Year In Review: 2021

Where has 2021 gone, seriously? This was a strange year, in that it felt like time was passing really fast, but it also felt like we were stuck and frozen in time – or is that just me? 😅

I think it’s safe to say that it’s been a tough year for us all. For hanging in there; for continuing to put one foot in front of the other; for continuing to look for and appreciate the good in your world: You’ve done well, my friends. ❤️

Even though things in Dramaland have continued to evolve, there’s one thing that remains constant, and that is, our dramas are always there for us, ready to whisk us away into another world, at least for a little while; ready to introduce us to new friends, as we meet new characters; ready to offer us vicarious experiences, even if we’re in the thick of a lockdown and can’t leave our homes.

Just like it was last year, dramas helped to make life a little brighter and sweeter for me, and I hope they’ve done the same for you too. ❤️

My Writer cell, hard at work for this post! 🤓

My Drama Year in 2021

I’ve heard several people say that 2021 wasn’t a great drama year, but y’know what, as I take stock of all the dramas I’ve watched this year, and count the number of dramas that I gave an A-grade to, it’s literally the highest number yet, since I started doing these year-end reviews.

I used to think it was a solid sign of a good drama year, if I had around 6 dramas in the A-grade range. THIS year, I have – wait for it – 10 (TEN!!!) dramas in that A-grade range.

Now, tell me that isn’t a good drama year? 🤩

Of course, as usual, I had to put aside any genre prejudices and just.. try new things, even if they weren’t in my drama wheelhouse. I’m learning more and more, that a good, solid well-told story means more to me, than what genre a drama is. With that approach, I found myself enjoying more shows than I would have, otherwise.

As always, here’s my overview of my drama year, which includes dramas that started last year, but ended this year, but not dramas that started this year, but haven’t yet completed their runs. It has always made more sense to me, to judge a drama only after it’s finished its run. It’s only fair, I think, since Dramaland has proven to us time and again, how a drama can bomb at the very last minute. 😜

Certainly, what works for me, might not work for you, and vice versa, but I still hope this overview helps you to discover some great dramas to love.

PS: In case you’re wondering, I will be using my tried-and-tested annual format for this post, and will share my top picks separately, when I announce the results of the Year End Awards Poll.

Voting goes till midnight, 6 Jan 2022, so please do vote for your favorites, if you haven’t already!

The Ones Worth Making Time For

My Drama of the Year: Navillera

This, folks, is my drama of the year. It just grabbed my heart in such a tight, breathless grip; I couldn’t get enough of this underdog story of chasing your dreams and being true to yourself, even in the face of a largely disapproving world. The fact that we get a bromance of sorts between our two male leads, is wonderful icing on this cake.

I laughed, I cried, I couldn’t breathe. So, so good, that I was sorry to reach the end.

Grade: A+

Review: here.

Move To Heaven

I was a little wary of this one because death and trauma cleaning does not sound like a very fun time, but Show is so warm and.. comforting, as it deals with the delicate topic of death and loss.

This show made me care, made me cry, and made me feel all sorts of emotions, and I’m.. grateful. Thought-provoking, touching and way more approachable than it might first appear.

Grade: A

Review: here.

She Would Never Know

I know I’m in the minority on this one, but I LOVED this little romance, so very much. I loved how these characters felt real and easy to understand, and I loved the earthy yet melty flavor of this romance.

Also, I never thought I’d see the day when I’d find Rowoon melty (since he did nothing for me in Extraordinary You), but he had me flailing all over the floor in this. 😍

Grade: A

Review: here.

Youth Of May

The story that this show wants to tell is a difficult one, and it’s the characters, who make that journey feel appealing enough, for me to want to take it. Lee Do Hyun and Go Min Si make their characters come alive in both charming and poignant ways, and I felt so quickly invested in their lives, that I couldn’t not watch this show to the end.

Not for the faint of heart, but so stirring and worthwhile.

Grade: A

Review: here.

Lost (Human Disqualification)

This one’s not for everyone, but I loved it. It’s quiet, contemplative and introspective, and also,  achingly melancholic, in the most beautiful, understated way. It’s about how we, as humans, can’t help but search for meaning and purpose in life, and how finding a kindred spirit can make the world of difference, to how we view the world.

Thoughtful, hopeful and worth savoring.

Grade: A

Review: here.

Beyond Evil

Show won Best Drama at this year’s Baeksang Awards for a reason. It’s tightly written and tickles the mind, but it’s also deeply emotional, and engages the heart, which makes it a complete package, in my books. Plus, Show even manages to sustain its narrative tension all the way to the end, which is no small deal, for a show like this.

Very, very good, in my opinion.

Grade: A

Review: here.

Yumi’s Cells

Ahh. SO creative and SO well-executed! I was wary of the animation-live action mashup, but Show does an excellent job of it, AND manages to provide such cutting insights, into how we function, and what makes us tick.

Sometimes funny; sometimes poignant; sometimes squee-worthy. And always keenly relatable.

Grade: A

Review: here.

D.P.:Deserter Pursuit

Such a difficult topic, handled with raw, unflinching honesty, and a good dose of empathy and compassion, at the same time. Compelling, thought-provoking and rather restrained, even, in the sense that any hazing or violence never feels gratuitous.

Difficult, but so important, and so worthwhile.

Grade: A-

Review: here.

Hospital Playlist 2

Show is a little indulgent in spots, but I couldn’t help but love having my Fabulous Five back on my screen again. Comforting, cozy and aspirational, it feels like I’m just doing life with a bunch of friends, who also happen to be doctors who are brilliant at their jobs.

I’m gutted that we are likely to never get the Season 3 that was originally in Show’s plans, but I’m thankful that we got this season, to spend with these lovable characters.

Grade: A-

Review: here.

Squid Game

Not my usual drama genre by any stretch of the imagination, but such a worthwhile watch, in my opinion.

I found the characters and their backstories engaging, and I also found Show’s social commentary thought-provoking. Despite detractors saying that Squid Game is too Westernized, I actually found it very Korean, at its heart.

