My Year in Dramas: 2016

Chinese DramasDrama ReviewsEnd of the Year ReviewsJapanese DramasKorean DramasTaiwanese Dramas

It’s finally here, my 2016 end of the year review!  🎆 🎉 I didn’t get to write up a review for all the dramas I finished this year, so I wanted to at least share them in a 2016 drama round-up.  All of the dramas listed below are ordered based on how many episodes I watched.

Juhan Shuttai

In one sentence:

Newbie manga editor learns the ropes of her new job with the help of her quirky coworkers.

Watch for:
  • laughter
  • feel-good story
  • memorable characters
  • great cast
  • supporting cast members are in the spotlight
  • a glimpse into manga editing
Watch status:

Completed.

Thoughts:

Juhan Shuttai wins the prize of my favorite drama of 2016.  Encouraging, heart-warming, and just plain genuine, this drama never failed to get my spirits up.  It is very positive, though not without its doses of reality checks.  I always laughed out loud with each episode.  I enjoyed all the characters & cast members–Kuroki Haru really shines as an enthusiastic heroine.  Her energy and motivation are contagious!  The supporting cast members also get their turn in the spotlight, so it doesn’t feel like the entire store revolves around the heroine.  Here are just a few of the characters/actors that stood out:

  • Odagiri Joe as an editor who is the epitome of coolness
  • Sakaguchi Kentaro as a member of the sales department who finds meaning in his work
  • Kohinata Fumiyo (Ashita no Kita Yoshio) as a famous mangaka who grapples with whether his manga is still relevant
  • Nagayama Kento (Asuko March) as a newfound talent who has a great story but poor drawing skills
  • Yasuda Ken as a “merciless” editor who used to be passionate about editing, but now views it only as a business

All in all, I am incredibly fond of Juhan Shuttai.  Not only was it fun to watch, but it also had many moving moments.  It made me think more about what kind of attitude I bring to life, what makes work meaningful, etc.  The only downside to the drama I can think of is that some of the episodic stories may not be as interesting as others.

Verdict:

Gold.  Would watch again. (I already rewatch my favorite scenes. :P)

Favorite Quote:

“When making a piece of work, you continue peeking into your own heart.  No matter how unsightly, or miserable, you have to face it.”

Favorite Picture:
All characters staring at Odagiri Joe…
Special mention:

The fashion in this drama is not about being fashionable and trendy.  It is about showing each character’s unique personality and style!  Kuroki Haru was always rocking outfits with bold color combinations, Yasuda Ken always in stripes, Odagiri Joe with his ponytail/bun, etc.


Q Series: Life Plan A and B (Tu Mi)

In one sentence:

Ru Wei (Rainie Yang) makes a major life decision, which leads to two entirely different life paths.

Watch for:
  • thought-provoking story
  • Rainie Yang’s great acting
  • well-developed characters
Watch Status:

Completed.

Thoughts:

Haven’t we all wondered what our lives would be like if we had made different decisions?  Haven’t we all wished to know what the outcome of a major life decision will be?  Life Plan A and B tackles these questions by literally showing us Ru Wei’s two alternate lives and the outcomes of her big decision:

  1. Plan A: She chooses to move to Shanghai, get a promotion, and have a long distance relationship with her boyfriend.
  2. Plan B: She chooses to stay in Taiwan near her boyfriend and not get a promotion.

Life Plan A and B really impressed me….maybe because I had no expectations when I first started watching it.  All I knew was that Rainie Yang (Devil Beside You, Drunken to Love You) is in it! But, the drama drew me in with its interesting premise, thoughtful script, and Rainie’s awesome acting.  It went places I didn’t expect it to, digging deep into regret, loss, family struggles, and more.  Rainie has gone beyond what she’s done in previous dramas; her acting here is more nuanced and mature.  The script gave her the opportunity to take her acting chops to the next level!

I’d recommend this drama if you are looking for a serious, slow story with flawed, human characters.  Granted, the story is not 100% realistic.  Plan A is more spontaneous with unexpected twists and feels unrealistic.  On the other hand, sometimes Plan B feels a bit too realistic.  This drama may bring up painful memories for some viewers.  I wouldn’t recommend it if you want something that will cheer you up.

