coming_of_age_dramas_headerMany times, when we hear 'coming of age', we think of Sweet 16s, Quinceaneras, Hatsuka, bar mitzvahs or other age markers that cultures around the world celebrate. However, just because one reaches a certain age, doesn't necessarily mean they've found themselves. To quote the late R&B singer Aaliyah: “Age ain't nothin' but a number” - and with that in mind, I'd like to run by you guys my top 5 coming of age Kdramas, that aren't necessarily related to “age” in terms of years per se but more so “age” in terms of place in life. Does that make sense? I sure hope so, and if you agree, or are at least intrigued, please read on...


My Girl

The first drama on my list is 2005's My Girl starring Lee Jun Ki, Lee Da Hae, and Lee Dong Wook. For me, this story takes the Cinderella/ prince and pauper element to a new and more realistic level than what I had previously seen in Kdramas. Unlike most dramas that utilized the "butterfly" notion of the lead lady, the subtle changes within our leading lady's character and attitudes towards herself and others smoothly blended parallel to its central love story. At the start of the drama, all three characters (LJK, LDH and LDW ) are self-centered and immature (some more than others). Throughout the course of the drama, these young adults grow up and gain a bigger, better sense of self with those around them. Lee Da Hae's character especially, as she gracefully develops from conniving and greedy into someone willing to sacrifice her happiness for those around her. It's a major breakthrough for a female lead character because unlike other female leads of Kdramas, love isn't the end all, be all of her existence, nor was it a tangible thing to conquer and flaunt by getting 'the guy'. Instead, her character's breakthrough was to free herself and encourage those around her to love with an open mind and imaginative heart. Even with the cliched love triangle, My Girl delivers a beautiful coming of age tale that is both touching and funny. (My Girl will be coming to DramaFever this month!)

East of Eden

Secondly, is one of my personal favorites: East Of Eden starring Song Seung Hun, Dennis Oh and Yoon Jung Hoon. As one of the biggest dramas of 2008-09 in terms of budget, star power and plot dynamics, this drama erupts into one of the most compelling stories told in Korean drama. The 62 episode story; heavily sustained on the different levels of revenge (in love, life, & work) set the stage for an intricate development of not only one or two of the characters, but for almost every character involved. Amidst the turmoil and strife I found the young leads matured from seemingly one track minds of vengeance into adults with a conscience and compassion. My favorite thing about this drama was how even the villains transform into a somewhat like-able people with different facets to their existences. While it's not your typical coming of age story, it really encompasses the life lessons that make us all better people. If you haven't seen East of Eden yet, check it out right here on DramaFever. Trust me, even if it's normally too long for your tastes, the story and eye candy will keep you watching.

The Man Who Can't Marry

Next up is The Man Who Can't Marry starring Uhm Jung Hwa and Ji Jin Hee. A great comedy seemingly inspired from The 40 Year Old Virgin, TMWCM is a coming of age for the older crowd. The main character is obviously the man who can't marry, but why? As the drama goes on, we learn that it's because our main man has very naïve and unrealistic notions about love and life. It becomes really interesting to see how he develops into adulthood. Although in my opinion the acting wasn't that great, one of the things that I did like about this drama was the fact that it took a new look on what it means to grow up. Often dramas show the lead as a young child, teen or early 20s adult who blossoms into a stand up citizen, but we all know that just because one's body grows, doesn't mean the mind has too. As an atypical coming of age drama, this is a good watch for anyone over the age of 25 who feels like they're still on the verge of discovering who they really are.

Hello Miss

Coming in at number four on my list is Hello Miss: another funny romance drama starring Lee Da Hae. Hello Miss tells the story about a young naïve free spirit named Lee Soo Ha who is forced to grow up fast in order to save her family's house from foreclosure. As per recipe the drama consists of love triangles, spiteful mother-in-laws and step-siblings, jealous childhood friends as well as the love-conquers-all happy ending we've all come to know and love from Korean dramas. However at the heart of it all, our heroine struggles with finding herself amidst people telling her how she should behave versus what she truly feels inside. We've all gone through this transformation where being a carefree teen collides with being a responsible adult, and with Lee Da Hae's phenomenal charm and acting, our character undergoes the process of changing from that naïve soul into the strong woman we all hope for her to be, without losing her charm. The great thing about this drama is how she comes full circle, yet more mature. As we ride the roller coaster of emotions with her, she proves that the true coming of age is not how others perceive us, but how we perceive ourselves and the realization of our true potential as individuals. Anyone can relate to this feel-good drama about growing into your true self, even if it is in over-the-top Kdrama fashion.

My Lovely Sam Soon

Last, but certainly not least is My Lovely Sam Soon, aka My Name Is Kim Sam Soon. The one drama that captured everyone's heart in 2005, Kim Sun Ah really does a wonderful job of portraying Kim Sam Soon, a woman down on her luck in love and life who pulls herself up from the brink of despair and conquers her dreams. Girl power all around, Sam Soon discovers that by following her true passion in life, she is most happy... instead of trying to fit the mold her ex-boyfriend and society tries to force her in. One of the first dramas I'd seen in a while that featured a “plus sized” main character who didn't have to transform into a size -2 for her dreams to come true in life and love. It sent a wonderful message to young women that healthy bodies and minds were also desirable. Yet another feel good dramedy (that you can watch here on DramaFever), it's bound to leave you inspired to follow your dreams.

I hope you liked my list! I'm anxious to know which "Coming of Age" dramas are your Top 5!