Thursday, January 17, 2013

KDrama Review: Answer Me 1997

Credit: Picture from Koreandrama.org

Answer Me 1997 / 응답하라 1997

aka Reply  1997, Respond 1997




Starring:

Jung Eun Ji as Sung Shi Won
Seo In Guk as Yoon Yoon Jae
Song Jong Ho as Yoon Tae Woong
Hoya as Kang Joon Hee
Shin So Yool as Mo Yoo Jung
Eun Ji Won as Do Hak Chan
Lee Shi Un as Bang Sung Jae
Sung Dong Il as Sung Dong Il
Lee Il Hwa as Lee il Hwa

Year: 2012
Episodes: 16
Network:  tvN
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Mystery


Synopsis:

Answer Me, 1997 is about the lives of six high school friends and how they grew alongside K-pop culture, friendship, and love with many lessons learned along the way. The show is told in flashback since in the present day, the group of friends are at a high school reunion dinner fifteen years later. One couple announces their engagement while another couple announces pregnancy news. The answer as to who are the couples are kept secret, which brings a bit of mystery and also explains the title of the show where everything stemmed from the year, 1997. The concept is similar to the American TV show, How I Met Your Mother.

Reasons to watch it:

Fans of K-pop are bound to love this show, especially those who experienced that era in time: the late 90s in Korea. The story line particularly focuses on how dedicated fans are towards their idols. In this case, our main character, Sung Shi Won (Jung Eun Ji), is a hardcore H.O.T. fan and in particular, Tony Ahn’s fan. She is such a dedicated fan that she is known as Tony Ahn’s wife. During the main cast's high school years, there was an intense fan war between the fans of H.O.T. and their rival, Sechkies. There are many references to Korean pop culture of the time period. Even after fifteen years later in the present day, Shi Won continues to be a dedicated H.O.T. fan.

The show itself is very detailed. I find myself missing interesting parts of the show when I’m not paying attention. For example, before their SAT exam, Yoon Yoon Jae (Seo In Guk) gives Shi Won a box of taffy for good luck, but Shi Won did not have a present prepared for Yoon Jae. Improvising, Shi Won gets up, tells Yoon Jae that she’ll be right back, and then returns with a “S” shaped metal piece for Yoon Jae. A later scene would reveal Yoon Tae-Woong’s (Song Jong Ho) new car as he drives away, but we see that the “S” in the car name, “SONATA III” is missing on the back of the car. My husband actually watched this show twice and found even more fun references.

There’s also an interesting scene with Shi Won’s dog where fate comes into play, but I don’t want to ruin the ending for that. We also find out in the ending scene why Yoon Jae broke his arm back in high school.

All the actors in the show acted and portrayed their character really well and each character had significant screen time. I loved how each character was unique and each character had some quality time in the story to give each one of them depth. We see Tae Woong’s devotion to his brother and his urge to buy second-hand or knockoff stuff even though he’s well-off. We see Kang Joon Hee (Hoya) show his one-sided love and dedication towards Yoon Jae. We see Mo Yoo Jung (Shin So Yool)’s shocking side as she changes from being a H.O.T. fan to a Sechkies fan as well. We also see her heartbreaks and sunny smiles as her relationship with Do Hak Chan (Eun Ji Won) progresses. Hak Chan was an interesting character as he could not look girls in the eyes, but later on gains more confidence as his relationship with Yoo Jung progresses. Bang Sung Jae (Lee Shi Un) takes on a hilarious role as the motor-mouthed classmate and also the gossiper of the group. Lastly, a lot of credit is given to Sung Dong Il and Lee Il Hwa for their portrayal of Shi Won’s parents. They bicker one minute and love each other the next. I love how the story also showed how they fell in love as well. Basically, every character underwent his or her own journey through life in these fifteen years.

There are lots of cameos in this show as well as voice overs  Tony Ahn even shows up as himself, which I am thankful for because without his appearance, the show would seem a bit inauthentic. I also recognized Kim Jong-min, Shin Bong-sun, Kim Tae-won, Shin Dong-yup’s voice, and G.NA. Lee Jooyeon from the girl group, After School, also took a larger minor role and I honestly didn't recognize her in this show. She was stunningly beautiful. She was a totally different character in drama, Smile, Donghae. I also thought it was cute that Jung Eun Ji’s fellow A-Pink members Park Chorong and Yoon Bomi played minor roles as Shi Won and Yoon Jae’s mother during their youthful days.

