Drama

Wrap-Up: Top 2022 Dramas on MDL (by Country and Genre)

The year 2022 on MDL closed with 1352 completed dramas and 73 ongoing dramas that will finish airing in 2023 (MDL data as of December 31, 2022).

The top dramas are listed by sorting both top-rated and top-ranked features that usually result in the same drama in one category. There can be more than one if they have the same ratings. Moreover, if there is a significant difference between the top-rated and the top-ranked, I would include both. While top-rated is plainly the highest rating seen on the drama pages, MDL determined top-ranked dramas on this site “using a complex algorithm that takes into account several factors including how many people added the drama to their list, the ratings given by users, the number of comments and recommendations, and reviews from viewers. This allows us [MDL] to provide an objective ranking of the most popular and highly rated dramas and movies on the site.” (MDL FAQ)

I made this list based on country and genre to give more balanced views and take account of the overall MDL population, albeit mostly South Korean and Chinese dramas are more favored than dramas from other countries, and romance is the most watched genre. My sincere hope is that I can present you with some hidden gems of underrated or under-the-radar dramas overshadowed by the majority.

The dramas included and the ratings recorded were all as of December 31, 2022. I only listed dramas that started in 2021 and ended in 2022 and the ones that started and ended in 2022. The reason I didn’t put the recent ones that ended in 2023 is that in my opinion, the ratings of completed dramas are more stable and more conclusive than ongoing dramas, and are inclusively rated by both currently-airing drama watchers and completed drama watchers.

All synopsis are excerpted from MDL or other official sources. I only wrote my opinions on the dramas I watched. In addition, since under-the-radar dramas always have a special place in my heart, I also added some information for dramas ranked 1000+ on MDL. As for popular ones (ranked below 1000) that I didn’t watch, most likely you already watched them. So, I invite you to share your opinion with the readers as to why you think those dramas are worthy to be on the top. If you haven’t watched them you can read the many reviews (some of them 100+) that I’m sure did a great job of convincing people to watch their favorite dramas!

The genre descriptions are taken from MDL: [Guidelines] Editing and Submitting New Titles and People. Although understanding some genres is self-explanatory, others not so much. For example, what is a drama with the drama genre? What’s the difference between drama and melodrama? Therefore, I put every definition here for your convenience.

Let’s start!


Weak Hero Class 1

MDL Rating: 9.1/10
Yeon Shi Eun is a model student who ranks at the top of his high school. Physically, he appears weak, but by using his wits and psychology, he fights against the violence that takes place inside and outside of his school.  

I expected nothing when watching this drama since initially, I watched it for the main actor, but I can say this is the dark horse of Kdramas released in 2022! A little-known drama, with only 8 episodes and little preliminary marketing neither shown on popular sites, that makes an unexpectedly good showing. Moreover, it doesn’t have any A-list actors in the cast list and it was the director’s (who is also the scriptwriter) debut. Despite the have-not reasons above, this drama charmed its viewers with the tight plot and the award-worthy acting of the three leading actors.


Imawa no Kuni no Alice Season 2

MDL Rating: 8.9/10
Arisu Ryohei and Usagi Yuzuha have been pursuing the mystery of “borderland”, risking their lives in games in order to survive and return to their world. The two of them encounter friends, foes, and the mastermind who controls the game at a location believed to be the key to unraveling the mystery. They collected the numbered cards each time they won a game. All that remains are the jack, queen, and king cards. The games they face this round will be of greater difficulty than the ones that came before. 

I watched this as I also watched its prequel Imawa no Kuni no Alice Season 1 (you need to watch it prior to this drama as we have the same protagonists and some supporting characters are back). Plot-wise, I really liked how they wrapped up the story neatly, with explanations of Season 1 so the audiences understand that what happened before makes sense. The acting of the leading actors is amazing as well as their interaction (they both have collaborated in 5 dramas), with great cinematography and CGI of the games.


Reset

MDL Rating: 9.0/10

Love Like the Galaxy: Part 1 

MDL Rating: 9.0/10

Love Like the Galaxy: Part 2

MDL Rating: 9.0/10
Waking up that very same morning, and dying in the same accident, over and over again, Shi Qing is trapped in a never-ending time loop. She inadvertently drags fellow bus passenger, Xiao He Yun, into the loop with her. Together they try to find a way to alter their fate.
Ling Bu Yi, the foster son of Emperor Wen and a talented and ruthless general, was on a personal mission to uncover hidden truths about the past when he met Cheng Shao Shang. Shao Shang is unfazed and determined to live for herself. Her unruly audacious nature and quick wits begin to catch people’s attention including Ling Bu Yi.  
After a series of twists and turns, Cheng Shao Shang and Ling Bu Yi are engaged to be married by Imperial consent and decree. However, they still have many hurdles to overcome.  Can they overcome these trials and forge a union that shines even in the brightest of galaxies?

Two dramas with the same ratings, but I only watched Reset to write aboutThe production company of Reset, Daylight Entertainment, is a leading Chinese TV production company that has produced many good-quality dramas and some of them received awards. The company took a great deal of preparing the visual details of the drama, even the bus! Content-wise it tells a well-woven story rooted in the back stories of the bus passengers. Great acting, from the two leading actors to the supporting characters (bus passengers), and a very satisfying conclusion to the mystery. 


