Dramatic Structure of Asian Dramas

And now for something completely different, and yet very much the same.

Kishōtenketsu, a concept of dramatic structure that is very much a part of the dramatic series and movies shown on Viki. It’s very much NOT the concept of dramatic structure I learned as an English Lit major in college, but when I read about Kishōtenketsu, suddenly the dramatic series and movies I saw/see on Viki made a lot more sense.

Trying to capture some aspect of human life in a script for a show of course means writers, directors, producers, actors, etc., have to focus on certain things and ignore other things and then refine what they focus on. There really is a difference between “Western” and “Eastern” ways of doing this.

In my opinion, “Western” concepts of dramatic structure tend to focus on individuals who have trouble because they haven’t “found” their true inner selves. They only find happiness when they throw off the physical, emotional, and spiritual chains that bind them.

In my opinion, “Eastern” concepts of dramatic structure tend to focus on groups who have trouble (or cause trouble) because one or more members has deviated from grand principles that make life good for everyone. Happiness for everyone comes when those who have problems are brought back into harmony with the grand principles.

Offerings on Viki of course include shows that are hybrid because in the 21st century, different cultures influence each other, especially when it comes to TV, movies, radio dramas, and other forms of entertainment. But when I learned about Kishōtenketsu, dramatic series and movies that seemed to drag for me and not make sense . . . suddenly became more alive, subtle, and interesting.

Sometimes a show seemed bad because it really was, but sometimes it seemed bad because I didn’t have the tools to make sense of it.

I used to watch certain shows, especially family dramas, and say, “I don’t get it. What am I missing?” Now I get it, at least a little bit.


​W​ow, another interesting topic! :heart_eyes:

Yes, I noticed a lot of differences in the dramatic structure of Asian dramas(especially older ones)​

​They reflect a basic culture difference- ​Western cultures tend to focus on the individual while Eastern cultures tend to focus on the group or family unit . There’s a lot of sitting down together and eating, discussing, trusting and sharing of lives. Each character is a weirdo with their own quirks and weaknesses, but together they form a beautiful patchwork quilt of emotions.

Many times, I find myself rating dramas higher than I usually would…the screenplay or cinematography may be lacking but I still give it a full 10. I feel like the beautiful way the writers portray friendships, family and other relationships compensate for minor plot holes and editing gaps. I forgive such dramas quite easily. These dramas feel so much more human .

​Of course, sometimes the lines of individuality blur. We shouldn’t be subject to conformity within the community— mindlessly doing things just because that’s the way things are done or just because someone says it’s the way things should be done. ​Be unique, be your own self. Others give you strength in your weaknesses and you give them strength and comfort in their weaknesses. Everyone helps build each other up and covers for the other’s vulnerable side. That’s my favorite aspect of a community.

​Since it’s the most recent one I watched​, I’ll take Terrius Behind Me as an example. The ML needed the children’s innocent love as much as they needed his protection and care. In their own adorable ways, they helped him grow. The FL needed support and a confidante and that’s what ML was to her. ML needed someone to ground him to earth and treat him like any other breakable human— that was FL’s strength. All the inhabitants of KingCastle apartments needed a family to rely on during their hard times— that’s what the KIS community network did for them. The villain CEO just needed a big brother and sister— that was what ML and FL were to him. I love observing the little things writers include in the dramas. The tiny looks and emotions that are hinted at; the things you can’t see on the surface but are hidden underneath.