Origin and release year: South Korea (2017)
Korean title: 맨홀: 이상한 나라의 필
Starring: Uie, Kim Jae Joong, Jung Hye Sung, B1A4 Baro, Lee Sang Yi, Kang Hong Suk, Kim Min Ji, Jang Mi Kwan
Synopsis: Tells the story of Bong Pil, an unemployed man who mooches off his parents while pretending to study for the civil service exam. Bong Pil time travels into the past through a manhole in an effort to stop the wedding of his lifelong crush, Soo Jin, set to happen one week into the future. (MyDramaList)
Manhole is a KBS drama that was released in 2017 and directed by Park Man Young and Yoo Young Eun. The spoilers are inevitable in this one, but we’re going to try to keep it spoiler-free.
Manhole was really hard to get into because in the first episode (in the first 5 minutes) Bong Pil was established as a loser. He was established as a person who needs a wake-up call when it’s already too late.
So, Bong Pil, 28 years old, lives next door to his best friend who he’s in love with and he hasn’t told her in 28 years, which was hard to believe – it didn’t make sense. Soo Jin’s character also became a question mark because there’s no way that she couldn’t have figured out that he likes her after so long. Surely, you’ll know if someone is in love with you. She knew that he was in love with her and yet she was getting married to someone else, a pharmacist.
The first episode starts with the night that her friends and family are bringing wedding gifts to her house. Bong-Pil doesn’t know how to handle the situation and he shows up drunk and makes a scene – he’s just a jerk, he’s already established as a loser, so, that character of his, just plays out and he ruins the event. Why? On the other hand, as this is playing out, Soo Jin defends him. It becomes clear that they love each other and that was the issue with this drama. K-Dramas usually build you up to the fact that two people like each other, this one just jumped straight into it, and maybe they think they were being subtle with Soo Jin’s liking of Bong Pil, but no, they were not.
Preparing for this review, this writer read an article that stated that Manhole is the worst K-Drama of 2017. It had the lowest ratings and the third-worst K-Drama in terms of ratings in history (at the time) – that’s heavy. The drama was above okay and wasn’t terrible. As much as it had a lot of downfalls, there were a lot of things that made up for that as well.
The manhole in itself was also just very random, it’s the hugest element of the drama and yet it’s so random. it doesn’t really make any sense. It was established as an alien wormhole, but they didn’t really have any history or context behind it. Why aliens? If the main element of the drama isn’t established properly, how is the rest of the drama meant to turn out?
Again, the next biggest problem was, aside from your biggest element the manhole itself, your main character. Granted we have a thing for underdogs, but at the same time, they didn’t really give him any redeeming qualities. Sadly, he didn’t have any because, you could say that he cared for people, but he didn’t even really care about his friends. He didn’t care how things were impacting them when he was chasing after Soo Jin. He only learned that lesson after the fact, his character arc was a bit vague. And I think when you establish someone as that type of loser who literally has zero redeeming qualities, no one wants to watch it.
No one wants to watch someone who clearly can’t help themselves. So, why should other people help them? It was hard to have respect for him. And that respect only came much later. By the time it came it was probably too late. The way they handled the time travel was also weird. He gets in the manhole and then it turns into a slip and slide, which I guess you want to say is like a time slip, literally. But it just looked like the visual itself was super cheap. It was weird and it was out of place because the whole drama is filmed really, really well. There was also a visual that they used later, which I think they should have played with more, where he was just floating in space, and it was black. And then you had the people of the manhole shining light down on him. I think that would have been a cool thing to play with in terms of that transition to a different time.
The drama also got predictable. The first time he goes back to the past is interesting because he also doesn’t understand it. He finds a problem of what happened when he was in that time and then he tries to fix it. However, it became repetitive quickly in that he’s going to find a problem that happens on that day, he’s going to try to fix it, and then we’re going to see the consequence and it’s not going to be what he thought it was. That was expected. He later found the problem and tried to fix it, but it wasn’t captivating to watch, although it was kind of funny. And that’s what kept you watching, including the consequences – some of the consequences were unexpected.
The way that they dealt with the future and present was good, however, the way that they dealt with the past was a problem. Kim Jae Joong’s acting was brilliant and so was the character Jo Seok Tae, played by Baro of B1A4, really, really good acting.
Another compliment to give this drama is the way that they tied it up. It was a huge question whether it was going to change him as a person or if the actual time travel would be the result that he wanted. It’s understandable that Manhole had some really bad ratings and reviews, but it was a decent drama. It was just above okay, if not good, but maybe there were probably certain factors that held it back from getting viewership. It was well-filmed and even though there were some problems with the writing and maybe some of the visual effects, it was well-acted-out.
What did you think of Manhole? Let us know in the comments!