This year was unlike any other year for me regarding my hobby of watching Asian dramas. I was happy to be able to fully immerse myself in the drama blogging world and connect with others who share the same interest as me. Although this will mark my 3rd year since I began this hobby, this was the first year I became even more invested in analyzing dramas and appreciating them for what they are worth. You may not have watched every single drama that has aired this year, but I hope like I did, you have found one drama that will stay close to your heart for years to come (pssst, Heartless City xD). One pattern I did notice in many of the dramas shown in 2013 were the ambiguous endings. So many of them left us viewers puzzled, angry, and utterly disappointed because the writer decided to leave it up to us to practically guess what the heck happened. I’m not a fan of those type of endings unless they are done right, but hopefully next year we will be able to see explicit closures… I don’t want to have to end up writing my own fanfics in order to get the ending that I want. With all ado, cheers to all of us who have managed to survive yet another year of used up drama tropes, hot oppa’s, nutty families, heinous villains, pesky second leads, and the slew of other bitersweet stuff that we all love and enjoy to indulge in.
Despite having not seen many school themed dramas, they are usually the ones I can relate to the most because the characters are closer to my age. School 2013 was a very nice way to start off the year. I remember I was completely hooked on this drama, first because I love Daniel Choi and Jang Nara together, and secondly, because I love Lee Jong Suk and Kim Woo Bin. School 2013 did touch on some serious issues that students in the Korean education system may go through, but it did just that…”touched”. It didn’t venture into much darker territory by having the student who attempted suicide actually die, or by allowing the bully never to be won over by his teachers and classmates. However, judging from the fact that all the characters basically got a happy ending, this drama wasn’t planning on going down that dark path which is alright with me. School 2013 encompassed elements of friendship, loyalty, perseverance and hope. It emitted the same air as the movie Freedom Writers, so from the start you are expecting the story to give you the feels, which in the end it did. The bromance between Lee Jong Suk and Kim Woo Bin was possibly the best I’ve seen this year.
The Queen’s Classroom
If I had to hail a drama as the most feels inducer, it has got to be this one. I think the The Queen’s Classroom is underrated, probably because it doesn’t have any sizzling romance or hotties sprinting around grabbing ladies by the wrist. This drama has a very heartwarming message and will result in a tear fest so beware. The child actors and actresses are what brings the message to life, each one carrying their own strengths and weaknesses. They are guided by their strict middle school teacher, Teacher Ma, who strategically teaches them life lessons by manipulation. I didn’t get to write a blog post about the ending even though I really wanted to, I won’t spoil anything but I just want to address something here. Teacher Ma does not a pose a problem too difficult for her students to overcome, and it’s good to remember that while watching this story. It’s really the students choosing their own path, they are the ones who choose the easy route instead of the uncommon one. The heroine of the story Ha Na mentions in the end that happiness differs for every person and I would like to add that so does trauma. I’m sure Teacher Ma did not go out of her way to scar little children for life, even so, her entire class were able to mature and learn from their mistakes. The Queen’s Classroom really does take things to an extreme, but it’s all just for intrigue or else it would be boring. Highly recommended!
Flower Boy Next Door
Give me a minute while I try to remember what exactly this drama was about. Oh yes, Go Dok Mi. Classic case of an introvert. Really hot guy neighbors. A yellow door. A beach. And binoculars. To be honest this drama did not really excite me. Enrique was very quirky, and I will forever love and adore Yoon Si Yoon’s smile. What I did like about this drama was that it gave us a relatively boring lead character. When do Kdramas ever give you a lead character that stays cooped up in their room all day and speaks relatively few words? I haven’t come by one till now. I never really thought deep about Flower Boy Next Door, I just watched it to pass the time. If you’re interested in seeing a very awkward person be pulled out of their comfort zone and into the world, then you will enjoy this drama. The tertiary leads and I mean Ko Gyung Pyo and Kim Seul Gi made an episode enjoyable every time they appeared on screen.
Advertising Genius Lee Tae Baek
I went in watching this drama with my expectations way too high. After tuning in for a few episodes, I was completely bored and annoyed. I never finished watching it. I stopped at ep 12, waited for the finale to air and then just finished it up with the last episode. If you’ve watched previous projects of Jin Goo, Kang ah (Jo Hyun Jae), and Han Chae Ah, you should know that they are pretty good actors. And this was my first time seeing Park Ha Sun, whose performance was passable. Tthe story was repetitive, the romance was stale between the second leads and there was not enough romance between the OTP. There was nothing compelling at all about this storyline, and I was pretty disappointed overall.
