Throwback Thursday: My First Drama

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Mei-chan no Shijsuji (2009); Source: wiki.d-addicts

I have had an interesting Asian entertainment journey as my horizons continue to expand. I started with manga sometime in high school. Anime seemed like the sensible next step. It was a predictable jump from there to dramas. And now 10 years later, I venture into different genres and languages. But this is where it all started.

Mei-chan no Shitsuji (Mei-chan’s Butler), was my very first drama. I watched it around when it first came out. I was completely drawn in by the live action version of this shojo manga. The story was so unique and unlike anything I had ever seen. The totally unrealistic plot was understandable in manga form but when I discovered that this was translated into a real live action drama, my mind was blown.

For those who have not heard of this show, Mei-chan no Shitsuji is about a poor, orphaned girl who ends up in an elite high school. It is an all-girls school where all students are in training to become “ladies”. The best part is that each student has a handsome, male butler. The school is set in a ridiculously large campus where students are transported by helicopters. The drama explores Mei-chan’s journey as she goes from being an outcast to a well-loved classmate.

I was in love since the very first episode. This drama introduced me to three of my favorite Japanese actors, Nana Eikura as Mei-chan, Hiro Mizushima as her butler Shibata Rihito, and Takeru Sato as Shibata’s younger brother and aspiring butler. They do not get a chance to completely showcase their abilities. But these are the same individuals who went on to capture my heart in N No Tame Ni, Hana Kimi, and Rurouni Kenshin, respectively.

As one might expect, this show is a comedy. There is a little bit of romance and a love triangle. For me the highlight of the drama has always been the stories behind the lady-butler relationships. Every episode focuses on a different pair and their challenges. This might sound odd but they are some of the most touching stories I have encountered in drama. They really emphasize the loyalty of the butlers but they also show that it is a two way thing. The ladies are equally concerned about the well-being of their devoted butlers. The drama highlights a few different relationships; friends that grew up together, a butler who is essentially a bodyguard, and another pair who are lovers.

After having watched many dramas since my first experience with Mei-chan, I have come to accept that strange things do happen in drama-land. Our heroines are often poor and forced into strange situations where they have to interact with the ultra-wealthy. Most romantic relationships include a love triangle or two, and our leads can always use their charms to save the day. My first drama was not all that odd.

I have learned that I tend to love the live-action adaptations of shojo mangas. In fact, I seek them out from time to time. In the midst of watching realistic dramas like Valid Love, and Candy House, I crave dramas like Mei-chan and Hana Kimi. In fact, these are two of my most re-watched drama. They are both funny, unrealistic, but heartwarming stories of relationships and community. They are simple stories that take me back to a time when my own life was more simple.

As I said in my last post, there is a drama to fit every mood and every life situation, it’s just a matter of finding the right one when you need it. There has never been a time when Mei-chan no Shitsuji has failed to lift up my spirits. I hope that all of us find shows that fits our moods and make us feel better.

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Just What I Needed: Secret Forest

 

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Secret Forest (2017); Source: AsianWiki

It’s been a while since I last posted. I have been job hunting and that consumed all of my brainpower. Now that things are falling into place I can get back to writing about all the things I actually love. During my time away from the blog, I did not have the chance to watch much drama. I have not completed a single drama in the past 2 months (not including re-watches). I was surprised that it was in the midst of all the stress and lack of interest that I found one of my new favorites.

Dramas have been a part of my life for many years now. It has provided me with entertainment, stress-relief, food for thought, comfort, and connections with new friends. A week ago I, once again, looked to dramas, to take a break from the job hunting process. I think there is a drama that fits every mood of mine and its just a matter of finding the right one for the right time. This time I decided to try Secret Forest aka Stranger. I had read good things about it and it was a detective, investigation drama so I was pretty sure it would not be terrible.

Secret Forest is everything I needed and more. It is K-Drama at its best. It reminded me that there are always great new dramas to discover. Secret Forest is just excellent television. I am not sure how well this show did in Korea but it seems to be pretty popular with the international audience. Some might say that Signal is the best drama ever made but, for me, Secret Forest is even better. But I cannot quite put a finger on what makes this show so remarkable.

