Ha Il-kwon created the gripping webtoon “Duty After School” or “Banggwa Hoo Jeonjaenghwaldong,” which was published in 2012–2013. The series had been a hit over the years, which is why Sung Yong-Il, Yoon Soo, and Lee Nam-Kyu got together and created a mini-series with the same name. The mini-series aired this year and followed the plot and storyline of the webtoon to the tee while tweaking the visage of the aliens or monsters here and there to make them have more weaknesses. The series also chose to focus on drawing a narrative underscoring the problematic political and educational scenarios faced by the troubled students of South Korea. There was an intentional jab at society as a whole as well.
Set in modern-day South Korea, this world deals with a lot of unusual sphere-like shapes that suddenly appear in the sky. The timeline is set a year after the appearance of these spheres. The government of each country has tried its best to probe and find out more about the spheres. According to the YouTube video they showed in “Duty After School” episode 1, the spheres seemed harmless and only doubled in number when attacked. To ascertain that the spheres were harmless entities, each of the governments launched a variety of attacks. These attacks led the spheres to multiply, which ultimately put a stop to all attacks. With the exception of the Poles and some parts of Russia, the spheres were everywhere. Of course, human life is ever-zealous, which is why it did not take them time to adapt to the alien life form that had appeared. It took them a year to get habituated to seeing these spheres daily, and life went on. Scientists took the time to get samples from these spheres to find out if they posed a danger to humanity, and the results showed nothing. It was unlike anything they had seen or known about. The humans had adapted to the point that the spheres became tourist attractions that they could only see up close in a hot air balloon.
“Duty After School” series, as well as the webtoons, introduce quite a realistic portrayal of what would likely happen when high school students are handed weapons instead of being protected. Both the webtoon and the series focus on how the students began to treat their training as a more fun way to earn points, not realizing that their lives were at stake. It sure upped the stakes when you realize that at the age of fooling around and studying, the students were expected to suddenly grow up and take on a serious approach when they knew next to nothing about the real danger they were in and instead were lured by the promise of points. It goes to show how cruel the world is.
The battle began when the spheres began dropping from the sky. Upon close inspection, the spheres seemed to have a wriggling movement inside. In the webtoon, the spheres, upon reaching land, wreaked a little havoc as blobs self-detonated. But, in the series, the sphere that had dropped first transformed into a giant, monstrous creature. The webtoon had taken time to explain the structure of a sphere; it seemed that the spheres were divided into three categories according to their sizes and how likely they were to attack humans. The spheres were of three sizes: large, medium, and small, with a nucleus in the center, almost like a cell minus the other parts like mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell; yeah, that’s the only thing everybody remembers from biology; do not judge me). The large ones were usually overlooked due to their containing dangerous substances; the medium ones, upon attack, broke down into countless smaller cells, which wouldn’t attack unless provoked. The small ones, which were about a meter high and similar to human stature, moved around and attacked more. If the nucleus of the smaller sphere was attacked, instead of breaking down into even smaller parts, the sphere would self-detonate. However, they could be attacked by a normal rifle. The webtoon described these spheres as giant blobs that developed sharp limbs instantly to attack.
“Duty After School” series gave it a shape instead of sticking to the blob from the webtoon. The series also bypassed the self-detonating instinct of the spheres to make them a little less harmful, I guess; however, it stuck to the sharp limbs that it could use to attack. The sphere in the series looked a lot like a hybrid version of an octopus and a hibiscus flower. I think the concept art of the spheres must have been derived from an octopus and, to a certain extent, a starfish, because the creatures moved with an agility that is similar to the movement of an octopus underwater. The center of its body, where its mouth is located, is similar to the shape of a starfish, complete with a set of four petal-like wings instead of the tapered limbs that the starfish has. Instead of simply generating limbs, these monsters had sharp tentacles, which they used to pierce through their prey while also using them to move around quicker. The spheres were shown to be attracted to noise in the mini-series; they did have a vision too, but they were mainly attracted to noise. The bigger monsters, however, seemed to have a more definite body structure, paying homage to the extraterrestrial movies made before.
The blobs of the webtoon had little to no weakness and could only be destroyed once they self-detonated; however, the spheres in the series seemed to have a lot of weaknesses. The first weakness that the spheres had was their susceptibility towards cold. During the third episode, Wang Tae-Man and Woo Hee-Rak sneaked into a convenience store, and there they dealt with a sphere by locking it in the freezer. They fled the scene after watching it freeze to death; similarly, in Episode 5, Hee-Rak saved Jang-Soo by using liquid nitrogen to freeze the attacking sphere to death. What I don’t understand is that the scientists had already discovered a weakness because the polar regions, as well as the colder parts of Russia, did not have any spheres. If they had been hovering around for a while they were bound to be exposed to subzero temperatures and that would also be an indication. This was established in the very first episode of “Duty After School” when the female YouTuber was explaining the spheres. It was a glaringly obvious fact that somehow everyone chose to ignore. The DU ammunition was another weakness that completely destroyed these spheres. It is later revealed at the end of the series that, similar to games like Borderlands, Halo, etc., the scientists of this world had taken to constructing cryogenic ammunition to counterattack the spheres. Now, if you do not know what cryogenic ammunition is, then let me explain. These weapons employ techniques to use liquid nitrogen and similar freezing ammunition to freeze and kill the monsters. Much like a flamethrower, only with more smoke and a frozen ice thrower. So, they do incorporate the glaringly obvious choices, but at the very end, when they were unable to protect the lives of the children and had resorted to assigning them weapons instead,
The second part of “Duty After School” also addressed the temperature loophole that the first part had overlooked. In the webtoon, due to having no weakness, it did not need to address the temperature changes. However, the loophole in the series persisted after a year, and yet nobody thought of looking into the cold temperatures as a weakness. If it was a weakness that the sphere had, then it should have been revealed in the first year that had passed. The only logical explanation would be that when the monsters were inside their spheres, they were protected from harsh temperatures during the winter. In the second part, these monsters or aliens seemed to adapt to the temperatures, but then the cryogenic weapons would be of no use if they completely adapted to the temperatures. I suppose that while addressing the previous loophole, the creators seemed to have created another one.
Even though the origins of these spheres were unclear in both the series and the webtoon, the motive did get through. It was to kill humans and cleanse the Earth. It could be assumed that the animals were not harmed. Well, I did not see any animals being killed, so I am simply assuming. Therefore, the spheres could be in tune with nature and were sent to cleanse the Earth of human life forms. In “Duty After School” Episode 4, the students stumbled into a deserted area after their designated driver got attacked by a sphere. In this area, there were actually no spheres in the sky, and due to the palace being abandoned, the monsters did not stick around. The only reason they got attacked by a sphere was that it had been hanging around somewhere there and had been attracted by the sounds of humans. Episode 9 did take this narrative into account because the prisoner had agreed with the spheres that humans were a danger to themselves as well as to nature.