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02 August 2020

K Drama Review: Reply 1988 / Answer Me 1988 (2015)

A lot of my K drama-loving friends have been raving about Reply 1988. We decided to delay watching this because Oppa and I were busy going through our Hyun Bin, Song Hye Kyo, and Son Ye Jin lists. Later on, however, we got tired of the usual romance dramas that we decided to watch something a bit different. It was my turn to pick the drama to watch and I chose this. 

When I told my siblings we were watching Reply 88, my brother discouraged me. He watched the first episode and he warned me that it was going to remind me of all my hang ups in life. But I found the first episode so funny and great that I totally ignored his warning. My brother was right. It did remind me of all my issues in life, but in a very good way. The show and its themes were so relatable on so many levels. The first episode was nostalgic and funny. I never thought I'd find a drama that was worth a 5 but after watching the first episode alone, I knew Reply 88 had the potential of getting that 5. 

I loved it so much that I decided to outline this blog entry the way I did when I wrote my informal and formal themes back in high school. I want this entry to do justice to how splendid and brilliant Reply 88 was. 

Story


Reply 88 is about five friends and families who are neighbors. The five kids are all the same age (17 to 18 years old) and are almost on their final year in high school. The story is set in 1988 at Ssangmundong, Dobong, Seoul. 


The only girl among the five friends is Sung Duk Seon (Lee Hye Ri / "DS"). She lives with her two siblings and her parents in a half basement. She's not smart but she's very sweet and kind to the people around her. She's very funny too. 


The family of Kim Jung Hwan (Ryu Jun Yeol / "JH") lives above DS' half-basement. He lives with his brother and parents. They used to be poor until a few years ago when JH's brother won the lottery. They now live comfortably in a huge house. JH is smart and is a man of few words. But his comebacks are usually very funny and witty. 


Ryu Dong Ryong (Lee Dong Hwi / "DR") lives beside JH and DS. He stays there with his absentee parents. He's not smart but he's very funny and he's a good dancer too. He's insightful and I love the deadpan way he delivers his lines. 


Sung Sun Woo (Go Kyung Pyo / "SW") lives across DS, JH, and DR. He lives with his mom and younger sister. His dad passed away a few years ago. He seems shy and soft spoken but he's a very dependable son and brother. He's the class president too. JH, DR, and SW are classmates. 


Finally, Cho Taek (Park Bo Gum / "Taek") lives beside SW. He lives with his father since his mom passed away when he was still a little boy. He is the only one among the five friends who does not go to school. He's a genius Go game champion player. He competes internationally and is away most of the time. He's very quiet and often teased as the gullible one in the group. But his child-like innocence is very endearing. His friends make it their mission to protect him at all costs. After all, they call him the national treasure of Korea. 


The story revolves around the friendship and love shared among these five families. It's a heartwarming journey of watching them fall, get up, and grow. It's basically a recollection of DS and her husband in 2015 of the things that happened some 27 years ago. 

The Good (and I mean, really, really, absolutely gooooooddddd)

The Execution of the Story

When you've watched a number of K dramas, you'll find some of them are quite predictable. If it's a romantic drama, you'd expect some piggy back ride scenes. Or you'll get a tantrum-y girl lead. Or an obnoxious and abusive guy lead. Another friend was lamenting about the problematic use of flashbacks (like our complaint with Encounter). While this show still used some of the tried and tested K drama tools, it was done a bit differently, making it refreshing. It had some interesting and very pleasant surprises. 

Flashbacks were used brilliantly here. The show didn't overdo them (especially showing scenes that just happened within the same episode or worse, just the scene before). Instead, Reply 88 used flashbacks to fill in gaps or the missing parts of the story. It was pretty much similar to how Crash Landing on You used its flashbacks as epilogues. 

I loved how they told the story of the plane crash Taek was supposedly involved in. The story was told somewhat in reverse to show us the reaction of Choi Moo Sung (same name as the actor and Taek's dad) to the incident. Might be a bit challenging for some to watch but it definitely put an interesting twist to the show's storytelling. (Side note: I just found out now that all the parents used their screen names as names for their characters too. Coolness). 

I also liked how the show used different points of view/narrators. Oppa initially thought that DS was the show's star because she narrated the first few episodes. Eventually, however, we saw that most of the characters had the chance to narrate. It was interesting to see where the different characters were coming from. It was great that while the show appeared to focus mainly on the five friends, their parents were also featured prominently in various episodes. I loved how the drama tried its best to balance everyone's exposure. 

Around episode 17, the story began moving forward by as much as six years later. Oppa was complaining because he found it too fast. But I understood that there might have been very minimal interactions among the friends during the time after high school and during college. They probably lived away from home so there might not have been a lot of stories to tell. Although it would have been nice to see some glimpses of their college life, I'm mostly fine with how this was done.  I was more interested to see what happened to them later on. It was nice to see how they've evolved. 

Some people might complain about how long each episode lasted, especially those who are used to the usual hour-long K dramas. But I was perfectly okay with the mostly hour and a half long episodes. Absolutely no second or minute wasted. In fact, you might even find yourself wanting so much more, if only to see how the characters are doing. 

I was also pleasantly surprised that the show had 20 episodes. Around the 13th episode, I was already bracing myself for the separation anxiety I was definitely going to suffer after the finale. I was getting sentimental about it and I asked Oppa if he was ready because we were just a few episodes away from the ending. Most K dramas only have 16 episodes. But Oppa told me that this show had 20 episodes. I was ecstatic. Extended episodes and seasons are definitely great news if you have a show as brilliant as Reply 88. 

