In the last few weeks, I have given you The Good, The Bad and The Out of Date Korean Dramas of 2012 that I have watched.
Now comes the final part. The Best Of.
One thing you need to realize about me is that I rarely have favorites. There are so many good things in this world and this constant pressure to choose and limit ourselves is saddening. That said, Kdramas are a type of entertainment that is very consistent in what it seems willing and unwilling to do.
Many things cause problems that turn good dramas sour and ok dramas unbearable. Schedules, pressure from the producers, pressure from viewers, inexperience, fear to try something different and more. Personally, very few series entertain me enough for me to overlook some mistakes and really love the work. I like a lot of Korean dramas and I watch them as much as the next gal/guy, but most of them are the kind I would not watch twice.
This makes it possible for me to chose favorites here.
I give you my Best Of Korean Dramas 2012. Click on the titles for more info.
History of the Salaryman
What can I say about this? What can I possibly say, in my limited vocabulary, that can describe my undying love for this series? This is my grand winner of the 2012 'Best Effing Everything Award'. I love everything and everyone about it. Even the part that was more business than pleasure.
Should I talk about how this series introduced me to two of my favorite actors? How I'm after Lee Beom Soo works like a cat after a laser pointer? How Jung Ryeo Won makes me happy at the simple sight of her? Should I maybe talk about the amount of abdominal pain the laughs I had from this series gave me? How about the feeling of being honored to have seen such a wacky and fun show?
Versailles Yoo for President!
Whichever way you slice it, it's simply great. It doesn't focus on genre, but on being awesome and telling its story. It doesn't pigeonhole its characters into Dramaland stereotypes, but allows them to be fun without restriction. It doesn't point a camera to the scene to just show it, but to convey it. It doesn't slap its music on to have sound, but to make it part of its storytelling process.
Does it have its problems? What work doesn't? However, the fact that I was enjoying myself did not let those issues put me off. If you enjoy something, don't nitpick it. No one will think you're awesome for ruining your own fun when the work itself hasn't.
'History of the Salaryman' is one that breaks the mold. It's fresh, hilarious, cool, thrilling, entertaining and well-made. Also, the main couple is among my favorites and both characters among my most loved. If I would recommend any drama to anyone, dramafan or not, it would be this one. This series knows you have a brain and has fun with it, not at its expense. It's an exciting ride from start to finish and it proves a team and cast with their heads and hearts in the right place can get things done and done well. And bring ratings. I'm looking at you, greedy rating-pimps! Let your artists do their damn work! This may just be my favorite Korean drama in general. I can't recommend it enough.
Watched, but not aired in 2012. Reviewed in the 'The Out of Date' post.
Arang and the Magistrate
This was probably the biggest surprise for me this year. I did not expect to like this much, let alone love it. This is a mystery series, at its core and it also has romance, comedy and drama. It's really a case of all the individual parts, from the casting and acting to the writing and directing, music and costume design just working perfectly together to breathe life and originality into this series. It doesn't do cliches. It also doesn't seem to be influenced by ratings or what netizens want. Every little detail in it seems carefully picked for a good reason.
Lee Joon Ki and Shin Min Ah have excellent chemistry, in both their romance and comedy. The rest of the cast is also brilliant and really letting themselves sink into their roles. Roles which are very well written. There is consistency in this. Every character plays a part in unraveling the mystery. They all have a personality they stay true to and nothing seems forced or the product of non-effort.
Not to mention the nice use of fantasy and its own well-conceived mythology
One thing worth mentioning here is the score for the series. It's absolutely brilliant, being yet another feature of it that is of higher quality than you would expect from such a drama. Great haunting pieces, adding to the atmosphere of the whole thing.
Any flies in the ointment? The office trio of idiots did get a bit annoying at times and I couldn't really like them later on, considering they wanted to murder a man in order to save their own hide. The Noble Idiocy can also turn some off, but when it's about actual life and death issues, I find it's at least justified.
'Arang and the Magistrate' is yet another example of how genres can and should be mixed to make something interesting. As long as the tone is consistent (read: not starting as hilarious rom-com and ending in tears), then you can spice it up with whatever fits your story. And this is the important bit. Say the story you want to say, don't pick a genre and mold the story to fit it. 'Arang and the Magistrate' tells its story and it tells it well.