Ahhh! I am upside down on this roller coaster of emotions. Which can only mean one thing? I doth finished School 2013: the pains, the gains!, and what the neighbors thought edition. School 2013 went a really interesting route by pretty much solely focusing on the bonds of high school friendship, with perhaps the least emphasis on romance I have seen in a drama yet. (Is that a Top 5 I smell? Mmmm..) But really it made this show all the more special.*
Also. THIS DRAMA CHANGES EVERYTHING. Seriously folks, how many top 5 lists are now ruined by my lack of School 2013’s inclusion. Why didn’t y’all tell me?!? Let’s see we’ll start with the obvious: Best Alt-couple, which honestly could be made up of 5 pairings from this drama alone and I’d be satisfied. Second is Soccer in K-Dramas. Why did I include stupid Boys over Flowers pandering to their viewers with soccer shorts, when I could have had Kim Woo Bin–Lee Jong Suk angsty tension over the sport that led to dashed dreams and broken hearts. Seriously even saying the word “soccer” created an almost pavlovian response of ill from our two leads. My bad you guys… Even my favorite usage of English songs list should undergo construction for the lack of “Happy Together” School 2013 edition, which used several remixed versions to great effect in the 1st half of the drama. Now does this mean I will retroactively change these lists? BAHAHAHA #way2lazy. But consider this my apology for it’s lack of representation. Sounds like I need to go back to school to learn how to make these lists correctly. Daniel Choi will be my teacher in life and love right!?
*And also, I would argue more realistic. This is obviously coming from my own personal experience but during those years we may have had our first whiff of guy craziness, but the bond of friendship was oh so much more influential than any high school crushes, dates, or boy/girlfriends. This seemed pretty universal for the school. Then again, my school was designed by an architect who previously created prison blueprints, so we all might have gone a little mad from the lack of windows.
I watched this after Queen’s Classroom, an amazing drama that is really similar, except: replace high with middle, two yin and yang teachers for one
nanny teacher McFee, 100% less post-puberty hombres guapos, and 75% more cuteness overload and the equation is now balanced/they are the same show. Because of this, I was very acclimated to the format, which probably took some wind out of its [S-13’s] sails in the middle episodes.
But part of the brilliance of this structure is that all the pain, angst, lies, bitchery, mistakes, misunderstandings, damage to ones person, suicide attempts, tears, and heartbreak that occurs over the first 3/4 of both shows lead to some fantastic payoffs and an amazing finish. The structure is actually comically simple. All you need is a little reverse engineering to have your end result (bad news for character X) occurs due a lead up of 1-2 cause and effects performed by various characters. Which would grow tiresome at times, because you knew if one scene seemed out of place or random, you knew it would lead to a character revelation or misunderstanding in due time. But seriously though, perfect endings are hard to come by, especially in dramaland-thy-name-is-live-shoot. Something about this classroom format builds to a final act that becomes powerful, emotional, and simultaneously conclusive, yet open-ended. The school year may be over but your life is just beginning, which is a rather magnificent note to go out on. Seemingly, this could only occur in situations such as a teen/school format. Have I finally cracked the code as to why high school dramas are so freakin’ popular?? Damn, all those nights pouring over an equation board were for nought.
But instead heaping praise on the handling of Oh Jung Ho’s bittersweet fate, or providing a critical analysis on the bigger questions S-13 raised dealing with the purpose of learning, and the flaws of the Korean school system. Let’s talk about lenseless glasses.
You see there was a time when I was blissfully unaware that actors would be sporting only the frames of the glasses due to glare. Now that state of ignorance is forever broken. Thanks Daniel Choi.
I mean why must the show have so many close-ups featuring said spectacles which perfectly fit the contours of your genetically gifted face? Why did you give me ample time to come out of my Choi trance long enough to notice something off with those glasses? Where truth was finally dawned on as I had flashbacks to my youth, where all I wanted was braces and glasses to fit-in / be cool (yep I went to Bizzaro Elementary), so I bought fake ones to be like, ” hey my teeth may be weirdly straight but look at this proof of bad eyesight! Sooo can I play four square now?”
Since I’m already on this Daniel Choi train, let’s continue with his amazing fashion sense. Se-Chan’s sweater-vest combos were simple, consistent, and effective. Meanwhile Miss wears-shag-carpeting-to-school was very much like her clothing…
Sometimes it works, and sometimes In-Jae (Jang Na-Ra) was a bit too much. Acted wonderfully, but I’m always at a cross roads when it comes to “freedom writer” teacher portrayals. Shows oft portray them as the guiding lights for how all teachers should be: students emotions above all else including required curriculum and a personal life. Teaching isn’t a one size fits all model. This isn’t to say teachers shouldn’t be empathetic or be passive with their students, but a combination of the Se-Chan and In-Jae teaching philosophies would seem the best path IMO. (Passing the test and being emotionally prepared to handle the next step are more connected than one might think.) This drama did a fine job of showing the merits and downfalls of both methods for the most part; the show tipping its hand as to which side of the teaching divide it was on remained my only negative from the final episodes.
