Villainy 101 as taught by the Philippines number 1 premiere villain, Bella Flores.
I bet all the evil mother in laws, second female lead bitches and all the other people whom we love to hate in our asian dramas follow the same school of thought.
Yes i’m talking about you Mama Kang, Dao Ming Fong, Joo Won’s mother, Hong Se Na and the countless other devil incarnates from your tribe.
Well, here we are… another year over and yet another year where I spent most of my free time watching dramas.
As always, there were those shows that made my heart pitter patter from the very beginning up to the very ending and those that left a sour taste in my mouth that I wish I could just turn back the clock so I could put the time I spent watching it to better use, like perhaps getting a mani- pedi.
Finding the perfect drama for me, is like searching for the perfect man of my dreams.
I have to kiss a few frogs in order to meet the princes and also, to spend time with some pretty mediocre ones before I can truly say that I’ve found the best.
2012 is no different.
There were those dramas that made me go crazy that I could never get over them and those that broke my heart over and over despite the many chances I’ve given them.
If this year’s dramas were men in my life, what kind would they be?
In the quest to answer this question and also to present you with a selection of the dramas that I’ve completed for the year, I hereby present my asian drama year in review in all it’s glory and splendor.
ANSWER ME, 1997
If my teenage life was made into a drama, this would be it. There was not one too many times in the course of watching this series that I clutched at my chest in disbelief because really show, did you stalk me sometime in the past because if not, how can your characters have lived their lives so similarly?
And therein, I believe lies the strength of Reply, 1997.
It was relatable and familiar and so stark in its simplicity and yet it manages to touch me each and every time deep down to my very core because there is a sense of kinship that I share with its characters because once upon a time in my life, I have been that character.
Tell me, who among us here has not gone through the painful uncertainty of an unrequited love or have been through that stage where we would go to great lengths just to fulfill our greatest desires for the sake of our celebrity idols in the name of fangirling?
Whether it be the way that as teenagers, we relied on our friends as if our lives depended on it, or the love hate relationship that we have with our parents in our tumultuous growing up years, Answer Me 1997, depicted all of the aspects of our adolescent life to perfection and in that way it managed to be a drama that went beyond just the entertainment aspect but one which wormed its way into the darkest corners and recesses of my soul.
More than the nostalgia it has provided me with or the way that I was wowed by the sheer talent in acting of each and every member of its cast, I give most of the credit to its solid scriptwriting for making this show my top favorite for the year.
There were no grand dilemmas nor life and death situations that its characters have to deal with in the course of this show but what it lacks in in drama, this show more than made up for it a thousand fold with the vastness of its HEART.
It made me laugh out loud, it made me cry great heaving sobs but most of all, it made me remember how it was like to be young and carefree and most of all how it is to be in the throes of that unforgettable first love.
Verdict: A Man I’d spend the rest of my life with. He may be predictable but he’s also solid, dependable and stable. He warms my heart and fills my life that even if we go through ups and downs in our relationship I know that in the end, he’d always come through for me
KING 2 HEARTS
In a landscape full of stories where at one point or another, the hero and heroine has to make that noble sacrifice of giving up their love for the sake of a higher reason, never had it been more logical and understandable to do just that than in The King 2 Hearts.
That sacrifice was not just a question here of love vs. ambition nor of love vs. family as is always the Asian drama norm, but rather it was wayyyy more than that as we are talking about love vs. duty and responsibility for a whole country.
I have always been a sucker for dramas where the heart of the story is in the love story but which presents me with a conflict where the stakes are high. (*cough* CITY HALL *cough* PROSECUTOR PRINCESS *cough*).
In King 2 Hearts, we have two people whose love is shadowed by the threat of war and who must defend that love but at the same time also conquer that great divide between their opposing countries which threatens to separate them.
Despite the trappings of its characters toughness and the overreaching arc of political conflict and turmoil, this show has still managed to bring me one of the most romantic tales of love that was ever told.
Sure, majority of the story may have been spent on the imminent danger of war and terrorist attacks but it was always the emotional moments that stood out the best for me in this drama.
That scene where Hang Ah ran barefoot in the snow to hug a stunned Jae Ha would forever be indelibly printed in my memory as the moment I fell head over heels for this drama.
