On a rainy day around two years ago, I spontaneously started watching the Chinese series Meteor Garden on Netflix. It was different, but fun. Since then, I’ve watched Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Taiwanese series. They’re really something! So hear me out while I explain to you why you should give them a try.
1. The looks
Everything is just so… pretty. Scenery and details tend to be neat and somewhat innovative compared with the American series I’m used to. Soft colors make for clean interiors with hella good design and cute stuff.
The outfits are a pleasure to look at. I for example love the long, oversized winter jackets and the typical pleated or tweed skirts. And, of course, the actors themselves look the part as well.
2. The culture
Apart from the looks, it’s really interesting to get some idea about what life is like in countries like China and Korea. It’s fun to pay attention to the language and start picking up some words or sayings, like ‘sorry’ (du-bu-tzi) ‘i like you’ (woo-shihan-ni) in Chinese, or ‘friend’ (tzingoe), ‘ridiculous’ (baidonde), or ‘oh my god’ (hohl) in Korean.
The food looks delish and inviting; enough ideas for dishes to try out yourself. Also, some habits and customs will catch your attention almost immediately. For example bowing while apologising to a person, respect for elders, and the importance placed on formalities in certain social situations.
3. The music
Typically, a series will have a soundtrack of not that many songs, which return repeatedly throughout the series. I love that it has the effect that the soundtrack is very specifically linked to the series and diverse scenes. In this way, a song automatically evokes the association with a certain sentiment – which helps you to get into a scene even better.
4. The plot
Actually, the plot is kinda funny and obnoxious most of the time. However, it’s never annoying. Other than chick-flicks which are just so cliché that they’re boring, this kind of cliché feels good. Each series has its own twist, but there are always at least several of the typical ingredients in the story. Most importantly, some kind of barrier between star crossed lovers. Examples of such barriers are social status (the classic), age (going out with an older woman is a taboo), both parties thinking they’re stuck in the friend zone, a work relationship… The list goes on and on.
Another important phenomenon that almost always makes its appearance is the second male lead. This is the guy that’s shooting his shot to get the girl, but is doomed to miss out from the start. You know it, but you’re still rooting for him. He’s so nice. If the girl chooses him, she’ll have an easier life. But in the end, the girl was always meant to be with the guy of one of the barriers above.
Other well-known elements are hostile stinking rich families, a poor person working their ass off at multiple even more stinky jobs, very unlikely accidental encounters, dramatic events, and really cute scenes.
5. The sentiment
Compared to Western series, Asian series seem more simple and slower paced. I love the cosiness and intentionality of the scenes, and the way the story slowly builds up. To be honest, it’s quite refreshing that the relationships often take some time to build. In that sense, it’s more realistic and interesting than the often shallow and hasty relationships in Western series. Often, there is attention for some background figures or story lines which are a nice addition to the bigger story.
Okay, you’ll not be on the tip of your toes all the time. But it will give you the chance to settle in, slow down and get immersed in the world behind the story you’re watching.
Of course the way these five elements show up depends on which series you’re watching. I’ll share some of my favorite series with you in a future post!