7 January 2014

ANSWER ME 1994

KOREAN DRAMA REVIEW:  REPLY 1994

Okay, first up, I am not dead, so that is good!! I am just slowing down on my posts because man it is hard to keep up with the two a week and actually say anything interesting! Kudos to all those amazing bloggers who keep that up, I have no idea how you do it!

Also, to be honest it has been pretty busy in real life lately so that is the main reason I am slowing down on the blogging these days, but I am still here and I am still writing, watching and lurking!! So keep visiting!


Now in regards to this actual drama that this post is about, I will admit that towards the end I lost a lot of my love for it and started feeling a little bit of hate (gasp!), though I do believe that had more than a little bit to do with the fact that I very early on boarded a sinking ship.... :(  
Depressing stuff.

But I loved the start!! 
I will also let you readers know that I wrote the following review as I watched the drama so my opinion changes a lot throughout it's running time, meaning I begin with a lot of love only to have it all shrivel up towards the end and my review reflects that. So if you were a massive fan of the show, maybe read the end at your own peril...



The start:
Just as sweet as its predecessor,  yet still with its own charm and own characters, this drama is a welcome return to the 90's and the romcom genre for me.
The drama begins in a pretty familiar way, as our characters are introduced to us in adult form, with a teaser about a wedding and a mysterious groom aaaand then we flash back to the 90's to get the lowdown on exactly who Na Jeong is going to marry. (Anyone else think Na Jeong should have fired her wedding photographer and video taper? They managed to cut out the grooms head in every single shot!)

I am aware that maybe others found this formula a little too close to the original but personally this was one of the aspects that really worked for 1997 and I am more than happy to see it return again. And it is also a fantastic teaser because it promises us viewers some future romance, an element that is otherwise not really present in the first couple episodes due to the need to establish set up and characters first. 

Not to say that the beginning was boring either because that is definitely not the case as the story gets off the bat in quick and crackling style as we are introduced to this set of endearing country bumpkins displaced in the big city of Seoul. And on top of this we also get some seriously serious fangirling (omo I feel so embarrassed for her) with Na Jeong spending most of her time (does she ever study?) chasing around a university celebrity basketballer and driving him crazy. (A character trait that was sort of forgotten later in the series I might add.) 
I am kind of fascinated by the level of her delusion here in believing that she could one day marry this random basketballer (though to be fair she has actually met him so it is much more likely than if she was crushing on a Hollywood actor or something) and yet it is also so indicative of youth to harbor such dreams, and something I am sure we have all experienced in some form or another. (Personally for me it was Julian Casablancas from The Strokes. I remember my mum asking me if I was going to be okay after I heard he got married. ....)  

This level of hardcore fandom, whilst maybe not experienced on such an extreme level, is still a theme that is so universal and relateable, even now I am older and married I still find myself daydreaming about Kim Woobin and Lee Min-ho, the only difference now being that I understand my day dreams for what they are, harmless fantasy. Yet I can also remember that delicious feeling of truly believing anything might be possible, that idea that I should devote myself to a wisp of a dream because it just might come true.
In Na Jeong's case though, she isn't just devoting herself to her dream, she is literally chasing it down the street screaming 'Oppa' at it, and personally I find her to be pretty scary. But also I already totally love her too and am so appreciative of this series in always delivering on a strong minded heroine who doesn't take any crap from the boys.  That is indeed always very refreshing and welcome for me.

The opening episodes are really just about introducing the characters, the parents whom I already love from the original and who continue their comfortable but really rather sweet dynamic and bickering relationship,  and the bunch of kids who have moved into Seoul from the country to live in their boarding house whilst they attend university. I really liked Sampeoncho, a boy who looks a lot older than he really is and tries his best to act worldly and mature to match his looks, but who it turns out is really just a big sweetie with absolutely no clue at all, coddled by his mother his whole life but now suddenly out on his own for the very first time. At first I found his character a little annoying as when he first arrives in Seoul he acts as if he knows everything and seems a little full of himself, but within moments we see his resolve crumble as his confidence gives way to show the true quiet, shy and sweet natured boy underneath. 
That phone call to his mum really killed me, the way he lies that everything is fine when really he is fighting back tears. 


