Ending 2018: 4 K-Dramas & Chinese Shows Worth Swooning Over This December

YouTube has recently introduced me to a whole new world, one I dared never ventured into before but has had a cult following since my freshman days of high school - a cult following that now includes me binge-watching television during Thanksgiving break while juggling papers and projects: the world of Korean dramas and Chinese shows.

I’ve caught the K-drama bug quite badly, ladies. And it’s perfectly consumed both my dreams and my life. I am officially obsessed with Korean dramas, or at least the four I’ve watched so far. The cultures are so different, the direction and script are far more open-minded and refreshing, and the stories are insightful, entertaining, and meaningful - all at the same time! Every segment of the shows - from the plot points to the casting to the denouements of the story - are exquisitely crafted. These dramas are such a change from the usual ones I’ve seen on abc, Netflix, and HBO (all of which have their own delightful fortes, by the way), that, whenever I watch them, I get such an intense rush of dopamine in my system that only treadmills and loving smiles can replicate.

Even though this is my second taste of international television (Bollywood was first), I am absolutely awe-struck by how much high-quality entertainment I’ve been missing out on (of course, books are still king in the entertainment category, but television and good podcasts are close seconds) for the past eighteen years or so.

Please note that all of these shows contain romance - i.e. couples who like being with each other because it makes life better - but don’t worry, romance isn’t the fundamental core theme for most of them, so there’s still plenty of drama, humor, and action to go around for viewers of every taste!

*Disclaimer: there are spoilers!*

So, without further ado, let me introduce you to my six latest K-drama obsessions for you to partake in during this fun-filled, Turkey-stuffed weekend:

 

Are You Human Too?

The couple in this 2018 South Korean television show is dubbed “the brown-eyed couple” for their uniquely dark brown eyes that dazzle viewers always.

Personally for me, this show tops the list. Witnessing the transformation of an android robot from a mechanical creature with set rules and strict guidelines to follow, to a normal human being who learns to adapts to change and possesses actual emotions, may evoke some themes from the 2014 Ex Machina film, but I promise you, this show is even better. To see one male actor (read: supermodel) portray the character of a robot so efficiently and flawlessly, only to see that robot change and become more human, and more sensitive to emotional attachments through simple things - like eye movements, different smiles, and body gestures - is a magnificent transformation to watch. To see this same actor portray both a human and a robot so well, each with different personalities, effortlessly and distinctively, is another feat that makes this show an award-winning one in my books. It reminds you of how Nina Dobrev should have received Oscars for portraying both Elena Gilbert and Katherine so marvelously well in The Vampire Diaries series. The robot eventually learns to interact with different human beings, growing up to like and feel strongly for one woman who sees him for what he is - a robot learning to fit in the human world (er, soon to be AI-powered human world?) - and yet continues to help him deal with life’s everyday challenges. And indeed, these challenges are greater for the robot character than for any human being to begin with. The locations chosen for the set are surreal, the cast is quite talented, and the story is captivating and well-developed. I’m just as in love with the plot as I am with the characters themselves (and their clothing styles - Korean attire is stunning and I need to know how to order Korean clothing to the US sans shipping costs).

There are some scenes in this show that make me ask:

“Who’s the ninja cutting the onions? Please stop him immediately!”

Who in this universe says majestic things like:

“Now you can relax. Because I’m by your side.”

“I will hug you until you stop crying. I won’t let go.”

There’s even a scene where the robot hugs his love interest even when she isn’t crying. She told him why he hugged her even though she wasn’t crying. He replied, “But you want to.”

A robot can sense if a woman wants to cry internally even when she doesn’t show it - we’ve got ourselves a keeper here, ladies! Even humans can’t do that nowadays - the main character rose the bar too high for all gentlemen out there.

It goes without showing that I love the script!

Did I mention the lead actor has two dimples? Okay, then.

 

W - Two Worlds Apart

A South Korean television series which aired in 2016, W - Two Worlds Apart contains fantasy elements from alternate universes and comic books. Yes, ladies, you read that right - comic books and alternate universes are both utilized in a single show. This show is originality at its best, with an insightful story, a cast trained to hypnotize viewers with their smiles (be prepared for gorgeous pearly whites!), and a chemistry that is undeniable between the the two main characters.

Sometimes, YouTube comments are enough to remind you how good different dramas are relative to actual life events that we can all relate to as human beings. Here’s one that caught my eye and that perfectly illustrates the merits of this show: “Whenever I'm having trouble in pooping, I'll watch [scenes from W - Two Worlds Apart], so when my fangirling comes, the fangirling strength is enough to let the bomb release.” Talk about excitement.

