When I talk to my friends about Asian dramas I always get the roll-eyes reaction, like I’m crazy or something for liking them.
So I thought I would try to explain why I watch them so much.
First of all, what is a drama? It’s a tv series. It’s not like the American ones, when you know there will be different seasons, Asian dramas are often just one season, at least the ones I watch. Their episodes number is not fixed (I watched 12-16-18-24 episodes drama and I know there are 50 episodes ones as well) and it’s not uncommon for them to be based upon popular mangas.
For me, it actually started like that.
I was watching a Japanese anime based on a manga (Itazura Na Kiss) and utterly fell in love with it so one day I found out there was a Japanese tv series about it.
I’m a curious monkey so I started looking around, finding streaming websites and discovering a whole world I never knew about.
Do you know how many people, all over the world, are crazy for Asian dramas?
Well, they are many more than you can imagine. There are so many websites dedicated to those dramas, streaming them, providing for fanmade english translations (and not only english. There are subs for so many languages…) forums where people from all over the world gather to discuss about their favourite drama and actors.
When I watched the Japanese version of Itazura Na Kiss, I found out there was a very famous Taiwanese version, called It started with a Kiss.
Of course I watched that one as well. And then I watched its sequel.
They weren’t perfect. Asian dramas are often on low budgets, so there really wasn’t anything special about them… editing mistakes, less then perfect scenes are very common.
Moreover they often live-shoot meaning that they shoot the episode and then air it just some days later (the last drama I watched, Faith, shooted its last scene the same day the final episode aired…).
This often leads to mistakes on the editing part because everything is done in a rush. Not to talk about the actors giant sleeping bags because they are busy shooting and can’t get enough sleep.
Being an actor in Asia is an extremely exhausting job.
And yet, even with those flaws, the dramas totally captured me. So I started watching more of them.
Browsing through the Taiwanese dramas, I found out they often have one thing in common: comedy. It’s a type of comedy I don’t particularly like as it’s often overdone and ridicolous but when it’s done right, it makes me laugh so much!
I found myself increasingly fond of that type of entertainment and even watched some Japanese dramas, while I was at it.
But the big leap came when I watched Meteor Garden. This is a Taiwanese drama based upon a very famous Japanese manga, Hana Yori Dango. It’s a rather classic story of 4 rich friends, who enjoy making life impossible to others in their school and how a poor girl gets caught in the middle and teaches them a lesson, making two of them fall in love and generally turning the 4 friends into decent people.
I liked the story even though what really caught me was the second romantic pair (not the main one) and browsing around I found what I now know being my bane: Boys over Flowers, the Korean version of Meteor Garden.
Damn the moment I found that drama (or blessed it, I can’t decide!!!).
I didn’t fell in love. I fell into obsession.
The four boys were a pure eye-candy and among them I found Lee Min-ho and Kim Bum to be the best actors. I didn’t like the lead actress at all (sorry Koo Hye Sun) while I found the young Kim So Eun absolutely adorable.
Since I didn’t really like Lee Min-ho and Koo Hye Sun together (even though the story was good and I found him wonderful in Gu Jun Pyo role), I found myself more and more invested in Kim Bum and Kim So Eun story to the point where one (again, damned/blessed) day I found a website purely dedicated to fanfics about their drama characters. That really was the death of me ^^
I started writing about them with a passion, creating stories and situations and fangirling to my heart content.
I even had the honor of having one of my stories being featured for a month as one of the best in the website. That story is still incomplete because I had to stop writing in the middle of it, but I’m planning to watch BoF again in some time, to rekindle the love. I love my I Will Rip Your Wings Off too much to let it rot forever unfinished!
Anyway Boys over Flowers was just the beginning.
The obsession continued when I found Dramabeans, a blog where a blessed girl recaps all the series she is following, complete with pictures and dialogues. A must have for someone like me, who loves finding out about the multiple layers of everything. Since she understands Korean, she’s able to explain the subtleties, the meaning hidden behind the words. And since the Korean culture is definitely different from the Western ones, I particularly enjoyed when she explained certain behaviours as well, such as the infamous Piggyback Ride. Apparently it’s a must have in every Korean relationship: if you’re into a girl, then you have to piggyback her sooner or later!!!
I tried many times to explain why I love Asian dramas and Korean dramas in particular. It’s not that they are particularly fun or well made, it’s more about the feeling they give me.
First of all, I think a great portion of my love for Korean dramas, is due to the actors. They are so different from American stars. They always work: either they are shooting a drama, or they are advertising something, or they are holding fan meetings… they just never stop. And they are humble.
I believe this is because they know they need to keep their fan base to work: if fans don’t like them anymore, they are over in the entertainment business. And Korean fans can be extremely possessive towards their idols. This is actually something I don’t like too much, because they tend to pry in the private life of the actors, following them everywhere and idolizing them. I tend to love the characters they play, not the actors themselves, since I can’t really know (and don’t want to know) about their private life. Then again, I’m European, not Asian. And the Korean actors seem to be used to this behaviour from their fans.
I think part of their humbleness comes from the culture as well, since Asian culture is heavily based on the people hard work: I just love how they care about giving their all and hope their commitment will be rewarded.
I recently followed (through FB and pictures) Lee Min-ho traveling to China for a store opening. He went to the airport with just 2 bodyguards, walking among other people, smiling to the fans, allowing everyone to take a picture of him and make videos.
Can you imagine an American star doing something like this?
