Author: Dearna Smith
30 December 2016
Top 10 Dramas of 2016
When you discover one aspect of Asian entertainment, the rest tend to follow along. I was no exception myself. Venturing from Anime to Kpop to Asian dramas and back again, I can easily say I have experienced a variety of resources. Although these different components have a place in my daily schedule, Asian dramas tend to outweigh the rest. Immersing myself in these dramas is something that makes me happy above all other hobbies. And as of this moment I have completed 76 dramas in 2016, giving me a fair amount of exposure to write my personal top 10 list of Asian dramas from this year. As my genre preference is romance, the top placings will be occupied by those fitting. Please note that this list is entirely my personal preference and will only contain a small portion of the dramas that were released this year. Feel free to share your own top lists with me on Twitter where we will hopefully have an opportunity to converse. Hope you enjoy!
In the beginning episodes I was unsure if I could continue till the end. But as the story progressed that feeling had entirely vanished. Starring Seo In Guk, a man with an undeniable appeal, he lends to the comedic storyline and adds that beloved charm to the screen. Matching with multiple dynamic side characters and entangled relationships, ‘Shopping King Louis’ was simply fun. What was most particular about this aspect was how the writers, editors and director knew exactly how to play with it. These exaggerated moments made for a rom-com that was adored by many in 2016.
In the category of good dramas, ‘Signal’ takes first place. Adopting multiple genres such as detective, suspense and Sci-Fi, little could we expect just the impact this drama would have on the entertainment industry. Not only is it currently the highest rated Asian drama of all time (sitting at a comfortable 9.3/10) it has also won an assortment of awards this year. Watching this drama, or more so viewing it in one sitting, you will need no explanation as to why it is good. If any of the 7+ genres it falls under appeals to you in the slightest, watch it. It will be 20 hours of pure excellence.
‘Age of Youth’ was my surprise drama of the year. When it first started airing I was curious about the rating, checking it on and off as the weeks passed by. As I followed its increasing numbers I knew that it must be something special. Going on to binge watch the entire drama was a clear example of that assumption being true. ‘Age of Youth’ shares the experiences of university roommates and how these five contrasting personalities come to form an unforgettable bond. With supernatural aspects and dramatic occurrences, it is a story that will test your emotions. This was a near spotless drama that I would recommend to anyone who wants to enjoy real life stories that many young adults experience. A long with a touch of comedy of course!
‘Sotus’ is a BL series done right. More times than not, similar genres can lack development in terms of love, creating for a not-so-believable romance. However, this drama won against all others. Their relationship progression was unhurried, allowing you to witness the change in pace as the affection grew. As it reached the point of confessions and tender moments you knew how their confrontations had led to that outcome. I must also mention that the side characters did not fail to shine their own light during the series. Without overshadowing the main storyline, there was enough development for the rest of the cast. This distribution of screen time was satisfying and raised the rating even higher. ‘Sotus’ was the BL drama that I was truly hoping to see from 2016.
As a past RPG player, a drama like ‘Love O2O’ quickly possessed my interest. The high level of gaming themes and the ethereal scenery was the initial appeal, but even after this aspect toned down it kept me hooked. The main couple of ‘Love O2O’ were commanding. Not only commanding of your focus but their strength in the relationships they had with other characters. Situations would occur where there were moments for downfall or misfortune, yet not a single time was this duo fooled. This type of outcome, especially for leading characters, is not often seen in dramas. It is easier to make a storyline out of someone who has fallen. However, this writer completely avoided that typical route. ‘Love O2O’ is a frustration-free drama I could not praise more.
Arguably the biggest drama of 2016, there is no excusing it from this list. Incorporating military, medical and romance into one story is a hard one to pull off. However, writer Kim Eun Sook managed to find the perfect balance. Between heart wrenching stories and romantic developments, it was a drama you could not wait a day to watch. What I admired most about this drama was the level of satisfaction it gave you. Often writers tend to add collisions in the characters’ paths, causing you frustration. But in the case of ‘Descendants of the Sun’ you were provided with everything you wanted. Before you had time to begin wishing for a certain scene to develop, it was already given to you. This creates for a fantastic multi-genre drama that appeals to a diverse range of viewers.
