Dear kfangurl, what makes a kdrama addicting enough that I want to rewatch at least 10 times?
I’m kinda in the middle of a tough transition period at the moment and I found myself going back to rewatching all my favourite dramas – Healer, My Love From Another Star, Because This Is My First Life, Fight For My Way and Suspicious Partner, but with the FF button when it came to the “evil chaebol” or “bad guy” bits.
But when I decided to try a drama that I hadn’t watched but was on my list, I kept dropping them half way. What is it in the above dramas, which I believe you loved as well after reading your reviews (which were amazing btw), or any general drama that makes me come back to these again and again?
That’s a very interesting question indeed.
Why do we keep going back to certain dramas? Sometimes a drama might be outstanding, but we might not have the desire to go back to it. And sometimes, a drama might not be worthy of an A-grade, yet, we can’t help but want to revisit it and experience it all over again. Quite mysterious!
I think that the answer to why that is, is understandably different for different people, since we are all unique in our preferences, tastes and experiences, but I do concede that there are certain factors that tend to draw people to revisit dramas, often again and again.
Edit: Since you mention that you’re going through a tough transition right now, I’ll also say that in times of transition, many things are often in a state of flux, and so we tend to grab on to things that are familiar, for comfort.
I do think that this is a big reason why you’re reaching for dramas you’ve seen and loved, and not gravitating to the new dramas. With so much newness in your life already, more new things to get used to just doesn’t appeal.
So, now the question is, why these dramas in particular appeal to you as you reach for something that you’ve already seen and loved.
I’ll be attempting to break it all down into 2 main sections, and I’ll be listing the various dramas that I or others have rewatched, or would rewatch. I hope that works!
I’m far from having all the answers, so as always, everyone, do feel free to chime in with your insights and sharing in the comments! 🙂
THE MORE COMMON CRACK FACTORS
This first section is for the more common reasons that I believe people are drawn to rewatch certain dramas. You’ll notice that some dramas are listed in more than one section, and that’s because I think they offer more than one crack factor.
Generally speaking, I think that the more crack factors a drama possesses, the higher its overall rewatch appeal. That’s completely unscientific, of course – but you already knew that, right?
A great OTP
Since the majority of the dramas on our screens serve up romance as the main course, it’s no surprise, I think, that a great OTP is one of the most common factors that draws people to revisit a drama.
For me, a great OTP is one that shares sparky chemistry that feels raw and real. They are comfortable in their skins, and have an ease around each other such that cuddles, kisses and other skinship feels natural and organically grown.
They’re in it like they mean it, and the lines are delivered with heart and with soul.
I might already know the story like the back of my hand, and I might even know some lines of dialogue by heart, but my heart will still skip a beat at the important OTP moments, because the OTP is so fantastic that they make every rewatch feel fresh and new again.
Dramas I would rewatch for a great OTP: Coffee Prince, Healer, School 2013, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms, Secret Love Affair
Dramas that I can see others rewatching: Fight My Way, You From Another Star, Suspicious Partner, Because This Is My First Life, Fated To Love You, The Untamed.
A swoony &/or compelling male lead
Since the drama-viewing demographic is largely female (no shade on the male viewers in our midst, we appreciate you!), a swoony male lead is often a big draw as well.
Sometimes the female lead might not be written in a way that is as appealing, or as likable, and sometimes the female lead is there mostly to be the foil to the male lead (coughMemories of the Alhambracough), which means that the OTP per se might not be as big of a draw as in the previous section.
In these cases, I feel like a strongly written and delivered swoony male lead can do a lot to draw viewers back for a rewatch – or several.
Or, perhaps the show in question isn’t a romance but features a compelling protagonist (often male, though it feels like things are starting to shift, yay for that), and it feels worthwhile revisiting the show just to fangirl at his awesomeness.
Can’t lie; I can totally see myself tuning in to shows just to swoon all over again at a compelling, appealing male lead.
Dramas I would rewatch for a great male lead: In Time With You, Money Flower, Chuno, Coffee Prince, Healer, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms
Dramas that I can see others rewatching: Fight My Way, You From Another Star, Suspicious Partner, Six Flying Dragons, Her Private Life.
Sometimes a drama might not fall into the rewatch category on the strength of its overall merit, but because it has an amazingly awesome character that we love, we’d go back to that drama, just for the love of that character.
For example, even though I loved Search: WWW as a show, I wouldn’t quite rewatch it for the story.
But I luff Cha Hyun (Lee Da Hee) so much, that I can see myself going back, just for another taste of her awesomeness.
Dramas I would rewatch for a great character: Cha Hyun in Search: WWW, Yi Bang Won in My Country, Lee Dae Gil in Chuno.
Dramas that I can see others rewatching: Cheon Song Yi in You From Another Star, Yi Bang Won in Six Flying Dragons, Veronica Park in Secret Life Of My Secretary.
A great drama world
If a drama manages to create a great drama world, there’s a good chance that I’d be open to a rewatch of it, just because it gives me a chance to revisit that drama world.
A lot of the time, for me, this means a drama world that feels cozy and welcoming, where the characters feel like friends, so revisiting the drama makes me feel like I’m reuniting with old friends.
At other times, this can mean a drama world that is so well constructed that it feels like a whole new fully conceived real place, where rewatching the drama feels like you’re buying a ticket to visit a favorite travel destination. With period or retro dramas, this can feel like time travel, which is bonus.
Dramas I would rewatch to revisit a great drama world: Answer Me 1988, Prison Playbook, Goong, Sungkyunkwan Scandal, Coffee Prince, Thirty But Seventeen, A Love So Beautiful, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms, Life is Beautiful, Be Melodramatic.
Dramas that I can see others rewatching: Father is Strange, Mischievous Kiss, Mr. Sunshine, The Longest Day in Chang’an.
Sometimes an actor is so fantastic in delivering their role that I feel I can go back to the show, whether the show is all-around amazing or not.
