2019 is one interesting year in dramas. Many dramas came out to be successful and loved by everyone. Interestingly, it was a 2019 drama that brought me to a slump for the very first time in my dramaland years. Although you will see how it was the 2019 dramas that saved me from it too! Similar to my previous yearly round-ups, this contains my mini-reviews for each drama that I have completed this year. Luckily, I managed to watch some really good ones still! Don’t hesitate to read more if you want to!
These dramas were disappointments mainly because I had high expectations after hearing so many good reviews and knowing that my favorite actors are in it. I could survive dramaland without watching the listed dramas here but hey, where’s the thrill if we’re always just going to watch good ones, right?
The Perfect Match (2017, Taiwan)
Story in a nutshell: A night market cook and a top chef at a five-star restaurant collide to win the award of cooking the best lobster curry. Family secrets and rivalry attempt to win over the budding romance of these two culinary geniuses. Are they really a perfect match for each other?
+: I have been watching Taiwanese dramas for half a decade now but it’s only now that I have seen a drama that has the night market scene as a part of its story. I love Taiwan and their night markets so this was an automatic plus for me! Another major positive thing for me was of course, the cast. I have been following Wu Kang Ren’s career ever since I watched him in “Autumn’s Concerto” and loved Ivy Shao thanks to “Back to 1989” so seeing them together in a drama made this fangirl happy!
If there is anything that I could fondly remember from this drama, that would be the sizzling kissing scenes brought by this drama. Taiwanese dramas are known for having good ones but this drama just took it on another level, even the second leads didn’t disappoint!
Notable OSTs: Taiwanese dramas rarely disappoint when it comes to the music department. Even if this drama was a disappointment for me (scroll down a bit to see why), I discovered really good songs such as “Pray for Love” by GBOYSWAG as a bright opening song, “Playhouse” by Jia Jia is on a more melancholic note as its ending song, and “很愛過一個人” as a dramatic insert song by the great drama OST queen, Della Ding. The latter being played in one of the best Taiwanese drama kiss that I have ever watched!
-: See the positive things that I wrote above? Well, you have to read those all to help you know that those were mainly just the good ones in this drama. Everything else? Plot, second male lead (Ben Wu will probably forever annoy me), character development, etc. were all just recipes (pun intended) for disaster. Some story lines didn’t make sense to me, not because I didn’t understand them but because they just were not put together well. Although it seemed like they tried to, it was inconsistent with the characters’ development.
Overall rating: 5/10 for a disappointing drama like come on, Wu Kang Ren should not have returned to SETTV or mainstream TV for that matter if the material was not a solid one. Even so, his acting did not disappoint and it never has so he can still be a good reason for you to check this drama out. I also have yet to see a good Taiwanese culinary drama so please let me know if you have any suggestions!
Put Your Head On My Shoulder (2019, China)
Story in a nutshell: A tall boy genius and a short not-so-smart girl accidentally end up living together and eventually developed their feelings for each other. Sounds familiar? Nope, it’s not another remake of “It Started With A Kiss” but even if it’s year 2019 already, people are still such suckers for this trope.
+: Lin Yi as Gu Wei Yi stole the show for me! In fact, he became the sole reason why I stayed through with this drama. His cute scenes with Si Tu Mo made me realize how lonely I am (half-kidding). As a Meteor Garden and F4 fan, the drama’s reference to them made me giddy and it was no ordinary reference because Gu Wei Yi even tried to copy Jerry Yan’s Dao Ming Si’s hairstyle. Now this drama wins as having the best reference to my beloved drama!
Notable OSTs: Both opening and ending songs give you the warm and fuzzy vibes that this drama makes you feel. Li Junyi’s “Two People are Beautiful” is such a feel-good ending theme that it can actually be the drama’s opening song too while 暖暖的小时光’s “Warm Little Time” is all sorts of cute for the opening.
-: I wouldn’t put this under the disappointments section if I didn’t have any negative to say. In fact, there is a lot that I want to point out. One is the female lead, Xing Fei as Si Tu Mo is one cute and lovable girl but her character here had no dimensions at all. It’s hard to hate her but how her character was written was one major aspect of the drama that I disliked. In a nutshell, she has no personality when I thought that I would hand over the “No Personality” award to Gu Wei Yi.
Secondly, Fu Pei as the second male lead is probably the worst that I’ve seen in Chinese dramaland. He treated Si Tu Mo like trash and now he would beg her for her love when he couldn’t even give an ounce of his. Things didn’t get any better when this drama paired him up with Si Tu Mo’s best friend… That wasn’t fun to watch at all. Perhaps Si Tu Mo got over Fu Pei but I still thought that Shan Shan being her best friend then pursuing Fu Pei was big no-no. I could probably write an essay why I didn’t like this drama but I would rather write more about things that I love so scroll some more to see more love!
