Simply put, SBS’ Racket Boys (라켓소년단) is one of the best of the year. A thoroughly feel-good and heartwarming series that doesn’t shy away from difficult topics and dark themes. With the help of one of the best ensemble casts assembled in a drama in a long while, an eclectic and diverse group of characters of all ages come to life to depict life with all its joys and hardships, ups and downs. Fiercely relatable, proudly down to earth, emotionally affecting, absolute fun; Racket Boys is an unexpected, but outstanding treat.
When living in Seoul becomes unaffordable, Yoon Hyeon Jong (Kim Sang Kyung) moves his family to a provincial town in order to coach a middle school badminton team. Once one of the country’s best players, Hyeon Jong is now tasked with finding a way to rekindle the school’s championship legacy. But the team of three is in danger of being disbanded. Thus, Coach Yoon enlists his son Hae Kang (Tang Joon Sang), a star baseball player in Seoul, to round out the team and help to at least keep the team together long enough for him to get paid.
But Coach Yoon and initially reluctant Hae Kang soon rekindle their own passion for the sport and embark on the challenging journey back to winning.
Meanwhile, the Yoon family, which includes little Hae In (Ahn Se Bin) and Coach Yoon’s wife Ra Yeong Ja (Oh Na Ra), herself coach of a local girls’ middle school, must adjust to rural life. And they have plenty of help from their eclectic group of friendly (and not-so friendly) neighbors.
On the surface, Racket Boys appears to be a simple sports story. Though badminton does take center stage, the series is at its heart a humble slice of life story about family, friendship and community. Whether it’s the way the young boys of the badminton team learn how to work together or the way the neighbors grow closer and welcome each other; Racket Boys highlights hope and positivity in the face of difficulties, struggles and nefarious outside forces.
The emergence of a small community-turned-family is a compelling theme. And Racket Boys do so most effectively thanks to its magical combination of cast, characters and writing. The mixture of a veteran cast with talented young newcomers bring to life fully developed and multi-dimensional characters who are part of a tightly-written and always affecting story.
Every episode plays as sort of their own little vignettes, true to the slice of life nature of the series. But all together, the episodes paint a full picture of this warm community and family. Seeing bonds and friendships form and grow throughout the series is such a welcome treat in the sea of dark crime thrillers and fluffy love triangle romcoms.
Racket Boys is as down to earth as a drama series can get. There is a sense of homey nostalgia. A series that effortlessly blends broad comedy, subtle amusement, heavy drama and emotionally affecting stories together for one complete and enjoyable package. Mixing character-driven stories with legitimately thrilling badminton “action” sequences, the series is immediately irresistible and charming.
Racket Boys prides itself on portraying everyday life. Finding the meaning and purpose through the little things while experiencing the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. How the most affecting moments in life are the most humble. And that’s also while cheekily referencing current world events as well.
The amazing, talented ensemble cast delivers with every scene. And the fact that the series can give everyone actually substantial story to play with while juggling the large cast of characters without losing its way is an exceptional feat.
You will laugh, you will cry, you will stand up and cheer. You might even be compelled to pick up a racket and hit some shuttlecocks across a net. The series is able to be both familiar and unexpected. Tackling relatable, every day issues while wrapped in a positive and hopeful package, Racket Boys is an absolute joy to watch. All the pieces come together in a way that most series can only dream of. But Racket Boys does it and easily makes its case as one of the year’s very best.