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  1. Racket Boys Director: Jo Young Kwang, Ahn Jong Yeon Writer: Jung Bo Hun Main Cast Children: Tang Joon Sang - Yoon Hae Kang Lee Jae In - Han Se Yoon Son Sang Yeon - Bang Yoon Dam Lee Ji Won - Lee Han Sol Choi Hyun Wook - Na Woo Chan Kim Kang Hoon - Lee Yong Tae Kim Min Gi - Jung In Seol Main Cast Adults: Kim Sang Kyung as Coach Yoon Hyeon Jong Oh Na Ra as Coach Young Ja Shin Jung Geun - Coach Bae Ahnn Nae Sang - Coach Fang Woo Hyun - Village Chief Hong Baek Ji won - Shin Song Hee, protector of the village Cha Mi Kyung - Grandma Oh Mae Shin Chul Jin - Grandpa Jung Min Son - Kim Tae Ho - husband of the couple from the city Park Hyo Joo - Shin Pil Ja - wife of the couple from the city Prologue Another drama about the healing provided by a small town versus the rushing rat races of big cities, this time centering around a village junior high badminton team. While it is a coming of age story about members of a badminton team that come together along with their coaches and supporters, it is also a social commentary about families in these times. It also manages to fit in a recent scandal about hazing and bullying within amateur sports in vying for national placements. The main criticism I have about this drama is that it feels as if it’s trying to do too much, and thus the early episodes drag as it sets up scene after scene of introducing characters and circumstances. And, the introduction of stories don’t ever quite end, with one story really being told in its entirety in the final episodes after only brief mentions in the earlier episodes. The charm of this drama centers more on the characters and their ability to form connections with each other as well as with us viewers. Plot Points Hae Kang is a junior high sports prodigy, currently pitching for a competitive team in Seoul. He is the son of 2 badminton coaches, however, and had been a badminton prodigy in elementary school until he abruptly decided to change sports. Unfortunately, HK’s parents are struggling to make ends meet as coaches, and thus the father Coach Yoon takes a coaching job at Haenam Middle School in the countryside which includes provided accommodations. HK who is aware of his family’s financial difficulties is not happy about the move, but accepts the inevitable. Once in the village, it turns out that there are not enough children to field teams for sports. The boys badminton team has 3 members in it currently, and are desperately looking for a 4th member so that they could attend competitions, a full team being 4 members. HK reluctantly is talked into joining his father’s team, and despite a bad attitude, his natural competitive spirit causes him to become competitive in the sport once again. The boys badminton team of Yoon Dam, Woo Chan, and Yong Tae all have their quirks as well, and readily accept Hae Kang. They are ultimately joined on the team by In Sol, the top student of their region and the son of a wealthy, connected family. The way these five boys become friends and family as well as teammates is definitely the highlight of this drama. It’s also helped that most of the boys end up living with their coach while training, forcing the boys to all share a room. HK’s mother Coach Ra is a respected girls’ badminton coach and a former national athlete having won a gold medal at the Asian Games, but then dropping out before she competed in the Olympics. Coach Ra brings two of her top athletes, Se Yoon and Han Sol, to live in the house as well, while training additionally with Coach Yoon’s boys. The addition of Se Yoon and Han Sol introduces some teenage romance amongst the crew, though due to the disapproval of the youngest member Yong Tae, the relationships as they develop are kept secret. A love triangle with Se Yoon, Hae Kang, and another high ranked player Park Chan also gets some story time, though ultimately Hae Kang and Se Yoon become a supportive unit, both young prodigies who understand each other, even without having to exchange a lot of words. The coaches have their own challenges both with the students and just amongst each other as well. The athletics director Coach Bae was a highly respected coach until he had to quit coaching after allegations of bullying. In the process, though he thought he was protecting his athletes, his best player ultimately ended up quitting badminton entirely over the incident. There is some jostling by other coaches to curry favor with Coach Fang who is the coach of the national team, but ultimately they are put in their place with a comment of how could they be acting like that in these times. This as well as the story surrounding Coach Bae and his best player Tae son are references to the hierarchical nature of Korean society which infuses pretty much every aspect including sports. Unfortunately, this had the historical result of not promoting for merit but rather for favors and connections, and also meant underperformance in international competition. It also led to incidents of bullying and hazing by coaches and senior members of teams, some of which led to serious injuries. Historically, such incidents were covered up and kept out of the press, but in these days of everyone having a camera and being able to upload incidents, that seems harder and harder to do. This drama makes a reference to it, but also takes steps to say that the sports are cleaning themselves up of such behavior as well as trying to field competitions based on ability rather than seniority. Aside from the sports, it also focuses on some of the villagers in Hae Nam. There is the story of the grandparents whose children and grandson live in Seoul and rarely come for a visit. Grandma Oh Mae has even put together