This month, I have become increasingly nostalgic on Tuesdays. I yearn for a period of time before the metallic claws of the technology revolution grasped onto humanity and churned us around in its hectic whirlpool of information, money, power and deceit. I yearn for a period when friendships were genuine, when eating was a guiltless pleasure and when people were a shade purer. Do you remember the sheer joy in nurturing a virtual pet in the small egg-shaped screen of a Tamagotchi? Or perhaps trembled with delight when you finally reach the 99% downloaded mark, only for your dial up to disconnect? Reply 1997 is the cause of the weak form of depression I’ve come to feel after Tuesdays. But I’m not alone when it comes to loving every second of this time warp back into the late 1990s.
Beautiful gymnast Son Yeon Jae, sweet Juniel, FT Island’s main vocalist Hongki, VIXX and boy band INFINITE are all self confessed addicts of the TvN drama and along many who are eagerly anticipating for the last 2 episodes. Reply 1997 will have 16 episodes in total and although uncompleted, negotiations to start airing in Japan have already commenced.
This drama focuses on the extreme fan culture that emerged in the 1990s when idol groups took center stage and K-pop was blossoming.
It tells the story of 6 former high school friends from a school in Busan who meet again in 2012 and brings back memories to 1997 when they were still high school students. Moving back and forth between the ’90s and today, the story centers on the life of Sung Si Won, who idolizes legendary boyband H.O.T., and her 5 high school friends.
Why it is so good
After decades of brainwashing from my parents, I’ve come to believe that rapists loom everywhere. From peeking hungrily under the street gutter to the stranger listening to the radio in his most-possibly-stolen immobile car. As a result, on the rare occasion I don’t get driven home, I find myself turning in circles as i walk home in the dim light (for example TODAY!). Flat footed pirouettes, that’s what I call them. And they’re actually quite effective since I’ve never been raped but I have a slight nudging feeling that the rapists took pity on me since rarely do they see a person more removed from sanity than themselves. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a person who accepts this alter ego hiding beneath my innocent eyes. Rapist or just plain sane. Reply 1997, however has taught me that no matter how whipped or abusive a female can be, there will always be two majorly handsome, smart and caring males who will always be around to catch a grenade for me. Kudos to the production team who has made me believe in fate again! I’ll be waiting!!
Apart from the obvious rain of beautiful kpop classics flooding the drama, screen writers Lee Sun Hye and Kim Ran Joo have also done a fantastic job with the storyline. Filled with unexpected humour and on-the-spot awkward animal sounds, we almost forget the fundamental heart wrenching love stories looming under the cheerful demeanour. Audiences in their teens will enjoy the slapstick comedy from Si Won’s clueless friend Bang Sung Jae and ridiculous frenemies, while those in their twenties and thirties will appreciate the use of a “story within a story” and dramatic irony. My personal favourite was Eun Ji Won’s role as Hak Chan. Hak Chan is friend to Si Won and boyfriend to Yoo Jung, the two biggest fan girls in Busan, and is indifferent to Si Won’s tremendous dislike for Sech Kies, must tolerate their crazy antics and read Si Won’s graphic BoyxBoy fanfiction. But in reality, Eun Ji Won is the former leader of boyband Sech kies, H.O.T’s biggest rival. Let’s just say … it gets rather awkward
Cameo appearances from multiple kpop stars such as Tony Ahn (H.O.T), Siwan (Z;EA), Jooyeon (Afterschool) were perfectly executed to keep the viewer’s eyes round and wide open throughout the drama. Coupled with 4 and a half HOT men (Sung Jae only counts as half), a few S.E.S songs and young Hyori images and the result? My eyebrows have never been the same ever again. The drama is both educational in the beginnings of the Hallyu wave but also incorporates recent stars into the production.
Last but not the least, the drama’s portrayal of a gay character played by Hoya (Infinite) warmed my heart. Joon Hee is strong, charismatic and smart but he is unable to dictate the direction of his heart. He accepts who he is and once found out, his friends do not shun or sympathise him. Korean are known to turn a blind eye on homosexuality so this gentle approach in introducing the concept of same sex love to younger generations deserve a round of an applause and one tear swipe from yours truly.
Why it is bad
Seo In Guk has broken one of my golden rules. Never fall for a contestant of a talent competition. Why? Their flame never burns as brightly as I wish for them to or lasts as long. And I’ve never liked those that took the shortcut to life especially since I never found mine. But let me reiterate. Seo In Guk broke it.
Nonetheless, a rookie will always be a rookie. Given the sticky love triangle Shi Won and Yoon Jae find themselves in, A Pink’s Eunji and Seo In Guk respectively are downright terrible when it comes to crying scenes. Tears from years of bent up frustration and overpowering love come seemingly as yawn droplets. Eunji’s kiss reactions are also bordering the sleepy side rather than the necessary reaction of surprise, confusion or lust. She is good when it comes to being OTT and crazy but come sentimental scenes and she suddenly becomes droopy eyed. Mind you I would probably have the same reaction. Puckering up for Seo In Guk could ever only occur in a dream.
YES!! But maybe not for those who were born after 1999.
Songs that make me wish I was born earlier … or maybe not:
Complete playlist (along with respective youtube videos) for the drama here.