29 January 2022

K Drama Review: Moment of Eighteen / At Eighteen (2019) 4.9 || 4.8

After watching Romance is a Bonus Book, Oppa was browsing through Netflix and came across this show. We both didn't know about it, so we didn't really have any expectations. And we were pleasantly surprised to have chosen such a great show. I hope this means we're getting better at picking good dramas to watch. :) This show was so nice and heartwarming that you can't help but root for everyone (well, almost!), even the supposed villains. 


At Eighteen tells the story of Choi Joon Woo (Ong Seong Wu), a second-grader who was forced to transfer to Cheonbong High School. He was falsely accused of school violence when in fact he was merely a fall guy for his friend (Seong Geon Hee of Love Alarm). It didn't help that in his new school, Joon Woo was again wrongly blamed for stealing an academy teacher's expensive watch. And nobody believed him when he said he didn't do it because he was up against the number 1 in the batch, Ma Hwi Young (Shin Seung Ho of D.P. and Love Alarm). When things appeared to be going downhill for Joon Woo, he befriends Yoo Soo Bin (Kim Hyang Gi), the batch's popular girl. The story takes us through how Joon Woo and Soo Bin overcome the difficulties in their lives together, despite the never-ending pressures from their families, school, and society in general. 

Ong Seong Wu as Choi Joon Woo

Ong Seong Wu is a relatively new actor. This was his first drama actually. But I'm pretty sure this guy is going to go places. He has both the looks and the talent to make it big in K dramaland. 

I loved Joon Woo because of his impressive character development. Yep, it was evident from the start that he was a good person. But he was understandably aloof. So it was great to finally see him come out of his shell now that he found people who believed in him. I loved how he finally found the reason to fight back and excel. It's so easy to root for him as an underdog but he becomes even more lovable as he grows more confident. From shy type to volunteering as class vice president. Whew. 

Although quiet most of the time, I also loved how Joon Woo was no pushover. He stood his ground against Hwi Young. And he firmly but respectfully rejected Ro Mi (Han Sung Min), a classmate who was crazy over him. 

The best thing about Joon Woo is his overall positive disposition. He never wallowed in his miseries. He didn't pity himself. And he never resented anyone despite his misfortunes. 

I love Ong Seong Wu and I know I'll be seeing more of him. He can do cool dude, indifferent guy, crazy in love boyfriend, heartbroken son, etc. And he does all of them really well. 

Kim Hyang Gi as Yoo Soo Bin

I admit that at first glance, Kim Hyang Gi might not get your attention right away. She's young and she does not look like your generic K drama leading lady. But she will grow on you and you'll end up loving her more than those run-off-the-mill actresses. 

Soo Bin is wonderful because her nurturing personality brings out the best in the people around her, especially Joon Woo. She's this positive magnet that encourages everyone to dream and do better. 

I can't wait to see what the future holds for Kim Hyang Gi. She's cute and her little facial expressions (regardless if she's happy at simply seeing Joon Woo, in despair at her parents' divorce, or in pain at her mom's disapproval of her relationship) really draw you into her character. I hope she'll get more shows soon. 

Joon Woo and Soo Bin

It was not love at first sight for me and this couple. I'm not sure if it was because Joon Woo was too tall for Soo Bin or he appeared a bit older than her. I didn't feel the electricity right away. But they eventually grew on me and they never left. Their sincerity towards each other made me love them so much. 

I liked how natural their relationship was - from the way it started and how it developed. Watching them transported me back to days of young love - their cute confession, the awkwardness that came after that, their boldness like Joon Woo almost confessing in front of Soo Bin's mom, the craziness that comes with preparing for a first date, and supportive friends cheering them on. 

And all those cute moments that make you feel super giddy. Like when Soo Bin cutely checked on Joon Woo after his little bike accident. 

Or how she made a temporary name patch for him. Or how he carried her to the clinic when she fainted during an exam. Or how he protected her from being hit by a ball during a game. 

And it was not just the superficial stuff. I loved how they rooted for each other. Silently in the beginning especially on Soo Bin's part. She believed that Joon Woo was good even if everyone else said otherwise. She never judged him nor was she prejudiced against him despite his background. 

And I super loved their confessions, especially Soo Bin's. How she told him that she was helping him not out of pity but because she likes him. Ahhh.

Yes, I felt bad when Soo Bin chose to believe Hwi Young when he claimed that Joon Woo was only using her to get back at him. I felt that she could have asked Joon Woo straight away to verify the issue. After all, she's a levelheaded girl who had a very good grasp of the things happening around her. But in the end, I understood that that needed to happen so she can finally see Hwi Young's true colors. 

Joon Woo and Soo Bin will probably be one of my most favorite couples in K dramaland. While mature love might be preferable because it's more stable, I can't help but admire how this pair showed us that maturity knows no age. You can be mature even at 18. 

Shin Seung Ho as Ma Hwi Young

Shin Seung Ho seems to love doing roles that make everyone hate him. And I guess that's proof that he's good at what he does. He was an annoying ex in Love Alarm. And a very despicable bully in D.P. And he does it again here. 

