Below I’ve listed my favorite dramas from 2012. They might not be the best but I really enjoyed them.
Note: I’ve tried not to add any spoilers but there might be vague hints to plot twists so read at your own risk.
-Queen In Hyun’s Man
This drama is incredibly well done with great directing and acting. It’s about a scholar from 300 years ago who time travels to present day Seoul and meets and falls in love with an actress. The same director also did Vampire Prosecutor (the first season) and you can see a lot of similarities in the style between the two like split screens used for dramatic effect. The chemistry between the two leads is the best I’ve seen in a long time. However, I’m not sure if this is due to good acting or fact that they were dating in real life. Either way they really shined in this drama and made it one of the best of the year.
-Vampire Prosecutor 2
This drama makes me giggle and cringe when I think about it. Not because it’s bad just because it’s in the vampire genera and whenever I think “vampires” I think of Twilight, bad acting, and overly sexualized characters. However, this series is unlike other “vampire” series. It’s basically just a crime drama where each episode there is a murder and a group of detectives/prosecutors works together to solve it. Except one of the prosecutors is a vampire and when he drinks the victim’s blood he can see their last moments and use them to solve the case. It doesn’t really follow typical vampire folklore. He doesn’t turn into a bat, he doesn’t sleep in a coffin, he’s not blood hungry, and his acting’s not bad. The only vampire characteristic he has is his super strength.
Since each episode usually revolves around one murder and solves it by the end this is a really good drama to introduce to Kdrama new comers especially if they don’t like really romantic storylines. Even my roommate really liked it and he’s a hipster who hates Kdramas so it must be good.
-Arang and the Magistrate
This is a fantasy drama set in the Chosun Era where the ghost of a murdered girl, Arang, tries to remember how she was murdered with help from the local magistrate, Kim Eun Oh. One of the main highlights of this drama is the character Arang. She’s an incredibly spunky female character who learns to defend and take care of herself during her years as a ghost. Her quest to find her memories draws you in and produces many unexpected surprises that grip you for the entire series. The show is funny and playful but it can seamlessly transition into a dark and menacing tale that you can’t stop watching. These qualities, plus an adorably funny side couple (Dol Swe and Bang Wool) and great acting made this series really exciting to watch.
This drama takes the viewer from a class reunion in 2012 back in time to 1997 Busan. It focuses on a group of 6 friends in high school led by Sung Shi Won and her best friend/possible love interest Yoon Yoon Jae. Shi Won is a massive fan of the popular idol group H.O.T. and goes to crazy lengths to show her loyalty. The group goes through all the experiences most high schoolers face including first loves, family illnesses, and coming out to close friends.
This drama shows real life in Busan at the time and weaves in elements from the past like major news stories of the time and major H.O.T events. The story moves with the characters from the past to the present in a very natural way while always leaving you guessing what’s going to happen in the end.
-I need romance 2012
I Need Romance 2012 is the sequel to I Need Romance, which aired in 2011, and like most Kdrama sequels none of the same characters are in it. Even though it really can’t be called a sequel in the traditional American TV series sense it does share some similarities to the 2011 version. They are both romances that revolve around a group of women in their late 20’s/early 30’s who are struggling with relationships. They are often very realistic about the troubles and tribulations couples go thought in modern day Korea (i.e.: it’s sexier than the typical Kdrama)
The 2012 version focuses on Joo Yeol Mae and her best friend/former boyfriend Yoon Suk Hyun as they enter into a friends-with-benefits relationship. While the show might be lacking in some areas and Yeol Mae could be very whiny at times the music and story were put together in a very compelling way. Whenever I heard the Lasse Lindh song “I Could Give You Love” all I could do was stop and focus on the screen. The passion and mood made me keep coming back to this drama.
(Side note: Lasse Lindh was also used a few years ago in another Kdrama, Soulmates, to the same effect)
-I Do I Do
This drama is a romantic comedy about a 30 something career woman, Hwang Ji An, who has a one-night-stand and becomes pregnant. The story unfolds in a very realistic fashion with Ji An having to make some really tough decisions from getting an abortion or not, telling the baby daddy or not telling him, to figuring out if she should get married to a nice guy (not the baby daddy) who’ll raise the kid as his own.
