If you’re a fan of Korean Dramas (K-dramas), then you know that Netflix has scooped up a lot of licenses for dramas as Netflix Originals in the States. A lot of these also happen to be based on webtoons. The latest is Nevertheless, a live-action adaptation of the webtoon of the same name by Jeongseo.
In Nevertheless, Park Jae-Eon (Song Kang) is a university student majoring in art. He’s a flirt who immediately captures every woman’s eye no matter where he is. But despite being the focus of every woman around him, Jae-Eon is indifferent to intimacy and chooses to pursue physical relationships over romantic ones. Yoo Na-Bi (Han So-Hee) has just had a bad break-up with an older man who used her body for his art and cheated on her which has made her cynical towards romance. While the two jaded characters get to know each other they slowly begin to change.
With new episodes airing weekly and four out right now, it’s a great time to pick up the series. Not only is it a great adaptation, but it also deals with adult romance in a realistic way. It’s not too soon to map out why you should add this K-drama to your watchlist — especially with what’s coming based on the webtoon.
Adult Romances that Skip the Long Yearning
Fun fact: adults have sex. While this is standard in American television, romance K-dramas are all about the yearning and the build-up most of the time, often tackling larger issues while putting physical intimacy on the back burner. Nevertheless, on the other hand, directly dives into college life and what happens when two people aren’t ready for a relationship and become sex partners instead. Na-Bi initially pushes Jae-Eon away, rejecting his advances, and remembering that she’s not the only girl in his phone. She’s ultimately not even the only girl he’s kissing in a night. But after a sexy dream, she decides to put her physical needs first and grow deeper.
But sex isn’t the only adult reality in Nevertheless. Academic expectations, familial issues, and friendship are also explored in the series and done so in a way that explores how people relate to each other and form bonds. Beyond that, Na-Bi is an adult. She isn’t a lovesick fool who isn’t aware of who Jae-Eon is and also doesn’t shun other men who come into her life. The fact that Na-bi has been hurt before and isn’t naive to the world around her makes the difference in this romance, it makes it close to real, and also makes it something beyond yearning.
Exploration of Intimacy and Boundaries
Nevertheless uses sex to show that physical boundary crossing can be a catalyst for growth. For Na-Bi and Jae-Eon, as well as other characters, sex comes after flirtation, and then the choice has to be made. Now that the boundary has been crossed, do they walk it back or do they push forward? For our lead couple, they begin to join each other every night; sleeping, having sex, and just being domestic in general. While sex is a catalyst, Na-Bi comments on the other lines that are drawn between them and the way emotional boundaries stay solid, even when it feels like they may start falling away.
Intimacy means a lot to Nevertheless because narratively it’s clear that a sexual moment can be entered and lack the emotional vulnerability that makes it intimate if both parties don’t give that part of themselves. But, in classic romance fashion, the establishment of boundaries isn’t just done by the characters they belong to. It’s all also done through assumptions that lead to miscommunication and situations that fuel tension and drama in the series. The romances between all characters are about what lines are drawn, which ones are erased, and which ones didn’t exist to begin with. These lines expand and contract as characters grow independently as well, not just when they’re in their pairings.
Side Couples that Matter
I’m going to be honest, I don’t like side couples and most of the time I’ll fast forward through those moments in K-dramas the same way I scroll quickly through the episodes of webtoons that they come up in. That said, Nevertheless used its side couples to explore different romantic dynamics with friends to lovers at the center. For example, Oh Bit-Na (Yang Hye-Ji) and Nam Kyu-Hyun (Kim Min-Gwi) have chemistry and tension from the start, but their dynamic is inverted to our lead couple.
Here, Bit-Na endlessly scrolls dating apps looking for her next hook-up and Kyu-Hyun doesn’t “get” how you can sleep with someone you’re not at the very least dating. The dynamic switch with a woman confident in her sexuality and a man who attaches emotion to it is refreshing and allows the series to have depth. Next is Yoon Sol (Lee Ho-Jung) and Seo Ji-Wan (Yoon Seo-A), best friends who are maybe, just maybe, heading down an unrequited path — but you’ll have to watch it to find out.
Nevertheless is not only shaping up to be a great adaption — another in Song Kang’s Netflix filmography including Sweet Home and Navillera — but it’s also crafting a romance that confronts intimacy. Is it the sex or the little moments that pull people together? Additionally, every couple is navigating their own romances and, with that, their own identities. Friends to lovers, sex partners, and unrequited love are all elements of romance stories that take the stage in Nevertheless and they do so with stellar writing that honors the source material in spirit and in aesthetic.
Nevertheless airs new episodes exclusively on Netflix in the United States every Saturday.