The stunned expression of Jae Ha coupled with the overwhelming openness of the look of love in Hang Ah’s face just made me cry at the sheer beauty of that moment.
This drama may have been fast paced and glossy and so cinematographically sinful to look at but always, it would be how it was able to bring forth all of these slew of emotions deep within me that would forever be the reason why it was catapulted among my top favorites.
And by emotions, I didn’t mean the weaksauce kind but the kind that is magnified a thousandfold.
I didn’t just get thrilled during the action scenes, I was emotionally agitated.
I didn’t just cry at the sad parts, I sobbed hysterically.
I didn’t just root for Jae Ha and Hang Ah and Eun Gyung and Jae Shin but I was so invested that I wanted to cut someone open whenever something bad happens to them.
I confess, I never was a Lee Seunggi fan nor did I ever find Ha Ji Won out of the ordinary.
This drama made me change my mind.
They put so much heart and passion into their characters that up to this very moment months after this drama has ended, I still wish to God that sometime, some place, they’d really end up together.
VERDICT: The Prince Charming. Mysterious, dangerous and elusive but armed with a heart of gold that would make any girl melt at their very center.
THE KING OF DRAMAS
With 2 episodes to go, I would boldly state here and now that yes, this drama is one of the best that this year had to offer.
King of Dramas was such a welcome addition to my drama roster for this year.
Sure, I may have started watching it for Siwon but thank God that I decided to check this drama out because otherwise, I would have missed out on such a gem.
Seldom do I like dramas where the love story is not at its forefront and center.
Here, the romance plays second fiddle but I am never left wanting because it has so, so much more to offer.
It’s sarcastic and witty and tongue in cheek and it never takes itself seriously but it still manages to be a very smart script despite it.
There’s no question that Kim Myung Min is an actors actor but Siwon and Jung Ryeo Won are really such revelations in this series.
There is so much thought given by the writers to their characters that mayhaps motivate the actors in a way that makes them portray it with such gusto.
There are no small actors in King of Dramas.
I love the fact that everyone no matter how small the role in this show is, is given a back story that makes me feel invested in each and every one of them.
This show gave me larger than life characters but also gave me a peek into the behind the scenes going on in how a drama is made.
It made me root for underdogs and made me believe that no matter how bastardly a person may seem, there is always, always an innate sense of goodness, deep inside of them.
But more than that, this show made me appreciate all the dramas I watch even more.
It made me thankful to the people who pour all their hearts and souls into making these masterpieces that gets me entertained because without them, I think my world would be a lot more lonelier and dramaless, perhaps I would have also gone just a little bit insane.
VERDICT: The Daddy Long Legs. At my weakest moments, his strength keeps me stable and inspires me to push through. He may give tough love sometimes but he also knows how to make me laugh and how to make me feel all better.
I DO, I DO
What this drama makes up for in great chemistry between the OTP, it lacks a lot when it comes to the scriptwriting.
Lord knows, I was more hyped up than a kid on a sugar rush when I learnt about this drama and when I read its premise as it holds so much promise.
A one night stand gone awry.
An unwanted pregnancy.
The reversal of roles where the female lead has the upper hand and the male lead is more subversive.
So where did it go wrong?
It dragged the love story for so long that it became more about the shoes than about the pregnancy and the relationships of these people.
Lord knows I love my shoes but not that much that I would want it to be the main focus of any drama for 16 long episodes.
Not that this drama was all gloom and doom as it also had it’s moments (some of the most giddy feels that I had for an OTP in a drama for this year was courtesy of this show) but a love story without the foundation can never really get me rooting to the ends of the earth for a main couple because it didn’t lay out the groundwork for me to get THAT invested.
At the end of it all, despite the fact that I was spazzing big time over the kisses and the cuteness and the combustible chemistry between Ji Ahn and Tae Kang, I was still confused as to when and how they began to love each other. One moment, Ji Ahn was treating Tae Kang like trash and the next, she was all googly eyed over him.
It was like I fell asleep in the middle of one drama and when I woke up, it was an altogether different drama.
Oh well, at least I would always have the fluttery butterflies in my stomach courtesy of this couple and the shoes.
