I don’t often watch high school themed dramas, but when How to Buy a Friend came across my radar, my curiosity was piqued. With the chance to see a couple of familiar faces, in an easily bingeable 4-hour mini-drama format, I made the snap decision to give this webtoon-turned-drama a go! Was it worth the watch? Read on to see my spoiler-free review.
Rumors surround Don Hyuk, a highly praised high school fighter, after his girlfriend’s sudden suicide. Plagued by the trauma he is quick to fight if someone even mentions her name, landing him in juvenile detention. After his release, he returns to school where he comes across a poem written by Chan Hong, a particularly average student who has a knack for writing. Eventually, Don Hyuk discovers a clue about his girlfriend’s death and approaches Chan Hong to help him investigate, and in exchange, he will serve as Chan Hong’s personal bodyguard. This contractual relationship entangles them both in a series of dramatic events as they try to uncover the truth behind the suicide. (MyDramaList)
On the surface, all the usual high school drama tropes are here— suicide, bullying, dismissive adults, and first love. However, this mystery unexpectedly dug deep, reminiscent of a slice-of-life type story. I loved that the theme of poetry was woven throughout, highlighting the highs and lows of all those raw and vulnerable teenage emotions.
I fully admit that one of the first reasons I considered this drama was because Lee Shin Young was part of the cast. He caught my attention as the stoic and handsome soldier in Crash Landing On You. His role here as Chan Hong, is much different. He plays an average teen, content with his mediocre status in life. But as events yank him from the comfort zone of the shadows, we see a very accurate and heartfelt portrayal of confronting the realities of growing up. The icing on the cake with this character? His lovely satoori was totally swoonworthy.
Played by Shin Seung Ho (Moment at Eighteen), Don Hyuk’s character development was most surprising. Peel back that stereotypical, imposing, tough-guy exterior and you find a much softer soul fighting to find the truth in his girlfriend’s death. It was the bromance that emerged from his contract friendship with Chan Hong though, that was one of the highlights of this drama, hands down.
In a surprising twist, my favorite characters were actually Chan Hong’s parents. They straight-up gave me Reply series feels in their interactions with each other and with their son. They were exemplary!
The story arc was well done and the pacing perfect. My only complaint is that I wish that this series had been longer – I was so emotionally invested in each of the characters. I think that’s why, even now, I still catch myself thinking about moments from this drama. If you’re in the mood for a more poignant high school storyline, definitely add How to Buy a Friend to your watchlist!
Already watched it? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below!
Until the next drama,
Dramas with a Side of Kimchi