Best & Worst High School Dramas from around the world

This is my first blog introducing a future blog, but my reasons are good. I hope you’ll like them.

If you’re like me and enamored with high school dramas (I am and I’m not afraid to say it) than I present to you (drumroll please) my upcoming blog series:

Best and worst high school dramas from around the world

I will review new and old dramas full of teens in high school hallways, on beaches, covering up murders and other wholesome activities like that. The shows I think are amazing and addicting and the ones that made me roll my eyes and change the channel.

To start this off, here are the links to my past high school drama reviews:

13 Reasons Why (America): https://wordpress.com/post/ckdrama.home.blog/862

Le Coup de Foudre (China): https://wordpress.com/post/ckdrama.home.blog/472

Love Revolution (Korea): https://wordpress.com/post/ckdrama.home.blog/746

Never Have I Ever (America) (technically a dramedy): https://wordpress.com/post/ckdrama.home.blog/668

Great Men Academy (Thailand): https://wordpress.com/post/ckdrama.home.blog/546

A Love So Beautiful (China): https://wordpress.com/post/ckdrama.home.blog/56

Just Dance (Korea): https://wordpress.com/post/ckdrama.home.blog/593

The Big Boss (China) (technically a dramedy): https://wordpress.com/post/ckdrama.home.blog/123

Proud of Love (China) (also technically a dramedy: https://wordpress.com/post/ckdrama.home.blog/177

I offer this series as a public service to you all for the following reasons:

  • It can help you decide which shows to watch
  • It may open up a new geographical viewing area to you. So many countries have great shows.
  • If you have already seen one you can compare your opinions on it to mine and see where we agree and disagree on things like the plot, production, characters, cast talent and hotness.
  • It can change your mind if you don’t like the high school drama genre

Warning: Series reviews will be sporadic since I work a lot and sometimes I can’t face any more typing when my work day ends, which is why my blogs are posted randomly. Please also note: I will continue doing other reviews of movies and non-high-school themed shows as well.

Best Dramas of 2020

BEST DRAMAS OF THE LAST YEAR

AMERICA

Never Have I Ever

This show from Mindy Kaling and found on Netflix is soooo funny. It’s about the life of an Indian-American, very smart, slightly lewd high school girl in California. I laughed through every single episode and am extremely excited that there is going to be a second season. Here is my longer review for it: https://wordpress.com/post/ckdrama.home.blog/668

CHINA

Lovely Us

The show is called Lovely Us and it really is lovely. I enjoyed it a lot. It was less of an addicting marathon and more like sips of hot cocoa with marshmallows. It’s a drama about friends, family and first love. This show is funny and sweet. The leads are five high schoolers. Three are underachievers, two who squabble all the time. The other two are top of the class and much more sedate. All of them love each other completely and are loyal to the core. The show is also about their families, many who are struggling in various ways. Marcus Li who played Tan Song stole the show.

Twenty My Life On

This show is about girls in their last year of college who share a dorm together, straddling youth and adulthood. Three of the girls are close friends and one is less than friendly. All of the characters personalities are very different and interesting. The script is great and has one very unique and refreshing quality. Parts of it are far more realistic than most dramas, making it less formulaic and more relatable. I really enjoyed this show and looked forward to every episode. I highly recommend it if twenties slice of life dramas are your thing. Also, I just learned they are coming out with a season two. Yes!

Nothing but Thirty

This show started slow, but then it picked up speed and got interesting. I ended up invested in the characters and watching it through to the end. The story is about three women in and around age thirty and the trials and tribulations they face in their work, home and love lives. And the blessing that friendships can bring. Like Twenty Your Life On, some aspects of this show are more realistic than other dramas. Not all people, including the leads are selfless, not all choices are fair and not all endings are perfect.

I liked Twenty Your Life On better, if I had to choose, but both shows are good and worth the time spent watching them.

