Year in Review – My Best Dramas for 2016

Best 2016 Dramas I Watched!
Best 2016 Dramas I Watched!

I always enjoy doing these end of the year posts. Why? My list never looks the same as everyone else. As I watch so many different genres and dramas from all the Asian countries, my list never looks the same. Another thing I notice is that I rarely like the popular ones. I think at my age, I get bored very easily with some of the drama tropes and romances. It’s a rarity that they even make it to my list! This year, for the first time ever, I watched more than double the number of Japanese dramas than Korean, I hardly watched any Thai lakorns and the Chinese dramas this year (that I’ve watched), didn’t bubble to the top!

So maybe if you haven’t seen any of the dramas I’m featuring, they would make great additions to your plan to watch list. Mine is still brimming with 2016 dramas and I STILL haven’t finished all of the Fall 2016 Japanese dramas yet! So here we go! Tell me what you think!


Five Children (2016)
Five Children (2016)

Synopsis
After losing his wife five years ago, Lee Sang Ta is left with his two children. Since that time, he lives with his two kids and parents-in-law, who treat him like their own son. He works as a marketing team leader for a fashion brand and never expects to find someone who will make his heart beat again.
Ahn Mi Jeong works as an assistant manager at the same fashion company. 3 years ago, her husband had an affair with her friend and left her. She couldn’t tell her 3 children the truth about their father and lied that he went to work in America. To this day, the children still believe that their father is in America. She has numbed herself from the struggles of raising her children alone while working.
As these two begin to find love again, a tempest is brewing as three sets of in-laws and five children learn to become one family.
Cast List here
My Thoughts
KBS has really been weak in the Saturday/Sunday weekend dramas until this year. It’s like the production staff changed and added talent! I’m not sure! But Five Children was definitely one of my favorite dramas for the year! Not only being able to see Ahn Jae Wook once again (loved him in Saranghae) but this was a nice introduction to So Yoo Jin who I’d never seen before; however, it was my Sung Hoon with Shin Hye Sun that stole the show! The romance between Kim Sang Min and Lee Yun Tae was the highlight of the drama! Every scene with these two was anticipated and enjoyed immensely! The child actors were also a nice addition! I have to say both Jung Yoon Suk as Yoon Woo Young [Mi Jung’s son] and Kwak Ji Hye as Yoon Woo Ri [Mi Jung’s daughter] were the stand-outs for this series. Overall, for a 50 ep drama (or should I say 54), you cannot go wrong!
Rating: 9.5/10


Hajimemashite, Aishiteimasu (2016)
Hajimemashite, Aishiteimasu (2016)

Synopsis
Umeda Mina is a pianist whose father is a famous conductor. She has set her sights on winning an international piano competition. However, she has faced countless setbacks and this is her last chance at the age of 35. Mina has been married to her husband Shinji for 10 years, but they do not have children for some reason. One day, a filthy boy with an impassive face breaks into their garden. It turns out that he has been abused and he is put in a home. But several days later, he appears in their garden again. Believing that it is fate that brought him to their house twice, Shinji secretly starts to look up on child adoption …
Cast List here
My Thoughts
Japanese dramas are great in giving you a glimpse into real life. It also shows you another side to things that happen all over the world; adoption included. This was a great story that focused not only on the adoption process but also the things that prospective parents were willing to do for their child to be; the Umeda’s were no exception! If you can maintain a dry eye as you witness the life of this child, played brilliantly by Yokoyama Ayumu, I would be amazed! The drama also featured a ‘rebirth’ scene where the family participated in ‘giving birth’ to the new son. I also loved the fact that you got to see as the parent’s went though the adoption process. Machi Domoto as the Kimiko, the Child Welfare Officer kept you guessing on how she felt but one thing came out for sure is the love and care she had for these abandoned children. Overall, this drama is about family. Whether a child is one that is born of your womb or one that you make your own, it is the love that shows through and through.
Rating: 9/10


Kaitou Tantei Yamaneko (2016)
Kaitou Tantei Yamaneko (2016)

