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From EXO to Zelda: 20 Things We're Thankful For in 2023

Written by YumCha! Editorial Team Tell a Friend

2023 has been another year of ups and (too many) downs. In the month of gratitude, we're thankful for the good things, from hit shows and games to fun trends and nostalgic comebacks, that made this year better.

AI Yearbook

Image from Jeong Yeon's Instagram
AI Yearbook has been one of the most fun viral trends of 2023. Created by the Korean SNOW Corporation (best known for the SNOW filter app), EPIK - AI Photo Editor app allows us to create our own collection of 90s "high teen" style high school yearbook photos for quality social media content. Generated within seconds by just uploading several selfies, most of the yearbook snaps seem cute and realistic, but it can also go hilariously wrong… like Twice member Jeong Yeon's rugby portrait!

Asian Games with Esports

The 19th Hangzhou Asian Games arrived in 2023 after a year's delay – along with the highly anticipated medal debut of esports at the event! Over 400 esports athletes from 30 regions took part to compete in seven games, including Arena of Valor, Dota 2, Dream Three Kingdoms 2, League of Legends, PUBG Mobile, EA Sports FC Online and Street Fighter V. Fans could not be more happy to witness legendary pro gamers like Faker and Ame finish on top of the podium at an official global sports event.

The Devil's Plan

PD Jung Jong Yeon, who produced the tvN game shows The Genius, Society Game and Great Escape, made his Netflix debut with The Devil's Plan in 2023. The Korean reality show gathers the brains of 12 players from different walks of life, including entertainment artists, a lawyer and a surgeon, to compete in various thrilling board games and strategy games for the final title and money prize. Though audiences may not agree with all the players' approaches and beliefs, The Devil's Plan serves as an impressive, interesting program that introduces international audiences to the world of Korean game shows, which require another level of brain energy.

Divas Hit the Road Season 5

Since its start in 2017, Chinese travel reality program Divas Hit the Road has been known for one thing: DRAMA. The show gathers a mix of female and male celebs for a self-planned trip on limited budget. The clash of high-maintenance personalities has generated all kinds of drama through various seasons, especially the infamous second season. Season 5, however, has so far gone the drama-free route for its Silk Road journey with young actors Wang Anyu and Hu Xianxu as guides for an easygoing, understanding set of actresses – Amanda Qin, Dilraba Dilmurat, Xin Zhilei, Zhao Zhaoyi and Qin Lan, who absolutely won't let a hoarse voice stop her from talking up a storm. It turns out no drama can also be funny and entertaining!

Don't Call It Mystery x Cinnamoroll

Sanrio may roll out more merchandise collaborations than you can shake a stick at, but the crossover between Cinnamoroll and the Japanese movie Don't Call It Mystery is rather unexpected – and seriously the best. Sanrio's collabs with Sailor Moon, Oshi no Ko and RRR this year also look fun, but nothing beats the ridiculous cuteness of Cinnamoroll with a head of curly hair! Also nothing beats Cinnamoroll as the puppy topped the Sanrio Character Awards again in 2023 for the fourth consecutive year.

EXO's Killing Voices

In the midst of their long-awaited comeback with EXIST in July, EXO visited K-pop fans' favorite music program – Dingo Music's "Killing Voice" – to look back on their music journey with a live medley of megahits. Xiumin, Suho, Baek Hyun, Chen, Chan Yeol, D.O. and Se Hun took us down memory lane by revisiting their well-known songs of the past 11 years, from iconic bangers like Growl, Love Shot and MAMA to fan-favorite side tracks like The Eve, The First Snow and Don't Go.

The First Slam Dunk

All kinds of things from the 90s are making comebacks, but our favorite 90s icon to resurge in the past year has to be Slam Dunk. Directed by manga creator Inoue Takehiko, The First Slam Dunk was released in Japan in December 2022 and swept through the rest of East and Southeast Asia this year, hitting us right in our collective nostalgic hearts. In Hong Kong, the original voice actors of the 90s Cantonese-dubbed anime even returned to dub the new feature! The First Slam Dunk doesn't just cash in on nostalgia. Breathing new life into the classic as a standalone film while completing pieces missing from the 90s anime, this blockbuster is a well-told and beautifully animated coming-of-age sports drama with a touching backstory, rousing basketball scenes and shonen passion to spare.