For example, I wouldn’t rewatch My Country on its own merit (it’s not quite the kind of story that appeals to my rewatching sensibilities), but Jang Hyuk is so arresting in it, that I would rewatch it just to experience his sublime delivery of Yi Bang Won, all over again.
Dramas I would rewatch for the amazing acting: Jang Hyuk in My Country, Chuno, Money Flower, Lee Sun Gyun and IU in My Mister, Hu Ge in Nirvana in Fire, Yoo Ah In and Kim Hee Ae in Secret Love Affair.
Dramas that I can see others rewatching: Yoo Ah In in Six Flying Dragons, Lei Jiayin in The Longest Day in Chang’an, Yeo Jin Goo in The Crowned Clown.
Sometimes, a drama comes along that really resonates with you; it showcases a storyline that somehow feels like an echo of your own life, or it echoes the experience of someone near and dear to you.
Often, this kind of thing makes that drama extra special in your heart, and you’d be more likely to give it a rewatch – or multiple rewatches. Sometimes, this can feel very cathartic and healing; sometimes, it just feels good to know that you’re understood and you’re not alone.
Dramas I would rewatch because it resonates with me: Goong, Romance is a Bonus Book.
Dramas that I can see others rewatching: She Was Pretty, Because This Is My First Life, Misaeng.
OTHER CRACK FACTORS
This set of crack factors aren’t as.. commonplace, I think, among the general drama viewership population, especially for those who consider themselves more casual viewers.
But, if these factors matter to you, then I think the more a show excels at any of these, the higher up it probably lands, on your rewatch list.
I’ve come to really treasure great writing in a drama; it really lifts the show to a whole other level, I feel.
Usually, these shows are accompanied by great acting and directing too, which is bonus, but the writing deserves a spotlight all its own, because when it’s good, it makes a literal world of difference.
Things that I think are hallmarks of great writing include: nuanced, thoughtful characterization, careful plotting where there are few dropped threads, if any, organic, careful development of characters and relationships, meaningful exploration of themes, elegant use of metaphors and symbolism, and an ending that feels meaningful and well thought-out.
Yes, that’s a lot to ask, and yes, those gems exist. And they deserve all of the rewatches, and then some.
Dramas I would rewatch for the great writing: My Mister, Nirvana in Fire, Secret Love Affair, The First Half Of My Life, Be Melodramatic.
Dramas that I can see others rewatching: Six Flying Dragons, Goblin, Mr. Sunshine, The Story Of Minglan, The Longest Day in Chang’an.
I think that some dramas are executed so well, that the execution is a masterpiece in its own right. These dramas deserve praise, recognition and all of the accolades for their thoughtful directing, amazing cinematography and intricate sets and costuming.
For example, I wouldn’t rewatch The Longest Day in Chang’an myself, but I have to admit that the execution in this drama is nothing short of spectacular. It’s so well done that it possesses a cinematic vibe, and every episode feels like a mini movie.
Fans of the show would certainly be open to giving the show a rewatch or two, just to bask in its excellence a little extra, I think.
Dramas I would rewatch for the great execution: Secret Love Affair, Nirvana in Fire, Chuno, My Mister.
Dramas that I can see others rewatching: Six Flying Dragons, The Story Of Minglan, The Longest Day in Chang’an, Warrior Baek Dong Soo.
Music forms a big part of the drama experience, and good, well-applied background music truly does lift the watch experience. Often an otherwise fairly pedestrian scene can take on surreal heights, if it’s scored by the right soaring love ballad.
Dramaland generally does a very solid job with its background music, with few exceptions (coughSomething in the Raincough), so when a drama has music that stands out on its own merit, that is extra special indeed.
Dramas I would rewatch for the great music: Secret Love Affair, My Mister, Chuno.
Dramas that I can see others rewatching: When the Devil Calls Your Name.
I feel like for most drama fans, some permutation of the above factors would combine to create a drama’s rewatch value.
I’m guessing that if you picked the factors that are important to you from the list I created, and figured out which dramas checked the most boxes, that you’d probably end up with a list of dramas with strong personal rewatchability appeal.
With all that being said, because I believe that we should always enjoy our dramas (vs. overanalyzing them if that tires you out, or dragging yourself to a finish line if you hate a show), I think it’s safe to just follow your heart on this one.
If you like it, rewatch it as many times as you fancy. Your secret’s safe with me. 😉
I hope that helps to answer your question!
1. If you feel that I missed anything, or if you have your own insights that you’d like to share with the rest of us, do tell us about it in the comments!
2. Do you have a question of your own? Drop me a comment here or on the Dear kfangurl page, or send me an email!
I want to re-watch shows with a positive story that feels uncontrived. It is a big plus when both lead characters are nice, capable people from the start.
An absence of the most offensive tropes makes a show a better candidate for re-watching. The worst tropes for me: The prince un-charming who gets the girl in the end turns me off. (The excuse of childhood trauma just doesn’t work for me.) The leading lady who is dumped on for the first few episodes is a big turn-off. Gratuitous violence in the home or the workplace that harms innocents is repellent. The looming secret that will separate the OTP late in the series. The noble idiocy that causes one character to break up the OTP without honest communication annoys me. Drams with recurring moments of happiness punctuating hours of unhappiness turn me off.
I might get through a first watch of a show blighted by these tropes but the odds that I’ll re-watch a show filled with unpleasant tropes is very low.
@Old Listener – you might like I Heard It Through the Grapevine (or as I liked to call it – What Happens After Candy Gets her Chaebol). The two young people are very good people but because of the trope (the only trope in this show) that she is from a lower middle class normal family (destitute in the eyes of his family) and he is from a stodgy old money family and you get to see their married life. It’s a dark comedy and also gives a different view of Korean life. We often see the poor family, and we often see the super wealthy in dramas. But his family is a family we’ve not seen before in Kdrama. They’re wealthy but because they’re a family of generational lawyers (not a conglomerate) and the money is not flashy or shown being used extravagantly. But there seems to be a specific set of manners and etiquette (all of which I didn’t understand) the poor young wife must navigate living with her in laws who are dismayed to realize she’s actually smarter than their pampered son as the two youngsters both study for university.
