Shortly after watching Eternal Love of Dream (which I haven’t reviewed yet, sorry!), I found myself watching another Dilraba Dilmurat drama: Love Designer, a modern drama where Dilraba finally plays a character who isn’t naive, silly, and clumsy! (Aside from Eternal Love of Dream, I’m thinking of Sweet Dreams and Pretty Li Hui Zhen.)
Zhou Fang (Dilraba Dilmurat) is a motivated, ambitious fashion designer who speaks her mind. Refreshingly, she’s not a spectacularly talented designer, but someone who is learning and recognizes how far she has to grow. Song Lin (Johnny Huang) is a workaholic CEO of an e-commerce company who is, for the most part, straightforward and realistic.
This drama had so much potential, with interesting characters and an avoidance of many annoying cliches I’ve repeatedly encountered in modern dramas lately. However, it was ultimately very disappointing, with a lot of storylines that lacked depth and an extremely rushed ending.
Love Designer finished its 45-episode run on June 21 and is available with English subtitles on Viki and YouTube.
When it comes to Korean dramas, I enjoy fun (and tropey) romantic comedies and exciting action thrillers, but there’s something so moving about these relatable slice of life dramas that capture everyday life, including friendship, family, and career struggles. Recently I watched Because This is My First Life, Hello My Twenties, and Prison Playbook on Netflix (U.S.), and highly recommend all three! Because This is My First Life is also on Viki.
It’s time for me to catch up on writing some reviews! Skate into Love aired in March-April of this year and is available with English subtitles on YouTube and Viki. This is based on a novel but I haven’t read it so I can’t make any comparisons.
This drama had a great mix of romance, humor, and characters who pursued their dreams. Wu Qian (Janice Wu) plays the female lead, who gave up on her speed skating career after an injury but regrets it. At university, she encounters her childhood friend, played by Zhang Xin Cheng (Steven Zhang), who is the star of the hockey team. There are realistic obstacles relating to both their dreams and relationships, and for the most part, no prolonged misunderstandings. However, some supporting characters were too one-dimensional and with a total of 40 episodes, I lost interest as the series went on.
As you may know, I really like Wu Qian. I loved last year’s Le Coup de Foudre, but dropped The Brightest Star in the Sky due to awful writing. Her character in Skate into Love, Tang Xue, is close to the character I wanted her to be in The Brightest Star in the Sky: someone who speaks her mind unapologetically and stands up for herself. So many Chinese dramas in this genre have female leads who are naive and sweet, who keep their heads down. Tang Xue is the opposite, but she is still fiercely loyal and kindhearted. I liked her friendships and her determined efforts to regain her speed skating skills, and she genuinely reflected about herself when faced with the realization that she may have been perceived as a bully.
I have never seen Steven Zhang in anything before, but I thought he did a great job with his character Li Yu Bing’s humor. The enemies-to-lovers dynamic between Tang Xue and Li Yu Bing was fun to watch, but when they got sappy, I’m sorry but it was too much for me. 😂Their misunderstandings were due to poor communication, but due to their youth, I guess it was realistic!
In episodes 2-5, Zhi Yao is unbothered by Shi Chu’s efforts to one-up him at the company, as he tries to figure out if Qin Shu is Qi Luo. Qin Shu is devastated by the news she learns about A Ze and retaliates against Zhi Yao, but learns some surprising things about what he has done in the past and present.
These are shorter recaps than the one I wrote for episode one, with no screen caps.
I can’t resist a mysterious, melodramatic premise! You Are My Starlight (also known as Look Up There’s Starlight) is a Chinese drama that’s currently airing, with episodes available on Tencent Video’s YouTube channel. Strangely enough, there are no English subtitles for this one, even though they’re uploading with subs for basically all their other dramas—Forget You Remember Love, As Long As You Love Me, The Love Equations, Held in the Lonely Castle, Imperfect Love. Yes, Tencent has quite a lineup out right now!
Anyways, back to You Are My Starlight. 18 of 40 episodes are available, and I’ve watched 16. I was planning to go back to the beginning to write some brief summaries about what’s happening in each episode but accidentally wrote an entire recap for episode one. Now that I’ve watched this episode multiple times, I can say that it definitely hooks you quickly! There’s a lot of mystery, and the cast is very easy on the eyes. The lead actress Liu Jia is so pretty, and I’m liking all the actors! (One of them isn’t in this episode but his character is so fun.)
Recommended if you like: mysterious/tragic backstory, secret identity, and second chance romance.
Episode 1 Recap
Three years ago, Xue Qiluo (Liu Jia) was happily in love with Lu Zhiyao (Niu Zifan). She accepted his marriage proposal, only to discover soonafter that Zhiyao was marrying someone else. After being trapped in a terrible fire, she woke up heavily bandaged next to another heavily bandaged person. In the voiceover, she says she was given another chance at life…
I heard so many good things about the 13-episode Taiwanese drama Someday or One Day that I had to give it a try, and I loved it. This is a very emotional, well-paced time slip mystery-romance. The beginning is extremely sad but by the end of episode three, I was HOOKED. It’s available on Viki with English subtitles.
The less you know about the drama before watching it, the better! The basic premise: Alice Ke stars as Huang Yu Xuan, a 27-year-old woman who is grieving after the death of her boyfriend Wang Quan Sheng, played by Greg Hsu. A strange occurrence leads to her waking up in the body of a high school student named Chen Yun Ru 10 years in the past, after someone has attacked her. Mysteriously, Chen Yun Ru and her classmate Li Zi Wei look identical to Huang Yu Xuan and Wang Quan Sheng.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Chinese drama Find Yourself, which is available on Netflix! It had me laughing out loud, loving almost every character, and relating to so many different storylines. I personally loved the Victoria Song & Song Weilong pairing, but there’s a great balance of other storylines aside from their romance. Although, I did find the ending rushed and would’ve loved more depth from certain characters.
