Fans of the webtoon Born in 1985 must have been thrilled to discover it had been turned into a 15 episode (twenty minutes apiece) webdrama entitled How to Be Thirty. Aired in February of this year (2021), this engaging romance not surprisingly surpassed 13 million cumulative views in its first two weeks. Wow!
The story is about the love lives of three very close female friends who try their best to navigate the trials and triumphs of life as they begin a new decade – their 30s.
Seo Ji-Won, who is employed at SN Media, is the author (artist and writer) responsible for an extremely popular webtoon and, happily, things related to Ji-Won’s career appear to be booming. Thanks to her new manager, she just signed to have one of her works, Psycho Bride, made into a live-action movie while simultaneously having it published as a book. Sadly, her love life is a different story. The romantic relationship she had been in crumbled when her boyfriend cruelly admitted he was sick of her and walked out. Heartbroken, Ji-Won has been reluctant to enter the dating pool ever since and often dreams of what it would be like if her first love, clear back from middle school, came into her life once again.
Lee Seung-Yoo applied to work at SN Media, specifically for the position of Seo Ji-Won’s manager, for the sole purpose of being able to work closely with the talented webtoon creator. The man is not only handsome, sporting a killer smile, but is good at what he does and has been directly responsible for helping Ji-Won’s career soar to new heights. Seung-Yoo is extremely kind, often worrying about hurting others’ feelings, which tends to make him weak in expressing his true emotions. The fact that he puts others’ feelings before his own has kept him from trying to fulfill his true desires.
Lee Ran-Joo is a radio host that has had her own show, Lee Ran-Jo’s World of Dreaming, for a couple years now. However, unbeknownst to her, the higher-ups are not happy because the show’s ratings are lower than what they would like and they’re determined to do something about it. She had hoped to become a newscaster but froze in front of the camera during an audition, so she decided she would be better off on the radio. Although Ran-Joo dates, it isn’t her first priority. She and Ji-Won have been friends since high school.
Hong Ah-Young is a fiercely independent woman and the owner of Café Area. She doesn’t just run things from behind the scenes but works closely with her staff and customers, inventing new meals and drinks to put on the menu. She had been in a romantic relationship but got rid of the guy when she discovered he was seeing another woman. Ah-Young has decided that now she is 30, she’s going to be a “total b*tch.” She has been friends with Ji-Won and Ran-Joo since their days in high school.
Hyung Joon-Young is a 24-year-old man who is head-over-heels in love with Ran-Joo. After meeting her on a blind date (taking the spot of a friend), he has decided to patiently wait for her to realize how wonderful he is and like him back. He is kind, sincere, supportive, and knows how to love selflessly. Joon-Young got a part-time job at Café Area so he could be near Ran-Joo who frequently visits the place to hang out with her friend, the owner.
Cha Do-Hoon is the man brought to SN Media to direct the movie based on Ji-Won’s webtoon. He is a quiet, thoughtful individual who would rather listen to what’s being said than talk. Because he wants the movie to stay true to the webtoon, he invites Ji-Won to participate as a consultant and aid in writing the screenplay. Since he happens to live in Ji-Won’s neighborhood, they often bump into one another while washing their clothes at the local laundromat.
For information about Jung In-Sun, the actress who plays Seo Ji-Won, head on over to my Psychopath Diary review.
I was overjoyed when I found out Kang Min-Hyuk was starring as Lee Seung-Yoo in this show. He has been on my favorites list since I saw him on Hospital Ship (which is where you can read a bit about him) but this is the first thing I’ve seen him in since then. The man is an excellent actor with a heart-melting smile!
The part of Lee Aran-Joo is played by Ahn Hee-Yeon, aka Hani. She began her career as a member of the girl group EXID and then went on to acting. She has been in three TV dramas, three webdramas, two films, and a ton of variety shows – even hosting a few. Sadly, five days ago she tested positive for COVID-19. I join with fans all over the world who wish her well and hope she has a speedy recovery.
Cha Min-Ji, the actress who plays café owner Hong Ah-Young, is 31-years-old and majored in Theater and Film at Hanyang University. She began her career in 2008, appearing in the movie Forever the Moment and then in the one-episode teen drama Jungle Fish a few months later. She’s been in a total of seven films and 19 TV dramas.
Sadly, I wasn’t able to find any information about Baek Sung-Chul, the 22-year-old actor who plays the part of Hyung Joon-Young. It looks as if How to Be Thirty is his acting debut. Look for him in the currently airing The Witch’s Diner and he has a part in the upcoming drama Koo Kyung-Yi, which is set to air this coming October.
Song Jae-Rim, the man who plays Director Cha Do-Hoon, first came on the entertainment scene as a runway model and then moved to acting in 2009, playing a photographer’s assistant in the motion picture Actresses. I’ve seen him in Daemul, Secret Garden, Nail Shop Paris, Big Man, Goodbye Mr. Black, Clean With Passion For Now, and I Wanna Hear Your Song. (I was not a fan of Nail Shop Paris, in fact, it’s on my least favorites list, but his acting was very good, far and away the best in that show.)
How to Be Thirty encompasses elements of real life into the story, which helps us see these characters as authentic next-door neighbor-type people. We genuinely like them, cheer for them in times of triumph, and commiserate with them as they go through trials. All in all, these are very personable characters.
I was really enjoying How to Be Thirty and then I neared the end, an end I wasn’t thrilled with – at first. After the show was over, and I had mulled over some things, I was able to see why the writer chose to wrap up the show that way and made peace with it. However, I also began to see that it might not be the official end because things were set up for a sequel and I, for one, sincerely hope that happens. I wish I could tell you how I wanted it to end but that would be giving away too much of the story. Just know that I would appreciate a season two so things could (maybe) turn around and wind up the way I was hoping it would.
Every single song on the show’s soundtrack is excellent. It was difficult for me to choose a favorite so I decided to pick two – What Should I Do, performed by Onestar, is the best ballad, and My Tree, sung by Yoon Jisung, is my favorite uptempo song. I suggest you head on over to YouTube and give How to Be Thirty’s soundtrack a listen.
As for the show’s backgrounds, settings, aesthetics – the thing that stood out to me was the extravagant lifestyles of the main characters. Ji-Won and Ran-Joo’s homes are spacious and beautifully furnished. From the things I’ve heard, that kind of housing is extremely expensive in South Korea, especially in a nice city – which is where these people live. Ah-Young’s café seems to be one in name only because the place is large, very nice, and even serves meals and alcohol. (The way I see it, a café is a little coffee shop that also sells things like donuts and has a few small tables for customers to sit at.) And the characters wear clothes that are definitely up-market and quite classy. My guess is these folks have to have come from wealthy families to be able to afford all their nice stuff. They certainly don’t appear to have the typical amount of money that’s so often alluded to in most regular Kdrama characters’ bank accounts.
How to Be Thirty’s premise is something I’m sure most people have contemplated some time in their life – what would I do if my first love waltzed into my life once again? Huummmm? (I hope there’s a sequel.)
Actor Kang Min-Hyuk
Chemistry between Ji-Won and Seung-Yoo
Interesting, realistic romantic relationships
Good length – 15 episodes at 20 minutes apiece
The ending was not what I hoped it would be