The appeal of this show can basically be summed up in these 7 words: Yoo Seung Ho and his cuddly kitty.
If you love cats (or animals in general), have a pet, or have loved a pet in the past, I can confidently say this: in spite of its shortcomings, this show will succeed at tugging at your heartstrings, while giving you a strong urge to go hug your pet, stat.
Show takes its story in several directions that I didn’t care for too much, but y’know what, it was all worth it, if only to meet the lovely Bok Gil-sshi.
MY 3 FAVORITE THINGS
1. Beetle the cat as Bok Gil
As much as I have a huge soft spot for Yoo Seung Ho, the true star of this show, for me, was Beetle the cat, who plays Bok Gil. I seriously looked forward to any and all scenes featuring Bok Gil, never mind what the scene was about.
I love that Bok Gil is such a gently sassy-yet-sweet sort of character. Her voiceovers (by Han Ye Ri) are the perfect balance of mildly sardonic, subtly plaintive and – just sometimes – coolly gleeful. Yet, underneath the saucy, Bok Gil’s a caring marshmallow-heart. I love that.
One of my favorite Bok Gil moments is in episode 6, when we see Bok Gil eagerly anticipate Jong Hyun leaving the house for the day, coz she’s looking forward to her all-important alone time, where the entire house is her oyster.
After reveling in the house for a bit, it isn’t long before Bok Gil’s had her fill of alone-time, and misses her human and anticipates his return with wistful sighs. I found that little detail super endearing. <3
2. Yoo Seung Ho as Jong Hyun
I’m not watching Remember (yet?), so Imaginary Cat is my first taste of having Yoo Seung Ho back on my screen after his military-enforced absence.
As expected, I eagerly lapped up his lovely voice, that gorgeous smile, and those drown-in-me eyes. I mean, seriously, those eyes are molten. (Melt.) Plus, I love that Yoo Seung Ho genuinely loves cats (which is why he took on this project), and that affection totally shows (more on that later).
On the downside, there are a couple of moments when Yoo Seung Ho’s delivery didn’t land so well with me.
Like in episode 6, when Jong Hyun grapples with the probable-fact that Bok Gil is Haru, I felt his delivery was a little overdone. And in episode 7, when Jong Hyun comes home and cries to Bok Gil, it somehow felt fake, to me.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s not him; maybe it’s me. Or maybe it was PD-nim directing him a certain way. Whichever it was, those scenes just didn’t work for me.
In spite of those moments, I’m happy to say that my Yoo Seung Ho affection is very much intact, and I’m convinced that he was the best person to act opposite Beetle’s Bok Gil.
3. Jong Hyun and Bok Gil together
…Which brings me to another favorite thing of mine in this little show. Yoo Seung Ho and Beetle together are too adorable for words. *hearts in eyes*
The only cats I’ve met who’ve actually put up with extensive cuddling have been boy cats; the girl cats I’ve met have been much more wary and finicky about skinship.
And even then, the boys couldn’t tolerate the cuddles for quite as long as I actually wanted to give them, and would always make their hasty escapes after a while. So you can understand how Jong Hyun’s extensive cuddles with Bok Gil are the stuff of cat dreams for me, ha.
I love that Yoo Seung Ho’s genuine affection for cats shows through. He handles Beetle with comfort, ease and anticipation, even.
You can just see how much he enjoys the skinship with Beetle, and, well, that just makes me happy. I’m sure that Yoo Seung Ho being a cat person definitely helped Beetle to stay in character too.
Also, I salute Beetle and her handler, for making all that skinship happen. From what I know about cats – even the ones who like cuddles – that accomplishment is nothing to sniff at. 😉
On the character-front, I love the relationship between Jong Hyun and Bok Gil, that they basically mean the world to each other. Even when Jong Hyun’s drunk, he gravitates to Bok Gil and cuddles up, which I find super endearing, coz it shows how much he loves Bok Gil.
I found it suitably poignant, that Bok Gil and Jong Hyun basically saved each other 7 years ago. I love that it’s a two-way street with these two, even though one is human and the other, cat.
