Reply 1988 series review
The third installment in the Reply series is probably the best of the lot in terms of story and character developments. This is about a group of friends who grew up in the same neighborhood and their families. Each episode is massive with a running time way beyond an hour and fifteen minutes. But every minute is worth it. This time too we are shown a couple in their fifties and we are left to wonder who the husband is.
Sung Deok Seon ( Lee Hyeri) is the only girl among the four boys Sun Woo, Choi Taek, Dong Ryong and Jung Hwan. They are all in their late teens and the series starts a year before their senior year in high school.
Deok Seon lives in a basement house with her two siblings and parents (played by the eternal reply series mom and dad Sung Dong IL and Lee IL Hwa.) Bora her older sister is a prickly person and the youngest in the family is No Eul who doesn’t look his age.
Kim Jung Hwan lives in the house above them with his parents and his older brother Jung Bong who has been trying to get into college unsuccessfully for half a dozen times.
Sun Woo lives in the house opposite with his widowed mother and little sister Jin Joo who hasn’t started school.
Choi Taek lives with his widowed father in the house next to Sun Woo’s.
Dong Ryong lives in the adjacent house to Jung Hwan with his parents.
This installment is more about friendship and being there for each other be it the friends or their parents. They are equally involved in the issues of the other families be it the items on their dinner tables or any financial or emotional struggle for example.
The rich parents among the lot are Jung Hwan’s only cos they won a lottery whereas Deok Seon’s family has their salary man father and lots of debt.
Scratch the part about Jung Hwan being the richest as Choi Taek is an international Baduk player. Taek and his father live a quiet life with simple food but their tables get filled anyway with all the sharing from neighborhood.
Sun Woo s mom is an abysmal cook but he dutifully eats every bit of it telling her it was delicious. He is the perfect son, student and friend.
Dong Ryong eats take outs mostly or barges in into one of his friends place as both his parents are working. His father is the school dean much to his displeasure and his mother is a high powered career woman in the insurance industry. Dong Ryong’s utter horror when he realises that their homeroom teacher is his father for their senior year is gold. A solid entertainer who has no inclination to study.
Deok Seon comes under the same category as she also has very poor grades and no prospects of going to college. She is the heart and soul of the show as you don’t come across a role like that very often. As a middle child she s always a little left out and has to compromise when compared to the other siblings.
She is absolutely adorable even when she steals her sisters makeup and clothes despite knowing what a terror her sister is. The whole family sans dad trying to cover up her borrowing the denim jacket from Bora is a hilarious scene. But her character shines in the moments when she is happy with the littlest things like receiving new shoes after so many years. Her mom still feels bad that they are not branded like the ones her friends own but Deok Seon tells her mom that it’s a great brand and she is very pleased.
Jung Hwan is the silent and feigning indifferent type yet completely smitten with Deok Seon. The role captures you in the very beginning as the usually quiet guy throws the first punch when a senior goes too far bullying Sun Woo. He is not the type to show his love that easily unlike his father and brother who are pretty great in that area.
Jung Hwan s brother Jung Bong falls for Deok Seon s friend Mi OK and we get to see a couple of hilarious reenacting from other romantic kdramas and movies. Jung Bong is an over the top romantic going as far as folding a thousand paper cranes for his beloved. He has a knack for household chores and comes up with ingenious cooking recipes. The show stands out from others because of its attention in developing every single character differently. He is extremely competitive in every thing except studying.
The only other person in the neighborhood as competitive as him is Taek and it isn’t limited to his Baduk matches. We slowly pick up that Taek is not a secondary character with barely any lines on screen. Though he’s pretty much non existent in the initial episodes his story is weaved in with the others even when he is not on screen. For example when the other kids are going to school and having a normal childhood Taek had to drop out of school to pursue his Baduk career.
The only normal time he spends is when he is with his friends. A very well mannered and obedient Taek is considered the treasure of the neighborhood. In one scene when Bo Ra curses out loud Jung Hwan closes Taek s ears so that he doesn’t get startled.
Dong Ryong is the clown of the gang if not the whole neighborhood. He is an excellent dancer and comic but is displeased with the fact that his mum is always busy. After having too many lonely breakfasts he takes off from home when his mum misses making his birthday soup.
The gang goes to retrieve him in Bora’s car. Bora instills some sense into him pointing out every thing he is wearing from head to toe is branded and his parents are working so that he had a comfortable life. She points out that Deok Seon never complains even when she has been wearing the same shoes for almost three years and still treats them preciously despite the fact that they are battered. We realize that Bo Ra is not that uncaring towards her sibling as she seems.
The parents are given equal if not more screen time in this installment. We see all the struggles of adult life starting with losing a parent, financial disabilities, menopause, health scare and dealing with life in general.
Deok Seons parents are unable to save money due to a lot of debt incurred through a friend but dad is still kindhearted and loves his children. He is a little awkward with his eldest, Bora, but that’s because they have similar personalities. No Eul and Deok Seon on the other hand are easy going with their father.