Verdict:

Bittersweet and compelling.  I would not watch this twice, though it made an impact on me.

Favorite Quote:

“I had thought my life could be a bit less common.  Just a little bit would have been fine.  A career that’s a bit successful, a lifestyle that is a bit more splendid, and a life that makes people just a bit envious.”

-Ru Wei

Favorite Picture:
Rainie in one of her most intense crying scenes
Special mentions:
  • Props to Rainie for singing the theme songs for the drama.
  • Props to Rainie for juggling two roles at once.
  • I like that the parents “Mom Tang” and “Dad Tang” are not the usual cookie cutter “drama parent” characters.  I enjoyed the part where Dad Tang randomly reveals a story about his past that he never told to his kids before.


Seirei no Moribito (Season 1 Live Action)

In one sentence:

Spear-wielding Balsa (Ayase Haruka) becomes the bodyguard for a young prince who holds the egg of a water spirit.

Watch for:
  • well-choreographed action scenes
  • great costumes & attention to detail
  • beautiful fantasy world
  • heroine who wields a spear!
Watch status:

Completed.

Thoughts:

Seirei no Moribito is a live action that has a good mix of adventure, fantasy, and action.  The story is set in a fantasy world that is meticulously brought to life by the costumes, lush landscapes (so many beautiful filming locations!), and great soundtrack.  The costumes are impressive, especially with their level of detail.  Even the extras are styled well.  And unlike other  dramas where the characters magically never get dirty and are always glowing with amazing complexions, in Moribito, the characters get dirty!  They sweat!  Their clothes are not always clean and in pristine condition!  It sounds like a trivial thing, but it goes to show how much effort is put into the costumes and makeup.

At first I was skeptical about the casting of Ayase Haruka as the heroine.  But, I forgot that Ayase has taken on roles like in Yae no Sakura, so maybe I was underestimating her.  Ayase gets into character–she even deepens her voice, changes her speech, and has a more tanned complexion to fit the role.  She does well in the action scenes, which are probably the best choreographed action scenes I’ve seen in any jdrama.  o_o

Seirei no Moribito basically feels like one long movie.  It has an adventurous story that feels epic in scope.  It is rare in that there aren’t many fantasy jdramas out there that have such high quality production.  It does have its downsides, such as a slower pace in the middle episodes and iffy CGI.  Those who have seen the anime may be disappointed that there are some changes from the original (or so I’ve heard).  However,  the pros largely outweigh the cons–Moribito remains an impressive watch and stands out as one of the few fantasy jdramas.  I recommend it if you are open to seeing changes from the original Moribito and are yearning for a fantasy story.

Verdict:

Ready to watch the second season!

Favorite Quote:

“What you were born for is to live right here and now!  Don’t be afraid to live.  For that fear is the worst of all monsters.”

 

Favorite Picture:
From the opening MV
Special mentions:
  • Has the best promo poster & opening MV out of all the 2016 dramas I watched
  • Great details in the costumes for all the characters
  • Beautiful fantasy setting + nature


Good Morning Call

In one sentence:

Fluffy shoujo rom-com in which two high schoolers who live together fall in love.

Watch for:
  • cute, fluffy shoujo rom-com
  • laugh out loud moments
  • a drama similar to ISWAK/Itazura na Kiss
Watch status:

Completed.

Thoughts:

This is a live action based on the original manga.  Good Morning Call is a high school rom-com that is reminiscent of ISWAK/Itazaura na Kiss, except this time the OTP secretly lives together.  Honestly, I am tired of heroines who are dumb and have tunnel vision in which only their love interest exists.  And I want a hero who can actually express his feelings!  But…somehow…Good Morning Call sucked me in even though it has exactly this stereotypical OTP of the not so smart girl + the popular cold guy.  T_T  Whyyyyy?!?!?  All I can say is that the drama works.  Even though I know all the rom-com tropes, seeing them in the drama was still fun.

Verdict:

Good Morning Call is an addictive, light-hearted watch with all the usual rom-com cliches.

Special mentions:

Fukuhara Haruka and Shiraishi Shunya were great in their roles.