I Hear Your Voice
My favorite rom-com of 2013. I absolutely adored the cast in this one, their acting struck all the right strings. For me the most notable was the villain played by Joon Woong In and the heroine played by Lee Bo Young. I loved the timeline of I Hear Your Voice because it presented us with what seemed to be a heinous villain attacking and threatening innocent victims, yet there was so much more this story. All of the characters had an interesting background and were extremely conflicted with the problems of the present more so than wondering what the consequences would be later on. The justice system depicted in IHYV was really skewed and laughable at times, but it was good enough to get the writer’s point across. Lawyer Jang should really be drama character of the year, and I hope more writers can create more female characters like her.
Ahh yes, the infamous storyline that involves a bunch of misfit high school kids channeling their anger with the world through music. It’s the type of plot that I always get sucked into watching somehow and can never get sick of..but only to a certain extent. Which is why I dropped Glee like a bomb after the second season. Monstar did really well with the music covers, my favorite being Busker Busker’s First Love. I also thought the background story for each individual was relatively interesting, and I could understand their behavior and actions regarding certain things. Although, by the end of the run, the characters were getting a bit tiring except for Na Na who had the most intrigue surrounding her. The most powerful scene happened during the final episode as Se Yi decides to really sit and think about her father’s death and the hatred she has held towards her mother…Seol Chan (The Star!) really proved that he is truly the one for her. This drama had yet another iffy ending this year because the couple we thought would end up together didn’t (Na Na and Sun Woo)…but because Sun Woo has not gotten over Se Yi yet, I would hate for him to drag around those feelings while trying to love Na Na…It’s either give your all or nothing. Though, the drama still hinted at signs that he may be slowly accepting her feelings. I wasn’t too crazy about this drama, but at the time it was entertaining.
The Master’s Sun
Gong Hyo Jin + So Ji Sub? Who would have thought. Their chemistry is what saved the drama from any pockets of narrative senselessness. Not to mention, the ghosts were awesome! I’m a person who hates horror, but these ghosts were scary when they needed to be, rightly balanced with a dash of comedy. Narratively, I was bit confused by the conversation exchanged by Tae Gong Shil and Joong Won sometimes. This drama was seeping with symbolism all over the place that it got to a point where I didn’t even care anymore, I just wanted Gong Shil to touch Joong Won. The Master’s Sun was going dandy before the last few episodes came around and the Hong sisters decided to throw in the classic amnesia machination. I still don’t understand till now what was the point of Gong Shil having to leave when she was doing just fine with Joong Won. I guess it was for her own good and self maturation but just because you stay with the one you love doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find your personal meaning in life. Whatever, the ghosts in this drama was a definite plus.
This should not be under the rom-com category because there was absolutely no romance involved neither was anything about this drama the least bit humorous. I’m still feeling the effects of disappointment that I had because of Mirae’s Choice. It started off really well for 6 episodes then turned into a lump of turd. Was this drama even arguing that fate always wins in the end? I’m not sure even the writer knew what she was trying to say. The talent of Yoo Eun Hye and Lee Dong Gun, heck the entire cast was wasted. Future Mi Rae has got to be the most annoying character I have ever seen for a long time. If it wasn’t for all her meddling and the mere fact that she was present for ALL 16 EPISODES, things will have ended up differently. What really feels like a sucker punch in the face after watching the entire drama is that the writer decided to give us an open ending,..hahaha..Stay away from this 🙂
This was simply the most relatable drama that I watched all year. It was short with only 10 episodes, but consistently kept the cute, funny, and angst going along each episode. Why I say it’s the most relatable is because it was about a couple wanting to be together but comes across a hurdle where one is achieving while the other is not. Then after some misunderstanding they break up, and find themselves meeting years after in a unemployment office where the guy has to counsel his ex-girlfriend. You already know this is a perfect setup for awkwardness and comedy. The only thing that went wrong with Unemployment Romance was the pacing. It gave us flashbacks during the first few episodes, only to have us go back to the past and watch how the get together and break up really went down for the OTP, and then we are zapped back to the present. It was really weird and redundant.
