Year In Review: 2022

I know, I know. This Year-In-Review is suuper late; I’ve always typically published my year-end post before 31 December each year, and now, it’s already the middle of March! ๐Ÿ˜…

If you’ve been around the blog, though, you’d know that this was because we’ve been having year-end posts from folks on Patreon, so that we can have a more wholistic look at Dramaland’s offerings, comparatively speaking.

What I mean is, I’m just one person, so there’s a limit to the number of shows I can check out in a year, even if I did nothing but watch dramas all year long.

With the community chiming in, we get to see a bigger range of dramas mentioned – and if certain shows get mentioned a lot as being really good (or really disappointing), then the rest of us know to pay extra attention. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I hope that after 14 (!!) guest year-end wrap posts (they’re all listed here!), you’ve still got room in your heart for one more. ๐Ÿ˜…

My writer cell, feeling all important and busy!

My Drama Year in 2022

As I’m now taking stock of my drama year in 2022, it actually feels like almost a lifetime ago; with 2023 already here and running, I’ve already been sampling and enjoying Dramaland’s 2023 offerings.

The silver lining to my year-end wrap-up coming so late, though, is that I did have more time than the average person (almost 3 more months!) to watch shows from 2022. I know I’ve kept you all waiting, but hopefully this silver lining will help to make up for the long wait. ๐Ÿ˜…

With Dramaland pushing out so much new content every year, and with us getting so much more in the way of new dramas now, compared to just 5 years ago, there is A LOT more to sift through, to get to the drama gems.

The good news, is that I’m finding that with the higher volume of dramas, we’re getting a corresponding higher volume of great shows.

I’ve mentioned in the past, that having around 6 dramas in the A-grade range was indicative of a good drama year, for me. But in 2021, I had 10 dramas in that range, and in 2022, I had 9.

And, in 2021, I had 8 dramas in the B++ range, which I consider a very, very respectable grade, and in 2022, I had 9 shows in this same range.

Altogether, a pretty great showing, yes? ๐Ÿคฉ

For context, I do think that I’m becoming pickier with my dramas as I go. I do always try to keep an open mind, but sometimes, my jadedness does peek out somewhat, when I get underwhelmed by writing that I consider uninspired, and execution that I consider pedestrian.

Which, really, means that Dramaland’s pulling out the stops, isn’t it, since it’s managing to get pretty good grades in my books – even as I’m getting pickier and more discerning?

Also for context, I do try to step outside my drama comfort zone to try out a show, if I hear that it’s well-written and well-made.

This does help me to ensure a solid drama year, because even if Dramaland doesn’t manage to put out a bunch of great rom-coms, for example, it will still put out some great stuff.

How this post works

As always, I’m only including dramas that ended in 2022,ย because it’s always made more sense to me, to judge a drama only after itโ€™s finished its run.

Itโ€™s only fair, I think, since Dramaland has proven to us time and again, how a drama can bomb at the very last minute. ๐Ÿ˜œ

As always, 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: Because it’s been so popular with the guest posts, I’m also including a new section at the end of the post, where I name my Best Drama, Best Actors, etc.

I hope you guys enjoy. โค๏ธ

The Ones Worth Making Time For

The Red Sleeve

Except for some pretty minor gripes, I found this show to be elegantly conceived and lovingly written, with truly excellent performances from our cast.

This show made me think, and made me feel, both in no small measure. And then, after consuming me almost completely, Show lingered with me, long after the final credits had stopped rolling.

Your mileage may vary with the ending, but I personally found it beautifully handled, to the very last drop.

Grade: A

Review: here.

Twenty-Five, Twenty One

I loved this one right away, like pretty much on sight, because of how nostalgic, yet how fresh it felt to me, at the same time.

Where some shows feel like they’re being patched together by uninspired writers, this one felt alive, as if it had its own life source.

All of our characters pop with a lot of life and heart, and even though I might have wanted certain plot points to have taken different turns, I thought it all felt authentic, understandable and believable, in the end.

An excellent, poignant coming-of-age tale, with lashings of bittersweet – with less emphasis on the bitter, than the sweet.

Grade: A

Review: here.

Under The Queen’s Umbrella

So. Much. Heart., y’all. I loved this one so much more than I’d imagined I would.

Well-written, well-paced, well-handled and well-acted, this one was so much easier to love than I’d expected. Who knew that a story about a Queen Mama Bear fighting to protect her babies, could be so heartfelt and gripping?

Vibrant, engaging, and oh-so-personal. Highly recommend.

Grade: A

Review: here.

Reset [China]

Compact and twisty-turny, this one worked out to be an engaging watch that felt fresh and interesting to the very last drop.

On paper, this just sounded like Groundhog Day on a bus, but in execution, this worked out to be compelling AND heartfelt, which is a great combination of things to be.

I loved that Show keeps things fresh, going in directions that I didn’t expect, and I also loved that Show takes pains to helps us get to know our characters, even in the midst of our characters’ disaster-prevention efforts.

Highly recommend – even if you don’t typically watch Chinese dramas.

Grade: A

Review: here.

Love Like The Galaxy

Ahhh, this show. ALL OF THE FEELS, Y’ALL. ๐Ÿฅฐ

Let me put it this way. If Show’s last stretch hadn’t suffered from excessive editing, which made our last lap weirdly choppy in spots, this show would’ve gotten an A+ from me; the central romance, with the excellent, sparky chemistry between Wu Lei and Zhao Lu Si, is just that engaging and swoony, to me. ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿซ โค๏ธ

As a bonus, Show is gorgeously shot, and also includes some interesting nuggets of insight into Chinese culture

Grade: A

Review: here.

First Love: Hatsukoi [Japan]

I really, really liked this one.

