Korean Drama Review

“Level Up” (Korean Drama) Review

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Okay now, let’s take a look at the 2019 drama ‘Level Up’.

Starring

  • Sung Hoon as Ahn Dante
  • Han Bo-Reum as Shin Yeon-Hwa
  • Cha Sun-Woo [Baro of B1A4] as Kwak Han-Cheol
  • Kang Byul as Bae Ya-Che
  • Danny Ahn as Park Gi-Woo

Player 1

Ahn Dante (Sung Hoon) works for a company specializing in restructuring companies on the brink of bankruptcy. Known as the ace in his line of work, he can boast a long list of companies that he was able to save.

Sung Hoon as Ahn Dante in Level Up
“Me, Dante, my recovery rate is 100%”

Estranged from his father since a young age, Dante refuses to accept his new stepmother and stepbrother. People may define him as a loner, but he would be the first to reject this label.

Work is all he needs, and when he is not working, he likes to enjoy being at his home. Surrounded by only a small turtle, – a gift from his late mother, – the quietness of his home is his haven.

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However, Dante’s carefully laid out life takes a nosedive after his teenage stepbrother comes to live with him. Being polar opposites and with their age gap to booth, a brotherly push and shove ensues between the two in an attempt to win the upper hand.

Complicated relationship between Ahn Dante and his younger Brother
“He is not my Brother, we just share a family registry.”

Player 2

‘Joybuster’, a failing game development company, is Dante’s employers newest project and the CEO strongly proposes he take it on. After initially refusing the request, Dante later changes his mind and ends up accepting.

Shin Yeon-Hwa (Han Bo-Reum) works as a game developer for ‘Joybuster’. She receives a promotion to Manager after several of her superiors decide to quit. In her new position, she soon finds herself working closely with Dante.

Han Bo-Reum as Shin Yeon-Hwa in Level Up
“I’m crazy about games.”

Resulting from previous run-ins with him, Yeon-Hwa feels less than trilled by this turn of events . To top it off, Dante seems to have no knowledge of games.

Raised by her father who owned a game shop, Yeon-Hwa has long been a game aficionado and tends to reject people not even interested in them.

Sung Hoon as Ahn Dante in Level Up
“I don’t have interest in those useless things.”

Nevertheless, Yeon-Hwa soon discovers that underneath Dante’s seemingly cold exterior hides a man of integrity who cares for those around him in his own way.

Slowly but surely they grow to mutually respect each other.

Players, choose your characters

As far as work goes, Dante has support from a small team including Park Gi-Woo and Kwak Han-Cheol.

Park Gi-Woo (Danny Ahn) is actually the CEO’s son but get’s no special treatment and is happy to work under Dante’s guidance. Gi-Woo shines as the mood maker of the team and his sunny disposition goes a long way in smoothing relations between different team members.

Danny Ahn as Park Gi-Woo in Level Up

Kwak Han-Cheol (Baro) is a new recent hire. After years spent living and working part-time in Busan, where he helped his Mom run a small guest house, Han-Cheol is excited to finally have a full time job.

Subsequent to meeting Yeon-Hwa and witnessing firsthand her dedication and loyalty to her company, Han-Cheol feels admiration for her. The two develop a close friendship, although he wouldn’t mind their friendship turning into something more.

Han Bo-Reum and Cha Sun-Woo (Baro) in Level Up

The name of the game

To save ‘Joybuster’, this team of people must develop a new game that will entice game enthusiast to level up.

As if they weren’t dealing with enough already, an old business acquaintance from Dante’s past emerges. And he is determined to bring Dante down at all cost.

Things that caught my eye

How nice to take a break from the usual ‘rich CEO falls for clumsy poor girl’ trope with ‘Level Up’. Not saying I don’t enjoy those – they are part of the special Kdrama essence – but an occasional change is nice.

Having a game company be the main setting/backdrop for a drama is not a first. Nonetheless, I LOVED how much they actually went in detail about the work required to develop/launch new games.

“You know, holding onto the company’s logo and weeping. That kind of loyalty, it’s so cool.”

Ahn Dante may seem haughty but it is soon apparent that this is actually a display of confidence. A validated confidence based on his competence and achievements.

I enjoyed seeing a strong character who keeps his subordinates in check by telling them straight what is what; but without putting them down.

Park Gi-Woo added so much comic relief to this show. Although his basic character traits were nothing new, the combination of them with his background as the CEO’s son certainly was.

Danny Ahn As Park Gi-Woo in Level Up

How refreshing to see him acknowledging Dante’s skills as superior to his and display no signs of petty envy.

Things in need of a ‘Level Up’

The one disappointment to me in this drama was the character Bae Ya-Che.

Ya-Che is the current CEO of an Entertainment company that went through restructuring by Dante in the past.

It is revealed that Dante was the one recommending her for the CEO position after getting the company back on it’s feet.

However, other than staying in contact with her as a respected acquaintance, there is no indication on his side that he desires for their relationship to become more.

Yet time and again she acts as if she is his significant other. She even borderline lies to make people think they are in a relationship.

Sung Hoon and Kang Byul in Level Up
“Then if you’re done with him, I’ll take him with me.”

I felt the character had potential to be so much more and instead was reduced to someone petty and cliche.

She is obviously competent and trustworthy to run a big company. I wish the writers would have gone down this route. Especially since Dante is openly acknowledging her competency.

Ya-Che and Dante enjoying a friendship build on mutual respect would have been so much more appropriate.

As such her character could have been meaningful to the development of the story. As it was, the character was increasingly annoying and in my opinion completely redundant.

Conclusion

All in all, ‘Level Up’ is a nice little story to watch. With it’s 12 episodes it also requires even less time investment as opposed to its 16 – 18 episode counterpart.

And who are we kidding. If nothing else, Sung Hoon’s deep voice and handsome looks are reason enough. It’s a win/win. Even if you were to just let this drama play in the background. **le gasp**

Sung Hoon as Ahn Dante in Level Up
“It’s because I took it on, it got saved.”

On that note…as always…

Until we drama again,

-Cee

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