Showing posts with label Twenty-Five Twenty-One (Kdrama) 5 || 5. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Twenty-Five Twenty-One (Kdrama) 5 || 5. Show all posts

04 April 2022

K Drama Review: Twenty-Five Twenty-One (2022) 5 || 5

I was hesitant to watch this drama. Although we've seen Kim Tae Ri in 1987: When the Day Comes, I don't think we've watched her enough to form an opinion about her. It didn't help that I felt quite indifferent towards Nam Joo Hyuk in Start-Up and Moon Lovers Scarlet Heart Ryeo. Good thing Oppa pestered me to watch this one because I absolutely loved it. 


Twenty-Five Twenty-One tells the story of rising fencing star, Na Hee Do (Kim Tae Ri). As a kid, Hee Do was touted as a fencing prodigy. However, she lost her motivation after her father (Baek Seok Gwang) passed away. Fast forward to Hee Do in high school. She seems to regain her interest in fencing after her school's fencing team was disbanded. She wanted to move to another school with a fencing team but her mother (Seo Jae Hee of Nevertheless and Run On), popular news anchor Shin Jae Kyung, refused to allow her. After trying every crazy tactic she knew to get her expelled from her old school, Hee Do finally got her mother's approval to transfer, with the help of the new school's fencing coach, Yang Chan Mi (Kim Hye Eun of Encounter and Itaewon Class). Hee Do finds herself teammates with her idol, fencer Ko Yu Rim (Bona). Much to her dismay, however, Yu Rim hated Hee Do and she did everything to make Hee Do's life miserable. 

Along the way, Hee Do also meets a guy in her neighborhood, Baek Yi Jin (Nam Joo Hyuk). Yi Jin is 4 years older than Hee Do but the age gap does not stop them from being close to each other. Yi Jin came from a rich family who turned bankrupt after the 1997 Asian financial crisis or IMF crisis as Koreans call it. Yi Jin and his family had to be separated to avoid creditors from running after them. Yi Jin could not continue studying in the university and had to work to support his family. After many failed attempts, he finally lands a job as a trainee reporter in UBS, the same network where Hee Do's mom worked. 

The story takes us through how Hee Do and Yu Rim navigate through their relationship, how Yi Jin and Hee Do fall in and out of love with each other, and how they meet wonderful friends along the way. 

Nam Joo Hyuk as Baek Yi Jin

I was pleasantly surprised with Nam Joo Hyuk in this drama. I'm loving this leaner version. It also helped that this is probably the plainest or most natural character I've seen him play so far. 

I loved Nam Joo Hyuk's deadpan/poker face delivery of both his funny and serious lines. Yet he still managed to show a lot of emotions in his dramatic scenes too. 

As a character, I loved Yi Jin because he was able to adjust to the circumstances he found himself in. Sure, he had a tough time but he adjusted eventually. He was rich yet he didn't mind doing hard labor to earn a living. He never fought back even if his father's (Park Yoon Hee) creditors provoked him. Just as an aside, I just found it weird that the creditors of Yi Jin's dad used to bother Yi Jin and his brother a lot. They found them no matter where they stayed. However, when Yi Jin became a reporter and was very much visible on TV, they seemed to have stopped pestering him. 

I sort of hate how the show made me think Yi Jin betrayed Yu Rim, a fencer whom his family sponsored in the past, when Yu Rim changed nationalities to help save her family from their financial problems. I'm glad this was cleared up right away. Because as much as I blame Yi Jin for how his relationship ended with Hee Do, I thought he was mostly a good guy who cared about and respected the feelings of people around him. 

I'm very happy with how Nam Joo Hyuk has evolved so far as an actor. I believe he's due for his military service soon and I can't wait to see him develop even more as an actor. 

Kim Tae Ri as Na Hee Do

We are in love with Kim Tae Ri!!! Apart from her pretty face, what sets her apart from other Korean actresses is her great acting skills. We love her so much that we're now watching Mr. Sunshine too. 

I loved Kim Tae Ri's big and bright smile that can light up a room. And her eyes and all the emotions she conveys with them - anger, despair, pain, sadness, giddiness, excitement, love, and happiness. I especially love her eyes when she smiles because they truly light up. But it was heartbreaking to look at them too when she's heartbroken. 

