One of this year’s most anticipated romance dramas has finally premiered! Rising star Han So-hee is teaming up with Netflix’s adeul (son) Song Kang to give us the college romance we have been craving. The 10-episode JTBC series is helmed by director Kim Ga-ram of Flower Crew: Joseon Marriage Agency (2019) fame.
The drama’s main cast and crew showed amazing chemistry at the recently held press conference, and I’m expecting the same camaraderie to reflect in the drama. Hoping for fun times ahead!
Right off the bat, the most noteworthy thing in the drama is the complete change in vibe that Han So-hee showcases. We last saw her as the confident, sultry Yeo Da-kyung in The World of the Married (2020). She was both dangerous and seductive. In Nevertheless, So-hee is the cute girl-next-door Yoo Na-bi, who has just left a highly abusive relationship after being cheated on. Post getting out of this relationship, she pours herself into focusing on her sculpture major. I like that aside from her love life, Na-bi’s struggles with her art also form a significant part of the drama.
Song Kang, who is showing no signs of stopping, also sports a wholly new avatar as the charismatic, flirty, and mysterious Park Jae-eon. He is immediately charming with his infectious smile and his way of putting anyone he is with at ease. He is the playful junior in college who is always flirting with everyone he sees, but who you can’t say no to. His casual skinship and sincerity are at odds with each other, keeping you on your toes. And that’s exactly what happens to Na-bi, and to us, the viewers. It seems that no one is immune to Jae-eon’s smile.
Na-bi and Jae-eon have a meet-cute at a bar and develop some seriously intense chemistry. After circling around each other for days, they are officially introduced as sunbae (senior) and hoobae (junior). This is followed by lots of lingering gazes and being sweet to each other in a group. Na-bi and Jae-eon’s dynamic is relatable but also confusing—as viewers, it seems that there is an instant connection between them. But while Na-bi is genuinely into him, every time she thinks Jae-eon might be into her, too, something happens that makes her change her mind and withdraw.
Trouble begins when Na-bi realizes that what she sees as a special connection between her and Jae-eon might not be so. The constant touching and smiling is just how Jae-eon is, especially with women. While one side of him makes her feel special, the other makes her feel uncomfortable, slighted, and annoyed. What she is left with is a mix of contrasting and confusing emotions. Despite this, she finds herself incapable of saying no to him, and as a result, we get some really cute moments between the two. Jae-eon, for his part, keeps finding chances to hang out with her.
Like Na-bi, even I was confused—are we simply reading too much into Jae-eon’s gestures? Is he sincere or just another playboy who is used to getting what he wants by smirking his way through life? As Na-bi and Jae-eon’s interactions become more frequent, one wonders if the connection is real or just Na-bi’s projection. By this time, Jae-eon has made moves to kiss Na-bi at least twice. This thrill at being pursued and the confusion about feelings are both fun to watch and painfully relatable. Na-bi’s inner romantic clashes with her practical, once bitten-in-love side. We can all relate to wanting to believe you are special to someone and being annoyed at discovering you are not.
I enjoyed Han So-hee’s fun new avatar, but on occasion, she seemed a little too coy in her scenes with Song Kang. Her character is way more animated, comfortable, and laid back in scenes where she is hanging out with her college friends. Another bit of awkwardness occurs when Jae-eon moves to kiss her and she pulls back every time, but they never talk about it. Their interactions feel like there is a romance blooming, but one can’t be sure yet, especially with Jae-eon. But the thrill is nice, and Song Kang and Han So-hee make an electric pair, brimming with potential. I want to see how far the show drags this push-and-pull. I hope it’s just enough to be heart-fluttering but not boring and draggy.
College K-dramas are rare. I’ve spent a long time in the K-drama fandom complaining about the lack of them. This is why I was very excited for Nevertheless—and I’m pleased that it delivered on most counts. There is the carefree college vibe, lots of hanging out after classes, inappropriate jokes, and incredibly cool fashion on some incredibly cool characters. The action takes place in the arts department of a college, so there is a lot of amazing art to look at. The supporting cast, especially Yang Hye-ji and Lee Ho-jung, are super fun. The overall attitude towards relationships and sex is markedly different from standard K-dramas—refreshing, experimentative, and fun. And I hope it stays that way!