And that emotional equality shows too, like when Bok Gil worries about Jong Hyun when he’s sick, like she does in episode 7.
Even though I hate that Bok Gil got sick, I do love the way Bok Gil raises her arms to Jong Hyun in confusion when she doesn’t feel well in episode 7. I just find it super endearing, that in her moment of vulnerability, it’s her human that she reaches for. Aw.
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE
1. Jong Hyun’s loveline with Na Woo
I really didn’t like the loveline between Jong Hyun and Na Woo (Jo Hye Jung) and dearly wish that writer-nim had just left romance out of the equation entirely.
That, or maybe treat the loveline with a more tentative and restrained hand, ie, leave everything way more open, but still positive.
My dislike for the loveline is less to do with my desire for more Jong Hyun-Bok Gil screen time (though that is also true), and more to do with the fact that quite often, I found Na Woo downright annoying.
As a character, Na Woo feels like a caricature a lot of the time, because her behavior (particularly in the earlier stretch) tends to feel OTT.
I mean, who randomly busts her way into someone else’s apartment – someone that she barely knows, mind you – to insist that she get to meet his cat?
And then makes an appointment for the cat to get a physical, pays for it, and then insists on buying everything in the store for the cat? It was all just too weird for me.
I generally found Na Woo pretty pushy as a character, and it bemused me that she often reacted in an indignant &/or wounded fashion when Jong Hyun didn’t respond positively to her overbearing, often disrespectful behavior.
In episode 7, Jong Hyun lets Na Woo hang out at his apartment so that she can spend time with Bok Gil. In voiceover, Bok Gil pronounces Na Woo annoying, and I found myself agreeing wholeheartedly.
Na Woo is not respectful of people’s spaces and boundaries, and consistently infringes on them, all series long. She keeps getting in Jong Hyun’s face, even before she knows that Bok Gil is Haru, and she becomes so much worse once she knows Bok Gil is Haru.
In episode 7, we witness her being disrespectful of Jong Hyun’s need for quiet when he works, and we also see that she doesn’t respect his request not to touch his things (she could’ve stopped looking at his work after getting Bok Gil away from his work space).
On top of that, she doesn’t respect that Jong Hyun’s more Bok Gil’s owner than she is, what with pronouncing that she’s going to take Bok Gil to the cafe because Jong Hyun’s being “overly sensitive” because of his work.
Worse, after all that, when Jong Hyun tells her off for the way she’s behaving, Na Woo’s so lacking in self-awareness that she huffs tearfully that Jong Hyun’s mean.
UGH. I haven’t disliked a leading lady this much in a long time. Seriously.
Because Jong Hyun spends so much of the series being annoyed by Na Woo (can’t say I blame him, I was annoyed too), I found Jong Hyun’s episode 8 affection for Na Woo rather sudden and the eventual happy closure of the loveline hard to buy.
2. The Bok Gil-Haru arc [SPOILERS]
From early in the show, I had an inkling that Bok Gil would be written to be Na Woo’s long-lost Haru. At first, I thought, “Well, this is such a short show, I suppose convenient plot points like this are excusable.”
By episode 5, I’d changed my mind. The Bok Gil-Haru arc feels excessively tropey because of the melodramatic tone Show gives it.
Na Woo’s tendency towards entitled behavior doesn’t help, and I found myself bemoaning the Show’s decision to spend its precious little screen time on such melodramatic heaviness when it could’ve been so much cuter.
3. General Tropeyness
With shorter series like this one, I tend to have a higher tolerance for general levels of tropeyness, but I must say that by the end, Imaginary Cat had me rolling my eyes at how many tropes it managed to pack into its short little episodes.
I already found Jong Hyun’s series-long tendency to talk with his dead first love rather tropey (seriously, this show could’ve been titled Imaginary Girlfriend and it would’ve worked just as well, ha), but in episode 7, Show takes it to a whole other level.