About Youth

MDL Rating: 8.4/10
Ye Guang is an elite, popular high school student with good grades. Xu Qi Zhang, on the other hand, tends to blend into the background except for when he’s performing on stage with his band. Smitten by the kindness that Ye Guang showed Xu Qi Zhang on one of the saddest nights of his life, Xu Qi Zhang is more than happy to repay that kindness when Ye Guang starts having a hard time with his parents. But will this newfound friendship develop into something more?

In Geek  We Trust

MDL Rating: 8.3/10
Welcome to Born Hub, a co-working space designed for ambitious entrepreneurs to build the next sensational startup. Its newest member is Shun, an I.T. expert who just lost both his cushy bank job and his girlfriend. Looking to finally make his dream app, he imagines he’d be teaming up with like-minded aspiring entrepreneurs – only to find his new colleagues being eccentric geeks setting out to ruin rather than help each other. This uniquely Hong Kong take on Silicon Valley starts out as a scathing satire of the cutthroat startup world, but the story reveals itself to be an inspiration about the motivating power of teamwork.

The synopsis above I took from IMDb (source) explained more about the charm of this under-the-radar Hong Kong drama, that surprisingly can be viewed on Viu Hong Kong. According to a review on Yahoo News, it depicts the sad but funny truth about people who work in IT. Although IT workers are one of the most essential pillars of a company, they tend to be one of the most unappreciated or neglected. The drama tells more about the road to entrepreneurship than it is about the “geeks”. (source)


Bad Buddy

MDL Rating: 8.5/10

Not Me

MDL Rating: 8.5/10

Thai Cave Rescue

MDL Rating: 8.5/10
Ever since they were young, Pran and Pat’s families had a deep and raging rivalry and the two boys became rivals as well. Until… they grew tired and became friends. Really good friends. However, because of their families’ rivalry, their friendship had to be kept under wraps. And so began a journey of secret friendship… and then perhaps a sweet secret romance?

Black and White are twins with a powerful connection. After their parents’ separation, they’re separated. 
One day, White finds out that Black is in a coma following a vicious attack. He learns that his twin brother is involved in a motorcycle gang. Unable to endure the harm done to his brother in silence, White disguises himself as Black to root out the traitor. 
The series is based on 2018’s real event. Twelve boys from the same football team decided to spend an afternoon with their coach exploring the Tham Luang caves in northern Thailand. When heavy rainfall flooded the caves and trapped them inside, what was supposed to be a fun excursion turned into a massive international rescue operation that transfixed the world.  

Bad Buddy and Not Me are 2021 dramas that finished in 2022. Surprisingly, there are no 2022 released BL dramas that surpass these two.


The Broken Marriage Vow

MDL Rating: 8.5/10

Misis Piggy

MDL Rating: 8.5/10

Gameboys 2

MDL Rating: 8.0/10
Dr. Jill Illustre’s life unravels when she discovers her husband is having an affair with the daughter of a major financial backer of his architecture project. Jill is incensed when she learns that all of their mutual friends and colleagues are aware of his indiscretions and are keeping them from her.
A single mother of three has devoted her life to working hard to provide for her family. Her sacrifice finally pays off as she sees the success of her children. Their peaceful life is shaken when her ex-husband returns, hoping to make up for the lost time. 

Set in the midst of the global pandemic, Cairo and Gavreel, who had previously been communicating online, decide to try living together for a brief period of time. However, while Gav is aggressive and straightforward in expressing his love, Cairo, which is more modest, is not quite ready to move forward so swiftly.

The three dramas above ranked 1000+ so I’ll do my best to add some information about them:

The Broken Marriage Vow is a remake of the popular British psychological thriller TV series “Doctor Foster”. You probably already watched the Korean version: The World of the Married. Besides watching this on the official online channel for Filipino shows iWant TFC, it’s also available on Viu Philippines (both are English subbed). As for the drama/plot quality, outside reviews said that the Korean version is still the best adaptation, but the Filipino version is better than other Filipino telenovelas. (source)

Different than other Filipino dramas that usually are usually long, Misis Piggy is only a 6-episode drama on iWant TFC. I only saw the trailer in Tagalog, so I don’t know if it is available with English subs.

Rated far below the other two dramas above with 8.0, the BL drama Gameboys 2 is ranked higher (although still 1000+) because it’s a sequel of Gameboys and an in-depth and extended version of Gameboys: The Movie.


Action: a genre that features extended fight scenes, violence, explosions, daring escapes, and frantic chases.

Top Action Drama: Weak Hero Class 1 (MDL Rating 9.1)


Adventure: a genre that focuses on visiting and exploring exotic locations. 
Usually, it focuses on the protagonist who journeys to epic or distant places to accomplish something.

Cupid’s Last Wish

MDL Rating: 8.2/10
Korn and Win are childhood best friends. Conflicts arise when Win’s father includes Korn in his will, granting him part of the family’s farm’s stocks. Misunderstandings follow, breaking up their friendship of 22 years. Their path crosses again when Win gets into a car accident with his sister Lin, and wakes up to find his soul in her body. To return to his original body, Win, in the body of Lin, sets off on a road trip to collect holy water from 4 temples across the country within 7 days. The companion to his journey is none other than his friend-turned-foe, Korn. Can this adventure forever change the course of their relationship?

