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The man who can’t get ratings

This is an interesting article, in that it looks at the low numbers faced by current Monday-Tuesday drama The Man Who Can’t Get Married and analyzes it from a cultural perspective. Most low-rated dramas (that aren’t disasters of writing/acting) tend to explain their disappointing numbers in terms of being too complicated for the average viewer or lacking in “makjang” (convoluted, unrealistically dramatic) qualities, but The Man Who Can’t Get Married is a bit different in that it’s also adapted from a Japanese series that enjoyed quite a lot of popularity. So why is the Korean version faltering?

The Man Who Can’t Get Married can’t attract popularity

Hidden birth secrets, mother/daughter-in-law conflicts, a handsome chaebol who falls for an ajumma without reason — it has none of those. All it has is the “man who can’t get married” who has reached the age of forty as a bachelor because of his extremely fastidious temperament.

KBS’s Man Who Can’t Get Married, remade from the popular 2006 Japanese drama of the same name, has been unable to shake off its low single-digit ratings. Compared to other dramas that have been remade from Japanese series like White Tower and Boys Before Flowers, it’s a disappointing result.

Media critics point out the main factor in the drama’s ratings failure as “the absence of conventional Korean-style drama format or characters.” That means that it lacks a fierce battle between good and evil, sudden fatal illnesses, and other customary elements of Korean dramas. Without the pretty boys, chaebol daughters, plucky and hardworking young heroines, or devoted wives and mothers that Koreans tend to prefer, the characters haven’t been able to satisfy the tastes of the viewers.

Critic Kim Sung-soo analyzes the situation, saying, “In Boys Before Flowers and White Tower, the appearance of villains to cause and heighten the conflict was close to the Korean style of dramas, whereas The Man Who Can’t Get Married shows detailed emotional threads through calm episodes, and is a Japanese-style drama. Korean viewers who are used to dramatic structuring can’t help but feel bored.”

Sticking overly close to its original source means that the drama hasn’t been able to satisfy Korean sentiments. In the earlier part of the series, the drama message board wasn’t merely about the episodes but looked at how similar the Korean version was to the original, down to its smallest details, and viewers felt the Korean version lacked appeal.

In particular, although it is recognized that the episode where the male lead (Ji Jin-hee) goes to a barbecue restaurant alone is a device used to reveal his personality, some feel that it was an awkward setup given how we are not familiar with a culture of aloneness. One netizen criticized, “It feels like they took a Japanese drama and dubbed it over in Korean. It’s taken too exactly from the Japanese version so I can’t relate to the characters’ words or actions.”

Culture critic Choi Young-kyun said, “In the case of Boys Before Flowers, the drama was adapted to appeal to Korean tastes. Now that The Man Who Can’t Get Married is in its latter half, in order to gain popularity and connect with the public, it will need to try seasoning itself with a Korean flavor.”

What I find particularly interesting about this argument is that foreign dramas are quite popular in Korea, and never is the cultural difference an issue with enjoying them (e.g., Prison Break, Lost, Hana Yori Dango). But when adapting, “Korean-ness” — however one may define that broad, general sentiment — is an essential element. An ordinary citizen doesn’t necessarily have to have a horrible mother-in-law, a Cinderella complex, a vengeful ex, or a rich chaebol suitor to relate to those oft-seen kdrama characters in those unrealistic dramas that attract such high popularity. Even when the circumstances are completely off-the-wall, it’s the feelings that people respond to, and it seems that when viewers are unable to relate the Korean-ness of the emotions, the connection falls flat.

All that said, I think those who do like this drama aren’t hindered by those factors, and for those reasons I wonder if a foreign audience may be more open to the drama. When you can see it without worrying over the cultural dissonance factor, it’s probably a lot more fun.

Via Kuki News

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well said java, I could not agree more. I actually think this drama is funny and quirky at the same time. Most Korean dramas do fall into those listed categories above. Most of them are very very cliche, but that is just the thing. It seems that Koreans are drawn to cliches. They like seeing an evil person act forward and for the heroine to be submissive.

Hopefully it will pick up when it broadcast to a wider audience.

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this is one of the most entertaining comedies i've watched recently. it's a shame that korean viewers are neglecting it.

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'He who can't Marry' is a breath of fesh air for me. why?

Because it gives me a break from all the 'the pretty boys, chaebol daughters, plucky and hardworking young heroines, fierce battle between good and evil, sudden fatal illnesses, and other customary elements of Korean dramas'

I have a smile on my face, all the time, when i watch an episode...To me, that is good any day...any time.

