This Review of Age of Youth Contains Some Spoilers in the Form of Fangirl Squees
Guys… this show… What an amazing show! I picked this up because my twitterfeed was going insane over it. I had to see what all the fuss was about. I came in just after episode 8 was aired so I had a lot of catching up to do. Which I did at lightening speed. Every available second was spent watching. Till I was done with what had been aired up to that point and had to wait each week for the new episodes like everyone else. That was an extreme form of torture! It was so hard to wait and see what was going to happen to my girls! I seriously began to think of them as my girls, I was 300% invested in their lives. For the first time in a long time I feel a huge void now that the show is done. What am I going to do now without my girls? If you haven’t watched this show you really should go and do so now!
What I Wanted:
- Something completely different, a show unlike most dramas I’ve watched to date.
- A drama that would completely capture my heart.
- To be blown away. A show that was a few steps above the rest.
What I Discovered:
Wow… I discovered a world that was deep, rich, full of sincerity, full of life, real and grounded people and stories. When the last episode played I sat there in awe of the show I had just watched, lived. I watched the credits roll and felt my heart swell and sighed in a mixture of contentment and sadness that it was over. This show was so different than any drama I’ve watched it existed in a completely different galaxy. It was a true slice of life show. If you like that sort of genre in Western TV then you so absolutely need to watch Age of Youth. The story revolves around five young women and the people in their lives. Each girl is so vibrantly different from the other, and yet, extremely relateable. They are faced with real life problems of women in their twenties. Things that any one of us could be forced to deal with in our real lives. Perhaps that is what I loved the most, I found something in each of their stories that I could identify with.
From the end of the first episode I was completely hooked! It not only captured my heart but my whole being! I was invested in these woman and lived each second with them. The feels that I felt while watching this show were like a roller coaster, not just for the things they needed to overcome but because I could empathize. The dilemmas they were faced with pulled poignantly at my heart strings.
This show was utterly amazing. For the first time in all my drama watching years I have rated something above a 9. And for me 9 is like the most amazing drama that hit me right in the feels and was perfectly suited to steal my heart. You can’t get better than that for me, because most dramas have something that I was was better or different. Now, I’m not saying that this drama was perfect, but it was pretty damn close. It has completely toppled my expectations and set me up for huge disappointment with whatever I watch next. Because I’m pretty sure there’s nothing that could match how much I love this show.
If I wasn’t still emotionally caught up in the lives of my five girls I’d start watching this again right away. But my heart and soul need time to handle how I feel for this show before I can watch it again. I’m not usually one for re-watching a drama. In all the years I’ve been watching dramas I have only re-watched one. However, this one I think I’ll probably watch a few times if not more. As I sit here after finishing the last episode I am just filled with so many feelings and emotions. Such a beautiful ride and yet I feel lonely now that I’m done with it. I don’t think I will be able to bring myself to watch anything else today.
This is your friendly neighborhood warning that the rest of this review will contain major spoilers.
Tidbits I Could Live Without:
I have tried to really pinpoint what I didn’t like about Age of Youth. Honestly, there wasn’t much that I disliked or could have done without. I suppose a more accurate description this time around is that there were things I wanted that didn’t happen? Maybe not that specifically, but regardless there wasn’t too much that I could say I was disappointed with.
The one major thing, I suppose, is I wanted more real resolutions for my girls. But, even that isn’t really true because with what they were left to deal with it wasn’t anything that could be solved in a few days. So, even though I wanted more conclusive ends to their stories, I also appreciated that we weren’t given a wrapped up package with a bow. We are left knowing that our girls are going to continue to work to grow, heal, evolve, and learn to love themselves.
However, I did want to see Ye Eun have a better handle on her emotional state. We are left at the end knowing that she is probably suffering PTSD and is in denial of that fact. Also, I wanted to see Ji Myung’s reasoning for moving to China instead of just a few camera pans over the books she was reading.
The only other major point I want to make is that there were way too many points in the show that I was afraid that one or more of the girls were going to die. It was used way too often. When the threat of death is used correctly it can absolutely add to the story and help you to be more invested in the character. However, with this show there was a point in which I was sure each girl would die. Either murdered or by committing suicide.
Tidbits I Loved to Pieces:
I love so much in this show. Honestly, even the few things that I mentioned above couldn’t detract much from my love of this show! I don’t even know where to start. From the end of the first episode I was in love with this show. I am going to do my best to accurately describe all the things I loved about Age of Youth! I’m sure I’ll miss some things, but here goes!
The Sisterhood and Friendships
Perhaps my most favorite part about this drama was the relationships between my girls. When we enter the show four of them are already friendly; Ji Myung, Yi Na, Ji Won, and Ye Eun. However, none of them seem particularly close. Well Ji Won and Ye Eun seem to have a tentative friendship going, probably because Ji Won forced it to happen. When Eun Jae enters the house things start to happen in all of the lives of the girls. These events start to force them to interact as friends and not just house mates. As these relationships build and evolve and change we can see them open their hearts to one another. As their bonds grow and their feelings for one another change and deepen it adds a whole level of realness to the show that a lot of dramas miss the mark on. Their friendship and sisterly love for one another made me so happy. I loved being on that journey with them. Seeing them form this friendship was so wonderful and beautiful!