I personally think it lives up to the hype.

Grade: A-

Review: here.

Solid Watches I’d Recommend

The Uncanny Counter

Full of demon-hunting action, yet also full of heart, I found The Uncanny Counter cracky and delicious, with its X-Men-esque, superhero sort of flavor. Plus, I loved our demon-hunting found-family crew.

Show falls short of an A for me, because I didn’t love all of the writing choices, and that’s due in part to the writer change that Show went through, in its late stretch. Still a really solid show that I’d recommend, though!

Grade: B++

Review: here.

Mr. Queen

Delicious, cracky and laugh-out-loud funny, I had a whale of a time watching this one. Shin Hye Sun is absolutely amazing in this, showcasing a very impressive acting range that I didn’t know she had, and Kim Jung Hyun works out to be a great foil for our Queen’s antics.

Opinions are divided on how Show lands the ending. I personally didn’t love the ending, which is why Show fell short of an A from me. But, I still think it’s a great show that’s very worthy of its drama hours.

Grade: B++

Review: here.

Hello, Me

This one’s such an underrated little charmer, my friends. Yes, the fantasy rules aren’t super clear in this one, and yes, sometimes Show leans hard into the cheesy, but overall, this is such a heartwarming, encouraging tale of self-worth and self-love, that I found it more than worthwhile.

Warm, comforting, and possibly just what the doctor ordered.

Grade: B++

Review: here.

My Roommate is a Gumiho

So fresh, and so fun, my friends. Show takes rom-com tropes and blithely turns them on their heads, all while serving up a warm, cozy, melty romance between our leads. I love Hye Ri in this, and Jang Ki Yong too, but it’s Kang Han Na who steals every scene she’s in, as a ditzy bombshell of an ex-gumiho.

Fun, heartfelt and satisfying.

Grade: B++

Review: here.

Racket Boys

Show’s a little meandering, but it’s so warm, cozy and full of community, family type vibes, that it’s bursting at the seams with wholesome, comforting feels. Plus, I’ve never had a special interest in badminton, but Show had me on the edge of my seat, breathless with anticipation – over middle school badminton tournaments. That’s skillz.

The feels are so strong in this one, that you ought to have no problems looking past Show’s shortcomings.

Grade: B++

Review: here.

Hometown Cha Cha Cha

So, so breezy. Watching this one was like taking a virtual beachside vacation, every episode, and I loved it. The double-dimple power in leads Shin Min Ah and Kim Seon Ho is strong indeed, and I lapped it all up, like Show was serving up crack-laced fresh coconut with a straw, heh.

I liked how Show teases out the goodness in each of our characters, both primary and secondary, such that by the time you reach the end, there’s really no one to actively dislike. In fact, by the time I reached the end, I was rather sorry to say goodbye to this small town of Gongjin, and its motley crew of residents.

Grade: B++

Review: here.

Vincenzo

Often wild, absurd and dysfunctional, Show works out to be a dark screwball comedy, with swag, revenge and community feels to spare. It sounds weird, but when Show makes it work, it’s absolutely fantastic. Plus, Song Joong Ki is so coolly badass in this. 🤩

Show is a little too dark in spots for my taste, and I struggled with aspects of the ending, but I still enjoyed the ride.

Grade: B++

Review: here.

Mad For Each Other

Show can be a little OTT at times, but the writing is thoughtful and deliberate, and offers a lot of heart and poignance. Essentially, I think that Show’s ability to balance humor, with insights on mental health, is one of its biggest strengths.

Jung Woo and Oh Yeon Seo spark off each other excellently, and I loved watching their characters bicker their way to healing and romance. A short little show with a lot of meat on its bones.

Grade: B++

Review: here.

Bossam

Show is a little too long for its own good, because it gets meandering and repetitive in its second half, but Jung Il Woo and Kwon Yu Ri are wonderful as our central OTP. The romance in this is restrained, gentle and heartfelt, and even though it’s a slow burn, it’s so satisfying to watch this relationship unfold.

Grade: B+

Review: here.

My Name

Bloodier and more violent than I typically gravitate towards, I still managed to enjoy this revenge tale quite nicely. Han So Hee is the best I’ve seen of her, ever, and both Park Hee Soon and Ahn Bo Hyun play off her character very well.

Occasionally the blood and violence is a bit much for my taste, but Show’s emotional core makes it worthwhile.

Grade: B+

Review: here.

Okay, if it’s your style / you can spare the time

True Beauty

Tropey and silly a lot of the time, Show still manages to be fun and endearing, with the right lens. Moon Ga Young and Cha Eun Woo are solidly decent as our leads, while Hwang In Yeop steals more than a bit of the show, with his turn as a bad boy with a hidden tender heart.

Not very inventive at all, but light, breezy and quite slurpable, if you’re in the mood for a bit of fluff.

Grade: B+

Review: here.

The Rational Life [China]

Show is more of a slice-of-life office drama, than it is a noona romance, but is light and pretty enjoyable, with the right lens. I personally would have preferred a different treatment of the OTP romance, but there are still a good handful of thoughtful nuggets to take away from this show.

Better marathoned quickly, than consumed slowly.

Grade: B+

Review: here.

Run On

I know I’m in the minority when I say that Show was just ok, for me. Lots of people loved this show’s cast of quirky characters, but, try as I might, Show’s brand of quirk just didn’t work naturally for me. Personally, I found it effortful to try to get in sync with this show and its characters, and I didn’t quite succeed, despite my best efforts.

Grade: B

Review: here.

Shows that I didn’t feel were worth the effort, to be honest

Sisyphus: The Myth

With some heavy lens adjustments, I found Show reasonably enjoyable for a good stretch, as a comic book, space opera sort of deal. However, I was extremely underwhelmed by Show’s chosen ending, which made me regret spending my drama hours on it.

Grade: B-

Review: here.

