Rating:
Average user rating 4.7
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The School Nurse Files: Series review, part 1

Quirky, weird, and maybe even a little bit creepy, Netflix’s latest original drama is here in the shape of The School Nurse Files. Our heroine is more than just the eponymous school nurse — she also has insight into a strange and supernatural world that no one else can see. Whether this is a blessing or a curse is left to be seen, but in the meantime, she’s got a school full of students to look out for.

 
EPISODE 1-3 REVIEW

Our drama opens with a tight introduction to our heroine AHN EUN-YOUNG (Jung Yumi). We first meet her as a young girl, where the adult world is struggling to understand the world she sees, but can’t explain. We learn from Eun-young that the “jellies” (or the little monsters and ghouls she sees), are present with everyone, with varying ranges of seriousness. She describes the jellies like the slime that snails leave behind, and the analogy is not just in how they look, but also how they’re the oozy traces of things that are left behind — unfulfilled desires, heavy thoughts, and worries.

When we meet Eun-young in our present-day storyline, she’s new to her high school job… but not to her supernatural vision. We’re told that the school is good, and that the students are happy and get good grades, but Eun-young has already picked up on the jellies and accompanying weirdness that lurk around the students. And the source of all the troublesome supernatural activity? The mysterious and very locked up school basement.

Mok-ryun High School has a bit of mythology that goes along with it — namely, the school’s founder (whom we often meet via bronze statues and portraits), and the school’s motto: Laughing will bring good fortune. It might be true that laughing is good for the soul, but the enforced laughter “exercise” that’s done at Mok-ryun is downright creepy. Something is not quite right.

But the school has an even deeper mythology than this motto, and that’s found in the bowels of the basement. It’s during Eun-young’s investigation of the activity in the basement that she befriends the founder’s grandson, HONG IN-PYO (Nam Joo-hyuk). He teaches Chinese literature at the school, and he’s got a lot of “old world” knowledge that winds up making him the perfect partner for Eun-young.

But first, the two share an awkward introduction. Then, there’s the even more awkward encounter in the basement. Eun-young has snuck down there to investigate, and when In-pyo finds her, she’s fighting off jellies (that he can’t see) with her light-up toy sword. Her explanation? “I’m practicing Zumba.” It’s exactly this dry, deadpan humor that’s sprinkled throughout the drama, and it meshes all too well with the bizarre and paranormal things that Eun-young encounters.

There’s something special about In-pyo, though, as Eun-young soon discovers. He has an amazingly powerful jelly-aura that acts as a forcefield around him. Theoretically, this means that unlike others, he’s not able to be affected by the jellies and monsters — but it also has another important meaning. His aura is able to recharge our school nurse’s energy/powers — and she sure requires a lot of recharging once the school turns to complete mayhem.

Much like a Pandora’s box mythology, a mysterious stone that the two shift in the basement further frees up all the paranormal stuff that’s been stirring. There’s a legend behind the stone that In-pyo is able to translate: the school was built near the site of a mysterious pond that was responsible for a lot of strange occurrences, and also unexplained suicides. The pond might have been filled in ages ago, but that doesn’t mean the strange energy isn’t still down there, waiting to be let out. And that’s exactly what happens.

A huge monster with some sort of crazy gravitational pull unearths itself on the school grounds, and it’s absolute mayhem. The students transform into half whirlish dervish and half zombie as they rush to the roof and are drawn into the monster’s mouth. It’s a huge burst of excitement and action at the close of Episode 1, but it also serves to hammer in the drama’s tone. Or, perhaps a better way of saying that is that it gives us all the different pieces that make up the drama’s tone.

This is not a drama about a superhero, but Eun-young rushes fearlessly to the roof with her toy weapons to save the students. It’s epicly shot, and the music is fantastic — but then it turns totally quirky when Eun-young’s method of saving them is by bopping them on the head with her sword (accompanied by a most excellent sound effect).

Similarly, this is not an action drama, but this scene is brimming with the style we’d expect from one, including Eun-young’s dry one-liner: “That’s one fucking ugly monster.” But is it really a one-liner? Often, her remarks feel more like the detached commentary of a heroine who’s more irritated than afraid. Her detachment takes us a step out of the action at certain climactic moments, and it works to build the comedy as much as it does lend to her characterization.

