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.
If you missed our earlier posts, you can check them out as follows: phl1rxd, j3ffc, Uyen, Sean, Martina, David, Natalia, MC.
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.
Twenty-Five, Twenty-One (Korea)
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
Heard it Through the Grapevine (Korea, 2015)
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.
Someday or One Day (Taiwan, 2019)
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.
I’m finishing up my current list of watches to make way for 2023 starts, with First Love (Japan), Under the Queen’s Umbrella (Korea), and Meet Yourself (China) at the top of my list.
Looking forward to finding my bona fide 2023 favorite dramas – from all over Asia – in the months ahead. Wishing you the same.
You write so well! What a great way to do your year end review! I also really loved Heard it through the Grapevine and was so impressed by our young couple sticking to their guns!
Thank you, lotusgirl!
Ooh, I loved reading your post, Leslie!! I actually watched the first ep of Shining For One Thing and liked it, I just need to get back to fully sit down with the diff ep notes and make my way through. Totally agree with you on LLTG and certain arcs enhancing the story for me.
I adored Our Beloved Summer. Also have looked at Happiness but I’m not a zombies person, so that’s really the only thing holding me back, given all the great things I’ve seen on it. You also reminded me I STILL have to watch Semantic Error, I totally forgot!
I hope you enjoy First Love and Under the Queen’s Umbrella
@uyen – Sorry for the delayed reply – I was busy bingeing First Love. 😂 What a treat. 😍 Re: Happiness- As you’ve probably read, the zombies are a different kind of zombie than we usually see in, well, zombie dramas. Which, I think, is one of the show’s charms. I admit though, enhanced zombies or not, they’re still pretty creepy. I encourage watching the show because of all the other good stuff, which really dominates: heroism, the OTP, and social psychology vibes. If it suits. If not, there are so many other good ones out there, for everyone’s wheelhouse, right?
Ah, Leslie, yes Shining for One Thing had some excellent parts and characters – though I did struggle with certain bits, so much so I almost gave up watching it. You talk about lots of shows I haven’t seen or even heard of. I always feel like I’m missing out! But Reset is on my list!!
@Ele – Shining for One Thing was not perfect, for sure. You know, the fact I had to watch it twice to understand it, suggests there may have been some plotting and editing issues. (Not denying that watcher error – specifically, not paying close enough attention (put down other screens!) – definitely had something to do with it, too.😉 ) I liked Show because of the feel of the drama world (mysterious, a little weird, aka webtoon-ish), the growth arc of the FL, and the love story that became more concrete as the story developed. Is there such a thing as too many good dramas to explore?
I found your year end awards gave me good food for thought, Leslie. For instance, I might just need to take a look at Shining For One Thing. Although, I do like this genre, many shows I have watched in the past have failed to deliver. Hence, I didn’t watch it at the time. However, you may have just convinced me to do otherwise.
As with It’s Beautiful Now, Our Beloved Summer was another drama that tanked for me. I found it changed up during the gazebo-rain scene and went off in a direction totally contrary to my expectations. Still, there were some wonderful moments and I loved the whole art/drawing scenario.
Like you, I would be fully onboard for a rewrite of the closing episodes to Kiss Sixth Sense. The use of “vinyl scratch” to describe how show suddenly transformed is spot on. It was that instantaneous 😂
I’m glad you took a shine to Happiness. It was a very clever and thoughtful production that contained a good blend between what we have come to expect in a Kdrama and new possibilities. In a word – refreshing.
I think 2023 has shaped up to be an interesting viewing year ahead. I do think CDramas are on to something now and the major Chinese tv stations have become very clever in terms of how they use You Tube to deliver dramas 😉
Hi Sean, let me add my voice to encourage you to watch Shining for One Thing, I really loved it! The first couple of episodes FL was a bit annoying and pesky but then it really settles into a good groove.
Thank you for the encouragement, Elaine. I’m deciding on what shall be my 800th drama to watch, and Shining is now a very strong candidate 😊
Thanks, Sean. It’s great to share blog space with someone whose tastes are broad and sure, but who also roots for everyone’s positive viewing experience, no matter how it may differ from your own. Huzzah!