Overall rating: This originally had a rating of 7.5/10 for me but after just writing a paragraph why I didn’t like this show, I had to be realistic and give this a rating of 6. This rating is still relatively high but I couldn’t adjust it enough since the dramas that had a rating of 6 below in my list were truly the unwatchable ones and PYHOMS was not really one. It was just mainly a big disappointment for me because everyone was raving over how lovely this drama was and could not wait for another week to watch it. I joined the bandwagon and while I had several enjoyable moments with this drama, I held it responsible for my slump. It made me realize how I haven’t been watching any good dramas recently and I stopped for months. For a full closure, I powered through finishing it instead of dragging it and having another slump. So good riddance, PYHOMS!
The dramas you will see below are ones that I cannot fully say if I really liked them or not. One thing is for sure, I had no regrets of watching them and could even thank them for letting me discover new loves.
What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim? (2018, South Korea)
Story in a nutshell: A vainglorious vice-chairman of a big company had his world shaken when his diligent and loyal secretary decided to quit after nine years of working with him.
+: PARK SEO JOON and PARK MIN YOUNG, how have I only noticed them now? These two have such an undeniable and sizzling chemistry that I have been buying the never-ending speculations that they are dating in real life. I mean, have you ever seen their kissing scenes?! Even if they are not dating, then their acting to be in love with each other should win all the awards. I have always had a penchant for eccentric characters especially when they are the male leads and PSJ’s Young Joon fits all of those perfectly. I could not count the times that I smiled and laughed like an idiot because of his portrayal. He has now become my ultimate Korean love after almost decades of not having one!
Notable OSTs: I thought I would not develop any interest in them just because I’m not comfortable with the language (this is me with J-drama OSTs). Fortunately, I liked many of the drama’s OSTS such as “It’s You” by Jeong Sewoon and “A Little Bit More” by JINHO & Rothy for romantic and emotional scenes, and “WANNA BE” by GFRIEND. Listening to them from time to time gives me the feels!
-: Having limited knowledge in Kdramas, I didn’t know that back stories were a common thing for them. I saw this as a major low because it just dragged the story to a direction that I had no idea where it was heading anymore. It would have been more acceptable if the back story weaved the story even though I still saw that they tried, it was surprisingly dark for a supposedly rom-com drama. I was also disappointed with how the love triangle was cut short. I mean, it was nice in a way that it only proved that these two leads have always cared for each other and no one else. However, that would have made a better conflict, considering that it was still connected to the back story that they wanted us to seep into. We knew that they were meant to be but who didn’t want to see a jealous PSJ as Young Joon?! With snippets of it from the limited love triangle arc, there was so much potential for us to squeal some more but I guess they thought we have reached the limit already haha!
Overall rating: An 8 for a drama that made me rediscover Kdramas and discover such great actors. Thanks to them, my old close-minded self is now considering to watch more K-dramas in the future. With a hilarious supporting cast, mostly easy episodes to watch, and a perfect set of leads, I’m not surprised that this drama won the hearts of many people and even gained a #1 rank in TV ratings!
In Between (2012, Taiwan)
Story in a nutshell: A popular romance author and a flight attendant become good friends and eventually fell in love thanks to a crazy fan that locked them up together.
+: Johnny Lu and Janel Tsai are such underrated Taiwanese actors because internationally, no one really knows them but they deserved to be known as both of them were a delight to watch.
Notable OSTs: My memory didn’t serve me well and had no notable OSTs to write here.
-: Taiwanese dramas and their love for dragging stories should stop already. Although this was in 2012, a year where the Taiwanese dramas that I watched, dragged on like there was no tomorrow. I also thought that so much potential was wasted for both leads because the buildup for their romance was not well-done. They had great chemistry but the drama didn’t take advantage of it and focused on irrelevant story lines.
Overall rating: A 7.5 for this drama that is the oldest from this year’s round-up! This drama was mature and slow-paced but even so, I could barely remember the point of the story. I guess I should have paid attention more when I was watching but maybe even if I did, it still wouldn’t change my rating for it.
As what the title suggests, these dramas were easy to watch mainly because the stories were just entertaining and lead you to forget your problems!
Accidentally in Love (2018, China)
Story in a nutshell: A runaway bride had to lead a double life and became friends with a famous singer. Will fame and a secret life hinder them from falling for each other?