I have to talk about the OST. I mean, wow! Each song magnified and amplified the moments of the show. Each song pulled me deeper into the experience by enhancing the feels I was feeling. The song choices were perfect. Sometimes chillingly sad, sometimes funny, and at others times purely happy. There have been a few shows in which the music has been a favorite part of mine. But with Age of Youth the music was like a supporting character all on its own. Whoever chose the songs deserves an award! Here are a few of the songs that I loved so much.
I could add so many more! However, I’ll restrain myself. I did find this amazing playlist if you want to listen to some of the other songs. The soundtrack also had some operas, the theme for 2001 Space Odyssey, and even some Michael Jackson. It was so amazing and the song choices helped to make the show even better.
It wasn’t just the girls that were written extremely well, it was the whole cast. Everyone was given at least a small backstory, enough that you could start to invest your feelings into them. This show was the first time I’ve seen any of the main girls. Maybe that was part of the allure? To me they were unknowns and so I had no preconceived notions about them. Each character I could totally see some part of myself in them too, which added to my love for the show.
Yoon Sunbae / Yoon Ji Myung
Ji Myung has a tragic life story. Some years ago her brother fell into a coma and her mother lost herself to the grief of that consumes her life. Her mother focuses on her brother, caring for him, and desperately hoping he will wake up the next day/week/month/year. The debt that her mother accumulates in caring for Soo Myung, her brother, go unpaid. Ji Myung becomes a burden on her mother, a reminder of what her son should be doing with his life. Fighting debt and being alone in the world she moves to the Belle Epoque to go to school to achieve a degree in business and working several part time jobs just to keep afloat. She’s nearly thirty, the oldest student in her class and in the house. She has had to take several breaks from school just to earn money. Because of all of this she is constantly rushing around and is not very friendly or sociable.
The actress, Han Ye Ri, provides an amazing performance. Ji Myung is a solitary and quiet creature. She doesn’t speak unless she is spoken to for the most part. So most of her reactions are given with subtle facial expressions. With just a slight change in her glance, her brow… she told a whole story. Despite the terrible things going on in her life she was always there for the girls. She was definitely the big sister. Ji Myung accepted the hand she had been dealt and assumed life was just a series of obstacles that needed to be endured. Then then the sous chef, Park Jae Wan, started to flirt with her and take care of her I could so relate to her awkward and shy acceptance of his attention. By the end of the show she had finally seen life as a joy to be experienced and I cannot tell you how happy that made me.
Kang Yi Na
The fashionable and rich roommate. After nearly drowning and dying on a high school trip in which another girl died possibly due to her own actions, she lost her will to truly live. After graduating high school she felt disconnected from life and her friends and the world. She accidentally met a Madame and saw the easy money she could make by becoming the mistress of rich men. It wasn’t planned and she doesn’t necessarily love it, but she does love the money and the presents and the easy life that it provides.
Yi Na is rescued from some angry wives when she is younger and consequently ends up living at Belle Epoque too. However, she lies and says she’s a student and her parents are rich. As other girls start moving in she lies about what her parents do and provides different answers to different girls. When her secret is revealed the girls are afraid and disgusted and kick her out. Yet Yi Na realizes that she wants the camaraderie and connection living with the girls provides. She meets an Ahjussi, Oh Jong Gyoo, who becomes her confidant. Though he has ulterior motives, his daughter is the girl who died during Yi Na’s accident. Also she has a co-worker, Seo Dong Joo, who is in the same line of business with rich women. He adores her and yet she feels that she is unlovable. When she leaves that life behind her and gets a retail job and finally begins to really live, I was so happy for her!
Song Ji Won
How can I express my love for this character accurately? She is so real, so not the typical Korean drama lead. Ji Won, or just Song as a lot of people addressed her in the drama, was totally hilarious and amazing. First lets talk about her style, she was a mix of an Ahjumma, fashion victim, and eccentric stage madame. Next, her personality was so free. Of all the girls, she loved who she was totally and lived the way she wanted to without thought about how the world saw her. We should also concentrate on her ability to give the most awesome advice and stand up to any injustice and protect her friends. Song was just fun and I could totally see myself in her as I started to really like myself as a person.
She wasn’t perfect, none of the girls were. As we learn later in the series she just can’t help herself when it comes to lying. In high school she lied about seeing a UFO and convinced a TV network it was real. In the show she convinces all the girls that there is a ghost living near the shoe cupboard. This ghost is a huge catalyst for all of the girls. It pushes them to either hide more desperately from their problems or face them head on. For good or ill the ghost pushed the girls to discover things they may not have wanted to know. Also, she’s never had a boyfriend and focuses the whole of her energies on getting one. She is more of an Ahjussi than a girl and cannot fathom why no man wants to date her. However, she has a friend in I Sung Min who likes her, though he denies it to the end. Song was the glue that kept the house together, soothed wounds, and protected them when they needed it.
