[Review] Sunam Girls High School Detectives – 선암여고 탐정담

NANCY DREW’S GUIDE TO HIGH SCHOOL

Ahn Chae Yool (Jin Ji Hee) is a new transfer student at Sunam Girls’ High School.  On her first day, she’s accosted by a stranger who bites high school girls and is then recruited by the eccentric members of the detectives club at her school.

Leading the group is the smart and headstrong Yoon Mi Do (Kang Min Ah) who convinces Chae Yool to join their group.  The other members making up the group is Lee Ye Hee (Lee Hye Ri), the pretty airhead, Kim Ha Jae (Lee Min Ji), the tech geek and occult expert, and Choi Sung Yoon (Stephanie Lee), the tall jock who loves to cook.  Together, they solve cases at their school which usually revolve around teenage girl issues.

While the general feel of the drama is like a typical Nancy Drew mystery, I like that we see this drama from the teenagers’ perspective.  It’s through them that we go through the rollercoaster of teenage emotion and they are the ones that are solving their own problems, not relying on the adults to solve it for them.  Every two episodes features a new case, totaling 7 cases in all.  For those interested in tween dramas, this is right up your alley but the teenage perspective provides a unique introspection about today’s high school life.

Although the drama is naturally written by the adults, I didn’t feel overwhelmed by a typical adult response to a teenage problem.  Sure, each case ends with an idyllic outcome but the drama seems to take on an evenhanded approach to the moral of each story.  The drama allows the teenage voices to come through.

For me, it started with the story of the classroom bully and the outcast in Episode 3.   The episode doesn’t singlehandedly condemn of the bully nor does it allow the outcast to be a completely blameless victim.  The point that this episode is trying to get across is that there are two sides to every story and misunderstandings mixed with adolescent emotions can result in resentment.

I especially enjoyed watching the episode covering same-sex relationships.  The group is clearly split on what they think is right but it is clearly a relevant topic.  The drama makes it clear that it’s not the drama position to take a stand about the issue itself.  It even allows the characters to debate their differing opinions but what the drama wants you to see are the people behind the issue.  The point that the drama seems to be getting across is making people see the human behind the issue and for that I commend their attempt at not making the episodes overly preachy.

Some of these subject matters are often considered taboo in Korea that it was refreshing to see the drama tackle real issues facing Korean teenagers and opening those buried lines of communication.  No matter what your position is on the various issues, the drama offers up an honest debate amongst people and more importantly, the teenagers and their parents.

Various relationships are highlighted in this drama and it’s interesting to see how a teenage girl views her mother and vice versa.  Despite Chae Yool’s wacky moments, she comes across as the cool, confident type, except when it comes to her mother (Lee Seung Yeon).  She’s unable to live up to her mother’s expectations and she doesn’t have herself figured out as well so Chae Yool becomes diminished in front of her mother.  Jin Ji Hee has come a long way since her days in The Moon Embraces the Sun but she plays the dichotomy of her character so well here.

Similarly, Yoon Mi Do is a strong, confident character in front of her friends.  She has great leadership ability and is quick witted and smart.  However, she is unconfident when it comes to the subject of her looks and it’s something that a lot of girls might relate to.

K-Drama doesn’t have a lot of diversity when it comes to the subject matter of body image and certainly Kang Min Ah is not ugly by any means.  However, I can’t help but smile at the show’s attempt to show solidarity amongst the girls in support of embracing uniqueness when they see Mi Do crying.

Lee Hye Ri is definitely spinning off the success of her popular aegyo video and she certainly cashing in.  Her character Ye Hee is an airhead but the drama knows how to keep it fresh and amusing by having Lee Hye Ri spoof herself in one of the episode prologues.  Ha Jae provides the nerdiness while Sung Yoon adds a bizarrely unctuous dynamic to the group.  All the members are odd in their respective ways but they are lovably hilarious.

The writing is certainly the best thing about the drama.  As much as the drama tackles teenage problems, there a lot of themes that even adult viewers could relate to.  The drama is ultimately about being accepted and understood; those issues are timeless except that adults are better equipped with past experiences to deal with them.  I honestly feel that the series could have a shelf-life beyond these 14 episodes and wouldn’t mind if they came back with another season as long as the writing can keep the teenage voices and their issues fresh.

Rating

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