No matter what, I will always have the shoes.
VERDICT: The Puppy Love. Awww… it’s spontaneous and cute but it doesn’t leave a mark and so I forget it the soonest.
I NEED ROMANCE 2012
Trust the I Need Romance franchise to never scrimp on the love story.
True to its title this show never fails to deliver when it comes to the Romance Department.
Similar to its first installment, this sequel is no different.
If there’s one thing that I truly appreciate about I Need Romance it’s the fact that it always brings me such flawed and realistic characters.
Other people might complain that Yeol Mae might be too naggy and fickle minded and Seok Hyun too cold and closed up but that is something I appreciate because THAT IS THE REALITY.
These characters depicted ordinary people living ordinary lives and battling typical relationship problems and yet they manage to still be lovable and worth rooting for despite their hang ups and imperfections.
Although a lot of people who watched this show with me are convinced that Yeol Mae should have ended up with the ever perfect Ji Hoon, I was never on that ship ever because I was convinced that despite the volatile sometimes violent relationship between Yeol Mae and Seok Hyun they have a history that is out of the ordinary and a love that transcends sickness, big fights and crying bouts in the middle of cafes.
I need Romance 2012 posed the biggest perennial relationship question of all, since time immemorial.
Are you gonna stay with the one who loves you or are you going back to the one you love?
In the end, this show successfully managed to convey that there was never a right answer to that question.
Only what the heart wants and what it tells you and that in the end, your road to happiness lies in whether or not you chose to heed what perhaps you’ve known all along.
VERDICT: The Passionate Lover. Lustful, Hot and Exciting, it may start out as a one night stand but before I know it, he has already made me fall in love with him.
A GENTLEMANS DIGNITY
It’s just… Okay.
Yes, I know that I might be crucified for saying this but I don’t really get how people rave about this show as if it’s a masterpiece.
Not that I’m saying that it’s bad.
Far from it.
However, it’s also not that good and so for me, it’s just… um…. Okay.
I somehow felt while watching this series that there were some conflicts that were dragged out for too long which could have been remedied right away if only the characters chose to see logic and reason.
The conflicts feel forced and contrived and blown way out of proportion that sometimes, I find myself checking my brain cells out of the door before tuning in so that I can enjoy it to the fullest.
It was like this pretty little gift all wrapped up in the nicest wrapping with the most gorgeous box and ribbon and yet when you get to open it and really delve deep down into its center, you get nothing but a bar of soap.
If there’s one thing that this show had going for it though and which I loved the most, it was not the romance but the Bromance depicted by the four ajusshis.
They were adorable and cute and childish and a breath of fresh air in the kdrama landscape where older male leads are always portrayed as matured knight in shining armors.
In the end, I think I watched this drama more for them than for the OTP’s.
And errrr… yes, for Jang Dong Gun.
I have always appreciated good looks where good looks exist, so… sue me.
VERDICT: The popular guy. I try with all my might to get him to notice me so that he’d date me and when by some stroke of luck he does, I realize that he’s not all that and that he falls short of my expectations.
Rooftop Prince was like the drama that never really knew nor understood what it was supposed to be.
It was a smidgen of comedy, a handful of sageuk, a dash of political mystery and a whole lot of Makjang.
This show has brought me to the highest peaks of drama watching and it also brought me to the lowest lows (not in a sad sense but in a sense where I question why I was still watching this).
When it chooses to be funny, it was really laugh out loud funny.
After all, there’s a whole lot of comedy to be explored with four men who came from the Joseon era and who were suddenly thrown into the chaos and complexities of a modern world.
However, my problem lies with the melodrama.
There was a whole lot of mumbo jumbo about clichéd storylines like birth secrets and company takeovers and in the process, the joie de vivre I got at the beginning somehow got buried under the repetitive plot that I’ve seen one too many times over and it got lost underneath the cardboard caricature cutouts of bumbling villains (ergo: Tae Mu).
It was a good thing that Mickey acted his heart out for this piece. He was the straw that held this drama together and he was the one who sort of prevented it from falling apart at the seams.
He made Yi Gak’s character lovable and adorable and worth watching and if only for that, I held onto this drama unto the very ending.
