Fighting! How It All Began With K-dramas

안녕! We thought it’d be fun to do another joint blog. This one’s about what led us into fanfiction writing. Turns out we both share a K-drama beginning.

Elisabeth:  It was my daughter who first got me into them.  “Hey Mom, wanna watch this cool K-drama with me?” K-drama? I knew of K-pop but K-drama?  The one she wanted me to watch with her was 2012’s Faith/The Great Doctor –a fantasy-time travel starring Lee Min Ho.  Oh boy, did I get hooked real fast.  A standalone fantasy tv series that didn’t follow the usual Hollywood stereotypical plot?  A fixed number of episodes with a start, middle, and an ending to a story?!  Bring it on.

From there I watched more, and more, and more.  Always gravitating towards fantasy-based ones like My Love From the Star, My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, Queen In Hyun’s Man, The Legend of the Blue Sea, W.

Marie: I stumbled onto K-dramas in a more convoluted way. I loved anime and manga when I was in high school and undergrad. I couldn’t get enough of them. But as my life became busier and busier, I had less time to watch anime or buy manga to read. This was before the days of kindle and streaming apps which would have made it easier to keep up with my addiction. So it all faded into the background.

I remember the first anime I saw as a kid!  It was called “Goldorak” in French.  Let me look up the date of it… Here it is, in 197… uh, nevermind. Sorry, please continue…

Fast forward many years later and I finally broke down and signed up for streaming service with Netflix. I had been using their DVD service for a while but felt like branching out. I discovered they had anime and I decided to look for the anime version of Boys over Flowers, a manga I had always planned to read but never got around to. I’m a sucker for a good enemies to lovers story if it’s done right. Instead of finding the anime, I found the K-drama instead and decided to watch it. I’ve always loved Asian films. Why not a television drama?

Lee Min Ho’s hair though. I thought my curls were bad.

Well, as it turned out, I didn’t make it all the way through Boys over Flowers. But there were parts of it I enjoyed and I saw the potential of K-dramas. They were vastly different from the American shows I’m used to watching. So I gave Coffee Prince a try and loved it. After that, a new addiction was born. I’ve watched many dramas now that I’ve enjoyed but my favorite will probably always be Healer.

I enjoyed Coffee Prince.  Though my preference is fantasy, I’ve watched non-fantasy k-dramas such as Secretary Kim, Boys Over Flowers, Descendants of the Sun, Fated to Love You, and yes, Healer –which happens to remain my favourite to this day too.

*RIP Dramafever

As much as I love fantasy and science fiction, I tend to gravitate towards romantic comedies when watching K-dramas. Yes, they have silly tropes I don’t always care for. I can do without some of the convoluted love triangles and the crazy, scheming rich families. And don’t get me started on the ridiculous lack of communication between the leads or the way many couples discover they have a tragic past in common. 

Ooo, birth secrets…  Lack of communication between the leads? Sounds a tad familiar.

But before the stories take the typical turn to the serious towards the end, there is some real comedy gold. Anybody watched Secret Garden? Hyun Bin’s acting when the lead characters switched bodies completely cracked me up. His facial expressions alone had me convinced there was a woman inhabiting his body. And who doesn’t love watching Ji Sung chase after Park Seo Joon like a lovestruck teenage girl in Kill Me, Heal Me? Or Park Seo Joon and Hwang Jung Eum scooping cow manure to pay for their meal as they argue over whose fault it all is in She Was Pretty? Or the entire first half of Strong Woman Do Bong Soon…minus the really creepy stalker/abductor scenes. For me, these hilarious moments make up for some of the more annoying cliches.

Omg… I remember Ji Sung in that pink outfit.  What a riot!

Speaking of cliches…  if there is one thing that makes me wary of watching any new K-drama it’s the risk of a botched ending –so common I consider them to be a cliche in their own right.  How often have I gotten totally into a storyline only for the ending to either be some rushed mess or just plain messed up?  I’m looking at you 49 Days! Oof.  

Screwed up / rushed endings that ruined a drama for me include those from: Goblin, Black, 49 days, City Hunter, Korean Odyssey…

I agree about the end of many K-dramas. They tend to devolve into a big old mess as they reach their conclusion. Unfortunately, a satisfying ending for a K-drama remains the exception to the rule. I’ve rewatched some dramas without watching the end again.

But all this said, if I hadn’t started watching K-dramas, I would never have discovered C-dramas.  At one point, I had started following forums on sites such as Dramabeans and Soompi to stay atop the latest K-drama scuttlebutt.  It was on those forums that I first saw buzz about a Chinese fantasy drama called Eternal Love: Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms.  Curious, I looked it up on YouTube and watched the first episode. The rest is history.

I also first heard about Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms while reading articles on Soompi. I had only tried to watch a few C-dramas but had not really found one I liked. I was intrigued about all the fuss over this new drama though and decided to give it a go. I was hooked pretty much from the first episode.

I’ve only watched a few C-dramas in all this time. In no particular order again… The King’s Woman, Love O2O, Shan Shan Comes to Eat/Boss & Me, Love & Destiny, My Amazing Boyfriend. I actually watched the C-drama version of She Was Pretty (with a rather dapper-looking Zhang Binbin in it I must say).   

After watching Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms, I have watched a few more C-dramas. I liked Love O2O and Boss and Me. The biggest obstacle I find to watching C-dramas is they tend to be a little longer than I like. As much as I dislike the rushed endings of some of the K-dramas, I appreciate their condensed storytelling. I find C-dramas to be a little more angsty and dramatic as well but that may partly be due to the shows I have tried to watch.  

Would you say that K-dramas are like fanfictions in that most get written as they go, and that viewer feedback greatly influences how endings get written? 

I would. I was surprised when I first learned K-dramas are written and tweaked as they are filmed. I see both good and bad with that approach. On the one hand, adapting and changing the story based on viewer opinion makes the drama a bit like an interactive exercise. It keeps the audience more engaged. 

On the other hand, I think this approach is at least partly responsible for the messy or botched endings. I’ve discovered how difficult it is to keep a story straight when I start changing plot elements midway through. I think endings are better when you keep them as a consistent goal throughout the writing process and always work towards them. That’s difficult to do with an evolving story because suddenly the original ending the writer had in mind may no longer make sense with the new direction the plot has taken.

There’s a new fantasy K-drama out now…. About nine-tailed foxes!  But it’s dark and brutal I’ve read.  Tale of the Nine-Tailed.  I don’t think I’ll be watching.

That sounds like one I would like to watch. I do enjoy dark fantasy or horror which I know is the exact opposite of romantic comedy. I’m flexible. I just finished watching both seasons of Kingdom on Netflix. For anybody who doesn’t mind hordes of zombies, I recommend it. It was brutal in places but an interesting and creative take on the zombie genre. I’m anxiously hoping Netflix produces a third season. 

Well, you know how big a wuss I am.  Horror is a definite no-no for me.  Wasn’t there some train movie with zombies recently from Korea though that did really well?

Yes! It was Train to Busan. I really enjoyed it. And I really liked its animated prequel Seoul Station.

Why am I suddenly thinking of that fanfic-like spin on Jane Austen?  Pride & Prejudice & Zombies?   Hmm, Ten Miles of Peach Walking Dead…  Anyway, there’s no doubt that K-dramas influenced us in some shape or form along the way.  

Anyone out there care to chime in? Who else started off their Asian drama experience with K-dramas?

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