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[Dramaland Catnip] Cohabitation shenanigans


City Hunter

[We had multiple people writing in on some of the more popular catnip topics, so we’ve combined them here so you can read them all within the same post. The more the merrier! –javabeans]

 
By @divyrus

Among all the famous tropes of dramaland, the trope that made me fall down the rabbit hole has to be cohabitation. Contract relationships and cohabitation often go hand in hand but I just wanted to talk about the aspect of living together, be it forced or otherwise.

Not surprising since my first drama was Full House. I did not know what I was getting into and I had no idea tropes were a thing, but I loved that drama through and through (and still do). There is something so addictive about seeing two people warming up to each other over time, seeing something in the other that they usually wouldn’t if they were not living together. The good, the bad and the ugly. All of those on display when living together and the characters see each other at their most vulnerable. The journey of going from dislike to tolerating to care to attraction to love is my personal addiction. And I can’t not see a drama that hints at it.


Full House

My most favorite moments of cohabitation would be the quiet moments when they sit and talk. Like Rain and Song Hye-gyo having beer. And more recently, to our suspicious partners having tea/beer. That is when the characters get closer and as viewers, we can sense their friendship. Even with all the fluttery feelings and attraction that is abound, these quiet moments are what makes us feel these two should be together. In terms of romance, both dramas are quite different and have more than a decade between them, but I love the way how dramaland has evolved across time still keeping its trope magic intact.

Apart from the bonding moments, the characters always become each other’s habits and when the angst comes, it’s delicious. Usually in the form a gruff cold male lead who barely tolerated the female lead to now being unable to function without her. My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho is a perfect example of that, we had the hero go from whining about buying meat for her to chasing her like a mad person trying to find her.

Sometimes they need not be a full-time cohabitation drama, it can be for a couple of episodes like City Hunter. That drama was all kinds of awesome but still the part that I love the most is when they live together. Living together always kicks things up a notch and you fight so hard to not squee out loud.


Personal Taste

And even if a drama goes down the drain in later episodes, you can’t stop loving it or rewatching it because the initial moments were so good that you choose only to remember them. Like Personal Taste, which was my gateway to Lee Min-ho and I do not regret the angsty end which for no reason went in circles. But it’s okay, nothing an I-will-dry-your-hair-and-use-it-as-excuse-to-kiss-your-neck scenario can’t fix.

Sometimes it does not work at all (no matter how much I tried, I could never warm up to the couple in Legend of the Blue Sea), but for every one that doesn’t work, dramaland gives me two more that are adorable and sweet, like Shopping King Louis and I Need Romance 3. It’s a safe trope to bet on.

It doesn’t only work for romantic couples — we also have ensemble casts living together, and I do not love this trope any less then. The moment you see where the drama is taking you, you get all excited for the characters to clash. You root for the brotherly/sisterly bonding. In Goblin we have a human, grim reaper and goblin living together. It was heart-wrenching to see the two immortal beings battle centuries of hate with newfound affection and fondness, and the three of them taking a photo together is one of my favorite bittersweet moments of dramaland.


Goblin

On side of female friendships we have Age of Youth — that’s hands-down the best cohabitation drama to me and also my most favorite. It had all the best and worst things of living together. Everyone has their own lives but whether we like it or not, people we live with always make a difference on how our day ends. Be it catfights over using each other’s clothes, to taking other’s food, to nursing them when they are sick, to rushing over to each other’s rescue and not allowing to let a friend make a mistake even if it means you have to be nosy and a bitch. All characters came alive and was the most realistic at every turn.

Be it a drama on romance or historical or fantasy, cohabitation is magic on its own. Living together forces our characters to understand and see each other for who they are, and you end up loving them, flaws and all. Sometimes a little bit of time is all that is needed for family, friends, or lovers to grow closer, in dramaland or real life.


Age of Youth

 
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By @erushi

I never thought when I started watching Suspicious Partner that it would so heavily rely on the good ol’ cohabitation tactic. I was surprised that even in 2017, this formula is still getting all the swoons that it got in 2004. It is amazing how the hijinks flow when you have two diametrically opposed leads forced to live together.

