Answer Me 1997 a.k.a. Reply 1997: My Korean Drama Review and Spoilers of 응답하라 1997 (Part 1)

Answer Me 1997 also known as Reply 1997 is a 16 episode drama that hit the highest record of views in Korean cable last year.   The unique feature of this drama is the nostalgic presentation of the story about the six friends.  The timeline shifts back and forth from the present when they are already 33-year old attending a re-union because someone is getting married and the 90's when they were still 18-year old high schoolers.

I've always had an inclination for realistic films and this one is exactly what I was looking for.  You get to learn about the casts as they go on with life from being mere teenagers towards their thirties.  
reply 1997

The characters are the colorful enough to keep the story interesting yet ordinary that you could encounter them in life.

The main heroin is Sung Shi Won (played by Jung Eun-ji) who is a typical immature teenage fan girl.  She fanatic over the 90's boyband H.O.T.  She has a childhood friend named Yoon Yoon Jae (played by Seo In Guk) who is the smart, quiet and mysterious type of guy.   Yoon Yoon Jae and Sung Shi Won has a common friend Kang Joon Hee (played by Hoya) who starts of as Yoon Yoon Jae's best friend but shifts closer to  Sung Shi Won as they got older.  Sung Shi Won's best girl friend is Mo Yoo Jung who's easy to change her mind as to which boy bands as well as boy she'll like.  Together with talkative and gossipy playboy Bang Sung Jae (played by Lee Shi-un), the three guys are a clique as they are in one class until a new student Do Hak Chan (played by Eun Ji-won) who excels in sports and is the ultimate source of porn came in.

During the reunion, the conversation and actions of the characters are gives a foreshadowing about their past.  It also has some narratives where they share the lessons they learn from the events from their lives.  Let me share my favorites parts of quotes per episode. (Episode 1-10)

Episode 1: Eighteen
  • Yoon Jae mentions that to Shi Won that Yoo Jung asked him out and that he is unsure of what he feels about it.  He hands out the birthday coupon Shi Won gave him which states "Grant a wish no matter what".  When Shi Won asked what's his wish, he said "Tell me not to date her" - Although the scene gets cut off leaving it hanging, this clearly showed that Yoon Jae likes Shi Won who is clueless about it.
Episode 2:  Becoming More and More Different

  • Yoon Jae: "Go Stop, a game where you have to match the same shapes to get points. There was a time when we struggled to be the same. But in one moment, we began to be different. That we were becoming different types of people—why was that so hard to acknowledge back then? People are all different; that’s the law of the universe, the law of human growth. Eighteen. We were maturing into different people, and having to accept those differences meant we were faced with yet another consequence of growing up." 
  •  Yoon Jae: "the law of maturity, a boy grows into a man and a girl will grow into a woman. But the problem is when a boy who grows into a man, and the girl is still a girl. When the timing is wrong..." - Yoon Jae kissed Shi Won on the lips to confirm if she feels the same about him but she took it likely and began picking on him once again.
Episode 3: What You See Is Not Everything
  • Shi Won: "A person’s heart has countless levels. Its depth cannot be known. Its limit can’t be known. You could fight to the death, and then exchange affection as if nothing ever happened. A red-blooded male could turn into an imbecile in front of the opposite sex. Yes, the truth is uncomfortable. But if we don’t embrace that discomfort, then we must live the rest of our lives believing what’s fake to be real. Even uncomfortable truths must be embraced. What you see is not everything." - Joon Hee reveals he's gay and likes Yoon Jae to Shi Won.  It must have been a relief for him to share his secret to someone.  For me this episode is about acknowledging ourselves especially our hearts even if it seems uncomfortable at first perhaps because of our insecurities. 
Episode 4: Fair Play

  • Shi Won's Mom: "there’s no such thing as friendship between a boy and a girl" - If only she knew that Joon Hee is gay which would make perfect sense!
  • Shi Won replies by pointing to Yoon Jae - poor dear completely friend-zoned as seen from his expression!  But, also sad for Shi Won who innocently believes that Yoon Jae is a true friend right?
  • Yoon Jae: "I knew in that moment, that when you like someone, you have eyes for her in the sides and the back of your head. And that if you don’t knock, there will be no answer. Standing in place will not get you what you want. There’s no such thing as fair play anymore." - Yoon Jae is pretty sneaky in this episode as he slyly rejects Shi Wons chat mate without her knowing.  I guess here, he explains the extent he'd go for to win her over.  Still not apparent though. =(
Episode 5: Life’s Counterattack
  •  Yoon Jae: "Bumping into someone on the street, reaching for the same book at the library, or running under someone’s umbrella… I thought that falling in love would be special. I couldn’t imagine… that I’d fall because of something like this. Spring of 1996. My first love began that suddenly." - Yoon Jae explains that he fell for Shi Won unexpectedly when he fetched her for their first day of school and she wore contact lenses for the first time.  
  • Yoon Jae: “Back then she was pretty because she took off her glasses. But now she’s still pretty even when she wears them.” - I think it means Yoon Jae that when you like a person, it grows on you and you tend to accept them for who they are.
  • Yoon Jae:This life that might leap anywhere—there’s no use avoiding or ignoring it. There’s just facing it and getting beaten to a bloody pulp. But at times life can surprise us with gifts that make our hearts flutter. And if we endure sadness, we are rewarded with happiness." - This is about overcoming obstacles in life.
Episode 6: Love Makes You Do Things You Didn’t Do Before
answer me 1997

