Level Up Review

Synopsis. Level Up is a 12-episode 2019 kdrama about an executive who takes on restructuring a failing gaming company. There are challenges along the way for this emotionally distant executive. He finds himself drawn to the Team Lead but she’s all business. The executive leans that way too, even though his comfort level with her is high. Will their business relationship evolve to friendship? Will their friendship evolve to romance?
What I liked.
Final third of the drama had emotional content. Writer Kim Dong Kyu wrote a drama that didn’t impress initially. This series had silly moments that had limited appeal. It took a while for the series to find footing in a story line that interested me. But it got there and peaked in the last 4 episodes.

Leading man An Dan Te (Sung Hoon). I like Sung Hoon and he’s why I watched this drama. He embodies earnest and vulnerability in his characters. An Dan Te was smart but emotionally distant. He was forthright. He had a high business acumen and a low emotional intelligence. Over the course of the series we learned why he kept distance (literally and figuratively) between himself and others. But Team Lead Shin Yeon Hwa (Han Bo Reum) didn’t defer to him just because he was the new executive. She challenged him. Dan Te learned she made valid points and offered good advice. They developed a trusted business relationship that had the potential to stretch to friendship and maybe even romance. Dan Te also had family challenges that were addressed over the series so that I rooted for the issues to be resolved.
OST. This drama’s OST had two songs. Check them out at the playlist through this link or below.

Track list:
1. I’m Walking sung by Lee Jae Jin
2. Like Now sung by Jeon Geon Ho
What I didnโ€™t like.

Production was not this series strong suit. Director Kim Sang Woo produced a sometimes clunky series that had issues lighting all characters correctly in a scene. It appears Level Up is Director Kim’s first kdrama so this was a learning process.
Writing was not this series strong suit. Writer Kim Dong Kyu didn’t pen a compelling drama. The initial episodes were just okay. Thankfully the series improved as it went. It’s been noted this kdrama was categorized as a romantic comedy. In reality it was a workplace drama with the potential for romance. At one point I wasn’t sure a romance between the leads was merited. What saved this series for me is the evolution of the leading man Dan Te. I liked him, I liked his quirks, I wanted him to become a better man. Writer Kim delivered in that regard. It appears Level Up is Writer Kim’s first kdrama so this was a learning process.
Would I recommend Level Up? Depends. If you are a Sung Hoon fan, you’ll enjoy his performance and grow to understand his character. If you are looking for a light fun romantic comedy, then either this isn’t the kdrama for you or you’ll need to lower your expectations.

Asian drama fan. I watch and blog dramas on https://kjtamusings.wordpress.com/.

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Posted in Kdrama, Level Up, Reviews
13 comments on “Level Up Review
  1. Kay says:

    Thanks for the write up on this one. I’ve been trying to decide if I wanted to watch it or not. I was hoping it was more on the rom-com side since I don’t usually care for workplace dramas. Sounds like I should just tuck this one away for a rainy day in the distant future ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. beezrtp says:

    I liked all the characters too. So what was missing?

    I’ve watched shows with just as little plot. Touch My Heart being one example but I tuned in, just giddy on the cute.

    I liked Sung hoon’s character’s abruptness. Maybe I didn’t feel like I really got to know the heroine.


    • I only list Sung Hoo’s character in my like list. Everyone else was okay. The heroine did not have much to do. She was more reactionary and/or a sounding board.. Writer Kim put all the interesting bits in the the leading man, leaving everyone else a bit lackluster.


    • Jane Tilly says:

      I thought this was more of an office comedy. There was plenty of one-sided romance ๐Ÿ’ž, but the writer was very stingy with mutual interest romance ๐Ÿ’ž, particularly between the leads. Manager Park seemed to be the most successful in the romance department. Our leads didn’t show much if any interest in each other until the last couple of episodes.


      • beezrtp says:

        Hmmmm. Maybe so. Maybe that’s it – I went into it wrong?


