Kyeong-hwi (played by Choi Minho) is a doctor who's used to dealing with tough situations. Back when he was still in high school, Kyeong-hwi was always getting picked on, and even made a clumsy suicide attempt. Kyeong-hwi was only saved by the appearance of Na-bi (played by Lee Yoo-bi), a willful student the same age as him who encouraged Kyeong-hwi to think better of himself. Then she died, and her absence haunts Kyeong-hwi in the present even as he is now an unqualified success.
The first two episodes of "Somehow 18" are dedicated mainly to setting up who Kyeong-hwi is as a person. There are gratuitous flashbacks but this because Kyeong-hwi gives Na-bi gratutitous credit for his ability to deal with a wide variety of situations. That's one of the funnier ironies of their relationship. Na-bi's big contribution, aside from becoming Kyeong-hwi's friend and sticking up for him, was to improve his self-esteem.
Whether Kyeong-hwi is actually going to figure this out at any point is unclear. Once the magical plot device allows Kyeong-hwi to see Na-bi in the flesh once more, "Somehow 18" takes on more explicit wish fulfillment undertones. It's actually quite appropriate- for a guy as obsessed with high school as Kyeong-hwi is, it makes sense that he would have thought through the right ways to resolve situations if only he had been older and more experienced.
The awkwardness is that cool, confident, adult doctor Kyeong-hwi feels completely out of place in the high school setting. Now, to be clear, I'm pretty sure this is all intentional. Considering the cliffhanger episode four ends on, we definitely get the implication that Kyeong-hwi can't always get what he wants by looking cool and making a mockery out of bullies. Indeed, Na-bi saw potential in Kyeong-hwi's puny form, so it's little surprise that she's less impressed with the cockier version.
But whatever the thematic goal of "Somehow 18" I'm finding the overall drama to be adorably cute. Choi Minho has the best facial expressions, and the transition from his teenage self to his adult self is almost perfect. We can see a very clear line of continuity showing off how Kyeong-hwi is the same fundamentally goofy person, it's just that the goofiness manifests in different ways depending on his current self-esteem levels. Crisis, most notable, is where both Kyeong-hwis are the best at coping, so it's little surprise that those moments are when he is at his genuine best.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Somehow 18" Episodes 1-4"
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