Duty After School Part 1: Kdrama Review

I heard a lot of good things about Duty After School, an adaptation of a Korean webtoon of the same name, but held off on watching it before the second season was released. After seeing the first installment, I am still baffled by the good reviews that the series received. Were we even watching the same show?

Synopsis: A year after mysterious spheres arrived on the Earth’s atmosphere, they started falling, unleashing alien creatures that fed on humans. Keeping the dangerous situation under wraps, the South Korean military offers third year high school students additional points on their CSAT exams in exchange for enlisting and training. Unknown to them, they have become auxilliary forces in the upcoming war against the spheres and their lives would never be the same.

I was expecting something along the lines of Netflix’s All of Us Our Dead when it came to the students’ battle for survival. However, I was disappointed from the beginning because the series wasted a lot of time in establishing how immature and unlikeable the students were. From being vain, petty to being crybabies, audiences would wonder how, even in the fourth episode, were there still characters who were talking about the CSAT, sunburns and other useless stuff in the face of their classmates dying.

There were still people whining about their moms, being loud when obviously, the spheres were sensitive to sound. There were still idiots prone to hotheadedness who picked fights, kicked things about and resorted to violence against their fellow students. On and on these went. The arguments continued and it was funny because for the few people who actually displayed character development like Tae Man (from official class clown to a capable soldier), his role was mainly relegated to defending the class president from bullies.

This got so frustrating that I was actually rooting for the spheres to kill off all of these id*ots and get it over with. Save for a few characters who actually showed sense (Yu Jung, Jang Soo, Na Ra, Tae Man, So Yoon, Tae Man, and Young Shin), the rest should have been eaten by the monsters — the bullies, the vain airheads, the babies — worse yet, the main character Chi Yeol was as useless as peeling paint — from start to finish. All he did was sigh, and freeze up, and sigh again.

Yet another lameduck leader was Platoon leader Chun Ho. I get that he was seeking redemption for being unable to save his comrades through the kids but the amount of shenanigans he let them get away with was unbelievable. Won Bin deserved a prize for loyalty but he went overboard by always agreeing with Chun Ho.

I noticed that there were a lot of pauses in the series because it seemed like a standard after a shocking event that the director needed to pan through every reaction in the room before arriving at a resolution. It was also an obvious cue of an impending character death when uncanny focus on the character before they were subsequently written off.

This is not to say that there were no good moments in the series. The actual scenes and the rescue missions were pretty good. However, the show really tried hard to sell the hero factor with all the foreshadowing that not everyone would make it alive As a result, each death felt anticlimactic.

At the end of Duty After School Part 1, I am solidly Team Sphere (couldn’t they have thought of anything cooler to name these aliens, or at least distinguish their levels). And there’s something definitely wrong with the production’s approach when viewers would make that statement so easily.