  • Yoon Jae: “The easiest thing we can do for the person we love is to throw ourselves away. The strength to do things that aren’t in our nature — that’s love.” - Although I've come from a failed relationship, I still subscribe to this view of love.  It takes a leap of faith to go beyond our usual prideful and protective self.  But, I think this is rare nowadays.  Guys don't like to endure the hardship of couritng anymore and go through the mind games.  And, girls are also conscious about whether they are investing more emotionally on a guy rather than how they are being treated.
  • Hak-chan is really cool in this episode as he overcomes his fear of girls to pursue Yoo Jung and save her from Yoon Jae's rejection. 
Episode 7: Future Hopes
  • Tae Woong (Yoon Jae's brother): "A person needs to be satisfied with a goal that is near them. Aiming for something so far away is only greed and will cause so much pain. It’ll only end up as a scar in your heart. That’s why the stupidest thing you can do in the world is love one-sidedly.. But, sometimes dream come true from a distance. While you may not achieve the dream, getting close gives you the chance to be happy. Of course, that's very rare.  Unrequitted love usually ends in failure. But it's also sad if you're afraid and you give up before you even try out." - Tae Woong discusses with his students about their goals in life.  And, it has a double meaning as regards love too.  With regards to the story, Yoon Jae is clearly in the friendzone with Shi Won but he's still there  Also, Joon Hee is happy enough to just be best friends with Yoon Jae although he likes him.   I guess this means that if you love one-sidedly, you'd want to pursue it as much as you can.  Sometimes, if you're lucky, maybe you can reach it.  But often times, it ends up a failure.  But, I think you'll be happy enough to go as far as you can so you won't have "what if" regrets that you let go too soon without even trying.  I have the same view as Tae Woong.   Unlike for others, I find it difficult to have a change of heart when it comes these things.  
  • Tae Woong: "More important than what you can do is what you want to do. So let’s start with that. You only live once!" - he adds this to keep it positive which I agree of course!  Optimism is key. =D
Episode 8: D-Day
  • Yoon Jae:"You have to know where your enemy is, understand their situation, and be able to read their hearts. Even if you’re sure you’ve prepared perfectly, you can’t lose your chance, your timing. Because D-Day only gives two results: win or lose. My life’s first D-Day. November 18, 1998. I prepared meticulously… but lost the first post. The cause of defeat: reconnaissance failure." - This is the saddest part of the drama!  Yoon Jae losses the opportunity to confess to Shi Won because he found our Tae Woong likes her. 
Episode 9: The Thread of Fate
  • Yoon Jae: "They say that people are born with a red string that they can’t see, tied to their pinky fingers, and the end is tied to the one you’re fated to be with. But the thread is twisted this way and that, making it hard to find the other end. People’s countless threads, all tangled together. But when I start to unravel it, I end up face to face with my fate, without even knowing it. If the red thread of fate really exists, then who is the one tied to my red thread?" - This showed how Shi Won's parents and Yoon Jae's parents as well as their classmates met their spouses which is kind of cute and interesting.  I personally don't believe in fate this way.  I think destiny unfolds based on our choices given the opportunities that presents as.  But, it doesn't make the it easier since it makes uncertainties even more frustrating. 
Episode 10: The Reason I Like You
  • Joon Hee: "The reason I like you? Because you’re that person. Because you’re you. Is there another reason besides that one? I’d rather know the reason if there was one. Then I could find a way to not like you. If I can’t avoid it, then there’s only one thing I want: to remain by your side as a friend unchanged, for long time." - Joon Hee confesses to Yoon Jae who takes it as a joke.  I kind of understand how that feels like. =(  This question probably crossed the mind of every person who has every liked someone.  And, this question has probably been encountered by every guy who pursued a girl.  I think he made the right choice here.  A lifetime friend is just as rare as finding love so either one is good.  I keep hoping to find one too.  Crossing my fingers because I'm wishing that right now.  =D
  •  Yoon Jae answers Joon Hee on why he likes Shi Won,  Hak Chan answers Yoo Jung and Tae Woong answers Shi Won on why he likes her: "Because you're pretty... only to me" - The drama implies that other answers are wrong. =/  I didn't get this answer when I asked the same question before. *sob =( Kidding aside, I think this response makes sense.  Similar to the quote "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."  It's more than just taste or preference... Liking someone makes you see them in a different light.  That's why you'd often hear girls realize that they ex's were ugly after all. O_o
Check my part 2 for continuation =D