Sunday, February 10, 2013

KDrama Review: Heartstrings

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*Available on US Netflix Streaming*

The Gist: Lee Gyu-won (Park Shin-hye) is a college student at an arts university, studying classic Korean music. Brought up by a grandfather famous in the classic music scene, Lee Gyu-won has very little respect for Western style music. This brings her at odds with another student Lee Shin (Jung Yong-hwa), who feels the same way about traditional music. The clash starts when Lee Shin, lead singer of the Stupid, a popular band on campus, doesn't show up for a gig Gyu-won has booked. Gyu-won ends up filling in for Lee Shin as singer, showing off some natural talent. Fed up with Lee Shin's uncaring attitude, the two face off at a school wide competition to decide whether traditional or Western music is best. The result of that competition brings the two of them in contact constantly as Gyu-won realizes she might not hate Lee Shin as she thought. Her feelings are shut down when it becomes apparent that Lee Shin is enthralled with a dance professor at the school. Gyu-won can't seem to avoid him, falling for him as fast as she is his style of music.


1. Re-pairing of Jung Yong-hwa and Park Shin-hye

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Immediately recognizable as a pair from the mega hit You're Beautiful, Jung and Park are matched again with a powerful chemistry. I am always thrilled when neither lead is obnoxious or annoying. Lee Shin and Gyu-won are portrayed with great dedication, making their emotions resonate. The roller coaster of their relationship goes from angry to sad to joy and all over again. None of it comes across as forced, but rather the two have a natural ease with each other. The casting for this drama is very smart.
2. Traditional Music

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One of the things I found totally fascinating about Heartstrings was the introduction of traditional music. As a foreigner, I didn't know anything about traditional Korean music. I'd never even seen a gayageum (pictured above) before this show. Not only did I really like the traditional music, but the mash-ups between the traditional music and Western were spot on. It sets this drama apart from the other million musical dramas out there right now.

3. Musical Talent

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Having already been exposed to both Jung and Park's talent on You're Beautiful, I was still impressed with the quality of the music on Heartstrings. Also, the talent didn't stop with our leads but was impressive across the board. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this drama is well cast.
4. Yeo Joon Hee

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Joon Hee, played by Kang Min-hyuk, is by far my favorite supporting character by miles. As one of Lee Shin's band mates, his nerdy charm is compounded by his sweetness towards pretty much everyone and his full blown hottie status when performing. He's not a particularly complicated character, but I still enjoyed every scene he was in. 
5. The Introduction at Jeju Island 

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I don't have a ton of incredible insight into this sequence, but I thought it was a cute introduction to the series. Even before they knew who they were, Gyu-won and Lee Shin were a little bit fascinated with each other.

1. The Parents' Drama

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**SPOILER-ISH** Running alongside the main storyline is hints of a connection between Lee Shin's parents and Gyu-won's. I always feel weird about people dating whose parents have been involved. It never really comes to much as the parents' issues stay in the past, but I thought it was pretty unnecessary. That said Lee Shin's scenes with his estranged father are touching, adding a good background to his character. 

2. The Centennial Drama 

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A big focus of the plot is the centennial show that is getting put on by the school. Of course, all of our characters get involved, but how they are cast in the show within the show is too fluid. After figuring out what each person is doing and they part they get, things change too frequently to really feel at ease. At some point, I just wanted to know whether Gyu-won was going to be in the show or now! The plus side - this adds some unpredicability and drama, it's still a bit annoying though. 

3. Lee Shin and Yoon-Soo

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Even after watching the whole show, I am confused about the relationship between Yoon Soo and Lee Shin. Clearly, Lee Shin liked her, but were they ever dating? Or was Lee Shin always just kind of a stalker? I wish the events between them before the show were more obvious. Still, I like Yoon Soo's character. She's mature and kind and the ensuing drama with the director is spot on. 


1. The Music Repetion

While I do love the music in this drama, they play the same songs over and over again. That would be fine, since there are a lot of occasions that call for it, but when they do they play the whole song over again! It gets annoying when you just want to know what's going to happen next!

2. The Stupid's Name  

I'm kind of hoping this one is self explanatory. 

 So... this show is perfect for fans of You're Beautiful and musical dramas as a whole. The casting is perfect and even though the plot isn't unexpected, it's still well played. Heck, even as I was writing this, I got the strong urge to watch it all over again!

Final Grade: A-

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