Hi everyone! Curlynoona here. As my fantabulous cousin and I start this blog, I want to put up some posts for the flat-out K-drama newbie. I reached back in time to when I first became interested in Korean shows after catching an adorable Park Ki Woong in a movie on Netflix and deciding I wanted to see more of his work. While I will discuss some common cultural and language-related questions later, my biggest questions when I first started watching Asian dramas were where to find more and how to know if they were good.
Getting Ideas for what to watch next:
A well-established blog focusing on Korean dramas.
A list of shows either javabeans and girlfriday have finished watching, complete with pocket-size reviews and ratings, can be accessed via the ‘ratings’ link at the top of the page. These shows include many that are not recapped on the site. The reviews are pretty much spoiler free, although javabeans and girlfriday are not above noting that “The ending killed whatever love I felt for this show.” While not all dramas have ratings from both javabeans and girlfriday, in an effort to be objective each reviewer rates the drama twice: one rating for how much they enjoyed it, another for how good they think it was.
For a while, when I had no idea what to watch next, I would go through the list and watch things that were particularly high-rated or given high praise. I recommend paying more attention to what is written than the number given. Obviously, you’re not going to agree with everything, but it’s a good place to start.
Dramabeans will occasionally publish article-size, spoiler-free reviews of dramas that weren’t recapped, or that were particularly popular. Dramabeans has added more contributors lately, but those contributors write often enough for you to get a sense of whether their idea of good dramas matches yours.
When it comes to K-dramas, I find descriptions like “romantic-comedy” don’t really tell me if the show is going to be a tear-jerker or a slapstick romp, so I prefer to read up on anything I’m interested in watching. Recaps can be useful to decide if you want to watch a show; even if you don’t want spoilers, you can read the first paragraph or so of the first recap to see if the show is your style or if it’s well-written. (Recaps are also useful if you are not sure what you thought about an episode or if you simply have to find a comment section to rant or rave about something that happened.)
Dramabeans is my favorite site for recaps and reviews. Not only do they recap dramas as they are airing, they occasionally recap or review movies and variety shows as well. Recaps usually appear within a day or two of the episode airing in Korea. While my favorite writers are site founders javabeans and girlfriday, all site staff write intelligent and funny articles. Besides a clearly visible recent posts list, you can access a list of recaps via a link on the top of the page. Bonus: many of the writers are of Korean descent, or at least speak Korean, and can offer insights into the culture and the language. When I don’t quite understand what is going on in a scene because of either iffy-subtitles or a custom that’s not familiar to me, I check dramabeans.
Korean Entertainment news
You’ll find many articles about upcoming dramas, including casting news and information about productions. While dramabeans are far from a gossip site, they will mention any issues like legal or health problems that may keep actors from appearing in dramas, as well as enlistment news. My favorite part: they are not above posting actors’ photo shoots so we can all check out the pretty.
Friday’s Open Thread
The site has a great community and while there is no forum, there is an open thread posted every Friday. I don’t post often, but I do a good amount of lurking. Talk is usually on topic without a lot of trolling or other idiocy. You’ll also find people discussing Thai, Japanese, and Chinese dramas.
They can’t recap everything
Even with several recently added contributors, many dramas I’ve been interested lately haven’t been recapped.
Tags are pretty useless
This site has been around for a long time. Even tags like actors names will give you tons of articles to wade through. On the other hand, the search function, which used to be similarly useless, seems to work pretty well now.
A drama cataloging site with some social networking aspects
Searchable catalogue of synopses of Korean, Japanese, and Chinese movies and dramas
If you know you want to watch, say, a Korean romance drama, you can use this site to search for shows that fit that description. If you click on a page, you’ll find a short synopsis, links to related news articles, reviews from other users who have watched it, a list of the actors involved, and recommendations for similar dramas. If it is a sequel or a remake of another Asian drama, that drama will be listed under the synopsis. (Since users add this info, it’s not always correct.) If you want, you can comment on the show’s page (and there’s a handy spoiler button so others won’t kill you if you want to talk about something from an episode.)
Your drama list
An aspect of the site I really enjoy is the ability to keep track of shows and movies you watched. You can add dramas to your list and rate them either in depth, adding a review complete with ratings on the music and rewatchability, or by simply choosing a number rating from 0-10. You can also assign dramas and movies to the “plan to watch” or “on hold” sections of your list. You can view the drama lists of other users, which might come in handy if you notice someone has tastes similar to yours. mydramalist offers the option to add friends, which is something I haven’t really explored.