My first introduction to this setup was Full House, which offered a trope twofer with the leads being forced to room together as well as putting on a contract marriage charade. I recall this drama laying the cliches on pretty thick, and for me, this drama set a lot of expectations when it comes to dramaland tropes. It pretty much wrote the rulebook.


My Girl

Another classic that remains dear to my heart is My Girl, where the hero is a privileged young man who asks a con-woman to play his long-lost cousin to answer his grandfather’s dying wish. The two end up living under the same roof in order to continue the ploy, and as the leads are forced to play nice as loving family members, feelings develop as they share close quarters. This drama has such a special place in my heart even though the last few episodes wrecked me as the drama neared its climax.

I don’t think Personal Taste’s premise would really fly in 2017, but it had its place in dramaland. The lead is an architect who lies that he’s gay in order to room with the heroine, who is the daughter of a famous architect and the current owner of a legendary house. His character is fastidious, while she is a naive and messy woman with a big heart, a case of opposites first clashing and then attracting.

The cohabitation trope illustrates that no matter what outlandish circumstances bring the two parties together, forcing two unwilling individuals in close quarters always leads to some amazing fun and laughs. As the early awkwardness melts away to show a more familiar and comfortable relationship, the drama usually is able to deliver both the laughs and the swoony bits. One thing’s for sure, playing house is always entertaining, especially when the parties can barely stand each other. (Until they fall in love, of course!)


Suspicious Partner

 
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By @snarkyjellyfish

I live alone. This hasn’t always been the case, but right now it’s probably for the best. I have insane sleep habits and an erratic work schedule, I’m picky about washing dishes but I’ll leave my clothes strewn about. I haven’t always lived alone. In university I lived with five roommates and we, along with a few stray friends and a bunny named Pokey the Eviscerator, lived in a small, weird, creaky, messy little house just off campus. Those three years were both some of the best and most dramatic of my life But for all the high highs, and lowest of lows I experienced there, I wouldn’t trade it for the world, though I might change a few things (that damn bunny).

This is to preface the fact that there is no trope that makes me literally throw my hands up in the air and scream “YESSSSS” more than cohabitation shenanigans and semi-cohabitation shenanigans, i.e., neighbors with boundary issues. No matter what form of cohabitation — same-sex, leads together, reverse harem — the crack factor for me is largely the same.

When the trope applies to romantic situations, it tends to have lot of smaller tropes hidden within it: the awkward shower encounters, the slow build-up of familiarity between the leads, late-night ramyun or drinking sessions, and drunken midnight confessions to name a few. What I love the most is that it allows leads to become intimate in a way that is somehow both endlessly romantic and hugely unromantic at the same time. You really get to know a person after sharing a bathroom with them. There is nothing attractive about dish duty, but somehow dramaland can make doing the dishes together sexy.


I Remember You

My favorite form of cohabitation shenanigans are the ones where the characters find themselves living together almost by happenstance, I Remember You and Suspicious Partner being my two favorites. Both times the male lead takes in the female lead like she’s some sort of stray puppy (and needs protection from a pesky serial killer). Both times the male lead also seems to be filling an absence in his life that he didn’t even realize was there until she came to fill it. The best part is, of course, when he refuses to let her leave for Reasons, But Not Because I Like You, Really.

Another favorite is Bottom of the 9th With 2 Outs. When lifelong best friends suddenly find themselves sharing a space, they start to learn things about one another that they never could have learned otherwise. The sudden intimacy makes them reexamine their relationship and the role that the other plays in their life. It also allows them to have some wonderfully candid conversations and open up about things they never would have prior to living together.

Even where the leads don’t have history, the trope allows for a number of shenanigans. The forced intimacy of cohabitating added to underlying attraction forces the leads to confront their feelings for one another and deal with them accordingly. Moreover, the slow build of getting to know the person you’re falling for while also dealing with all of their bad habits makes for endless amusement. One minute they’re arguing over the best type of rice to buy, the next they’re flirting over homemade dinner. You get to watch them experience both the fluttery first stages of a new crush while also seeing them smack in the middle of a comfortable, worn-in relationship.


Bottom of the 9th With 2 Outs

There’s also the delightful subset of reverse-harem cohabitation shenanigans, such as in You’re Beautiful and Cinderella and the Four Knights. The former is one of my all-time favorite dramas, and I will always be delighted by how all our A.N.Jells argue over the best administration of limes to Mi-nam when (s)he has a cold, and Jeremy’s constant excuses to have congratulatory parties. Oh to be a disguised nun in that house.

