There’s a certain kind of refreshing beauty to tvN’s Reply series. Keeping its unique story-telling format, the sequel is successful in presenting the viewer with its original approach to an otherwise customary program. With its slice-of-life approach, Reply 1994 takes you back to a past time where a family was originated, made up of six inexperienced young adults.
Set between 2013 and 1994, six university friends from different South Korean towns reminisce about their earlier years together as students, living in the same boarding house.
My Impression of Reply 1994:
As I was skimming through my MDL account trying to search for something new to watch, I accidentally scrolled too low and ended up on my On Hold list. It is the deepest, darkest pit of my list where I keep the dramas I’m too stubborn to officially ‘drop’. For one reason or another I have discontinued watching these dramas, telling myself that I’ll come back to them another time. There, they stay in limbo where I will occasionally reconsider re-visiting these series, only to coward away from them, ashamed and disturbed.
You see, I hate this list because I always tell myself that I have to finish a series, no matter what. However, there are times when I have to put a drama on hold, whether it is because I don’t have time to finish it or because I am not enjoying it and want to make space for another. Either way, I find it hard to pick up a series again, after I have placed it there.
Reply 1994 was one of these series that I had placed on this list about a year-and-a-half ago. Out of respect for its predecessor, I’ve always known I was going to pick it right back up, and I had only 6 more episodes to go. Why not, right?
It took me a while to remember why I even put Reply 1994 on hold to begin with. The story skillfully shifts from past-to-present, cleverly and purposefully misleads the viewer (but you can’t help but love the way you’re being played with), and hands you these flawed characters for you to fall in love with.
Honestly, this drama is golden. In its almost 90 minute episodes, this drama takes its sweet time to tell a story of not just one or two but six individuals, with their respected stories. We are given the opportunity to watch these college kids that have left the nest for the first time, come from small country-life districts, share absolutely nothing in common, and have completely different personalities, become a family. Call me sentimental, but I felt privileged to be allowed a front-and-center view of their lives together from the very start.
In a way, the drama’s best attribute can also be considered its worst. Time. Reply 1994 has a lot of it, to the point where it feels like sometimes the only thing to do with it is waste it. I’m not saying there’s ever a time where I felt like ‘this is so stupid, why is this even happening?’, but because of its long dialogues and unrushed unimportant small events, sometimes I became uninterested and yes, bored. The drama is slow-paced to begin with, and there was a few times where I would fast-forward it. 10 minutes ahead, what the heck, the same scene is still on and they’re still talking about the same thing. At times, I would finish an entire episode and feel like only one meaningful thing happened in the entire episode. Sometimes, it is about the little things, but when the little things are being given big emphasis, it can become hindering.
Seriously, 90 minutes of the ‘little things’ gets kind of hard to watch after a while. It would take me 2 days just to watch one episode! I remember I accidentally skipped one episode, then I realized it 2 episodes later, went back to see what I missed and realized I didn’t need it. By the time I was in my last episode (feeling like I should have a medal of survival, this drama was an emotional roller coaster, phew!), I kept thinking ‘this shouldn’t have taken me so long to watch’.
On the other hand, I can also look at it from a different perspective and admire the amount of detail put into it. It was really well-made.
Reply 1994‘s ability to really bring out that 90’s feel to it is excellent. I do believe it did a better job at this than the original Reply 1997 at least fivefold. Partially because in 1997, the students are highschoolers and usually in uniform attire, but 1994‘s college era gives the characters the liberty to dress comfortably, therefore more accurately. On top of that, the hairstyles given to the actors was key.
Aside from that, I also feel like 1994 did a better job with its music. While in 1997, there seems to be a lot of talk about music and a special emphasis to it due to the main character’s H.O.T obsession and the average highschoolers’ pop culture knowledge, 1994 does an excellent job of putting it to use. I’m not going to discredit 1997, but rather than having to be told to pay attention to this detail, in 1994, I just effortlessly noticed it. Perhaps it may have something to do with the era’s unique sound. I don’t really know.
The cinematography is also interesting. The present time scenes in the apartment is just a warm casual lighting. On the other-hand, past scenes were shot in a slightly duller sepia color scheme that gave the shots an older, antique feel to them. The changes were subtle, but noticeable.
Characters and Acting:
First things first, the cast was unquestionably perfect. Everyone was so natural with each other, according to the nature of their character’s personality.
The best parts were always the scenes where the characters were interacting with each other. It usually consisted of the group huddled together in front of a small television screen where they would watch dramas, music shows, and sports games or drinking together, playing drinking games and revealing deep-dark secrets about each other. Fun times!
That love-triangle, though. -_-
I was Team Chilbong. Not sure why, but I honestly didn’t care that Na Jung and Trash were perfect for each other. I still wanted Chilbong to be given some attention. Chilbong was my favorite character, although at the same time, I feel like he was a little too good. Not that Na Jung didn’t deserve him because if my baby wants her, I’d happily gift wrap the girl for him. What I mean is, she just didn’t seem to fit right for him. He was so good and thoughtful, but she was so silly and spunky. She was a little too much for my Chilbong to handle. No hate for Na Jung, I loved her to death, but as the story progressed, I didn’t want her to end up with Chilbong because it didn’t feel right. But again, what my baby wants my baby gets. I was cheering for him in the sideline.
The OST is really good, all the songs have a really 90’s feel to them, but not boring or unattractive. There was a really good song in Reply 1994 that I was obsessed with, though. Sung Si Kyung’s “To You”!! BEAUTIFUL SONG!! You can listen and download it right HERE. This version was done for the drama, but To You is actually a classic Korean ballad song, by Seo Taiji & The Boys. They did a really great job in using old Korean songs, giving it an authentic 1994 Korea feel to it.
Reply 1997 – If you haven’t watched it yet, what the hell are you waiting for???
Adolescence Medley – Mini-series with similar format: past-to-present focus shifts.
Heartstrings – The plot includes students and how they learn to cope with each other.