The articles vary in quality, but some of them are fairly interesting. I enjoy the “stalker’s guides” to popular celebrities.
This is a good place to get info on upcoming shows. This site isn’t solely devoted to K-dramas, but attention is pretty evenly distributed between Japanese and Korean shows, while I’d say Chinese shows get a bit of the shaft.
I found this site by searching for a K-drama that had a happy ending. This led me to the forums, where there was a whole post about the topic, complete with hundreds of suggestions.
The forums are pretty varied. You can use the forums to get help finding a drama you can’t remember the title to, or to perv about your favorite K-drama or K-pop bias, or to talk about learning Japanese or Korean. This is also where I learned the term pedonoona. Of course, some topics will get more responses than others.
Search, categories, descriptions not always accurate
Consider this an Asian-drama version of Wikipedia. Sometimes things are going to be a little wonky.
Can’t watch shows on the site
I don’t think this is really a con, because that’s not the focus of the site. However, you WILL find shows listed on this site that are almost impossible to find subbed, which will probably annoy the heck out of you.
Where to watch shows:
(Note: I am American, and I mostly watch things on my computer. I prefer not to pay for anything, besides Netflix. These sites may be different or unavailable outside America or on a tablet or phone.)
A no-frill streaming site for Korean, Japanese, and Chinese dramas and shows
For the most part, I’m going to try to list sites that are concretely legal, so because watching all your dramas on one site and then discovering that site is no longer operating is painful. (dramacrazy, goodbye.) This sites legality is dubious, but it’s a streaming site so you’re not doing anything illegal by watching it. (One issue with this and other streaming sites is that the subs are usually created by people who don’t want their subs uploaded on streaming sites.)
It’s a no-frills site. Basically, if you know what you want to watch, there is a good chance you will find it on this site.
dramas and variety shows from several countries
According to Wikipedia, which I quote because I’m too lazy to search for a real source, dramafever is “the largest online video site” and “is available on a variety of devices including iPad, iPhone, Android, and Roku.” It is a nice looking site with a pretty decent selection. There are ads if you don’t pay, but I don’t find them overwhelming. Some content is also restricted without a subscription. Dramafever has cute little news articles probably written by ambitious college interns, and also introduced an awards ceremony in 2013. Several Korean celebrities are expected to participate in the awards in 2014.
Dramafever has been instrumental in shutting down many streaming sites, which felt like a betrayal to many drama watchers who supported the site when it started. They are supposedly almost Disney-ish when it comes to serving cease and desist notices.
user-subbed dramas from several countries
Viki licenses dramas, so not every drama is available everywhere, but most of the dramas I’ve wanted to watch have been available to me on Viki. (If you are interested in Asian dramas besides Korean, There is a good amount of Taiwanese content, but not much Japanese or Thai.
Viki content is subbed by user volunteers. This is good in some ways and bad in others. Subs often have explanations and nuances that other sites lack, but sometimes they’re simply not accurate. Also, if a show is not popular, subtitles take longer. There is a “timed comments” bar where you can add a comment to a particular part of a show. You can choose to view these comments or not. Viki users have a pretty good sense of humor, so I enjoy these if a show isn’t crazy popular; if it is, the comments just go too quickly and are impossible to read. Also, these comments don’t seem to be moderated, so if you’re watching with a child of reading age, I’d turn them off.
When my computer broke and I was watching things on my X-BOX 360 or IPOD touch, I appreciated that the viki app is free. There is much less content available, though.
Sites you might be more familiar with:
Hulu has a pretty good selection of Korean reality shows and dramas. I just don’t like the ads, and I hate paying for anything so I can’t view the Hulu+ content.
If you already have a Netflix subscription, you might as well use it to watch great shows like You’re Beautiful and Boys Over Flowers. Occasionally even I can tell the subtitles are off, but for the most part they are serviceable.
Copywrited content on youtube gets taken off, so I can’t really recommend it as a go-to place for watching dramas even though you can find many (with subtitles in many different languages.) It does have an advantage in that it’s useable on most phones, tablets, and game systems. Also, if you are a K-pop fan you can also find a lot of music videos and idol variety shows.
I hope this information has been helpful to someone!
Speaking of youtube: I’ll leave you with one of my favorite k-pop idol “reality” shows.