de Becky, Abril 23, 2021

When you think about Taiwanese dramas, what comes to mind? Most of us would either think of angsty romance or draw a blank (if you have not watch a Taiwanese drama). Taiwanese dramas are well-known in the genre of romance, starting with the screen adaptations of Qiong Yao’s novels in the 1960s. In the 2000s, Taiwan created several modern romance classics, too, which have been remade and re-adapted by other countries in Asia— some examples: Meteor Garden (2001), Mars (2004), Fated to Love You (2008) and Autumn's Concerto (2009). Meteor Garden and Fated to Love You are the most adapted, having remakes across Japan, Korea, China, and Thailand.

Taiwanese filmmakers are interested in more than just romance, though. They love to experiment and explore other genres, especially on human nature and sensitive life issues. The Taiwanese film industry has less restrictions, too, so in recent years, they have been going deeper into human nature topics, creating some very impressive and thought-provoking works that are edgy, suspenseful, and mysterious. This new wave in Taiwanese dramas is quite exciting, and in this article, I would introduce you to four dramas that I consider part of this new wave.

The four dramas are Someday or One Day, The World Between Us, The Victims’ Game and On Children

1)  想见你  Someday or One Day

If you have been an Asian drama addict long enough, you have probably heard of Someday or One Day. This drama tops Douban 2020 list with a 9.2 rating. Yes, it is the highest rated Chinese drama of last year, a Taiwanese production on China’s review site. Even if you do not like romance, you should give this drama a try and discover why it is so highly rated. The title has a beautiful meaning which emphasizes the plot – the three Chinese characters mean “want/wish to see you”, and when put together with the English title, it becomes “Wish to See You Someday or One Day”. This drama has two timelines, so half of the meaning in Chinese and the other half in English makes it so meaningful! To me, the two titles represent the Male Lead and Female Lead— different and separated but wishing to be together…

This drama has more than just romance—it has time travelling, suspense, friendship, family, and even delves into sensitive topics (I can’t say what as this will give away very important plot twists). If you enjoy a good analytical drama, you can have fun trying to figure out the time loops and events! Get a notepad and pencil before you start.

However, DO NOTE that episodes 1 and 2 are boring as there are many background details and the pacing is slower here. These two episodes would have more meaning (to the point of bringing tears to your eyes) after you have completed the show. This is quite like life, when we do not know the story behind someone’s sadness, it looks ordinary and boring, but when you know it, the mundane details suddenly become very meaningful.

2)  我们与恶的距离  The World Between Us

This is a slice-of-life drama that focuses on a sensitive topic. The plot is about a tragic event that impacted the lives of those involved, both directly and indirectly, and how they attempt to overcome and move on from its hurtful impact. Similar to the previous drama, this drama has very meaningful titles. Its Chinese title means “the distance between us and evil”. Put this together with the English title, the drama is about the differences (world) between people, and it is asking if good and evil can be as clearly defined as black and white? Is a bad person beyond redemption, and is a good person really good?

There is a dialogue in the drama:  "到底什么是好人,什么是坏人,你有标准答案吗?" - "What defines a person as good or bad?  Do you have the standard answer (is there a template)?" 

Surprisingly, although it seems like a very heavy theme, this drama actually isn’t. The script dealt with the topic in a realistic manner, portrayed all the possible angles and tangents such a tragic event would cause but did not dive too deeply into it. Rather, it is a thoughtful drama that makes you reflect on the topic through the characters’ experiences in the drama. It is not intense and not a difficult drama to watch (there aren’t many crying scenes, either). I have not specified what event this is so as to avoid any spoilers, but if you want to know, you can go to its MDL page and read the synopsis. I watched the drama without reading the synopsis and liked the surprise I got in episode 1.

3)  谁是被害者  The Victims' Game

This drama opens like an investigative mystery, but it is a psychological suspense story. The Chinese title is asking "who is the victim?" and the English states “the victims’ game”. Put these together and it means: the victims are not who they seem to be, and there is a plan (game) behind this. It also implies that the deaths are pre-planned by the victims…

The Victims' Game is a perfect example of how a director can manipulate viewers’ emotions through visuals, colour tones, props, etc. The art direction and dialogues are like a silent cry… It maintains a desperate tone throughout the narrative, like a trapped insect in a glass jar. I consider this drama better than the previous two. But this drama isn’t for everyone— if we use the previous two dramas as comparison, they would be considered 'light-hearted' next to The Victims’ Game. This is not an easy drama to watch as the theme is a triggering topic for many, but if you want something shocking and intense, then this is for you. The Victims’ Game is profound in its handling of the sensitive theme, focusing on the psyches of the victims in a manner that is rarely depicted in films and dramas.

This is my personal favorite of the four dramas. Although the script is probably the weakest, as an investigative mystery it is quite weak on the logic. However, this drama's focus is on the why and not the how. It is meant for viewers who have experience in the triggering topic... I really appreciate what the production team is trying to deliver to the viewers. Personally, I feel this drama has a therapeutic effect, although a painful watch, it brings positivity and hope at the end.  

4)  你的孩子不是你的孩子  On Children

This is the last on the list because it is the hardest one to watch, yet it is the best representation of the new edgy wave in Taiwanese dramas. The Chinese title translates to "Your children are not your children". This is a collection of five stories that explore the mother-child relationship, specifically in the pursuit of academic success. All five mothers in the stories are obsessed with academic achievements, and the drama seeks to ask what are you willing to sacrifice for good grades and good schools? It is very imaginative in the exploration of this topic and goes to extreme ends...

On Children is like Tiger Mom meets Black Mirror and Alice in Wonderland. You need patience to appreciate this drama. Personally, I almost dropped this drama twice (at episodes 1 and 2), but I hung on and at the end, I was checking if Netflix would be commissioning a second season (unfortunately, no). It has its flaws but I was totally in love by the last episode... This drama is very bold in its approach and covers quite a few sensitive topics, such as divorce, domestic violence, LGBT, animal abuse, and that triggering topic which I have been refraining from naming. It is a quirky and dark drama, and thanks to its brilliant cast, we get to see some phenomenal acting.

In addition to these four dramas, you should also check out Nowhere Man, The Ghost Bride, and Mother To Be. For edgy dramas with more friendship and romance, there are Back to 1989, Lion Pride, Bromance, Attention, Love!, and Single Ladies Senior.

I hope this brief introduction will get you started on Taiwanese dramas. Hopefully I have not scared you off with the darker theme towards the end... If you have already watched the above dramas, which are your favorites? If you know a Taiwanese drama that should be included in this article but I have missed, please share in the comments, too.

Special thanks to JustALittleAddicted for first draft reading and editing, and to the MDL editors, especially devitto !

Credits: I do not own any of the images and gif used, credits go to its respective owners. They are variously sourced from online news articles and promotional materials.

** DISCLAIMER: content consists of my personal opinions which should not be taken as representatives of the dramas.

taiwan slice of life coming of age chinese dramas on children someday or one day the victims' game grief and traumas world between us depression

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