⤷ Yoo Eun Jae (Park Hye Soo), Yoon Jin Myung
(Han Ye Ri), Jung Ye Eun
(Han Seung Yeon)
, Kang Yi Na (Ryu Hwa Young), Song Ji Won (Park Eun Bin) ↦ Age of Youth (2016)
“Others are just like me. Other people are people, just like I am. They feel as uncomfortable as I do, and hesitate, just like I do. There are plenty of people who are as nice as I am.” - Eun Jae
“Everyone has their own circumstances to deal with. And until you know the circumstances they’re in, you can’t tell people how to live their lives. I’m sure you have something like that about you, too. Something that others can’t understand about you, but you can’t help. That’s why you can’t judge people.” - Ji Won
“I hate you because I want to become like you, but can’t. So I can’t help but hate you. That’s why it smells. There’s a rotting smell coming from my envy.” - Yi Na
“Sometimes, I want to cry out loud. I want someone to hear me crying. I want them to hear me cry, and tell me everything will be okay. I want someone to pat me on the back, and tell me that it’s not my fault.” - Jin Myung
“Lies may be similar to makeup. Just like one puts on makeup to hide their naked face, people use lies to hide the truth. I tell more and more lies as my makeup gets thicker. Since when did I start feeling that going out with no makeup on was embarrassing? Since when did I become so ashamed of the truth?” - Ye Eun
Each of the Belle Epoque girls is meant to play some sort of female archetype. Eun Jae is the painfully shy introvert, who would sooner walk over hot coals than willingly enter into conflict with someone. Ji Won is her near-perfect opposite, loud and bubbly, the perennial friend. Yi Na is the femme fatale, dangerous and seductive. Jin Myung is the Good Daughter, putting herself through college while paying off her mother’s debts, incurred while her brother lays comatose in a hospital bed. Ye Eun is the quintessential girl. The one who dresses just as she’s supposed to, the one with the frat boy boyfriend, with equally perfectly-dressed girlfriends to link arms with and walk around campus, giggling over the latest gossip.
Yet, they’re so much more than these skeletal stereotypes might’ve forced them to be.
Eun Jae swallows her anger until she can’t anymore, until she boils over. She tosses Ye Eun’s designer handbag out the window and screams at her housemates. When we dig a little deeper, we see that she has nightmares. That she’d been brave enough to protect her mother when she’d suspected that her father might kill her.
Ji Won knows everyone, making friends is as easy for her as breathing. She is the glue that holds the Belle Epoque girls together. And she’s a pathological liar. Falsehoods slip out for her as easily as the truth does. She tells tall tales, spinning them until she can no longer take it back. Yet, even as she spins her web of lies (with the ghost inside the apartment), she holds the girls together. Though her “ghost” is a made-up story, each of her roommates has heaps of baggage. That little lie in the end allows them to come to terms with their pasts and face their problems. She is the anchor; without her, they drift.
Yi Na suffers from a serious case of survivors guilt, to the extent that she carries the little girl who died when she lived, around with her like baggage. She looks after her housemates like a mama bear, protecting them (see: Ye Eun) even when they don’t wish to be. She carries heaps of self-loathing along with her designer bags, flashes her luxuries at her friends even as she envies them.
Jin Myung stretches herself fifty different ways trying to do it all. And she wishes her brother would die, and put them all out of their misery. She wishes her mother would choose her, for once. She wishes she would stop having to be the one to sacrifice. She provides for them still. But she resents and she loathes, and it tears her apart.
Ye Eun shows off her perfect life, her perfect love life, while suffering through an abusive relationship. Through a petty, small, excuse of a man who puts her down at every opportunity. He is her captor, and though she knows what he does is wrong, she can’t help but crave his affection. She let’s go, eventually. She begins to overcome the abuse, one day. She’ll carry on with her life, because it’s what they do.
Every single one of these incredibly special girls has a spine of steel.
The media, society has a horrible track record when it comes to forcing women into boxes, restricting our actions. Yet Age of Youth takes hold of these archetypes and shows us all that there is no “one size fits all”. That one shoe fitting doesn’t mean it’s the only one you can wear.
I thought that they were ruder than me, and more reckless than I am. I thought they wouldn’t care. I was being arrogant. Others are just like me. Other people are people, just like I am. They feel as uncomfortable as I do, and hesitate, just like I do. There are plenty of people just as nice as I am.
The edit above is not in the order of my top 10 but the list below is. This was my first time making an edit so I was just trying to make it all fit, lol. Please feel free to tell me your thoughts on these dramas, I’d love to hear that ya’ll think!
1. Descendants of the Sun (Song Joong Ki, Song Hye Kyo, Jin Goo, Kim Ji Won)
This was the first drama I followed along with while it was airing and it cemented my stay in kdrama-land so I’ll forever be grateful for that. I loved everything about this drama from the cast to the plot, I thought it was unique and funny and so very enjoyable to watch. A soldier and doctor falling in love in the middle of a crisis with brilliantly amusing scenes and secondary characters? It’s a win for sure. I think it found the perfect balance between drama, action, romance, and comedy. Also, the OSTs in the drama were amazing; Talk Love by K.Will will forever be one of my favorites.
2. Goblin (Gong Yoo, Lee Dong Wook, Kim Go Eun)
So I’m cheating a little with this one because it didn’t finish airing in 2016, but this is currently my favorite drama so I felt obligated to put this on my list. This was my first real venture into a fantasy kdrama and I love everything about it. The aesthetics and cinematography is unreal, the cast is fantastic, the beginnings of romance is natural, but the bromance and friendships are probably my favorite things about this drama. It’s honestly just so witty and fun and the performance by each actor is amazing. It never fails to make me smile or laugh. Since it’s by the same writer as DOTS, it has the perfect combination of fantasy, romance, drama, and comedy. Also, the OSTS are wickedly good in this as well.