Writing interesting reviews are not my thing but I wanted to mention the two best things about the drama, the acting and the pacing. The acting is brilliant. This was a great introduction to both the main leads. I had not heard of Bae Doo Na until this show.  We have definitely been missing out in dramaland. This is her first drama in 7 years. I think she picked an excellent show for her comeback. Her acting chops combined with her awesome character has quickly made her one of my favorite leading ladies in KDrama.

I was equally unfamiliar with Jo Seung Woo, the star of the show. He plays an emotionless prosecutor tackling corruption in the South Korean justice system. His ability to go through sixteen episodes with no emotions, save two smiles, was impressive indeed. I can only imagine how good the man would be when given a role where he actually had to emote.

If one were to go by plot alone, there is nothing particularly extraordinary about this show. As with many Korean detective/ law shows, the focus is corruption. But it is not an episodic procedural. What is worth mentioning is the flow. At no point did I feel like the show was dragging or that I was beginning to lose interest. It is very rare that I go through an entire drama without skipping at least bits and pieces of it. I watched every minute of this one.

Not only did the show maintain a constant pace, it also managed a great ending. It is an intelligent show. It required my full attention. But it didn’t leave me pondering the meaning of life. Neither did it leave me with that hollow feeling after having binge watched a great drama. I didn’t leave feeling unsatisfied and wishing that the show would keep going. The sixteen episode format was what drew me to Korean dramas and this was a perfect example. I was absolutely content. I don’t need a second season.

The problem with a drama like Secret Forest is that it completely changes my expectations for dramas. Last night, as I updated my drama list, I had to re-rate some of my other top dramas and re-organize my top shows as I had to make a spot for a new favorite. Now I have a drama that’s giving some serious competition to my all time favorite Cruel City. I do not expect or even want all my dramas to be this good but I keep wondering when I will next come across such a gem. What if I never get to it because it got buried in my long list of plan-to-watch?

After watching this show I realized that a lot of how much we enjoy a drama comes from what makes us feel good at that given moment. I like my fluffy romance when I am pretty stress-free myself. Nothing makes me feel uplifted like a good Japanese slice-of-life. On “normal” days, I do enjoy the messing-with-the-mind type shows. At this time in my life, Secret Forest was just what I needed. Now I am ready to start a new job and get back to enjoying my dramas.

Why I love K-Drama OSTs

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My favorite OST: On the Way to the Airport (2016)

I know that for many K-Pop fans, drama OST is considered a boring genre. Among the international K_Pop fandom, OST tracks often have a bad reputation and it is not uncommon to describe a song as “OST-like” to mean uninteresting.

This does not mean that OST music is not popular. They seem to do extremely well in Korea. In fact Ailee’s OST track for Goblin, is the song that has held the number 1 spot on the charts for the most number of weeks in 2017. And if one were to go by YouTube views, Stay With Me by Chanyeol and Punch (Goblin OST) has close to 75 million views.

Although there is some variety among OST songs, there is a specific sound that is associated with K-Drama music. It is often slower, focused on the vocals, and often not in line with K-Pop trends. But rap is quickly becoming incorporated into many K-Pop songs as well. I wanted to take a moment to explain my personal love for this type of music.

For many who have gone from K-Dramas to K-Pop, like myself, OST is the gateway. The music will hold a place in my heart as my first exposure to K-Pop. I listen to the music while watching the drama, I decide I would like to download the music, I see the names of the artists and find that they are sometimes K-Pop idols. After this happened repeatedly, I just gave in and decided to listen to K-Pop. Some of my friends have had a similar experience by following the work of idol actors they might like in a drama.

OST music is nice when you listen to it while watching the drama but it is much better after the drama is over and the song comes up in your playlist. It is the nostalgia factor. Not all dramas are good so not all associations are positive but sometimes the music just reminds me of watching something you really enjoyed. For me, more often, the song reminds me of what my life was like when I watched that drama. Was it a good period in life? Was I happy? Was I busy? etc…

Not all K-Pop listeners look up the lyrics of the songs and understand the meanings. I didn’t either, at the beginning, but now I do it more often. And many of us international fans, do not understand the language so we have no idea what we are listening to. Drama OSTs kind of force you to pay attention to the lyrics just because they appear along with the drama subtitles. Those are much more difficult to ignore. There is something very enjoyable about understanding what songs are about.

