Sometimes in life, a drama comes around that just hits you with all the feels, especially during times of great stress. If ever there was a universal time of great stress it would be now. So, if you need something to watch that will get you in a more hopeful frame of mind, this might be the show for you.
Kim Tae Ri as Na Hee Do
Kmuse: This is Kim Tae Ri’s second foray into dramas and while she was brilliant in Mr. Sunshine, I think this drama has the popularity potential to send her to that next level of drama stardom. She has done some award-worthy performances in film, but for those of us who watch mostly dramas, she remains pretty unknown. I am always happy when talented stars really start to stand out and that is the case now. Not to mention, Kim Tae Ri literally cut off her bangs for the role. That takes that extra level of dedication that needs to be acknowledged.
Kdrama Jen: I love her in this role! I seriously can’t believe she is in her thirties. I really enjoyed her in Space Sweepers, so I am very happy to see her back on my screen. She really captures the youthful energy and angst so well. I also love that she moons over her fencing idol like others gaze longingly at their favorite music stars. She just makes me happy.
Telzeytalks: You would never know she isn’t a teenager by watching this show. She has energy and enthusiasm and is completely convincing. She was so funny, trying to pick a fight on purpose, and then so deflated when the other girl was sweet and kind to her. My favorite part was when I realized that in the street fight, she was using fencing techniques with her umbrella, and was doing a great job!
Clkytta: I think she is so engaging! I love how she is so obsessed with fencing and she isn’t willing to give it up. Good acting is good acting and she really immersed herself into this role.
MiataMama: Na Hee Do is such a relatable character – I love her passion and her focus on the things that are important to her!! Also, I’m appreciating how she fully embodies the teenage spirit in the midst of transition, from youthful idealism to mature realism.
Strong and attractive male lead
Kmuse: I am loving Nam Joo Hyuk playing the role of Baek Yi Jin. He is strong, loyal, and has a depth to his character that is really drawing me in. Also, I don’t think I have ever seen him look more handsome and charismatic.
Kdrama Jen: Yes. He is really appealing in this drama. I think his acting has taken on a depth that we haven’t seen before. He is very believably playing the son of a family devastated by the IMF crisis. He is able to seamlessly move from forlorn and helpless to commanding and cool as the scene demands. I have really enjoyed seeing this actor grow.
Telzeytalks: He is just so good in the heartfelt moments, and yet he is easy-going with Hee Do, and puts on a good front for his little brother. But some of the scenes with his dad are so touching, and just pure gold, and are what creates such a strong bond for our characters. We are getting fond of them fast.
Clkytta: This guy is such a scene-stealer! I really think he would have good chemistry with a rock. His facial expressions are on point and he is able to be both serious and comedic.
MiataMama: Having seen Nam Joo Hyuk in both Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo and The Light in Your Eyes, I knew he would be a capable leading man! But I am still blown away by how fantastic he is in this role – I find myself swooning one moment, then wanting to give him comforting mom hugs the next!
Romance: Yay or Nay?
Kmuse: I love that the writers are really setting their relationship up as a strong friendship in the beginning. This especially works since she is still underage at the beginning of the show. So often the leads jump straight from the meet-cute to insta love without building a firm foundation. This drama is getting all of that friendship building set up first before increasing the feelings and I am all in for that. I also appreciate that the show is focusing on emotional connections between all of the characters, friends, parents, siblings, as well as romance; this keeps the drama from feeling like it has only one note.
Kdrama Jen: I am all in for this potential romance. I love that is starts out as a really mutually beneficial friendship. She needs his logical perspectives and he needs her youthful hope. You can tell there will definitely be something more, but right now they are keeping it at the “possibility” stage.
Telzeytalks: They are not at all romantic yet, and that’s good, because I do not like high school kids with adults. The future is another story, when they are both at the same level.
Clkytta: I love a good friends-to-lovers storyline. I appreciate that right now they are very much in the friend zone.
MiataMama: I’m enjoying the way this story building- slow and steady. I’m so immersed! It has the same ‘mystery-ending’ feels that I loved with the Reply series. Personally, I would love a happily ever after for these two down the road… but for now, I’m just happy to watch their friendship grow!
Fantastic Ensemble Cast
Kmuse: I mentioned in the last section that the whole cast’s character growth is beyond excellent. Everyone has so much chemistry individually and as a group. I’m not sure if that is because of the directing, the actor choice, or just fate. Whatever the case, I am loving this as much as I did the Reply dramas.
Kdrama Jen: This has so many Reply vibes. I love the burgeoning friendships and the way we get to see the future and the past, but we are finding out that neither is quite as we thought. The whole cast of characters is making me absolutely fall in love with them. I want to binge this drama and just enjoy the story all at once.
Telzeytalks: I love that Hee Do is making friends already with the class president, and that there are nice kids at her school. Her mom is a problem, but I can see that adult Hee Do is trying to be a better mom for her own daughter. Lots of good relationships going on.
Clkytta: The friend group is amazing and I like that we have more than one potential couple. I’m also getting Reply vibes and that’s a huge selling point for me. Reply vibes mean we have well-rounded characters and we want to know more about them. Not a boring one in the bunch!
MiataMama: The ensemble cast is perfect – I’m definitely just as invested in the side stories as I am the main plot! Hopefully the warm-fuzzies I have for all the characters will remain steadfast post-time-jump.
Cinematography and Bringing the Past to Life
Kmuse: Jung Ji Hyun is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors. He directed The King: Eternal Monarch and Mr. Sunshine, which both had the same deep saturation of colors that I love, love, love! Almost every moment of Twenty-Five Twenty-One can be an amazing screenshot. It is with this attention to detail and color that the director brings the financial crisis of the 1990s to life.
Kdrama Jen: We all know how I am the resident expert on cinematography (just kidding). Still, I love the colors and the way everything just feels like I could reach out and touch it. I am also really impressed with how the team is bringing the IMF crisis to the forefront like this. It feels very real and very relatable.
Telzeytalks: This show is so good at creating a mood and building a world we can believe in, with characters we can sympathize with. There are such strong feelings, and some of the experiences we see are hard, but it’s not a depressing show because of Hee Do’s cheerfulness.
Clkytta: I was a teenager in the 90s and I find this show to be nostalgic. The way it’s filmed feels authentic to the time and I am really enjoying that. I swear that every guy I knew wore the same polos that Ye Jin is wearing in this show.
MiataMama: It’s the little details, like the pagers and the hair scrunchies, for me! My own teenage daughter was sneak-watching this drama over my shoulder when I pushed play on the first episode and she kept asking me about all the period props. It has been a very fond trip down memory lane, as I recall my own teenage years during the late ’90s while watching this drama.
Would We Recommend?
Kmuse: Yes, yes, a 100 times yes.
Kdrama Jen: I have recommended this to many people already. It is exactly the drama I needed right now. It feels like a Reply drama, but it has its own fresh twists. If you are not watching, and you enjoyed the Reply series, then go watch this right now!
Telzeytalks: Yes, I agree, I recommend! This show has an exceptionally strong start, and is my favorite of all the shows airing now. I especially appreciate the positive overall feel, which is something I look for these days.
Clkytta: Oh, a big fat yes! I’m so charmed and interested in this show!
MiataMama: YES!!! I really wish I could binge-watch this drama. Saturdays do NOT arrive fast enough at this house!
Til the next random thought,
Dramas With a Side of Kimchi