Cast and Characters

There were definitely no bad actors and characters in this show. Some shows are great but would still have that one or two meh characters and/or actors. But I did not find any here. I loved each and everyone of them. I absolutely have nothing bad to say in this aspect. So let me just rave about some of them.


Hye Ri as DS was perfect. We loved her the first time we saw her on episode 1. She hacked both the funny and dramatic scenes. She was convincing as an awkward dancer and singer. You would not have guessed that she was a member of a K pop girl group. She was also convincing as a silly and gullible girl but when you look deeper, you know that she's actually a very pretty actress. Interesting to note that young DS labeled herself as Lee Mi Yeon, a pretty and popular actress in the '80s, and Lee Mi Yeon played the role of the adult DS.  


PBG as Taek started out looking a bit rough here. The bangs, the sleepy look. But I still preferred him here over the very pretty and clean PBG I saw in Encounter. I loved his glow up and character development. Some people get disoriented with change but Taek thrived or he even bloomed into someone more positive both physically and emotionally. PBG handled the transformation really well. 


I loved DR because he was very insightful. He might have appeared to be all jokes (and farts!) but among the five, I felt that he was the one who really understood everything that happened around them. Perhaps I have soft spot for him because he was the only one who had absentee parents. And I loved how he did not wallow in self pity despite his circumstances. 


I loved how SW was a very dependable son and brother. I felt how tormented he was between not making his mother work hard and letting her do something for herself. 


And of course, I loved how JH was very, very selfless until the end. There were moments when I just wanted to whack him in the head for being too slow but I appreciated how he wanted to be a better friend especially to Taek. While I profess my love for both JH and Taek, JH might have a very slight advantage because of how much he's sacrificed for his friends. And it definitely helped that apart from being a selfless friend, JH was also a very dependable and loving son. He was quiet and mostly stuck in his room. But when the situation called for it, he definitely stepped up. I loved how he planned that birthday party/wedding for his mom. He was proof that sons can be very useful too. :)


Jung Bong (Ahn Jae Hong / "JB"), JH's younger brother, was also very endearing. Yes, he was weird with all his crazy hobbies (collecting stamps, Rubik's cube, etc.). But when you find out that he had a heart disease and he actually won the lottery for his family, you can't help but adore him. I loved how reliable he was when his mom left for a few days. He definitely knew his way around their house. Again, another proof that sons are useful. Mi Ran, their mom, must have really done a good job raising her boys. 


Bora (Ryu Hye Yeong), DS' elder sister, was also one of my favorite characters. Yes, she was a very angry person, mostly shouting in the initial episodes. She loved hitting DS and she bullied everyone around her. But as the show progressed, we saw how Bora was actually a warm person deep down. She might have been a tiger on the outside but she sure was a softy inside. I loved how she consoled SW when his dad died and how she drove for SW's mom when she found out that SW's younger sister Jin Joo (Kim Seol) was sick. And while she appeared to hate her family, she actually loved them. I loved how she showered them with gifts when she got her first pay check or how she struggled to express how much she loved her father. And she was an activist too. Among the characters, I could probably relate to her the most being an eldest daughter myself. 


The parents were wonderful. Mi Ran a.k.a. Ms. Cheetah was both terrifying and funny, but was also a very good friend. I loved how she never changed despite the good fortune her family experienced. Instead of being condescending towards her friends, she became even more generous with them. Sung Kyung, JH's dad, was super funny but was also sentimental. 


Dong Il, DS' dad, always tried to appear happy but deep down, his family's sorry state bothered him (like how guilty he felt when he heard his son being teased as half-basement by his friends). Despite that, he still remained soft especially towards the poor and needy. Il Hwa, DS' mom, was meek, sweet, and very caring. She tried to endure everything for her family but sometimes she just can't help but yearn for a better life.


Sun Young, SW's mom, tried her best to raise her family on her own. She refused to let SW see her having a hard time. She appeared all happy and cheerful but just like Il Hwa and Dong Il, she also wanted to provide more for her kids. 

Moo Sung, Taek's dad, always looked calm and collected. His neighbors called him the bear. But little by little, we find out that he has struggles and issues too. It was difficult for him to raise Taek on his own. And he was prone to break down too when his family's life was on the line. His quiet and simple ways of expressing his love (like always preparing warm breakfast for Taek) for the people around him was very heartwarming. 


Even Jin Joo was lovable. I'll say it again, the cast was perfect. Everyone portrayed their characters really well. 

Family 

More than any of the other themes in the show, the one on family resonated with me the most. I love my family. I saw bits and pieces of my family in their families. I've been missing my family whom I have not seen for five months and counting due to this pandemic. So I really got the family feels with this show. I loved how they featured different aspects of families. 
 

Siblings


I have two siblings - a girl and a boy - so I really found DS' family the most relatable one for me. I loved how realistic DS and Bora's bickering was. I'm sure a lot of siblings can relate to this one. Sure, we don't really hit or pull each other's hairs most of the time. But we've all been there - arguing over using the other's clothes without permission, snooping on the other's stuff, or ratting on them to our parents. So while it tended to be abusive, I found this angle real and even funny sometimes. 



