We’re having guest posts from the lovely folks on Patreon, to help us take stock of our drama years, kinda-sorta like what we had last year, woot! 🥳
We’ll be seeing about 2 guest posts per week, and this will unfold into January 2023, and that’s perfectly ok. AND, my annual year-in-review, which usually comes out in December, will also come out in January (or thereabouts 😅), after all the guest posts have been published.
Today, I’m pleased to announce that Leslie is sharing her drama year!
If you’ve been around the blog for a bit, you’d probably already know Leslie as a really sweet, unassuming and kind person – who often has great insights to share, even though she is modest about them.
I’m so glad that Leslie decided that she was game to write a post this year! Thank you Leslie! 😘
I hope you guys enjoy!
Fellow Drama Fans,
A quick introduction: I hail from the U.S. Midwest, spent most of my career in university administration, and now love working with an organization that supports families transitioning out of homelessness by providing them with a beautiful, dignified home.
I love to travel, and am making progress on a bucket list wish to visit every continent. Antarctica may be the spoiler.
I stumbled upon a few Korean dramas on Netflix in 2018 and 2019 and thought, essentially, “What a cute niche genre this is. I wonder how many other people know about it?”
One pandemic, thefangirlverdict, and 5 drama streaming sources later, I’ve learned – a whole lotta people love these sprawling and diverse dramas!
One of my favorite things about the fan experience is conversing with people from all over the globe about the universal language of Kdrama love. Sharing our favorites at the end of the year is the cherry on top.
As I considered my favorites, and wrote this post, I played creative with some of the End-of-Year categories, because some of my favorite drama experiences came from unexpected sources. I think my submission follows the spirit of the assignment, though.
BTW, I haven’t read any of my fellow Patron’s drama posts yet, because I didn’t want to be swayed (or intimidated – they’re always so good!) before completing mine.
So, as soon as this post is in Fangurl’s hands – I’m on it! 😘 So much to look forward to.
TOP 3 DRAMAS
I always have a hard time with “best” and “favorite” choices, so I’m starting with the three dramas at the top of my rich drama list, to take the pressure off. 😅 And looky here, two are Chinese dramas!
They’re not the only Chinese dramas that made my Best Of list this year, and, based on fellow-Patron reactions throughout 2022, high quality Chinese dramas seem to be having a moment – at least!
JJ and I made a big deal about this drama with Fangurl when we watched it the first time.
We really liked it – were enchanted by it, in fact – but at the end were still perplexed by it. What genre had we just watched? What symbolism had we missed? What did it all mean??
KFG came to the rescue, with great coverage on Patreon for a second watch.
I loved the show even more, as she patiently helped unfold the mysteries of a parallel universe drama, rich with popular and traditional Chinese culture references. It was, ultimately, one of the most touching love stories I’ve watched in a very long time.
Leads Lin Bei Jing/Karlina Shang and Zhang Wan Sen/Qu Chu Xiao carried the show with charm and emotional depth. I can’t wait to watch the movie sequel, promised for 2023! 🤞🏼
From start to finish, this show was visually gorgeous, assuredly written, beautifully acted, and provided enough swoon for even the most demanding romantic.
Leo Wu is outstanding in his role as the fierce, intelligent, emotionally wounded warrior who loses his heart to the immature, passionate, and whip-smart Shao Shang, played charmingly by Zhao Lusi.
Perhaps in the minority of viewers, I thought the last 10 episodes added a poignancy and heft to the drama that only enhanced its artistry.
Some judicious editing (either earlier in the story or at the end) could have created a more coherent conclusion, but the lack of it did not diminish the impact of Ling Buyi’s emotional journey for me.
The story of growth for our OTP, both as individuals and as a couple, captured my heart, completely.
In four tightly written episodes, this friends-to-lovers story delivers a heart-filling, satisfying drama experience.
Starting with an innocent question, “Have you ever experienced unrequited love?”, Park Hyung Sik and Han So Hee explore and evaluate their nearly nineteen-year friendship, while their careers, as photographer and song lyricist, take off.
