“First love. The reason everyone’s first love is beautiful is not only because the love was pretty. At the time of first love, there was a youthfulness that didn’t know how to be wise, a me who was pure to the point of cruelty, and a you whose fire I couldn’t handle. It’s because I already know that I can never go back to that youthful, innocent, passionate time.
First love is reckless. Without calculating, it throws everything in with pure passion, and inevitably fails. But that’s why it’s dramatic—the reckless tales wrapped up in experiences or feelings that you can never have again.
First love is a time. Once it passes, it’s gone. Now you have to give a new love and a new time a chance. It might not be the experience or the purity of first love, but out of that scar is a love that grows and becomes a little more mature—you have to wait for an adult love. Only those who wait can dream of love.
When romance passes, life comes. Purity gets dirtied, passion freezes over, and youth turns to shrewdness as you age. That innocent era’s first love becomes fatigued and exhausted daily routine… and is why first love appears to be something that can’t be realized. Because those who succeed at realizing their first love… don’t tell you.
Succeeding at first love is nice too. There’s comfort that’s even better than your favorite sweater, but also an excitement that you can find when you’re tired of that comfort. As childhood playmates, as first loves, as lovers, and as husband and wife, we live through the same times, share the same memories, and grow old together. A familiar excitement. It’s nice.”
I know it’s absurd to open this week’s Grumpy Flashback with this very long quote from Yoon-jae (Seo In-guk), but it’s too good to be discarded. After all, the central theme of our throwback drama this time is all about first loves and the pains of growing up.
Cable network tvN’s sleeper hit Reply 1997 was a coming-of-age drama about six 18-year-old high schoolers set in 1997 Busan, and their present 33-year-old selves at their high school reunion dinner in 2012. It set the bar as the first installment of the highly successful Reply series, taking its viewers to a trip down memory lane filled with 90s pop culture and blossoming K-pop fandom. Reply 1997 started with a low-key viewership hype, but gained a strong following through word of mouth. This cult favorite even broke the 6% ratings barrier for tvN back in 2012, with its Episodes 15 and 16 broadcasting simultaneously on tvN, Olive, Mnet, OCN, Onstyle and Ongamenet.
Reply 1997 took us back to the 90s extreme fan culture with first gen idol groups such as H.O.T. and Sechs Kies were considered K-pop gods of their time.
Grumpy tidbit: Reply 1997 was Jung Eun-ji’s acting debut, wherein she won the Best New Actress Award at the 2013 Baeksang Arts Awards. Meanwhile, her onscreen husband Seo In-guk was feted as the Best New Actor at the 2012 Korea Drama Awards.
This drama also started the “Who’s the husband?” craze in every Reply installment. Even though I felt like we all knew who’s the baby daddy from the moment we knew whom Sung Shi-won (Jung Eun-ji) liked, the show still played with us by making us guess until the last two episodes.
But to make up for all the guessing games, the drama was also not short in making us weak in the knees through its (hot) kissing scenes:
Truth chair kiss
“Life always creeps up on you at the most unexpected moment, and slaps you at the back of the head. It could be dreadful sadness or dreadful fear. What we can only do at a time like this… the only thing we can do is to accept the reality and admit that you’ve lost.” – Episode 4
I think one of the highlights of Reply 1997 aside from it’s well-researched interpretation of the 90s and its realistic approach on first loves was the drama’s different take on the second lead guy. Joon-hee (Hoya) was the perfect third party to the love triangle of the main OTP. Sorry, I know Tae-woong oppa (Song Jong-ho) is also considered as the third party in another side of the spectrum, but the real second lead guy here is Joon-hee. And the fact that he was able to confess his crush for Yoon-jae was so admirable. He knew that his crush was one-sided, and he may be risking his friendship with Yoon-jae, but his being true to himself was the main reason why Yoon-jae never looked down on him or mocked him. Yoon-jae and Joon-hee’s friendship was the most precious relationship in this dramaverse.
Aaackkkk! Sechs Kies’ very own Eun Ji-won joined the cast as the porn kingpin-slash-supplier Do Hak-chan. His adorable love story with Sechs Kies fan girl Mo Yoo-jung (Shin So-yul) gave the drama some of it’s funniest banters.
Since Shi-won is a die-hard Tony An/H.O.T. fan girl, it’s almost expected that we see a Tony An cameo in this drama, right?
Shi-won’s dedication to H.O.T. mirrored every fangirl’s life. Her rant about not being born in Seoul was every @ahjummamshies‘ life-long question.