I also give props to Jung Yumi for being the quintessential bitch of the year with her portrayal of Se Na in this drama. I’m sure a lot of you can relate when I say that she was the girl we all crucified and hanged and skinned alive not one too many times over in our heads but boy, did we really all had a grand, old time just hating her.
Overall, I’d say that Rooftop Prince was a trip.
One that you ought to watch mindlessly and just for the sheer enjoyment of it because seriously?
Four episodes could have told this whole story brilliantly but instead we get 20 and so we get a whole lot of unnecessary bull crap in between.
VERDICT: The Immature, funny guy. Good for some laughs but not a relationship that’s built for the long run.
RICH MAN, POOR WOMAN
Who knew that all that technical, boring IT stuff would be so interesting when put together in a drama?
Thanks to the explosive chemistry between Oguri and Ishihara, this drama was elevated into a whole new different level rather than that of the normal office based J-drama.
To be honest, i first started watching this drama because of the promise that the OTP holds.
Ishihara Satomi is such a breath of fresh air as Natsui.
The way that she acts like a lovelorn fool in front of Hyuga (Oguri) is so cute and funny and also their chemistry is just so sweetly tantalizing in the beginning because you really can’t tell if he’s attracted to her as a woman or if he just sees her as a mascot.
The character that Oguri plays is so multi level and he plays it to perfection.
Externally, he seems lackadaisical and armed with a devil may care attitude but deep inside he has such a prickly walled interior.
Natsui is the perfect complement to him with the way that she wears her heart out on her sleeves and the way that she breaks through his walls little by little unknowingly that it is just sheer entertainment to see Hyuga get flustered by how this new woman in his life does not seem to get it when he pushes her away but rather she takes it all the more as an invitation or a challenge to get closer to him.
Primarily, i watched it for that.
But little by little, the whole corporate environment which the drama is centered unto has sunk its teeth into my drama loving self and before I knew it, I was absolutely, completely engaged with the whole arc of how Hyuga’s empire whom he has built single handedly is also being taken away from him and now he has to start from scratch all over again.
This drama awakened my need and drive to pursue my own personal dreams and it tapped into my inner emotions that deal with things such as loyalty, principled beliefs and the desire to see an underdog succeed.
Not that it was without its flaws as I felt that the love story took so long to take off and that the writer sort of lost steam in the middle as the drama took a downturn from the overall excitement of the beginning.
However, in the end, it was the lethal potent combination of Oguri and Ishihara’s chemistry that made it work.
That and the whole excitement of a young, hip and fresh storyline that is set in a time and place that in this gadget crazy era is all familiar to us now..
VERDICT: The Office Romance. It’s all work and play, I don’t only get a lovelife, I also get tips on how to improve my powerpoint presentation.
Ahhhh… when I think of Sprout I think of the perfect summer romance.
Light, breezy and easy, it brings back wonderful memories of my adolescent years and of that time in my life when I had my first love and thought that it was the be-all and end all of everything.
Although, I am sometimes aghast at how this four young kids could think of nothing else but love and heartbreak when they are but all of 15, there is still that part of me that can relate and understand, because at that age, we really feel as if the smallest of problems is indeed already earth shattering.
Sprout revolves under a very simple and time tested premise.
Girl Loves Boy, Boy is with someone else, Girl goes out with another boy but suddenly first boy realizes that he is also in love with her.
However, it was in the storytelling that Sprout made it feel so different.
It was not just a simple tale of love but also of deep friendship.
It was the story of the journey of these adolescents as they get their first taste of adulthood by being faced with decisions and choices that they not only have to stick with but to live with.
In short, Sprout is the perfect coming of age story.
Just like its cinematography, it was crisp, vivid and clear and it made me want to go back to that age and time when I was young, bushy eyed and carefree.
VERDICT: The Summer Fling. My relationship with him may be brief and fleeting, but boy, does it still hurt when it ends.
CAN WE GET MARRIED?
Oh, meddling parents, I swear you’d forever be the bane of Asian Dramas.
And here in this drama, we get plenty.
Shouting, naggy mothers who ruin perfectly good relationships and who send it straight to the pits of hell.
