Dramas

I stumbled upon dramas rather accidentally. Used to be an avid Korean cinema fan once upon a time. Then fell down the rabbit hole that is kdramaland like thousands of others. It’s funny how ridiculously similar all our stories are. A part of me still always compares dramas to k-movies and grumbles, dissatisfied. While another part, whose existence I was barely aware of before, has surfaced and will squee and spazz and find happiness in the infinite treasures that abound in dramaland. Below are some of my drama favourites.

 

Fated To Love You

FTLYThere was always an empty drama space in my heart. And Fated is the drama which has come to occupy it. So there’s the entire genre of dramas on one hand, and then there’s Fated. I usually say this about music and Nick Drake. Now both have my heart in a bundle, in their palm. There’s so much to talk about in Fated, where do I begin? A beautiful, simple, and heartfelt love story told with such passion, tenderness and finesse. I cannot sing enough praises for the entire crew for crafting such a precious gem of a show.

More about FTLY in my first post.

I’m eager to start viewing a second time around. 🙂

 

Reply 1997

Reply1997I watched Reply 1997 a year after it came out. It was my fascination with Eun Ji-won from 1 Night 2 Days (Season 1) that got me interested in it to begin with. So while I was vaguely aware of the intense fandom it had managed to garner, I went into it relatively oblivious. Upon viewing, it proved to be one of those stories bursting with so much heart and warmth, I became an instant fan. Reply exuded a cheerful, communal vibe with its bubbling friendships and squabbling family dynamics. Everyone breaching each other’s personal space – I was strangely comforted by that. I will remember this one fondly for beating my expectations and for reminding me of the warm possibilities that lie in friends and family.

Getting back to Eun Ji-won, this is always worth a watch.

 

Mixed-Up Investigative Agency

MUIAThis show was so goofy and silly and strange. It took a few episodes getting into, since the premise itself was over the top. But sandwiched in between all of Mixed-Up‘s perplexity was a generous dose of depth. I enjoyed the unassuming character of Ryu Seung-soo most of all. It served a different level of gratification to see so much attention thrown upon someone who seemed rather marginalised in his own life. Few of the scenes with him alone, bumbling about trying to figure life out, were some of my favourites. And Lee Min-ki hasn’t been more adorkable, with a body language that seems directly lifted from the illustrations of Quentin Blake.

 

Coffee Prince

CPThis was one of my first kdramas. Not surprising at all, seeing as how universally recommended it comes. I’d initially thought I liked it for the main love story. It carried the same earnestness I’m so fond of in dramas, charged as it was with many quiet, undramatic moments where characters just talked and listened and grew and seeped into one another. I’ll always think of Choi Han-gyul as one of the better drama heroes, for he has an unmistakable simplicity all the outer extravagance may veil. In retrospect, I was more invested in the relationship between the second leads because it felt flawed in a realistic and relatable way. But what I loved most about the show was how it was peppered with so many memorable side characters, played by a host of great actors. I can now recognise these actors whenever they pop up in other dramas. They’ll belong to Coffee Prince foremost.

There’s something evergreen about Coffee Prince. It’s been 8 years since it was made and it still feels fresh, contemporary. You could broadcast it today and people wouldn’t know it’s so old. I think that’s a hallmark of a drama produced well, with a lot of attention paid to details in editing, music, script, cinematography. Pretty much everything.

 

City Hall

CHI would say this is one of the more orthodox kdramas that I have grown to adore. There is nothing extraordinary in the setup – other than larger-than-life goals and larger-than-life problems. And…that’s pretty ordinary as far as kdrama tropes go. It’s got a fair share of jarring moments, with a lot of the people oft veering into screechy, histrionic mode. In the beginning, Shin Mi-rae feels an awful lot like a she-Dokko-Jin. Which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Trust me.

It is entirely in the hands of solid actors like Cha Seung-won and Kim Sun-ah that City Hall becomes a joyous ride. They’re already golden on their own, and then together, they effuse this sizzling chemistry that burns through the screen and bores deep holes in your heart.

Thanks to these two, I was engrossed in the hilarity, the romance, and even the angst. The tears City Hall wrung out of me at the end felt totally worthwhile. Another favourite I could watch again and again for the two leads.

 

Miss Korea

MKMiss Korea was a soft, subtle, understated gem. A somewhat realistic portrayal of an underdog who waddles out of her misery and into the land of success – but with more emphasis placed on dogged persistence than magical makeover. Unlike the Candy-to-princess makeovers in other dramas where we are told she works hard, we were shown all of Oh Ji-young’s perseverance, day in and day out, to a degree that the audience itself must have begun to sweat.

Miss Korea distinguished Ji-young’s story further by highlighting, equally, the sense of shame that her condition accompanied. In that, the show was able to relay the complex dynamics of social interactions and how they affect our fragile sense of self. Lee Yeon-hee was winsome here with her multi-layered, very lifelike Ji-young.

While the strength and determination of the female lead is what kept me enamoured, the real treat in Miss Korea was the way in which the stories of the side characters managed to snuggle with such synchronicity to the main arch. The show also did enough to blur lines between traditionally good and bad characters. That the show decided to delve into the greys of each character, give them attention and appreciation, made them intriguing, if not always endearing. And I loved the way Lee Mi-Suk so delicately straddled two extremes in the spectrum of matriarchy – from the fearsome and domineering to the compassionate, dependable and nourishing. Teacher Jung and Go Hwa-jung will be one of my favourite kdrama couples. Who cares if they weren’t the ‘One’ true pair.


 

Drama Wish-List

These are dramas I want to watch but haven’t gotten around to as yet:

Alone In Love
Tree With Deep Roots
End Of The World
Conspiracy In The Court
Joseon X-Files
Bad Family
Queen’s Classroom

5 thoughts on “Dramas

  1. Hi jhu!
    Lovely list of favs, I must confess out of these, the only 2 I don’t love is Mss Korea and MUIA and that’s just because I haven’t seen them!

    Your observations about Coffee Prince are right on the nose. There IS something ever green about it’s production. It feels as fresh today as it did when I first saw it many years ago.
    Its also mostly responsible for my Gong Yoo crush.

    P.S. I already love the blog 🙂
    #Fighting!

    Like

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