+: Sun Yi Ning’s Chen Qing Qing is probably the best female lead that I have ever seen in dramaland! She’s feisty, smart, and kind like it’s no wonder that even a superstar like Si Tu Feng would fall for her. More female leads should be like her because all I was thinking about when I was watching her was to figure out how I could be someone as kick-ass and brave like her. Guo Jun Chen’s Si Tu Feng was worth watching too, he appeared to be a typical celebrity who didn’t care much about the world but actually had a soft heart especially when it was towards Qing Qing.
Notable OSTs: “To Be Your Love” by L.I.K.E. as the opening song was all forms of perfection! It even became more memorable when [SPOILER ALERT!] Guo Jun Chen’s Si Tu Feng created his own rendition for Qing Qing that so many people have been demanding that it should be on Spotify already!
-: None that I could think of except that it had to end, I want my season 2!
Overall rating: Having watched this at the start of my 2019, it definitely set my mood right and got excited for the drama year that was to come. I only gave this a 9.5 out of 10 only because it barely had any imperfections but is still nowhere near the dramas that got my 10. It’s funny that this drama had all the possible cliche drama elements such as being a runaway bride, living a secret life, falling for a celebrity, and so much more but they still executed it well. Every episode was entertaining that you wouldn’t stop pressing play for the next ones.
Triad Princess (2019, Taiwan)
Story in a nutshell: A mafia boss’s daughter (Angie) decided that she wanted to pursue her own dreams by disagreeing to an arranged marriage that her father set up for her. She then applied to become a bodyguard for an actress who is in a scripted relationship with an actor that Angie is a huge fan of.
+: Short but sweet with just six episodes, perfect for people who don’t have a lot of time to watch dramas! Although you will see how this is a negative thing too. Aside from the short run, I probably wouldn’t even watch this if it weren’t for my love Jasper Liu whom I call as my greatest 2019 discovery. One part that I loved about this drama was the details that they have placed in since Jasper plays Jasper (lol) whose films and dramas were showcased too. While watching, it made me wonder if I was really watching a documentary about him.
Notable OSTs: Being a Netflix Original Mandarin series and technically not a Taiwanese drama, OSTs were not a focus and although there were a few, they still didn’t leave any impact on me.
-: Why were there only six episodes?!! Oh wait, this was produced by Netflix and not by our usual beloved Taiwanese channels. Should there be another season, we will have to wait indefinitely all thanks to Netflix and their unreasonable goal to develop Asian series in Western format.
Overall rating: Almost a perfect score of 9.5 because I enjoyed every minute of this drama. Despite its brief run, I still felt that I was on an emotional roller-coaster ride with the leads. The drama was not surely lying about the realities that celebrities are facing especially with Sophia’s story line and how everything that she and Jasper did was all meant for the cameras.On the flip-side, I felt that the development of both the characters and story was just lacking. This was probably even the fastest development of romance that I have seen in any drama, though it’s not necessarily a bad thing, I still wished that they did not have to rush it. Come on, Netflix! Didn’t you have any trust in Jasper and Eugenie to make it this short as a way to test the waters? Even if I have all this rage against Netflix, I’m still thankful that they provided us with quality content and that I ended my 2019 right with this drama!
10 out of 10 Goodness:
Just pure goodness that I was actually doing myself a huge favor while watching every episode. I’m glad that I watched these dramas and highly recommend for people to watch these!
Ashes of Love (2018, China)
Story in a nutshell: The daughter of the Floral Goddess unknowingly lives her life as a grape who can never experience the feeling of falling in love. Things were smooth-sailing as what her mother and the rest of the Floral Realm planned it to be until Xu Feng (Heavenly Realm’s Crown Prince) came into her life. Will their love ever blossom?
+: This would not get a 10 from me if it weren’t for the well-written story. Having fell eternally in love with Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms, I thought that it would be nearly impossible to find another xianxia drama that is up to par with its quality. I initially watched this drama for Deng Lun but even if I loved him here too, it was Luo Yunxi’s Runyu that stole the show. For me to get second lead syndrome is rare and for him to question my love for Deng Lun’s Xu Feng, he is truly a god then. I loved his character development the most and when the story was going downhill a bit towards the end, I just kept looking forward to his story line. Thanks to this drama, he is now joining Deng Lun as one of my favorite Chinese dramas and someone to watch out for!
Notable OSTs: For a Chinese xianxia drama, I thought I would like their songs but none really stuck in my mind.