Despite her age, Kim Tae Ri was still credible as a high school student. I loved how Hee Do was not self-conscious. She had the innocence of a child who had simple joys like buying tons of snacks to get the free stickers that came with them. She's carefree, careless, and she often exudes this positive vibe, yet she's headstrong too like how she tried a lot of crazy tactics to get her mom to allow her to transfer schools. 

I super loved Hee Do's passion and competitiveness when it came to fencing. I felt all of that in her trainings and competitions. And what's cute about her is that she has the right amount of crazy too. I found it hilarious that she got into a relationship (with Choi Tae Joon of So I Married an Anti-Fan) just so she'll know what it feels like to break up. 

I also loved her storyline with her mom. I was happy that they finally talked about their resentments against each other - how mom unfairly wanted Hee Do to grow up faster and how Hee Do resented mom because she assumed that she didn't miss dad because she never talked about him. I'm glad that they both realized that they just had different ways of coping with their grief. 

I really, really hope Kim Tae Ri does more dramas and soon because we're definitely going to miss watching her. 

Yi Jin and Hee Do

I super loved how Hee Do and Yi Jin's relationship started. First, as enemies because Hee Do hated how Yi Jin interfered with her crazy plans to get expelled. Then, as each other's support system when they were having difficult times in their lives. 

I loved how they lifted each other up and how they accepted each other despite their flaws. Like how Hee Do lied to Yi Jin's dad about Yi Jin's whereabouts because she thought he was a creditor. But when she realized he was Yi Jin's dad, she spent hours walking to find him again. 

I loved how Yi Jin said Hee Do gave him hope. And how Hee Do didn't get angry even after Yi Jin ran away. She understood that it was her turn to root for and comfort him because he probably had a good reason for running away. 

And how Yi Jin was Hee Do's number one fan/supporter/advocate. Like how he picked her up from the train station when he realized she might miss her gold medal match during the Asian Games. Or how he pestered the referee to give an interview to clear Hee Do's name after she won the gold medal. 

I also liked Yi Jin's tough love for Hee Do. Although he cared for her, he never condoned her bad attitude like how he scolded her when she walked out of the press conference when she won the gold medal. 

And how Yi Jin was mostly honest with Hee Do. Like how he didn't lie to her about being her chatmate. Any other show would have probably prolonged this issue to create a rift between the two. 

I also loved how the show prepared us for what was going to happen to Yi Jin and Hee Do in the future. Yes, it was funny when Hee Do's mom caught the two of them spending alone time in Hee Do's home. But I felt that her advice about Yi Jin distancing himself from the subject because he had to be objective was very ominous. It didn't help that Hee Do's coach and Yi Jin's colleagues kept saying the same thing too. 

I also liked how the show built up Hee Do and Yi Jin's relationship. They started without labels then progressed to calling their relationship "rainbow." Then Yi Jin telling Hee Do that she made him do the right thing. Until they finally called what they had as love. And all of these happened in one episode. And I loved the awkwardness that came after that. 

I loved how overprotective Yi Jin was of Hee Do, going as far as risking his job when he fought his boss in public when Hee Do hurt her ankle due to the boss' carelessness.  And that cute first date that they had when Yi Jin was promoted. And who can forget how Yi Jin told Hee Do's ex that Hee Do should not waste her time on people she didn't like. 

Yi Jin's initial hesitation to get into a romantic relationship with Hee Do should have probably been another red flag. But things went well after that so that point is probably moot. I was just sad that their relationship seemed to have gone downhill the moment they agreed that they were going to be in a romantic relationship together. 

It was heartbreaking to see them drift apart. Not just because the story was well-written or because the actors were great. It was painful to watch because it was something very relatable - something you can imagine happening to busy people like them. My heart broke when Hee Do pushed through with their anniversary trip on her own and how she told her fans that she was not sure if she still had a boyfriend. 

The ending showed us that there was even more to their break up than the seeming lack of time they had for each other. But I'll talk about that later. Suffice it to say that I loved Yi Jin and Hee Do's love story, regardless of how it ended. 

Hee Do and Yu Rim

I loved the catfights of Hee Do and Yu Rim. They made the initial episodes of the show really entertaining and interesting. 

I admit that I initially hated Yu Rim because of how mean she was to Hee Do. I felt that she was a good person who was threatened by competition. I was beginning to love her but that Asian Games incident happened. But that was actually a blessing in disguise because after I found out about her family's financial situation, she became more human in my eyes. I finally began to understand why she was so scared of losing. 

