by Akage Girl, February 20, 2021
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While I hope all of you enjoy this article, I’m reaching out to those newbie Asian drama partakers. You know who you are. Maybe your cousin’s best friend’s brother’s ex-girlfriend had a thing for Meteor Garden and wouldn’t shut up about it. Possibly Netflix recommended you watch Itaewon Class after you watched that BlackPink documentary last week. Or you were like me and accidentally started Eternal Love and found the world of Asian Dramas by discovering the wonders of MDL (I googled Mark Chao...sigh, and this website came up). 

Just think, what can be more intellectually stimulating than reading a book and watching TV at the same time (ahem….ie. reading subtitles)? Regardless, welcome, come on in, the water’s warm, and we’re all having a good time.

Want to be creeped out, romanced, or laugh until you pee? (School Nurse Files really creeped me out)

If you believe the dramas produced in Asia might not be the bee’s knees or the cat’s meow, please allow me to persuade you otherwise. Perhaps you have very peculiar tastes in television or you only like one specific genre. I assure you that there are a ton of Asian dramas that fit any taste and culture (even if you live on Mars) available through streaming services, including some that are at no cost to the consumer. Unless you count watching strange repetitive commercials as a fee. Come with me while I introduce you to just a few (there are many) genres of television you will find in Asian Drama Land. Where can you go to find out more about these fabulous shows? Why, right here at MDL, of course! Do you get a hankering for a gripping drama that shows the malice and intrigue that goes alongside governing a city, a state, a country, the world? Well, let me tell you, there is plenty of that to go around in drama land. Why not just click on the genre prompt at MDL entitled political? You’ll find many suggested shows: classics (not old but fairly well made) from South Korea like Chicago Typewriter, The Crowned Clown, Bad Guys, or The Great Show. Truth be told, this is NOT my genre of choice. That said, there are plenty of good ones out there if you like the realistic and the gritty. May I recommend checking out the political offerings from South Korea?

Can you smell the political intrigue?

The best one (again, not my favorite genre) in my book is Chief of Staff. It’s very similar to any American political drama on steroids. Lee Jung Jae and Shin Min Ah play the two leads in both seasons, and WOW, they were just spectacular. The writing was intense, and the dramatization was... well, very dramatic. I felt like I was watching real-life moments in politics unfold before my very eyes…ick. Give the two seasons a shot if this is the type of show you crave.

In the drama spectrum, the opposite of political intrigue is fluff. You know what I’m talking about. That show where the conflict is minimal, the actors are pretty, and everything gets tied up with a neat happy ending with a wedding dress worn by an impossibly tiny woman. There are endless shows like that out there in drama land. In fact, I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that any mainland Chinese drama that has a male and female lead and set in the modern-day will be that way. This is due to their very strict censorship laws (I wrote an article about that if you’re interested) Watching shows like Love O2O, Gank Your Heart, Love Actually, and Sweet Dreams feels like watching TV in a giant cotton ball, all snuggly and soft.

Love is Sweet…..More Fluffy Than Cotton Candy!

Love is Sweet is one piece of fluff that I enjoyed, and it certainly never made my heart pound. Bai Lu and Leo Luo did a fabulous job. Truth be told. Leo Luo is one of the best actors EVER from mainland China, and anything he does is just outstanding. I could go on for pages and pages about how wonderful of an actor he is… And I have. This show is worth watching just for him. If you like fluff, you won’t be disappointed. (And if you’re waiting with bated breath for Leo’s  Immortality or the translation of The Husky and His White Cat Shizun into a language other than Mandarin, let’s have a watch and read party together. We’re fated to be friends). 

Slice of Life is another genre I’ll watch, but I don’t exactly love it. After all, life is realistic enough on a daily basis. Why should I spend my precious free time watching the same thing on TV? That said, there are brilliant shows out there. South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan all excel in this area. Hospital Playlist, Kahogo No Kahoko, The Way We Love, The Wonder Woman, One More Happy Ending are just a few that I’ve found entertaining, even though they are all based on realistic situations. Taiwan dramas have nicely written female characters. Japan excels at slice-of-life to the point it feels like art. South Korean's writers do a magnificent job of making me think when they portray everyday scenes.

