Heartstrings: Kdrama Review

Fans of Korean heartthrob Jung Yong Hwa (Code Name: Blue) and popular Kdrama actress Park Shin Hye who lobbied for their pairing after their unsuccessful romance in 2010’s You’re Beautiful (Shin Hye’s character ended up with Jan Geun Suk’s character) will more than get their share of heartwarming and heartwrenching moments in their new Korean drama Heartstrings, whose original title was You’ve Fallen For Me.

The drama centers around two college students majoring in music — Lee Shin (Yong Hwa) specializes in  in Applied Music (rock and roll) and is the lead vocalist and guitarist of the university’s idol band The Stupid, while Shin Hye plays the role of Lee Gyu Won, granddaughter of popular traditional singer Lee Dong Jin (who is opposed to any form of modern music). Gyu Won plays the traditional Korean string instrument the gayageum and majors in traditional music in their school. Due to several heated encounters, the two develop a love-hate relationship all the while learning about each other’s music and developing feelings for each other. However, Lee Shin is still in love with dance teacher Jung Yun Soo, whose former sweetheart, Broadway director Hyun Ki Young spots the talent of Gyu Won and vows to make her come out of her shell during the school’s Centennial show.

Heartstrings is quite an apt title for the drama since both the lead stars, Gyu Won and Lee Shin play string instruments (guitar and gayageum). The story is also very light compared to other Kdramas which would work well with the younger crowd. There are a lot of sweet moments between Gyu Won and Lee Shin, and their relationship develops in a gradual pace.

FIRST KISS. Lee Shin plants a big one on a surprised Gyu Won in front of the audience during their gig at the Catharsis bar.

Heartstrings employs the classic Kdrama formula – Girl falls for Boy but Boy is in love with another Girl, and when Girl finally resolves to give up her feelings for Boy, he realizes what he wanted was under his nose all along. This drama is exactly like that and Yong Hwa did justice to his role quite well as a very cool, very popular guy that all the schoolgirls are making themselves idiots over. And when the point came that he was the one to pursue Gyu Won, his sheepish schoolboy charm, and his uncertainty over his actions are very cute to watch. As for the dramatic scenes, Yong Hwa is still not at the level of Rain or  some of his contemporaries but he only needs to dig deeper because he’s already getting there.

What’s good about this Kdrama is that there is an effort to bring awareness to the beauty of traditional music and modern music, which are both exciting disciplines of art. The fusion of traditional music with rock and roll was very laudable and highlighted elements of both types of genre. I also liked that there was not an active villain (just the usual plotting and jealous displaced director and several sub plotters) and that those who sought to bring down the lead actors saw sense in the end for the sake of the school’s production. There was also a strong supporting cast that provided entertaining moments such as the perpetually ravenous drummer Yeo Jun Hee (Kang Min Hyuk of CN Blue); Gyu Won’s best friend Cha Bo Won (Im Se Mi) who always pops in whenever she and Lee Shin are about to do something romantic; the chairman’s daughter Han Hee Jo, who is constantly being pressured by her mother to lose weight and practice, and the series’ scene stealer Kim Sa Rang (tried to get the name of the actress to no avail), whose over the top persona made for the drama’s most comedic sequences.

I’m not a big fan of the songs that were used for the drama, though. There were some good ones, but perhaps because they keep using it over and over, it kind of loses its original impact by the end. The conclusion also, was a tad anticlimactic as the final conflict seemed forced in the final episode. I was fully expecting a new collaboration between The Stupid and the Windflower, if only to sustain the momentum earlier established in the beginning episodes. It would have been good to also have included Gyu Won’s grandfather in the ending scene, if only to show that he was already open to fusion music (don’t worry, these are not spoilers) and provide closure to that part of the story.

But all in all, Heartstrings was a very enjoyable and entertaining Kdrama filled with charming characters that are bound to steal your hearts and bring a smile to your faces — a must see for fans of Korean romantic comedies. I finished the entire series (15 episodes) in three nights, if that must count for something, right?