This one feels like someone took a classic melodrama, and upcycled it. Like, they took that classic melodrama apart, and put it together again, in a more polished, stylish sort of manner, while retaining some key elements that are hallmarks of the classic melo, and making sure to give us a – yesss – happy ending.

This is like the classic melo got reborn – and became better. ๐Ÿ˜

Grade: A

Review: here.

Our Blues

An ambitious omnibus that actually works, Our Blues is an impressive coming together of an all-star cast, that breathes life into this little community on beautiful Jeju Island.

I love how down-to-earth yet charming this drama world feels, and it’s great that as we move from story to story – which ensures that there’s something for everyone – we get to know our characters more and more, so that by the time we get to the end, we feel like we’ve spent quality time with every single one of the residents of this drama world.

A wonderful serving of slice-of-life drama, with gorgeous Jeju scenery to further sweeten the deal.

Grade: A-

Review: here.

Pachinko

An expansive, ambitious story that spans borders and generations, I found Pachinko much more affecting than I’d originally expected.

Show chooses to tell its story in carefully chosen fragments, so that it all comes together from different angles, in the watch experience.

Different characters’ perspectives; different timelines; different countries; it can feel scattered and random at first, but it all comes together in an affecting, thought-provoking manner, that I really enjoyed.

Dramatic, unrelenting and poignant.

Grade: A-

Review: here.

Yumi’s Cells 2

I loved Season 1 (review is here!), and had high hopes and expectations for Season 2, and I’m pleased to say that Show met those expectations very capably.

Show still feels extremely relatable yet fresh at the same time, though your personal experiences will, from anecdotal evidence, likely color the way you process certain plot points and characters, especially male lead Babi, played by Jinyoung.

Although I do have some minor quibbles with some of Show’s decisions, I personally really enjoyed this season, and would actually welcome a third season, if Dramaland chooses to make it.

Grade: A-

Review: here.

Solid Watches I’d Recommend

Our Beloved Summer

A slice-of-life second-chance romance that feels raw, honest and heartfelt in the best way.

Show manages to be down-to-earth, while still serving up the swoony feels of budding feelings, which is a pretty special combination, I feel, because that makes me feel like all these swoony moments are all the more accessible and real.

Our characters feel real, and their growth feels real, and their feelings feel real too, amid the touches of magical sparkle.

Grade: B++

Review: here.

Soundtrack #1

At just 4 episodes, Show works out to be a great little drama snack, for when you’re in the mood for some romcom feels, but don’t have the time to invest in a full length drama.

Han So Hee is effervescent, and Park Hyung Sik serves up the swoony smitten gazes, and.. is there really anything else that you need, from a little show like this? ๐Ÿ˜

Grade: B++

Review: here.

Alchemy Of Souls

The Hong Sisters are bacck, baby. ๐Ÿ˜

I personally found this to be a really strong outing, with a complex, magicky world with its internal mythology and related rules well-established, and writing that manages to mix the more dramatic arcs with spots of levity, without giving me any drama whiplash.

Just as importantly, I found the emotional beats well done, and our strong, varied cast does an overall really solid job of delivering it all.

Show kept my attention very well, for the whole of its run, and I’m suitably impressed.

Grade: B++

Review: here.

Little Women

Darkly atmospheric and twisty-intriguing, Show is best consumed as a makjang, because that’s what it is, at its core.

Show starts off with a more measured sort of pace, but eventually turns into quite the wild ride – so buckle up and enjoy the ride, I say.

Show’s not perfect, but it effectively kept me engaged and on the edge of my seat, all the way through to the end, so that’s a big win, in my books. Also, Wi Ha Joon is very handsome in this. ๐Ÿคฉ๐Ÿ˜

Grade: B++

Review: here.

Reborn Rich

A fun, twisty-turny sort of ride, if you keep your logic lens at a blurry setting, and just let Show take on you on the wild ride that it has in store.

I found the last 2 episodes less compelling than the rest of the show, but overall, Show is solid and interesting, albeit not as emotionally engaging as I typically like my dramas to be.

Show weaves many events in modern history into its narrative, making it all an organic part of its story, and I thought this was very nicely done.

Despite my quibbles, I found this to be a worthwhile ride.

Grade: B++

Review: here.

The Glory Part 1

I don’t consider myself into dark revenge stories, but this one sucked me in, in spite of myself and my initial reservations.

Show is polished, absorbing and cracky, and I hafta say, there are lots of great performances throughout this drama world, from our protagonist, to our antagonists.

The bullying scenes can be very intense, so do be prepared for that. Other than that, I found this to be a very absorbing ride that prepped me well, to want to see Part 2, and soon.

Grade: B++

Review: here.

My Liberation Notes

This one.. really isn’t for everyone, I think. Those who love it, reallyreally love it (and would probably give this an A+ – at the minimum), and those who don’t love it, mostly find it boring and underwhelming.

I liked it very well, but it didn’t naturally resonate with me the way it resonates with Show’s biggest fans.

Beyond its quirks, which I took to with varying degrees of ease, I found this one thoughtful and thought-provoking, with lots to chew on, with Show demonstrating a keen understanding of human emotions (and states of being) like grief, loneliness and hope.

Meaty and worthwhile.

Grade: B++

Review: here.

Shining For One Thing [China]

I loved the premise of this one – a do-over story, where our jilted female lead gets to go back in time and not be attracted to her no-good cheater fiancรฉ – but this show turned out to be so different than I’d expected, and in some of the best ways.

Show can take a while to settle, especially with its manhua-esque tendencies, particularly in our early episodes, but eventually, this one turned into a heartfelt coming-of-age tale, AND an epic love story that crept under my skin and stole my heart.