The most hyped up drama of the year. Some loved it, some didn’t…I’ve settled more in the neutral zone. Heirs was extremely entertaining for it’s 1 hour run, but besides that I had no interest in pondering deeply about the characters or story. My first issue with this drama was the mass amount of characters it had. What was Park Hyung Sik even there for? I felt that by the end of it’s run, the writer only fleshed out 1.5 characters, Young Do and half of Kim Tan. I’m fine with the Kim Tan-Eun Sang pairing, but I felt there was more chemistry between her and Young Do so that was a bit saddening. My main disappointment with Heirs was that in the end, Won is the one that has to endure the weight of the crown. All Kim Tan did was throw a hiss and fit and gets everything in the end. Sure his family is still sort of in ruins, and he still hasn’t made up with his friends like Young Do and Rachael but still. It was really weird to me that a side character was the one to endure it all. Still, Heirs was not a complete let down (though the kisses were), but I still cannot come to a full appreciation of how it turned out to be.
That Winter, That Wind Blows
OoooooOoOoOoh, look at all the pretty peopleeeee. This drama was easy on the eyes because the cinematography was just that on point. Even when the characters were covered with blood or dealing with pain, they looked beautiful while enduring it. Jo In Sung, Song Hye Kyo, Kim Bum, and Eunji did magnificent with their acting. The ending is what mostly everyone was ehhhh about. I chose to believe that they ended up together, but the ending is still a bit foggy to me. My favorite part about this drama was the OST. Seriously, till this day I am still simmering in all its juiciness. Other than that, if you want the short and sweet version of this story just watch the movie Love Me Not.
Nine: Nine Time Travels
Awesome stuff. During the time it aired, for me it was the best show at that time. Acting on point. Storyline on point. The thrill and cliffhangers just kept you wanting more. From the same team who did Queen In Hyun’s Man, they managed to wow us again with the whole time traveling theme. This drama had viewers delving deep into the realm of fate and becoming completely convicted by the emotional, mental, and physical battle Sun Woo had to go through. This was another drama whose ending was very iffy. If you want my take on how I think the ending went down, see my review [here]. But for those who maybe aren’t sure about taking the chance with this drama, please rethink that decision. I would say there are more good points about it than its flaws, and so it is definitely worth your time.
Great second season. All of the episodes weaved the theme of revenge through them and pursued an answer to the question regarding if there is such a thing as sweet revenge. The main character, Ji Hoon, struggled with trying to seek revenge on F while avoiding the potential digression of becoming a savage killer.. I’m expecting to see a 3rd season because there is still unfinished business with the F case and I’m hoping they release some news soon. The Ten team was really shaken up this time around, and all of them gained a certain level of trust and respect for each other. They did bid farewell at the end, but hopefully the gang will reunite and prosecute the real enemy once and for all. This drama likes to get to the nitty and gritty of human nature, but it does show that there is redemption for people despite them having a heart that has waxed cold.
This was my favorite thriller drama of 2013. Heartless City tore my heart in every direction to the point where i’m still affected by it. Jung Kyung Ho as the infamous Doctor’s Son had me completely captivated into his character and into this corrupted world where there is no fine line separating good people and bad people… everyone is just out to survive. Be loyal to those who have the power to silence you, ally with those who have the power to win, not to mention, being a good talker can help you manipulate the weak and keep control over them. I was wondering for the entire run if Heartless City was going to leave us smiling in our sleep, or make us accept the harsh reality of the world. The ending can be added to the long list of most ambiguous endings of the year, however, I am happy that Doctor’s Son completed his fated mission. Whether that meant he now roams the world nameless or if he was put to eternally rest does not really matter in the end. Cheers to more pictures for this one because I’m a huge fan.
