I recently checked out the newly aired K-drama Heartstrings and after watching episodes 1-2, I think that between this and City Hunter, July has unexpectedly became the K-drama month for me, which was what I anticipated May to be but it fell short of expectations. You know, after my high with Sungkyunkwan Scandal last year and current liking of Heartstrings, not to mention there’s also my immensely enjoyment of Nobuta wo Produce, I’m starting to think that youth dramas might be my thing, more so than the traditional romcom.
Our hero is Lee Shin (Jung Yong Hwa), applied music major by day, lead singer of a rock band called The Stupid by night. The band is quite popular on campus, mostly because girls fawn over Shin’s pretty boy looks more than his music. However, Shin wants to be known for his music and not his appearance, he’s cold and rude to his adoring fans, even calling a girl ugly when she confessed her feelings to him. Lest you think he’s a complete ass, he’s actually quite a sweetheart to his mother and sister, with whom he lives; his father’s been MIA from his life since who knows when. Shin’s mom finds out that his biological dad is dying from a terminal illness and is requesting a meeting with Shin. Unable to deny a dying man’s wish, Shin’s mom takes him to visit his dad under the guise of meeting an expert guitarist to develop his skill. Shin knows that he’s meeting his dad but mom and dad don’t know that he knows. Shin and dad meet and play guitar together. It is a lovely, no dialogue necessary exchange between father and son and one of my favorite moments of episode 2.
Our heroine is Lee Kyu Won (Park Shin Hye), traditional music major by day, bar hostess by night (just kidding). She was raised and lives with her grandfather, who is a professor in traditional Korean music. Trained by her grandfather, presumably since childhood, she plays the gayageum. Kyu Won still keeps in contact with her dad although it’s kept a secret from grandpa because grandpa and dad are in an estranged relationship; dad likes modern classical while grandpa is all about the traditional.
Oh yeah, Kyu Won is also the leader of an all-girl traditional instrument band called the Windflowers.
Through a series of events, our hero and heroine got off on the wrong foot, which is further exacerbated when Shin didn’t show up to perform for a concert held to raise money for Kyu Won’s sick professor, a performance that was previously promised by his bandmate. Even though Kyu Won and co. were able to raise some money, the fund arrives too late because when she arrives at the hospital, she learns that her professor has passed away.
Thus, in her next meeting with Shin, they get into a heated argument; she saying that his music is heartless and doesn’t get what all the fuss is about, he saying that if she wants to know what he’s so popular then they should battle it out. What’s at stake: the loser becomes a one-month slave for the winner.
Awww yeah! Duke it out, you two!
The Stupid goes first and wows the crowd with their performance. Then it’s the Windflowers’ turn to take the stage. They give a no less impressive performance and it looks like the competition is neck in neck when one of the strings of Kyu Won’s gayageum breaks in the middle of the performance. Thus, the Windflowers lose to The Stupid and Kyu won becomes Shin’s slave for a month. Thankfully, Kyu Won and Shin have managed to resolve their misunderstanding of his no-show at the concert. And at the end of episode 2, we see a change in Kyu Won’s reaction to Shin’s music, when he sings the song that he wrote during the guitar session with his dad.
There’s the dance teacher whom Shin is crushing on, to which I ask, “why. Why. WHY?” And then, there’s the dance teacher ex-boyfriend, this famed Broadway director who’s going to direct the university’s 100th anniversary show. Mr. Director seems to have taking a liking to Kyu Won after he noticed her vocal talent at the fundraising concert. Oh, there’s also Shin’s bandmate with hearty appetite, always in search of his next snack. And there’s the possibly bulimic aspiring dancer with whom food addict boy is mesmerized.
The PD of Heartstrings is Pyo Min Soo, who also helmed Full House, my first ever K-drama. In Full House, I was too focused on BiGyo to care about the directing. in Which Star Are You From, it was the writer that I had issues with, not the PD. I dropped In-Soon is Pretty mainly because the earlier episodes didn’t hook me enough to keep watching. Then came World Withins, the drama that I actually anticipated because of its scriptwriter and cast and one that I had every intention of following when it aired but ended up not finishing because I felt that PD’s style didn’t mesh well with the writer’s. It was like the camera was semi spastic when it needed to be calm; the camera was intrusive when it needed to take a step back and let the scene and its characters breathe on their own. PD Pyo last offering Coffee House, I couldn’t last more than one episode because while watching episode 1, two adjectives came to mind: OTT and loud. It was too loud for me, from the characters’ screaming to the show’s colors and music. Here in Heartstrings, there were moments when I wanted to tell Mr. Director, “Please stop moving the camera. You’re making me dizzy.” But then, there were also quieter scenes, like the one with Shin and his dad and when Shin and Kyu won was walking together, that make up for the dizziness. I also love the vibrant colors that dress the show, especially how green everything looks. Plus, two episodes in and I already like the main characters and am invested in their journey.
And I love fusion music. In episode 1, we got a performance of Kyu Won singing. In episode 2, we got the Modern vs. Traditional Instruments battle and The Stupid singing at the end. So, as it stands, I’m gonna be expecting a musical performance of some kind in every future episode, capice Heartstring?