THE SHORT VERDICT:
An earnest, honest high school drama that isn’t just about high school.
Pulsing with teen angst on the one hand, yet also dealing with more universal issues on the other, School 2013 is about growing up, and about friendship, hope, love and loyalty. Things that all matter, whether you’re a teenager or an adult.
A wonderful, engaging watch that manages to overflow with heart, in the midst of the angst.
THE LONG VERDICT:
I’ve always had a soft spot for high school drama done right, and I hafta say, although it’s not a perfect drama by any means, School 2013 hits all the right notes where it matters most, and hits those notes really, really well.
So much so that I ended up loving this show – and its characters – to bits, and now feel like watching it again.
The cinematography and camera work in this show aren’t anything fancy, and the color palette is matter-of-fact, and that totally works.
Instead of detracting from the story, I feel like this decision completely resonates with the general tone of the show, with its emphasis on keeping everything simple, raw and real.
Some of the acting is a little green, but importantly, all the key roles are delivered excellently. And where the acting is lacking, the earnest cast and thoughtful writing more than make up for it.
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review.
The Rotating Point-of-View Narrative
One of the things that I found interesting about the writing in School 2013, is the rotating point-of-view in terms of the storytelling.
Most shows pick the point-of-view of one – or at most, two – characters, and stick with that. We see the story world through the eyes of the chosen character, and join that character on his or her journey through the drama.
With larger ensemble casts, this becomes trickier to handle, and many ensemble cast dramas tend to also pick the points-of-view of one or two main characters and go with that.
What I appreciated about School 2013 is that the writers made time to give us the points-of-view of even secondary characters, more so than I expected.
As a result, I felt like I learned about their world through different, shifting lenses throughout the show.
As the lenses shifted, so did my composite picture of their world, and it felt a little bit like looking through a kaleidoscope.
While looking at the same situations and characters through different lenses, my perception – what I saw – was continually shifted, and that definitely helped to keep things fresh and interesting.
Storytelling & Characterization
The rotating point-of-view helps to tell a textured story, and as we step into the world of School 2013, we are introduced to everything and everyone as if we are sudden visitors gate-crashing a world that has been spinning this way for a long time.
We aren’t given quick and immediate expositions like we get in some dramas; there are no convenient exposition fairies. We simply piece things together as we follow our characters while they live their lives, for better or for worse.
Partly because of this, and also partly because of the writers’ deliberate manner in timing the reveal of various details and information, we get several interesting story- and character-threads unfolding layer by layer, scene by scene.
We don’t feel hurried, neither do we have a chance to feel bored.
The result is a story that is engaging and absorbing, and characters that feel faceted, imperfect and real. I felt sucked into this world almost immediately, even though I didn’t yet know everything about this world or its characters.
Yes, sometimes the show introduces situations that seem mountain-out-of-a-molehill blown out of proportion, and it can feel overly dramatic at times, like the research development arc in episode 8.
But to the show’s credit, the characters continue to behave in ways that feel true and believable.
In most of the conflicts presented, there are no easy outs, and the show’s treatment of the conflicts is layered, allowing us to explore different facets from different points of view, in a way that is unrelentingly unapologetic.
And that just makes everything in this world feel organic, relatable and wonderfully real.
In line with the show’s effort to mirror real life, the humor sprinkled through this show mostly has an off-the-cuff, slightly unexpected sort of feel, which I really enjoy.
Sure, the fact that Teacher Uhm (Uhm Hyo Sup) is named Uhm Dae Woong (like Uhm Tae Woong, geddit?) and nicknamed UhmForce (like Uhm Tae Woong too, geddit? ;)) smacks of meta, but I was so tickled by this that I totally let it slide.
[MINOR SPOILER ALERT]
One of my laugh-out-loud moments in the show is in episode 6 where UhmForce sees Se Chan (Daniel Choi) signing his name on some forms.
UhmForce deadpans, “Do you think you’re 2PM?” [pause, while Se Chan looks completely befuddled in response]. UhmForce then continues, “Don’t just sign your name, write it out in full!” Bwahaha! I thought that was hysterical, mostly coz I just totally didn’t see it coming.
[END MINOR SPOILER]
Every class needs a class clown, and Kim Young Choon as Byun Ki Deok (above, left) is lovably amusing.
His facial expressions, high raspy voice, saturi accent, and generally comic demeanor come together endearingly to bring touches of amusement to even the most mundane scene.
On a completely random note, I also found the scenes of all the teacher meetings unintentionally funny because the very large school seems to be staffed by all of 8 teachers. Heh.
Bromance, Not Romance
A lot of viewers were looking forward to Daniel Choi and Jang Na Ra rekindling the romantic chemistry that they shared in Baby-Faced Beauty (2011).
If memory serves me right, it was several episodes into School 2013’s run that the writers announced the love line was going to be dropped.
I wasn’t watching the show as it aired, and had felt disappointed at the mere concept of there not being any love line in the show. I remember thinking, “Isn’t it like a law or something, to have a love line in every kdrama?”
Now that I’ve seen the show, though, I fully appreciate – and support – that decision to remove the love line.
[MINOR SPOILER ALERT]
Right off the bat, we can pretty much guess that Jang Na Ra’s character is going to help Daniel Choi’s character become a better teacher.
As I got deeper into the episodes, and began to see these characters affect each other and change, I realized that a love line between them would have diluted the impact of that change.
I now feel that removing the notion of romance prevents it from coloring or motivating the change in both characters. Somehow, that just feels purer.
[END MINOR SPOILER]
In effect, with romance removed from the equation, the show takes us through things that feel bigger, more moving, and more meaningful; issues that feel even more fundamental and personal, and more enduring than a romantic relationship.
In the absence of romance, we get to delve into a whole spectrum of non-romantic relationships: student-teacher, parent-child, colleagues, friends, best friends, classmates.. the list is extensive. And each of these relationships is treated with nuance and care.
A particular bromance (which I won’t mention details of just yet, since it’d be a spoiler, but if you’ve watched the show, you’d totally know what I’m talking about) got me completely and unequivocally in the heart.
I was genuinely more engaged with and felt more invested in this bromance than with some romantic love lines in other dramas.
All in all, I felt engaged very nicely, and found the omission of romance not a hindrance, but an actual help to the show.
I love that the characters in this world are layered, faceted, imperfect and vulnerable.
Every character has his or her own backstory and dreams, fears and motivations, trials and victories. I love that the show takes the time to show us the layers in so many of the characters; more than I’d expected, with such a large ensemble cast.
It’s impossible for me to cover all the characters in this review, so I’m only going to talk about the more central ones.
Jang Na Ra as Jung In Jae
Jang Na Ra turns in an excellent performance as Jung In Jae, a trainee teacher who is as timidly fearful as she is fiercely idealistic, and who gives it her all, striving to be the kind of teacher that she believes she should be.
I love that In Jae struggles to reconcile her philosophical, almost romantic notion of teaching and education with very real external pressures, and arrives at no easy answers. There is no sugar coating the truth.
Because the truth is, there are no easy ways to be that nurturing teacher who makes a real difference, in a troubled, imperfect system peopled by ambitious, number-crunching authority-wielders, be they principal or parents.
In Jae’s trajectory is far from smooth, and as she fights to find a way forward, we grow to empathize with her and admire her for her courage.
She fights in part for the sake of her students, but in equal part, for her own sense of worth as a teacher, and ultimately, the growth and strength that she arrives at feels hard-won and well-deserved.
There are many In Jae moments that I love, because her compassion and empathy for her students is crystal clear.
She’s always asking each one, in her one-on-one times with them, “It’s hard, isn’t it?” which is something that I just love about her. Most teachers jump straight to the nagging, but In Jae is always the one who empathizes first.
If I had to pick one favorite In Jae moment, it would have to be her response to Min Ki (Choi Chang Yub) after his suicide attempt.
While most people would respond with anxiety and reflex-scolding, she holds Min Ki to her and cries with him. And then, when they sit in the counseling room together, Min Ki says that he thinks he was really trying to kill himself up on the roof, and tearfully apologizes.
After a moment’s pause, In Jae responds gently and thoughtfully, with tears in her eyes,
“At least once in your life, there will be a moment when you want to die. It isn’t wrong to think that you want to die. But it is a great thing to endure it and to overcome your desire to die. You’ve gone over a big mountain today.
And with so much effort. And you did very well. So I’m very grateful.. and I’m so proud of you.”
Just, wow. Such a profound thing to say, and at such a critical moment, which I’m sure makes her words a tremendous healing balm to Min Ki’s battered heart.
The impact on Min Ki is clear as he responds, “I’m so relieved that you’re here.” Aw.
Later, In Jae takes Min Ki aside to speak with him about having had the competition questions ahead of time, and imparts more words of wisdom. I just love that she really teaches these kids how to grow up, in how she talks to them.
To Min Ki, she says,
“I know it’s hard on you now, but I think I’m going to need to lecture you more. It was wrong to have the practice questions in advance and enter the competition.
Whether someone else made you do it or others are to blame, it was still wrong to be pushed into it when you knew it as wrong. So would you try to endure being uncomfortable in the classroom?
Consider it as taking responsibility for what you’ve done. It’s going to be difficult. But Min Ki, once you endure this, everything will change.”
I love that she teaches him right from wrong, and how to be a better, stronger person, all while giving him hope. That’s some wisdom indeed. She even tells him how much his mother was pained to hear about his suicidal thoughts, and how much she loves him.
“Min Ki, all things will pass. It may seem like a big problem at the moment, but it will pass. So enduring and waiting for things to pass.. That’s strength.”
I LOVE that about her, that she chooses to praise kids for overcoming, for holding it together. It totally speaks to what they need to hear the most, while motivating them to keep doing better.
That’s such a big heart she’s got in her tiny body.
Daniel Choi as Kang Se Chan
Daniel Choi is pitch perfect as the arrogant, confident and mildly sardonic Se Chan, a star instructor from a cram school, reluctantly doing penance at Seung Ri High for illegally giving private lessons.
The writers paint Se Chan with nice little details that really help to flesh out his character. He’s arrogant and petty. Yet he’s vulnerable and feels hurt when ignored by students. And he skives when he can, off-loading work that he doesn’t like onto In Jae whenever possible.
Daniel Choi portrays Se Chan with a good measure of subtlety, yet his facial expressions are often a hoot, lending humor to situations that might otherwise have been played straight and serious.
Pretty much from the moment that we meet him, we can guess that his journey in this drama will be about becoming a better teacher.
Like In Jae, his journey of growth isn’t straightforward either, and often feels like a two-steps-forward-one-step-back sort of affair.
I like that the show doesn’t gloss over the difficulty in achieving lasting personal change. Neither does it sugar-coat his struggles with his emotional baggage.
All in all, Se Chan’s trajectory is a satisfying journey that feels honest and genuine.
From being a teacher who simply endures his students, to becoming a teacher who actually cares about them, Se Chan’s positive milestones are particularly satisfying to watch.
Almost against his will, he becomes more connected to his students and starts to show empathy and insight.
One nugget of wisdom that comes somewhat unexpectedly from Se Chan is, “Even though it doesn’t seem like much in our eyes, from those kids’ standpoint, there are certain things that make them think that the sky is crumbling down.” So. True.
One of my favorite Se Chan moments is in episode 8.
When Nam Soon (Lee Jong Suk) disappears and stops answering calls and messages, it is Se Chan who remembers the day that Nam Soon had presented his dilemma to him:
“If I just sit back and do nothing, someone is going to get hurt. But if I do something bad, no one is going to get hurt.”
YAY Se Chan, for connecting the dots! And YAY Se Chan, for being the one to go get Nam Soon!
I love the way Se Chan calmly sits it out in his car at the gas station where Nam Soon is working, and basically creates such a back-up of cars that Nam Soon, helpless, has no choice but to go with him.
Everything about Se Chan in this scene is pretty savvy and quite awesome. YAY Se Chan!
Lee Jong Suk as Go Nam Soon
Aw. Nam Soon-ah.. ♥
Such a wonderfully layered character, delivered with so much depth and sensitivity. My heart still reverberates with so many feels when I see Nam Soon.