Guys I became serious again, what is this drama doing to me! The ecosystem of this drama is so complex, I’m really trying to refrain from breaking it all down, but I find myself on the losing side! Ahh! Okay, back to snarky, superficial reality. Let’s rank all the pairings ummmkkk?
Top 5ish pairings:
6. The Odd Couple (Min Ki and Young-Woo)
Only had a few scenes together, but they made it count.
5. Frozen in live-action teenage form. (Ha-kyung and Gang-Joo)
I’m serious! GJ is super chill and wants everybody to get along. While Ha-Kyung is sort of an ice-queen. Which isn’t necessarily an awful thing…(foreshadow foreshadow)
4. Cell Phone Sisters (Na-Ri and Hye-Sun)
I may have cried the hardest with their story. One because it was so unexpected (all the other stories were plotted from the get-go). And two because my high school self was most akin to Na-Ri aka brain tumor. She also of a procrastinating introvert who tends to space out and say weird things. (Though besides the graphing calculator I forgot to give back in 10th grade, I had 100% less stealing of electronic devices.)
3. The Beastie bestie boys (Ji Hoon and Yi-Kyung)
Their friendship was so touching, through thick and thin they were always there for one an other. Plus they got part time jobs to save Jung-Ho’s family heirloom. That’s hard to beat…
2. Unless your the most adorable teaching duo of all-time (Se-Chan and In-Jae)
I’m mean come on.. Now that I know they previously starred in Baby-Faced Beauty, guess what drama I’m watching next.
1. You are My Destiny (Nam-Soon and Heung-Soo)
So much pretty. So many feelz. Adore.
Honorable Mention: Newly formed F5 (pairs 1 and 3+ Jung Ho)
Having seemingly dissimilar groups come together as one goes on Muenchabench’s favorite things list. So everything about this band of misfits is just plain ole winning.
Now many Viki commenters were quite vocal with their disdain for “ice queen” Ha Kyung. She is a hard character to embrace, and she certainly wasn’t my favorite, but over the course of the drama I realized something. Ha-Kyung is basically the chaebol archetype in female form.
Exhibit A. She comes from a rich family with crazy expectations.
Exhibit B. She is cold, calculating, and strives to be better then the competition.
Exhibit C. She doesn’t quite understand the people “beneath her”, but slowly learns to be more accepting of others.
Exhibit D. All the pressures of upholding the family name eventually catch up to her.
Exhibit E. As she slowly changes her ways, she wields her power for good.
Exhibit F. But remains a person of business. Tough, but fair.
So maybe we should cut her some slack, because she really is just like your garden variety male chaebol next door, and we all love those guys right? Plus, she very well could be in charge of the corporation you work for in the future, so best start making amends before she fires your ass.
The Longest list of not at all quick hits:
*Dani needs to go. Usually I love spurts of English in dramas, but when a native English speaker is speaking them in the midst of all the Korean? Yeesh. Becomes the equivalent of an untuned clarinet as played by a novice during a symphony. Noticed how she became less of a presence, and was shockingly not one of the students given a subplot by series end. Props writers.
* Really appreciated mise on scene of the classrooms. Everything from the various notes to toothbrushes added verisimilitude to the show.
*I know I say this every time but Daniel Oppa might be it for me. Expressive eyes..his speech pattern…dos lips tho… but shiza I can’t leave My Woo-Binny! He plays soccer (in dramas), has abnormally good looks and can actually act. Ugh I be flippy floppy like yesterdays beach shoes.
*Yay for no EVILL bad guys. Perhaps this is one reason why it reminded me of a sober Miyazaki film; any “antagonist” was pretty much shown through character shadings or backstory to not really be EVVILLL, just slightly messed up. So basically, human.
*That said, the bitchy bitch (below) who refused to tell the truth in the final episodes to save Jung Ho, I actually kind of appreciated. Not every single person who is “troubled” or mean can be chalked up to receiving abuse and/or parental problems. Sometimes people can be awful because people do awful things sometimes. What doesn’t make her EVVILL is that she explained herself, she really wants to go to a good college, and is basically indifferent to everything else. Does that make her an despicable human being? I would say no, though as we were shown, her life plan led her to-do horrible things to a guy trying to change. Just food for thought.
*Did someone say food? Because this drama sure did. I love how warm food or a hot beverage became a symbol for safety, connection, and caring. From the cafeteria arrangements, to In-Jae solving crisis with calories, to this quote said from Teacher Choi to Jung Ho, in what was the emotional climax of the finale/series:
Okay, perhaps not the most eloquent saying taken out of context, but it sure did a number on me. This next one though is a little more poignant. With Nam-Soon answering why Jung-Ho should bother coming to school.
Deep Nam-Soon, deep. And yet another reason why high school is primo drama material. I’m learning so much.
