Pop Quiz: Can you name the K-dramas based on the webtoons featured above in the image? Answers will be revealed below!
While certainly not revolutionary for K-dramas to pull inspiration from popular outside sources, historical events, or mythological tales, the last few years have seen many a webtoon-turned-drama, and with the mega-hit “Misaeng,” we can expect this trend to continue in 2015. Webtoons themselves are widely popular for being convenient and easily accessible on mobile devices through several portals like Naver or Daum, and many people will read through webtoons on their commutes, in between classes as a break, and even use them to study the Korean language.
Using webtoons as source material makes total sense because, generally speaking, the kinds of webtoons that get made into dramas come with an audience and, more importantly, several developed story arcs and characters to focus on for the drama. Toss in some big names for the leads and we basically have a nice little package of commercial success hand delivered to us. With a pretty bow.
The only caveat, of course, is that the directors and writers should breathe new life into the story and characters and not just go from page to film and call it a day. This may upset some of that pre-disposed audience, who never want perfection toyed with, but the best adaptations of webtoons are the ones that are able to find that perfect balance.
The appeal of webtoons for K-dramas is undeniable, and if you’re curious as to what else is on offer besides “Misaeng,” here’s a look at some recent and forthcoming productions of these beloved webcomics.
“Her Lovely Heels” (2014)
Starring Kara‘s Han Seung Yeon and Hong Jong Hyun, this short web drama is based on a webtoon of the same name. It tells the story of a young woman (Han) who can’t shake off the scars of her first love, even in the face of her current love interest (Hong), who struggles with understanding his own feelings. “Her Lovely Heels” is an adorable drama and at 10 episodes (each roughly between 15 and 20 minutes in length) it is a quick and easy watch for those days when you just want to feel good about love and life.
“Dr. Frost” (2014 – 2015)
A couple episodes away from wrapping up its run, “Dr. Frost” is a psychological crime-solving drama with a tiniest hint of romance added in for good measure. I’ve already given my first impressions on OCN’s adaptation of the webtoon of the same name, and while I’m still behind on the show (namely, episode 6), I think it has taken steps in the right direction that help with some of the issues I had with it initially. Don’t expect the twists and turns of a psychological drama like “Liar Game,” but it is still worth checking out if you like who-dun-its.
“Flower Boy Next Door” (2013)
Based on the popular webtoon “I Take Peeks at Him Everyday” and starring Park Shin Hye, Yoon Shi Yoon, and Go Kyung Pyo, “Flower Boys Next Door” is cute, fun, and full of antics both ridiculous and heartwarming. This romantic comedy about how a young woman who doesn’t leave her apartment unless absolutely necessary, is drawn into the world with the help of her friends and neighbors (all flower boys, lucky girl). It is thoroughly enjoyable, quirky, and probably my favorite of tVN’s “Oh Boy!” series, which includes “Flower Boy Ramen Shop,” “Shut Up Flower Boy Band,” and “Cyrano Dating Agency.”
“Love Cells” (2014)
Another web series based on a webtoon that garnered a lot of attention last year was “Love Cells” because of the big names attached to the show, most notably Kim Woo Bin as the god of love, Jang Hyuk as a martial arts-loving neighbor, and Kim Yoo Jung playing the anthropomorphic Navi, a personified “love cell.” Park Sun Ho’s Ma Dae Choong is down on his life and in love, wasting his days (and rent money) on beer and convenience store snacks, and pining after idol star Seo Rin (played by 4Minute’s Nam Ji Hyun). Determined to turn his life around, Navi becomes human and teaches Dae Choong the ways of the heart. Breezy, light-hearted, and fun, “Love Cells” is another one that goes by faster than it ought.
“Cheese in the Trap” (Forthcoming)
One of the most anticipated webtoon adaptations is the forthcoming “Cheese in the Trap” (working title). Although no release date or casting has been announced (Park Hae Jin has only been rumored to be attached to the project), the original is so well loved that fans have been dreaming about their own ideal cast for years. “Cheese in the Trap” webtoon focuses on the interactions between college student Hong Sul and her seemingly perfect senior, Yoo Jung. It remains to be seen how the K-drama will use the source material, but this is one webtoon inspired drama that is definitely on my radar. To check it out in English, click here.
“Hyde Jekyll, Me” (Now Airing)
That’s right, the eagerly awaited “Hyde Jekyll, Me” is based on the webtoon “Dr. Jekyll is Mr. Hyde.” Starring Hyun Bin and Han Ji Min, the K-drama centers upon the two different and opposing personalities of Hyun Bin’s Koo Seo Jin, an amusement park director, and the relationship (relationships?) he forms with Han Ji Min’s Jang Ha Na, leader of the circus Seo Jin wants to get rid of. It will be interesting to see how this K-drama enfolds and reworks that drama staple: the love triangle.
It is clear that webtoons have a lot to offer producers and audiences alike. Got any recommendations for more webtoon inspired K-dramas? Let us know in the comments!
(And just in case, the answers to the pop quiz, left to right, top to bottom: “Her Lovely Heels,” “Flower Boys Next Door,” “Dr. Frost,” and “Cheese in the Trap”)