A sincere, heartfelt drama populated with characters who feel familiar, complex and real.
Even if you didn’t grow up in the 90s, and even if you have no prior knowledge of the popular idols of that era, you’re likely to still find a lot to enjoy in this drama.
A small drama with a lot of heart.
Answer Me, 1997 OST – 델리스파이스
THE LONG VERDICT:
The way I see it, Answer Me is a drama that can affect you on 2 different levels.
One is a very specific Omigosh-those-are-MY-teenage-years sort of level, and that is reserved for those who grew up in the 90s; even better if you grew up in the 90s in Korea. Beyond that, there’s a whole other dimension from which the drama can speak to you, that’s simply universal, and it doesn’t matter where you grew up or how old you are now.
Those are the things that get you in the heart.
DOES OMIGOSH APPLY TO ME?
While I liked this drama a lot, the way it affected me was definitely not in the first way.
This show didn’t really help me relive my teen years, simply because my teen years were very different. Because of that, a lot of things depicted in this drama didn’t speak to me in the same way that it spoke to so many others.
- I didn’t know who H.O.T. or Sechskies were until this drama, so all the history of the fan wars between their fan camps was new to me. All the meta references and cameos were lost on me until I read about them on Dramabeans. That kind of belated appreciation of the meta is better than no appreciation at all, for sure. At the same time, it really isn’t quite the same as recognizing it in the moment, squealing in surprise and enjoyment the minute it appears on my screen.
- I hadn’t been a stalkery fangirl in my teen years, so the overwhelming sense of amazing hyper-reality when in the same room and breathing the same air as one’s idols was also a fairly alien thing to me. The most I’d ever done was collect posters and buy music of the pop groups that I liked, and I did that in a fairly limited fashion too, mostly coz my allowance wouldn’t go very far. And also, there weren’t a lot of local pop idols around, so the objects of our fangirling were mostly American boy bands who were really, really far away.
- My parents hadn’t related to me in a similar fashion as Sung Shi-won’s (Jung Eun-ji) parents related to her. My parents are the type of traditional Asian parents who love you but don’t say a whole lot. So the chatty, noisy, boisterous family that Shi-won had growing up was interesting to me, but didn’t resonate with me.
- Because I went to university locally, I never had to go away to college, so that whole packing up and going off to college milestone in life and all the emotions it stirs up made sense to me, but in a purely mental, vicarious way. I could only imagine what it feels like, and that’s just different from having lived through the same thing.
Context may not be everything, but it does count for a lot.
Many others who grew up in that same era in Korea love the show to pieces, and I can understand why; it’s like reliving your teens through watching the show. Because of my different context, I think I may not love Answer Me in the same way or perhaps to the same intensity as those who fall into the Omigosh-that’s-my-life category.
Having said all that, though, there were a good number of things that I genuinely enjoyed about Answer Me. (Yay. Now we’re getting to the good part!)
THE UNIVERSAL GOOD STUFF
All the actors were so natural and believable that they really made me believe they were friends, and that really brought back memories of being part of a clique in school; of having a small group of friends who spent a lot of time together, and who were more special than regular friends. These were the friends that you talked to and cried with, that you stuck with through thick and thin. You literally thought that the world began and ended with your friendship.
It brought me to reflect on the friendships that I have kept up, that had their beginnings in my teen years, when friends – and who they were and what they said – had such a huge impact and influence on who I was and who I chose to be.
Being the only 2 girls in this group, I found their alone time very real and true to life. Yes, picking out hair accessories and getting your hair done together and being fashion victims together and picking out makeup together is totally what girlfriends do, not only in your teen years, but possibly beyond too.
I still remember buying my very first foundation as a teen, standing in front of a rack of Cover Girl cosmetics with a close girlfriend, who had complete deciding authority in terms of what shade and formula I should buy. She’d worn makeup for maybe all of 3 months by then, and I believed every single thing she said and let her take complete control of my precious, significant purchase. That’s the power of teen friendship.
I particularly liked how Yoo Jeong and Shi-Won made up after their big rift over Yoo Jeong liking Sechskies instead of giving all her devotion to H.O.T.
Yes, it really isn’t a big deal on hindsight, but to them, in those intense teen years, it meant a betrayal of the hugest, most unimaginable kind, and the fact that Yoo Jeong cut her hair to match Shi-Won’s ugly punishment-cut was the epitome of support, solidarity and loyalty.
I mean, seriously. A girl and her hair? Only a truly prized friendship could rank as more important than the relationship between a girl and her hair.
Joon Hee’s steady, quiet energy was a great foil and anchor to Shi-Won’s brash, blunt and exuberant ways. She was the loud, outspoken one, and he was the calm, thoughtful one, and they each brought balance to the other while not only accepting, but enjoying their differences in personality.
I particularly liked how their friendship went to a deeper level when Joon Hee confessed to Shi-Won that he liked Yoon Jae.
She never saw it coming, and up till that moment, clearly had never thought that he might be gay. But she never did anything but accept him and treat him just the same afterwards.