But the reverse harem isn’t always a breeding ground for complex love polygons; it can also produce some wonderful friendships, such as in Oh My Venus, Goblin, and Rooftop Prince. Will there ever be anything as cute as bored puppies splayed out on the couches waiting for their Venus to come back home? Or the way in which Reaper and Goblin argue like an old married couple? I specifically remember that when Goblin announced that it basically be a fantasy roommate drama, I knew I had to watch. Even roommate situations that aren’t reverse harem, such as Age of Youth, are must-watch drama for me, because I personally know what it was like to have five roommates and only one good shower.

This leads me to semi-cohabitation, or neighbors with boundary issues. Many times it’s applied to the friend-to-lovers trope, where familiarity bred by a lifetime of close proximity is what keeps the leads from realizing their true feelings for the boy- or girl-next door. Then one day something changes, and it’s no longer easy to waltz into the home of your best friend.

All in all, if you tell me that a drama will include some form of characters living together I can guarantee you that I will check it out. I will relish each and every awkward and cute encounter and pray for a midnight ramyun-and-deep-dark secrets scene. Then I’ll probably email or text one of my former roommates and reminisce about when we were young and stupid. I’m 98 percent sure we had a party similar to the Belle Époque girls’ “Night of Men,” only with fewer phallic balloons and more actual men.


Oh My Venus

 
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I have enjoyed this trope every time I've seen it in dramaland so I have no complaints with this one. Oh My Ghostess was another cute one.

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I Remeber You and Suspicious Partner are both favorites because the guys involved are homemakers - the women move in and almost immediately, the guy absently starts including them in meals and tending to them. They're not doing it as part of some grand romancing scheme, it's just how they operate. They clean, they make fabulous meals, they come by with tea: it's the default way they want to operate in their home and it makes them happy, so when they have to think about their housemate moving out it's a sudden shock, they don't want to give up a pleasant ritual.

When the protagonist in IRY quietly makes a cake for Ji An because it's her birthday and she's upset it's all the more touching because you know he's not making a gesture - he's actually a good cook and this is something he does well, and this ritual is something he can do for her that will make them both feel better. I love this writer and the way she writes both men and women, they're never flat stereotypes.

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very good description.

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it is also a distraction of mind for the heroes, to keep them occupied with something other than their doubts and fears and burdens.

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Exactly this! This is why I love those two dramas so much. They don't play into gender stereotypes and they also don't make a thing of the fact that it's the male who is the natural caretaker; yet at the same time it's not that the female lead needs saving, she just happens to be in need of a roof over her head.

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YEP. I Remember You is my favourite and now Suspicious Partners has made the cut too. that cake scene with Lee Hyeon was so sad and sweet at the same time! Cha Ji An has to be the luckiest and at the same time not-so-lucky girl!!

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I also love that both these women kick ass and don't need saving since they can defend themselves but the guys use it as an excuse to move them in for their own protection!

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I've watched some great ones of this theme. However You're Beautiful and My Girl made me so angry with the exaggerated angst. It was stupid for dramas that had such a strong and great start :(

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Same writers + old tropes and they ran out of ideas/conflicts, sooooo: let's run in circles!

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its okay..that's love was also a cool cohabitation drama.

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I just loved this one. The arguements started and resolved in the living room were great and Jo In-sung's character was strangely pushy. He always knew exactly what buttons to push and it fascinated me.

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there's SO MANY dramas with this trope, be it throughout the whole drama or just for a couple of episodes, but i definitely liked them & how it helps the progress & development of the various relationships.

i think Goblin will still be my favourite from this theme. those playful banters & how the two immortals tried to protect the human despite their hatred & bad blood, with the help of a childish chaebol heir, was soooooooooooooo satisfying. 💖

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I literally had a list of dramas with the trope out when I wrote mine, and I cut a lot of them out down to just a few of my favorites. I think there were like 20+ dramas that employ this trope that I've seen, and that was only Korean dramas -- it pops up a lot in Japanese and Taiwanese dramas too, I've noticed.

