Having caught up with the currently airing Itaewon Class (Oy vey, more on that after it completes its run), I decided to check out another series while waiting for the next new episodes. That series, Love Alarm (좋아하면 울리는), ended up being a refreshing and very welcome contrast to the aforementioned series. And again, I’ll have more to say on that later on.
But basically, Love Alarm has many things that aforementioned series does not: likeable characters you want to root for, an engaging main plot with lots of potential for deep discussion, a love triangle you’re actually invested in, relationships you actually care about, and the feeling at the end of an episode that you didn’t just waste an hour of your life.
Now it’s unfair to compare the two series. But I’m only doing so because I’m watching/watched both sort-of simultaneously.
On its own, this first season of Love Alarm does a lot in eight episodes and sets up a lot of possibilities in its upcoming second season.
Love Alarm is set in a world where an app of the same name exists in which you are able to let someone know you like them (and vice versa) by using that app. While that may seem like a harmless and cute little creation of today’s technology, the series quickly reveals that the app may do more harm than simply harmless good.
The series actually starts off a little wobbly. Though our lead stars Kim So Hyun (as Kim Jojo), Jung Ga Ram (as Lee Hye Young) and Song Kang (as Hwang Sun Oh) are all charismatic and immediately engaging, the story itself was not. The possible couplings felt a little forced and rushed. At some points it even bordered on creepy.
But when the set-up was over with and the series began diving into the substance of the Love Alarm app and the teen angst of the main relationships (both romantic and bromantic), it quickly picked up momentum.
It is a huge positive when the two characters fighting over the one lucky person are equally deserving of a happy ending. Even better if those two characters have a well-developed and emotionally affecting relationship themselves.
The chemistry between our three leads (and special mention to Lee Jae Eung as Love Alarm developer Chun Duk Goo) carry the series at the start and then fully compliment the stronger and more solid writing about 1/3 of the way through. Direction and cinematography, especially with the more fantastical elements related to the app, are also of high quality.
The relationships are dealt with in a mature, serious way. None of this cutesy, aegyo stuff. But also not completely devoid of joy and youthfulness for what are teenage and then young adult characters. You need that strong foundation to make the season 1 finale cliffhanger work. And it did.
Even more intriguing is the discussion surrounding the Love Alarm app itself. Touching on the effects of technology on the world today, especially how human beings interact with each other, the series poses interesting questions and dilemmas that I hope will be fully addressed in season 2. A careful inclusion of mental health concerns in the story are also welcome in a series like this. Especially as South Korea continues to struggle with being more open about mental health, bullying and actually addressing issues regarding it more freely.
So all of this comes together to make for a truly engaging, charming and at times emotional first season of the series. And with that, they’ve laid a strong foundation for what can be an even more engaging season 2.