Despite popular belief, Korean dramas aren't always cheesy little romances. While a large portion of it focuses on telling dorky and heartbreakingly beautiful tales of love, many dramas also explore other genres. So, spine-chilling thrillers or exquisite historical pieces aren't quite a rarity in the industry either.
But if it is one genre that Korean dramas explore expertly well, it is fantasy and science fiction. Korean fantasy and science fiction pieces offer anime-esque originality, which makes them refreshing, to say the least.
In this universe, goblins and gods battle, and epic prophecies unfold and shake the world to its core. Mythical beasts and mermaids come alive, and you find yourself falling head over heels for a handsome hologram or, better yet, a chiseled nine-tailed fox from the legends of yore. So, without further ado, here's a list of 10 of the very best fantasy and sci-fi dramas that the Korean industry has on offer:
Also known as Guardian — The Lonely and Great God, Goblin is a tale of woe and joy. It is the story of a warrior who is cursed to roam the earth as a lonely goblin or a god for all eternity, waiting for the day he finds his bride so she can finally put him out of his misery.
Often considered the gateway drug to Korean drama, Goblin has a bit of everything. It has magic, intelligent and sometimes ridiculous humor, dreamy romance, and a story so well told that it will leave you gasping for more. My favorite thing about the show is the glorious love-hate bromance between the Goblin and a grim reaper.
2. Hotel Del Luna
Hotel Del Luna is an establishment like no other. Run by an enigma of a woman — CEO Jang Man-Wol — this is a luxurious hotel you can only check into once you check out of life.
It is a hotel that serves as a pit stop between the earthly world and the afterlife, and guests may stay in it until they resolve their earthly wants and desires before moving on. The tale begins when Goo Chang-Sung, a young man who is very much alive, gets forced to work with Man-Wol. Together, they work to resolve the eccentric problems of their guests and find that there may be more to Man-Wol's past than she lets on.
3. W — Two Worlds
They say you never forget your firsts — your first date, kiss, the first stolen sip of wine, and your first K-drama. W — Two Worlds was my first, in that sense, and after binge-watching hundreds of dramas, I still remember watching this with my heart in my throat.
Have you ever fallen in love with a fictional character? Have you ever dreamt, with every fiber of your being, of meeting them, like the star-crossed lovers you know you are, and letting them sweep you off your feet? Because that's exactly what this drama is about.
The female lead's crush, Kang Chul, the male protagonist of a webcomic, pulls her into his world. Kang Chul is precisely what you expect a fictional heartthrob to be like — charming, determined, and oozing all the charisma of the heroic main lead of a thrilling webcomic. So, she lets him sweep her off her feet, but drama and heartbreak ensue. Their love, it seems, is doomed from the start. Or is it?
4. Scarlet Heart: Ryeo / Moon Lovers
Historial drama meets fantasy in this heartrending piece that follows a royal family as they play a bloody game of thrones. The fantasy element is almost secondary and only comes into play once in the beginning and once again at the end when the female lead travels through time, only to find herself stuck in the body of a young noblewoman.
She almost unwittingly becomes central to the story that unfolds, binding her in a timeless romance with an outcast prince. The series offers tears and heartbreak galore, so if you are not in the mood to have your heart ripped out and stomped on in the most glorious ways, this one's not for you.
5. Korean Odyssey
Scarlet Heart: Ryeo may not be my all-time favorite K-drama, but this magical tale introduced me to the fictional love of my life. Known as the Triple Threat, handsome and charismatic actor Lee Seung-Gi plays the mythical beast of a male lead in this drama. And boy, does he bring the mischief and magic of the great Monkey King of legends to life. The drama follows the adventures of Son O Gong (a play on the Monkey King's actual name, i.e., Sun Wukong) as he escapes his prison to seek a way to regain his full powers and take his rightful place as a god again.
6. Strong Girl Do Bong-soon
Tiny but feisty Do Bong Soon has a secret. All the women in her family are freakishly strong. She may be petite and pretty, but her physical abilities can give the Hulk a run for his money. The story begins when he meets a game company's sweet and genius CEO and gets hired as his bodyguard.
Again, this story is romance-heavy. Cheesy lines and overall dorkiness aside, the overarching narrative is about Bong-soon's war against a serial killer, who soon turns into her nemesis. But he is not just another goon she can pick up and chuck into the nearest wall. He is a spider who plots, who knows about the only chink in her armor, and she must employ all her resources to defeat him once and for all.
7. Hello, Me!
Would your 15-year-old self be proud of you? This is the uncomfortable and existential-crisis-inducing question around which this odd, excellent show is centered. The story is about Ban Ha-ni. Defeated and cynical, she finds herself face to face with her young and exuberant self again. The latter is thoroughly disappointed in her. Together, they learn and grow as the younger Ban Ha-ni teaches her older self all about joy and hope again.
Choi Jun-Woong is good at a lot of things. But what he sucks at is landing a job. Rejected by one company after the other and fighting depression, he finds himself in a coma while trying to save a person from committing suicide. This is how he gets recruited by one of the biggest companies in the universe — the one that handles everything to do with the afterlife. Jun-Woong becomes part of the afterlife squad that tries to stop people from committing suicide and has the honor of witnessing some of the most beautiful, heartwarming, and soul-shattering stories unfold.
9. Oh My Ghost(ess)
If you are like me, this one may be an uncomfortable watch at first. This is a story about a ghost. She is also the female lead who is convinced that she is stuck on earth because she is a virgin. So, she keeps possessing women and throwing herself at every man she meets. Except none of them can quite survive her ghostly touch. I found the first half of the series slightly cringy and more than a little uncomfortable. But the second half more than made up for it as it explores the tragic reality behind the girl's death even as she falls for the one man who may survive her touch.
The show-stealer for me was the OST, though. Sung by Park Bo-Young (main lead) herself, it's a lullaby about lost loves and goodbyes that may have you reaching for a tissue or two.
10. Extraordinary You
Everyone loves to think that they are the protagonist of their own story. So, what if one day you discover that you are not just a secondary character but the entire world as you know it is fictional? This is exactly what happens to Eun Dan-oh, who finds, much to her shock, that she is but a mere secondary character in a comic. So, she starts doing everything in her power to change the events and take control of her life. But can she ever truly escape what is already written? Can the created take on the creator and emerge victorious?
This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.