I’ve been planning on writing this post for awhile, even if my experience with Asian dramas has been limited. I’ve watched 3 K-dramas and 1 and 1/2 J-dramas, and a lifetime’s worth of Spanish Telenovelas. I stopped watching Spanish ones about 5 years ago due to horrible acting and plot predictability. I’ve recently been fed the crack that is Asian dramas (particularly Korean ones) and I am HOOKED. I’m talking about watching 6+ hours straight and spending the next day agonizing over what will happen next, even sneaking peeks at episode recaps, whatever it takes to get my fix. I thought I would try and watch J-dramas for “educational purposes” only, but as soon as I was introduced to Korean ones, that all went to hell. I thought it would be interesting to try and compare and contrast the dramas to the telenovelas, and why I seem to enjoy Asian dramas much more than I ever did Spanish novelas.
1. Length– OMG can telenovelas go on forever and ever! I mean once you’re hooked, you’re talking about a year long (or more) commitment and a SLOOOOOW moving/frustrating plot. I mean seeing as the outcome is almost always the same WHY drag it out for so long? Asian dramas have the perfect length, and are usually no longer than 24 episodes. You can be through with one, can sleep better at night knowing Jane Doe and Joe Schmoe are together, and move on to the next.
2. Acting– Not to down all Telenovela actors, but man some can be downright horrid (I am going to exclude Colombian and Brazilian actors from the mix–they happen to be pretty good). The same can be true for Asian actors, but for the most part I am never truly disappointed. In Boys Before Flowers, for example, while acting skills were lacking for some, lead actor Lee Min Ho practically carried the whole thing. He made it worth watching, and I can rarely say that for a telenovela. I can’t think of one lead in Spanish novelas nowadays that can make me want to watch one (I am excluding the veterans– Saul Lizaso, Arturo Peniche, Kate del Castillo, etc. Yet, even they couldn’t save some of today’s plots). There is way too much overacting in the spanish world these days.
3. Plot- Let me stress how much I appreciate a fast moving plot! Also, while most dramas are going to end up being about Boy A ending up with Girl B, I’ve seen a lot of unique storylines in Asian dramas. Coffee Prince, for example, dips its toe into homosexual themes while still presenting a light-hearted love story. You’re Beautiful plays around with some of the same themes, but is smart enough to not take itself too serious and makes fun of cliches while still keeping the angst factor. Japanese dramas happen to move faster with even more daring plots, but I have yet to really get into them.
4. Love Scenes- Ok this may really depend on the drama, now that I’m seeing. Telenovelas must have desensitized me because to see how the lead couple in “Boys before Flowers” would just press their lips together like dead fish was SUCH a mood killer! I’ve read that this is a cultural thing for Korea, and that PDA is inappropriate. But in Coffee Prince, there were very passionate kisses, without anything being overdone. And the Japanese certainly aren’t shy about kissing, if we are judging from the way the “F4” went about their business in Hana Yori Dango. In telenovelas, people are in bed together practically half the time. Its refreshing to see the focus on something else rather than sex, because I’m watching a drama, not a porno.
5. Music– Again, this depends on the drama/telenovela. Boys over Flowers, Rebelde and You’re Beautiful were all teen dramas that knocked you over the head over and over with their theme songs until you ended up loving them. BBF is infamous for T-Max’s “Almost Paradiiiiiiiiiiise” playing at the most inconvenient times. The latter two had plots centered on music groups, so they were selling us the groups (Rebelde even more so). Coffee Prince had BEAUTIFUL music, but I really don’t have any other adult K-dramas to compare it to. Mexican novelas for the most part are known for the extremely cheesy music, especially the “evil person” scenes … a “NO, Juan Pablo!! Soy tu madre!!” type of line comes to mind. Ugh. Asian dramas win hands down. (Update: I will say I usually fall for a telenovela’s opening theme, as it is usually a nice bolero.)
I hope you drama lovers enjoyed my analysis (and telenovela lovers please don’t hunt me down! all for fun!) I’m sure there’s more I can write about, but I’d be here all day if I kept going! If you are interested in Asian dramas (Korean), I highly recommend Java Beans’ site (www.dramabeans.com). She’s hilarious and I am in love with her recaps. I have yet to watch a drama that she hasn’t recapped!
Happy watching! (Please note: I am not liable for any addictions this contributes to! haha)
Update: AHHH What a noob! I’ve watched MANY more dramas after writing this post… and I guess most of this would hold true, but I do wish I would’ve waited until now to write this! It has gotten quite a bit of google traffic (atleast in comparison to the rest of my site), so hopefully anyone who reads this knows it was written by a total amateur! Also, keep in mind this is a site for learning Japanese, not drama commentary. Should keep my two worlds separate, huh? I might have to rewrite this in the future. Thanks for stopping by!