Between Wor(L)ds' First Birthday: Recalling How I Got Into Asian Dramas and K-pop

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Happy birthday, Between Wor(L)ds!

Wohoo! It's the first official birthday of this blog. Exactly a year ago I did my first awkward post (see the awkwardness here) and started off to an unsure start, wondering about what to write next and where I was going with this blog. 

Now, a year later, I feel a bit more confident about sharing my thoughts and there's an image in my head about how I want to continue. Between Wor(L)ds is always a work in progress and I am constantly trying to make things better for you to read and navigate around here. 
One of the things I still haven't got around to, maybe it's a little late now even, is changing the URL of this blog and having a personal tagline for it. The URL business  is a  complicated and risky thing to do and not something I want to bother myself with too much. I'm quite happy with the way things are and even though the current URL makes no freaking sense (sorry) it's not like I'm striving to become Dramabeans (though it would be awesome). Tagline, however, requires some thinking to come up with something witty and recognisable. So this is only a matter of time. 

Okay, now that the technicalities are discussed, the thing I actually planned to do to celebrate this first birthday was to take a trip down the memory lane and tell you guys how I actually got into Asian dramas and K-pop (inspired by the article in this lovely blog: Dramababble). The short version can be found in the About Me page, but today I'm going to tell the long How I Met Your Asian Drama-version that is surely going to bore the hell out of you (escape while you can).

About four years ago I searched the internet for Sailor Moon episodes after learning about such a thing called Japanese anime and wanting to watch the show, which I hazily remembered seeing on TV as a little girl, for nostalgia's sake. By chance I ended up on that had this separate section for Asian dramas. Of course, I wasn't immediately interested in them as they reminded me of Latin-American telenovelas and I was long done with that. But curiosity got the best of me when I read the description for a Taiwanese drama called Devil Beside Me, starring Ranie Yang and Mike He

Now I never finished Devil Beside Me (only watched as far as 7th(?) episode) but found the hate turning into love romance refreshing (which, as it later turned out, is one of the  necessary requirements for a succesful drama) and was smitten by the lovely Ranie and the handsome Mike. But at the same time the production value of the show was incredibly low, like it was a student movie or something. Not exactly what I was used to after having watched American TV my whole life.

The next drama I tuned in to was Hana Kimi (the Japanese version). Why Why Love was probably before that, but since it had the same lead actors - Ranie Yang, Mike He and Kingone Wang - and pretty much the same plot as Devil Beside Me I never watched more than two first episodes. Hana Kimi, however, was more enjoyable than Devil Beside You. Sure, it was just as low-budget, but it was so fun, adorable and with equally cute cast. I marathoned the series to near end, but not the last episodes (should do that now) because I couldn't find them with my amateurish drama-searching skills. And since I was over the initial obsession, I didn't bother that much either.

Can't recall what I watched next, was it Taiwanese drama Fated To Love You or Japanese series Dragon Zakura, but didn't finish either. At first I was fairly addicted to Fated To love You, with the lovely couple of Ethan Ruan and Chen Qiao En, but at one point the dramatic plot started to bore. Dragon Zakura was just something I figured I could relate to, you know being a teenager and going to school myself, yet I moved on to Gokusen (still intending to finish all three seasons of Gokusen one day). But it wasn't til Boys Over Flowers that dramas, especially K-dramas, became my personal hobby.

Yup, Boys Over Flowers, despite how bad it was, tuned me into watching Korean dramas. Funnily enough, I remember avoiding K-dramas at first. For some reason, don't know why, they seemed least appealing (especially the melodramas), which is ironic since K-dramas are almost all I watch now. Yet BOF was the first Asian drama I actually finished. Sure, the acting was bad and the story was so filled with cheese you could've made a cheeseburger out of it, but it was such a romantical fantasy. AND they had four handsome hotties for us fans to dream over.

After BOF I watched Full House. Despite my disgust at Rain's poorly styled hair, the mis-matched fashion, and the repetitiveness of the plot, I did enjoy the drama. 

But it was My Girl which followed after that really impressed me. After Full House I had grown a bit tired of the sterotypical characters and forced kissing scenes. But Lee Da Hae's Yoo Rin was the heroine with the quirkiest personality I had yet seen in an Asian drama. And she quickly became one of my favourite female characters. Plus, the kissing scenes and the chemistry between Lee Da Hae and Lee Dong Wook were also the best I'd seen.

By this time I obviously had a drama-addiction and tried to watch as many shows as possible, though I rarely actually finished them. It was more like I tried to keep up with all of the shows at once since I hadn't yet developed my own taste. But there were some gems along the way. Among Japanese dramas there was One Litre Of Tears that made me cry for the first time. Like for real, and in every single episode. Yeah, that drama made me so sad I had to make a break before I could watch another show. 

And then came Coffee House that regained my faith in dramas having gotten too tired of the cliches and hackneyed plots. The show could have me rolling on the floor laughing or clutching to my pillow and "aww"-ing. It was the ultimate romcom. And what great performances from Kang Ji Hwan and Park Si Yeon. To this day I still have that show stored in the computer and every once in a while I cuddle up in my bed, eat ice-cream and rewatch my favourite episodes.