Lee Jong Suk is a revelation as Nam Soon, playing him with a heart-wrenching, subdued intensity that resonates with so many shades of meaning. This, even though Nam Soon doesn’t say much, particularly in the early episodes.
Very early in the show, we get a sense that Nam Soon is holding a lot together in his silence. And even then, I felt that Oof! in my heart for him.
I am particularly impressed with the way the writers unveil Nam Soon to us. We learn about him bit by bit, and as the layers peel back, our understanding and appreciation for his person becomes more whole.
He is revealed slowly, in degrees, until we finally get a fuller sense of who this boy is, and where he came from.
Nam Soon’s journey of reconciling his personal demons with his present reality is one of the most heart-wrenchingly satisfying arcs in the entire show, and Lee Jong Suk totally kills it.
Nam Soon is such a great character, who affects so many of the other characters around him, that it’s hard to pick a favorite moment.
The thing that really got me in the heart about Nam Soon, is how kind he is to other people in spite of his personal struggles.
In episode 2, on the one hand, we see him lying down on his bed, bruised and hurting after being beaten up by Jung Ho (Kwak Jung Wook) and his lackeys, telling himself over and over, “It’s ok.. it’s ok.. it’s ok..” while the tears spill over. (Ow. My heart hurt for him so much, in that moment.)
And yet, in school, Nam Soon takes particular care of Young Woo (Kim Chang Hwan), who is picked on by the same bullies.
When Nam Soon covers for Young Woo for breaking the classroom window, I love that he signals to Young Woo to keep quiet, then gives him a quiet reassuring nod and small smile. So sweet! Right that second, I thought to myself, “I think I love this boy.” ♥
That same episode, Nam Soon covers Young Woo’s ears to prevent him from hearing himself being referred to as slow, which I find so spontaneously kind and sweet.
And then, there’s the awesome poem that Nam Soon quietly recites for Young Woo’s benefit, when Young Woo is saying his good-bye to the class upon being forced to transfer to another school.
You have to look closely
To see that it is pretty
You have to look long
To see that it is lovable
You are the same
(“Flower” by Na Tae-joo)
So profound, and so meaningful. Not only for that moment, for Young Woo, but also, for the peek into the workings of Nam Soon’s heart. So very lovely.
Kim Woo Bin as Park Heung Soo
Ok, I need a fangirl moment to say: Kim! Woo! Bin! Eeeee! ♥
When he appears as Heung Soo at the end of episode 3, he is barely onscreen for a few seconds, and even in that fleeting moment, he exudes so much presence. It’s breathtaking.
Alright, fangirl moment over now. *shakes self*
Seriously, though. Kim Woo Bin is simply fabulous as the mysterious, broody Heung Soo.
There are many scenes where Heung Soo doesn’t say anything, and yet, Kim Woo Bin conveys so much with his eyes and the tiny shifts of expression in his face that we get a good number of clues as to Heung Soo’s emotions. It’s just really impressive.
Like Nam Soon, Heung Soo is also unveiled in gradual layers. Additionally, we learn about Heung Soo through Nam Soon’s eyes, which adds to the piece-meal, cautious, uncertain nature of his characterization.
Over time, as Nam Soon’s sense of Heung Soo solidifies, so does our understanding of Heung Soo as a character.
Heung Soo’s arc of self-realization and forgiveness is one of the pillars of the show, and Kim Woo Bin brings it. So well.
In an interview, when asked if he felt like he could complement other actors in School 2013 as easily as was said of Lee Jong Suk, Kim Woo Bin deadpanned, “But I only share scenes with Jung Suk.” HAHA!
I giggled at the bromantic banter in the interview, but on further thought, Kim Woo Bin’s observation isn’t too far from the truth. The majority of scenes that Heung Soo shares is with Nam Soon.
However, there are many small moments with other characters where Heung Soo shows what he’s made of.
One such moment is in episode 6, when UhmForce suspects Heung Soo of being the culprit behind the stolen test paper. UhmForce, leaning over a seated Heung Soo, remarks,
“Once a troublemaker, always a troublemaker. That’s what you call a habit that you can’t rid your body of.”
Without batting an eye or missing a beat, Heung Soo bites back in measured bass tones, “Continuing to suspect a student that you already suspected once, isn’t that also a habit?”
Touche. Sharp insight indeed.
Kwak Jung Wook as Oh Jung Ho
Oh Jung Ho is the kind of raging bully that gives me nervous flashbacks to my short(ish) stint as a substitute teacher in an all-boys high school. Angry at the world at large, Jung Ho doesn’t hesitate to unleash his fury at students and teachers alike.
Kwak Jung Wook is still rough around the edges as an actor, but he manages to imbue Jung Ho with the kind of psychotic intensity that Yoon Je Moon brings to Kim Bong Goo in The King 2 Hearts. Shiver.
Jung Ho as a character is seriously dislikable by mid-episode 1, and just when you think you really, really dislike him, he does something that makes him even more distasteful.
As with almost all the characters in School 2013, though, Jung Ho has a growth arc, and that arc is fleshed out in a way that is gradual and believable.
I particularly enjoyed how Jung Ho’s world got turned on its head when he realized that Nam Soon, the boy that he’d been picking on and beating up all this time, was pretty much the biggest, baddest Jjang of all, and had the ability to basically beat Jung Ho to a pulp if he so chose.
After that point, there is always a touch of a “j-u-s-t-falling-short-of-being-top-dog” sort of quality about Jung Ho’s ragey, slightly crazed outbursts, and I have to commend Kwak Jung Wook for managing to give Jung Ho that nuance.
At the end of the drama, Jung Ho’s arc isn’t nicely tied up and we aren’t told whether he actually shows up at school or decides to drop out. I appreciate the open-endedness of this, because that’s true to life; not everything in life gets tied up in a neat bow by the time a bell rings.
Still, I found the note on which we left Jung Ho a satisfying one, because he comes to a decision to live right, and tells Se Chan so.
I found this more meaningful than the question of whether he would eventually go back to school, because whatever he chose to do with his life, he would do so honestly and with integrity. And that’s just way more important than whether or not you graduated high school.
Park Se Young as Song Ha Gyung
Park Se Young is excellent as Ha Gyung, the girl whom everybody loves to hate.
She’s proud, cold, sarcastic and stand-offish, and seems to only care about doing well in her studies. She doesn’t seem to have any friends, and she doesn’t seem to care. She’s unimpressed and unintimidated by students and teachers alike, and isn’t afraid to show it.
Over the course of the drama, we get to see Ha Gyung’s defensive layers peeled away and we get to see who she is, and why she behaves the way she does.
Additionally, Ha Gyung gets to grapple with what her true priorities are and learns how to make room in her life for what she truly values.
The more I learned about Ha Gyung, the more I felt sorry for her, really.
To be under so much pressure to match the rest of her family members’ academic achievements, and to feel ashamed of who she was even as she went to cram school to try to do just that, must have sucked big time. No wonder she was so surly as a general rule.
It was gratifying, though, to see Ha Gyung slowly come out of that shell and start to care about other people.
One of my favorite Ha Gyung moments is when she ditches school so that she can’t be dragged into a school violence hearing that would guarantee Jung Ho’s expulsion.
The bright, cheerful expression on her face even as she jumps the school gate is underscored by a distinct sense of freedom as she finally makes a stand for what she believes in. You go, girl!
Ryu Hyo Young as Lee Kang Joo
Kang Joo is one of my favorite characters in the drama, even though she’s a fairly minor secondary character.
Spunky, cheerful, outspoken, honest and caring, she doesn’t hesitate to express concern or stand up for her friends. She’s simply adorable.
Ryu Hyo Young may not be a seasoned actress, but she certainly makes Kang Joo extremely likable and endearing, and that’s a notable accomplishment on its own.
One of my favorite Kang Joo moments is in episode 11, when she realizes that Nam Soon has opted to transfer to another school.
Saddened by the news, Kang Joo doesn’t say anything to Nam Soon about it, and instead arm-twists him into accepting a hot dog treat from her, as his going-away gift. At Nam Soon’s reluctance to eat, she simply crams the hot dog into his mouth for him.
She is so cute, that girl.
Yoon Joo Sang as Teacher Jo
Teacher Jo is like a wise, kind, benevolent Papa Bear in the ensemble cast, and he’s a thoughtful, positive influence on not only the students, but the teachers as well.
Observant and perceptive, Teacher Jo often has a pulse on who’s feeling a certain way and why, and will find a peaceable, mild way to reach out and make a difference.
Played with gentle affection by Yoon Joo Sang, Teacher Jo is a breath of fresh air and stability in the midst of uncertainty and doubt.
One of my favorite Teacher Jo moments is in episode 3, when he plays mediator / matchmaker to Se Chan and Nam Soon.
Having observed Nam Soon repeatedly standing outside the classroom during Se Chan’s lesson, Teacher Jo promptly takes Nam Soon to the gymnasium and instructs him, in his jovial way, to clean it.
When Nam Soon asks if he’s to clean it by himself, in walks Se Chan, having been summoned by Teacher Jo as well.
Teacher Jo tells them this is their punishment; Nam Soon for skipping class, and Se Chan for allowing it. He serenely instructs them to clean the gym equally, and promises to dole out the same punishment every time the same thing happens again.
All it takes is one exhausting cleaning session for the boys to reluctantly call a truce. Heh.
The relationships are really what make this show so moving and heart-wrenching.
As the characters interact, they cannot help but relate to and affect one another. Sometimes in spite of themselves, they build bonds, tear down barriers, and help one another to put down and take up necessary burdens. All while helping one another to find their way in the world.
These interactions run the gamut from gruff, quiet unspoken moments, to heated arguments, to heartfelt conversations, to silently leading by example. And yes, sometimes to fisticuffs and bleeding lips too. No matter the form, though, these relationships feel layered, organic and real.
In this next section, I’m going to talk about some of the major relationships in the show. And yes, I’m saving my favorite bromance for last.
I’d consider the mere act of talking about the relationships pretty spoilery, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, I’d recommend you skip ahead to the very end to enjoy the MVs. 2 out of the 4 vids are only mildly spoilery.
Then come back later, after you’ve watched the show, so that we can squee over, spazz about and discuss the show 😉
Teacher Jo & In Jae + Teacher Jo & Se Chan
I love how Teacher Jo is such a fatherly presence to both In Jae and Se Chan.
In front of the students, In Jae and Se Chan are teachers and are supposed to know the answers. But in front of Teacher Jo, they are both often like lost children, themselves in need of a mentor and teacher.
And Teacher Jo never fails to thoughtfully impart words of wisdom and reassurance to guide them on their way.
There are so many instances in the show that Teacher Jo’s words of wisdom have an impact, that it’s hard to pick favorites.
I loved how he pointed out the difference between students and customers to a smug Se Chan in episode 2. And I was so pleased when Teacher Jo forced Nam Soon and Se Chan to bond over cleaning the gym in episode 3.
One of my favorite Teacher Jo-In Jae moments is in episode 11, when In Jae is discouraged by her students’ comments in the teaching evaluation exercise.
Teacher Jo’s simple question, “Do you see the kids’ true intentions?” is enough to jolt In Jae to begin to look beyond the surface, to seek out what’s really going on in the kids’ hearts and minds.
He wisely adds, “If you turn around every time you hit a brick wall, you can’t be a teacher. But if you tap here and there, you should be able to see something. Doing that repetitively is what a teacher does.”
Teacher Jo’s words – essentially, that teaching is a process, not free of setbacks – not only give comfort to In Jae, but perspective and fuel to keep going even though the going isn’t easy.
One of the most pivotal Teacher Jo-Se Chan moments is in episode 16, when Se Chan has tendered his resignation, determined to cut off all ties with his students.
Teacher Jo asks Se Chan if he’s really going to quit, and Se Chan answers that the kids are too heavy for him.
Thoughtfully, Teacher Jo responds,
“They are heavy because you are trying to be responsible for them until the end. Teachers are to just support the kids during the time they pass us. During that time, if a connection is built between the teacher and student, it’s great.
Even the kids who are left alone out in that cold world will not go astray because of that connection.”
