Q3 Pitstop: The Kdramas of 2016

Age of Youth
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The gist

This drama is about five young female housemates with different backgrounds and personalities, as they navigate through their lives and loves.

The good

– The lovable ensemble. It was easy for me to connect with these five women, because each of their very different personalities is imperfect and relatable – no matter how frustrating they can get sometimes. It’s enjoyable to watch them grow as individuals and as a sisterhood, which on a personal note reminded me of my own experience living with strangers-turned-friends. The actresses did an awesome job bringing their respective characters to life, and I was invested in them even though I know very little-to-none of their previous works. Everyone was great, but favorites on the show were Park Eun-bin and Han Ye-ri, who were charismatic at a different level, representing the high and low points of each episode.

Also, five heroines brought the promise of multiple ships. Woohoo! Despite limited screen time, this drama gave me the sweetest couples that made my heart flutter.

– The realities of life. The good thing about being on cable is that a show is bolder to explore the boundaries of what it can air. Still maintaining a “15 and up” age restriction like the rest of the dramas, Age of Youth took on subjects that are very much present and relevant in the real world but rarely shown in youth dramas – like misogyny, abuse, etc. If there were any of these in other dramas, they’re often overly dramatized and out of touch. This show, however, let these themes naturally flow into the story and grab your attention at the perfect time with a unique style that doesn’t sugarcoat nor go over-the-top.

Even on its lighter fare – the language, humor, and tiny details – the script made these girls’ everyday lives more realistic. The dirty jokes and the casual unhooking of one’s bra at home were examples of subtle additions that made me feel closer to these women.

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The bad

– The loose ends. As much as I love the show’s writing and how the story ended, I had hoped it would flesh out one of its most interesting characters, who was instrumental as an enabler but was a mystery in terms of her own background and motivations. There were also some hints that were not wrapped up in the end. I guess that’s what they call keeping things fluid and open-ended like real life, but I dunno; it just bugged me.

– The penchant for dark thoughts and dark themes. While we call this drama realistic, it’s also quite odd that somehow ALL of the characters have dark sides that were a couple of notches graver than what you’d expect, even for this kind of show. You’d almost want all of these women to get some counseling with what they went through. It doesn’t go the makjang route for sure, and the treatment was well-done; but then sometimes I wonder – they only got 12 episodes to run, why dedicate precious screen time on these?


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The verdict

Age of Youth went from zero to my number 1 hero very quickly, and this drama may just be the biggest surprise of the year. It’ll always have a special place in my heart, as it struck something that no other drama has ever done before. No A-listers, no splashy promos, no grand fan service – just straight-up storytelling and poignant themes to hit you at the heart.  It wasn’t the fluffy, all-pink-and-pretty show I was expecting but it gave me something much, MUCH better. It’s a real and refreshing depiction of a very special time in one’s life, and I’m happy to see it through the eyes of young women. I can’t help but feel proud that an all-female lead ensemble is given a chance to shine and create onscreen magic. I’m pretty sure even men can appreciate this drama, because it’s not just about girls and their girl-problems in girl-world – it’s about the struggles of ordinary young adults facing different realities and finding sanctuary in the company of each other.

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