2021 started off with mainly Chinese dramas for us. There are just so many to choose from. Even now, we haven’t gone and watched all the Chinese dramas that we put on our to-watch list. We already have our eyes on many upcoming Chinese dramas that is to be released next year. So, there will be a big list of dramas to feast our eyes on next year if we include those releasing in the new year.
It’s not been good for us with Korean dramas. We’re not finding many that we enjoy. We don’t think it’s because of there being none we like. It’s more likely that the types of Korean dramas we enjoy are just not made available to us.
We watched the internationally popular Korean drama, Squid Game. We chose to watch it based on the poster and synopsis rather than watching it after it became a talked about drama and thought to give it a watch even though we knew it had a high chance of it not being our cup of tea. It was beyond our cup of tea. We couldn’t help complete the drama to the end, though. We wanted to see how all that craziness would conclude. The ending did make us curious to know what follows. We’ll most likely read a recap of the sequel to Squid Game if there was one rather than go watch it. We can’t take another round of what was in Squid Game.
One Korean drama which we think is looking super good that we started a bit too late is The Red Sleeve, starring Lee Jun-ho and Lee Se-young. We feel this drama would have been very high on our favourites list of dramas for 2021. We’re already enjoying it so much at Episode 3. It’s got a good balance of seriousness and humour, there’s a sort of a secret identity going on there at the beginning, the story seems to be a power struggle and the male lead and female lead characters are playful and lovable. So far, it’s looking very much like a drama we’ll totally love. We hear this drama is very well-received and they’ve extended the drama because of it. We’re super excited to see why! : o) : o)
Here’s our list of dramas that we loved in 2021, ones that were okay and ones that we were very excited to watch and had high hopes for, but ended up being a miss. As usual, we watched some dramas from past years that we caught up on and thought were amazing watches!
2021 Asian dramas we enjoyed
The Long Ballad (Chinese Drama)
Starring Dilraba Dilmurat and Wu Lei
Li Changge, Princess Yongning, seeks revenge on her second uncle, Li Shimin, Prince Qin, for killing her parents. She steals the seal of Crown Prince and takes it to Youzhou to command the Youzhou army to attack and kill him with a forged imperial edict from her father, the deceased crown prince. At Shuozhou, Li Changge comes upon a new purpose. Shuozhou coming under the threat of being occupied by the Ashile Tribe, Li Changge joins Shuozhou’s governor in defending the land from them. In the process, she learns that Ah Zhun—the male friend she befriended when she first was on the run after her parents were killed—is Ashile Sun of the Eagle Division of the Ashile Tribe.
The Long Ballad had an awesome female lead and male lead character. We love that Li Changge is smart, strong and brave. We’re never worried about her being in danger or struggle to get out of a dangerous situation when she is so smart, strong and brave. If there is a time she comes to be out of luck, there’s Ashile Sun. He’s from the feared enemy side who is also her friend. When Ashile Sun is so capable and has the authority, we can depend on seeing him come in and make sure Li Changge doesn’t get harmed.
Ashile Sun’s Ashile Tribe look is worth mentioning. Who is thinking the same when we say how great the styling of Ashile Sun’s Ashile Tribe hair styling is?! It’s so perfect and oh-so-pretty! We love the look so much that we found ourselves impatient to see Ashile Sun switch back to the look when he’s out of it.
We also love the mask Ashile Sun wears in the drama. He’s seen wearing his mask in Episode 1. We get another chance to marvel at the beauty of Ashile Sun wearing the mask again in Episode 15. We’re thinking the mask is supposed to be an eagle design since he’s the commander of the Eagle division of the Ashile Tribe. The mask enhances Ashile Sun’s handsomeness!
There were many side plots and relationships in The Long Ballad. There was the plot focusing on Li Changge and her broken sisterly friendship with Li Leyan; the rivalry between Ashile Sun and his brother Ashile She’er; the plot seeing Li Leyan becoming less sheltered and becoming stronger; the relationship plot for Li Leyan and Hao Du; and the master-apprentice relationship between Li Changge and Ah Dou. Though our level of interest for each varied, each didn’t bore us. The only side we didn’t particularly care for is the one focusing on the relationship between Mu Jin and Mimi Guli.