It was a pleasure to watch a couple that is kind and loving to each other from the get-go – even if one of them is clueless about the feelings of the other!
Park Hyung Sik’s secret smitten gazes are the stuff that makes a heart flutter. Lee Jung Eun, a favorite of many, has a great guest role and, as usual, brings it.
As might be surmised from the title, the OST is a significant character in the drama.
With emotive and pensive songs, it skillfully and satisfyingly moves the story forward in its abbreviated timeframe.
It gets my vote for Best OST of 2022. And the kiss at the end of episode 4 might just get my vote for Best Kiss of 2022. I just made that category up. 😘
Those who admire the ubiquitous chic outerwear of so many Korean dramas will be happy to know there are wintry scarves to match every ensemble!
NEXT 7 FAVORITES
What a pair of heroes we had in Sae Bom and Yi Hyun!
Fighting zombies and nasty neighbors – and the even nastier government – while keeping each other safe from a virulent virus, the couple maintains their integrity and humanness even while most around them falter.
Throw in a (very) slow burn love story, and it was a highly satisfying thriller cum-social commentary drama.
Since Park Hyung Sik starred as the ML in two of my favorite dramas this year, I choose him as my Best Male Actor of 2022!
A slow-moving drama, I was moved by the subtle and shifting relationship between our opposites-attract main couple.
Yeon Soo and Woong were two of the quirkiest characters of the year, played with honesty and depth by Kim Da Ri and Choi Woo Shik. It’s a story about learning how to love oneself, as much as a love story between two people. Touching, funny, and cerebral.
A very good watch.
A superbly plotted thriller, I enjoyed every scene of this show.
It deftly handled a potentially boring looping-scene device in a way that built a narrative which kept me guessing and interested until the very end. Excellent editing! Reset is another cerebral gem from 2022.
Show introduced me to the versatility of Bai Jing Ting, who I’ve just watched in a very different role in New Life Begins.
This drama made my top-ten list, even though it ultimately shredded my heart.
This might be considered a spoiler-y statement, but many a viewer did not have the same experience. In fact, a significant number of people found it to be a deeply insightful story about the nature of beautiful first love.
I’m happy for them. Me, I sobbed ugly and punched pillows.
When Show was at its cracky best, I couldn’t get enough of the unlikely pair, Hee Do and Yi Jin, ably played by Kim Tae Ri and Nam Joo Hyuk.
Hee Do’s endless energy and artless enthusiasm for life were a joy to watch. Kim Tae Ri is my nomination for Best Female Actor this year!
Yi Jin’s sad, bemused, lonely, yet passionate character also captured my imagination. Together, they seemed to be each other’s perfect complement. Ahem.
An introduction to the world of competitive fencing, a primer on the impact of Korea’s 1997 IMF crisis, and the chance to share a beautiful summer of youth among good friends were bonuses in this bright and engaging drama.
Semantic Error (Korea)
I loved this cheeky little romance between brilliant, highly- disciplined (read: rigid) CS student, Chu Sang Woo, and creative, laissez-faire design senior, Jang Jae Young. Even the soundtrack was cheeky!
In eight short, tightly written episodes, the story takes us from antagonistic classmates to sweet lovers with laughs and feels and interesting questions about love along the way.
It doesn’t break radical new ground in the romance genre, but it executed the story it set out to tell nearly perfectly. I’m happy S. Korea is bringing the same quality of writing, acting, and production values it’s known for, to the BL genre.
But wait! It also gets another of my votes for just about Best Kiss of 2022, which kiss comes at the end of ep. 8, after initial end credits start to roll. Apparently, I do like this faux category! 😉
This charming omnibus of a drama, filled with slice of life moments and stories of an endearing, yet flawed, community, offered me an incredible, emotional journey.
The themes of lives at their beginnings, middles, and ends were thought provoking and moving.
There wasn’t a weak storyline among them, but I especially – and unexpectedly – appreciated the mother-son story between Ok Dong and Deong Seok.
Unexpected because both characters, played by veteran actors Kim Hye Ja and Lee Byung Hun, were hard for me to warm up to at first. They were the least understandable (to me) of our ensemble group.