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I've been watching this on Viikii, and I LOVE it. Actually, one reason why I've really enjoyed it so far is b/c it's not the typical Korean drama, ie overly dramatic plot lines, main girl dying from illness, etc. (Btw, I'm Korean-American). I'm hoping that low ratings won't effect the drama or current story line.

Actually, my all-time favorite K-drama is Soulmate, which didn't fit the conventional drama outline either.

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JB,

Do you agree or disagree with the article?

As a general comment, you would think that with all the media testing technology available and adaptive-ness of Korean networks, that a network like KBS would have tested various formats and drama stories before releasing a style of drama that few people wanted to see. If the article is accurate in its portrayal of "korean" tastes, and this being the reason why ratings are low, then is it possible that KBS didn't know this was going to happen, or knew it could happen but wanted to take the risk anyway?

There are a host of possibilities as to why a drama isn't doing so well, and I don't know if I like an article like this on page 1 (online) of a national newspaper like Kook Min Ilbo that give an opinion without actually going into wh [Read more]

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my gosh, this drama is really hilarious and cute <3 too bad korean viewers aren't very drawn to this series. it's kind of disappointing to hear that in order for a show to get ratings, it must have some form of "korean flavor" added to it, not that i dislike the overused cliches or other elements used in kdramas. what i like about this drama and the jdorama is the quirkiness - you just LOL at every episode.

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This is one of the most entertaining dramas I've ever seen as well and I'm so glad I started watching it right after finishing City Hall. CH was perfect so it's a tough act to follow, but it's hard not to be completely charmed by a drama when you laugh like a crazy person every single time it's on! Just like Story of a Man, this is one drama where the ratings absolutely do not reflect the quality of the show (in my humble opinion). I've never seen the Japanese version, so admittedly I can't compare the two, but I think Ji Jin-hee is doing a fabulous job. He's keeping me tuning in, that's for sure.

Is this drama currently being filmed? I'm worried that if filming is still in progress, the powers-that-be may decide to cut a few episodes as happened with Strike Love.

That would suck big ti [Read more]

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I love this drama! It takes away from all the "drama" but maybe that's whats causing this drama to decline.

Blah. Oh well. They should put up Viikii or Mysoju ratings. Hahaha. A lot of people are watching it around the world.

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pfft =.=
i'm really enjoying this drama and i really don't understand why
people always want to have this 'stereotype' drama
like Shining Inheritance...it's not like i hate this drama but
sometimes it's very exhausting (dunno if that's the right word) to watch
TMWCGM is not so overly dramatic and stereotyped
i can lay back, laugh and enjoy it :)

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I really enjoy this drama, but the low ratings is quite understanable.

Just as the article states, the style of the drama is different. But honestly, I don't believe that's the main reason for the low ratings.

If anyone has seen the original, viewers can by easily bored since nothing is new... at all.

It's pretty much re-watching the entire drama (again) except now it's just in Korean. Many have also said that Ji Jin Hee also lacks the portrayel of Kuwano Shinsuke compared Abe Hiroshi's excellent portrayal of Kuwano Shinsuke... which I agree to an extent.

I wish they could have made a few more changes to not simply adapt it into the Korean audience, but not have to replicate each and every scene (it feels) of the original drama.

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I actually like this drama compared to the line ups for the week or the slot. It's purely entertaining and it doesn't make your head hurt with trying to get all the facts straight.

maybe it was just the wrong timing for the drama to come out in korea, but i really do enjoy it. :D

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Well, it's a pity it's not doing better in Korea, but as #7 Michy says, people are watching around the world online. I saw the Japanese version; yet I like this one very much because it's not EXACTLY the same and adds its own little touches. I've only seen Eps 1–6 (was in a Story of a Man marathon!) and have to catch up, but I find it very funny, the cast is great, and production values are very, very good! After horrors like EOE and C&A, to mention a couple, this is a breath of fresh air... give it a try, people! ;)

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I wasn't going to start this drama but got bored at the others and tried it.
I was so surprised how much I like it. I can't compare it to other countries dramas and love the other side of Jin Jee- Hee after seeing him in Jewel of the Palace.
I hope they don't ruin it by someone getting a brain tumor, cancer, finding a lost mother,father,sister or brother just to make it Korean-like.

