Why are these only for 8 minutes each?
As frustrating as it might sound, however, this may be the only complaint that I’ve had about most STRONGBERRY miniseries/short films. Ah, well. The lower budgets plus the kind of restrictions in South Korea seem to be a few of the many reasons why most BL series from the country are shorter than what most fans expect.
Written by Bae Junho and directed by Uhm Juho, “A First Love Story” brings us bits and pieces of young love between best friends Jaesung (Kim Hyeongwon) and Mingyu (Jung Jaewoon). The story is split into two separate episodes on YouTube which are about 8 minutes long each (as mentioned above). Each of these episodes has its own name, too. While the first one is titled “Why Are You Talking About That Now?” (or “Hyung-eun Wae Jigeum Geureon Yaegil Hae?”), the second one is called “The Reason I Fell in Love with You” (“Neoreul Johahagedwen Iyu” in Korean). I like this especially because it gives more room to explore these two statements as concepts instead of covering the entire story of the love between these two characters—which is perfect when it comes to short films, instead of cramming a longer story into a 10-minute-long video.
Although both short films don’t really reveal how the two became best friends, mentions of soccer practice at school suggest that they may have met as sunbae and hoobae (referring to senior and junior in Korean respectively) of the school’s soccer club. The first episode starts off with Mingyu’s inner thoughts. He wonders when and how the way he looked at Jaesung changed—from an older brother to someone he loves. He’s shocked and upset to hear that Jaesung is planning to enlist in the army in the next two months, and realises that this is the only chance he may get to confess his feeling for his ‘hyung’.
The second episode covers Jaesung’s first visit when he’s on military leave. Both characters have a lot to say to each other about their time apart. This particular episode pretty much banks on a seemingly light conversation that encompasses a whole lot—from the jealousy that they feel when they each hear the other’s story about their popularity among other people around them, to how much they miss each other. We get to hear more of Jaesung’s side of the story this time, about his life in the army, and how he first fell in love with Mingyu.
Although a very simple story of first love with a best-friends-to-lovers trope, “A First Love Story” sure is a fluffy one. As usual, I’ve seen a chorus in the comments about how it may be better than most stories with twelve episodes (the whole 11th episode syndrome is more than I can bear so I’m not surprised). The light kisses in public that lead to something else in private is such a STRONGBERRY move (at least, among its softer, fluffier portrayals); it’s also very telling about how PDA is viewed in general in South Korea, with things being harder for couples in the LGBTQIA+ community. The chemistry is built mostly upon banter and teasing conversations between them, and that’s what makes them so precious and all the more endearing.