Friday, 10 January 2014

Reply 1994 (2013)

I have already professed my love for TvN's Answer Me 1994 (응답하라 1994), but it doesn't hurt to write a longer and more emotional post about it. The drama faltered a bit in the end, I admit. However, it's still the one drama that stayed with me the longest last year. Trust the team behind the series to churn a heart-warming story of family and friendship that can span decades. The love story may have taken the backseat, but we're still given a drama that's much loved by many of its viewers.

Answer Me 1994 tells the story of the college students renting space in Shinchon Boarding House. These country bumpkins learn to thrive and fail in the big city as they struggle to get through college. They represent what it feels to be confused in their early 20s, as they experience first love, heartbreaks, rejection, unfulfilled dreams, and goodbyes. Once again, the Reply franchise created a series that has the best semblance of reality than any Korean dramas. It's really more of a slice of life drama than anything else.

I cannot count the number of times I clutched my heart and while watching, because I could relate with the characters. Because I felt their pain. Because I felt their confusion. Because I perfectly understood what they're going through.

The series comes out slow but strong in the beginning. The characters are introduced one by one, and I knew from the get-go that I will love each one of them. The strength of the drama lies on how the characters are given their own arcs, how their stories are all fleshed out. It's easy to say that NaJung (Go Ara) is the main character, but this series made it seem like every character is the main one in their own corresponding narratives.

It's difficult for me to write about Reply 1994 without sounding more biased than I actually am. When I love a drama so much, it's easy for me to overlook its flaws. Yes, this series is too long that it comprised quality and coherence. Yes, this series has way too many filler scenes, but I don't mind one bit. Yes, I hate how they waited till the last episode for the husband reveal. Yes, there are way too many similar characteristics with Reply 1997, but I believe the script for 1994 was written first. Yes, my ship sunk but my love for this show didn't.


My favorite thing about this drama is the friendship that formed between our cast. At the end of the series, they already become a family that have shared decades of their lives together. Some romance stories may have bombed, but the core of this series is the relationships they formed with each other. No other Kdrama has done it so deftly.

But it doesn't mean the romance angle of drama isn't good at all.

First, we have the Samcheonpo (Kim SunGyu) and YoonJin (Min DoHee) couple. They're definitely my favorite pairing in this series. They started out as enemies and ended up as enemies. Haha. Their story is one of the better written arc in the drama. It's a bit expected that they'll end up together, but it's lovely to see how their relationship grows over time. They're complete opposites but once they find their similarities, they're just really perfect for each other. My favorite scenes in the entire series are the ones when Seo Taiji disbanded/retired and YoonJin is just inconsolable. Samcheonpo deserves the Best Boyfriend Award during those times.

Second is the Trash Oppa-NaJung-Chilbong love triangle. No one loves a love triangle, but you can't totally hate the trio since Oppa (Jung Woo) and Chilbong (Yoo YeonSeok) are amazing guys as it is. I hate the tug-of-war the writers did with NaJung, but I can't totally hate either Oppa or Chilbong. Yes, I am on Team Chilbong, but Trash Oppa is too awesome to be dissed. I've already gushed over Chilbong in previous posts.

However, there are little friendships in the series that tug at my heartstrings, too. The bestfriend relationship between NaJung and Haitai (Son HoJun) are just too cute for words. No one gives love advice better than they did to each other. And of course, who doesn't love Samcheonpo and Haitai? Those two deliver the most laughs during the entire run. Binggeure (Baro) is usually in his own little world, but his story seems the most realistic. It's just satisfying to see him grow.

But the most amazing couple in this show has to be Appa Sung DongIl  and Umma Lee IlHwa. The parents of the kids when they're in Seoul is the lifeblood of this series. They're the guardians who manage to create their own stories within a drama that already has so much going on. But the parents manage their own. They're not just by-standers, and I adore them to death. I often wonder how their partners in real life feels seeing their partners romancing, quite realistically, other people onscreen.

Go Ara is phenomenal in her role as NaJung. Reading her interviews and knowing her credentials before Reply 1994, it really seems like she gave her all in making NaJung come alive onscreen. This is probably the defining role of her career. Before this, she's only known for her pretty face and not her acting skills. But she makes everyone believes that she's NaJung and not just the gorgeous actress from SM. I'm happy for her, because at last people can take her seriously as an actress.

Reply 1994 isn't a perfect drama. It needs refinement in editing and succinctness in the script. But it has me wholly captivated from start to finish. If I could give my heart to only one drama last year, no doubt it goes to this one.

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