K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One Part IV – Endgame

As part of my tortured logic with “perfect episodes,” there can’t be more than one per show! There has to be a best episode, right? Maybe you can imagine, then, me biting my nails after making the declaration for episode 13, because episodes 14 and 15 were eliciting a more powerful emotional response. However, episode 15 especially showcases why structure is important in that make-believe conversation, because when Twenty-Five Twenty-One moves into the endgame, its units of story divide as sequences and then scenes. For me, the climax of Na Hee-do and Go Yu-rim’s story was the series’ emotional peak. We already knew the outcome, that Hee-do defeats her ultimate rival, so it’s doubly impressive that the match was so thrilling and the conclusion so cathartic. Striking right to the heart of the show’s themes, the duel also ropes in journalism, expressing how both athletes have matured. They’ve developed a trust that transcends direct communication. Instead of the victory screams that have punctuated the tournament, Hee-do pulls off her mask to reveal silent tears and Yu-rim does the same. I broke. This is a show that took its time, and didn’t mine breakups or sudden tragedies for repetitive drama. When the big hit came, it landed. And then I recovered, checked the runtime: it’s only half over. From there, the episode veers into unexpected territory, forfeiting its whole for the next phase of story — and it’s a doozy. … More K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One Part IV – Endgame

Your Guide to the History Behind Twenty-Five Twenty-One

The Korean drama Twenty-Five Twenty-One begins in 2021, a couple of years into the COVID-19 pandemic, before flashing back to 1998, a year into the “IMF crisis.” Director Jung Ji-hyun noted this parallel in a press conference, confident the historical event would resonate with modern audiences. Based on the show’s ratings and buzz, at the top of the charts week after week, it appears the analogy clicked – as but one gear in a clicking machine so engineered by Jung and screenwriter Kwon Do-eun. Twenty-Five Twenty-One is a beautiful television series, artfully composed and thrillingly performed. It’s the kind of production that inevitably spins out of passion, and maybe even mission. There’s a lot being said about Korean history and culture, so what were those events that inspired this story? … More Your Guide to the History Behind Twenty-Five Twenty-One

K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One Part III — A Perfect Episode

Just before starting episode 13, I wondered, “When’s the plot gonna start?” and on cue, it’s here that the story begins to come into focus. Or, if not “story,” at least the nexus of all the show’s elements, delivered by our most intriguing character, Coach Chan-mi. I think it’s a little bit funny how Twenty-Five Twenty-One posits that most ancient rivalry, between fencers and news reporters, but it does make sense especially when abstracted from the framing. Part of what weighs the drama of this episode is our knowledge of Baek Yi-jin’s struggle to regain his place in society. While bearing a his mark of shame, he’s taken up odd jobs and eaten a lot of shit at the bottom rung. Though every authority figure in his life advises against a personal relationship with Na Hee-do, he can’t simply leave the newsroom because we know what starting over means. And suddenly, standing there in the snow outside Yi-jin’s house, the times have once again conspired against Hee-do. … More K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One Part III — A Perfect Episode

Kamjagiya

I can’t focus, so let me share something real quick. There are certain Korean words I’ve picked up listening to K-pop, watching K-dramas, and mostly, watching and rewatching the same Red Velvet videos (Level Up Project, behind-the-scenes, V-Lives, fan edits, you name it), and while it isn’t enough to call a starting point, I’m surprised every time I recognize anything. Some words are so specific to the people who said them that they’re indelible, like how Seulgi says “Bashta” about a beer, or Eunji with (I think) “그래” in a scene from Cheer Up, and Yeri the same in a V-Live. Wendy says “Yorubun” a very particular way at some point, but I don’t remember the context. … More Kamjagiya

K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One Part II

I have to stress that Twenty-Five Twenty-One is beautiful. Of course, there’s the delicate soundtrack, and the story itself is people rebuilding themselves in the wake of economic recession, but I honestly, chiefly, mean the visuals. Where I’d expect any ‘90s-set period piece made 30 years later to desaturate, the colors of Twenty-Five Twenty-One are boosted. Grass is green, the gym is orange and red, the night sky is blue, and Na Hee-do actually gets orange and pink with emotions. I’ve already covered the camerawork, but there’s also the editing, like that small moment in episode nine where Coach Yang beckons Hee-do with a quick gesture and we punch in on it for just a second. It’s a super-confident production, and while that helps the big moments land, it’s also just a very pleasant watch. … More K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One Part II

K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One

By traditional logic, Twenty-Five Twenty-One has a lot to live up to. Its writer/director team is Kwon Do-eun and Jung Ji-hyun, whose previous collaboration was 2019’s Search: WWW, which blew me away. This, of course, is K-drama, where I’ve had to rethink all the rules of everything. In this case, what drew me to Search: WWW was the actress Lee Da-hee and the promise – fulfilled – of her badass character. I came for Scarlett and stayed for the simmering romance and the slowly-unfolding tragedy. This is like the difference between being a fan of a movie franchise and being a fan of a director. If Production IG were to announce a new Ghost in the Shell the same day that Mamoru Oshii announced a new movie, I know which one I’d watch first. Sure, the Oshii movie might be better (guy’s so experimental it’s kind of a toss-up), but Ghost in the Shell has Scarlett, so to speak. So to speak. So when the makers of Search: WWW roll out a new K-drama, I can reasonably predict the same level of simmering romance and slowly-unfolding tragedy. Being that it’s about a high school girl who wants to be a real good fencer, it doesn’t speak to me the same way as the imagery of Lee Da-hee stomping on people or sliding over a car hood. … More K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One