I will admit that I do like OST style music. I do enjoy the ballads with the focus on vocals. But that’s just a personal preference that makes it easier to enjoy those songs. The tracks also highlights some of the best Korean vocalists like, ALi, Gummy, and Ailee. Even when you have idols, you get to see a different side of them when they perform individually as opposed to with their group. Individual performances by the Super Junior members are a good example.

I think one of the best part about OSTs are watching the sweet fan-made videos on YouTube. Individuals put in a lot of time and effort to make some really nice videos for the tracks. Watching these videos often feel like I am experiencing these dramas all over again.

And I wanted to share with you some of my favorite OST tracks in no particular order:

Here is a playlist if you are interested

  1. Ali- I’m Sorry I Love You (Angry Mom, 2015)
  2. Sandeul (B1A4)- One More Step (Introverted Boss, 2017)
  3. Changmo- My Ears are Open (Voice, 2017)
  4. Suho ft. Remi- Starlight (The Universe’s Star, 2017)
  5. Ann & Yoon Mi Rae- Goodbye (Queen of Mystery, 2017)
  6. Jang Jae In ft. NaShow- Auditory Hallucinations (Kill Me, Heal Me, 2015)
  7. ALi- Carry On (Faith, 2012)
  8. Navi ft. Kebee – Incurable Disease (Secret, 2013)
  9. Taeyeon- And One (That Winter, The Wind Blows, 2013)
  10. Elsa Kopf- Days and Moons (My Beautiful Bride, 2015)

Do you like Drama OSTs like I do? If so, what are some of your favorites?

SOTUS Sets a high bar for BL

SOTUS: The Series currently ranks as the highest rated Thai drama on My Drama List. I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that this show ranked up there with the likes of popular K-Dramas, Tunnel and Healer. Granted it was not watched by as many people, I still think it is a big deal. There are not very many Thai dramas among the top rated dramas. The only other one anywhere close is the Thai remake of Full HouseSOTUS must have done something right to become this popular considering it is a BL drama which is already a niche market.

I am not complaining at all. In fact, I think SOTUS deserves the praise it receives, BL or not. But I wonder how much of the show’s popularity comes from being far better than most BL dramas we get as opposed to the actual merits of the show.  I think part of the reason it did so well is that appealed to a wider audience than the relatively small group of BL lovers. If that is the case, what did SOTUS do differently? What does it take for a BL show to be viewed as any other romance rather than one that is only watched by a select few? Here I would like to discuss some of the ways in which SOTUS took a unique approach compared to other popular series like Lovesick or Addicted.

Synopsis: SOTUS stands for Seniority, Order, Tradition, Unity and Spirit, a university tradition for welcoming freshmen. The freshmen are meant to gain the respect and mentorship of their seniors by performing many challenging activities, many of which can be described as bullying. In our show, Arthit (Sangpotirat Perawat aka Krist), a very strict head hazer is faced with a stubborn and rebellious freshman, Kongpob (Ruangroj Prachaya aka Singto). The show follows their evolving relationship in their first year together at college.

Re-Watch Value: I re-watched this show, last week, during the longest slump in my 7 years of drama watching. I realized that I enjoyed SOTUS just as much as I did when I first watched it sometime this February. It was just as interesting and gripping. When I read the comments I noticed that most people gave this drama a high rewatch value and that plays a big part in popularity. A simple story that is conducive to repeat watching is always a good strategy for success. It becomes a brand that people want to continue to follow.

My analysis suggests that SOTUS did not use many of the same tropes that we have come to associate with BL. It contradicts many of the ideas I presented in my previous posts, about why the female audience loves BL. Here I want to talk about what makes this show different and well-liked.