Dilraba Dilmurat is the reason we clicked in to watch The Long Ballad. We first saw Dilraba Dilmurat in the drama, Pretty Li Hui Zhen, but The Flame’s Daughter is really when we started to be interested in Dilraba Dilmurat’s dramas. We still have her drama, You Are My Glory – 你是我的荣耀, still to get around to.
With Wu Lei, we’ve just come across a few dramas from him. These are Whirlwind Girl, Whirlwind Girl 2 and Battle Through the Heavens. These dramas didn’t have us seek Wu Lei’s dramas out. After The Long Ballad, we’ll definitely be doing that. We know Wu Lei has an upcoming costume drama in 2022. It’s called, Love Like the Galaxy – 星汉灿烂. Starring alongside Wu Lei in Love Like the Galaxy – 星汉灿烂 is The Long Ballad co-star, Zhao Lusi (she plays Li Leyan in The Long Ballad). Zhao Lusi is another actress we like, so we’re feeling it’s going to be awesome watching Wu Lei and Zhao Lusi as male lead and female lead.
Mr Queen (Korean Drama)
Starring Shin Hye Sun and Kim Jung Hyun
Jang Bong-hwan, a chef at the Blue House, finds himself inside the body of the Joseon queen, Queen Cheorin, after falling down into a swimming pool from a lofty building.
A man inside a woman’s body, Jang Bong-hwan has to handle the interactions he has with Yi Won-beom, King Cheoljong, as he finds a way to head back to the present and back into his own body. Jang Bong-hwan likes women. A playboy, he like many women. Jang Bong-hwan doesn’t want any sort of touching between King Cheoljong and himself. King Cheoljong initially has no interest in Kim So-yong, Queen Cheorin. He favours his first love, Jo Hwa-jin, Royal Noble Consort Ui. Queen Cheorin is also from the Andong Kim clan of whom has made him a puppet king. His indifference doesn’t remain as interest in Queen Cheorin grows and Jang Bong-hwan inside Queen Cheorin’s body also comes to find he’s no longer so adverse to King Cheoljong getting near him.
We love the change in King Cheoljong’s view of Queen Cheorin. At the beginning, he viewed Queen Cheorin as just a person he has to be nice to. He then changes to finding her interesting. In the end, Queen Cheorin’s refreshing personality has him liking her.
Mr Queen was a very entertaining drama with some funny dialogue. ‘No touching’ is a really memorable line!
We also watched the spin-off, Mr Queen: The Secret. It shows moments that happen at certain points in the drama. We found the one that showed Kim So-yong before she got selected to be King Cheoljong’s queen interesting. It seems King Cheoljong may have found Kim So-yong pleasant and likable but that changed when he realised she’s Kim So-yong of the Andong Kim clan.
So I Married the Anti-fan (Korean Drama)
Starring Choi Tae Joon and Choi Soo Young
Lee Geun-young, a former magazine reporter, becomes known as an anti-fan of top star, Who Joon. Lee Geun-young initially had a good opinion of Who Joon when her first encounter saw Who Joon apologise for unknowingly knocking his car door into her. On a second encounter, though, Who Joon smashed her camera and called her trash. Lee Geun-young was misunderstood as having been secretly taking photos of him with his female friend. Lee Geun-young goes on a mission to damage Who Joon’s superstar status with claims of him being different to how he shows himself to be after he is the reason she got fired from her job.
A tv show producer finds inspiration from Lee Geun-young’s anti-fan-like activities. He offers Lee Geun-young the role of the anti-fan in a reality show about an anti-fan being married to a celebrity and living together. She declines when she hears the celebrity is Who Joon, but becomes interested when she hears she’d be paid a lot. Meanwhile, Who Joon wasn’t pleased to hear his entertainment company boss had already agreed for him to participate. His boss applying further pressure for him to participate with saying his participation will help the company and give opportunities to rookies in the company, Who Joon takes on the project.
Time spent filming the reality show has Lee Geun-young and Who Joon become closer. As Lee Geun-young becomes a person Who Joon is close to and likes, he reveals he’s going about his life as the top star, Who Joon, with some deception. The biography that’s out there for him isn’t true for him.