Ode to Joy (Huan Le Song)

In one sentence:

A chick flick about the friendships, love lives, and careers of five women who live on the same floor.

Watch for:
  • Jiang Xin
  • chick flick
  • sisterhood
Watch status:

Episodes 1-12, skimmed episodes 13-35, 42. Dropped.

Thoughts:

Ode to Joy did not bring much joy to my life.  Though I initially enjoyed the drama, I ended up losing interest due to a variety of factors.  There are some relatable moments, but for the most part I just felt a disconnect from most of the characters and the story.  The OTPs had little chemistry, the story felt directionless, and I had no desire to watch all 42 episodes only to get an open ending for a second season.  I know many people enjoyed the drama.  If you want to watch this, keep in mind that you will not get a conclusive ending.  For more on Ode to Joy, see my reviews linked below.

Reviews:
Verdict:

Jiang Xin is an acting powerhouse.  Ode to Joy just confirmed my Jiang Xin bias.  😛

Favorite Quote:

“Let me tell you, in life we will always meet with obstacles.  At times like this, what we need most is to learn and improve ourselves.  Only then will we be able to make full use of the opportunities that come by.”

Favorite Picture:
Jiang Xin in all her glory.

Princess Weiyoung

In one sentence:

Imposter Weiyang (Tang Yan) survives tons of life-threatening situations while getting revenge and falling in love.

Watch for:
  • Luo Jin x Tang Yan
  • good costumes
  • endless scheming
  • Vanness Wu’s drama comeback
Watch status:

Eps 1-16, 54.  Dropped.

My Thoughts:

Princess Weiyoung has great costumes, a suspenseful story, and the ultimate weapon of the real-life couple Tang Yan x Luo Jin.  I decided to drop the drama because I was getting tired of seeing Weiyang’s life being threatened in almost every single episode.  For more on Princess Weiyoung, see my review linked below.

Review:
Verdict:

Too much melodrama and over-the-top situations.  Diverges greatly from the original novel.


Customize Happiness

In one sentence:

Fashion designer falls for a retired race car driver whom she mistakenly believes fulfills all her requirements for the perfect partner.

Watch for:
  • Kimi Qiao (Qiao Ren Liang)
  • Fashion, fashion, and more fashion.  And cars.
  • Good chemistry between the OTP (Kimi Qiao and Tang Yao)
Watch status:

Eps 1-13, skimmed the rest, dropped.

Thoughts:

I picked up this drama because I wanted to see Kimi Qiao, who passed away in 2016.  It felt surreal seeing him on screen, alive and well, with the knowledge that he is no longer with us.  Previously I had only seen him in a supporting role in Female Prime Minister, so I got to see more of his acting chops in Customize Happiness.  Seeing him in this drama only convinced me more that he left us too soon–he shines in his role and I would’ve loved to see him in more dramas.  R.I.P. Kimi.

Anyways, as for the drama itself, I’d say it’s average.  It mainly focuses on the fashion world (due to the heroine’s career) but also shows the car/racing world (because Kimi’s character works in an autoshop and was a race car driver).    This is the first time I’ve seen Tong Yao.  She reminds me a lot of Liu Shi Shi and Tang Yan.  She and Kimi have great chemistry.  Unfortunately, the drama takes a loooong time for them to get together.

IMO the biggest flaw of the drama is that the heroine is written so inconsistently.  The heroine frequently flips out at the hero and eventually *SPOILER SPOILER* dumps him upon finding out that he’s not wealthy.  She then flips out at her rich suitor, taking offense when she thinks he thinks she’s only with him for his money.  Make up your mind!!!  The second female lead is not written much better.  She is a clingy woman who keeps on throwing herself at her crush.  T__T  Please, give us more relatable female characters!

Verdict:

A trendy drama with good chemistry between the OTP.  But the female characters could’ve been written way better.


Watashi wo Hanasanaide (Never Let Me Go)

In one sentence:

Three people who are raised to be organ donors get caught in a love triangle.

Watch for:
  • Sci-fi/dystopian story
  • Ayase Haruka, Miura Haruma, Mizukawa Asami
Watch status:

Eps 1-4, dropped.

