Ever wondered how it would turn out if a drama had the quirks of Shopping King Louis characters in a setting like a mash-up of Fight My Way-Reply 1997, mixed with the time element of Tomorrow With You? Only this time it’s a wedding that they are trying to stop, not an imminent death of a loved one. Manhole delivered a strong start for a comeback project, especially after having so many time-slip dramas airing this year.
Manhole premiered in a traditional, but very comical way of introducing its characters. I still have qualms about the time travel element, but I am ready to let it slip because it’s just the first episode. So let’s first meet all the important characters comprising this dramaverse:
- LOVESTRUCK HERO
Bong Pil (Kim Jae-joong) is a 28-year-old bum who has been preparing for the civil servant exam for the past three years. He is at an emotional saga after his childhood friend and longtime love Soo-jin (UEE) is getting married in a week.
I love Jaejoong in this drama! He is hilariously cute, but can be annoying, too. The whole episode was literally one full hour of him whining before his friends. His dialogues, especially his conversations with the neighborhood friends, were witty and very much on point. It’s like watching my very own millenial neighbors talk to each other.
“My love disappeared like a shooting star. Like my dad’s 20-year-old ginseng wine, when people make the wine, everyone expects it to be sweeter over time. But the love in my heart is extremely bitter like a chalice full of poison.” – Pil
The flashback on Pil’s birthday surprise for Soo-jin caught me big time. Who doesn’t like getting a fireworks display for a birthday surprise?
- PHOTOGRAPHER HEROINE
Can I just say…UEE is too skinny in this drama! I don’t know if it’s a requirement to effectively portray Kang Soo-jin, but she’s just waaaay too thin. Okay, enough of the unsolicited remark.
Kang Soo-jin is Bong Pil’s greatest love. So far, she is the most normal among all the characters surrounding this dramaland. She is set to marry the neighborhood pharmacist whom she just met a few months ago. I am sensing that there is more to Soo-jin’s facade than we initially see in this episode. Who knows, she is just as love struck as Pil before, but chose to let go for the better?
- NEIGHBORHOOD GANG
Yoon Jin-sook (Jung Hye-sung) is a 28-year old food truck owner who is best friends with both Pil and Soo-jin. Is she secretly in love with Pil, too? My hunch tells me she is.
Jo Suk-tae (Baro) is another cute friend who reviews for the civil servant exam with Pil. He failed for six years already, and is bound to fail again if he continues to lurk around like he does now. There was one quick scene that caught my attention in the pilot episode. Apparently, Suk-tae is hiding the wedding invitation of Soo-jin for Pil in his room (among other unread letters for Pil). He was even laughing while secretly keeping the letter! An evil force behind the friendly face? I have a bad feeling about this.
Park Jae-hyun (Jang Mi-kwan) is the adorable fiance of Soo-jin who works as a neighborhood pharmacist. Although he displayed affection for Soo-jin, his actions were a bit sketchy for me. I don’t trust his face yet, especially after watching Jang Mi-kwan as the psychopath kidnapper in Strong Woman Do Bong Soon.
Oh Dal-soo (Lee Sang-yi) is Pil’s smart friend who owns a DVD rental shop. He is in a relationship with Soo-jin’s friend Hong Jung-ae (Kim Min-ji) who hates Pil to death. Another hyung friend Yoo Goo-gil (Kang Hong-suk) completes the unusual, but fun group of clique.
CITY OF STARS
One of the most relatable scene in the pilot was the conversation between DVD rental shop hyung Dal-soo and Pil about Soo-jin’s imminent wedding. I loved how they used the LaLa Land reference to describe Pil’s current state (complete with a quick song number!). Two lovers fell apart because of their dreams. The woman marries another man in the end.
Dal-soo hyung’s advice to Pil is something that I would also say to a friend who faces a similar situation. Snap out of it. Stopping a wedding is only seen in the movies. If you would even dare to do it, you will end up in jail or get beaten up. And while Pil was rambling about not knowing Soo-jin’s wedding because he did not get any invitation, Dal-soo hyung said something that made sense. A wedding invitation means that it is game over. But not receiving one means there is still a way out of it.
TIME TRAVELLING MANHOLE
I like how we already travel back in time (high school to be exact) in the pilot episode. Although it’s still unclear how Pil got into the manhole by himself, I am excited to learn how he could travel back and forth through time. We all know time-slip dramas have their own respective ways of dealing with time travel and parallel timelines. Can Pil stop this wedding by changing the past?