There’s action, guns, thriller, suspense, blood, and - wait for it - my favorite, romance. The actors are both cuties as well who are talented at portraying a wide range of emotions. The couple also tends to color-coordinate occasionally, which amuses me. The director has also infused humor throughout the series, so there’s plenty of laughter and languish imbued throughout the plot, which caters well to my eclectic entertainment needs.

 

A Love So Beautiful

This coming-of-age and rom-com themed show is not a K-drama: it’s a 2017 Chinese web series that’s insanely popular among many Asian international viewers. Originally spoken in Mandarin, this web series tugged me by my heartstrings so strongly that my heart skipped a beat quite a few times during some episodes. The characterization and development of the plot are divine. There is a significant degree of the second lead syndrome in this series - as are in most K dramas (you’ve been warned) - meaning that both main love interests of the girl are predestined to convert you to instant fangirls with the power of their looks, dialogue, and eyes alone. The show is about one playful, average girl who’s in love with the highest achiever in her school since kindergarten. They both also happen to be neighbors.

It’s about a young girl experiencing love at first sight with one boy, who nonchalantly ignores her. But as soon as another boy comes along and shows committed interest in the girl, the former boy becomes jealous and finally starts to take notice of how her attention is no longer focused on him anymore. It’s a story of the classic case of girl-likes-boy, boy-doesn’t, but-then-eventually-does, but-then-girl-doesn’t. Love interests flip fast. To see the entire love triangle play out from high school all the way to adult life - weddings, graduation, medical school, the whole triple whammy - is an exceptional journey to watch. All three main characters are addictively gorgeous and their faces were made for acting! The plot progresses smoothly and then abruptly exactly when I least expect it to - which suits my fancy just right.

I find myself swooning over the actor’s expressive faces daily. They say so much by simply adding a wrinkle to their eyes or stretching the left corner of their mouth by a few millimeters, that it amazes me how these shows don’t have a massive international following of viewers. Perhaps the show does, and I’m simply not too aware of it. Either way, the actors deserve praise.

 

Meteor Garden

Seeing a robot fall for someone that makes them break their existing programmed rules and codes, inspiring them to create new ones (I, Robot vibes anyone?) is one beautiful phenomenon.

Seeing the bad guy fall hopelessly - and desperately - in love with the new girl at university is a whole other beauty to behold - and binge - entirely.

I connected with this K-drama on a deeply personal scale. I’ve been the “new girl” a lot in middle school and high school, more so than most people do throughout their lives, and to be considered an object of affection by the “bad boy” in school is an idea that I was in love with. I also find myself relating to this show on such a personal scale because it goes through the life of an average, ordinary girl tackling university life at the most prestigious university in the country - UC Berkeley vibes anyone? The protagonist is cute and stubborn but she’s also strong, expressive, and assertive. She gains confidence throughout the show and learns to “adult” on a realistic scale that inspires me to gain power from her own burgeoning strength. She makes herself known and falls sweetly in love, but only after overcoming hardship and tons of struggle during the course of her relationship with a boy who’s never learned to love or respect women before. At the end, though, she becomes a stronger person because of it.

The series is a remake of the 2001 Taiwanese series Meteor Garden, and the 6th television adaptation of the Japanese manga Boys Over Flowers, so if that isn’t reason enough to start (binge)watching this show, ladies, then the dialogue - I can assure you - certainly is.

In this 2018 Chinese television drama, the elite university has a clique of four popular boys, known as F4. They are that one black leather-jacket wearing, tattoo-covered, piercing-clad gangster-group of guys that exist at some schools and colleges and that stick together like a pack of wolves (no offense to either group). They’re that one group of boys who spell “troublemakers” with a capital T, but that attract your attention relentlessly anyways.

The highlight of this show - for me - is the focus of having one of the F4 boys fall in love with the newcomer girl. He - the handsome bad boy - falls hard for her but didn’t know that at the beginning, when he teased and mocked her on a tremendously disrespectful scale.

But he does change into a better man to win her heart. During a cooking competition she takes part in, he supports her enthusiastically. He plays games with her, during which he makes faces that are designed to make the female race swoon. He’s bittersweet with her and protects her at all costs. He smiles differently when he’s with her - and it’s a genuine smile. He rents an apartment next to her to keep her safe. He chases after her bus to reunite with her after a fight and almost catches up to the bus but fails (spoiler: she runs back to him). He confesses how he “absolutely cannot live without” her. This show is chock-full of bittersweet moments you won’t want to miss.

 

So those are my four cents, ladies. Enjoy your December holiday season - maybe you could check out these shows with fellow collegiettes to make for a delightful hangout session this holiday season!