The Devil Judge

Show starts off pretty intriguing and compelling, with hints that it had something interesting to say, but Show basically got too dark, dysfunctional and morbid for my taste.

Grade: B-

Review: here.

Probably not for you, if your drama taste is like mine

Lovestruck in the City

I thought this was kinda-sorta interesting at first, but Show never did quite get settled, in the 6 episodes that I watched, and I just.. lost interest in these characters. I didn’t even find them all that likable, in the present timeline.

Also, not a lot seems to happen, each episode – which just added to my waning interest.

Dropped Post: here.

Oh! Master

I liked this one quite well in its first half, actually, and had hopes that I would enjoy it all the way to the end. However, Show takes a sharp left turn into Angst and Weirdness at the episode 9 mark, with a bunch of odd writing decisions that just.. didn’t feel at all organic or natural.

Dropped Post: here.

Doom At Your Service

So pretty to look at, but so little sense-making, in this drama world. Show tries to make up for it with sweet &/or swoony OTP moments, but with so little sense in the context, those stopped working for me too, eventually.

Dropped Post: here.

Monthly Magazine Home

I only watched 1 episode of this, and backed away quite quickly, because it felt so formulaic and try-hard, to my eyes. Word on the street is that I made a good decision dropping out of this one. 😅

Dropped Post: here.

First Love Again [China]

I wanted to like this for Patrick Shih’s sake, but everything that I saw of this show (in the single episode I managed to watch) leaned cringey and try-hard, and also, very stilted and strange. I just.. couldn’t bring myself to press “play” on episode 2. 😅

Dropped Post: here.

Nevertheless

I almost didn’t want to include this one, because I didn’t even finish episode 1. But, because you guys might be curious, I decided to include it anyway.

Essentially, stuff felt try-hard to my eyes right away, and I wasn’t feeling any of the characters. The supposedly thrilling encounter between our leads felt stilted and unnatural to my eyes, and I figured that if I couldn’t even appreciate the OTP connection, then there really wasn’t anything for me, in this show.

This one was just.. not for me. 🤷🏻‍♀️

Lovers of the Red Sky

I watched 7 episodes of this, but Show never actually seemed to “get good,” in the ways that I was hoping for. I wanted more beautiful art and more dreamy OTP moments, but instead, Show served up lots of convoluted backstory and lots (and lots!) of magic. There’s just so much going on, that it never feels like our OTP relationship gets time to properly develop.

I basically dropped this one out of boredom.

Dropped Post: here.

You Are My Spring

I only watched 2 episodes of this, and basically all the characters, relationships, and dialogue felt unnatural and try-hard to my eyes, like, I just couldn’t get in sync with what Show was serving up, to believe that these were real people. Also, the dark murder stuff doesn’t quite mesh well with the romance stuff, to my eyes. I decided that I shouldn’t try to force myself to love this one – because love can’t be forced, y’know? 😉😂

Dropped Post: here.

Taxi Driver

To be fair, lots of folks like this one. I just found it hard to watch the violence that’s inflicted on the innocent people, which is the preamble for the rogue justice that Show serves up. Knowing that these cases are inspired by real events was quite disturbing to me, and I realized that this would prevent me from enjoying the rest of the show.

Dropped Post: here.

At A Distance, Spring Is Green

Somehow, this one just didn’t pop, for me. I found everyone and everything more than a little try-hard, and I honestly found it hard to get on board with any of our characters. The execution  was also rather mechanical to my eyes, and I didn’t get past the middle of episode 2.

Dropped Post: here.

Dali and the Cocky Prince

I wanted to like this, but I basically found the levels of shouty too much for me. Not only is Kim Min Jae’s character shouty, so are a lot of other characters too. Park Gyu Young as Dali is wonderful, which is how I lasted 4 episodes of this. I know lots of people love this one, but it’s just not for me. Sorry.

Dropped Post: here.

Melancholia

I wanted to love this for Lee Do Hyun, but the handling of Show’s premise is just not working, for me. Even after the time skip, I found myself troubled by Show’s pushing of the romantic angle. Aside from that, I also found myself losing interest in the scheming within the school. I dropped this after 7 episodes.

Dropped Post: here.

Short format drama things

Handmade Love

Show’s pretty to look at, but didn’t wow me with its development of characters and relationships. Show boasts more atmosphere than actual substance, and I liked this better in concept than execution.

Grade: B

Flash Review: here.

Off The Course

I really liked this one. It manages to balance the unexpected, the funny and the heartfelt in a surprisingly deft manner, all while serving up characters and developments that feel organic. Heartfelt, uplifting, and very solid.

Grade: B++

Flash Review: here.

Must You Go?

Pretty to look at, and interesting in concept, but Show stumbles when it comes to execution. The logic is gappy and the deliveries by our actors, rather underwhelming, generally speaking. This was just ok for me.

Grade: B-

Flash Review: here.

Breakup Probation, A Week

A little rough around the edges, but more poignant and thought-provoking than I’d initially expected. I was won over by Show’s meaningful and wholesome themes, which helped me to take Show’s flaws in stride. This was a bit of a slow burn, with some nice pay-off by the end.

Grade: B

Review: here.

Scripting Your Destiny

I found this one fun to watch. I loved the concept, which I found quite original, and the cheeky nods to Goblin were fun too. This was breezy and entertaining, and I found myself consistently looking forward to each new episode.

Grade: B+

Review: here.

Check Out The Event

I’d had high hopes for this, because it’s set in beautiful Jeju Island, and had a premise that sounded potentially fun. I liked the first 3 episodes well enough, but was very underwhelmed by Show’s chosen ending. Basically I felt that Show lacked the substance to support its ending.

Grade: B-

Flash Review: here.

Here’s My Plan

A little whacky in concept, but once you have a manhwa lens on, this one is fun and solid, and even manages to serve up some good feels. It leans a little dark at times, but is ultimately charming and hopeful. I’d recommend this one.

Grade: B++

Flash Review: here.