While she’s making these decisions she’s also forced to go through personal changes. She used to be one tough cookie who wouldn’t let any one take her down but now, with her body changing, she’s forced to move slower and accept help from others. As someone who would like to be in the same place as Ji An when in my thirties this story was eye opening and also encouraging. It showed that life doesn’t have to be dichotomous (happy or unhappy, goal fulfilled or unfulfilled) that you might have to make modifications to your life’s goals but that doesn’t mean you’re not successfully achieving them.
-Can Love Become Money
Can Love Become Money is a cute romantic comedy about a girl, Yoon Da Ran, who is so desperate to pay off loan sharks that she is roped into a scheme to become the wife of a fastidious and grumpy CEO, Ma In Tak. To become his wife she is groomed to be someone who knows all his quirks and can withstand the insults he throws her way.
Ma In Tak’s character, played by Yeon Jung Hoon of Vampire Prosecutor, is really well done. Too often with these types of characters they come off as too distant or too much of an annoying, bombastic jerk (aka over acting). In Tak is somewhere in the middle. He’s the type of schoolyard bully that is always by himself and when you come up to him to make friends he’ll sit back, look you right in the eye and wryly bring up all your secret insecurities. Ouch. Over time his character opens up his heart and you learn why he’s such a jackass. This and interesting plot twists keep this drama interesting.
(Side Note: This drama is a reunion for the female leads Uhm Ji Won (Yoon Da Ran) and Wang Bit Na (Hong Mi Mi) who were also in The Woman Who Still Wants To Marry)
-To the Beautiful You
This is a glossy and colorful drama staring K-Pop idols that is like crack to watch. It’s your typical girl-pretending-to-be-a-boy plot line with the typical oh-my-god-I’m-going-to-be-caught moment and the requisite oh-my-god-I-might-be-gay moment. The set and the cast and the clothes and the hair were all just so pretty. I wanted to dress my roommate up in those colorful knee length shorts and give him a bowl hair cut like Eun Gyeol’s but he wouldn’t sit still.
The story line is based off of a very popular Japanese manga, Hana-Kimi, which was then made into a drama in China and remade twice in Japan. The Korean version was produced by SM Entertainment who also represents K-Pop groups such as Shinee, f(x), Super Junior, Girls Generation, and H.O.T. (see Reply 1997). So naturally it uses their idols as the stars including Choi Seol Ri from f(x) and Min Ho from Shinee. The acting might not be the best but what they lack in acting and character development they make up for in elaborate sets, beautiful cast members, and fancy camera angles. This seems to be the devious recipe that makes SM’s K-Pop machine so successful. Their music and music videos have the same addictive quality (just try watching Girls Generation’s Gee or f(x)’s NuABO and not be super happy) and while I should care more about the acting and character development I don’t because all the shiny things on the screen are making me giddy.
-Shut Up Flower Boy Band
At first, this drama looks like another shallow drama about pretty boys in a garage band, making music and having fun but once you start watching it you realize it’s much more. It’s a really great coming of age story about 5 boys who struggle with problems well beyond their years from the death of loved ones to abuse at home to their parents abandoning them. All the while they have to deal with high school drama, first loves, fistfights, and making music. Their leader, Kwon Ji Hyuk, struggles to keep everyone together and happy as they fight in school, fight with each other, and fight against society. Together they learn about themselves, each other, and their place in the world. It’s a really great drama that it much more than what it appears to be on the surface.
Kang Ma Roo goes to prison for a murder that his girlfriend/best friend, Han Jae Hee, committed. When he comes out he finds that she’s abandoned him to marry a wealthy CEO. He is committed to bringing down the greedy Jae Hee no matter what and seduces her new stepdaughter, Seo Eun Gi, so he can manipulate her into bringing Jae Hee down for him.
The plot might seem like typical melodramatic fodder but the characters are flawed in such relatable and human ways that it really stuck a chord with me. Eun Gi is aggressive and smart. She always wants to have the upper hand but sometimes struggles to know when to let up or give in to others. Despite her guardedness Ma Roo is able to gain her trust. I really liked her character in the beginning but a major plot twist in the middle changed everything.
Jae Hee on the other hand is controlled by her greed. She knows what she’s doing is wrong but the prospect of leaving the life she built for herself is so terrifying that she suppresses her doubts and blazes forward. She’s a character that everyone wants to see ruined. She can’t stop because if she does all of her past deeds will resurface so she just keeps compromising her own morality. This is the type of melodrama where you can’t see the bad guy ever giving up.
Watching the interactions between these three characters always has you guessing what’s going to happen next.