Korean Drama Sassy Go Go (Cheer Up!) Review

Sassy_Go_Go_2015

You guys…Sassy Go Go. Drop everything and watch it. It is a wonder. The level of adorable, and fun, and characters you can root for, is off the charts. This is unexpectedly one of my favorite dramas of the past two years, and unlike quite a few other recent ones, including Moorim School and Madame Antoine, doesn’t drop off partway through, but stays strong and beautifully written the whole time. This drama is only 12 episodes, and believe me, it’s one of literally a handful of times in my entire life where I actively wished a drama was longer – usually at around this point in the drama I’m starting to get tired and a little antsy. Here’s my full Sassy Go Go review.

Sassy Go Go is somewhere between Dream High and Pinocchio; it’s a school drama, with all the fun of high school students interacting, but also delves those strong, deep emotional beats of parental abuse, trauma, loneliness etc. I quickly fell for these characters because they’re so damn charming, but quickly also grew attached to them a couple episodes in, because they’re each given real, genuine struggles, it’s not all just fluff and cuteness.
Sassy Go Go

Kim Yeol Sassy Go Go

But! If it’s fluff and cuteness you’re looking for, there’s plenty of that too. At elite Sevit High School, the students are split into two groups; the rejects and the overlords. Kim Yeol is the leader of the select group of 7? (I think 7) kids from familes of wealth and power. These students are all highly gifted and get the best scores in the school. On the other end of the spectrum are the kids who consistently get the lowest academic rankings in the entire school, most of whom belong to a street dance club headed by Kang Yeon-doo (Jung Eun-ji). One of the things I like about this drama is that it’s no Heirs; the class divide is really only a factor in the first couple of episodes, and after that’s it’s personality clashes, longstanding enmities, clashing goals, and immense outside pressures that drive the drama and conflicts among these groups and individuals. Because the students all live at school, they lead much the same lives, and the story is set largely within that self-contained little world, enforcing a kind of equality even among students who come from very different families. Which is to say, the drama doesn’t waste time with the “I’m wealthy! You’re not” dynamics dozens of other Korean dramas do.

Kim Yeol (Lee Won-Keun) at first appears to your typical arrogant rich kid who leads 10983098098 dramas. But what’s unusual immediately is how cheery he is, and how easily amused – his attraction to Yeon-Doo is near immediate because it’s based on pure amusement at this girl he keeps seeing get herself into situations. While we quickly find out he has lots of reasons to be tortured, and that he’s a spectacularly good and loyal friend, he’s not an angsty, tormented, cold mess who needs to be warmed up by the love of a good woman. Instead, on the whole he’s a fairly functional, well-adjusted person, if a bit too focused on his own world to the exclusion of others, and a bit too fond of practical jokes.

Lee Won Geun Jung Eun Ji Sassy Go Go

Kang Yeon-Doo, meanwhile, is stubborn and cheery and plucky, a natural leader of her little band of misfits, but not annoyingly or exaggeratedly so, and Jung Eun-Ji bring such a natural warmth and screen presence to her that she’s a sheer joy to watch. I dare you to not fall in love. She reminds me quite a bit of Suzy in that sense, though her character is completely dissimilar to Suzy’s in Dream High. Yeon-doo also has a strong sense of integrity, but is overly impulsive and gets herself into situations she has no business being in, which is why Kim Yeol winds up being such a fantastic counterpart to her – she draws him out of his self-absorbed, protective world, and he protects and calms her down from her heedless actions. They’re everything you want in a romantic couple – they have spark-filled chemistry, look insanely good together (Lee Won-Keun and his dimples! *dies*), and you absolutely believe in them and want them as a couple and as partners. They’re just good together, and good to each other, even during many of the times early in the drama when they’re fighting over something. This also has one of the cutest hospital scenes ever.

As if that weren’t enough though, the other characters are also great, complex, and uniformly well-acted (something that can’t always be taken for granted, as School 2013 is proof of). Yeon-doo has a longterm male best friend, who has a phobia of touching people, and this storyline is resolved in a very cute and heartfelt way that doesn’t take up unnecesary space in the drama, and their relationship is not mined for romantic angst. Ji Soo as Seo Ha-Joon, Kim Yeol’s best friend, who has a horrible home life, delivers an incredible performance, and these two have a bromance that is the best I’ve seen outside of School 2013. He and our second female lead, Kwon Soo-Ah (played by Chae Soo Bin who won an acting award for her incredibly nuanced performance), are both dark figures, but written with empathy and fleshed out so much that both are fascinating.

Yeon-doo’s little band of dancers are adorable meanwhile, and one of the brightest and most shining recurring themes of the drama was the sense of safety, security, and family this little group was able to provide each other. The drama ends on pure joy, having been an addicting, satisfying, extremely strongly-written ride. I heartily recommend this.

*Can we talk about Lee Won-Keun for a second? Give this boy ALL the roles. His screen presence is off the charts, he’s incredibly expressive, and did I mention his truly incredible, powered-by-the-sun, sexy-as-hell smile that lights up his whole face? (Soompi called it a million-watt smile). 

Lee Won Geun Sassy Go Go

Sassy Go Go Kim Yeol

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