Here are our picks for the most memorable K-dramas released in the second half of this year.
In the second half of 2021, historical K-dramas show outstanding and steady popularity with the global OTT platform Netflix as a foothold. The King’s Affection, which is available to stream all over the world through Netflix, garners much attention. MBC’s The Red Sleeve is also earning high ratings, topping its time slot across all channels. KBS’s historical drama The King of Tears, Lee Bang-won is having a smooth start. While Netflix original series such as Squid Game and Hellbound have gained worldwide popularity beyond Asia, TVING and Wave also distribute high-quality dramas and receive a good response. On the other hand, dramas led by A-listers that received much attention prior to broadcast ended up not living up to expectations, which led to disappointment. As we wrap up 2021 in less than a week, let’s look back on the most captivating dramas that aired in the second half of the year.
Hometown Cha Cha Cha & The Red Sleeve
Hometown Cha Cha Cha follows the common recipe for a romantic comedy, but the story and characters don’t feel boring at all. They are charming and give great pleasure. The drama revolves around Hye-jin and Doo-shik. Each has their own wounds, but they happen to find each other and fall in love. As the drama progresses, we get to fall in love not only with the two leads but also with the people of the seaside village Gong-jin. We want to remember Gongjin for a long time like PD Ji Sung-hyun, who recognizes the charm of the village.
The Red Sleeve represents the peak of the historical drama craze in 2021. It is a romantic fusion historical drama based on a novel of the same name about the love story between Jeongjo and Uibin Sung. The drama challenges our conventional wisdom by reinterpreting the profession of a court lady and showing complicated emotions of the female lead, a strong-willed court lady who is loved by the King. Like King Jeongjo’s wish, descendants will remember for a long time his first and last love, Seong Deok-im, through The Red Sleeve.
Going to the Blue House Like This & Hellbound
In the second half of 2021, various OTT original series are released. Among them, we are most impressed by Wave’s Going to the Blue House Like This and Netflix’s Hellbound. Going to the Blue House Like This is a political black comedy that exquisitely and pleasantly portrays the current reality. The comical situations the female lead encounters while flowing in an unintended direction bring laughter. In the process of resolving problems, Lee Jung-eun’s coping ability, which turns crisis into opportunity, is fun to watch.
Hellbound satirizes modern capitalism in a heavy and dark tone. It impressively depicts the confrontation between people who worship an incomprehensible supernatural phenomenon, and those who try to uncover the truth against it. Although frowned upon by the disturbing violent scenes, Hellbound conveys layers of meaning by showing how people who are afraid to get dragged to hell, still ultimately choose to protect their loved ones.
Hellbound & Happiness
Editor Hong Seon: Is it because of the continuing gloomy atmosphere due to COVID-19? While drawing the virtual present, my eyes were drawn to the work that looks back on our reality. Hellbound was terrifying and overwhelming. He didn’t give me a chance to breathe until episode 6. At first, I thought it was an occult fantasy, but the more I watched it, the more I realized it was a social drama that exposed the chaos of reality and the collapse of the system. It was a frightening show that blind faith without criticism as much as disbelief can turn reality into hell.
Happiness is a meaningful work just because it depicts the era of COVID-19 that many dramas have ignored. The current issues such as masks, quarantine, infectious diseases, and social distancing were reflected in the story to add reality and raise a lot of thought. The genre-like charm and tension-filled directing of similar zombies added to the fun. As the title suggests, I will pick it as the best work in the second half of this year with the hope that the ‘happiness’ of everyday life will come as soon as possible next year.
D.P. & Our Beloved Summer
Editor Yeongjun: There were so many impressive dramas in the second half of this year that it was hard to decide which work to choose. Among them, [D.P.] is memorable because it is a work that is both fun and bittersweet. Although it is a work based on the military, it seems to have gained sympathy from not only those who completed the military but also many people in that it portrayed “the absurdity inside society” that anyone can experience. Overall, the pleasant chemistry between Jung Hae-in and Koo Gyo-hwa gave viewers a chance to breathe even in a heavy atmosphere. I am looking forward to seeing what other stories will unfold in season 2.
There is a feeling that Our Beloved Summer will be selected as ‘the best drama in the second half of this year’, but the reason I chose it nonetheless is because of Kim Da-mi. The combination of Kim Da-mi and Choi Woo-shik, with the ‘Youth Filter’ added, is so fresh that you can’t control the raised corners of your lips, and the visual beauty and color that exudes the atmosphere of early summer are also attractive.
Inspector Koo & One the Woman.
Editor Hyeonjeong: Perhaps because of the stuffy atmosphere right now, I am more interested in works that lighten heavy themes rather than serious ones. It’s better if you get away from the stereotyped characters and narratives. In that sense, Inspector Koo and One the Woman are exciting, fresh, and thrilling dramas. First, Inspector Koo provides strange and unique fun. The way the characters are combined and the narrative unfolded is a wonderful way to break away from stereotypes and complete the stage of the story with new, experimental fun. It deserves to be considered as the best drama of the year. One the Woman is a drama that brings the joy of vicarious satisfaction with a refreshing narrative created by an attractive character. Although the story is driven by the even performances of the main and supporting actors, Lee Ha-nui’s well-rounded comic acting, which doubles the cool charm of the supporting actors, is particularly impressive.