Kdrama: Top 5 Kdramas of 2021 to Watch After Squid Game

Kdrama: Top 5 Kdramas of 2021 to Watch After Squid Game

Kdramas: Top 5 Kdramas of 2021 to Watch after Squid Game

Almost everyone, or at least everyone on social media, seems to have watched Squid Game at this point. Currently, Squid Game is not only the most-watched kdrama but also the most-watched series on Netflix. FINALLY, kdramas are getting more recognition and some people are moving on from their prejudice against kdramas, or any non-white dramas for that matter. After the Oscar-winning South Korean film Parasite of 2019, Squid Game also helps increase the popularity of South Korean productions. So, I have gathered 5 more kdramas for newbies that made noise within the community of kdrama lovers. However, I would like to warn anyone coming from Squid Game that Squid Game was quite different from the regular popular kdramas. Although other kdramas of horror/ thriller genres like Sweet Home (2020) exists, today I will be talking about some popular kdramas of this year of all genres.

  1. Hometown Cha Cha Cha

“At a crossroads, a dentist moves to a seaside village where she meets a handyman intent on helping his neighbours.”

This rom-com entails much more than what the synopsis and genre describe. This isn’t just a small-town romance, which there is a lot of it, but it gives glimpses of different stories within life and how people cope with big pains. It is a beautiful drama that runs so much deeper than ‘just rom-com’. Netflix says it is a ‘feel-good’ comedy programme, which to a certain extent it is, but it also makes you cry at certain points. It is literally a slice of life introducing you to many things going on in life. It makes you laugh, cry, smile, swoon, get angry; like life itself.

I’m halfway through this drama and I can tell that it will be taking its place within my favourites, as it did for many people who watched it. Though certain recent controversies concerning the male lead actor affected the post-finale promotions, the series finale on TV marked a new all-time high rating. It is also gaining back its popularity on Netflix after the rumours surrounding Kim Seon-ho was resolved.

2. Nevertheless

“The intoxicating charm of a flirtatious art school classmate pulls a reluctant love cynic into a friends-with-benefits relationship.”

Great couple chemistry, great cast, some great and complex characters and it entails modern relationships perfectly. I mean, Kang Song *enter multiple heart-eye emojis*. However, I must say that there is not much of a plot in this short romance kdrama that at times felt to me like all these great aspects of it was wasted on it. Although it didn’t make it to the top of my kdrama list, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it at all. The main couple is *fire* (there is even a rumour that they are dating in real life) and all the rest of the cast and their characters were worth the time but could it be a little over-rated within the kdrama lovers community? My opinion is: yes.

3. My Name

“Following her father’s murder, a revenge-driven woman puts her trust in a powerful crime boss – and enters the force under his direction.”

This action/ thriller kdrama might be more up Squid Game lovers’ alley and as it’s trending on Netflix, I would say that other people agree. Starring the female lead of Nevertheless, Han So Hee, Forbes actually called this new show ‘Netflix’s Next Potential Korean Megahit Post-“Squid Game”’.

I must admit that I haven’t watched this show, yet, but I had my eyes on it before it was released. From what I have read, it has a gripping plot, interesting character backstories and lots of suspense. It also has less romance, opposite to many other kdramas. Many people who have watched it are happy about it as they say it might have been too forced and that they see it as an improvement for kdramas.

As someone who follows Han So Hee’s work, I would say she is doing an impressive job this year being the lead of two popular kdramas which are completely different from each other. We will be hearing her name more after this year. Like Nevertheless, My Name is also a short kdrama, this one is even shorter. Most kdramas have 16 to 20 episodes, while Nevertheless has 10 and My Name has 8. Even without watching, I can tell that it will leave us wanting more.

4. Vincenzo

“During a visit to his motherland, a Korean-Italian mafia lawyer gives a conglomerate a taste of its own medicine with a side of justice.”

This crime/ dark comedy show is one of my favourite watches this year. It is in the middle of the newly popular action-packed, less romantic kdramas and funny intimate classic kdramas. It has some romance and a couple everyone ships but the romance is very much not the focus. While we are aware of the spark between the two characters, nothing official happens until very late in the show.

It has an amazing cast. Most kdrama lovers are already familiar with the very talented Song Joong-ki, who plays the main lead and Jeon Yeo-been is a rising star who did a great job with this role. But I would like to talk about the real show-stealer who is FINALLY getting the attention he deserves, Ok Taecyeon of 2PM.