Sometimes I loved these two and sometimes I hated them

Because This Is My First Life is one of these slice-of-life dramas. I enjoyed the show because of the complex females, the quirky romances between the couples, and how incredibly IMPERFECT each character was. I hated this drama because it was so real. That said, this show inspired me in different ways, including finding my own room 19 (it’s a great read). Believe me, there is nothing more realistic than 16 episodes of this show, and if this is what you like to watch, start with this one.

I have separated the wuxia/xianxia from fantasy. That gets its own mention. To avoid turning this article into a small novel, I will just say that Taiwan and mainland China do fantasy fairly well, but South Korea corners the market. They are just artistic geniuses at fantasy. Holy Cow! The list is endless and includes my favorites: Hotel Del Luna, The Mystic Pop-up Bar, You Who Came from the Stars, A Korean Odyssey, and SO MUCH MORE. The granddaddy of all fantasy shows (in my humble opinion) is Goblin…...pause...... A moment of silence if you please. If fantasy shows drive you to watch TV, then please, as a newbie, watch Goblin. The writing, the acting, the music, Gong Yoo... Lee Dong WookKim Go EunYoo In Na… I choke up just thinking about it.

Thank You Tenor for this Classic

I have directed several friends, who were just starting out in Asian Drama Land, to start with Goblin. And so far, they’ve all loved it. By far, this genre is my cup of tea, and South Korea has kept it filled ever since I started my love affair with all things Asian. If you are looking for a place to begin, please look no further than the fantasy Goblin. Be prepared to laugh, cry, and scream (last 5 minutes of episode 2… I did… Loudly… If you did as well, please contact me… We’re destined to be friends). May I just say that there may be similar genres around the world that could compare to wuxia/xianxia and Asian historical... HOWEVER, I’m going to argue that they pale in comparison. From my perspective, South Korea does this well with Moon Lovers Scarlet Heart Ryeo, Splash Splash Love, and others coming to mind BUT this is where mainland China just knocks it out of the park. My theory is they can get more past the censors with these types of period/fantasy/historical/costume dramas. Some notable c-dramas include entertaining little ditties like Legend of White Snake, The Flames Daughter, Love and Destiny. Two of my favorite Chinese dramas and I’ve been pretty verbose on both, are Eternal Love (Mark Chao……sigh) and Ashes of Love.

Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian……BEST CHARACTERS EVER!

But of course, the best in this category (my opinion, of course) is The Untamed. Yes, it's true. It is near impossible for me not to write the words "Wei Wuxian" and "Lan Wangji" in almost every article I write these days. They are the two greatest characters I've ever witnessed on television (if you agree with me, we’re meant to be friends)! I love this show more than I love my luggage, my chickens, my bunny slippers, and sometimes more than I love my brothers (they can be quite a challenge... And have you seen  Sean Xiao and Wang Yi Bo together on screen?). This show made me laugh, cry, scream, and gave me heart palpitations from the very first scene with those two hanging off a cliff. Ma Dao Zu Shi (book The Untamed is based on) is an incredible story, the characters are rich and superbly portrayed on screen. The soundtrack is out of this world, and I defy anyone to watch it and not fall in love with at least one aspect of The Untamed. Even if it’s just the bunnies or little Ah Yuan. 

Bouquie and Tenor - AWESOME GIF of  Sweet Sweet Wen Ning

It is rather fun being a part of the MDL community and exploring the vast world of Asian TV with all of you. I’ve only scratched the surface of the television available to the consuming public and those countries that provide it. To keep the word-count reasonable, I had to stop somewhere. If you are new to the world of k-dramas, c-drama, and the like, consider spending some time searching around MDL. You’ll find no shortage of genres, tags, reviews, articles, opinions, lists, and more revolving around this fascinating subject on this fabulous website. So put on those comfy pajamas, find the remote, grab a bag of Double Stuff Oreo’s (my choice for a binge-watching snack), and join me in the wonderful world of Asian Drama Land.

What about you? What is your favorite genre? What drama do you recommend to an Asian Drama Land Newbie? 


Edited by: Cookie (1st editor)

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