[2018 Year in Review] Sinkers and lifesavers
I was in a slump for most of 2018, only watching one or two dramas every few months. Yes, I know–it’s sad. And I’m still not sure if I should blame my hectic schedule or dramaland itself. I’m thinkin’ both. There have been some real gems throughout the year (or so I’ve heard), so I’m not entirely sure why this year was so slow for me. Perhaps I’m going into the wrong dramas, or perhaps the choices we’ve been given lately are just that disappointing. Nevertheless, 2018 has made me wary of what I go into, which unfortunately means that I miss a lot of those gems. While I did get to experience some, the rest will have to enter my never-ending to-binge list.
The following dramas were placed into one of two categories: sinker or lifesaver. A sinker is a drama that I was excited about, that got my hopes up–only to kill those hopes after a few episodes. Or perhaps in the last episode. Either way, I sat through these dramas anyway because I was too far in and I wasn’t going to throw in the towel that easy. (*cough* Yeah, I really should’ve thrown in the towel…) And after these dramas ended, I was discouraged from picking up another one. I would be just too damn tired. That’s where the lifesavers come in. Now, these dramas picked me up, slapped me in the face, and yelled, “Get a hold of yourself, soldier! I’m gonna deliver some feels!” Thank you, lifesavers. You made my year.
I’m Not a Robot: LIFESAVER
Though there are other lovely lifesavers on this list, I’m gonna go ahead and say that I’m Not a Robot is my favorite drama of 2018. It’s the only title that truly sticks out when I think back on the year. And because I loved it so much, everything afterwards paled in comparison. That’s not to say that the drama didn’t have flaws, because it definitely did. One of those flaws being the slow pace in the second half. But, you know what? Even with the slower pace, this is my perfect drama.
I love Yoo Seung-ho and Chae Soo-bin as actors, I love quirky characters, I love sci-fi… And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Once we get underwater and see all the wonderfulness attached to this drama, it’s utter bliss. I don’t have enough space to list every wonderful thing, but I will highlight its OTP Min-kyu and Jia. From start to finish, watching the two was like watching puppies gradually become best friends. The robot story around them was odd and wacky, but they grounded it in reality with their sweet and innocent romance. I think I cried “Just let the puppies be in love!” about a thousand times.
Before I move onto the next drama (I swear I will; just let me gush), I also have to praise the music. I hardly ever pay attention to OSTs anymore because they’ve all started to sound the same, but this one really stuck with me for some reason. The songs were cute and bubbly, which only heightened the cuteness onscreen. It’s a small thing, and I didn’t really think about it while watching, which I would consider the best compliment. If I’m watching a show and a melodramatic ballad starts playing out of nowhere screaming, “LOOK, I’M HERE,” I cringe. Big time. So kudos to I’m Not a Robot.
Okay, gushing over.
Greasy Melo: SINKER
Oh, what a sinker. Why did I watch this? WHY? Because I love food.
Yeah, that’s it. The only reason why I sat through this was because I thought I’d be getting something similar to Flower Boy Ramyun Shop or Let’s Eat. And, okay, I’ll admit it–this one was my fault. It was all about shot-down expectations. The drama is incredibly flawed, especially when it comes to the writing, but in truth, it’s not that bad. And the actors involved make it worthwhile. My problem was that by the end, I felt nothing. Nothing for the romance, nothing for the story, just… blah. I probably should’ve skipped this and watched Let’s Eat 3 instead.
What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim: SINKER (in disguise)
What’s wrong with the second half of this drama? No. Freaking. Plot. I love me some Park Min-young and God knows I love me some Park Seo-joon, but even they couldn’t hold my attention after the main plot simmered out. I still enjoyed it–the two actors were fantastic together–but then again, I also enjoyed She Was Pretty. And She Was Pretty ended up being one of those dramas that I forgot ever existed. What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim was the exact same case, until I had to write about it in this review.
What makes me sad is that this could’ve been saved. The show was doing well up until the last few episodes when we were given nothing but fluff. Fluff is nice, but you give us too much of anything and we start getting tired of it. And I would’ve preferred the show to deviate from the cutesy stuff to focus more on title character Secretary Kim and her development. The girl is more than some flowy hair and pretty outfits. I will say, however, that the overall premise got me interested in reading the webtoon, and I’m now three volumes in. So, bright side? I guess?
Mr. Sunshine: LIFESAVER
This drama was different from writer Kim Eun-sook’s previous works, Descended From the Sun and The Lonely Shining Goblin. Those dramas hooked me by the end of Episode 1, while Mr. Sunshine didn’t hook me until Episode 4 or 5. It could be because it’s a historical drama and those tend to be slower for me. Which is definitely all on me and my preference and is in no way the drama’s fault.