Also, Qu Chu Xiao as shy boy Wansen, is just the most precious cinnamon roll, evar. ๐Ÿคฉ

Grade: B++

Review: here.

Love Between Fairy and Devil [China]

I don’t typically find myself gravitating towards xianxia stories, and yet, I lapped up this one with relish.

I loved that this one was slurpy in all the best ways, despite some rough edges. For the most part, it’s fun to watch – but beyond that, Show manages to be an epic love story, which I was very invested in.

I found Esther Yu very cute and charming, but it was Dylan Wang as our titular devil, who stole the show for me, with his mane of glory, his glowering stare, and his very intense smolder. ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ˜

Grade: B++

Review: here.

A Business Proposalย 

Ahh, this one was just so much tropey, slurpy fun. I had a really good time giggling at the way Show turned tropes on their heads, while serving up a silly-cute brand of fluffy squee.

Show does make some perplexing plot choices, which is why I didn’t score it higher, and it does lose some of its magic by its final two episodes, but this was still a solidly fun watch that I remember fondly.

Grade: B+

Review: here.

Bloody Heart

Atmospheric, beautifully shot and filled with some excellent performances, Show could have been among my top picks for the year – if it had stayed consistent.

Unfortunately, I felt that Show was much stronger in its first 12 episodes, than in its final stretch.

Still worth the watch, in my opinion, for the bold way it presents all its characters in varying shades of gray instead of black or white, for the gorgeous cinematography, and for the fantastic performances from our main cast.

Flawed but still worthwhile.

Grade: B+

Review: here.

Extraordinary Attorney Woo

This is an instance where I feel like the huge amount of buzz around Show, might have actually done it a disservice.

With so many people hyping this one up, and loving on this one, I feel like it messes with viewer expectation, and that can really detract from the watch experience, unfortunately.

Show is rather uneven, especially in its second half, and I personally thought the main loveline could have been better handled, BUT, Show is admittedly wholesome and endearing overall.

Park Eun Bin’s performance as our titular attorney is charming and nuanced. Yes, maybe Woo Young Woo’s characterization has been given a bit of a fairytale dusting, but Park Eun Bin clearly inhabits the role very thoroughly, and brings Woo Young Woo to life from beginning to end. That’s impressive.

Grade: B+

Review: here.

A Dream Of Splendor [China]

There are a few things that I count as Show’s strengths: 1, it’s gorgeous to look at, and features some interesting nuggets about Chinese culture, eg, tea culture; 2, it’s got a great pair of leads who share excellent chemistry; and 3, Show serves up arcs that support female independence and female friendships.

All excellent things, truly. ๐Ÿคฉ

However, unfortunately, I did feel that Show loses a good chunk of narrative tension in its second half, after the minting of the OTP.

Still a solid watch overall, though.

Grade: B+

Review: here.

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

Mr. Bad [China]

A cheerful, silly-fluffy little romance with a fantasy twist.

I do think that your mileage is likely to vary according to a few factors: 1, how well you jive with Show’s sense of humor, 2, how well you take to our male lead when he’s being mean, and 3, how much you like Shen Yue.

Personally, I really like Shen Yue, and that was the thing that kept me engaged, even when I didn’t find myself laughing at the Intended Funny, or taking to our male lead in his meaner moments.

Still a pretty enjoyable watch, especially if you keep a manhua lens handy.

Grade: B

Review: here.

New Life Begins [China]

This is another show where your mileage is likely vary. Some folks love this to bits, while others find this slow and boring.

I think you’ll like this if you’re in the mood for slice-of-life, with a touch of Disney-esque wholesome.

There is a central romance, but it moves at a pretty glacial sort of pace, so if you make the central romance your focus, you’re likely to be disappointed.

But, if you’re happy to focus on friendship and community, and just want something simple and easy to unwind to at the end of a long day, this might be just the thing for you.

Grade: B+

Review: here.

If You Wish Upon Me

Again, this is a show that drama fans seem divided about; some love it, while others find it underwhelming. I’m somewhere in the middle.

On the upside, I love the warm, poignant feels that Show serves up; this, to me, is Show’s core strength, and it would’ve been great if Show had leaned into this more.

On the downside, I felt that Show got a little too melodramatic for its own good; the eventual intense drama sort of vibe that Show leans into in its late stretch was too heavy-handed, in my opinion.

That said, I enjoyed the ending, and I did like Ji Chang Wook and Sooyoung in this.

Grade: B+

Review: here.

Juvenile Justice

Show’s not bad, overall, but I didn’t end up enjoying this as much as I thought I would.

We’ve got a solid cast, reasonably interesting cases, and an unrelenting look at the problems within the system, in the area of juvenile offenders.

On the downside, I felt that Show’s melodramatic bent didn’t do it any favors, even though it’s practically par for the course, in a kdrama.

Mostly, though, I realize that I didn’t like Show’s generally instructional, almost preachy sort of stance, in informing us what we were supposed to think, in response.

Not bad; could’ve been better.

Grade: B

Review: here.

Rainless Love in a Godless Land [Taiwan]

Again, this is one of those shows where your mileage is likely to vary. Most folks either love this instantly, or.. not. ๐Ÿ˜…

Show’s very different from its peers; I’ll give it that. No other drama I’ve come across has shone the spotlight on Taiwanese indigenous culture, while also highlighting environmental issues – without being preachy about it.

On the downside, I didn’t take very naturally to our characters, and I also found some narrative and execution decisions perplexing &/or confusing.

This one never stole my heart, but I did find it a solid, interesting watch.

Grade: B+

Review: here.

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

Love is for Suckers

Once I got settled into this one, I found this slurpy and fun, in a really good way.

I felt like I could empathize with our female lead, and I also found the show-within-a-show fun in a guilty pleasure sort of way.

