I’ll admit, I haven’t seen all of the “School” series dramas (there’s a total of seven, so far) but I have seen the last three and, in my opinion, School 2017 is at least as good as the others and, in some ways, even better. The plot isn’t all that riveting but the characters are, and they were enough to hold my attention for the full 16 episodes. I liked these kids and was interested in their lives. Like Fantastic, this drama is more about characters than it is about plot.
X is the nickname given to a mysterious character who is trying to right the wrongs at a particular high school. Think of him/her as a South Korean, teenage Batman. This person listens to the cares and concerns of the student body and then actually does something to try and fix the problem – too much testing, dangerous lunches, rigged contests, bribes to alter kids’ school records… X swoops in, all dressed in black, and does his/her best to stop the corruption. How long will X be able to get away with seeking justice? The faculty, along with the police officer assigned to the school, won’t rest until X and his/her accomplices are caught and punished.
The sweetheart of the school is Ra Eun-Ho, an 18 year old girl who wants desperately to go to the university her crush is enrolled at, however, that seems very unlikely since she is one of the lowest ranked students in her class. Poor Eun-Ho is quite often blamed for things that go wrong. She is a friendly, optimistic gal who enjoys drawing. When a friend suggests she start a webcomic as part of her portfolio to help her gain admission to the university she’s hoping for, she puts her heart and soul into the idea, using all the things that are going on at school, especially the mysterious X, for her storyline. Eun-Ho has a talent for being in the wrong place at the wrong time which often lands her in very hot water. In fact, she’s even accused of being X!
Being the son of the director of the school pretty much makes Hyun Tae-Woon invincible. His father is not about to let Tae-Woon ruin his own reputation so he doesn’t hesitate to pull strings in order to make his son, and therefore himself, look good. The student body and faculty give him a wide birth and he usually gets away with whatever wrong he has committed with just a token slap on the wrist. However, he is very smart, especially in math. He lost his two best friends because of a tragic motorcycle accident – one friend passed away and the other did not respond to the death the way Tae-Woon thought he should so a wedge was driven between the two. Their comfortable camaraderie turned into bitter rivalry. Tae-Woon wrestles with guilt, holding himself partly responsible for his friend’s death. Some people think Tae-Woon is the most likely person to be X.
The number one ranking student in the class is Song Dae-Hwi. He’s the class president, thought of as just shy of perfect, and paid to personally tutor the young man who is ranked number two. Dae-Hwi’s girlfriend is a smart, pretty, rich girl who isn’t everything she claims to be. He may come off as the guy who has everything but outside of school things are very different. He lives with his single mother who owns a small beauty shop and he’s worried that, in spite of his academic ranking, he won’t have the “extra” he needs to be admitted into a prestigious university. Dae-Hwi is angry that Tae-Woon’s father “fixed things” so Tae-Woon didn’t have to shoulder any criticism concerning their friend’s death. There are those who are suspicious of Dae-Hwi and assume he is the mysterious X.
The kid’s home room and math teacher is Shim Kang-Myung. He’s only slightly older than his students so he tends to empathize with them much more than the other teachers do. It’s obvious this man is the type of person who cares about, and wants to help, his students. He notices things that are not right and wants to try and correct the problems even if it means he has to oppose the school’s administration and the parents. Is it possible Teacher Shim is really X?
Han Soo-Ji is the female detective that has been assigned to the high school. When things at school begin to get out of control because of X, she is determined to find the culprit and make him/her face the consequences of their rebellious actions. Although she cares about the students, she also has a strong sense of justice and doesn’t think it’s a good idea to coddle them.
The principal is Yang Do-Jin, a selfish man who doesn’t care about the students and has no problem breaking the rules if it benefits him in some way. He happily takes bribes, kisses up to rich parents, and grovels to authority. X has called him out in front of the faculty and the students on a number of occasions, exposing his corrupt dealings and selfish behavior. Principal Yang is obsessed with finding X, eager to apprehend the person responsible for making his life miserable, and punish him/her, even if it’s the last thing he does!