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I don't really watch Korean dramas because of the typical overly dramatic story lines or cliche Cinderela stories. I started watching this drama with high expectations but really, my interest in this simply fizzled. And I don't think the problem with the drama is the cultural disconnect either- I think the drama simply lacks in entertainment value period, whether you are Japanese, Korean or otherwise. As a case in point, I stopped watching the drama when they dedicated an entire episode to showing how "cute" the neighbor's dog is without much to be added to the story line. People have attention deficit disorder and when you base an entire 60 minutes of a show focusing on different poses and pictures of a dog, people are bound to be bored. Either that or they really meant to convey a m [Read more]

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yeah, I agree that koreans like cliches and melodrama. Why else would dramas like autumn fairy tale, winter sonata, and stairway to heaven be so popular? For example, the current ratings winner shining inheritance is also a cinderella story about the wronged poor nice girl. Personally, I find these overwrought dramatics a bit tiring. A funny, quirky slice of life type of drama like The Man who can't get married is a refreshing change.

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this is my favorite current drama. boys before flowers, story of man, and now this drama. a string of number one picks for me personally.

i really like how this drama is shot. it's very slick, like story of man. on the other hand, i think it's a wonderful drama. i like it that it has none of the dramatic storylines (i for one cannot fathom a single plausible reason why brilliant legacy is so popular right now. i find the characters immensely annoying, especially han hyo joo and the grandmother). instead it's kind of a mix of indie feel, focusing on little moments at times. kind of has a worlds within feel, too.

i don't know how to describe it, but i feel like such dramas have not picked up popularity because of the lack of drama and like you (or was it the article) said, people can f [Read more]

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I am enjoying this drama so much...it should have much much better rating ...All actors and actress do a great job... the writting is good. I don't understand how they rate one drama with %40 plus and one with below two digit %. Don't get discourage with the above article....Watch and enjoy.

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Saw the original and the first episode of this version. It isn't as funny and the main character isn't quite 'the' character he should be. Thank god it isn't 'korean' enough because BBF went downhill after it decided to be more like a korean drama.

I think the lack of original humor or comparative humor is what might be killing the ratings for this show. I don't think the actors are delivering the punchline as well as the jdrama did. Plus, if the original drama already aired in Korea, this doesn't seem to be bringing anything incredibly new to the story.

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I've tried to get into this drama but having a difficult time. I find that Ji Jin Hee is not ocd enough like Abe Hiroshi, who perfected it to a T, and Uhm Jung Hwa is too pretty for the role.

I think it would have worked better with a plain Jane type of character. The japanese actress while not ugly, was able to portray a lonely, dowdy spinster which is lost in the korean version. A possible contender would be Lee Na Young, but maybe she's too young,

Also, I don't feel any chemistry between the main leads. They may have skinship moments, but of the unexpected kind.

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Nothing to compare with BBF.

I saw the japanese version. For me the Korean version is great . I don't think so this will be something big for rating. Same for Triple.

I was looking for rating in other country too.
In HK, TVB series sound low for they rating too.

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I like THe Man who can't get married. It's silly and humorous. I started to watch the other version a while back but it didn't interest me. I like this one and Yoo Ah In is a major cutie.

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i agree that low rated dramas are usually the most unique/artistic and unconventional, some might argue the best ones but i started to watch this and i kind of forced myself through the first episode. nothing was wrong with it at all, i actually think it's a mix of the unique type off drama and the traditional one, and it seemed like it was supposed to catch my attention with the smart comedy and good looking cast, but for SOME reasoni couldn't stick to it. still don't know why, but i just couldn't stick to it.

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i also don't really like the leading lady, don't know why =O

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I really love this drama. It's one of those down-to-earth ones whose scenarios can totally happen in real life, and there's no ultimate resolution waiting for you at the end (cinderella becomes the princess and lives happily ever after). I actually enjoy each episode and each minute of it because of the amazing execution by the actors as well as the director/script writer who has set up the mood perfectly. I'm an American Vietnamese, and I actually enjoy all the antics of our characters. The Man (Ji Jin Hee) enjoys eating alone...you know what, when my boyfriend isn't around and my friends are too tired from work, I like walking around on my own and grabbing a bite to eat. Not that it's the most wonderful thing ever to be a college student eating dinner by yourself in a restaurant full of [Read more]

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I watched the Japanese version and I liked it pretty much.
It was clever, hilarious in a subtle way, and didn't make me think too hard.
And plus, it depicts a man's life as it is, not some fairy tale.
A person who's 40 years old probably doesn't have the same expectations and desires that a late 20s-early 30s (the usual age range) have.
Plus, this drama is about a guy who 'isn't' the typical bachelor.
He's successful, strong, and charismatic in someways but is still not easily grasped when it comes to romance.

Sometimes it's just better when a drama takes it slow with a bit of reality and see how the characters develop with each other.
Not every drama needs to be fast paced and dramatic...Korean dramas do need some variety...BOF seriously proves that point.

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hey, I'm loving this drama too! It's funny and it's light. I don't usually dig those uber dramatic koreanobelas : )
aja!

