Sunday, January 1, 2012

K-Drama Review: 49 Days, Episodes 1-2

Contains Spoilers for Episodes 1-2

Jihyun is a happy bride-to-be, fluttering about in a pretty world where her parents dote on her, her two best gal pals help her out of every jam, and her fiance Minho is basically the perfect man. Jihyun is insulated from harm on every side, like a fairy princess. Then a car accident lands her in a coma, but a well-dressed grim reaper who calls himself the Scheduler gives her a second chance at life. Jihyun has 49 days to collect the true tears of three non-family members who will truly mourn her if she's gone. As an added complication, Jihyun has to witness these tears while borrowing the body of YiKyung, a chronically depressed woman.

Because Jihyun is everybody's favorite girl, this assignment should be a piece of cake, right? Only it turns out that finding true tears is rather difficult, and not everyone who said they loved Jihyun really did. There are problems with her dad's business, there are tensions with her inner circle of buddies, and her fiance's best friend might just be in love with her. How does YiKyung's life connect to Jihyun's? And who is this mysterious Scheduler, anyway? Faster than you can say "Supernatural body-switching romantic Korean drama", everything's gotten insanely complicated.

Things I Loved: 1. YiKyung-as-Jihyun. Oh my. YiKyung's actress has amazing abilities, but you don't really see her range until "Jihyun" takes over. YiKyung's overwhelming depression drags down her scenes, but I like YiKyung-as-Jihyun very much, because the actress perfectly mimics Jiyhun's mannerisms and bubbliness, but she makes it even more endearing, somehow. It's like the audience is getting to see immediate evidence of how Jihyun makes YiKyung's life better and how the two of them might be affecting each other in ways other than a parasite/host relationship. And when Kang starts getting scenes with the baffling YiKyung-as-Jihyun, we see a lot of humor and learn  lot about Kang in the process.
Seriously, This Girl Can ACT.

2. Kang. He's a grumpy man, but he's got a good heart. His backstory seems rather convoluted because he's a genius architect who owns/manages a restaurant, he spent a lot of time in America and has a best buds relationship with Minho who was his college pal, but he still went to highschool with looks like the writers went a little overboard with trying to give Kang a finger in every pie. But who cares if he's miraculously connected to everyone in Korea? No one can resist a kind-hearted grump.

He Resents Everything. Except Jihyun.

3. Jung Il-Woo's marvelous turn as Scheduler. He's fussy and fastidious, griping about how mortals keep messing up his neat, perfect death lists. He treats Jihyun kindly, but she also exasperates him because she insists on treating him like a buddy and calling his special reaper-phone at all hours. It's very funny when he gets upset at Jihyun, because she's such a sweetie, not even a grim reaper can stay mad at her. Scheduler's very cool, and it doesn't hurt that he brings in the younger demographic, either.

Pictured: The Only Reason That Teenage Girls Watch This Show.

Complaints: 1. The acting for Jihyun wasn't the best. The actress is shockingly pretty, but her acting isn't very nuanced so far--the happy face, sad face, and horrified face are all we get. Now, this does reflect Jihyun's own lack of depth and nuance, but I still wish the acting had delivered a tad more oomph.

Her Hair is Beautiful, Though.

2. The pacing. It's rather slow and it takes a long time for the basic concept to be set up. The music and the visual quality in the show are very classy, but it was hard for me to stay invested in episode 1 long enough for the "good stuff" (which is actually the bad stuff) to start happening.


Life and Death: With a show about comas and souls and second chances at life, of course they're going to play up the life and death themes. Jihyun's life is, well...brimming with life. She's always giggling, joking, and all but skipping around. This contrasts sharply with YiKyung who is like an animated corpse and who can no longer interact with people. YiKyung attempts suicide by walking into traffic because she can't get over the death of her boyfriend who passed away in a car accident, so it seems like everyone of importance in this drama is closely acquainted with loss.

Ignorance: This is just what I'm noticing when I watch the show, but Jihyun seems somewhat ignorant. She definitely isn't dumb, but there just seem to be so many things about the real world that she has no knowledge of. When a small travelling emergency crops up, Jihyun doesn't know how to react, so it's up to her friend In-Jung to troubleshoot the issue. YiKyung on the other hand isn't ignorant, but she does try to ignore the world around her, to the extent that she can't recognize a customer who has been frequenting her workplace for six months. Both women have blind spots--Jihyun can't see the harsh side of life and YiKyung can't see the beauty of life.

Both Have Some Big Lessons to Learn.

Cultural Observances:

Hanbok: Women wear traditional old-fashioned dresses as Jihyun's engagement party.

Episode Evaluations: I love the complicated supernatural setup with the genuine tears and a limited number of days to collect them. The acting from YiKyung and Scheduler was also spot-on, but the show moves a little too slowly for me to want to watch the whole thing. However, I was curious enough to read a recap for the final episode, so I'd know how it ends!

Watchable bonus: Here's the first part of the first episode of "49 Days" with English subtitles. Taken from Youtube.


  1. That's a really cool concept. That reaper is nice to look at lol

  2. I admit, I started to watch the show because of Jung Il-Woo (I loved him in FBRS), but I really like it! The pace is a bit slow, but I like how I have no clue how the show will end. It's not predictable like other dramas.

  3. @free2sing I watched because of Jung Il-Woo, too. :-) After I reviewed Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, I was ready to see his acting in other projects. From what I've read in the recaps, this show does have a lot of very interesting plot twists and turns which should make it worth watching.