Heartstrings Review (Spoilers)

Posted by Stephanie on April 29, 2012


heartstrings 2This show is so freaking cute. Cute. Cute. Cute. Heartstrings is like a summer beach read–its breezy, light, has fun characters, doesn’t take itself too seriously–and has tons of heart.

This is one of those shows where I start thinking–maybe I should switch to episode reviews–but that’s so never going to happen. It’s hard to let go of all the little things I liked about this show and look at the bigger picture. Which actually makes this show really hard to review.

My favorite part of this show would have to be the characters ,especially the lead couple, Lee Shin and Lee Gyu Won. I don’t know why I didn’t even think to include Lee Shin and Lee Gyu Won in my favorite couples list as I love, love, love their relationship arc. (We’re graciously ignoring the last two episodes on this point. Actually for the most part, I try to ignore the very entire existence of the last two episodes.) They started out as such a conflicting pair I wondered if they would work chemistry-wise at all. This could also be attributed to the uneven acting at the beginning. However, once Jung Yong Hwa (Shin) got more into the roll and Park Shin Hwa (Gyu Won) toned down the cuteness it allowed us as viewers inside the characters and their relationship.

You believed them as advisories and rooted for them as they slowly slipped into love. I especially loved watching Shin fight his feelings for Gyu Won. The last couple of shows I’ve seen, Greatest Love and Protect the Boss, it almost seemed as if the hero woke up one morning and decided to be in love with the heroine. And really early in the plot too. I don’t know why it bothers me so much. I like my heroines to have to fight for her love. This also makes me believe it more when the hero finally falls for the heroine. In Heartstrings, even when Shin disliked her, possibly when he was still in the throes of puppy love for his teacher (yek), he can’t help but notice her. Of course, this doesn’t stop him from dumping all over her, (seriously, that girl has the worst timing) but later because of that, we viewers feel like we won every time he sneaks a glance at her, any time he gives his little smile whenever he’s thinking or talking about her. He doesn’t know he’s doing it–it’s a gut reaction–which just makes me happy.

At the beginning of the show he’s a jerk. We’re talking Baek Sung Jo fromsort of jerk. He’s slightly separate from the world around him and arrogant because of his abilities and the attention it (and his looks) have heaped upon him. However, he’s not cold–when it comes to something or someone he cares about–he’s devoted and warm. He’ll do anything for the people he loves–whether they like it or not. This is shown to us at the beginning with his interactions with his sister (when she was taken to the hospital) his connection with his father (who he meets basically on the father’s deathbed during the show) and also with his interactions with his teacher.

Ah, his teacher. Actually she’s not his teacher, but a teacher at the school, not like that makes it any better. Yes he’s slightly stalkerish and it’s uncomfortable to watch, but I totally bought it. First love makes you do weird things.

Once we get through the jerk phase we are totally rewarded with the most awesome-est boyfriends ever. He does and says the sweetest things and is hopelessly devoted to Gyu Won.

I actually love each of the stages of their relationship. The antagonism at the beginning, how they are continually forced together, his jealousy over the director, and his eventual giving in to Gyu Won. I love the scene where he attempts, in his own bumbling way, to confess his feelings to her while still being cool.

“Don’t stop liking me.”

Let me tell you that was a major squee moment for me.

I feel like I’m slipping to a bunch of–wasn’t it cute when–or I loved it when– but there were so many cute moments in this relationship. Every highlight came with an aww… from me followed by a prompt hit of the rewind button so I could see it again and again and….

Shin isn’t without his flaws (once again, we’re going to push away the last two episodes for the moment). On my first viewing and to be honest on the second viewing I was a little disturbed by his attempts to control Gyu Won. He was very Alpha Hero in this show and, from what I’ve seen at least, you don’t get this a lot in Kdrama. And I love me some Alpha Heroes. He’s controlling but I can forgive it because:

1) he’s so damn cute
2) I love seeing Shin so strongly placed in Gyu Won’s corner
3) He’s controlling but only as much as she will let him. I caught onto this on my second viewing. Only when he had valid points did she let him win–if it was something she felt just as strongly about–she had no problems putting him in his place.

Gyu Won was a lot stronger than anyone thought. (I bet you thought I’d never get to the heroine). She was the one character who, I think, arced the most. She was strong in a lot of ways, the only thing she needed was faith in herself. Throughout the story and her relationship with both Shin and the director she is able to pull this out. She was always a strong person underneath the cutesy (ugh) klutz. When it mattered she was able to stand up for what she believed in whether it be against Shin or even her grandfather. If anything her character is a little wishy-washy, but I don’t know if it is because she’s written that way on purpose so she could grow within the show, or if the writers just wanted to include Park Shin Hye’s usual ‘cutesiness’. I loved it whenever she forgot herself, released her temper, and lashed back at Shin in the beginning. The one thing the last episode has for it, is that you actually get to see Gyu Won completely at ease with herself and confident in her abilities.

This is really a perfectly matched couple.

This drama is actually filled to the brim with very interesting characters with layers. Not all characters have layers mind you, but enough of them do that you can give the writers a bit of a slide on the others, mainly the ‘villains’ of the piece. You can give them a pass because they are not very important. Their rolls in this show is to shove the plot along, putting stumbling blocks in front of the characters. For this they are completely adequate.

I remember the first time I watched this show, I was just as enchanted. I couldn’t wait to watch each episode, breezing through them all until… okay, so I guess I can’t talk about this show without bringing up the last two episodes. Which almost ruined the show for me. It wasn’t until this viewing that I was able to relax and with a healthy dose of my FF button, got through the last episodes while holding onto my enjoyment of the rest of the drama.

