I checked out Salty Studio (author: omyo) on Line Webtoon because it sounded like something that would be turned into a drama very soon. Which also made me think that I would enjoy it because I am really enjoying Cheese in the Trap. It has all the elements of a Korean drama – a guy with a dream forced to live with a girl who can help pay his rent but also inspire him to follow his dream. And there are colorful side characters as well. But Salty Studio ended abruptly, and has left me feeling empty and wanting more.
Warning – some spoilers for the review!
Salty Studio follows Jung To Geun, a son of a CEO who gives up a job at his father’s company to pursue his dream of being an artist. However that also means he gets kicked out of his parents’ house and is forced to rent a rooftop studio in a small walk-up, just a few floors above two high school students that he tutors on the side.
To Geun is having a hard time on his own though, feeling uninspired with drawing and also quite penniless, save for the pittance he gets from tutoring. His students are Willow and River, and Willow’s got a major crush on him while River’s grades slowly fall as he becomes less motivated with studying. He suddenly meets Lee So Nak again after a reunion party and learns that he drunkenly signed a contract with her. She will now stay with him at his apartment, helping pay the rent while she works at his place. She won’t sleep there though – they need to set boundaries!
It’s a bit of a slice of life webtoon with little obstacles in To Geun’s way. There are a lot of fun little story arcs, with their neighbor Cookie trying to get a job while looking like a foreigner, the students trying to get into college, or To Geun just trying to find the inspiration to draw. While he doesn’t get along with his father, it’s not much of a deterrent to his lifestyle. He does have an ex-girlfriend who is clearly in it for the money, but she is more or less harmless; when you think she’s going to do something evil towards So Nak out of jealousy, it doesn’t turn out that way. It makes for a lighter read because you can’t really imagine things going very badly for To Geun.
The real conflict comes about when we realize that So Nak isn’t really who she says she is. While To Geun thinks she’s the girl from his high school who would paint with him after school, it turns out that To Geun has fond high school memories of her younger sister Seul Bi, who dressed up in So Nak’s clothes and snuck around her school because she was a sickly child and didn’t get to live a normal life.
It’s an interesting twist that comes towards the end of the series, but it gets resolved quickly because everyone is quite honest of their feelings. I appreciate that, but also was left with wanting more. It was a very quick resolution in my opinion and the webtoon ended everything quite quickly. It is 66 episodes, but at the same time it felt too short. I was marathoning it at one point, then just reading it week by week, feeling like it’d never end. And then suddenly, it did.
Because it has an ending, it definitely feels like it could have been made into a drama. (Compared to Cheese in the Trap which is in its third season already. Who knows where the drama will end?) Salty Studio would make a perfect romantic comedy because it’s pretty much about a poor guy with a dream who meets a mysterious girl from his past who can help him achieve that dream. She never does quite teach him how to draw, but in a drama, that plot would be pushed to the side in favor of the romance and chemistry between the main characters anyways. The drama can make the ex-girlfriend more villainous, and can drag out the twist in the end for about three episodes. It’s well paced to be a 16-episode K-drama, and, for me, it is reminiscent of Flower Boy Next Door based on the tone and the range of characters that appear. Everything happens pretty much in this one apartment building in Salty Studio and there is a colorful cast of characters surrounding this artist wannabe. After all, it’s not just about To Geun’s life but also about his neighbors. But perhaps there is no drama about it yet because it’s just too easy. Too easy and not enough creativity for the writers and producers of the drama.
It’s definitely a fun and interesting read and would recommend it if anyone wants to just read something light while waiting for new chapters (Cheese in the Trap!!) or taking a break from darker stories (Dr. Frost). But the ending just destroyed me.