“School” Bells Ring
Uh, yeah, I kind of love it. It has been a long time since the first episode of a drama was this compelling for me. School 2013 drama doesn’t have a flashy cast, production, or plot but it is well produced, acted, and written on all levels. Set in a Seoul high school, the story and characters feel real despite some of the obvious plot contrivances needed for the drama. Overall, the drama tugs at your heart without being precious or pretentious, which a lot of dramas tend to be these days. Yep, it already tugged at my heartstrings.
I love youth dramas because adolescence is time when teenagers feel everything so acutely, the good as well as the bad. As awful as life may seem at that moment, there is a glittering sense of hope for the future. Adolescence is the time when humans beings first start to question the meaning of life, struggle to find their purpose, and plan for the future. So far, School 2013 promises to be remain true to the heart of adolescence without, as I said, being pretentious. The student characters in this drama face a real Korean school life and the writers are paying careful attention to the details to help create that kind of environment.
This drama is not only about the students, however. I don’t like youth dramas that portray a world in which no adults exist and thankfully School 2013 populates its world with a wide range of teachers- the kind who care, the kind who turn a blind eye, the kind who are selfish, and the kind who need to do some growing themselves.
I have a blank slate for this drama. I didn’t watch the older School series nor have I watched any previous works of this drama’s writers and directors. I didn’t watch Baby-faced Beauty so I have no lingering sense of affection for the Daniel Choi and Jang Nara relationship. I also haven’t seenJang Nara act in anything for a really long time so I had no idea what to expect from her for this drama. I only hoped she had toned down her overacting and she has! I’m very pleased with her acting in this drama. She is competently portraying her character who is a young teacher put in charge of a troublesome class. Her character, Jung Jae-in, struggles to maintain discipline, fairness, and hope in the teaching process. She cares about her students and her job but it’s hard to maintain that kind of stance in a society that only cares about rank and prestige. We didn’t get a lot of Daniel Choi this episode but he is a good actor and I think his character will do a lot of growing in this drama. His character, Kang Se-chan, is a popular and esteemed hagwon (cramschool) teacher who is forced to teach in a public school. It will be interesting to see how this teacher, who had the privilege to teach only to students who want to learn, take responsibility of a wide diversity of students, including the troublesome ones.
I liked Lee Jong-suk fine in Secret Garden but he was very green there. Here, we can see he has improved and is exuding both the right amount of charisma, warmth, angst, and indifference needed for his character, Go Nam-soon. Kwak Jung-wook, whom you may recognize for White Christmas and Shut Up Flower Boy Band, is someone I have been keeping at eye on for a while now and he doesn’t disappoint. Playing the troubled student who bullies his peers as well as his teachers, Kwak Jung-wook gives his role nuance and sensitivity, making his Oh Jung-ho relatable. As for Park Se-young, we didn’t enough of her character in episode one for me to comment on her acting but I think I can trust her, based on what we got for Faith. The girl has potential, even if she is a little rough around the edges.
I’m very, very happy right now. If this is how we are going to start the drama year of 2013, bring it on!