Thursday, January 7, 2016

Drama Review: Because It's the First Time

Being 20* is an odd time to be in. You're not exactly a teenager who has the freedom without the responsibility, but you're not yet an adult who can live a (moderately) independent life. It's the odd transition between grade school days and work life. It's also a time that doesn't get too much spotlight in dramaland, oddly enough. We often see stories about teens and their angst or adults who have a difficult time being one. Not so much about the inbetweeners. Because It's the First Time attempts to do exactly like its title. A group of 20-year-olds who just graduated out of high school and dipping their toes in the cold, cruel world of adulthood for the first time.

*This is the Korean "20" which basically means 19 years old. But I suppose the sentiments are similar to actual 20 year olds.

At the neighborhood of Buam-dong, Seoul lives six friends each at the tender age of 20 years old. Only a year ago they were in the comforts of school walls and now they have to face the big bad world. They often come together on Tae-oh's roof to enjoy each others company while battling through the wildness of their new found adulthood.

Tae-oh (Choi Min-ho) is the central character of this drama. He is handsome and rich. He is also not the type to beat around the bush and tends to perceive life with simplicity. He has yet to find his calling in life, perhaps due to him growing up with comfort. In the beginning of the drama, we find out that his first love is Song-yi, a member of their tight knit group of friends. But due to his closeness to her as a friend and the image he has of his ideal love (who, in his case, is not Song-yi), he denies his feelings for her. Along the way he meets Se-hyun, a beautiful and tall senior and member of the university's film club. Seeing that Se-hyun seems like the perfect girl for him, he starts dating her with the intention of falling in love. But dating isn't easy when you're constantly distracted by your best friend Song-yi.

Song-yi (Park So-dam) is a bright girl with a lot of heart. We meet her when her widowed mother ran away, leaving her and her younger sister all by themselves. While her sister is taken away to her aunt's house, Song-yi seeks refuge in Tae-oh's place due to him the only one living alone without much baggage. Due to her financial situation, Song-yi works many part-time jobs. One day, Song-yi tells Tae-oh that she has fallen in love with a cool and smart co-worker at one of her part-time jobs. It is revealed that this person is their close friend Ji-ahn. Song-yi gathers the courage to confess to Ji-ahn, only to be rejected instead. But after meeting eye-to-eye, Song-yi and Ji-ahn becomes a couple at last. Despite having the reliable Ji-ahn as her boyfriend, Song-yi constantly seeks out Tae-oh when she's in trouble because she doesn't want to burden her already burdened boyfriend.

Ji-ahn (Kim Min-jae) is handsome, cool, and smart (in Song-yi's words). But growing up in a financially struggling family forced Ji-ahn to grow up faster. His dream is to become a civil service officer so he can have a comfortable life ahead of him. And like Song-yi, he juggles multiple part-time jobs since his father's chicken business wasn't going to help him out anytime soon. He nurtures a crush on Song-yi but is hesitant to make things serious due to his situation. When Song-yi confesses first, he rejects her despite this breaking his heart. Love eventually conquers all and the two agrees with going on frugal dates. His relationship with Song-yi does come with an obstacle in the form of Tae-oh, whom Song-yi finds more comfortable to ask for help.

Se-hyun (Jung Eugene) stumbles into the peppy Tae-oh when he mistaken her for his blind date. She hasn't had a successful love story before, so she doubted Tae-oh would be any different. But Tae-oh's sincerity motivates her to try harder in a relationship, and she slowly finds her self more attached to him. She finds herself doing things she's never done in a relationship, like giving love notes or saying I miss you. Sadly it seems like she comes second to his best friend Song-yi.

Hoon (Lee Yi-kyung) comes from a family of scholars but the last thing he wants to do is study in a university. His dream is to become a musical actor, something that his family is against with. He finds himself kicked out of the house again, but this time determined to fulfill his life long dream. Hoon has a crush on Ga-rin. Despite being completely upfront with his feelings for her, short of actually confessing his feelings, he remains in the friend zone once more.

Ga-rin (Jo Hye-jung) is a hair dresser only because her father is one. She's actually not very good, and is the reason Song-yi now sports her cute pixie cut. For much of the beginning of the drama, she was in denial of her father's death. Her friends played along with her psychosis, much to the dismay of Song-yi and the other neighbors. Ga-rin actually has a crush on Tae-oh; she was behind the stalker/anonymous gifts Tae-oh gets on his birthday and other holidays. Her home becomes refuge to Hoon and the two are mostly inseparable, mostly due to Hoon's affections for her.

