Monday, August 1, 2011

first impression: Heartstrings (Korean)

Heartstrings, also known as You've Fallen For Me, is a currently airing Korean drama series starring Jung Yong-hwa and Park Shin-hye of You're Beautiful fame. In the former series, they were merely friends wherein Yong-hwa's character Kang Shin-woo has a secret love for Park Shin-hye's Go Mi-nam.

Apparently in this new series, answering the prayers of rabid fangirls hopeful fans everywhere, Yong-hwa gets to take center stage as part of the main couple wherein, this time, Shin-hye's character Lee Gyu-won falls for Yong-hwa's character Lee Shin first and ultimately, these two will end up together as the main couple (hopefully).

The series is summarized as a college romance that takes place in a university for fine arts students. Music is incorporated as the theme. Both main characters are majoring in a form of music: Lee Shin is a student of modern music theory and Gyu-won is a student of traditional Korean instruments. Lee Shin is part of a college band called "The Stupid" and Gyu-won plays the gayageum, an extremely large stringed instrument that looks a lot like a lyre of Chinese traditional instruments. Lee Shin plays the guitar and is lead vocal to his college band. Gyu-won seems to also be leading her own group of fellow girls who play traditional Korean instruments-- and as all drama's would have it, she is also good at singing.

Heartstrings, I have to repeat, is probably every fan's gift from Korean drama series producers who are in relation to Jung Yong-hwa and Park Shin-hye-- it certainly was a dream come true for me. Having recently finished watching You're Beautiful, I was extremely ecstatic to find out that Heartstrings was starting it's broadcast at this particular time.

You're Beautiful is the second Korean drama I watched, the first being Coffee Prince. But You're Beautiful is THE Korean drama series that managed to get me hooked into the all too popular "Korean wave" that everyone else has already been obsessed with since at least ten years ago, supposedly in 1999 when Korean drama became the big thing in all other Asian countries starting with the Endless Love series and A Jewel in the Palace.

In the former series, Jung Yong-hwa and Park Shin-hye did not pair up as the main couple. But there is no doubt that many fans probably wished that they did. Yong-hwa's character, Kang Shin-woo was such a romantic, loving and caring sweetheart that I found myself falling head over heels in love with him. Not for the first time, but a rare instance nonetheless, I found myself cheering on someone else who wasn't part of the obvious main couple in a story line.

And so when I found Heartstrings which started airing two weeks ago, I was very happy.

My reasons for picking up Heartstrings might have been a bit superficial. I fell in love with Jung Yong-hwa, became an obsessed fan of his music along with his band members, C.N. Blue, and so held a big bias about watching Heartstrings whether or not it would boast a meaningful plot. My goal was to watch Park Shin-hye and Jung Yong-hwa get together in a series all their own.

I was satisfyingly happy after watching the first two episodes of Heartstrings, though. The introductory is eye-catching, the scenery and set of the college is nostalgic and beautiful, and the music is great to follow. The story line begins with a lot of good potential and the actors are all at their very best.

Shin-hye presents a different type of character to us, much different from the Go Mi-nam from You're Beautiful who was a bit of an introvert and forced tomboy. Lee Gyu-won is much girlier, much more headstrong, and has a passion for her studies that Go Mi-nam didn't have for her circumstances. Yong-hwa turns his own acting skills on as he must convey to the viewers a different side of himself, being the cold and uncaring Lee Shin who really has no passion for anything except for his music; he smiles for no one except for his family and a dance teacher he has taken a shine to. Basically, Lee Shin is a jerk face with no soul.

But the appearance of Lee Gyu-won seems to change a lot of things for him. Because apparently, she has the ability to make him show emotion that even his closest band members didn't know that he had. He was forced into anger through Gyu-won's own anger, and he actually shows signs of paying attention to Gyu-won even if just to make fun of her. He can be a caring person, as shown in his actions towards his mother, his sister and the dance teacher and sometimes even to Gyu-won. But it seems that, if that person isn't significant to him, he really doesn't care.

And so it's rather interesting that out of all the students in the entire college, he is able to pick out Gyu-won so easily-- looks like our cool little Lee Shin has been influenced by Gyu-won's presence more than he'd like to believe.

It will be fun to watch as Gyu-won slowly makes her way into Shin's heart and turn him into a less indifferent person and give him that compassion and soul that he seems to be walking around without. Aside from the excitement of watching the antics between these two unfold as they become the long awaited main couple, the idea of seeing both of their development throughout the series is extremely intriguing.

Gyu-won, it seems, suffers from the "Cinderella" syndrome where she is a slave to her grandfather and dares not do anything to offend or disobey him. Her passion for traditional Korean music is heavily influenced by how her grandfather raised her, and it seems that she has no real life experience of the rest of the world. Of course, the series already shows us that her relationship with her grandfather really isn't as hostile as it sounds, because she is still able to talk back to him as she pleases and retains the freedom to leave her home with friends if necessary. All that her grandfather asks of her, after all, is that she masters the art of traditional Korean music, continues to be his slave, and have absolutely nothing to do with modern music like her father had done.

As for Lee Shin, just the transformation of his indifferent character into a more open and caring man will be fun to watch-- especially when Gyu-won will most likely play a large role in that change.