Jong Hyun’s fever, Na Woo coming to his apartment right then, him collapsing on her shoulder, him being nursed by Na Woo, him mistaking her for his first love while delirious and reaching for her hand. I found it all rather hard to stomach.
Plus, it all had no emotional heft since there was so little context to back it up. I found myself cringing instead of melting, which means this all had the opposite effect on me than what writer-nim had probably intended. Not good.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Man, oh man. The finale was hard to watch. I literally had to stop it partway (I had to pause while they were in the tent gazing at the stars), and pick back up after 3 whole days. Which is how long it took me to steel myself. And I still cried. 😛
Show does a nice job of showcasing Bok Gil’s last days with Jong Hyun in a poignant, moving and heartwarming manner, and also allows us to leave Jong Hyun on a bittersweet yet positive note.
It’s a hard but necessary thing, coming to terms with loss, and we get to see Jong Hyun move forward in his life without ever forgetting his friend Bok Gil. And that’s something I can totally identify with, having lost beloved pets in the past.
At its heart, despite the cute packaging and its multitude of flaws, Show does try to put across a poignant message about love and loss; that communication from the heart is what bridges differences.
Something along the lines of, if Jong Hyun and Bok Gil can overcome their inter-species barriers to become best friends, surely we can bridge differences between ourselves and other humans too?
I rather like that message, really.
On the downside, I never was on board with Jong Hyun’s loveline with Na Woo, and the detail, of Jong Hyun basically opening his heart to Na Woo in the end, didn’t sit so well with me.
On a more important note, I really really wish writer-nim hadn’t deemed it necessary for Bok Gil to die. That felt sudden, tacked on, and emotionally manipulative in the sense that it felt designed to bring forth the maximum amount of tears from viewers.
That’s one of my pet peeves with dramas, writing-wise, and even though I cried and mourned the loss of Bok Gil, I’m still irked with Show for even going there, y’know?
Why couldn’t we have our story end with Jong Hyun continuing to live his life and figure out his career and friendships, with his dear Bok Gil-sshi by his side, complete with daily snuggles and gently sassy Bok Gil voiceovers?
I honestly would’ve much preferred that and would’ve happily watched that for another 10 episodes. At least.
Sigh. But y’know, maybe that’s why this show is titled Imaginary Cat, in the end. Coz while Bok Gil may be gone, we know that she’ll continue to live on in Jong Hyun’s heart and imagination – and in ours too?
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Uneven, but with enough cute and poignance to make it worthwhile. Aw, who am I kidding. Bok Gil alone makes this worthwhile.
FINAL GRADE: B
WHERE TO WATCH:
You can check out this show on Viki here.
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I haven’t been by for a while! I will have to play catch up your other reviews later. When I saw you had a flash review for “Imaginary Cat”, though, I had to dive in.
Spoilery bits throughout here:
I agree with much of what you wrote. I found Na Woo annoying as well, but no more so than many others for me (esp. Answer Me 1997 and 1994; 1988 was less annoying). I did find their romantic storyline contrived, but expected given the set up of the lost first love.
I do wish there had been no proof found that Bok Gil was Haru. I think leaving that as a decision for the viewer would have been better, allowing the viewers to individually weight that element according to their personal preference.
As for Bok Gil dying. I presumed this was going to happen so it wasn’t too much of a shock. I did think it was foreshadowed, when we find out that she can no longer jump down from his desk, and then later when she does jump down from something she hurts her leg. In that way, I think the writers did have it in mind all along.
(All of which is NOT to say that I wouldn’t have loved to have Bok Gil live on and continue to many wonderful years with Jong Hyun.)
And now to the main point: Bok Gil. O my word. You have summed up everything about her so perfectly in your review. I have watched the series through and some of my favourite bits many times – and all of those favourite bits are with her. “Don’t look at him, he’ll think you like him.”