This drama is really quite interesting in that as a style these 'Answer Me' series don't really have a central running plot or theme like most stories. I guess you could argue that finding out who Na Jeong's groom will be is the central plotline yet I think this drama spreads so much wider than that, being unique in that it focuses more on these little moments in time, sometimes important and life changing but sometimes not, creating a full tapestry and overall narrative from tiny disjointed scenes that all work together to create a window into a time in our characters lives.

However I am going to admit that although I did thoroughly enjoy it, I also found the drama to be a bit hit and miss at times, especially towards the beginning (and the last few episodes...ugh), with a slightly uneven tone that lead to some episodes being perfect and hilarious but leaving others to seem almost pointless and dare I say it, a little boring. I think this does stem from the 'moments in time' theme of the story where unfortunately some of these moments actually come across as a little unnecessary and not always working to create a deeper understanding of our main characters. This leaves some episode-long story arcs a little redundant and tiring because they don't really go anywhere. 
Some examples of this for me would be the super long drive along the freeway with dad busting for a pee (when will it end?) and also the hospital episode where Trash has to figure out how to help a dying woman tell her children what is happening to her. These ideas weren't bad or anything but I found them both a little boring and wished we could return to the ensemble cast which is when this drama is at its best. 

I guess the idea of the freeway incident was to give us a chance to get to know Chilbongie and see a sensitive side to him that is not always evident under his happy and outgoing surface, and I guess for that the sequence did work but I still think we could have done with less focus on dads boring pee. The hospital stuff was obviously there to pull the heartstrings and also to show that Trash is in fact, in detriment to the character he displays at home, a responsible, smart and capable human being. And for that it totally worked, I could finally see him having a possible future with Na Jeong just because this episode made it clear he wasn't a total useless and ridiculous idiot. 
And yet the episode about Na Jeong's older brother who passed away when they were kids showed all these same things about Trash but in a much more on the mark and relevant way. That episode made me cry and feel awful, but also gave me this amazing insight into the whole family,  especially Na Jeong and Trash's relationship whereby it became completely clear why she loves him. He looked after her and was so sensitive and in tune with her that I couldn't help but ship them from that episode alone. So my point is, there is absolutely nothing wrong with pulling the heartstrings and making us all cry, but at least make the pain actually about something relevant to the drama, as in don't introduce some random dying woman who has nothing to do with anything just in order to make me sad.


And now on the other side of the scale we have the absolutely perfect episodes.   Unfortunately the whole drama wasn't completely on the ball throughout, but when this drama delivered it really delivered (and to be fair once things got swinging I found pretty much every episode super enjoyable in the middle). 
Episode 6 was one of my absolute favourite episodes with such a lovely undertone and two themes that I just absolutely adored. First we have mum and dad's journey to feeling young again, handled in quite an uplifting way to bring the viewer this lovely sense of hope for the future, alongside the younger generations debate on what really matters in a relationship. I adored these lengthy conversations between the kids during this episode and I loved the whole moment out of time feel of this narrative. 
The idea that none of the boys could even grasp the concept of caring (as the girls were explaining it anyway) was absolutely hilarious, with only Chilbongie getting even the semblance of a correct answer to their hypothetical question. Loved it! This episode also marked a swing towards Chilbongie as a viable male lead, leaving Trash behind in the game of winning Na Jeong's heart because at least Chilbongie was trying. (Also Trash's hair was so totally terrible that it upsets me. It is like a mini bowl cut. Did boys really truly have hair like that in the 90's in Korea? Ugh).


Speaking of Trash, I really do find him to be rather an interesting character. At first his vibe with Na Jeong was just based on them being bickering farting siblings, so much so that I just couldn't sense any romance at all between the two. But by the time Na Jeong hurt her back and stayed the night in hospital, I began to see clearly this other side of Trash that Na Jeong is witness to. This incredibly thoughtful caring side that makes me understand why she is suddenly finding herself falling in love with him. And I think it is much more than Na Jeong just suddenly realising he is a man and becoming physically attracted to him, it is the fact that he is without fail always there beside her whenever she most needs him. 
Trash though is still a complicated guy. I find it impossible to believe that he was ignorant of Na Jeong's feelings after a few episodes in. He seemed so aware of her, so touchy feely in a caring skinship way that sometimes I even got the uncomfortable impression that he was more than aware of her dopey crush and worse than that he was encouraging her further with his shoulder massages and swoony careful caring of her.