WARNING: Spoilers Ahead

Firstly, SOTUS did not feel like a BL story. It felt like just any other college romance. I am not sure I can explain it well but the atmosphere it created was quite different from what we are used to. Overall it felt a lot less angsty than some of the other shows. It was a simple love story of two people falling in love. In fact, I would say that foes-turned-lovers would be the main trope as opposed to BL. This is a much loved drama theme and all types of drama lovers are drawn to it.

Though many of us have never experienced hazing and probably never will, SOTUS creates an atmosphere that many of us can relate to. They have many of the same struggles that most of us face in college. Deciding a career path, heartbreak and getting adjusted to a whole new life away from home are some of the challenges faced by our characters.

 As I have mentioned in the past, I think violent relationships in BL are not uncommon one of the biggest turnoffs for viewers. This show was much more comfortable to watch because there was no violence within the relationship. The drama is set in a college hazing environment therefore there are some acts of bullying but the relationship between our main leads is very respectful with no attacks or aggressive behavior.

But the portrayal of their relationship is not without issues. Arthit and Kongpob’s feelings for each other has been also described as the biggest flaw of this drama. It definitely makes sense that the leads take time to figure out what their feelings are because it is all new to them. But when Em expresses his surprise about Kongbop being gay, he explains that he is in love with Arthit and that would not be the case if it were another man.

It is not uncommon in Asian BL stories to present the couple as being attracted to one another only because it is their “one true love” but otherwise they are “not gay.” Although I understand that producers might want to create this image in order to make the relationship more acceptable to a relatively conservative audience, it is extremely problematic. It further reinforces the idea that one’s sexual preference is something that one chooses and can apply on a case-by-case basis.

Despite, its problematic treatment of homosexuality, I must say this drama has some of  my favorite romantic scenes ever. I am not one to normally fangirl over proclamations of love but the party scene where Arthit announces that he and Kongpob were dating was one of the sweetest things ever. That scene best captures the acting abilities of Krist and Singto. No words are spoken but expressions alone convey that Kongpob was taken aback but overjoyed and Arthit seemed ecstatic and confident to finally accept their relationship.

There was a significant supporting cast all of whom did an amazing job. There were some interesting friendships and relationships that I wish could have been further explored. As one of the actors said, he would like to see viewers enjoy the show not just to fangirl over Arthit and Kongpob but also enjoy the stories of all the other characters and there is plenty to enjoy. Of course our main leads got the bulk of the attention but it was definitely not for the skinship. All we got were 2 kiss scenes but, I think most fans would agree, they were perfectly squee worthy. There was very little fanservice catering specifically to to the BL fan audience and I think it made some viewers more comfortable.

 SOTUS reminded us that you don’t need some unrealistic villain to keep the plot interesting or maintain the drama. Unlike many dramas, the leads did not even have to deal with disapproving parents, or society frowning upon their relationship. I am sucker for all stories portraying inner conflict and that’s what SOTUS does. It uses Arthit trying to figure out his feelings for Kongpob as the driving force to keep the story interesting and moving forward.

SOTUS has been so successful, in Thailand and other parts of Asia, that they will be making a second season. It is going to be challenging for the show to live up to the expectations of its fans but since we have the same team, I am not too concerned. The next season will be focus on Kongpob as the head hazer and Arthit as a college graduate in the workforce. I am very much looking forward to season 2 that comes out at the end of this year.

Did you enjoy SOTUS? What do you think made it so popular?

Cruel City (2013): A Masterpiece

This review does not contain spoilers. 

Today, I wanted to go back and review one of my favorite dramas. If I look at, my list on My Drama List, I have Cruel City aka Heartless Cityas my highest rated drama of all time. I wonder, if I were to re-watch this drama, today, would it still be my favorite. My tastes have changed but more importantly, I have watched many great dramas (not exceptional) since then. Unfortunately I cannot test my love for Cruel City because there is no way I could re-watch this drama and go through the emotions all over again.

I watched this back in 2014. At the time, Cruel City was like a breath of fresh air having mostly watching only romance. This was my introduction to crime dramas and I had definitely not watched anything as dark as this. I did not expect to be able to finish this drama because I was told there was a lot of violence. But within the first few episodes, I was sucked in. I could not stop watching this terribly disturbing piece of work. I remember my heart being crushed when Cruel City ended. Partly because of how it ended but partly because I was not sure I would watch anything as good ever again.

