Drama: Reply 1997

I started watching this drama to pass the time while waiting for new To the Beautiful You episodes, never expecting to like it or fall victim to its merciless grasp. Just looking at this series on the surface, there’s almost nothing about it that appeals to me. What sparked interest was finding out that Eunji from A Pink and Hoya from Infinite played main characters—but I was led to disappointment when I found out that the main male lead was Seo In Guk, and not Hoya. I mean, Seo In Guk can sing well, but why would I want to watch him act?
Also, the synopsis described the drama as being about the life of an extreme H.O.T fangirl living in 1997. That really doesn’t sound interesting to me. And why would I want to watch a series taking place in the year during which I was only 4 years old?

………ho ho ho. After giving the drama a try, I admit I stand corrected.

It’s a bit hard to put into words how I feel about this drama: I LOVE IT but it doesn’t appeal to me. I WAS ADDICTED TO IT but it’s not the type of drama that I like. Something about it slightly puts me off… which is why I see why I didn’t want to watch it and why I wasn’t too particularly interested in the first few episodes. The drama largely draws on its element of nostalgia, which I cannot relate to.
However, I highly recommend this drama. Even if it takes a few steps to truly see why it’s a good drama.

And it really is a good drama!
While I admit that initially I wasn’t nearly as charmed by this show as To the Beautiful You, I ended up enjoying it more—although I guess one could argue that it’s not so much an “enjoyable” drama as a “good” one. To the Beautiful You is lighthearted, cute, modern, humorous, and pleasurable to watch. However, I’m starting to see it as nothing more than a spectacle. Y’know, like a glass castle. (Not saying there’s anything wrong with that; I liked it.)

Reply 1997…feels more like art that’s not nearly as sparkly, but was created with impressive form. Kind of rough around the edges, but something that you can’t help but RESPECT, and will last strongly for time to come.
Honestly one of the major flaws of To the Beautiful You is that it’s just so darn predictable and cliche. On the contrary, one of the best aspects of Reply 1997 is that IT IS REALLY UNPREDICTABLE. Of course some drama cliches can’t help but not be avoided, but for a Korean drama of this time and age, it is really impressive with its uniqueness, cleverness, and twists.

I have to praise the producers and scriptwriters for being incredibly witty. They really put a lot of thought into this drama, not only for being able to replicate so accurately the times and trends of the past, but in setting up situations, and sometimes still being able to surprise viewers and keep you on your feet guessing. There are tons of things that you won’t see coming.
(Spoiler, but the many ways they hid the identity of husband-san WERE KIND OF REALLY CLEVER and I was just like NOOOOOOOOOO. QAQ;;)

As for the casting, I LOVE IT. Thanks to this drama, I now have a small bias for Seo In Guk. >A> He overcame everything I held against him without even knowing him.
I really didn’t expect Hoya to be as good of an actor as he is! I also didn’t expect them to cast an idol for uh, that role. His secret, I mean.

BUT WOW. JUNG EUNJI. GURL. She truly made the drama.
There seems to be a general trend among idol groups that members who aren’t as prominent in vocals or dancing hold up their end by being more participative in variety shows or focusing on acting?
But Eunji is THE lead vocal of A Pink. She’s basically the only main vocal of the group tbh LOL, even though Bomi is one too, her parts aren’t nearly as prominent. Honestly, my previous image of Eunji was simply… the girl in A Pink who sings everything, belts a lot, and sounds REALLY out of place in most of their songs because her voice isn’t naturally cute but she tries to force herself to. While I respected her greatly as a vocalist, because she never sounded like she belonged, I was never very drawn to her as a person? ASDFlkjdslkfjwef thanks to this drama, I LOVE EUNJI SO MUCH and it’s gonna be weird seeing singer!Eunji again and not Sung Shiwon.

Back to my point, it’s REALLY unexpected that the lead singer of a group would be casted as the lead role in a drama. And you know what? I don’t even mind the imbalance. I don’t even mind that she’s getting this much attention within the group when some of the others are in the shadows, BECAUSE SHE IS A GREAT ACTRESS and I cannot imagine anybody else being Sung Shiwon. Good for Eunji!! Defies the trend AND does a damn good job of it! Talented-ass girl. Stahp it. :<

The acting in this drama was great. Despite so much of the cast being rookies, and the main roles being idols (lol, idols as actors—not always successful), there’s really hardly any trace of this. They weren’t awkward and pulled off their roles well. I think it’s only Seo In Guk who at times (VERY rare though) appeared slightly stiff. Eunji was natural as hell, pulling off a HUGE spectrum of emotions and behaviors: from young Sung Shiwon’s stupidly immature acts, to deep sadness, to passion, to her aggressive vulgarness, to older Sung Shiwon’s maturity.

It is absolutely amazing how the cast (mostly Eunji) was able to pull off their characters at 14 years old… and then their characters in their 30’s, getting married, with careers, and having children.
And especially with idols, you wouldn’t expect them to be able to pull off maturity. BUT THEY DID. SO ELOQUENTLY TOO. And another thing about maturity: I did not expect idols to be casted to have kisses like that (in later episodes). Like, REAL kisses and not just the awkward pressing of lips as is what’s usually found in dramas. Holy fuck.

[Edit: …I just found out that Eunji’s only 19 years old and is actually 3 months YOUNGER than me, which is really weird to think about because she partially plays a 33-year-old grown woman. Major props to her.]

~

If I had to describe this drama in two words, they’d have to be “warm” and “true.”
I’ve honestly never encountered another series so true to life: from its concepts and lessons, to the behavior and depiction of characters, and the openness in showing the characters’ flaws. Taking place in Busan also really helps to enhance the warmth and familiarity of the drama. Which may sound kind of strange because most people would be used to the Seoul accent instead of Busan dialect, but.. having that rough, casual, country feel just kind of makes you feel at home—like you’re seeing raw people and their raw lives.

A drama that teaches you to have gratitude for your parents and the time you get to spend with them.. to cherish your friends and keep them by your side.. the beauty of brotherhood.. and that you can’t control who you fall in love with, so follow your heart.

WATCH IT.

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October 16, 2012. A Pink, Dramas, H.O.T., Infinite, Seo In Guk.

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