My most favourite scene is when Jong Hyun, forgetting what occurred in his drunken haze, falsely accuses Bok Gil of eating a tremendous portion of food. I loved that his first response is to check that she is ok, and that her belly is fine. And then I laughed out loud at his very stern: “No. This won’t do. You must be punished. Put up your paws!” as he proceeds to put Bok Gil’s (Beetle’s) paws up in the air.
I am a sap for shows of this nature and I found it entirely worth the four hour investment.
Hi there michelle!! It’s great to see ya! 😀
I’m so glad you enjoyed Bok Gil as much as I did (or maybe even more than I did, since I haven’t been back to revisit scenes!) She’s just so lovely, seriously. <3 <3 Beetle did such a good job, and the voiceovers were oh-so-perfect! Together, it really made Bok Gil's personality come alive, and I love-love-loved her gently sardonic nature. You could almost imagine her doing a slo-mo hair flip, if she'd had hair! XD
YES, I giggled at that scene of Jong Hyun putting Bok Gil's paws up in the air too – so cute, seriously. <3 I loved the relationship between those 2, and would've watched multiple episodes of just them, being together, and talking at each other and loving each other, in their own way. <3 <3
You're so right about that Haru thing. It would've been much better if they'd left that open. Making Bok Gil Haru made this short little show a lot more melodramatic than it needed to be. Who needs melodrama when you can have amusingly sardonic laced with sweet? 😉
Pretty sure Yoo Seung Ho is the only being who can literally make me cry just because of how ridiculously handsome he is!
Tee hee. I do love Yoo Seung Ho myself, but I can’t say that he makes me cry tears of wonder.. This means you definitely love him more than I do, in which case watching him snuggle a cat might just make you implode, for reals. XD Have you seen this show yet? Or have you been avoiding it for, uh, safety reasons? 😉
PS: Welcome to the blog, Mahdee! It’s great to meet ya! ^^
Thank you! Great to meet you too~
My mind is telling me to watch it but my heart doesn’t think it’ll be a good idea 🙂 I will probably end up watching it at some stage, when I have prepared myself for any tears YSH may shed…. And thank the kdrama gods that I own a moody rabbit instead of a cat or dog I may want to smother with cuddles~
P.s. Thankfully the tears for YSH only came once, and I have no idea where they came from :p
Hey there Mahdee! I am terribly sorry to be replying your comment this late. I didn’t realize this much time had slipped away from me! 😛
I wouldn’t say Imaginary Cat is a must-see, even for a YSH fan.. It’s sweet when YSH’s interacting with the cat, but the story itself is too melodramatic for such a short-format show, and I was annoyed by the female lead. Plus, Show chooses a sad (but sort of uplifting) ending, which I felt was unnecessary.. On the upside, I’ve heard good things about Joseon Magician, so that’s a potential shot of YSH awesome! 🙂 I’m planning to check it out soonish, so you could possibly add it to your list if you haven’t already seen it. 🙂
Hey! That’s totally okay!