I am confident it is still an amazing drama and would still make it to my top 10 but the fact that I cannot re-watch it reduces it’s appeal slightly. I am finding that there are some dramas I can multiple times and enjoy it every single time. Should re-watch value be reflected in my drama ratings? Oh, some pretty bad, comfort shows, would go up in their rankings… I am looking at you I Need Romance 3.

I would describe Cruel City as a wonderfully deep, dark, and twisted noir with slick and stylish directing. The plot is gripping, the acting is remarkable, the cinematography is unbelievable, and the OST is perfect. I cannot say these many positive things for very many K-Dramas.

Cruel City is about Seoul’s underground drug/ crime scene complete with drug lords and undercover cops. One is quickly absorbed trying to figure out who the “good” guys and the “bad” guys. However, do not expect any answers by the end of the show. And I think that’s the point, it’s never that easy.

Lets talk characters. I think most people who watched this show would agree that the best part about this show was the remarkable performance by Jung Kyung Ho as Jung Shi Hyun aka Doctor’s Son aka Paksa Idil. This is what many would consider to be his “breakthrough” role. With this one performance he went to the top of my favorite actors list. This is the Kyung-ho that many viewers, including myself, want to see more of. I think, his recent romantic comedy ventures seem to be a waste of his skills.

Doctor’s Son is often on viewers’ lists as one of the best K-Drama characters of all time. For me, he is THE best K-drama character ever. His character is dark, mysterious, messy, complicated and even gruesome. Oh, but his charisma and crazy knife skills make him a very attractive, magnetic man. Very often, we like characters that are relatable, and realistic. Doctor’s Son is neither. He is just a messed up guy that we cannot empathize with but can feel sympathy for. In fact I could write a whole review on what makes Paksa Idil so appealing.

Thankfully, romance was not a focus of the show because Nam Gyu Ri as Soo Min was the weakest link in terms of both acting and character. Doctor’s Son was good at keeping his work and personal life separate. That allowed for his character to make (mostly) rational decisions without acting like the “noble idiot.” But the best relationship was the friendship between Paksa and Soo (Yoon Hyun Min). Who needs romance when one can have K-Drama’s best bromance. The best friends have some close calls, as to be expected, in a world where one moment of weakness could mean death but their bond survives it all.

The writing was solid and stayed true to its theme. There were no filler episodes and the pacing was just right. I also loved the great action scenes. There were some very awesomely gruesome knife scenes, very well executed by Kyung-ho. This is why I like cable dramas, there is a lot more they can show without having to worry about the ‘family audience.’ But you cannot completely escape the censors. They still blurred the knives and tattoos(!?) for reasons I do not understand.

Then there is the outstanding OST. It was dark, painful music that fit the theme of the show. The entire album was worth listening on repeat with ‘Hurt by Kim Yong Jin being the highlight. I cannot say enough about the impeccable cinematography. They stayed true to the noir genre and did it well. The lighting, the props, and the ambience they created was perfect.

In my opinion, this is not a drama suited for a beginner drama watcher. Most of us get into dramas with shows like Boy’s Over Flowers and You’re Beautiful and continue there for a while and stay or decide to branch out. Part of the appeal of Cruel City is watching something this dark when that’s not what you expect from K-dramaland. Only watch this drama if you are prepared for something heavy and dark. Expect lots of violence and really cruel characters. There aren’t well defined heroes and villains. Be ready to cry because there is no happy ending.

I must say that writing this review made me realize why this is one of my top dramas. The problem with a drama like Cruel City is that it raised my expectations for Korean dramas and I haven’t found very many as good . As I mentioned, I will not re-watch this one because it is emotionally exhausting. It stayed with me for a few months after completing it and, even today, 3 years later, it is gives me the “feels.” This is a 1 in a 100 sort of a drama and I am very glad I went out of my comfort zone and tried it.

Grey Rainbow (2016): It’s a “Happily-ever-after”

Summary: Grey Rainbow tells the story of Nuer and Porsche, best friends, who struggle with their feelings for each other. Nuer is the son of an elephant camp owner while Posrsche is a law student. They room together in college and start a relationship and the drama focuses on their life after college as they come to terms with their love.

