Thursday, 1 September 2016

KDrama Review : Age Of Youth

I feel like while we're all spoilt for KDrama choices, I somehow carry the responsibility to promote underrated shows in KDramaland. It's like I can't rest until I write about them and shove them in everyone's faces and make everyone watch them. I take my PR duties very seriously. I'll say You're Welcome in advance because more often than not, people will thank me for introducing them to such dramas, and at that point I'll breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that I've, yet again, done something for the communal benefit, the greater good. Fardu kifayah. Guys, I'm happy to report that I have found another gem in KDramaland. And that is Age Of Youth.

L-R : Yoo Eun Jae, Song Ji Won, Yoon Jin Myung, Jung Ye Eun, Kang Yi Na. These are the 5 tenants of a house called Belle Epoque.

I think it's not just a purely fortuitous coincidence that I chanced upon this drama while lurking on the comment section on Dramabeans, I think it's fate. But whatever. How I got to this drama is not important, what matters most is that I've (binge)watched it and I am absolutely in love with it.

Now that I've finished all 12 episodes, I have a few questions that still persist. What is it about Age Of Youth that draws me in? Why are there only 12 episodes? What about Song Ji Won's story, why isn't there an episode that centres around her? Isn't Ye Eun's kidnapping incident a little jarring and out of nowhere? Among all of them, why does Ye Eun's character not appeal to me as much as the others'?

So let's get down to it.

I think the reason I like Ye Eun's character least is because I see glimpses of myself in her, or her in me. Either way, I hate that, and I didn't want to admit it while watching the entire show, but only now in hindsight do I find the courage to surrender to the fact. I hate that she tends to think of herself above & superior to everyone else. I hate that she lacks the ability to break free from a toxic relationship, which could result from her own insecurities that she'll never find any love at all, so she settles for whatever love she can scrape off of the jerk she calls her boyfriend. I hate that even when she knows her boyfriend is in the wrong for putting forward a romantic attempt to her friend Yi Na, she still chooses to put the blame square on the promiscuous nature of Yi Na's dating habits. I hate that she's the one putting so much effort in her relationship, while her boyfriend forgets their anniversary, pulls her out of the car, plants forced kisses on her, does not reply to her texts often, and Ye Eun lets all of this slide. I hate that she has an infinite supply of second chances for her boyfriend. I hate that even when her boyfriend confesses about having a troubled childhood (which does not warrant the abusive behaviour, however way you spin it boy), Ye Eun pulls her boyfriend into an embrace, and lulls him into a false sense of It's Okay It's Not Your Fault. 

But I like how she finally finds it in herself to break up with her boyfriend, to delete every single photo of her boyfriend, to celebrate the demise of that toxic relation in the BEST way possible with the whole crew of Belle Epoque.

I like how the drama tackles the stages she goes through post-breakup - keeping herself fully occupied with activities so that she has no time to dwell about the boy. Yes she obviously tries too hard to not fall into the dark abyss of Post Break Up Depression, and I like how her housemates notice this hahaha, but hey, at least Ye Eun is trying!! Though she puts up a facade of all smiles & laughter in front of her boyfriend, I can see how much energy that takes out of her when she immediately falls to her knees the moment her boyfriend is out of sight.

The mask she holds up clearly backfires her when the ex-boyfriend kidnaps her (because he feels like she's taunting him?? Boy you are so full of yourself, get out of my face). Yes, that abduction seems like it comes out of left field. I'm a little disturbed by how unexpected it is, it feels like the drama is suddenly veering into a darker direction, but I think that is in fact the whole point of it. Dating violence does happen and it happens when one does not expect it. Dating violence does come out of nowhere. Dating violence does happen, even if the perpetrator sports a handsome face and good sense of style and an undeniable charm, the perpetrator doesn't necessarily have a telltale sign like evil-looking face or whatever. If anything, I'm actually glad this drama goes in that direction and addresses this issue, and even manages to shed a comical light on it. I laughed out loud when the 4 girls are asked to get out of the ambulance, and still sobbing when they realise that Eun Jae just has a tiny injury on her palm, and then panicking that Ye Eun, the actual victim, is not even getting proper treatment hahahah.

Another thing that I like about Ye Eun's arc is that, the final episode shows no signs of happy ending for her as she freezes in the middle of a sea of people in the wake of possible PTSD, but I can only hope for better days ahead of her. This is some deft writing, because the writer convinces me that Ye Eun's life is a real life that is being lived out beyond the rectangular screen, beyond the drama. Someone else out there is in a similar situation as Ye Eun. Even though Episode 12 is the end of the drama, I know it isn't the end to Ye Eun's story. She'll get back up from the rock bottom, so will everyone else in real life, hopefully. 

Contrary to Ye Eun, Song Ji Won's character is my faaaavourite!!! She's lively and funny and spunky and she acts like the glue that keeps Belle Epoque together. And she reminds me of Gabie Kook that I wrote about before. She's just a sweet lil angel who lights up every place she leaves her footsteps in, I'm sad that there isn't enough about her story I'm made privy of. But perhaps her character is so very endearing and likeable, because I don't get enough of her, so I crave for her screentime more. She remains a mystery, and that's why I like her. Sure I'm disappointed that Ji Won doesn't have an episode as a spotlight on her back story, but it gets me thinking that maybe she doesn't have a story to tell. Maybe her life has always been a mediocre story with paucity of drama or tension (like my life lols) but still, that doesn't stop her from being such a lovable character. Or maybe her story is just too long that it'll only do to have an entire different drama just for her hahaha. So now that I think about it, I would really love to have a Ji Won-centric episode, but I'm okay about Song Ji Won not getting her own episode either, because she shines in all the other episodes anyway, like the bright star that she is. I especially love the part where she makes up a story of Ye Eun having a twin sister who has everything better than Ye Eun herself so Ye Eun considers having a boyfriend something that she can actually be proud of so she can't break up, because just like Eun Jae, I almost fell for that story. And just like Eun Jae, the lesson behind that fabricated story leaves an indelible impact in me. Damn it Song Ji Won how can you be funny and witty and full of wisdom, how is it possible for one person to carry all these enviable traits?!

On to the next question, WHY ARE THERE ONLY 12 EPISODES?! I don't know. If there's any drama that deserves an extension, it's this one. Jebal I really would love to see just oneeee moreeee episodeeee of these girls! Possibly their reunion after 10 years? Please.

The final question, why do I like Age Of Youth? What is it about this drama, what's the key ingredient or star chemical compound behind its addictiveness? Maybe because it's incredibly funny without even trying too hard, just the right dose of hilarity. That scene where Ji Won goofily makes a mistake during Jin Myung's brother's funeral, and they all stifle a laugh that they sound like they're crying. And when Yi Na suddenly kisses Ye Eun on the lips because Ye Eun thinks she's infected with some kind of STD. Hahahaha man I love how these girls can still laugh in the face of adversity :') Or maybe it's the set of perfectly chosen OSTs that are inserted on the right cues, with gorgeous colour grading and pretty, simplistic cinematography? Or the fact that it's so well written, making it very easy to relate to & immerse into? Or because the final episode tells me that it's possible to start over, and that hope is a wonderful thing? Or perhaps because the girls of Belle Epoque remind me about the joy of cohabitation with people of unique identities, making me miss KHouse terribly. I'm not too sure, maybe all of the above and more. 

Age Of Youth will have a special place in my heart, it's going to be my go-to drama for whenever I need a light lift me up sort of thing. If you need that now, I cannot recommend this drama enough!! :)

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