Answer Me 1997: A Review

finally completed this series after a long and arduous journey. Believe me, I had so many people around me still outraged every time I said I was not done with the series. It got to a point where I found that I needed a drama night cap, and I ended up marathoning the last five episodes into the wee hours of the morning.

It’s that kind of drama. One of the brightest gems in this not-so-stellar year, Answer Me 1997 was a high school-based drama done right. I love you tvN. I don’t want to delve into the story too much, but of course, spoilers beware.

The Acting

There were so many breakout stars in this group, with some actors known for their supporting roles. Seo In Gook (Yoon Yoon Jae) was previously in Love Rain, and he was one of the sweet side characters during the 70’s portion of the drama. I loved him there, but in this drama he completely proved that he could be a leading man. He had the charm and shy boyishness that balanced out to Jung Eun Ji‘s Sung Shi Won, who was forthright and loud. The two of them had excellent chemistry, as I could really believe in their comfortable friendship with each other, and when they both started falling in love with each other. (Kiss scenes were hot!!!)

Jung Eun Ji is also part of APink and she is one of the idol actresses who could really do well in transitioning from a singer to an actor. I don’t know if she’ll be good in other roles though, but she certainly related so well to Shi Won. Other commendable idol actors in my book are Yoon Eun Hye, Eunjung, UEE, and T.O.P. Choi Siwon is proving himself in The King of Dramas now. But Jung Eun Ji is very high on my list.

Another idol actor in this cast is Hoya, or Lee Ho Won from Infinite. He was the sweet best friend of Yoon Jae who was also… gay. When it was revealed that he was gay, my heart skipped a happy beat. Yay for another gay character on Korean television! What’s more is that his love for Yoon Jae remains pure and sweet, which breaks my heart even more because nothing ever came out of it. I loved his sensitive character, because he was the only one who also understood everyone’s feelings before even they understood it. His character got more attention towards the end as he let go of his first love, and helped everyone else along their way.

Lee Shi Eun is that supporting actor you would recognize, but I would never really pay attention to him much. That is no longer the case. While his character was the standard talkative jerk who would always put things out in the open when you didn’t want him to, he really proved himself in the latter episodes. I kind of felt bad that he was always the one who got beat up, and that his character was shown so much more depth only at the end of the series.

Eun Ji Won was hilarious as the awkward Do Hak Chan, especially when he apparently doesn’t know how to talk to girls. It’s so strange because Ji Won in 2 Days 1 Night is super smart, super slick, super manipulative. And then he’s totally innocent here – always doing the wrong thing to make Yoo Jung (Shin So Yool) mad. I loved it when Kim Jong Min cameoed in the episode because he was the exact goofy self that I see in 2D1N – except he’s a doctor in this series. Side-splitting, incredulous laughter ensued.

Song Jong Ho of Will it Snow for Christmas and The Princess’ Man really won my heart in this series. I never really cared for him, and he didn’t really play good guys before. Now, he’s totally a good guy, and him smiling so much was a big reason why I didn’t recognize him in the first place. He’s the perfect older brother Tae Woong, and I really wanted him to have a happy ending. Unfortunately he just had to be the perfect third leg of the love triangle between him, Yoon Jae, and Shi Won. What’s difficult about this particular love triangle is that they all really love each other, but you just knew Yoon Jae and Shi Won were meant to be.

The Soundtrack

One of my most favorite things in the series. It had the best songs from the 90’s for K-pop, it had a great song from The Cranberries, and it had the best sound effect of all time – a sheep baa-ing for every awkward moment. And there were plenty. The drama was centered around music, and yet it used music to help tell the story as well. It reminded me a bit of What’s Up, except in that drama they actually performed the songs that spoke to them, or defined a moment. This one just enhanced the story.

The Tease and The Emotions

This particular drama had a hook right off the bat: two people in the group of friends were going to announce their engagement at the high school reunion party, and as we jump into the flashbacks, we try and figure out what the pairings are. Once the engaged couple was determined, the second question was, “Who’s the father of Shi Won’s baby? / Who’s her husband?” That second question was more titillating to discover and teased to the very bitter end, even though I figured it out way before.

In fact, my prediction on who would get engaged was correct: it ended up being Hak Chan and Yoo Jung. The prediction on who was Shi Won’s other half was harder. It was well teased for most of the series as the three potential men were Tae Woong,  Yoon Jae, and Joon Hee. When Joon Hee was revealed to be gay, he was automatically out of the running. The series went back and forth between Tae Woong and Yoon Jae for a while, but by episode 14 I was confident that it was Yoon Jae. What’s great about this series though is that it really played with your heart all the way.

Cue up Backstreet Boys.

I swear that this drama has twists at every turn, and it was such a killer. The reason why the twists worked was because they always revealed just enough of the story in the flashbacks to get you thinking, and the these developments always enriched the characters so you learned a lot about them, and yet you still learned so little. It really had the habit of showing things first, then explaining them afterwards in the following episode.

The worst was in the latter half of the series, when there was so much more pain and emotion in every character’s actions because we now understood where they were coming from, but we couldn’t help them or defend them For example, when Hak Chan does not introduce Yoo Jung to his mother as his girlfriend, or when Yoon Jae runs half barefoot through the streets to protect Shi Won from a rapist, only to be bleeding and then recoiling from Shi Won’s touch because he must give her up for his brother. It was definitely an emotional roller coaster because I found myself sobbing very hard at the end of episode 12, only to laugh at episode 13, then sob again, then feel all warm and fuzzy, then laugh like a maniac, then cry. I mean dude – how much more pain can I go through in 5 hours?!

But all that pain was when watching the characters grow up, mature, and become more confident in realizing what it is they want in their lives. They all need to live moving forward, not in the past. There were some growing pains, but it was very necessary considering that no character can switch in emotions in an instant. As much as I hated the dragging out of situations, waiting for them to have the courage was a gut-wrenching process that held my attention for the full series.

The Conclusion

This drama is easily a winner, and a 10/10. I would re-watch this anytime, provided that I replenish my box of tissues. Friendship always gets me.

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