*Totally watched both The Sandlot and Sunny over the course of this drama. Because friendship.
*Probably the drama I would most want to learn Korean for. There was always extra happenings/easter eggs going on behind the wide-angle shot of the featured conversation. Whether it was kids hanging out of classroom windows in the hall, clique shenanigans during study hall, or the lovely details that decorated every room, I’d find myself shaking my fist at the blasted subtitles forcing my attention south.
*Live shoot possibilities: You don’t know how much I regret saying this, but if there was ever a drama whose structure benefitted from live shoot….reasons are two fold, the drama is plot-less enough, that its fairly easy to concoct conflict and story. So having a creative flow combined with netizen opinion (as opposed to creating the series in the dark), led to it’s foundation for platonic connections that worked so well.
* Remember the gym scene where everyone is paired off for some hybrid dodgeball? Well I feel it was basically a meta take on this show as a whole. Notice how one teacher suggests co-ed (i.e. loveline) pairings, before it’s decided gender pairs would work best. I mean it might have been done because all the main pairings were single gender already, so boy-girl partners wouldn’t make much sense from the show’s standpoint, but i’m sticking with meta and no one can stop me.
*How were afternoon classes always canceled?(Or taken over by impromptu gym bonding sessions) I went to a public American high-school (so less rigor, more clubs), and the only times we had classes canceled were for a “Blow Day” (windy blizzard), bomb/shooting threats (which sounds intense but was usually caused by some kid shooting a pumpkin with an air soft gun), the occasional bear siting, and 4/20 aka senior ditch day (this was in Colorado after all). Now all I’m thinking is, what must be running in all of your imaginations as to what my school was like.
*Also, was very confused with what class was happening at a specific moment. Or if the specific teacher was teaching homeroom, literature, or night school overseeing. So whenever Teacher A or B was threatening to quit/be fired I was all “does that mean just homeroom?” “Is Lit/Korean/English included in this?” “Why can you leave the classroom so often?!?”
*One other slight point of contention. I don’t recall a single decent parent of the whole bunch. I realize this is a commonality (self promotion!) of most high school or children’s fictional content, but it’s still sad. Queen’s Classroom had shown Ha-Na’s mom be a pleasant presence in her life, and I still feel plenty of drama can be culled even if you have an everyday average parent once in a while. Alas, was not to be this time round.
*And I can’t end without discussing how saekki also known as “bastard” is pretty much engrained in my brain. I get it, these two
love birds manly men pretend to hate each other, have some crazy repressed emotions, and probably wouldn’t feel comfortable saying, “I miss you” and “you broke my heart” without adding some sort of epithet at the end because you know, bros. But oh my I got so sick of that word, even if it sounds better in Korean as said by KWB. Though I did appreciate when they got creative with their PG-12 swearing. I believe “Pitiful Bastard” was uttered on occasion, which is now the name for my new Alt-rock band.
*Veep examples. If ever S-13 is adapted into a movie, the screenwriters would be wise to take notes from the following Veep gifs, which takes the art of put-downs to a whole new level. (NSFW. Yee be cursing ahead!)
*For most of the drama, I really tried to stick with the intention that NS and HS are just really good friends. (Though I secretly wished they became the best couple ever.) Because two guys should be able to have such a close relationship without randows making snide comments about their sexuality. (Seems a double standard that women don’t have a similar predicament btw). But then they had to have a pillow fight which was reminiscent of a certain baking scene in Fried Green Tomatoes. From that scene, Scene It (you guys remember that game?! To this day my #1 DVD film trivia board game), indicated the clip represents a love scene between the two female leads. Hence I give you, pillow fight maximus. #letstalkaboutsexeuphamisms
If that wasn’t enough, the clincher for me was the episode 15 stairs exchange with Kim Woo Bin, er Heung Soo helping the injured female chaebol down the stairs. Then wouldn’t you know it, he runs into LJS, and what follows basically amounts to, “it’s not what it looks like, I only have eyes for you and your cute eye mole.” Love is love, and these characters have it for each other.
*Like I totally know I did not give enough words/pictures to the great ship Nam-Soon/Heung Soo, but considering I wouldn’t be treading any new ground there, we all agree this “review” is long and meandering enough, and this couple basically broke tumbler anyways. So I don’t feel too bad. But here are a couple of classic photos regardless. Why is there no season two again?!?
*This review was so abnormally long and I didn’t even discuss everything! (Sorry Uhm Force) My apologies for the gross amount of words but I can promise with certainty the next review won’t be term paper length. (Also because I have no idea what to write about.)
My Weird List of Drama Commonalities:
|Bromance||fab four||Soundtrack!||romance light|
|opening cred.||let’s get political||soccer||introverts unite!|
|Friends: endangered species||nickname – brain tumor||perfect ending||#skinning|
My Personal Rating/Overall Quality:
8 daytime toothbrushes/9 ramyun dates