These sort of mix-matched moments happen on repeat in this scene — and it becomes a construct of the drama, too — to juxtapose dramatic tension with these strange moments of comedic letdown, or even bathos. For instance, when the huge monster is finally defeated, it’s by a bullet from her toy gun. And when it dies, it explodes into a gazillion jelly hearts that fly around Eun-young like the proverbial cherry blossom petals, while the soundtrack quickly flips to a lullaby-esque tune. It’s these sorts of reversals that give the drama its unique tone.

This rooftop scene is also pivotal for Eun-young’s own story, because it’s when she finds out that In-pyo’s aura is able to recharge her. The two form a sort of unspoken partnership, In-pyo not even questioning the world that Eun-young can see, and Eun-young using him as a talisman of sorts.

Jung Yumi is really great here, bringing out all the layers of Eun-young’s character, from her potty-mouthed annoyance and sarcasm, to her moments of genuine inquiry and concern over her responsibilities.

I kind of expected her to be great in this role, though, so it’s actually Nam Joo-hyuk’s performance that’s surprising me the most. Give the boy some grandpa clothes and a limp (and this crazy script with long pauses and dry dialogue), and suddenly he’s got a gravitas that I never saw coming. It turns out, this works perfectly for the storyline, because the grounding nature of In-pyo is exactly what Eun-young needs.

It’s only in the subtext of the drama at this point, but you get the sense that anyone Eun-young can relate to about the world that she sees is a relief to her. It’s actually something interesting that the drama is able to draw out without saying it much at all: Eun-young is isolated. And who wouldn’t be after a lifetime of being privy to a world that no one else is? Our nurse does her duty protecting the kids from the jellies that are in/on/around them, but she doesn’t exactly do it out of heroics. Instead, she comes off as a heroine who’s a bit tired of her responsibilities, but still carries them out.

It makes sense that Eun-young doesn’t have many people that are close to her — and the ones that are, are the few that are also privy to the supernatural world. One such person is her friend HWA-SOO (Moon Sori) whom Eun-young says is like a mother to her.

Hwa-soo is a “healer” to Eun-young’s “soldier” persona, and often counsels Eun-young while performing acupuncture and other rituals that are meant to revitalize her aura. During one of their conversations, we learn that Hwa-soo has long predicted the appearance of the one that Eun-young is “destined to be with.”

That counterpart is now in her life, and even though Eun-young insists she’s staying single, she also silently accepts that that person is In-pyo. But her friend also warns her that there will be some competition — and here we welcome a new antagonist on the scene. He’s known as MACKENZIE (Yoo Teo), the school’s new English teacher and Gardening Club representative. And he’s got his sights set on In-pyo.

Talking about the character of Mackenzie is actually a great segue into the ominous and eerie vibes that this drama also balances — right alongside its quirky humor and strange plot. There’s something sinister when it comes to Mackenzie, and it’s not just the way he’s always lurking around, whistling, or feigning ignorance to the jellies that he can also see.

If Eun-young spends most of her days getting to the bottom of the disturbances (emotional and physical) that are caused by the jelly-infected students, Mackenzie is the opposite of that. Not only can he also see into the world that Eun-young can, but he’s taken the opposite approach by stealing and selling the jellies. He sucks them up into a little seed or kernel, and then gives them to the highest bidder. What he’s doing is clearly immoral, but for a sinister character, the logic makes sense: if the jellies are the traces of desires, setting one of them loose could very well cause your desires to be realized, right?

While most of Episodes 1 and 2 are concerned with the students, their jelly problems, and Eun-young’s attempts to solve them (with In-pyo’s assistance), the introduction of the threat posed by Mackenzie at the end of Episode 3 kicks the whole plot up a notch. I wasn’t expecting Eun-young to have to go up against not only a world of gooey monsters, but also a rakish man who’s actually quite dangerous.

As we reach the drama’s midway point, Eun-young not only has to worry about the students’ safety, but also has to keep In-pyo away from Mackenzie’s clutches (and I mean that literally — he actually grabs In-Pyo by his belt!). Mackenzie is also vaguely threatening towards Eun-young herself, and seems to know far too much about the extent of her insight, energy, and worse, her limitations.

If it feels like Eun-young’s left with a little more than she can handle at the drama’s halfway point, I can’t imagine how she feels about it. Actually, I can, and it’s a long string of curses, followed by some mumbled words about having something — and maybe even someone — to protect.