KOREA

World of the Married

This is my favorite show of the year. I wasn’t even planning on watching it. But I gave in and watched one episode. Then I was completely hooked. This show is the definition of drama. It’s crazy. But it’s a well written, well acted crazy that makes it a fun ride to go on. Here is my longer review for it: https://wordpress.com/post/ckdrama.home.blog/715

Love Revolution

I adore this show, which is based on a webtoon. It is light hearted, quirky, funny and sweet. The actors, some of whom are amateurs, did a great job. There is no show I looked more forward to watching in 2020 than this one. Here is my longer review for it: https://wordpress.com/post/ckdrama.home.blog/746

Kairos

This may be the best scripted Korean drama I have watched. Mr. Sunshine and This is My First Life were also very well written, so it’s hard to say for sure, but the dialogue and the twists and turns are ingeniously written. The acting was also phenomenal. Here is my longer review for it: https://wordpress.com/post/ckdrama.home.blog/735

Nobody Knows

This is a show about a serial killer and the police officer tracking him. I am not normally into shows like this, but it was so well written and acted that I watched it anyway. I still don’t like shows like this, but I have to give credit where credit is due. It was a truly good drama.

THAILAND

2Gether

This BL is a sweet college romance, with a few surprises in the plotline that make it a little less formulaic. Here is my longer review for it: https://wordpress.com/post/ckdrama.home.blog/677

BEST OLD DRAMAS I WATCHED THIS YEAR

Money Flower (2017)(Korea)

I LOVE this show. It’s about someone getting revenge on a Chaebol family, how they do it and the consequences it has on them and everyone around them. I didn’t watch it before now because I am not always in the mood for a makjang, and when I am, I watch Thai Lakorn’s, which are always waaaay over the top. But the show was on my watch list for a long time, and I was in the mood, so I put it on while I worked, and got completely sucked into it!

The acting is great and the plot is intriguing – and infuriating. This has all the makings of a good makjang including cheating, murder, embezzlement, and revenge. By the end of the show I hated the male and female leads and did not wish them any happiness, but this didn’t make the show itself worse. I don’t think I was supposed to like them both. I ended the drama liking it even more then when I started it and will probably watch it again.

Game Sanaeha (2018)(Thailand)

This is my new favorite Lakorn. It has all the things Lakorn’s are famous for. It has rich versus poor, hatred and revenge, slap kisses, misunderstandings and some really, really stupid decisions. It is also unique because some of the characters are fairly mature and others gained some self awareness, learned from their mistakes and had personal growth throughout the course of the show. It was really refreshing and very entertaining.

K-Drama: Kairos (9/10)

Wow. This drama is gooood. The production value is high. The screen writing is top notch. The acting is fantastic, and the OST is nice.

I somehow missed that this show was playing, and randomly came across the reviews for it, which were all about as flattering as mine. I wasn’t confident the story was my cup of tea, but I started watching anyway. I was not disappointed.

Here is the summary:

Living a precarious life as a part-timer at a convenience store, Ae Ri strives to support her mother who is on a waiting list for a heart transplant. Unfortunately, her mother’s worsened physical condition leads her to forgo the long-awaited opportunity for the transplant, and just like that her mother disappears. Things were already chaotic enough for Ae Ri when she receives a phone call from a strange man claiming to be from the same world but 31 days in the future. Ironically, he desperately asks Ae Ri for help. Seo Jin, a father and a husband of a close-knit family, has been living a successful life as the youngest person to become a director at a construction company. One day, it all crumbles down with the kidnapping of his daughter and his wife’s suicide. On the verge of breaking down, he is given an opportunity to restore everything that was lost under one condition, help from a strange woman. To bring his daughter and wife back to life, he makes a phone call as the clock strikes 10:33. Source: KOCOWA/Mydramalist.com

I cannot begin to express how incredible the script is. I never knew what was going to happen next, and the show did something I normally only dream of in action and thriller based shows. They crossed all their t’s and dotted all their i’s.