Cupid’s Last Wish is an under-the-radar BL Thai drama (ranked 1000+). I don’t know about the plot quality, but for an adventure genre, not only that the protagonists live on a rural dairy farm, but later they have to embark on a road trip across the country to collect vessels of holy water in four Buddhist temples to reverse the curse. The drama showcases some of the beautiful landscapes in five provinces of Thailand that they are traveling through and relishing local cuisines on the way.


Business: a genre that focuses mainly on company setting and different job positions in the company.

Lighter & Princess

MDL Rating: 8.7/10
Li Xun is a cool and calculating computer programming ace who gained special admission to college. Zhu Yun, meanwhile, is a clean-living and innocent young woman who has just begun her college life after doing everything her parents and society expected of her to the best of her ability. Although they seem to butt heads at first, they start to begin cherishing their time together.

Reborn Rich

MDL Rating: 8.7/10
Yoon Hyun Woo is a devoted, hard-working, and loyal secretary to the Jin family, which runs the lucrative Sunyang Group business empire. But one day, he is ruthlessly betrayed by the family, who frames him for embezzlement. He dies shortly after – but is miraculously brought “back to life” when he wakes up inside the body of the youngest male member of the family – Jin Do Joo. 

Lighter & Princess, the one I watched, and Reborn Rich, the one I didn’t watch, both were rated 8.7. From this genre perspective, Lighter & Princess sets up to be a business drama, specifically, a start-up IT company. I think through the character growth of the protagonists, this drama defines the positive attitudes that can deliver success in the business world. There are delightful supporting characters as their co-workers but their stories are not explored because they’re not the main focus. There is also the business competition part which is more of a spoiler to tell here.

In my opinion, Lighter & Princess is praised more by the reviewers for the long-time romance between the main couple and slice-of-life story with character growth that spans from college to work-life, than for the business theme. Moreover, about 2/3 of the drama is set during the protagonists’ college life. Although I don’t watch Reborn Rich, I think it fits more like a business-theme drama with the main protagonist trying to take over the power over the business empire that wronged him. If you watched both, what do you think?


Comedy: a genre that focuses on entertaining the audience through amusement, 
and tells about a series of funny or comical events, intended to make the audience laugh.

Under the Queen’s Umbrella

MDL Rating: 9.0/10
Within the palace exist troublemaking princes who cause nothing but headaches for the royal family and are about to be turned into proper crown princes. Their mother, Im Hwa Ryeong,  is the wife of a great king. But instead of having an aura of elegance and grace, she is a prickly, sensitive, and hot-tempered queen. Once more serene, she changed since people kept pushing her buttons.  She is a queen who sometimes abandons her pride and is even known to swear!  Every day of her life is full of trials, but she withstands them all, for the sake of her children. 

Crime: a genre that focuses on one major crime that the plot revolves around or the lives of criminals 
or a crime that is being committed  This genre is more appropriate for heist, spy, or Mafia/Yakuza titles. Featuring several unrelated crimes in a story is called Police Procedural, 
and the tags for it should be used instead of the genre crime.

Through the Darkness

MDL Rating: 8.7/10
Back in the 1990s, the citizens of Seoul were gripped with a paralyzing fear after a series of brutal attacks and murders occurred. A mysterious figure dubbed ‘Red Cap’ was stalking women on the streets and then killing his prey, seemingly without provocation. His habit of striking at random made it impossible for the detectives to predict his next move. The head of the Criminal Behavioral Analysis team, Gook Young Soo recruits Song Ha Young, a quiet, reserved, incredibly perceptive former detective for his team. Gook believes using the new psychological method will give the police an edge in capturing ‘Red Cap’ and ending his killing spree.  Homicide expert Yoon Tae Goo and her officers question the value of this approach and are resistant to entering such uncharted territory.

Documentary: Focuses on nonfictional stories that document some aspect of reality, 
primarily for the purposes of instruction or maintaining a historical record.

Meikenchiku de Chushoku wo Osaka-hen

MDL Rating: 8.2/10
The Osaka version of the drama “Lunch at a Famous Building” is where viewers can enjoy attractive architecture and gourmet food.
Fuji Haruno learns that Miwa Horikawa, a close friend from college who lives alone in Osaka, is having trouble taking care of her pet turtle while she is temporarily returning to Shiga due to family circumstances. She goes to Osaka to stay at her friend’s house. Fuji finds out that Chiaki Uekusa is visiting ‘ maiden architecture ‘ in the Kansai region in Osaka. They meet again for lunch.

This is a sequel of Meikenchiku de Chushoku wo that was set in Tokyo and Meikenchiku de Chushoku wo Special set in Yokohama. I couldn’t get any information on this Osaka version. But the reviews on the prequel stated that even if someone is uninterested in architecture, the protagonist Chiaki Uekusa is a passionate architectural modeler, and with the lunch, the talks about the architectural details are done in a relaxing atmosphere as if you’re there (minus the food) listening to them talking. I read that the prequels have been subbed in English, but I don’t have any sub information about this latest series.


Drama: a genre that focuses on the in-depth development of realistic characters dealing with emotional themes (Different from the “Melodrama” genre).

Top Drama-Genre: Weak Hero Class 1 (MDL Rating: 9.1)


Family: a genre that aims to appeal not only to children but to a wide range of ages 
in the context of home and family.

The Filipino short drama Misis Piggy is the top-rated family drama at 8.5. However, it’s way too unpopular because possibly it’s not subbed and it’s not available easily unlike these three dramas below. They ranked far higher on the search than Misis Piggy but still ranked 1000+ so I will talk about those three.