Busan accent? How many shows do you know where all the main characters speak in dialect? I am not a Korean expert so I can only spot obvious dialect differences, but those who understand the Korean language well will definitely get a kick out of it.

Reasons not to watch it:

If you don’t like girls fanning over idols, then you’d probably not enjoy it too much. It could seem suffocating looking at all the things Shi Won does just for Tony and H.O.T. Other than that, there isn't much not to like about this show.

If you don’t enjoy gay story lines  you might be slightly uncomfortable with this show. The show does not explore Yoon Jae and Joon Hee’s relationship too much, but it is present. We only see Joon Hee longing for Yoon Jae, but Yoon Jae doesn’t know Joon Hee had such feelings. There is no big dramatic story line build-up for them and the story continues on as expected.

Favorite Couple and Chemistry Factor:

It comes as no surprise that the main love story draw is between childhood friends Yoon Jae and Shi Won. It’s cute when they share drinks all the time. I loved the whole coupon idea for birthdays and I even did the same thing for my husband. When Yoon Jae confessed to Shi Won in the karaoke room, it was so real, painful, and raw. It was also very memorable when he said that if a man tells a girl who doesn’t like him his confession like a fool, it means that he never wants to see her ever again. I think Yoon Jae emotionally jabbed Shi Won in the gut to make her realize that she loved him and she didn't realize it. I also felt that jab myself. I freaked out when I saw their kissing scenes later on in the show. Their kisses were so delicious and I can practically feel Yoon Jae’s longing feelings for Shi Won. Seriously, if I were Shi Won, I would forget about Tony and concentrate on Yoon Jae forever though I guess Shi Won has the best of both worlds: one worshiping Tony and the other, her husband. 

I must admit Seo In Guk really can act and played the role of Yoon Jae excellently. I never knew he could carry a whole series by himself. I saw him as a side character in Love Rain and I only thought of him as a side character and nothing more. A good script makes all the difference.

 I love the couple’s tender moments. I also liked whenever Yoon Jae shocked Shi Won, Shi Won is quiet and stiff. I am amused by that because I am the same way in real life when confronted with a problem or shock. Sure, Shi Won is also quietly shocked in other situations, but her shocked feeling is always the most potent when confronted by Yoon Jae. When Yoon Jae was crying out of control in the restaurant because he realized how powerful his brother's love was for him, Shi Won is innocently confused, but also so shocked in that she doesn't know what to say or do in order to comfort Yoon Jae. I feel like this couple has sprung to life and I have to remind myself this is only acting.

Favorite Scenes:

I think I loved the “Yoon Jae confessing to Shi Won” scene the most in the karaoke room. Everybody else left and it was just the two of them. Yoon Jae had been downing beers. His confession was really heartfelt and poignant. I’m not Shi Won, but I felt her pain as she tries to make sense of how she hurt Yoon Jae. I’m also surprised that Yoon Jae confessed everything he was feeling in one shot. It was disappointing to hear Shi Won ask if they could still be friends afterwards. Both characters were extremely heartbroken over this confession.

The scene where Yoon Jae ran for his life just to protect Shi Won from a potential rapist predator at night was also very touching. Without hesitating, Yoon Jae ran out of the house, lost a sandal, tumbled on to the floor after an accident with a bicyclist, and scratched his arms in a way where streams of blood came out just to protect Shi Won after receiving her scared phone call. I think that brought on the initial spark Shi Won had for Yoon Jae, though I’m not sure if she realized it or that she wanted to ignore that feeling. She definitely felt something because she was quietly stunned the whole time. I like how her character is very consistent.

When Tae Woong told Yoon Jae that he was still going to fight for Shi Won even after Tae Woong realized that Yoon Jae had liked Shi Won way before Tae Woong started pursuing Shi Won, Tae Woong set up a blind date for Yoon Jae and also a dinner meeting with Shi Won at the same time. I thought the storyline would take a melodramatic turn that would break the lovers apart and leave Tae Woong bitter with love, but I was shocked to see that the story took a different turn. It’s clear that the brothers love each other, but one of them have to yield to the other in order when it comes to loving Shi Won.

