2)The First Shop of Coffee Prince(Korean)
Coming in at #2 is much-loved, wildly famous Coffee Prince, starring Gong Yoo and Yoon Eun-Hye.
Eun-chan (Yoon Eun-Hye) plays a girl who’s had to grow up quickly in order to keep her family going after the death of her father. When a wealthy, irresponsible coffee-shop owner mistakes her for a boy and hires her to pretend to be his boyfriend so that his family will think he’s gay and let him off the marriage hook, a whole series of events are set in motion. When Eun-chan later goes to work at his coffeeshop, an intense attraction springs up between the two – but he still thinks she’s a man.
My take: Coffee Prince is just standout in Korean dramas – it’s well-written, well-acted, well-directed, with a lovely soundtrack featuring indie artists and stellar performances from both Gong Yoo and Yoon Eun-hye; it’s funny, offbeat, and romantic, doesn’t drag until perhaps the very end, has a cast of charmingly quirky(and good-looking!) supporting characters, has an unconventional romance trope(guy falls in love with girl whom he thinks is a guy), and even more importantly has that extra spark of magic that just pulls a whole drama together and makes it out-of-the-world amazing.
When it gets good/Got me! moment: end of second episode
Fav scene: it’s tied between The Kiss(you know the one;) and the bumping-into-each-other on the street as they’re both picking up what she dropped
3)Nobuta wo Produce (Japanese)
Popular, good-looking Kiritani Shuji (Kame) has it all – the unofficial king of his high school, he’s loved by everyone from the cool kids to the nerds. There’s just one person Shuji doesn’t get along with – Akira. The quick-talking, hyperactive Akira rubs Shuji in all the wrong ways. When odd, reserved new girl Nobuko enters the school, she is immediately, viciously bullied. Shuji and Akira agree to work together to transform her into the school queen. An unlikely friendship springs up between the trio.
My take: I came late to the Nobuta fanwagon late, but when I did I fell hard. It was universally recommended to when to try when I first tried Jdramas, and while I liked it then, I just didn’t get it, and stopped after a few episodes. Two years later, with 9 other jdramas under my belt, I tried it again…and magic happened. It instantly shot past all the other jdramas I’d seen to become, not just my favorite jdrama, but one of my favorite dramas ever. And this for a show with very little overt romance!
It pitch-perfect, superbly acted (Kame as Kiritani Shuuji is basically a cross between Ferris Bueller and Jim Stark and won the Japanese equivalent of an Emmy for his lead role), well-produced and directed (light and dark are often interestingly played with and there’s just some lovely shots peppering it throughout), and completely funny, sometimes heartbreaking, and completely heartwarming. A love story, a coming of age tale, a romance, family, and friendship epic. It’s brilliant. It has something for everyone.
When it gets good: I already loved it by the end of the first episode, but the second episode solidified that
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Prosecutor Princess, Brilliant Legacy, Aishiteiru to itte Kure, Hana Yori Dango 1 &2, Yamato Nadeshiko Shiche Henge, My Lucky Star, Silence, Wish to See You Again, ToGetHer, and Smiling Pasta. These are all dramas which are well-written, compelling, and hugely enjoyable, which I definitely recommend watching if you haven’t seen yet, but just didn’t quite have that spark of consistent magic that I require in my top dramas, or just don’t have my heart in the definitive way the others do.
NEXT: Favorite Asian dramas #6-9