What’s Up: First Impressions

I just wanted to get my thoughts out there on the first two episodes of the drama before I continue with the third and fourth. I knew I would like this drama more. Even before The Musical aired, I was looking more forward to this one. It’s definitely darker than any of its musical predecessors this year. When you start off with all your main characters crying or looking somber, you’re just curious at how they got there.

To summarize, we have seven different characters: pickpocket Jang Jae Hun (Im Joo Hwan) who indirectly causes the death of Park Tae Hee (Kim Ji Won)’s father (played by Kim Chang Wan); he becomes roommates with former pop idol Hades, otherwise known as Ha Do Sung (Daesung) in college, and ends up befriending Tae Hee in a way. Tae Hee is roomies with Oh Doo Ri (Im Joo Eun), who’s a talented actress, but a rebel in her own right – giving herself a rugged makeover the first day she arrives at school. They all happen to be musical majors along with well-known actress Eun Chae Young (Jang Hee Jin), and everyone is enthralled by her, save for Jae Hun, who has no idea who she is. Byeong Gun has a crush on Chae Young, and he’s also not that talented, but he has the drive to become a star – even though everyone else in his family is a businessman. He’s roomies with genius violinist Soo Bin (Lee Soo Hyuk), who’s also an immense slob. These six form our core group as they enter Haneul Arts College, and everyone except Jae Hun knows something about musicals, singing, or acting. Jae Hun only auditioned (quite carelessly I might add) because he had been so moved by a performance of a soprano singing to “The Phantom of the Opera.” That feeling of being moved is something he wants to feel, and also make others feel. If only he would take his classes seriously…

By episode 2, we see the students all taking classes and basically training and receiving orientation. Of course Jae Hun is the rebel. Then the appearance of Sunwoo Young (Oh Man Seok) causes quite a stir… and we end the second episode. He is also dressed like a bum, but appears to have quite a reputation and a position in the school to be left undisturbed by security.

I think episode 1 was more solid than episode 2, but these two episodes were great in building up our characters. What I truly enjoy is that every character has a different background, a different personality, and holds their own dark secrets. It’s not like you have your typical rich brat, your outgoing hero/heroine, your pretty-and-talented wallflower, or your sweet second male lead. You have your quirky fairy (Tae Hee), your shy pop idol (Do Sung), your adorable chaebol son who just might be a black sheep if they knew he was studying musicals (Byeong Gun), your rebel actress (Doo Ri), your haunted but cocky hero (Jae Hun), your music genius slob (Soo Bin), and your famous actress who wants to prove she can act (Chae Young). Admittedly, Chae Young is probably the one character that falls under some K-drama stereotype of pretty girl, lots of talent, and also quite possibly b*tchy. But I think there’s something shady with her, that she’s not exactly who she portrays herself to be. I actually hope there’s a darker side to her, or a more serious side that hasn’t been tapped into yet, because everyone so far seems to be quite a contradiction.

Tae Hee may be bubbly, but she’s constantly talking to her dead father; while it may seem innocent, I think there is some pain in there that she’s harboring from her childhood – perhaps abandonment? Do Sung was abandoned by his mother, and I think she’s quite a powerful person in society or else why would she want to hide him so badly? Byeong Gun is a chaebol who’s not perfect – imagine that! Doo Ri is talented too, but she seems to have done it mostly for her mother’s benefit than for her own. I can’t figure Soo Bin out just yet, but he can’t just be a statue-like violinist. And Jae Hun is obviously our haunted hero.

A lot of conflicts have already been introduced in this drama that there is so much fodder for plot, so I hope the writers delivered. For one thing, I’d like to see Byeong Gun’s family find out about what he’s really studying. I’d like to see Tae Hee and Jae Hun face the truth on each other’s involvement with Tae Hee’s father’s death. I’d like to find out more about Do Sung’s mother, and why he was rejected. I’d like to see Doo Ri put Chae Young in her place. I’d like to see Soo Bin and Byeong Gun become the bestest buds, pig pen aside. And Sunwoo Young? What’s his deal? Why is the dean of the musical department so shocked to hear he’s back? I’d love me some rebel teacher storyline, but only if it’s not cheesy. I’ve watched enough Gokusen to last me a lifetime.

One thing important to note is that this drama isn’t really trying to be a drama all about musicals. The first two episodes make that clear. It’s really about the characters, and about how our main seven characters (the students) pursue their dreams and overcome their obstacles in their personal and school life. You’re really only watching for the improvement of the characters’ talents and well-being, to see them grow up and realize fully who they are. It’s a true college drama of finding yourself during the start of your adulthood. And if it’s a character drama, I think I’m going to like this one. The characters singing and performing is just fudge and sprinkles on an already-awesome sundae.

Actually – if Im Joo Hwan sings, I’ll have died and gone to heaven.

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  1. Revy 15 December, 2011 at 01:18 Reply

    This is definitely my fav musical drama so far. Love how they all have such different personalities but my fav so far is Tae Hee. She really stands out & the convos she has with her dad just breaks my heart. Yes i also want some bromance between Soo Bin & Byung Gun. Can you imagine the awesomeness if they start to clean and end up in a pillow & tickle fight

  2. diorama 15 December, 2011 at 18:46 Reply

    I was kinda getting fatigued by all the music-themed dramas this year (we’ve had, what, four already?) but this one hits all the right notes (har har). Smart, dark, quirky, not surprising coming from this writer. The characters are really compelling (and they can act, too!), the directing is subtle but meaningful (I love the yellow balloon motif across the opening scenes), and the music is fantastic. This is gonna be a good one, I know it.

  3. sPark* 17 December, 2011 at 20:45 Reply

    I only caught the first two episodes due to finals. (finally over! :D) I’m not sure if I’m quite in love with the drama. I think it was a bit all over the place and quite confusing. However, that was probably due to the drama trying to introduce all the characters in a short span of time. I’m just excited to see Im Joo Hwan on my screen again (Park Kyu forever<3)!!

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