In case you missed it, we’re doing something special and different to end off the drama year this year! Guests posts, by patrons on Patreon!
After today’s post, there will be one final guest post by a mystery guest writer, whose identity will be revealed when their post goes live. And then we’ll cap everything off with a poll, where you’ll be able to pick YOUR favorites for the year, from among the gems identified in these posts. How exciting! 🤩
Today’s post is brought to you by lotusgirl, who happens to be a very talented photographer and artist, on top of being an avid drama fan. She’s just beginning to make her work available commercially, and some of her paintings have already sold!! Wow! You go, lotusgirl!!
I took the liberty of including one of her paintings below, just to tempt you a little extra, to pop over to lotusgirl’s blog, where you can browse more of her fabulous work. 🤩 (Edit! You can find her on Instagram @lamosscreative too!)
I hope you guys enjoy!
~ KFG ❤️
Hellooooo, K-drama fans! It’s so nice to have such a lovely community for praising and razzing our beloved K-dramadom.
I’d like to thank the amazing KFG for encouraging us Patreon junkies to be brave and try our hand at hosting a post on her blog. She’s the brave one to turn her platform over to us. She is the best!
Her insight on our favorite and least favorite shows continuously blows me away. I found her blog when I was looking for a review for something I was thinking about watching, and just googled the title to see what was available. Daebak! I found the biggest treasure trove of thorough, astute, enthusiastic, and downright useful reviews anywhere on the web. Plus, the host is so kind and genuine, that she makes us all feel at home. It’s like hanging out and chatting with a friend.
Reading KFG’s reviews has helped me find good shows to watch and then revisit and, in a lot of ways, say goodbye to the first viewing of each show I watch that she has reviewed. Now with the added benefit of Patreon I’m loving having single episode mini reviews as I go. It’s so nice to be able to chat with KFG and others, episode by episode, about what strikes me. I’ve found I enjoy my watch experiences so much more, with everyone’s insight along the way.
I have been in the K-drama universe for a good bit longer than most of our other guest hosts. I started back in the days when DramaFever was still up and running. I think I actually went into mourning when that went down. Luckily, I have found many other ways to get my drama fix with Viki, Kocowa, iQIYI, and Netflix, who has taken notice of the world’s interest and upped their K-drama game. *Happy dance*
A little digression about me for those who are interested (feel free to skip):
I’m from North Carolina in the US. I love photography and oil painting. Art has become my passion, but I studied something totally different in college. I loved that stuff too, and still do. We’ll get to that in a minute.
I discovered K-dramas by way of my daughter’s obsession with K-pop that started in the late 2016-ish time frame. I listened most of the time she was in the car with me, which was a lot, as I was basically her personal taxi service then, and found I enjoyed a lot of it. Go figure!
I learned the difference between biases and ultimate biases and the names and the nicknames, and on and on, of:
and Big Bang.
Truth be told, BTS is the only one where I really know them all. I gave up at Seventeen, with all the names. There were just too many.
Of course, I had to know Bam Bam..
(My daughter copied this picture a few years ago as fan art.)
..and Jackson from Got7..
..and there was someone in BB that I can’t remember now. Oh well! She won’t hold it against me now.
She then convinced me to watch a K-drama with her. I’ve never been one to shy away from subtitles (In fact, I spent a lot of time at the International Cinema in college. I’m a language person – majoring in Latin and French – and have taught Latin, French, and Spanish in high school, and Latin in college. Some other languages I dabbled in, are Ancient Greek, German, Italian, Russian, Arabic, Hebrew, and now Korean.
Any language I get near gets a once over, and any linguistics talk perks up my ears, so even though the storyline was a little iffy for me, I started watching with her and fell into an ever-expanding rabbit hole, that perfectly scratches my entertainment itch, apparently. Our first two shows were Nightmare High..
..and then Boys Over Flowers.