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exactly! wayyyyyyyy too many to name all of them, it's really common, but in a 'we-really-love-it!' way. 😊

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I also get its appeal from a writing perspective -- it's a really good way to move a relationship forward and create intimacy. It's harder to do that when the entire drama is set in an office or hospital. (Well, unless it's Grey's Anatomy, but that's hardly a drama...at least not in this sense.)

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I'm heartbroken no one mentioned The Lover because Takuya and Joonjae wrecked me good

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Was Fool's love/Hogu's love also on that list? Had a good laugh when Hogu and UEE's character sneaked into his basement room not knowing that his mum was right behind them... also sneaking to confirm that he had a girlfriend. Thank goodness she didn't see the baby at that time.

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It was! Also for when she lived with the lawyer, which was too hysterical.

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I'd LOVE to get hold of that list.

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Actually I was waiting for this catnip to show up, its so popular among the viewers, it was bound to come up 😛😛
Although it's come up quite late than I expected, such a popular genre ought to have been one of the very first catnip post.

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This trope is so common in the kdrama world but i'm not complaining! This one is really nice to watch and I enjoy it so much

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ohhhhhh yes. quite a few. Shopping King Louie and currently Suspicious Partner, and also Witch´s Romance, I Hear Your Voice... there is this rule though that as soon as they move into the same house, their fate is set and there is no point guessing. Deok Sun also semi-cohabited Taekis´room. Full House 2 is another one of my favorites cause the cohabitation parts were too hilarious. Probably the funniest out of them all.

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also, it enables the writer to open the true nature of the character and how the love interest gets to know more than the facade. unlike with the second lead who always remains distant. exception being You Are Beautiful where the girl was actually close with all the housemates.

Shopping King Louie is probably the only one I know where the guy moves into the girls´ place ... and then to second leads´ place... and then to the heroines´country house...

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Wow you are right! What a cohabitation relay in SKL!

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they also lived in the sauna together. and at their neighbors´. and then they moved in together to the second leads. LOLthat drama was a cohabitation marathon.

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That's it! Louis and Bok-sil win the Most Transient Couple Award of Dramaland.

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i think it's about Seo In Guk more than his characters- Shopping King Louie, I Remember You, Reply 1997, and that other 4 episodes one- Hana and Hul... (?) the cutie pie just has to live with someone!! :D

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Lol
Come to think of it is there ever ever EVER a drama without cohabitation????

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Tee hee, I was thinking my favorites are something else first, with a side of cohabitation, like
Friends to Lovers - 9 End, 2 Outs
Enemies to Lovers- MNIKSS, YFAS, Secret Garden
Frenemies to Lovers (?) - My Last Scandal

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Correction, not MNIKSS, I meant My Girl! ☺️

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9 ends 2 outs is one of my most favorite dramas of all time. Their rapport is just so real and natural. They way they realise their feelings for each other is so amusing to watch! They are just so comfortable together! Even though they are always bickering and making fun of each other, they really care about one another. I specially love how Hyung-Tae always mocks Nan-Hee but at the same time is always the first one to comfort and encourage her.
That's a perfect couple right there!
(....and Lee Jung Jin was so hot in that drama!)

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This was so unexpected to see in "Sassy Girl" lol. Kind of fit the princess' over the top personality and daddy may appear weak but he loves his little sassy girl.

I stopped glossing and rewind from the beginning. I love it when she is outside of the palace. She is just free to be herself but it breaks my heart when she gets in trouble for it and her father tries his best to save her from his enemies.
Moving in with teacher's family is breaking tradition but who said this was really a sageuk?

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This trope has stood the test of time, so to speak, because it lends itself so well to versatility. It can be intimate, it can be awkward, it can be hilarious .... and so much more!

But whatever direction it takes, we love it all.

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Full House and Goblin are my favourite cohabitation dramas. Rain and Sing hye kyo were literally perfect. It is always funny to rewatch those scenes (except for the wardrobe choices of back in the day).
Was thinking that Gong could count as well.

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Thanks @divyrus @erushi and @snarkyjellyfish for sharing your favourite cohabitation dramas. This is definitely one of my favourite types of drama and there are a few here that you and other beanies have mentioned which I haven't seen yet.

