Thursday, January 3, 2013

First Take: Drama School 2013

First of all, happy new years everybody! New year, fresh start, no? Anyways, let's start the new year right. Not with a new years resolution, because I think that's just a waste of my time. I never fulfill my resolutions. Let's start with a new drama! While 2012 saw the fun Reply 1997, 2013 (and a bit of 2012) witnessed School 2013, a harsh reality check on the teenagers in Korean schools.

The concept of this drama is pretty simple. It captures the everyday lives of students in Seungri High School, specifically the naughty class of 2-2. The adult cast includes, among others, Jang Na-ra as Korean literature and homeroom teacher Jung In-jae and Choi Daniel as a fellow Korean literature teacher Kang Se-chang. The kids includes Lee Jong-suk as Go Nam-soon who doesn't really give that much crap to school, Park Se-young as Song Ha-kyung, a diligent student who only wants success for herself, and Kwang Jung-wook as the president of the resident bully club.

School 2013 is a remake, or sequel?, of the popular 1999 drama School. While I didn't watch that particular one, it did garner quite the attention. Especially since its "alumni" are now some of the biggest names in Korean entertainment, including Jang Hyuk, Gong Yoo, Ha Ji-won, Lee Dong-wook, Bae Doona and Im Soo-jung. There's a lot more but that'll take forever. Since the original School was such a hit, the expectations are high.

If you were expecting a Reply 1997 redo then you're out of luck. I would say that School 2013 doesn't really have anything in common with the cable drama. If Reply 1997 brings laughs the minute it starts, School 2013 just makes you sad. Not because the drama sucks, but because it's just so real. I didn't even go to a Korean school and it sometimes hurts too much to watch. Maybe it's because high school wasn't too far from me.

School 2013 is like a social commentary on the current school system. How school is too standardized. How school is more like a prison than the ladder to success. How school is too much like business nowadays. How no one, student nor teacher, really ever like school.

Aside from the school system itself, the characters, at least up to the episode 2, is pretty relatable too. I was pretty impressed with the Go Nam-soon character. I think he's going to be our drama's hero, but he isn't a hero quite yet. He has the values of a hero: righteousness and standing up to your friends. But he's still a bit of a coward. Or at least he doesn't really fight the bully in a fist fight of doom. I'm really looking forward to his growth as a person. Not just his really, but the rest. And from what I see from these two episodes, it would be a rewarding journey to all of them. Maybe for us too.

Also good for them for dealing with special needs students. Sometimes they're underrepresented in the entertainment industry. Either they're the extreme cases or none at all. While I don't know how the character Han Young-woo will be dealt later on, I'm glad he's written in a way that's more realistic. A special student who just wants to be like his friends. And awww moments ensues when Nam-soon stands up for him. Or is that just me?

While high school dramas aren't uncommon, ones like School 2013 is hard to come by. It's a sensitive topic when you bring harsh realities of the world into drama land. But with how School 2013 is faring these two episodes, I think it'll be worth it. I'll definitely continue watching this drama. And maybe you should too.


  1. "While high school dramas aren't uncommon, ones like School 2013 is hard to come by."

    Very true statement. Every week I am more and more impressed by how they are handling this drama. The writing and flow of the plot have so far been really tight, and each time a new character is called up to take the spotlight, that actors stuns me with his/her depth and sensibility.

    1. This drama really surprises me every single episode with the depth they're willing to dive into. It's pretty amazing. I wonder if they're going to do multiple seasons like the original. That might be cool.