You’re the Best Lee Soon Shin
Not sure which was more of a waste of my time, Mirae’s Choice or this drama. I’m going to go with this one because it was 50.episodes.long. I should’ve known where this was headed if I was completely bored and annoyed by episode 6. Unfortunately, I held on to some little voice (Jo Jung Suk’s) and kept watching till the bitter end. Main issue of this drama was the horrible pacing. It had its characters spend way too much time seeking to cover up their faults than actually repenting of them. I’ve never watched so many characters annoy the hell out of me and not make sense in their actions. It was just a conundrum of, “I’m your adopted mom but i’ll go along with whatever you choose” and, “No Soon Shin, I’m your birth mom, LOVE ME, even though I care about my career more than your well being”. Ridiculous. I’m a fan of both IU and Jo Jung Suk so of course I had to stick with this. Their 2 minutes of adorableness every 10 episodes was worth it I guess. Keep away from this at all costs.
Itazura na Kiss: Love in Tokyo
This was super cuteee. Let’s just make it clear that I don’t think any adaption of this story will beat ISWAK and TKA in my book. The Taiwanese adaptions had way more time to win my heart, but for 16 episodes, Love in Tokyo did the story of Itazura na Kiss justice. I especially looooved the Kin-chan in this version because his craziness was much more subdued than Jiro Wang’s in ISWAK. When Kin-chan would talk alone with Kotoko-chan, I could feel his undeniable love for her, and it crushed my heart that she would never reciprocate those feelings. The way he looked at her, talked softly to her, gave her such wise advice, I was actually torn between who was really right for Kotoko. But we all know there is just something about the cold hearted Naoki that gets to all of us <3. The music in this drama was wonderful, very youthful and breezy. The drama pretty much sticked to the storyline except…the last episode was kind of a daze for me…everything happened so fast (which is just the same in the manga). I’m happy they remade a Japanese version since 1997, it was well worth watching.
Switch Girl 2
I did a review on the Switch Girl [here] if you want a more in depth rambling of that. I saw Switch Girl and Switch girl 2 back to back thank goodness because to wait 1 year would have been infuriating. I did enjoy the first season of this show more so than the second one, but the second season did well in addressing issues that are more relatable. For some reason I like to read the typical school life/romance/slice of life shoujo mangas, and Switch Girl in general shy’s a way from that a bit when it addresses more serious issues.
Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo
This was one of those lame drama adaptions. Maybe it’s because I never read the manga, and because of this drama I have no plans to. Everyone and their mother was exchanging smooches, and I’m being very serious and literal with those words. All was going well for the first few episodes, there was intrigue, mystery and romance…but then it all just fell apart. Finding out the power of each witch was the only interesting plot line that remained, hence the intrigue. The mystery of the school president who came to be more pathetic than anything was a let down, and even more disappointing was the romance. Sure Yamada-kun had to kiss almost every character in the show, but I was looking out more for his romantic line with Shiarishi. The kisses between them were stale, if that’s even possible, and his goofiness really clashed with her quiet demeanor. It was enough to pass the time though, so not completely regrettable.
These are my favorite OST picks of the year.
*I Love You – Akdong Musician [Everything About My Relationship]
*With You – B1A4 [Reply to Me 1994]
*Carbon Paper – Yesung [That Winter, That Wind Blows]
*Snowflake – Gummy [That Winter, That Wind Blows]
*Winter Love- The One [That Winter, That Wind Blows]
*And One – Taeyeon [That Winter, That Wind Blows]
*Light Sleep – J Rabbit [Monstar]
*Dear Love – Wax [Sword and Flower]
*Driving Me Crazy – Hyorin [The Master’s Sun]
*The 2nd Drawer – Sunny [The Queen’s Classroom]
*Everyday –Jo Jung Hee [Heartless City]
*Touch Love – Yoon Mi Rae [The Master’s Sun]
*Seoul, Here – Roy Kim [Reply to Me 1994]
*My Lady – Kim Tae Woo [Mirae’s Choice]
*Come Back To Me – Bii [Love Around]
*Green Rain – SHINee [The Queen’s Classroom]
*Why Did You Just Come Now – Jung Yeop [I Hear Your Voice]
*Appudeto – Sabão [Itazura na Kiss: Love in Tokyo]
*Dolphin – Every Single Day [I Hear Your Voice]
*I Don’t Know – Tahiti [You’re the Best Lee Soon Shin]
*Talkin bout Love – J Rabbit [Flower Boy Next Door]
*Counting the Stars at Night – Sunny Hill [You’re the Best Lee Soon Shin]
Just a Note: I will add Reply to Me 1994, Good Doctor, and Tokyo Bandwagon later on to this massive post.