        • Jane Tilly says:

          Beez, I went into it thinking it was a rom com, but was disappointed. I like Sung Hoon enough (he IS in my cadre of cuties), plus KJT was recapping it … so I endured. I was pleasantly ๐ŸŽŠsurprised๐ŸŽ‰ when it improved in the last few episodes, as I expected a soju inspired ending, but the writer pulled off a decent ending. I’m kind of OCD when it comes to finishing a drama … yep, it has periodically led to a waste of my precious drama watching time.


          • plus KJT was recapping it โ€ฆ so I endured. I was pleasantly ๐ŸŽŠsurprised๐ŸŽ‰ when it improved in the last few episodes, as I expected a soju inspired ending, but the writer pulled off a decent ending.
            Glad you endured and I’m glad for all of us that it did improve in the last 4 episodes. Dare I say the ending even had a couple of surprises. I wouldn’t be drawn to this writer again.


  3. Jane Tilly says:

    Level Up had a SLOW start, but got much better with the last 3-4 episodes. ALL of the items on KJT’s wish list were GRANTEDโฃ๏ธ The writer managed to eek out relatively happy endings for everyone, even the antagonists were able to avoid incarceration ๐Ÿšซ๐Ÿš” (CEO Gang(ster) ๐Ÿ and manager Song, the mole), thanks to Dan Te’s ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ’ผ๐Ÿ”ฅ generosity. Ya Chae ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ’ผ๐ŸŽค and Han Cheol ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿซ didn’t end up with their one-sided crushes, but had professional success. I ๐Ÿ’— the graciousness Ya Chae ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ’ผ๐ŸŽค showed Yeon Hwa ๐Ÿ™‹๐ŸŽฎ.

    My Han Cheol ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿซ was VINDICATEDโฃ๏ธ I ๐Ÿ’— Han Cheol ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿซ, he was a sweet ๐Ÿญman, even though he let himself be a doormat. I think he learned that next time he needs to gather his courage to confess with better timing. I enjoyed Han Cheol ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿซ finagling manager Song, who betrayed him (and locked him up), to take off his glasses, so Han Cheol ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿซ could land a well-deserved punch to the “kisser” ๐ŸฅŠ๐Ÿ’ข.

    I ๐Ÿ’— that Dan Te’s ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ’ผ๐Ÿ”ฅ brilliant โœจ leadership had them setup a decoy server to trap NexViper with their own virus โ˜ฃ, which led Joybuster to have a successful launch. Yeon Hwa ๐Ÿ™‹๐ŸŽฎ had amazing foresight ๐Ÿ”ฎ to set a trap to catch the mole, which would ensure their continued success.

    I was pleased Sang Mi ๐Ÿ“น๐Ÿ’ and Kang Hoon ๐Ÿ’๐ŸŽฎ became not only relevant, but likeable. I found it touching when Kang Hoon ๐Ÿ’๐ŸŽฎ and Dan Te ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ’ผ๐Ÿ”ฅ acknowledged each other as family.

    While I was initially perplexed Dan Te ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ’ผ๐Ÿ”ฅ and Yeon Hwa ๐Ÿ™‹โ€โ™€๏ธ๐ŸŽฎ lost contact with each other, maybe they needed some time apart before they got together to appreciate each other. By golly, Dan Te ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ’ผ๐Ÿ”ฅ sprang into action when he realized that he barely missed crossing paths with Yeon Hwa ๐Ÿ™‹โ€โ™€๏ธ๐ŸŽฎ at the charnel house to make sure they met. I ๐Ÿ’— Yeon Hwa’s dad for his insight to take Kang Hoon ๐Ÿ’ ๐ŸŽฎ with him so Dan Te ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ’ผ๐Ÿ”ฅ and Yeon Hwa ๐Ÿ™‹โ€โ™€๏ธ๐ŸŽฎ could be together. I thought it was fitting they came full circle with a swarm of bees ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ as they go together in the last episode … afterall, it was a swarm of bees ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ that brought them together in the first place.


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August 2019

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