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Just the tip: Is Netflix's new K-drama Mystic Pop-up Bar worth watching?

Just the tip: Is Netflix's new K-drama Mystic Pop-up Bar worth watching?
PHOTO: Netflix

So many shows, so little time. How do you know what's hot and what's not?

That's where our first impressions come in, where we watch the first episode of the latest series to hit your screens and tell you whether it's worth your time.

This week, we're looking at...

Mystic Pop-up Bar (Netflix)

What is it: Netflix just dropped the first two episodes of K-drama Mystic Pop-up Bar, and you can guess from the title alone that it revolves around the supernatural.

Based on a Korean webtoon, the fantasy drama opens with a young and gentle Joseon woman Wol-joo, who has the uncanny ability to visit the dreams of people haunted by spirits. A tragedy befalls her and the story moves into modern times. 

Wol-joo (Hwang Jung-eum) is now a hot-tempered, mysterious, and immortal outdoor bar owner. Together with her employees Han Kang-bae and Chief Gwi, they enter the dreams of their troubled customers to help them resolve their problems.

She's helped 99,990 people in the last 500 years, and needs just 10 more to pay off her otherworldly debt and escape the gates of Hell. But times have been hard, and customers are just not talking. And now, the Big Boss issues her a one-month deadline to complete her task. 


A snappish immortal stuck on earth forced to help customers resolve their grievances... sounds familiar? I know it's not just me getting Hotel Del Luna vibes.

All eyes are on: Former K-pop boy band singer Yook Sung-jae (from BtoB), who plays the main lead Han Kang-bae. Cute, disarming, and clumsy, his character is more than just a contract worker in a supermarket.

He is a "special case" as coined by Wol-joo — every time he touches someone, they inexplicably reveal their innermost secrets to him. A little awkward, he channels the social anxiety we all have when we wonder how people truly feel about us. 

Is this for real: I have so many questions about the show, which hopefully would be discussed later as the series progresses.

Did the Joseon crown prince and Wol-joo really fall in love in their dream? What happened to him? Will the series be similar to Hotel Del Luna, and how did the soft-spoken Wol-joo end up so loud and brash?

It's also interesting how even in the modern-day period, Wol-joo is still dressed in the traditional hanbok (Korean clothing). Is it to reiterate the fact that she is still holding on to her past? And will the hairpin that she received from her mother in her human life play a more significant role?

What we like: Eye-catching stars like Jung-eum and Sung-jae! Okay, apart from that. The story concept is pretty similar to Hotel Del Luna, but with a more straightforward backstory of the female lead right at the beginning. No confusing flashbacks throughout the episodes to keep viewers guessing how Wol-joo ended up in the bar.

With such a strong female lead whose personality changed so drastically, I'm drawn into wanting to find out more about her and how she's lived the last 500 years of her life. 

Aside from Wol-joo's back story, the first episode also shows her 99,991st customer and how the main characters come to work together. The first episode hit me pretty hard; I didn't imagine it would start out this heavy. But then, real social issues and problems that people go through everyday are never cotton-candy fluff. 

To watch or not to watch: As K-dramas go, there are plenty of romance-comedies involving the supernatural (Master's Sun, Goblin, Hotel Del Luna, Hi Bye, Mama! etc), and Mystic Pop-up Bar could just be one of them.

While the series has not introduced the romantic bits yet — if there are any —  it has a wonderful blend of quirky comedy, light-hearted mystery, and the feel-good element of divine help. 

I for one, am quite invested in the series, even though there are only two episodes out at the moment. It makes me wonder what the back stories are for each character, and also gives me the satisfaction of seeing how an evil-doer is punished.

But my biggest takeaway is, even though the character's problems are "solved" in the dream world, in reality, they have to make their own decisions and stand up for themselves.

So if you're looking for something different from the usual rom-coms and cheesy heart-fluttering moments in K-dramas, give Mystic Pop-up Bar a chance to light up your mid-week blues.

New episodes will be available to watch on Netflix every Wednesday and Thursday at 10pm.

ALSO WATCH: Just the tip: Never Have I Ever is a proudly Indian coming-of-age story and we're here for it

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