He adds, “Se Chan-ah.. Things that go wrong in this world never happen because of one person’s fault. That’s even more so, as far as kids are concerned. So can you put down your burden just a little bit?”
Teacher Jo’s words hit home so much that Se Chan’s eyes glisten with tears as he gets up to leave.
Se Chan doesn’t make a decision straightaway, but I am certain that Teacher Jo’s wise words played a big part in helping him find a teaching – or rather, a caring – equilibrium that he could live with.
These words, about how he doesn’t need to be responsible for the students until the end, ultimately free Se Chan to care, and to embrace being the kind of teacher that he’d always wanted to be.
I love that Teacher Jo’s impact on In Jae and Se Chan is not only instructional and helpful, but more than that, also comforting and empowering. We could all use a Teacher Jo sometimes, I say.
In Jae & Se Chan
From the moment Se Chan and In Jae cross paths with each other, we know that they are destined to affect each other in major ways.
Se Chan’s arrogant confidence and exam focus is as direct a contrast as you could find, to In Jae’s tentative uncertainty and nurturing approach. And I love that the show makes them co-homeroom-teachers and forces them to work together.
(Hm. Might this qualify as a workplace equivalent to the forced co-habitation drama?)
For a good stretch of the drama, Se Chan’s and In Jae’s completely different approaches to teaching and their accompanying differing personalities provide lots of fodder for conflict, bickering, flabbergasted looks and exchanging of the evil side eye.
They very quickly (and unconsciously) start to behave like bickering parents who can’t agree on the best way to bring up their kids, the mechanics of which I found delightful to watch.
I found their exasperation with each other’s methods both entertaining and thought-provoking, because neither is completely wrong, if you think about it.
I love that even without the romance angle, Se Chan and In Jae share lots of cute moments.
One of my favorite running gags in the show is how In Jae has to keep standing a step – or several! – higher than Se Chan just to be on eye-level with him. Hee.
Add the fact that almost every single time she does that, she’s exasperatedly trying to reason with him while he’s flippantly unaffected and quite bemused, and we get some nuggets of comedy gold.
I loved seeing the little hints and indications of growth not only in their partnership, but also in their trust and belief in each other.
As the episodes progress, the vibe between In Jae and Se Chan becomes more collaborative as they begin to work more as a team, complete with eye contact communication from the two ends of the classroom.
Their tones with each other also soften – almost imperceptibly, sometimes – and they even begin to finish each other’s sentences and tease each other.
In episode 6, when In Jae is upset at Nam Soon’s unexpected confession about the test papers and the disastrous consequences, Se Chan remembers a critical clue in Nam Soon’s ambiguous question about dilemmas.
This causes In Jae to immediately come to life, after being slumped over with discouragement and worry.
I love how Se Chan teases her, “Look at you; how fast you’re taking the kid’s side? And you were pretending you didn’t care about an incident like this. That’s very unlike you.” And then, he even says, “Anyway, let’s start by saving the kid first.” AWWW.
Later, when In Jae asks just how they’re going to solve it when UhmForce couldn’t, Se Chan replies, “With hard work and love?” HAHA. So cute, these two. And how much did I love Se Chan in that moment? A lot.
There are many small little beats where we get to see In Jae and Se Chan showing symptoms of support for each other, which is one of my favorite things.
In episode 10, when Heung Soo and Nam Soon go missing during the exam, I love that In Jae carries both Heung Soo’s and Nam Soon’s bags out of the classroom, and then while they’re talking, Se Chan not only takes one bag from her, but after a moment, also takes the other one off her.
I really enjoyed watching In Jae and Se Chan come to support and depend on each other. Not in a romantic sense, but in a united, we-are-one-team, caring sort of sense, with a spirit of solidarity.
I really appreciate how the show manages to convey trust and closeness between Se Chan and In Jae without coloring it with shades of romance.
In a kdrama landscape where almost everything is about the romance, it’s refreshing to see a man and a woman connect meaningfully over something personal and important, without hints of romance intruding to muddy the purity of the moment.
I love the quiet conversation that In Jae and Se Chan share in episode 11 while waiting outside Jung Ho’s house for him. In response to In Jae’s observation that Se Chan seems to know a lot about kids like Jung Ho, Se Chan finally tells In Jae about his past as a teacher.
In that thoughtful, wistful moment, it feels like this might be the first time Se Chan’s ever told anyone about how he used to be the kind of teacher who went all-out, dragging students back to school. Until he fell down and never got back up. Aw.
I find it so apt, that the person he finally verbalizes this to, is In Jae, because she is the one person who would surely understand.
One of the most honest, significant exchanges between In Jae and Se Chan takes place in episode 11, when In Jae, feeling completely defeated, decides to leave.
As In Jae begins to walk out of school with her box of stuff, Se Chan chases her down and grabs her, to try to stop her from leaving. Se Chan literally looks like his best friend is about to abandon him, the way he tries to persuade In Jae not to leave.
When she asks in tearful frustration why he’s holding onto her, he says, voice quivering with increasing emotion, “Because you.. are the teacher I wanted to be.”
He continues, “Because you.. are the teacher that I couldn’t become, even though I sincerely wanted to. You are that teacher.”
Thud. That was the sound of me falling over from the magnitude of the emotional honesty in this scene.
What a great moment. SO full of emotional heft and goodness.
Se Chan’s gaining so much from In Jae – awakening his old self that he thought long gone – that he doesn’t want to let her go. I know his efforts to persuade her to stay are also for her, but it’s as much for her as it is for him. And I love that interdependence.
Also, I love the way the show uses the classic wrist-grab here, with a twist.
They don’t make it a romantic scene, yet manage to create an emotionally-charged, meaningful, emotionally intimate yet powerful moment anyway. So. Good.
Aw. Would’ja look at the smiles on those faces? By the time we leave them at the end of episode 16, Se Chan and In Jae have genuinely arrived at a happy place, both as individuals and as teachers.
I love that little beat towards the end, where In Jae asks Se Chan if he’ll be back to teach the following year. He returns the question, “What about you, Teacher Jung?”
In Jae smiles, “If you stay, I’ll stay.” D’awww.. Yes, please!
And, what a turnaround, eh? I really enjoyed the way the show developed the dynamic between In Jae and Se Chan.
From being completely at odds, these two eventually come to see each other as equals and partners, and choose to be interdependent with each other. I love that by the end of the show, these two actually want to depend on each other, and want to support each other. Aw.
In Jae & Nam Soon
While In Jae connects with many of her students during the course of the show, her relationship with Nam Soon has a particularly special, symbiotic vibe to it.
In Jae cares about all her students, the way a mother loves all her kids. But Nam Soon is the only one who matches her, in terms of his effect on her.
From the very beginning of In Jae’s stint as Class 2’s homeroom teacher, Nam Soon has a huge impact on her. Not only does he save her from a menacing Jung Ho who’s physically threatening her, he also keeps affecting her with words of wisdom beyond his teenage years.
In episode 1, when In Jae asks Nam Soon about the alleged smoking incident with Jung Ho, she worriedly tells him, “You might get expelled over this.”
With a slight smile, Nam Soon replies, “That can’t be. School can’t be that unjust.”
Nam Soon’s words continue to echo in In Jae’s mind, so much so that she later bursts in on UhmForce’s questioning session with Jung Ho and Nam Soon and blurts out in a rush,
“Teacher Uhm, I can’t accept the verdict over this incident as these students’ homeroom teacher. Over a picture where their faces can’t even be seen clearly, I don’t believe this school to be that unjust to expel these students over that.
But if you still insist on going through with this, I’m going to keep protesting it. That’s all I wanted to say.”
To me, that moment – with Nam Soon’s subdued, slight smile at her outburst, which had clearly stemmed from his earlier words – marks the beginning of a deeper bond between them that is characterized by loyalty.
One of the most memorable demonstrations of loyalty that comes from Nam Soon is in episode 3, when he happens to hear that Se Chan is going to take over In Jae as their homeroom teacher.
To gather as full a class as possible for In Jae’s final lesson, Nam Soon pulls out all the stops to gather his classmates. Including provoking Jung Ho to a fight, and telling the rest that they can come watch.
What strikes me is how far Nam Soon willingly (and spontaneously) goes, in order to give In Jae the simple, final gift of having a full class for her final lesson with Class 2.
That he would willingly risk getting beaten up, just so that In Jae would have a reason to smile on her last day, is so profoundly moving. I immediately fell in love with the dynamic between In Jae and Nam Soon.
These two clearly care about each other, and show it in the capacities that they are able. Like how Nam Soon can’t say it, but puts his hide on the line to threaten all his classmates so that they’ll come to class for In Jae’s last lesson.
One of the most endearing exchanges between In Jae and Nam Soon happens in episode 6, when In Jae talks with Nam Soon about the test paper incident.
When In Jae asks Nam Soon who needed protecting, and who did the threatening, Nam Soon doesn’t answer, but promises, “I won’t do it again.”
In Jae shakes her fist at him, “If you do, you’re dead.”
With a slight smile, Nam Soon puts his fist to hers, and remarks, “Look at the size of that fist.” and gets up to walk away.
I loved this moment, because underneath the few words and the mock threats, these two clearly care about each other a whole lot.
And each sees the other as small and in need of protection; Nam Soon sees In Jae as literally tiny and therefore in need of protection, while In Jae sees Nam Soon as young and therefore in need of shielding.
On top of that, the small smile Nam Soon gives when In Jae threatens to sock it to him good if he ever does something like it again is so endearing and yet heartbreaking. It’s like he’s not used to having someone care. Aww..
Another memorable In Jae-Nam Soon moment for me, is in episode 8 when In Jae goes to the gas station to talk to Nam Soon about his application to drop out of school.
They don’t exchange many words, but the looks on their faces say so much: how affected In Jae is by Nam Soon’s choices, and how affected Nam Soon is by In Jae’s presence.
The fact that she sees him like this affects him, because he knows how much she cares.
And that’s just completely heart-wrenching and moving and wonderful.
Throughout the show, In Jae’s and Nam Soon’s relationship continues to be marked by a deep sense of care and loyalty that is at once pure and profound.
Because the teacher-student relationship usually skews just one way – the teacher taking care of the student – I especially love that between In Jae and Nam Soon, it is an equation that flows both ways.
Definitely one of my favorite relationships in the show.
Se Chan & Nam Soon
Although not a relationship that features very largely in the show, I really enjoyed watching the dynamic between Se Chan and Nam Soon.
Their relationship is fairly contentious and marked by gruff, unwilling truces influenced by Teacher Jo and In Jae.
Se Chan does impart some words of wisdom to Nam Soon, like he does in episode 9, regarding the issue with Heung Soo,
“Heavy, isn’t it? Carrying Park Heung Soo on your shoulders. [stunned look from Nam Soon] That’s not going to get any lighter. But if you try, it does get bearable.” Yay Se Chan!
But what I enjoyed the most was how Se Chan seems to feel genuinely hurt that Nam Soon doesn’t like him, and gets jealous that Nam Soon greets In Jae all the time but not him.
I love how Se Chan points it out petulantly to Nam Soon more than once, but doesn’t get any response. Ha.
Kang Joo & Ha Gyung
The friendship between Ha Gyung and Kang Joo took me by surprise, because they weren’t even on speaking terms much when we first meet them in episode 1. Once they made up, though, I loved the little moments between them.
Also, after Ha Gyung and Kang Joo make up and become besties again, Ha Gyung seems to have such a load lifted off her shoulders, and is so much lighter in spirits, that she seems almost like a different person; ie, a much more likable one.
I love the little scene in episode 9, where Ha Gyung and Kang Joo talk about whether Heung Soo and Nam Soon have made up.
Ha Gyung lets slip that she had provoked Heung Soo about it, and that he’d gone nuts in response. Kang Joo, stunned that the usually indifferent Ha Gyung would even bother to poke her nose into something like this, asks why she’d do that.
Nervously changing the subject, Ha Gyung says, “Anyway, there’s something they do have in common. They both sleep through the whole class.”
Kang Joo wheedles, “My Song-Song.. You were looking elsewhere instead of the blackboard during class?” Flustered, Ha Gyung stutters, “I was just turning around to check to see if you were dozing off or not.”
