Mi-na (played by Kang Mina) is a normal high school student who skatesboards to school every day and has an unacknowledged crush on family friend slash local tennis star Jong-min (played by Byeon Woo-seok), who is her fellow student. Also Mi-na has the superpower to turn invisible twice a day. You would think that's the most important part of her characterization but no, "Drama Stage - The History of Walking Upright" is actually a pretty mundane high school romance with a pretty weird gimmick for no obvious reason.
I'm guessing the whole invisibility superpower thing is a riff on people in real life who you think are standing right next to you, then you look away for a second and they've disappeared. This interpretation also fits in handily with the final narrative arc, where Mi-na choosing to be metaphorically invisible in order to avoid helping someone for entirely selfish reasons. This leads to the climax where Mi-na must decide to be a good person for once.
That "for once" being a fairly essential qualifier to my overall dislike of the drama. Mi-na spends a ridiculously amount of energy being spiteful and mean to people. That Mi-na is not very good at being mean to people is, for a time, used for the sake of reasonably effective jokes, but it also has the effect of making Mi-na a very unsympathetic protagonist. Her happy ending feels entirely unearned, since it's a far happier ending than she deserves.
It doesn't help that Jong-min is a complete non-entity. By the end of "Drama Stage - The History of Walking Upright" we still don't really know anything about him except that he's tall, good at tennis, and looks great with his shirt off. The drama never even explains why Jong-min has privileges with Mi-na's household as such that he can just come over for dinner whenever. His big tennis match is pretty cool, and excellently well-shot, but the lack of clearly defined dramatic stakes kills any sense of tension.
Mi-na's father (played by Im Won-hee) actually has a better drawn personality, and all he ever even does is yell at Mi-na to stop daydreaming and sneaking around and plotting pointless revenge schemes. If all you're really looking for is a romantic high school comedy drama, "Drama Stage - The History of Walking Upright" has you covered. The drama is far from unwatchable. It's just lacking in the way of ambition, and is self-satisfied with mere cuteness alone.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org. He also has a substack at williamschwartz.substack.com where he discusses the South Korean film industry in broader terms and takes suggestions for future movies to review.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - The History of Walking Upright""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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