And I absolutely loved how the show built up and developed Hee Do and Yu Rim's friendship. It was cute to see Yu Rim slowly softening up towards Hee Do when she found out they were actually chatmates. And it definitely helped that Yu Rim's mom empathized with Hee Do. I'm pretty sure mom hugging Hee Do helped push Yu Rim to finally accept Hee Do as her friend. And of course, that scene in the washroom where two girls were gossiping about Yu Rim and she and Hee Do teamed up against the rumor mongers. It was funny how Yu Rim's initial reaction was still to blame Hee Do. But then that led to her opening up about her insecurities and struggles, stuff that only someone in a similar situation like Hee Do would understand. And how Yu Rim knelt before Hee Do and how the latter's only response was everything was good as long as Yu Rim did not attempt diving in their training facility again when she's depressed because it was a dangerous thing to do (something Hee Do saw Yu Rim do a few episodes back). And how they hugged and made up and became clingy and lovey-dovey towards each other after that. 

I was scared that the show would become less interesting now that Hee Do and Yu Rim have made up. But show still managed to make things work. I loved how the two chose to discuss their past issues. Others would have probably just moved on and avoided rekindling the pain they both felt. But I'm glad that Hee Do asked the hard question of why Yu Rim hated her. And I loved how Yu Rim candidly admitted that Hee Do scared her because she lost to Hee Do when they were kids. 

I loved the strong bond the two formed. Like how they helped their teammate (Joo Bo Young of Start-Up) who wanted to quit fencing. And that final match they had as a team. It was nice how they both lost their individual matches but they won as a team. And because I've grown to love them so much, it was heartbreaking to see them part ways when Yu Rim moved to Russia. And I really found Hee Do super cool when she rescued Yu Rim from the reporters when she was stuck in the school gym. 

I was scared that they'd drift apart because of the false news that were released to make them hate each other. And how Yu Rim ignored Hee Do's emails. And how Hee Do refused to see Yu Rim before that match in Madrid. But I'm proud that their friendship was able to survive all those intrigues. How all the anxiety I felt melted when the two hugged each other after the match. I super love how this show did such a beautiful story about friendship and sports. 

And Bona was great. Oppa and my brother both love her too. I hope she does more dramas in the future. 

Yu Rim and Moon Ji Woong

I absolutely enjoyed this love storyline that a Yu Rim-Ji Woong (Choi Hyun Wook of Jirisan) break up would have been more devastating than a Yi Jin-Hee Do one. I loved Ji Woong's devotion to Yu Rim. How he was all out with her. And how he was cute when he was awkward around Yu Rim. Like when he wanted to hold her hands that he kept on "losing" the mittens he gave her. And how Yu Rim, who seemed aloof most of the time, was at ease with him. Like how she calls him when she's struggling. 

It was sad to hear Ji Woong's back story but I was proud of how he managed to get that far with the support of his mom. 

Ji Woong was totally funny too. I loved how he would act all cool when he was actually trembling in fear inside. Like when he claimed to know how to drive to impress Yu Rim but he was actually sweating a lot due to nervousness and he was driving at a snail's pace in the highway. And how he could not park the car that they had to lift it. 

And of course, my favorite thing about Ji Woong would be his bromance with Yi Jin. How he talked non-stop about how great Yi Jin's body was. And how Yi Jin found a way to get Yu Rim to attend Ji Woong's concert even if she was supposed to be in training. And Yi Jin going as far as subbing for an unavailable band member and wearing a school uniform to help Ji Woong impress Yu Rim. 

Just like all the other actors in this show, I also loved Choi Hyun Wook and I'm excited to see what's in store for him, knowing that he's the youngest among the main leads.  

Lee Joo Myung as Ji Seung Wan

I loved, loved, loved Lee Joo Myung (Hospital Playlist) and Ji Seung Wan. I loved how Seung Wan acted all tough but also proved to be vulnerable in the end. She was bossy but never condescending. 

I liked how the show injected a "boring" and "normal" character in the drama through Seung Wan. Not all of us have lives as colorful as Hee Do's or Yi Jin's or Yu Rim's. Some of us just get by day by day without any issues at home or in school. Yet, as Seung Wan showed us, things are often a matter of perspective. If life's boring, she finds ways to make it interesting. 