Hogwarts Legacy

Live the unwritten in the wizarding world of Hogwarts Legacy! Set in the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the 1800s, the action role-playing game introduces players to the Harry Potter universe by letting them experience the wizarding world in a third-person perspective. Players create their own student character, choose their Hogwarts House, customize their perfect wand at Ollivanders, and struggle to learn how to cast spells, combat, brew potions and fly. The open-world design fulfills our dream of exploring the castle, Hogsmeade Village, Forbidden Forest, Room of Requirement and other familiar locations from the Harry Potter books and movies!

I Feel You Linger in the Air

I Feel You Linger in the Air may be the most romantic TV series of the year. The Thai BL drama sends hearts aflutter and then through the wringer with the evocative story of a fated love in the right place but the wrong time. Nonkul Chanon Santinatornkul is Jom, an architect overseeing the renovation of an old manor where he experiences strange visions. After an accident, he awakens in 1927 Chiang Mai and becomes the personal servant of the manor's young master Yai, portrayed by Bright Rapheephong Thapsuwan. Yai is taken with Jom at first sight for their encounter is actually a re-encounter hinted of in dreams. Love and intimacy bloom gently in the manor, along with all kinds of household strife, but the greatest obstacle for the lovers is the future that's pulling Jom back. As tender and lyrical as the poetic title promises, I Feel You Linger in the Air reels you in with an intriguing script, beautiful production values, and simply all the feels from the committed performances of the stars.

Idol no Ko

Based on the manga by Akasaka Aka and Yokoyari Mengo, the anime series Idol no Ko is an unpredictable and genre-defying ride that has become a huge hit for good reason. The roller coaster first episode sets the tone by detailing the rise and fall of an effervescent teen idol – and the growth of her two precocious kids who are reincarnated superfans with memories of their previous lives! Idol no Ko readily goes from cute and chirpy to dark and unsettling at a moment's notice while following the protagonists' candy-colored journeys through the entertainment industry. Also the anime's songs are such catchy mood-boosters, from YOASOBI's epic Idol to B-Komachi's sugary pop numbers.

Ji Soo's Flower

"There was nothing left but a scent of a flower…" It's 2023 but the K-pop challenge trend is far from over. And this year's most viral K-pop challenge goes to… Ji Soo's Flower! What makes the Flower Challenge so exceptionally popular and entertaining is that you can challenge an elegant original dance version – or you can just put your furry pet to cute use by rotating your wrist clockwise around its smooshy face. We will never get tired of watching puppies and kittens doing the Flower Challenge.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Somehow managing to surpass the universally acclaimed The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, sequel Tears of the Kingdom lives up to the hype with breathtaking world-building, challenging gameplay, stunning visuals and a deep sandbox to explore to your heart's content. The blockbuster Nintendo action-adventure game breaks new ground for open world by expanding vertically with its three map layers that provide hours upon hours of gameplay to traverse from underground depths to surface terrains to high into the skies. The release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom was such a big deal in Japan that people used vacation leave days for "Zelda holiday." The president of one Japanese gaming company even gave free games to staff (we did not enjoy such privileges 😢).

Miyazaki Hayao

Miyazaki Hayao announced his retirement to the world back in 2013, and then unretired to work on The Boy and the Heron which finally arrived this year. The Boy and the Heron opened in Japan on July 14 without releasing a single trailer or even synopsis beforehand, and delivered the biggest-ever opening for a Studio Ghibli film. Embodying Miyazaki's emotional themes and fanciful imagery, the animated fantasy follows a grieving boy's journey into a magical world that spans life, death and creation. Considering Miyazaki's age and Nippon TV's recent acquisition of Studio Ghibli, it's hard to say what happens next for the iconic animation studio, but we're thankful to have gotten at least one more masterpiece from the legendary director – and hope that there's more to come.

Netflix's One Piece

Considering the abysmal track record for American takes of iconic Japanese manga and anime, Netflix's live-action adaptation of One Piece may already be considered a success if it achieves the distinction of not sucking. Well, not only did it not suck, One Piece became a global hit, and garnered generally positive reviews from audiences and critics alike. With Oda Eiichiro onboard for the production, the Netflix series found the right balance of pirate action, goofy fantasy and shonen heart for its first season about the start of the Straw Hat Pirates and their seafaring adventures. Against the odds, apparently it is possible to do live-action One Piece. We are now cautiously excited about Chopper in Season 2.