Almost every action in the entire drama has a purpose, and every decision has clear consequences. It is close to flawless. With the exception of the first couple episodes when I genuinely couldn’t figure out what the cops were doing, which seemed to be breaking every established police protocol. And very occasionally the lead female who made some decisions that seemed more dangerous than they needed to be.

There is no way I could have watched episodes as they aired because the story is too riveting and I wanted to know what would happen next so badly. There is never a dull moment and although some characters were steady all the way through, some were more flexible. There were many surprises along the way.

The acting is great too. The last time I saw the male lead actor Shin Sung Rok was in Perfume, where he made me laugh a lot. This role is very different. Rok plays someone who is at times arrogant, intelligent and distant, and at other times helpful, a great father and a great friend. The female lead, Lee Se Young is also fantastic. She plays a character who is struggling, kind, confused, scared and fearless perfectly. The second leads are incredible too. Nam Gyu Ri is completely believable. I emotionally reacted to her character so many times. Second lead male Ahn Bo Hyun was similarly good.

Every single actor was great. Many played roles that were nuanced, where they were both selfish and selfless, good and bad, and did an exemplary job.

The OST is also good. I am partial to the song Can You Feel Me by Yoon of Winner, which I love.

Note: Thank you to CHTAJU for inspiring me to write this review after a hiatus due to waaaaaay too much work.

C-Drama: Ghost Bride (7.8/10)

I recently watched the show Ghost Bride, which is airing on Netflix. The preview was interesting enough to make me want to watch it.

Summary:

A young woman in 1890’s China is in love with one man from a very rich family, but his cousin who is dead forces her to marry him by threatening the life of her father. Her dad was especially dear to her because she had already lost her mother. The woman comes in contact with a policeman from Heaven who is after the ghost and they work together to try and stop him. During that time the woman ends up in some sort of afterworld purgatory and will die if she doesn’t stop the wedding from happening.

The best parts:

  • The actors were good
  • The special effects were great
  • There were some funny moments
  • There is a mystery whodunnit that wasn’t easily solvable
  • It’s a short drama (thankfully)

Things that were’t great:

  • The young woman had no empathy for the guy she was in love with or his cousin. I get that being forced into a ghost marriage will make you hate your fiance, but they guy, as bad as he was, actually liked her and clearly had a messed up upbringing. I felt a little sorry for him and thought he could change his perspective given some effort, but she clearly didn’t and preferred to see him rot in hell (not a figure of speech).
  • She was also forgiven for doing something that I thought wasn’t easily forgivable and she also jerked someone around in a way I didn’t like.

My recommendation

If you like fantasy and ghost dramas and good special effects than it’s probably worth watching, just don’t expect perfection.

My Absolute Favorite Male Actors from Asian Dramas

These are the guys who I consider the very best at their jobs, which are to interest me, make me laugh and/or cry, keep me entertained and sometimes make me swoon. They are the actors I anxiously await new work from because they are amazing.

They are listed in no particular order, since I like them all pretty equally. What they all have in common is an ability to act. probably beyond what they have been allowed to do. They are all expressive, most can do comedy as easily as they do drama, and they all fully immerse themselves in the characters that they are playing.

  1. Park Seo Joon (Korea)

There are not enough adjectives to describe why I like Park’s work. He is basically the total package. He plays humble just as well as he plays arrogant. He was not just especially hot (which is not a requisite for this list btw, though I would like to commend him for his perfect abs and make out abilities, which seem to be on point). He was also oh-so-humble and sweet in Witches Romance (which I only recommend for his performance), and in Fight for My Way (one of my favorite dramas of all time), while he was completely conceited in What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim. He was also hilarious and made me laugh during every episode. His comedic timing is also showcased in Midnight Runners, along with his ability to do action. Basically, he can act in anything.

My only problem with Joon is that he does not act in nearly enough stuff. And I refuse to watch any interviews with him or the show he’s in in Spain. This is because he could turn out to be an amazing person, and not just an amazing actor. Than I might start viewing him as a prospect, not just an artist, which would be deeply problematic.