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this drama is so much weirder than i expected. some people didnt like the "Japanese school" vibes from the cinematography of this drama but i like it, because its enhance the unique feeling about "school" and this jelly theme thingy. i dont have problems about cinematography, filters, and vibes(?) in this drama tbh i enjoy it

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I LOVED that Japanese vibes a lot actually! And if you think Jellies can't look scary, think again! :-D And I like the mad angles and madder expressions. I have watched all episodes in one go and dreamed about long corridors! :-D (I wish there were ducks in my dreams)

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Thanks for review and comments!!

I loved it. Lurved it sooooooooo much! So refreshing, so different, so weird.

I loved our leads, but I want to talk about the students, specially Jellyfish. I was smiling every single time she suddenly woke up in the infirmary (which is at last once every episode), also how she doesn't seem to be affected by the jellies (is it something to do with her nickname). The scene where EunYoung rushes to the rooftop, and she sees her and bends herself to be used as a trampoline for EY to "knock" SeungGwon in the head made me understood they were a team, even if they didn't know.

I also loved how no one needed any explanation. I mean: those jellies made us all insane. Of course! They were the jellies, and the nurse with the toy blade was our savior. Is there any other possible explanation? Why do you think there's a need for other explanation? There's not. So that's why the bond between EunYoung and InPyo is so naturally weird. Because it's just natural. As it is natural all the ritual students follow everyday at school with the laughter and the arms.

I will leave aside all the symbolism of what the jellies mean, and how society is portrayed. I'm just buying the simple explanation: jellies exist, they turn us crazy but fortunately there are people fighting them with toy blades. I totally get it.

P.S. I ADORE the ducks.

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The ducks!!! Every time they came on screen I said those damn ducks, lol. Their randomness was so perfect for this show.

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The ducks and the Chicken thing.

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@eazal I love the ducks too!

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My dear soul sister(or brother), I loved the show but a lot of reasons which you mention were chief reasons for that. Those jellies were sort of weird variation of a Lovecraft monsters! (Considering the madness they induced, it is the closest comparison)

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From a technical point of view, I liked the cinematography, the editing (sound editing was.. wow!!) and all the jelly work.

I found refreshing that teeneagers felt like real teenagers with acne, their hair as a mess, sweating, and wearing uniforms that don't look like haute couture. The same goes to adults: no gloss on male characters (or female, really), imperfections on the skins of every one, real glasses, no stilettos... yes, a nice change.

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I second for the looks part! I have never liked Nam ju Hyuk before this! :-D (Guess who has preference for no make-up looks and clumsy, awkward Males leads)

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Yes, I appreciated how they looked like regular students.

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@missvictrix got review *a good drama*? Congratulations.

Anyways, Nurse Files was the best thing about last week, maybe the whole month of September, and I don't remember being so engaged and wanting to binge a drama in this way a very very long time.

Visually, I appreciate the realistic appearance of the entire cast. The students look both age appropriate and well, age appropriately awkward in their own skins. We've become so used to the polished overly made up, less admit it, adults in school uniforms on our screens that it was wonderful to see pimply faced teenagers acting like teenagers.

The freedom of Netflix allowed the writer and director to show us the hormonal overdrive that vexes adolescents, and we see the actors engage in this, and well, the jellies really, mm-hmm, got down to some business in one scene. And I'll be honest, I had to pause while I laughed and laughed.

There was so much happening here, that I need to rewatch. And as I was reading the review, it occurs to me that there is some correlation between some religious symbolism and even exorcism of a sort. Her weapons may not be holy water and a cross, but honestly the toy sword and gun were much more fun to watch and I wouldn't say not bopping jellies on the head to make them go away. I mean, it seemed much less scary than Kim Jae-wook's exorcism techniques in The Guest.

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Also, just noticed I was so excited for this review I was typing like I was on Discord. *got to review a good drama

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LOL, the jellies getting it in made me laugh so hard because I was like what is going, omg, HA.

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The jellies banging each other was the point at which I was all-in. If you read some of the translated bits of the source text, she mentions that in hospitals she saw the dead but in highschools it was porn jellies. I love the metaphorical imagery of teen hormones literally running amok in the school.

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I didn't see it other than the time her classmate had a father who was cheating and her trauma of seeing the scene was played out by the jellies.

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Is there an English Translation available? ( Preferably, an official one)

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Not that I'm aware of unfortunately. The link that @amara was sharing has translated excerpts. I'd also love to read an official translated version because the parts I saw were fun, engaging and well-written.

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Indeed! But for something quirky like this a lot can be lost in translation. I hope this triggers a demand for translation of the original novel! :-D

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I didn’t know this, but if you’re watching on Netflix you can change the audio to English just go to Audio and subtitles.