"It's PEAK TIME to show our talent." From the production team of Sing Again, JTBC audition show PEAK TIME offers a stage for lesser-known K-pop idols and groups to shine on stage again and find their own audience. Given a second chance, the underrated stars gave their best shot to pull off legendary stages including DGNA's Mirotic, MASC's Hello, VANNER's Adore You and Dance Unit C's Bad. With their rising popularity, the final Top 6 teams – VANNER, SEVENUS (formerly MASC), Team 24:00, DKB, BAE173 and M.O.N.T – even got to tour in Korea and some Asian regions for the PEAK TIME concert!

The PSICK Show

Psick University, the channel that has contributed numerous funny memes and videos including the cheesy Choi Joon persona, Hansarang Hiking Club, and Alpine Club Seniors singing Justin Bieber's Peaches, created a buzz by being the first YouTube series to win the Baeksang Arts Awards' Best Entertainment Program. Pushing the envelope, the three comedians parody Western talk shows to host the English program The PSICK Show, inviting guests like RM, Jay Park, NCT 127, CL, Epik High, Seventeen, LE SSERAFIM, Son Suk Ku, Jessi and even Son Heung Min! Global fans are thankful for their silly but easily understandable Korean-English puns and weird accents, not to mention the "Daily Korean" corner that teaches the most up-to-date Korean slang in the funniest way possible.

Wan Kwong AI Song Covers

AI-generated song covers mimicking the voices of artists started taking over the internet from mid-2023. Some were entertained by the realistic-sounding AI covers that made it possible to hear unexpected song remakes, while others were concerned about the threatening implications for the music industry. Veteran Hong Kong singer Wan Kwong took the trend to the next level by making AI Wan Kwong real for his concert! After fan-made AI Wan Kwong covers of Terence Lam's "Solitude" and Keung To's Dear My Friend, went viral, the singer performed his real live renditions of the songs during his first Hong Kong Coliseum concert in 14 years. Wan Kwong even released the ballad duet Dear Myself with his official AI voice "Wan K."

Wave Makers

"Let's not just let it go, OK?" Taiwanese Netflix series Wave Makers set off a real-life #MeToo wave that rippled through Taiwan's political landscape and then other industries. The series revolving around the lives of campaign staff in the runup to a presidential election had much to say about election politics, but what struck local audiences most was its subplot about sexual harassment. A now-iconic line uttered by senior campaign staffer Yu Wen Fang (Hsieh Ying Hsuan) while supporting and encouraging junior staffer Ya Ching (Gingle Wang) became a rallying cry for those who have been pressured to stay silent about workplace sexual harassment. Many people stepped forward to share their experiences of having to "let it go," prompting a moment of reckoning for Taiwanese society. Wave Makers is a testament to how film and television can reflect and affect the real world.

World Baseball Classic

Delayed for two years due to the pandemic, the fifth iteration of the World Baseball Classic finally took the field in 2023, and it attracted more attention and viewership than any edition before. The tournament had so many memorable moments – Czech Republic's scrappy squad of mostly amateur players, the exuberant party mood of every game in Taichung Stadium, the heated quarterfinal match-up between Mexico and Puerto Rico, Japan's walk-off against Mexico in the semifinals, and of course, the dramatic storybook ending of USA vs Japan. The amazing final inning with closer Ohtani Shohei striking out Angels teammate Mike Trout to seal the win for Samurai Japan is straight out of a sports movie.

YRF Spy Universe

Never mind Mission Impossible – our favorite spy action franchise is the YRF Spy Universe! The Bollywood series from Yash Raj Films started back in 2012 with Ek Tha Tiger starring Salman Khan as agent Tiger, and then 2019's War introduced Hrithik Roshan as another RAW agent. This year, the shared universe comes to fruition in a big way with the release of two record-setting blockbusters. Released in January, Pathaan starring Shah Rukh Khan became the fifth film ever to join the 1,000 crore club, and it's currently India's second biggest film of the year (after SRK's Jawan released in September). Pathaan notably features a crossover appearance by Salman Khan as Tiger that brought the house down. Both Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan make appearances in Tiger 3, which just came out on November 12 and scored the biggest Diwali box office opening ever and the biggest overseas opening for a Hindi film.

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Published November 17, 2023

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  • Region & Language: Hong Kong United States - English
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