I say it every year, but male characters always outshine the females. But it’s a fate I both relish and despise. Because as a woman, I love watching men be worthy of the title, whereas being a woman, it chafes and erupts the depths of my altruistic feminist thought. Dramas have an uncanny way of burgeoning ideals and concepts you never knew you had or illuminating those you thought weren’t that rooted or immovable. And though sometimes this realization is traumatic, most times it’s nothing short of exhilarative.
Freaks and Geeks
Geum Eun-dong (Kim Kibum) I Love Lee Taeri
There’s something to be said for being constant. It’s the consistency of action, the steeliness of intent. Geum Eun-dong was this 14 year old with a huge heart, ready, even so young, to love someone with its entirety. However, who cares about a preteen who babbles on about love? If you didn’t die foolishly or act recklessly, who would care about your love talk? Not a soul. But, then Eun-dong is given a way to be taken seriously and he milks it, becoming the cutest, most adorably sincere jail-bait Korea has ever seen. I won’t say that I ever forgot Eun-dong was a kid in an adults’ body, but his actions as his older self shed light on how immature and ignorant adults can be. We make excuses for being selfish, conjure makeshift notions about love and renege on our dreams and aspirations out of fear daily.
But not Eun-dong. You could say this was because he was a kid, because he’d never been crushed or broken, because he’d only lived long enough to love once, though I’m sure he’d beg to differ. For even adults know those are all excuses to justify failure, disappointment and cowardice. Geum Eun-dong may have been young but trust doesn’t come in age brackets.
Enomoto Kei (Ohno Satoshi) Kagi no Kakatta Heya
Geek. That is how I’d classify Enomoto-san. He’s a short recluse who not only picks locks for a living but collects lock antiques, for fun. Talking to him is like pulling teeth or extracting small talk from a tortoise and when he does say something, it’s a coin toss to whether any regular human being would understand him. Yet, he’s magnetically endearing. Though he should be cold due to his elevation in knowledge, he’s warm and comforting. Not through his words but because he’s dependable, a thinker and willing to listen. Like Ho-dong he was constant and steady, generous. He was lovable for the simple fact that ordinarily he’d get passed over, for his quiet demeanor and aloof hobbies and attitude. Though he spoke rarely, he had tons to share and if given ample time and a little patience, he would. Enomoto also held a little mystery, for the less he said, the more you want to know, whether there’s really anything to tell or not. He’s the kind of guy you can spend hours talking to, without saying much at all, for he makes being in his company that easy.
Loony Lawyers, Brash Bosses, and Waning Warriors
“It’s my first time.”
Though that was the coined phrase of only one of these men, it was a mantra that applied to all. For the phrase applies to anything and for these guys, it said less about love and more about partnership.
Tae-sung/ Nam-hae (Kim Kang-woo) Haeundae Lovers
I LOVE NAM-HAE! Ok, good, I got that out. It’s been a couple months since I’ve said those words and I must admit it feels guuud! Haeundae Lovers was the second if not most enjoyable drama from beginning to end this year, and it’s all due to Lee Tae-sung’s amnesia induced counterpart, Nam-hae. He was a man that made me laugh, cry and blush at his antics, his heart and his candor. From the onset, I never believed the drama needed the amnesia bit but the character of Tae-sung greatly benefited from the chance to be himself, without the bravado, stripped of obligation and responsibility. Losing his memory was the best thing that ever happened to him, so much so, he nor I, wanted him to regain it (not entirely anyway). Ultimately, Nam-hae was my absolute favorite man this year because he was honest, persistent and used his fears to spur him on to be a better man. Even when his memory returned, Tae-sung knew that Nam-hae was the man he always hid the desire to be and pursued the life he lived as Nam-hae, through transparency based on dogged realism.
Gao Cheng Kuan (Roy Qiu) Miss Rose
Sometimes, what holds a drama together is a character, a personality that begs you to tune in episode after episode and Roy Qiu’s Kuan Kuan made Miss Rose a much more enjoyable show. His character goes through an evolution, one could say, and though his journey was much needed, it was precious and endearing to watch, for he’s a man that shows such valor and integrity. Like Tae-sung, he was determined to make choices that were a reflection of the life he wanted to live and refused to be bullied into compliance.
Choi Young (Lee Min-ho) Faith
One thing that I loved about Young was his laziness, though his physical, slothful demeanor was a precursor to the emotional stagnancy he was living in. And what woke him up, wasn’t love initially, but responsibility. His desire to be needed– an innate sense that he had a duty that no one else could fulfill. To me, Young was a man I respected and cared for based on his ability to remain a man of his word.
These three men were characters that found and were transformed by love, that’s true, but who’s affection began with respect. Most romances begin with a physical attraction but in this case these men where inamoured by the attitudes, convictions and lifestyles of their women, just as readily as their looks. They were men, who had given up or never dreamed of having the opportunity to know love and companionship in this manner, which is always a dramatic treat. Their love stories were more than bickering and banter foreplay but romantic connections made through a mutual understanding and respect that is rarely portrayed in dramas. The joining of the mind and heart that none of these men had experienced until they met their loves.
Saints and Sinners
Kim Boong-do (Ji Hyun-woo) Queen In-hyun’s Man
This man was perfect— tall, dark, and handsome, wickedly smart, honest and considerate. He was written for women everywhere to fall madly in love with, and I did. But what made him stand out to me was that even with all these extraordinary qualities, he was human. He had flaws and chinks, he didn’t say all the right things, or make all the right moves, though his intentions were honorable. He was a character that pierced my heart because no matter where or what time he lived, I rooted for him.
Anthony Kim (Kim Myung-min) King of Dramas
I have a proclivity for men that most people consider jerks. Cause I rarely do. Oft times, they’re just people who don’t mince words, are straight shooters and say what needs to be said. They don’t allow their feelings to cloud their judgment and act rationally over emotionally. Now don’t get this confused with a love for bad boys cause, truthfully bad boys are usually just idiots.
There haven’t been enough “jerks” this year for my taste cause well, I love them but there has been one Anthony Kim. A man who isn’t by any means jerky evil spawn of swine his underling nemesis desires for us to believe. He is however, ruthless and relatively unflinching when it comes to business, but shouldn’t more people be? I guess we can credit is awesomeness mostly, to his portrayer, Kim Myung-min, for he has this way with characters that makes them layered with emotional vulnerability, human and relatable, whether he’s a ruthless doctor, a hapless ex-gangster or a grumpy conductor. He’s played cops and cancer patients with the same passion and seamless skill and has such masterful control over his audience that we react and believe exactly what he desires of us. And still, I wouldn’t call this gift manipulation but technique and talent.
Characters that I have a strong affinity toward have to evoke one emotion from me to give them a second glance, and that is trust. Each of these characters were someone to be trusted to become and be a man, true to his word, who would remain driven by his convictions, determined to be unafraid to be himself. They were male characters extracted an array of reactions from me but more than that, I was delighted to be able to add them to my list of beloveds. For, each year, my favorite characters are ones that I would call friend, being they are people that I unequivocally admire.