We see him holding it together and entertaining everyone at his mom’s funeral making Deok Seon wonder if something is wrong with him. But the moment his older brother shows up he crumbles into his brother’s chest and breaks down. Along with Deok Seon we too realize that he doesn’t have to be the man of the house anymore as his brother is here and he finally let’s his sorrow seep in.
Dad becomes livid only once during the whole show. When he sees that Bo Ra is involved in protests against the government. This part was very educational to a non Korean as I got to learn about the Korean history of Protesting. As it was possible for protestor to get blacklisted by the government Dad shuts her inside the room and sits out guarding the door to prevent her from escaping. Still the passionate Bo Ra refuses to budge. The situation resolves with Bo Ra coming to her senses and things calm down gradually.
Deok Seon is the lovely adorable daughter who makes dad proud by participating in the Olympics as a Pickett girl. They have a great rapport and dad is always good at having an honest and calm conversation with Deok Seon. No Eul is clearly his favorite as its hinted in the show as he gets pocket money and special ice-cream treats away from the eyes of the other family members.
Throughout the length of the series Mom is disappointed by the fact that she is unable to save any money or give her children everything they need. But she is a strong moral support to her neighborhood friends as they are to her. After meeting a fortune teller she changes Deok Seon s name to Soo Yeon in a desperate attempt to get her into college and insists everyone in the neighborhood to call her the same.
Jung Hwan s parents are well off thanks to a lottery ticket which was bought by Jung Bong. Before that they used to live in a single room house and we learn that Jung Hwan s mother had to do so many part time works to keep them afloat. She tells her children that she used to work in finance but dad reveals to Jung Bong that she worked for a money lender and learnt Japanese from her boss. The neighborhood ladies are not one bit jealous of her as she was one who suffered most among them. A great and strong woman who likes wearing animal prints too much which earned her the name madam cheetah.
Jung Hwan s dad on the other hand is your overly funny dad. He makes the obvious jokes and finds everything in life light. Only Deok Seon reciprocates his hilarious way of greeting someone by jumping up and down. He feels very proud of his wife and all he wants is for his children to be healthy.
Taek’s single dad and Sun Woo’s single mom like each other but don’t act upon it because of their grown up children. Taek is more than okay with it as he lost his mom at a very young age but it’s hard on Sun Woo whose dad passed away only two years before. He comes to terms with it slowly and acknowledges that Taek’s dad is actually a good companion for his mom.
Taek s dad is considered a bear in the neighborhood as he reacts pretty lightly to everything. But we do see that he is terrified of rats.
The neighbors have a great friendship between them and help each other through the struggles.
It is between Jung Hwan and Taek, the final count down of who is Deok Seons future husband. Initially the clueless Deok Seon is led to believe by her friends that Sun Woo likes her. She suffers a massive heart break when she realises that it’s her sister Bora that Sun Woo likes and not her. Sun Woo is left to wonder why Deok Seon is so angry at him.
Bora who is a couple of years older than Sun Woo doesn’t really reciprocate his feelings but eventually they get together. But once again Bora decides to end it when she has an opportunity to study law when her parents are debt free leaving Sun Woo heart broken.
Doek Seon s friends pick up on the fact that Jung Hwan is into her but this time she doesn’t believe them that easily. But she herself starts to realize that there’s something more than friendship between them.
Before Jung Hwan makes any move Choi Taek confesses to the guys that he likes Deok Seon as more than a friend. Jung Hwan is taken aback and he hesitates from going further with Deok Seon.
Once again Deok Seon feels that she made a wrong judgment about Jung Hwan liking her.
Taek finds a picture of Deok Seon and Jung Hwan in Jung Hwans wallet. It stops him from telling Deok Seon how he feels. Amongst all this their teen years come to an end.
Jung Bong s romance too comes to a stand still as Mi OK asks him to forget about her in a letter and leaves the country leaving him utterly broken.
Meanwhile on the academic end Sun Woo decides to become a doctor whereas Jung Hwan decides to join the airforce as it was Jung Bongs dream but he can’t do it with his heart problem.
We see that Jung Bong eventually gets into college and his parents celebrate it like a carnival. Deok Seon reveals to her father that she doesn’t have a dream and her father tells her it’s ok if she doesn’t get into a college. We see Dong Ryong and Deok Seon together go to tutoring academy as they failed to get into college.
The shows final 3 episodes are wrapped up pretty well by finishing everyone’s story.
We see how and why Deok Seon chooses Taek and how great they are together.
Sun Woo and Bora get back together and get married after a few struggles along the way.
Jung Hwan joins the airforce and comes to terms with the fact that it was not timing that caused him to lose the girl but Taek just wanted her much more than he did.
Jung Bong meets Mi Ok after a few years and the start right where they left off. She also makes him rethink his career options. The show is huge in terms of story and character developments but it ll always be the best kdrama for me. A lot of it reminds me my own childhood even though I was born in the nineties in a whole different country. Its mainly the family theme and the neighborhood love for each other that makes this show so relatable. Each and every song captured the scene perfectly. This show is a ten on ten for me.