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!
This is the finale guest post in the series, and next up, 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! 🤩 Stay tuned for that!
Today’s post is brought to you by phl1rxd, who is as modest as she is talented. And, those of us who joined in the Nirvana in Fire group watch, will always be in awe of her deep knowledge of everything about that show, and her generosity in sharing that knowledge with the rest of us! ❤️
You’ll notice that in her post, the graphics are extra crisp and clean, all clearly hailing from the same family. That’s all phl1rxd’s work, y’all. Didn’t I tell you she’s talented? 🤩
I hope you guys enjoy!
~ KFG ❤️
Hi everyone! I am the local and unabashed Nirvana in Fire resident nerd. Note that it is not mentioned in my lists even though we watched it in this year’s group watch (love you Fangurl!) as I have already seen it so many times.
I am not a writer by any means, so I pulled a ‘bait and switch’ by designing my own media, hoping it works to divert your attention from my words. Please bear with my mish-mosh of pretend prose here, please and thanks.
I occasionally watched Hong Kong martial arts films in the 80s, but I watched my first real Asian drama in the late 90s when it aired on Saturdays on my local public TV station.
I use the word ‘Asian’ as I did not know enough at that time to be able to ascertain country of origin. I just remember ninja assassins, palace shenanigans and a cranky big boss Emperor/King/Shogun. Unfortunately, they dropped the drama after a few weeks and I have spent all these years looking for it.
Then in 2012 I stumbled across The Moon Embracing the Sun and that was all she wrote. Faced at that time with some serious life issues, I needed KDrama more than it needed me.
For the record, dramas were dropped like bombs this year. I was pushing that reject button left and right. In the end, I watched more CDrama than KDrama even though my top ten appears balanced. There was no perfect drama this year and even a few of my top ten have flaws, so I just went with my heart.
I love a good comedy – very dry, even droll or inane humor, if possible. Goofy physical comedy is embraced as well. My appreciation runs very deep for a good detective murder mystery. Good martial arts on my screen thrills me, so of course, I love, love, love me some wuxia dramas, especially with multiple-incarnation, karmic ties and intertwined destiny stuff. Yes Trent! I am partial to OTPs that are sweet with very little SLS (Second Lead Syndrome) angst.
A word about Patreon dear readers – I cannot say enough about how great a place it is. Watching Fangurl’s process of breaking down a drama is quite enlightening. It has been on fire with JJ and Shahz and ‘da crew’. I cannot keep up with them as they are way too fast for me! I wish I had more time to hang out over there because it is downright fun.
So, let’s go…
My top 10 shows ranked in order:
1. Korea | Yumi’s Cells
This only beat out Imperial Coroner because of its astute and insightful take on the human psyche. This show was so outside–the-box and I found it refreshingly unique. I do not think I will ever not think of what my ‘cells’ are doing, moving forward. (Shahz rocks for sharing the quiz in her post.)
For a very unrealistic drama concept involving animation, it turned out to be one of the most realistic KDramas I have seen in a long time. A pure delight of a drama, more so as it was completely unexpected.
Please give this a try if you have not seen it. It is a riot and I can’t wait for S2. Those naughty cells were the MVPs, right? Bravo to the artists behind these cells!
2. China | The Imperial Coroner
What can I say about how much I loved this drama? I absolutely adored it!
From the clever and detailed graphics in the opening titles (also dispersed throughout the drama), to the fascinating madness of Head Eunuch Qin played by Mu Huai Hu, to the very likable secondary characters, to the very, very sweet and refreshingly honest OTP, to the detective work, to the political schemes, it was right up my alley in every way.
I loved every single second and even watched episodes raw while waiting for subs to post. It was a close race between #1 and #2.
It is a story of a Prince, tasked by the Emperor to solve a crime, and Chu-Chu, an adorable but highly skilled female coroner who is just as smart as that Prince. Refreshingly, he acknowledges this and keeps her close. Sweet, sweet love right here! Open and honest conversations, which I appreciated.
3. China | The Day of Becoming You
This is part of the new iQIYI series of romantic dramas, and is only 26 episodes.
It is hilarious. I read a review that said “Don’t eat or drink while watching this as you may choke”. I laughed like mad and enjoyed the hell out of every – single – episode.
It goes like this – after body-swapping occurs between the OTP, all hell breaks loose. Worth the watch if only to see the ML pull off the role of the FL (and vice-versa) in a brutally honest, funny, and, at times, quite an embarrassing way. Great OTP.
4. Korea | Mr. Queen
Raucous, bawdy and bodacious! Shin Hae Sun threw herself completely into this role. This was just fun to watch. I laughed out loud the entire drama. Beez was right about Shin Hye Sun all along. Great opening graphics in the title that must have taken a clever artist a long time to do. Kudos to the music director for his selection of both opening and closing songs.
Another body swapping story and you know how ree-dunkulous these can get, and this drama squeezes out every last bit of laughs.
5. Korea | Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha
Big city gal moves to the seaside and meets a Mister Jack of all Trades. A simple love story full of sweetness and sass, with plenty of secondary characters to round it all out. Beautiful scenery, an unforgettable opening song, and plenty of dimples, made this an enjoyable watch every single week.
I felt like I was on vacation watching this. The cinematography was beautiful.
6. China | A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower (2020 release)
A really good who-dun-it that kept me on my toes when so many suspects began to emerge. It was a very clever show indeed. You’re guilty and you’re guilty and WTH, everybody’s guilty!
7. China | The Long Night (2020 release)
This drama is not for the faint of heart – it is dark and gritty and accompanied by lots of pain and rain. The murder occurs early on and the rest of the drama is devoted to solving the unique case.