It’s difficult to explain because it’s a slice of life drama as well.
Ooh, thanks for reminding me of this one, Beez! That show’s been on my list foreverrr. I need to make time for it, one of these days!
Yes, I’ve been patiently waiting on you. 😋 I truly need to see what someone else makes of this show. I loved it but there was so much that I didn’t understand and I truly believe that if those things were explained, I’d love it even more.
@Sean – have you seen I Heard it Through the Grapevine?
Eep. I’m sorry to have kept you waiting, Beez! 😝 I will bump it up the list! 😅
I feel selfish and yet I’m grinning ear to ear! 😄
Thanks for the suggestion. I’ve queued it up in Viki.
I liked Five Enough with its focus on several families – none in the chaebol league.
I’ve been watching Asian shows for several years and have seen several with middle class families that supported the OTP well.
Hi OL, have you tried Life Is Beautiful? 63 episode family drama that I thought was wonderful and warm. <3
@kfavgirl, thanks for that suggestion. I found it on Youtube and added it to my queue.
That’s great, OL! 😀 I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! <3
@Old Listener – Five Enough! Top 5 for me of slice of life/rom coms! (I’ve divided up my favs into categories. That way I don’t have to choose between the present day and saeguk) 😉
I don’t think I have the courage to rewatch ‘My Mister’
Even though it’s my all time favourite kdrama.
The show affected me so much that I can’t listen to the ending music (grown ups by Sondia).
It’s so weird that even though the show ended on a happy note and on the first time watch you’ll not get sad WHILE watching it.
But the ending is enough to open those dam gate you have been keeping closed. (Even though it’s a happy ending)
Don’t think I’ll ever forget it. It’s so good.
Oh, and also I would resee Deep Rooted Tree for a number of reasons, not the least of which watching philosophical debates that steal the show away from the very well choreographed action scenes, and to see Han Suk-Kyu do what no other actor I have seen come close to doing, out act Jang Hyuk even when they are together on screen. Talk about a performance!
I like to divide them up in generations:
Yoo Ah in
At one time I considered Jang Hyuk THE actor of the century but then Yoo Ah in made it difficult to choose one over the other so I’ve decided to rank them into different time periods. I’m not as familiar with Han Suk-Kyu but I’ve watched him in Tree and a couple of movies and he’s been stellar on everything I’ve seen him in.
Gosh, you make me want to rewatch Deep Rooted Tree, BE! I watched it years ago and thought it was great, but I wonder if I’d appreciate it even better now, with more drama miles under my belt.. 🤔
Tree with Deep Roots is so great…along with Chuno…ang Hyuk is so great..I love hin so much…
Jang Hyuk is basically amazing! 🤩🤩🤩 Did you see Money Flower? He’s so good in that too! <3
I revisit Tree periodically. It loses nothing over time… so far.
Well Mr. Sunshine was my first K-drama, and its absolute encyclopedia of narrative tropes, its spectacular ensemble–leads and support, the character growth of every single one of them, well, I could go on and on. But it is definitely a slow paced drama that would have been presented in three seasons in American production. I have seen it five or six times. But I will say this: my first viewing was in real time, so I never was binging, and watching it thus, one episode at a time, two on weekends, and then waiting for a week, gave the slow pacing a much better imprimatur than if I tried to watch it streaming. And I must say, from episode 19 to the finish, it is simply breathtaking. Unlike many K-Dramas I have seen in which the show writers have written their plot into an insoluable corner, the finish is terrific, heart wrenching, heroic, unflinching, and very believable.
There is a lot I agree with you k about all of this, but I want to echo one comment. Kim Hee Ae in Secret Love Affair turns in the best single performance I have ever seen of a woman, and as good a performance as I have seen by any actor. The show because of her age seems to be one that is not universally watched or admired, and Yoo Ah In is so widely known (and he is terrific in this), but really the range and nuance with which she enacts Hyewon, one could watch and rewatch particular scenes, for their depths and emotional power. As an artist myself, albeit a poet–now into my sixth decade as a poet, not a musician, I simply loved Secret Love Affair for its ability to throw all its tropes on its head and commit to the passion of living an artistic life and the great and heroic transformation, risking all at life’s late mid point, to do so by Kim Hee Ae’s character.
@BE -Mr. Sunshine was your very first Kdrama? I’m surprised. I could’ve sworn I’ve seen your moniker around long before Mr. Sunshine? Then again, time flies so quickly. I can’t believe that DOTS and Goblin were 4 years ago. Maybe it’s because it seems as if Kdramas aren’t being pumped out with as much speed anymore. Or maybe I’ve become less interested so I’m not watching as much. I think my age plays a factor too. When I first started watching Kdramas, I felt very little guilt at crushing on the male actors who were on top at that time – Song Seung Heon, Kwong Sang woo, Joo Jin mo, Hyun Bin, Gong Yoo. But now they’re all considered “Ahjusshis” and I’m full blown “halmoni” and I have absolutely zero interest in seeing these young male idols in a gratuitous fan service shower scene. lol
I echo Beez’s surprise that Mr. Sunshine was your gateway drama, BE! Somehow I had the impression that you’ve been watching kdramas for much longer! 😀 One day, I probably will give Mr. Sunshine another go. It didn’t grab me on my first attempt, even though I lasted for about 13 or 14 episodes. It could be that it’s just not for me, but maybe a second attempt would be worthwhile, just to make sure it wasn’t a mood thing. 😉
I love the way you put into words what Hye Won does in SLA; committing to the passion of living an artistic life. Indeed, beyond the romance, this was the story of Hye Won’s journey of finding herself, and learning to be true to herself, in the midst of all the noise and pressure from a contrary world. I completely agree that Kim Hee Ae’s performance in SLA is magnificent. I’m not sure about the show not being admired, though, because the show won Best Screenplay at the Baeksang Awards (among other awards) the year it aired, and Kim Hee Ae won Best Actress for her role, at the Seoul International Drama Awards that year as well. Among the international drama community, I feel like SLA is well spoken of, and has many fans, though it’s unfortunate that some may avoid the show because it looks salacious, with the infidelity of the affair.