Rivalry

MDL Rating: 7.9/10

The Love Proposal

MDL Rating: 7.9/10

It’s Beautiful Now

MDL Rating: 7.9/10
A story of the generational battle between two families in the business world, in which Anawin and Milin are the heirs. When the competition becomes internal in the family, they decided to cooperate with each other for establishing a new company for revenge.

Treenut got to know Time and they fell for each other. However, he was afraid to confess his love because of his past failure. She decided to marry Touch, who is gay. Touch urgently needed to get married and have children according to his grandfather’s will. Time met Treenut again as his brother’s bride-to-be. 
The Lee brothers are not interested in dating or getting married. Their indifference toward marriage concern family members. They offer the enticement of an apartment to the brother that marries first. Now, all three are actively seeking a  bride.

I watched Rivalry and I love the chemistry between the main couple with a healthy and mature relationship, many romantic scenes, and real kisses which are rare in Thai lakorns. As a family genre, Rivalry shows tight family relationships and how the couple’s families are generational rivals in business.  

Similar to The Love Proposal, it’s also about a wealthy family of three generations, and the family members would do anything to keep the business within the family while others want to take the inheritance away. Personally, I think this is the best lakorn of 2022. It’s an angsty, forbidden romance and somewhat hard to watch since you have to prepare your emotion. It’s officially subbed in English by Channel One31.

I didn’t watch the third drama, but reviews praise the drama as a dynamic family slice-of-live show with no villains. The complaints are mostly about the drag of side stories of the many supporting characters of the extended family. It makes this 50-episode family drama probably better to enjoy one episode a day instead of binging it in one go.


Fantasy: a genre with a plot that takes place in imaginary worlds (sometimes consisting of kingdoms) 
where magic and magical creatures (Dragons, elves, and wizards) are common.

Alchemy of Souls Season 1

MDL Rating: 9.0/10
Set in a fictional country called Daeho that does not exist in history or on maps, it is about the love and growth of young mages as they overcome their twisted fates due to a forbidden magic spell known as the “alchemy of souls”, which allows souls to switch bodies. It follows the story of an elite assassin named Naksu, whose soul is accidentally trapped inside the weak body of Mu Deok—Jang Uk’s servant from a powerful and noble mage family in the country. The young master of the Jang Family, Jang Uk, holds a dark secret about his scandalous birth. He wants the formidable assassin to help change his destiny. 

I followed this drama since before it started, and I could say this is the best of the fantasy genre in 2022. Fact is that the screenwriters did not base this drama on any Korean dynasty or any religion or myth, the production team had freedom to make their fantasy come trough by creating a cultural mix-and-match or even new ideas of artistic costumes, props, sets, and special effects. The soul-shifting idea is completely new and intriguing, if not confusing as we see in its sequel Alchemy of Souls Season 2: Light and Shadow.


Food: a genre that focuses on food; eating or cooking food.

Dine With Love

MDL Rating: 7.9/10
The series tells the story of Yu Hao, who sponsored a food reality show and appeared on his own. When he offends the show crew, Su Ke Lan, who was appointed to become the director of public relations, dealt with the crisis and became Yu Hao’s culinary teacher. 

Since I Met U

MDL Rating: 7.9/10
As manager of a dessert shop, Cheng Mu has only one desire: to make his shop the best in the business. When it begins to grow in popularity, it comes to the attention of those he would rather avoid: the snobby food bloggers. Among the most popular food bloggers is Jiang Si Han.
Togoku Kyosui runs a traditional Japanese-style cafe called Rokuhodo. He employs Nagae Tokitaka, Nakao Tsubaki, and Gregorio Valentino. They interact with customers, who all have their own problems, and provide them with comfort. While performing their jobs, they also face their own problems and grow as a person.

Rokuhodo Yotsuiro Biyori

MDL Rating: 7.9/10
Set during the Ming dynasty, it tells the story of a young girl named Yao Zijin, who entered the palace to become a maid of the food bureau. In the deep palace, she remains determined and slowly works her way up perfecting her cooking skills, while making friends and encountering an unexpected romance with Zhu Zhanji.

Royal Feast

MDL Rating: 7.9/10

I didn’t watch these four dramas and would never. Not that I hate the food genre, but I’m afraid watching them (and any other food shows) will ruin my personal resolution to eat healthily. I remember I watched the Royal Feast trailer with a watery mouth! And that’s only the trailer! Yeah, you read anywhere people giving advice to not watch this kind of genre with an empty stomach! For me, even eating before watching it doesn’t help and I feel hungry again. How about you?

So watch this with precaution! From what I gathered by reading the reviews of the four dramas, Dine With Love is specifically worth checking as it also gives out simple recipes for home-cooked meals the audiences can try. Moreover, all four dramas are subbed in English on platforms stated on the drama pages.


Friendship: a genre that focuses on friendship; bonding and fights between friends.

The Iron Four

MDL Rating: 8.5/10

The story is about a strong male friendship between four men that is stronger than the classic concept of the “Iron Triangle” bond. Four boys, Liu Fang, Sheng Yu, Li An, and Zi Chain, all interior design major graduates, established Steel Walls Interior Design Studio. They have completely different personalities and different life backgrounds, but they are also bonded to each other. It’s a story about friendship and personal growth, an exploration of the family origin, a romance of two independent individuals, and ultimately a story about what “home” means.

