New K-drama Alert: Strongest Deliveryman and Manhole Reviews

Well, despite being in a deep and dreadful drama slump for several weeks (and getting increasingly bored with Bride of the Water God), I managed to rouse enough energy to try out a couple of NEW new shows. With lots of busy stuff going on in real life, I gravitated to the new comedies—Strongest Deliveryman and Manhole—first, though I'm still trying to build up the courage to try out Save Me.

Can any of these break the recent drama curse?

Strongest Deliveryman

Food delivery is no laughing matter.

What it's about: Choi Kang Soo (Go Kyung Pyo) and Lee Dan Ah (Choi Soo Bin) are hardworking delivery people who clash when they start working for the same restaurant. They also get tangled up with a couple of rich kids, Oh Jin Gyu (Kim Sun Ho) and Lee Ji Yoon (Go Won Hee).

Episodes watched: 4

First impressions: I like it, but I'm not in love with it. At this point, I'm sticking around for our central characters, all of whom have some interesting little quirk to keep me intrigued.

I came into the series assuming that Chae Soo Bin and Go Kyung Pyo would be fantastic, but I've found myself surprisingly engaged by the character of Oh Jin Gyu. Yes, he's a stupid rich kid who does terrible things and has a long road of redemption ahead, but Kim Sun Ho is playing him extremely well and balancing that line of making you feel sympathetic and rooting for him to turn things around even when you're furious at what he's done.

I've seen some fan comments complaining of "oppa favoritism" with Oh Jin Gyu, saying that viewers are overly tolerant of his character while unfairly criticizing Dan Ah. While I think there is a general tendency to go easier on male leads than female leads, I don't think that's necessarily the case here.

For the most part, I like Dan Ah. I can also 100% recognize that Jin Gyu's actions had far worse outcomes than Dan Ah kicking people in the nuts or blackmailing them. But the reason her behavior bothers me more is that the show itself recognizes his actions as bad and has clearly established that it's not okay, all while shrugging at everything Dan Ah does as "but she's a badass who takes care of herself!" Sorry, but blackmailing someone for cross dressing in the privacy of their own room isn't "badass" in my book, and it hinders my appreciation of a character I would otherwise support totally and completely.

Weirdly, at this point I'm having the hardest time connecting to Kang Soo out of everyone, which shouldn't be the case since, you know, he's the main character and all. I know we got his sad backstory and all, but I guess we haven't really seen enough of his actual personality to know much beyond "nice guy with lots of scooter buddies," which isn't enough to make me care. Of course, the perm doesn't exactly help me take him seriously, either.

In any case, I care enough about everyone else to stick around to see what happens with Kang Soo. 

Manhole (Feel So Good)

What it's about: Sad, pathetic loser Bong Pil (Jaejoong) is devastated that his longtime friend and love of his life Kang Soo Jin (UEE) is getting married to another guy. Suddenly, he gets a chance to set things right when he travels through a magical burping manhole (Yup, as weird as it sounds) into the past.

Episodes watched: 2

First impressions: 30 minutes into episode 1, I almost quit. It was slapstick and cheesy in all the wrong ways, and Pil's constant flailing and whining made me think it was no wonder Soo Jin pretended to have no idea Pil was in love with her all that time. 

It also seemed like a waste to assemble such a large cast of neighborhood regulars if those characters were all going to feel slick and empty instead of lived in and real like the very best neighborhood stories should.

After sticking it out for two episodes, I can't say that the slapstick is gone or that I really care about the neighborhood crew yet, but there were a few key moments that made me want to come back for this week's episodes:

  • The moment where Pil tries to confess to Soo Jin (and she nods eeeeever so slightly to encourage him) had that emotional hook I was missing earlier in the episode. In that one moment, I was aching for both of them not being able to say what they wanted to say.
  • When Pil comforts Soo Jin after the mirror falls, he seems like a totally different person. Suddenly, you see what he's like when all the self-consciousness is stripped away, and that makes me want to know how he got from that popular, helpful guy in high school to the whiny loser he became in the present day (and how he can switch back, of course).

  • The prospect of the butterfly effect making Pil into a gangster is just too good to resist. I have to stick around for episode 3!
Honestly, I think I responded better to this series having read comments about how pathetic Pil is and how slapstick the comedy is ahead of time. It helped me push through all that nonsense and get to the hints of something better I might have missed otherwise.

What Do You Think?

Are you watching either show? Or something else entirely? Let's beat this drama slump together!