Leaning in with the cheekiest look ever, Kang Joo challenges Ha Gyung, “So.. was I dozing off or not?” Shifty-eyed, Ha Gyung guesses, “You were dozing.” to which Kang Joo teases, “I didn’t doze off.”
Ha. I love how Kang Joo is totally onto Ha Gyung’s eye on Nam Soon. You just can’t hide these things from the discerning eye of a bestie.
Nam Soon & Ha Gyung
The relationship between Nam Soon and Ha Gyung isn’t a romantic one, even though we get hints that Ha Gyung likes him.
Instead, it’s a platonic, symbiotic one borne out of unexpected transparency stemming from unlikely circumstances.
Because of his part-time job running errands for others, Nam Soon is the only one in class who knows that the cold, aloof Ha Gyung goes to a cram school, and it is this secret that forces them to interact with each other.
In episode 3, Ha Gyung’s lies about which high school she attends are discovered when Nam Soon delivers clothes for her to change out of her uniform into. Devastated, she allows Nam Soon to whisk her away on his scooter.
When Ha Gyung tosses her uniform off a bridge in frustration, she admits that she’s embarrassed about being from Seung Ri High, and humiliated by the discovery.
Nam Soon responds matter-of-factly, “You said it yourself, you’re a better student than that girl from earlier. So what are you so embarrassed about?”
Changing the subject, Ha Gyung asks Nam Soon, “Isn’t there anything you want to throw away? Just throw everything away.” At Nam Soon’s silence, she concludes, “Fine.. You wouldn’t have anything to throw away since you don’t care about anything.”
And that’s when Nam Soon quietly says, “Me.. The thing I want to throw away is me.” Tears.
The way that Nam Soon says it, it feels like this is the first time he’s actually giving voice to this sentiment, and it’s heartbreaking.
After sharing so much emotional honesty in this moment, it’s no wonder that Ha Gyung and Nam Soon come to have an understanding of each other that the rest of their classmates don’t share. Nam Soon sees her humiliation and shame beneath her prickly, cold exterior, and Ha Gyung sees Nam Soon’s sadness underneath his silence.
Thereafter, we see many moments where each looks out for the other.
Like when Nam Soon gives his jacket to Ha Gyung coz she now regrets throwing her school uniform over the bridge:
Or when Ha Gyung shoves her notes at Nam Soon, when she realizes he’s not studying:
We aren’t told explicitly whether Ha Gyung’s interest in Nam Soon is romantic, nor do we get to see if Nam Soon ever reciprocates those feelings.
But what we do get is plenty satisfying. Two unlikely people coming together almost as comrades; supporting, helping and understanding each other as the need arises, in ways that don’t require words.
Nam Soon & Heung Soo
This bromance, it makes my heart feel so, so full. ♥
I found it compelling, completely engaging and very, very addictive. Better than most romantic love lines in many a kdrama, in my experience. And I’ve watched a lot of kdrama.
There are two big reasons why the the bromance between Heung Soo and Nam Soon completely blew me away.
First, it’s written with complexity, sensitivity and care.
There are no easy answers or convenient cure-alls for the rift standing between Heung Soo and Nam Soon. Coz how do you make up for ruining your best friend’s future? And how do you forgive something that has had such massively destructive consequences?
The writers take on this question with unapologetic realism, tackling it by chipping away at it, bit by bit, one heart-wrenching scene at a time.
Because of the care that the writers take with this, by the end, I feel completely invested, and the reconciliation between Heung Soo and Nam Soon feels well worked through, hard-won and genuine.
Second, it’s delivered with oodles and oodles of unabashed intensity and heart.
The bromantic love that Heung Soo and Nam Soon have for each other is intense, overt and deep. They aren’t just besties. They are soul mates, these two.
And Kim Woo Bin and Lee Jong Suk don’t shy away from engaging in and wrestling with the emotional potency of Heung Soo’s and Nam Soon’s relationship.
Whether it is in silent moments swelling with meaningful undercurrents, or in full-on emotional outbursts, they bring it, head on, and the result is gut-wrenchingly, overwhelmingly, spell-bindingly good.
There are so many awesome scenes between Heung Soo and Nam Soon (or, Heung-Soon, as affectionately coined by netizens), that I just hafta revisit as many as I possibly can.
The Narrative Confession:
I was blown away by Nam Soon’s confession scene in class, in episode 7.
To clear Heung Soo’s name, Nam Soon quietly responds to In Jae’s invitation to the class to demonstrate narrative thusly:
“He dreamed of being a soccer player. In order to play soccer, Coach said to leave the gang. In order to leave the gang, he needed to get hit.
After getting hit, he injured his legs. The gang leader is a jerk who stole his dream. And that jerk.. is Go Nam Soon.”… “That’s why.. Park Heung Soo has done nothing wrong.”
As Nam Soon finishes, he looks over at Heung Soo, who keeps his eyes fixed stoically ahead, even as they glisten with tears.
It is such a short beat, yet so powerful, so concise, and so packed with meaning. Wow.
Also, Kim Woo Bin’s nuanced response to this scene is completely heart-wrenching yet subtle.
There’s not a lot of change in his facial expression, but the progressive tears burgeoning in his eyes, and the very minor twitches in his face from time to time, speak volumes. It’s masterful and awe-inspiring, and I was completely floored.
The Moment of Unconscious Chemistry:
Another one of my favorite moments is when Heung Soo rushes to save Nam Soon after Nam Soon’s been framed by Jung Ho for the theft of the gangsters’ motorbike.
In that tension-filled moment, Heung Soo’s and Nam Soon’s old teamwork springs to the surface, and they outrun and outwit the gangsters together.
The grins on their faces as they outrun the gangsters together is absolutely priceless, and so reminiscent of their old times together:
They grin at each other in exhilaration, and Heung Soo even claps Nam Soon on the shoulder, which is just so gratifying to witness.
But their smiles fade as the the muscle memory gives way to the more rational realization that they haven’t actually made up, and they move to sit on opposite sides of the bus:
Later, Nam Soon thanks Heung Soo for keeping his promise, and we see in flashback, the promise that Heung Soo had made to Nam Soon once before:
“Whether you hang out with me or not, and no matter what you’re doing wherever, until the day I die, I’m going to do whatever I can to stop you from doing things that will land you in jail.
I may not know about anything else, but that is one promise that I’m going to keep, no matter what.”
Oh, tears. And Nam Soon’s answer now, echoes his answer then, “Dumbass. You’re such a drama queen.”
Aw. There is just so much history and so much chemistry, yet so much baggage between these two.
So In Sync:
It’s a short beat, but I was completely tickled and enamored by Heung Soo’s and Nam Soon’s unconscious synchronization in episode 9 while doing their community service as ordered by Se Chan.
Heung Soo and Nam Soon keep saying exactly the same things, at the same time, and it simply warms the cockles of my heart to see these two so in sync.
When Se Chan tells them to move the tables & chairs out of the store room, both say in unison, “Where to?”
And then after spending ages moving the stuff in silence to the rooftop, they both stop and sigh together, “Kang Se Chan, that jerk..” HAHA! And, AWWW..
I LOVE that they are so in sync, even after so long. This bromance, it’s meant to be. ♥
The Storeroom Lock-Up:
One of the key breakthrough scenes in this bromance, is when Heung Soo and Nam Soon get accidentally locked up in the storeroom together.
Heung Soo is particularly annoyed, but Nam Soon takes the opportunity to finally say to Heung Soo what’s been on his mind, “I’m going to do everything. The things I should have done three years ago. All of it.”
As Nam Soon apologizes, Heung Soo simply growls at him to shut up, but Nam Soon presses on, his eyes beginning to glisten with tears,
“It was a mistake. I was only going to beat you up a bit the way I was on the day of my hazing but.. No matter how bad of a jerk I was, I never wanted to destroy your leg and make you cave in like that.”
The moment becomes increasingly charged and Heung Soo shouts, “I know. I know it was a mistake!” then bites through gritted teeth, “So shut your mouth.”
Nam Soon continues to say that it’s still his fault and his mistake, and Heung Soo drops his voice, “Because it was a mistake.. because it was your fault.. does that change anything?”
With the tears now threatening to spill over, Nam Soon answers, “That’s what I mean. Because nothing is going to change.. because it won’t change even if I try.. I’m saying I’m sorry. I’m.. I’m.. sorry to death. I can’t even say sorry because I’m so sorry so-“
Heung Soo cuts him off with a punch to the face. “Shut up, you bastard.” But Nam Soon comes back asking for more, “You should have come out like this earlier. When we saw each other in front of the school, you should have punched me as soon as you saw me.”
Heung Soo counters that he should have hit Nam Soon 3 years ago, and Nam Soon returns, “Pretend it’s three years ago now and hit me more!”… “You probably wanted to kill me more than a hundred, a thousand times.”
Agitated, Heung Soo answers angrily, “That’s right. I told myself that I was going to kill you more than a hundred, a thousand times. What are you going to do about it?!” and he gives Nam Soon a hard shove.
The force of the shove pushes Nam Soon into the stacks of tables and chairs, which now come crashing down on him, knocking him unconscious.
Heung Soo tries to rouse Nam Soon to no avail, and panics. He pounds repeatedly on the locked door and screams for help.
The way Heung Soo loses his cool over Nam Soon passing out is completely heartbreaking. He lurves him. And is so scared that something bad’s happened to Nam Soon.
It must have been cathartic to finally verbalize his care for Nam Soon in some way, because when Nam Soon comes to, Heung Soo calms down enough for them to speak their minds honestly, for the first time.
Nam Soon finally tells Heung Soo, “I was scared.” … “I was scared of you leaving me and going to Seoul to play soccer.”
Heung Soo counters, “I couldn’t go in the end anyway. So why did you run away?”
Nam Soon replies matter-of-factly,
“I was afraid you’d really leave me. I was scared you would say that you would never see a jerk like me again.” He drops his gaze and lowers his voice, “I only had you back then. If you said something like that, then I’d have had no one to turn to. No one.”
Heung Soo’s eyes begin to glisten with tears as he flashbacks to the past, when Nam Soon would keep going to sleep at Heung Soo’s house coz no one was at home.
And Heung Soo would give Nam Soon his own towel as a pillow and cover him with his own blanket, and sleep without either.
Didn’t You Miss Me?
Another major breakthrough moment comes in episode 10 when Nam Soon gets beaten up on his own for his alleged involvement in the motorbike theft.
Heung Soo asks tersely, “Didn’t we decide to not do this anymore?” … “Does my leg become normal if you carry on like this? Can I play soccer again?”
Nam Soon protests, tears glistening, “Then what should I do? I can’t pretend not to know and I can’t pretend it never happened.” … “I know I can’t repay you no matter what I do. So let me at least pretend to repay you. I, who ruined your leg and ruined your future!”
Finally, Heung Soo chokes out, “So you should’ve stayed still before. No matter what.. you should’ve just stayed there. Other than soccer, I only had you. When I wanted to die after I lost soccer.. you should’ve been there.”
Crying and shouting by now, Heung Soo demands, “So what I mean is.. didn’t you miss me?”
Wow. What an emotionally-charged scene. And so full of revelational honesty.
That all this angst was actually more about losing Nam Soon than about losing soccer? Tears.
What a moment. Really, what a moment. Seriously, this is when I thought, “I ♥ you, Show.”
What a significant breakthrough, for Heung Soo and Nam Soon. ♥
We’re Just Friends:
Another significant moment for our bromance happens in episode 11, after the most adorable game of punishment basketball in the history of basketball (Yay, Se Chan, for thinking to force Heung Soo and Nam Soon to play basketball together as punishment!).
Se Chan remarks casually to Heung Soo about Nam Soon’s impending transfer, and Heung Soo is clearly shaken. He doesn’t change his expression much, but you can totally see from his eyes that he’s reeling. Aw.
And in the moment after, we see the betrayal and hurt in his eyes. He feels like he’s being abandoned again. (Wow. How does Kim Woo Bin show us so much with so little?)
