9 end 2 outs (2007) Korean Drama Review ~Revisiting the Classics


Hello. This is a Korean in America. Today will try to update a review I did last year early in my blogging career. I will like to re-review the Korean drama”9 end 2 outs”.

Revisiting the Classics: 

9 end 2 outs (2007) #KDrama Review



Introduction
Friendship is actually a difficult subject to cover in Korean drama. If you exclude the super melodramatic male fantasy friendship from the list, it is rather difficult to remember a Korean drama with a believable friendship between persons that are not family or pseudo-family members. I exclude those shows because, within the family or pseudo-family dynamic, the relationships between characters are more close to kinships rather than friendship between equals. With these relationships, there are unspoken interconnected ties enforced through social norms. This also applies to upper and lower classmen relationship.

There are a few exceptions.
Examples would be “Hyena” (2006) and “A Gentleman’s dignity “ (2012) . The latter is basically the same setup as the former but less raunchy and has a bigger budget. In those shows, I did believe the friends are actually fiends albeit an immature one that did not changed even into adulthood.



This rare depiction of friendship between equals becomes rarer when it comes to friendship between a man and woman. The best friendship in a show which also includes women is the one from the Japanese drama “Proposal Daisakusen”. The relationships in that show were really believable. The best Korean drama example is “9 end 2 outs” (2007).


Men, Women, and  friends
The year, 2007, was a pretty good year for Korean dramas. Some examples of good show are: Lovers (SBS), Money's Warfare (SBS), Queen of the Game (SBS), The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince (MBC), and The Devil (KBS).


However, it is common in most storytelling mediums for the friendships between man and woman to be difficult to maintain. The movie “When harry met sally” may have said it best.

 “Men and women can never be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.”
― Nora Ephron, When Harry Met Sally

The sex thing does tend to always get in the way.

This type of story line has been used a lot in many romantic comedy movies during the last century especially let’s say during the 90s. However, I cannot say that it is the same for Korean dramas. With Korean dramas, the “fall in love with a younger girl who I thought as a younger sister before” story line is more common. This is a reflection of the fact that Korean men do not really perceive females to be equals to them. If you are a female, you fall into one of the following three categories: younger sister, lover, or mother.

You can see this in how the shift between younger sister and lover occurs in Korean dramas. Only the briefest physical contact can move the relationship from “brother and sister” to “Lovers”. It the whole, “if you leave a man and a woman together in a room for any length of time, they will start having sex” mentality that Korean society has. This mentality also is linked to the arranged marriage angle in the culture. It is assumed that, once all the arrangements are done and the i’s are dotted on the paperwork, the physical stuff takes care of itself. Sadly that is not true in reality.

Life would be much simpler if it was true.

The only real hurdles with theses story lines are related to the pseudo-incestuous view some of the characters have. An example of this type of story line can be seen in “You're The Best Lee Soon Shin”.


For these reasons, a love story between two people who started out as two equal good friends are rare in Korean dramas as with the case of the Japanese drama “Proposal Daisakusen”. Starting out as maybe potential lovers before and then actually becoming lovers do not count.

In a way, this is to the detriment of the Korean drama medium. There are a lot of stories to mind from that angle. Moving from friends to something more is the dilemma of all boys who lack confidence and thus got delegated to the “Friend Zone” have. And it is not an easy thing to overcome. Even if you somehow move beyond the zone, there are a lot of hurdles to overcome.



The Korean drama “9 end 2 outs” (2007) is rare example of a love story between two good life long friends who seen all the baggage, all the prior relationships each other had experiences.  

And it is a classic!


The Plot
From the title of the show, you may think that this is a baseball sports show. However, it is not although there is baseball in this show since there is a side character who is a baseball player. The title “9 end 2 outs” indicates the moment of truth when you are at the plate and everything is at stake. For the leads of this show, it refers the fact that they are turning 30 years old.

They no longer have the luxury of youth.
Now it is time to grow up and face the music.
The decisions made now will determine the rest of one’s life.

The problem is that they do not feel old. They are not ready to toss all youthful dreams aside and go on the road with a destination of settling down and waiting for death.

The show starts on New Year’s Eve and the two male and female leads receive a text message. The text message was a “reserve the date” message that both had forgotten about long ago. This seemingly important but not overtly important to them date that they both forgot is last day of their 29th year on the planet.


Watching the year end and a New Year start, the two friends console each other and look back on how the best years of their lives had passed by. While they had seemingly tried to live their lives to the best of their abilities, none of them are at the place in their lives they had thought that they would be at.

The male lead, Hyung-Tae, works at an advertisement firm and he is relatively successful. However, he is restless and is still hung up on an ex-girlfriend who left years ago. The female lead, Nan-Hee, is an unpublished writer who keeps failing to get placed in a prominent fiction writing contest. She is now working at a small publishing firm.

