Look, I think we can all agree that the last two years have been…weird. Many of us have had precious little reason to smile since probably 2019. Everyone’s mental health is in the gutter. And being ace, Valentine’s Day has never been one of my favorite holidays. But I still ship with abandon, and I still love romance stories. With that in mind, here are five romances that I’ve watched recently that made me happy. Hopefully, they’ll brighten your day, too!
Yoon Hye Jin and Hong Doo Shik (Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha)
Here’s the Story: Yoon Hye Jin (Shin Min Ah) has recently quit her dentist job in Seoul. She is visiting the seaside town of Gongjin on her late mother’s birthday when she learns the small town has no dental clinic. She impulsively decides to move there and open a clinic and almost immediately clashes with the town’s prodigal son, Hong Doo Shik (Kim Seon Ho). After some early issues, she starts to become charmed by him – and the rest of the town.
It’s funny to say that this made me smile, because the last few episodes of the show are actually quite dramatic. There is a mystery as to why Hong Doo Shik, who went to a top university and had a lucrative job in Seoul, moved back to Gongjin. I actually cried for almost a solid 90 minutes as the show wound to an end.
But the relationship is so adorable. He’s smitten basically the first moment he sees her (most of the episodes are told from her perspective, but they end with showing his perspective during a few key moments), but she starts off as very classist and judgmental. The relationship develops over time and, honestly, they are just so cute together. Moments like them dancing on the beach in the rain or going golfing with her friends just made me so giddy I couldn’t help but squeal.
And when their relationship hits rough patches, they work through them. When his reticence to talk about his past causes issues, she tells him that she doesn’t want to break up but he needs to work through them. That was so refreshing. A lot of times, a storyline like this will lead to a misunderstanding and the couple will break up for a while. It was nice to see her acknowledge that he has to face his demons so that he can let himself be happy.
So yes, the show itself may make you cry, but the two of them are just a delight.
Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha is currently streaming on Netflix.
Sung Deok Mi and Ryan Gold (Her Private Life)
Here’s the Story: Sung Deok Mi (Park Min Young) leads a secret double life. As far as her family and her coworkers know, she’s just a museum curator trying to do her job. Only a few of her friends know that she’s a BNF (Big Name Fan) of K-Pop sensation Cha Shi An. She runs a fansite devoted to him and knows his schedule so that she can take photos of him. When the museum she works for approaches Shi An for a collaboration, she becomes the object of fan ire when photos surface that make it appear as though she is dating him. That’s when the museum’s new owner, Ryan Gold (Kim Jae Wook), steps in to take the heat off of her.
You may have heard Erin talk about this show on one of our many webcasts in the past couple of years. The best thing about this show is that it features the lead being an unapologetic fangirl and the important people in her life don’t care. True, her parents don’t know that her apartment is literally covered with photos and paintings of a K-Pop star, but her best friend is actually right there with her.
Their relationship is a thing of beauty. First he pretends to date her so that the fangirls will get off her back. He continues to fake date her because he thinks she is in a same-sex relationship and doesn’t want to come out. Once he learns that her big secret is that she’s a fangirl, he doesn’t even blink an eye. He even tries to learn more about the music and the fan culture.
There are some dramatic moments, of course. Both of them have childhood trauma, but they stick together and appreciate each other and encourage each other’s passions.
Her Private Life is currently streaming on Netflix.
Aoki Sota and Ida Kousuke (My Love Mix-Up)
Here’s the Story: Aoki Sota (Michieda Shunsuke) has a crush on Hashimoto. One day, he borrows an eraser from her that has another boy’s name written on it with a heart. When that boy, Ida Kousuke (Meguro Ren) sees the eraser, Aoki thinks he’s protecting Hashimoto by claiming it as his. What he actually does is send both he and Ida spiraling into a sexuality crisis.
