can donate his or her heart to her daughter. Her action is definitely unethical but who can stop a desperate mother? Soon, they met and got into a fake marriage in order for the young man to be able to donate his heart to her daughter. However, she finds herself attracted to him. There’s a tacit mutual understanding between them, which is very strange, given that they have such a huge age gap and coming from different walks of lives. Their relationship is unconventional.
Despite how Sara’s love for her daughter sounds so “amazing”, in my opinion, her over-bearing love for her daughter is a little bit twisted and unhealthy. She views her daughter as everything for her, to the point where she was even willing to set-up her husband and divorce him in order to clear distractions for her taking care of her daughter. She even said that she’ll leave the world with her daughter if she dies. Sara is a very interesting character but so is the young man (who doesn’t even have a name). There’s something eccentric about their whole relationship, it’s like two strange people who others won’t understand found another person in this world that can understand them. Sara’s world who only revolved around her daughter starts to revolve for the young man.
A lot of times, the conversations between the main characters feel like a stage play instead of a drama because the leads are just so good at delivering their dialogues. There’s a lot of scenes filled with silence but that actually speaks a lot of volume because we can focus more on minor changes in characters’ expressions and understand their feelings. It’s definitely not the most exciting drama to watch and it had some great moments but overall, it was a little bit too abstract for my taste that it doesn’t leave a lasting impression on me.
Rating: STRONG DETACHMENT
Verdict: I don’t remember much about it.
I won’t talk much about “Platonic” – it was a nice little drama and it actually becomes better with every episode, but if I am to talk about the story, it’s not on the memorable side. It was a good watch and the acting was okay, still the production seemed to be low budged so that kinda affected my overall opinion on the drama. Of course we don’t need to have high productions budged but it can have an impact if you don’t know how to use limited resources in a favorable manner.
Starring: Odagiri Joe, Koizumi Maya, Ishibashi Renji (Dramawiki)
Rating: MILD OBSESSION
Verdict: It’s classy, a little eccentric, and fun to watch. Although I place River’s Edge higher above most of the other dramas I watched this year, I rated it as a “mild obsession” since I wasn’t completely addicted to it.
- Unconventional main characters—River’s Edge focuses on three main characters who all work at an obscure detective agency. These three are the most unlikely trio ever—there’s an old grandpa who has a shady past, a guy in his 30’s who has premonitions in his dreams, and a young woman who works in gentleman clubs. I love the main characters because they’re a hoot to watch whenever they’re together.
- Classy style—There’s no other way to describe it, River’s Edge is a really classy drama. You have to watch it to know what I mean; the drama has this kind of atmospheric, smooth feel to it. It makes every episode into a pleasure to watch.
- Not enough variety in the detective cases—Most of the detective cases are interesting and off-the-wall. However, by the middle of the drama, some episodes reused a similar scenario one too many times.
Verdict: Nice atmosphere but it’s just another episodic drama.
Another episodic drama but you can never fail when you have Odagiri Joe in a production. Every new episode it’s about the story of Muraki’S clients. I personally would recommend “River’s Edge Ookawabata Tanteisha” only to those that are fans of Odagiri’s acting because it can be pretty hard to digest and enjoy to its fullest. Each episode is quite entertaining and it has a lot of typical Japanese humor that some may not get especially people who aren’t really used to this type of jokes.
Starring: Karasawa Toshiaki, Dan Rei, Eguchi Yosuke, Yamazaki Tsutomu, Ishimaru Kanji (Dramawiki)
Rating: STRONG OBSESSION
Verdict: Having actors such as Karasawa Toshiaki and Kagawa Teruyuki, then you can expect good acting.
The writer of “Roosevelt Game” is Yatsu Hiroyuki, the same one who wrote “Hanzawa Naoki” and “The Witch Trial” – and I already said a lot about this drama by just mentioning the writer. For those that enjoyed the other two dramas, Roosevelt Game is another treat from the writer who captures viewers in a smooth way of creating mystery.
Actually my major in school has t do with the subject of the drama (the overall idea not the baseball one) so this may also be a reason on why I enjoyed the story. If I am to compare it to Hanzawa Naoki, the acting in Roosevelt Game isn’t as forced and the actors have more relaxed gestures when delivering their lines.
The story is business related it can be a turn off for some however the characters are great at building up expectation of the next event in the story and the soundtrack brings out a lot the excitement of each scene.
Starring: Matsumoto Jun, Ishihara Satomi, Mizukawa Asami, Mizuhara Kiko, Mizobata Junpei (Dramawiki)
Verdict: Filled with frustrating characters and surprisingly, by the end of the story, I only care for Ishihara Satomi’s character.
It have such drool-worthy, pretty chocolates but sadly, the characters aren’t as pretty as their chocolates as they’re all frustrating in one or other ways. The protagonist, Sota (Matsumoto Jun) is the one that annoyed me the most because of his delusional thinking. Yes, Saeko (Ishihara Satomi) is a bitch (excuse me for the vulgarity) and she even admits it herself that she’s not a good woman but Sota just keeps on feeding her vanity with affections. In all actuality, he’s not even in love with Saeko, it was just infatuation from his side because once Saeko runs to him, he suddenly loses motivation to create delicious chocolates. He’s just addicted to the feeling of chasing a person that he can never reach. The most realistic part of Sota is that he represents most shallow guys who goes for the looks of a woman. I like Matsumoto Jun as an actor but not so much on his character in this drama.
Other female leads like Kaoruko (Mizukawa Asami) and Erena (Mizuhara Kiko) actually pales in comparison to Saeko. It’s interesting that by the end of the series, I was actually rooting for Saeko, the resident bitch, ha! Because she’s the most interesting and “real” character, she’s not exactly “endearing” but she herself clearly knows her position and isn’t ashame of that. I actually agree with her “live the life to the fullest” kind of motto and assertive traits because like what she said, more doors will open for her if she keeps an open-mind to everything, even when it’s about love. In the later half of the story, Saeko’s open-minded views clearly influence Kaoruko who is always conservative and waiting for someone to knock on her door. Truthfully, I thought their unique bond is pretty cute and wouldn’t mind them to be the OTP, ha! Because they make a more interesting pair and had more chemistry than Sota and Saeko together. When a drama have so many flawed characters, I would rather choose the one that stays true to oneself from begining to the end and that’s Saeko. Ishihara Satomi rocked my socks off in this series, she made a frustrating drama a little bit more interesting in the later half of the story.
Starring: Tsumabuki Satoshi, Eita, Mitsushima Hikari, Emoto Tasuku, Nomura Shuhei, Aoi Yu, Nagasawa Masami, Hashimoto Ai (Dramawiki)
Rating: STRONG OBSESSION
Verdict: Do I need to mention the cast? It was a beautiful ride with 11 stops.
This drama is a hit or miss for those that don’t really enjoy human dramas because “Young People” is all about it. Young People is definitely a drama for people who can chew subject of human nature such as inner struggles or personal development.
The delivery of the story is made in a calm manner that may make people get bored as the watch however each episode the characters understand more and more about each other but most importantly about themselves. The 5 siblings are struggling with life and understanding the meaning behind it but as episode pass they find new meaning in the people they meet and the people around them.
The drama gives off a neatly artsy view on life yet it send the emotions of the siblings and the song of the drama “Young People” hits the right spot to take the viewer into the world of the Sato family. In a way, I felt that I was witnessing their everyday life, of course, I was on the other side of the screen, but it felt like I was a part of the story thanks to the calm portray of the actors.