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by Cheer on January 8, 2014
11.8K 75

Have you ever wondered about the hidden gems? They are the dramas which didn’t get enough recognition whether nationally or internationally even though they were pretty well executed and deserved much attention. 

In this part of the yearly review, I will try to introduce you the most underrated dramas of the year whether Korean or Japanese.

South Korea:

The second season of the hit Korean action thriller IRIS is one of the most underrated dramas of the year. In my opinion, there are two reasons why this drama didn’t get the appropriate attention. The first and the most probable reason is because the second season came very late (as whole four years late). If it was produced one or maximum two years after the first IRIS, then I am sure things would’ve been way better. I wish they made it back in 2010 instead of the disappointing spinoff Athena: Goddess of War. The second reason is because of the common rule “Sequels are hard to do” especially Korean. I am sure that people held prejudice against this drama even before they started it.

I admit that the beginning wasn’t dazzling but the action in this drama was so fine. The developments might feel flawed at some moments and certain characters were a little off, but it doesn’t deserve the harsh reviews or this much hate. The production team and the writers did a respectable job with the drama and let’s not forget the flawless performance by Jang Hyuk.

Another drama that I consider underrated compared to the historical dramas that were produced in Korea this year. It’s set in Koguryeo which is a rare era in Korean dramas compared to the Joseon era. I have a little confession to make since I am a history lover; I've always preferred the Koguryeo period over the Joseon era. Unlike other Korean historical dramas which are no way to be accurate and add many additional non-existent events, Sword and Flower’s screenwriting followed the history in many turns of the storytelling. Maybe that’s a reason why I enjoyed it but that’s not everything about it.

This drama’s directing is high-class. It delivered astonishing cinematography and great camerawork; it may have been overdone at the beginning and the first episodes may have felt a bit slow and odd but it picked up afterwards. I disagree with the low ratings for this drama but I can understand where they’re coming from. I am quite confident that this drama isn’t for everyone and only those who are interested in history would love it but this should have gotten more attention.

And the prize for the most underrated Kdrama of this year goes to… Empire of Gold!

For me, this is one of the best produced dramas this year. I felt lonely as I watched it when it was currently airing since the internet buzz was almost nonexistent and the international audience couldn’t care less about it. Is it because of the cast? No way! The actors are such veterans, unless there’s a search for certain idol actors or eye-candies then that’s another story. Is it because of the screenwriting? Another no way! Are you kidding? It’s the genius Park Kyeong Soo! His last year’s The Chaser won “The Best Screenwriter” award in Korea, but I remember that it was also internationally underrated. Is it because of the time slot? No, SBS gave it a nice one. The last resort is; it’s because of the theme. This is an intense twisty drama without romance going on so maybe that’s the most probable reason why it got ignored. No matter what’s the cause, this drama doesn’t deserve the low ratings at all.

It was mind boggling with stunning smooths screenwriting and top-notch acting. It talks about business and power struggle to get the Sung Jin group which is the golden empire. The drama’s chronological length extends to 20 years (from 90’s until present days). 

This drama made Park Kyeong Soo one of my favorite screenwriters ever. I like his sharp screenplays and cliché-free story-lines. That man’s witty dialogues that are full of wisdom quotes are personal favorites.


This is such an underrated drama! I can only explain the lack of attention by the non-interest in Psychological mystery/suspense dramas even if Japan is so professional at making them. This drama is based on Fyodor Dostoevsky's  last novel The Brothers Karamazov, and it was an awesome adaptation of the story.

The drama had a dark aura with too much psychological wars going on and great mystery built up. The acting department was also stunning with too many remarkable performances. I am convinced that Karamazov no Kyodai is one of the best dramas produced this year even if too many people didn’t care about it.

Apparently episodic investigation dramas aren’t something very popular among international fans especially when they’re Japanese. For instance, Special Affairs Team TEN, God’s Quiz and Vampire Prosecutor got too many attention compared to Japanese dramas of the same genre. Don’t get the wrong idea, I also loved the three dramas mentioned above and I believe they’re one of the best dramas produced in South Korea, but the ones that are professional at making detective/investigation dramas aren’t Korean, they’re Japanese. 

Anyway, Biblia isn’t your typical investigation drama; this drama doesn’t have detectives or police department. Instead, the female lead solves mysteries basing on her knowledge in old books with the help of her surroundings. It’s such a calm mystery drama with the most informative plot ever! I am sure that book lovers would appreciate this since it gives too much information about old books and their writers. Moreover, there are some nicely written mystery plots that deserve to be followed.

Probably the most underrated drama of the spring season in Japan. 

This drama’s theme is different from any other drama I saw which is highly appreciated. Japanese entertainment industry always brings out unfamiliar subjects, which is why I love their productions so much.
This drama is about the air force in the defense ministry and their public relations’ office that has to go through various experiences. The drama deals with relationships inside the office as well as outside it. The start might have been very slow for many people’s tastes but the developments and the relationships built up gets better and better after each episode. 

Soratobu Kouhoushitsu is underrated compared to other dramas that were broadcasted in the spring season.

While watching this drama, I felt completely alone. What also didn’t help is the lack of subtitles.
Once again, Japan brings out a different theme to entertain us. This time, the story revolves around thieves and the art of stealing. You’re thinking that this is an anti-hero drama, right? That may be true but keep in mind that the group of five thieves doesn’t steal for personal pleasure. Instead, they steal for the people or because of a somewhat noble reason. You can categorize it as the current time Robin Hood group. The most important part is that you will always be on their sides no matter what happens.

Take Five is an underrated drama for me, I can tolerate the ignorance of detective and mystery dramas because they’re not everyone’s cup of tea but skipping an action thriller is a bit incomprehensible.

This drama is one of those dramas which go unnoticed; not because it’s bad but because of its theme. 

Mahoro Ekimae Bangaichi is life comedy drama that deals with realistic problems. I found the setting quite absorbing and the Japanese sense of humor quite entertaining. This drama isn’t your typical episodic “solving problems” drama; it goes into unexpected corners to deliver a slice of life with many funny moments. I always loved the Japanese silly sense of humor so I am sure that not everyone will find this as catching and as hilarious as I did, but I couldn’t resist listing it as an underrated drama because it’s definitely is.

As you may have noticed; I have a long list of underrated Japanese dramas because they usually tend to be ignored. Yakou Kanransha is the perfect case of underrated Jdramas.

This drama combines Japan’s strongest genres together: Family and Mystery. I always liked the Japanese way of doing Mystery/Suspense dramas but I never really cared much for their family dramas since I am not a big fan of the genre. Yakou Kanransha was able to make me fall in love with the family theme just like I loved the mystery part. The use of family relationships to deliver certain hints was also appreciated. It’s moving and realistic without the fake feelings and over the top sacrifices.

The shocking murder and the search for the culprit are nothing but a way to express how two families deal with tough situations in the most believable way. It also contains a nice set of cast who performed their roles in a great way.

It’s absolutely underrated; I had to wait about 9 months until some great subbers decided to pick up the last four episodes.

I didn’t want to go in depth for these dramas because I know many people couldn’t care less about detective and mystery productions made in Japan. 
However, I will mention Otenki-San and Doubles Futari no Keiji as two underrated detective dramas and Namonaki Doku as an underrated mystery drama. Also, Kurokouchi is slowly heading to the underrated category, not only internationally but also in Japan.

Which are the most underrated dramas of the year in your opinion?