2. Aaron Yan (Taiwan) (China)

Although typecast first into youth shows, since he started acting so young, and then romantic dramas, I believe with all my heart that Yan could act out any genre presented to him. If I were a producer I’d bring him to the U.S. and give him something Oscar worthy, but I’m not one, so a girl can only dream. That said, I love him in a romantic drama because he’s truly believable in whatever character he plays, and his love for the female lead looks completely sincere (because 🌟 acting). I think his seeming sincerity is what sets him apart, along with his expressions (that I’ve referenced on this blog before), which are incredible. As a viewer I can see what he is trying to convey at all times even when he has no dialogue.

My favorite Yan show is Just You (one of my fav dramas ever) because it is cutesy and interesting and entertaining (plus I really love his co-star Puff Kuo and think they make a great team). In Just You he manages to be a character (Qi Yi) that is multi-dimensional. Qi Yi is anal retentive, hard working, bitter, lonely, mature, youthful, responsible and kind, all at once. That is not an easy feat, especially in a drama that is fairly lighthearted. Yan is also (in my opinion) the very best male actor kisser in all of Asia (major feat, right?) and the fact that he may not be the least bit attracted to any of the ladies he has kissed, despite getting all 10’s from me for it, makes him an absolute rockstar actor in my book. And during the only time I have ever watched a behind the scenes of a show video (since they are not normally my thing), I saw that he is a consummate professional who goes from being himself into character the second the cameras are rolling. Lastly, he gets no acting points for this, but he is also the actor I would most like to have a conversation with because he seems like a fun, funny, and intelligent person, and I’m impressed by his personal strength.

3. Puttichai “Push” Kestsin (Thailand)

First off, this man could have chemistry with a rock, as observed after he was in a show where he spent over a dozen episodes falling in love with a bird (Leh Nangfah). Watching that, I really wanted to be that bird. I’m guessing most viewers did. Kasetsin clearly took his role seriously because he talked to that bird and cuddled that bird like it was a person and made a story that is fantastical and kind of crazy totally believable.

As an actor, he is not only capable of delivering perfect dialog, like Yan he has great facial expressions and like Joon he is great at comedy (Wannueng Jaa Phen Superstar had me laughing out loud). He can play anyone from a student to a CEO and can play a romantic lead like no other.

He gets no extra points for this since it’s not about his acting, but from a aesthetic dental perspective Kestsin has the most perfect smile (even better than Park Bo Gum’s). I also appreciate his willingness to be exploited into taking off his clothes in all of his lakorn’s so his fans will be happy.

4. Seo Kang Joon (Korea)

I was first introduced to Seo in Cheese in the Trap (the show version). I didn’t love the show, but he gave me my very worst case of second lead syndrome ever. His character, although a technical bad boy was just so everything, and the girl still fell for the sociopath (which sadly happens in real life way too often). And although I liked the character, I think that if another actor played him I wouldn’t have been as receptive, because Seo played him just right. He was able to play sincere, angry, sweet, responsible and irresponsible at one time. And later in Are You Human Too, he plays two completely different characters with different attributes, and does an amazing job. I really think this ability, to create such multi-faceted characters is what sets Seo and my other favorite actors apart.

Seo is also a professional, which I gauge from the fact that he seems so mature when he acts. I’m sure this comes from his years of acting experience, but I genuinely cannot believe he is 25. This is a compliment to him because it’s not easy to seem mature at that age. I’m sure I didn’t seem half as grown up as he does at that age.

5. Ahn Hyo Seop / Paul Ahn (Korea)

Ahn’s acting stole my heart in Thirty But Seventeen (see my review here). He was adorable. And like Seo, he managed to take a character and elevate it,making a character that was not meant (by the writers and director) to be my favorite into my very fav of the drama.

I also love Queen of the Ring, which is cutesy with a positive message and Ahn stole my heart (as a viewer) in that too. He is just charming, even when he is meant to be conceited, musical (Top Management) or back from the dead (Abyss) which is why I will basically watch him in everything he does from now to eternity.