Heung Soo barges in on UhmForce’s paperwork session with Nam Soon, saying, “Teacher, Go Nam Soon has no reason to transfer. I’m not the victim. Go Nam Soon is not the assailant.”
When UhmForce presses him, “Then?” Heung Soo answers, “We’re just.. just friends.” BAM. Finally, he said it. And, AWWW.
He continues, “Just really unlucky ones. And right now, we’re in the process of making up.”
My heart turns to mush as a tear rolls down Nam Soon’s cheek.
The moment is heartwrenchingly good, and feels so full, because it feels well-earned. It’s no simple problem, so even this concession feels significant and momentous, and I love it.
Afterwards, Heung Soo waits for Nam Soon outside the room. These boys. Showing their love in all these gruff little ways.
Nam Soon says, “Thank you.” and Heung Soo doesn’t miss a beat answering, “It’s not free. There’s a condition. You have to fill up a-l-l my (punishment) pages.”
I love that there’s always this counter-conversation that goes on under the surface, and that this particular one is saying that Heung Soo is basically letting Nam Soon closer. Officially. And I love that.
I’ve also never seen anyone so happy to be told they have to do someone else’s punishment pages. Heh.
Why Did You Live Recklessly?
One of the most moving scenes between Heung Soo and Nam Soon happens after Heung Soo’s police station scare, which particularly terrified Nam Soon, that Heung Soo might be taken away for good.
Afterwards, Nam Soon brings Heung Soo back home to eat ramyum, saying that he has something to say.
Nam Soon doesn’t say anything, though, and it’s the usually gruff and silent Heung Soo who prods the usually more communicative Nam Soon to talk.
Nam Soon, biting back tears, asks, “How recklessly did you live?” When Heung Soo doesn’t answer, Nam Soon asks again, “Why did you live recklessly?”
Heung Soo, holding his gaze steady, but with tears brimming in his eyes, says, “I was curious whether there were more like you out there.”
Nam Soon mumbles back, “Why? If you met someone like me, were you going to beat him up?”
Heung Soo answers, tears flowing freely now, “That I could stick my heart to, you bastard.”
Nam Soon’s own tears start to flow, “You dumb bastard. After you’ve gone through so much…”
Heung Soo, openly allowing tear after tear to roll down his face, answers, “What about you? Have you even once said it hurt, you poor bastard? We are the same. So Nam Soon-ah… please stop feeling sorry.” TEARS.
What an awesome breakthrough scene! And then to have them sleep side by side again, just AW. HUGS FOR EVERYONE!
I love that little detail, of Heung Soo managing to take off one sock by the time they go to bed, when he’d hesitated with his socks upon entering the house.
It’s such a small detail, but it shows us that Heung Soo is finally allowing himself to feel at home in Nam Soon’s house again. And I love that.
And just when I think the scene can’t get any better, we cut to the morning, both boys rushing madly to get ready for school together. As they shuffle and scuttle and skid about, they grumble at each other for not waking up earlier, and it is just SO CUTE that I just wanna squish them!
Such a cathartic release, to finally have our bromance in full bloom. Love! ♥
A Bromantic Aside
I love this bromance even more than the one between Goo Yong Ha (Song Joong Ki) and Moon Jae Shin (Yoo Ah In) in Sungkyunkwan Scandal.
The intensity and purity of it all just resonates so much with me, and I love that Kim Woo Bin and Lee Jong Suk are chummy even behind the scenes.
I love that in interviews, when Lee Jong Suk gets halfway through his answer and loses his train of thought, that he turns to Kim Woo Bin, who then finishes the thought for him.
And I freaking love this tidbit that I read on Dramabeans:
When asked about the onscreen bromance that’s been getting so much positive attention, Kim Woo-bin said:
“Actually Lee Jong-seok and I had our eye on the Best Couple Award (Laughs). At first I thought my hands and feet were going to curl up, but the environment on set helped me to live as Park Heung-soo.
Lee Jong-seok especially helped me out when it came to acting or dealing with external factors. When I was acting, I think I really loved Go Nam-soon.
In the flashback scenes we weren’t supposed to cry, but I loved him so much that I cried. Lee Jong-seok and I are really good friends now.”
Say it with me: Awwwww ♥♥♥♥♥
On top of crafting several outstandingly nuanced and compelling relationships, School 2013 also manages to weave a number of meaningful themes into its narrative:
- That high school violence is real and doesn’t only take the form of physical abuse,
- That loyalty is more important than caving to external pressures,
- That doing what’s right is more important than doing what’s popular,
- That growing up, overcoming your fears and taking responsibility for your decisions is something you can’t shy away from, and
- That you leave an impact and a legacy behind, no matter what you choose.
We learn that in the end, not everyone grows up at the same time or at the same rate, and not everyone reaches the same happy ending. But finding a way to move forward with a positive hope, is what ultimately makes a difference, and makes the future great.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Heart-wrenching and wonderful. And the best bromance ever.
FINAL GRADE: A+
Edit: Loved the bromance in this show? You might like my imaginary dream sequel, which you can find here!
WHERE TO WATCH:
You can check out this show on Viki here. It’s also available on Viu here.
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Yes, watch this one! Great review, so many insights–thank you, KFG! I chose to watch this in my quest to watch all of the Kdramas that you’ve rated A+. It is a heart-warming drama and unique. It was also fun to see Lee Jung Suk toward the beginning of his career.
While watching this drama, so many American school dramas came to mind, but especially an oldie but goodie British film topped my list: “To Sir, with Love.” The caring-teacher and needy-but-prickly-student relationship was so beautifully done and the emotions brought up memories of that film–not the plot of that film, but the feelings. So many students’ situations were heart-wrenching and it was great to see the balance between teacher struggles and student struggles.
Yes, watch this one of you’re newer to Kdramas. You’ll learn a lot about the Korean education system (it’s just a movie, so do your homework, i.e. “specs”) if you’re American, like me. However, the teacher-student relationship is universal.
I’m going back and forth to watch this drama. Does Jang Nara has a lot of screen time? is she supposed to be supporting character or main character? because I dont want watch Jang Nara series as supporting character lol
Hi Akmalia, Jang Na Ra’s character is a secondary character (the students are the main characters) but she does have quite a bit of screen time. I also think this show is really good, and objectively worth the time. But, if you’d rather watch Jang Na Ra as a main character, you might want to consider VIP. 😊
I finally finished this series. big thanks to your review, I decided to watch it. cant believe it is pretty good. I’m glad Jang Nara has a great character and role here. I reread again your review after finished watching, and I completely agree with most of you write.
I want to add. Nam soon is like In jae’s favorite student despite he is not the smartes or the kindest or the best student. And how much Nam Soon care and appreciate In Jae. for me, one memorable scene between them, when In jae ask Nam soon about Heung soon, and he tell her with big smile that Seung hoon is very good at soccer and etc. Like, for me that is the first time he talk so much and it direct to her and it is about his bestfriend. aww
I’m curiuous, are they still friends, Jong Suk and Woo Bin?
This is one of the better K-Drama that I have ever watched. Great performance by all characters, bromance seemed so natural. A must see. [While there are hints of attraction between characters, romance is almost non-existent.]
I love a good coming of age story, but most movies or shows set in a school are either too cutesy or too gritty for my taste. So I was so very pleasantly surprised by At Eighteen that I decided to give another school drama a try. I am so happy that I watched School 2013! It was realistic without being too gritty, but it had cute moments too. At first I was a little disappointed by the lack of romance, but then I realized that the addition of romance would change the tone of the show. After all, the title is School and not Romantic School!
Also, the bromance is definitely one of the best. I need to watch more dramas with Lee Jong Suk. The secondary bromance was good too.
Overall, this is a very good show with memorable characters and important messages about friendship and integrity.
Just stopping by to say that I am watching School 2013 right now and loving it so far! High school/youth dramas truly are incubators for acting talent. Will write more when I am finished.
Hello Fangirl!!. I thoroughly enjoyed this drama and I wanted to share my happiness and thats how I ended up discovering you :-). I enjoyed your review as much as the drama :-). The drama captured the loneliness, bullying, pressures of studying, difficulties of teaching quite beautifully :-). And of course the bromance !!!!. I think what caught me the most is the Jong-suk portrayal of Nam Soon. He captured the weariness so perfectly that i believed completely when he said that he wanted to throw himself away. He understood the impact of violence at such young age for a costly price. Every situation is handled with care and sensitivity. It is drama that I would recommend every one to watch especially from Asian background (I am Asian ) just to understand students and young kids are subjected to the pressures of living to parents expectations as well as the impact of bullying . Thank you for a such a fantastic review!!!
Aw, yay that School 2013 led you to this review, and yay that you’re enjoying yourself here, varsha. WELCOME. <3 And yes, this show is so well done, from the portrayal of the characters, to the portrayal of the relationships – and the bromance! – and also, the pressures that teens face in school. I watched this one twice, and loved it both times. <3
My Love is Park Se Young.
do you know that there’s a special episode of this drama? you can search the keyword ‘school 2013 special edition’. it’s like some kind of talkshow and interview, talking about how they are at the filming scene, and that’s when i realized how close woo-bin and jong-suk are. there’s a scene where they play a game and jong-suk has to hear the word ‘i love you’ from the casts. and he approach the cast one by one and he said ‘say that word that i usually say to you guys.’ and all the cast (including woo-bin and jung-ho, they said, ‘do you like me or heung soo more?’ maybe that’s not (that) precious, but it really show that jong-suk is (that) close with kim woo bin and i really-really-like really love it. maybe you should check it out!:)
Hi there trixie, thanks for the recommendation. I do remember watching the special episode, it was very amusing and completely fanservicey, in the best way. Loved the Jong Suk and Woob love it showcased! 😍❤
I think the moment I fell in love with this series was that scene where Jung In Jae decides to punish the students for stealing the exam papers and wetting a girls’ notes. Jung In Jae lines them up, but instead of hitting them with the stick she uses her own hands on each one of them.
I think that scene showed everthing great about Jung’s character, and really highlighted her empathy. She was in much more pain than any one of the students who she hit with her own hand. But she still did it…as if to say the student as well as the teacher is to blame for a students’ misstep. She literally showed them all what she was about in that scene, and I think thats when the students realised she cared just as much for them, as she did for herself. It was the moment I believe she broke through to them.
It was a beautiful scene. And one of the first times I really cried for kdrama. I’ve truly never seen anything as beautiful in a movie since then.
Hi there Kevin! It’s nice to meet you; welcome to the blog! 😄 I completely agree that that scene was powerful and memorable.. Even on my second watch, I found myself being fully drawn into the moment and feeling the thick tension in the air, along with the students in class. It was also on my second watch that I grasped more fully how well-written this show is. I’m so glad to see that you love this one too! 😊
https://www.facebook.com/lottiethecollie/videos/602772746528672/ Couldn’t help but think about their bromance when I saw this video :)))))
D’AWWW!!! <3 <3 <3 That is SOOO~ adorable!! I can TOTALLY see why it reminded of you these besties! 😀 Thanks for this, my dear, it totally made me smile!
PS: Remember that Chinese drama I've been recommending, Nirvana In Fire? It's got a potent bromance at the center as well, just so you know! 😉
I know <3 !! You mentioned it in the review <3 I can't wait to watch it 😀 I still have to find the time for it, but I'll definitely watch it this year 😀 !! (probably :)))) )
Glad you liked the video <3 I love dogs and since you love them as well, I was sure you'd like the video and the likeliness with the bromantic pair <3
Heh. I mentioned it in case you skimmed the review & missed that compelling little detail 😉 I’m eager to hear how you like it – it’s truly a drama that’s in a league of its own. I’d even venture so far as to say it’d be unfair to compare other dramas to it, since it’s practically impossible to try to match those standards!
YES I LUFF DOGS <3 <3 <3 I already have it in my head that the pup giving the hug is LJS, coz of this XD :
Hey again! I managed to finish the show somehow this week and I loved it! I loved Lee Jong Suk in it and Woobie is now officially on my “good, handsome actors” radar <3 !
I really loved the show and the two in it! I mean, their performances were impeccable! And their bromance! Oh, their bromance <3 ! It was so lovely <3 !
