Reply 1997 (2012) Review
The year is 1997 in South Korea; K-pop was still in its early stages before it became widespread a few years later. First-generation idol groups H.O.T. and Sechs Kiss have taken over the music industry like a storm that spawned others to follow in their footsteps.
Reply 1997, the first of what became a trio of generational South Korean dramas, perfectly describes what it feels like for Generation Y to experience a new wave of music, passion, and love.
The series begins in 1997 in Busan and follows a female high school student named Sung Shi-won. She idolizes the boyband H.O.T. and has a massive collection of posters, magazines, lightsticks, etc. She does not excel in school and focuses her life on her love for the renowned popular boyband. She lives with her parents, Sung Dong-il, a baseball coach, and Lee Il-hwa, a housewife who always cooks more than their fair share of meals. Her childhood and school-popular friend, Yoon Yoon-je, frequently visits their home after the death of his parents. Her best friend at school, Mo Yoo-jung, is also an avid fan of H.O.T. but changed after hearing about the rising popularity of Sechs Kiss. Shi-won is joined by the shy and sweet Kang Joon-hee, the transferee, Do Hak-chan, and the overly talkative Bang Sung-jae. Together, they complete the colorful yet dramatic life of Sung Shi-won, who is just starting to experience what love is like outside of her idols.
Fast forward a couple of years later, Sung Shi-won and her friends are now 33 years old. They relieve their memories of the past and reveal to everyone that she is pregnant, and the father is one of their friends.
Sung Shi-won - played by Jung Eun-ji. She is an avid fan of H.O.T. and willing to go through hell just for that one autograph. Her dream is to marry one of its members, Tony. She has a struggling relationship with her dad, mainly because of her dwindling performance at school. She has a close relationship with Yoon Yoon-je. Her eccentric personality is so addictive that it feels like her life is going in a different direction. She is also honest and open to expressing her feelings. She will be a successful screenwriter in the future.
Yoon Yoon-je - played by Seo In-guk. He always hangs out with his friends and playing basketball. He always keeps a close relationship with Sung Shi-won and her family. He deeply respects his older brother because he cared for him after their parents died. He also excels in class and has good grades. In the future, he will become a professional lawyer.
Kang Joon-hee - played by Hoya. He is a dancer by nature. Although very shy, he likes to hang out with Yoon-jee and his friends. He is the first to have a character arc after telling Shi-won he is gay and harbors feelings for Yoon-jee. He is afraid to tell him his feelings because he treasures their friendship.
Mo Yoo-jung - played by Shin So-yul. She is the best friend and classmate of Shi-won. She is an avid fan of H.O.T. but eventually got addicted to Sechs Kiss. Initially, she is attracted to Yoon-je but soon realizes he is uninterested. She became close to Do Hak-chan and eventually became his girlfriend.
Do Hak-chan - played by Eun Ji-won. He is a transferee from Seoul and the newest friend of Yoon-je and his group. He has a massive addiction to pornography and often times shares his VHS tapes with the group. However, he is scared to approach or talk to women because he thinks it is awkward. He eventually falls in love with Yoo-jung after helping her deal with her grief because of Yoon-je.
Bang Sung-jae - played by Lee Si-eon. He is the most talkative member of the group and always flaunts his new gadgets.
Yoon Tae-woong - played by Song Jong-ho. He is the older brother of Yoon-je. He works as a professor at Shi-won's school but eventually resigned to start his own business. He was previously engaged with Shi-won's late elder sister before her death. During the middle part of the story, he also falls in love with Shi-won.
Reply 1997 is a pretty interesting coming-of-age Korean drama series that features a lot of character arcs and questions the viewers about who is the leading man of the main character. Although it will become too evident by the time you get to episode 5 or 6.
I like that this Korean drama series focuses on character development, especially for the leads. Delivered by the powerful acting performances of the cast, Reply 1997 thrives in its easy-to-understand teenager-type storyline that shifts slightly more mature as the story goes.
The series focuses on the callback for Millenials or Generation Y while reflecting on their childhood and the history that shaped them. I like that it also mixed parts of history, the upstarts of K-pop, and when people transition to more convenient ways of transformation.
Reply 1997 is a fun ride. I had so much fun with the wacky and eccentric characters. There are moments that you will laugh, and there are moments that will make you cry.
A good 4 out of 5 stars.