PS: I never knew you were a poet! That’s so cool! 😀
Well you saw iSecret Love Affair in real time. I just happened upon it on Netflix, and to tell you the truth I had avoided it because of the cheesy shot with which it was advertised. It was both the first, and imo the best thing I have seen done by Yoo Ah In, and still Kim Hee Ae just blew me away. I am an old guy, a bit beyond swooning, but how could a mature male, let alone an idealistic young one, not be moved by that woman? I may have watched SLA because of the intro remarks in your review or maybe it was because after I had watched it you expressed so thoroughly what I had been feeling. It was the most in depth and sympathetic review of a work of art that I liked that I had ever read.
Actually I have not seen that many dramas, but because I tend to have to rest a bit during my afternoons, because I have a night job, I tend to watch what I am interested in during the afternoon hours. I have eclectic tastes, classical Chinese poetry, Spanish and Russian poetry; I used to be a reviewer of popular contemporary African dance music; I dabbled in abstract art for a while, and have been writing poetry since 1964. Discovering K Drama for me was a lot like discovering Congolese dance music–I just fell in love with the good stuff.
My impression of the regard for SLA comes from looking at other sites and reddit. There are a few people who love it, but it strikes me much of the interest in K drama has to do more with stories about youth, and there is also an extreme trepidation about stories in which one of the romantic leads is considerably older than the other. I do wonder, however, if the success of the show had something to do with the adultery laws being rescinded in the subsequent year.
I think Deep Rooted Tree is my favorite sageuk because of Han Suk Kyu. I liked it too because it had the kind of literary and historical emphasis, some of the debates were straight out of something Shakespearean or Tolstoy, political, but intelligent about politics with real resonance to it. I notice politics turns a lot of people off to sageuks, but when well done, I just think Korean drama has something so important and thoughtful to consider, chew on. Imagine a riveting drama about the history of a written language and all the cultural and historical reality behind that with great acting, great characters, and great actors. Only South Korean drama could pull that off, or at least that is my take on it.
Aw, thanks so much for your kind words, BE! <3 I'm so glad that you enjoyed my SLA review.. I tried my best to do the show justice! 😅 And you are right.. it's hard for anyone – myself included! – not to be moved by Hye Won; Kim Hee Ae delivered such a retrained, nuanced and magnificent performance as Hye Won. I became an instant fan! 🤩🤩 I'm keeping an eye on her upcoming drama, Couple's World (I think the title is still tentative). I hope it will give her the chance to showcase her range and talent! 😀
Wow, you certainly have eclectic interests, BE!! Classical Chinese poetry as well! I suppose the poetry references in The Story Of Minglan must have been of particular interest to you, then! I don't have much knowledge of Chinese poetry at all, so my appreciation for it was rather limited. 😛
That's an interesting thought, about whether the success of SLA had anything to do with the change in adultery laws in Korea.. 🤔 I didn't come across any reports on that, but it is possible, I suppose. For example, the movie Silenced / The Crucible resulted in a change in legislation (article here), so I wouldn’t say it’s an impossibility.. 🙂
That’s a great point; Korea made an entire drama about how Hangul came to be, and made it riveting, to boot. That’s quite special indeed! I must revisit it one day, to appreciate it better. 🙂
I first started reading the reviews on fangirlverdict because Secret Love Affair was rated A++. Because…I really liked it. I was put off at first until I read reviews and then decided to give it a try. I became a Yoo Ah In fan also as a result. This is the drama that I measure all serious literate dramas against. I have watched it several times and the performances become increasingly nuanced to me each time.
Thanks for this post. I have made a list of dramas to watch. And thanks too to commenters for thoughtful comments and recommendations.
Hi there Linda, I’m glad you’ve been enjoying the blog, and I’m glad this post gave you some drama inspiration! <3
This is a thoughtful post! I was thinking, even though I tend to watch kdramas more on the whole, the dramas I’ve re-watched the most are Chinese dramas, specifically NIF and NIF2. I think I’ve watched both of them 3x, whereas my favorite kdramas I’ve only re-watched twice: My Love from Another Star, Fated to Love you, The Greatest Love, and now Crash Landing on You. I think for me the biggest factor is a good story/writing, because once I start an episode the plotting/cliffhangers/world building just compels to keep going! If you haven’t watched The Greatest Love (with Gong Hyo Jin and Cha Seung Won), I highly recommend it, as it’s the only one on my list that I re-watch purely because it’s so funny.
