Answer Me 1997 (The Review)

Answer Me 1997
(aka: Reply 1997)
air date: 7.24.2012 through 9.18.2012
number of eps: 16 (There’s 14 roughly 30 min episodes, with the final two stretched out to the full hour. So it’s actually shorter than what you’d expect from a 16 episode drama.)
I watched it: An incredibly disciplined marathon that did not involve staying up all night even though I really, really wanted to!! (Kind of proud of myself for that.) Then a re-watch with the husband.

In a nutshell: An explosion of nostalgia-laced awesomeness. We’re introduced to a group of friends at their 2012 class reunion and then flashback to their high-school days in 1997 (just like the title of this cartoon!) when they began the painful and hilarious (and sometimes painfully hilarious) transition from childhood to adulthood. Which actually nutshells the clever way the story is told. Instead of using over the top plot-twists to keep the story interesting, the drama uses the then-and-now tension to keep us interested in how these characters became who they are today compared to who they were as kids. So the narrative is the fresh-and-new inviting us to enjoy a plot that was, in many ways, as nostalgic as the setting.

But wait! There’s more: The characters are so well realized — written and acted — that I almost feel like even without the interesting story-telling methods, I would have loved this drama. I cared for each character and wanted them all to successfully navigate the emotional pitfalls of teenage life and find fulfillment. And then there are the adults. I loved them as well. Sung Shi-won’s parents, for example, were so quirky and cool and parental that I actually enjoyed getting flashbacks to their past or episodes where their story took center-stage — which isn’t always the case. This well-roundedness was especially cool with a character who could have easily slid into a “sassy-gay friend” role. (I won’t name him, because the reveal was too good to spoil.) But the depth he was given kept that from happening. He had the same kind of epic-crushes the other characters had and it was treated just as tenderly (humor and pain shaping him into the man he became) as it was with the other characters.

Even better if…: If I’d had anything like a normal high school experience, or if I was more familiar with the soundtrack and pop-culture of that era in S. Korea, I can only imagine how much more awesome Answer Me 1997 would have been. Visual and audio clues tipping me back into a different time when I was going through similar growing-pains… It’s no wonder this was such a runaway hit. But even without the cultural cues, I had plenty of moments when I remembered exactly what it felt like to feel that passionately and to have the future feel that wide open. Definitely a must-watch.

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