Sunday, December 29, 2013

Drama Review: Reply 1994

You guys, you better be thankful because this is going to be the last post of me blabbering on about Reply 1994. Sigh... oh Reply 1994. You are some beast. I don't know if I'll continue watching K-dramas at this point. Just kidding. I probably will watch one again someday. It was, for better or worse, a ride. A crazy, wonderful, slightly irritating ride. In the end, I came out alive. And in this post, I'm going to talk about it. Get ready. Also, contains spoilers especially the answer to the age old question: who the hell is the husband? So, caution to those who haven't watched and don't plan to find out until you find out yourself.

I honestly don't know where to start. There's just so many things to talk about! Let's just start with the elephant in the room, the reveal of the husband. I was on Team Chilbong (Yoo Yeon-seok) and has been from the start, but honestly my membership is not to ship him with Na-jung (Go Ara). I wasn't on the CBxNJ ship, I was just on Team Chilbong. I mean, who wouldn't want to be on his team? Sure he's a bit of a dimwit, but he has great abs. He's also super charming and kind and if he loves you, he'll do anything for you. In a not creepy way. But in the end, Na-jung is not who Chilbong will end up with. It's not that kind of drama. It was sad though how his character is wasted like that. He was there just for the mystery. He wasn't really developing as a character, he wasn't really helping anyone else develop either. He was just there for the pretty, and for breaking hearts. He wasn't even given a satisfying ending. So cruel. At least Yoo Yeon-seok was so lovable, but maybe that's the worst part about it.

Na-jung was going to end up with Trash (Jung Woo) anyways. When they spent most of the second half dating, it was inevitable. They kept Chilbong around for the ladies, but Na-jung's eyes has Trash all over it. That sounds weird. But seriously, hats off to Na-jung who was the person responsible for it all. She ain't gonna be some damsel in distress. Oh no. She wants the man, she's going to get the man. And that's what I love about Na-jung. She's truly a heroine in this story. She's in control of her future. She's assertive. She's proactive. What more can you want? K-dramas need more girls like Na-jung. Sure at times she seems to get blind sighted by her love, but isn't everyone like that sometimes?

As for Trash and Na-jung's relationship, remember how in the last post I said their relationship wasn't all that great? Well, I was wrong, especially with the last two episodes. Na-jung and Trash did grow in their relationship. Trash more so than Na-jung, but both had time to develop as an individual and as a couple. Their development isn't as frontal as Yoon-jin (Min Do-hee) and Samcheonpo (Kim Sung-kyun), but it's the kind of development that's visible only when you look back. It's slow but sure. And I'm glad, because it ended up worthwhile and it wasn't a waste of my precious procrastinated time to watch their relationship unfold. It wasn't the best, and I still like Yoon-jin and Samcheonpo more, but they're okay. (Side note: how funny/weird is that Min Do-hee is the youngest is paired with Kim Sung-kyun who is the oldest of the gang? I think their age difference is 14 years. But somehow it works?)

Another comment, what is up with first loves? Is it really realistic to marry your first love? It's romantic and dreamy, but it's highly unlikely. And in this drama, at least five people married their first loves. That's a majority of the main cast! I only know of a small handful of people who are still dating their high school sweethearts and even less people who eventually married. Stop giving false hope, dramas. You are a bad example to society (what? I'm not bitter).

But while the love triangle made me go nuts, everything else was more golden. Take the love triangle away or dwindle it to a minor story, and I would call this drama A+. It was hilarious (I had tears in my eyes). It was touching (I had tears in my eyes). It was oftentimes secondhand embarrassing (I was blushing at my laptop). I think I went through all my emotional library watching this drama. And that's rare. But that's life. And essentially, the Reply series was good at that. Capturing the moments of life like a diary or a scrapbook. When the viewers are watching, it feels like we're looking back at these great moments that life gave us and reminisce with nostalgic glasses. And to me, it feels someone was going through life with me as the situations these kids go through are the ones I'm going through myself. In a lot of ways, it was comforting.

Outside of the drama itself, the acting was just spot on. Reply 1994 was better than their 1997 predecessor because so many of the emotions are a lot more subtle and a lot more real. The teens of 1997 was passionate, but the young adults in 1994 was more cool headed. They go through life like what most people do. We don't tend wail when we're sad, we may sob or maybe only shed a few tears. And that takes a lot of acting prowess, in my opinion. The more subtle the actions, the more difficult. It shouldn't be a surprise though, considering that almost all the cast are veteran professional actors, versus 1997 where a lot of them are first timers. Only two, Baro (Binggrae) and Min Do-hee, are originally idols. If anything, just the fact that these actors are all there makes the experience more worthwhile.

Also, shout out to the parents Sung Dong-il and Lee Il-hwa! Best parents ever. If there's anything that's improved from the great original 1997 to the more lowkey 1994, it's the parents. At one point I was irritated with just how much the parents were fighting in 1997. Thankfully in 1994, they were a bit more loving. Mom Il-hwa was the best mom ever. She was so kind, and generous (maybe a bit too much, i.e. food), and loving, and accepting, and everything you want in a mom. Dad Dong-il was a bit crazy but has lots of heart, has a temper but is so genuine. They both feed off each other really well and were great parents to not only Na-jung and Trash, but to every kid in the boarding house. Their last breakfast together just touched my friggin' heart. They barely said a word, but the silence just punches your tear ducts and the tears they will flow. It wasn't sad just because they won't be together anymore, but that they won't be under the comforting roof of Mom and Dad. The gang will still see each other, as shown in the future scenes, but the Sinchon Boarding House is no longer there. The kids have to fly out on their own and the nest won't be there to embrace their tired wings. To me that's even more sad than seeing any of the love conundrums that went on.