Hi there Nao, thanks for enjoying this post! <3 Indeed, NIF is very special, and NIF2 a very worthy sequel. NIF definitely shines for its writing.. so detailed and careful, with so much richness built into it. It's no wonder you've rewatched them extra! 😉 Thanks for the suggetsion on The Greatest Love. I actually did watch it when it aired, but unlike most viewers, I found it just ok for me. I don't often jive with the humor in kdramas, and this was one of those times, I guess. 😝
Great and insightful article! I don’t re-watch a lot of dramas, but the ones I do tend to either be full of heart with lots of fun characters and a swoony romance or completely engrossing, grand stories with complicated relationships, revenge, and thrills (like Bridal Mask). I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to practically any flaws if a drama has good pacing and keeps me entertained be it though smiles or tears 🙂
Thanks for enjoying the post, Kay! <3 Oh yes, I do tend to gravitate towards dramas that are full of heart as well, whether it's a swoony romance or not. I don't rewatch many dramas myself anymore either, but I can totally see myself going back to something full of heart, just to revisit the feels. 🥰 I generally don't rewatch revenge of thriller type shows tho.. I think you have a bigger appetite for those genres than I do! 😅
Yep, those feels are what keep bringing us back! I definitely have a big appetite for those genres, hehe. For instance, I think I could watch Jang Hyuk exact well-crafted revenge any day in Money Flower 😉
Ooh! I’d make an exception for Jang Hyuk in Money Flower! Money Flower is the best revenge melo I’ve seen to date, and Jang Hyuk is just so 😍😍😍 in that, that I’d rewatch Money Flower! But, I’ll leave stuff like Nice Guy to you. Once is enough, for me, with that one..! 😆😅
I think any rational person would make an exception for Jang Hyuk in Money Flower 😉 I agree, it’s definitely one of the best revenge melos out there, and Jang Hyuk was next level in it. I may have got carried away with the screenshots in that one…
Haha, I did like Nice Guy, but I don’t think it was quite riveting enough for a second pass. I’m sure I could dig up quite a few I’d go for again that you wouldn’t though, lol 🙂
This is true. Jang Hyuk is just universally good in Money Flower. The charisma! The control! The microexpressions! 🤩🤩🤩 Just too good! 😍 I honestly haven’t seen many revenge dramas, so Nice Guy was the first thing to come to mind. You definitely know of better ones, I’m sure! 😆
Hi Fangurl – This is something I myself have (seriously lol) wondered about, given my propensity for re-watching NIF. I finished my 8th re-watch at the end of 2019 and I still enjoyed it every single minute. I get all the feelz I got on first watch. I am still thrilled when I hear Wang Yong Quan pull at his chains in the prison to leap at He Ge and growl “Mei Chang Su” with that crazy look in his eyes (I do this with my cat sometimes when he acts up and my family just rolls their eyes). Ah, so many great cinematic moments that I could fill up a few pages of scenes that still make me catch my breath. I specifically re-watch this when the current drama fare is lackluster and I am craving some intellectual and artistic magnificence.
Because I am fascinated by time travel (mixed with a great love story), I have also re-watched Queen In-Hyun’s Man (just so, so lovely) and Rooftop Prince (with my favorite song of any drama “Hurt”). These two dramas really moved my heart on both watches and I enjoyed the time travel flow in both.
I watched Goblin twice for the metaphysical resonances and I also watched Kill Me Heal Me again because I really have a special love for that drama. It had me at exactly the 56 minute mark episode 1! I may have actually swooned on my first watch LOL. The family dynamics, the crazy hi-jinks, the sad back story, poor Cha Do Hyeo’s struggle and the acting were all so good. Both of the two above dramas soothed my soul.
There is also a movie that I re-watch a lot and that is Iceman with my hero Donnie Yen. I love how righteous his character is. The fight scenes are awesome and never get old. It also has that time travel element which I enjoy. I watch this when I feel the need for someone to protect me when I am overwhelmed with the trials of real life.
Other than this I am usually one view and done. Even with my passion for NIF, my re-watch list is a tiny percentage of my overall completed dramas. I did re-watch different episodes of Longest Day in Chang’an while it was airing but only to get my bearings and review the different characters.
I guess I could say I had different reason for each re-watch but all of the above were 100% sure bets to spend my drama hours on.
Fangurl – I forget to tell you that I am thinking of you and wishing you good heath with the current corona virus situation. Please be safe!
Thank you for thinking of me, phl! I feel the love! 🥰😘
I did think of you and your multiple NIF rewatches, while writing this post! 😀 I think NIF is a very special case in that it’s so magnificent in every way, that it’s just a pleasure to enjoy its magnificence, even if you stop picking up new details (which my mum did, even several rewatches later, coz it’s that carefully written!).
I did love Queen In Hyun’s Man, though I haven’t rewatched it. And oh my, Kill Me Heal Me was a crazy, intense, fabulous ride! I wish I’d written it a review, but I put it off and now it’s too vague in my memory for me to do the show justice. Maybe one day a rewatch might fix that? 😜
Hey there kfangirl,
wanna start with a thank you for replying to my question and doing it so so well. You broke it down so neatly and precisely – it seemed so scientific!!!! Looking over what you’ve said, I can now understand why I keep going back to these dramas again and again whenever I’m sad, had a bad day or just lonely in general. I would definitely say that the amazingness of the OTP, the male lead and how much I connect with the characters (Hye Young in Father is Strange was honestly the best character ever made in kdrama land) are what keeps me coming back to them. Love you kfangirl for answering so sincerely, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who randomly goes on a binge watch of coffee prince!
And for the amazing reviews that serve as a godsend when I don’t know if its worth investing 18 – 20 hours of my life. I have to say that your Healer, Reply 1988, MLFAS, Coffee Prince and Because This is My First Life were my all time favourite reviews (at least of the dramas I’ve watched in the past 3 years).
Here’s to another great kdrama watching year!
Aw, I’m so glad you enjoyed this post, my dear! 😀 And thanks for thinking it’s (almost) scientific! 😆 And yes, Hye Young in Father is Strange is definitely among the most fabulous female characters, ever! 🤩😍 I’m so pleased that you enjoyed the reviews of the shows you mentioned.. I have a special soft spot for the Healer review – and for the AM1988 review too. The feels! 🥰🥰
Yay that you’ve found the reviews helpful – it definitely helps me to feel very useful! 😉😘
Another great insightful article!
I am not one to rewatch dramas because there are so many new ones and I can barely keep up as it is.
However my one exception is a really old one called My Girl from 2005 which I rewatched 3 times. Back when Lee Dong Wook, Lee Da Hae and Lee Joon Gi all looked so fresh faced and young. I am not sure why I love it so much. But after reading your article I think it must be the sparky chemistry, earnest acting and OST.
