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.

A-Drama: 13 Reasons Why (8.6/10)

Trigger warning: This show and therefore this blog touches on suicide and other topics that are sometimes hard to talk or hear about.

I had no idea what this show was about when I started it. It was on Netflix and at some point I had added it to my list, based on whatever description of the plot that they gave.

The summary did not accurately reflect the plot. It turned out that the show was about a high school girls suicide and the 13 reasons she gave for why she made that terrible decision. The show is about many of the things that teens / young adults go through in school and with their friends that traumatize them and lead them to make terrible choices.

The first episode was a bit of a lift to get through because the writing was very teenybopper, and I was also surprised by the subject matter, which was somewhat dark. From watching so many dramas though, I’ve learned to push past to the next episodes if there seems like there’s any hope for a show.

It turns out that was a good decision because I really enjoyed the show despite the depressing overtones.

The main characters the first season are Hannah, who died but narrates her life from before and beyond the grave and Clay her work and schoolmate who is clearly crushing on her. Other characters include a few popular jocks, the friends Hannah first met when she started at her high school, and a bullied yearbook nerd. There are also parents, a mom grappling for answers about her daughters death and others concerned about their own children, as well as the principal and high school counselors.

It didn’t seem to me that people were all that broken up about Hannah’s death until they found out they personally contributed to it. Some started to care a little and some began to mourn for her after that. Maybe this is natural, but it was sad to see. Hannah’s death was a tragedy and the show does a good job of pointing to all the little cuts she got from her peers that eventually became a very big wound, large enough to make her feel like life was not worth living.

Viewers also learn that Hannah would have had more love than she knew if she had lived.

Hannah’s character was interesting to watch, although I did not always agree with her choices, especially the big one. After considering it, I didn’t really love any of the characters. Like people in real life there were glimmers of good in everyone but a lot of self absorption too. Some just had more than others or handled situations with a little more kindness or grace.

Clay, the male lead was very loyal, but he was also on his high horse all of the time. There were stereotypical jocks, too entrenched in sports hero culture, students who were bullied, and others who were in between. Most of them, no matter how popular or unpopular were secretly insecure, some of them facing family problems, issues with their cliques, high school gossip or worries over growing into men.

“Clay”

Most of the time I was riveted by this drama. Sometimes I felt pretty sad or frustrated while I watched. It is especially sad that all the issues this show pointed to are the same ones so many kids have in real life. Some of the characters were struggling to redeem themselves after making really bad choices and the show gives viewers the space to grapple with their humanity and what types of consequences they deserve.

I don’t know if the acting was good. I think it was a mixed bag, but the show was intense and interesting enough that it didn’t really matter.

The show has a lot of trigger warnings and disclaimers before the episodes started, which makes sense. Most had the actors speaking in them, including the girl who played Hannah. She is apparently British, which is weird since the show is meant to be at a high school in California and she is meant to be all American. Could the casting director not find one actual American girl for this part?

Because I’m me I managed to watch a show filled with traumatic themes and still spend a good portion of it wondering which people I considered the most attractive lol. The guy who plays Clay is very much my type looks wise. Blue eyes and dark hair are my kryptonite, along with dimples and razor sharp cheekbones. His character was not my type, it was too judgey and too broody for my taste. Many of the guys and girls on the show are pretty people, although everyone is distinct and thankfully there is diversity among characters.

Watch this show, if you haven’t already and you can handle themes of teen suicide, sexual abuse, guns and drugs, to name a few. If any of these are too upsetting to you, then I recommend giving it a pass.

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.

K-Drama: Itaewon Class (7.9/10)

This drama had promise. So much promise. If you have ever read my blog posts you know that I love Park Seo Joon’s acting. I will ride or die for him if anyone questions his artistic talent. That’s why it’s hard for me to say that despite his acting this drama made me mad and I wouldn’t watch it again if you paid me.

The acting by Park and the rest of the cast was good. The production value was also high. And the beginning was interesting and made it seem like the drama would be a good one. These are the reasons why I have rated it as high as I have.

Here is a summary of the show from Mydramalist:

Park Saeroyi’s life has been turned upside down after he gets expelled from school for punching a bully and his father is killed in an accident. Following his father’s steps, he opens a pub named “DanBam” in Itaewon and, along with his manager and staff, strive towards success and reaching greater heights.

What the summary fails to mention is that this show is about revenge.

The first quarter of the show centers on what happens that makes the lead character Park Saeroyi want revenge and who he wants it against. And his crush on a girl that he gets to know.

The next quarter is about how he works towards getting revenge which involves opening a pub that he staffs with a motley cast of characters, one of whom is in love with him.

The third quarter is about his growing revenge success and the forth is the culmination of all of this.

I was fairly into the show, although not addicted until quarter three when I wanted to throw it out a window. Basically the beauty of Park Saeroyi, that made him worth rooting for was that he was ethical and principled and would adhere to his principles no matter what it cost him. He loyally loved the same woman for over a decade, he stood up for anyone he felt was oppressed and he chose people over immediate revenge.

Then all the sudden he threw that side of him away, except that I can’t tell if that was meant to be a moral to the story. It doesn’t seem like it. More like the writers had him transition to be an unethical disloyal, revenge over everything type person while pretending he wasn’t. I haven’t read the manga it is based on, so I don’t know.

Worse than all of this, the lead/second lead female was AWFUL. I don’t know if I have ever disliked a character more, outside of some really evil sageuk ministers or evil moms of chaebols. She was described as a sociopath, which seemed right based on her behavior. She was a fairly bad friend, bigoted, although she would eventually see the error of her ways, but only because of Park Saeroyi who she was in love with.

