I love Park Hye Run‘s dramas. For the uninformed, she has penned shows like Dream High (2011), I Hear Your Voice (2013), Pinocchio (2014) and While You Were Sleeping (2017). Anchored by a good story, they are full of warmth and characters with strong values and idealism despite being flawed. The vibe is breezy and uplifting with humour and thrills excellently balanced. Her newest drama, tvN’s Start-Up has her signature style and I’m already liking it a lot more than I expected.
The show is about people aspiring to be entrepreneurs and has the world of start-ups as its backdrop. There is a strong and affecting backstory which informs about how the characters are interlinked. Not only personally, but the drama connects everyone professionally as well, but not in a way which looks too coincidental. Sandbox is the main hub where budding entrepreneurs work and interact and the drama nicely draws this set-up.
Suzy plays Seo Dal Mi who got separated from her sister and mother during childhood when her parents got divorced. Kang Han Na plays the sister, Won In Jae. Both have lived a different childhood — Dal Mi struggled financially and had to lose her father. She lives with her grandmother, played by Kim Hae Sook. In Jae led a life full of luxury as their mother remarried into a rich family, but both are not necessarily happy.
Then there is Han Ji Pyung, played by Kim Sun Ho. He is an orphan who somehow crosses path with grandma and their bond is one of the most heartwarming things about Start-Up. Their mutual respect, care and love is touching. Nam Da Reum as young Ji Pyung surely brings a good performance.
I love stories where two people fall in love through letters. Dal Mi and Ji Pyung become pen pals but only for one year. I don’t know if Ji Pyung is set out to be the second lead because all signs pointed towards him being the main guy in episode 1. I was rooting for him but the second episode introduced Nam Do San (Nam Joo Hyuk) and by the end, I was in love with both the leads. In fact, I’m rooting for everyone in the drama to find happiness and success. Everyone in the show is kind hearted and determined. Ji Pyung rises in life with his intelligence and smart thinking, but he is a good guy (who is also very sweet) and I’m so glad that he is not arrogant (a stereotypical trait for this type of role). This is the first time I’m watching Kim Sun Ho and I’m in love with his natural, effortless acting.
Nam Do San comes with an underdog story. He is a mathematics genius who wants to start his tech company but he and his two friends have been unsuccessful in getting investment for their start-up. Ji Pyung wrote letters to Dal Mi under his name (you have to watch the show to understand this) and this is how he becomes connected to the rest.
I love that he decided to help Dal Mi due to his own understanding and sympathy rather than any advantages. I don’t think Sun Ho has any romantic notions for his pen pal from the past. Dal Mi is a sassy heroine who reminds me of Park Shin Hye‘s character from Pinocchio. I can understand her crush on Ji Pyung for all these years — the letters helped her in those tough times when she felt all alone. I’m curious about how this dynamics will play out.
I loved the humour punctuated in between, be it with grandma and Ji Pyung, or Do San and his friends and parents. The soundtrack adds to the lively atmosphere of the drama.
One thing that I found very unrealistic was the apathy of Dal Mi’s mother and sister. I don’t think In Jae was too young to not have affection and love for her father and sister. The whole thread of ‘let’s not meet again’ seemed too over the top. I hope we will find more about In Jae in coming episodes to fully comprehend her actions.
All in all, I cannot wait for more Start-Up episodes! Surely a strong start!