The official channel StarTV uploaded the episodes on YouTube in traditional Chinese but they are hard-subbed. It means you cannot use the YouTube option to autogenerate translation into your native language.


Historical: a genre with a plot that takes place in a setting located in the past.

Top historical dramas (all are rated 9.0): Alchemy of Souls, Under the Queen’s Umbrella, and Love Like the Galaxy (both Part 1 and Part 2)


Horror: a genre with a plot that seeks to elicit a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing 
on the audience’s primal fears (If it has ghosts but is not scary it is not horror, instead, it is supernatural).

All of Us Are Dead

MDL Rating: 8.5/10
A virus outbreak occurs at Hyosan High School. The infected quickly turn into human-eating zombies. Students at the high school must now fight for their lives, while they look for a way out. Nam On-Jo and Lee Cheong-San have been friends since they were children. They are two of the students trapped in a classroom and surrounded by flesh-eating zombies. Meanwhile, the Korean military worked to isolate the outbreak and protect the country from an even larger outbreak.

Law: a genre that focuses on the system of justice and who works in it; such as lawyers, prosecutors, and judges.

Extraordinary Attorney Woo

MDL Rating: 9.0/10
Diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, 27-year-old Woo Young Woo graduated at the top of her class from the prestigious Seoul National University for both college and law school due to her high IQ of 164, impressive memory, and creative thought process. Working as a lawyer, she finds herself struggling when it comes to social interactions.

Life/Slice of Life: a genre that describes a drama/movie that might have no plot 
but represents a portion of (everyday) life.

Top Life/Slice of Life Drama: Extraordinary Attorney Woo (MDL Rating: 9.0)


Martial Arts: a genre that focuses on numerous martial arts fights between characters.

Hurts Like Hell

MDL Rating: 8.1/10
From illegal gambling to match-fixing, discover the seedy underworld behind the once-revered sport of Muay Thai (Thai boxing). When a hotshot gambler, challenges a notorious high roller with a wager during a Thai boxing match, the consequences become too much to bear. Phat lives with his girlfriend and they are expecting a baby. They are not financially well put up but he ensures his girlfriend that he will manage. Later, he participated in a betting game over boxing matches. He essentially challenges Kom to allow him to play with him. Phat bribes the opponent boxer to manipulate the match. 

According to the review and comment, this is a dramatization of the Thai boxing world. Thai boxing or muay Thai is national pride. But as with any sport, it also has a dark side and is influenced by corruption. The story is inspired by true events. It’s available on Netflix with English subs.


Mature: a genre that focuses on adult content mainly focusing on and featuring sexually explicit scenes 
and nudity. It should not be used just because there is a sex scene in the films/series, use the content rating 
and tags such as “Sexual Content” and “Nudity” to tag those. The explicit content should be the focus for you 
to add the Mature genre. 

Iskandalo

MDL Rating: 8.0/10
Em Celera, a celebrity vlogger, is murdered and her death opens up a lot of questions. Patricia Esguerra, a tough and reputable agent, investigates the life and secrets of Em who got involved in a sex scandal. Em’s secret boyfriend, her stepfather, a crazy fan, and a mysterious man in her sex video are on the person-of-interest list. The killer still roams free while the suspects fight to prove their innocence and another life is put in danger. Patricia’s team must race against time to catch the killer alive. Two women. Two worlds connected by one scandalous crime. 

Iskandalo or Scandal in English is a Filipino drama that is R-rated for nudity and violence. I searched for it on the legal Filipino platform iWant TFC but couldn’t find it. The trailer is subbed in English and the episode titles are in English, so I assume non-Tagalog speakers can watch it subbed.


Medical: a genre that focuses on hospitals and doctors, and is based around a team of medics helping patients who have been involved in accidents serious.

Ghost Doctor

MDL Rating: 8.6/10
Cha Young Min is hailed as one of the best surgeons in his hospital. He strives to save whichever patient he takes on, but he is arrogant, cold-blooded, and selfish. He got into an accident that leaves him in a comatose state. His soul detaches itself from his body until he possesses Go Seung Tak, an intern who has just started his internship at the hospital. These two doctors are complete opposites, with opposite personalities and medical abilities. Young Mi and Seung Tak come to an agreement and they continue to save the lives of the emergency patients that come to the hospital for treatment.  

Melodrama: a genre that focuses on a dramatic plot, which is typically sensational and designed to appeal strongly to emotions. The genre tends to use plots that often deal with crises of human emotion, failed romance or friendship, strained familial situations, tragedy, illness, neuroses, or emotional and physical hardship.

The Red Sleeve

MDL Rating: 8.8/10
Yi San is an aloof and perfection-loving young prince. He has resolved to become a benevolent monarch when he eventually takes the throne. At court, he meets a young woman named Sung Deok Im. Yi San falls in love with her and tries to convince her to become his official concubine. But Sung Deok Im is strong-willed and free-spirited.

Twenty-Five Twenty-One

MDL Rating: 8.8/10
In 1998, Na Hee-do was a member of the school fencing team, but the team was disbanded due to the IMF crisis. Later she manages to become a member of the National Fencing Team. Baek Yi-jin’s family goes from riches to rags and is separated due to the financial crisis. He is forced to take up several part-time jobs and later becomes a sports reporter.

