I THINK we are halfway through this kids’ programme, based on Dramawiki‘s info, this show’s supposed to be a full 16eps. But sigh, either the show is irregular in its broadcast or the subbing team places it on the lowest, lowest rung in priority…I can go for like 3 weeks without seeing an ep update. Since it’s only 30 mins per ep, the cases sometimes drag over 3 or 4 eps…and it’s really annoying when you can’t watch it regularly, cos you tend to forget what have happened.
Anyway, for the show’s 10eps, we have about 4 cases. And what I find interesting is that the show doesn’t tiptoe around uncomfortable issues — like paedophilia, smuggling of national treasures by Japanese and of course, murder. “Sensitive items” like knives are mosaic-ed, scenes of child rapes are cut away (or we get some shadow play)… but hey, these are also commonly used techniques in the more “adult” kdramas. The difference is, the majority of the audience in Pluto should be kids. So…maybe kids grow up faster nowadays cos of TV? (or the internet)
I’ve dealt with ep1 in my First Impression post, so I will briefly go through the other cases that our bunch of plucky kids manage to solve.
Case 2: Cyber bullying
Woo-jin’s form teacher (Teacher Ma) gets accused for taking bribes from a parent (someone took a pic and posted it online in the school’s forum). Although the issue is resolved when one of the students comes forward to clarify that the Teacher Ma had been paying her school fees due to her family hardships, and her mum had met up with the teacher to return the money — thus the “shoving” of money into the teacher’s hands, which is captured in the pic. However, before the issue is resolved, the school’s forum is abuzz with hate posts, accusations, and other irresponsible comments about the teacher’s character, etcetc. Which of course, nearly destroyed innocent Teacher Ma’s sanity.
The team later manages to discover the source of the “leak”. She is a student in Woo-jin’s class, who has an interest in photography. However, due to a misunderstanding, she thought Teacher Ma is mocking her “useless” aspiration to become a professional photographer. In revenge, she posted the pic she took and assumed different online identities to flame the form teacher.
Highlight for this case is where the students carry out a mock court hearing, where Ha-ra (playing the prosecutor role) is convinced that a notoriously rebellious boy in class is the culprit, but Woo-jin feels otherwise (he plays the defendent lawyer). Ha-ra is later proven wrong, and I think this is the turning point for her to peg down her arrogance a few notches. Yes, although I do like how driven and proactive she is, sometimes, such people can come across as REALLY annoying.
And of course, this case is a really educational piece; not juz for the cyber-savvy children, but also for those irresponsible adults who assume that hiding behind a keyboard give them license to slime anyone they please without consequences.
Case 3: Smuggling of national treasure
A professor is found dead at a beach and the police realises he is an expert on antiques and has been especially active in preventing Korean’s national treasures from being shipped illegally to Japanese collectors. Teacher Ma meets up with an old flame, who is visiting the hospital to care for his terminally ill daughter — and he also happens to be the nephew of the dead professor. As he is in need of money for his daughter’s medical treatment, he has no choice but to try to persuade his uncle to reveal to him the secret stash of antiques believed to be kept by a dead millionaire who used to live near the town. His uncle knew he has a made a deal with smugglers and refused to tell him. The professor is killed after a scuffle on board the smugglers’ boat.
Of all places, the treasure stash is hidden in Pluto’s previous hideaway. Dong-young ventures to investigate first, but is kidnapped and captured by the band of smugglers who are led to the hideaway by Teacher Ma’s friend. Subsequently, the other boys and Ha-ra are also captured when they try to look for Dong-young in the dilapidated shack. Thankfully, the smugglers don’t kill the kids, but left them tied up. They manage to escape and with the police help, track down the smugglers before they get away with the loot.
I find this case a little far fetched, since when does the police ever allow kids to accompany them on missions? And yet the boys are all in the police car chasing the smugglers and also in the thick of the fight when the smugglers retailiate against the police. But oh well, a kids’ show must sometimes have the kids literally playing the hero’s role.
Case 4: Child molester
I was frankly, quite surprised that Pluto has an episode on paedophiles, cos the topic is really dark. Though I understand that schools do teach children nowadays on what to do if an adult does something inappropriate.
The poor victim is Ha-ra’s new tablemate, who is sporting bruises on her arms and body — a fact that Ha-ra notices but is rebuffed fiercely when she probes. Ha-ra later learns from Woo-jin and Dong-young that her new tablemate didn’t used to be so hostile, but somehow she has changed in the last few months. So much so that she is avoiding contact with boys totally.
News of child molestations and assaults are reported on TV recently, and parents are worried about their children’s safety. Unknown to everyone, Ha-ra’s tablemate actually knows the paedophile. He is a supplier at her mum’s seafood stall, and her mum allows him to sleepover at their house frequently. (i’m not sure why a mother will allow a man in the house when she and her daughter are the only occupants, plus the mother never seems to be around at night) Whenever the child rapist is unable to satisfy his carnal desire cos his latest victim manages to escape, he will return “home” and takes Ha-ra’s tablemate as a substitute.
When Ha-ra’s tablemate collapses in class (after Woo-jin grabs her wrist to prevent her from hitting out at Ha-ra), Teacher Ma and Ha-ra confirm that she has been a constant victim of sexual assaults. Ha-ra takes it upon herself to track down the rapist and even physically protects her tablemate from another attack. Luckily for both girls, the boys (and the policemen) also manage to crack the case and capture the aggressor before he commits another heinous act.
Because nothing is really shown on-screen, the insinuations off-screen are stronger for this case. Which makes it even more discomfiting to watch. In addition, little telepathic Seo-jin viscerally experienced the rapes that Ha-ra’s new friend went through, cos he happened to touch a book she carries around everyday. (omg) That, to me, is pretty horrifying. Although to his credit, Seo-jin doesn’t crumble under the intense fear and violation, and manages to pick out salient clues about the rapist’s identity through the victim’s memories.
If taken as an educational series on crime, some of Pluto‘s cases are a little over the top, and well, unrealistic, such as the smuggling case — in a small town. However, each case still serves to teach kids something — be it national pride, responsibility over cyber comments, fairness and most importantly, alerting adults if you are sexually assaulted. Being more explicitly sensational than say, a Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys’ book (do kids still read them nowadays?), I suppose some parental guidance will be required for younger viewers.
Sensationalism aside, Pluto may still appeal to older (read: adult) audience cos of its quick storyline. I watch it as a filler while waiting for my other kdramas to be subbed online. Although the cases are straight as an arrow, and you know whodunnit right at the beginning, watching the kids play policemen/women can be rather entertaining. My advice if you do want to pick up Pluto is not to expect too much and juz let yourself be entertained with the gang’s adventures.