Episodes 10 and 11 did it for me :)))). Especially, when Teacher Kang was there with them. The sync they were in from both hating Kang for making them carry the desks :)))) And I laughed my ass off when they bowed to the teachers after finishing sweeping the teachers' office. they bowed so respectfully to Teacher jung and so reluctantly to Teacher Kang. Their faces were priceless :))) And Teacher Kang's "FOLLOW ME!" was so funny :))))
What I really liked about this show is that it took time to develop the side characters and their relationships as well. In the dramas I've seen this doesn't happen much. Not even the second leads are developed in some of them, so Show was impressive from this point of view <3 I also liked that it kept its true nature. It taught us that real life doesn't go the way we want it to go. Proof to this was when Jung Ho, as much as I wanted, did not finish high school. After understanding the struggle he went through, my heart went out to him and I wanted him to succeed as well. But Show kept its real side and showed me otherwise. I sincerely hope Jung Ho makes it as well.
I loved that by the end of the show the Nam Soon-Heung Soo lovely pair (aaah, so lovely <3 ) and the Jong Ho gang became friends. It cracked me open when they were all at Nam Soon's house and he was annoyed han none of them wanted to leave (you know, after Jong Ho got out of the hospital) and after yelling at them to leave with no result whatsoever, he just snuggled between them. So cute and funny <3 ! Oh, and Go Nam Soon's smile, so full of charm and hope! Especially after Heung Soo told Uhm Force that they are friends in the process of making up. I fell in love with that scene and with Lee Jong Suk's smile <3 <3 <3 Glitters and rainbows!
Loved both teachers and it would have been great if I had teachers like that too. Actually, I did have one. My English teacher. She is lovely and I still see her on a regular basis <3
Anyway, so much love for this show! I'm actually rewatching the last couple of episodes. I loved it so much I already feel the need of watching it again <D
Thanks again for the suggestion and, as I've said before, keep 'em coming <3 ! I'll start watching healer after finishing rewatching the last episodes of S2013 and when I get the time 😉
On a side note, good thing my evening were free so I could watch the show because this week I've been driving through the whole country because of work. But nothing can keep me away from my kdramas, right :)))?
OMG Sabina, I’m so, so happy that you’ve watched S2013, and loved it!!!!! 😀 😀 😀 And YESSSS, Woob’s now on your approved list! And THE BROMANCE. I knew you’d love it, but still, YAY! Coz I love this bromance so much. And it makes my heart so happy that they went from friends to besties while acting in this show, and now, every time I see a news clip about their real-life bromance, I melt into a puddle of goo. Seriously. These two get me, every time.
Did you know that when Woob was tasked to be one of the MCs of the SBS Drama Awards in 2013, he specifically requested that Lee Jong Suk be seated right in front of him. It was coz he was nervous about being the MC, and he wanted to be able to look to his bestie for support at any moment. And, not too long ago, Lee Jong Suk had a fanmeet in China during his birthday, and when Woob showed up unannounced as a special guest, Jong Suk actually cried right there and then. HOW ADORABLE ARE THESE TWO, SERIOUSLY??? <3 <3 <3
Yes, I totally agree that this show did a great job of developing the characters, even the secondary ones. That's one of my favorite things about it. It feels like such a real world. I loved it just as much on my 2nd watch as I did my 1st. And for the bromance, I totally see myself going back again. <3
I actually saw that fanmeet in China too and I was seriously surprised when I say LJS crying like a baby just from seeing Woobie 😛 I wanted to squeeze them both right then and there <3 And the interview about S2013 when LJS started a sentence, but his line of thought was interrupted and Woobie finished the sentence for him. I was like "How married are those two?" :))) <3 So cute <3 !
I rewatched the scene in Nam Soon's house when Jong Ho got released from the hospital like a 100 times :))) It was tooo cute to handle <3 Loved how Heung Soo says something like "Aaah, these guys are making me think poorly of them", then grabs the blanket and sits as well :))) So funny :))))
Anyway, 16th episode is still open and I go to it whenever I miss them <3 (and have the time to watch it 😛 )
On my watch list, Healer is coming next! This weekend I'm going to marathon it <3 This work of mine is taking up too much of my drama time 🙁
As for the late replies, no worries! I know what it means to have no time whatsoever… 🙁 Anyway, I hope you're healthy and work isn't exhausting you 😛
Thanks for the reply <3 !
Was the clip that you saw subbed? Coz Lee Jong Suk explained afterwards to the host, that Woob had called him on his (Woob’s) birthday & asked if he (Jong Suk) would be free for dinner, and Jong Suk had checked his schedule and told Woob he was busy. He only realized later that it was Woob’s birthday, and had felt so bad. And then Woob had appeared at HIS fanmeet, on HIS birthday, and all the guilt and feels just hit him. Which is why he cried. SWEETHEARTS. <3
YES, I completely LOVE how Woob is able to finish Jong Suk’s sentences & thoughts in general for him. Jong Suk’s the type who just goes all stream-of-consciousness and can get stuck at times. Woob’s always ready to step in and save the day tho, since he knows what his bestie means. ADORABLE <3
YAY that Healer is coming up next on your list, I can't wait for you to see why I love that show so much! And yes, I totally feel ya.. Real Life can snatch up wayyy too much drama time. Oh, the pain! XD
I've missed chatting dramas with ya, so I hope your schedule lets up soon, so that you'll be able to enjoy dramaland in a more leisurely way soon!! HUGS! <3
I love this series as well, i hope the producer make the sequel for this one. The bromance is just so real and made me shed tears. I also agree with your opinion, lee jongsuk’s and kim woobin’s eyes showed all the emotion, their acting is freaking good
Aw, I’m glad you enjoyed this show too, Natalia! I love both Lee Jong Suk and Kim Woo Bin as actors – though my soft spot is for the Woob. 😉 And I would love to see a sequel for this, even though I know the chances are slim. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see the bromance post-MS? I’d love to see Nam Soon and Heung Soo figure out their adult lives together after completing their MS; learning more about themselves, and how to deal with careers, families, lovelines – all while keeping the bromance very much alive. Guh. I’d love to see that on my screen! ❤
I still love this show. I always love a good bromance and this drama gave us an epic one. <3
The bromance in this is EPIC indeed. And for me, the bromance to top all bromances in all of dramaland, coz of the wonderful real-life chemistry between Kim Woo Bin and Lee Jong Suk. Yes, I’m biased. And possibly will always be, heh 😉 I’ve watched it twice, and loved it even more on the second watch ❤ I discovered that it’s more well-written and carefully thought-out than I’d originally thought. 🙂
I agree! This bromance just tops my list of favorite bromance ever (literally: http://surfingthehallyu.blogspot.com.au/2013/11/my-lists-10-favorite-bromances-in.html). And it really helps that the bromance is not just on screen, but off as well. <3
Hee! Loved your list! 😀 I don’t have a formal list of bromances, and the way I rank them is pretty much all in my head. But honestly, as I went through your list, I literally felt like I would’ve ranked ’em in the exact same order! 😀 And absolutely, the off-screen bromance between Woo Bin and Jong Suk just MAKES it, for me ❤
BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL DRAMA!
STELLAR REVIEW! I adore how you distilled each character’s humanity and the relationships amongst them. SUPERB!
AW! Thank you, kaiaraia!!! 😀 I’m so glad that you enjoyed the review! AND the show!! Isn’t this just SUCH a lovely, lovely show??? It looks completely unassuming at first glance, but it creeps up on you and then STEALS YOUR HEART. I LUFF THIS SHOW!! And I’m stoked that you love it too!! This drama deserves all the love that it gets, and THEN some, seriously! Nam Soon and Heung Soo.. The bromance between them is so heart-wrenchingly beautiful that it leaves me speechless, honestly. Definitely a re-watch in my future!! And not just for Woobie either! ;D
Definitely a rewatch some other time. It’s very inspiring especially for me who is in the academe.
It IS an inspiring show, and yes – particularly for people involved in learning, like you are!! It really makes you think about the system within which learning takes place, and what learners *really* need. And that we get awesome, awesome bromance on top of that? GOLD. ❤
If you like campy done well, I vote that Fated to Love You is worth a shot then 🙂 When you’re finished with Autumn’s Concerto, put Fated To Love You in the same bucket with ISWAK/TKA. I watched more this weekend, I finished through Ep 9 and am ready for Ep 10, hehhe.. not yet halfway. The kids watched some with me and my daughter asked me, “does “shou” mean take”? I told her it means receive. Pretty good, eh? The kids really don’t get enough Mandarin exposure.. one day of drama immersion with Mommy and they’re already picking up words. (Plus I translate some stuff for them… like. tuo tuo la la, haha!)
I think love of the character development and chemistry can overcome the OTT portions… I’ve seen acting awards given out in Taiwan for those actors who can combine that OTT style with a strong ability to show emotion at the right times. I tolerate it for the emotional reward, I suppose… switching to kdrama you definitely get a more subtle style – less groaning, but as with any drama how much connection I have to it and how much love I have for it, how much I enjoy it while watching, is tied more to chemistry – between the characters, and between me and the characters, my mood, level of acceptance, level of tolerance. oh, I watched a little more of City Hunter also, still in the middle of Ep 1. 🙂 Good so far… very engaging.
You’re so right that there is much more subtlety in the acting with kdramas. That’s what I really appreciate, and therefore the lack of subtlety is precisely what trips me up the most, in terms of appreciating even a well-loved and widely recommended TW drama. And I have too many kdramas on my ever-growing watch list, that there’s not a lot of motivation for me to make time for the TW dramas. I’m making an exception by checking out Autumn’s Concerto, but I honestly can’t tell you how far I’m going to get with it. Let’s see how this little experiment turns out.
City Hunter’s an excellent watch, imo. The set-up in E1 is a little much and pretty out there, but once the set-up is done, it settles into a pretty cracktastic watch. Lee Min Ho’s best role that I’ve seen to date ^^
P.S. I should throw in that Corner With Love got around 3-5, and for reference the all-time-high ratings in Taiwan are on my list – 1. Fated to Love You with highest at 10.91 2. Autumn’s Concerto with highest at 7.76. But Fated to Love You (wonderful as it is) may fall into that campy category that you might not like. It’s really cute though 🙂
I’ll see how long I can hang in there – hopefully I start to feel differently about it soon-ish.. I do like campy done well, but it is quite difficult to pull off campy well, imo. As campy as things get, I like the acting to be done with a measure of subtlety amid the camp, to make the emotional core genuine and engaging, and that fine balance is hard to achieve. You’re Beautiful is a kdrama that I thought did campy well, & I ended up loving it. And Hana Kimi is a campy Jdrama that I genuinely love.
I think the OTT acting style is what trips me up the most, when I’m attempting a TW drama. Let’s see if Autumn’s Concerto will be the one to turn the tide ^^
The first 20 minutes. hm… that doesn’t cover a whole lot. There is some backstory that’s building. You’ll like it more after that, I think, once the main characters get together a bit. If the accents really bother you there’s not a lot you can do.. plus Vanness’ doesn’t speak as clearly (American born) and has a tendency to slur a bit hahah! I understand what you mean about accents… I get annoyed with foreign accents in English movies, too, LOL. Again it’s that thing where I can pronounce stuff, why can’t they? Well they just can’t… and I can’t act 🙂 There is some Taiwanese in the drama and more speaking in Mandarin with a Taiwanese accent so you’ll have to fight through those parts.. but the chemistry in the main characters may be enough to keep you. For me, I’m used to a Taiwan accent for Mandarin, so when I hear Cantonese people speaking Mandarin it sounds funny to me 🙂 It’s like listening to Jacky Cheung. His voice is so nice, but when I hear him sing something like 就 sounding more like jew than jiu, I remember he’s from HK 🙂 I can still understand but it does sound different.. the same with HK actors speaking Mandarin in Hollywood movies… since I don’t understand Cantonese or Taiwanese, those don’t bother me because I can’t tell. With Thai I will twist my face up into like whaaattt.. it’s like when people pronounce Pad Thai like a pad and paper and not “paht” LOL At least don’t pretend to know… hehe… and with Mandarin it just sounds different 🙂
I could do a mini-rant on how there are many other actors in the show who aren’t pronouncing the words properly (not because of slurring or accents, but just incorrectly), but I’ll control myself. I’ll just have to see whether I can get to a place where the story hooks me, coz I managed another 15 minutes last night, and I’m still not very engaged by the story or the characters. The overacting doesn’t help. But I will give it some more time, to see if I like it more.