Quick Review: This is one of the best romances I have ever watched. Grey Rainbow is now among my top 5 dramas of all time. The cinematography was outstanding. The drama is set in Chiang Mang, Thailand and the drama captures the beauty of the land perfectly. Although the main leads are relatively young, it is refreshing to have a Thai BL drama set outside a high school setting. The mature characters also had to deal with more “adult” problems faced by the LGBT population, such as violence, marriage laws, and adopting children. I would not have guessed that neither Hongladaromp Kasidej nor Rattanamongkol Nutchapon were professional actors. The transformation of their relationship from best friends to lovers was portrayed brilliantly. This is not an angsty drama and is not the right fit for someone looking for a “hot” drama either. It is what one might call a “slow-burn” romance. Most people disliked the ending and called it ridiculous or even unnecessary.

I watched the drama, I loved it… even the ending. I hold an opinion that is different from most I have read and want to use this space to share why I think Grey Rainbow had the perfect ending.

Warning: Lots of Spoilers

I did not start Grey Rainbow because I was looking for a melodrama. In fact, I held off on watching it because I was warned about the “horrible” ending. I read comments that suggested not watching the last episode in order to enjoy the good parts and not be disappointed. This made me curious. What drama could be so good that the audience was okay with quitting three quarters of the way through and still find it worthwhile? After watching the first 20 minutes I knew why this was going to be a special show. What I learned is that it was not a bad ending. It was not illogical, rushed, or insensitive. It was not just thrown in there so that we could get another tragic Thai BL. It was just not what we wanted to see. It was not what most people considered a “happily-ever-after.”

This does not mean that the I was not sadden by the ending. In fact, I was sobbing for the entire last episode. At the same time, the joy I felt watching Nuer and Porsche’s relationship was equally intense. It ended with a feeling of happiness and comfort about what was, as opposed to disappointment about what could have been. Of course, it could have ended with Porsche and Nuer living together forever and having children and grandchildren but that would not have been as satisfying as this bittersweet ending.

“It takes a second to take a picture. But the picture can be significant to one’s life FOREVER. “ – Posrche

Every episode starts with this quote. Porsche is the storyteller and he seems to be reading from his journal while including quotes, a little “picture”, for how he felt during his time with Nuer. I do not think he was able to express these to Nuer when he was alive but when he reflects on their past, he is able to say what he wished he had. His final quote at the end of the series is, “Our love… will live on forever.” This is the only one he is able to express at the moment, when Nuer is already gone.

I judged the ending using the question, “Are the characters miserable at the end of it?” And the answer is very clearly, no. Of course Porsche and Neur raising their daughter together would have been a happier ending. Bt not all happy endings mean that lovers live together for all of eternity. In fact, most happy endings leave me wondering what happens during the rest of their time together. Are they happy forever? Do we ever really know that?

Nuer’s death saddened Porsche greatly but it also changed him greatly, in ways that I would argue, made him better able to face life’s challenges. It changed the way he interacted with himself when he was finally able to express all the love he felt for Nuer. In fact, Nuer becomes an even more important part of Porsche’s life. Of course, we can only assume that Nuer is okay after death, but as for Porsche, he seems happy and capable of living life as well as could. We see him do things like ride the motorcycle and care for Tang On, all by himself while he was dependent on Nuer in the past.

I knew that Grey Rainbow was going to be a complicated show and therefore I paid careful attention to all the little details. I am not going to pretend that I was able to understand everything that the makers intended, but, Nuer’s death was not shocking. There were plenty of scenes throughout the show that seemed out of place and indicated that something unexpected would happen. I am not really sure if Porsche knew of Nuer’s impending death. His actions seem to suggest that he did and if he did, Nuer’s heart attack makes sense. He needed that knowledge to stop time and use that “second” to say goodbye to Nuer. I know I need multiple rewatches before I am able to catch all the details. But if you are interested, there are many explanations and theories being discussed in online forums so do check them out.

