This article contains spoilers.
The premise of Yumi’s Cells – young, love-starved office worker stumbling through awkward dates and romantic misunderstandings – isn’t original. However, seeing the Inside Out-esque animated world within Yumi’s head has allowed the show to turn stereotypical romcom beats into fresh and fun vignettes.
When we first met Yumi (Kim Go-eun), she had been off the dating market for years and suddenly had eyes for colleague Ugi (Choi Min-ho). When that didn’t work out, she was set up on a date with his game developer friend Woong (Ahn Bo-hyun).
Despite a rough start to their blind date, the pair soon hit it off and became a solid item within the show’s first couple of weeks. Beyond that, the original romcom series airing on Tving in South Korea and iQiyi elsewhere, hasn’t presented us with many major conflicts, instead focusing on how the pair navigate the many awkward moments that naturally surface early on in a relationship.
As such, Yumi’s Cells lacks a compelling narrative anchor to make it compulsive viewing but – with its extremely relatable comedy and cute, colourful way of reimagining tired scenarios – the show has continued to delight as Yumi and Woong have got to know each other.
Among the challenges for the couple have been early trips to each other’s flats. Visiting Woong’s place for the second time, when she needs to do an urgent bit of work before they go to the cinema, Yumi is treated to some home-made Yuzu tea. She realises the tea was a gift from Woong’s close colleague Sae-yi (Park Ji-hyun).
Not only is Sae-yi a close and attractive friend of Woong’s, she’s also had her eyes on him ever since they became friends a decade ago. Alarm bells – or rather an intuition cell with a light bulb on its cranium – set off in Yumi’s head and she quickly begins to assume the worst.
An impromptu trip to Woong’s office gives her the chance to scope out her enemy and catch her off guard, but the ploy fails when Sae-yi surprises her first in the bathroom. A tense battle of wits and innuendo ensues, as the pair size each other up.
Half oblivious, half ignoring the trouble brewing between the two women in his life, Woong makes matters worse when he fails to tell Yumi that Sae-yi has moved into his building – a power move if ever there was one. Yumi finds out when she drops in for a surprise sleepover, only to be surprised by Sae-yi in another enclosed space – a lift – as she goes to Woong’s flat to borrow wine glasses.
Park Ji-hyun in a still from Yumi’s Cells.
This sparks the couple’s first major fight and Yumi’s cells start a 24-hour break-up clock. Set to expire at 11pm the next day, Yumi and her cells await any sign of contact from Woong.
As the clock runs out and she begins to panic, a sudden revelation takes hold of Yumi: why is she placing Woong above herself?
Before this lover’s tiff, Yumi’s love cell entered Woong’s “village” through a wormhole of love, which opens up every time the pair share a kiss. “Love” stealthily lowers herself into Woong’s data centre, Mission: Impossible-style, and spies his list of favourite things.
She and her fellow cells are relieved to find that Sae-yi is number 11 on the list, but Yumi is only in second place, as Woong occupies his own top spot. Yumi is also second on her own list, with Woong up top.
On the verge of breaking up, a change occurs in Yumi and she rises to first place on her own list, placing herself over her boyfriend. This gives her the courage to stand up for herself and confront the issue head on.
When presented with an ultimatum, Woong goes to Yumi. Though it’s an aggressive move on Yumi’s part, it saves them from the brink of disaster.
Compared to Sae-yi, Yumi and Woong’s other trials and tribulations are far more comical and lighthearted. These include Woong’s first trip to Yumi’s flat, where he is mortified when, having had to answer a call of nature, Yumi’s toilet clogs.
Kim Go-eun (left) and Ahn Bo-hyun in a still from Yumi’s Cells.
Later, Yumi is entrusted with booking a good room for their first trip together but, after hesitating on the phone, she winds up getting a room with a clear glass bathroom, which excites her lust cell but horrifies her etiquette cell. The altercation this causes on their holiday sets up one of the show’s best jokes, as “King Sullen” in Woong’s village temporarily derails the trip.
With four episodes left, the main intrigue is between Yumi and Bobby Yoo, played in a special appearance by Jin Young of Got7, a very handsome member of the marketing team in her firm. Bobby is in a relationship but is growing distant from his partner, while Yumi’s writing ambitions receive encouragement from him, especially as he helps her get a transfer to his prestigious department.
What will happen when she finds herself even closer to this handsome and sweet colleague on a daily basis remains to be seen.
Kim Go-eun (left) and Jin Young in a still from Yumi’s Cells.
Yumi’s Cells is streaming on iQiyi.Internet Explorer Channel Network