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@egads The part with the two jellies made me burst out laughing 😂 I agree with you about the realistic appearance of the characters.

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I need a gif of those jellies to laugh at every time am sad....

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"Often, her remarks feel more like the detached commentary of a heroine who’s more irritated than afraid."

I love how casually and almost flatly she throws those "shibals" out there. It's hilarious. Hearing actual Korean swearing in Netflix dramas (Extracurricular as well) is kind of jarring since it's absent from broadcast and even cable shows, but you're so right, it's used really effectively here with her characterization.

I have so much to say about this show (I loved it) but no time to put my thoughts into words. Thanks for the review, missvictrix!

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It is suuuuch a colorful language. I love cursing so much and i rely on it sooo much but it is so COLORFUL it makws everything better!! But its a crutch still whatever lol

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I am not a fan of cursing for it's sake, but she makes it all sound so perfectly appropriate.

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Thank you for the recap! I'd be lying if I said I understood totally what was happening but I'm really just enjoying how unique and fun Nurse Files is. It's really just the kind of weird and colorful show I needed

Also what a soundtrack??? I'm loving the music

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I'm unable to find the OST in Spotify. This YouTube playlist is the closest I've gotten. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSP-8ZFHNa8oANNWRdWh930IEvPVO41xi

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hot damn!!! thank you for dropping a link ❤❤❤

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I like the OST and the leads (the performance, the wardrobe, etc.).
I dislike the creepy faces.

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I also think they could shorten each episode between 5 and 10 minutes without affecting the narration to much.

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Honestly this show excited me and intrigued me and inspired me so much yesterday that I did nothing but pound out words and words and words about how much I loved it and I don't think I have anything left.

But if we're just restricting ourselves to part 1 then all I have to say is this was such a fun, surreal, bizarre introduction to a show and to the characters. It was like a message in the sky that they're going to do their own thing and make their own show and they don't care if we're confused or bemused or can't keep up. That's our problem, not theirs. And I love that about it. This is one of my new favourite things.

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Also I've never been one to find glossy sanitised model looks attractive so can I say that Nam Joo-hyuk is 1000x hotter with his oversized granddad clothes, limp, and genial gawky awkwardness.

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If I wasn't on DB I wouldn't have known that was Nam Joo-hyuk and yes, 1000x hotter.

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Grandad clothes is right, initially I thought the show was based in the 1970s and then I remembered their cell phones. Perfection.😂

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I thought it was the 80’s cos of that female teacher who invited EY to the team dinner. Her dress and wearing socks with heels. So 80’s. And because of EY’s wary response to her invite, I thought that the teacher may be a ghost.

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I'm glad I wasn't the only one who felt that way! I think what adds to his hotness is that he's so willing to help out without protest.

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YES. Nam Joo-hyuk was definitely a who-are-you-and-where-have-you-been-hiding experience it this show. The gat he wore in one scene... honestly, his clothes just made him all the more precious.

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The gat! Love a teacher who's game for wearing fun props 💚

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Dylan J. Locke was English-dubbed for international version outside Korea. I had no problem for his dubbing but I knew that Netflix rarely used English-dubbed for English-language markets (e.g. US, Philippines, UK, Australia) like this. Dylan had previously English-dubbed Netflix series' Triad Princess.

My another interesting trivia: I loved Teo Yoo since he was uncredited in this fantasy dramedy web series. According to his IMDb entry (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1654982/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm), he was born in Cologne, Germany (birthname: Kim Tschi-hun) so I knew he was German-Korean-American since he studied at Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute when he was 20. His next Netflix web series was, this time, international (The Window).

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I cannot say enough how much I lurved this show. I loved the everloving [email protected]#t out of this show, 😅😂😂😂. I loved how at a certain point everyone just accepts her utter weirdness. I love her earnestness in fighting the jellies. JUST WONDERFUL!!!

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It is, isn't it?

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Thanks for this lovely recap! I'm obsessed with this show, it was such an intriguing breath of fresh air and I loved the indie movie/jdrama vibes as well as the great fusion of superhero and supernatural tropes and themes.

