seoulbeats_20150627_whoareyou

Who Are You: School 2015 is the sixth installment of the popular School series that is known for its depiction of the struggles of teenagers. Playing host to a whole new cast of young actors, idols included, the question is: did they do justice to the lives of teenagers?

The drama follows the story of the twins, Eun-bi and Eun-byul, who were separated and are now living completely different lives. Eun-bi lives at a home for orphans and is bullied at her high-school, while Eun-byul is adopted and becomes a popular student at her high school.

Their lives intersect when Eun-byul runs away from a school field trip to search for her sister. Eun-byul is later found with amnesia while her sister is pronounced dead after committing suicide. The story then revolves around Eun-byul’s fight to regain her memories and identity.

If you were like me, you first got interested in the drama due to the presence of the child actress, Kim So-hyun. After watching her taking on the younger counterparts of many loved actresses in dramas like Missing You, Rooftop Prince and The Moon Embracing The Sun, she seems to have started to take steps out of their shadow.

Who Are You: School 2015  has given her the chance to prove that she has the make-up of a leading lady, especially with her taking on not just one but two roles. She does an incredible job of creating two separate identities for the twins; Eun-byul is blunt and strong willed to the point of being rude, while Eun-bi is passive and caring to the point of not taking care of herself. She practically carried this drama from start to finish with the mystery surrounding both her characters pushing the plot forward.

seoulbeats_20150627_whoareyou2 The drama adds a new twist to the School series with Eun-byul’s amnesia and her attempt to discover who she was becoming. Despite having issues of bullying at its heart, it dramatizes the plot to the extreme with some plot devices ending up slightly unbelievable. We go from believing Eun-bi is dead, to Eun-byul taking her place, to Eun-bi being alive. Talk about soap opera! This dramatized version of high school life isn’t something that most teenagers could identify with, but it definitely brings in the heartache and tears.

Rather than identifying with the struggles of the main characters, it was easier to get involved with the side characters. The entire cast dealt with a wide range of issues form bullying, depression, familial pressures, ambition and friendship. The story of Park Min-joon, the class president known for getting high grades, was something that hit very close to home.

The effects of the competitiveness of high school and the pressure to obtain high grades from parents were highlighted in his story. Through the detached way his mother interacts with him as she chooses to only to talk about his grades, it is clear to everyone watching the impact a parent’s attitude has on their children. He has been taught that he is only worth as much as his grades, leaving him isolated from those around him. This makes the scene where his father finds him after he has failed to commit suicide one of the most powerful scenes in the entire show. It is scary because it is completely realistic. Min-joon’s story is one of many that highlights a parent’s importance in shaping their children.

While some of the parent characters were fully fleshed out to highlight their effect on their children, Eun-byul’s and Eun-bi’s adoptive mother seemed to fade into the background. This drama dealt her a crappy hand, choosing not to develop her character into the complex individual that she had the potential to be. When she found out her real daughter had perished in the place of her twin that she had believed to be her daughter, she was of course distraught as any other parent would be. However, the implications of her next choice to beg Eun-byul to stay in the place of her daughter were not really dealt with.

Questions about how she was dealing with the death of her daughter seemed to become inconsequential to the story despite being important to her character. Instead of becoming a complex character with complex emotions, she was labelled as the caring mother character even after everything she had been through. This seemed so out of place, especially when other characters, like Han Yi-an, had entire episode dedicated to their struggle with the truth.

seoulbeats_20150627_whoareyou1Being a high school drama there of course had to be a love triangle; however, it seemed to fade in comparison to issues that the characters were dealing with. It focused on the relationship between Lee Eun-bi, Han Yi-an and Gong Tae-gwang.

Han Yi-an, played by Nam Joo-hyuk, was the boy next door character, while Gong Tae-kwang, played by BTOB’s Yook Sung-jae, was the wayward son of the school director. It was a bit of a toss up between these two as to who would end up with Eun-bi. In the end the result wasn’t clear if she chose someone, even though Tae-kwang was rejected. In fact, it seemed like the characters chose to value the relationship they had, rather than adding a title to it.

If there was one incentive to watch this drama it would be for the soundtrack. It pulled together the impressive talents of Tiger JK, Baechigi, Yoon Mi Rae, Byul, Younha and many other artists to make it one of the best soundtracks that I have heard in a long time. Tiger JK’s “Reset” featuring Jin Shil from Mad Child stood out as it was played in the make it or break it moments of the drama. Usually once a song has been played repeatedly over a few episodes it gets annoying and drags the emotions of the drama. This was not the case with this song as it gave life to every scene it was in.

Overall, this drama was both enjoyable and thrilling to watch. While this was not a depiction of teenage life that can be called completely realistic it did touch on some important issues. The effects of family life, bullying and friends on teenagers were depicted in extremes, but the ramifications were very clear. Each aspect helped to shape a teenager’s identity and their attitudes toward everyone around them.

Did you identify with these characters and their struggles? What part of high-school life do you want to see dealt with?

(YouTube, KBS)