Why Reply 1988 is Different from other dramas

Reply 1988, is definitely one of the best Korean dramas of all time. It is a heart-warming family-oriented drama about five families living in the same neighbourhood. Set in 1988, when mobile phones were unheard of, the story places focus on the life and growth of five students- Deoksun, Choi Taek, Junghwan, Sunwoo and Dongryong- into adulthood.

The drama is starkly different from other dramas of the same genre. It is unique in the aspect that it didn’t employ any of the clichéd troupes found abundant in other Korean dramas. The main aspects in which it differs from the typical K-Drama are explained below.

Absence of the evil stock characters:

Every k-drama has an annoying character whose main job is to hinder the happiness of the main protagonists. It could be a snobbish mother or a stuck-up ex-girlfriend. These characters do not have any sort of development and are usually stuck in grade school mentality. Their significance is limited to being an obstacle. Reply 1988 shines because there are no such characters present. Every character, despite their imperfections, is genuinely good and has their own significance.

Well defined characters:

Every single character, primary or secondary, is well layered and plays a considerable role in moving the plot forward. There are no flat characters. The secondary characters have their own storyline which is developed as the story progresses, unlike the usual k-dramas where secondary characters do not have an existence outside the main characters’ circle. The main characters look flat in the beginning but as the story moves forward, the different dimensions are brought out. Taek seems absent-minded and quiet in the first few episodes but later his competitive side is shown when he spends an entire day at the game centre to get back his high score which he lost. Junghwan comes off as gruff and arrogant but is actually selfless and self-sacrificing. Sunwoo’s image of a model student is proven to be a façade later, as his buried angst surfaces.

Well-planned plot:

The plot is completely different from other K-Dramas. Usually the plot has prolonged conflict, complicated misunderstandings, and over-the-top moments. But Reply 1988 is unique in the aspect that it doesn’t employ any of the clichés and has an original storyline. Every episode has a sub- theme which is explored and they all contribute to the overarching theme. The drama doesn’t rush the plot and takes its own time to chisel the everyday life of the characters in the most heart-warming way possible.

Depiction of family ties:

The main focus of the drama is on family. But family isn’t limited to blood relations alone. All the families in the neighbourhood act like one big family. All the parents care and worry about every child in the neighbourhood and not just their own. The parents also influence the other kids more than their own parents. Taek’s interest in Baduk sprouted because of Doeksun’s father. Taek opens up about his pain in losing his mother to Doeksun’s father though he doesn’t to his own father. Doeksun with her personality seems more aligned with Junghwan’s father. They have their own greeting and jokes. Sunwoo looks at Taek’s father as the father figure he never had.

Depiction of friendship:

The children’s friendship can be seen as a direct by-product of their parent’s relationship. All the five are very close and they look out for each other. Their friendship does not have any sort of pettiness and jealousy. They understand each other without any words. When Taek loses a match, every parent in the neighbourhood consoles him with no response. Even his father leaves him alone because of his inability to comfort him. But his friends manage to bring him out of his depression by making him understand it wasn’t his fault and he need not win every time.

Depiction of love:

Usually in K-Dramas romantic love is portrayed as the only love worth sacrificing everything. But this drama explores the love between friends as well. Both Junghwan and Taek have feelings for Doeksun from their childhood. But when Junghwan realizes Taek also loves Doeksun, he is torn between love and friendship. Even when he is confused, he still finds it hard to hate Taek and loves him. He gives up on Doeksun after realizing he can never hurt Taek. Similarly, when Taek realizes Junghwan’s feelings, he tries to confess first. But he doesn’t go through with it because of his friendship. He even gives a hint to Doeksun about Junghwan’s feelings. Despite being broken hearted, the two never seem to have any sort of unpleasant feelings towards each other. They genuinely care each other enough to make sacrifices on their love to maintain their friendship. The love between friends seems to overshadow any infatuation.

Reply 1988 doesn’t follow the standard roadmap of Korean dramas. It doesn’t raise anticipation and vigour in every episode, but every episode gives a warm and comfortable feeling. It teaches us that some relationships cannot be replaced and that we should enjoy and treasure all the moments with our loved ones.