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2021’s Best K-Dramas: Squid Game & Hometown Cha-Cha

The 2020-2021 season has been filled with some great kdramas, yet as an avid kdrama watcher, ever since I entered the world of anime (see anime post) I started lacking on my kdrama streaming. I attempted to get back into the world of kdrama by trying to pick up crowd favorites, new and old, such as, “Nevertheless,” or “Her Private Life.” However, the short and wholesome nature of anime had lured me away from the long dramatics of kdrama. This was until the shows, “Hometown Cha-Cha,” and “Squid Game,” came out. These two shows highly contrast each other but they’ve become my all-time new favorite dramas causing me to cry, laugh, and escape from the reality that is college life. Now to preface, this summary might contain spoilers… so read at your own risk.

Hometown Cha-Cha explores the life of a young dentist as she leaves Seoul to pursue her own dental clinic in the country-seaside. At the seaside, the dentist’s cold view of the world and presentation of herself melts as she meets a handsome young part-timer. These two are polar opposites in how they go about life, treat others, and their values in life. But with time, it becomes obvious that despite their vastly different lifestyles, these two have more in common than they think. The show focuses on the process of their relationship transitioning from platonic and friendly to something more (note that when I am writing this article, Episode 10 was the last release).

One of the reasons this drama is one of my new favorites is because of how funny it is; this type of humor is just up my aisle. Secondly, I appreciate how the main characters start out as friends/frenemies and slowly (not overnight) realize that they might have more than platonic feelings for each other. Their relationship is as complex and intricate as it is delicate. Also, usually if there is a love triangle or family drama it ends up being toxic and uncomfortable, but SO FAR this drama incorporates it all with a playful twist through Dusik’s (the part-timer) character.

So, I would highly recommend this drama for some wholesome smiles, fluttering hearts, and limited toxicity. Also, the female lead for this drama really stood out as she was an independent successful woman in STEM, not a popular career choice for kdrama characters. Moreover, whereas in most kdramas the woman is in a lesser socioeconomic position than the male, this drama does the opposite, even though (spoiler) Dusik has an engineering degree from SNU.

Squid Game starkly contrasts the simple and light-hearted nature of Hometown Cha-Cha. It explores deep themes of materialism, humanity, greed, family, love, loyalty, and friendship through – quite literally – children’s games. Squid Game explores the life of the main character who is broke and in debt, living with his sick mom, and soon to be separated forever from his daughter. He somehow…wait for it…sells away his physical rights and finds himself with 455 other people who have done the same thing.

Without spoiling too much, the characters find themselves stuck in a nightmarish dystopia where they struggle to stay sane and humane amid the game’s pressures. I think a part of the success of this story is the timing of when it was released. It presents this foreign world with masks, and concepts of individuality versus the common good. It mirrors our world while also presenting something so horrific that we may find ourselves grateful for our current circumstances. Pandemic aside, the show reflects our capitalistic and productivity-driven society. The middle and lower classes struggle to survive their realities, and the upper classes are so comfortable they can bet on human lives in false realities they create for entertainment purposes. As a side note, as an Indian, it was awesome seeing representation on the show, though Ali deserved so much better. 😔

I recently found out through TikTok that the creators of the show spent 8 years creating it, and I think the intense emotions, varying themes, and underlying details really show just how much work and creativity went into this show! The ending of season 1 is the perfect segue for a second season, though it is still unclear if one will happen; but my fingers are crossed that it’ll be just as good or better than the first one. Finally, if you binge the entire show and want to watch something similar, “Alice in Borderland”, is a Japanese series that utilizes similar concepts and was executed in a similar way.

SPOILERS HERE: A mind-blowing fact that I found out through Twitter was that there was a lot of foreshadowing in Episode 2 of the show. In episode 2 the main characters all perform an action which then mirrors the action that causes their demise in the end. I know that sounds vague, but I don’t want to spoil it more than I have. This level of detail and foreshadowing has so many layers of meaning that I could write an analytical paper on it! The foreshadowing to me depicts how karma is real, and although, we, the audience, might not have thought the game was fair, in reality similar things happen all the time.

Overall, if you haven’t checked out these two dramas yet, I would highly recommend checking them out and escaping from your reality. Enjoy!

Meeval Biju

Jefferson '24

Hello hello, I'm a sophomore here at Jefferson University. I love music, science, and sleep!
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