Asian Dramas 101

I know a lot of sites out there that will try to explain this, err… phenomenon, but for those who are still confused… you have come to the right place. (Or of course, you could just skip the explanations and experience it firsthand)

Hey Xiao Yanzi, know anything about Asian Dramas?

Asian dramas, simply put in western media terms, are soap operas. However there are some problems with generalizing them like this. First is the difference between say, a popular Korean drama than an American tv series like Gossip Girl or Vampire Diaries. American tv series often get automatic extensions “season 2” “season 3” when its pilot is successful. Asian tv shows on the other hand, rarely, get spinoffs. If the show was ‘off the charts’ good. But even pan-Asia popular dramas like Meteor Shower and Huan Zhu Ge Ge only got 2 seasons total. Why is that important? Because this creates a huge gap in how storytelling is told in Asian dramas, when you compare them to Western tv. When you’ve only got one season to flaunt your skills as drama director (and story), a good drama will make every scene and detail count towards a cohesive finish. There will be perks for the audience, of course. From gratitutious shower scenes to adorable posters, to memorable Opening theme songs and Epic and Romantic ending songs. Another contrast to American shows is that the chips are laid on the table outright. Childhood scenes will set up backgrounds for the heroine or hero, so your audience will warm up to characters immediately. I like to think of the episodes likewise to chapters of a fiction novel.

Here’s a quick rundown of the four main types of Asian dramas I watch: Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, and Japanese.

Chinese (mainland):

Chinese dramas like to focus on heroes, lives of famous historical figures (think kingdoms and dynasties) but the industry has woke up to the asian drama world and now has modern idol series. This is GREAT because most of these dramas reveal the struggles in life and love that Chinese teenagers nowadays are dealt with – which is interesting. Plus most of these shows dampen down the dramatic side and focus more on comedy and love. Even the historical dramas are more exciting, clever and funny. Recent trends in historical dramas, in fact include time-traveling (my favorite kind of drama)! See Another Brilliant Life and Palace for more details. 🙂



Yes, TW dramas and C dramas both have people speaking chinese. I put it separate from Chinese mainland dramas only because the industries, and thus dramas, are pretty different. Twdramas focus mainly on fluffy love and slapstick comedy. You will see the same hero/heroine in most of these series because the industry capitalizes on their eye candy actors. I.e. Mike He, Ariel Lin, Rainie Yang, Blue Lan… To be honest, I have been quitting twdramas for a while because I couldn’t stand the exaggerated gestures, unoriginal and predictable stories of recent years. However some of my favorites have been Hana Kimi and Drunken to Love You, which I have to say – if you watch any twdramas, you better not miss these two because these are bombass ones if you haven’t already checked them out. Okay, Hana Kimi has a ton of exaggerated gestures, but honestly, I don’t think any drama has been this feel-good, endearing of a comedy.


Life lessons and work pretty much dominates Jdramas. Lack of love-centric storylines is a fresh breather from the sometimes sickening amount of love stories that provide the air Taiwanese and Korean dramas live upon. In jdrama, you can find lots of high school growing-up stories and stories that really step the boundaries of asian drama. You know what I’m talking about if you’ve seen jdramas – Himitsu, Love Shuffle, IS, and The Queen’s Classroom – yeah, I’m staring at you guys right now. Strange as it might sound, despite some rather bizarre shows, I love jdramas for their brevity, the philosophical content you’ll ponder long after seeing these shows, and how original they are. Addictive jdramas, anyone? JIN and Seigi no Mikata – yes, not as mainstream as the super popular ones you’ve heard about.


Well, well. This is the go-to type of asian drama everyone watches and raves about. I guess its not the Hallyu wave (Korean wave) for nothing. Love and family are big thangs in Kdrama. I’ve yet to see a kdrama with no romance plot or one without scenes of family gatherings in the living room at one point or another (case in point, Dalja’s Spring). Korean dramas, abeit the melodramas the industry is widely known for, are always great pickmeups in my opinion. DalJa’s Spring and You’re Beautiful are pretty good!

What else do you want to know about Asian Dramas? And what confuses you about them? Leave a comment!

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About Bumbleberri

Founder and editor of Asian Entertainment Blog, UnderratedGems. What I do in my free time: trying to get more sleep and satisfying my TV addiction.

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