Review: KBS’ Jungle Fish 2 – When Life Transcends Culture

Basic set-up spoilers.

Korean dramas can be a wonderful window into a culture you may not be familiar with. Learning customs and traditions of a different culture can be fascinating and enjoyable and entertaining at the same time.

Often there are times when you find some things transcend culture. That the problems and troubles of everyday life exist no matter what part of the world you’re from.

KBS’ miniseries Jungle Fish 2 does exactly that.

Like its predecessor, Jungle Fish in 2008, Jungle Fish 2 follows a group of Korean high schoolers who navigate their way through their teenage lives.

This isn’t your typical Korean high school idol drama, let alone your typical Korean drama period.

Jungle Fish 2 takes on a cinematic look unique to Korean broadcast TV. It is subdued, sometimes subtle and never flashy despite featuring a cast that includes K-pop idols Lee Joon (MBLAQ) and Jiyeon (T-ara).

The cinematic feel boosts what might otherwise be typical high school drama fare; family, romantic relationships, sex, school, and friendships, themes common to any part of the world.

These universal themes help make the series accessible and the series’ unconservative, mellow and somewhat “emo” way of tackling these themes give it a leg up on other current television dramas. Jungle Fish 2 tries to push the envelope without going too far and that helps keep the series’ feet planted firmly on the ground.

The thread that runs through the series is the mysterious death of a girl that was at the top of her class at a prestigious school. The series unfolds as her boyfriend searches for answers, but the real attraction each week is our meeting of the different members of the group.

Each character takes turns getting featured front and center by episode, going deeper into their respective lives while keeping them in the context of the greater society.

From issues of class to the struggle of pleasing parents with straight As, the ins and outs of family and friends to the unexpected twists life can throw at you, Jungle Fish 2 is a fascinating, emotive look at how stories and common themes can transcend culture and how the lives of teenagers aren’t so different, no matter where you are.

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