Jugglers and I Am Not a Robot K-drama Reviews
That's where Jugglers and I Am Not a Robot come in. Though they have very, very different premises, they both billed themselves as fluffy romances perfect for the dead-of-winter doldrums. Basically, I'm basing these reviews on how well they dragged me through January.
Jugglers isn't anything we haven't seen a bazillion times before. Rich boss with a tragic history healed by the magic of looooooove when he meets his match in a poor, sassy underling.
Despite its cliche beginnings, Jugglers managed to stay afloat with a couple of charming leads in the form of Choi Daniel and Baek Jin Hee. Their adorable and often hilarious interactions (exhibit A: that questionnaire; exhibit B: their matching slippers) kept me watching, and I was incredibly pleased to see that the drama avoided the obvious noble idiocy traps that would usually pop up in a series like this.
As much as I initially enjoyed Jugglers for what it was, I lost that desire to watch new episodes the second they came out (and maybe/definitely made it through the last third of the show with a combo of recaps and watching only the romance scenes). When I looked back after the finale, I realized that in retrospect, the show was pretty disappointing on a few fronts that weren't immediately apparent. Allow me to list a few complaints:
Why are they in love? No, seriously—why? We went from enemies to kinda-trusted colleagues and then leaped straight to dating for the entire second half of the show.
A friend of mine complained after the first kiss that she didn't get why Chi Won was so attracted to Yoon Yi when she consistently seemed annoyed by him. At the time, I argued that she was noticing his needs and caring for him, but I also assumed that the attraction would take some additional time to build.
They barely realized they liked each other. Then he kissed her (without bothering to see if she had any interest in him first, which seems like a terrible idea if you're someone's boss, for the record). Then they were full-fledged dating and magically cured all of his relationship issues and PTSD because loooooooove and couldn't live without each other and were willing to give up everything for each other (again, because loooooooooove). But where was the part where they got to that stage? Did I miss it during a bathroom break?
The power dynamic. From episode 1, it's clear that the secretary/boss relationship across the company was completely toxic, but Yoon Yi bought into it wholeheartedly. At first, I had high hopes that Chi Won would help Yoon Yi take down the idea that a secretary is a glorified servant.
And then where do we end up? Sure, they get rid of some of the terrible bosses, but they leave the underlying boss/secretary structure unquestioned. Yoon Yi and Chi Won basically lose their minds at the idea that Yoon Yi might not be able to sharpen Chi Won's pencils anymore. Because sharpening her boyfriend's pencils (which definitely sounds like a euphemism for office sex) is apparently her absolute highest aspiration in life.
Let's not even get into the fact that her continuing to be his secretary is pretty problematic from an HR perspective, especially when you consider that he already abused his position of power to take out petty jealousy on one of his subordinates. But they're in loooooove (Why, though?), so sure, it's totally fine and appropriate.
The kissing scenes. Were those supposed to be romantic? A couple of them worked, but then you get him Quasimodo-hunching over her while she's supposedly sick and probably snotting all over his face, and then you start to wonder if the director has ever kissed anyone in real life.
Is Jugglers worth watching?
If it sounds like I hated Jugglers, I really didn't. I thoroughly enjoyed myself for the first half of the series, but one cute, bickering couple didn't end up being enough to carry a full 16 episodes for me, and I couldn't help but end up wishing it packed a little more punch. If you're content with light fluff and a lot of fast-forwarding though pointless office filler, it could be just the ticket for you.
|Just assume this screenshot is a stand-in for me saying things about Lee Won Geun's storyline.
I Am Not a Robot K-drama Review
If Jugglers was a typical, cliche K-drama plot, I Am Not a Robot was at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Sure, you still have a rich boss with a tragic history and a poor, sassy underling, but that rich boss happens to be allergic to humans, and the poor, sassy underling has to pretend to be a robot.
It's looking like robot romances will be the next big trend in dramaland, which means time travel and legal dramas might finally be running out of steam—unless there's a drama about a time-traveling android lawyer on the horizon somewhere (and if not, don't you dare steal that idea without paying me royalties, drama producers!).
Fortunately for I Am Not a Robot, it got out ahead of the trend, which allowed it to feel completely fresh and unique. Chae Soo Bin playing Jo Ji Ah pretending to be the robot Aji 3 captivated me from the first episode. The dual roles got so good that at one point, I caught myself forgetting that Aji 3 was not, in fact a robot with Chae Soo Bin's face. (Blame it on my paranoia about the inevitable robot revolution—it starts with robots who serve you tea and pointless salt shakers that play music, and next thing you know, we're in full-fledged Terminator mode. That music-playing salt shaker is not your friend!)
|It's allllll fun and games until Aji3 becomes our robot overlord with that lil Roomba as her second in command.
Yoo Seung Ho also brought vulnerability and humanity to the character of Kim Min Kyu, who could easily have seemed like a run-of-the-mill controlling K-drama jerkface. When Min Kyu cried, I cried. When Min Kyu smiled, I smiled. (It doesn't hurt that Yoo Seung Ho and Chae Soo Bin have some of the most beautiful eye smiles ever in the history of all things.)
Together, the two leads had a comfortable, lived-in chemistry. I rather loved the idea that Ji Ah grew to know and love the real Min Kyu as he dropped all pretenses around his robot friend. Now this was a couple I understood and believed (and while we're making comparisons, I see the highly awkward and stiff countertop kiss from Jugglers and raise you the smoking countertop kiss in I Am Not a Robot).
Downsides to I Am Not a Robot
That's not to say that I Am Not a Robot didn't have its own struggles with pacing. The whole corporate intrigue/shady uncle/murderous American investor storyline was obvious filler that I watched only long enough to realize it was boring nonsense. Ditto to the cousin's predictable redemptive arc and everything involving Ji Ah's "love doctor" BFF who somehow manages to survive even though she literally has zero cafe visitors ever. How does she pay for all those accessories?
Is I Am Not a Robot worth watching?
In spite of some filler storylines and slow pacing with the robot/human reveal, I Am Not a Robot was a well-acted drama with some poignant moments and sweet chemistry. Be prepared for a saggy middle, but it's still a decently good watch.
|Gah. How can you resist that face? You can't.
Unless you're a robot—in which case you also can't, if this show taught us anything.
What did you think?
Did you watch Jugglers or I Am Not a Robot? Did winter make me too harsh on these dramas? Share your thoughts!