I haven’t watched it again in the past few years and though I kinda want to, I am hesitant because … what if it feels so dated? Or I wince at all the tropes (now that I am a more, ahem, sophisticated kdrama watcher)? Or I no longer get the “feels” with the rewatch?
I guess I am afraid to spoil my beautiful memories of this drama and how it made me feel and fall in love with the characters. In fact I understood for the first time the SLS syndrome, courtesy of Lee Joon Gi!
What do you think Kfangurl? Should I risk a rewatch??
Ooh, My Girl! I remember that one! I recall being fascinated with Lee Jun Ki because he looked like he’d literally walked out of a manhwa! 😆 I suspect that with a rewatch now, you’d likely find it a little dated, especially with Show’s use of drama tropes. BUT, I do think that given the right retro mood, that you’d still enjoy it. The show’s also got a catchy OST, which I suspect will help to re-ignite all of the feels from before. Here’s an OST video that I found on YT; I suspect watching it will give you an idea of whether or not you feel like a rewatch in the near future 😉
Oh this is such a timely question! I recently had a mini drama slump so I rewatched My Ajusshi (my favourite, as you know, lol). It’s still such a masterpiece even though I know it so well. Still so touched and moved and cried at the key points. Fully agree with your categorisation in good writing, acting, overall execution, music. I would even classify it under great OTP just because of their chemistry and the way they related to one another. But that’s beside the point… I so agree with all of your points on what makes a show worth re-watching, thank you for the thought put into it. Thinking back on the show’s I’ve re-watched, not all of them were masterpieces. But those that I rewatched were mostly because they were warm and fuzzy, like comfort food, and had OTPs that I really liked. And SO MUCH YES TO GOOD WRITING, it’s my number one reason for loving a show and elevating it into my short list of favourites regardless of genre. I’m happy that all of the shows in your Great Writing shortlist are on my to-watch-list, so I can look forward to great shows ahead! <3
Ah, you rewatched My Mister! 😀 I have vague plans to rewatch it sometime. My unwritten rule for rewatching a drama, is to leave it to fade from memory for a good long while, until the details are hazy in my mind, coz that helps to yield an almost-fresh drama watching experience. 😉
YES to warm fuzzy comfort food dramas, those are absolutely the types of dramas that I can see myself reaching for. As for good writing, it’s slowly risen to the top of my list of drama requirements, over the years. I used to be able to bear with much worse writing, for the sake of an OTP with good chemistry, or an appealing male lead. But now I find that if a drama isn’t well-written, I chafe while watching, even if the OTP is good.
YAY that you have all the shows on my Great Writing shortlist on your watch list! I look forward to hearing how you like them! 😀
I looked at some dramas I have rewatched (Chuno, Damo, Bridal Mask, Mr. Sunshine, Tree with Deep Roots, Sungkyunkwan Scandal, Tamra the Island) and dramas I want to rewatch but have not yet done so (Six Flying Dragons, Reply series, Conspiracy in the Court, My Country, Nokdu Flower). Based on your list of factors that could possibly determine a drama’s rewatchability (does such a word exist?), I am drawn to interesting and absorbing stories, unforgettable characters with compelling journeys, and fascinating worlds. Exploring a new world (historic periods in Korea) seems more interesting to me rather than romantic chemistry, but I can’t say no to a great romance, especially if the stakes are high.
I am a musician, so I tend to over-analyze drama soundtracks. Instrumental tracks are my favorite, and the best ones are in Secret Love Affair (sorry Chuno, you are a close second). I also appreciate the use of traditional songs and instruments in dramas. There are dramas I have not rewatched, but have listened to their soundtracks multiple times (Rebel: Thief who stole the people, Heartless City, Money Flower, Misty, My Country)
When I started watching dramas years ago, I did not pay attention to the names of the actors, directors, and writers. Now I follow the work of many talented individuals who have impressed me with their skills and have compelled me to rewatch the dramas they were involved with. Jang Hyuk (who else!?) is on top of my list.
Heh, well, rewatchability is a legit word on this blog, at least! 😀 Yes to absorbing stories, compelling journeys and fascinating worlds! <3 I've still got Nokdu Flower on my list, so I must make some time to check it out, if it checks all those boxes for you!
Oh yes, I'm the same way with drama music, in that I might not have been able to rewatch the drama itself, but if I love the music, you'd be able to find me plugged into the OST, feeling all the feels just listening to the music alone. 🥰🥰 Also, Jang Hyuk on the top of the list? Can't blame you! In fact, he is arguably at the top of my list too (I get momentarily distracted from time to time, heh). 😉
I really loved this article, and it made me go back and examine my own rewatches and why I love them so. Seems like I’m drawn to crackly chemistry, a touch of comedy, and heart. Kim Sam Soon is my most-watched rewatch, but I love to revisit shows like Flower Boy Ramen Shop, Coffee Prince, King 2 Hearts, Healer, Splish Splash Love, and Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo. Often when I go back to rewatch a show, it’s because I am down, and I know for sure that it will give me a boost. Many of the ones I love have a female lead that I adore and identify with in some way as well. Also, shoutout to Soulmate for the soundtrack alone. Thank you for another awesome, insightful write-up!
Hi there buckdawna!! <3 I'm so glad you enjoyed this post! Cracky chemistry with a bit of levity and a lot of heart sounds like fantastic comfort food! The feels! 🥰🥰 Ooh, I should've listed Splash Splash Love and Weightlifting Fairy too, I loved those very much! <3 What you said makes sense.. we already know how we feel about these dramas, and when we're feeling a bit blah and need a boost, these dramas feels like tried and tested remedies that not only give us a place to escape to for a while, but deliver us back to the regular world full of good vibes and happy buzz. What's not to love? 😉❤
I don’t often rewatch dramas anymore as I just don’t have the time. I can barely fit in those that are ongoing or relatively new. Sigh.