The Witch’s Diner

This one has a reasonably interesting concept, but I felt that Show didn’t live up to its full potential. It’s not terrible, though. I found it rather dark and uneven, but it does ultimately lean heartwarming, so there’s that.

Grade: B

Flash Review: here.

New Year Blues [Movie]

An ensemble sort of holiday movie that vibes in the vein of Love, Actually. A bit of a slow burn, but overall, feel-good, warm and cozy, which is exactly what you’d typically look for, in a holiday movie. The sea of familiar faces ups the fun factor.

Grade: B+

Flash Review: here.

My Love [China]

I really liked this one. Show is a remake of k-movie On Your Wedding Day, and therefore leans bittersweet. But Show serves up the bittersweet with so much heart, that it had me feeling all of the feels, and crying all of the tears, and smiling through my tears, by the closing credits. So worthwhile.

Grade: B+

Flash Review: here.

Bite Sisters

This one leans more atmospheric and metaphorical than anything, really. Show is glossy and polished, but I didn’t care very much for its vignette-esque approach to telling its story. This one was just ok – at best.

Grade: B-

Flash Review: here.

Shows that I just didn’t finish

River Where The Moon Rises

I didn’t hate this, but I did find it more effortful to watch than I would have liked. It felt like Show was trying to do a lot, with its sprawling cast and expansive story. I got sidetracked when they swapped out Ji Soo for Na In Woo, and then never felt the urge to go back.

Dropped post is here.

Jury’s Still Out

The King’s Affection

Show is tropey, but because most of those tropes are gender reversed, I find myself still slurping it all up quite happily. I’m not terribly keen on the court politics, but I’m invested in these characters. Plus, I like Park Eun Bin and Rowoon in this, and I think they are really cute together.

10 episodes in, this feels like a potential B+.

The Red Sleeve

This one’s turning out to be more and more cracky and compelling, the further I get into the story. I’m completely mesmerized by Lee Jun Ho’s brand of intent smolder, and I am thoroughly enjoying Lee Se Young’s brand of honesty and smarts too. I find myself looking forward to each new episode, with increasing enthusiasm and squee. 😍

6 episodes in, this feels like a potential A-.

Snowdrop

In all honesty, the main reason I’m taking a look at this, is because I’m preparing to write a Dear kfangurl post on the Snowdrop controversy (coming soonish, stay tuned!), and wanted to have an informed opinion on what Show is serving up.

So far, it’s alright. It’s not amazing, but it’s not terrible either (yet?). Tonally it feels a bit uneven, but that could be because Show is still taking a while to settle.

2 episodes in, this feels like a potential B.

Happiness

I never knew a zombie-contract marriage mash-up could exist, let alone be this fun! I love this show, and in particular, I love Han Hyo Joo and Park Hyung Sik in this, together. 🤩

Show even manages to surface some penetrating social commentary, on top of all that it’s doing with this fantastic OTP, and I’m a happy camper (who is happily ignoring any logic stretches or lapses that I encounter along the way).

3 episodes in, this feels like a potential B++.

Hellbound

Show is more interesting and thought-provoking than I expected, and the violence isn’t as terrible as I’d feared. I still have no clear idea of where Show is going, but it’s definitely asking some interesting questions, and provoking some thought.

3 episodes in, this feels like a potential B+.

Update: Review is here!

Our Beloved Summer

I’m liking this one very well! Choi Woo Wik and Kim Da Mi are really making their characters come alive, and the writing is layered and nuanced. Together, this means that our characters legit feel like real people to me, and I am nicely invested in what happens to them, now that their paths have collided again, after their break-up.

4 episodes in, this feels like a potential B++.

The Bond [China]

These characters feel like real people to me, and I enjoy being a fly on their walls, watching them go through life together. At the same time, I do wish that Show didn’t rush through certain milestones, or keep certain details vague. Still a very engaging watch, despite my quibbles.

30 episodes in, this feels like a potential B++.

Update: Review is here!

Bad and Crazy

I’ve just started on this one, and so I’m still getting a handle on what Show is serving up. Everything’s very OTT and feels like one long fever dream, but a comic book lens works nicely to put things in focus. It feels kinda nuts, but it also feels like Show knows what it’s doing. I’m suitably intrigued.

1 episode in, this feels like a potential B+.

Would You Like A Cup Of Coffee?

Casual, slice-of-life and with what feels like a Japanese sort of sensibility, this feels like the perfect sort of show to unwind to, when you don’t want to work your brain too much, but still hope for some warm, uplifting feels on your screen.

2 episodes in, this feels like a potential B.

2021 Shows still on my list

Uncle Oh Jung Se in a lead role, in a story that sounds potentially warm and uplifting? Yes, please. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while now, and it’s finally here!

One Ordinary Day I’ve heard some good things about this one, and Kim Soo Hyun‘s so consistent in delivering excellent performances, that I feel almost obligated to give this one a look.

Moonshine I don’t have suuper high hopes for this, but it might be cute. Plus, I do like Yoo Seung Ho, and Hyeri can be funny and endearing, when well directed. I’m cautiously curious about this one.

Rainless Love in a Godless Land [Taiwan] I’m very curious to check this one out, because it comes from the makers of Someday Or One Day, which I absolutely love. I feel quite compelled to check this one out – in (cautious!) hopes that it’ll be almost as good as Someday Or One Day.

More Than Blue [Taiwan] This one sounds promising, in a sad but beautiful sort of way, about a terminally ill guy who finds a match for the girl he cares about. I’ve heard that it hurts, but it hurts so good.

Remembrance of Things Past [China] Someone told me this one’s about life, friendship and romance, and vibes kinda like My Mister – which totally made me sit up and take notice, heh.

My Fated Boy [China] I’ve heard that this one a friends to lovers noona romance, that leans refreshing instead of tropey. Sounds promising, yes?

Closing Thoughts

Whoop whoop, we made it to the end!! 😎 This calls for a celebratory butt wiggle!

