Anybody who’s made it to their mid-20s is probably just as exhausted as I am. Besides the daily battle against self-doubt and anxiety triggers, we also struggle just thinking about our monthly bills, staying fit and healthy, keeping our Monstera plant alive, and gunning for better career opportunities. What gives?
It’s easy to feel like there’s a lot on our plate because, well, there is a lot. Whoever said growing old means getting our lives together was clearly referring to our late 50s (maybe even 60s), but that doesn’t mean we didn’t do a lot of growing up over the past years. That’s exactly the kind of reflection I had while binge-watching Netflix’s second Korean original series, My First First Love (MFFL). It tells the coming-of-age story of five college kids who experience love — in all its pain and glory — for the very first time. Ji Soo (of Strong Woman Do Bong fame) plays his first leading role as the charming Yoon Tae-oh together with idols Jung Chae-yeon (Han Song-i) and Jung Jin-young (Seo Do-hyun). Choi Ri and Kong Tae-oh join the ensemble as Oh Garin and Choi Hun respectively. With Tae-oh being regarded as the dependable friend, everyone (except Do-hyun) runs to him and to his house for refuge from personal problems. Things become a lot more interesting when childhood best friends Song-i and Tae-oh get into new complicated relationships, risking their friendship.
“It is a record of the most glorious and beautiful season in life lived and experienced with the people you love the most.”
Now I know what you’re thinking: Do we really need another romantic comedy K-Drama? Well, Gretchen, MFFL is not just another series about kids who fall in love. It’s a series about kids who fall in love and learn valuable lessons about family, independence, career, finance and friendship — among many other things — along the way. During the press conference in Seoul, South Korea, director Oh Jin-seok put it best when he said that MFFL, “in its essence, is a record of the most glorious and beautiful season in life lived and experienced with the people you love the most.” It’s pretty much a dream production, which is nothing short of what’s expected after Kingdom, the first Korean original series by Netflix.
Ji Soo plays his first leading role as Yoon Tae-oh in Netflix’s second Korean original series. Idols Jung Chae-yeon (Han Song-i) and Jung Jin-young (Seo Do-hyun) join the ensemble with Choi Ri and Kong Tae-oh.
My First First Love is the first Korean series that I’ve watched. Ever. And as a KDrama first-timer and exhausted adult, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit distressed (read: bitter) — in the beginning, at least. Look at these youths and their perfect skin, cute beaus, great style, cool friends and happy disposition. As I continued watching the series though, each character and storyline got more complex and relatable: Choi Hun getting kicked out of the house for wanting to pursue his passion, Song-I and Do-hyun balancing work and school just to make ends meet, Tae-oh slowly growing apart from his childhood best friend, and Oh Garin growing apart from her own mom. They’re dealing with all of that and getting into new romantic relationships? Everyone is all going through difficult situations even if it might not always easily show and MFFL didn’t fall short in reminding us to be kind to everyone. Always.
The Netflix original series was shot with 16 episodes in mind, but was eventually cut into two seasons. After streaming the entire first season, I couldn’t help but feel like Episodes 1 and 2 were a little dragging. Young STAR’s Korean pop culture correspondent Gaby Gloria did explain that’s normal for most Korean dramas (first-timer here, remember?), but the slow build becomes even more important for a series like My First First Love. There’s not just one grand dramatic moment that changes everyone’s lives. Sure, different personal issues pushed the characters to live under one house. But the unfolding of their conflicts and resolutions were so slow and organic, it almost felt like watching a reality TV show: refreshing and surprisingly entertaining. Cast member Kang Tae-Oh puts it best when he says, “The characters are dealing with feelings that they’ve never felt before and are not experienced enough to express those emotions properly. I think it all comes from a certain level of innocence.”
My First First Love is a series about kids who fall in love and learn valuable lessons about family, independence, career, finance, and friendship — among many things — along the way.
The beauty of MFFL is really the attention it gives to these little moments. I found myself smitten multiple times because I was reminded of my own coming-of-age story: the first time I received a text from a boy I liked, the first time I snuck out, the first time I dressed up for a date, and the first time I auditioned and anxiously waited for results. It’s different reminiscing now that I’m in a better headspace, but watching MFFL also becomes a very humbling experience if you think about it that way.
In My First First Love, we watch Tae-oh, Song-i, Do-hyun, Oh Garin and Choi Hun make mistakes and go through the entire process of healing with them. They feel like it’s the end of their worlds and while we can relate, we also get to put ourselves in their shoes and reflect on how far we’ve come as trying-to-survive adults. The problems that we encountered when we were much younger are probably had the same struggles (to different degrees) that we’ll keep facing now and in the future. But the series reminds us that with a couple of beers, a good talk, and our OG friends by our side, we’ll get by just fine.
Stream ‘My First First Love’ on Netflix.