For a drama that's supposed to be a representation of the confusing times of 20, I think it did a fair enough job. No one was perfect, no one knew exactly what they wanted. The characters acted much like a 20 year old would doing things normal 20 year olds would do.

Coming from this, it doesn't mean I like all the characters. I'm especially frustrated with Tae-oh. Being the central character, his story was the most dynamic. He had to wake up from his comfortable bubble provided by his rich father and face the reality of the adult world. While it seemed at first his biggest problem is not knowing what his passion is, much of the drama deals with his complicated feelings towards Song-yi. Because he was confused about what his heart wants, he ended up not being completely present for anyone. Not his best friend Song-yi, not his girlfriend Se-hyun. And being the immature person he still was, he often expressed his jealousy in the worst possible way, like risking the lives of his friends during their trip. While he did mature a little bit (he acknowledged his feelings for Song-yi and finally found something he's interested in), he still had miles to go.

Song-yi wasn't much better though. While she was more sure of herself than Tae-oh, she had trouble trusting anyone else aside from him. This resulted in leaving Ji-ahn, her boyfriend, out of her life dilemmas. It's not to say that her love for Ji-ahn wasn't genuine. I honestly think she cared for Ji-ahn a lot. But because she didn't want to burden him much further, especially since he's not in a comfortable position himself, that was the only thing she could do. It was unfair for him and I completely understand how frustrated he feels when she leaves him out of the big moments.

For these two, I think consideration for their partners is the biggest thing they needed to learn. They're both lucky in that Se-hyun became the adult in the relationship and ended things before anyone gets too hurt, and Ji-ahn was able to discuss his worries and even giving an out card, which she refused. Like the title says, it is their first time going through this so of course they'll trip up along the way. But their journey was pleasant to see and I'm glad the drama didn't fall too deep into the first love trope.

Speaking of which, am I the only one uncomfortable with Korea's obsession with first loves? Among the dramas I've watched last year, 6 out of 9 were about first loves, and 7 if you consider Bong-sun of Oh My Ghostess. Granted, it might just be the dramas I tend to gravitate towards (although my favorite OTP of 2015 is the non-first love couple Murim of The Girl Who Sees Smells). It's just not something I could understand at all, especially about reuniting and consequently falling in love again with said person. I am a bit more forgiving for this drama though, since they're still young and at the age of experiencing first loves. So while I was frustrated with Tae-oh's fickleness, it's still understandable since he probably doesn't know what love means to him.

My favorite thing about the drama though is the importance of friendship. It's the group's most precious cargo. It also became the biggest hurdle between Tae-oh and Song-yi's relationship and the vagueness of it all. On the other hand, friendship won the war of love between Tae-oh and Ji-ahn. It amazes me how quickly these two, anyone in the group really, made up despite how bloody (literally) the fight went. It's a perk of being friends for a long time, but mostly it's a perk of being young and so forgiving and carefree. Adults and their complicated adult life make friendships just that much more difficult, seen in the form of Tae-oh and Ji-ahn's fathers. It's easier to keep friends when you're younger because the burdens of the world has yet to weigh them down.

But if I'm really being honest with you, my most favorite thing in this drama is Kim Min-jae. Not that's he's utterly amazing at acting or anything (he has to fight with Park So-dam for that title), but he's just so adorable. Sometimes you gotta appreciate the pretties. Ji-ahn and Song-yi's dates were also my kryptonite, mostly because the combination of cute Kim Min-jae and cute Park So-dam was almost too much to handle. Almost as much as the Murim couple. Almost (since who could be cuter than Murim? No one). Also, being the traditional second lead, he got the girl so winner all around (this more like Ji-ahn's win but also his by association)! Side note, someone wrote that he's a combination of Yeo Jin-goo and Song Joong-ki and now I can't unsee it.

Despite its flawed characters and flawed flow, Because It's the First Time was a pleasant watch. I'm really happy the writer was able to capture the feeling of being a 20-year-old. I wished it wasn't so love heavy, but I'm watching the wrong shows if I want that. It's not the best slice-of-life drama out there (Reply 1988 is heading for the gold on that one), but it's sweet and nice and doesn't make you want to punch your screen, which is the utmost importance.

No comments:

Post a Comment