I really liked this, guys. Like, in a I’m-sorry-to-see-it-end, I’d-love-to-catch-up-with-these-characters-again sort of way.
In a drama landscape where a lot of the lighter fare can feel tropey and sort of tired (from overuse of all the predictable tropes), Because It’s The First Time manages to achieve a lovely balance between showcasing a more realistic take on the growing up experience, while maintaining a sense of lightness and fun, through it all.
At just 8 episodes, this turned out to be quite the charming little drama snack. Yum.
STUFF I LIKED
To be honest, I had some initial difficulties adjusting to this show. I’d just come away from my watch of Sassy Go Go, and in that drama world, the kids had parents &/or teachers who were always there for them. This drama world felt rather cold and cruel in contrast, with 2.5 of the 5 friends at the center of our story having to fend for themselves, and only 1 out of the 5 being able to live comfortably without financial worry.
By episode 2, however, Show had overlaid all of those sober notes with a warmer, breezier sort of vibe, and I found myself falling in like with this show and its characters pretty darn quick.
Here’re my 3 favorite things about this mini drama.
1. Show’s overall vibe and tone
What I really like about Show’s tone is that it never shies away from the hard parts of growing up, but isn’t ever too morose about it either.
Our main characters have to deal with a variety of very real problems. We see them struggle to deal with financial difficulties, abandonment, and death of a loved one, over and on top of more typical young adult issues like finding and following one’s dreams, and figuring out one’s heart.
I like that in the course of living their lives, our characters are allowed to struggle and cry, and wrestle with their circumstances, thoughts and emotions. And I really like that through it all, none of them are ever allowed to wallow. After a bout of angst, even when they haven’t found the answers that they’re looking for, our characters regularly take time to smell the roses and savor the magic that they do have; their youth, and each other. I liked that a whole lot.
I found Show’s approach simple and heartfelt rather than gimmicky, and I found it easy to care about these characters. I never felt like they were being cute for the camera. Instead, I always felt like this was a bunch of friends just hanging out and trying to grow up, and that I just happened to be there for the ride.
The humor isn’t of the campy, OTT variety, and often hits just the right note of gently amusing for me. Add on the cheery color palette and the breezy soundtrack, and I was a happy camper indeed.
As a bonus, some of you might like to know that Show is pretty generous with the Pretty, and blithely serves up shirtless scenes for Minho and Lee Yi Kyung whenever the opportunity presents itself. 😉
One of my favorite things about Show’s tone, is that its issues are often so relatable and real.
Like how Tae Oh tells Song Yi in episode 6 that she should stop calling him, now that she’s dating Ji Ahn and he’s dating Se Hyun; that he’ll do his best to come if she calls, but if he’s with Se Hyun, that he can’t come to her.
It’s such a sobering and slightly sad sort of moment, and so very real. Defining and getting used to awkward new boundaries is exactly what friends need to contend with, when one or both start to date or decide to get married.
2. Likable cast
One of the things that really worked for me, is how likable the primary cast is.
As our primary circle of friends, Minho, Park So Dam, Kim Min Jae, Lee Yi Kyung and Jo Hye Jung display a comfortable, uninhibited, easy-going sort of group chemistry that feels natural and real. They genuinely looked like they enjoyed one another’s company and I found it really easy to believe that they were friends who’d spent large amounts of time together.
I found all the friends likable individually as well. Both Minho and Lee Yi Kyung are at their dorky, personable best, while Kim Min Jae shows more personality here than in Twenty Again. Jo Hye Jung is quirky and sweetly amicable, and Jung Yoo Jin (in a supporting romantic interest sort of role) is cool and chic with a touch of vulnerable. Very solidly decent performances across the board, I thought.
The stand-out among the cast for me, though, is Park So Dam. Her character Song Yi is an endearing mix of contradictions. She’s vulnerable yet strong, sassy yet equal parts sweet and shy, and Park So Dam delivers her with such a strong sense of matter-of-fact warmth and poignant depth that I couldn’t help but fall in love with her. <3
With such a likable cast of characters working to navigate the often bemusing and confusing firsts of young adulthood, I found it easy to empathize with them and root for them.
3. Fun cameos
Show’s serves up several fun little cameos, which I enjoyed for the novelty factor.
My favorite cameo is the joint one by Jung Kyung Ho and Yoon Hyun Min, who appear as a pair of cops in episode 2. I was quite thrilled to see them together, just being hammy dorks. Clearly, Show is savvy about how much loved this bromantic pairing is. I actually pressed rewind straightaway, just to watch their cameo a second time, heh.
Another cameo I really liked is the one by Yoona, who makes a surprise brief appearance in episode 1.
I was a touch disappointed that the cameos were limited to episodes 1 and 2, but I honestly didn’t really need more cameos. I felt enamored enough with our main cast to enjoy the show even without them.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Overall, I really liked the open-ended sort of ending that we got.
Because I always saw this as more of a story of growing up, than a story of romance, the ending actually sat really well with me.
It didn’t matter to me that Tae Oh didn’t try to work things out with Se Hyun and instead broke up with her. I always saw his crush on her as a fairly superficial one. More important than his rather misguided crush, was the fact that he finally connected his brain to his heart and realized his feelings for Song Yi. And even more important than that, is the fact that he chose to preserve and honor friendship and loyalty, rather than indulge his romantic feelings in a situation where it was inevitable that someone would get hurt.
Tae Oh’s decision, to enlist early, is a pretty solid one, when I think about it. Not only does it give him the space and distance to grapple with his own feelings and process them, it also gives Song Yi and Ji Ahn space to nurture their young relationship without having to worry about Tae Oh’s feelings.
As with almost all things, time heals, and things change. People grow and mature, and some relationships work out while others don’t. I’d like to think that regardless of what they encounter in life, that these friends – 5 years from now, or even 10, or 20 – will continue to love, accept and embrace one another; that while growing up and maturing in the midst of life, together, they will continue to find carefree moments of adventure and liberty.
Coz there’s nothing like finding something to enjoy in the now, while the now is here. Right? 🙂
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Charming, with just the right touch of lightly bittersweet.
FINAL GRADE: B+