Whew, that was quite a chunk of dramas, wasn’t it? I’m always curious to know my total drama tally, when I write one of these things.

And this year.. I completed 25 dramas (36, if you count the short drama things). And in total, including Dropped shows and shows that I’m still watching, I basically had opinions on.. 58 shows!

Yes, it’s still far from covering everything that Dramaland’s serving up, but I’ve long concluded that that’s literally impossible for a single human being to accomplish (unless you’re Sean, heh).

All in all, a very solid drama year, where I definitely waded through more duds than before – but also, came out with more gems than before as well. High risk, high gain? You win some, you lose some? (Insert your preferred truism here! 😅)

Thanks so much for sticking with me through another year, you guys. Your company has meant more to me than you know. ❤️ Here’s to a great 2022, with lots of health, happiness, and hope for us all – and lots more of them drama feeeelz, too. 🥰🥰

Feeelzzz!

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lana
lana
4 days ago

Remembrance of Things Past  is really really good. Definitely worth it. For 2020, Law School was one of the good ones for me.

beez
17 days ago

Of course, I had to pause several times while reading this to check out some of the reviews is missed.

I just can’t figure out how KFG does it all. I’ll just book mark this post too as a supplement to my watch list. I think these shows will get watched sooner than what’s been simmering and overcooking (I hope not getting stale) on my watchlist.

Kay
Kay
17 days ago

You did have a very good drama year 🙂 So many in the A category! We did enjoy several of the same including Navillera, Hello Me!, Yumi’s Cells, Mr. Queen, My Roommate is a Gumiho, True Beauty, and Sisyphus. So a good year for us both 🙂 Thanks for all of the wonderful reviews, and I look forward to them in 2022!

kate
kate
18 days ago

Happy New Year to all! 🥰

oof, finally found some time to read this year end review 🥳 I had been looking forward to it for a while. Thanks for this 😍🤩 It helped re-adjust my watchlist.

If I look back without thinking about it too much, standouts for me were Move To Heaven and Beyond Evil. I was more patient with Lovers.of the Red Sky but overall felt irked by the flaws that put you off as well. Underwhelmed by the chemistry in The King’s Affection and surprised to be enjoying the goofy Secret Inspector so much (not finished in 2021 I think) Happiness and Hellbound are on my to-warch-priority list! Bossam fizzled out for me as did Yumi‘s cells and I couldn’t finish some others either (Taxi Driver, Navillera) due to lack of happy fluffiness I so desperately need these days 😉Am enjoying The Red Sleeve quite a bit and can’t wait to go back to it after a month of kdrama blackout lol

Vi
Vi
24 days ago

I already watched most of those on your Worth Making Time for & Solid Watche list. I’ll check out the ones I missed. Thank you for this.

Lehar
Lehar
25 days ago

What I discovered this year… in 2021 well that now we can use Yumi cells for our feelings… couldn’t find anything cuter then them
Besides that, thank you for…. your post in 2021… even when you don’t post anything. I have made it my habit to check out your blog and start reading reviews..
Just one request as I keep looking around your site..Please please update your K-love confessions

Carulhein
Carulhein
26 days ago

Hi Kfangurl, thank you for some thoughtful and beautifully written reviews this year, as always. I think you’re a bit of the voice in my head when I choose a drama🤔😂, but quite often I dig in with the ones you drop and end up liking it. Maybe I have a little more patience and very thick lenses 😂.

ngobee
ngobee
26 days ago

Thank you, kfangirl, for a year with great reviews. Wishing you and everyone here a Happy New Year!

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[…] has been a strange year. In a way it’s just like kfangurl wrote in her year end post – seems like the year went by fast but also it feels like I was stuck in time. It also feels […]

Ele Nash
26 days ago

Happy New Year, lovely kfangurl and all who visit and comment and group watch and Patreon 🥂🎉 My kdrama (and cdrama) viewing has been really wonderful this year thanks to you. Yes, I’ve ground to (if not quite a halt) a crawl, what with a baby in the house, and a book to finish editing 🥱 I’m ending up a bit of a lurker on here again 🙂 But I am still here in spirit, loving our group watch Someday Or One Day (I keep singing the songs. The baby’s first words are going to be ‘he’ll meet me by the Milky Way’ at this rate 😆) and just thank you, thank you for everything you do. Love to you and everyone! 💖

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
27 days ago

Fangurl – Happy New Year! Another year has come and gone and, as always, I look forward to this post. It signifies an official end of the year for me. So much wonderful detail in this post. I appreciate the way you broke down the As from the Bs to the dropped. Also- love your captions! Thanks Fangurl.

I now realize that I really have to see She Would Never Know.

Gloglo
Gloglo
27 days ago

Thank you for this, kfangirl. As it happens, apart from Squid Game, which I loved, I haven’t seen any of your highly recommended shows. I’ll get to them at some point I hope. I’ve been avoiding some of them due to my usual silly prejudices… For example I usually fear that slice of life dramas will turn out tedious and indulgent, which is silly I know… because more often than not I find them honest and heartwarming. I’m a terrible one for always wanting the easy, sweet and slurpy kind of fair… and end up rewatching In-House Marriage Honey jdrama or any version of Hana Yori Dango for the umpteenth time 🙄!

Considering I haven’t seen many 2021 shows this year, my strongest agreement is with your verdict on Nevertheless. Such a badly written pretentious show… all characters felt hollow and perfunctory and I personally took exception to the lesbian love story which, for a show that did not shy away from glossy OTP sex scenes, was completely infantilised.

My main disagreement with you is Run On. For me this is one of the best dramas within that genre I’ve seen in my 2 years of compulsive Asian drama watching. Hometown Cha Cha Cha, which was very similar in tone, writing and execution, did not compare in terms of originality and depth. I also found Love Struck in the City very interesting in structure and how it played with audiences’ alliances and expectations, while at the same time being totally sweet and addictive.

Princess Jasmine
Princess Jasmine
22 days ago
Reply to  Gloglo

Great post and has very comprehensive details. Thank you.

