It’s been a while since the last time I wrote a proper review for a show, and I think this one deserves the shout out. I have to admit that I only knew about My Absolute Boyfriend for two reasons: 1) It is a Korean remake of the popular Jdrama Zettai Kareshi (also translated to Absolute Boyfriend), and 2) It is a pre-produced series starring Yeo Jin-goo, Minah, and Hong Jong-hyun. I was just going to have a short peek at it when it finally landed itself a broadcast spot on SBS’ Wed-Thu slot, but here I am, waiting and having a good long thought on the issues brought up by the drama.
The drama, despite being marketed as a remake, only shares the basic plot with the Jdrama. A woman lives with a robot who is manufactured to become a love companion. I like how the characters have their own identities which set them apart from the original, plus it does give me the good nostalgic feeling of the 2000s rom-coms.
Yeo Jin-goo plays the human-like, advanced robot Zero Nine, the latest and most sophisticated product of Swiss company Kronos Heaven. Already one year into his training, Zero Nine is, according to his trainer cum brother cum resume uncle Nam Bo-won, produced with the guarantee of having everyone go gaga over him. He is supposed to be sent to his original owner, a rich but twisted lady named Diana, but Nam’s protective side pushes him to secretly ship Zero Nine to another place..which turns out to be on Uhm Da-da’s doorsteps.
Minah, in her second rom-com outing after Beautiful Gongshim, plays Da-da, a young woman who inherits her late father’s house and special effects company Real. She is a capable Team Leader by day and secret girlfriend to top actor Ma Wang-joon by night. Sounds like a good life, but their 7 years of secret relationship is on the verge of breaking due to a misunderstanding…and perhaps, because they are both tired of hiding from the public.
It is funny to read comments about Hong Jong-hyun and Yeo Jin-goo being miscasts and they should exchange roles, but having Ma Wang-joon played by Hong Jong-hyun fits the character, at least in my opinion. Wang-joon is described as being robotic (even he himself admits that the Gundam robots remind him of himself) but he is nowhere near mean. Maybe a little childish, but still very likable and awkward at times.
Diana, portrayed by Hong Seo-young, is the new character introduced into the Korean version. She is the one who injected the funds into the production of realistic robots thanks to her free-flow cash, but it comes with a twist: she views those robots as her toys, holding them close when she likes them and tossing them away when she is sick of them. Nam Bo-won feels that Zero Nine might be in danger if he falls into Diana’s hands, hence his effort to escape from Kronos Heaven and Diana.
Instead of treading on the issue of love between robots and humans, My Absolute Boyfriend delves into the issue of love itself through the ultra-loyal Zero Nine and his relationship with (or attachment to) Da-da. Fresh from her breakup, Da-da has to take care of Zero Nine (or Young-gu in literal Korean) because of the small accident of kissing the sleeping robot. Upon being activated by the kiss, Young-gu acknowledges Da-da is his Girlfriend, and he’s literally calling her that all the time. Young-gu is like a little duckling who imprints on Da-da as the love of his life, continuously showering Da-da with love.
It is ironic for Da-da to be on the receiving end at the moment, because Young-gu is doing exactly what she did in the past for Wang-joon: waiting patiently for him as he returns home from late night shootings, cancelling their plans because of his schedule, and having to hide all the time. Again and again, Young-gu insists that she only has to be there and he will do all the work in their ‘love’, but Da-da is well aware of how painful it is not being able to receive back the love you have given someone. She keeps mentioning how he should not keep his feelings bottled each time she acts up, and it does feel like she is chiding her old, naïve self. Hence, Young-gu himself is slowly changing, yearning to be loved instead of just giving love, unlike his original program.
Having Zero Nine/Young-gu interact with two different women give us an insight on how he works. His out-of-box condition when he first meets Da-da probably affects how he moves according to his pre-installed programs, but having Da-da constantly giving him feedbacks like a teacher contributes to his self-generated ‘wanting to be loved’ mode. When he reboots due to malfunction and Diana’s kiss, Zero Nine actually looks..jaded. He doesn’t look as pure as when he first started up; while he does look uncomfortable with Diana’s darker streak, he is as accepting as he should be. It is later confirmed that Da-da has an effect on his system and the reboot does not actually delete his previous memories with Da-da. Still, it is quite scary to see how Zero Nine will follow his owner’s mode: Young-gu is all sunshine with Da-da but turns into a cold Ken when he goes to Diana.
It might look boring, but having Young-gu to be there for Da-da at all times possibly give her a moment to put aside her problem with Wang-joon and reassess her life. There’s this one scene in which she describes her ideal type of guy, who actually is just someone she can spend her mundane time with: eating together, taking walks together, and being happy together. And Young-gu replies, “You must have been very lonely.” She might not realize it then, how lonely she was, being in a relationship with someone who has little to no time for her.
Although there is no mention of self-love, it is ironic to have a robot in Young-gu being the conscious and sensible one among the living humans to care about their wellbeing. Da-da, Wang-joon, and Diana are all busy with their own issues, and it takes an outsider in the form of Young-gu to remind them of their own selves. Da-da and Diana are both with their respective cases of loneliness, and Wang-joon with his workaholic habit. They are all yearning for love, but do they love themselves enough to be worthy of others’ love?
Okay, I might be reading too much into a simple rom-com, but I really like how the story incorporates the simple issue of love and tweaks it into various kinds of love, thanks to a robot who has too much love to give. Sometimes, we know the issues within our lives, but it takes someone to appear and point out all the flaws and also the reasons to be thankful for. There are people who want to appeal to others but end up neglecting their own needs. Selfless love is noble, but there are times it can do more harm than good..like how Young-gu’s inner parts are buzzing.
The drama is
slated for 20 episodes initially slated for a 20-episode run, but it seems that SBS is cutting down the episode count to 18. I did have doubts on how they are going to stretch the plot for that long, but judging from the latest episodes, we still have a lot of issues to deal with: Young-gu’s program issues, Wang-joon’s growth and career, Diana’s retaliation, and Da-da’s life. Oh, not to forget, Bow-won and Yeo Woong’s love(?) line. Such an expected but welcomed development, as we get to see how Young-gu’s love teacher is actually as clueless as him when it comes to real life situation. Hopefully the second half will be as interesting, if not better than the first half of the drama.