So I Married the Anti-fan is based off from a webtoon. Before this Korean adaptation, there was a Chinese film adaptation. Enjoying the Chinese film adaptation and hearing news of a Korean drama adaptation coming, we followed updates on the airing of this Korean drama. This Korean drama adaptation wasn’t disappointing. It was enjoyable to watch just like the Chinese film adaptation.
Douluo Continent (Chinese Drama)
Starring Xiao Zhan and Wu Xuan Yi
With a very common, thought-to-be weak and useless plant type Martial Soul known as the Blue Silver Plant, the prospects of Tang San (Xiao Zhan) becoming strong enough is low. At best, he can become a master of theory—at least to his first teacher who is lacking master knowledge of Soul Master Theory.
With the help of Yu Xiao Gang (Calvin Chen), a nonsense guest at Nuoding School who is actually one of the greatest minds on Douluo Continent, and Xiao Wu (Wu Xuan Yi), a simpleminded fellow student with mysterious origin, Tang San gets closer to learning the secrets of his family, who his mother is and why his father had him practice secret techniques from a book known as the Xuan Tian Records.
Based on the very popular novel Douluo Dalu and Chinese animation Soul Land, the live-action starts off a bit slow. It took a bit of acquainting with this new Soul Master world, but once we did, the drama picked up quite well! Read Douluo Continent (2021) Series Recap.
Time Flies and You Are Here (Chinese Drama)
Starring Joseph Zeng and Liang Jie
Xie Xiaoman moves to Wujiang Prefecture with her family after her family’s land in Yuyangli gets sold to her uncle. Still holding onto the receipt for the sale of her family’s two hectare land, Xie Xiaoman is determined to reclaim the land and return back to the life she liked in Yuyangli.
The land is now in the possession of the Commandery Prince of Julu, the adopted son of the emperor. Commandery Prince of Julu is also known as Zhao Xiaoqian. Xie Xiaoman knows Zhao Xiaoqian to be just Zhao Xiaoqian—a lecher who apprehended her and wanted to take her to the local magistrate for stepping on and killing a thing he called Jingguo. He set fire to exam papers which she got accused of doing because she was caught putting it out and threatened to tear her receipt for the sale of her family’s land which she lost and he picked up if she didn’t keep quiet. Xie Xiaoman doesn’t like Zhao Xiaoqian. When she goes to work at the Commandery Prince of Julu at his mansion as a maid servant cleaning his study, the way she approaches the Commandery Prince of Julu doesn’t change much after she finds out Zhao Xiaoqian is the Commandery Prince of Julu.
There’s a struggle for power in the harem back in the capital. With the brother of the Commandery Princess causing a situation to bring Zhao Xiaoqian a problem in marrying the Commandery Princess, Zhao Xiaoqian chooses to solve the problem with marrying Xie Xiaoman and have her become his concubine.
There were so many fallouts between Xie Xiaoman and Zhao Xiaoqian. It was one after the other. One gets resolved then another comes in not very long after. We feel it’s because Xie Xiaoman and Zhao Xiaoqian have mismatched personalities. With Zhao Xiaoqian, he has quite an explosive temper. He has an outburst as soon as he sees Xie Xiaoman has disappointed him. Meanwhile, Xie Xiaoman speaks her mind. Zhao Xiaoqian is a misunderstood character, though. We see Xie Xiaoman finding him to be just mean because of the bad first impressions he gave her in those first two encounters. However, he comes across as someone who takes care of the people he cares about. Xie Xiaoman is one of them. She comes to realise that eventually. This is what we loved about this couple in Time Flies and You Are Here. These two characters start off being in a relationship that seems rather dysfunctional but then they come together and become a very sweet couple.
Ancient Love Poetry (Chinese Drama)
Starring Zhou Dong Yu and Xu Kai
Shanggu is one of four True Gods in the God Realm. She has the fate of becoming the Chief God of Chaos which looks over three realms. However, born with blocked God vessels, her spiritual power is weak. She is sent to Bai Jue to cultivate her powers to become the Chief God of Chaos. Bai Jue, a true god also, icy cold in nature and initially finding Shanggu just an order he has to carry out, comes to fall in love with Shanggu. However, Shanggu’s fate of being the Chief God of Chaos comes with an outcome which separates them for 60,000 years.