Unfortunately, Show doesn’t manage to keep it up all the way through, and by the time Show gives us its happy ending, it all feels pretty tame and, well, not super interesting?

The late introduction of a secondary loveline definitely helped keep my interest to the end, but I think it says something, doesn’t it, when I’m more interested in the secondary loveline than the central OTP. ๐Ÿ˜…

Grade: B

Review: here.

Love In Contract

I thought this one had potential to be cute, and it is, in a serviceable sort of way – until it leans into its melodramatic side, in its final stretch. That’s when I found myself feeling less and less interested in the goings-on in this drama world.

I found the writing around the supposed love triangle rather awkward and forced, and I also found the characterizations of our main characters rather unnatural.

But, I loved Go Kyung Pyo as our dorky male lead, and pretty much stayed to the end, for his sake. ๐Ÿ˜…

Show serves up a decently happy ending, after leaning rather too hard into its melodramatic side, but when all is said and done, I’m not actually sure that I can say this was worth it. ๐Ÿ˜

Grade: B

Review: here.

The Sound Of Magic

Show gets points for being ambitious, and daring to try something new; I do think that this is the first musical drama we’ve had, in Dramaland.

Unfortunately, I found the pacing, writing and execution rather uneven, and worse, I found the music, well, not catchy at all. Like, if you put a gun to my head now and demanded that I sing you at least a little bit of a song from this show – ANY song – I wouldn’t be able to deliver, in the least.

That’s a pretty big fail in my books, coz musicals are supposed to have catchy numbers; it’s like a prerequisite for existing, right?

On the upside, Show does pull off a reasonably satisfying ending, despite not being satisfying for most of its run, so there’s that?

Grade: B

Review: here.

Uncle

I loved the idea of this way more than the execution.

Oh Jung Se as our titular uncle, barging into the life of his nephew, and thereby making both of their lives better, for it? I couldn’t say yes to this fast enough.

Unfortunately, Show is a Disney creature that thinks it’s a Makjang Queen at heart, and those two are weird bedfellows, to put it mildly. Show goes ham with its makjang efforts in its second half, and I did not enjoy this.

Ok overall, but really, could have been so much better, if Show had just stuck with the warm, poignant stuff that it does best.

Grade: B-

Review: here.

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

Bad and Crazy

I liked the concept of this – especially the part about Wi Ha Joon being Lee Dong Wook’s badass alter-ego, but I didn’t care for the execution, so much.

This was just too manic for my taste; I’m of the opinion that screaming adrenaline can only be sustained for so long, before it gets to be too much. I often found myself wanting to back away from my screen, coz it all felt like too much for me. ๐Ÿ™ˆ

I couldn’t get properly invested, and dropped out at the episode 7 mark.

Dropped Post: here.

Snowdrop

Show wants to be a Korean Romeo and Juliet, in a manner of speaking, and I personally found this more interesting in concept, than in execution.

I found Show’s tonal shifts jarring, the episodes long and bloated, and the pacing, pretty slow, in that, from the 8 episodes that I watched, everything seemed to circle around for extended periods of time, with no actual forward movement in terms of our story.

I never really got properly engaged nor invested in this one, unfortunately.

Dropped Post: here.

Thirty-Nine

I liked the idea of this one, but I didn’t enjoy writer-nim’s translation of that idea, into our story.

Instead of a story about three friends and their friendship as they find themselves on the cusp of turning 40, this turned out to be a sad melodrama where everyone cries a lot, and it’s really mainly about ONE main character, who happens to have two friends.

The problem for me, is that I didn’t enjoy the characterization of that one main character, and found her more and more frustrating to watch, as I went.

I tapped out after episode 6, because ultimately, I realized that Show was never going to be what I’d hoped it would be.

Dropped Post: here.

The One and Only

Apparently, you either love this one or you don’t, and I realized that I didn’t, after watching just 2.5 episodes of this.

I found the quirky tone rather too try-hard, and overall, I found Show tonally uneven and weird. Sometimes, it tries to be so-quirky-that-I’m-special-and-funny, and then sometimes, it goes dark and violent.

I found this pretty whiplashy, personally, and couldn’t ever quite dial into Show’s rather peculiar vibe, but I can see how other folks might like it?

Dropped Post: here.

Love All Play

I found Show to be pretty enjoyable, for the first half of its run. I thought it was charming and likable, even if it was nothing to really write home about.

But then, somewhere in episode 9, Show introduces angst, and then leans into it like its life depends on it, and Show stopped being enjoyable for me. I mean, I’m game for angst when it makes sense, but this wasn’t that.

I couldn’t persuade myself to sit through 3.5 more episodes of angst to get to the reportedly happy ending that the final 2 episodes give, which is how I ended up dropping this one, in the middle of episode 11.

Dropped Post: here.

Forecasting Love and Weather

This one was advertised as a romance, but honestly, I found the romance the least interesting thing, in this drama world. ๐Ÿ˜…

The weather stuff was kinda-sorta interesting, and I also found myself feeling somewhat invested in some of the secondary characters.

But, tellingly, I didn’t actually care about the main loveline, and neither did I find the leads all that likable.

I watched 5 episodes of this, before deciding that I didn’t care enough about anything or anyone in this drama world, to actually want to continue watching. ๐Ÿ˜…

Dropped Post: here.

Why Her?

I liked the idea of Seo Hyun Jin playing a badass lawyer, but Show’s execution was not something I could get on board with.

I found the almost makjang levels of melodrama hard to reconcile with Show’s rom-com moments, and I also found it hard to get on board with the central loveline that Show was pushing, between Seo Hyun Jin’s and Hwang In Yeop’s characters.

Uneven plotting and characterization together made this more and more of a drag to watch, and I tapped out after 9 episodes.

Dropped Post: here.