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I read somewhere that the reruns are doing fairly well. I hope it's true. And I also hope this show doesn't meet the same unfortunate fate as Strike Love.

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I'll apologize now, this one is going to be a bit on the long side...

I find the issue of Cultural disparity in tv/film to be rather intriguing. The first non-“Westernized” drama I ever saw was the Japanese version of Hana Kimi, and it certainly threw me when I saw the first episode. However, a familiarity with Japanese manga and anime helped me to adjust pretty quickly to the angle they were presenting, and I have since fallen victim to/in love with a number of other J-dramas and branched out into K-dramas. A little while back, most likely in the BBF days, mention was made in a comment about the number of remakes of HanaDan that had been made, and whether or not it would succeed in an American market, which of course brought to mind all of the other failed attempts to remake Asi [Read more]

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I am currently watching this drama, and I am having so much fun watching it. I find it funnier then the japanese version....

... IT IS a breather from the "fierce battle between good and evil, sudden fatal illnesses,the pretty boys, chaebol daughters, plucky and hardworking young heroines...etc.. "

I have known how low the ratings have been..... I was thinking whenever i see the ratings that, probably this series has fierce competition with another series that is airing at the same time...., or, this isnt the season for this kind of drama...

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@27 amhrancas -

Aren't you assuming that people clinging to cultural norms is what is causing the ratings disappointment?

What if it is due to other factors, like type of audience who watches this particular drama tends to watch it on DVR or online rather than "live" and so they aren't captured in the ratings numbers? Mon/Tues tends to have lower ratings than Wed/Thurs or Sat/Sun anyway, and combine that with other factors, like general economic climate (preference toward recognizable things), mild acting performances, confusing directing/editing, unoriginal storyboard editing, etc., the ratings may not be that great, which have nothing to do with whether cultural norms are being clung to or not.

Why can't this series' ratings disappointment be rooted in the same cause that is ca [Read more]

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Cliche. That's what it is. That's what Korean viewers want. I'm actually glad this drama doesn't include much of it.

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@ amhrancas...and samsooki

oh.. you guys....,good point, good point..... just love this kind of debate! ^-^

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im not korean and i really enjoy this show....different from the evil mother in law and the rich guy pursuing the poor girl...anyhow,i love it~

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I love the drama...it's someone realistic
i mean...i know people need hopes n all
but serious ! being poor n suddenly find a reach guy who falls in love
please !

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umm, i've been enjoying this drama so far, although sometimes, i feel like uhm jung hwa's acting shows that she's completely aware that the camera's there. and i hate that... but ji jin hee is so entertaining. he's developed his character really well, and so has kim so eun ^^ it's a good drama, but like jb said, it doesn't have that typical good vs. evil type plot, and so a lot of people find it boring. i mean, i can't say that it's an outstanding drama, like a really memorable one, but it's entertaining.
the only criticism i have is that the scriptwriter hasn't really highlighted the conflict in the drama, and she's shown jo jae hee's personality to the audience, but, then what? there's that last part that's missing from this drama.

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Yay--I'm glad there are so many of us defending this drama.
Is it perfect? Of course not, but it's free of so many of the cliches some of us mentioned. I actually find it cute--it has some of my favorite actors (Uhm Jung Hwa, Ji Jin Hee, Yoo Ah In, the chihuahua that plays Sang Goo, etc.)
It's one of those, "I-can-sit-back-not-think-too-hard" light-hearted comedies that feels somewhat believable when you consider those mak-jangs.
It has these nice touches--the end of each episode with a candid camera of Ji Jin Hee, that music at the end of each episode, etc.
"I Came in Search of Flowers" also had low ratings so I'm not too worried--hopefully the cast and crew believe in what they're doing and don't compromise the 2nd half of the series.

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There are dramas that seem to have very few of these "kdrama characteristics" and go on to succeed with a good fan base and sometimes good ratings. A drama that comes to mind is Alone in Love. The plot was simply two lovers who find that they are meant to be together. Although their marriage had problems, they still loved each other but were too stubborn to realize it. The plot was simple, and the storyline real; a more recent drama that lack the "kdrama characteristics" would be Triple and it seems to be doing quite well so far. I don't think The man who can't get married isn't getting the ratings because of its lack of these characteristics but rather it appeals to less viewer, or the losing interest of the public to kdrama in general. This year and most of last seems to have given fewe [Read more]

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I am really shocked that this show is not getting good ratings. This is one of the few K-drama's that I have enjoyed because it is not pulling at my heart strings and it is not real fantasy like (though at times I do enjoy those types). I think it is hilarious, and real. I am in the same boat with the doctor, I might one day be a 30 something wanting to get married but if I don't get married I am not going to slit my wrist or anything. It is delightful and I am sad that it is not getting the ratings that it deserves. It is a smart, real- like, and enjoyable.

