Seasons of Blossom (청춘 블라썸/Youth Blossom) is a thought-provoking and poignant series about life and all its joys and hardships. Seo Ji Hoon and So Ju Yeon’s captivating performances power this series that discusses difficult, but important topics that don’t normally get tackled on Korean television (whether traditional or streaming).
The series begins with Han So Mang (So Ju Yeon) narrating her story as she returns to her old high school for the first time in six years, this time as a trainee teacher. Though So Mang was a kind person, she was also timid and kept to herself. She recalls one summer when she meets Lee Ha Min (Seo Ji Hoon), a top student and class president who is loved by all. They grow closer as they secretly meet in the art classroom during lunch, away from the stress and annoyances of high school life outside. But as they become friends, So Mang learns of the darkness hidden behind Ha Min’s bright personality. And her returning to this school six years after that time allows her to confront the reality and the reasons that eventually led to Ha Min’s death.
This shocking revelation is revealed in the very first episode. Actually within the first few minutes. But it is merely the jumping off point for the series. So Mang has struggled to come to terms with losing someone who was even more than just a good friend to her. And she hopes that somehow, her return will help her find answers to questions she isn’t even sure of herself.
This while she also meets the young students of the present-day; the handsome Lee Jae Min (Kim Min Kyu), friendly class president Yoon Bo Mi (Kang Hye Won), the video game ace and soft, but straight-forward Choi Jin Young (Yoon Hyun Soo) and the blunt, but kind Kang Sun Hee (Oh Yu Jin). These students go through their own challenges and struggles, especially with relationships both romantic and friendship.
The stories of the present-day kids are told parallel to the unfolding of Ha Min and So Mang’s own relationship in 2016. And those stories from the two time periods intersect in surprising, but important ways.
At its core, Seasons of Blossom deals with depicting the hardships of everyday life. No matter the age, everyone has things they must deal with and overcome. But alongside those challenges, the many joys and happiness that can counter any of those struggles.
As mentioned earlier, Ha Min’s death is not a secret. Nor is the fact that he took his own life. Learning this in the first episode is the starting point for both So Mang’s present-day journey toward healing as well as the unfolding of So Mang and Ha Min’s relationship in 2016.
With mental health still such a difficult topic to discuss openly in Korea, especially on television, Seasons of Blossom does a careful and respectful job of telling Ha Min’s story here. Not only does the series touch upon the complicated feelings of someone like Ha Min who might feel trapped or alone, it also tells the story of the people around him. Most especially, the people he has left behind.
But, and most importantly, the series does not cast judgement. In fact, it is quite skillful in how they are able to tell these stories in a careful, yet accessible way. Though certainly the series could have gone even deeper with this topic, they do a good job with the 16, roughly 30-minute episodes. There is a sincerity and genuine feeling to how the series tells Ha Min’s story. And that is very important.
Seasons of Blossom focuses on how everyone deals with things differently. And it is not always as simple or as easy as we would all like everything to be. Pressures, loneliness, teenage innocence, the difficulty of healing; these are just some of the universal experiences that the series manages to weave together into a full, thought-provoking narrative.
There is no shortness of emotionally affecting moments throughout the series. I, myself, was already crying (MaGMCMs>) during that first episode. But the series seamlessly flows between the highs and lows of emotions while also navigating the scenes of 2016 and the present-day in 2022.
The present-day scenes with the students feel like familiar high school dramas you might see elsewhere. The young cast are fresh faces who do a good job with delivering performances that work well within the series’ tone. There are sweet moments. There are dramatic moments. But they never take away from the series’ main event.
And that main event is the core and heart of the series. That is of course Ha Min and So Mang. Without getting into more spoilery detail, So Mang’s discoveries help to tell Ha Min’s story while also presenting the story of how someone who wants to find healing and closure can’t just do it at the snap of a finger. No matter how much they might want to.
And nor should they. Everyone heals and moves forward at a different pace. Just like everyone seeks help or even just a hand to reach out to in different ways as well. The series really delivers a poignant and even nostalgic portrait of those stories.
And those stories wouldn’t be as affecting or impactful as they are without the excellent performances from Seo Ji Hoon and So Ju Yeon. It’s hard to put into words how strong their performances are. But it really would be a different experience with other actors in these roles. They chemistry they share allows them to tell the many facets of their story. From the sweet romance to the safe comfort to the devastating struggles; Seo Ji Hoon and So Ju Yeon masterfully portray these varying, but equally important pieces.
So Ju Yeon delivers a heartbreaking performance. As So Mang, Ju Yeon must be both the 2016 and 2022 version of the character. And that requires a fair amount of nuance, which So Ju Yeon has no problem with. She is tasked with the emotional weight of the series and again, she just delivers. She is also our window to the story. And her presence allows us to be immersed into the story and these characters. Perhaps the most important role and the glue that holds the series together.
Seo Ji Hoon has turned in some great work over the years in a wide variety of roles. More than deserving of a lead role and bigger projects, he proves that once again here as Lee Ha Min. Knowing Ha Min’s fate at the start of the series gives the character this unique aura that Seo Ji Hoon must navigate right along with us. He must also deliver a nuanced performance in which he portrays Ha Min just as he is at that time in 2016 and not only as the Ha Min whose fate we already know about. That could potentially distract both him and the viewer. But Seo Ji Hoon’s performance, especially when Ha Min is at his most vulnerable and difficult moments, is just incredible. I think one of his absolute best performances.
There is a sense of nostalgia with the series. And the direction and cinematography giving the series an almost ethereal visual feel fosters a viewing environment that really pulls you in.
In a year where I haven’t really seen that one Korean drama that really hits hard, Season of Blossom could very well be that one. Poignant when it needs to be. Funny and lighthearted when it needs to be. Careful and nuanced when it needs to be. Tackling difficult and universally relatable topics, Seasons of Blossom is just simply a thought-provoking and emotional story.