Wow. Can’t remember the last time I’ve been truly blown away by a kdrama like I was with Answer Me 1997. Or maybe I haven’t. I could name the ones I truly enjoyed, like Dream High, and The King 2 Hearts, and My Lovely Sam Soon. I know I’m late to the party, but this one – this one – hits you in the heart.
Instead of sci-fi/fantasy driven plotlines and fake dating scenarios and gangster henchmen in suits that give way to overacting and laughable plausibility, Answer Me 1997 felt visually and narratively more like a film than a television series. The premise was a bit How I Met Your Mother: a bunch of high school alums sit down to dinner, and a narrator tries to keep the viewers guessing who ended up with who.
With two lovable lead characters guiding us through the way of first loves, ’90s kpop, and friendship (with the historical backdrop and localism of Busan and its charming accent), the ensemble cast weren’t merely supporting actors – every character made up the collective heartbeat of the show. I’d usually be incredibly skeptical with so many Kpop stars running their (often green) acting chops. The scenes and the characters are drawn so beautifully and the stories are heartwarming, charming, and genuine. Sung Shi Won is endearingly and confidently played (by Jung Eun Ji, of Kpop girl group Apink fame). And Seo In Guk’s Yoon Yoon Jae brilliantly stumbles through his mixed feelings, adolescence, and growing feelings for his childhood friend.
Sure, some of the actors show years beyond the characters they play (what high school kid always has five o’clock shadow?), but the roles are portrayed so brilliantly and written so well that I don’t mind overlooking the offense.
WARNING: BIG ASS SPOILER ALERT. I wasn’t too keen on the superfluous meta jokes, especially the ones with Hak Chan, played by a real member of the ’90s Kpop group Sechs Kies (also, apparently this is pronounced ‘jack’s kiss’). And if there’s anything I’m sooo glad I got onboard. However, if Shi Won had ended up with SPOILER ALERT! the Hyung, then…I would’ve walked. Ughh that’s gross. I mean…well, you know.
There were so many great moments. I’ll just share just a few.
The scene where all are gathered to watch a soccer game, and Yoo Jung inadvertently (and unknowingly) grazes his crotch. Fried chicken goes flying. Love how every physical touch leaves Hak Chan about to have a meltdown. I thought this was Hak Chan at his finest – no dialog needed.
Hak Chan’s love for porn… loved every joke from it.
Yoon Yoon Jae. Figuring out the passcode to Shi Won’s apartment. Ha.
Kang Joon Hee (so adorable I just couldn’t stand it) confessing his love for Yoon Jae. My heart was with you, Joon Hee. Aww. (Side note: Joon Hee is played by Hoya, in his acting debut – also hails from a Kpop super group, Infinite.)
Sung Shi Won, our fearlessly passionate heroine who loves H.O.T.’s Tony An with abandon. Who knew she could make a creepy thing like writing in your own blood look cool?
Hak Chan sits next to Yoo Jung on the bus! Ok – it was predictable, admittedly, but I already loved the character.
The many times Yoo Jung broke up with Hak Chan. The moment the boys – and Hak Chan – all find out why they broke up – again.
Every single time Shi Won and Yoon Jae fight and it looks like she’s going to rip Yoon Jae’s hair out. Every. Time.
QUESTIONS I HAD
Who did Jun Hee end up with? So damn curious who picked him up in the car in the last ep. Was it his new roommate?
Anyway, check it out for yourself. I found the first ep suuuper slow, but stay with it. You’ll be glad you did.