I haven’t really thought about this before but I believe dramas that make me feel warm and fuzzy are those I’m more likely to go back to than any other. Come to think of it, most of them seem to be jdramas… Nemureru Mori no Jukujo (probably the one I’ve rewatched the most, it always makes me feel happy), Beach Boys, Juhan Shuttai!, Soratobu Kohushitsu, Yasashii Jikan and I think I’ll be rewatching Hajimete Koi wo Shita Hi ni Yomu Hanashi from time to time too. I guess there’s just something about certain type of jdrmas that fit that particular ‘bill’. 😀 For a romantic drama my go to one is probably The Pursuit of Happiness.
Same here, Timescout! I rarely ever rewatch dramas these days, but when I finish a drama, I do ask myself if I would rewatch it someday, mostly to decide if I want to keep the show in my library. I think my last proper rewatch was Healer, which I loved even more the second time around. 😍 I do have perfectly authentic good intentions about all the shows I listed above though, so someday, I will, I’m sure! 😅
I love dramas with warm and fuzzy feels too, though I’m not familiar with any of the J-titles that you mentioned. Maybe it’s time to add them to my monster list 😛 I still have The Pursuit of Happiness on my list, thanks to your endorsement! I’ll get there eventually, I promise! 😅
That’s what I do too! Figure out if a drama is a keeper by deciding if it’s one that I’d be willing to rewatch at some point. Not many are these days, unfortunately.
Jdramas are short, usually just 9-12 episodes and the epi lengths are “normal”, often just 30 min (especially older dramas), so it doesn’t take too much time to watch one. There are plenty of jdramas that are less than stellar too but the good ones tend to be very good. At least that’s what I think. 🙂 What I also like is that the characters are mostly just normal fallible people who aren’t vilified just because they happen to err in their ways. Crime shows et al are another thing of course.
The trajectory in my ‘happy dramas’ is generally upward mobile in a sense that the starting point is often less than ideal for the protagonist(s) but they all find their ways to a more satisfying and happy place. Take Nemureru Mori no Jukujo for instance. It starts with a surprise divorce that leaves main char Chinami at wits end to figure out how to go forward. She’s been a housewife for years and doesn’t have any marketable skills to speak of. A chance encounter lands her a cleaning job at a luxury hotel and that’s when her life takes a new and unexpected turn. I love Chinami and her generally positive attitude and sense of humor. I liked the other characters too, even the erring ex-hubby isn’t a bad person at heart.
Gosh, I feel like I really ought to make some time for J-dramas, which I haven’t really been watching for the last couple of years, while making time for C-dramas. But ordinary people (instead of chaebols and geeeniuses, ha) sounds really appealing. And, Nemureru Mori no Jukujo sounds similar to C-drama The First Half Of My Life, which I LOVED, so I’m curious to see how this J-drama tackles this similar type of story. It’s going on the list! 😀
Nemureru Mori is a rather sweet little drama. The length does not lend itself for too in depth explorations, so I doubt it is as satisfying in that aspect as the cdrama. 🙂 I guess it’s basic message is that there are friends in unexpected places and that you are capable for “more” than you think. 🙂 It’s kinda funny how they manage to show some character growth in just about everyone in the time allotted for telling the story. But that’s nothing new to jdramas. 😀
Ah, good to know that about Nemureru Mori no Jukujo, so that I can manage my expectations accordingly. I LOVED The First Half of My Life, so I was extra drawn to the premise of Nemureru Mori no Jukujo, among the various Jdramas you mentioned. I do like the sound of there being friends in unexpected places though – that’s a very warm and positive message, for dark times such as these! 🙂
Oh, it’s always good to manage one’s expectations when it comes to recs by others. A drama that makes me feel warm and fuzzy doesn’t necessarily have the same effect on you. 😉
Y’know, I wish I could predictably enjoy all the dramas you do, Timescout! Because you’re so good at selling them! 😀 I have to admit that I’ve stalled on Dr. Qin. I really enjoy the team, but I struggle with how flimsy the cases have been, so far. They are all solved so magically and conveniently too. Does it improve in later episodes? 😅
Dr. Qin is an old fashioned crime show at heart, so the cases of the week are not rocket sience. Sorry! 😁 I tend to like the “old fashioned” as I grew up watching that stuff.^^ Things get a bit more complicated towards the end when the focus turns on our Dr. and his past. Drama is based on a novel and it’s a pretty faithful adaptation, so… Anyways, the main draw for me was always the Team.
Oh, forgot to ask what ep are you at in Dr. Qin?
I got only 5 eps in, before I started to feel bemused at the cases.. 😅 I do like the team and would like to see more of them. I might give it another try, to see if I can roll with the cases as they are. Also.. there’s always the FF button I guess? 😛😆
The later cases are a little less simple I’d recon. Couple of them are rather sad too, like the Boy in a Trash Can. I believe it’s around ep 11 or so when things start getting kinda personal for Qin, making him even loose his cool occasionally.
Most real life crimes are actually quite mundane and usually solved neatly. The crime shows just like to “glamourise” their cases. Going by them you’d think there is a criminal mastermind or serial killer round every corner. 😁 Guess it’s understandable for plotty reasons.
Lol. Thanks for the perspective, Timescout! I do plan to go back to Dr. Qin and give it another try, so these insights are definitely useful for me, so that I can adjust my expectations. And I will keep in mind, that most real-life crimes are quite mundane! 😆
Very detailed and insightful response, kfangurl! Happy to see some of my favorite dramas on your rewatch lists.