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This is my ULTIMATE favorite catnip. Also because Full House it what started my addiction into both KDramas and KPop (thanks Rain). To the point that when dramas start showing a hint of this trope, I immediately get super excited. I was slightly disappointed that Strong Woman Do Bong Soon only hinted at this (when Ji Soo and Bong Soon stayed over for one night), and then didn't continue with it... But ah well what could have been. Having them staying over for one night makes me happy (like in Healer, SWDBS, etc.).

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Also, if you're talking about cohabitation of friends... Besides Goblin, the Reply series has executed it super successfully as well!!!

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It's Okay, It's Love has a very special place in my heart, I really suffered when they suffered. I cried SO much with them! And laughed when they laughed! I enjoyed the ending very much!

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Yes, It's Okay that's Love had a lovely cohabitation which entailed not only romance but an amazing bromance among all inhabitants of the house. They were all a little crazy so i never got tired with their everyday shenanigans. The way our hero gives up and accepts their crazy is adorable!

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I think there are eight people living in the same house in the Best Hit at the moment - four of whom are in the studio on the roof- so things should get more interesting soon.

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Yeah that's what I was thinking. The Best Hit really takes this trope to a whole new level. It's even funnier that the four in the house don't know about the other three people living in the studio.

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Cohabitation is such a common occurrence in dramas with romantic plot lines that similar to unrequited love and petty jealousy it no longer feels like a catnip but more like meat and bones that are structurally important to the story.

Ironically for me cohabitation, unrequited love, and petty jealousy are all much less tolerable and way less romantic in real life.

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I was thinking, maybe that's why I am so tickled by cohabitation in dramas because it never happens that way in real life? (But boy, 2nd lead unrequited love sure does happen that way ☹️)

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Cohabitation would be much better in real life if we all have better lighting, camera angles and oh yes, the wardrobe at our disposal.

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Oh, My Lady and Last Scandal of My Life fit my favorite niche co-hab drama type - cohabitants as housekeepers. Could have something to do with me being a total ahjumma....

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lol i laughed at @snarkyjellyfish's sentence "when he refuses to let her leave for Reasons, But Not Because I Like You, Really." Cause it's always that way lol. The guys will look like he's so petty and we'll be like omg just tell her you like her boy! when it happens but so cute at the same time

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My fav would be I head your voice, witch romance, i need romance 3 and Daljas spring cause they're combined with another catnip of mine which is noona romance lol

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I didn't think I had an ultimate favourite catnip until this one came up. Cohabitation is definitely my ultimate favourite trope and I'm even more ecstatic if it comes with its twin brother contract marriage.

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Just realized that this is one of my favorite catnips. The Best Hit, Suspicious Partner, Mask, It's Okay, That's Love, and of course Goblin. I wish my roommates were this cool.

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Thanks divyrus, erushi and snarkyjellyfish!

This is also one of my fave catnips and for all the reasons that you've mentioned, especially the transition from the characters' horrified realization of what they have to put up with, moving on to their slowly get used to and accepting it, and then discovering that they miss the person and his/her messy habits when they go away.

And like others here, I love it even more when there's marriage thrown in so that being close and intimate should actually be a given, and it's harder to separate since families are involved as well. I like those shows where in the end, because of the enforced, longer than usual cohabitation, where both parties decided to stay and 'suffer', they find that they manage to work things out. 😋

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what happens to my family, reply 1997 are also good. loved the bromance in reply 1997!

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strong woman do bong soon too, although it wasn't for all that long. (the bodyguard part when she occasionally had to crash at his place)

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and hwarang! did all of us forget that one already?! given that sun woo and ah ro weren't exactly living together, hwarang had a house only for our pretty (and petty) guys. that's gotta be in here, right? ji dwi - sun woo, yeo wool - hae sung(?) and ban ryu - su ho were such cool (and sometimes angsty and angry) bromances! they always stuck together like glue in any situation, and especially when they used to get caught for stuff, and that's probably the only thing i loved about hwarang, besides, ya-know, Park Hyung Sik, Ban Ryu's little love story, King Jin Hyeung's whole arc with Sun Woo and his flower knights and with his mother... well, apparently almost everything besides the Sun Woo - (crying) Ah Ro love story. Sorry SW-AR shippers :)

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to the beautiful you was also a nice one.

