The 2017 KBS drama Hit the Top (최고의 한방/The Best Hit) is a charming and fun slice-of-life look at youth at all ages. And the moments that help shape one’s self and one another.
Hit the Top starts out with a very fantastical premise. Pop star Yoo Hyun Jae (Yoon Shi Yoon) somehow travels from 1993 to 2017 where he learns that he has been presumed dead for over 20 years. While bewildered by the mysteries of his past and his travels, Hyun Jae tries to adjust to the modern world while also reconnecting with former manager Gwang Jae (Cha Tae Hyun), former flame and pop star Hong Bo Hee (Yoon Son Ha) and World Entertainment chairman Lee Soon Tae (Lee Deok Hwa).
But first, he meets struggling college student Choi Woo Seung (Lee So Young), aspiring rapper MC Drill (Dong Hyun Bae) and idol trainee Lee Ji Hoon (Kim Min Jae) who turns out to be the son he never knew he had.
Hyun Jae must balance still being 24 years old while his old acquaintances have aged naturally as well as try to fit in with the modern young adults well-versed in technology.
At the core of Hit the Top is the slice-of-life comedy/drama that depicts the coming of age trials and tribulations of young adults and young adults at heart. All in the pursuit of that “Best Hit.”
For different characters, that best hit can be a happy moment, a perfect relationship or a dream fulfilled. The series chronicles each of these characters navigating their lives through the uncertain world in order to find that best hit. And along the way, perhaps realizing life is a series of good “hits” (plural) that help shape one’s whole being.
Yoon Shi Yoon is perfectly cast as Yoo Hyun Jae also known as “Thumbs Up”/”Dabong!” The character plays to Yoon Shi Yoon’s strengths as a versatile actor capable of both the most outrageous comedy and the most emotional drama.
But while Yoon Shi Yoon is definitely the heart of the show, Hit the Top is very much an ensemble drama.
Hit the Top serves as a showcase for Kim Min Jae, Cha Tae Hyun, Yoon Son Ha, Lee Deok Hwa, Lee Han Soo, Lee Se Young, Dong Hyun Bae and Cha Eunwoo as various distinct and well-developed characters.
Kim Min Jae especially carries a lot of the series’ emotional weight even though the ensemble all each have their own moments to shine as well.
The series starts off fast and strong. And while it does taper off about two-thirds into its run, the final episodes are able to wrap things up in a neat and satisfying conclusion.
The show’s romcom slice between Hyun Jae and Woo Seung is probably the least interesting part of the show. Instead, the strongest parts of the show are the relationships between the characters. And that means all different kinds of relationships; whether friendships, family by blood or not or rivals and enemies.
Hit the Top is very much a character-driven series. And Hyun Jae, as the center of the series, allows for the story to move at a relatively brisk pace. Through Hyun Jae’s experiences with friends, old and new, he is able to mature and grow from his wild pop star youth. But he also affects the people around him for the better as well.
The time travel aspect never takes the spotlight. You’re not going to get a rundown of time travel mechanics. But still, the last episodes offer a satisfying, if not simplistic explanation for it. And that is alongside the emotional climaxes for many of the characters.
Like its Korean title says, The Best Hit isn’t just literally about a song topping the charts. It talks about the best hits in life. The happiest moments, the accomplishments, the dreams. The idea that a moment or achievement is the best of your life, so far. And that there is still more to come.
A great cast, well-developed characters and just the right amount of mystery and fantasy makes Hit the Top a lighthearted and enjoyable nostalgic ride.