후아유- 학교 2015 (Who Are You: School 2015)

Korea’s School drama series gave birth to some of the biggest names in Hallyu today: Jo In Sung, Jang Hyuk and Gong Yoo. Immediate predecessor School 2013 solidified the names of Lee Jong Suk and Kim Woo Bin as models turned actors. When the news for the new School series was announced, the first thing I thought of was, “Why can’t it be just the two of them again?”  But the idea of seeing the same kind of strong friendship in a female perspective made me anticipate Who Are You:School 2015. It would be amazing to see a heart-tugging sisterhood this time since the main characters are twins and both would be played by the young and remarkably talented Kim So Hyun.

Everything started off really interesting but then it got dragging as the makjang elements came in. For a series that’s trendy, mysterious, and claims to evince real life struggles of both teachers and students as well as the people around them; the whole makjangness seems out-of-place. Just how many dramas about birth secrets, switched identities and amnesia can one tolerate? Good thing Kim So Hyun and BTOB’s Yook Sung Jae portrayed their characters so well, I was already able to get myself invested in them before the occurrence of the show’s glaring plot holes, stretched out love triangle, and one-dimensional supporting characters.

The Pretty Little Liars-ish mystery got me all excited but then it ends with an anti-climactic reveal. The cringe-worthy aegyo-filled student teacher and Jung Soo In’s sister Jung Min Yeong presented the consequences of apathy. While it’s true that the teachers and Eun Byul were lacking in the sympathy department, isn’t it the family’s responsibility to choose the best option for a child who’s actually sick? It’s not like her sister’s encephalomeningitis developed overnight without symptoms. Of all people, Soo In’s family should’ve noticed it first before even sending her to school. What happened to her was certainly horrifying but it’s illogical to put the blame on another girl who doesn’t even deserve to be haunted by that event. The problem is that the story was trying to set it up as if Soo In was also a victim of bullying, that she was pushed to her death, and that Go Eun Byul was at fault.

'후아유-학교2015' 육성재, 흑태광 변신 '김소현 거절 후 심경변화?' / 사진 : (유) 학교2015 문화산업전문회사,FNC 엔터테인먼트 제공

Without the Soo In arc, this is just a typical high school romance disguised as a coming-of-age thriller. The shipping war is not even interesting since the endgame is obvious and pretty disappointing. I just find it so unfair that Eun Bi didn’t choose the first person who called her by her real name and accepted her for who she is, the one who immediately went all the way to Tongyeong and spent time with the kids at the Love House, the person who looks like a slacker but is actually man enough for her. I was waiting for that moment when the whole school finds out that Gong Tae Kwang is the son of a famous actress and their school director. I guess somehow I just want people to see him in a different light and realize that this crazy kid isn’t just a nobody. I don’t know why his identity was not revealed.

I don’t know why I stuck with this drama just to see the second lead I’m rooting for get hurt over and over again. Actually, with that much character development, I didn’t even feel like Tae Kwang was the second lead.

I thought the purpose of Eun Byul’s absurd return from the dead is to rekindle her friendship with Han Yi Ahn and realize that they are actually made for each other in the long run.

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Yet for some reason the writer thought it’s better to force a relationship between Eun Bi and Yi Ahn even though they have less chemistry and the latter didn’t even want to see her when he found out that she wasn’t the real Eun Byul. And now that he has figured out the difference between the twins, he just suddenly realized that it’s best to let go of his unrequited love for Eun Byul and give his affection to Eun Bi whom he barely knows but luckily happens to have the same face.

Yi Ahn is commendable for running back to school without hesitation and hurting his shoulder in the process but it seemed like a clichéd attempt to give his character one huge heroic sacrifice for Eun Bi to make him on par with Tae Kwang’s consistent efforts.

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I love the contrasting personalities of Go Eun Byul and Lee Eun Bi. For someone who’s supposedly have an overbearing personality, I am amazed at how Eun Byul managed to gain such loyal friends.

Hairstyle and eyeliner aside, I could immediately spot the difference between Eun Byul’s piercing glare and Eun Bi’s longing stare, proof of Kim So Hyun’s acting prowess. Unfortunately, as the story dragged on, the Eun Bi character became more insipid. She experienced extreme sadness and humiliation at the hands of Kang So Young. Sure, Eun Byul was the stronger one but didn’t she disappear so that Eun Bi could stand up to her bully and claim justice now that they meet again at Sekang high school? Then we arrive at the finale where it’s Eun Byul and not Eun Bi who overpowers Kang So Young’s petty threats.

In the end, the show tries to make the audience sympathize with Kang So Young but I just can’t. It’s her parents’ fault for raising her that way but she has arrived at a point in her life where she could choose to be the person that she wants to be. She may have done some pretty nasty things in the past, she could’ve started anew but what’s with the arrogant attitude. As if proving that Eun Bi’s alive makes her less a criminal. Besides, I don’t even know why she bullied her classmates that much, anyway. At least in the case of School 2013’s Oh Jung Ho, there was a reason as to why he’s having those violent outbursts. There was a redeeming quality which made his friends, his teachers, and the rest of the audience believe that no matter how stubborn he was, he can somehow turn his life around and his school has greatly influenced him to do that.

But what exactly has this school done for its students? Absolutely nothing. The director covered up the real details of Jung Soo In’s death and wouldn’t have admitted it until the issue was brought up again and he was pushed to a corner. Homeroom teacher Kim Joon Seok turned in his resignation many years after the Soo In incident when he should’ve just stayed put instead and made sure none of it would ever happen again to his current students. He thought he was being cool but he’s actually just running away. This makes me sad because I like the actor, Lee Pil Mo.

The parents are demanding and greedy. They are seriously the most annoying bunch of characters. The episode of the academically outstanding but constantly pressured class president Park Min Joon is completely similar with School 2013’s Kim Min Ki. Guest star Bae Soo Bin appeared but instead of being a reliable character,this new strict and grade-conscious teacher simply contributed nothing but pressure to the already stressed out students. There wasn’t a single dependable, rational, and powerful adult left in this school, no wonder the students are going astray.

5

Just as mom suggested, Go Eun Bi should’ve just attended Seung Ri high school (School 2013) instead. A ‘Go Nam Soon-Park Heung Soo’ cameo would’ve somehow made up for all the shortcomings of this lackluster drama.

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