Review: I’m Not A Robot

My first foray into K-drama

For a long time, I refused to consider giving a chance to Korean series. I’m not averse to watching shows in foreign languages; I don’t have a problem with watching subbed content if it is good. In fact, I prefer it over the dubs because I feel it loses a lot of the charm of the original language. I can read the subtitles in a single glance and immediately look up at the scene to take it all in.

My reluctance to try Korean shows so far was because A. I had this preconceived notion that all K-drama is unnecessarily sentimental and that would be boring, and B. I just didn’t bother to venture outside my comfort zone. That changed when we all got forced to stay home all day (Yay!). With all this time on my hands, I resumed my efforts at learning Korean. While I was browsing Korean content to watch, (which I hoped would keep me entertained enough to put some of the words in my head), I discovered an interesting show called “I’m not a robot”.

I was drawn towards the show by the title and the summary: a man has a deadly allergy to humans. Even slight contact with a human gives him extreme rashes and can kill him. The only solution to this reaction is the injections he carries with him at all times. He has been living all alone in a huge mansion for fifteen years, ever since his parents died in a car crash. Aided by his doctor and housekeeper, he is prepared to lead a life of isolation.

This Kim Min-gyu is also the director of a big financial company and even though he goes to work very rarely, he has the support of the other members and is able to do good for the company.

Along comes a scientist who claims he has made an android robot who is extremely intelligent, equipped with the best artificial intelligence and can perform all tasks that normal humans can. Min-gyu is supremely surprised with this human-like robot and proceeds to employ her as a test.

Unfortunately due to a careless mistake, the labmates of the scientist end up causing a minor fault in the robot and she cannot be sent to Min-gyu for at least a few days, until repaired. This is when the scientist requests the help of his ex-girlfriend whose mannerisms and face he had copied onto the robot. She grudgingly agrees.

No one except for Min-gyu’s housekeeper and doctor know of his fatal allergy. Even his work colleagues knows him as a monster who makes every employee empty the building when he comes to visit.

True hilarity ensues when the girl Ji-a goes to Min-gyu as the robot. As the days go by, we see the harsh selfish Min-gyu turn soft and we get to know of his lonely life. He finally found a friend to listen to after all these years of loneliness, it didn’t matter if she was a robot. The cheerful, optimistic and friendly Ji-a is the perfect antidote for Min-gyu’s depressed, pessimistic and unfriendly personality.

As time goes by, we see them develop feelings for each other. We see his disease subside as his relationship improves with Ji-a. He is able to visit crowded places and even initiate physical contact with humans when Ji-a is around him. The doctor calls it a miracle and Min-gyu calls Ji-a his ‘treasure’.

As the show progresses, we, through the eyes of Ji-a see Min-gyu turn from arrogant-selfish-rich to insane-weird-unfriendly guy and eventually see him transform into a kind, friendly and generous person who values people. We realize that his negative traits were a result of forced isolation and a deep distrust for others.

Eventually it dawns upon him (and is further reiterated by both his doctor and the scientist) that he must let go of her by resetting her memories so he can move on. When the time comes for him to part with her, he tries all methods to keep her but it’s all in vain. I felt sorry for him as he was so conflicted. Having feelings for a robot, his only friend in fifteen years, when he could never have them reciprocated? Whoa.

Although Ji-a has the intentions to confess after the test ends, the doctor comes to know of this ruse and forbids it, lest his disease might get severe and he could die from the shock of betrayal. I felt quite sad seeing both of them suffer with this dilemma- Min-gyu desperately hoping that she was human and be with him forever while she desperately wants to tell him that she is in fact human and has feelings for him but she can’t. They bid farewell to each other and Ji-a is all set to leave the country. This is the most intensely emotional part of the series. I won’t spoil what happens next. All I’ll say is that we have a fabulous happy ending!

The show is brilliantly written and the acting is top-notch. The characters all develop in their own way as the show progresses. There is a good amount of conflict shown which helps them progress the plot and character development. There is external conflict as well- problems in career, in other relationships, other enemies and so on but they only serve as a small part in the overall theme of the story.

The main theme of the story is a man finding friendship and love through human companionship after many years of loneliness, how he learns to overcome his fears, to trust people and develop a positive outlook on life. It is quite inspiring and heartwarming to say the least.

I’m glad that the show wrapped up the main story by the third-last episode and succeeded with resolving all other plot lines by the end. I would have hated it if we only saw a brief happy episode right at the end. I always want to take take a peek at what happens after the ‘happy ending’ and I’m glad the creators of this show did exactly that. Not too far along the line, not too soon. Just enough.

Another note I must make as to why I enjoyed this so much is the normal progression of romantic relationships. I suspect more of Asian shows will have it but I must point it out. The relationship between Cho Ji-a and Kim Min-gyu develop at a normal, natural pace. They enjoy each other’s company, learn to trust each other, develop physical comfort after emotional comfort and there is (appropriately) long drawn-out intimacy. This is in stark contrast to the American shows and movies I have watched where it is absolutely normal for two people to meet, develop feelings and even spend the night together, all in the course of a few hours. I don’t know if the media is accurately portraying the life in these countries (I don’t think so) but this is not how normal life works; at least here in my country, India. I just don’t find it believable for two strangers to become instantly comfortable with just about anyone. I believe I will see more of this in other Korean shows and I look forward to them.

I have two minor nitpicks with the show. There is one song which, although excellent, is played in every single emotional scene. It gets boring with all that repetition. Surely we could have had a couple more songs? Or maybe different versions of this song, even? Say a piano version, a violin version? Another minor nitpick is that in the very last episode, although very satisfying, would have been even better if all the characters could be shown together. It is hinted that this happens later, but I would have liked to see it on screen.

The show also highlights a real problem in our always-connected life with people suffering from depression due to loneliness. Often, all it takes is to open yourself up to someone new and there could be your ticket away from loneliness. Although we are connected online, we still crave and need real human interaction to be truly happy. The show highlights the importance of forming bonds with real humans and this is where it truly shines.

The acting was damn perfect, their chemistry was darn cute and every episode made me want to watch more. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments, and some tear jerking moments as well. The sad moments are appropriate in a way that they help bring out the happiness in the end; and the conclusion is perfect. This is one of the best Romantic Comedies I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

So there it is! I’m not a robot is an excellent Korean drama and I highly recommend watching at least a few episodes if you want a good drama to chill out, with a bearable number of drama and feel-good moments. It is available on Netflix, do check it out.

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