I don’t think I’ve ever watched a television series as hilarious, as fun, as romantic, as emotional or as wholesome as I’m Not a Robot (로봇이 아니야).
This 2017 MBC series starring Yoo Seung Ho and Chae Soon Bin has been the most fun of any of the Korean series I’ve managed to catch up with this year. And maybe one of the most fun I’ve ever watched in all my years getting swept up in the Korean Wave.
Yoo Seung Ho is Kim Min Kyu, a young director of the board of a large finance company, who has a unique allergy to people. Coming into physical contact with another human being causes an allergic reaction that can threaten his life if not for an antidote that must be immediately administered. Without a cure, Min Kyu must avoid all human contact possible and thus lives a lonely life in his sprawling mansion.
Chae Soo Bin is Jo Ji A, a creative, aspiring entrepreneur. One day, her ex-boyfriend Hong Baek Gyun (Uhm Ki Joon), a robotics engineer, calls her and asks if she can pose as his AI robot Aji 3 while it undergoes repairs. Baek Gyun hopes for Kim Min Kyu’s continued funding for their project and thus allows him to give the robot a test run in the meantime.
Ji A, needing the extra money, agrees and must now maneuver her way around Min Kyu’s inquisitive nature. Min Kyu, meanwhile, feels a connection with the supposed-robot Aji 3 who may end up having something to do to help his condition.
With Ji A as Aji 3, Min Kyu is able to experience the company of another person (albeit believing she is a robot) and finds himself allowed to be more open about himself and his feelings to others.
The hilarity comes with Ji A’s near-misses as she tries to avoid being found out by a gleefully oblivious Min Kyu. Those interactions of course lead to romance. And the fact that Ji A is supposed to be a robot adds that extra bit of playful fun.
The rest of the series deals with the fallout of the truth being revealed and a running subplot about the usual corporate greed.
But the main draw is most definitely the evolution of Min Kyu and Ji A’s relationship by way of Aji 3.
I’m Not a Robot features a great cast. But Chae Soo Bin and Yoo Seung Ho’s chemistry carries much of the series. Their hilarious back and forth provide many of the plentiful laughs before things get serious and the two of them then deliver emotional, heartbreaking moments that leave you in a puddle of tears. I laughed more times in the first couple of episodes than I have in other supposedly romantic comedies’ entire runs.
Sometimes, series have to strain to force either the chemistry between the leads or getting you to actually care about them and their story. That is not the case here. From the very beginning, I’m Not a Robot plays with Min Kyu and Ji A’s chemistry to full effect. The roller coaster of emotions over the course of the series is a ride you’re willing to take thanks to Chae Soo Bin and Yoo Seung Ho.
I first got to know Chae Soo Bin in the excellent KBS Drama Special If We Were a Season. Here, Chae Soon Bin is able to balance playing creative dreamer Ji A with bringing Aji 3 to life and then being Ji A pretending to be Aji 3.
Her ability to make each their own distinct character and each relatable is quite a feat. There isn’t one moment in the series where you question what each character is doing. That is, Chae Soo Bin is able to more than effectively convey the feelings and emotions even in silence, scenes without dialogue and just her in front of the camera.
Chae Soo Bin brings a sincerity to Ji A (as well as Aji 3) that allows you to feel those emotions that come with such an extraordinary situation.
Yoo Seung Ho is one of my favorite actors. At a young age, he had already been in numerous and varied dramas. And all of which, he excelled in. Starring in his first romantic comedy, he once again showed why he is truly one of the most talented.
Yoo Seung Ho’s acting always comes across as very natural and effortless. Regardless of the emotion or situation, it is easy to get lost in his performance. That is very much the case here. He’s already proven himself to be a captivating dramatic actor. But being able to skillfully handle a romcom as if this wasn’t his first is a testament to his talent.
He brings together a leading man gravitas with a sensitive and warm vulnerability that allows you to also understand where Min Kyu is coming from as well. It’s hard not to feel anything about Min Kyu’s unique situation. And Yoo Seung Ho’s performance takes the character to a whole other level that someone else might not have been able to.
I’m Not a Robot starts out as good, wholesome romcom fun and ends up being a fascinating look at how personal connections, bonds and trust in each other can really shape a person. The series features a hopeful message by way of our two leads and supported by the several subplots involving the ensemble of characters.
And all that makes I’m Not a Robot a memorable, hilarious and warm experience.