E.

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I am not korean but I find the drama refreshing for a change
different from the stereotype korean dramas,
If they can watch western movies why cant they also try other "flavour"
like when eating ice cream.
Maybe rural folks still preffer those "traditional" dramatic dramas.
they are not ready for other "flavour" yet.
It is not popular in Korea but I think it gets good rating from oversea audience.
I dont know why the director, camera man like to take close shots of Miss Uhm
and Mr Jin but some shots are quite funny to watch.
This is more realistic to our daily lives now.
KBS still can market this drama oversea.

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Will Korean men carry those bags???

Ha! ha! ha, perception.....

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i'm really enjoying this series. i always look for updates for the online stream video. aside that it is light and entertaining i can somewhat relate to the dilemma of the singles here (Uhm Jung Hwa, Jin Ji Hee, the manager). your parent pressuring you to get married but you can't find that someone. most of your friends are probably married that you eat alone, you watch drama to pass time. you're co-workers talking about your being alone, you being very sensitive ( i think this happens to people who old and single), your life is just office, grocery, home (UJH) or work, home, hobbies and gadgets (JJH). in episode 8, when Uhm Jung Hwa heard that JJH is dating someone, she ask her father that she change her mind and will attend the blind date set-up for her. i felt i will probably do that to [Read more]

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Wut wut??? I sure really do hope the lesson that media critics take away from this isn't High Melodrama and Cliches: Essential for K-Drama Success. Please no!!!!!!!!!!!! There's nothing I can think of that would hamper creativity more. And I don't think that's the reason the drama is so unpopular >_<! The Japanese version was popular because it was well-done; the korean version is less well done, and if I wasn't lazy I would take the time to pinpoint what exactly is lacking in the korean version that was present in the japanese version. But it sure isn't the lack of CANCER and BUCKETS OF TEARS and TRAGEDY and IN YOUR FACE BATHROOM HUMOR that's preventing this drama from resonating with the public or with critics. I think Korean viewers are just about as capable of app [Read more]

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i also feel that types of singleness is represented here.

we have those likes of UJH character. single but know they are lonely--because they have experience love. while JJH is single and alone and happy with it (because, they might not have experience love yet)

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I'm not Korean but I too like how light-hearted this series is. I didn't know that this drama was suffering in ratings when I started watching, nor will I be bothered by it now that i know that the majority of peeps don't like it in Korea.I certainly hope that the cast ain't bothered by it, especially ji jin hee who now has back-to-back projects that "bombed" (spotlight and now this -.- wassap man? I actually think he's one of the few actors out there who have versatility and maturity on his side to potray an array of characters very well)

Now i wonder what will happen if we have Abe Hiroshi special guest as ji jin hee's characters long lost best buddy from overeseas * OCD galore* :) THAT. Would be interesting to watch.

@19. I agree that although Abe Hiroshi has acted his characte [Read more]

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@ amhrancas #27

I think if the original was broadcast, it might actually do better because when you watch something "foreign" you understand the context is different.

Whereas if you have a remake, you would have to adapt it to your culture or else it would seem awkward.

So it's not that the audience can't accept something different. It's just that when they see something different, they can associate it as, "that's Japanese" or "that's American."

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The japanese drama was incredibly suttle in how it did things. Very slowly you see the more people that enter his life the more his routine becomes to change. The drama is simple, grounded, no tacky villains or silly melodrama. I do love how people commented on not being able to relate to it, so we can relate to the cliche's that riddle Korean dramas?

People tend to criticise Japanese dramas alot but it just goes to show how immature the Korean audiences can be and so close minded. No wonder the variety that exists in Japanese drama cannot be found in Korean dramas. Korean dramas can be extremely well written but interesting and new plots are hard to find, ratings matter far too much and so come out the tried and tested formula, no wonder theres so many love contracts, evil mothers and [Read more]

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Eventhough this is not my fav drama, but I still watch it when I have a free time , I'm not very fond at the lead actor and actress but I really like the dialog/script which is very funny and enjoyable.

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@46

Not really. I don't watch Japanese dramas because I find them to be incredibly boring, not because they're sophisticated or difficult to comprehend. Maybe teenagers who like quirky comic book type stories would enjoy their series, but I watch dramas that have drama.

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@ pencil! LOL. Jo Jae-shi and Kuwano-san BFF!!!

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Eventhough many do not like japanese drama,
but their creativity is like - surprise !!!.
Sometimes it is beyond our imagination.

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