 I am not sure this didn't have to do with the way he was written though, because obviously if his feelings were revealed this early it all would have been too obvious and easy right? So what do the writers do? They make him into an unreadable guy who starts coming off as douchey just because they can't reveal too much of what he is thinking and feeling because it will give the game away. But Trash as a character suffered for this. He basically became more and more unlikable to me as I found myself not being able to understand why he was so cold to Na Jeong. (I also didn't like the way he acted around Bingerae sometimes, and maybe I am reading too much into this and Trash didn't know, but it sure seemed to me like Trash knew Bingerae had a massive crush on him and yet he was overly touchy feely with him too....grrr. He just wants to be wanted.)


Obviously he got his comeuppance however when Chilbongie becomes interested in Na Jeong as well, finally expressing this in an obvious way (or at least it is obvious to Trash) when during a drinking game he has the choice to kiss her or drink a massive bowl of alcohol. Chilbongie of course chooses the kiss and he swoops in very enthusiastically and also quite tenderly so that it is pretty obvious that for him at least, this kiss means something very real.

And so the love triangle begins.



The middle:
I must say I rather enjoy Chilbongie as a character. He is nice, talented, sweet and thoughtful (and also rather pretty to look at) but my favourite thing about him is his cheery temperament.  I know that sounds kind of dumb but the boy is seriously just so smiley and happy all the time, seemingly liking Na Jeong simply because whenever he is near her he begins to smile.  His easy laugh and good natured relationship with Na Jeong towards the middle of this drama means that I began to do something I never usually do. I started shipping the second male lead...... (or is he the second male lead? They make it so hard to tell during this drama). But Chilbongie is just so easy and uncomplicated compared to the mixed messages that Trash enjoys to give Na Jeong, a personality trait that more and more turned me off him. It was as if he didn't really know if he wanted Na Jeong for himself but he sure as hell wasn't going to let anyone else have her that is for sure, obviously thoroughly enjoying having this lovesick young girl following after him and adoring him, always ensuring he gives her just a tiny nugget of inappropriate affection to keep her hot whenever it looks like she may be becoming interested in someone else. ( I sound a little mean.... )

In saying that though it is pretty clear that something is going on inside Trash, the lie about Na Jeong having a boyfriend when his friend wants her number, the obvious jealousness whenever he sees Chilbongie staring at her like a gorgeous sweetheart lovesick loon (sigh....sorry, where was I?)  But it is all just mind games, mind games with him and I am still not convinced any of it actually amounts to him seriously liking Na Jeong in the same way she likes him.


To speak of a more satisfying couple that popped up around the midway point of this drama, how much do I utterly adore Soon Jin and Sampeoncho. They rock, and at times I found them to be the most compelling couple on the show. 
The end.

Further into the drama, we finally get to the confession stage, definitely helped along by a very drunk Soon Jin who spills everyone's secrets in a very funny yet also totally embarrassing and awkward way. The most important reveal here is definitely that Trash finally hears that Na Jeong likes him. But what does he do? Nothing. He says nothing (which is kind of fair enough because it was a drunk confession) but the thing that gets me is that now he knows, he knows for sure and yet still he has his arms around Na Jeong like every second which seems almost cruel. Is it about giving her hope? Does he like her? Or is it genuinely just a little sister thing? 
Trash is so hard to read that it is always impossible to tell what is happening inside his mind. 
But when Na Jeong confesses for real, he can no longer ignore it and things get awkward between the two although Trash really does his best to keep things chugging along like normal, so when they accidently end up at the cinema alone with Na Jeong so out of it and distracted by his proximity that she can't concentrate on the movie at all, Trash just laughs hysterically at all the funny bits like everything is normal and mundane. 
Poor Na Jeong.