DS and her brother No Eul (Choi Sung Won) bickered a lot too (although not as violent as DS and Bora's fights). But DS was there for her brother when he was being attacked by his girlfriend's group of gangster friends. DS did not hesitate to attack the tough looking girls to protect her brother. Never mind that they ended up at the police station. It was so cute to see DS still doting on her little brother in the 2015 scenes (and how No Eul still looked much older than DS). 


This drama showed us that although siblings tend to fight all the time, they always come through for each other when the going gets tough. It's nice to know that you have someone to fight with when you need to release some angst but there's also someone who's got your back when trouble comes. Nice to have someone who'll worry with and for you. 


Hang up alert: watching this part of the story made me quite guilty about not having a sibling for my son. He does not seem to mind but he does talk about having a sibling once in a while. And although I've taken a nonchalant God-will-provide-attitude about it, it's still something that lurks at the back of my head. I just hope and pray that my son will have reliable and dependable friends and cousins to take care of him if he ends up not having a sibling.  


Oppa noted that this show perfectly depicted that while siblings may come from the same set of parents, they can be totally different from each other. Bora's smart and serious, while DS was totally not book or school smart but she was warm and funny. Oppa also liked how JB moved really fast with girls, while JH took his sweet time before making a move. 


I loved how this drama showed the close and loving relationships that the siblings had. 



Although there was a huge age gap between SW and Jin Joo, that didn't stop them from being close and sweet to each other. I loved how SW looked out for his younger sister. I especially loved that Christmas scene in episode 7 where the neighbors carved a snowman from ice for Jin Joo only to find it melted on Christmas day. Oppa SW to the rescue by buying the snowman ice cream from Dooly Supermarket. They looked so cute and child-like eating their ice creams. :) 




Although they were only stepbrothers, I loved how Taek and SW easily and naturally meshed with each other when their parents fell in love. Yes, they were good friends but it would have been totally understandable if they felt some sort of awkwardness when their relationship changed. Fortunately, both of them were so good-natured that they understood and accepted their parents' relationship. I loved that bit of bromance between the two. 



While JB and JH appeared to be total opposites, I liked how they still deeply cared for each other. After his surgery, JB was still concerned about JH's condition. JH, on the other hand, aimed to do all of the things that JB could not do due to his heart problem. JH wanted to be a football player and a pilot because JB dreamt of doing those things. And I loved how JB told JH to do what he really wanted to do and not just do things because he knows JB wants them. Even when JH was already in the Air Force, they still kept in touch and consulted each other regarding family matters such as how to deal with Mi Ran's menopause. Such amazing brotherly love. 


I also loved how this show followed through on the sibling angle. We saw how even older siblings (Dong Il and his siblings during their mom's funeral and Sun Young's brother ratting on her to Moo Sung about her financial problems) were still there for each other. It was a very good reminder that your relationship with your siblings never gets old. It could be tested but it mostly just grows stronger over the years. I know that may not always be true. But I'm sure we all yearn to have solid relationships with our siblings too. 


Eldest - Both a Blessing and a Burden


I mentioned above that Bora's character was the most relatable one for me being an eldest daughter myself. I felt the burden that she had being the eldest. I don't blame her for being all serious especially with her studies. Early on, I'm pretty sure her parents have ingrained in her the need to be a good role model for her younger siblings. And because of that responsibility given to her, she could not be as carefree as DS. We felt her resentment when she lamented how everyone seemed to love DS because of her personality. I totally understand that shackling feeling she had. I was fortunate to have parents who didn't really force me to be all serious and to have siblings who brought out the craziness in me but I know where Bora's coming from. 


I also liked how they depicted the strained relationship that Dong Il and Bora had. They were both not very good with words. So they struggled to tell each other how they really felt. Bora felt that she was a burden to her father, while Dong Il felt guilty about not providing more for her daughter. Bora felt bad that his father seemed to have a happier and more relaxed relationship with DS. Eldest daughters with younger sisters would have probably felt that way at some point. Younger sisters are more fun and carefree and that's probably the reason why dads appear to prefer them over the more serious elder daughters. 


Bora and Dong Il's relationship reminded me of a favorite scene from Meet Joe Black where the eldest daughter was talking with her dad about his favorites (specifically, the second daughter being preferred more than the eldest daughter). 


Daughter:  But that's what you were thinking. And that's okay. Because I know that you love me. I mean, it's not like it is with her. Whenever she walks into the room, your eyes light up. She always gets a smile from you, as opposed to me. When I walk in, this look comes over your face, like, "What does she want now?" But you've never let either of us want for anything. Oh, God. More than that, Daddy, more than that. I've felt loved, and that's all that matters. So, never mind favorites. You're allowed to have one. The point is, you've been mine.


How fitting, right? And just like Bora and the daughter in Meet Joe Black, I'm pretty sure most eldest daughters get over that feeling and realize eventually that they are loved, probably in a different and more serious way than the younger sisters, but still very much loved. 


And dads and eldest daughters subsequently learn how to find each other's love language and express how they feel about each other, the way Bora and Dong Il did through their letters during Bora's wedding. 


But don't get me wrong. Being the eldest also has its perks. You mostly get new stuff that will be handed down to the younger kids. And you get insider scoop about family issues that your parents think are not yet suitable for your younger siblings - similar to how Il Hwa's breast biopsy was only shared with Bora. So, yep, being the eldest has its pros and cons. And based on my experience, you eventually outgrow the cons as you get older. 