-: One thing that initially kept me away from watching this drama is the female lead. I don’t know why but Yang Zi never appealed to me (sorry to her fans, I know she’s well-loved!) and I still felt that when I watched the drama. It was such a shame that her role as Jinmi was not the reason why I kept watching and I was even thinking of other possible actresses who might be able to play it better. Even so, I’m glad that the main story and the rest of the cast made me ignore those biased feelings. I had to highlight that I only liked the main story because the side stories were uninteresting. I don’t usually like dramas that spend a lot of time on their side characters unless they are really interesting but the side stories here stood out for me to be worth skipping.
Overall rating: Need I say more? Even if I had things to complain about it, the overall production value, story, and acting made me give this drama a perfect score. It has also confirmed my newfound love for xianxia dramas now and I just look forward to being a Floral Goddess now.
When We Were Young (2018, China)
Story in a nutshell: It’s year 1996, high school students Yang Xi and Hua Biao cross paths because of a lab explosion that Hua Biao has caused, leading to Yang Xi being injured. Their paths seemed like they were always going to cross as they became desk mates in class. Together, they experienced growing up pains, life’s hardships, and a slow-burning romance.
+: EVERYTHING from the casting/characters, music, and especially the story. Hou Minghao’s Hua Biao may seem like he is the definition of perfection but he actually has many issues that he’s struggling with, and that in itself made him such an endearing character. Wan Peng’s Xiao Xi was someone that we could all resonate with as an ordinary girl who has dreams. These dreams are not only for herself but for people who she cares mostly about, family and friends.
Notable OSTs: Our beloved Hua Biao (Hou Minghao) contributed greatly to the soundtrack in which I loved listening to, “People Don’t Hurt Young People” as a really feel-good song and “As A Teenager” with a more dramatic theme as its closing song.
-: Nothing negative unless they’re tricking us into believing and waiting for a sequel. The writer posted on Weibo that there will be one so fingers crossed!
Overall rating: I have always been a sucker for the nostalgic youth genre and this drama hit it on the right spot. Other people may have been fooled into thinking that this was just all about romance between our young leads but they will be surprised to find out that it’s slice-of-life more than anything else. With a score of 10, this drama has taught me so many things with the most important ones being: appreciating the little things and treasuring your family no matter what happens. If you’re looking for a good slice-of-life drama, I highly recommend that you watch this and you won’t regret it!
This Year’s Round-Up Winners:
Not 10s but they made me happy, so happy that I was religiously writing threads on Twitter. Both dramas were not as well-loved by the general audience for reasons that I can tell you more about as I go through each of them. I would still want more people to appreciate them because these dramas deserve it so please let me know if you do!
I Don’t Love You Yet (2019, Japan)
Story in a nutshell: Longtime best friends decided to make a wager that whoever marries first, will get a hefty amount of cash as a wedding gift. Despite competing hard for the prize, things get trickier as they discover that they actually have feelings each other all along. This is an official Japanese remake of the 2011 critically-acclaimed Taiwanese drama, “In Time With You”.
+: This remake is one big plus in itself. My most favorite thing about it was how they incorporated scenes in a Japanese cultural context. They prayed in a temple for love and happiness and that was a lovely detail that we didn’t see in the original. Another bit that I found to be interesting: In the 2011 drama, Cheng You Qing and Li Da Ren would eat at an izakaya so it was lovely to see that You and Ren was eating at an authentic izakaya. Talking more about what differences did this remake have, they had a story line that they transferred to the main character which was just for a supporting character in the original. I thought that this was brilliantly done because this gave more focus to the main story rather than spend time with the side characters (yup, highlighting again that I’m not a fan of side stories).
If Bolin Chen and Ariel Lin set the standards high for their acting in ITWY, both Shirasu Jin and Adachi Rika were not too far. In fact, I found myself smiling a lot because of their chemistry and even tearing up thanks to their well-acted emotional scenes. I thought that it was great that both of them resembled the original actors too, how amazing is it to find actors who look and almost act the same?
Notable OSTs: Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find this drama’s OSTs on both YouTube and Spotify. The original drama had a golden soundtrack that I still listen to it while writing this. This remake’s soundtrack wasn’t bad, considering that I don’t usually appreciate J-drama’s OSTs with Ren’s song for You was filled with emotions that I enjoyed listening to.
-: I read that so many people dropped this drama because of the shakiness of the camera. That was such a bizarre concept for me too because even the most basic video projects that you submit in high school or college would rarely have that problem. Moving that technical issue aside, I’m still glad that I persisted in watching it and the drama has moved past that issue too.
