MANILA, Philippines — Dramas often feature two main leads, often a male and a female, who will most likely end up with each other.
Then there are the “bromances,” dramas that have two male leads who forge friendship despite their differences. Dramas with a strong female lead and with little to no romantic relations, however, are relatively few.
As a nod to the many women who are the captains of their own ship, and who have proven that they can do a man’s job just as effortlessly as their male counterparts, this Women’s Month, we are listing our fave drama shows that focus on a central female character, who is her own boss both in her personal and professional life:
1. ‘Inspector Koo’
Lee Young-ae is deglamorized as the ex-cop turned reclusive gamer in the comedy-thriller “Inspector Koo.”
The 12-episode series is a battle of wits and cunning between the disgraced cop and a female serial killer played by “Kingdom” star Kim Hye-jun.
Young-ae’s ethereal beauty still manages to radiate in the series, even though Inspector Koo is barely “presentable” most of the time with her disheveled appearance and non-existent hygiene.
It’s a far cry from two of her previous TV roles, “Saimdang” (2017) and “Dae Jang Geum: Jewel In The Palace” (2003). She played the dual roles of an art lecturer and a 16th century Joseon-era calligrapher in “Saimdang”. This was her comeback project 14 years after her hit historical epic “Jewel In The Palace,” which is based on the story of Joseon’s first female royal physician.
Young-ae donated 100 million won in earlier March to the victims of the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Lee Ha-na does the emotionally-restrained act quite well in the four seasons of the police procedural thriller “Voice.” She plays Kang Kwon-joo, a police officer with the uncanny ability to hear even the littlest of sound.
Imagine this: a wind chime from two doors down or the faint sound of a moving signage amid a flurry of background noises and police sirens. She hears all these over the phone as she talks with the operative or her partner on the other end of the line.
Kwon-joo is sort of a freak of nature, but her natural ability comes in handy as she solves emergency rescue cases as a responder and later on, the director of Korea’s national emergency hotline.
She stars with three of Korea’s popular leading men: Jang Hyuk (Season 1), Lee Jin-wook (Seasons 2 to 3), and Song Seung-hun (Season 3). All played the male detectives who do not necessarily have any romantic inclinations with Kwon-joo.
The series is a success for both OCN and TVN. “Voice” was adapted in Thailand and Japan in 2019.
3. ‘Legal V: Shoko Takanashi’
There is one actress who has an enviable filmography in dramaland. Ryoko Yonekura has the distinct privelege of playing a doctor, a lawyer and a journalist in all her TV shows.
“Legal V: Shoko Takanashi” is similar to Ryoko’s major hit, “Doctor X” (more of this later). The Japanese actress plays disbarred lawyer Shoko Takanashi who forms a team of misfits and puts up a legal firm. The team is composed of a university professor who is a lawyer in name only, an idealistic litigation lawyer who has yet to win a case, two paralegals with criminal records, and a part-time male host. As the law firm’s brains and supervisor, Shoko and the team champion the cause of the underprivileged and misrepresented in court. It does not help that in most cases they butt heads with Shoko’s former employer, the giant law firm Felix & Temma Law firm.
“Legal V: Shoko Takanashi” was released in between the fifth and sixth seasons of “Doctor X.”
4. ‘The Journalist’
Ryoko turns all serious in this political thriller. As the title suggests, “The Journalist” puts the spotlight on corruption at the highest level being uncovered by an undaunting newspaper woman named Anna Matsuda.
Matsuda is relentless as she remains the only gutsy reporter who dares to question the involvement of the prime minister and his first lady in a questionable real estate deal involving Eishin Academy.
“The Journalist” has Ryoko taking a break from her usual quirky yet enigmatic TV characters. Anna Matsuda is almost always dressed in black and sports a somber face that masks a deep hurt and a past that continues to haunt her.
Despite the threat to her career and life, Matsuda’s pursuit of the truth inspires people to move to action and topple a corrupted system empowered by fake news and indifference.
5. ‘Doctor X’
This is undeniably Ryoko’s beloved and most popular show. She basically becomes synonymous to her most popular character: Michiko Daimon.
Daimon is considered mercenarial by the doctors and institutions she lends her service as a freelance surgeon.
Known as “Doctor X,” she is demanding and rigid with her work ethic. She gets out of work on the dot, goes on to party all night, and takes on difficult and often inoperable surgeries for the right price.
Daimon or “demon” as she is called behind her back is actually a seasoned doctor who is also a veterinarian and a combat surgeon. She is averse to authority and rules, with good reason which viewers will find out along the way.
“Doctor X” is among those must-watch J-doramas (Japanese drama). It is full of quirky characters, exciting operating room drama, and a fun and unapologetic lead.
Its seven seasons are proof enough why Michiko Daimon and “Doctor X” is a classic hit.
6. ‘Juvenile Justice’
Kim Hye-soo does another law-related drama in this thriller currently among the most viewed series on Netflix.
After playing a money-loving lawyer in “Hyena” and a tough detective in “Signal”, Hye-soo plays Shim Eun-seok, one of the only 20 judges in South Korea’s juvenile court in “Juvenile Justice.”
“I have nothing but hatred for young offenders.” Shim Eun-seok utters in the first few minutes of the 10-episode series. Whenever a juvenile delinquent is sent to her court, they know they are doomed because they are about to be sentenced by Judge Max. The moniker is well-earned as she is the only judge who imposes the maximum 20-year sentence to the most delinquent offender.
Her uncompromising and cold personality, though, is a façade for tough love as viewers will eventually learn the motivation behind her obvious hatred.
The premiere episode gathered buzz with the much-talked about character named Baek Sung-woo, a 14-year-old boy who surrendered and admitted to a brutal murder by chopping the body of a young boy. It turned out that the actor who played the teenaged boy is 28-year-old actress Lee Yeon.