JTBC’s “Somehow 18” aka “18 Again” stars K-pop idol and K-drama actor Choi Min Ho and Lee Yoo Bi in a time slip web series that tests whether there is truly a second chance for love. Compared to full length Korean dramas though, web series are bite sized versions of each episode that run only for 10-15 minutes. Each web series spans 4, 6, 10 or 12 episodes totaling to one to two hours worth of viewing for the avid binger.
Synopsis: Oh Kyung Hwi (Choi Minho) is a successful, confident doctor of pediatrics at one of Korea’s biggest hospitals. But back when he was an 18 year old high school kid, he was bullied and abused. His rescuer, school transferee Han Na Bi (Lee Yoo Bi) helps him out of his depression but later takes her own life because of her own issues. Many years later, a mysterious incident gives Kyung Hwi a chance to save his first love and change the course of their ill fated love story.
Somehow 18 had a great premise and it had a pretty strong cast with two well-known Korean actors headlining the web series. While in real life, both Minho and Yoo Bi are already in their late 20s, they have baby faces that help them pass off as high schoolers easily and they breezed through their adolescent roles perfectly without appearing awkward.
I like the Alice in Wonderland and the Back to the Future vibe that the series had going for it as well as the excellent pacing that maximized the series’ use of 13-15 minute episodes. I liked the chemistry and contrast between Minho and Yoo Bi. The cute tough girl persona that she projected compared to his nerdy character was precious, yet behind her smiles lie the mystery of what made her do the unthinkable.
The web series made a good choice of showing what happened in the original timeline as compared to the new one. Through it, audiences see how the new Kyung Hwi differs from the old one in terms of confidence and in knowing the “future,” he easily sidesteps the embarrassing things that made his high school life miserable the first time around.
Because of the time limitation, the series was not able to flesh out a lot of the scenes that could have strengthened Kyung Hwi and Na Bi’s connection because producers obviously had to prioritize which scenes they would need for the final cut. Also because there was an extra element that was introduced to elaborate on Na Bi’s back story, it ate away at the romantic scenes that could have been given more focus in a full length drama.
Still, I liked that even though there was a big reason behind Na Bi’s original suicide, the series employed just the right amount of dramatics that would not make the audience feel lacking within the 15 minute timeframe.
Despite the very serious issue of bullying, depression and suicide that was the main premise of the story underneath the focus on first love, I loved that the series presented it in a very positive way by showing survivor’s guilt and dealing with the idea of a close friend’s loss. On the flipside, despite the fantasy aspect of going back in time, it showed that there is really hope in saving a life if one truly looks close and tries to understand a depressed person’s situation. It makes audiences reflect about their own lived ones and if they are doing enough to show how much they care.
All in all, Somehow 18 was cute and romantic yet at the same time serious and dramatic. It’s fun to watch and at the same time, it was an eye opener. Even though it ran for only 150 minutes, it effectively delivered a story of love, friendship and loyalty. Totally binge worthy.