But as their story unfolded in the last episodes, their deep humanity was a wonder.
Love and Leashes (Korea)
Technically not a Kdrama at all, Love and Leashes was a fun surprise of Korean romantic comedy meets racy-adjacent Korean movie.
The story of co-workers who engage in an unexpected, but consensual, BDSM relationship offers laughs, feels, and exploration of a relationship that is not usually on the menu of our sweet Korean romances.
About the movie, film critic Kate Sánchez, said it much better than I:
“It’s a wholesome look at boundaries and love while also taking time to explore kink in a context that doesn’t treat it as something dangerous or abnormal… one of the best representations of kink I’ve seen in a film.”
And before you ask, or at least wonder, I haven’t watched a ton of kinky films for comparison – but, you get what I mean! 😆
It’s Beautiful Now (Korea)
Chock-full of veteran actors (Park In Hwan!), this family drama depicts a version of the real-life trend of current-generation S. Koreans who are reluctant to marry and start a family.
The story introduces the three Lee brothers, ranging in age from 27-39, who are uninterested in finding wives and beginning a new generation of the Lee clan.
Anxious to welcome grandchildren, their parents and grandfather incentivize the brothers with a free home in Seoul for the one who marries first.
So ensues a number of expected and unexpected complications, misunderstandings, and surprisingly real-life emotional reactions. Show also takes on the thorny issue of adoption in S. Korea, in a thoughtful way.
At 50 episodes, it was not a binge-er, for sure, but it kept my interest until the very end (with the exception of a few slow spots in the great middle stretch.)
Production values were less polished than I’m used to (some sets looked like they came straight out of a 2004 storage locker 😆), and acting leaned melodramatic at times.
Still, all in all, a satisfying watch.
Kiss Sixth Sense (Korea)
A fun and cracky drama for 9.5 episodes, it starts with the engaging story of a woman who can see the future of anyone she kisses. She accidentally brushes lips with her boss, and the show is on!
It was on its way to a B++ until midway through episode 9 when – vinyl record scratch! – the wheels came off.
The final 2.5 episodes, were silly and boring and somewhat nonsensical, with no discernable reason for them to be so.
I kept thinking “Here, writer-nim, I can give you 3 or 4 – or a dozen! – other ways to finish this up better… and I’m no writer!”
What a disappointment. Please, producers, give it another try and deliver that B++ drama! (Breath not being held.)
Favorite Group Watch
I loved this satirical, darkly funny, yet trenchant social drama… somewhat to my surprise.
I wouldn’t call satire or dark humor my thing. But I found this a fascinating, beautifully produced, written, and acted drama, that grabbed my interest and kept it through all 30 episodes. I, also, still covet the Han “ancestral” home.
Seo Bom, the brilliant 18-year-old mother who stands by her values against enormous pressures, was my hero.
I became a new fan of Lee Joon, who plays the devoted, if still maturing, 18-year-old father pushing back against crushing parental and societal expectations.
The Seo and Han families, and a plethora of faithful (but are they?) servants and employees offer ample opportunity to explore humanity in all of its quirkiness, contradictions, and deep hope.
Shoutout to eda harris, j3ffC, Maria F, Snowflower, and Trent for adding commentary until the very end! I love a good drama conversation on the blog.
I watched this Taiwanese drama for the first time in 2020 and liked it a lot, but re-viewing it as part of a Group Watch under KFG’s sure guidance in 2022, increased my enjoyment several-fold.
Some dramas, especially twisty, turn-y, time-travel-y, complex ones, beg to be seen again with additional new voices, to add perspective and depth.
If you take on this drama anew, I highly recommend reading Fangurl’s accompanying Group Watch notes, side-by-side.
MyDramaList says that the promised follow-on film, Someday or One Day: The Movie, opened on December 30, 2022 in Taiwan and China, but I haven’t yet found where it’s available for streaming. If anyone learns – let me know! Can’t wait to see it.
So ends my thoughts on dramaland 2022. It was a satisfying twelve months.
Looking forward to finding my bona fide 2023 favorite dramas – from all over Asia – in the months ahead. Wishing you the same.