Parents


Although the parents featured on the show were much older, even closer in age to my parents, there were still bits and pieces of things I could relate to. I guess parenting is a universal thing so it doesn't matter what era or age it happened. Some things will remain the same. 



I loved how Dong Il said in one episode that parents are not born knowing how to be parents. I believe he uttered those words to DS when she was complaining about how unfairly she's been treated compared to Bora. Parenting is something you learn along the way. You learn it and grow with your kids. And you will definitely make a lot of mistakes. The only thing you can do is hope and pray that your children will forgive your shortcomings. Mi Ran also captured parenting perfectly when she said that while you raise your kids, they're raising you as a parent as well. 


Reply 88 also did a great job in showing the struggles that parents go through just to make ends meet for their families. Il Hwa's scene where she was desperately pounding on an obviously empty lotion bottle was a very quiet but impactful scene for me. The various scenes where parents had to borrow money to provide for their kids were also testament of the difficulties parents have to endure for their families. 


I loved how the show also had representation for single parents. I've always said that being parent is tough even with Oppa by my side. So I can just imagine how tougher it must be for single parents who need to do everything on their own. These hardships were very evident in the lives of Sun Young and Moo Sung. 


It was tough for Sun Young because apart from their financial difficulties, she also had to raise a teenage boy. That scene where she cried because SW cut himself from shaving was very poignant.


Although Moo Sung was well-off and he was raising a boy like himself, he also had tough times. It didn't help that Taek was quiet, reserved, and not expressive like him. It was challenging for Moo Sung to guess how his son felt and if he was doing enough for him. Add to that the fact that Taek was a genius. I really felt Moo Sung's struggle when he said he just wanted Taek to be like the other kids who get angry. 


Another thing I loved about Reply 88 was how they showed that children will always be the pride and joy of their parents. Kids might do bad, silly, and disappointing things but parents will always find something to be proud of. A perfect example was when Bora was arrested for protesting. Dong Il was berating her prior to that incident but we saw later on that he was actually proud of what Bora was doing. 


The show also did a great job of depicting parents as people who always put their kids above all else all the time. DS was surprised that when she asked her dad about his dream, he replied that his dream was still about/for his kids. Such selflessness. 


I also liked that scene where the parents were talking and they all agreed that they just want their kids to take after their good traits but not the bad ones. Parents, after all, just want the best for their kids - always.


I loved what DS said during the finale - how she misses her youth because it reminded her of a time when her parents were as big as mountains. So, so true. We all have our share of turbulent times during our youth, including rebelling against our super strict parents. But I'm sure all kids also long for that time when their parents were strong and dependable. That time when kids can afford not to worry about anything because their parents would always be there to help and do things for them. 



I also liked how SW was able to summon his dead father when he was struggling with accepting his mom's relationship with Taek's dad. I've seen this done in Kim Sam Soon and it's one of those things that you wish could be done in real life. 


Mothers


I probably cried a lot while watching this show because it gave me a lot of mommy feels. 


I liked that episode where Mi Ran came back from a trip. Instead of being happy when she found the house in order, she was actually moping around. Her family could not understand why she was acting that way. Our insightful DR to the rescue. He explained to JH that his mom probably felt that she was no longer needed, hence, her foul mood. And this is so spot on again. Moms complain about being tired all the time. But deep down, moms really want to be needed. Although I'm mostly exhausted from doing stuff for the family, I also fear the day when my son will no longer need my help with anything. 



I also loved how moms were depicted as the family's rock - always strong and dependable. But what most kids don't know is how moms are just actually trying really hard to keep it together. How moms are actually scared, worried, etc. This was very evident during JB's surgery. Mi Ran kept on reassuring her family that everything will be fine and that she was not worried at all because she even had time to watch TV. However, they didn't see that TV time was actually her time to cry. It was the moment for her to be weak because she was not in front of her family. 



While most of the moms featured were stay-at-home moms, I greatly appreciate the inclusion of a busy, working mom like DR's. When we only saw DR's side of the story, it was easy to judge his mom. I felt so bad for DR during his birthday when he eagerly expected to eat his mom's seaweed soup but instead, he ended up getting money from her to buy food for his friends. However, when I saw his mom's story, I took a step back and I learned to sympathize with her. 


Given the choice (and maybe at least 48 hours in a day), I'm sure every mother would want to have time for their kids. However, several factors prevent this ideal scenario from happening. 


In my case for instance, working from home without a helper means our son has to be left on his own most of the time. He has no siblings so he has no one to play with. I feel so guilty about neglecting him when I have to work but I can't really do anything about it. So yes, some mothers have no choice but to be "absentee" because they need to work. 


Another reason why the "ideal" does not always happen is because some moms are not just really meant to be stay-at-home, hovering moms. And I perfectly understand them, with no judgment whatsoever. With all the tasks moms have to juggle, it's so easy to lose ourselves, to forget about our wants and aspirations for ourselves. And some moms cannot stand that. An example was when DR's mom left home after she retired. She probably felt too stifled having to stay at home after working for many years in an office. She ran away to recharge and when she came back, she took a part-time job as a cashier. I felt so bad for her when she said that she was tired of being just DR's mom. It's never wrong for a mother to want to be more than just a mother. And I'm grateful that Reply 88 emphasized this point. 