We’ve read about how some netizens have complained about the Shanggu character. They said she doesn’t feel like a goddess because she doesn’t have that air of a goddess or the appearance of a goddess. We found Shanggu a very fun character and liked that her character is so playful and not so goddess-like. It made Bai Jue’s change of opinion of Shanggu that much sweeter. He fell for someone he saw as undisciplined and a task that was sent to him that he must complete. Also, we thought that Shanggu having a character that’s not so goddess-like in the stereotypical way fit nicely with her title, the Chief God of Chaos.
Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha (Korean Drama)
Starring Shin Min A and Kim Seon Ho
Yoon Hye-jin moves to the seaside village, Gongjin, and opens her own dental clinic after quitting her job over a disagreement with her boss on providing more treatments than necessary for the purpose of making more money.
Yoon Hye-jin struggles to get anyone walking into her dental clinic for dental treatment after alienating herself from the initially inclusive and welcoming Gongjin residents with an accidental broadcast of her conversation with her best friend. The Gongjin residents hear Yoon Hye-jin express her dislike of Gongjin and finds Oh Chun-jae the former music artist now café pub owner in Gongjin to have lacked willpower and talent as reason for having faded as a music artist who had a number two song in the Top 10 songs because he couldn’t release a second album when his manager ran away with the money for it. With the help of Hong Du-sik, Yoon Hye-jin’s dental clinic starts to flow in with dental patients.
Hong Du-sik is the go-to person for everything and anything. He’s who the Gongjin residents contact to get anything they need help with. Yoon Hye-jin is told there’s a reason they keep him so busy which sees him being a jack of all trades. She’s also told that he’s one of three mysteries of Gongjin.
We enjoyed the situations and happenings in the drama which are something like watching the day in the life of each of the characters. It’s a relaxing drama to watch.
Word of Honor (Chinese Drama)
Starring Gong Jun and Zhang Zi Han
2021 Asian dramas – Good for the most part
The King’s Affection (Korean Drama)
Starring Park Eun Bin and Rowoon
The Crown Princess gives birth to twins, one boy and one girl. The King sees it unacceptable for twins to be part of the royal family. Doubting people would be accepting of a prince having shared a womb with a girl, the King orders the newborn princess to be killed. The Crown Princess goes to save the princess. With the help of the royal doctor, she deceives everyone into believing the princess had passed away minutes after she was born with a needle to the neck which stops the princess from breathing. The princess is then taken to live outside of the palace.
Now a young lady, known as Dam-i, the princess enters the palace as a palace maid. She catches the attention of the attendant of the now young prince, Lee Hwi, and is brought to him. Lee Hwi finds Dam-i’s appearance uncannily similar to his. He utilises this to exit the palace. The young prince’s second request for Dam-i to stand in for him whilst he goes to visit a former master who he will see for the last time as his former master is about to be executed sees Lee Hwi chased down by those who realise the princess is still alive. Lee Hwi is killed and Dam-i takes on his identity and place in the palace permanently.
The King’s Affection was a very slow watch for us. The romance between the Crown Prince and Jung Ji-woon had very small sprinklings of goodness, particularly in those episodes near the end, but overall the pairing was a miss for us. What made us continue to the end of the drama, though, is finding the Crown Prince Lee Hwi character very intriguing. We enjoyed the fact that the Crown Prince is actually a very strong and fearless woman. It was interesting watching her go up against some very tough and evil men. We also wanted to know how things will end happily for this strong character which brought us to watch through to the last episode. The last episode was pretty good at least and like we said we found the Crowm Prince character interesting. So, The King’s Affection is on our list of ‘Good For The Most Part’ dramas.