You were right about Imaginary Cat… as much as I like YSH, I stopped watching after episode 4 because it was just so….boring! But yes, Joseon Magician is definitely on my list of need-to-watch dramas, after I watch as much of Moorim School as I can before I start wanting to poke my eyes out because of Hongbin’s cheesy acting…even as a hardcore Starlight it is difficult to stomach 🙂 Hahaha
Hahaha!! Ok, you make me feel better about not loving this show – if someone who’s cried tears of wonder at YSH can drop this show, I feel vindicated in not loving it! XD Here’s hoping that Joseon Magician lives up to the positive reviews I’ve seen, coz I could so use a good dose of YSH! 🙂
I’m watching Moorim School too, and YES, Hongbin’s acting is quite terrible! XD He does get a little better after the initial episodes, but the first couple of episodes were really cringeworthy for me. 😛 I’m not loving Moorim, but I still have enough affection for it to keep watching – for now! 😉
Hahaha yeah~ Talking to you is great… I feel like we’re on the same frequency and have very similar tastes… I love period dramas/movies (expect for Moon Embracing The Sun), so I have really high hopes for Joseon Magician… And I am glad to hear the Hongbin’s acting gets a little better, as I may continue to watch the show 🙂
Our tastes do seem quite similar.. I did lap up MoonSun back when it aired though; I was just too taken with KSH being regal & smirky. 😉 I do wonder if I’d love it as much now as before, but failing a rewatch, it’s hard for me to tell. 😛
I’ve watched 8 eps of Moorim so far, so I’m not caught up. But, I do think Hongbin’s better now than in the first couple of eps. I found him quite cringeworthy in the beginning. I can’t say he’s actually good up to the point I’ve watched, but he’s.. less bad? 😛
I made it through two episodes. Yoo Seung Ho might bring me back to finish it someday, but it’s not one that I’m gonna rush to watch. I do wonder what it was like filming some of those scenes with the cat…
Hehe.. I don’t blame you for drifting away from this one, Kat. I loved Bok Gil and I loved her scenes with her human, and YSH is adorable with her, BUT, all that melo felt like Show was making mountains out of molehills a lot of the time. I enjoyed this show in spite of Show’s chosen story, rather than because of it. So unless it’s for love of YSH – or cats! – I’d say you’re not missing all that much, with this one. 😉
I just finished this drama and your review is pretty on point. I did actually like Na Woo fine enough, but the show as a whole was quite melodramatic (yet still a bit slow). I get that people love their pets, but man, I kept thinking the actors had to be crackling up behind the scenes because it was sooo dramatic at times, lol. I really had to just go with it and pretend it was more like a cartoon. But Yoo Seung Ho and the cat were both priceless and made the drama enjoyed enough. I could definitely watch more of them.
I have not watch the drama yet , i’m not a cat person but a dog , particularly poodle person , and believe me , i can me dramatic and OA at loving my baby , LOL
Haha, I do understand. I think it’s just how this drama presented the situations. Some parts felt melodramatic and over the top. But some of the moments between Jong Hyun and his cat were completely heartwarming and you could feel just how much he loved his cat 🙂
Yes, the show WAS too melodramatic, and I say that AS an animal lover who goes ga-ga over her pet! XD I salute you for managing to like Na Woo as a character; I found her hard to stomach. 😛 But like you said, YSH and the cat made the drama worth watching. I could TOTALLY watch more of them. In fact, I’d have liked for ALL the melodramatic bits to be taken out, and replaced with more YSH + kitty! I’d watch the heck outta that! XD
Well, I lasted all of one ep before giving up, LOL! The best part was the cat. I’m probably a party of one again but I don’t particularly care for YSH. He was pretty good in The Legend but hasn’t been able to convince me in any of his projects since. 🙂
The best part WAS the cat! And I say that while having a soft spot for Yoo Seung Ho! XD I thought Yoo Seung Ho was pretty good in Operation Proposal.. I must be one of the 4 people in the entire dramaverse who actually enjoyed that show! XD I love his smile, and his eyes. <3 (Yes, I am shallow AND biased! XD ) I would like to see him stretch his acting chops a little more. I felt fairly indifferent to his delivery in this, sadly. (But the cat made up for everything!)
You were exceptionally gracious in your review. I couldn’t make it past Episode 3 even though I love cats–and YSH is super adorable. After hearing about the ending, I have no regrets over dropping show. Not sure if the actress who played Na Woo was just bad or if the writer made the character unbearably annoying.
Hee. I think Bok Gil basically stole my heart, is what! XD Her deadpan expressions were often so well-matched to her gently sassy voiceovers that I was properly smitten. I kept going for Bok Gil and Bok Gil alone, to be honest. I could always watch something else for Yoo Seung Ho, but I felt like this was my one chance to watch this kitty. 😛
As for Na Woo, she truly was terrible. I think it was both, actually. The actress herself isn’t very seasoned, and the way Na Woo was written wasn’t helping her. I found Na Woo extremely annoying, and would’ve probably dropped the show, if Bok Gil hadn’t been so endearing. That B rating is all for Bok Gil (and a bit of YSH too), heh. 😉