A funny note about mothers was when Mi Ran said mothers end up preferring and/or loving their kids over their husbands. It was funny that she got so annoyed when her husband asked her to do something but she was willing to go the extra mile when it was one of her sons who needed help. Sorry, dads. But don't worry, you can always reclaim your spot when the kids leave home. :) 


Fathers


Another thing that I truly loved about Reply 88 was how it tried to balance the exposure of the fathers and mothers. Most family dramas tend to focus on mothers. But this show made sure that dads got their moments too. 


I loved how episode 13 was mostly devoted to the stories of the fathers. Dads mostly work on the background. They're quiet and not as doting as mothers. They always appear strong. However, even the most stoic of them can breakdown too. A perfect example was how the bear/Taek's dad always seemed calm and collected. However, when he thought Taek was involved in a plane crash, he broke down too. 


I liked how this drama showed us the "soft" side of men - that it was okay to cry. Dong Il and Sung Kyun always loved cracking jokes. But Dong Il cried when he thought Il Hwa might have breast cancer and Sung Kyun was worried when Mi Ran was having her menopause. 


I also loved how Reply 88 showed us that dads have different ways of expressing their love for their kids. Moo Sung had a hard time telling Taek he loved him, but he always woke up early to cook warm breakfast for him. Dong Il couldn't express his love for Bora yet he cooked his favorite food for her.


I appreciate that although the dads realized that they need to be more vocal about their love for their kids too from time to time, the show did not force them to change. Dong Il expressed his feelings for Bora through a letter, while Moo Sung was cajoled into saying "I love you" to Taek in an off the record interview with a reporter. 


Children



Kids are often shown as ungrateful and rebellious, especially in their teenage years. And I guess that's mostly true. But Reply 88 reassured us that most kids get over that phase. After all the headaches they give their parents, they eventually turn into responsible adults who care deeply for their families. I loved how JH stepped up to plan his mom's party to distract her from her menopause when there was no daughter who could do that for her. And that retirement plaque that Dong Il's children gave him was a perfect tribute and recognition of all that he has done for his family. 


Friendship


Reply 88 is a perfect friendship goals drama. Admittedly, I am not the very friendly type. But the friendship angles in this drama made me long for my friends from long ago and yearn for relationships like what the characters had. 



I loved DS and her friends. They were all so funny. It was nice to see Maggie/Mi Ok (Lee Min Ji) find love in JB. 


I also enjoyed the JB- No Eul bromance. It was so funny to see No Eul act like some sort of apprentice, agreeing to everything that JB was saying. :D


The Neighbors



I was amazed with the sense of kinship the neighbors had in the show. They were always there for each other even if they had individual problems to deal with. They all helped create that carved snow man for Jin Joo. They took care of Moo Sung when he got sick. They even allowed DS to accompany Taek in China because Moo Sung could not join him. They all worried with and for Il Hwa when she had her breast exam. The ladies even tried to pool their money to help Sun Young when her house was about to be foreclosed. It must have been very difficult for them to leave their friends behind when they moved out of Ssangmundong. That scene where SW's family was leaving was very heartbreaking. 


My family was quite close to our neighbors too but I highly doubt if my mom would ask our neighbors for help in getting me or my siblings a Christmas gift. I wonder if at present, neighbors in Korea still maintain close ties like the one we saw in Ssangmundong. 


The Gang



I absolutely loved this group of friends. They had different personalities. They came from different social classes and family backgrounds. But they clicked. And they were able to sustain their bond throughout the years. 


                                       


Most people outgrow each other in high school - especially the boys and girls. Although DS and Taek didn't go to the same school as the other three, they still made it a point to get together. And I loved how their friendship was not superficial at all. They were there for each other through thick and thin. 



Who can forget that talent show where SW, JH, and DR saved DS. The boys knew how much DS wanted to get that walkman. Other teenage boys would have totally ignored DS. I can imagine how embarrassing it must have been for the three of them to dance in front of a crowd of shrieking girls. But they loved and cared for DS so they didn't mind being humiliated. 


I also loved how Taek, who appeared as the most indifferent among the five, also looked out for his friends in his own way. He absolutely hated asking for favors. But when JH's dad needed a surgery, he did not hesitate to call a doctor who was a big fan of his. 



The only guy DS was not romantically linked with among her four guy friends was DR. But I loved how DS described him as her soulmate when they were off to that pre-college school. That was the perfect description for their relationship. It was DR who always gave DS sound advice when DS was lost and confused. When DS was ranting that nobody liked her, DR straightforwardly told her that she should not focus too much on other guys liking her. It was also important to know who she likes. After all, we're free to like whoever we like. Never mind that it might not always be reciprocated. So yep, I loved how DR looked out for DS. 


I loved how DS appeared to be gullible and carefree but she was actually a very dependable friend. She did a great job taking care of Taek when she accompanied him in his China trip. She also looked out for their epileptic class president. Her teacher's description of DS was absolutely spot on - she may not be smart but she's absolutely sweet and kind. And at the end of the day, a good character is definitely more important than being smart. And although people perceived DS as irresponsible, she's proof that sometimes, you just need to give people the chance to prove themselves and they can actually step up.



I felt super nostalgic watching SW and Bora's wedding. I felt like a mom who was seeing her kids all grown up. I felt so proud of all of them. 