2021 Asian dramas – Not so good. A miss for us
Imitation (Korean Drama)
Starring Jung Ji So and Lee Jun Young
We chose to watch this drama because we do enjoy dramas with characters in the k-pop scene, but we couldn’t get very far with this drama at all. The plot surrounds a rookie girl group called Omega III. It gets disbanded on the day they are to debut due to the news of a former Omega III member who committed suicide. They reform again under a new group name, Tea Party, with their new manager who was the former manager of a popular boy idol group called, SHAX.
The romance plot in the drama is interaction between the main Tea Party character, Li Ma-ha, and the character, Kwon Ryok—the group leader of SHAX. We couldn’t quite relate to the female lead character, Li Ma-ha. Li Ma-ha came across as a cute character who has a ‘never give up’ mindset. Meanwhile, Kwon Ryok was the good-looking and popular male lead character who appears cold on the outside but has a caring side. He, of course, has a group of loyal fans. The issue they faced was not being able to date freely and openly with not only the SHAX fans opposing it but also other Tea Party members. These are what should make the romance quite interesting, yet we didn’t find it to be so.
Imitation was not a good watch for us. We couldn’t get pass Episode 3.
Please Feel at Ease Mr. Ling (Chinese Drama)
Starring Terry Liu and Zhao Lu Si
We’ve come to find many of Zhao Lusi’s dramas to be great watches. Please Feel at Ease Mr. Ling started off fun and entertaining with Zhao Lusi’s character, Gu Anxin, being a cute and hardworking type of a character. She accidentally injures Ling Yue. Ling Yue is an heir to a corporation, but Gu Anxin only thinks he’s a regular guy. As compensation for injuring Ling Yue, he lives at Gu Anxin’s place and Gu Anxin takes care of him until his injuries are healed. Gu Anxin is, however, tight on money. Ling Yue is quite troublesome to look after. Looking after him is costing Gu Anxin money. Gu Anxin also seems to find Ling Yue lacking smarts when the ways of living of regular people is somewhat foreign to him.
We found the interactions between Gu Anxin and Ling Yue very entertaining when Ling Yue lived in Gu Anxin’s place. However, after Ling Yue goes back to his life and Gu Anxin find out he’s an heir to a corporation, the drama became more drama than funny, light and entertaining. Several storylines that revolves around other characters came in after this point as well. They see, to be separate and unrelated to the main storyline. Because we weren’t really interested in following these other plots, the drama became a slow watch and it had us drop the drama.
True Beauty (Korean Drama)
Starring Moon Ga Young and Cha Eun Woo
True Beauty has its female lead who, with makeup, is a goddess to people. She isn’t so much a goddess without it. She has been bullied because of her unimpressive natural face. This is what started the female lead character on honing her skills on makeup and brought her to improve her appearance to the level of being seen as a goddess. The female lead is Lim Ju-kyung. She comes to meet two guys, Lee Su-ho and Han Seo-jun. Lee Su-ho is the son of an actor and is mesmerisingly handsome. Meanwhile, Han Seo-jun has a regular background. He’s good-looking as well, but it’s his talent in singing and him going on the path to becoming an idol that makes him shine. While Lee Su-ho has seen Lim Ju-kyung’s face without makeup, Han Seo-jun hasn’t. This sees Lim Ju-kyung more natural and comfortable around Lee Su-ho than Han Seo-jun. Lim Ju-kyung has her pick between the two guys as both come to like her.
We read the webtoon prior to the drama came out, so it was our curiosity to know how the drama would turn out that we chose to watch True Beauty. As well, we wanted to see Cha Eun-woo play this next character which we found to be pretty similar to the one he played in My ID is Gangnam Beauty. We didn’t have a high expectation for this drama version of the webtoon when we found the pacing of the webtoon to be slow. The difference between the webtoon and the drama is that the webtoon seemed easier to get through. We didn’t manage to get to the end of True Beauty.
Awesome old dramas
Start-up (2020) (Korean Drama)
Starring Bae Suzy and Nam Joo Hyuk
The King’s Avatar (2019) (Chinese Drama)
Starring Yang Yang and Jiang Shu Ying
The Wolf (2020) (Chinese Drama)
Starring Darren Wang and Li Qin
We’ve done a full series recap on this awesome past drama. Take a read of our The Wolf (2020) Series Recap.