A recent trend which has not gone unnoticed in the Asian drama industry is the concept of cross-dressing; where the female lead disguises herself as a male in order to achieve her goal – whether it be financial, to help a loved one or for personal gain.
The Japanese manga ‘Hanazakari no Kimitachi e’ (also known as Hana-Kimi) has become one of Asia’s most adapted storyline where the female lead in an attempt to dorm with her high-jump idol, cuts off her long hair, flattens her chest with bandages and deepens her voice in order to attend an all boys high school.
Taiwan was the first to adapt this manga into a television series titled ‘Hanazakarino Kimitachihe’ in 2006 and was rather successful as the drama ratings were so high that television channels in Japan and South Korea paid approximately 30,000,000TWD (approximately $1 million AUD) for the drama’s broadcasting rights. The drama was also nominated for the Best Juvenile Drama award at the 2007 Seoul International Drama Awards.
Japan has also adapted this manga twice – once in 2007 and again in 2011, and Korea aired its first adaptation this year titled ‘To the Beautiful You’.
Two years before ‘To the Beautiful You’, Korea aired a sageuk (historical drama) with a similar plot theme titled ‘Sungkyunkwan Scandal’. Set in a period where it was against the law for females to be employed or educated, Kim Yoon Hee (Park Min Young) decided to disguise herself as her ill brother, Kim Yoon Shik and enrolled in one of Korea’s most prestigious university. It was because of this drama that the four main cast shot to stardom and their popularity are now skyrocketing in the industry.
Boy group JYJ’s Park Yoochun who made his Korean debut as an actor in this series won a handful of awards including ‘Rookie of the Year Award’, ‘Netizens Award’ and ‘Best Couple Award’ at the 2010 KBS Drama Awards, ‘Best Newcomer Award’ and ‘Most Popular Actor in a TV Drama’ at the 47th Baeksang Arts Awards, and ‘Best Actor’ and ‘Most Popular Asian Actor’ at the 6th Seoul International Drama Awards.
Apart from the teenage world, the adult world in the drama industry is also getting their dose of the girl-boy masquerade where 2007 Korean drama ‘Coffee Prince’ and 2012 Taiwanese drama ‘Ti Amo Chocolate’ showcased the female lead disguising herself as a male in order to get the job they want.
This trend has also infiltrated the idol industry. In the 2009 drama ‘You’re Beautiful’, sister-in-training Go Mi Nyu (Park Shin Hye) posed as her twin brother, Go Mi Nam and entered the boy group A.N.JELL.
Despite the drama’s mediocre ratings, the soundtrack was a hit with its viewers. Just how much of a hit? Well due to the hot response received, the song ‘Still’ was released one week ahead of schedule and upon release; the OST sold 20,000 copies within the first week of the release date and became a top seller on multiple online sites such as Melon, Dosirak and Mnet. A mini-concert was also held by the fictional group which drew in 25,000 fans.
Although these dramas all share a similar theme and plot, viewers never seem to grow tired or bored of it. Why? Well it may have something to do with the fact that almost 100% of the cast is made up of pretty boys, or maybe it’s the comical and cute scenes that can only be found in K-Drama.
A representative for TBS stated, “I think the popularity factor for ‘You’re Beautiful’ seems to be the true love depicted by the complicated human relationships between family, rather than it being a simple romantic comedy. Not only is the story compelling, but the characters themselves are very charming so the Japanese version of ‘You’re Beautiful’ will certainly gain lots of love from the viewers.”
An AVEX representative stated, “You’re Beautiful is very popular amongst young fans in Japan. Even after several years, there’s still a hot response to Hallyu dramas.”
Whatever the reason, these characters and storylines are constantly loved by the audience and, seeing how cross-dressing as a theme has spiked in recent dramas, it is becoming more popular than ever. In fact, it is through these dramas that rookie actors and actresses have shot to fame and are now the faces of CFs and advertisements – not to mention the latest ‘in’ dramas and movies.