Find Yourself centers around He Fanxing (Victoria Song), a 32-year old woman who has never dated, and the intern 10 years her junior, Yuan Song (Song Weilong) who pursues her. Although Fanxing genuinely likes him, she is aware of what family friends and society would say about their relationship. Her parents are anxious for her to get married, while her twin brother He Canyang (Zhang Yujian) has a never-ending stream of girlfriends. Meanwhile, her two best friends, Xiao Xue and Song Xue, have different relationship situations. At work, He Fanxing faces uncertainty as the company she works for is potentially being acquired.
Yes, He Fanxing is naive and sometimes quite silly, and you will shake your head at some of her actions. But not everyone has the same experiences at the same age, and she does learn from her mistakes. Plus, her silliness is exactly what Yuan Song likes about her. Yuan Song approaches the relationship with the passion of youth; I love his fearless pursuit of Fanxing even though I knew he couldn’t truly understand the societal and familial pressure she feels. However, I thought him being an intern at the company she works at would have probably been a bigger issue than the age difference!
I watched over 20 Chinese dramas that aired in 2019, and these are my recommendations. I’ve included links to where you can watch these dramas with English subtitles.
Favorite Drama of the Year: Joy of Life
With an intricate plot, Joy of Life balances humor and wit with intensity and emotion. Zhang Ruoyun stars as Fan Xian, who somehow has modern-day knowledge. When he is summoned to the capital for an arranged marriage, he gets pulled into court politics despite his intention to live a carefree life. A historical drama has never made me laugh so hard while also keeping me guessing. 100% recommend, and I’m eagerly awaiting the second season. (Available on Viki & YouTube.)
Most Popular Dramas: Go Go Squid! and The Untamed
These were both immensely popular and very solid dramas.
I didn’t expect a drama about cybersecurity competitions to be so fun, but Li Xian was perfect in Go Go Squid! as the driven, serious, and socially awkward boss of Team K&K. This is a drama about pursuing your dream, and I loved how his relationship with his former teammates and his mentorship of his young Team K&K members were a major part of the story. I actually felt that his relationship with Yang Zi’s character was the weakest part of the drama. (Available on Viki & YouTube.)
The Untamed was SO popular that I had to check it out, and I quickly understood why. Xiao Zhan is magnetic as the carefree and kind-hearted Wei Wuxian, and Wang Yibo is lovable as the stoic, principled Lan Wangji. The bond between them is deeply moving, and their theme song makes me want to weep every time I hear it. I did think there was a stretch from around episode 30-40 where the story was too slow. (Available on Viki, Netflix, and YouTube.)
I’m calling this a “first impressions” post but I’ve actually watched all 20 episodes of Rebirth of Shopping Addict that have aired so far, which is exactly half. I’ve been watching on YouTube without subtitles but it looks like it’s being subtitled on this channel. This is the first 2020 drama I’m watching because I’m always on the lookout for a fun rom-com.
Note: there are no spoilers in this post! Anything mentioned is in the trailer, or is a minor detail.
First of all, the first two episodes are fairly cringey. The premise of this drama is that Gao Yang is a spoiled and privileged young woman with a shopping addiction who suddenly finds herself alone and penniless when her father’s company goes bankrupt and he flees the country. Gao Yang is played by Meng Ziyi, who you may recognize from last year’s extremely-popular drama The Untamed, and I credit her with being a major reason I kept watching despite the initial cringeyness.
Meng Ziyi is charming and likable, but her character Gao Yang sometimes drives me crazy. On one hand, I love the storylines where Gao Yang comes up with creative ideas, shows how diligently she can work, and enthusiastically faces any challenges that are thrown at her. Once she loses her wealth, she realizes that her entire life has centered around it and must find her independence, confidence, and talents. But on the other hand, this isn’t a true riches-to-rags story because things quickly work out for Gao Yang and she continues to make questionable financial decisions.
I marathoned Vagabond on Netflix over the period of three days! It’s extremely fast-paced and action-packed, with countless twists and turns. Lee Seung Gi and Bae Suzy are great in the leading roles, but several of the supporting characters were my favorite. Annoyingly though, Vagabond doesn’t conclude at the end of the 16 episodes and it seems that a second season may be produced.
The premise of Vagabond is devastating, pulling you instantly onto the side of the male lead, Cha Dal Geon (Lee Seung Gi). Every flashback hit me hard, so perhaps keep some tissues by your side while you watch this. However, while I commend Dal Geon’s fearlessness and feel for his grief, I also shook my head at his hotheaded temper and impulsiveness. Sometimes I wish he would be more cautious or thorough. I’m not a huge fan of Suzy but Go Hae Ri was a likeable, realistic character. She’s just someone trying to make a living and also do the right thing, and her instincts are good.
My favorite characters were supporting characters: Ki Tae Woong the serious, rule-abiding agent played by Shin Sung Rok. (I need to look up his other dramas now!) If you watched What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim? you’ll definitely remember Hwang Bo Ra. In Vagabond, her humor is on point as Gong Hwa Sook. Her character is less over-the-top here, and I appreciate that she is also a valuable member of the team rather than solely being comedic relief. Lastly, Lily, played by Park Ah In, is a charming, confident assassin. I loved her bickering with Kim Do Soo. They’re a fun pair to watch.
Vagabond doesn’t provide a lot of backstory for any character except Lee Seung Gi’s, but there are a lot of likable, interesting characters as well as compelling villains.