Love


Of course, it won't be a complete K drama if you don't have the love angles. I liked how different kinds of love stories were featured here. And although Reply 88 did show your typical love story lines - it was done creatively. I loved how they gave me that novel yet still familiar feeling. 


The Love Triangle



I feel this theme should be sandwiched between love and friendship because they're interconnected and friendship somehow helped determine the love outcome. 


It was admirable that JH and Taek were very respectful of each other when they found out that they both liked DS. It was interesting to see gullible Taek easily read that JH liked DS too. Despite being rivals, I loved how JH and Taek opted to put their friendship above all else. JH fixed Taek's bed when he saw him asleep while sitting down. Taek was obviously competitive given his Go game background. However, he was willing to give way to JH and chose to let go of his date with DS. Both guys were ready to sacrifice their feelings for DS. 


Admittedly however, it was also painful that they both chose not to act on their feelings initially. DS must have felt totally unwanted and unimportant. 



Episode 18 was totally heartbreaking for me. That scene where JH arrived at the concert venue only to see Taek getting there ahead of him. Oppa thinks JH actually got there first but he saw Taek walking towards DS and he decided to give way. Ahhh. As JH said, timing matters in love. You may be soulmates but if you meet each other at the wrong time then chances are, things won't work out for you. As the song goes, you will have the right love at the wrong time. 


In the end, Taek got the girl, because I believe he was bolder and he probably wanted her more. He gave up a competition (for the first time in his career) to be with DS. On the other hand, JH dillydallied. 


But having said that, any outcome would have been painful either way. I could not actually root for just one of them because I loved them both. And I knew how much they both loved DS. 



That fake but actually real confession of JH was totally heartbreaking. I was bawling from start to finish. The dagger was when he pretended at the end that everything was just a joke to appease DR. My poor JH must have been dying inside. 


And I absolutely loved how JH chose to be the bigger person. He could have sulked and distanced himself from his friends. But he welcomed Taek when the latter visited him at the airbase and gave him the blessing to pursue DS. What a man!!! I loved how the show put a closure on this love triangle. 


So, yes, we get a love triangle here like what we see in most K dramas. But this was a realistic and respectful one. Nothing too violent or competitive. 


JH and DS



I initially thought JH and DS would end up together. But I guess that would have been very obvious. I loved how their love story was not forced. 



I'm glad this drama showed us how their love developed gradually. It was a joy to witness their journey and growth from those cramped bus rides to the alley scene up until that heartbreaking confession.  



He might have been quiet and not expressive, but I was amazed (and heartbroken too) at the lengths JH went through for DS. He might not have gotten the girl, but I will always have a soft spot for him because he sacrificed so much to preserve his friendship with both DS and Taek. (And he got the girl in real life anyway, so I guess it was a win-win solution. :D)


Taek and DS 



I would have to say this was quite unexpected (at the beginning at least). When the show was giving us hints that DS might have actually ended up with Taek, I was telling myself that this was a well-played move on the part of Taek. He strategized well, as if this were a Go game match. What a dark horse! 



I loved how DS and Taek were perfect for each other. Yes, they were both perceived as innocent, immature, childish, irresponsible, and gullible. But they proved to us that two individuals who might not appear to be good on their own can actually be good for each other. I absolutely loved how Taek bloomed from an indifferent person to a real man who was protective of DS. 


And I have nothing but respect for how Taek valued his friendship with JH. He did not want to pursue DS initially because he knew JH liked her too. But when he finally decided to go for it, he made sure to clear things up with his friend first. 


I also loved how when Taek was looking back, he recalled that he's always loved DS even when they were kids. Such true and enduring love. :)


SW and Bora



You can't fully appreciate the love stories in Reply 88 without talking about our unexpected couple - Bora and SW. It would have been a total surprise for me had Oppa not read a spoiler about it (which he had to share with me against my will). 


We have another noona romance here where the younger one acts more maturely than the noona, especially in terms of handling issues and difficulties. I get that it was tough for Bora to study for the bar. But she didn't have to act as if she were the only one having a hard time. SW was also a senior. SW was probably in a tougher spot being the younger one. He had to deal with the judgment from his friends and neighbors yet he wanted to go on with the relationship. 


I loved how the show brought the couple back together. I liked the blind date twist where Bora was supposed to see someone else but SW had to fill in at the last minute. And I totally loved Bora's explanation about pushing through with the blind date knowing that there was a chance that she would actually see SW. Their love story is another testament to JH's belief that in love, timing is everything. 


I was proud of how SW grew into a fine, young man. Yes, we already knew he was responsible and dependable. But the way he laid down the rules before dating Bora again was just amazing. He was in it for the long haul and he meant business. I liked how he showed Bora that this time, he was in control. 


I was happy that their wedding was one of the highlights of the finale. Although personally, I would have preferred seeing DS and Taek's wedding. 


The Other Love Stories


I liked how Reply 88 did not just focus on the main love stories. It was nice that they also showed snippets of the other stories because they were just as cute and important. 


I loved how the show did not try to gloss over the usual issues that couples face. This drama showed us that sometimes, anger, silence, or even aggression in a relationship could actually be a call for help. 


JH's dad was the neighborhood's jolly fellow but he was not exempt from being hurt and offended. It was surprising to see him quiet when he felt bad when his family was ignoring him. 


