A love for subtitles and Asian drama

Ridley: I hated subtitled films when I was younger. I found it too difficult to read the words and watch what was happening at the same time. 

Now though, I love them. It opens up other fantastic stories from other cultures that you may never have in your own and you get to read a film! It’s a great way to increase your reading speed! 🙂 (The geek in me just has to ruin it!)

If I hadn’t gotten over this dislike. I’d have never watched the Spanish film Pan’s Labyrinth, which was fantastic (and beautifully creepy) or the Russian film Night Watch (which was very weird, gritty too! And set me off on wanting to learn Russian for a little while until I realised how hard it was….one day…)

It’s strange how our tastes can alter so drastically. Though I know when mine did, I’ve a very good reason for it. A few years ago, I discovered anime and not the voice-over kind, (unfortunately, if I’ve watched the subbed version of something first, dubbing hurts my ears. To me they aren’t the characters’ voices!)

The world of anime was introduced to me with the show, Dragon Ball Z. God, I loved it. When I was 14/15 years old, it was on Cartoon Network and it was dubbed (I knew no different at the time. For ages I thought it was American.). I used to rush home from school, throw off my uniform and grab a cup of tea to watch the next episode. My cartoon crushes from it were Piccolo and of course Vegeta (gota love a bad boy!). DBZ had it’s poor points too, especially if there was an epic fight, it often took three episodes just for them to go Super Saiyan (power up basically). There was always lots of gritting of teeth, bulging muscles and shouting, oh and bleaching hair.  

I didn’t immediately begin to watch subbed anime after that. I continued to follow what Cartoon Network gave me (during their Toonami time-Cardcaptor Sakura, Samurai Jack, bit of Gundam Wing, Tenchi Muyo (never knew what was going on in this though), Shin Chan, Xiaolin Showdown….) It took awhile to embrace the notion of watching something with a subtitle. Eventually though I became hooked on Bleach and Naruto (two of the obvious and most popular anime out there).

Then I discovered shoujo manga, anime and dramas. The best way I can describe it is, it’s a little like YA in television form. I suppose similar to our Vampire Diaries or what have you. The target audience would be 10 to 18 year old girls (we could shove that age up a good bit higher I’d say…) There’s always a relationship and it’s always done particularly well. Though I will admit sometimes the endings leave a little to be desired. But with the dramas and anime that get them right, the pay off is wonderful. In terms of anime, I devoured the likes of Fruits Basket, Ouran High School Host Club, Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge…to name only a selection! 

(It has always helped that Latimer is a fan too! So we can trade anime ideas and we’ve each been guinea pigs-one of us tests a series first before the other trails on behind. She began Naruto first, whereas I watched Bleach. Then we switched, after approvals were given, but forever more we each prefer ‘our’ anime, though both are, of course, brilliant. It’s the same ‘side choosing’ we did during Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. I’ve always been a tiny bit more on the side of HP and she’s always been more LOTR, but only by a smidgen of a degree…barely even….and only because I read HP before LOTR and Latimer did the opposite!)

Of course eventually I found Asian dramas, following on from anime. Suppose it was only inevitable.

Now, dramas (with real people) gave me one advantage over anime, in that when I love the leading man character I could actually tell people. Having a crush on a cartoon is something that could probably get someone committed…not that I ever liked any cartoon men…ignore the above comment about Vegeta and Piccolo, I was delusional…

I’ve watched quite a number of Asian television dramas, from Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese…following on from this, as a non-Asian sometimes there are things we don’t quite get, such as cultural references. So we (Latimer and I) came up with the Five Episode Rule. Watch five episodes before making a decision on whether to continue or not. Often times that’s how long it takes for the drama/anime to really get going, for the love interest to be introduced, for the conflict or main plot to get set up….you get the idea.

This Five Episode Rule had to be applied to one of my favourite ever dramas to this day. It was the Japanese version of Boys Over Flowers, Hana Yori Dango.

From Wiki: “It’s about a girl, Makino who is a middle class student attending the prestigious school Eitoku Gakuen. She enrols there because her idol, an internationally-renowned model named Todou Shizuka, was an alumna of the school. However, it isn’t long before Makino discovers the superficial nature of her classmates. Their arrogance and her inability to relate to them, limit her chances at making friends. Worse yet, the school is ruled by the F4 (Flower Four) a group composed of playboys Nishikado Soujiro, Mimasaka Akira, introverted Hanazawa Rui and violent Domyouji Tsukasa. They are all sons of Japan’s wealthiest and most powerful tycoons. They rule the school, bullying fellow students out of boredom or malevolence.