Back to the main point of this:
I didn’t used to keep track of what I watched, but in recent years I’ve gone back and tried to get a full list of what I’ve seen. The total is somewhere in the neighborhood of the low 300s with 39 of them being from 2021.
I started and dropped 10 from the 2021 catalog that didn’t work for me. Maybe at another time. Who knows? I started Reply 1988 five or six times, and just couldn’t get through the first episode for some reason, ages ago. Once I did, I couldn’t stop watching. It is one of my all-time favorites now, so the ol’ droppees may have a chance yet.
It’s important to keep in mind that I prefer shorter format shows and I consume mostly 16-episode Korean dramas (since I’m trying to learn the language). I rarely go over 20 episodes, and then only when it has been recommended to me over and over again.
Anywhoooo, this helps raise the drama count.
What kind of genres do I like?
My taste for genres is all over the board. I love a good rom-com, and most romances in general, but not too raunchy. I’m not much for true horror as the American horror does it, or lots of violence, but the Korean version tends to skirt under my threshold, and is more compelling.
I haven’t been tempted by Kingdom,
..and I’m on the fence about Squid Game..
..if that helps you see where my preferences fall.
Mysteries, ghost stories, serial killers, high school set-ups, fantasy, sci-fi, military, political, sageuk – they all work for me as long as they are well-crafted with good acting, but I can be pretty tolerant/patient if I really like the story. I will especially like shows if they have beautiful cinematography – anything beautiful really. I am very visual.
So now that you know a little about me and my watching habits, let’s get to the business at hand.
The Red Sleeve, Sweet Home, Hometown Cha Cha Cha (all the neighbors in the small town almost put this in my top 10), True Beauty (I wanted to put this on the list. There were so many good things about it, but too many flaws. Ugh! And yet, what I loved, I really loved. KFG has an excellent review that lays it all out very clearly.), and (last but not least) My Roommate is a Gumiho.
KFG has reviews for all of these here on the blog except for The Red Sleeve which she is still watching and is only available on Patreon at this point.
The Top 10
10. Mad for Each Other
After the very screamy (which I hate and almost dropped the show because of it) beginning episode, this show stole my heart.
I loved the quirkiness of the OTP as they came to understand each other and the real things they were dealing with – alone and together. The humor was fun. The episodes breezed by and I came to understand and love the group of neighbors that rallied around our couple.
KFG has an excellent review here.
9. Mr. Queen
I started watching this one after the post from Shahz on December 12th.
It was so great that I whizzed right through it. What a fun ride. I was so impressed with Shin Hye-Sun as the Joseon Queen possessed by Jang Bong-Hwan, modern day star cad-chef extraordinaire. She channeled Choi Jin Hyuk (who plays the chef) so well, and was hilarious in the beginning upon discovering his/her plight.
The developing relationship with her king was strained and confrontational and melty and very entertaining to watch.
I haven’t had a chance yet to read KFG’s review, but it is here.
8. She Would Never Know / Sunbae, Don’t put on that lipstick
KFG’s review and high grade turned me toward this show.
It was an escape show for me – a nice romance that developed in a reasonable way over time with a bit of depth. The ML is so kind and I love that. It’s just the way a ML should be: considerate, loving, head over heels for his Sunbae, and hot enough to melt all the lipstick in the store. Ahem! Just saying!
I actually love the second title above which is the Korean title. It helps me better remember which show it is. They work at a cosmetics company. I’ve found that so many of the titles in Kdramas are so similar (at least the English versions) that I can’t tell if I’ve seen the show by reading the title. Ugh! Then I have to read through the summary to know and sometimes that’s not even enough because the plot points are similar. Ugh! Again! This is also why I’ve started keeping track of what I see.
Here’s KFG’s review that won me over.
7. D.P. (Deserter Pursuit)
I have a soft spot for Jung Hae In, and the summary for this was very compelling. I perked right up when I saw the trailer.