I haven’t seen many of the shows listed here except for Vincenzo, Mr. Queen, Squid Game and Love Struck in the City. I enjoyed all 4 of them thoroughly and there was something that I enjoyed/got entertained in each of them.

I am making a note of Move to Heaven, Navillera, Hometown Cha, Yumi Cells and Off the Course on my “Must Watch before this lifetime” List and hopefully I can watch and post my reviews in there.

Any idea why Law School is not mentioned as I kind of liked the concept of the drama but have not watched it yet. It’s on my list though and watching it in Apr this year.

The only thing I want to mention is that LoveStruck is actually a lovely story. I re-watched it completely in one -go in Dec again before writing this. It is like a mirror to ourselves and shows how hypocritical/double-standards we can be in relationships where we say one thing but what we actually think/want is different. You need to watch the series completely till episode 16 to understand everything. It had a unique concept and many things about relationships (especially dating/being together) were conveyed subtly without the usual K-dramas or any romance troupes. I personally think that Park-Jae won is a great character for any woman to date/know and he is right next to Ryan Gold/Mr.Darcy for me. The bonus was JCW playing it with his usual adorable awkwardness. I could also personally identify with Kim Ji-won’s character on the self-identity crisis and this was brought forth very nicely. (I think a lot of people who dropped it or disliked it didn’t get her or judged her too harshly but just to let you know that this can happen in real life and is a real issue that woman go through). I especially think that the highlight is episode 12 and the women really scored well in that part and conveyed things that men sometimes miss it altogether. And the OST is one of the best in K-dramas that I have seen so far (30 plus dramas).

Give it a try sometime when free (with 9 hrs to spare in 2/3 days) and hope you get to enjoy it as much as me or Gloglo.

Timescout
27 days ago

I’ve fully watched only 2 dramas from your list (Navillera and Run On – really liked both). Still have to finish Move to Heaven and Hospital Playlist 2. Guess this says something about my drama year 2021, ha.

Shahz
Shahz
27 days ago

Happy new year KFG!
And it feels so odd that I have watched most of your list. I remember looking through your year in review posts when I first started watching dramas and working my way through them.

The year in review posts were my favourite posts back then!

reaper
reaper
27 days ago

I see you like „Happiness“. Now I am curious as to why in detail. I really think after 1 ep that this show is really really bad. I will look forward to your review.

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
27 days ago
Reply to  reaper

Well, because, reaper, amongst other things, the OTP is awesome 😉😎🤩

reaper
reaper
27 days ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

Both have insane egos and aren’t very funny. FL is a sadist while ML is a masochist (school rooftop scene).
Both are not likeable.

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
27 days ago
Reply to  reaper

I guess I can’t say too much more without revealing some sort of spoiler, but it might be worth another look sometime. I found after the second episode I had to keep watching.

reaper
reaper
27 days ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

I usually would continue after your recommendation. But I really really disliked it. If I thought it only was a bit off it might had been different.

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
27 days ago
Reply to  reaper

I appreciate where you are coming from, reaper 😊

reaper
reaper
27 days ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

Maybe you don’t cause I also dropped “The red sleeve” after two episodes 😀 😀 😀

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
27 days ago
Reply to  reaper

😂🤣😂

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
27 days ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

Sean, you are The Man.

MyKDramaticLife
MyKDramaticLife
27 days ago

My K-Dramatic 2021: Year-End Review and Awards

2021 is a year full of trials and stresses due to the pressures of this vast world. Inspite of that, I am still hopeful and positive that I am still able to binge watch my dramas. 🙏

So here is my 2021 kdrama+ journey. Enjoy the list! 😊

Top 17 Dramas of 2021

17. Lost (5.5/10)
16. Check Out the Event (6/10)
15. Doom at Your Service (6.5/10)
14. Lovestruck in the City (6.5/10)
13. Move to Heaven (6.5/10)
12. Hellbound (7/10)
11. Kingdom: Ashin of the North (7.5/10)
10. Love Alarm 2 (7.5/10)
9. The Witch’s Diner (7.5/10)
8. Happiness (7.5/10)
7. You Raise Me Up (8/10)
6. Scripting Your Destiny (8/10) 
5. Hospital Playlist 2 (8/10) – still as awesome and heartfelt as season 1. Great to see some development on the Main Five’s lovelives.
4. Mouse (8/10) – a little bit messy and confusing in the whole run, but definitely one of the most thrilling crime and mystery series, twist after twist, revelation after another. Plus, Lee Seung Gi’s performance is to die for, as always. 
3. D.P. (8/10) – a hidden gem one should watch. Am not entirely a sucker for action dramas, but DP is more than just action drama. It’s full of hearts and thought-provoking lessons. 
2. My Roommate is a Gumiho (8.5/10) – am a bias for Hyeri, hehehe. But of course, the show deserves the high score because of a lot of good things it offers, despite being simple. 💛
1. Squid Game (10/10) – If you haven’t watched it yet, then watch it now. You will know why I gave it my 10. 😍

Other Older Dramas:

Three Dads and One Mom (9)
Lie After Lie (8.5)
Hi Bye Mama (8)
Love Alarm 1 (7)
Touch Me If You Can (6.5)
The Best Hit (6.5)
Sweet Home (6)

Other Non-KDramas (my first time watching non-Korean series, and they’re all worth it. 😊💛): 

Bad Genius: The Series (Thailand) (8.5)
Alice in the Borderland (Japan) (8)
A Love So Beautiful (China) (7)

Favorite Re-watch:

Eulachacha Waikiki 1 
Eulachacha Waikiki 2 
Another Oh Hae Young (3rd re-watch)

Dropped Dramas:

Jirisan (Mount Jiri) – dropped at ep. 2
Law School – dropped at ep. 2

Currently watching:

•Work Later, Drink Now
•Sea of Silence

MY K-DRAMATIC AWARDS 2021!