Synopsis
Kamenashi plays Yamaneko the eccentric and mysterious ‘Phantom Thief’ who steals from the corrupted rich and while exposing their misdeeds. Along for the ride is: Hideo Katsumura a magazine reporter who (at Yamaneko’s request) is writing a feature on the ‘Phantom Thief’, and, Mao Takasugi is a bullied schoolgirl who is secretly a genius hacker.
Cast List here
My Thoughts
Seriously, who HASN’T seen this drama! This represented Kamenashi Kazuya (Kame by his fans) at his comedic BEST! Narimiya Hiroki (*TEARS* for the retirement announcement) couldn’t have been a better co-lead with Kame! These two were funny together! Funny apart! And the turn of events came at me from nowhere! My Nelly, predicted it and I get saying “Nah….no way!” But that’s why we watched together! This was definitely a highlight of the Winter 2016 Japanese drama season! I was so glad that the subbers were on-time and consistent so that we were able to watch this gem! This is definitely one that I will watch again and again! It was also a nice introduction to Hirose Suzu who played Takasugi Mao. At a mere 17 at the time of this drama’s filming, she held her own with the more seasoned actors. Thankfully, they didn’t try to inject some nonsensical romance into the story! I was happy about that! This was simply a comedy, mixed in with some action and drama! Again, you cannot go wrong with watching this one.
Rating: 9/10


Kaseifu no Mitazono (2016)
Kaseifu no Mitazono (2016)

Synopsis
Mitazono Kaoru is a superb housekeeper who belongs to a housekeeping agency. Although he is a male in an industry dominated by females, he handles housework such as cleaning, laundry, cooking and babysitting perfectly. However, it is not just the dirt in the house that Mitazono cleans. He completely cleans off “deep-rooted dirt” in the households that he is assigned to each time. These are the households that society calls the “successful” where the people are proud, condescending and insufferable. Mitazono learns the family secrets and slowly lays traps to expose all of the secrets and reveal the family for who they really are. Then he gives the last push that breaks up relationships. However, this becomes the catalyst for the family to start again and solve the problems they have.
Cast List here
My Thoughts
What’s not to love about a man in drag? Okay, what’s not to love about the cleaning tips that are prevalent throughout the drama? (Future post to come). Matsuoka Masahiro as Mitazono Kaoru was simply sensational! This comic/mystery drama led you through each housecleaning and revelation with ease. The more you watched, the more you became curious as to why was Kaoru dressing like a woman? What was his motivations? Where did he learn his cleaning style?! My only complaint is that the reasoning was kind of rushed; however, it still left a mystery at the end which hints of a season 2! No! It’s not Mrs Doubtfire. No! It’s not Big Mama’s House. It is a man on a mission to expose lies and cheats! It’s the why that is still the mystery! There better be a season 2, TV Asahi!
Rating: 9/10


Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu (2016)
Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu (2016)
aka
We Married As Job

Synopsis
25-year-old Moriyama Mikuri graduated but had no job offers. She became a temporary employee but was even laid off. So while she is taking a break right now, Mikuri feels unwanted and displaced. She starts work as a housekeeper for bachelor Tsuzaki Hiramasa by chance. One day, he proposes a contract marriage to her. The two of them get married in secret, but will their married life work out?
Cast List here
My Thoughts
One of my favorites for 2016, not very often does a drama has the ability to spawn a dance craze? You don’t believe me, troll the internet, YouTube is overwhelmed with people reenacting the entire ending segment! Hell, even I worked on learning the moves myself! There is no question in my mind that the Japanese make the best romance/comedy dramas! Why do I say that? Because they tend to limit the angst nonsense that really detract from the comedy as most other Asian dramas tend to interject like its some requirement; its not. Sometimes the viewers are interested in pure, mindless fun! There is no question that this drama fits the bill! I LOVED Aragaki Yui as Moriyama Mikuri! Her approach to the whole job thing was hilarious and good fun! This makes like the 5 drama I’ve seen of hers and she again doesn’t disappoint. Hoshino Gen as Tsuzaki Hiramasa, couldn’t have been better casted! This was only the 2d time ever seeing him (first as in Kounodori) but as Tsuzaki with his geeky persona, contracts and overly shyness when it came to boy/girl relationships, added to the fun in watching this! One watch drama? Very doubtful! I’m determined to learn that dance!!!
Rating: 9.5/10


ON Ijou Hanzai Sousakan Todo Hinako (2016)
ON Ijou Hanzai Sousakan Todo Hinako (2016)

Synopsis
Todo Hinako is a rookie detective assigned to the #1 investigation team at the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. She became a detective because she wants to find the boundary between people who kill and those that do not. One day, Hinako and her colleague detectives go to an area where a body was found. The case is presumed to be a suicide case, but the dead man is a suspect in an unsolved murder case. The man died in the same manner as the victim in the unsolved murder case.
Cast List here
My Thoughts
One thing that I learned watching this drama was how twisted is the mind of Japanese writers! Seriously, folks! The murder cases featured in this drama will scare the bejesus out of you! I also liked that culprit came in all shapes and sizes! From male to female (one of the most twisted serial killers you’ll see) right to a group of elderly getting their revenge. Haru as the Todo Hinako was great! Sure, its easy playing someone devoid of emotion (we see a lot of actors like that all the time) but for her to maintain this persona even in some of the roughest scenes ever?! Don’t get me started! I like my crime dramas to be dark but even some of these crime scenes gave me pause. Check out Nelly’s post on it, I’m not the only one! I also loved the romance/non-romance between Todo and Dr. Nakajima (played by Hayashi Kento). He was probably the only one who truly was able to illicit an emotional response from her! Unlike her partner, Shoji Yasuhisa (Yokoyama Yu). I pretty much had no love for the man almost until the end! If crime/mystery/suspense is not for you, skip this drama. If macabre murder scenes are not your taste, definitely skip this drama! Overall, this made it to my favorite list for 2015!
Rating: 9/10


