Monday, July 15, 2013

Reliving My Adolescence, Korean Style: Answer Me 1997 (Reply 1997) Review

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As someone who came of age, myself, in the late 1990's/early 2000's, watching Answer Me 1997 (or Reply 1997) is like watching what my life would have been like had I been born in South Korea, and had my best guy friend been an incredibly attractive Asian man that just happened to be madly in love with me.

However, instead of fangirling over early Kpop bands like H.O.T., like the characters in Answer Me 1997, I was living out my awkward teenage life in America, attending N'SYNC concerts and learning the dance moves to all of Britney Spear's music videos. (I know for a fact that there exists a home video of me and my four best friends reenacting a Spice Girls music video at my best friend's birthday party, but I don't know where it is and probably should spare you the awkwardness anyway.)

But, I digress. I wrote this post to tell you that I loved watching Answer Me 1997, and give it my full recommendation as a great Kdrama for beginners and connoisseurs alike. It has a distinct vibe, different from the typical Korean romantic comedy plot and characters, which makes it feel fresh and unique. The characters are relatable and lovable, and the situations will likely remind you of your own adolescence.


The Story

Answer Me 1997 is a coming-of-age story, visiting key moments in a group of friend's journey from adolescence to adulthood. Each episode focuses on themes and events that are the quintessential parts of growing up, complete with first loves, evolving parent/child relationships, teen idols, and awkward encounters with the opposite sex. The main characters take turns narrating the events and the life lessons they learned from their point of view. The best comparison I can make to it is the old American show from the 1980's, The Wonder Years:



Reasons to Love

1. The core of every good Kdrama is the OTP (which in fangirl speak stands for One True Pairing, or essentially the main couple). Answer Me 1997 delivers when it comes to a dramatic relationship with lots of chemistry. There are some pretty great moments full of romantic tension! It doesn't hurt that Seo In Guk is truly a Kdrama hottie and Jung Eun Ji is cute and fun. Seo In Gu as Yoon Yoon Jae definitely made my heart melt. His true love for Sung Shi Won, despite her obliviousness towards him, is adorable. 

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I also definitely developed a girl crush on Jung Eun Ji, and kind of want to be her. Just look at her smize (what Tyra Banks calls smiling with your eyes in America's Next Top Model. I only know this because Vivi loves that show.) She's a truly adorable heroine who experiences character growth as she becomes less selfish and more aware and apreciative of others.

2. This drama is especially engaging because there really is a question as to who the main girl is going to end up with. Will she finally return the love of her long time best friend, or choose his older brother? The drama flows in a flashback format, opening with the main characters reuniting at a class reunion in 2012. We're then taken back to 1997 where the circle of friends is in the full throngs of high school. We're not quite sure from the beginning who is married to who or how their lives progressed to that point, but each episode slowly reveals it. This drama keeps you engaged in anticipation of finding it out until the very end. I really enjoyed this aspect of the show because in most Kdramas it's pretty clear what the outcome will be from the beginning.

3. The other characters in the group of friends were really fun and realistic with their own engaging side stories. This show contains several love triangles, one of which is surprising for a Korean drama, but I don't want to spoil it. The friendships between the characters is so endearing and reminded me of the bond my best friend from adolescence and I share. There's just something about surviving the drama of middle school and high school together that bonds you for life. There's a particular moment where the heroine gets her hair chopped off by her dad as punishment and her best friend chops her hair off too in solidarity that just melts my heart and represents what true friendship is all about.




4. Everyone always comments on how the kiss scenes in Answer Me 1997 are so great and among the best, but despite the great chemistry between the main couple I have to disagree. While Seo In Guk delivers, Jung Eun Ji does not do her part. The kiss scenes felt a little strained because she was not the most passionate kisser. I'll give her a break though, since she is pretty new to acting. The main reason there is chemistry between them has mostly to do with his intensity, so it's still worth watching. Good job Seo In Guk! Can I get in line?
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Drawbacks

There really aren't very many drawbacks to this Korean drama, but Answer Me 1997 can be a bit hard to follow for non-Koreans three reasons:

1.  There were a lot of references to Korean pop culture from the 1990's, which I unfortunately did not get because I was too busy listening to N'SYNC and Britney Spears instead. There were also a lot of cameos from current and past Korean pop stars that I didn't recognize, so I didn't get to enjoy the full effect. But don't worry, with a little research you can get on board. All I can say about this is, thank goodness for the site Dramabeans! If you've never checked them out, they do an amazing job at recapping and explaining Korean dramas, with a good dose of humor and insight.
2. It can be hard to follow the story line because its travels around a bit in time.
3. Some scenes feel totally unfinished and unresolved and leave you wondering what happened next.

Overall, though, I truly love this Kdrama and have added it to our list of Korean Drama Recommendations for Beginners. What did you think of it? Did it remind you of your adolescence and favorite Pop bands? Comment below.

Check it out on DramaFever or Viki and enjoy!

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13 comments:

  1. I really liked the main character story!! I was much less excited about the porn scenes, that kind of ruined it for me. Other than that I thought it was great!

