The tvN series My Roommate is a Gumiho (간 떨어지는 동거) is a light, fluffy romantic comedy. With a touch of fantasy, the series adds an ample amount of charm and whimsy to what is actually an unexpected slice of life about college and friendship. Though, as the title suggests, the main focus is on the blossoming romance between a human and the titular gumiho, the series is actually at its best when it focuses on the friendships and relationships that grow out of every day, real world situations.
The series starts as college student Lee Dam (Hyeri) helps her drunk friend Do Jae Jin (Kim Do Wan) off of an expensive car parked in the street. That car belongs to 999-year-old gumiho Shin Woo Yeo (Jang Ki Yong). One wrong step has Lee Dam falling into Woo Yeo’s arms. But as that happens, Lee Dam unwittingly swallows Woo Yeo’s red marble. That marble holds the key to Woo Yeo hoping to become a human before his 1000 years are up. In order to protect the marble and Lee Dam from any potential danger having it inside her might pose, she agrees to move in to Woo Yeo’s home until they find a way out of this predicament.
Of course, it’s not hard to figure out what happens next. The two grow closer as they deal with the consequences of their situation while still having to go through their every day lives.
For Lee Dam, that includes going to her college classes, lending a shoulder to her friends Jae Jin and Soo Kyung (Park Kyung Hye), supporting her younger brother Lee Dan (Choi Woo Sung) and dealing with the admiration of the school’s resident playboy Gye Sun Woo (Bae In Hyuk).
For Woo Yeo, his focus is solely on figuring out how to turn his red marble blue while also learning what it means to be human with some help from old friend, gumiho-turned-human Yang Hye Sun (a scene stealing Kang Han Na). And that’s in addition to opening his heart to Lee Dam in the process.
Gumihos are no stranger to drama series. But My Roommate is a Gumiho is able to take the basics of the familiar gumiho mythology and give it a lighter and perhaps refreshing take. To be honest, there’s never really a sincerely ominous threat that emerges during the course of the series. The way the fantasy elements of the series play out, you can be quite certain early on that things won’t ever get too crazy or dire.
Some of Lee Dam and Woo Yeo’s predicament is even solved earlier than expected. And because of that, it becomes obvious that the series is more about its characters rather than an overarching dilemma.
On one hand, the lack of an ongoing and engaging series-long plot thread might make some parts a bit tedious to watch. When there isn’t a legitimate threat to disrupt the blossoming romance or any other developing relationship, you might not be as invested in the story. There are moments of dark intrigue that disappear just as fast as they appear and you find yourself wondering what those detours contribute to the series as a whole.
On the other hand, if the characters are able to endear themselves to you in the audience, none of that will matter. And the focus turns to being invested in each of the characters instead and the relationships that form between each other.
The series takes a little bit of time to get going. But halfway through, the series is able to pick itself up as it finds the right balance between fantasy and a college-aged slice of life.
As romantic as Lee Dam and Woo Yeo’s relationship can be, the most engaging parts of the series for me are the love-hate friendship between fellow gumihos Woo Yeo and Hye Sun, the close friendship between Lee Dam, Jae Jin and Soo Kyung (especially the purely platonic and sincere friendship between Lee Dam and Jae Jin – yes, a guy and a girl can be just friends), the typical reformed bad boy angle with Sun Woo, some positive, every day sibling moments with Lee Dam and Lee Dan and the (actually more engaging) romance that emerges between Jae Jin and Hye Sun.
Not to take away from it of course, but for me, almost everything else in the series was more interesting and engaging than the central romance of the series.
I don’t think that has much to do with the performances or chemistry of Jang Ki Yong and Hyeri though. In fact, they have wonderful chemistry. And both delivered pitch perfect romcom performances as the stoic, charismatic leading man and the bubbly, but feisty leading lady.
But I believe the series gave much stronger material to the rest of the cast and the rest of the characters’ interactions aside from theirs. Kang Han Na is an unexpected scene stealer as Hye Sun as is Park Kyung Hye as Soo Kyung. Kim Do Wan shows off his versatility once again in a great boy-next-door role, possibly the most likeable and charming character of the series.
And though he would go on to deliver an incredible performance in At a Distance, Spring is Green just a few months later, Bae In Hyuk effortlessly grabs your attention here in a role that couldn’t be any more different. But the way he is able to take a character that would at first seem unsympathetic and turn him into one of the series’ most endearing is an accomplishment.
Overall, My Roommate is a Gumiho is a light, fluffy romcom. And there’s definitely nothing wrong with that. Enjoying lighter series is a welcome escape from both life and perhaps the other, darker options that may be out there for your next binge watch. Though the central romance left me a bit unfulfilled, the rest of the series picked up the slack. And ultimately, My Roommate is a Gumiho is a fun, simple escape.