I’m in the middle of Ep 2 and even me who is more used to it, has seen it several times and loves it, can still get quite annoyed at small things in it 🙂 I just let it slide, because every time I get to see sufficient chemistry and the honesty of feelings get portrayed, that other stuff all falls by the wayside and I appreciate and forgive. There is a nice build, but I would have to say that the latter half of the show is better than the first 5-7 eps. Major turning points are around there. Let me point you to the episode ratings – this shows that it just got better and better… http://wiki.d-addicts.com/Autumn's_Concerto#Episode_Ratings Not to mention that the ratings for most Taiwan dramas at the time were like 1-2-3, lucky if they hit 5-6. These are 7-8 which are way better 🙂 So hang in there long enough, if you can 🙂
I wasn’t expecting a review 🙂 Just wanted to share a well-done drama. The storyline may very well be sufficient for you to enjoy, if not, you have your list of kdramas anyway 🙂 The MR removed is usually a fan or anti-fan type thing, but I saw some YT clips where formal reviews were done of Kyuhyun and it just proves how awesome he is, as if people didn’t already know! Seems it’s done to the video post-production only and usually on live performances as recorded off TV/streaming. The goal is to hear the voices without the interference of music. In some cases it exposes how horrible a singer is, but I only choose ones where I have high expectations of how well they can sing already 🙂 It’s like having people sing in your living room live. Beautiful. My husband says I’m too critical of other singers, he won’t dare to sing a note in front of me… I have no idea how he sings… but I’m not critical of the general population, I just think it’s unfair that people make a career of it if they’re not that great.
Well, I checked out the first 20 minutes of Autumn’s Concerto last night, and.. it was hard for me 😛 I won’t throw in the towel just yet, I think I’ll give it at least the whole first ep. I’m feeling rather indifferent to the story so far, but I found the acting style, low production values and the all-over-the-place Mandarin accents very distracting.
I think this is an instance where one would probably enjoy the drama more NOT knowing Chinese, actually. Now I begin to empathize with bloggers who complain that some actors have terrible sageuk-speak. I couldn’t really tell so it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the show, but it really grated on people who could tell.
In the case of Autumn’s Concerto, I can understand having incidental characters break into speaking dialect, but I do find Vanness Wu’s clearly non-native Mandarin accent very distracting.
Let’s see if things turn around for me soon, coz if they don’t, I’m probably going to surrender 😛
Whoo hoo!! 🙂 Let me know what you think of it when you start squeezing it in… I’m really going to re-watch more tidbits in the coming weeks – yesterday I think I hit about 4, maybe 5-10 mins each, enough to trigger my memory so I could give a more honest opinion 😉 I’m super looking forward to your feedback. I’ve only seen Ady An in two things – I came to Autumn’s Concerto from the reviews and having seen her in Chinese Paladin. That’s the Chinese drama with Hu Ge that hubby watched and I got into and snuck off to Crunchyroll to see 🙂 I don’t remember it that well but I liked Ady’s character 🙂 Vanness Wu is Taiwanese-American and he was in the Taiwanese idol group F4 and thus acted in Meteor Garden (=Korea’s BOF)… precursor to Fahrenheit… these are the boy group types that are levels below Kpop groups because they don’t get the training and their live singing is more off 🙁 I wish I could enjoy live stuff more but the pitch problems (and other singing quality issues) bug me… I was actually looking for some MR removed stuff yesterday so I could hear SJ-KRY without the background stuff. So good 🙂 Maybe I’ll learn how to make those so I can hear their voices even more… perfection… (or nearly almost always perfection) I can tell who’s good without the MR removed anyway, hehe, but I love to hear the voices more. Sometimes the music just drowns it out too much. I think as long as the intention is appreciation MR removed is an OK thing. I won’t listen to it if I don’t think it’ll be pure to listen to.
I’ll probably check out Autumn’s Concerto soonish, and I’ll let you know when I do, but just to manage your expectations, even if I end up loving it, I will not be posting a review on it. I made a decision to have this blog purely focused on kdramas, so I don’t even cover k-movies. The one exception I’ve made was to accept DramaFever’s invitation to write about Barefoot Friends, and I posted the links on my blog under a general announcement sort of thing.
I didn’t know about the MR removed fad till you mentioned it – pretty interesting. Though I do think whatever vocals are left after removing the music have also been edited and possibly edited heavily. There’s a lot that a sound engineer can do, given time and budget 😉
WHOOPS. Sorry 🙁 I don’t really know anything about Won Bin!! Just the name in my head from other things I’ve read 🙁 Woo Bin, the tall one with an angular look 😉 I could do Chinese subs but I would have to pause too often to look up the stuff I don’t know 🙁 Maybe I won’t be able to make it through that one. Someday if my Korean’s better 🙂 Given our similarity in drama taste, I won’t watch AGD then, the first bits really weren’t to my liking so I stopped after only about 5-10 minutes… wasn’t attracted to the guys, felt they were idiotic and stereotypical men that women wouldn’t like. 🙂
Another Taiwan drama I put on my favorites list is also an Ariel Lin drama… a 30-something girl who can’t realize she’s in love with her best friend who’s been in love with her since FOREVER and does everything for her without her knowing it. In some ways the ideal guy but he’s a wimp!! Some overacting in it but it’s in character 🙂 The actress is very calm and down to earth, so you can feel it’s an act 😉 If you finish ISWAK and TKA someday, you can try this one. Not urgent 🙂 maybe if you’re in the sort of mood for feeling frustrated, haha! I think I liked it because of how the friendship stood the test of time in the end and she learned what was good for her. The thing is, the passion was lacking from her perspective so it was sort of depressing in a way… maybe I will have to remove it from my favorites list someday to keep the list shorter 😀
LOL! If you’re new to kdrama, it makes sense that you may not know Won Bin. He appeared in older kdramas (he was 2nd lead in Autumn in my Heart, a classic kdrama), but has since moved on to movies. He’s considered a pretty big movie star. His role in Ahjusshi (also known as The Man From Nowhere) was critically acclaimed. Here he is, in that role: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/08/Won_Bin_LG.jpg
Personally, I don’t think you’re missing much by choosing not to watch AGD. Maybe sometime, when you feel like a fluffy no-brainer sort of show you can consider it again.
I think I’ll stick with your recommendation of Autumn’s Concerto, followed by ISWAK & TKA.. I consume about 98% kdrama, with 1% for some k-variety, and 1% for “other” dramas. So far, that has meant the occasional J-drama. That 1% of my time is going to now be shared with these TW dramas that you so highly recommend, so.. not a lot of space there, LOL! XD There’s a reason my handle is kfangurl, y’know 😉
I don’t remember seeing Won Bin in TTBY! Hmm… I’ll have to go back and look 🙂 I know I thought he was strange looking before but he’s actually kind of that tall and adorable unique looking guy. This drama definitely helped me like him. He’d make a great romantic vampire, hmm… Ok. I’ll put that on my to-see list if you recommend it.
I started A Gentleman’s Dignity but I couldn’t get past the first half of the first episode. Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood or the story just started too slowly. Or I just wasn’t into the guys enough. 🙂 Or maybe I just didn’t want to watch 30-40 somethings kind of stories. how would you rate it, should I leave it on my list to see? I doubt I’ll go back to it though. I also started Rooftop Prince once but ran out of time and forgot to go back and try it. That got good rom-com ratings. I haven’t read your review on it yet because I’m thinking I’ll watch it eventually 🙂
Um. I think you mean Woo Bin, not Won Bin! XD Won Bin’s also very good-looking, but he’s a completely different person. 😉 And yes, Kim Woo Bin has features that are perfect to play an alien or a vampire. Vampire Idol is campy and nonsensical, & I’m mostly watching it out of Kim Woo Bin love <3 He only really broke through to brilliant acting levels in School 2013, so he's still kinda raw and unpolished in Vampire Idol. It's fun for a bit of cute and campy, but the episode count got sliced in almost half due to low ratings, and I'm told the story ends rather abruptly. Another barrier is that there are no English subs for it, so I'm watching it with Chinese subs. If you're able to read Chinese subs, and are up for some nonsensical campy fun, then yes, Vampire Idol would fit the bill quite nicely ^^
As for A Gentleman's Dignity, there are quite a lot of people who love it. I'm not one of them, though. I thought it was harmless, almost mindless entertainment for the most part, but I definitely didn't love it the way other people did. If you have limited drama hours, I'd rather you spent those hours on something more worthwhile (though there ARE people who would argue – quite strongly too – that AGD is VERY worthwhile).
On the other hand, a lot of people felt rather let-down by Rooftop Prince, but I genuinely enjoyed it. So this is a case of when my taste bucks the general trend.
Haha, I looked it up and Woo Bin is in Ep 9-10. I watched a bit, NOW I remember!! hehehehe… and it’s funny how he towers over Minho… hehe… re: Won Bin, I’ll have to do some research… do you have any strong recommendation on dramas (many years old is fine) that he was in, or a movie, that you preferred? 🙂 (even from the ones you already mentioned, I’m looking for a starting point)
Kim Woo Bin is 6’2, so he’d tower over almost everyone, I’d imagine! ;D Minho’s no shortie, so it IS very amusing when he gets dwarfed by KWB! Ok, that’s my bias talking, heh.
I realize I haven’t seen all that much of Won Bin’s work. Plus, what I have seen doesn’t fit your tastes very well. Autumn in my Heart is one of the weepiest melos on the kdrama landscape. Not the weepiest one, but it ranks high up there for sure. I hated it on first watch coz I was in rom-com mode at the time. I liked it a lot better on my 2nd watch, after gaining many more kdrama miles under my belt.
Man from Nowhere is very gritty and bloody and violent. And we know how you feel about that! The only reason I checked it out was because it was so highly acclaimed.. I wanted to see what the fuss was about. Now that I’ve seen it, I get it, but.. I wouldn’t watch it again either.
So.. long story short.. maybe you can temporarily shelve the thought of checking out Won Bin’s works until your tastes evolve or the right mood strikes 😉
Agreed – this is definitely worth a re-watch at some point! The amazing character development that you can get in dramas of a reasonable length is why I love dramas and less-so some movies that just don’t have room for them (or dramas that are stupid and don’t have hardly any character development). I just happened to pick this one, although I recognized Lee Jong Suk from Secret Garden after I started watching. I hadn’t seen Won Bin before – I’m impressed with their chemistry on screen 🙂
I feel the same way about dramas vs movies!! I rarely watch movies now, and when I do, I often feel the character & relationship development arcs are rushed. I know it’s probably coz I’m coming from such a drama-heavy diet, where we get so much more time with the characters, and growth can be teased out slowly, in a way that’s much more organic and believable. It’s a much bigger time investment, but the emotional pay-off, when the drama is done well, is so much more satisfying ^^
Like you, I only took real notice of Lee Jong Suk and Kim Woo Bin after watching School 2013. I didn’t even recognize Lee Jong Suk from his role in SeGa, even though I’d watched SeGa! I remembered Kim Woo Bin from his extended cameo in TTBY (you would’ve seen him there, then! He was Sulli’s friend, competing for her affections with Minho?), and his supporting role in A Gentleman’s Dignity, but it was only here that he – and Lee Jong Suk – completely blew me away. I am so impressed with their performances here, seriously. And uh, I’ve now also officially fallen head over heels for Kim Woo Bin; I’m even watching Vampire Idol coz he’s in it! XD
omg. YES. I can’t say anything else after this incredible, amazing and thorough review. Except that… I really appreciated this drama’s tender portrayals. It was like crying while peeling an onion. 🙂
I’m so glad you enjoyed the review, and SO glad that you loved the show!! The show’s not big budget nor glossy, but the relationships it portrays are what really hooks you, and makes it so special <3 <3
Even after finishing my watch, AND finishing the writing of this review (which afforded me a lot more time with the characters), this show continued to linger with me, particularly in the bromance department. I just didn't feel like watching anything else, for a while. Nam Soon and Heung Soo had me by the heart, I tell ya. I'm already planning a re-watch with a friend, so that I can savor the bromance all over again. So, so good! <3 <3 <3
So am I the 1000th comment??? What do I get?
