Millennia before they found this place and called themselves Māori, my wife’s ancestors left the island now called Taiwan. Here are some of that island’s rather more recent exports that have also won my heart.
It Started With A Kiss/They Kiss Again
If any of my East Asian Drama choices can be called “guilty pleasures” these can. One of (too) many remakes of the Japanese Itazura Na Kiss, the reasons to be embarrassed about liking them are legion. The male lead is cold and self-centred, and the female lead has almost zero sense of personal identity beyond her fixation on marrying the aforementioned icy egotist. So why do I love it, even when I know that I shouldn’t? ALL the blame lies squarely at the feet of its leads, Ariel Lin and Joe Cheng. Their chemistry is simply phenomenal. That they’ve remained very close friends off-screen ever since, and have recently shown their on-screen bond in a reality show helps explain how they sold such an unsellable concept as this one.
In Time With You
Another polarising choice. There are MANY viewers who really dislike Ariel’s character in this Drama, and who criticise Chen Bo Lin’s character. But as a beta male myself, Da Ren Ge is dreamy, and once again, Ariel shows great chemistry with her co-lead. It’s too long, as almost all Taiwanese Dramas are, but the last couple of episodes especially are infinitely rewatchable for this sappy romantic. The OST is great too.
One more Taiwanese Drama that’s 2-3 episodes too long, this is still the definitive noona-dongsaeng romance for me. Not just for the palpable romantic chemistry, but for the very believable depiction of the uncertainties, insecurities and miscommunications in the relationship, even after they were “together.” MUCH better than its Korean remake, the original does not transform the female lead into a giggling “don’t touch me” virginal schoolgirl at the business end of the Drama. It is a great example of the genre, no ifs.
If I had a dollar for every person who told me “you must watch Mars“, I’d have several dollars. And I’d use them to buy a drink and raise a toast to the best Taiwanese Drama I’ve seen. Whenever I rave about a Taiwanese Drama, I nearly always have to say “it’s too long” or “it was great, but…”. Not so with Mars. It’s just superb. Almost perfect, so that I gave it 9.5/10 on my dramalist. A romance with substance and fascinating, complex characters, it is so good I wish I could have watched it in higher resolution. It also makes me sad that in the 12 years since it aired, Taiwanese romantic Dramas don’t appear to have come close to matching its quality.