However, what this drama offers differently is how despite the fact that they run rampant in the series and are the main points of conflict for the whole story, they really don’t figure as much in terms of the decision making of the main OTP’s.
At long last, we get pairings who not only have explosive chemistry but who also are matured enough to realize that the idiotic noble sacrifice for the sake of family should have long gone to the dogs.
This drama has a smorgasboard of characters and side stories but not once have I ever felt that it got in the way of the main OTP.
Instead, I enjoy each and everyone of their arc with leisure.
I feel equally spazzy with Deul Rae and Minho’s story the way that I am head over heels for Jung Hoon’s and Hye Yoon’s or of Dong Bi’s and Ki Joong’s.
Here finally is a drama made by adults reflecting the real life choices and real life decisions made by adults.
It doesn’t drag problems to kingdom come but instead, you get a few minutes where characters sulk and then afterwards, talk about their problems honestly and from the heart like two real life, matured, consenting adults.
And for that, I guess this drama deserves respect.
For giving their audience the benefit of the doubt that we don’t just like conflict in our dramas for the sake of conflict but rather, that we also deserve a show where characters act out of logic rather than without reason.
VERDICT: The sensitive guy. He talks about his feelings and cares about mine. He gives me a complete picture of how things happened when it happens and though there may be times that he is silent or quiet, there is a comfort that I get from just being around him all the time.
12 MEN IN A YEAR
Part Sex and the City, part Dear Abbie, this show was supposed to be fresh and fun and all about girl power.
What we got instead was a show that tries to dress itself up as liberated and modern but then it shies away from it, so it just goes back to being conservative and ordinary.
If only it was able to sustain the devil may care attitude that it had at the beginning.
And if only it kept true to its title that indeed there will be 12 men that would be featured, I may have been more forgiving because what fun would that have been.
But then, there’s Julien Kang.
So that more than made up for it.
I would not entirely say however that all is lost with this drama.
I did enjoy the satisfaction of seeing an ex come groveling back to the girl he should have loved till the very end and of seeing the firm resolve of a woman who knew that a sorry and some tears would not bring back already dead feelings and an already deader relationship.
I just felt somehow that the ending was a bit rushed and that matters hastily resolved because it was already episode 16.
If only there were more time perhaps it would have been altogether better.
But oh well… like I said, Julien Kang shirtless. So I will stop right here with the complaints because that more than made up for its shortcomings.
VERDICT: The Goodlooking player. Sexy and charming, he’s good for a fun romp but he’s not to be taken seriously.
Seriously show, HOW COULD YOU?
HOW COULD YOUUUUUUUUUU???
*pounds my fists on its chest, crying great, heaving sobs*
How could you have ruined my memory of my absolute favorite Zettai Kareshi and turned it into this travesty of a drama that’s even worse than a B-movie?
The dubbing, the overacting, *sigh* everything in this drama is simply atrocious.
There was no trace whatsoever of the heart that the manga and jdrama has that makes you feel so much empathy for its characters but instead what you get are facial expressions that you want to knock off the faces of the actors and shallow plot points that make Jiro appear more as Robocop than a romantic robot.
However, that said, I still have to say thank goodness for Jiro.
He was the only ray of sunshine in this whole farcical mess, not because he acted better than the others but at least he provided me with eye candy while watching this show as my thoughts drift off to never land and I literally feel my brain cells slowly depleting.
VERDICT: The Control Freak. I started dating him because he seems warm and secure but before long, he starts sucking the life out of me and I feel myself slowly suffocating.
While watching Big I tried to convince myself that the Hong Sisters were attacked by body snatchers and in their stead, they wrote this drama instead.
That or they started writing this show with the greatest of ideas but then they lost interest so they just wrote whatever, because to heck with it.
This show was one such drama that had all the problems and the conflicts but never the answers nor the ideas as to how to solve it.
Everything feels forced and contrived and rushed because plot points are introduced and wrapped up by resolving them with story arcs that don’t help the drama much but rather which seems more like that of a cop out.
TIMEJUMP! GO TO THE STATES! GO TO THE STATES AGAIN!
And that ending?
*rolls eyes in frustration*
Oh god, don’t even get me started on that ending.
If there was one person who really got the short end of the stick in this show, it was no one else but Gong Yoo.