Other characters include Song Chang-ui as the broadway director Kim Suk-hyun and So Yi-hyun as dance teacher Jung Yoon-soo. These two, from the beginning show a mysterious romance from the past and thus far, no details of what happened between them has been given. We know only that Kim Suk-hyun feels betrayed by Yoon-soo and that she was the one who broke up with him. He feels jilted and very much intends to hold this against her. A deep sadness is found in Yoon-soo's character that will hopefully come to light soon and we can find out why there is so much tension and hate and despair. On a side and in relation to our main couple, it will also be interesting how these two play their role as well since Kim Suk-hyun is showing slight interest in Gyu-won, and Lee Shin is supposedly in love with Jung Yoon-soo. Do I feel a love rectangle coming on? Or maybe just a means for Gyu-won to get closer to Lee Shin by helping him get over his unfortunate crush on the dance teacher? And then, what is Broadway Director Kim's true interest in Gyu-won-- just because of her fiery personality and musical talent? Or more?

Fellow C.N. Blue band member Kang Min-hyuk is cast as Yeo Joon-hee who is a naive and sweet young college boy. He is said, by Lee Shin, to be the leader of their college band, and he plays the drums-- much like Kang Min-hyuk's role in C.N. Blue. This boy, aside from being completely and utterly boyish and adorable, also has a mighty appetite that could outlast any and all food reserves in the world. He also has a weird need to dress up during performances and then dress back down to a glasses wearing, messy-haired little boy who still looks very cute during all other times, but is, for some reason, described by other characters as a bum.

I look forward to seeing more of his side plot as it seems he might have his own budding romance with Han Hee-joo played by Woo Ri, who is a young dancer as well as daughter of the school board supervisor. It is hinted that she used to be highly obese and that her unhealthy habit of binge-eating might have been her success in losing weight and maintaining her skinny features. Thus far, it is a one-sided love for Joon-hee who has fallen immediately for Han Hee-joo who, unfortunately, is quite the arrogant and rude little rich girl, who is also another one of the girls chasing after Lee Shin's infamous "bad boy" image. Her little "stay away from Lee Shin" spiel that she gave to Gyu-won really reminded me of those stupid fanclub girls in high school who idolized a high school celebrity and would never allow other girls to even be friends with him-- I have a different soap box about scary fanclub girls that might come into light as a crossover post for drama zone and animanga zone...

While I had started Heartstrings with the intention of only seeing the main couple get together, I think that after seeing the first two episodes, I will definitely follow the series to it's ending for more reasons than that. What I have seen so far has left me yearning for much more, so the agonizing wait for new episodes each week might break me.

The rest of the cast and characters prove to be delightful and the story line has a lot of potential-- especially now that Gyu-won's traditional music has lost to Shin's modern performance as a fault of technical problems and Gyu-won has to be Shin's slave for a month. There are so many possibilites for interaction between the two with that cliched plot device and I will be looking forward to every last bit of it.

As for the other couples, I am really interested in seeing how they turn out. Why is the relationship between Kim Suk-hyun and Jung Yoon-soo so hostile? What happened to them in the past? How will Yeo Joon-hee win over his new dance goddess that he so endearingly calls "Natasha"? What's the story behind Han Hee-joo? She doesn't seem like a very well-liked person among other girls, though I don't blame them since her personality is so NOT lovely. And then there's that 100th anniversary celebration that will be happening soon and everyone of our favorite cast members participating. And then there's something with Gyu-won's father being forced to stay away by her grandfather due to his newfound interest in modern music. And then there's Lee Shin's dying father too and what might have happened in the past to the little family. It seems that Gyu-won's father and Lee Shin's mother also have a little bit of history that will soon be elaborated on. I also look forward to seeing the interaction between all the friends as well, especially between Lee Shin and Joon-hee; because the two of them are bandmates and like brothers in real life and I like how Joon-hee so endearingly refers to all of his college band members as hyung even if it IS a common way for boys to address their friends.

I have totally decided to follow this series to its final conclusion. And so to the fans and the cast and staff of this series, I know the ratings haven't been looking good, but the ratings don't always say everything about the quality of a series nor the amount of fan following everywhere else in the world. I have high hopes that Heartstrings will make a huge hit, if not with local ratings, then definitely with worldwide fans.

Each week will definitely be an anxious waiting game for both the airing of each two new episodes as well as the subbing done by fans. As of the posting of this article, I have already watched four episodes of Heartstrings and am anxiously awaiting the English subbed versions of the next few episodes. There is a news post that Park Shin-hye, as Gyu-won, will be singing C.N. Blue's song I Will Forget You as part of her audition for the main female lead in the 100th school anniversary performance. And then there is also hinting that the next few episodes will involve more romance when Gyu-won's traditional music team and Lee Shin's band are tasked to live together in a dorm while they come up with a music score comprising both modern and traditional music collaboration for the performance.

I am about to pull my hair out from the waiting, but I know it'll all be worthwhile in the end. Hopefully, I can keep from blogging anymore about this series until I'm done, but as I await new episodes, there is a possibility that I might end up doing that infamous episode-by-episode blogging that I really don't like to do.

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