Bai Yu is just so dam good in this. This drama is part of the 2020 iQIYI Light On series dramas. In my opinion this is the best of the bunch. Jury is still out on the newest release, 2021’s Who is the Murderer where Zhao Li Ying is just killing it (or not).
8. Korea | Vincenzo
Vincenzo is about a Korean adoptee raised in Italy by his mob family. He returns to South Korea with a clear goal in mind, and the crazy party starts.
I would have rated this much higher but the last two episodes simply would not allow me to do so. This drama had me at episode 1 when the subtitles purposely misinterpreted an Italian phrase (a very naughty one at that). With the combo of opera and Italian I was right back in my childhood.
Excellent ensemble cast. They kept me entertained throughout the entire drama. More interpretative dance please!
9. China | Eternal Love of Dream (2020 release)
OK, I was definitely late to this party. Released in 2020, I wonder how I missed this one since it lit the internet ablaze with netizen love. It is a 56-episode drama that covers three incarnations of Dilraba’s character.
Yes, the CGI was not the best and Dilraba was required to behave bizarrely in her first incarnation (she is a fox after all), but dang it, Vengo Gao is so dam handsome, I could not stop looking at his face. I made it through the first incarnation and it paid off, as I found myself quite content when this drama ended.
10. China | The Long Ballad
I have this listed for several reasons.
First, Leo Wu. ‘Nuff said. Lil’ bit Fei Liu has grown up, and he is now a fine (and very handsome) young man with big skillz, polished after so many years in front of the camera.
Second, the second leads’ love line, which was so, so sweet, dominated the show.
Third, you can get shot with an arrow multiple times, even in the heart, and not die! Wowsers!
Fourth, there was more hair in this drama than at the Wigs R Us Emporium.
It is not rated higher due to the unneeded number of episodes. They could have shaved quite a few of these ridiculous bits off. Did I mention that Leo Wu is in it? As crazy over-long as this was, I still watched faithfully. As with The Imperial Coroner, I watched episodes raw while waiting for subs to post. The OST was gorgeous.
Honorable Mention | Navillera, The Wolf’s Darren Wang (I should have only watched the first third and the last episode of the drama, but that last episode and Darren Wang were the bombs – thanks Beez!), and last but not least, Move to Heaven, a deeply moving drama about a family that cleans up the location after someone dies, and does so with dignity and honor.
Best Female Lead
Korea | Mr. Queen – Shin Hye Sun as she has no fear. None. At all.
Best Male Lead
Best Female Supporting Actor
Korea | Mr. Queen – Cha Chung Hwa is one of the most versatile and talented supporting actors in South Korea.
Best Male Supporting Actor
Korea | Vincenzo – Im Chul Soo, my man, you killed this role baby! I do not ever think I will forget the scene where you walked out of that bathroom and – wait – that arm wave! I lit up (and laughed) every time he came on the screen. Can we get him on the screen with Jung Hye Sung? Pretty please?
A tie between:
China | The Long Ballad: Liu Yu Ning and Zhao Lu Si who, believe it or not, were the second leads. He was a putz but he just loved her so much and so awkwardly! Their height difference was cute as could be.
China | The Imperial Coroner: Wang Zi Qi and Su Xiao Tong were as sweet as sugar together. I loved that he treasured her intellect and treated her as an equal.
Best original score
A tie between:
China | The Imperial Coroner
China | The Long Ballad
Best original song
A tie between:
Korea | Mr. Queen Norazo’s ‘Bong Hwan A’ which is as raucous as the main role,
China | The Long Ballad Charlie – Cocoon which is sublimely perfect in every way.
Razzie Awards, Oh No!
Korea | Start Up
I realize many folks love this drama and I am so very glad that you enjoyed it.
Unfortunately, I did not. This was my 2021 “throw your slippers at the TV bad” due to the behavior of certain characters who are not to be mentioned. I dropped this after episode 10. It gave me agita. That cast deserved better writing.
Korea | Jirisan
I really tried but I still had no idea what was going on after watching episodes 1 and 2 twice. I never made it past episode 2.
Korea | Oh! My Ladylord
This went off the rails and it was not pretty. Dropped it after episode 12. That cast deserved better writing.
Hidden gem, the show you loved and you wish others knew about
China | The Imperial Coroner
..as there was very little advertisement about this drama when it was released. But the netizens knew a good thing when they watched it, and well-deserved word of mouth recommendations spread like a ten-alarm wildfire.
China | The Imperial Coroner
..and I would re-watch this in a heartbeat for that OTP, yes! Chu-Chu and Prince An!
China | The Bond
..has a gem of an ensemble whom you will grow to love unconditionally.
There is no category for dramas that will span 2021 into 2022 but I do want to mention Sword Snow Stride starring Zhang Ruo Yun and a stellar cast. I just started watching and it is visually stunning. The trailer is gorgeous and this is right up my alley. Scriptwriter is Wang Juan who also wrote the script for Joy of Life 1 and 2. I will end 2021 and start 2022 with this drama.
Here is the gorgeous trailer:
So before I go, I want to give a quick nod to a Japanese movie (a sequel) I happened upon recently entitled The Fable: The Killer Who Doesn’t Kill 2021. Luckily I caught the first movie entitled The Fable 2019 and watched that first.
The only way to describe these two movies is “A Kill Bill Manga Comedy”. Straight-faced Okada Junichi is brilliant in this. These are both very droll and dry – in fact ridiculous – with a lot of very bizarre humor. I found both movies quite entertaining and was mesmerized by the zany, which would just pop out of nowhere and hit you right in the face.
That’s all she wrote folks! Looking forward to 2022 and a new slew of dramas that we will have to add to the Never-Ending List. The struggle to find time to watch them is real folks!
Wishing Fangurl and Family and all of you the best holiday ever. I am looking to see more folks over at Patreon in 2022!