a playroom, complete with paying for WiFi access for her grandson. Even though, he doesn’t come to Hae Nam to see his grandparents very often, Hae Kang and his little sister Hae In are able to take advantage of it as well as the grandparents’ delight in having children around. Ultimately, it becomes a de facto playroom for all of the team members. Hae In who would have been lonely with busy parents and a busy brother becomes a special favorite of the grandparents. There is the story of the village chief Hong who is torn between wanting more tourists to come to the area which would bring in more income and wanting the village to be a happy place for the people who live there. He is in constant tension with Shin Song Hee who is fiercely protective of the village and highly suspicious of city slickers coming down and possibly causing trouble. There is also a city couple who move to Hae Nam from Seoul. Their original intent is a double suicide since they feel they are at the end of their ropes, but wanted to die somewhere peaceful and removed from the city. However, the neighborliness of the people in Hae Nam, including from Hae Kang cause them to rethink their situations and start to settle into the village instead. Overall Review Written by the writer of Prison Playbook, this is very much a relationship driven drama. The plotting can be a bit confusing at times and tries to do too much. This drama combines a LOT of storytelling mixed in with some slice of life type events. It would have been better to pare the elements back some that could have given a much stronger story. As it is, the jumping from topic to top and scenario to scenario doesn’t always given enough time for the points to be set up properly or even land. Rather, we are treated to series of vignettes at times so that we can infer what must have happened/ been happening. Having said that, the dialogue is well written and provides for meaningful interactions between the characters, rather for fun or for emotion. Given that this is a relationship driven drama, the cast is excellent. The adult figures are all played by recognized veterans who bring their ease of acting, comic timing, and emotional pull to ground this drama. However, the real revelation is in the younger actors. Aside from Tang Joon Sang who became well known for his depiction of a young North Korean soldier in Crash Landing On You and Kim Kang Hoon who became famous for his role as the precocious son of the female lead in When the Camellia Blooms and is now a reality tv darling, the other young actors are relative unknowns having done the youth versions of drama leads, been in ensemble casts, or are total newbies. Son Sang Yeon as Yoon Dam, Choi Hyun Wook as Woo Chan, and Kim Min Ki as Jung In Sol were able to show a range in their acting talents through their roles, resulting in both laughs and tears. Lee Jae In as Se Yoon touched our hearts with her depiction of an ambitious young athlete who was idealistic enough to want to do it her way and with her friends. Lee Ji Wo as Han Sol, Se Yoon’s best friend and second fiddle on the girls’ badminton team who was as ambitious as Se Yoon, but realized that she didn’t have the talent went from a small supporting role to taking a story line for herself. Even the supporting cast young talents were very good in this drama. Ultimately, it is a feel good drama where people learn lessons, face adversity, win or lose, and then continue. In Hae Kang’s words when asked what he’ll do after losing a match to make the national team “What do you mean what will I do? I’ll turn 17.” Life goes on. Ratings: Plot - 7 Deducting points for the various plot progressions, but the overall writing is actually very good, especially with respect to the dialogues and character interactions. Acting - 9 Excellent cast. Production - 8 Village feels a bit typecast, plus the international competition scenes feel a bit off albeit its from an SK viewpoint. Re-Watch - 10 I’ve already started rewatching episodes of it, so only fair to acknowledge that it’s worth re-watching, even after knowing the ending. This drama is definitely better than its component parts might suggest.
  2. Racket Boys Literal Title: 라켓少年團 (Racketsonyeondan ) Director: Jo Young Gwang Writer: Jung Bo Hoon Episodes: 16 Genre: Sports drama Broadcast station: SBS Online Streaming Site: Netflix Schedule: 31 May - 9 August, 2021 (Mon - Tues) Websites: Official Website | Naver | NamuWiki | Wikipedia | MyDramaList | Plot Summary A story of a boys' badminton team at a middle school in Haenam as they compete in a junior athletic competition. The 16 year old boys and girls in Haenam grow as people during this time. Yoon Hyun-Jong (Kim Sang-Kyung) was once the best badminton player and he now takes the coach job of a boys' badminton team at a middle school in Haenam. The badminton team is on the verge of being disbanded. The players on the team are Yoon Hae-Kang (Tang Joon-Sang), Bang Yoon-Dam (Son Sang-Yeon), Na Woo-Chan (Choi Hyun-Wook) and Lee Yong-Tae (Kim Kang-Hoon). The players are not very good yet. Meanwhile, Ra Young-Ja (Oh Na-Ra) is the coach of the girls’ badminton team at a different middle school in Haenam. Her badminton team ranks #1 among their peers (source: AsianWiki). Casts Kim Sang-Kyung - Yoon Hyun-Jong Oh Na-Ra - Ra Young-Ja Tang Joon-Sang - Yoon Hae-Kang Lee Jae-In - Han Se-Yoon Choi Hyun-Wook - Na Woo-Chan Kim Kang-Hoon - Lee Yong-Tae Kim Min-Ki - Jung In-Sol Lee Ji-Won - Lee Han-Sol Son Sang-Yeon - Bang Yoon-Dam Shin Jung-Keun - Coach Bae Woo Hyeon - Village Head Hong Kim Ki-Cheon - middle school principal Baek Ji-Won - Madame Shin Jung Min-Sung - city husband Character Chart
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