The Red Sleeve is a 2021 drama that finished on January 1, 2022.


Military: a genre that focuses on the military setting and soldiers.

The Grand Merchants

MDL Rating: 9.2/10

Glory of Special Forces

MDL Rating: 8.4/10

Military Prosecutor Doberman

MDL Rating: 8.4/10
The story tells the legendary story of the three generations of the Liu and Yang families’ century-old oil companies. From the 1920’s Republican era to the Sino-Japanese War, they struggled in an environment where unscrupulous merchants colluded with officials, warlords, Japanese spies, and bandits. 
The story follows Yan Po Yue, a young man who is outstanding yet doesn’t fit well with the team. During the assembly for new recruits, he fails to win the favor of his superior and is sent to become part of the cooking crew, which turns out to be a place full of people with hidden talents.
Do Bae Man became a military prosecutor only to make more money and be successful. Cha Woo In became one for revenge. The two have different backgrounds and personalities. But as they work on the same case, they help each other and grow together as fine military prosecutors. 

The Grand Merchants is rated the highest, but it’s ranked 1000+. There is a YouTube channel where you can watch it legally (X Vision from Hangzhou IX Media Co) and it’s soft-subbed in Chinese so you can use the YouTube feature to auto-translate it if you’re interested in watching it. 

Glory of Special Forces and Military Prosecutor Doberman are both rated 8.4 and have significantly higher rankings than the first drama and are popular, so please read the reviews if you’re interested in either drama.


Music: a genre that focuses on singing and producing music. Usually, the main protagonist 
is an amateur or professional singer (Can also be used for musical films).

Soundtrack #1

MDL Rating: 8.4/10
Two people have been friends for two decades, but a mere two weeks of living together blurs that fine line between love and friendship. Han Sun Woo is a handsome rookie photographer with a warm personality, while Seo Eun Soo is a lively, straightforward, and honest person who openly expresses her feelings. Three years ago, she seized a chance opportunity to become a lyricist. Nowadays details of their relatable romance are subtly interwoven into her musical compositions.  

The Taiwanese BL romance About Youth and the South Korean romance Soundtrack #1 both are the top musical drama in 2022. While I didn’t watch the first one, I was wondering about the latter: “Did I watch this? Why do I feel I did but I don’t remember anything about it?” Turns out that I watched it but it’s not memorable and just so-so for me, I gave it a 7.0 (my standard for an okay drama). When everyone else raved about the amazing OSTs, as they should be for a music-themed drama, I rather search for the full album on YouTube and listen to the OSTs instead.


Mystery: a genre that focuses on an investigator as they attempt to solve a puzzle (often a crime) 
or mysterious death. It can be detective stories in which the emphasis is on the puzzle or suspense element 
and its logical solution such as a whodunit.

Top Mystery Dramas (all are rated 9.0):  Reset, Love Like the Galaxy ( Part 1 and Part 2)


Political: a genre that focuses on political affairs or describes a politician or series of political events.

Top Political Dramas (all are rated 9.0):  Under the Queen’s Umbrella

Love Like the Galaxy (Part 1 and Part 2)


Psychological: a genre that focuses on the mentally disturbed protagonist 
and emphasizes the psychological condition of the hero that presents obstacles to his objective.

Top Psychological Drama: Imawa no Kuni no Alice Season 2 (MDL Rating 8.9)


Romance: a genre that focuses on emotion-driven plots that are primarily focused on 
the relationship between the main characters of the story.

Top Romance Dramas (all are rated 9.0): Alchemy of Souls, Extraordinary Attorney Woo, Love Like the Galaxy (Part 1 and Part 2)


School: a genre that focuses on a school setting, students, and teachers, and their interaction.

Sayonara, High School

MDL Rating: 8.0/10
Asakura, a high school student at the bottom of the school caste, was unexpectedly appointed as a member of the school festival executive committee. He plans to go out with Ito Mayumi, a beautiful girl who ranks high in the caste,  as an opportunity to destroy the caste of the class. The plan seemed to be going well, but in the wake of a certain incident, it went in a surprising direction. The tragicomedy of strange class destruction begins.

This short drama (4 episodes) is based on a manga. Unless you are a Hulu subscriber and understand Japanese, there is no other legal channel or subs available.


Sci-Fi: a genre that focuses on the use of scientific understanding to explain the universe that it takes place in. 
It generally includes the presumed effects or ramifications of computers or machines; travel through space, 
time or alternate universes; alien life forms; genetic engineering; or other such things.

Top Sci-Fi Drama: Reset (MDL Rating: 9.0)


Sitcoms (For dramas ONLY): a genre that focuses on characters having to deal with odd or 
uncomfortable situations or misunderstandings.

Shizuka-chan to Papa

MDL Rating: 8.3/10
Little Shizuka becomes her father’s ears since he is deaf. She has a habit of staring at the other person and talking with gestures. One day, she sees Keiichi, a customer, in trouble because he can’t communicate and Shizuka helps him. Two people who are not good at communicating are attracted to each other.

Rak Diao

MDL Rating: 8.1/10
After graduating, Diao gets a job and moves in with his sister. She rents out a house adjacent to theirs. New tenant Rak has nothing at all in common with Diao. Rak soon becomes Diao’s boss, ordering frequent revisions of his work. The war starts; Rak is the boss in the office while Diao is the boss at home.