Il Hwa, on the other hand, always appeared like a martyr who was willing to endure everything for her family. However, at one point, she clams up because she's just fed up with her husband's misplaced generosity. She just wants a better life for her family. Yet her husband chooses to be generous to others when they don't even have enough for themselves. 



I loved how Dong Il closed the loop on this issue. He was absolutely right when he said that no matter how perfect something appears to be, it will always have flaws, no matter how small. I loved the use of this analogy on Il Hwa's beautiful but broken umbrella. Yes, life can be exhausting sometimes and it might be tempting to go out of our comfort zones to seek for greener pastures. However, there is also beauty in staying in the seemingly boring and pathetic lives we live in because it is familiar and comfortable.  


Spouses will bicker and we saw a lot of that in JH and DS' parents. Even SW's mom was complaining about Taek's dad at one point. It's true that your spouse might annoy the hell out of you. But at the end of the day, it's nice to have someone who'll go through life with you. Someone who will share life's burdens with you. Like how Il Hwa had Dong Il with her for her medical check up.


I also like the love story of SW and Taek's parents. This one came naturally as well. I loved the casual way that Moo Sung proposed to Sun Young. He simply said it was cold so maybe they should live together. :D



And when it comes to great love and devotion, I don't think anyone could ever top JB's loyalty and passion for Maggie/Mi Ok. Remember those paper airplanes? Or those heartfelt love letters? It might have taken him years to finally get to college, but JB surely knew how to easily snatch a girl's heart. 


I loved how all the lovers reunions were shown together in episode 18. It was great to see everyone (well most of them anyway) get their happy endings. 


Comedy


I totally loved how Reply 88 perfectly balanced the drama with the comedy. Nothing was too heavy that you'd end up depressed after watching a scene or an episode. 


I liked how they interspersed the heavy drama scenes with the super funny ones. Like that scene where DS was heartbroken after finding out that SW liked Bora. I was crying but I had to stop because the next scene was JH with his bloody nose after DS banged the gate on his face as he was eavesdropping on SW and DS. 



Or that touching scene between Bora and her dad as Bora was leaving for the hostel. They were both crying but the next scene was Mi Ran's audition where instead of playing her song, the tape she brought was actually the egg vendor's spiel about selling fresh eggs. That was totally hilarious. 

Or that scene where Moo Sung was being praised for his bravery in dealing with Taek's supposed plane crash. I was crying so hard because they were showing flashbacks of how he was actually devastated when he first heard the news. Then the next scene was Moo Sung jumping on a chair because he was scared of a mouse. 


DS probably had a huge share of the funny scenes and she really did a superb job in handling them. I loved her funny scenes with JH's dad. Her weird make up and awkward dance moves were super hilarious too. 


I loved how Reply 88 proved that you can have a funny yet intelligent show without having to resort to slapstick comedy. 


Nostalgia


Being set in the '80s, Reply 88 brought a lot of nostalgic feels. It was nice to see DS writing on a journal/diary. I wonder if kids these days still keep those. Or do they blog instead? I'm tempted to retrieve my old diaries but I'm scared of the terrible grammar I had back then. 


It was fun to see family computers with all those familiar games. And who can forget those chain letters that you had to rewrite seven times. 


It was also nice to see the emergence of beepers and online chatrooms. I loved how the trivia chatroom paved the way for JB and Mi Ok's reunion. 


Social Relevance


It would have been easy for Reply 88 to just forget about being socially relevant. It already had interesting characters and storylines so it would have been convenient for them to just forget about the rest. But what made Reply 88 really stand out for me was its effort in injecting socially relevant issues in their story. It fully understood that apart from entertaining, art should also inform and educate. And that made it really special. 


It was nice to see how Korea has evolved as a nation. It used to be troubled just like my beloved country. The Philippines had its people power in 1986. Korea, on the other hand, was still protesting in 1988 as we see Bora joining all those protests. But look at where our two countries are right now. Korea has obviously evolved and developed into a progressive nation. And I'm not just talking about this in financial terms. Yes, they're richer. But what amazes me the most is how they seem to have really learned from all those protests. The Koreans now know how to hold their government accountable for their wrongdoings. And their politicians have the integrity to step down (or even to the extreme point of committing suicide) when they know they did wrong. I often wonder when my own country will ever reach that level of political maturity. 


I also loved how the show subtly touched on the issue of mental health. Taek was a Go game genius. But the show did not gloss over the burden this had on Taek's mental health. His competitiveness and the pressure around him made him unstable that he had to rely on medication to get through his anxiety, headaches, and insomnia. 


The show also touched on mental health when DR ran away from home because he felt alone due to his absentee parents. Yes, he always seemed happy on the outside but he's just a vulnerable kid who also gets affected by his family's issues. 


Despite their problems, DR and Taek were very fortunate to have friends who served as their support group. Their friends helped them pull through instead of judging them. 


I also liked how the show featured common concerns on women's health, specifically menopause and breast cancer. Guys or even women who have not gone through these things could easily dismiss them as non-issues. People don't understand how menopausal women can be extremely hormonal (which is obviously beyond their control). But Reply 88 tried its best to show everyone that it is real and it's difficult to deal with. A woman needs the support of the people around her to get out of menopause sane. This is definitely one drama you need to show your family if they can't seem to get the changes happening to you during menopause. 