That quiet, unconditional acceptance and love for a friend was affirming and moving to witness.
Later in our story, when she realizes that she and Yoon Jae like each other, she hesitates and stops to seek Joon Hee’s blessings, even though it is clear that Yoon Jae would never reciprocate Joon Hee’s feelings. That she instinctively did that even though there was no possibility of Joon Hee’s love being reciprocated, speaks volumes about her respect for his love as well as her love for him as a friend.
So matter-of-fact and so sweet at the same time.
There wasn’t any drama in how this crush was portrayed. Instead, it was in all the quiet moments that Joon Hee’s love was unveiled, layer by layer.
A lot is left unsaid, and it is Hoya’s portrayal of Joon Hee’s awkwardness and self-conscious restraint around Yoon Jae that shows us just how much he likes Yoon Jae.
At first, one might think that this is just a teen crush that might fade like so many other teen crushes do. But as the show progresses, we realize that this is no small-time crush that we’re talking about; Joon Hee’s love is deep and sincere.
I was really very surprised when I realized that Joon Hee was literally planning his life around Yoon Jae’s. I mean, he wanted to go to the air force academy only because Yoon Jae wanted to go. And Yoon Jae only wanted to go because he believed that Shi-Won would like him if he were a man in uniform.
I’m so glad they didn’t go. That’s a really big life decision to make, and to make it purely to be with the one you like is rather unwise, in my books.
When Joon Hee became flat mates with Yoon Jae, there were many poignant moments between them, which made me really feel for Joon Hee. He was so near the object of his affection, but yet at the same time, so far.
The way that Answer Me resolved Joon Hee’s love for Yoon Jae was both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. When Joon Hee decides to move out and let his heart move on, it was the silent moment between Joon Hee and Yoon Jae that spoke volumes.
I don’t often tear while watching dramas, but this scene brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes.
It was so understated and yet so powerfully full of pathos and love at the same time. Definitely one of my favorite scenes of the show.
Of course, there’s the whole premise of the show, which was at first, which couple in the group made it to the altar? And then it turned into, who’s the father of Shi-Won’s baby?
I need to get this question out of the way in order to carry on with this review and talk about our OTP, so here we go:
[MAJOR SPOILER ALERT]
I have to say that I was rooting for Yoon Jae to win Shi-Won’s heart all the way. It’s true that Dae Woong was sweet, mature and steady, all of which Yoon Jae wasn’t quite, but I honestly wasn’t quite sure if he really loved Shi-Won, or only thought that he loved her. After all, he’d been deeply in love with her unni, who had died tragically in an accident.
I think getting over losing someone who died is a much more complex and difficult thing than getting over someone who simply dumped you. It’s just so much harder to let go. Plus there’s the guilt of letting go. I believe Dae Woong struggled with all of that, and when he decided to turn his affection towards Shi-Won, it seemed like just that: that he just, y’know, decided that he would like her.
And sweet as Dae Woong’s character was, I found him rather dull, to be honest. I was definitely rooting for Yoon Jae on this one.
So when the drama dragged out the daddy question episode after episode, even after Yoon Jae and Shi-Won had overcome their obstacles and started dating, I found it quite annoying.
Let’s just say that I’m happy that Yoon Jae turned out to be the father.
[END MAJOR SPOILER]
The relationship between Yoon Jae and Shi-Won was a completely believable one from the very start. As childhood friends who had grown up seeing the best and worst of each other, they were comfortable, at ease and full of affection of the bickering sort, replete with special gestures of aggravated attachment towards each other.
I liked that recurring display of grudging goodwill towards each other; it made me smile every time Shi-Won scratched Yoon Jae under the chin as if he was a puppy, and every time Yoon Jae ran his fingers down Shi-Won’s face. Those little gestures were constant reminders of their much longer, deeper history than that of their other friendships.
I enjoyed the way Answer Me treated Yoon Jae’s burgeoning romantic feelings towards Shi-Won. His struggle to come to terms with it and find out whether she might possibly feel the same way felt organic and real. The way he went about it also felt true to his character. He was a proud, passionate and hot-headed teen, and that pride, passion and hot-headedness came to the fore and were magnified in the way he dealt with his feelings for her.
Similarly, Shi-Won stayed true to her character, and responded to Yoon Jae’s efforts in her usual blunt, brash way.
Clearly, the fountain kiss wasn’t pre-meditated. He was caught up in the moment and was rolling with his feelings. He decided to just kiss her, to see if he was feeling what he thought he was feeling. Only, he got rewarded with a resounding kick to the shins, a good yelling at from Shi-Won and for good measure, a good chase around the fountain. I think if he’d thought about it, he would have seen that kick in the shins coming.
As the drama progressed and as their friendship ebbed and flowed with the high and low seasons, I was caught up in the will-they-or-won’t-they of it all, and I loved – really, LOVED – the culminating moment when everything finally, finally came together and Yoon Jae kissed her in the stairwell.
The. Kiss. ♥
Such a sweet, real kiss imbued with a palpable sense of wonder, restraint and desire. Swoon.