Shows I sampled but didn’t continue watching

Shooting Stars

I only watched one episode of this, and didn’t hate what I saw.

I thought it had potential to be pretty entertaining – once you get past the Africa faux pax in episode 1.

I just had too many other shows going on at the same time, and didn’t find episode 1 quite compelling enough, to demand that I carve out time in my schedule for episode 2.

I’ve had vague good intentions of going back to this one, because lots of folks seem to like it, but.. so far, that’s all I’ve got – good intentions. ๐Ÿ˜…

Kiss Sixth Sense

I’d heard quite a lot of good things about this one (at least, about Show’s first half; I’ve also heard the rants about Show’s late episodes), and that’s why I wanted to give it a try.

Unfortunately, I found that there was something that felt off, about Show’s storytelling rhythm.

Overall, it feels like everything’s just one – or several – beats too slow, almost like someone took a breezy song and then, using sound editing software, slowed it down to make it into a ballad, and the original voice gets weirdly distorted, as a result? ๐Ÿ˜…

I wasn’t impressed by episode 1, and never managed to muster the time nor interest, to go back for episode 2. ๐Ÿ˜…

The Law Cafe

Lots of folks liked this one, which is why I thought I’d give it a look. After 2 episodes, though, I concluded that this just wasn’t for me.

I didn’t take naturally to the manic-shouty sort of quality in Lee Se Young’s character, though everyone else seemed to love her in this. And, I also didn’t take to the bickery interactions between our leads; I found it just a little too intense for my taste. ๐Ÿ˜…

I did like having Kim Seul Gi, Jang Hye Jin and Kim Nam Hee on my screen, and Show’s resident shiba inu is beautiful, but yeah, this one just doesn’t work naturally for me.

I had to work to appreciate this one, and, well, I just didn’t feel like this was worth putting in the work, sorry. ๐Ÿ˜…

Curtain Call

I’d had high hopes for this based on Show’s synopsis, but after sampling Show’s first episode, I found this both too pedestrian and too melodramatic, at the same time. ๐Ÿ˜…

What I mean is, this story did not strike me as inspired in any way, and it just felt like Show was trotting out well-worn tropes, to tell its melodramatic story, which I didn’t find interesting or engaging.

I tapped out before the episode was over, sorry to say. ๐Ÿ™ˆ

Jury’s Still Out

Lesson in Love [Taiwan]

I’m technically still watching this, even though I haven’t checked out a new episode in weeks. ๐Ÿ˜…

I’d become intrigued to check out this one, after seeing some very positive comments by Show’s fans, about how solid the writing and acting is, in this one.

So far, I don’t think Show is as amazing for me, as it is for them, but there’s a cracky, oh-my-what-happens-next sort of quality to it, for a good stretch in Show’s first half.

Where I am now, at episode 9, more melodramatic plot points have been introduced, and I find myself feeling less interested to find out what happens next, than at first.

I do still have good intentions of finishing this one – let’s hope that I will manage to muster up more than just good intentions, this time. ๐Ÿ˜…

9 episodes in, out of 12, this one feels like a potential B or B+.

2022 Shows still on my list

Since we’re already 3 months into 2023 as I type this, I feel like the chances of me actually getting to dramas on this list, aren’t super high. But, for the record, here are a few shows from 2022, that I do still have some interest in checking out.

Through The Darkness This isn’t my usual genre of show, but I’ve heard so many people rave about this one, that I feel a bit of FOMO. ๐Ÿ˜…

Be My Princess [China] So many of you spoke fondly of this one in our guest series of year-end posts, that I’ve become curious to see the cute for myself. ๐Ÿ˜

The KFG Awards

So.. this is a new section in my year-end post, though I did pick my favorites for 2021, and shared them in the post announcing the community poll results.

Best Drama: The Red Sleeve

I glossed over this show in my 2021 year-in-review, since Show only broadcast its final episode on 1 January 2022, and so, this is finally the time to acknowledge Show’s excellence.

There were other strong dramas this year, but when it came down to it, I found The Red Sleeve to be a cut above the rest, in terms of being well-written and executed, with lots of meaty angles to chew on, as well as excellent deliveries from its cast.

Also, this one captured my mind AND my heart in equal measure, and to a great degree as well.

I thought this one was very special. โค๏ธ

Special mentions: Under The Queen’s Umbrella, Twenty-Five, Twenty-One, Love Like The Galaxy [China].

Best Actor: Junho, The Red Sleeve

You might be thinking that this choice is influenced by my Junho-loving fangirl heart, but I promise that I’m trying to be as objective as possible.

There’s a Reason that Junho received Best Actor awards all year long for this role, even though there’ve been so many other dramas that have come out in Dramaland, since The Red Sleeve wrapped up its run.

He inhabited San so well, and portrayed him with so much depth and nuance, across multiple plot lines, that I couldn’t help but be impressed. ๐Ÿคฉ

Special mentions: Leo Wu (Love Like The Galaxy), Dylan Wang (Love Between Fairy and Devil), Qu Chu Xiao (Shining For One Thing).

Best Actress: Kim Hye Soo, Under The Queen’s Umbrella

I thought Kim Hye Soo was magnificent as our titular Queen.

I really liked that this was a departure from her more typical badass roles; here, she’s fierce too, when the occasion calls for it, but she’s also sooo full of heart for her sons, and for the people around her, and that really blew me away, because I’ve never seen Kim Hye Soo play in this space before.

I found her interpretation of Queen Im to be organic, believable and thoroughly compelling.

Special mentions: Kim Tae Ri (Twenty-Five, Twenty-One), Park Eun Bin (Extraordinary Attorney Woo)

Best Supporting Actor: Lee Sung Min, Reborn Rich

There are many worthy performances to consider in this category, but I hafta say, Lee Sung Min really made an impression on me, playing the Chairman in Reborn Rich.