Thoughts:

I look upon this drama with regret for what it could’ve been.  It had so much potential!  I was especially hoping that it’d be good because there aren’t many good sci-fi jdramas out there.  Unfortunately the drama turned into a love triangle-with-a-manipulative-second-female-lead story.  For more on Watashi wo Hanasanaide, see my review linked below.

Review:
Verdict:

It could’ve been so much better.  X_X


And more…

The dramas in this section are dramas that I didn’t get very far in.

Imperial Doctress

I enjoyed the beginning of the drama.  I dropped it later on because I just wasn’t feeling it.  The costumes are great. On top of that, the casting of Wallace Huo, Liu Shi Shi, and Huang Xuan is sure to draw in plenty of fans.  Yet, something fell flat.  Liu Shi Shi’s acting chops in Imperial Doctress are about the same as in Da Mo Yao.  Her chemistry with the male leads isn’t as good as in Bu Bu Jing Xin or Da Mo Yao, and I don’t find Wallace or Huang Xuan’s characters to be that appealing.  Imperial Doctress is ambitious, but the cast and costumes are not enough to make the drama a must-watch.

Special mentions:
  • beautiful costumes
  • I liked the empress the best.

Moon Lovers Scarlet Heart: Ryeo

I watched the first 2 episodes of the drama, and then watched some other scenes here and there. (particularly the final episode)  I decided not to continue watching because the original Bu Bu Jing Xin was enough for me and I didn’t want to nitpick the kdrama version.

Chef: Mitsuboshi no Kyushoku

Amami Yuki stars as a defamed chef who cooks delicious French cuisine for children’s school lunches.  This drama is all about the FOOD and Amami Yuki.  I watched 6 episodes because I was really into seeing the various French dishes.  The story itself is generic; every episode is formulaic.

Hajimemashite, Aishiteimasu

I tried this for the casting of Ono Machiko (Saikou no Rikon, Mother) and Eguchi Yosuke.  I found the OTP amusing because Eguchi Yosuke plays a super hyper guy who’s still a child at heart, while Ono Machiko’s character is serious and reserved.  It was hard for me to keep up my interest in the plot though, so I dropped it after 4 episodes.

Itsuka Kono Koi wo Omoidashite Kitto Naite Shimau (Love that Makes You Cry)

I watched episodes 1-2.  I like Kora Kengo and also have a high opinion of Sakamoto Yuji’s dramas.  I was not interested in continuing the drama because I felt like the romance would probably get dragged out, and I didn’t relate to the characters that much.  I have heard from people who loved this drama though.

Special mention:
  • Longest title ever.

Good Partner

The main reason to watch this is to see Takenouchi Yutaka wearing suits.


With that, I’d like to wish you a happy new year.  I wouldn’t say that 2016 was an amazing year of dramas for me–many anticipated dramas fell flat of my expectations–but I did find some unexpected gems that I greatly enjoyed!  What was your favorite jdrama of 2016?

© My Drama Tea, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to heisui and My Drama Tea with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

heisui

I'm heisui, an Asian drama blogger and the creator of My Drama Tea. I love stories and writing, so I watch dramas and blog. I especially have a penchant for Japanese and Chinese dramas, and those hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered. Oh, and I'm Legend of Zhen Huan-obsessed!
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  • I like that your review is straight to the point by writing useful pointers for things to watch for. Easy for someone lazy like me, ha! That gives me ideas on how to write my future year-end drama reviews if I still have the mood to do it, ha!

    In 2016, J-drama wise I loved Juhan Shuttai, We Married as a job, ON Ijou Hanzai Sousakan Todo Hinako, Sekai Ichi Muzukashii Koi, Hayako Sensei, and liked a few other decent ones.

    Tw-drama wise, I only liked two, Back to 1989 and Q series Love of Sandstorm. I did not really watch finish Life Plan A and B, too realistic that I’m not in the mood for it, it’s a well made drama though.

    K-drama wise, I loved Signal, Age of Youth, On the Way to the airport, Marriage Contract and enjoyed Five Children by a whole lot.

    C-drama wise, Ode to Joy and Love O2O were memorable and enjoyable in different ways, the latter is all fluff with Yang Yang being his usual robotic self but overall, it was a harmless one.

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