3. The K2 (Ji Chang Wook, Im YoonA, Song Yoon Ah)
Despite the drama surrounding the characters and it’s obvious problems story-wise, I loved The K2. One of my favorite genres is action-romance and this drama was packed with both. JCW is brilliant as always in acting but his action scenes were amazing. I thought the plot was pretty unique and the lead three gave great performances (I know people thought YoonA’s character was useless, but I didn’t; the story literally wouldn’t exist without her, lol). I have to praise Song Yoon Ah for her performance especially because this was the first time I empathized with the villain; I certainly didn’t agree with everything she did, but they gave a depth to her character that I really appreciated. There are some things I’ll never understand regarding the drama, but I don’t want to spoil anything for others so I won’t mention it here.
4. Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo (Lee Sung Kyung, Nam Joo Hyuk)
Again, this drama has yet to end, but I honestly think that this is one of the most brilliant dramas of 2016. It’s a feel-good, coming-of-age drama that balances romance, comedy, and friendship and that honestly delivers each week. It tackles first love and all the innocence and insecurities that comes with liking someone unattainable, it explores friendship between women and the unbreakable bond you can make with life-long friends in college, it shows characters with unhealthy issues taking the right steps to get help, and it shows how guys should treat girls and how naturally you can fall in love with your best friend. Most of all though, it tells us that it’s okay to fall out of love with your talents and what you have been doing your entire life; it’s okay to take a break, try new things, and find yourself. Brilliant cast, brilliant writing, and brilliant performances.
5. Reply 1988 (Lee Hye Ri, Park Bo Gum, Ryu Jun Yeol, Go Kyung Pyo, Lee Dong Hwi)
I’m late to the game but there are not enough words to describe what a good drama this is. I love that it focused so much on family bonds rather than romantic love. More than the individual families, the entire block was one big family that supported and took care of each other. I laughed, I cried, and I was happy when they were happy. The line between friendship and family is easily blurred in this drama because I swear the kids were more like family than they were friends. The parents’ friendship also made me happy because for once there was no evil parent or scheming; they all loved their kids and were such good friends with each other. There were so many lessons to learn from in this drama, it’s A+. Also, the goat noises made my life.
6. Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (Lee Joon Ki, IU, Kang Ha Neul)
I had/have a love-hate relationship with this drama. This was my first saeguk drama and I did really like a lot of things about it. The cinematography was beautiful, it really was so well done. I liked most of the characters, especially early in the show when it was more funny and cute. And the actors, even the idol-actors, did well in my opinion. What I hated was how they tried to jam-pack the Chinese version into the last 4 episodes, the insanely terrible editing that just made it seem like the characterization for leads did not align at all with what we knew about them, and the ending. I truly detested the ending; it was sloppy and unnecessary. If they didn’t cut that one scene from that ending, I would have been satisfied but they chose to do a disservice to the characters and for that reason alone, I’ll probably never re-watch this drama.
7. Age of Youth (Han Ye-ri, Han Seung-yeon, Park Eun-bin, Ryu Hwa-young, Park Hye-soo )
I loved everything about this drama. The friendship between the Belle Epoque girls made me smile; they grew from being so awkward with each other to being such good friends. They teased, fought, and took care of each other like any good roommates would do while living their own lives. The drama did brilliantly in highlighting each girl’s unique struggles and allowing them to grow because of them. There is nothing I didn’t like about this drama; it was funny, interesting, and just really good. The Belle Epoque girls are special.
8. The Legend of the Blue Sea (Lee Min Ho, Jun Ji Hyun)
I like drama a lot but mostly because of JJH’s character and performance. I’ve never failed to smile, laugh, or feel second-hand embarrassment for her character and that just really made the drama fun. I’m not really a big LMH fan, I think he’s an decent actor, but I think this is probably my favorite role of his. He’s actually doing really well and I really enjoy his character. One of my main issues is the plot and direction of the drama; I think it’s been a little sloppy and some things just don’t make sense and are poorly explained. Also it’s taking forever to get through some of the sub-plots and it honestly just feels like a waste of time. To be quite honest and in my opinion, if the leads weren’t as big stars as they are, this drama would not be doing as well as it is now.
9. Doctor Crush (Park Shin Hye, Kim Rae Won, Lee Sung Kyung, Yoon Kyun Sang)
The beginning of this drama was brilliant; PSH’s character was the epitome of a bad-girl who was also kind to her friends. I loved the plot; a girl with an attitude problem with no care in the world changing her ways and becoming a brilliant physician to not only prove people wrong but also to get revenge on the people that wronged/hurt her? Yeah, sign me up for a drama like that. The secondary characters were great, there really were some comedic scenes with them. I liked the medical part of the drama and PSH’s friendship with her childhood best friend and the other doctors. What I hated what that she never really got her revenge; they went with the most predictable way of the guy getting out of it for a medical drama and I hated that. He wasn’t even sincerely apologetic for what he had done. And honestly, I also hated that she never really called out step-mother for being such a terrible person. I had higher expectations for this drama.
10. Cinderella and the Four Knights (Park So Dam, Jung Il Woo, Ahn Jae Hyun)
This was definitely more of a feel good drama for me. I love the “cinderella” trope so this was just really cute. Park So Dam was just adorable and she made the story fun. There was nothing overly special about this drama; it was fun and light, there were some pretty-boys, and a sweet best friend. All the makings of a classic feel-good drama. My favorite thing would probably have to be the OSTs in this drama; they were all just so good and I still re-play some of them.