What’s Up?-A Drama With Soul!!

This is the first drama since Coffee Prince, my first and ultimate love, that I have literally been speechless at the end.  I was so overflowing with awe and emotion at the finale of this drama that I just couldn’t do anything but stare at the screen and just feel.  It was quite a mix of feelings at that, just like when you get to the end of a really great book. I was mesmerized by the beauty of it all and utterly satisfied by the ending, yet also unsatisfied that I had to leave the world of the characters which I felt I had come to love and know so well.

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This drama possessed something that all of the newer dramas sadly seem to lack, soul.  On first glance, What’s Up seems that it is just a more mature and edgier version of Dream High (which is why I passed it over so many times to watch something else), but it is so much more than the superficial “dream” catching drama such as Dream High, which focused mainly on the pursual of stardom,  fame, and romantic love as the only means of self fulfillment.

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While of course What’s Up explored the ideas of fame and romance (after all, would it be a kdrama if it didn’t?), it instead didn’t dwell on these as the be all end all, rather it used them as tools for the characters to find what was truly important to them, the love of art, their friends, and life in general, and learning to appreciate life to the fullest and somehow find joy in every moment, even if it meant never being famous or finding some great love and living happily ever after and riding off into the sunset.  After all what is fame, or what is love if you are not truly happy?  What was really amazing is that while there was more than one love story in the show, neither of them really came to fruition in the end, because their romance wasn’t the point, what they learned from it was, and I thought that was a very original and profound thought for a kdrama.

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What’s Up was edgy in presentation compared to the norm.  There was a lot of modern rock, rap, and techno dance music involved.  But they also threw in a lot of classic musical songs, except sung in Korean, which was cool to hear.  There were also a lot of classic rock and pop songs.  This is one of the few dramas, again like Coffee Prince, that actually used quite a variety of music, and while there were a few songs that they favored, they didn’t tend to use the same three songs over and over until you just hoped you never heard them again for the rest of your life like most drams do.  Aside from the music, the dialogue was also edgier than what you would typically hear.  The characters were straight forward instead of using fluffy romanticized language, which is ironic because I think some of the most profound quotes I have seen in a drama came from this dialogue.   The language was PG-13, with their being quite a few more wordy durds than normal.  I honestly found this to be very refreshing (not necessarily the cursing, but the straight forwardness).

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Oh Doo Ri was one of my favorite characters of all time.  She was absolutely fearless and wore her heart out on her sleeve, but not in the pitiful powerless way that most kdrama heroines do.  She may have done her fair share of crying, but she certainly did not ever sit back and do nothing.  Her passion and ingenuity were a force of nature.  She also had many habits and quirks that were really endearing, such as the fact that she was the sneakiest little MacGyver ever, and also had a talent and unparalleled love for first person shooter games.  Yet as rough around the edges and rock staresque as she was, she also had an underlying purity and innocence that you see in her love for Professer Sun.  I couldn’t help but be immediately drawn to her.

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I have seen multiple dramas with Oh Man Suk, and always really liked him as an actor, but I don’t think I ever really appreciated what a talent he is until I saw this drama.  Of course it does help that his character Professor Sun, is totally likable and relatable, but I give a lot of the credit largely to his ability to bring the character to life.  He turns out to be the center of the show, and the glue that holds everyone together.  He is the unlikely candidate that turns out to be the kind of teacher and influence to his students that I can only hope and aspire to be.

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Really each character in What’s Up has their own moving story to tell.  And each of them has a certain genuiness about them that draws you in and makes you really invest in their story, emotions, and future.

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Upon beginning What’s Up, I never thought I would be so profoundly moved and have so much to say.  I never expected to laugh until my belly hurt and cry until my head pounded all in the same drama.  Although there is always the old and overused saying, never judge a book by its cover, and in this case that turned out to be completely true.  It was an unanticipated diamond in the rough, and for that I am truly glad!!  I give What’s Up 5 out of 5 stars, though I don’t think 5 stars is nearly enough.

I watched this drama on Hulu

For a synopsis, cast list, and more information visit http://asianwiki.com/What%27s_Up%3F_%282011-Korean_Drama%29

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9 thoughts on “What’s Up?-A Drama With Soul!!

    • BTW Dae Sung from Big Bang is one of the main characters in What’s Up? and they play his music video from the song he does for the OST at the end of one of the episodes. I actually really liked the song a lot. Huge can really sing!

  1. Yay! I’m so glad whenever someone appreciates What’s Up? as much as I do. I feel bad that it didn’t get the deserved attention this year. I totally went into the drama without no big expectations, especially after the drama had so much trouble finding an empty spot in the TV schedule, but with few episodes I was so in love with it. One of my all-time favourites.

  2. Wow! You sold me on it. I will definitely put it on my “too watch” list. Have you seen Shut Up Flower Boy Band? It was so great because the focus was on the guys’ friendship, not the fame part (though obviously that comes into play, too). It was one of my faves of the year.

    • A lot of people compare the two and say they are pretty similar in some ways. I tried to watch Shut Up but I ended up dropping it because for some reason I couldn’t get into it. Sometimes for me with dramas it just has to. be the right place and right time for me to really like it. I plan on going back and trying to rewatch it at some point.

  3. I squinted through your whole post because it might contain spoilers. Haha

    Just dropping by to say that I picked this kdrama up after you praised it so much. I’m now on ep13 but have to stop because my sister (who I’m watching this with) has lots of exams this week.

    There are some boring moments, but they never last for more than a couple of minutes. That’s the good thing about 45-minute episodes. The less minutes per episode, the less probability of throwing cliches and fillers in just to fulfill the 60-minute quota.

    I’m a bit disappointed by the lack of performances though. 😦 I thought this was a musical? How come the musical numbers don’t feel well-integrated into the show? I’m now on ep13 of What’s Up and I’ve only ever been touched/wowed by the ff performances:
    – Hades’ first and last concert on ep1
    – Team A vs Team B
    – Jae Hun learns to sing
    – …
    The other performances felt too staged/fake/forced to me (mostly in scenes where Tae yi sings). Tsk tsk… I hope eps13-20 have better integrated musical scenes other than Tae Yi (again?!) lip-syncing while some random college kids dance around their classes.

    Meh. Don’t mind me. I’m just having high expectations for What’s Up since you loved it so much. 😀 The story is still great and I’m still wishing my sis will finish those exams so I can watch what happens next to Doo ri and Do sung and Byung gun and… well, everyone. Hehe

    • I personally loved it not for the musical numbers, which I expected to be lip synched and cheesy because I have not seen a musical drama yet where they weren’t, instead I loved it for the story of the characters and themes of art, friendship, maturity, and education. I don’t know if you will like it as much as me, I really think my view is colored somewhat by the fact that I myself am a teacher. It’s interesting how because of people’s different personalities and backgrounds a drama can really touch one person and just be whatever for another. I hope you enjoy it though! 🙂

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