Although it was set in the '80s, the show was thinking ahead of its time by featuring the problem of breast cancer. Every woman who has a lump in her breast who has to go through a breast exam would definitely empathize with how Il Hwa felt as she waited for her biopsy result. The feeling never gets old. I've been having annual (or sometimes twice a year) breast exams for at least 10 years now but I still feel nervous everytime I have to do it. You never know what results you'll get. Il Hwa was very fortunate that she had a very supportive husband and friends who didn't allow her to mope around. 


It was also nice to find out some interesting Korean facts like how they used to have this archaic rule where people with the same last names were not allowed to register their marriage and children. I liked how this was creatively injected through the love story of Bora and SW. 


I just loved how despite being great already, Reply 88 still upheld its mission to be relevant. Unlike some shows that are already trash to begin with but would still fail to be socially relevant. 


Music


Because the show was great in itself, I was not mindful of the music again. But I guess it must have been prominently used throughout the show because when I first listened to the soundtrack, it totally brought back memories and feels. I was crying just after hearing the intro of Hyehwadong. 


Here are some of my favorites:



Hyehwadong by Park Boram



Let's Forget It by Yeo Eun



I Can Only Give You Love by December


Extra Stuff


The show featured the winner of the 1988 Campus Music Festival. And although it was in a language we did not understand, Oppa and I loved the song. We thought it sounded ahead of its time. It was interesting to see that that was how it was perceived at that time too. 



I loved the show but they must have wanted me to love it more because they even had a cameo role for my baby-faced oppa. It was great to see Jung Hae In as DS' childhood classmate who had a crush on her. 



It was also nice to see Encounter's Mr. Nam (Ko Chang Seok) as Mi Ok's dad. :)

 

The Not so Good 


Sorry but I cannot bring myself to say that these are bad stuff about Reply 88. I just can't say bad things about it so I have to put these under the not so good category.


Although I understand it from a legal perspective, I absolutely hated that stuff were blurred by Netflix due to licensing issues. And I got even angrier after learning that some scenes were even cut. Some parts were supposed to be even funnier because of the scenes that were edited out. I'm glad that Oppa was able to find a version with complete scenes without any blurs. Now I totally have to watch Reply 88 again and I'm pretty sure I'll appreciate it even more. 


I also felt bad that we didn't get any closure on JH. Oppa was complaining that for someone who played a very prominent role in the beginning until probably 3/4 of the show, he seemed to have been relegated to a secondary role in the end. I might have the explanation below in the Hunches portion. But that still does not justify how the show ended for JH. His heart was already broken. The least the drama could have done was to show us that JH ended up okay and happy. 


As I mentioned earlier, I would have also wanted to see DS and Taek's wedding. It would have been interesting to see how they revealed their relationship to their family and friends and how they reacted to it. 



I would have also wanted to see adult versions of the other characters. We only saw DS, Bora, No Eul, and Taek. Then again, that's just me being clingy to all of them because I loved them so much. 


Our Hunches

Oppa and I love guessing the things that will happen in the show we're watching. We love competing and seeing who guessed the plot right. 

Initially, my hunch was that DS and JH would end up together. But I was wary of the fact that their love story was being prominently displayed early on. 

Halfway to the series, we start guessing that DS would actually end up with Taek. As I mentioned above, I thought of him as a dark horse. Nobody expected him to snatch the heart of the only girl in the group. After all, he was an absentee friend. We didn't see much of him during the first few episodes. 

Things got a bit confusing because in one episode, 2015 DS and her husband were looking at DS' old photo with JH taken at a concert they watched together. They referred to him as "he." So we get a hint that DS will not end up with JH. I mean, why would they refer to him as "he" if he was actually the guy sitting beside DS. But it was also weird that DS would display a photo of her and JH in a home she shared with her husband. It's like displaying your ex's photo at home. So I guessed that JH and DS got married but JH died and DS remarried, to Taek this time. JH had several nosebleeds in the show and Oppa felt that he had an illness that caused those nosebleeds. So we guessed JH would die from that illness. 

Well, we mostly got things right. DS ended up with Taek. The show didn't explain why JH and DS' photo was displayed in her home with Taek. We can guess it's because they're all really close friends and Taek didn't really mind. 

The supposed leaked endings (which prompted the producers to change the ending) are quite close to our hunches. JH supposedly died from a plane crash (allegedly an actual story that happened in 1995, with the soldier's family bearing similarities with JH's). He told Taek that he loved DS and even gave him his graduation ring so he can give it to DS. JH was already dead by the time SW and Bora got married but they left a chair for him and in all the other weddings in their group that happened thereafter. DS and Taek supposedly visited JH's grave before before they got married, sort of to ask for his permission. Taek gave JH's ring to DS, which she wore as a necklace.  

I liked how the show ended, although Oppa and I did find it weird that JH seemed to have been forgotten towards the end. Yes, the supposed leaked ending would have been more impactful and dramatic. But I'm not sure if my heart can take that kind of ending. I can't imagine the sadness Mi Ran would have felt. Or the guilt DS would have gone through. Or even JB's heartbreak (both literally and figuratively) over the loss of his beloved brother. So, yes, I guess I'm fine with how the show ended. It might have been made deliberately vague but for the sake of my heart, I'm happy with it. 

Judgment

Oppa says...it's a 4.9.

Noona says...it's definitely a 5 for me. Yes it did bring out my hang ups in life. But it was well worth the journey. At the moment, Reply 1988 holds the gold standard in K dramas for me. :)

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