Edited by Kim Won Hee
Translated by Kim Hoyeun
Netflix original series The School Nurse FIles, which drew keen attention as the meeting between director Lee Kyung Mi and writer Chung Serang, has finally been unveiled. It is a six-part cheerful fantasy series about school nurse Ahn Eun Young, who has the ability to see “jelly” that no one can see, solving an unusual mystery at her newly appointed high school with the help of Hong In Pyo, a Chinese character teacher. As the genre is introduced as a “cheerful” fantasy, many bouncy charms show up here and there.
The world that Ahn Eun Young sees is always full of colorful, mysterious, and beautiful jellies. These jellies are quite different from the spirits and ghosts that appear in horror movies or supernatural tales. They are created by the residue of desires. All living beings can make jellies, and even after they die, sometimes they remain in this world, but most of them break down and disappear before they become something harmful. There is a saying that if you die with much resentment, you become a ghost that roams around this world, and since “resentment” can be considered an unfulfilled desire, the ghost is a type of jelly in the world introduced in The School Nurse Files. The fact that these gruesome elements are featured as jellies add to the wacky and lively charm.
On top of everything, every character has their own charms. Ahn Eun Young, who is born to help others, always says she doesn’t like her ability and seems to be fed up by all these situations, but every time, she arms herself with a plastic sword and a BB gun to protect the students. Hong In Pyo, who has a protective shield thanks to his natural energy, acts as Ahn Eun Young’s energy charger and helps her dig into the secrets of buried inside the school. Students at Mokryeon High School, who cause accidents influenced by jelly, are full of unique and fresh faces.
Actually, school lives are depicted uniquely yet realistically and the story naturally points out the hatred people have against minorities. The act of disparaging and ostracizing a student from a poor family is portrayed negatively, and the act of cursing at the sexual minority is described as an act that only those who are swayed by evil jellies do. When a student who was bullied for being poor says “the school is no better than a beggar,” another student asks back, “What wrong with beggars?” With this line, the drama points out the unconscious discrimination and disgust we have in our minds, piercing our hearts with truth.
Also, the fact that Korean folk symbols are spotted and give a strong impression of “Korea” is impressive. Ahn Eun Young grows a garden balsam and dyes her fingernails red with it, and this comes from a belief that balsams drive out evil spirits. The gold cord around the basement door, where the stone is placed, has the effect of preventing injustice from entering the sacred place, and the red bean paste placed in the basement means driving away ghosts. Several traditional knots will also appear with wishes to prevent them from being untangled. It is also notable that the mite (itch) from the famous Korean idiom “having bad luck attached like an itch” is described as a jelly and that there is a mite-eater whose entire purpose in life is to eradicate these mite-jellies.
The novel soundtracks with colors of Korean traditional sound increases the drama’s unique appeal to the fullest. Music director Jang Young Kyu, who is well-known for band Lee Nalchi and soundtracks in Woochi (2009), Tazza: The High Rollers (2006), and The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008), completed the catchy sounds. His soundtrack enlivens the drama with addictive lyrics and sometimes lively, sometimes retro, and sometimes Korean-style melodies.
The School Nurse Files is said to have been produced as a prequel. Maybe that’s why. The overall story of season 1 feels like the introduction to Ahn Eun Young’s peculiar world. By the end of season 1, it was revealed that the reason for all the strange things happening at school was because of the powerful energy flowing out of the breathing hole inside the basement, and that “Safe Happiness” and “Ilgwang Sterilization” used Ahn Eun Young in their competition to acquire that power. In season 2, we hope to see Ahn Eun Young’s strange yet attractive world that has expanded and deepened.
Verdict: The strange world of Ahn Eun Young that we just want to keep watching (8/10)