I so wanted Hwi Young to fail right from the start. He was so full of himself. He was a bully who wanted to defeat everyone at all costs. However, as I got to know him more, I pitied him for the pressure his parents put on him. Unfortunately, he channelled that pressure to bullying. He was fortunate to have met Joon Woo who might not have matched him intellectually but helped him realize the root of his problems. Joon Woo who was not vindictive but who just genuinely wanted Hwi Young to do better. Surprisingly, by the end of the show, I already found myself rooting for Hwi Young. He was broken but he repented and he tried really hard to be better. 

I hope Shin Seung Ho gets to play more diverse characters next time. He's good and he deserves it. 

Kang Ki Young as Oh Han Kyeol 

Apart from Joon Woo and Soo Bin, Mr. Oh (Kang Ki Young of Exit) was also my favorite. I super, super loved how the kids' homeroom teacher was trying. He's proof that sometimes, you don't need to be the best as long as your heart is in the right place. In certain cases, genuinely caring for the students trumps competence. Unfortunately, most school officials would simply look at the students' grades to gauge if a teacher's good or not. 

Many times, Mr. Oh doubted himself and he felt that he was clueless about so many things. Yet Joon Woo was right when he said that part of Mr. Oh's charm is his being naive. He might not know a lot but it was amazing to see how far he'd go to help his students. Like reaching out to Joon Woo and getting to the bottom of things regarding his transfer (even bothering to contact Joon Woo's old homeroom teacher). How he even ended up working Joon Woo's part-time job shift when the latter was struggling in balancing his time with school, academy, and work. 

And just like Joon Woo, Mr. Oh was no pushover. He put his foot down especially with Hwi Young, insisting that the latter respect his authority. And oh, how he tried his best to change the school's culture of yielding to each and every demand of the parents. 

Kang Ki Young was great as the funny/silly but very sincere Mr. Oh. 

Wonderful Cast

I loved how the show gave us super wonderful actors to play the amazing characters in this drama. Everyone was perfect for their roles. I understood where everyone was coming from (except Hwi Young's dad (Sung Ki Yoon of Encounter, Suits, and Descendants of the Sun) I guess). They were all flawed but due to circumstances that were mostly beyond their control. 

I super loved Kim Do Wan's (Start-Up) character, Cho Sang Hoon. It was hilarious to see him annoy Hwi Young all the time. I was glad he didn't push through with migrating because he provided a very much needed challenge to Hwi Young. 

I loved Soo Bin's gang. Da Heen (Kim Bo Yun of Ms. Hammurabi)'s one-sided crush on cutie Oh Je (Moon Bin). I admit Moon Bin needs a bit of improvement acting-wise. Although he might have had the misfortune of being with Ong Seong Wu in a lot of scenes that he naturally paled in comparison to the super talented Seong Wu. 

Ki Tae's (Lee Seung Min) huge love for So Ye (Moon Joo Yeon of Now, We're Breaking Up) that he gave up being Hwi Young's butler to prove how much she meant to him. Then there's Chan Yeol's (Kim Ga Hee of Hospital Playlist) unexpected unrequited love for Mr. Oh. 

And Ro Mi who was perfect as the annoying and manipulative bitch. But who will be there for you when needed like when she scolded Oh Je for dumping Da Heen. I'm glad that she finally gave in to her long-time admirer Pil Sang (Yoo In Soo of Love Alarm and Strong Woman Do Bong Soon). 

Among the parents, my favorite was definitely Soo Bin's mom (the all-around best supporting actress Kim Sun Young of Romance is a Bonus Book, The Silent Sea, Juror 8, Crash Landing on You, Vagabond, Hospital Playlist, and Reply 1988). Yes, I loathed how unreasonable she was at times. Although it can be argued that she was just being a mother, what was truly unacceptable was how she looked down on Joon Woo. I couldn't understand how she could say she knew Joon Woo was a good person but he was not good enough for her daughter. But I was happy that in the end, she eventually came to her senses and she admitted she was wrong for reacting so strongly. I'm glad that she was humble enough to ask for forgiveness from Joon Woo. 


I absolutely loved how the show laid out the story in a very organized manner. The first half focused on various difficult issues that the kids faced, primarily the problematic educational system they had to deal with. 

Most of the problems actually stemmed from the parents who kept on pressuring their kids to excel and to get into good universities. The parents also had the tendency to coddle their children by doing them favors to save them from their problems. Some even went as far as bullying/bribing teachers. In the end, however, they were not really protecting them. Rather, they were enabling them to be entitled brats who cannot accept failure. 

Unfortunately, the kids don't really thrive under pressure. As in Hwi Young's case, he resorted to bullying to release all those pent up emotions. And he used his influence and money to get his way around school. And oh, how two-faced he was, pretending to be all good in front of his teachers but being very vile with the other kids. 

Peer pressure was also another issue the kids had to deal with. Ki Tae doing the dirty work for Hwi Young. And Joon Woo taking the fall for his friend. 