So while Asian dramas were secured as my favourite pasttime, the first contact with K-pop came fairly late. I occasionally listened to the drama OSTs, but had no idea what actual K-pop was. My very first K-pop video ever was probably U-Kiss's "Man Man Ha Ni". Oh, boy. The first impressions were not good. I think I stared with my mouth open for the first half of the music video, and during the second half I was laughing. Actually, the exact thought I had then was (I remember it vividly): "Hmm, these guys don't seem to mind that they look like girls..." After that I turned off the computer. I think I was in shock.
But an unexpected second try came with After School's "Because Of You" and strangely it struck a chord with me. At first it was the visual impression that made me rewatch the video over and over. But then the song started to sound really good and soon I was surfing Youtube for other K-pop videos. 

The love for Big Bang didn't come immediately. As I had a bit trouble getting used to the male fashion and styling in K-pop I initially followed mostly girl groups (T-ara, Brown Eyed Girls). I did have a listen to "Haru Haru", and while I thought the song was good, the music video with all the guyliner and the dramaticness was too much. I stored the song in my computer but didn't listen to it. Meanwhile, I took a liking to CN Blue and Epik High as they sounded different from rest of the K-pop music. And both still take up a great amount of room in my music folder.
And when I finally relistened to "Haru Haru" I was mad at myself for not doing it before. Big Bang became my ultimate favourite and by the same time next month I knew all that there was to know about Big Bang. Funnily, I also cleared up that the guy I had thought was G-Dragon was in fact T.O.P (whoops).

I started to take K-pop more seriously when I discovered the hilarious and the wonderful Eat Your Kimchi. Simon and Martina made me realize that K-pop phenomenon is actually much more exciting and interesting than it seems on the surface. This was around the time when Between Wor(L)ds was created and Eat Your Kimchi inspired me not only to write about Asian dramas, but also K-pop. 

And from then on I trudged on this journey of blogging. Learning about the coding in HTML, how to place pictures side by side, where to get information about the latest Korean fashion spreads, how to create a Contact Me page and so on. 
Like I said, it is only now that I've started to get an idea of what to write about in Between Wor(L)ds. And after a year, I actually feel that there are people who read the posts in here (yay, I'm not completely alone in this little corner of the cyberworld). Though I'm not writing for others - rather for myself just to get all these thoughts about dramas and K-pop out of my head - but it's always super encouraging to know that you're not performing for an empty stage. Feedback to a blogger really is like candy to a child.

Okay, anywhooo...

Now that you've had to bear all through this lenghty post, I'm gonna pose the same question that the Maybee (Dramababble) asked in her article "K-Drama: On blogging, recaps and first loves": What's your story? Which dramas were your first loves? I encourage everyone to take this little trip down the memory lane, whether in your own blog or in the comment section below :)

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  1. :) Happy Birthday!!

    And thanks for the mention. I liked Coffee House too but didn't love it. Not universally liked, though. Great to hear your story.

    1. Yeah, I've read some pretty bad things about Coffee House and I have always thought that most people don't really care for it. But I really loved/love it and it is the only drama I've actually finished by watching all the episodes in a row (which was crazy if you think about it). But it's okay that it's not universally liked. I have come to realize that when it comes to dramas people's opinions and tastes are extremely contrasting.

  2. I've been reading your blog for ages now, and I just wanna say how much I love it. Only been a year? It's so professional it seems like you've been doing it for much longer :) Carry on bringing happiness and dearly needed k-pop love into my life.

    1. Professional? Wow, thank you for being so kind with your words. Professional isn't the kind of adjective I would expect someone to use when describing my blog.
      I will try to carry on as long as I possibly can to spread the drama and k-pop love. Great to know that I have readers who've been with me for this long. Yeah, only a year, but it feels longer I agree :)

  3. Happy 1st birthday and many more! It's interesting to read this and I like the question you pose at the end. Makes me think I should do that on my own site, too :P
    I don't know why but BOF really seemed to be THE kdrama gateway "drug" for a lot of people. Ah, I have such a love-hate relationship with the Korean version...probably because I read the entire manga series, watched the anime, Japanese AND Taiwanese versions first :P

    1. You should definitely try to remember all your first dramas in your blog. I really have to thank Dramababble's Maybee for motivating me to remember mine and doing a post about it. It was fun.
      Yeah, Boys Over Flowers seems to be a the first drama for many. I can't say I loved the show, but I did enjoy it despite the lack of quality. I'm trying to finish the second season of Hana Yori Dango also. Neither Korean or Japanese one is close to being perfect, but I've liked them for separate reasons. Don't think I have enough patience to try the Taiwanese version(s), though.

  4. Um! LOVED this post! I think I giggled out loud at the YOLO pic!!!

  5. Hello! So Chau Chau lyrics (Deli Spice) brought me here. And then without to my notice i end up browsing your Reviews/Ratings page, and how do you actually started blogging. I am a fan of Asian Dramas, esp Kdramas (not to mention everything about Korean Thing) and i feel you. I have a blog too and i thought of blogging how i got addicted to Korean thing, what are my thoughts to drama ive watch, but i was too lazy. So when i saw this blog i was envious. So what im trying to say here is that you did great. And please dont stop updating.

  6. And btw, upon reading your reviews it looks like we have thoughts in common. We watched almost the same korean, japanese, taiwanese's so far and we have the same thoughts about it. And i liked and listened to CNBlue first before Bigbang :)) - the same anonymous above

    1. And i love RM! :)) - also me

    2. Hey! I'm glad you like my blog and you are more than welcome to write a similar post on your blog about how you got into K-dramas. I would love to read it :)

      And it's great to meet another fan who shares a common affection for CN Blue, Big Bang and Running Man :D


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