I just watched this one recently and it was like “blanket pulled up to your chin to hide your blush even though you’re alone in your apartment” cute. It was just so sweet and adorable. I like that Ida wasn’t disgusted when he thought that Aoki had a crush on him. He sat down and gave it some real thought, because he didn’t want to answer Aoki’s “confession” without giving it proper consideration. That was surprisingly mature for a high school student.
Aoki is just #mood, honestly. He thinks that he’s helping his crush land her crush, but all he’s doing is pushing himself closer to Ida. What starts out as a genuine misunderstanding turns into, “Well, actually I do have a crush on Ida now, isn’t he dreamy?” (The answer is yes, Ida is super dreamy.) He has a couple of scenes that were visual representations of what I feel like sometimes – putting himself in a trash bag, closing the hood on his sweatshirt so that you can’t see his face.
What I also like about this show is that their friends are so supportive. There is a moment in, I think, episode 3 that changes the whole dynamic of the show for the better. Aoki and Hashimoto become basically ride-or-die best friends and I absolutely loved their relationship. Even Ida, who is a “jock” (although he’s on the volleyball team and they’re not exactly the stereotypic athletes you might expect), has super supportive friends.
My Love Mix-Up! is currently streaming on Viki.
Miyano Yoshikazu and Sasaki Shuumei (Sasaki and Miyano)
Here’s the Story: One day, Sasaki Shuumei (Shirai Yuusuke) saves Miyano Yoshikazu’s (Saitou Souma) friend and classmate from bullies, and then for some reason refuses to leave Miyano alone. Sasaki is constantly pushing Miyano’s boundaries and calling him cute nicknames, and Miyano has no idea why he is even interested. Then Sasaki finds out Miyano’s dirty secret: he’s a big fan of BL manga. Sasaki asks to read some, and the two develop a friendship.
This is the only romance on this list that isn’t complete (the anime is still ongoing), and for that I’m sorry! But what could be better than a weekly dose of serotonin in the form of these two being adorable?
Their relationship is similar to that of Aoki’s and Ida’s from My Love Mix-Up! in that both of them are sort of stumbling through this whole situation with their eyes closed and no idea what to do. Miyano is adorably clueless, managing to pass off Sasaki’s slips of the tongue as jokes. Meanwhile Sasaki has a meltdown basically every time Miyano smiles in his direction. Or at all.
What I like about this show is that Sasaki made a point to show interest in one of Miyano’s interests. And he’s actually serious about it. He reads the manga that Miyano lends him and then they talk about it. But also, when Sasaki puts his foot in his mouth (like he did in last week’s episode), he immediately tries to fix it rather than letting the misunderstanding go on.
Sasaki and Miyano is currently streaming on Funimation.
Qiao Jingjing and Yu Tu (You Are My Glory)
Here’s the Story: Actress Qiao Jingjing’s (Dilraba Dilmurat) role as official spokesperson for the mobile game Glory of Kings is in jeopardy after a leaked video of her gameplay shows that she is horrible at it. While practicing for a tournament she must participate in to save her image, she discovers that her (currently single) high school crush Yu Tu (Yang Yang) plays – and is really good. She manufactures a reunion in order to convince him to teach her to play.
Am I cheating a bit by recommending a show I’ve already talked about? Yes. Do I care? No.
There probably isn’t much about this show I can say that I didn’t already talk about in my recommendation a few months ago. As I said then, these two are so cute it makes me want to die. I love their relationship both before and after they’re a couple. I appreciate so much how they’re allowed to be happy and not bogged down in silly drama just for the sake of it.
I was talking to a friend about this show recently and I called it “my happy place”. When I finished my first binge, I immediately re-watched it, and that’s not something I do often. Since then I’ve watched it another two times. It just makes me really happy.
You Are My Glory is currently streaming on Tencent.
And so there you have it! Those are five romances I’ve watched recently that made me smile, like, an insane amount. I’m hoping that they’ll make you smile, too! Happy Valentine’s Day!
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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