The lonely parts can be heart-wrenching. #Relate. But this drama is sweetness and light and the comedy will have you in tears. Kim Go-eun as Yumi is already iconic.

Yumi’s Cells premiered on TVING, tvN (Korea), IQIYI (SEA) and Rakuten Viki (the rest of the world) on September 17, Friday. Based on the cult-favorite webtoon of the same name, this drama is the first of its kind in Korea, combining live-action with 3D animation. And not just any animation but definitely some of the cutest this side of Asia! 

Yumi’s Cells tells the story of Yumi Kim, an ordinary office worker, and the cells in her head. There’s more to it than this, but this part is adorable. 

Image: TVING, Yumi’s Cells First Teaser

Each cell has its own personality. Rational Cell is logical. Hunger Cell is a giant controlling Yumi’s appetite. Emotional Cell is, well, prone to sunset staring and late-night (and all-day) dramatics. 

Anxiety Cell can snatch Yumi out of disaster (real or imagined). When unchecked, Rampage Cell explodes and releases Inner Feeling Cell from semi-permanent lock-up, and Yumi delivers unstoppable stinging clapbacks we usually withhold to keep the peace or keep face.  

This almost always triggers the comment, “It’s like Inside Out.” Well, yes, but there’s a big difference: desire.

A short recap about the webtoon

In an interview after the series finale, webtoon author Lee Dong-geun said, “If ‘Inside Out’ personified emotions, ‘Yumi’s Cells’ personified desires. There are times when people do something to feel happy, but things don’t turn out the way they want, and [they] actually end up sad. It’s a different approach.”

This “different approach” makes every chapter of the webtoon relatable. Every Cell has its own motivation and desire. But they’re all united in their love for Yumi. They want Yumi to be happy. 

True to reality, they just tend to bungle up a bit on their way to that happiness.

If you haven’t read the webtoon yet, go read it. As a friend said, it’s like Pringles. You can’t stop once you start.  

Quick trivia for the uninitiated: the webtoon has god-tier status among webtoons, accumulating over 3 billion views and 5 million comments from its release in April 2015 to its finale in November 2020. The English translation got an average of more than 30,000 reads for each chapter every week. 

Merch and product collaborations have continuously come up over the years, from skincare (Innisfree and Stonebrick) to microbrews (Yumi’s Wheat Ale). A special exhibition ran from July 2020 to March 2021 featuring Yumi and all the beloved Cells. 

It’s no surprise that Yumi’s Cells the K-drama has rightly decided to be faithful to those Cells.

Yumi and the Cells come to life straight out of the webtoon

News of Kim Go-Eun playing the titular role of Yumi came out on the tail-end of December 2020. Speculation was rampant among fans if she’ll go blonde like she went redheaded for her role in Cheese in the Trap, another webtoon adaptation, her first drama where she played the lead, Hong Seol. 

But no, Yumi is an accountant, and Kim Go-Eun wisely sticks with her natural hair color. She does transform with Yumi’s iconic short bob but otherwise stays as “ordinary” as Yumi is supposed to be. She even talked to Director Lee Sang-Yeob about keeping all the romantic scenes “as close to reality as possible.” 

This includes Yumi’s previous relationship before the story starts, fleshed out into that kind of one-sided, give-give sadness a lot of us can, unfortunately, fall into without realizing until its bitter end. 

The Cells are depicted in 3D animation in Cell Town, having the most adorable reactions and debates and representing pretty much the same thoughts we all think in those exact same situations.

In Episode 1, we see Yumi in her element at work, her focus completely derailed by her crush, Chae Ugi, portrayed by SHINee’s Choi Minho. 

In Episode 2, there’s an epic chase scene that was not in the webtoon but nonetheless has to be there: it represents every running leap we’ve done for love.

Ahn Bohyun transforms into Gu Woong, tan, long hair, beard and all, another relatable person for men and women alike: he’s cool and unbothered. That is, until he meets Yumi, and his mind goes foggy. Literally. As seen in Episode 2. 

How many times has that happened to you? No judgment but #marupok talaga minsan, bes.

Lighthearted, cute, and sweet K-drama therapy

Two episodes in and Yumi’s Cells has proven it’s every bit that healing K-drama we love: her apartment is cute, the cast are recognizable types (the nosy, supportive friend; the clumsy, nice boss; the annoying but cute little competition; the real kontrabida…), the romance is immediately established in a meet-cute, and comedy and cuteness from both the live-action and animated scenes perfectly balance the heart-wrenching Kim Go-Eun Sobbing Scenes™. 

The Cells are therapeutic in expressing what we usually don’t. And they look cute while they do it! Sidus Animation Studios (Locus Corporation) and Studio N produce the 3D animation of Yumi’s Cells, faithful to every quirk, cowlick, bow, and basin as shown in the webtoon, plus new facets we couldn’t have seen in 2D, like Fashion Cell being so extra! That’s her in the round, pink shades. 

So far, the writers (Kim Kyung-ran, Kim Yoon-joo) also ace the adaptation with surprise but absolutely accurate additions. 