And then New Years Eve arrives and everyone except Trash and the lovely Chilbongie head down to Samcheonpo's fishing village for the night. Fortunately for the other two boys, both of their earlier commitments get cancelled and they rush around getting changed and grabbing their stuff, finally free to go and spend New Years Eve with the people most important to them. But whilst Chilbongie rushes off to find Na Jeong (which all goes unbelievably badly I might add) Trash just heads out to meet his mates at the local pool hall. I was so pissed off at him this moment with my ship most definitely fully transferring over to Chilbongie whom I think deserves the girl so much more at this point...and yet then we see something interesting. We get the very first look into Trash's mind ever in this drama, the first indisputable evidence of his feelings ever.... Trash was so distracted during that movie he watched with Na Jeong that he has no idea what it was even about! Whoah!
Then why isn't he doing anything even after she has confessed so pitifully to him? Is it that he is scared? Scared of things changing?
I guess he will need a really good kick in the arse before he makes a move and elsewhere, Chilbongie is doing just that (figuratively of course..)


After the worst night of his life (seductive grandmas, drowning drunks, sickness and hardly any Na Jeong) Chilbongie is finally frustrated enough that it drives him to confess for real to Na Jeong. First he calls her stupid (tsk tsk Chilbongie) before asking her why she thinks he took a 6 hour bus trip to Samcheonpo's fishing village just to stay a few hours? Well duh because he adores you, Na Jeong! The clock strikes 12 and Chilbongie takes the initiative and kisses the object of his affections very sweetly. Gah, marry him Na Jeong, he is so lovely!!!
But she doesn't.  Because she is an idiot.

And the next episode we already see her still chasing after Trash blindly, with Trash like usual being as avoidy as ever. Even to the point where he is moving out of the boarding house.
But it seems I am not the only one who thinks Trash is being a bit of an idiot, and Haitai (another fun character by the way, loved him!) confronts him to finally hear a confession as well as some totally half-baked dumbarse  reason why Trash can't be with Na Jeong even though he says he likes her. (Um... its because of our parents and like..stuff. She is sort of like my sister dude...but not really because I like her and stuff). 
Pffft.


But unfortunately for beautiful Chilbongie it is him who finally gets Trash to see the light and decide to go for it and fight for Na Jeong. It has always only ever been when another man shows interest in Na Jeong that Trash starts to second guess what he feels and I know that jealousy is a very valid and real motivation, but should it really be Trash's only motivation to pursue Na Jeong? He is so unreadable that other than his jealous reactions of trying to hold onto her (think lying to his friend that she is already taken and my personal most distasteful move of taking his shirt off in front of Na Jeong to show off his hot bod when he thinks that she and Chilbongie are looking a bit too chummy in the lounge room together), I can't ever see any real romantic love there beyond the sisterly adoration stuff. I mean its obvious Trash loves Na Jeong but I have just never got the impression it was beyond sibling love (except for the fact that their skinship was just over the line for appropriate brother sister behavior, and this isn't that sort of drama). 

But now Trash tells Chilbongie that he was being an idiot and he will try and win Na Jeong over now, which seems sweet I guess, except why is this epiphany happening right in front of Chilbongie? Why does it almost feel like a menacing warning for Chilbongie to back off? Why does he make a point of ensuring that Chilbongie knows it was him who started this change? When he knows how Chilbongie feels, and he does know!
Which brings me to my next question,  if no one else ever once liked Na Jeong her entire life would Trash still feel the same way? Or would he be utterly content to let her follow him around forever like a lovesick adoring puppy.
The other reason why I hate this scene? Chilbongie's face. This is utter heartbreak and gut-wrenching distress at its worst. I seriously thought I would die. And then after all these heartbroken stares he announces (not particularly confidently) that he is going to keep trying to win against Trash anyway. Which is horrible and had me shouting at the screen 'Noooo! Chilbongie don't do this to yourself! Don't you know you're the second male lead? '
And then I felt upset for a long time.
Just marry me instead, Chilbongie!!


And then we flash forward and see that Trash has totally done nothing of the sort, and again I am annoyed that he leaves Na Jeong to suffer in misery about her one sided romance, when in actual fact Trash could end her agony by letting her know how he feels right that very second. I mean what is he waiting for? A moment that suits him better? The most appropriate moment to confess, or again does he just get pleasure from knowing that she only thinks of him and cares about him and likes him? How is it that it never occurs to him that in waiting he might lose his chance with her? That by stringing her along even longer might mean her feelings would wander? I am maybe just being mean and picky but his attitude and confidence that Na Jeong will adore him forever unconditionally really bugs me. It is like a sense of entitlement. 