I watched it right when it came out and it did not disappoint! Six episodes of compelling stuff! An Jun Ho gets assigned to the Deserter Patrol and is tasked with bringing back those who have gone AWOL from the Korean military. There is a second season in the works already. It does have some disturbing scenes for those who are more the rainbows and puppy dog viewers.
KFG’s review is here.
6. Racket Boys
This one looked so fun and different, and I liked the set up. And rainbowers and puppy doggers are safe here.
Despite its flaws, I loved this show’s heart so much that it kept rising up my list. Tang Jun Sang plays Yun Hae Kang, a star pitcher on a middle school baseball team, who moves to a small town without a team, and eventually joins the Badminton team.
The young stars in this show are so talented and do a great job. I’ve come to discover I really love the pull together dynamics of all the quirky people in the small town shows I’ve seen recently. It is very much like a family where you can get irritated with other but you figure it out and help each other when it’s needed.
KFG’s review is here.
5. Move to Heaven
I like Lee Je Hoon’s work and the set-up for this one was kind of unique, with an autistic teenager cleaning up death scenes, so I decided to try it. What an amazing show!
Tang Jun Sang (yes, the same one from number 6 above), who plays the autistic teen, completely amazed me by how he portrayed him. Well done! It has such a wonderful redemptive message about it as well, even though we are dealing with so much death throughout.
KFG’s review is here.
4. Yumi’s Cells
It took me a long time to watch this one. Even though I really like Kim Go Eun’s work, the promotional poster was off-putting to me, and I doubted the animation integration, and thought it would be less than. So not the case.
This was honestly the most refreshing show this year, if not ever. So clever. So on point. So moving. So Funny. The cells stole the show. Until they didn’t, and the actors stole it back. I loved it so much I started reading the webtoon. My first ever.
KFG’s episode notes for the first couple episodes on Patreon are what got me to give it a whirl. I’m so glad. I would have hated to miss this one.
Her full review is up on the blog now and here is the link.
3. Hospital Playlist 2
I was eagerly awaiting season 2 after gobbling up Season 1.
Our 5 superhero-like doctors who all went to college together, saving patients, and singing every episode. What’s not to love? (Except for Song Hwa’s voice)
It was basically a continuation of the first season, and brought back the same feel, and furthered the storyline, and wrapped things up in a pretty bow all around. Not perfect, but immensely entertaining. Even as long as the episodes were, I was captured the whole time.
KFG’s review is here.
This one sucked me in on the dancing and the set-up.
A 70-year-old man takes ballet lessons for the first time from a very talented young man who’s in a bit of a slump. He wants to be able to “fly.”
So much to love in this story as these two become part of each other’s lives. In helping each other they help themselves. It was my favorite show all year until I got swept off my feet in October by…
Drum Roll Please!
I’ve had a soft spot for Ryu Jun Yeol since the aforementioned Reply 1988 and this show looked pretty interesting and kind of nice cinematically. Honestly, the beautiful photography in some of the promotional stuff pulled me in, so I checked it out and haven’t been able to get it out of my head since.
A 40-year-old woman who is having a crisis of self, and a 27-year-old man, unhappy with his life’s trajectory, cross paths, connect, and find connection.
I don’t want to give spoilers so I won’t say too much, but it is poetic and artful. It’s not for everyone though. If you like things to happen in a hurry, you might not like this one. If you decide to watch it, you might want to take it slow to digest.
It’s got layers and layers, and you HAVE to be paying attention. If you miss something, you might get Lost. 😉
I never realized how rich Ryu Jun Yeol’s voice was until he was doing the voiceovers in sections of this. I mean, I always knew he had a nice voice, but this was another level. Incredibly nice! Resonant! Compelling!
The acting was stellar all over the place as well. The micro-expressions were everywhere and used with finesse. Especially on Jeon Do Yeon and Ryu Jun Yeol. This deepened the experience for me. Everything felt genuine, and I became immersed in Kang Jae’s and Bu Jeong’s journeys.
