Before I share my feelings and reactions to the latest Korean drama on Netflix, Doona!, let me make it explicitly clear that I have not finished any major romance Korean drama series in recent years, let alone being able to remember if I ever have when Hallyu (“Korean Wave”) reached my orbit during my teenage years. My Korean series consumption has pretty much been manhwa adaptations such as Moving, Black Knight, Mask Girl and Sweet Home as well as original works that are darker in theme such as Squid Game and The Glory. Now, while Doona! is based on the webtoon series The Girl Downstairs, I feel like the series is much more inline with director Lee Jung-hyo’s other works such Crash Landing on You, which even without me having seen a single episode, I am very aware of its wide appeal and success around the world as a romcom series.
Bittersweet First Love
The series does an amazing job at capturing and displaying a nostalgic but present feeling of youthful naivety, intense romantic emotions, and inexperience. A huge part of this is because of the series lead Won-jun, played by Yang Se-jong, a university student more focused on his future than celebrities and a bit green when it comes to romantic relationships.
The series sets Won-jun up for a roller coaster of the ups and downs of romance as he crosses paths with Kim Jin-ju, the girl he loved in high school, as well as Choi I-ra, a girl literally born minutes before him at the same hospital and is essentially his childhood sweetheart albeit one-sided. Jin-ju and I-ra aren’t just passively waiting for Won-jun though, Doona! provides these two characters with their own journeys to developing as young adults in university as they overcome tough situations and grow for the better in order to be ready for love when it is their turn.
The Idol World Through Doona’s Eyes
Former member of the Korean music group, Miss A, Suzy plays the titular character, Doona, an example of fiction mirroring reality (or is it the other around in this case). Suzy’s character is slightly older than Won-jun but is often feigning maturity as Doona is still maturing in her own ways as well.
As Won-jun finds himself falling for Doona, the complications of her past continue to play a deterring factor for the two of them. It’s a constant pendulum pull each episode, similar to a will-they-won’t-they. But as I came to finish the series I recognized it to be more external factors than internal of these characters, and would now call that push and pull a can-they-can’t-they in regards to if they can overcome the challenges between the two of them.
Without spoiling the ending, I will say that the last episode is a doozy. If the cast and crew of this series wanted to leave a mark on its viewers, then they succeeded with me as I found myself with this lingering feeling that the two characters would come to embody throughout the series. This feeling would push me to start reading the original comics but also quickly watch through the Chinese animation series adaptation. While the ending may not have satisfied me as a fan, I can appreciate the bittersweet resolution we arrived at, similar to Past Lives from earlier this year.
Catch Doona! on Netflix starting October 20, 2023.
Where to watch Doona!
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