BWAHAHAHA!!! I can’t believe you actually came on over just to snag the (dubious?) honor of being the 1,000th comment! XD And yes, you ARE the 1,000th comment! Hm.. I’ll give you Woobie dibs on this site for the next 24 hours. That, or you could exchange that for lifetime VIP status on the blog! Take yer pick! 😀
Btw, I did notice how you chose to be mariNOONA while commenting on this post (which is admittedly, full of Woobie) instead of mawiie.. Is the noona status settling, or something? ;D
LOL! I did not purposely choose marinoona to post, it’s just that I accidently logged on my non-blogger wp account :p but I guess it’s my noona destiny D:
BTW I choose the VIP status (does it come with abs? Or something) because why have dips on Woo Bin on your blog when I have priority in ‘real life’ :p
It’s a sign, mawiie. It’s a noona sign XD And it’s ok, you can stake your claim in the Woobie line in RL.. I have him climbing through my window in my dreams. I’ll take that over joining a line any day! ;D
And yes, VIP status comes with free abs and other delicious body parts.. You also get a personalized twitter alert for every k-love confession post 😉
Another good one and you covered all the best bits, save for The Other Bromance, which I ended up being quite invested in because it was so unexpected. 🙂 Especially as in the end there was this sort of an OTP5, LOL!
Other than that you probably know my ‘feels’ for this drama. I didn’t fall for the characters in the epic way I did for the SUFBB kids but I do love these Shool 3013 young ‘uns quite a bit too.
The OTP5!!! Yes, I thought they were hilarious and rather sweet too!! I think I was so bowled over by the main bromance between Heung Soo and Nam Soon that I completely forgot to give the OTP5 some love! XD
I thought it was really cute that Ji Hoon & Yi Kyung kept going to Heung Soo and Nam Soon for help with Jung Ho, like it was the most natural thing in the world – never mind that Jung Ho had been so mean to all 4 of them. And I loved that Heung Soo and Nam Soon responded to that without holding grudges. And that scene of Heung Soo & Nam Soon looking on with bemused helplessness, while the other 3 slept in Nam Soon’s house – simply priceless. Heung Soo and Nam Soon were like hapless parents to the 3, which totally tickled my funny bone! XD
I really, really loved SUFBB (A LOT) and yet somehow, I am smitten with the Heung Soo-Nam Soon bromance in the most epic, overwhelming fashion. I’m actually surprised at how MUCH I love them. <3 <3
The thing with SUFBB is that I loved the kids collectively, none of them nor any pairing was above anyone else. 😉
Yup, Nam Soon & Heung Soo ending up as some sort of pseudo parents for the other 3 did make me grin like a loon too. Priceless, as you said.
That’s a great point, Timescout! I loved the kids in SUFBB collectively too! The group bromance was the best I’ve seen, group-wise. In School 2013, it’s the best bromantic pair I’ve seen. Yay. Now it’s all reconciled in my head, why each show rawks in its own unique way! 😀
I’m SO going to re-watch this show – & SUFBB too! – after giving it a while to freshen up <3 <3 <3
Aw! What a lovely and fabulous review!!! I love how much you focused on the fantabulous bromance ^_^ I know that they have been friends for a while as they both model – and that this show cemented them being besties! And Kim Woo Bin…I totally second you on the fangirling!
Aw, THANKS, dear chingu!! I’m so glad you enjoyed the review!! 😀
And yes, the bromance is superlatively and unequivocally the BEST bromance I’ve had the pleasure to experience on my screen. SOOO much intense emotional goodness! <3 How much do I love that they've become besties in real life?!? At least we'll get to see the continued bromantic banter in real life, which is a bonus that I couldn't have dreamed of asking for! ^^
And oh, Kim Woo Bin!! He was so nuanced and masterful in this role. And his screen presence! It's SO strong & magnetic! I practically gasped out loud the moment he appeared on screen! I liked him before, but his Heung Soo turned me into a full-on fan!! 😀
Indeed. I think what I love best about about good casting is that you can’t manufacture great chemistry. The script and direction can be mediocre, but if there is fabulous chemistry, the show can still be incredibly memorable.
There was this really funny variety show piece they were on, and they were being all bromantic for the camera. It was adorable!. I love those two! And I totally agree with you that the bromance was better than any romance. I felt so much more invested than I often do for romantic couples in dramas.
I felt the exact same way about the bromance!! WAY more invested in and addicted to their story than many a romantic love line that I’ve encountered. There’s something larger-than-life about their intense, overt bromantic love that just completely sucks me in. I’d be happy to be the proverbial fly on their walls for an indefinite period of time, just watching them bicker, play and horse-around and be completely adorable together <3 <3
I so agree that their chemistry is fabulous! Definitely not something that can be manufactured! I love them separately, but together, it's chemistry magic!! I watched several clips of them in interviews, and even a bit of their Running Man appearance, and they are SOOO adorable together! And I LOVE that they're not embarrassed about it and don't mind playing it up for the camera a bit. Like that little moment in the Special, where Jang Na Ra says that she thinks Heung Soo & Nam Soon really love each other, and Kim Woo Bin puts his hand on Lee Jung Suk's thigh in response. SO CUTE!!!! AHHHH!!! I can't get enough of them, seriously!!! <3 <3
Yes!!! That was the one!!! Omo! They make me laugh. I sort of wish this was FB and I could like your comment above ^^
*g* I’ll imagine that my comment got a like then! ;D I think WP has a thumbs-up and -down function that I could enable, but I didn’t think people would use it.. Hmm.. Time to rethink that decision, maybe? 😉
I just wanted you to know.. I’ve had SO much fun squeeing and spazzing with you today, that I now have this serious craving to go on YouTube and watch as many Kim Woo Bin-Lee Jung Suk clips as I can possibly get my hands on!! XD
Lol ^_^ I hope you find many to satiate the spazzing!
Me too!! Here’s a deal: If I find something really good, I’ll be sure to let you know!! 😀 Shared squee = best squee ^^
Lol – truth!
Lovely review! I teared up while reading just remembering some of the scenes you mention.
I so strongly agree that keeping the romance out was a really, really good choice — and I’m right there with you in being surprised that I was happy about that! 😉 But yes, a romance would have shifted the focus with the teachers and watered down their teaching commitment. I can easily see a romance blooming in the future — when they’re more sure of their abilities and such — but this wasn’t the time or place. (I think the chemistry between the two actors was really cleverly used to create that “parent” vibe you mentioned.)
And of course the bromance! That was pretty darn epic and, I’ll admit, a huge reason the show pulled me in and kept me in so strongly. (I also enjoyed the little mini-bromance between the three bullies as they shifted and grew — so much bromance to choose from!)
Thank you for the lovely trip down memory lane with your review, Kfangurl 😀
Oh, I totally didn’t think of that! YES! Now that you’ve planted the idea, I can TOTALLY see Se Chan and In Jae falling in love at some point in the future.. In another season, perhaps?? ;D And again, I hadn’t connected the thought that Daniel Choi’s romantic chemistry with Jang Na Ra had been harnessed and re-deployed in the parenting vibe. I mean, I totally saw the 2 things, but failed to connect the dots. Again, your thinking completes my thinking, BetsyHp! One day, we need to do some joint blogging, just to see what these thought babies look like when given proper room to grow!! 😀
And THE BROMANCE. OMG. I was completely and thoroughly blown away by how intense and epic it was! Even though I’d heard enough to go in expecting some robust bromance, Heung Soo and Nam Soon blew my socks off and then some! I LUFF THESE 2, SO MUCH!! <3 <3 I want to see multiple sequels of their lives together!! And definitely, the bromance with the 3 bullies was good stuff too.. I realize I failed to include it in my review, I was too busy drowning in the swoony goodness of Heung Soo & Nam Soon <3 <3
Multiple sequels would be awesome!! Is there a petition to sign? Because I would totally sign it. 😉 (They’ve been doing a lot of model work together since “School 2013” — maybe even some CF’s? Which… maybe a drama will follow? The actors are good enough they don’t even have to be the same characters — I’d watch them together in anything.)
Joint blogging would be so much fun! I have no idea how that happens technologically — but I bet it’d be a blast. 😀
Yes, I would TOTALLY watch them together in anything! Preferably something bromancey though, coz they have SO much built-in chemistry! <3 I'm watching them in interviews now on YT, and they are just so spazztastically adorable I just can't get enough of them!!! XD
I bet we would have a blast joint blogging! 😀 There's quite a lot of technology that can help us, which I'm discovering through my Barefoot thing, so we wouldn't be completely lost! ^^ First thing we need is an idea of what we want to focus on though! Let me know if an idea hits, aight?! My email's in the contact page 🙂
Oh yes, the bromance factor is a given! Like, it should just be assumed that, if it’s them, of course bromance is the point. 😉
Regarding joint blogging: I shall begin the pondering process… 😀
Hee! I just wanted to be sure that my wish for bromancey was indisputable, by whoever’s listening! XD I am stunned by how in love I am, with these 2!! And it’s not a I love this one, and I love that one too, sort of thing, which is my usual meaning when I say I’m in love with 2.. This time, I am literally in love with them together!! Oh, the feeeels! ~~~ I mean, you warned me about this show, but I’ve realized that nothing can properly prepare you for the magnitude of this fabulous bromance!! ^^
As for joint blogging, now that the seed’s been planted, I feel like I’m beginning to have baby ideas.. It’s still at a seedling sort of stage though. Let me chew on it some more! But yes, email me when you feel ready to chat! 😀
“I love that In Jae struggles to reconcile her philosophical, almost romantic notion of teaching and education with very real external pressures, and arrives at no easy answers. There is no sugar coating the truth.”
I was really glad that they kept this aspect of her character arc throughout the show because it’s so ‘real life’. She really had to work at it with no cure all magical solutions. I think everyone goes through that sort of reconciliation process at some point – I sure did anyways.
Heung Soo & Nam Soon. Ahhhhh I just loved them together. That brief smile they shared on the bus after out running the gangsters was just so fantastic even if it was fleeting <3 I could fangirl for hours about those two…
Yes, totally! I’m so impressed with the writers for managing to keep In Jae’s struggle real, yet make it really uplifting and inspiring. It just makes it feel so much more accessible, like you could reach out and touch it, if that makes sense.
And OMG Heung Soo & Nam Soon!!!!! <3 <3 <3 I seriously can't get enough of these 2 together, they are amazing and adorable and so wonderful together!! Every time I see a clip or still of them, I feel like rewatching the whole show, so that I can experience their bromantic love all over again! <3 <3 <3 A twitter friend said they should make College 2015, followed by MS 2018. I SO AGREE!!! I WOULD WATCH THAT SHOW!!! <3 <3
Loved this show…….so heart tugging…and poignant….with amazing bromance..
And Lee Jong Suk is simply awesome….his eyes speak so much..
Oh, I agree!! Lee Jong Suk delivers some AMAZING scenes, and yes, his eyes are SO expressive!! Loved him as Nam Soon!! <3 <3 LOVED the bromance, SO MUCH. I went in expecting good bromance, but I was completely blown away by the raw intensity of it all!
even I thought that it’s gonna be some fluffy, decorated high school story…..but was completely mesmerized and surprised by the closeness of the drama to reality…..
Right?!? I’d heard it was kinda gritty and true to life, but I still wasn’t at all prepared for how sucked in I got. Love this drama, LOVE Heung Soo & Nam Soon!! <3
I loved them as well…and I also liked the bromance between the trio of bully-turned-good guys 🙂
Oh yes, the bullies! I neglected to give the bullies’ bromance the spotlight in my review 😛 Yes, I did enjoy their bromance too.. Not as much as I was bowled over and melting at Heung Soo and Nam Soon, but I concede they were pretty heartwarming too ^^