Best Actor: 
Winner: Lee Seung Gi (Mouse)
Runners-Up: Jung Hae In (D.P.), Yoo Ah In (Hellbound)
Special Mention: Yoon Shi Yoon (You Raise Me Up) 

Best Actress: 
Song Ji Hyo (The Witch’s Diner)
Runners-Up: Lee Hyeri (My Roommate is a Gumiho), Han Hyo Joo (Happiness) 

Best Supporting Actor: 
Park Hae Soo (Squid Game) 

Best Supporting Actress:
Winner: Kim Joo Ryoung (Squid Game) 
Runners-Up: Kang Han Na (My Roommate is a Gumiho), Bae Hae Sun (Happiness) 

Best New Actor: 
Wi Ha Joon (Squid Game) 

Best New Actress: 
Ho Yeon Jung (Squid Game) 

Best Villain:
The Villain in Mouse 😁

Best Couple: 
Winner: Park Hyung Shik and Han Hyo Joo (Happiness)
Runner-Up: Jang Ki Yong and Lee Hyeri (My Roommate is a Gumiho)

Best Original Story: Squid Game, Mouse

Characters of the Year: All the Characters in Squid Game 😍

Best Ensemble: Squid Game

Scene Stealers of the Year: 
Heo Sung Tae, Kim Joo Ryoung (Squid Game)

Second Lead Syndrome of the Year: 
Bae In Hyuk (My Roommate is a Gumiho)

Best Bromance: 
Move to Heaven
Runner-Up: D.P.

Best Womance: 
Ho Yeon Jung, Lee Yoo Mi (Squid Game) 

Two-Star Awards: 
Kwon Hwa Woon (Check Out the Event, Mouse, plus bonus: 2020 drama Hi Bye Mama), 
Song Kang (Love Alarm 1/2, 2020 Sweet Home)

Razzie Award:
Doom at Your Service 

Late Discoveries!

Best Girlmance: Hi Bye Mama
Best Ensemble: Three Dads and One Mom
Best Actress: Eugene (Three Dads and One Mom) 
Second Lead Syndrome: Song Kang (Love Alarm 1) 

That’s all for my 2021. 😀

Here’s hoping for a better drama year next year. 💛

#MyKDramatic2021
#MyKDramaticLife

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
27 days ago

An awesome contribution, MyKDramaticLife 😊

Natalia
Natalia
27 days ago

Friends, let’s all hope that 2022 will be a year full of unicorns and puppies for all of us. Stay safe and enjoy as much as possible!

Shahz
Shahz
27 days ago
Reply to  Natalia

Natalie I thought this was a post from Jennifer 🤣

MC
MC
27 days ago
Reply to  Shahz

Hahaha me too! All the unicorn and puppy lovers unite!

merij1
merij1
27 days ago
Reply to  Shahz

Apparently “JJ/Jennifer” (AKA “Shahz” or “Natalia”) has more than just the two accounts. I do love your creatives names!

Explanation of this joke, for Natalia especially
This is a running joke from the Patreon Deep Dive Zone, where Jennifer and Shahz tag-team each other to the point that they resemble a single person. (One of whom loves unicorns!)

Natalia
Natalia
26 days ago
Reply to  Shahz

It was a tribute!!

J3ffc
J3ffc
27 days ago
Reply to  Natalia

I literally just stopped playing with my puppy to check out the blog 😅🐶. Happy 2022 2 all!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
27 days ago
Reply to  J3ffc

The world would really be a nicer place with more 🦄💖🐶💖🦄💖🐶💖

uyen
27 days ago

Great post, KFG!! I was scrolling through titles and “Hello, Me” piqued my interest but I haven’t heard much about it, so appreciate your thumbs up. Also I didn’t think much of “Bossam”‘s synopsis, but somehow your description and maybe that pic appealed to me lol. Also some of the shorter ones are catching my eye but weren’t on my radar at all like “Off the Course”, “Break Up Probation: A Week,” and “Scripting Your Destiny”!

Natalia
Natalia
27 days ago
Reply to  uyen

Hi Uyen, Bossam is a 20 episodes show that should have been a 16 episodes show, but the OTP and the leading and supporting cast (well, maybe not the baddies) are totally worth watching it, even if with a little FF towards the final stretch…

uyen
26 days ago
Reply to  Natalia

ooh, thanks for the +1 Natalia! I honestly haven’t explored sageuks much but am intrigued to try them and have a soft spot for Jung Il Woo. prepared to FF, not afraid to watch on 1.5x if needed lol

pickleddragon
pickleddragon
27 days ago

Thank you for your review, kfangurl! It’s been a pleasure reading your blog all through the year, and I am not kidding when I say that I’ve begun to view and enjoy dramas differently inspired by how you frame your own viewing experience.

My own standout 10/10 dramas of 2021 are “On the Verge of Insanity” and “Remembrance of Things Past”. I’m happy to see at least one of those on your plan-to-watch list. I find the comparison of the latter with My Mister interesting; it’s not a connection I would make. Personally, I thought it was more like “Be Melodramatic” in that it’s about female friendships, but less “melodramatic” 😀 and certainly less comedy. Ren Suxi (in RoTP) was the revelation of the year for me.

(Also, I’ve been plugging Insanity everywhere I go, but at the risk of being blacklisted, I want to say, do please give it a chance. It’s a true hidden gem, which hasn’t got its due – IMO partly because of poor marketing, bad timing (Olympics), and not enough “pretty” actors. That said, it has a cast of characters you will warm up to without knowing, and a script that is absurd, tight, hilarious and feel-good, all at the same time. I classify it as a happy version of Misaeng, although the similarity is only in that it is an office drama too.)

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
27 days ago
Reply to  pickleddragon

There are number of very enthusiastic supporters of Insanity here, pickleddragon, so you are in fine company 😊

merij1
merij1
27 days ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

Me, for sure!

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
27 days ago

Happy New Year! I was happy to see some of my 2021 favorite make KFG’s list. I will definitely check out She Would Never Know and Lost. Navillera’s win is well deserved.

