Monstar: This is adorable,with a touch of whimsy, (although the ending was anti-climactic). Monstar is supposed to be French for ‘my star.’ It’s kind of fluffy- a high school drama featuring several idol stars (and one idol playing an idol), so lots of pretty. But what really makes it is the music, which is gorgeous. These kids can sing and play. The main actress is a total cutey, and this is her first attempt- she was neither an actress nor a professional singer before her debut in this show.
Lots of angst- the kids all have some parent issues, some of them have bad blood between them for as yet undetermined reasons, but I appreciated the way these were handled for the most part (one issue is left totally unresolved).
Caveats: Not any, really. Oh- wait, there is one episode early on where Eun Sol Chan steals a song from Min Se Yi, and she gets even with him- you want your kids not looking at the screen when Sol Chan starts signing autographs for his fans in the classroom. There is a reference to fan fiction, including some of the bizarre sorts where the fans write in love affairs between the members of the boy band, but Sol Chan’s character refers to them once, disparagingly, and asks one of his fans what on earth they are thinking, why would they do this? And there is one brief misunderstanding where Min Se Yi thinks that two boys who like her are struggling because they like each other. I don’t agree with her response, but the boys are not best pleased, at all, and their reactions were kind of amusing.
This is not only a K-Drama, it’s a K-drama for teens, and Korea has some censorship. So do not expect to see much real kissing (I think there were two). Minors generally don’t really kiss on screen in a K-Drama- even if it looks like they are kissing, it’s kind of stiff, and often the cameras are doing more work than the actors. There are a couple other scenes that could be squiggy, but aren’t. The pair fall into the idol’s company van together while running away from a crowd and having an argument- and she lands on top of him, but it’s not played the way it would be in an American television show at all. Yong joon-hyung, the lead, is not a minor (he’s 23), nor are any of the other actors so far as I know, but since the characters are all minors and this is supposed to be for minors, I still think it’s gonna be pretty reserved on the skinship side of things.
As of episode 6, I was only more and more enchanted and totally delighted by these characters and their connections. I love this. I am thinking about making it the next K-drama with my two youngest. The music continues to amaze and delight me with every single episode.
As of episode 10, still totally adorable. This is just hilariously, ridiculously cute and heart warming.
After the last episode- the final episode was just a little flat. Not really a disappointment, it just didn’t really build. I think it could have stood one more episode with more exploration of some issues, and better resolution and closure on some of them, but I still like it.
Things you can discuss if you must discuss rather than just listen to the pretty music: Friendships, misunderstandings, and forgiveness. Bullying, cliques, and fame. What can you learn about the different ways Korean culture views boy/girl friendships vs American? What does this show tell you about Sun Woo’s family and what don’t they tell you? What about Kim Nana’s family? Is Eun Sol Chan arrogant, insecure, or some combination? Why? What does the basement Adjussi tell Radio about being a good friend? Do you agree? What does he tell Eun Sol Chan about popularity and fame? Do you think Sol Chan will listen? Pay attention to the toy sheep- they represent something, and notice how Min Se Yi’s mother watches them, too. What was it the mother wanted to protect, and why?
Think about the relationship between each of the children and their parents (when we know anything at all about those dynamics- for instance, we have almost nothing about Do Nam’s parents, and all we know about Radio’s parents is that they died and he lives with his grandmother). Because they are the leads, we have especially good information on Min Se Ri and her mother, and Eun Sol Chan and his mother. What is it they think about their respective parents at the beginning of the series? Did anything change? What, why, how?
Watch the basement Ajusshi’s backyard garden. How does it change, and why do you think it changes? This is symbolic of something else- what?
I had a hard time picking a song to share, there are so many, and they are all so totally different. Here are two:
I can’t say they are exactly representative- we’ve also got some amazing beat-boxing, a smoky nightclub style number, a hopping rendition of Don’t Make Me Cry, and a ballad, plus more.
Okay, one more- Trouble Maker:
Sorry, I couldn’t find it with English subs.
I am watching this again with my 17 y.o. and she likes the music and a lot of the story, but Sol Chan is exactly the sort of young man she detests, and it doesn’t matter what the reasons are for his behavior, she is unforgiving.
Updated to add: The more I think about it, the more I love this series’ take on adoption above most other K-dramas. You have to watch to the end to really see why- I thought they were going one place with it, and then they went somewhere entirely. I also appreciated that you don’t see instant healing of the rupture caused in Sol Chan’s life by the adoption issues specific to his case. He loves his family, but his trust and security were torn from him, and you don’t overcome that with an apology. For a lighthearted teen romance flick, I felt they handled the adoption issues very deftly, and without the usual cliches.
You might also like:
Dramas I’ve completed, recommend, and reviewed: see here.
Things to know when watching a K-drama
Where to get your fix: Sites where you can find subtitled K-dramas (and dramas from other countries, as well. I’ve watched a handful of J-dramas (Japanese) and TW (Taiwanese) dramas, but I vastly prefer the K-dramas, even though I know more Japanese – I got an A in my Japanese 101 class back in the day, when we actually lived in Japan and once I even knew both hiragana and katakana- but still K-dramas interest me vastly more).