Episode 1 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 9 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 10 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 11 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 12 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 13 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 14 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 15 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 16 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
After the success of the Reply series and Itaewon Class, it was perhaps inevitable that a Korean drama would come along and try to merge the two together. Record Of Youth happens to be that exact drama. While there are some high points to this 16 episode series, ultimately it’s the lows that this one will be remembered for.
On paper at least, the story is actually quite intriguing. Split between four distinct protagonists, this coming of age drama splits its run-time between three friends and a wildcard love interest in Jeong-Ha. Each of these characters have a very distinct familial structure and big dreams for the future.
Hye-Jun is our lead though and an established model. Only, he wants to break free from these shackles and pursue a career as an actor. Unfortunately, his manager Tae-Su is not best pleased with this idea. After leaving his company for greener pastures, Hye-Jun instead turns to the inexperienced but ever-loyal Min-Jae who agrees to take him on as her sole client.
Already well on his way to fame, Hye-Jun’s best friend Hae-Hyo is an up and coming actor. He happens to have the money, connections and tenacious family set-up to make it. In particular, his selfish mother I-Yeong does everything she can to make Hae-Hyo a success – even if that means stamping others on the way up.
The third friend is Jin-U who dabbles with the idea of opening his own studio but mostly sticks to the background for large stretches of the show. There is an intriguing romance bubbling with Hae-Hyo’s sister, Hae-Na, but that’s never really given the time and energy to really be explored in that much detail.
Instead, more screen-time is given to Hye-Jun’s family. His estranged Father Yeong-Nam doubts Hye-Jun’s career choices while brother Gyeong-Jun is Yeong-Nam’s golden child.
Thankfully Hye-Jun does have one person fighting in his corner, his outspoken grandfather Min-Ki. He, does turn the tables late on though as he starts to pursue his own career in modeling.
Finally there’s Hye-Jun’s Mother, Ae-Suk, who finds herself working as I-Yeong’s maid.
It’s all pretty intriguing stuff and on paper there’s enough drama to carry this one forward. As mentioned before, there’s a wildcard in the midst of this and that comes in the form of Jeong-Ha. This hopeful, enthusiastic girl has dreams of opening her own studio but finds herself struggling to do so while under the thumb of management at her salon. Predictably, she meets Hye-Jun and Hae-Hyo while there and sparks immediately fly.
From here, the drama shows the trials and tribulations all of our characters go through to try and make their dreams come true. At the same time, there’s a health dose of slice of life affairs too.
Most of the big dramatic set pieces revolve around a teased love triangle and Hye-Jun’s career, which are reserved for the second half to this drama. I won’t spoil anything here but toward the midway point there’s a consistent effort to try and add more drama and scandals, both of which work quite well to hide the growing flaws.
Unfortunately, given the desire to try and stick to realism for much of this series, the script completely forgets about character development a lot of the time. There’s absolutely no comeuppance for any of the horrible people or deeds committed across the season.
Tae-Su is still the same greedy, conniving manager at the end as he was at the start. Our reporter is still committed to slanderous articles while I-Yeong is the exact same spoilt Mother.
This lack of growth ultimately translates across to the pacing and overall feel to the show which flatlines into a melodramatic lull and never really recovers. While the individual bursts of drama are good and there are times where I was fully committed to seeing how this one would play out, on reflection there just isn’t enough here to make these 16 hours wholly satisfying. And that’s before mentioning the lackluster finale.
It’s a shame because there’s definite highlights here but they’re far too infrequent and sporadic to make for a wholly satisfying watch. While I don’t want to use the word boring here, there’s definitely moments that’ll have you wondering how long is left until the end of the episode.
And that’s a real shame because on paper Record Of Youth has all the ingredients to succeed. Despite a nice heady blend of influences, the final product is something that’s simply “okay”. In a very strong year of Korean dramas, okay is unfortunately not good enough. Record Of Youth is sadly destined to end up as one that’s unlikely to break records any time soon.