MC
MC
27 days ago

Happy new year KFG! While I hardly watched any of these, I have some on my to-watch list. Mostly I’m grateful that you work so hard to get all these done so to enhance our viewing experience. My watching life wouldn’t be the same without all of you in the blog, on Patreon and in the group watches! May 2022 bring more wonderful shows! Take care everyone!

lotusgirl
lotusgirl
27 days ago

Great year end wrap up! There were a lot of really good shows this year. Thanks for helping us maneuver our way through it all and find the best fit for us in what was out there. 💜💜we sure appreciate all your hard work!!

Trent
27 days ago

Ah, KFG, great round up of a year. And that…sure was a year, wasn’t it?

Some great and interesting dramas on your list; I think I’ve seen most of the dramas on your “make time for” and “solid recommend” lists (7 out of the 10 on each). …Y’all are really going to make me watch Navillera one of these days, aren’t you?

On your jury-still-out list, sounds like you’ve got it pegged pretty well. I am with you in that I’m enjoying The Red Sleeve a lot right now; I definitely think The King’s Affection comes in at a very solid B+ or even B++; Snowdrop…dangit, I sure wish it weren’t so strictly geo-restricted, because I would really like to be able to judge for myself what all the hoo-haw and uproar is about; and Our Beloved Summer, my gosh, I’m so in love with those kids right now…as I said over on Patreon, if they can bring it home, it’s absolutely going to be in the running for OTP of the year next year.

Oh, and even though it’s not on your radar, I’m quite enjoying Bulgasal four episodes in, although if one is not up for dark fantasy, Korean folklore/mythology, reincarnation, Lee Jin-wook, and Kwon Nara…it’s probably not going to be one’s cup of tea.

Let’s all raise a glass for many fine dramas in the year to come!

lotusgirl
lotusgirl
27 days ago
Reply to  Trent

Yes! You must watch Navillera! It is well worth your time.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
27 days ago
Reply to  Trent

Trent – I second that. Navillera was really well done. I cried throughout. I do not think I am amiss to say that I was swept away by the sheer beauty of this drama.

Last edited 27 days ago by phl1rxd
j3ffc
j3ffc
27 days ago

Thanks for the recap. Although I only watched as many shows this year as I published papers (too few on both counts), Navilerra was also number 1 on my drama list. I hope it’s OK to recycle a bit of my post on the Poll site, because it directly riffs on KFG’s comments about the overall quality of the year. [Blatant self-plagiarism follows.]

One thing that struck me from all of these posts is that each and every participant seemed to have a good number of shows that they were very enthusiastic about. Some might even grow in stature in short order. For example, KFG listed 19 dramas in the past 5 years as “iconic” in her “Dear Fangurl” post a bit back. An acknowledged classic, My Mister, is barely four years old.

The point is that I’ve read many comments about how K-drama “ain’t what it used to be” over the last year or so, question the results of “westernization” or “Netflixation” on the genre, or ask if the field is getting too popular for its own good. All of these are certainly questions to consider or debate, and my intention is not to say that any of these opinions are invalid. However, what seems clear, based on thoughtful commentary and insightful watching on the part of some of our most active members of our community, that there are still quality shows being made and that they are worth watching. 

All in all, I’d like to end a fairly crappy year with one positive thought, and this one is enough to put a smile on my face heading into 2022. Happy New Year to all.

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
27 days ago
Reply to  j3ffc

I enjoyed your original comments on the Poll site, j3ffc. We were having this exact same conversation around the dinner table the other night. I am not sure how we would go about having such considerations and debate at this point, but they are such interesting points of view and need to be explored further. In some ways, it would be like opening Pandora’s Box or perhaps even similar to opening the myriad of doors from Monsters Inc. That being said, Lee T has some very interesting thoughts around this very subject in her latest post: https://invisibledragon.home.blog/2021/12/30/stories-of-being-stories-of-doing-2021-the-year-of-doing/

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
27 days ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

Sean – I have to say that is an excellent article! It definitely resonated with me. Thanks for posting that link.

j3ffc
j3ffc
27 days ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

Thank you Sean, and thanks also for the link. Definitely an interesting take on a topic for a future conversation. Right now, I’m counting the blessing that I seem to have 11-12 2021 dramas to add to The Neverending List, and that is a Good Thing. And judging from your comment on Lee T’s site, I’ll look forward to hearing your take on Silent Sea sometimes.

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
27 days ago

Where would we be without kfangurl’s year end review? Certainly 2021 was an interesting drama year. I found, as far as kdramas were concerned, it was a bookend year i.e. dramas I liked at either end of the year, and not so much in the middle, although there was the occasional one.

Of course, I watch daily’s and weekend dramas too – longer formats and unfortunately, some of them get rather makjang orientated (I did say makjangy originally, because that’s what we tend to do to words where I am, like thingy 😊). Sadly, the daily’s were bad this year. One in particular, Phoenix, was so bad, the ML got up and quit and the 2nd FL was written out of the show. So, the 2nd ML ended up with the FL and triumphed by default 😂

KFG’s statistics are interesting, and we did watch many of the same shows. Which bears out, despite my frustration with kdramas, my Top 10 focus was all about them, despite watching a handful of other shows from elsewhere that could have been in the list. It’s a long winded way of saying that 2021 for kdramaland was not as bad as I thought.

2021 has ended with a bang – a dearth of kdramas that are so good. What’s more, 2022 is looking awesome. May you have a Happy New Year, kfangurl and the same to all on the blog here 🥳🎉🎊🍾🎆🎆🎆

lotusgirl
lotusgirl
27 days ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

Happy New Year to you as well! I’m watching Uncle as you suggested and loving it. You’ve apparently figured out the sweet spot in my drama tastes. Thanks for the recommendation!!

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
27 days ago
Reply to  lotusgirl

I am glad you are loving, Uncle, lotusgirl 😊