Whether the Chairman was irascible, or sad, or furious, or happily indulgent, Lee Sung Min brought him to popping, pulsating life, and I always felt like he filled my screen, whenever he appeared on it.

He basically stole the entire show for me, he was so good. ๐Ÿคฉ

Special mentions: Lee Deok Hwa (The Red Sleeve), Jang Hyuk (Bloody Heart), Jung Sung Il (The Glory)

Best Supporting Actress: Im Ji Yeon, The Glory

Again, lots of worthy contenders here, but I find myself gravitating most towards Im Ji Yeon’s performance in The Glory.

She makes Yeon Jin so watchable, whether Yeon Jin’s being sunshiny-happy, offended-furious, or stiff-upper-lip-scared. I really enjoyed Im Ji Yeon’s detailed delivery, especially when Yeon Jin’s mood changes on a dime.

Her injection of layers into her delivery, despite Yeon Jin’s rather theatrical characterization, helped me believe Yeon Jin’s a real person, despite the rather OTT treatment of her character.

Really well done, I thought.

Special mentions: Kim Hae Sook (Under The Queen’s Umbrella), Park Ji Yeon (Bloody Heart), Uhm Ji Won (Little Women)

Best OTP: Love Like The Galaxy [China]

There are other OTPs that I loved this year, but Ling Buyi and Cheng Shaoshang together make up THE OTP that captured my imagination and stole my heart.

I love the chemistry between them, whether they’re in the initial stages of getting to know each other, or coming to terms with their feelings for each other, or deeply in love with each other.

And, even though I found the writing in Love Like The Galaxy to be uneven in spots, I feel like I could rewatch the entire show (all 58 episodes!), just to experience this OTP, all over again. ๐Ÿฅฐ

Special mentions: The Red Sleeve, Our Beloved Summer, Love Between Fairy And Devil, A Business Proposal, A Dream Of Splendor

Best Ensemble: Our Blues

This is such a great ensemble of excellent actors that I find it a logistical miracle, that the production team managed to get all of these actors in one place, for a single show.

I love that these top stars are happy to also be part of the background, just hanging out and being part of Show’s natural backdrop, when it’s not their turn to be in the spotlight. I found that thrilling and trippy, at the same time. ๐Ÿ˜

Excellent performances all-around, and such an easy intra-cast chemistry, that I would believe these were real people making up a real community, on Jeju Island. ๐Ÿคฉ

Special mentions: Love Like The Galaxy, Alchemy Of Souls, Pachinko

Underrated Gem: Shining For One Thing [China]

My pick for underrated gem is Shining For One Thing, because I feel like hardly anyone talks about this show – and yet, this one crept under my skin, and gave me such strong, lasting feels, that I’m still actively looking forward to the follow-up movie that the production has promised.

At points, the feels I got from this show echoed the feels I got from Someday Or One Day – and you guys know how I feel about Someday Or One Day (I loved it, A LOT). โค๏ธ

Special mentions: First Love: Hatsukoi [Japan], Pachinko, Soundtrack #1

Razzie: Why Her?

My pick for Razzie has to be Why Her, because I’d had such high hopes for this one, not only based on the synopsis, but also, based on Show’s very strong first episode. And then.. it became such a disappointment for me. ๐Ÿ˜ญ Boo.

Special mentions: Thirty-Nine, The Sound of Magic

Closing Thoughts

Me contemplating all the options in Dramaland ๐Ÿ˜…

Well, THAT was a journey! ๐Ÿ˜… I feel like I’ve been working on this post, for forever, by now. I hope you all found it worth the wait. ๐Ÿ˜…

This year, I completed 31 dramas (that’s 6 more than last year’s 25). And in total, including Dropped shows and shows that I’m still watching, I basically had opinions on.. 43 shows!

It still feels like barely a drop in the ocean of dramas that make up Dramaland 2022, but I’m making peace with the fact that I’m just one person, and it’s physically impossible to watch every drama that’s out there.

Thanks so much for sticking with me through another year, you guys. I couldn’t have done this without your company and encouragement. ๐Ÿฅฐ

My drama resolution for 2023, which I’m only really realizing now (yes, in March ๐Ÿ˜…), is to follow my heart more closely, when picking dramas to watch.

With Dramaland expanding its borders so significantly, I’m finding that when I follow buzz too much of the time, I sometimes end up leaving behind the shows that I did have a genuine interest in, because I just didn’t have time for them, which.. is not how a drama journey should be.

And so, going forward, I’m gonna try to keep my eyes peeled for the new dramas coming out, as always, but also, keep a closer ear on what my heart is saying, so that I (hopefully) end up with an even more satisfying drama year, in 2023.

At least, it sounds like a plan to me. ๐Ÿ˜

I’m ready, Dramaland!
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Paul
Paul
1 month ago

In addition those, perhaps, One Dollar Lawyer, Blind, Good Job (Kwon Yu-ri also floats my boat), May It Please The Court, Shadow Detective, Big Mouth, Stockstruck (love the stock advice at the end of each episode), Unlock My Boss, The Good Detective (Season 2), and the middling ratings but one of my all-time faves, Today’s Webtoon. Lastly, I know, not your genre/style but All Of Us Are Dead. For a bonus freebie, from Taiwan, Shards Of Her.