When first approaching this drama it was already set in my mind that I was going to love it. Casting numerous of my favourite actors, not to mention a gorgeous leading couple, it was bound to be a tough one to avoid. And how correct I was. Firstly, the cinematography was surreal. Many of the scenes were a masterpiece in their own, making it worth watching this drama just for its appearance. Matching this aspect with the OSTs, my favourite being EPIK HIGH and Lee Hi’s ‘Can You Hear My Heart’, it became a highlight of my week. Although ‘Moon Lovers’ was not a seamless drama, the overall experience was like no other. Even for those who do not typically enjoy historical dramas, this will be a beautiful watch.
The reply series has progressively gained attention for their authentic family issues and unpredictable love relationships. ‘Reply 1988’ kept that trend and took it one step further. Being longer than the other sequels, averaging 1.5 hours per episode, there was room for prolonged storylines. Yet, as that final episode rolled around, I was ready to re-watch it all again. A reason that lead to this desire was that feeling of community. You laugh, become frustrated and cry right alongside the oddly charismatic teenagers. It is the type of drama that truly teaches you many things about life and helps you to discover your own self. A drama like this is rare to find.
What is so special about ‘Another Oh Hae Young’ is its directing. Song Hyun Wook, who has directed another favourite of mine, ‘Marriage Not Dating’ does a beautiful job at exposing the emotions that are expressed during the drama. This ultimately lead to me shedding multiple tears throughout its duration and forming a deep connection with the characters. I also could not help but place this psychological drama so high on my list due to its raw comedy. Often finding me in stitches, the actors would not only perform pre-written comedic lines, but improvise. Especially in the case of actress Ye Ji Won; quickly establishing her character as one of my all-time favourites. ‘Another Oh Hae Young’ is easily my number one romantic comedy.
Deciding on a first for this list was extremely difficult… Throughout the year I have been shuffling dramas back and forth, trying to decide on the one to stand at the top. ‘W – Two Worlds’ was that winner.
This fantasy drama follows the romance of two characters from parallel worlds. The exact reason for their continuous confrontations is a suspenseful component of the drama, one in which I will not spoil. As each episode started I would be entirely immersed. As the storyline itself is often complicated and overlapping it required a great deal of attention. However, this characteristic made for a highly unpredictable masterpiece. After the episode reached its final second I would be both clueless and conscious of every startling scene and satisfying occurrence. No other drama has impacted me quite like this one in 2016.
Potential Golden Dramas of the new year
As 2017 approaches there are still a few stragglers. These dramas are those who air both in 2016 and the new year, confusing viewers as to when to consider it finished. As these dramas that have yet to be completed still possess extreme potential they surely deserve a mention.
Perfection. All I ever wanted. The best thing I have experienced. Hmm… maybe just a few of the statements I would use to describe this drama. As I saw the date closing in on the release of this drama I could not deny a certain feeling. I had faith that Kim Eun Sook (Descendants of the Sun) would present yet another masterpiece. The fact that I was correct about this assumption makes it that much more emotional. NEVER have I re-watched a drama the same time I first watch it. Well that was true until ‘Goblin’. Each weekend I finish those two episodes, just to re watch them a day later. This seems to be the case with many other viewers as well. That is just how brilliant this drama has become.
‘Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo’ is about a charmingly aggressive weightlifter who attracts a childhood friend. With a bizarre array of genres, I did not expect this drama to delight me as strongly as it did. The production team did an incredible job at casting the actors they did, as I cannot see this drama being as prosperous without their authentic cast. I am 13 episodes in and I utterly adore this drama, refreshing the page the moment its released. ‘Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo’ is ending my 2016 on a happy note.
Lee Min Ho? Jeon Ji Hyeon? Fantasy drama? Oh my. I could not ask for anything more. And as of the time of the announcement I had been wishing for a mermaid drama to be released due to a webtoon I had been reading. It is safe to say that after I heard the news and the casted actors, I was more than ecstatic. The drama may not be as brilliantly unique as others, but the fantasy aspect is well done and Jeon Ji Hyeon is simply hilarious. And as an added bonus there is the presence of some magnificently beautiful scenery.
If you are curious about my other ratings on past dramas and more of my favourites, you can find a full list here. Feel free to contact me on the site as well for anything more specific.