Who Are You: School 2015 is a 2015 South Korean television series, starring Kim So-hyun, Yook Sung-jae and Nam Joo-hyuk. It aired on KBS2 from April 27 to June 16, 2015 on Mondays and Tuesdays 21:55 for 16 episodes.
It is the sixth installment of KBS’s School series which aired from 1999 through 2002, then resumed in 2013; the series depicts the struggles and dilemmas currently being faced by Korean youth.
I took a chance on this drama because of Nam Joo Hyuk and Sungjae, both of whom showed stellar acting in their more recent shows, Weightlifting Fairy and Goblin. I had also only watched School 2013, which was famous thanks to Lee Jong Suk & Kim Woo Bin’s bromance. I had never seen Kim So Hyun’s works before, but heard pretty positive comparisons of her with another teen actor, Kim Yoo-jung, so I had certain expectations of her performance as well.
As you might have inferred from previous reviews, campus plots are not really my thing these days because they always have the same, predictable plot. To make matters worse, this drama involved switching of identities, another K-drama cliché that has been used so, so often. It makes you wonder if switching of identities/babies and high school love stories are so common in Korean society that they feel a need to portray them in almost every single drama they produce.
Cast – Kim So Hyun and Sungjae shone in their roles, and in turn made the show shine. So Hyun, in particular, really impressed with her take on the double roles. It was hard to confuse both roles that she played because she made sure they were two completely different people, without even looking like she tried very hard. That is pretty amazing, and I actually looked forward to seeing both of her roles appear in the show at the same time because it was so interesting! Regrettably though, the twin characters were not given even air time, and it made Eun-byul’s character fall a bit flat towards the end.
Sungjae played a pretty typical role of a ‘soft & problem-laden bad boy’. It’s very hard to expect much from such a boring character, but he really got into character and made it hard for audiences to not love him. His strength and love for people was endearing to watch, and it was so difficult not to feel upset during his saddest moments.
Joo-Hyuk, on the other hand, was lacking in his role and unconvincing at many times. It felt very hard to support him as a male lead because he was emotionally detached from our female protagonist – though I’m not sure if this was because of the character, or Joo Hyuk’s less-than-impressive acting. It certainly, however, did not make audiences feel his presence in the show, and Sungjae outshone him in every aspect.
For more analysis on this, I would recommend this blog.
Relatable student problems – Ah, this is what the School series is famous for. These brought back a lot of unpleasant memories of high school mugging, but I like how they don’t trivialize the issue. It’s very easy to chuck this aside in favour of the romance to grab more eyeballs, but they made sure to give this problem ample air time. The best part? No one is to blame. It’s a vicious system that everyone is trying to beat, and you can’t just single out people to take the blame for the misery that teachers, parents & students are all going through.
OST – Played at all the right times and performed by all the right artistes, this OST is one that you can expect to replay over and over again, even after the drama has ended. It really ends to the emotional tension and suspense in every episode, and without which the drama would not tugged so successfully at audiences’ heartstrings. My personal favourite is Return by Wendy of Red Velvet feat. Yook Ji Dam:
Plot – I usually try not to find too many faults with shows I generally enjoyed watching, but I was thoroughly unconvinced by the premise that this drama was built on. One twin goes missing, and is automatically assumed dead – you’d think that the police would try harder to ascertain this first, no? Then our male protagonist (Han Yi-an, played by Nam Joo-Hyuk) can’t seem to make up his mind about which twin he likes, sometimes getting angry at one of our female leads (Lee Eun-bi) for no particular reason. To add on, our bully (Kang So-young) keeps bullying Eun-bi, for no particular reason as well!
It’s almost as if no one in the show is doing anything for a particular reason, and it made me annoyed and frustrated. I wish they had tried to iron out some of these, because they made the already-cliched plot a lot less desirable to continue watching.
This is not something I would strongly recommend, but is also not something I would warn you not to watch. It is, at best, another typical campus story with very loveable & relatable characters. If you just want to enjoy some campus romance, or look back at your high school days, this is not a bad drama to indulge in.
If you’re a Joo-hyuk fan, however, this is what you really need to watch in order to appreciate how much he has improved since this show to become such a good actor in Weightlifting Fairy. On the other hand, Sungjae is still as good, if not better, and is always a delight to watch.