I have never been a fan of sitcom shows from any country because I think they’re skippable as each episode revolves around a different situation, thus there is a  beginning and end of an issue in each episode. There is no teasing sense of cliffhangers that satiates my curiosity to watch the next episode. However, from reading both synopses above, there should be interesting plots that start from the first episode and result in a certain outcome in the final episodes. Both dramas are ranked 1000+ and both are English subbed.


Sport: a genre that focuses on a sport or sports team training or competing in a competition.

Love All Play

MDL Rating: 8.4/10
Park Tae Joon, naturally wound up in the world of badminton because of his parents’ badminton equipment business. Although he had begun to see the sport as work, his passion for badminton is reignited due to a desire to impress a woman. Park Tae Yang is a former aspiring Olympian who had to leave the badminton world for three years due to a bribing scandal.

Falling Into You

MDL Rating: 8.4/10 

All his life, Duan Yu Cheng has had only one dream: to become a world-class high jumper. Unfortunately, his height has made achieving this dream all but impossible. Being the high-spirited young man that he is, he refuses to let his limitations get in the way of his dreams.  Fully aware of the fact that he needs professional guidance, Yu Cheng hopes to enlist the help of experienced athletics assistant, Luo Na.

Supernatural: a genre that focuses on anything beyond ‘the natural order of things.’ 
If a person could move things with their mind, can see ghosts, or have superhuman reflexes 
(If a drama/movie has ghosts but is not scary, it is supernatural).

Top Supernatural Drama: Ghost Doctor (MDL Rating: 8.6)


Thriller: a genre that focuses on giving viewers heightened feelings of suspense, excitement, surprise, anticipation, and anxiety.

Top Thriller Drama: Reset (MDL Rating: 9.0)


Tokusatsu (Literally “special filming”): a genre of Japanese live-action entertainment that usually involves superheroes combatting evil monsters.

Kamen Rider Black Sun

MDL Rating: 8.1/10

The year is 2022. It is an era of chaos, half a century after the government announced the coexistence of humans and kaijins. Aoi Izumi, a young human rights activist calling for the elimination of discrimination, meets a man named Kotaro Minami, the one called “Black Sun”, who is a candidate for the next Creation King. The truth about Creation King and the Kaijin has been hidden within 50 years of history, and another imprisoned Creation King candidate, Shadowmoon, AKA Nobuhiko Akizuki. His encounter and reunion with Kotaro will eventually break the status quo within society. 

I’m not a Kamen Rider fan nor have I ever watched any, but I assumed costume, creature designs, and special effects are major visual features for a tokusatsu. Reviews on MDL and external stated that those features were really good for the most part, and Black Sun has some of the highest-quality suits in the Kamen Rider franchise. The fights are really well choreographed. Although originally the target audience was children,  Black Sun is rated 18+ with violence, profanity, and gore.


War: a genre that describes a war or battle that can either be historical or fictional.

The Wind Blows From Longxi

MDL Rating: 8.1/10
During the war between Wei and Shu, the Shu defeated the Wei using the crossbows they made. In order to attain this powerful weapon, the Wei sent numerous spies to infiltrate the Shu kingdom and steal it. Chen Gong and Xun Xu are Shu spies who have infiltrated Wei kingdom for many years. After knowing the plan of Wei, they decided to work separately to stop it. Chen Gong continued to stay in Wei kingdom, while Xun Xu went back to Shu kingdom to investigate.

The Grand Merchants, with a 9.2 rating, is also the top war drama. Since we know that it’s unavailable in English, I introduce you to a more popular war drama with an English sub: The Wind Blows From Longxi, although its rank is still 1000+. Although it has the war genre, action is lacking. It’s rather a spy drama with a lot of political talks and scheme meetings behind the scenes. But the drama is praised for the great acting of seasoned actors, real historical events of The Three Kingdoms, and a tight plot. According to Douban, The Wind Blows From Longxi is ranked the number 1 historical Chinese drama released in 2022, with a rating of 8.1.


Wuxia (Literally “martial arts chivalry”): a genre of Chinese fiction concerning the adventures of martial artists in ancient China.

There are many arguments that categorize every non-historical Chinese costume fantasy drama into the wuxia genre as misleading, since wuxia, xianxia, and xuanhuan are different from each other. So I differentiate those three using the aforementioned tags to find out the top dramas for each term.

Wuxia

Sword Snow Stride

MDL Rating: 8.7/10
Xu Xiao is the King of China’s Northern Liang in an era of great upheaval. His unconventional, free-spirited heir, Xu Feng Nian been on the road, honing his equestrian skills and bolstering his fighting prowess. As he ascends the throne, concerns arise fearing him incapable of following in his father’s footsteps.

Who Rules the World

MDL Rating: 8.7/10
Hei Feng Xi is handsome and elegant while Bai Feng Xi is majestic and unrestrained. Opposites attract as both are unrivaled in skill and intellect.  Caught in the warfare and chaos of the martial arts and political worlds, the flowers of love begin to bloom amidst the blood that has been sacrificed within the last ten years. 

Sword Snow Stride is a 2021 drama that finished in January 2022. This is the first installment of a 20-volume martial arts novel that ends nicely without a cliffhanger towards the sequel. As a typical wuxia story, the protagonist persevered through hardships and growth through a long and obstructive road to become the ruler of his country. He constantly improves his martial arts skills and he developed camaraderie with key characters during his journey. Great fighting scenes and martial arts acting, witty dialogues created by one of the best novel-adaptation screenwriters, definitely a big-budgeted drama.