After 14 years of being an idol and 12 years of being an actor, I believe this year marks the beginning of his golden age with Vincenzo being this popular. He is attracting many new fans to both his own and his band’s fanbase with his success with this role and his band also made a comeback after a 5-year hiatus with a successful album (you can check out my album review here). I’ve been a Taecyeon fan for a long time and always wanted him to get more recognition for his acting but his performance as the sociopathic villain here exceeded all my expectations (still angry about the lack of award nominations). It’s a really worthwhile watch that I would recommend again and again (please tell me there are some 2PM fans around here who got the reference…).

5. Yumi’s Cells

“Yu-Mi is an ordinary single working woman. She is not good at expressing her feelings. Through her romantic relationship and work, she grows as a person and finds happiness in her daily life. Yu-Mi has cells in her brain that represent different emotions like love, violence, rationality, good, and bad. These tiny cells in her brain work actively for her. They deal with her emotions and troubles.”

Again, a kdrama that’s on my list that I haven’t watched, yet. I prefer to watch kdramas when they have ended so that I can binge-watch them and this show has just ended a few days ago. This psychological romance drama, I believe, is a little bit like Disney’s movie, Inside Out (2015) applied to adult life which is a fascinating concept.

If any kpop fans are around here, Jinyoung of Got7 and Minho of SHINee are also in this show, though neither are the main leads. Hometown Cha Cha Cha’s charming second lead, Lee Sang-Yi also appears in Yumi’s Cells. I would say that it has an exciting cast for kdrama/ kpop fans, especially and an interesting concept analysing daily struggles. I am excited about watching this one.

Unfortunately, it isn’t currently on Netflix but you can watch it on Rakuten Viki or many other popular kdrama websites like Dramacool.

Bonus: 5 More Kdramas to Look Out For in the Final Two Months of 2021

These five are just five kdramas coming out in the next two months that I am personally excited about unlike the five above which I brought together according to popularity. Three incredible kdramas with Taecyeon from Vincenzo and his band members Lee Junho and Hwang Chansung is airing this month that I am incredibly excited about:

Secret Royal Inspector and Joy (Also known as Inspector Joy) starring Ok Taecyeon is a historical comedy about an undercover inspector who teams up with an ahead-of-its-time divorcee woman looking for happiness. Taecyeon’s partner is Kim Hye Joon which is another actress I love. As two people with high energies, the chemistry between these two is amazing. I crack up by just watching the trailers and the behind-scenes videos. I am beyond excited about this. Airing on: 8 November 2021.

Opposite of Inspector Joy, Junho’s The Red Sleeve Cuff which is adapted from a book is set to make us bawl our eyes out. I just know that it’ll kill me.The historical melodrama tells the story of the young perfectionist crown prince, who’s been deeply affected by the murder of his father, falling in love with a strong-willed, free-spirited court lady who refuses to become his concubine. Crown Prince Lee San’s struggle between love and duty, and Court Lady Deok-Im’s wish to be free will surely be an interesting – yet painful – watch. Airing on: 12 November 2021.

Show Window: Queen’s House is a mystery melodrama. It tells the story of a woman who supports another woman’s affair without realising it is with her own husband who she helped become wealthy and respected at his company that belongs to her mother. Unfortunately, unlike the other two, the 2PM member, Chansung is not the main lead but the second here. His character is the extremely devoted brother of the lead female character. The ‘extreme’ here raises an interest suggesting that he will be an intriguing, complex character to watch. The complexity of this kdrama with its intertwined – tangled even – character relations definitely makes it one to look out for. Airing on: 29 November 2021.

Other than these three, my final two anticipated dramas are Melancholia and Snowdrop.

Melancholia, as you can probably tell from the title, is a drama and also romance, starring Lee Do Hyun who kdrama fans know from Hotel del Luna, Sweet Home, Youth of May and many more. So, I would say that a lot of people are very excited about this drama which tells the story of a mathematics teacher at a corrupted private school and her quiet, mathematical genius student with a surprising past. Airing on: 10 November 2021

Snowdrop is a drama that a lot of people have been waiting for as it marks the acting debut of Blackpink’s Jisoo (though she also appeared in Arthdal Chronicles starring Vincenzo’s Song Joong-ki). This is a big project as it is Disney+’s first of 18 original Asia-Pacific region projects. This romance/ dark comedy takes place in 1987. We don’t know much about the drama, yet but we know that Jisoo plays the lively, cheerful university student who falls in love at first sight with a German-Korean, mysterious fellow student who one day comes to her strict female dormitory, covered in blood asking for help.  We also know that the secondary characters also have mysterious backgrounds which increases the hype in this show. There is no certain air date but it will be airing in December 2021.

If you enjoyed this article and would like more kdrama (maybe kpop, too, as the 2PM article did well?) content let me know either in the comments or through our social media. I might even consider starting a column dedicated to this content if enough people are interested. So, please let us know what you think!

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