KDrama Review: Seonam Girls’ High School Investigators

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Drama: Seonam Girls High School Investigators (literal title)
Revised romanization: Seonamyeogo Tamjungdan
Hangul: 선암여고 탐정단
Director: Yeo Woon-Hyeok
Writer: Park Ha-Ik (novel)
Network: JTBC
Episodes: 14
Release Date: December 16, 2014 – March 18, 2015
Runtime: Tuesdays 23:00
Language: Korean
Country: South Korea
Plot
Five students are members of a private investigator club at Seonam Girls High School. The five students face problems like private education, abortion, bullying, suicide. They do their best to solve these problems.

Notes
Based on the novel “Seonamyeogo Tamjungdan: Banggwa Hooui Miseuteori” by Park Ha-Ik (published January 25, 2013 by Golden Bough Publisers).

(source)

So…

If this is your first introduction to Korean dramas (henceforth known as Kdramas), you probably need to know a few things. I was going to do an introductory post on this last week but things happened and I ended up not writing it. Still, here’s a super-speedy version of a Kdrama.

A Korean drama is usually an hour or a little over an hour long. Usually 16 episodes but there are historical dramas that have gone on for more than a 100 episodes and others who stretch themselves to 20. Recently, the trend is to go shorter and pack more into each hour which I’m all for. The subjects and themes of these dramas are varied and one cannot really make a comment onto the subject matter without generalization. That said, Kdramas are on the conservative side and do not, as a rule, feature explicit content. Unless of course the audience courted is older or the show is appearing on cable.

Seonam Girls High School Investigators or Detectives of Seonam Girls High (the reason for the multiple names is because the Korean title can be translated in various ways) is about a girl group of high school detectives. Or, one would say, wanna-be detectives. Seonam Girls diverges from the norm in various ways but one of the more important ways is in the issues it tackles. As the drama is episodic (or procedural, is that the term?), attention is focused briefly, but intensely, on the issue associated with the case being solved. Academic pressure and misconduct, teenage pregnancy, relationship between teacher and student, parental pressure, bullying, and revenge are some of the themes but the one that garnered the drama most attention is its positive look on homosexuality. As I said before, South Korea is uber-conservative and homosexuality is not as issue easily dealt with-especially among youths. I believe the creators of this drama faced disciplinary actions following the airing of the episode which dealt with a lesbian couple. I thought that the drama dealt with homosexuality in a very graceful, sensitive and beautiful way without attempting didacticism or condemnation.

Now, hold on to your seats because I couldn’t find a trailer that properly illustrates the wonderfulness of the drama so I’m coming at you with a whole slew of gifs.

One of the major reasons to love this drama is the female friendship present in it. Female friendship is usually rarer than unicorns!

It is chock-full of moments that you’ve already had with your own friends.

The story begins when one of the girls (a future detective, she just doesn’t know it yet) transfers to Seonam Girls High and she’s immediately surrounded by four suspicious girls.

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It’s a bit weary being the only sane one.

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Nope.

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I also appreciated the running joke about food and eating (without the shaming that usually accompanies big appetites).

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And the drama is just plain funny.

And:

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But with all the eating, bickering, and funny-making, they do still get some detecting done.

And learn many things while doing so. I love that the characters grow during the drama and I cannot stress how much I enjoyed the friendships that cohered and were strengthened through the progression of the drama. The drama is not perfect and sometimes as viewers who are foreign to the culture, certain things do ring strange. The overarching mystery is a bit more convoluted than befits the tone of the story. All said and done though, Seonam Girls manages to capture so exactly that elusive essence of girlhood, of childhood, of what it feels like to exist in the liminal space between adult and child that not recommending it would be tragic. The drama feels truer than many North American TV shows. There’s a lack of artifice, an absence of scriptedness, and a verisimilitude to the drama that made watching this a pleasure. Of course, the friendships which I cannot stress enough made this one a gem. I leave with two last gifs. Excuse the French in it.

You can watch the Seonam Girls High School Investigators on Drama Fever.