I loved the special bond Seung Wan shared with Ji Woong. I was concerned in the beginning that she would get in the way of Ji Woong and Yu Rim. Like they'd turn her into a jealous antagonist. But I'm glad that the drama showed us that boys and girls can actually have platonic relationships. 

What I loved most about Seung Wan was her sense of justice. How she stood up for what was right, in this case, against corporal punishment in schools. It was so bold of her to quit school when the teacher demanded that she apologize for being the whistleblower. 

And I loved how Seung Wan's mom (So Hee Jung of Hospital Playlist 2, Hotel Del Luna, and Angry Mom) supported her decision. How mom walked her through her decision - if there were other options, what she plans to do next, and cautioning her to learn how to be flexible. And when mom saw that Seung Wan's decision to quit was well thought out, she supported her and lashed out at the school for treating her daughter that way. 

This show has opened our doors to a new batch of great actors and Lee Joo Myung is definitely one of them. 

The Gang

I super loved the gang. It was amazing how these people who seemed so different from each other and who even started out as enemies ended up really close with each other. 

My favorite moment would definitely be that crazy beach outing they had when everyone seemed clueless about what to do - using huge bowls to cook rice and grilling meat with a frying pan, among others. And I loved that little open forum they had afterwards. How everyone opened up and bared parts of themselves. How each angsty teenager out there was well-represented - the athletes without friends, the rich but ignored by parents like Hee Do, those deep in debt like Yu Rim's family, the kids of divorcees like Ji Woong, and the regular and boring ones like Seung Wan. I loved each and everyone of them. They transported me back to my youth. 

I loved how they remained friends over the years even if they went on to do different things and even if Yu Rim had to move to another country. 

Special Mention: Coach Chan Mi

I can't skip Coach Chan Mi. Because I loved her unorthodox way of training her players. She seems cold and heartless but she actually cares very deeply about her athletes. Like how she encouraged Hee Do when the latter was trying out for the national team. Telling Hee Do that if she can't trust herself, she should at least trust her coach because she picked her and she would not have chosen losers. Or how she treated the whole fencing team at the restaurant of Yu Rim's family when she heard that they were having financial problems. Or how she challenged the fencer who wanted to quit that she should qualify for the quarterfinals first before she quits so that she'd be making an informed decision - not just quitting because she was in a slump. And how she respected her athlete's decision when she saw that she really wanted to quit. And how she guided Yu Rim when she moved to Russia. And of course, that heart-to-heart talk she had with Hee Do when the latter thought of retiring. If only coaches and mentors were all like Coach Chan Mi, then I'm sure a lot of athletes would really thrive. 


Fist, I loved the show's opening credits. I loved the filter that they used because it really exuded a '90s feel to it. I was thinking they could have probably used the same filter for the entire show (for the scenes from the past at least). Although that might have taken away the high quality viewing experience for us viewers.

I also liked how the show handled the transitions between the past and present scenes. It was not confusing at all because most present stuff were only shown at the beginning of the episode.  I also loved how the show found the perfect balance between the dramatic and funny scenes. It could transition between drama and comedy effortlessly without it looking rough or weird. 

I loved how the show stuck to the fencing theme from start to finish. As someone who's been "deceived" by supposedly sports dramas like Prison Playbook and Hot Stove League on baseball or Reply 1994 on basketball or Misaeng on baduk, when in fact the sports stuff were mostly shown during the start, I was really pleasantly surprised that a drama that was not advertised as a fencing drama actually featured the sport prominently throughout the show. Yes, we all now know the terms "En Garde," "Prets," and "Allez." :D I liked how the show was informative and how it had a very thrilling and exciting execution of the competitions. 

I also liked how the show put the spotlight on the struggles that student athletes go through. I was not that happy with how athletes were stereotyped as dumb jocks but I think the show was able to justify why these student athletes end up that way. They had no friends. They were deprived of experiences other regular students had like school trips. Training was prioritized over attending school. 

And how competitions bring out the worst in some people. Like how Yu Rim initially hated Hee Do. 

And the seniority problem too. How you're not supposed to perform better or train harder than your seniors, otherwise, they'd bully you. And how coaches ignore the blatant bullying in front of them. 

