Dramas: The International Special
The drama world is super extensive, and Korean dramas are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to available content in the drama world. Even diving into Korean dramas can be intimidating, so branching out even further to other Eastern countries seems impossible. If you’re looking to branch out, start with our recommendations here!
Across the Ocean to See You
Across the Ocean to See You is a romantic drama that stars two lovers who meet and become acquainted by chance encounters. Lead female Su Mang lives and works abroad in England, and it becomes apparent very quickly that her marriage is in shambles. After complications with the cheating husband, her marriage ends in divorce and she returns to a CEO position with her company in Shanghai. While the fiasco that is her love life comes undone, she also finds herself pregnant as she returns to China, a fact that she hides due to the overwhelming social issues it causes her as a divorced woman.
Su Mang becomes the victim of vicious gossip upon her return to Shanghai, partially due to her distant and cold nature. Zheng Chu is an employee in her department who tries to defend her against the rumors, despite the rocky start the two had upon meeting. Zheng Chu ends up living next door to Su Mang, and gradually begins to take care of her when it becomes apparent that she has trouble taking care of herself. He learns of her pregnancy and ultimately becomes her pillar of support, with the two eventually falling in love.
A lot of Chinese dramas have the problem of being particularly cringey, and while this story has quite a few romantic cliches, it successfully avoids the traditionally embarrassing issues that other Chinese dramas contain. If you’re looking for a change, Across the Ocean to See You is the perfect Chinese drama to start with.
Looking for a familiar face? You’ll find it in Sweet Combat, a 2018 summer drama that stars Luhan and Guan Xiaotong. Luhan plays young adult Ming Tian, a boy who works multiple part-time jobs in order to support himself and his two younger siblings, whom he is raising after both of his parents left the home. He chooses to enroll in Zhengze Academy, a sports university that is known for giving generous scholarships. The school had formerly been a female-only university, so news of Ming Tian’s enrollment makes huge waves across campus.
Ming Tian’s counterpart Fang Yu is the heiress to a major conglomerate and has been groomed her entire life to take over that family business. Going against her grandfather’s wishes, she enrolls in Zhengze to explore her love for boxing and becomes known as a legend at the academy for her skill, often referred to as the queen by her peers. Fang Yu ends up being recruited to train Ming Tian with some of her friends, and despite not getting along early on due to their differences, the two fall in love and face obstacles of their differing lives together.
Sweet Combat also offers a cast of lovely side characters that you will quickly find yourself getting attached to. The combination of six college students and eventually three couples working together through life’s obstacles is both realistically difficult, but equally heartwarming as they overcome those trials.
Attention, Love! is a story that follows the destined relationship between Shaoxi and Lizheng, two children born around the same time by two best friends. Shaoxi is a straightforward, headstrong girl who has a more laid-back outlook on life. Lizheng is her polar opposite: distant, cold, and extremely attentive in school and life.
After living abroad in Japan, Lizheng returns to Taiwan to live with Shaoxi’s family. The two initially butt heads over their polar personalities. Shaoxi develops feelings for Lizheng as he begins to help her in school, and Lizheng is drawn to Shaoxi’s frank and assertive nature. Though still young, the two struggle to understand their deeper feelings for each other. While it may sometimes feel like things go around in circles unnecessarily, this drama is still guaranteed to get you hooked on seeing the happy ending.
Love and Pi
Love and Pi follows the story of three orphans who move to the big city of Taipei in pursuit of success. Zhao Yuanman is a highly motivated and hardworking girl who struggles with issues of naivety, which is where Zhao Wuxian comes in. The two grew up as brother and sister in the orphanage, with Wuxian always looking over Yuanman as if he were her older brother, despite being the same age. Wuxian developed romantic feelings early on, but remains seen as a brother to Yuanman.
The drama has a lot of elements that make the overall story and romance incredibly realistic. As Yuanman and Wuxian grow up through college into adulthood, we see their relationship shift and the difficulty they have navigating this new territory. The long-standing relationship between the main couple shows how deep the love runs between the two and how certain types of love can translate as romantic, as opposed to most storylines where we see a chance meeting that leads to love. This story of affection feels deeper and more wholesome, making for an incredibly heartwarming drama overall.
Kimi Wa Petto (You’re My Pet)
Change up your drama expectations if you decide to pick up Kimi Wa Petto. Our heroine Iwaya Sumire is a successful and well-educated journalist for a renowned newspaper. She suffers a series of unfortunate events when her longtime boyfriend breaks up with her due to feeling inferior to her, followed by her boss making unwelcome advances that she refutes, which results in a demotion to a different department in her company. After a night of drinking her sorrows away, she stumbles across homeless boy Goda Takeshi. He resembles her beloved dog Momo that passed long ago, and in a drunken haze she feels an overwhelming desire to take him in and rely on him.
As the story progresses, Takeshi takes on the name of Momo and lives with Sumire as her human pet. It becomes clear as Sumire gets into another relationship that she is only able to truly be herself around Momo, and she becomes easily confused by what is considered true romantic love. When Momo isn’t providing his service as a companion, viewers learn of how he came into these circumstances and why he behaves in certain ways.
One thing to note about this drama is that it’s a lot more forward with physical affection and the overall physical aspect of love, which we don’t see as much in mainstream K-Dramas. This was difficult to get used to upon my first viewing, but if you can get past that as well as the strange concept of keeping a younger boy as a pet, it’s got a storyline worth working through and plenty of heart-racing moments.