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    1. I totally agree about them talking about porn being terrible! Just to clarify to other readers though, there was nothing pornographic in this show, they just talk about one of the character's addiction to porn, which is annoying.

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  2. This show is one of my favorites <3 I can't wait to see Seo In-Guk in The Master's Sun!!

    I really like the memes you make for you posts :) Is there a program you use?

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  3. I can't wait for that either! I use Photoshop.

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  4. You haven't mention yet that in this drama, there was NO evil character. For me, Reply 1997 was one of the best K-Drama in 2012. I just love how unique and fresh this drama is. The characters were relatable and likable. The voiceovers were so great. And I love that this drama is not all about love between the main couple. This drama showed love in every aspects. Love between the main couple, love between friends (I envy the friendship here, to be honest), love between family, even love from fans to their idols. And who can forget the nostalgia factor? Even though I didn't know about the cultural references here, I know abot dial-up internet, tamagotchi, Dance Dance Revolution, pager, brick phones, floppy disk, etc. Attention to the details were awesome! So basically, I'm still in love with this drama. The final narration is still ringing in my ears: "It was fiery and pure, the time I long for. Do you hear me? If you do, answer, my 90's me"

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    1. That's all very true! I hadn't even thought about there being no evil characters.

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  5. I LOVED this drama it totally took me back to my junior high/ early HS days. While all my friends were fighting over *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys, I became a big fan of H.O.T. because I thought it would bring me closer to the very attractive young Korean man who helped out at his parents' corner store near my house. At the same time, my best friend and I had started writing ridiculous fanfic and shared it with each other via floppy disks. Many other late-90s references were also relate-able.
    I really enjoy how it touches on a variety of issues in a realistic way; even though some things seem like a huge deal at the time, obviously time passes and its not so major after all.

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    1. I love that you loved H.O.T. for the Korean guy. Did it work?

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  6. Thanks to your glowing review I now have a new favourite! I watched this immediately after the unspeakably awful Summer Scent, and the contrast could not have been greater. After a series featuring a psychotically possessive second male lead and a one-dimensionally self-obsessed female second, Answer Me was the perfect antidote. In fact, it was damn near perfect, period. Most of all I loved that it showed how to make a funny, touching, involving series without endless angst. I missed all the in-jokes, of course, but the characters were so well-drawn and so deftly brought to life that I didn't feel left out. With the possible exception of a slightly saggy penultimate episode, this show came within a hair's breadth of flawless. THANK YOU for the tip off!

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  7. Just finished watching this drama... So out of the ordinary, refreshing and hilarious.. Thanks for recommending this guys..
    I kind of gave up on K dramas for a while since most of the stories turns out to be the same but this drama is hands down one of the best and just like what Stuart says borderline perfect (if not for the abrupt stops during some scene where I thought that may be I might have not downloaded the episodes properly???).
    I'm usually not a person who cries watching KDramas (Except for Full House where I broke down each time Song Hye Kyo cried) but I was so close to loosing it especially during the cancer scenes with Shi Won's father.. Gosh that was hard..
    But it was funny at the same time especially when Yoon Jae tries to be romantic with Shi Won and she keeps texting him things like "pooping" and "psychopath".. I thought that was hilarious..
    Anyways it was so hard to think that Seo In Gu was the same guy who came on 'Love Rain' (which by the way was a beautiful drama) where he acts like this super geeky guy in the 60's and here he is this freakishly HOT high school student.. Ohhh bliss...

    Keep up the good work guys.. Now I have watched quite a few KDramas from your list.. I always visit your site because you guys give quite accurate reviews on most of the dramas I have seen. And one thing I noticed was just because a drama has poor ratings, it does not necessarily mean that it was bad (like the drama 'Love Rain', which had terrible ratings but I thought it was so beautiful especially the way they recreated the 1960's).

    So good work 'my chingoos' ('friends' in Korean).. You guys always deliver..

    XoXo

    Dush from Melbourne

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  8. I also cried in this drama and rarely do. I'm so glad you liked it and that our site is helpful to you! Thanks for the compliments :)

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  9. just finished this drama......smart writing & direction... most of the kdrams more or less have same story lines.. two guys one girl..2nd lead best but yet left heartbroken :( ..blah blah blah..( but i still watch them anyways) it was different & it was smart & logical..for a change i wasnt biased with ledy going to end up with one particular actor.. it wasnt buildup that way..female character was SASSY.. loved her spirit.. parents were adorable..every character had its own significans..loved it,..best one soo far..

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  10. Hello. This is A.K.I.A. Talking…

    Thanks for the great
    review of Reply 1997 / Answer Me 1997!
    I enjoyed it a lot.

    I added it to my collection of reviews for the show. The
    show has now an average score of 97.5%.

    It is now the top scored show of 2012

    Here is a link to the page if you would like to give it a
    look:

    http://www.akiatalking.com/2014/10/reply-1997-answer-me-1997-2012.html

    Thanks again for the review. If you want to do something
    with my blog, please contact me.

    ReplyDelete

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