In the last scene, Nuer, in the form of Porsche’s thought, says “Everything changes, Porsche. Except my love to you that will always remain the same.” This statement makes complete sense in this context because Nuer being dead now means that Porsche will never know anything different. He knew how much Nuer cared for him when he was alive and now he can continue living with that memory knowing that’s unchanging. This sentiment is not uncommon in male-female romance dramas but we rarely get to see that in our BL dramas. I  will always be glad to Grey Rainbow for giving our boys that happy ending.

What did you think about Grey Rainbow? What did you think of the ending in particular?

Top 10 Korean & Japanese Food Dramas

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By jqn (a flickr user) (http://flickr.com/photos/jqn/290210441/) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I must admit that I have not watched as many food dramas as I would like. There is never enough time to watch the all the dramas one wants to. As a follow up to a previous postI wanted to share some of food dramas I think are worth watching. Whether you are new to drama-land or a longtime viewer and looking for something to watch, I hope you find some ideas here.

1. LIQUID – Oni no Sake, Kiseki no Kura (2015)

This is a short Japanese drama special that focuses on sake, the alcoholic beverage. It is one of my all time favorite shows. If you are interested in learning about Japanese  food culture and traditions, this is a great show. LIQUID tells the story of a banker who inherits a failing sake brewery and decides to use traditional methods and ingredients in order to produce a high quality product. (Japanese)

2. Fermentation Family (2011)

This is an underrated drama about a restaurant that specializes in kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage). Every episode begins with the story of a different type of kimchi and the parallels between the dish and the lives of the characters. (Korean)

3. Shinya Shokudo Series (2009)

Shinya Shukodo is one of the most well-known Japanese dramas and has spanned 4 seasons. It is about a diner that opens at midnight. Every episode tells the story of one of the diner’s patrons as it relates to that night’s special dish.This is a wonderful drama with plenty of heartwarming stories. (Japanese)

4. Gochisousan (2013)

Gochisousan translates to “thank you for the meal.” It tells the heart-warming story of one’s woman’s love and passion for food. The drama follows her life from childhood to old-age as she moves from one region of Japan to another and tries to incorporate both cultures into her cooking. If you love learning about food and cooking this might be the best one for me. (Japanese)

5. Let’s Eat (2013)

There is not much of a plot to this show that can be rightfully called “food-porn.” This is a noona romance (older woman- younger man) show about 4 people eating delicious food. Beware, this show will make you hungry. If you are a fan of Korean food at all, you will learn about a lot of new dishes. (Korean)

6. King of Baking, Kim Tak Goo (2010)

This one is an older drama set in the backdrop of a large bakery business. From a young age, the hero is drawn to bread baking and after going through many episodes of birth secrets, the family business is settled. The only food that is comes up in the show is bread so if you are looking for variety or Korean food, this is not the drama for you. (Korean)

 

7. Antique (2001)

This  is one of the most visually appealing food shows out there. It is a combination of comedy and mystery set in a bakery.  The best parts of this show are the delicious looking pastries and  the amazing Misu-Chiru (Mr. Children) OST. If you are not interested in watching an older Japanese drama, there is a Korean movie remake called Antique Bakery(Japanese/ Korean)

8. A Girl & Three Sweethearts (2016)

This was one of the most popular J-dramas of 2016. The cast included some of the most popular young Japanese actors. It focused on the business aspects of food where all main characters were involved in different aspects of running the restaurant. It is not my favorite on the list, most people enjoyed it. (Japanese)

9. Oh My Ghostess (2015)

This show is set in a restaurant owned by the main lead where the female lead joins as an apprentice chef. It is more of a romantic comedy than a food drama. I really enjoyed this drama. It does have a some fantasy and mystery but at its heart it is a simple romance. A good watch if you are looking for a drama with a restaurant setting. (Korean)

10. Flower Boy Ramen Shop (2011)

A very popular drama from the Flower Boy series. The story is nothing unique and even the challenges faced by the leads are very predictable. A large part of the drama takes place in a ramen shop where the female and male leads are teacher and student respectively. Not my top recommendation on the list but it is a pretty popular drama that many would consider a K-Drama essential.

 

Have you watched any of these dramas? Are there any others you think should be on this list?