On a technical standpoint, I think the drama is actually one of the best of 2018. Everything is downright gorgeous, from the cinematography to the set design to the very, very pretty people. What made this drama the most enjoyable for me, though, was watching it with my mom. It reminded me of that one awful week when we decided Hey, let’s binge Gaksital! I’m sure it won’t leave us an emotional wreck! Point is, Mr. Sunshine delivered on all the feels and all the epicness. It’s the kind of fiction that makes you appreciate history ten times more.
Thirty But Seventeen: PENDING
I can’t really fit this drama into one category because I liked it but still don’t know if I love it. The story was refreshingly simple and heartwarming, ditching most K-drama clichés to save room for character development. And that truly paid off–I came out of this feeling happy with the characters and their eventual growth.
But again, like What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim, not much happened. I think that Thirty But Seventeen is a much better drama, but I couldn’t help but feel disappointed with another rom-com letting me down. Still, I categorize it as “pending” because I think it deserves a second watch. Something tells me this was a good drama that I just happened to watch at the wrong time.
The Third Charm: LIFESAVER (in disguise)
I was so sure that this was going to be a sinker because the recapping process… Let’s just say, it was not an easy one. I went in wanting a breezy opposites-attract romance, and I went out wanting to crawl into a corner and cry my eyes out. Now, here, I blame marketing. This never should’ve sold itself as a romantic drama. That may be silly of me to say since it focuses on one romantic relationship for twelve years, but once we get into the second half, oh boy, do things change.
In retrospect, I’m grateful I recapped this, because if I hadn’t, I probably would’ve dropped it after Episode 8. It’s a bit of a challenge after 8, and an even bigger challenge after 12, but the themes explored stayed with me in a totally unexpected way. So, despite all the tears, the hair pulling, the fist shaking, The Third Charm found a special place in my heart for showing me that sometimes, things don’t work out. And sometimes, that’s okay.
Not gonna lie–the only reason I was interested in this drama was because it was Park Bo-gum’s comeback and I love the boy like a son (even though he’s older than me). I’m not the biggest fan of Song Hye-gyo, but here, I really appreciate the quiet strength and elegance to her performance. She truly feels like a powerful queen that is trapped inside her castle. Or hotel, I guess I should say.
Since the OTP returned to Korea and the plot settled down, I was a little bummed that it started feeling cliché. However, I’m so interested in this forbidden office romance that I don’t really care. They’re just so sweet together, and I’m rooting for them to be happy amidst all the media chaos that follows the heroine. I have a feeling that when the romance gets intense, it’s gonna get real intense. Bo-gummy better put those puppy eyes to work because I am here for the angst!
Memories of the Alhambra: LIFESAVER
Oh, now 2018 wants to deliver all the cool dramas. When the year is nearly over! I won’t complain, though, because I’m happy to finally be watching 3+ dramas at one time, Memories of the Alhambra included.
I wasn’t sold on this show at first, but once Hyun Bin started up his game and had that hilarious montage of going back and forth between the statue and the restaurant… well, I was cracking up. Not only is it fun and cool and wonderfully nerdy, but it also delivers on all the chills and thrills that 2016’s W–Two Worlds gave me. But because this is the same writer as W, I’m a little scared that things may go wrong. Yes, two years and W still has me scarred. What are ya gonna do?
But, I’m gonna stay optimistic. I’ve been burned before, but I’m willing to get burned again, because this is the most impressive drama (on a technical level) that I’ve seen in a while. Like Boyfriend, it’s incredibly pretty to look at. And it’s making me want every other drama to start filming overseas. Give us the whole world tour! That said, I’m already dying from anticipation for the next few episodes. And I’ve gotta say that I’ve missed this kind of excitement.
Honorable Mentions: There were a few shows that I either didn’t have the time or didn’t have the sanity to finish. And since I believe that some are worth returning to (when that might be, I don’t know), they should at least be acknowledged. Possible lifesavers include Just Between Lovers, My Ajusshi, Are You Human Too, and Hundred Million Stars From the Sky. And possible sinkers include Radio Romance, The Great Seducer, and Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food. My apologies (or congratulations) for not making the main list.
I’d thought that 2018 was a slow year (and looking over my list of dramas, it really was), but I am glad that I watched what I watched. K-dramas seem to be getting better in quality every year, and this year was no exception. It’s good that the times are changing, because my preferences are changing as well. I just never know which drama I’m going to fall in love with. But before signing off, I’d like to give a big hug and a big thank you to the Dramabeans team and all the Beanies out there. No matter how far I sunk into my drama slump, the site was always there as my lifesaver. Love y’all!
- [2018 Year in Review] Turn up the drama
- [2018 Year in Review] Take my tears
- [2018 Year in Review] Part 1: The Bean Count
- [Theme of the Month] Year in dramas 2018
- [2017 Year in Review] Editors’ Picks
- [2017 Year in Review] Beanie Awards: Vote for your favorite dramas of the year!
- [2017 Year in Review] Part 1: The Bean Count