When Makino’s only friend, Sanjo Sakurako, accidentally spills juice on Domyouji’s shirt, Makino is forced to defend her. Thus coming to the notice of the F4. The next day, she receives a red tag in her locker, which is the infamous order from the F4 that this student has been picked as their next target. As a result, the whole school turns against her. Despite the harassment, Makino refuses to give in and quit. Eventually, after a particularly cruel joke by Domyouji, she finally snaps and punches him. This unexpected retaliation catches him by surprise and causes him, ironically, to fall in love with her. Makino, we learn, is in love with another of the F4, the gentle Rui, who in turn harbors romantic feelings for his childhood friend Shizuka (who is Makino’s idol)…..” 

And over two series (and a movie, which I didn’t see the point of), we find out what happens!

It has an absolutely fantastic love story. With a beautiful rain scene, both main characters get soaked. There are so many ups and downs in it, you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster (I mean that in a good way….i’m sure…) Granted there are some parts that they could have cut out, they almost acted like filler episodes in between the proper ones (which knowing that this happens in the case of anime, perhaps it happens with dramas too?) It still doesn’t take away from it. The song from the show is also beautiful.

My second all time favourite drama was Sungkyunkwan Scandal

Wiki again….I sorry, but if it’s been summarised already *shrug* what can you do….(i edited them a tinsey bit…)

“Set in a period where society does not allow females to be educated nor employed, Kim Yoon Hee (Park Min Young) disguises herself as her brother, Kim Yoon Shik, in order to save her family from abject poverty. She goes through a series of odd jobs, mainly at a local bookstore, before (through a series of events) accidentally enrolling in the prestigious Sungkyunkwan University. All the while pretending to be a man, she must bear with the endless mischief of upperclassman Gu Yong Ha (Song Joong-Ki), put up with the constant mood swings of roommate, Moon Jae Shin (Yoo Ah In), avoid getting in trouble with the strict, student body president, Ha In Soo (Jun Tae Soo) and at the same time, try to suppress her growing affections for Lee Sun Joon (Park Yoo Chun).

Together, the four form the “Jalgeum Quartet” (sometimes affectionately also named by fans of the series the “Joseon F4“).”


A Korean drama, this has another beautifully woven love story, with a love triangle, of course and there are characters in it that are quite funny too. There’s also a rain scene where the main people get drenched (if there’s one of these you know its going to be a good!) The historic outfits were beautiful as well, very colourful.

In a way it was the better drama of the two. The writing is far tighter, there’s less rambling and random side stories than you’d find in Hana Yori Dango (but at the same time I kind of like the randomness and extra side plots, except towards the end.) Also, there’s only the one series for SS, which for me was enough. 

The ending was nice and the beginning is quite fast paced, you get introduced to all the main characters pretty quickly. There was no need to apply the Five Episode Rule with this one!

Both series of course have RSAs. There were numerous sqwee-ing moments and definitely a fair amount of swooning throughout!

If you’ve seen these dramas, would you agree?

I’ve watched numerous other anime and dramas, there’s quite a lot of them out there. (You’re Beautiful (another recommended one, great music in it too!) Mischievous Kiss, My Princess, Hana Kimi, Mei-chan no Shitsuji, Romantic Princess…)

All I’ll say is, if you’ve read your new romantic fantasy/YA novel or watched your usual English television show or seen a riveting film- it’s now over and you are now depressed. There doesn’t seem to be anything else available to watch or read and you’re looking for your next romantic ‘fix’? Don’t rule out other countries! And definitely don’t exclude them because they don’t speak English. I’ve grown to love the Japanese language because of these shows, to me it sounds quite lyrical.

Dramas from other countries, manga, comics, movies, anime….give everything a chance and you’ll find other cultures and people do a pretty fantastic job too! Good place to start: http://www.mysoju.com/

I hope other people who have ventured out there agree?

If anyone has any other viewing suggestions, please don’t hesitate to let me know! I’m always in search for something new to read or watch! 

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Latimer and Ridley love hearing from people, so if you have any opinions, non-opinions or little nuggets of wisdom please share them with us in the comments below! Alternatively, if you’d like to get to know us more, why not email us or follow us on twitter and talk to us directly!

In other MLR news, we are currently working on two novels, one of which we intend to publish free on our website. We’re striving hard to make them both LSA and RSA worthy! So stay tuned for more information!

2 thoughts on “A love for subtitles and Asian drama

  1. If you’re an anime fan might I suggest Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood? It is fantastic! I’ve been obsessing over it for the past week (enough to get through 32 episodes in less than 5 days..)
    Full Metal Alchemist is also good, but I personally think Brotherhood is better. Plus is follows the manga to a T!

    1. Thank you for this, Katie! I have seen the original Full Metal Alchemist. I also obsessed over it!! It’s a fantastic anime, isn’t it? I haven’t seen FMA: Brotherhood though, is it much better? There’s a song from Fullmetal Alchemist, called ‘Brothers’ have you heard it? There’s a Russian and English version. It’s really beautiful, though very sad.

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