Seirei no Moribito (2016)
Seirei no Moribito (2016)
aka
Guardian of the Sprit

Synopsis
Balsa (Haruka Ayase) is a 30-year-old female bodyguard-for-hire. Her life changes when she saves Imperial Prince Chagumu who is being carried away by a raging river. They then attempt to return the great egg of the water spirit, which is in Prince Chagumu’s possession to its source in the sea. Along the way, they are hunted by hired assassins.
Cast List here
My Thoughts
Based on the anime series of the same name that I am currently watching, this drama is the first installment of what will be a total of 3 seasons, one each year (thanks, NHK). This season consisted of only 4 episodes that totally left you wanting more! I had to include this drama because in 4 short episodes, I was totally impressed with Ayase Haruka as Balsa! There is no doubt she worked hard in preparing for this role! Her stunts are amazing! Her sword work is impressive and the story is being spoon fed to us little by little! I highly recommend the anime too! That’s the only thing that is getting me through the fact that we only get to see this once/year! With the next season coming up on January 21, 2017 (Seirei no Moribito II: Kanashiki Hakaishin), this is a great time to watch!
Rating: 9/10


Signal (2016)
Signal (2016)

Synopsis
If you get a chance to connect with the past will you be able to change the future?! After finding an old walkie-talkie, Detective Park Hae Yeong manages to connect with detective Lee Jae Han in the past. Together with the help of team leader Cha So Hyun they manage to solve South Korea most famous cold cases and reveal Police corruption.
Cast List here
My Thoughts
I absolutely love the movie, Frequency (circa 2000)! I also had faith that tVN would do this drama well and they didn’t disappoint! The cast was excellent! This was only the second drama of Lee Je Hoon since returning from MS! Not only did we have LJH but the cast consisted of other great actors like Jo Jin Woong as Lee Jae Han, Kim Hye Soo as Cha Soo Hyeon, and Son Hyun Joo as Congressman Jung! The fact that this drama was completely differently than other dramas in this genre also distinguished it greatly! tVN had a great year and this drama started it off like gang-busters! I also liked that the vocal point was the relationship of not only Soo Hyeon and Jae Han but also Jae Han and Hae Yeong! Like the movie Frequency, the writer did an excellent job in giving us a story that clearly showed us the pluses as well as the minuses of changing the past for the future. In addition, the ending episode left us with the hope of a second season which happily us fans have now been told that it is in the works! Here’s hoping the entire cast (that’s not in jail or dead) return and the wonderful story woven for us in season 1, continues into season 2! I’m doubly happy that the writer is a female, Kim Eun-hee!! So glad to see her return to great writing once again! Still amazing that she brought us Harvest Villa but then wrote Sign, Ghost, and Three Days!! Like fine wine! She keeps getting better and better!
Rating: 9.5/10


The Good Wife (2016)
The Good Wife (2016)

Synopsis
A husband works as a successful prosecutor and his future appears bright, but he gets arrested for corruption in a political scandal. His wife who worked as an attorney prior to their marriage, now resumes her career after a 13 year hiatus. She begins to find her true identity.
Cast List here
My Thoughts
Based on the once popular and successful US show, The Good Wife, tVn once again brought us another great drama! As a fan of the US show (seasons 1-2), I really didn’t know what to expect. Hut, I was pleasantly surprised how well the writer adapted this for Korean television and left nothing sacred! Marriage. Infidelity. Corruption. All were present and accounted for in this drama. And to top it off, we got to see Jeon Do Yeon return to dramas for the first time in 8 years! Her male counterparts consisting of Yoo Ji Tae and Yoon Kye Sang were brilliant in their execution of their roles. Still disliked Yoo Ji Tae as much as the Chris Noth in the American version. This was truly an adult drama and best suited for cable. I don’t think any of the Korean network channels could have pulled this one off without totally sanitizing it to obscurity! Great job by the cast and a tremendous job by the writer in adapting one of my favorite US shows!
Rating: 9/10