Of course he does finally get his act together and choose a night to confess, once again driven by the fact that he is under the mistaken impression that Na Jeong's feelings might have wandered,  which of course isn't at all true (sadly) but I am going to admit that the evil part in me really enjoyed watching Trash squirm.
But it all works out and Trash kisses Na Jeong and against my better judgement I swoon a little. Mainly just because Na Jeong is so incredibly happy to get her feelings returned. And well the kiss is kind of lovely.
But mostly it just made me devastated because clearly its just Trash now forever..... until a commenter on my drama watching site pointed out there was still 6 episodes to go! And Chilbongie's words that he won't give up made me so hopeful that some miracle might happen and in that time a change might occur.  And I started watching this show with renewed fervor because maybe, just maybe the second male lead might just win!!!!! Oh please oh please!!!
I loved what Trash's random psychic cousin says to him because it gave me hope: "You like her more. In the beginning she liked you more but now you like her more". It would serve him right for stringing Na Jeong along so long!



The End (sort of):
From here on out this show drove me insane. Like so so insane. 
Firstly Chilbongie leaves for Japan and Na Jeong and Trash begin their relationship. Heaps of random slightly boring stuff happens. They get engaged. Start a long distance relationship as Trash moves to Busan. Bingerae decides it's time to stop being so gay and goes and kisses and later marries some random-arse girl (what a disappointing end to a sweet and lovely story arc about finding out who you are and coming out. What, he can just decide to be straight now? I am pretty sure that isn't at all how it works. Being gay is not a phase. Boo! Badly handled show.) Trash and Na Jeong get engaged and then she gets the job offer in Australia. (Anyone else notice the totally hilarious framed photo of some kangaroos on one of Na Jeong's Australian co-workers desks? Ha! Made my day!) And then they just drift apart.

Aaaand then we are just totally back where we started at, except now I was feeling kind of over everything a little bored. Chilbongie comes back from Japan, Na Jeong comes home from Australia and everyone is single and all living in Soul again. Then after about a billion more episodes, Na Jeong chooses Trash and they live happily ever after and Chilbongie meets some random girl and so is totally over it and fine. Yay!


The thing that really drives me insane about this teased love triangle, is that is actually isn't a love triangle at all. It is literally just two people in an on again off again relationship, and some other dude who follows them around and stares with lovely puppy dog eyes at the girl. Really that is all there is.
Not even once did Na Jeong ever really consider Chilbongie as an option. She was just so not into him at any point at all, and it kind of annoys me that I watched this whole bloody thing just waiting for that moment when her feelings would shift only to see that they never do. Again, this isn't Na Jeong's fault, it is admirable that she only ever loved Trash and never wavered, it was just the writer's device to keep me watching right to the end and I feel kind of pissed that it worked, like I was manipulated and teased.


But to be honest towards the end I kind of stopped even caring. I mean, why does Chilbongie still like Na Jeong after 2 years without seeing her when she has never shown him even the slightest scrap of encouragement? Is she really that great? Has he seriously in all that time knowing she was in a relationship with someone else, not ever thought about just moving on? It all seemed a bit too unrealistic and contrived to be honest and so I was being driven insane by the end.

NowI know Na Jeong loves Trash and I am happy for them to be together because they are suited and happy, and besides Chilbongie seriously needed to move on and get over it, but I will finish this review with the moment that truly cemented my dislike of Trash; the goodbye with Chilbongie before Chilbongie heads to America. So at this point Trash knows he has Na Jeong, he knows Chilbongie has lost her and that he is leaving and so effectively Trash has won. But he still has the nerve to ask Chilbongie 'Why is it that all the other kids call me 'Hyung' but you call me Sunbae-nim?"  Arrrrgghh! Like Trash doesn't know!!!! I can't believe he asked Chilbongie this?! It made me so angry that I was throwing stuff around the room! It is like he was rubbing a final 'yeah, sucked in, I won the girl and you didn't' into Chilbongie's face.
Grrrrr.














2 comments:

  1. Hi Pops! Long time no see! Hope you get less busy soon but in the mean time, I've nominated you for a Liebster Award, here are the details: http://ocdramadee.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/the-liebster-award/

    ReplyDelete
  2. Woot woo!!! Thanks Ddee!!! So nice!!!!

    I am really excited (if you couldn't already tell)
    :-)
    :-)

    ReplyDelete