First Impression – At Eighteen

Storyline:

Choi Joon-woo (Ong Seong-wu) was transferred to a new school after admitting to theft in his previous school. He was warmly greeted by the class president Ma Hwi-young (Shin Seung-ho) who not only showed him around the new school, but also helped him get second-hand uniform. Joon-woo needed to submit a group project due in a few days, but most students in the class had already formed their group. However, Yoo Soo-bin (Kim Hyang-gi) gladly accepted Joon-woo in her group as there was a vacancy. Hwi-young liked Soo-bin as they were good friends since young, and students in the school already treated Soo-bin as Hwi-young’s girlfriend although they were not officially together.

Joon-woo found a part-time job at a convenience store, and was asked to deliver some snacks ordered by Hwi-young’s mother, Park Geum-ja (Jung Young-joo), to the tuition centre Hwi-young was attending. There, Joon-woo was asked to discard a bag of rubbish, but ended up being accused of stealing the tuition teacher’s watch. The school management other than his homeroom teacher Oh Han-Kyeol (Kang Ki-young), did not believe him due to his previous record, Joon-woo opted to leave the school 3 days later.

The watch was actually taken by Hwi-young because he was jealous of Soo-bin being nice to Joon-woo. Hwi-young then asked his friend Lee Ki-tae (Lee Sung-min) to plant the watch in Joon-woo’s locker. The other reason Hwi-young stole the watch was because he was angry with the tuition teacher for favoring another school mate Jo Sang-hoon (Kim Do-wan). Hwi-young’s parents also liked comparing the two boys’ school results. Sang-hoon was aware with Hwi-young’s deeds, and Hwi-young was worried that Sang-hoon would reveal the truth to Joon-woo. Nonetheless, Joon-woo guessed that Hwi-young took the watch although he had no evidence. Joon-woo wanted to leave the school as he felt unwelcomed by his classmates, but changed his mind at the last minute.

Soo-bin’s mother Yoon Song-hee (Lee Sun-young) wanted Soo-bin to enter Seoul National University as she knew it was difficult for women to find a good job without a degree from well known universities. However, as Soo-bin was only ranked 28th in school, her mother resorted to fawning over Hwi-young’s mother to let Soo-bin attend the same tuition centre as Hwi-young. However, it pained Soo-bin everytime she saw her mother being treated like a maid by Hwi-young’s mother.

Comments:

What a turbulent time for the 18-year-old! Not only do they have to prepare for the college examination that can make or break their future, they also have to live up to all kinds of expectations from their parents. But again, they are only 18 years so it is natural for them to feel confused when the world is not what they expected, and it is for the grown-ups to guide them along.

Sadly, the adults may not provide the best guidance. Just like Hwi-young’s parents who demanded that he had to do as well as his older brother, his habit of scratching his arms when stressed is just a sign that Hwi-young is not as emotionally strong. Not once did they really care about Hwi-young’s emotions, they also negatively influenced Hwi-young’s worldview, leading Hwi-young to believe that the privileged should be leader. On surface, Hwi-young was being kind to help those students to improve their grades, but in reality he was trying to manipulate his classmates to get them to support him as the real “king” of the school, so that he can even disregard the homeroom teacher’s request.

I really like Kang Ki-young’s role as the homeroom teacher. He does not seem to be like an typical teacher; although he accepted the teaching job to support his habit of buying discounted branded goods, but he was truly concerned about his students and would try unconventional ways to teach his students, even if the school principal opposed to his teaching methods. I like how Teacher Oh is currently trying to “train” Joon-woo to break Hwi-young’s influence in the class.

The romance between Joon-woo and Soo-bin is sweet but kind of expected for now, but I really appreciate how the two confused souls come together to comfort and also help each other to understand the world. They may not always make the right decision, but they learnt to face the consequences of their decisions, which I feel allows them to really mature as compared to Hwi-young’s insistence that he was right and hiding behind his mother when a real problem appeared.

Overall, this drama is an easy watch, and I expect more heart-warming and cute romantic scenes than Class of Lies. Although the topic of school bullying is also discussed in At Eighteen, the main focus is still on friendship and budding romance. I will continue to watch to see how the romance between Joon-woo and Soo-bin unfold, and hopefully this drama will also have a happy ending for the leads.

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