Princess Jasmine
Princess Jasmine
2 months ago

Hello FGV
Thanks for the great review and I really enjoyed reading it all (and as usual I am late and sincere apologies for that ๐Ÿ™). Now on the positive side – I saw only 4 dramas that aired in 2022 and you mentioned 3 of them in the good/watchable list (2521, Little Women, If you wish upon me) and 1 in the not so good list (The Sound of Magic). So based on your viewing lens – it’s a decent watching run from my end for 2022 ๐Ÿ˜Š. And I found some good dramas in this list (and also mentioned consistently from every other person who did review posts here) which I would have missed out (eg – Through the Darkness, Reset, Under the Queen’s Umbrella, The Glory…). And thanks for the special mention on Uhm Ji Won from LW. For me she stole the show from almost everyone including Kim go-eun except for maybe Wi Ha Joon (as he was too adorable to ignore on screen as you rightly mentioned ๐Ÿ˜œ).
I wish I could defend The Sound of Magic (I saw it again this Feb with fresh pair of eyes and I absolutely loved it and the music). Not sure if many people know that it is adapted from a manga series and if they got the intended message on school academic pressure/lost childhood. For me these were the themes that resonated with my own life. But I have to accept that not everyone will like what I like and vice versa ๐Ÿ˜”.
I am also looking forward to watch EAW this year as I am dealing with autistic children right now through my volunteer work and hopefully this drama could help me understand them better given all the glowing reviews it got ๐Ÿคž.
That’s all for now and hoping for a great 2023 drama year ahead ๐Ÿ’๐ŸฅณโœŒ๏ธ

j3ffc
j3ffc
2 months ago

Hmm, not late by my reckoning (says the guy who is just now responding to your post ๐Ÿ˜…). A typically thoughtful overview, with very useful take-home messages in shorthand for lazy readers like me (Umbrella and Reset first among them). Thanks so much for sharing your final verdicts (!) on 2023.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 months ago

Fangurl – what a great EOY review. It really is a pleasure to read your thoughts. I had to laugh as I dropped every single drama on your dropped list. I so love your image captions because they are clever and so very adorable!

I hope and pray for all good things to come your way with this blog and Patreon this year and way into the future. I look forward to you taking a few vacations starting this year to recharge your batteries! Yeah to 2024! ๐Ÿ˜˜

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
2 months ago

A phenomenal end of year review, that captured the year that was, kfangurl ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š

As I continued to cut a swathe through your list, I found myself ticking off shows on my own watched checklist. In the end, I had watched all but two shows reviewed (or dropped ๐Ÿ˜‚) by you.

Without a doubt, we are seeing a change in the drama landscape. One that is tempting us to explore new avenues. Some genres are finding a new level of maturity, others have made an appearance, seemingly influenced by the wider range of subject material in other countries.

Kdramaland really mixed things up in 2022. I think one key aspect was production companies willing to get away from the standardised format of 16 or 20 (or even 24) episodes. Even though production costs may have contributed to this change, overall I feel it has been for the better: quality over quantity. CDramas have had to follow suit,

In terms of 2023, I have found that CDramas and Jdoramas have gone to the fore. Although, Kdramaland has promised much, itโ€™s taking its time to get its skates on and catch up. There are some great prospects on the horizon though and none more so than the Jang Jang extravaganza ๐Ÿคฉ๐Ÿคฉ๐Ÿคฉ

merij1
merij1
2 months ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

Yay for Jang Jang!

(Thank goodness they didnโ€™t marry, like Song Song.)

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 months ago
Reply to  merij1

merij1 – ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜‚

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
2 months ago
Reply to  merij1

As Neil Diamond once said (sung) – Song sung blueโ€ฆ

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 months ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

That was very, very funny Sean. ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜… I see where Famous S gets it from.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 months ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

Sean – the ‘Jang Jang extravaganza’ is perfection!

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
2 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Phl – they are, at that ๐Ÿ˜Š

Geo
Geo
2 months ago

KFG: Thanks for your year end review. I appreciate the time you take to watch these shows and explain the rationale behind your thoughtful reviews. While we don’t agree 100% (who does, anyway?) all the time, I find we are more often in sync than not and I understand the reasons behind your conclusions when we differ. You’ve opened the window on many shows I would not have even given a chance, most recently Someday or one Day, and I’ve noted the shows you’ve mentioned above.

I’m currently exploring the movies of Wong Kar Wai, very interesting, usually requiring several watches to really grasp all the nuances. Have you reviewed any of his work?

I’m sporadically on the blog these days but just wanted to drop in to say, keep up the good work.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 months ago
Reply to  Geo

@Geo – several watches on Wong Kar Wai is about right.

Elaine
Elaine
2 months ago
Reply to  Geo

I’ve not seen a lot of Wong Kar Wai’s work, but what I have seen is always memorable and such a strong evocation of mood. I really enjoyed Chungking Express and Happy Together was breathtaking – combined talent and eye-watering charisma of Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung!

CP
CP
2 months ago
Reply to  Geo

My favourite Wong Kar Wai film is In the Mood for Love – very moody and beautiful, as is the signature style of this director.

Geo
Geo
2 months ago
Reply to  CP

I’ve viewed In The Mood For Love (twice so far) and Days of Running Wild so far, very interesting movies. ITMFL feels like a work of art with each frame composed so carefully, with elegant leads framed, always framed, against gritty, everyday backgrounds. Wong Kar Wai has a quite jaundiced view of life and personal relationships, only transient moments of grace and beauty are to be expected.

MC
MC
2 months ago

Fangirl donโ€™t feel bad that this is late. I appreciated the care and thought you put in and didnโ€™t mind that it was late as it felt like a nice path down nostalgia lane (ok not really nostalgia coz it was just last year but with the way drama come out non stop that it felt ages ago! And itโ€™s nice to do a stocktake). So once again thank you for carving out time to do this.