Second, Korean dramas aren’t overdone on the comedy sector: they make you laugh but they rarely go into ridiculous or gross which is something I hate. You don’t really need to embarass people to make them laugh.
Third, I love slow paced stories, especially if I’m watching a romantic drama. I like to see a character development, I need to see it to connect to that character. When I watch American series, this doesn’t happen. I’m gradually coming to despise the whole meeting-kissing-bedding type of stories, they are just not interesting anymore to me.
Korean dramas are the opposite: people meet, they gradually start to know each other, exchanging gazes, smiling, talking… if you’re lucky they end up holding hands at some point. If you’re really lucky, they hug. And maybe they kiss. Maybe. Barely touching their lips in many cases as Korean kisses are usually very chaste and probably they just happen once in 24 episodes.
I can count on the finger of one hand the bed scenes I saw.
One was in Playful Kiss, the Korean remake of It Started With A Kiss. Well, if you can call a “bed scene” one where the two characters are in the bed, kissing, still fully clothed, implying they will have sex later.
Indeed the bed scenes are often made like this: they look at each other, they kiss, fade-away, new scene with both of them in the bed, with her covered till the chin and him (maybe) showing his bare chest.
Boring? Yes, I thought so.
Then you watch them and you understand. It’s all in the glances they exchange, eyes that talk more than a million words, shy fingers that touch the other hand almost afraid, secret smiles when the other is not looking.
It’s chemistry, pure and simple.
Korean dramas almost never show body parts, especially the actress. Sometimes you can get the eye-candy shower scene in the male case, but as for the women, they are pretty chaste. When the lead actor kisses them, they are frequently portrayed as taken by surprise and as such they don’t kiss them back.
This is something I’d like to change as I don’t particularly like the “wooden” reaction, but I’m not trading it for all the rest: if actors have good chemistry I don’t need kisses, I’m happy watching their relationship blossom through their eyes.
I’ll bring the latest drama I watched as an example because everything I love in dramas it’s there. It’s called Faith.
Let’s start by saying I want someone to teach some serious editing and directing lessons to whoever worked on that drama. They had something precious in their hands and they ruined it.
Seriously, what’s up with the editing? The scenes glued together without transiction? The battle scenes? The wonderful OST mistreated like that? Baaaaah. PD-nim, as many people told you on Soompi (hey, hello there Faithlings!), I really hate you.
So, why did I love Faith that much? Eh. Because as long as the story is good, I can’t care less about the editing. And Faith story is… well. With Faith I’m reaching the obsession level I had with Boys over Flowers and I perfectly know why.
First, the lead actor is Lee Min-ho, the same one as BoF and an actor I already loved when I watched his City Hunter, one of the best action/revenge drama I ever watched. He was simply perfect in it.
Second, it’s an historical drama, set in the Goryeo period and I love historical stories. I particularly appreciate this because of the clothes as well, because I like their way of clothing much more than the Joseon one. I’ll trade the hanbok with this dress anytime (oh, and the male dress as well while we’re at it ^^) and I find the men’s hats in Joseon period too funny to be taken seriously :P
Then, the story. I was already curious when I learnt it was a time travel story, but it doesn’t stop there. It talks about politic, war, loyalty, betrayal, insanity, love… it has everything. And the Faith (as in trust in another person) theme is flowing strong in all the drama.
Although my favourite theme is of course the romantic one, I enjoyed every aspect of the drama because they blended in each other so perfectly I could see everything was necessary.
The characters grew in a believable way, their relationships grew with them and the story unfolded naturally, one event a consequence of the one before it.
As for the love story, I’ll just say this:
How many times in a relationship your partner asked “Tell me when you started loving me” and you were at a loss because you actually didn’t know?
Faith was like that. The love story was slow, it grew bit by bit. I watched those characters, I watched them evolve and at some point I just knew they were in love. If you ask me “How? When?” I won’t be able to answer you. It happened so naturally I can’t pick a single moment.
They never actually told each other “I love you”.
They never slept together.
They exchanged just one kiss and it was in a public situation where it wasn’t a romantic move but a political one.
All they did was looking at each other, with their soul in their eyes, holding hands, hugging each other.
And I swear, it made my heart race more then a thousand kisses.
This is what I love about Korean dramas: chemistry.
You can see with your heart even if you don’t see it with your eyes. You don’t need it. The actors eyes (and trust me, in this case Lee Min-ho and his partner, Kim Hee Sun were wonderful) speak volumes.
I’m a romantic person, I always was. I honestly can live without sex, I can even live without passionate kisses. I don’t need them. What I can’t be without, are hugs and smiles. I need them to survive, to feel alive and loved.
In this department, Korean dramas satisfy a very primal part of me.
They give me everything I need and much more.
They give me the romance I love, the implied one, not the explicit one I find in American series.
I still like some American series, don’t misunderstand. I love romantic scenes and passionate kisses just like the next person.
But if I have to make a comparison, I find the Korean dramas to satisfy the forever teenager part of me, the one that looked at the stars in a clear night and wondered when my Prince Charming would come.
I suppose this is why I get the roll-eyes reaction. People look at me as a little girl when I talk about Faith with sparkling eyes. Grown up women aren’t supposed to be like this, or so they think. They laugh and regard me as a hopeless romantic.
Well, as long as I can look at my Faith Daejang and sigh at the wonderful feeling he shares with his Imja, let them laugh to their heart content ;)
Now I just need to refrain from writing fanfics about them or my social life is really over!!! :P