Looking back, I thought this was a character rather than a plot driven show. Rewatching made me review my stance on that. Yes, I love all the characters in Heartstrings. I love how the characters change throughout the story. However, the characters grow and change through the push of the plot and sadly, once the performance is done, everything sort of peters out. At first the two episodes seemed like a giant epilogue. However, I knew as soon as Shin fell down and hit his wrist exactly where the show was going to go. And I was all, nooo….. Before that moment the drama wasn’t predictable for me. I sat there thinking what is going to happen next? But as soon as his wrist hit concrete, I knew what was coming and almost wanted to stop watching. They had such a great romance up until then and I didn’t want the writers to ruin it with their last minute “Crap, the performance is over and we still have 2 episodes left? What are we going to do now? I know, lets rip apart the couple. Yeah, that will do it.”

Dear Writers,
We see through your obvious panic and say you could have done better. The characters and the show deserved better than what you dished out.
Your Disappointed Fans.

Ugh. I was so cranky. Fine. Shin hurt himself. Fine, you wanted to mirror the relationship between the Director and the ballerina. Not so fine, that Shin breaks up with Gyu Won so she’ll go off and live her dreams while he has an operation. Yes, I love how he knows her enough that she would stay if she knew he was hurt and he wanted or needed her to go out and live her dreams. This is fitting with the character and the part of his do anything for the person he loves personality. Okay, so he lets her go, that’s irritating, but whatever.

“I wish you would like me again”

What really gets my goat is the fact that she comes back a year later, totally successful, having attained the dreams he wanted her too, and he still doesn’t say anything? He pushes her away and won’t let anyone tell her what happened? This. Makes. No. Sense. It truly seems like they just need an excuse to keep them apart until the end of the episode. One of my personal pet peeves, something I learned from writing fiction, is you can’t hang your hat on a problem that would be cleared up if only the two characters talked to each other.

It’s sloppy writing.

It would be one thing if they had done this throughout the show. I would have understood then and have written this off as a bad show. But no, there were several points where the writers could have used the ‘big misunderstanding’ but they wrote better characters than that. For example, when Gyu Won and the director were set up at the hotel. The significant others could have gotten the wrong idea and gone off on them, but they were smart and well written enough to NOT do that. It was actually pretty awesome. What happened between that episode and the last one?

I know this show was actually shortened from 16 episodes to 15, but wouldn’t this just make your show tighter? I have no idea where they would have gone with another episode with the meandering of these two episodes. The only thing that seemed rushed is the Shin’s and Gyu Won’s eventual getting back together. Maybe that’s my problem?
The writers meandered through the epilogue, touching on all the characters (which don’t get me wrong, I was happy to see) but throughout the episode, Shin was adamant about keeping Gyu Won in the dark–being downright mean about it–and then she tells him off and everything is honky dory? They both happened to be taking the same walk along all the scenes of their past, meet upon each other, and all the hurt, irritations, and misunderstandings magically disappear? I call fowl.

Or I call lazy writing.

And Dear Lord. That kiss at the end. It was so bad. I know you get this with Kdramas sometimes, the uber chaste kisses, but with the newer shows it seems to be becoming a thing of the past. I’m not saying I need the two characters to make out or anything. I’m not looking for tongue. I just don’t think it’s too much to ask that, at the end of a show, where the man you love who you’ve been separated from for a year, the very man who just announced he loves you, that you kiss him like you mean it. Seriously. I would have rather had a nice hug than that thing. Ugh.

See what I mean?

At first I thought it was the kiss which ruined the show for me (yes, it’s that bad) but upon rewatching, I was able to realize it’s just because I dislike those last two episodes so much. I think at that point I was just spoiling for a fight.

Whew. Now that I have that off my chest.

As for the acting. Well the story takes place at a musical university, so everyone is very young–it’s part of the charm. Watching it made me think of the movie Center Stage. But with singing. Everything is a little over the top at first and some of the characters stick with it throughout. While this show is supposed to be fun, tonally it’s not a crazy wacky show like something from the Hong Sisters. Park Shin Hye, at the beginning at least, seems to be stuck there. But as the show goes on, she tones it down, and I really look forward to seeing her in something else. You know. So long as she can get past that kissing thing. As for Jung Yong Hwa, hmmm… Well, he’s gotten a lot better than Shin Woo in You’re Beautiful. He was a little stiff in the first couple of episodes, but as it went along either because the character changed or he eased into acting, he got a lot better.

Now I’m really glad I rewatched this show again. I was able to remember just how much fun the rest of the drama is. I totally recommend this show to anyone out there. I recommend it so long as you keep in mind it’s awesome for what it is. It’s light and fun. The characters are cute and you find yourself rooting for all these underdogs. The main couple is so cute (again with the cute) and the hero, well, I want one for my very own.

Also the music and musical performances are great. I totally have the soundtrack and listen to it often. This show is what turned me onto CNBlue (Jung Yong Hwa’s band).

Getting the Band back together
As for the great Shin vs. Shin Woo debate. Shin Woo being the B Guy Jung Yong Hwa played in You’re Beautiful. My vote?¬†Shin. Shin all the way.

Shin Woo was cute but irritated me with his need to always step back and wait around for a later time. Once Shin realized Gyu Won was the one he wanted, he stepped right into the ring. He is a great example of you have to fight for what you want in life or yes, the guy with the funny hair’s gonna get your girl.

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