One thing though that I was extremely disappointed with regarding this drama is the pacing. Holy crap, it was slow. It was completely different than the blazing quick pace of 1997. I suppose since the emotions are a lot more mellow, the pace should correspond to it, but I'm still pissed off a lot of times. Why do I need to see Na-jung looking at Trash in a billion different angles for 5 minutes straight? Come on. Also, what's up with the one and a half hours of running time? I basically wasted 30 hours of my life watching this thing. That amount of time is abundant. Too abundant. Much like Mom's meals (the Mom in this series, not my actual mother), there's too much of too many. 1997 was great in that most episodes, aside from the final two, are within the 30-40 minute range. Did y'all get greedy this time, tvN? Tsk tsk to you.

In the end this was a good drama. If there was less husband mystery, more life stories, it would probably be the best. Alas, no drama is without its love hassles. I can't really compare it to dramas currently airing, as this is the only one I'm watching. But compared to most dramas, or at least most romantic dramas (although this isn't strictly romantic, but in the end it kind of did), I'd say this is pretty well made. It goes beyond romance and into the more nitty gritty part of life. I like those dramas, ones that's aren't too caught up in love. Can't they make more of that? Or maybe I'm just watching the wrong stuff?

Would I recommend it? Maybe. Especially now that it's over, you don't really have to wait days for the next episode helplessly waiting. I'll probably recommend it to someone who has a lot of time on their hands. Otherwise, it might be a bit much. At least there's a fast forward button.

Final Verdict: 7/10


  1. I was on Team Chilbong as well. And just like you, I wasn't really shipping him with Na Jung that much, I just didn't want him to be unhappy. To be honest, I think I never really saw him and Na Jung as a potential couple, but because I loved Chilbong so much I was rooting for him to be the husband.

    But the thing is, I actually knew right from the start that Trash would be the husband. I had that feeling from the moment it was revealed that Trash and Na Jung are not brother and sister. From the very beginning, Trash was more developed than Chilbong who didn't even show up in the first episode. I admit that I secretly still hoped that Chilbong would magically be the end-deal, but I had the feeling he wouldn't from the very start.

    I still haven't finished the drama, though. I think I have to wait until I'm not that sad about Chilbong before I can actually finish it. But I have to say that my heart just isn't in it. The husband-mystery honestly took out all enjoyment and the slow-pace makes Chilbongie's heartbreak even more excruciating to watch.
    Thankfully, I have Reply 1997 downloaded to my laptop so I can comfort myself with that one in the meantime.

  2. I probably did not enjoy 1994 as much as you did mainly for three reasons: 1) Extremely slow pacing. 2) Lack of more depth outside romance/husband mystery story line and 3) the idiotic mistake of watching it immediately after Reply 1988(I haven't watched the reply series in chronological order clearly). The two are in comparable, R1994 is good, but R1988 is a million times better than words can ever describe.

    TBH I was very obvious who the hubby was from the moment we discovered Na Jung and Trash are not blood related siblings, from the moment Trash was holding her in that hospital room as she wreathed in pain-I remember feeling the intensity of that chemistry between them that I knew there was know way the two could be blood related and thank God it was revealed to be the case soon after. Let's face it, Chil-Bong did not stand a chance from the word go.

    So I did not watch for the mystery husband reveal, I watched to see how they would eventually get together. I watched it for 'the suad love'.I watched for the the bleating sheep that is the trade mark of all Reply series humour (and the humour itself hihihi). But after Episode 13, after the two finally became a couple, I realized I had no other reason to proceed with the show. I realized that the only thing truly anchoring the show was their story and really I saw no reason to watch till the end. It became predictable, no infact it was predictable from the stars, and that was R1994's greatest flaw.

    Compared to its other Reply counterparts, it did not reeealllly explore other themes in the story, not to a satisfactory level. In fact, I was not as deeply entrenched in the world that was the 1994 pop culture as I was with the rest.
    It was too Na Jung-Trash centric and sadly that was not enough for me to keep going.

    I think I will need to take some time away from K series and later revisit R1994, perhaps my perspective will change, maybe more depth to the story will be revealed to me and who knows, I may actually complete it this time :D

    1. It's interesting how you watched RM88 before RM94. If I did that, I think my perception on RM94 would've been different too. I don't think I would've invested too much time on Chilbong, but maybe not (I'm a sucker for second leads).

      The themes tackled in each season is definitely different and unique to each season. RM97 is about growing up, RM94 is about finding love, and RM88 is about family. I totally agree that RM94 is slow though. It's probably the slowest of all the seasons, especially towards the end. But on the upside since RM94 got the OTP together earlier than the other two, we were able to see their journey not as unrequited lovers but as an actual couple. I just wished they "killed off" Chilbong early just so that we can truly appreciate Na-jung x Trash's relationship. The husband hunt kills everything.