Xianxia

Love Between Fairy and Devil

MDL Rating: 8.9/10
According to legend, in order to obtain terrible power, Dongfang Qing Cang of the Moon Tribe became an emotionless monster. Three realms were in grave danger. To stop Dongfang Qing Cang and his army, the first God of War of Shuiyuntian sacrificed herself. Dongfang Qing Cang’s army and primordial spirit were sealed and his body was locked away in Haotian Tower. If Dongfang Qing Cang were to break free from his tower, the world would be in danger once more. While attempting to help the new God of War reinforce the Matrix, Orchid, a weak and low-ranking flower fairy, accidentally finds herself inside Haotian Tower and face-to-face with the Moon Supreme himself. Their encounter sets off a chain of events that threatens to change the fate of the world once again. 

According to MDL, xianxia is “A Chinese martial arts novel genre developed from the wuxia genre that is heavily influenced by Taoism and Buddhism. The literal meaning of xianxia is ‘immortal hero’. It’s essentially a ‘fantasy-fied’ version of Wuxia: with magic, demons, immortals, and cultivation.

In my opinion, Love Between Fairy and Devil unexpectedly became the best xianxia drama of 2022, since it doesn’t have A-list actors or a high budget for heavy promo. There are certain scenes (mostly in the Moon Tribe arc) where it looks like more time, effort, and money was put in through costumes, artistic designs, and visual effects. Importantly the latter aspect is most crucial to make an impressive xianxia in which the fantasy element is the selling point. Plot-wise it did a really nice job of balancing its sillier bits in the beginning (with the body swap) with its more heartfelt core from the middle to the night. Perfectly cast with amazing chemistry of the main leads.

Xuanhuan

The Blue Whisper: Part 1

MDL Rating: 8.4/10

The Blue Whisper: Part 2

MDL Rating: 8.4/10
Ji Yun He is a powerful and talented spiritual master living in Flower Valley. Chang Yi is a merman who was captured in the Valley. Yun He is ordered to make the merman speak human words, cut his tail, give her his pearl and be loyal.
In order to resolve the grievance between clans, Yun He sacrificed her life. After her death, she was reborn as a nine-tailed fox. At this time, the masters intend to destroy the world. Yun He and Chang Yi chose to shoulder the responsibility together.

According to MDL, xuanhuan literally means: “Mysterious Fantasy. A broad genre of fictional stories which remixes Chinese folklore/mythology with foreign elements and settings.” These foreign elements and settings can confuse the audiences if they’re not explained well, and it seems the viewers got confused with The Blue Whisper‘s plot. Despite the mess, visually this drama is stunning, from the cast, costumes, props, cinematography, set, and CGI.


Youth: a genre that focuses on the life of children, teenagers, or young adults, 
and deals with their ambitions and friendships.

Top Youth Drama: Weak Hero Class 1 (MDL Rating 9.1)


You may or may not agree with your fellow MDLers who contributed to the list above through their ratings, reviews, recommendations, and comments on this site. Now it’s your turn to tell us! Copy and paste these questions below onto the comment section below and share your own experience in watching dramas! The answer to question 1 can be found by sorting your completed dramas, first by Year in descending order and then by Type in ascending order. The answers to questions 2 and 3 can be found in your Year In Review.

  1. How many 2022 released dramas did you watch? 
  2. What country did you watch the most in 2022?
  3. What genre(s) do you usually watch?
  4. What is your top drama listed in this article? (Can be more than one)
  5. What is your top drama NOT listed in this article? (Can be more than one. If you don’t agree with dramas rated by the majority of MDLers, this is the chance for you to convince us why you think your choice of dramas deserved to be on the top.)
  6. How was your drama journey in 2022?
  7. What is your wish or plan in dramaland in 2023?

These are mine:

  1. 84 dramas (2022 releases)
  2. China
  3. Romance, specifically mixed with dark stuff (mystery, thriller, supernatural, action, crime, horror)
  4. Alchemy of Souls, Weak Hero Class 1, and Love Between Fairy and Devil
  5. Tomorrow. I thought this drama should be at least in one category on the list. It’s the best 2022 drama for me and in some cases changed me into a better person. For example, in the scene when someone is collecting recyclables, a mother and a child walk by the person. The mother tells her child to study hard or his life would be as bad as the recycling collector’s. Talking about not hurting a stranger’s feelings and not teaching your child about stereotyping. This drama is not easy to watch because of the heavy theme with dark stories, but it sends an important message about suicide awareness. No matter how tough a person you are, at least you’ll be moved or cry in one case.
  6. I used to binge-watch only dramas that have finished airing. In 2022, I started watching more dramas as they were currently airing (sometimes I’m following up to 10 currently airing dramas!)
  7. Clearing up my PTW list (ain’t we all?)

You may find one or two you want to try, or move on to watching the 2023 released dramas now that the list has ended but not our drama journey. Good luck and see you next year with the 2024 list!

THANK YOU FOR READING AND HAPPY WATCHING!


Thank you to the editors who edited this article! Credits: Images are the official drama posters on MDL. The Feature Image is a self-made collage on the drama posters listed. 
Edited by: devitto (1st editor)

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