Even though our OTP had several other kisses in the drama, this was my favorite, hands-down, toes-down.
But, since we’re talking kisses, let’s have a lookie at the others anyway 😉
Seo In Guk and Jung Eun-ji had fantastic chemistry in this show. The ease with which they related to each other was clear and believable, and their romantic chemistry sizzled and sparked in all the right ways. Seriously. No wonder netizens think they might be dating in real life.
In terms of how Answer Me treated our OTP’s relationship, the show remained consistent in terms of having the characters stay true to the essence of the way they had always related to each other.
Just because they were now on kissing terms didn’t mean that they stopped bickering or teasing or being gruff with each other. And that felt authentic and organic and oddly sweet.
It made them feel real.
I practically cried with laughter at his extreme awkwardness around the female species, turning from a confident cool dude among the guys to a deer in headlights, replete with eyes as big as saucers, the moment a girl so much as breathed in his direction. Too funny.
Eun Ji Won blended in with the much younger cast surprisingly well, and I have to say, all the meta references about his idol days were funny even when learned second-hand. Some didn’t even need any explanation, coz his photos and posters and even his movies from his idol days peppered the show.
I also really enjoyed Hak Chan’s romance with Yoo Jeong. From the very beginning when he was struggling just to function in her presence, to how they finally started dating, it was funny, cute and just plain adorable.
I loved that he was smitten with her even though she had her sights set on Yoon Jae. The way he went along with her request as she tried to stage a date with Yoon Jae was sad and sweet at the same time, and then when her efforts all came to naught and she cried in the bus, he was adorably sweet as he wordlessly sat with her and put one of his earbuds into her ear.
Knowing how much courage it took for him to do that made it all the sweeter. I especially loved how he told her to meet him at the mall the next day, not to do any of the things that she’d tried to get into for Yoon Jae’s sake, but to simply do what she wanted to do.
So. Sweet. ♥
No wonder she surprised herself by kissing him on the spot 🙂
I have to say that I really, really enjoyed Shin So Yool in Answer Me. The character of Yoo Jeong suited her well, and she brought out the cheery, flighty, good-naturedness of her character perfectly.
There’s such a sweet, endearing quality about Shin So Yool, and I absolutely love her smile. I definitely want to see more of her 🙂
Jung Eun Ji was very, very good as well.
I wouldn’t have guessed that she’s an idol actress, but for the promotional material. She was fully committed to the role, and even got uglified with gusto.
There was no pretty, dainty crying with her. She all-out bawled in the crying scenes, especially when it involved her beloved H.O.T. Neither was there any static, fish-lip kissing from her either. She was fully committed to every kiss scene, and helped make those moments all the more real and believable.
Her feisty turn as Shi-Won was completely convincing from start to finish, and I’m really curious to see how her real personality stacks up with Shi-Won’s. That’s how believable I found her. She became Shi-Won for me.
That’s quite a feat, even for a more seasoned actress, so kudos to Jung Eun Ji indeed. I hope she stretches her acting muscles more in the future.
I’d first laid eyes on him in Love Rain, and I had found his character in Love Rain completely obnoxious and annoying. I actually believed that he was obnoxious and annoying.
So I was completely surprised to be swept off my feet in Answer Me, by his very different, equally convincing turn as Yoon Jae. His Yoon Jae was an appealing, just-a-touch badass, rogue-ish sort of character. Not conventionally good-looking, but very likable and quite hot. Especially when he’s kissing you 😉
I hadn’t realized that Seo In Guk actually started out as a singer, having won the Superstar K contest in 2009. Since he’s primarily a singer and acting was something that came about afterwards, it’s such a bonus to find that he’s actually quite a natural at acting too. He is so competent that I am surprised that this is his “secondary” skill. He holds his own in the midst of actors who are solely actors, and even sometimes outshines some of his co-stars.
Color me impressed. He’s definitely someone I’ll keep on my radar.
To be honest, I didn’t love the last 2 episodes because they tended to feel draggy. The last episode felt especially draggy at almost twice its usual length. It felt like the show was giving us fanservice by dragging out the finale episode to give us more time with the characters, but I personally could have done with less. I found it draggy and too indulgent, and the longer episode also translated into a looser, more meandering feel to the episode.
Still, that is a minor quibble in a sea of goodies.
Answer Me was a meaty drama offering that had complex, faceted characters with relatable cares and concerns. I developed a genuine affection for the various characters, and enjoyed being a fly on their collective walls as they lived, loved, laughed and cried together. The story beats were genuinely funny and heartfelt by turn, and the quiet, understated moments spoke the loudest of all.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
A very worthy watch. Universally appealing in some of the best ways. Nostalgia never gets old.
FINAL GRADE: A-
The great thing about having Seo In Guk and Jung Eun Ji as our leads is that they really can sing, since they are primarily singers. What a bonus, to have your OTP sing the OST, and actually sound great! And then, to have them appear in the MV, looking all natural and adorable together? That’s a rare, rare thing indeed.
Check it out, not only for the easy breezy tune, but for more OTP cuteness 😉