I also liked that little lesson on balancing assertiveness with respect. Yes, Yu Rim had the right to appeal to the referee, which she did. But she also had to respect that the referee is the final arbiter of all issues surrounding the match. She can't throw a tantrum just because the ref didn't agree with her. Sportsmanship goes both ways. Otherwise, you would discredit/invalidate the efforts of the winner, just like what happened to Hee Do. And of course, the coach is very much to blame for not handling the issue as an impartial adult. 

I also liked that bit of IMF crisis history that we got from the show. How it turned people's lives upside down and how it broke apart families like Yi Jin's. How kids like Yi Jin were forced to support their families. And the unemployment crisis that it brought. Like how difficult it was for people without connections to find jobs. 

I loved the show's general theme of hope - especially during difficult situations like Yi Jin's or Yu Rim's. Watching the entire show was really uplifting and heartwarming. 

I liked how the drama showed us the power of words. Words can bring you down like how the lack of faith of Hee Do's mom discouraged Hee Do. But words can take you places too and make you win competitions the way Coach Chan Mi and Yi Jin's words motivated Hee Do to aim higher. 

As I mentioned above, I liked how the show tackled the issue of corporal punishment. Although I was personally bothered that it continued despite the prohibition against it and it was still that bad during the '90s. I hope things are much better now. 

I also enjoyed that quitting episode - Seung Wan quitting school to protest corporal punishment and Hee Do's teammate quitting fencing to pursue something she really loves to do. Indeed, some things are worth fighting for, especially if you've tried every other option available. There is absolutely no shame in quitting. 

And probably the best part about this show is that it's drama done right. It did touch on heavy topics but they all felt natural and organic. It was never the in your face kind of drama. The accident of Yu Rim's dad. The financial problem their family had to face. The break up. How vicious people can be towards perceived traitors like Yu Rim. Parting ways to pursue greener pastures. You cry not because the show is appealing to your emotions or it's set up with a dramatic backdrop (like breaking up under the rain). Rather, you cry because you can actually imagine yourself going through those stuff or you might have even gone through them already. It was so slice of life. And definitely had Reply feels. 

The Ending

Good shows sometimes become problematic in the end because of sloppy finales. I'm glad that Twenty-Five Twenty-One is not one of those shows. It still managed to deliver something splendid despite the very high standard it set for itself from the beginning. 

I super loved how heartbreaking and bittersweet the break up was. I liked how mature Hee Do was to identify that their problem was not the lack of time together or the physical distance between them. It was Yi Jin's refusal to bare his problems to Hee Do. How he always retreats when times are tough. And I was so proud of how Hee Do foresaw that there was no future for them if Yi Jin remained that way. She could have hoped that he'd change. But she knew that was going to be difficult. So even if it hurt her so much, she had to let go. In the end, I was just glad that they were able to make amends before they finally broke up. I don't think Hee Do seeing Yi Jin's reply in her diary would have changed things. They might have extended their relationship for a bit, but I know that problem was going to resurface. They had different ways of dealing with problems and love alone won't be enough to make up for that huge difference. So, yes, it's not the bookshop owner's fault that they broke up. :D And in a way, I'm glad that the show didn't force Hee Do and Yi Jin to end up together, even several years later. I liked how the show kept things real. 

I'm just happy that Ji Woong and Yu Rim ended up together. I loved that production number proposal Ji Woong staged. (Although he really moved in a very awful manner as a fencer.) I was going to judge Hee Do and Yi Jin and compare them to Ji Woong and Yu Rim who didn't give up easily and who made their long distance relationship work. But then again, I understood that the two couples' circumstances were different. Hee Do and Yi Jin's problem had nothing to do with physical distance. And being together physically would not have fixed their problems. 

I was also glad that everyone in the gang seemed to be doing well. I'm especially proud of Ji Woong and Yu Rim who worked really hard to get to where they are. 

And of course, I absolutely loved Hee Do's retirement ceremony where she and Yu Rim acknowledged that the best part of their fencing careers was having the honor of being each other's rivals. *sigh*

I would have wanted to see older versions of the gang too and see that they're still close to each other. But I guess the memories they made in their youth should be enough. As Hee Do said, youth makes you feel invincible and that things will remain the same forever. However, truth is, youth is fleeting. So it's important to treasure the memories you make at that time because even after they end, they would still be enough to make your life shinier and extra brighter later on. 

Oppa says...5.

Noona says...5.