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Bottom of the 9th With 2 Outs!~ I'll always be grateful to Girlfriday for writing about it, and to my friend who already had all the episodes and played episode 1 before I could say no, lol. I've forgotten a bit about what happened in the last two episodes, but that warm fuzzy feeling after I watched it still remains. <3

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Yesssss this one is a great one!

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I both love and hate this trope. Love because of the potential hijinks between/among the characters. Hate because sometimes I feel like it;s a lazy method to keep characters in close proximity especially if every drama (for a particular season) has this trope. Sometimes I think if it's possible for the story to develop without the characters having to live together or near each other.

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Also can I just say with the way that The Lookout is going I think it fits sooo nicely under this umbrella >///<

I am so keen to see how the team assemble and with recent events how they will lean upon one another

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Kinda surprised Pinocchio didn't make the list though I don't think people readily identify it as a co-habitation drama. However, my favorite scene in that drama is when Dad imagines Dal-Po and In Ha getting ready for work together and we're given the toast kiss. It's a great co-habitation moment seen through a third party's eyes.

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My recent fave with this trope is SP. And yey for Goblin cohabitation because I live for Shin and Grim being frenemies. That moment when they both realized that they've grown fond of each other got me good. Ahh good times.

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Full House was the first Kdrama I ever saw. It might not have been on my top list of favorite drama for a long time now but I'll always remember it. Personal Taste was the drama that triggered my forced cohabitation catnip. there's something about living together and trying everything not to fall in love but you still do unknowingly ^_^

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I'm surprised Attic Cat wasn't mentioned yet. It aired before Full House, had the same writer, and it was quite popular when it aired. The cohabitation theme is a bit dated now since so many dramas used it since, but it does lend itself to a lot of fun.

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I remember Full House was popular when I was younger, to the point we had a local remake of it. Whenever the show would air on TV I knew the older people in the house would question why these people were living together despite not being married. Lol I live in a conservative place

Now I'm much older and wiser and I agree with this catnip!! Cohabitation is often cute and a great way to flesh out character developments and relationships, whether romantic or platonic.

I'm probably wrong but I always had this notion that the cohabitation as a trope was unique to Korean dramas, or k-dramas use the trope in such a way that drives the plot or love lines forward. Or perhaps because some K-dramas use it as a central plot device? I don't think I've seen a Western series use cohabitation in the same way. (Or I guess for some Western series cohabitation just leads to sex so it doesn't give you the same effect haha)

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I thought about this a lot when I was writing this, and I think it's not a trope, per se, in Western shows because it's very normal to live with other people. I can think of loads of shows where there is cohabitation of both the platonic and romantic variety, (e.g. Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Grey's Anatomy) but it's not necessarily central to the structure of the show nor does it serve a purpose to move the relationships forward, unless it's a "let's move in together" storyline which is really just a romantic plot device, and is rarely used to anchor a series or even a long term plot. I think this is because at least for me, it's very normal to live together with others in your social group therefore it's not necessary to use it to advance personal relationships (and it actually does the opposite, and sets the tone of relationships at a glance). I assume this because I myself have had many roommates, and most people I know have had several roommates as just a part of growing up and moving out of the family home.

My family is South Asian, and it's pretty common in our culture for children to remain at home until marriage when in the same city as our family. I am a bit of an anomaly in our community for moving out and staying out after I finished my schooling. (And believe me, I get a lot of s*** for it from some people.) I don't want to presume anything about South Korea, but it seems to me that there the social living structure is more family oriented as well, therefore it's less likely for a person to live with roommates, unless it's specifically while in school or because family isn't nearby. Therefore, it makes for a great plot device when someone is leaving home to have them cohabitate with someone.

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This is my 🐱nip too! I remember you is my fav coz who wouldn't love a man who r good at house keeping and cooking. Suspicious partner is my new crack and I just love how cohabiting make the guy feels that his space is intruded by the woman but he became familiar with her. But both dramas have the guy with nightmares problem and the woman stay by his side. Awwww, I just ❤️ it.

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Ah, definitely a catnip of mine too! I love this more when the leads are bestest friends and thoroughly enjoy the gradual change in their feelings for each other. I'm definitely curious now about Bottom of the 9th, I think I'll go check it out!

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aw, you missed I hear your voice's cohabitation too :D

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Not to forget, Playful Kiss and My GF is a Gumiho.

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