An actor of his caliber and acting chops deserve so much better and as much as I shrieked like a dying hyena when I learnt that he was going to be in this drama, there was not one time too many while watching this show that I wished that he could have made his comeback in a different drama instead.
But wait, at least he got to act.
I’m sure that is exactly the same sentiment of Shin Won Ho who spent 16 episodes in a coma, I heard up to now, he’s still treating his bedsores.
VERDICT: The man with the Peter Pan syndrome. I dated him because I was excited by his enthusiasm and zest for life but as our relationship goes on his general immaturity, indecisiveness, lack of critical thinking or life skills makes me wish that somehow he could just grow up.
TAKE CARE OF US CAPTAIN
Let me recap this drama to you in a nutshell:
Repeat all over again.
This was one show that took itself too seriously on a conflict that was way too flimsy that in the end, all I could think about was how Da Jin was sometimes so unreasonable it was bordering on childishly petty.
I get it, her mother died in a freak accident but at that time, everyone involved in that whole debacle didn’t have a direct hand on what happened and they did all the best they could so I really don’t understand why everyone was so wracked with debilitating guilt that it threatened to ruin their careers and lives as well as their love lives.
Seriously, I just can’t relate.
If not for the brilliant child actress who played Da Yeon, this drama would have long ago crashed and burned.
As it is, the only redeeming point of this show was the relationship between Da Jin and her sister and it was not thanks mostly to Goo Hye Sun but rather to Kil So Won who played Da Yeon.
VERDICT: The intellectual. He has a good job and is smart but he also bores me to tears that I don’t understand why I’m dating him.
This show sure was wild, but romance?
Ummm… there was not a whole lot.
Aside from the fact that there was zero chemistry between Lee Shi Young and Lee Dong Wook, there was also the fact that more time was spent on the love story between the male lead and the second female lead that it made me question if the main OTP was meant to be.
Heck, I have never even seen Mu Yeol treat Eun Jae as a girl that I became convinced that they were better off as best friends or as brother and sister.
For that, I was even more invested in the lovestory of Dong Ho and Robo Manager than that of Mu Yeol and Eun Jae.
To me, if a drama makes you root for the side characters story more than that of the leads, then there must be something awfully wrong with it.
Wild Romance started off typically as a rom-com with the hate at first sight and the funny meet up, but it was not able to sustain that momentum that the whole story somehow became more about the stalker than the emotional pull of the characters.
Sure it was crazy and boy, was it wild, but the romance?
It will surely left you wanting and if I can’t get emotionally invested in a drama, I might as well just clean the house and do the laundry.
VERDICT: The guy who I friend zone. We will forever be platonic and no matter how much he says he loves me, we can never move beyond that point so he can take it or leave it.
OH LA LA SPOUSES
Never have I seen a writer dig a deeper grave of shit for her lead than in this series.
Soo Nam is a total douchebag through and through and he’s had not one too many times to redeem himself to his wife Yeo Ok and yet, he still chooses to be an asshole.
And what? In the end, the dear writer of this series expects us to love him?
This show managed all together to insult all of my feminine sensibilities and to trample on everything that I hold dear as a woman.
It was like it was telling me that it’s okay to sulk and to have a dalliance because I am treated by a man like a doormat but once he says sorry, I should just dry my eyes, forget about it and move on like nothing has happened.
WHERE IS THE JUSTICE IN THAT?
If only the writer chose to go off the normal kdrama route and just give Yeo Ok that second chance to be happy with Hyun Woo.
If only we didn’t throw in cancer to the mix and that song and dance number in the end, I would applaud it rather than diss it.
Instead, here is one drama that makes my blood pressure spike just at the mere thought of it.
Kim Jung Eun, you ought to thank your lucky stars you have Lovers in Paris.
Seriously girl, you ought to rethink your drama choices.
VERDICT: The Player. I go back to him again and again thinking he might change, but in the end, he only succeeds in disappointing me.
So there you have it folks, My drama watching life for the year in a nutshell.
There were a couple more dramas that I watched but have not included in this review as I have not completed it or dropped it.
Here’s to 2013!
May there be more dramas to watch, more OTP’s to ship and most of all more shirtless oppas to ogle!