It wasn’t really clear, minus his strong sense of ethics, why the ladies liked Park Saeroyi who wasn’t a great communicator and had one of the worst haircuts I’ve ever seen. And he didn’t disrobe like Park Seo Joon’s other characters have, so it wasn’t about his muscles. But they did like him – a lot. What is less clear is why anyone in their right mind would like this girl. She was a 20 year old running after a 30 year old, crossing serious boundaries to do it and being a godawful human the rest of the time. How any writer, director or producer thought that I would ship her with this guy or even root for her is beyond me. She is the kind of person that I cross the street to avoid IRL.

All I can say is that I ended this show after episode 14 of 16. Near the end of the episode I actually thought that I wouldn’t fault a guy for pushing Park Saeroyi into a street and in front of a speeding car. In fact, the show could have ended like that and I would have given it a better rating. That’s when I knew I was done.

I read the summary of the last two episodes, which helped validate that I made the right choice.

J-Drama: Chugakusei Nikki (8.8/10)

The leads

I was sick recently and all I did was sleep and marathon some dramas that had been on my list.

The one I want to review for you all most is Chugakusei Nikki because I have so many thoughts on this and ultimately want to recommend it to anyone who is comfortable watching the content, which is very controversial.

It’s about the inappropriate relationship between an adult teacher and her much younger student. Even though every person on earth may have a slightly different take and level of aversion to this idea, I am highly recommending this drama because it’s amazing.

I still don’t know how to feel about the idea. I feel like I understand – to a point how women teachers get caught up in these imbroglios. Many women feel unfulfilled and unappreciated, even while in relationships and the panting puppy dog love and attention of pubescent boys might flatter some of them enough to act on it. But even understanding that, if a 25 year old teacher did anything inappropriate with my daughter when she’s 15, their days would be numbered.

There are also the social ramifications for this behavior, which vary from country to country, city to city. It is generally seen as wrong, although a century or two ago, it typically wasn’t. The current age of adulthood also varies from place to place so what is illegal in one place is legal somewhere else. But despite how wrong it is considered to be in most places, it still happens. Possibly the most famous of these types of relationships was between 15 year old student Emmanuel Macron and his much older teacher, who is now his wife and the first lady of France. Chugakusei Nikki adds to his conversation.

This show is dramatic and very interesting, and some parts of it are beautiful. It follows a young, somewhat demure teacher, her fiancee, the student who falls in love with her, the student who is in love with him, his mom, his friends, the fiancees boss and some other characters as they navigate around the growing feelings between the teacher and her pupil. And shows the many repercussions the teacher, student and their friends and families faced as a result of their feelings and actions.

I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say that watching all this play out kept me captivated. I also rooted for happy endings for everyone, as I always do, but here it felt much more strange to do it. I am not sure I would have hoped that the student, once he reached adulthood could be with the woman he loved if he hadn’t already looked like an adult when he was meant to be 15. If he had been a realistic 15, all gangly arms and legs and pimples I may have viewed him much more maternally. Instead though, Okada Kenshi who played the male student looks like a hot Japanese jock in his twenties so it was a little harder to see the age power dynamic at play with his teacher, played by long time actress Arimura Kasumi who only looked a couple years older. Kasumi did a phenomenal job in the role.

If you don’t mind watching something controversial, watch this drama because the story is interesting, the acting is good, the production is good, and it will leave you thinking about it even after it’s over.

Choosing a Drama

Decisions, decisions…

Choosing a drama is a lot like deciding what to eat for dinner or where to go on vacation. There are a lot of variables and in the end it’s usually about what I’m craving most. Some days a light, fluffy romace is the best thing on earth and other days something with more depth or comedy is up my alley. In this vein, I thought I would share with you all my steps for choosing a drama.

  1. What am I craving? i.e. what type of drama am I in the mood for. Whatever it is I am a happy ending girl, so anything I watch has to have that.

2. My first choice is usually Chinese. The irony in this is that Korea has more dramas and they’re generally better and there are good Thai and Filipino dramas too, BUT, I’ve been learning Mandarin so I try to find c-drama’s whenever possible so I can practice.

3. Does the plot sound good?

4. What rating does it have on My Drama List, since I’ve found that the ratings and reviews are usually on point (with a few exceptions). I try to stay at 7.7 and up unless I really love the plot and/or the actor/actress so I don’t waste my precious time.

5. Is the lead guy even remotely attractive >>> because I’m superficial I have a hard time watching romances where the guys are not my cup of tea.

6. How many episodes is it <<< Since I have to plan how I spend my precious time

7. Can I find it eng subbed

I dont know if anyone else uses this method, but it works pretty well for me.

K-Drama: The Innocent Man (5/10)

I will start with a review of the Innocent Man, which is Korean. See the My Dramalist info here: https://mydramalist.com/4295-the-innocent-man.

My rating: 5 out of 10.

Why so low? One reason really. The main female character “Seo Eun Gi” could not have been more ridiculous. I couldn’t root for her. 1. She was mean to her adorable little brother – on purpose 2. She was an idiot, supposedly a business shark, but couldn’t tell if someone was conning her from a mile away. 3. She wasn’t cute at all for the first half of the movie. unless you think pale aliens are cute 4. The other female character, the one I guess I wasn’t supposed to cheer for was amazing and stole the show.

The pros. 1. It was hard to tell exactly where the plot would go so it kept me fairly interested. 2. Actress Park Shi Yeon was fantastic (see above). 3. The lead actor Song Joong Ki is really cute.

The Cons. 1. That vapid girl character. 2. Lead actor Song Joong Ki looked about 15 years old on the show, so even saying he was cute makes me feel like a cradle robber. And it’s hard to take a character seriously as a playboy/businessman/etc when he looks like he isn’t old enough for a drivers license yet. Oh, and the end is awful.

Watch if you like revenge plots and you dare.