I agree that they really got a great performance out of Nam Joo Hyuk here, and all the kids as well (Jellyfish reminded me of Aoi Yu not just in her looks but also her very eloquent expressions). Part of me wishes the team had been given more episodes to just show us even more of these interactions (Eun Young with the kids, and In Pyo with Eun Young) because it's such an immersive world and I'd love to just spend more time there watching their relationships play out, but I also like what they did here, where, just like the jellies are a fact of Eun Young's life, the kids trusting her and In Pyo accepting her role and just popping up by her side is simply a natural progression, and we assume that there might have been some character beats in between that we didn't get to see, the same way the director edits dialogue of characters giving each other exposition directly over the action that follows. It's strong stylistic choice that also helps to move the story along.

In my initial comment on the what we're watching post I said that I felt some parts were underexplained, but I'm probably going to do a rewatch of the season again to see if I still feel the same way. Fingers crossed that the netflix subs will be better in sync at places and most crucially that there will be a second season, I loved this so much.

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I also felt that some parts were underexplained and that it sort of jumped to the next part making me feel like I must have dozed off, but I didn't... The rhythm and pace is all weird, but I think it sort of goes with the overall off-beat quality of the story. It took a while to just roll with it. I guess like how everyone at that school rolled with all the weird stuff going on.

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It's short run time is definitely to blame for that. 6 episodes meant they just couldn't waste anytime on things most other series could take their time in.

Hence, we don't see the conversation between the Eun-young and In-pyo on her powers and his decision to accept it. Or the secondary cast of students who slowly become aware of the supernatural events occurring around their school. Or the secondary love lines that develop and grow.

Still love it though.

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I actually embraced the weirdness and dry humor of our leads. I really loved this show!

I also enjoyed the unspoken partnership between the two leads. In-pyo doesnt see what Eun-young sees but is believes her story. And the students that follow Eun-young without question make them sort of a family. So cute!

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That was precisely the part I love the most.
I, as a viewer, am willing to believe everything that's happening so I totally get that In Pyo and the students believe blindly in everything Eun Young said, specially after what happened in the roof.

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This is the funniest and most insane k-drama ever. And the strangest Korean school ever.

And I want that chicken that guy rides around.

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Also he's a chicken in a school of ducks. I just realised. I love this show so much.

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Wow, I now get it!

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Do you like some anime in your K-drama? And by some, I mean literally an anime as a K-drama? Because I absolutely am in love with it.

The series was so delightfully off the norm for a supernatural k-drama that I couldn't help but fall in love with it from the first episode. I would have definitely been in support for more episodes than the short 6 we got. Still something is better than nothing.

Here's to hoping there an equally quirky second season currently in pre-production.

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The scenario was not very well balanced and it made complicated to follow the story or the characters. Yoo Teo was not used at his full potential :p

But otherwise, it was a fun and wacky ride.

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This is one of those shows that you just have to roll with, and let it be it's weird self, and then you will love it. It doesn't remind me of any other Korean drama, at all; with the choppy rhythm, the swearing and the unglamorousness of all the characters, the bizarre things that happen I was reminded of other Netflix dramas like Locke and Key.

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sorry I just can´t get into the vibe of this. too gimmicky for me.

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@missvictrix Thank you for this recap. I adore this show (craziness and all). The scene with the principal leading the students through those exercises was hilarious!

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A post scripts to the Ducks and the big fish(?) swimming in the night in the sky? :-D

The whole imagery of the show make me fall in love!

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Just a quick question: What is the war cry cum exorcism kind of chorus song which was playing in the background. (I am not a K-pop fan so please assume I know nothing and share name of artist and song and anything else I might need to know to find it.)

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Seriously, I've never seen such a load of rubbish in my life! What on earth is a seriously talented actor like Nam Joo Hyuk doing playing in such a ridiculous drama? Is he on somebody's blacklist and that's the best he's been offered? I'm all for fantasy and time changes, anything like that, but this is just pitiful. What a a waste of time!

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*** I LOVE *** the K-dramas that include supernatural elements, and SNF is no exception. It’s neat to see this both funny and poignant take on how a *modern* Korean shaman might see and experience their “blended” reality. The jellies, OMG! They’re hilarious, though you also see via shows like this one how weirdly and harmfully they can affect people’s everyday reality.

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This show is a gift that keeps on giving. The first couple episodes I tried to intellectualize it too much and then I realized it's better to just go along for the ride.

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It there Season 2. We are hopping to watch more. Some of them can not understand. But we Buddhism can understand a lot about This story.

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Has a lot of japanese drama style vibes

Sometimes I wonder if i'm watching a japanese drama if they didn't speak korean

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I like this drama but i have this lingering question and can't seem to find the answer anywhere. Why the cushion hunting could help the kids got into college?? How's that add up?

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