Thunderbolt Fantasy (2016)
Thunderbolt Fantasy (2016)

Synopsis
Set in an Eastern fantasy setting, Dan Fei and her brother, guardians of a sword known as the Tian Xing Jian, are pursued by the evil Xuan Gui Zong clan, who seek to obtain the sword for their master, Mie Tian Hai. While her brother is defeated, Fei, who possesses the sword’s guard, escapes and finds herself in the care of the wandering swordsman, Shang Bu Huan, and a mysterious man named Lin Xue Ya, who become her protectors from the pursuing Xuan Gui Zong clan.
My Thoughts
Okay, you are NOT allowed to laugh at this choice! Just ask my buddy, Nelly how much me and her son loved watching this drama! As a HUGE fan of the Thunderbirds from the 60s, it was with pleasure to step back in time and watch a drama that once again dazzled my fancy! After watching the first episode, I had nothing but MAJOR respect for these puppeteers that managed to bring these figures to life! Watching them slice and dice, sword flight, flips and turns, even I was enamored and watched! Lin Xue Ya, the prettiest puppet you’ll ever see captured my heart and eyes as I was constantly trying to figure out what he was smoking! The detail of the costuming, backgrounds and the orchestrated scenes just took me back to my childhood! I was so glad to share this one with Nelly’s son! Not too often we will see this again! I enjoyed it! I admit it!
Rating: 9/10


Honorable Mentions
This list could get seriously long if I wanted it too! There were so many dramas that I liked a lot and recommend highly! Here they are:
Sekai Ichi Muzukashii Koi – Japanese drama featuring Ohno Satoshi and Haru in a seriously slapstick drama about first love. 9/10
Decoded – Chinese drama starring Chen Cheney who was simply brilliant as the mildly autistic Rong Jin Zhen who was drafted into the Intelligence service as a code breaker. Also a drama where An Ady overshadowed the lead, Ying Er with her role as Shen Yu Er. 9/10
Death Cash– Japanese drama that reminds you of the movie, Final Destination. Vivid killings! Entertaining to the end. 8.5/10
Dramaworld – Brought to us by Viki website, this Korean drama was a gem and a surprise! I think a lot of people weren’t expecting it to be so good! 8.5/10
Hapimari: Happy Marriage!? – Japanese drama featuring DEAN!! What else can I say? 8.5/10
Our House – Japanese drama featuring American Charlotte Kate Fox. If you haven’t seen her in anything, you are truly missing out! 8.5/10
Working Mother, Babysitter Father – Korean daily drama that truly was my pick for the best of 2016! But then I’m so far behind in watching dailies, this opinion might change later. 8.5/10

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13 Replies to “Year in Review – My Best Dramas for 2016”

  1. Except for Decoded, we saw all of them together! Why not move in together already, Bel? 🤣

    I agree with you wholeheartedly on the list. I think my least favorite drama, which tough for me to say, is Our House. I still despised the ending so much!!!!

    1. Not the worse ending in the world, plus I never fully understood the husband but Charlotte did an excellent job!

      Moving in? I could be the relative that visited and never left living in the basement! A wouldn’t mind!

  2. Looking at this list and realizing how many dramas I (actually we) watched omg!!! Still need to finish Decoded and I couldn’t watch Our House (just wasn’t for me)Hajimemashite, Aishiteimasu was on another level😳😭😭😭 and the last ep of Nigeru wa Haji😍😍 that drama and its addictive dance moves😂 Signal was in a class of its own👏👏. I feel like I watched more Cdramas last year too. TW dramas need to step it up. Great list Bel👏👏👏👏

    1. Thanks! I’m a big fan of Charlotte Kate Fox after watching Massan. I liked it because it illict emotions to make me want to slap a child! But understandable! CDramas, we are still working on 2016 dramas but the ones from 2015 really were better!

      1. AGREED!! 2015 was the best year for Cdrama watchers (NiF), this year Cdramas were amazing from mid year to the end they picked up (even the modern dramas were great). Hopefully 2017 will be a great year for Asian Dramas

  3. Absolutely loved reading your review of 2016, and I totally need to get in the bandwagon and check out Signal already!! Also, need to really check out some J-dramas you’ve recommended 😉

      1. That makes sense! I’m a romance person myself (like yikes, yes, all the romance lol!), but I do enjoy other genres just as much, so I like variety. Also, I don’t know about you, but I go through cycles! Sometimes I’ll be really into K-Dramas, and then other times I’m just not in the mood. That’s when I turn to writing to occupy me 😀

  4. I have added so many dramas to my watch list now. Thanks so much for this. It’s making me branch out and discover really great dramas apart from Kdramaland 🙂

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