oh! … the genre

For the purposes of my blog, I use the following genre descriptors to choose the genre and/or subgenre of the films and dramas I review.


Typically includes a protagonist that will be involved in dangerous situations, like explosions, fight scenes, daring escapes. Typically Hong Kong action drama and film revolves around stylised sequences and dramatic themes like a brotherhood, duty, honour, redemption and violence.  Chinese wuxia typically has chivalrous heroes and fantastical adventures. Other Asian countries may use men and women with swords or guns to defend against attack.


Typically involves a protagonist who has to journey to far-off or epic locations to accomplish some task or mission. Adventure stories can include unknown settings and characters with prized properties or features.


Typically a story that tells a series of funny or comical events and can include many subgenres – satire, scandal, parody, romantic comedy, dark comedy etc.


In this genre, the protagonist or leading character(s) grow from youth into adulthood and these types of dramas tend to emphasize dialogue or internal monologues over action. Typically set in the past.


Typically involves a crime that is being committed or was committed or an account of a criminal’s life. Often goes hand-in-hand with action, adventure, thriller etc. Sub-genre includes detective stories, whodunnit, gangster, legal thrillers, courtroom drama, and murder mystery. In China, this genre often includes Gong’an fiction, historical crime fiction that involves government magistrates who solve criminal cases.


Drama is a genre that relies on the emotional and relational development of realistic characters. Dramatic themes play a large role in the plot as well. Often, these dramatic themes are taken from intense, real-life issues.


Family is a genre revolving around conflicts between family members. In a more general sense, any work of fiction about the relationships within a family.


This typically includes fairy tales, legends, mythical places and creatures. A fantasy story is all about magic or supernatural forces and beings. Bangsian is a sub-genre that uses famous literary or historical individuals and their interactions in the afterlife. Contemporary fantasy another sub-genre of fantasy is typically set in the present day, in which magic and magical creatures exist, either living in the interstices of our world or leaking over from alternate worlds. In China, Shenmo is a genre that revolves around the gods and monsters of Chinese mythology.


Film Noir is a cinematic term used to describe stylish crime dramas. The term film noir, French for “black film” (literally) or “dark film” (closer meaning) was first applied to Hollywood films by French critic Nino Frank in 1946 and was unrecognised by most American film industry professionals of that era. Film noir encompasses a range of plots: the central figure may be a private investigator, a plainclothes policeman, an ageing boxer, a hapless drifter, a law-abiding citizen lured into a life of crime, or simply a victim of circumstance.

Fusion Sageuk

Contemporary fusion sageuk, while still retaining its historical attributes, focuses more on the relationships and emotions of the characters. There are several sub-genre that include fantasy, mythical, magical aspects, including time-travel.


For the types of films and dramas I am watching, the ‘Historical” genre can relate to two things:

  1. A story about a real person or event — the details of the life story of a real person (told, written, or narrated by someone else); a memoir by a historical figure whether fictional or nonfictional; an alternate history retelling, a historical fiction (real world people but dramatised elements)
  2. A period piece depicting a time in history whether the story is based on a real person or a fictional character or characters. History is simply the backdrop. Japanese Jidaigeki and Korean sageuk fit this category well.


Horror is typically a story that will frighten or scare the audience through suspense, violence or shock. Includes ghost stories that are out for revenge or violent, monster stories, fantastical mean-spirited or evil creatures. Slasher-styled, occult-styled and survival type films and drama fit well within this genre.


This genre is normally a dramatic production in which the plot takes precedence over detailed characterization and is sensationally designed to appeal strongly to the emotions. Characters are often simply drawn and may appear stereotyped. Also known as Melo in kdrama circles.


A mystery drama or film follows an investigator as he/she attempts to solve a puzzle (often a crime). The details and clues are presented as the story continues and the protagonist discovers them and by the end of the story the mystery/puzzle is solved.


Romance involves emotion-driven stories that are primarily focused on the relationship between the main characters of the story. Beyond the focus on the relationship, the biggest defining characteristic of the romance genre is that a happy ending is almost always guaranteed. The happy ending does not require the characters to be married and living “happily ever after”, simply that there is hope for the future of the romantic relationship.


Romantic comedy, also known as romcom is film or drama with light-hearted, humorous plotlines, centred on romantic ideals such as true love is able to surmount most obstacles. In a typical romantic comedy the two lovers tend to be young, likeable, and apparently meant for each other, yet they are kept apart by some complicating circumstance (e.g., class differences, parental interference; a previous girlfriend or boyfriend) until, surmounting all obstacles, they are finally wed.


Sageuk is Korean historical period drama plays, films, and television series and the genre is largely dominated by South Korea. Saeguk is typically preferred by older generations, but writers have tried to focus less on the folklore and more on the fictional presentation.


A Thriller is typically a story that has a mix of fear and excitement. It shares traits from the action, adventure or mystery genres, but the level of terror makes it borderline horror fiction at times as well. It generally has a dark or serious theme i.e. Disaster-thriller (mass peril), Psychological (often complicated stories and plots of psychological condition of character); Crime (revolves around the lives of detectives, gangs, criminal events etc.); and Techno (theme is usually technology related so cyber terrorism, hacking etc.)


This is a form of drama based on human suffering, typically a tragedy of circumstance or life. Often there are deeply personal emotions and intimate details revealed and misfortune brings about the character’s downfall.


War is more often a film genre associated with warfare — naval, air, or land battles, with combat scenes central to the drama. Themes explored include combat, survival and escape, sacrifice, the futility and inhumanity of battle, the effects of war on society, and the moral and human issues raised by war. Asian nations like Korea, China, Indonesia, and Japan have their own traditions of war film, centred on their own revolutionary wars but taking varied forms, from action and historical drama to wartime romance.


Wuxia was originally literature but developed into film and drama, Loosely translated it is martial-chivalric (wu to do with martial arts, war, or the military and Xia the type of protagonist found in wuxia fiction or chivalry). Typically includes action choreography with wires, trampolines, gravelling hooks, acrobatics and high-speed camera techniques.

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