I’m guessing that would include Mr. Sunshine and Six Flying Dragons, which I never managed to finish! 😝 At least I know their appeal to others? 😉😅
kfangurl! Mr. Sunshine! I know I annoy you, often, with “you’ve got to finish Six Flying Dragons” but I have to extend that pestering to Mr. Sunshine. Although I strongly felt that Lee Bying hun was a tad long in the tooth for his character – not because, as most people felt, of the two actors age gap but because of some of the cutesy things that don’t fit his age-appearance so I would have to put on my imaginary lens and go “that would come off cute for LBH ten years ago” and keep it moving. But the reason I think you should finish it has more to do with the artsy-ness in the storytelling. Yes, story is a sloooow burn but it’s willingness to avoid a SPOILER
sappy ending elevates this story. And I’m a sap for a happy ending and I prefer one, but a happy ending would’ve taken something away from this show. I can’t put out into words the way that you could (darn it!) and you do it without ever spoiling an ending in your reviews.
Sorry, I actually added lots of space after the word “spoiler” but Word Press probably decided it would be wasting space.
Mr. Sunshine is worth watching for Gu Dong Mae and Kim Hee Seong, some of the best characters in a kdrama. Actors Yoo Yeon Seon and Byun Yo Han totally steal the show, especially if both are in the same scene. I also liked Hina Kudo, a worthy addition to the list of memorable female characters.
Yassss! Gu Dong mae! *swoon* I didn’t mention him earlier because he’s an anti-hero and every girl who likes really bad guys dream.
Conflicted anti-heroes and bad boys with a heart of gold are some of my favorite kdrama tropes. And if they are good with a sword, even better!!! They deserve a separate post.
Hrm.. I got about 13 or 14 eps into Mr. Sunshine, but failed to feel invested even that far into the show, which is why I decided to shelve it. I also didn’t enjoy the OTP cutesy not because of LBH’s age in the casting; it just didn’t feel organic to the story, for me, and it mostly felt forced. (Sorry, unpopular opinion, I know!) I’m not sure if going back to it will help me feel any differently, but I might attempt it sometime, just to see if anything clicks differently for me. 🤔
I was not too invested in Mr. Sunshine OTP. I was watching the show for the other 3 main characters. Plus, there were memorable supporting characters that I liked.
I’m a little embarrassed to say that I did try to watch for the other characters, actually, since I was far from buying the OTP. But for some reason, I didn’t feel invested in any of their stories. I wonder if that was a mood thing, and I also wonder if I’m just terribly cruel, since their stories were painful to varying degrees. 🤭🤔
Let me suggest you search on YouTube for Aeshin and Dongmae just to see if it peaks your interest from seeing scenes or fanmade videos.
One of my favorites features Dongmae almost exclusively. The actor has never done anything for me but in this role, he leaves me in a puddle. *sigh*
WARNING – somewhat violent scenes
For something tamer try https://youtu.be/QO9qH6ehH_Y
I do recall rather enjoying Dong Mae’s tortured samurai vibe, and yes, those fan vids really do pull it all together to make it feel thrilling and quite heightened. I’m a little intrigued, I have to admit. 😉
Here is more Gu Dong Mae goodness. The music is my favorite Mr. Sunshine OST, Days Without Tears.
Hee Seong was awesome, too.
Thanks for sharing, Snow Flower 🙂 Very moodsy and poignant; nicely done fan vid!
You just made me want to start another rewatch of Mr. Sunshine. Do you remember the multiple times he said “Nauri”? It made me imagine acid dripping from a silver spoon…
@SnowFlower – haha! I don’t recall but I think I’m due for a rewatch as well because I don’t think I was in the right frame of mind for what Mr. Sunshine actually was. I’m a big fan of writer Kim Eun-Sook so I was thrown by the slow pace. Now that I know this is an altogether different thing altogether from her past dramas, I think I’ll have a greater speciation for the show as a whole.
As to Dong mae, he even made the Japanese shoes sexy! I’ll never forget how he (and this shoes) looked running and leaping to get to the heroine as she fought impossible odds. Yes, she was not a damsel in distress but she WAS a hero in need of assistance and he showed up testosterone on overload! *sigh* and *sigh* again
When I watch Mr. Sunshine again, I’ll be watching for it.
Mr. Sunshine is like the great novels of the 19th century. War and Peace and Les Miserables came to mind when I was watching the drama.
Two more gems out of the many while mentioning the other leads to say I really liked Lee Byung Hun in this, his understated solidity, especially after seeing him play entirely different kinds of leads in film, which gave tremendous room for the other two male leads, Yoo Yeon Sook, as everyone mentions–one of the two greatest anti heroes I have seen on tv (Michael K Williams as Omar in The Wire being the other), and Byun Yo Han, who is often overlooked in the discussion, to really express their own characters as perfect foils for Eugene Choi, too yang and too yin, Yu Jin, just right.
The first is what an amazing journey of growth as a character enacted by Byun Yo Han as Kim Hui Seung. How far at the end he has come from the first time he says it, going down with an amazingly selfless and heroic stoicism at the end, saying, “I am a man who loves useless things: the moon…jokes…” He puts on a master class in slow, almost imperceptable, character growth over the long course of the series–the third lead male, the fifth lead actor. Simply amazing.
And as what also makes K dramas so great for me, a terrific supporting cast==in this including the very fine and solid veteran character actors Kim Kap-Soom Choi Moo Sung, and Lee Seung-Jun as potter/righteous Army leader, Gunner, and Emperor, among many others, but above them all the simply terrific Lee Jeung-Eun as Ae Sin’s lady in waiting, Haman. Her death scene should become a master class for such, in a series with endlessly moving scenes, Haman’s final scenes remain for me the most unforgettable.
Yes, Byun Yo Han was given a thankless role, that of the jilted fiance. But his character’s growth was truly the most impressive. The supporting characters were also memorable.
Another very good kdrama anti-hero is Bidam from Queen Seondeok, brilliantly played by Kim Nam Gil.
This is so insightful and it reflects most of my thoughts as well. Thank you for this beautiful write-up!
Thanks for your kind words, dj⁷! <3 I'm so glad you enjoyed this post, and that we feel so similarly about our dramas! 😀