Yumi’s Cells is not your ordinary K-drama. Its story might seem familiar and its other elements like characters and conflicts can be seen in other well-made K-dramas as well but Yumi’s Cells has one particular distinguishing element that other dramas don’t have – animation.
Since this series was adapted from a webtoon, it opted to use animation to depict the cell characters from the original material. The combination of live-action and animation was really its biggest strength. I have to be honest though that this said combination was also the reason I doubted this series before its premiere. Little did I know, they will execute this strategy really well to the point that Yumi’s Cells catapulted to my list of top dramas this year.
I could enumerate lots of reasons why Yumi’s Cells had been a fun weekend watch throughout its six-week run but my number one reason would be its heroine-centered narrative. Yumi is the sole focus of the story. We watched everything unfold through her eyes including the trials and tribulations she faced and the joyous and life-wins she celebrated. And since our protagonist’s prime cell is Love Cell, her story also focused on her journey in finding love and losing it eventually. And all throughout, I have always been on Yumi’s side no matter what she chose to do. She’s a heroine that one would definitely support wholeheartedly. And that’s because the audience knew exactly how she landed on that decision. We could literally see what’s going on inside her head. The use of cells as representations of her emotions was a very creative way to show her thought process (much thanks to Lee Dong-gun’s webtoon). This imaginative introspection was really a delight to watch since each cell has different characteristics that all personified Yumi’s different moods and emotions. For instance, Love Cell is Yumi’s driving force and decides primarily for her, Reason Cell balances things out for Yumi, Emotion Cell brings out poignant thoughts at 3AM, Hunger Cell knows exactly what Yumi craves for, and Naughty Cell spices up things for Yumi’s relationship. Every cell is actually relatable in one way or another. The scenarios they’re in are mostly funny and heartwarming which made the whole season 1 an easy watch.
As I mentioned, this is only the first season of Yumi’s Cells so it wasn’t surprising at all that Goo Woong (Ahn Bo-hyun) is just Yumi’s temporary love interest. The TV adaptation also stayed loyal to its original material wherein Goo Woong and Yumi didn’t really end up together. That fact didn’t really make the heartbreak easier to accept especially because Ahn Bo-hyun did a great job portraying Woong. He was perfect for the scruffy character with a kind heart. It was a 180-degree turn from his antagonistic characters from his past dramas. Here in Yumi’s Cells, Ahn Bo-hyun proved through Woong that he could also do lighthearted romance projects. We wouldn’t actually mind if the TV series ended the story with Woong and Yumi’s happy ending but oh well, as they repeatedly say, this series is really all about Yumi.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. As I’ve said earlier, the main reason why I love this series is Yumi. The animation did the work of giving a good visual of Yumi’s inner emotions but it was Kim Go-eun who wonderfully breathe into life Kim Yumi. She was really fated to play this role. She easily drew empathy for the character that made its audience cheer for her like how her cells supported her in her ups and downs. From how she moved on from her past heartache to how she found love again and eventually lost it, she conveyed those emotions with ease. The narration of her arc also flowed in a very realistic way which made her journey relatable and compelling. I want to really see her grow more as an individual in the coming seasons.
I am also looking forward to seeing the other recurring cast members like Ruby (Lee Yu-bi) and Chae U-gi (Choi Min-ho). I’m quite sure Ruby would be in season 2 since there were photos of Yu-bi and Go-eun shooting scenes together but I hope Min-ho would do a special appearance like in season 1. Seo Sae-yi (Park Ji-hyun), meanwhile, has already served her purpose and I doubt she’d be in the second season. Her character though was really effective as a conflict between Yumi and Woong that I always find myself annoyed in her every appearance. On the other hand, Ruby was such a lovely character. Yes, she is a bit sly but I like how animated she is and how she expresses herself better than other characters. I wouldn’t mind if they actually give more screen time with Yumi and her Daehan officemates. And I think they would do that in season 2 since Yumi’s love interest is a co-worker.
Yoo Babi (Park Jin-young) is one character I looked forward to watching in the TV adaptation but I didn’t expect his introduction to be that hilarious. But the hilarity of it didn’t take away what they wanted to show – the complexity of a male-female friendship. I’m actually quite glad they are taking their time developing Yumi and Babi’s relationship because if they opted to push their romance on season 1, then it would have felt rushed. At least, we have plenty of time to heal over the wounds from Woong’s exit before we enter into Babi’s era. And I really think the series’ main strength is the natural progression of Yumi’s relationships.
They did a great job in making Yumi’s story as realistic as possible but still making it engaging and fun to watch. The cells were really a genius way to tell a story and explain each character’s motivation. There’s actually no antagonist in the series. One would find something likable to a character as well as traits that frustrate us at times. It’s like meeting new people through Yumi’s eyes. All of them are imperfect – including Yumi – which is what makes them humane and relatable. Sticking to its original material really worked well for Yumi’s Cells and now I’m excited to see more of its live-action-and-animation combo in its next season!
-Ji U-gi is the Red era of Yumi.
-I know we’re not yet in Babi’s era but who do you think should play Shin Soon-rok? Our fan-cast choices include Park Bo-gum, Yang Se-jong, Gong Myoung, and Ahn Hyo-seop.
-This OST has been on repeat!
Image credit: TVING