C-Drama: A Journey to Meet Love (8.6/10)

First, I have to say that this drama has a stupid name, which may also explain why it was 5th in the ratings in China last week despite being an amazing show. Guys and other people who aren’t into pure romances and romcoms probably don’t realize from the name that this show is so much more than that. It is action, slice of life, romance, mystery, intrigue and cop show all in one.

This show is so good that I will probably judge all other c-dramas by it in the future the same way I do with A Love So Beautiful. I highly recommend you watch it, even if you don’t normally watch Chinese dramas. I’m just a little more than halfway through and I already like it so much that when Vidfish had technical problems so only the subs were visible, but not the show itself and Youtube had raw episodes I McGuyvered it so I could read the subs on vidfish on my phone while watching the show on Youtube on my computer. I mean, that’s dedication.

Why I like it so much:

The plot is really interesting

It is about an undercover cop who ends up investigating a girl in her twenties who is somehow involved in an art theft and potential drug or money laundering operation. He is tasked with learning abut her role and retrieving the stolen art. The audience gets to know right away what her role was while the cop has to put the puzzle together himself by embedding himself in her life using false pretenses. The leads and supporting characters end up on a trip together across part of China where the girl and cop take part in a reality show while gangsters and thugs of all kinds follow and try to take them out. And of course feelings develop, but this drama makes the romance part a much longer, more natural progression than many others, which is nice.

The scenery is incredible

The characters drive from Shanghai to Shangri-La and I could not ask for a better tour of China. Not to mention that the people filming are really talented. A lot of the shots are stunning.

The law enforcement element is very well done

One of my favorite parts of this drama are the law enforcement scenes because of the way the investigation is portrayed. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly realistic, but it’s close for drama world. It’s a lot of logistics and coordination, but in an interesting way. And the relationship between the fairly conceited cop and his boss is fun to watch. I wish all shows about law and order were like this.

There are a lot of fight scenes

Almost every episode has a fight scene with lead actor Chen Xiao against one or more people. They are really well choreographed and he does a great job, which I judge because I watch his fight scenes with the same breathlessness that I watch Jackie Chan’s.

The character development is fantastic

Every single character is interesting and has been completely fleshed out during the drama to the point where you could imagine that they exist in the real world.

The lead male character Jin Xiao Tian is insanely likable despite the fact that his undercover persona is slightly annoying and loserish. Its because he is clearly a determined cop, with a tongue and cheek humor who continually protects people, sometimes at his own expense. And his fight scenes are badass. And even though he isn’t my type, he is appealing in a puppy dog eyes, superman savior kind of way. I presume this is because Chen Xiao is close to perfecting the craft of acting and embraced the character wholeheartedly.

The lead female is slightly less likeable to me, but I don’t blame actress Jing Tian who did a great job with her. She plays a girl that (although scheming) is very low maintenance, and self reliant, and mostly on the side of right. My issues with her are that she is somewhat self absorbed, willing to tank other peoples plans to ensure hers are safe. And she will not listen to Jin Xiao Tian even though he keeps proving that his advice is good, so she keeps getting herself and him and others into dangerous situations. Of course this drama would be much shorter if she didn’t do this, so I get really annoyed when it happens and then grin and bear it.

Second lead He Min Han who plays Chu Zhi Han, who is an heir, business startup owner and the coordinator for the trip the characters are on is pretty much faultless in his performance. His character strives to be kind and ethical at all times, even when it hurts him. Although he is single minded when it comes to a lady he likes and unable to see past her to any other options. The lady after him was Qin Shan, a professional livestreamer who is also very likable, as is Chu Zhi Han’s’s best friend A Pei and the entire cast of parents and baddies and law enforcement agents.

My only gripes so far are the leading ladies bad decisions and the fact that one of the villains isn’t all bad, so it’s hard to hate him. There are also long musical interludes, which are nice but sometimes I just want to get to the action.

Watch this show. Really! You won’t be sorry.