A couple of Asian drama recommendations as an after finals de-stress  

Darcy Chew

Staff Writer

Quick Guide: 

     Hi! Welcome to a quick recommendations list of Asian dramas. By the time this will get published, finals will have been over. (Yay! Good job, everyone! We did it!) So, I wanted to recommend some very binge-worthy Asian dramas as a great way to destress. Of course, these are only a small sample of the wide variety of Asian dramas that I definitely encourage people to checkout. Many of these shows are actually accessible through YouTube and other free legal streaming websites like Viki. Although, there is a bit of a language barrier, reading subtitles actually adds to the experience and allows you to feel somewhat productive as you slowly begin to pick up phrases. 

Itaewon Class

Language: Korean

Genre: Drama, Romance

Episodes: 16 

Where to Watch: Netflix 

     Itaewon Class, a Korean Drama starring Park SeoJoon as Park SaeRoYi, an ex-con who is determined to open a successful street bar with his friends.

     Joyce Chen (11), a Asian drama enthusiast, recommends watching Itaewon Class. “It’s about this person who goes to prison. And then when he’s released, he sort of makes a comeback into society. Itaewon Class is basically a story about how he overcomes challenges, and how he manages to become the CEO of a company that’s famous in Korea and how he sort of founded a team. He recruited a team of really loyal followers. I thought it was a very motivating drama that has a really good message. And it also talked about racial issues in South Korea as well as things like gender discrimination” Chen says.

       Itaewon Class is a very meaningful drama to watch and I definitely agree with Chen about the very thoughtful messages in it which center around acceptance and love. However, if you are looking for a more fluffy drama, then this one probably is not for you as it is pretty emotional and there are some dark scenes. Besides the deep plot, the characters are also incredibly diverse and well written; I feel frustrated just watching some of their decisions and actions. One issue that I have about the drama is that it, in my opinion, seems to romanticize antisocial personality disorders which has been a problem with recent TV shows.

The Romance of the Tiger and Rose

Language: Mandarin 

Episodes: 24

Genre: Romance, Comedy, slight Time Travel concept

Where to Watch: Viki, YouTube (腾讯视频)

      The Romance of the Tiger and Rose is a Chinese drama that stars Zhao LuSi (Rosy Zhao) and Ding YuXi (Ryan Ding). The story is about a screenwriter, Chen QingQing (Zhao LuSi) who finds herself pulled into her script as a side character who originally dies. She navigates her way through her story trying to stay alive and make her way back while falling in love with the main lead of her script. 

     The drama is actually very comedic despite how grim the premise sounds. It delves into topics like gender norms and equality as her fantasy world is a city with matriarchal ideals. For the most part, it is a very light hearted, comedic, drama that constantly made me laugh as it makes fun of normal Asian drama clichés. I will also warn you guys that the ending is a bit unsatisfactory but still a very happy ending (please don’t let this stop you from watching it!) and there have been rumors about a second season which is pretty cool. I personally would recommend this drama to students who want a nice break from stress as it is a really fun journey and is also one of my favorites. One thing that I will say that made me honestly uncomfortable is the portrayal of the matriarchal city, despite how much it adds to the development of the story. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with matriarchal societies, so please don’t bash me for this. It is just that in the show, the main character’s feminist views are more extreme, so the inequality does not sit quite well with me as I believe all genders are equal and should be treated as such. 

While You Were Sleeping

Language: Korean

Genre: Romance, 

Episodes: 16

Where to Watch: Viki (requires Standard subscription), Hulu

     Starring Lee JungSuk and Bae Suzy, While You Were Sleeping is a paranormal, romantic comedy. The drama follows Nam HongJoo, a young woman who has premonitions, and after an encounter with Jae Chan (Lee JungSuk) and Han WooTak (Jung HaeIn) they all begin having dreams about each other.

     “I like While You Were Sleeping. I like the supernatural characteristics, the romance, and the thriller. And I also like the actors, the male lead and the female lead, I’ve watched some other ones with them” Carolin Pan (10), another Asian drama fan comments.

      While You Were Sleeping is a very engaging drama that is very suspenseful. I do want to state a warning that there is a slight mention of suicide and domestic abuse in the drama, so if you are not comfortable please do not watch it. Overall, While You Were Sleeping is pretty comedic, but also contains dark elements which seems to be a very popular theme of Asian dramas. I personally liked watching it as it was a refreshing mix of comedy, mystery, and romance. One thing that I will comment on disliking is the portrayal of the “fat” character for comedic purposes which is sadly all too common in the media.

Joy of Life 

Language: Mandarin 

Genre: Historical, Comedy, Romance, Political

Episodes: 46

Where to Watch: Viki, YouTube (YoYo English Channel)

     Joy of Life is a Chinese drama which follows Fan Xian (Zhang RuoYun) as he travels from the countryside to the capitol to explore the mystery of his mother. During his journey he finds himself in the midst of politics and schemes as he learns more about himself. 

     Janie Kuang (11), a Chinese drama enthusiast provides her thoughts, “Personally, one of my favorite Asian dramas is Joy of Life, a costume drama which takes place in the Qing dynasty and starring Zhang RuoYun, Li Qing, and Chen DaoMing. I like it because it has a compelling and unique plot with excellent plot twists, captivating acting, and amazing cinematography. Just the plot itself was so complex and intricate, and it really makes you want to know more and watch more. Each character was also well represented and multi-faceted, and one of my favorites was young Fan Xian who was a perky and smart little boy. I would definitely recommend this drama because it provides a seamlessly woven story of mystery, comedy, action, and some romance as well.” 

     Watching the first few episodes of Joy of Life really brought a smile to my face due to the comedic elements. Trying not to spoil much, there is an interesting concept to begin the drama that is slightly confusing but also incredibly captivating. I really enjoy the elements of modern thinking applied to a historical-fantasy type drama. That was a kind of confusing sentence right? Well, if you want to understand it, maybe you should check the drama out! Currently, I have only watched a few episodes, but am thoroughly engaged. One thing I do want to point out which was a bit unsettling to watch with modern thinking is the romanitzed child abuse that occurs. 

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay 

Language: Korean

Genre: Romance, Psychological, Comedy

Episodes: 16 

Where to Watch: Netflix

     It’s Okay to Not Be Okay is a Korean psychological, yet romantic comedy about a children’s book writer and a healthcare worker. In the drama, Ko MoonYoung (Seo YeJi), the children’s book author, is an idol of Moon GangTae’s (Kim SooHyun) autistic brother, Moon SangTae (Oh JungSe). After an encounter, Ko MoonYoung follows Moon GangTae, infatuated with him and determined to win him over. 

     To me, I will be honest and say that not everyone will enjoy this drama as it is incredibly unique. There are definitely darker topics and some scenes are a bit off putting and creepy, but I think it also really adds to the story.  Personally, I love how connected the show is and how each title relates to a common, well known fairytale which is later explained in a new perspective that relates to each episode. I would recommend this drama to people who really enjoy shows for the plot as I truly think the storyline is really great. One slight problem I have with it is the representation as the many of the characters are in a mental hospital and some of the portrayals fall into stereotypes. There is also the problem of romanticizing mental illnesses. 

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