In January of 2016, 21 year old Kim Se-Jeong went on the reality-survival show Produce 101 and finished in second place which landed her a spot in the girl group I.O.I. She was only there a half year before she was moved to the girl group Gugudan. In January of this year she sang If Only for The Legend of the Blue Sea‘s soundtrack. The only thing she did, by way of acting, before she took the part as Ra Eun-Ho, was make a special appearance on the 2016 webdrama The Sound of Your Heart. That was it. She seemed way too comfortable in front of the camera for School 2017 to be her first time as the lead female character. Not many actors/actresses get to begin their career in a starring role.
Twenty-seven year old Kim Jung-Hyun began his career with the film Overman, for which he was nominated twice for Best New Actor. I’ve only seen him in one thing before this, Jealousy Incarnate. Although he’s appeared in three motion pictures and three dramas before starring in School 2017, the role of Hyun Tae-Woon is his first staring role on a national broadcast drama. I think he did a superb job!
Jang Dong-Yoon is another School 2017 major actor who is fairly new on the acting scene. He was in two webdramas and the Kdrama Solomon’s Perjury before taking on the role of the handsome, intelligent class president Song Dae-Hwi. Although he’s 25 years old, he quite convincingly plays the part of a teenager.
Kim Jung-Hyun and Kim Se-Jeong’s chemistry is absolutely wonderful. Their teasing, sparring, and flirting is very natural. I just wished they had been given a great kissing scene. I’m crossing my fingers these two will be paired up again very soon! Hopefully, with a bit more romance this time around.
I was worried that if X was ever caught the storyline would take a nose dive, but I didn’t need to be concerned. The writers brilliantly protect X until almost the end of the show so the plot remains intact and the audience stays interested.
School 2017 did not do well in the ratings. Many South Korean viewers criticized the show saying it over exaggerated school issues. But I very much disagree with that idea. Almost every Kdrama I’ve seen with a high school setting has shown the immense academic stress South Korean teenagers are under. Several have dealt with heavy topics such as bullying and even teen suicide. School 2017‘s storyline is very light compared to others. Even though it wasn’t a top show in its home country it was very popular internationally. In my opinion, two more likely reasons for its low ratings may have been the fact that there were no big stars in the cast and the drama was aired in the same time slot as shows that did sport major stars – Falsify (aka Distorted) starring Namgung Min and The King Loves starring Yoona. You don’t send a feather weight into the ring with a heavy weight and expect the feather weight to come off conquer. To prove it did much better outside of South Korea all you have to do is check out its rating given by fans from all over the world on Viki.com – The King Loves got 9.1, Falsify received an 8.1, and School 2017 beat them both with a 9.3. So if you’re living anywhere outside of South Korea chances are you’ll probably enjoy this show.
The soundtrack is very nice. No irritating sounding songs at all. Tarin’s soft voice sings Going Home with just the accompaniment of an acoustic guitar. I found that fun because there’s a student in the show that plays the acoustic guitar and I pictured him being the one playing for her. The girl group Gugudan performs the up-beat opening theme song Believe in This Moment. I love the amazing electric guitar solo that’s smack-dab in the middle of it. Reach to You is a lovely ballad sung by Maktub that is often played throughout the show. NCT (Taeil, Taeyong, and Doyoung) perform Stay in My Life, a ballad with some rapping in it. It has a slightly unsettled sound to it, if that makes any sense.
As expected, the school is the main background of the plot, and a nice school it is. I didn’t buy the idea of X’s hidden headquarters being located there, though. It just didn’t seem realistic at all. Oh, well. Maybe the writers were going with the idea of hiding something in plain sight.
I hope you’ll ignore the negative articles about how South Korea wasn’t thrilled with School 2017 and add it to your watch list, especially if you’re a fan of the “School” series. The acting is very good and the characters keep the storyline alive and moving along at a nice pace. I’m certainly glad I saw it.
Great new actors/actresses
Wonderful chemistry between lead roles
Nothing too heavy (unlike other “School” shows)