Answer Me 1997 S01E01-E16

No matter what the show is, unless I wrote the script myself, without interference, there’s always going to be something that just makes my skin itch. This show has it in spades, but despite that fact, I still enjoyed it, very much. Since I pretty much marathoned Answer Me 1997, rather than go with episode reactions, I’m just going to talk about the the show as a whole.

Initially I thought the greatest obstacle to a pleasant viewing experience was going to be the sound of the language. It can be a very hard sounding language with some interactions sounding more like a chorus of grunts and moans than the exchanges I hear everyday in the English-speaking environment in which I operate. I admit that it wasn’t anything I could simply ignore, but it wasn’t nearly the problem I thought it would be. What I actually had the most trouble with is something I’m not quite sure how to categorize.

I realize it isn’t something particular to Asian cultures, but I definitely see it more in their entertainment than anywhere else (although, Mediterranean cultures probably give them a run for their money). Contention, degradation, and general disregard for other people’s feelings as the bonding agent between people. The yelling, the screaming, the put-downs, and the complete dismissal of boundaries and personal space is suffocating and makes me cringe every time. During the second episode, I wondered if the show would continue on with the harsh words that continued to make me uncomfortable. If that was the case, I felt that it was going to be a very long 16 episodes. Someone living through that in an American household would probably have a 90% chance of developing self-esteem issues and a number of complexes. What it signifies in Asian cultures aside, it’s just hard for me to stomach thus making shows difficult to get through when it’s so pervasive. That said, I liked the show and would recommend it to anyone with a fondness for “then and now” storytelling.

I guess I should talk about the story a bit.

Answer Me 1997 is a 16-episode series told in flashback about a group of high school friends and how they navigated life from 1997 to 2012. Part drama, part comedy, part romance, and part suspense. From the beginning, it’s a game of “who ended up with who?” It is a well-planned production. Using dialogue, pacing and cinematography, the storytellers keep you guessing at every turn. This combined with a great plot created a wonderful adventure that nearly overshadowed all of the things that I didn’t like about  the series.

As viewing experiences go, it was quite the roller coaster ride. Sometimes the acting was good, sometimes the acting was enh or over-the-top. Emotionally, my heart rose and sank so many times; I often found myself at a loss. There were times when great dialogue would be served with a side of bad comedy and then chased by harsh and uncomfortable family interactions. One minute I would be enjoying every bit and the next I’d feel exhausted or like I got the wind knocked out of me. I’ve never endured a show like it.

Now, my thoughts and reactions to some of the things that took place. 

  • I cracked up at Yoon Jae’s bootleg birthday gifts. It’s so sad how he was so proud to don them only to realize that they weren’t quite what they should have been. I also liked that they poked fun at their country’s counterfeit industry’s knack for continuously producing these obvious fakes.
  • At first I thought Shi Won’s mother was funny, being somewhat cavalier about things, but, after a while, it felt like something else… Completely dismissive of her child running away, but could turn around and chastise her husband for being so harsh to their daughter. I wasn’t sure what to expect.
  • I thought is was strange that Yoon Jae and Tae Woong lived together, but Tae Woong didn’t know that Yoon Jae was the class president. Then, when I found out they were brothers, it made even less sense.
  • What the heck was up with Yoon Jae’s persistent erection? What I mean is, he said there’s a surgery that only a man could get… but what is it? I don’t get what caused it or what type of surgery he needed because of it. While I’m on this topic… I was so maaaaaad at Shi Won’s mother for telling anyone about his surgery! How can you not realize it would be embarrassing? This fits in with the general disregard for other people’s feelings.
  • I liked the opening song and montage.
  • Tae Woong was gorgeous.
  • Sung Jae, the talkative guy that sat behind Yoon Jae, was annoying. Too clingy!
  • On his wall, Yoon Jae had a picture of Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan in their uniforms. That brought back a lot of great memories for me.
  • The “fight” between Yoo Jung and Shi Won is well beyond my fangirl vocab. I don’t get not being able to tell your friend that you like a different band. What is that?
  • Shi Won’s dad did her homework. What is that?
  • Shi Won tried bargaining for a pair of jeans and wanted them as an incentive to study. Shouldn’t that have been the other way around?
  • Shi Won was too whiny and selfish and her dad is just too much, but then they threw in the cancer diagnosis to coax you into feeling something for them. I was not convinced.
  • Tae Woong’s “pep talks” were the worst things I’ve ever heard a teacher say. I’m glad there was a “but.”
  • Because she’s pretty? It’s kind of shallow. I think Joon Hee’s assumption as to why Yoon Jae loved Shi Won was so much better.
  • They totally cheated. Joon Hee’s confession shouldn’t have been turned into a joke. He and Yoon Jae are supposed to be best friends. Why is Yoon Jae unable to tell when his friend is serious. It’s this kind of crap that ruins it for me. Joon Hee was brave enough to finally say it, it’s not fair to dismiss it. My feelings were hurt.
  • I felt so bad for Yoo Jung; there is no way to fully recover from “she’s just a girl I know.”
  • Yoon Jae’s voice? So beautiful!
  • I love that Extreme’s More Than Words was playing during Joon Hee’s “I’m moving out” speech/babble fest. Really good soundtrack all the way round.
  • The Yoon brothers have my phone! And I saw a commercial for it with Hoya/Joon Hee!
  • So Yoon Jae and Shi Won finally got together. I’m glad it was her asking him the second time around rather than some face-off  between the brothers. If she wanted Yoon Jae, that’s fine, but I don’t think he deserved her; he made little to no attempts and he gave her up for his brother. I would have preferred for Tae Woong and Shi Won to end up together and maybe Yoon Jae and Joon Hee, or maybe not.

There were many moments I thought to myself, “I think I’m too old for this show,” but I kept watching. Well, to be honest, even when I was younger my tolerance for silliness and over-the-top antics was extremely low. Somehow, so many things came together and balanced themselves in such a way that my final vote on this show is an enthusiastic thumbs up!

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