Overall rating: I guess I will always have a special place in my heart for the story of “In Time With You”, no matter what version it is. It may be an overused plot but the simplicity of it all: how the characters grew up with their feelings, their relationships with their family, flourishing careers, and most importantly – finding yourself in the process, makes this a timeless tale. When news of a Korean remake came out years ago, I was hesitant to check it out because I didn’t want it to spoil my love for the original. Years after, I didn’t expect that I would find myself enjoying this Japanese remake immensely and even an inch closer to the 2011 drama. With that, it has sealed my love for the story itself and I might be checking out the Korean remake and even the unofficial 2018 Chinese remake. A rating of 9.5 only because I had to be fair with my love for the original, which is an absolute classic. Having this high of a score is already a great feat considering that remakes rarely get better recognition than their original counterparts. A lot of people dropped this because they could not take the technical issues and how You & Ren just took forever to realize their feelings for each other but come on, that’s the point of this drama! It’s a very mature and realistic drama to even showcase that concept so please give it a shot and trust the process. Who knows? You might find yourself binge-watching all the other versions too!
Before We Get Married (2019, Taiwan)
Story in a nutshell: A stock trader who has been in a 10-year relationship finds himself falling in love at first sight for a seemingly ordinary woman with a strong personality but lives tightly on a budget to fulfill her boyfriend’s plans. Things don’t get any simpler as the male lead’s girlfriend has no plans of letting him go and with the female lead wanting to adhere to her boyfriend’s plans just to please him.
+: Watch out because I have so much to say in this section! I would like to start with the plot because as much as there is a lot of materials on cheating and affairs out there, BWGM handled this realistically and maturely. I also didn’t think that they were painting the partners in a bad light but rather, show the reality that both of our leads are actually miserable because of their partners’ doing. Both wanted comfort and love and having each other as “friends” gave them that even if it wasn’t going to be a solid relationship.
Chu Kehuan was one interesting piece of a character. Jasper Liu himself doesn’t understand why everyone was fawning over him. I found him to be annoying and abusive at first like really, forget how charming he was, and I would run to the nearest police station for his harassment. That in itself was a plot twist because he actually wasn’t really an a** that he tried to portray, he just thought that it would be an effective way for him to attract Wei Wei. This character has also fully sealed the fact that Jasper Liu is my greatest discovery of 2019, why have I been sleeping on him all this time? This actor deserves more and more love!
Aside from my love for Kehuan, how many times did I rave over Phoebe Yuan’s Han Kefei? She is truly the queen of all best girl friends in dramaland! I was so jealous of Wei Wei not only because she had a Kehuan by her side but also someone like Kefei as her best friend. All these and more made my love for this drama grow as each episode came out.
Notable OSTs: Taiwanese dramas mostly excel in their soundtrack and BWGM was no exception. From Bii’s heartfelt songs of “I Miss You More” as my ultimate favorite song in this drama and “I’m Still Missing You” as Kehuan’s default karaoke song to Mavis Fan’s “Darling” as Wei Wei’s go-to karaoke song. I was a bit picky when I heard that they used “I’m Still Missing You” since I have already associated that with the 2015 SETTV drama, “Someone Like You”. Placing my pickiness aside, BWGM put a whole new meaning to it as you will realize how the lyrics really described Kehuan’s feelings for Wei Wei and how it was used in the ending (*wink wink*). Suffice to say that if there is any drama OSTs playlist that I have been replaying in 2019, this definitely would be it!
-: The so-called “friendship” story arc made me want to pull all my hair out of frustration. Even if it was part of the plot, I hated how they dragged it long but not to the point that I disliked the drama. I was just really feeling bad for my dear Kehuan who was trying everything already.
Overall rating: Having written two articles (First Impressions and a full-length review) here plus constantly updating my Twitter thread for every new episode released despite my crazy schedule, then that must have already given you a major clue that I have immense love for this drama. Many people refused to watch this because they can’t handle cheating and making a drama about it usually condones the act of it. I truly respect their decision and I won’t give a lecture of how this drama didn’t do any of that. Putting these all aside, I loved “Before We Get Married” for having an exciting story line and characters that made me feel that I was maturing with them. I enjoyed every bit of it and made me have faith in Taiwanese dramas again, something that I’ve seen to be missing for a few years now. This drama gets all my gratitude in 2019 too for saving me from my slump and I’m hopeful that we will see a surge in high quality Taiwanese dramas again!
Overall, I’m glad that even if a drama slump ate me up, I managed to watch a lot of good dramas compared to last year! I started some and I hope to finish them this 2020. One of my many wishes this new year is to be able to finish more dramas and write about them. I am also beyond excited to watch my man Jerry Yan’s “Count Your Lucky Stars” and plan to write recaps here.
What about you, what are your 2020 wishes? Were you able to see any of the dramas above? If not, are you planning to watch them? Hope to see you more here and on Twitter! Wishing you a happy new year!