Cheers, Leslie. Thank you for you very kind and generous words. Huzzah, Huzzah, Huzzah
@Leslie, thanks so much for such interesting drama possibilities to add to the list! Soundtrack #1 sounds right up my alley! Of those, you’re just adding fuel to the LLTG and Reset fires….😳
I appreciated your comment re 21/25 that “I’m happy for them. Me, I sobbed ugly and punched pillows.” 😂 I was among those not too upset with the ending and appreciate the sentiment! Also, I did sneak in “Love and Leashes” in response to a movie discussion over at Patreon and enjoyed it as well (as I did your phrase “racy-adjacent”!).
And a “hear hear” for your shout out to the group watches this year. If you had told me that I’d be watching a dark comedy on class warfare that features a house as a major character, I’d have said “Oh, must be a Group Watch over at The Verdict!”. Thanks for joining and sharing your post…happy 2023!
Thanks, j3ffc. Here’s to many more long, short, romantic, suspenseful, historical, sci-fi, Korean, Chinese, demure, and racy-adjacent dramas in 2023!
Thanks for a wonderful post. I love the way you described you reaction to dramas you watched. “Ripped to shreds” is definitely the best way to describe “21, 25.”
I’m putting “Love Like the Galaxy” at the top of my list, as I’m finally brave enough to try a the long-haul dramas.
Seriously, if you want a fellow-fan, travel partner to South Korea from the US midwest, I’m definitely up for it:
Happy 2023 viewing!
* I added a spoiler tag for privacy purposes ~KFG
Su San – Hope Love Like the Galaxy works for you! These 40+ episode dramas require some endurance, for sure. But the 38-minute episodes (once you subtract opening and closing themes) seem to flow more easily than longer shows. Wouldn’t a trip to South Korea be great! 😊
Leslie, what can I say, I just loved the way you categorized your shows! Loved your post!
Oh, and I loved the ten last episodes of LLTG too, it’s just that I thought they had some editing problems!
Thanks, Natalia. Yes, editing can be everything!
I loved your post. Some shows I have seen and loved but I am so behind on others and thank you for reminding me about Soundtrack.
I loved Semantic error as well! It was just so much fun. Also I feel we need a travel blog from you!
Thank you Leslie, for this very engaging read! It is both so personal and well-informed, and takes scarves into account, too. I love your Park Hyung Shik and Lee Joon appreciation – both intelligent guys who do really well with strong leading ladies. And thanks for mentioning Love and Leashes which I thought was really well done and required courage from both idol leads. Just a breath of fresh air. I will give Soundtrack #1 and Semantic Error a chance as you’re such a convincing advocate.
ngobee – Thanks for your kind words. ❤️ Writing about Love and Leashes has made me want to watch it again. A 2-hour movie makes it so easy to do. Hope you enjoy Soundtrack #1 and Semantic Error as much as I – both are short series, so also in the category of easy to do. Happy 2023.
First things first – I am so impressed with your job and your commitment to it. My heart swelled reading that introduction. I pray that you can have all of your travel dreams come true – just let us see the photos LOL!
I have seen 2 of your Top Three (and some of the other 7) and really liked them. Leslie – your two Best Kisses are so on the money.
I have to laugh as you mention all the scarves in Soundtrack. Well Leslie, let me tell you, you have not seen scarves until we get further into Winter Sonata, the original Scarftastic drama. Stick with us Leslie! There is SO much to talk about with WS and I guarantee that you will get a good laugh.
I have read that Semantic Error is KDrama’s best BL to date. This drama has a ton of fans. I was thinking of watching and was on the fence but your write up has made up my mind and I will push it up the queue.
Love and Leashes just goes to show us that there is nothing that KDrama does not do well.
I am still working my way through It’s Beautiful Now.
I totally agree with your Razzie and I love your categories.
Good job you Leslie!! 💖💥🔥💯😉
phl1rxd – I’ll be keeping an eye out for the Winter Sonata scarves (though it doesn’t sound like I’ll need to strain my eyes to do so.) 😉 It’s Beautiful Now is imperfect, but has some great moments, I think. Hope you enjoy Semantic Error, too!
Leslie – I loved the color palette they used on Jun Sang’s clothing and accesories. It was like looking at a bowl of sherbet, and in many different flavors too.
Ah, Happiness! Who could have thought that a zombie drama would feature one of the best OTPs in drama world?
First Love is a gem, even better as a rewatch.
I also have Under the Queen’s Umbrella on my list.
Exactly, the OTP in Happiness was a real revelation!
Leslie — Thank you so much for putting pen to paper…or fingers to keyboard…you know what I mean! and sharing your year-end list.
We are simpatico, I loved most of the dramas showing up on your list as well. Finally, some Soundtrack #1 love!