And of course, there's the pressure to show that you live a good life. Like Soo Bin's mom lying about her separation from her husband. And Ro Mi lying about her family's real stature. 

This show actually reminds me a lot of Angry Mom. But this is a tamer, sweeter, and cuter version. I loved the balance between the heavy topics of the tiger parents and the lighter ones focusing on young love. I liked how the show tried to drive home the point that these kids should be allowed to live and enjoy life and that parents should be careful about stifling them too much. 

And as if the exposes in the first half were not enough for me like the show, the drama gave me so much more reason to love it during the second half when it focused more on the relationships. I loved how everyone stepped up for each other despite their differences. The final episodes highlighted how organic and warm the relationships were in this show. 

One of the friendships I loved the most was the one between Soo Bin and Joon Woo's (Shim Yi Young of Monthly Magazine Home, Love Alarm, and Love Alarm 2) moms. I loved how Joon Woo's mom was very overprotective of Soo Bin's mom. Aside from the fact that Soo Bin's mom disapproved of the kids' relationship, another heartbreaking thing for me was that the two moms could no longer continue their friendship. 

I also loved how overprotective Mr. Oh was of the kids. I super liked that scene where he scolded Soo Bin's mom for manipulating the kids' emotions and how he told her that the school is not a prison and he is not a prison guard. 

I found Chan Yeol's feelings for Mr. Oh really cute. She looks so carefree so it was surprising to know that she actually had feelings for ssaem. Despite her heartbreak upon finding out that he had a girlfriend (Heo Young Ji), I loved how selfless Chan Yeol was in helping him find the girl. 

And bitchy Ro Mi distracting Soo Bin's mom so the latter won't see her daughter with Joon Woo. And stopping Soo Bin from following Joon Woo when the latter talked to her mom. And standing up to her friends' enemies like the eavesdropper who overheard Oh Je's confession about his sexuality to Da Heen. And doing something totally unpredictable - agreeing to be Pil Sang's mentor and eventually going out with him. 

Then there's So Ye who reprimanded Sang Hoon for teasing Ki Tae, even if she never allowed Ki Tae to go scot-free for his crimes. 

Even Soo Bin's bodyguard/driver was lovable especially when she slowed down the car so that Joon Woo who was on his bike could catch up with them and she even allowed Soo Bin to visit Joon Woo on his birthday. 

And there's Hwi Young who despite his flaws always had a soft spot for Soo Bin like when he lent her his phone because hers was confiscated by her mom. And of course his shining moment when he apologized to Joon Woo and he owned up to his mistakes. And Joon Woo returning the favor by not ratting on Hwi Young and forgiving him. 

And there's Da Heen, who even if Oh Je broke her heart and dumped her, still stood up against the eavesdropper who spread the news about Oh Je liking Hwi Young. I loved that this storyline was included. And how Da Heen and Oh Je agreed to be besties. 

And who can forget that episode where the people Hwi Young bullied around - Ki Tae, Joon Woo, Oh Je, and Sang Hoon - were the ones who looked for him when he ran away from home after the grade rigging issue came out. 

I absolutely loved how Soo Bin's gang helped her surprise Joon Woo on his birthday, including Ro Mi who was dumped by Joon Woo previously. 

Then there's Mr. Oh who's just good to everyone, even to Hwi Young who was rude to him. Mr. Oh gave his girlfriend reviewers even if she wanted to break up. He looked for an art academy for Joon Woo. I super loved their little bromance. Ssaem's trust and belief in Joon Woo definitely gave the latter the confidence to carry on and stop running away. 

And of course, Joon Woo and Soo Bin's relationship. How Joon Woo said that he would still keep liking Soo Bin even after her mom found out about them. And how he kept on encouraging Soo Bin that they will get through all these difficulties. How they supported each other through tough times - when Soo Bin found out about the planned divorce of her parents and when Joon Woo's dad rejected him. And Soo Bin bravely calling Joon Woo's mom to check on him when she sensed that there was something wrong. And Joon Woo choosing to give up everything even if things were already going his way because he knew his mom needed him. 

Yes, the ending was bittersweet. I have not cried this hard over a drama ending for quite some time now. I felt bad that our couple had to go through another obstacle again, as if their past troubles were not enough. But still, my heart is at peace and I feel secure knowing how mature they are. I am confident that they can get through this and emerge even stronger. As Joon Woo said, it's because he's settled that he can now move on. He has found his core, his home, his homies and he can now excel wherever he goes. 

I'm pretty sure their moment at 18 won't just remain a moment. They will continue to unravel more moments in their lives together. 

I know it's wishful thinking but I would love to get another season just to see how these friends are doing. 

Over all, At Eighteen is a wonderful, heartwarming drama that is so refreshing and such a joy to watch. 

Music was nice too. Here are some of my favorites...

Our Song by Ong Seong Wu (yes, he's not just good looking and great in acting, he can sing too!!!). 

And Moments by Christopher. 

Loved the opening song too. 

Oppa says...4.9.

Noona says...4.8.