One thing that gave this drama so much depth and won my affection is that every character has their own story arc and is fully fleshed-out. No one is completely good or bad. They are human. Flawed and real. One person who I thought was wholly awful in the first few episodes showed different colors of who she was at times, and was truly helpful in certain circumstances. This is so true to life that it helped keep the illusory show bubble intact.
(I could talk about this show all day, but then this would never go up on the blog and spoilers would start running rampant.)
KFG’s review of Lost is here.
I’m a bit of a Broadway junkie, and, as I’ve talked with people about this show, the song “Nine people’s favorite thing” from [title of show] kept coming to mind, so, since this is my favorite show and for the cast and crew of Lost, here’s a link to that song.
I know it will grow into at least 525, 600 people all loving your show best. It’s worldwide these days.
Over on Patreon I talked about how the cinematography and still shots compelled me to draw them. I’d never had that inclination before, so I sketched out some. They (my fellow patrons) wanted me to include something I drew, so here is a sketch of Kang Jae slumping against a wall.
Best Female Lead
Jeon Do Yeon in Lost
This kind of show takes a lot of stamina and finesse and Jeon Do Yeon does it so well.
Best Male Lead
Ryu Jun Yeol in Lost.
I’m going to let this series of pictures speak for themselves. I am blown away by how much depth RJY has developed recently in his acting prowess. From this:
..And all the micro-expressions in between. So many things were so subtle. Kudos!
Best supporting actress
Kang Han Na in My Roommate is a Gumiho
Her comic timing was impeccable. Who knew she had it in her? Fantastic!
Best supporting actor
Park In Hwan
In my top two shows Navillera AND Lost the incomparable Park In Hwan. Two tour de force roles. He really could be in contention for a lead role for Navillera. I guess we’d have to argue who the lead is, in that show.
Best OTP/One True Pairing [SPOILERS!]
In Hospital Playlist 2, Lee Ik Jun played by Cho Jung Seok and Chae Song Hwa played by Jeon Mi Do.
Best supporting roles Pairing:
I HAVE to include this. I found I loved this pairing so much more than the OTP. In Hometown Cha Cha Cha, Pyo Mi Sun (played by Gong Min Jung), our one dental assistant, and the very slow Choi Eun Cheol (played by Kang Hyoung Suk).
I had such high hopes because it was a show using art as part of the vehicle to tell the story, and I had just watched our male lead in Navillera and been so impressed and like the female lead in other shows I’ve seen her in. Alas!
Best original score
There is a link that purports to have the entire soundtrack but it only has the four songs. Here they are with links for music videos created by Warner Music with scenes from the show. They are nicely done.
Best Original Song
From Lost “From Me” by Sondia.
Here’s the link with English subs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jv2Ef16Fi1o
Yumi’s Cells, Mad for Each Other, and Lost, of course.
Hospital Playlist 2
When you have 5 leads that you can’t do without any of them, that’s a real ensemble. Thanks to Cho Jung Suk, Yoo Yeon Seok, Jung Kyung Ho, Kim Dae Myung, and Jeon Mi Do and so many others who played the hospital staff and families of our leads.
Also, when the ensemble has to get back together for another show within a month or so of their show finishing because they miss being around each other, that is a great ensemble. Sooooo if you love them and are interested in something else they are doing together check out Three Meals a Day: Doctors.
It was a pretty productive year considering all the craziness of a pandemic and all. I sure appreciated everyone’s hard work in the entertainment industry to help keep our spirits up. I know it sure helped me on my tough days.
Thanks also to KFG for helping us find the best stuff to watch and people to watch it with. Her watch groups have been a hit and I know I always love seeing my Patreon emails to let me know she has another set of episode notes up to check out.
It’s a great place to make friends too, especially since we already have something great to talk about in common. I finally checked out the Deep Dive Zone and I look forward to being able to spend more time in that discussion group.
I hope you have all had a Merry Christmas or December if you prefer and wish you a very Happy, Happy New Year to come!