The plot follows these two living together as roommates because of a series of events. Through the few months they live together, they, individually, go through life events such as brake ups, reunions. However, they are never alone.

A friend is always there for you whether in the next room or sitting on the toilet.


The Relationship…
The two leads have been friends for almost all their lives and thus have the kind of friendship that can only be formed at an early age. They talked to each other about their love lives. They tease each other. They are sometime inconsiderate to each other. However, it is never without love.

The following scene summarizes their relationship nicely.
One day, they are drunk walking down the street. The guy sees a giant billboard of his ex-girlfriend. The girl looks at him and looks at the billboard. She knows what he is thinking seeing the giant picture of his ex-girlfriend’s face. She knows he is still hurting.

What does she do?
She takes out of marker from her purse and draws on the face.

In a way, she is fighting his battles for him because he is still hurting. This is the relationship that feels real, heartfelt and drives the show.

While the writing is great, the chemistry between the two actors really makes the show. Both actors in this show tend to be type-casted in their respectful roles. However, the roles in this show provide them with some opportunity to flex their acting muscles.


This is the show that made me fall in love with the actress, Soo Ae. She had been playing more of the innocent, sad, rather tragic, and static female characters before this. In this show, she is playing an energetic, slightly manic, and tomboyish girl to great fanfare. The combination between her tragic air and energetic quirkiness made the character something special.  I think that this was Soo Ae at the top of her game. Sadly I think she never reached that height again afterwards.


The male lead is Lee Jeong-Jin. I never really liked this actor. He is an actor who only really has a single good facial expression and uses it constantly. It is a good expression with a mixture of sincerity and sadness. However, it does get boring fast. What is interesting is that it works well with Soo Ae’s tragic air extremely well. This show was also a show that ended a good run of his career.


The Structure
One thing I constantly criticize about Korean drama when comparing it to Japanese dramas, is that the structure of the show is rather weak. The 3 act structure is difficult to identify within the overall Korean show’s narrative and the structure of individual episodes is rather none existent.

In this area, “9 end 2 outs” was quite surprising. There was a definite structure there although not as solid as a Japanese drama. First, there is an actual overall theme that the show sticks to. The overall theme is about entering your 30s and how to cope with it. Second, there are arcs with specific identifiable themes and functions. I am not saying episodes since this is still a Korean drama. They cannot fit anything into a single episode. Each arc is laid out over 2 or 3 episodes with individual themes. Some are relationship building. Some are comedic. Some are tragic. Some are uplifting.

If I would to criticize, since each arc is tightly constructed as a unit, there are noticeable tonal shifts between arcs which are not always good. The first arc is relying heavy on its comedic elements. There were really outrageous moments where I burst out laughing. The problem is that it’s never that funny after the first arc. This is disappointing as you get hooked to the show because of the comedic stuff.

Another thing is that the show becomes more of a straight drama after episode 10. During these episodes, the show loses a lot of momentum. During the earlier episodes, the show moves fast for a Korean drama and it was pretty snappy. It is clear that they ran out of ideas half way through. However, the show does recover in the last 2 episodes and has a great ending embracing the future while not totally forgetting one’s youth.


Love!
When I first saw the show, I was surprised not only because it was very funny, but because it displayed a level of emotional maturity not common in Korean dramas. It very deftly portrays characters who are turning 30. It balances the innocence and fun of being young and the maturity of age. In other words, they are real people rather than soap opera players. The thing about Korean dramas is that most of the characters are either inhumanly pure or need years of intense psychological help that would make the doctors rich.

What I especially like about this show is how the show treats love. Love is not this ideal thing that you worship on a shrine. Throughout their lives, both characters had many other loves. And these loves are important on their own. The fact that they ended does not devalue them. In the show, both leads have first-hand knowledge of each other’s’ loves and supports each other when they ended. This is a really mature approach.


Absence of Family!
In most Korean dramas, family is a driving force in regard to character motivation and story. Just think about shows like “Heirs”. Without the families meddling, there would be literarily no plot. Although, if you think about, the families were the only thing interesting about that show.

In “9 end 2 outs”, there are barely any presences of the leads’ families. The only one that is actually on screen for any real screen time is the mother of the female lead. However, she is mostly used to setup the story and nothing more. On the other hand, we never see the male lead’s family although they are reference one or two time. This is rather refreshing. In a way, I think that the show is saying that one cannot mature without separating from one’s family and standing up as an independent entity.


Conclusions…
At the end, the relationship between the two characters is the best thing of the show. I love how their relationship evolves. Even though they were friends for almost 30 years, there were distances or gaps in their relationship.  But, through living together, this changed.

Before, they were great fiends. 
Now they are companions addicted to having each other.

It is lovely how they get really accustomed to eating meals together at home without even noticing it. It became second nature.

The show is an instant classic!!!!

Score: A  or 9/10


Streaming link: Good drama net

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