Two Korean dramas are slated to come out later this month which are based on either manga (manhwa if we want to stay Korean) or webtoons: “Tomorrow Cantabile” and “Misaeng.”
Based on Tomoko Ninomiya’s manga “Nodame Cantabile” (as well as the J-drama of the same name), this show tells the story of Cha Yoo Jin (aka Shinichi Chiaki, played by Joo Won), a genius and perfectionist musician who dreams of becoming a conductor. His perfectly planned life is shaken up when he runs into free-spirited pianist Nae Il (aka Nodame, played by Shim Eun Kyung). Needless to say, it’s been a huge hit already in both manga form and its adapted live-action versions over in Japan, and I hope the Korean version will be just as good (though with Joo Won as the lead, I’m sure my expectations will be met).
“Misaeng” is based on a Korean webtoon by Yoon Tae Ho which depicts the hum-drum life of office workers and their attempts at “making it” in the corporate world. Jang Geu Rae (Im Shi Wan) is a failed Go-player and new intern at the firm Wonin International where he runs into a number of other interesting characters, such as sharp rookie An Young Yi (Kang Sora), the workaholic section chief (Lee Sung Min), and ambitious Jang Baek Ki (Kang Ha Neul). The original series is well-known for its realistic depiction of the salaryman/woman’s life and, from the previews, with a welcomed touch of humor.
How could I not bring this series into the mix? It was the one that introduced me to the world of K-dramas (I used to be an avid J-drama fan before then)! The manga (“Hana Yori Dango“), by Yoko Kamio, has been adapted for TV in Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and even in the United States. It is the show that propelled actors such as Lee Min Ho, Gu Hye Sun, and Kim Bum among others, into the limelight. It tells the typical story of a disgustingly rich, bratty high-schooler Gu Jun Pyo (Lee Min Ho) who falls for hard-working Geum Jan Di (Gu Hye Sun), and the difficulties their love must face when they both come from such different backgrounds. Thankfully, they’ve got F4 to back them up…
“Hanazakari no Kimitachi e,” better known as Hana Kimi, is a manga by Hisaya Nakajo that was turned into a J-drama first, then a K-drama later. It tells the story of a young girl, Goo Jae Hee (Choi Sulli), who disguises herself as a boy to enter the all-boys boarding school where her idol, high jumper Kang Tae Joon (Choi Min Ho), is attending classes. Though the Korean TV show didn’t garner as much popularity as anticipated, it nevertheless gained the hearts of many a K-pop fan (plus you can’t deny it’s quite the feast for the eyes).
Otherwise known as “Princess Hours,” “Goong” is a manhwa by Park So Hee that depicts an alternate version of S. Korea where the monarchy is still very much present. Crown Prince Lee Shin (Ju Ji Hoon) is forced to marry commoner Shin Chae Kyeong (Yoon Eun Hye, her brake-out role before “The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince”) despite being in love with a ballerina (Song Ji Hyo before “Running Man” made her name well-known by fans, local and international alike). Chae Kyeong must navigate her way around court policies and etiquette while finding her way into Shin’s heart (and he in hers).
Probably my favorite manga of all time, “City Hunter,” by Tsukasa Hojo, follows the adventures of sharp-shooter detective Ryo Saeba whose only Achilles heel is his love for hot women. The Korean adaptation deviates quite a bit from the original manga series, both in tone and in storyline. Lee Yoon Sung (Lee Min Ho) has been raised by Lee Jin Pyo (Steve Lee) to infiltrate the Blue House (code name: City Hunter). The goal is to avenge the wrongful deaths of operatives during a secret mission, including that of Yoon Sung’s father. There, Yoon Sung runs into bodyguard Kim Na Na (Park Min Young), and their growing love for each other threatens to ruin his plans. The show became an instant hit and saw the birth of a real-life Lee Min Ho-Park Min Young couple, though the latter couldn’t withstand the test of time and high media profile.
This period drama is based on Huh Young Man’s manhwa by the same name (or “Gaksital,” to be more precise). It follows Lee Kang To (Joo Won), a pro-Japanese police officer who turns into a masked vigilante to fight for Korea’s independence. Both he and his best friend, Japanese Kimura Shinji (Park Ki Woong), fall for the same woman, circus performer and a general of the Independence Army, Mok Dan (Jin Se Yeon). Needless to say, this story covers a serious topic and its tone reflects it.
What other K-drama show did you like that was based off a manga/comic?