Jung Ye Eun
Here is the girl who wants to have the perfect life. She desperately wants the perfect boyfriend, the fairy tale romance, the right school, and after the nuclear family. Every day she sit in front of her mirror and puts on her mask. She goes through several steps of a skincare routine, several layers of makeup to make it appear she isn’t wearing any, and then the right clothing and purse. All of it to be sure that she appears to be the perfect girl living in the perfect story. Throughout the show she pines for what others have (Yi Na’s money, clothes, and shoes) and uses/eats the things in the house that aren’t hers all the while lying about it. On the surface she looks like a shallow character, and in many ways she is. However, I can relate to her because there have been points in my life that all I have wanted was to fit in and be accepted and liked too.
Ye Eun wants so badly to have the perfect everything that she is quick to sweep anything that doesn’t fit her vision under the rug. She has the perfect boy, Ko Doo Young, but he’s only perfect on the surface. His eyes stray, even to her roommate Yi Na. He forgets their anniversary and gives her a packet of free samples to make up for it saying that it was his present all along. Doo Young abuses her when he’s angry or feeling that she is looking down on him. But she pretends none of this happens. Finally, with the help of the girls she sees the horrible man Doo Young truly is and breaks up with him. Filling her days with friends and activities to try and never be alone she is starting to see the light and find herself. Then Doo Young kidnaps her and beats her. Thankfully she is saved. I mentioned this in the tidbits I wish were different section. But the show leaves her still suffering from emotional trauma and in desperate need of help. I really wanted to see her heal.
Yoo Eun Jae
Last, but certainly not least, our uber shy and socially awkward roommate. On the surface she looks like an ill adjusted high school girl out in the world for the first time and trying to deal with the fact that she’s in college. In fact, she’s so reserved and silent that she lets the girls tromp all over her in first few months in the house. Finally she makes a stand for herself and finds a new level of friendship with the girls. Despite her appearances she has seen some terrible things in her short life. Later on in the drama we learn that she watched her brother die when she was in elementary school. Then her mother was hurt in a house fire. And then her father died in a car accident, which she was sure that she caused. Add to this, her mother has always been the child in their relationship and she’s married again to a man who owns an apple orchard. Yet Eun Jae still needs to walk her mother through dealing with so many situations.
At collage she’s shy and awkward and is teased mercilessly by the uber popular sunbae, Yoon Jong Yeol. What she doesn’t realize is that he’s teasing her and tormenting her much like a boy does in grade school when he likes a person. She avoids him and yet he’s always around. When he finally confesses his crush to her they are perhaps the cutest thing about the show. Well, let me amend that, Jong Yeol is the cutest thing about the show. Also it bears noting that her goddess worship of Song is amazing! By the end of the show her father’s death is cleared and it is determined that she had nothing to to with it and she’s free to be a person again. Slowly she comes out of her shell and lives life!
The Supporting Characters
As this review is already massive I don’t want to keep rambling on too much. However, I do want to spend a few moments talking about the amazing supporting cast. Let’s talk about the characters that were just bad guys first. Ji Myung’s Boss at the restaurant was a slime ball. However, he was given just enough of a backstory that we saw how he became who he was. Didn’t make me like him at all, but he was still real enough that he added to the depth of the show.
The other character that made me yell at my screen in anger was Ko Doo Young, Ye Eun’s boyfriend. He was a terrible human being. He treated Ye Eun like trash and then kidnaps her and beats her. Yet, even here we’re given just enough backstory to see how he came to these decisions. I hated him, but he again added to the realness of the show. Ahjussi also needs to be mentioned. He stalks Yi Na once he gets out of jail in order to exact revenge for the death of his daughter. Though as he and Yi Na become friends he sees her for a hurt little girl and his heart opens up to her. He does try to kill her, but he can’t because he sees her as the broken girl. I love this relationship so much. After meeting her Ahjussi is able to deal with the death of his daughter and help Yi Na to move on with her life as well.
I want to briefly touch on Yoon Jong Yeol. He is the super popular guy who crushes on Eun Jae. Being popular he always has had attention from girls but when he finds himself falling for Eun Jae he becomes this puppy dog who can’t help but find everything she does amazing. He’s just too cute! I also really loved the landlady! She was this elegant and graceful woman who watched over the girls with a mother’s love. The landlady is eccentric and hilarious and absolutely in love with her life and self.
Writer-nim did such a phenomenal job with this drama! Well really it wasn’t just the write, but the entire cast and crew. The production was fantastic, the scenes were beautiful and poignant, the music was better than the best, and the story was so great that I felt like I was living it with the girls. I’ve never watched anything by this writer before, but you can bet your bottom dollar that I am going to be seeking out her older works and looking out for anything that might come out in the future. If you haven’t watched this drama I really think that you should. I can’t think back to any drama that I have watched before that is so perfectly constructed and good. I am so very sad to say good bye to these girls. I’m left with a void that I’m not sure will be properly filled by another drama any time soon.