I loved every single Shi Won and Yoon Jae kiss scene. You can definitely tell they love each other.

Yoon Jae’s birthday scenes were funny. First there was Shi Won’s coupon scenes. Yoon Jae ended up redeeming them for odd favors like borrowing her parents for his middle school graduation, forcing Shi Won to stand at her own graduation exclaiming that what everyone is thinking is correct and that she has no parents. Tae Woong’s gifts to Yoon Jae is even funnier. Yoon Jae had a bunch of knockoff gifts: Adidos shirt, Westpak backpack, Safty Zone shirt, and lastly, a Guess! T-shirt.

When Hak Chan invited Yoo Jung over his house for the first time when his parents weren’t home, Yoo Jung was freaking out every time Hak Chan went near her because she thought he was asking for sex and she was in her period. The scene was so awkwardly funny. Yoo Jung screamed every time Hak Chan had his hands near her when he tried to take her coat and when he reached for the remote. Yoo Jung eventually screamed out that she was on her period. Lastly, the final punch came when during the movie they were watching, Hak Chan said that If Yoo Jung was expecting something else, he could still do what she presumably wanted.

The Yoon Jae dog scenes were very cute. I find it such a coincidence that there are two dogs that look alike. Yoon Jae spent so much effort to obtain a dog that looks like him only to give the dog to his friend Joon Hee. At the same time, Shi Won’s father ended up finding an identical dog in the park that belonged to a young girl who lost her dog. I think the dog scenes foreshadow future events very well.

Least Favorite Scenes:

Sung Song Joo (Kim Yewon)  was in a few episodes as she tries to woo Tae Woong, but she ends up dying shortly afterwards. Honestly, I think I would have been completely fine without this character even appearing. I also didn't like how quickly Tae Woong was able to move on afterwards. He wanted to marry Song Joo, but to me, he moved on fairly quickly afterwards. Actually, the story didn't really concentrate on Song Joo after her death. On a side note, Song Joo is super cute as she was the aggressor in the relationship.

The writer seems to be going nowhere with the Kang Joon Hee and Yoon Jae relationship. I would have wanted more drama between them, but they both just quietly accepted the fact that “it is what it is.” It was sweet how they both tried to enter the air force together. I appreciated how Joon Hee was always honest with Yoon Jae except for when it comes to his own feelings. I think at least Joon Hee should have at least told his best friend Yoon Jae that he was gay. They were friends for such a long time.

The Lesson:

Finding love is about timing, but the effort goes a long way.

OST songs:

Seo In Guk and Jung Eunji's remake of Cool's "All For You"

Seo In Guk and Jung Eunji's remake of "Just The Way We Love" from the movie, "Love Wind Love Song"


Watch it on Dramafever for free!


Wehaiyo’s Dramafever Recommendations:

If you liked this drama, then consider watching these Korean dramas:

The World That They Live In – The World That They Live In aka Worlds Within goes into depth with each character in the TV/film production business. We go into the individual lives of actors, program directors, directors, script writers, and the film crew. We get to see in depth the realistic situations that they face on a daily basis as well as all the problems that could arise during production and even post production. The characters of the main leads, Hyun Bin and Song Hye Gyo, go through ups and downs where they wish their life was as lovely or as perfect as a drama. I admit this drama may not be for everybody’s taste or mood. If you like realism, a serious tone, and no fluffy story lines  I recommend this drama. The story is basically a story within the story of making a drama. As a bonus fun fact, Hyun Bin and Song Hye Gyo actually dated in real life after this drama ended and that relationship lasted until before Hyun Bin entered the army.

The Bean Chaff of My Life – I have not finished this drama yet, but I've seen the majority of it so far. It is about two people who meet during their college years, go through Korean electoral events like campaigning for their candidate in order to earn some money,  and continue meeting on and off throughout their lives, but never going as far as dating each other. They somehow end up intertwined with each other even as they date other people. This drama might be frustrating to watch since the main leads don’t get together for the majority of the series and it might not live up to Answer Me, 1997 standards, but it does have the concept of friends who grow up without dating each other until later on. As an added bonus, we get a musical scene in each episode where characters burst into song. If musicals interest you, you might find The Bean Chaff of My Life interesting as well.

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