Friday, August 30, 2013

KDrama Review: Monstar

The Gist: Pop sensation Yoon Seol Chan (Yong Joon Hyung) is frustrated when a scandal lands him back in high school, attempting to garner some positive PR. A little relief comes when he meets Min Se Yi (Ha Yeon Soo), a student who transferred from New Zealand after her father’s passing. The relief is short lived when Se Yi wants nothing to do with him and instead spends her time with his estranged childhood friend Jung Sun Woo (Kang Ha Neul). This also grates on the class outcast, quiet type Kim Na Na (Da Hee) who also has her eye on Sun Woo. Forced into working together for a music competition along with untalented but friendly Sim Eun Ha (Kim Min Young), the bullied Park Kyu Dong (Kang Ui Sik), and his tormenter Cha Do Nam (Park Kyu Sun), the seven of them have to figure out how to put on a show and maybe patch up some old scars.


1.Kim Na Na

I am so impressed with both this actor and character. While a lot of the characters are dealing with their own troubles, something about Na Na’s is so heart wrenching. She was also absolutely instrumental in bringing the seven together out of concern for her. Let’s not overlook the lungs on Da Hee because she was definitely the runaway hit of the series. This show is oozing musical talent, but her vocal/dancing/bass skills just blew me out of the water. It was really rewarding to Na Na start to go after what she wanted and open up a bit to people. All of her scenes with Sun Woo were really a treat and I wish there was a bit more resolution for them at the end of the show.

2.Min Se Yi

Finally, a character who treats people the way they should be treated. She didn’t give Seol Chan any slack until he started showing her that he deserved it. Granted, it takes them a little too long to warm up to each other, but she actually seems like a heroine with a good head on her shoulder. She, like Na Na, does a good job handling rather heavy material and expressing it well. Her dry humor was also a nice touch and she was overall just a joy to watch.

3.The Music

Holy snap, the talent on this show is staggering. Is there any instrument Kang Ha Neul can’t play? Man was he underused in To the Beautiful You. He’s sporting a rocking voice, bass, guitar, cello, and piano skills. Like man, that’s impressive. I’d say five of the seven had pretty spectacular voices (excluding Do Nam and Eun Ha), which is pretty solid. That’s not even to mention the mean talent rocking from their rivals All for One. We got some incredible classic and rock vibes from their side. Every time an actor opened their mouth or picked up an instrument, it was a real treat. 

4.The Magic of Friendship!

Woo! It sounds corny, but this show’s real strength lies in the relationship building between our core seven. I thought the way they learned to get along was much stronger than any of the romance plots and I wished that the show would have spent a little longer in the period of time of them getting along. It takes just a hint too long to get everyone on the same page and there’s still a few cracks by the time the show wraps up. Still, the characters branching out to help one another were really the highlight of this show. 


1.Sun Woo and Seol Chan

I have problems with these characters both individually and as a pair. As a unit, the show never really fleshes out the problems between them and never bothers fixing them either. You long for the cathartic resolution given to Do Nam and Kyu Dong, but it never even gets in the neighborhood. Then individually, I liked Sun Woo a lot at the start of the show because he really reached out to both Se Yi and Na Na. However, he sort of devolved as the show went on and it got a little annoying to see him like Seol Chan. Now Seol Chan bugged me right from the start because he never let his cocky attitude drop. You get to see eventually that it’s a strong defense mechanism and that makes him a little more likeable. All in all, their rivalry is a little too harsh and doesn’t get patched up enough at the end to make it worth it, but they individually have some nice moments that balance it out. 

2.No Binging 

Something about the pacing of this show isn’t conducive to binge watching. Normally I inhale a drama like water and if by the end of one episode, I’m not ready to watch another episode, that’s generally not a good sign. Stepping back, I liked this drama as a whole, but the episodes were so long and a little bit awkward, that I couldn’t really sit down and watch episodes back to back. I think that’s a first, especially for a shortie 12 episode series. I feel like I need to introduce this show to the montage. 


1.So Awkward!

Kyu Dong puts up some stellar vocals, but if every single second of his “Radio” persona made me cringe so hard I had to open a new tab. I suppose that’s the point, but Seol Chan’s interactions with pretty much anyone made my skin all crawly. I think this definitely added into why I couldn’t watch so many of these episodes together because it was just too awkward. I’m fine with a moment here or there, but it was a little overbearing.

2. Dok Ko Soon

Played by Lee Hee Jin, Dok Ko Soon was a very bizarre character. She didn’t seem to care too much for Se Yi, even though they’re closely related and her overall attitude just wasn’t that likable. But considering they weren’t making her a villain, I never knew if I was supposed to be rooting for or against her. I also wasn’t that crazy about Se Yi’s mom, who doesn’t seem to ever have to work at all? I mean, who just picks up their life and moves in with their sister for a while? The adults in this show were more like plot props than interesting characters, even Seol Chan’s manager and Se Yi’s dad’s friend. 

So… Monstar was good but not the crazy good show I was hoping it to be. It took too long for things to play out and the end didn’t really seem like an end. Everything was still so open that I felt like I was missing the last episode. Still, it had some unique aspects, good music, and great acting, so it was worth the watch.

Final Grade: B


  1. Spoilers, be warned.

    I wish I'd read your review first - I would have skipped this drama. As it is, I stopped after episode 9. When Yoon Seol Chan kissed Min Se Yi the sight of it made me cringe and my skin crawl. That was enough for me to stop right there.

    It's easy to say what I liked: the music. It's equally easy to say what I hated: pretty much everything else. I don't fault the actors, they seemed to do well with the material the writers gave them, the writers just gave them an inferior product.

    First, there were too many story lines for a 12 episode drama to do any of them well. While I admire their ambition at trying to bring in so many characters with individual stories, if you fail you just end up with a disappointment, which is what this drama was for me.

    What could have been a cute story devolved into a poorly executed cliched romance of "good girl falls for bad boy". For this to work, either the "bad boy" has to become "good", or at least better. The writers chose force the characters together with the excuse of "he hurts me and he's mean to me and he makes me cry but I can't stop worrying about me" - Min Se Yi's weak reasons to fall in love. I can't help but be bitter about this. The Min Se Yi character started off so well; she was strong and feisty and honest and wasn't taking anyone's crap. That she could weaken into a weepy character that constantly allowed herself to be dragged around, harassed, and borderline abused so easily is, to me, not credible. She lost her smiles and humor and charm.

    It would likely have not irritated me so much had Seol Chan no been so consistently unlikable. He deserved every harsh comment he received from the other characters and managed to still learn nothing from them and show no growth. Defense mechanism or not, he never stopped being a jerk and I just didn't buy Se Yi falling so easily for him.

    The other storylines also seemed cliched. Kyu Dong is bullied and almost jumps from the roof which gives former friend and current bully Do Nam a wake up call. Sun Woo agrees to go on 10 dates with Kim Na Na to get her to perform in the battle. Even the battle, with the "she arrives just in the nick of time" and "All for One" won but everyone thinks "The Color Bar" should have one. How many times have we seen both of these used? And frankly, even with Seol Chan fronting "the Color Bar" the school cliques were shown to be so strong and adverse to losers that I seriously doubt a single song viewed live by about 20 students would work that much magic, despite it being seen by others online.

    Ultimately, for me, the drama just ended up being too many storylines I've seen before executed much worse than other times with a lead character who made my skin crawl and whose importance in the drama weakened every other character. Again, I don't blame the actors but the writers instead.

    Since I failed to finish this drama, or more specifically, I don't want to finish this drama, I'd have to give it an "F".

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