First, as a K Drama lover, I have a confession: this past year, I have not finished all of my favorite K Dramas listed. I don’t know what it is about this year, this is just how it went for me as a viewer. Second, this list is compiled of dramas from 2015 and 2016. I don’t always watch them as soon as they come out even though I have a Dramafever and Viki subscription.
Here are my top six K Dramas of 2016:
6. W (더블유)
This is one of the dramas I did not finish, but I loved the concept. I am a fan of plots dealing with characters figuring out that they are just that, fictional characters created by someone who runs their lives. I was so excited to see this concept being integrated into the K Drama world. Of course, it’s a complicated love story. Oh Yeon-Joo is from the reality you and I are familiar with and she falls for Kang Chul who is a character in a massively popular webtoon “W” which is the creation of her father who she is very close with. One day, after her father disappears from his office, as Yeon-Joo searches for clues of his whereabouts, a hand reaches out of her fathers digital drawing pad and pulls her in. She rescues a man who has just been stabbed multiple times (she’s a surgeon). She later comes to realize that the man she saved is Kang Chul, someone she has been a fan of since the very beginning of her father’s webtoon.
I loved the ominous evil character, a faceless man in black who was solely created to kill Kang Chul and I enjoyed the chemistry between Kang Chul and Oh yeon-Joo. I recommend it if you are looking for suspense and some pretty neat concepts about time and reality.
5. Jealousy Incarnate (질투의 화신)
Gong Hyo-jin is my favorite actress in K Dramas. I love her. Seeing her and Jo Jung-suk in a drama together was magical. Holy shit, can we talk about the kissing scenes between Pyo Na-ri (Gong Hyo-jin) and Lee Hwa-shin (Jo Jung-suk)? I watched them multiple times because I am unashamed of being super dorky and finding kissing scenes so so sexy. Besides the sexual tension that had me fanning myself, this drama had so many funny scenes (the mud fight!) and I loved the women in this drama. They were complex and badass and vulnerable. I also love that this drama went into this bizarre, trippy death scene in the hospital. It was cheesy but lighthearted enough for the audience to accept the death of Lee Dong-shin. I am about to finish this drama really soon, I think I have been saving the last episode because I really enjoy the chemistry between the two lead actors. I recommend this drama if you want to laugh out loud and if you want to be pleasantly surprised by the complexity of all the women in the drama.
4. Oh My Venus (오 마이 비너스)
Another drama with one of my favorite actors of all time (So Ji-sub! EEK). I think his acting is superb. I had missed him since The Master’s Sun (which is one of my favorite dramas). In Oh My Venus, I wasn’t really into the transformation aspect of the drama, we all know Shin Min-A is gorgeous and so so adorable, but part of the plot is that her character (Kang Joo-eun) is overweight and aesthetically unpleasing until she loses weight and she looks like a goddess again *fart noise*. I really loved the friendship between So Ji-subs character (Kim Young-ho) and Kim Ji-woong (“ma’am”) and Jang Joon-sung. I loved how much they all loved and cared for each other’s well being. The chemistry between the two leads was beautiful and sooooo cute. This drama also did a really great job with making the cheaters (Im Woo-shik & Oh Soo-jin) complicated, not just inherently bad. They both had a history with Kang Joo-eun, but their relationship wasn’t dismissed, we got to look into their lives and what the affair had done to the way they loved each other and how they needed to continue working on and building their trust for each other. I recommend this drama if you love drama on drama on drama.
3. Moonlight Drawn by Clouds (구르미 그린 달빛)
Such a sweet drama! Hong Ra-in disguises herself as a man and finds herself in the palace as a eunuch beside the Crown Prince. Of course, they fall for each other and Hong Ra-in is treading on dangerous territory because she is pretending to be someone she’s not. I really enjoyed seeing the two characters fall for each other because they do it unabashedly and their love is too pure for this world. Like, I get emotional thinking about these characters. Both of these young actors are amazing (Park Bo-gum & Kim You-jung) and so talented, it was awesome seeing them in this historical drama. I recommend this drama if you are in the mood to explore historical k dramas. This one is so worth it.
2. Reply 1988 (응답하라 1988)
Okay, I started this one last year but something about didn’t click. I saw how many people loved it so I gave it another chance and I am so glad I came back to it. I really, really loved this drama. I cried so hard at the end because it was over. I think this is one of those dramas that you have to watch after being a k drama fan for several years. It is also a drama that had me researching the history of Korea and the different laws and protests happening in the 1980’s. First thing, this drama wasn’t a typical over exaggerated show, the conflicts and hardships the characters faced were all realistic. Second, the community created by the neighbors is so heartwarming. It turned me into this illuminated sensitive being. The main characters were so fun to watch and I loved their closeness. I loved how they were always down to make fun of each other and then be there for each other in times of mental hardship. I recommend this drama if you want to watch something funny, awkward, family-oriented, and heartwarming.
1. Please Come Back, Mister (돌아와요 아저씨)
I loved this drama so much. At the beginning of my journey with this drama, I knew I was going to bawl my eyes out by the end of it. Two men die and as their souls are on the train to heaven, they decide to jump out. They fall into the office of an angel who allows them to go back to earth for three months in different bodies. Kim Young-soo comes back in the body of an incredibly handsome man (Rain) and Han Gi-tak comes back in the body of a beautiful woman (Oh Yeon-soo). On earth, in these different bodies, they attempt to watch over the women they loved. They are back on earth for assurance that their loved ones are doing okay. They are also there to say their final goodbyes. I really loved Oh Yeon-soo in this drama. She did such a phenomenal job of playing this hyperactive, masculine, charismatic woman. Her character (Han Hong-nan, they had to change their names when they went back to earth) is hilarious and obnoxious. This drama makes you reflect on your own mortality, but it also gives you the heads up, these men are dead and they won’t come back. These families are dealing with very real heartache and the deceased men will only get one final glimpse of the people they loved while they were alive. As a viewer, you are getting to know these men briefly and saying goodbye to them as well.
Side note on this drama: I found it very interesting (and I not so secretly loved it) that Han Hong-nan was watching after Song Yi-yeon and that in brief instances, the camera showed us one woman being in love with another woman. This doesn’t happen in K dramas because they are so very heteronormative and this drama gave me brief moments of hope for queer k dramas in the future.
Anyway, I recommend this drama if you need a good cry and some laugh out loud silliness and then some more crying. I cried a lot in 2016.