And yes for Happiness, Reset, and Our Blues, all of which I enjoyed as well. Definitely on board with your picks of 25-21, loved Hee-do’s chaotic energy and love for life especially; and Our Beloved Summer, loved those crazy kids a lot…
And yay! for the Love and Leashes mention–what an unexpectedly enjoyable and emotionally hefty watch.
Finally, shoutout to the faithful Heard it through the Grapevine groupwatch crew! Another somewhat unexpectedly great, enriching drama journey, for sure. I join you in a bit of covert lust for the Han’s ancestral home, that place was really strange and different, but also pretty cool.
Here’s hoping for another great drama journey in 2023…
Thanks, Trent. There may have been more love for Soundtrack #1 if it were on a different service than Disney+. 😂 I’ve slipped Love and Leashes onto my rewatch list. It’s nice to fit in a short drama experience every once in a while, and my memory of the movie is quickly becoming a detail-free zone. 😉 On! On! 2023!
(P.S. Were you familiar with a running group in Taipei, back in the day, called the Hash House Harriers?)
YAY LESLIE!!!! Sooooo excited for your post and loved reading all of it and your picks. ❤️ I have missed your commentary over on Patreon and so happy we finally a good solution for the spoiler adverse in the Deep Dive Zone! I have been thrilled seeing you over there more because I always love to see what you have to say about a Show ❤️
Oh we sure did have fun with Shining For One Thing didnt we!?! What a beautiful Show that still stays with me as the time has passed. Do you still hear
I love your Top 3!!! Luckily, I finally got access and watched Soundtrack#1!!!! And how can anyone go wrong with LLTG!!! Ready for the 2023 unedited version that I hope we manage to convince KFG to do a Group Watch with the new version? Every one say YES now to a Group Watch of LLTG PLEASE 😇😂
You have convinced me to finally push play for Its Beautiful Now ! I had been putting it off I guess waiting for that right Kdrama moment? And maybe its good its not bingeable?!
SQUEAL!!! I love your new category of best kiss! 🥳🤩 Why have we been missing this one until now?! And I agree except I think I missed the one in Semantic Error episode 8!
Ugh, I cannot get enough of Someday Oneday! The flight to Singapore isnt that long right?!! 🤪
Our Blues holds a super special place in my heart ❤️
So many good Shows – Our Beloved Summer, Reset! I love them all 🙂 Loved Happiness, too, but those “zombies” and villains were a bit too much for me…
Loved your post looking forward to more from you in 2023 ❤️
p.s. Please tell me when you finish First Love:Hatsukoi. I need to talk about every frame of this Show endlessly ❤️ I cannot wait for you to finish it 🙂
p.p.s – you were not alone in that ugly cry with 25 21 🥰
@JJ I hear that the Someday Or One Day movie is screening in selected theaters in the US! Check the movie theater schedules, especially those in the city! You just might be able to catch it! My friend in Chicago is watching it this weekend!! ❤️
@KFG – OMO!!! No way…..omo 🤭omo
Fangurl – You have friends who love you from all over the world. 💖
Aww.. that’s such a sweet sentiment, @phl1rxd! I definitely count you as one of those friends! 🥰🥰🥰
I concur with this Fangurl, as it is currently being shown in Cherry Hill NJ which is about an hour away from me.
I love how our friend in Singapore alerted me to the fact that a film made in Taiwan is now available in my Midwest U.S. city. 🥰😆 Says it all.
She is a master at bringing like minds together.☺️
@Leslie Wow, when you put it that way, it is really quite mind-boggling! 🤯😍
Oh..and watch it we did!!🤯 So wonderful to meet your tribe in the real! My❤️for Greg Hsu has re-exploded and he is now demanding I rewatch the drama. As you wish, Ziwei/Quansheng…as you wish!
@Michele Ahhhh!!! So exciting!!! I’m sorry I wasn’t there with you all! So glad you loved the movie – Greg Hsu love re-exploding seems like the only appropriate response, I think! 😁
You there with us would have been the icing on the cake to be sure. But I can assure the three of us CANNOT wait for you to see it!
🤯🤯🤯 experience, all around, KFG. 😉 Super movie, and can’t wait to hear what you have to say about it, once you’ve seen it. Like the series, it bears a re-watch.
@Leslie SO exciting, that you loved it!!! 😍😍 I can’t wait to see it, when it comes to screens here in Singapore!
JJ – The Shining for One Thing journey was, indeed, a lot of fun. 🥳