Specific to your write ups:

  • Haha I do have to finish TRS right? Since itโ€™s your drama of the year!!
  • Sh**ting Stars is great as a fluffy no brainer entertaining sort of show, if you ever need that.
  • Junho – letโ€™s see if I catch that fever too!
  • LLTG augh so good. That couple. All the feels! It really deserved to be A+ for bringing all the feels. Just so unfortunate for that choppy editing
  • Yes Shining For One Thing is on the list I promise!
  • Lee Sung Min shouldโ€™ve been the co-lead lol. As much as I love Song Joong Ki, Lee Sung Min stole my heart and now when I think of Reborn Rich I think of LSM instead of SJK. Sorry SJK!

Once again thank you so much for this write up!

Trent
2 months ago

Some excellent shows on the list!

One thing you mentioned that I think I’m seeing as well, is how you managed to end up with a pretty solid selection of good-to-great shows, and how maybe it’s a reflection of your getting more jaded, more picky, as you’ve gone on in your drama journey?

I’ve only been at this a little less than three years, so a comparative drop in the bucket, but although I don’t know that I’d describe myself as jaded, I think more experience with the range of shows and genres on offer, and how to maybe notice flags and markers that point toward the type of thing I might enjoy, definitely make attempts to filter for worthwhile shows (a subjective endeavor, for sure) more effective.

On the flip side, I’m glad that you’ve been willing on occasion to step out of your comfort zone — or maybe expand your comfort zone? — so you can take in a well done show that you wouldn’t have thought would appeal to you back in your earlier days. Stuff like The Glory, this year, or My Name and Sweet Home in the recent past. We’ll have you loving zombies in no time ๐Ÿ˜ (A bridge too far? ๐Ÿค”).

Thanks for all the effort to find and analyze/review the good stuff from dramaland this last year!

uyen
2 months ago

Love it, KFG!!! Love many of the ones that you did/had similar opinions. And for ones that we had diff opinions about, completely understand based on your explanations. You’re reminding me about Shining For One Thing again so look forward to trying that!

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
2 months ago

Under The Queen’s Umbrella is next on my watch list.

CanIcallYouKate
CanIcallYouKate
2 months ago

KFG! Never feel bad for turning the assignment in late, when itโ€™s this great! ๐Ÿ˜ ๐Ÿ˜œ

I felt like I was taking a tour of my own drama year as well just by reading your post! What a lovely look back at 2022 and you watched a record breaking nr of shows ๐Ÿ˜ฎ And didnโ€™t even drop as many as I did ๐Ÿคฃ

Give Sh**ting Stars another looksie when you need mindless fluff, ignore the two problematic early scenes and the overly sugary last couple of episodes, and enjoy the cracktastic leads together ๐Ÿคฉ

Yes, Junho was the best, even though another 12 months of male leads followed his TRS portrayal. He was THAT good imo as well. โค๏ธ

Here is to many more fantastic dramas in 2023 ๐Ÿฅณ

Last edited 2 months ago by CanIcallYouKate
Antonio
2 months ago

Give The Story of Xing Fu a chance! It’s very underrated.

Master of My Own is another great show you missed

Cathy
Cathy
2 months ago

So enjoyed reading your list, Fangurl! So happy to see the two 2022 dramas I loved the most make the list (My Liberation Notes and If You Wish Upon Me). I am starting my third year of drama watching and learning more about what I like and don’t like, so I too am going to follow my heart this year when choosing dramas — and be willing to drop them if they’re not doing it for me! Here’s to all the great dramas in 2023!

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
2 months ago

I always find your year-in-review post so helpful as you categorise shows by worth-watching or not worth the effort. Especially helpful for borderline shows such as Mr Bad which I was half-wondering whether to watch, it was helpful to see it stacked up against shows that I really did love like Shining for One Thing.

The not-worth-the-effort list is also super helpful haha. So I know what to avoid!

MC
MC
2 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Mr Bad is just fluffy so if youโ€™re in the mood for fluff then itโ€™s great. But SFOT feels like a show that youโ€™d think about and lingers longer. Probably objectively greater – but Iโ€™ll conclude when I actually watch it lol.

Solange Gimรฉnez
Solange Gimรฉnez
2 months ago

You are great as always, Iโ€™ll totally give a try to all the shows I didnโ€™t watch and you mention ๐Ÿ’™

merij1
merij1
2 months ago

Excellent timing, , since we need to decide what show to start next!

We finished Crash Course in Romance, then switched to season 2 of The White Lotus (would we call that an A-drama? lol) as a palate cleanser, so now back to K-drama, or maybe C- or T- or J-.

If only the Chinese shows weren’t so long we’d watch more of them…

Last edited 2 months ago by merij1
merij1
merij1
2 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Thanks, you saved me needing to research the count on all of them. Whenever any of you guys recommend a C-drama, that’s the first thing I do!

merij1
merij1
2 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Yes we loved Someday and look forward to watching the film version when it starts streaming. So I’ll add Shining to the list as well.

I just checked out the trailer for Reset, which streams on Viki. It looks great! So probably we’ll start that tonight. Thanks, @kfg!

Trent
2 months ago
Reply to  merij1

I definitely second the Reset recommendation. It’s short (for a cdrama), and it really has a lot of narrative momentum to it. Fun little show!

merij1
merij1
2 months ago
Reply to  Trent

I’m getting excited!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 months ago
Reply to  merij1

– I believe that you two will enjoy this. This drama never loses its humanity. In fact that is its best feature (and it has many great features).

merij1
merij1
2 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

We got to the middle of Ep 2 last night and will continue this evening. I like the way they sped into the premise, vs. a lengthier as-it-happens setup.

j3ffc
j3ffc
2 months ago
Reply to  merij1

Love the description of โ€œWhite Lotusโ€ as an A-drama! We watched both series when they came on. A little uneven, maybe, but overall worthy and original. Flip-flopping your order, just started CCiR and are enjoying it so far.