For example, in the webtoon, it’s just an established fact that Fashion Cell is imprisoned to protect Yumi’s finances and Yumi is rather restrained in her sartorial purchases. 

But we all know you don’t get that restraint until you’ve experienced burning regret. Episode 2 reveals exactly what made Yumi wiser. Hashtag Phuket. Tongue-in-cheek at its best!  

Kim Go-Eun’s brilliance in nuanced acting is perhaps never more prominent as in Yumi’s Cells. She nails Yumi’s microexpressions and emphatic moments. 

At the office, she visibly switches from bored and focused to adoring and trying to hide it. On two separate dates, Kim Go-Eun shows us Yumi wavering between forced cheerfulness and dissolving into tears of disappointment, and controlled disdain and fake but convincing enthusiasm. 

Not like a switch but more like a ripple. It’s smooth and natural, and she’s captivating to watch. 

When the Cells use a Reaction Doll to help her fake her way through the day, she perfectly mimics it throughout. 

If some fans of the webtoon didn’t even think of Kim Go-Eun as Yumi, positive comments on Korean sites (Naver, TheQoo) show they’re now convinced she was perfectly cast. So are Ahn Bohyun, Choi Minho, Lee Yubi, Park Ji-hyun. 

Lee Yu-bi plays Ruby, bubbly, sweet, and fiercely open about her love for Ugi, a contrast to Park Ji-Hyun’s character Seo Sae-yi, who prefers to be sly and underhanded in her possessive affection for Woong. 

Webtoon readers are privy to the development in all these characters, and best of all, in Yumi. 

The cast has chemistry, the tight editing is still so detailed and gratifying with Easter eggs to Kim Go-Eun’s previous work, and the animation is delightfully fun and sweet, the transition from live-action to the Cell Town so smooth it makes you want HomCha to also have scenes of the cells in Dusik’s and Hye-jin’s heads. 

All of these make me excited to see how everything unfolds in this adaptation.  

As Love Cell says, you fight for love. There’s no such thing as fate. Only choices. Love Cell is Yumi’s prime cell, Yumi’s most powerful and most influential driving force. Yumi’s previous heartbreak sent Love Cell in a coma for years, and now reawakened, Yumi is once again in pursuit of love, a little wiser and braver.

Kim Go-Eun’s definition of Yumi is that she’s honest about love. That’s correct and there’s nothing wrong with it, as long as you don’t lose sight of yourself. 

Yumi’s Cells tells the story of Yumi growing into all her potential and choosing the right priorities, with love along the way, by her side, instead of getting in the way.

The webtoon depicts this in subtle and brilliantly comedic ways, and if the first two episodes are anything to go by, the drama is really promising to be faithful with its own spin to that genius.

Watch Yumi’s Cells every Friday and Saturday at 10:55 pm on IQIYI!

PS: Yumi’s Cells is a 14-episode treat for Arjenias and we’re here for it

Kim Go-eun is just perfection in an unassuming, scrunchy-nosed package. I fell in love again and again every time her long eyelashes fluttered in YC Ep 1: The Sweet Life. 

It’s also an absolute sweetness to see every moue of her lips, every change in her eyes, every subtle movement in her face nailing every expression she needs to convey. 

Girl. Breathes. Talent.

Her outfits are simple, understated, lovely. Neutrals with a touch of moxie and style. Like the beige linen blazer and white dress paired with platform shoes. And her white on white, sharp and sweet outfit with the emerald green cardi and buttery pumps.

Kim Go-Eun is a model. Her stunning proportions and elegance are in full display here right alongside her comfortable, easy, unpretentious nature. We get Yumi sitting Indian style at her dining table having dumplings at two am and Yumi with crossed legs at the break room, posture perfect.  

Yumi likes clothes and she will only become more and more elegant as the story and her self-esteem evolves. 

The cells love Yumi, and Yumi is Kim Go-Eun. So far, several of Kim Go-Eun’s previous projects have been featured in Yumi’s Cells like crumbs of Yumi’s favorite crackers. 

Love Cell has the power to keep Yumi warm even on cold days. In the adaptation, they go one step further and do another reference to Goblin with Yumi’s ex giving her a red scarf. A red scarf we all recognize. 

Yumi’s Cells is so rich in these little details, and it’s so gratifying both for fans of the webtoon (even the crackers are the same!) and fans of Kim Go-Eun.

The BTS released so far and all the promos they’ve done show us more facets to Kim Go-Eun’s character: she’s a bright, sweet soul, always thoughtful, a ball of energy, and prone to laughter. Such a joy to work with, and what we do see in Yumi’s Cells is the result. 

It can be a little overwhelming to be Arjenia right now. 

Image: Elle Korea, October 2021

What’s next on Yumi’s Cells?

Yumi and Woong continue their blind date, Reaction Doll No.1 continues to help out, and Woong continues to be smitten while Yumi continues to be unconvinced and unimpressed. 

At work, Yumi snaps at Ruby, stress builds up, and we get to meet Hysterius shoring up all that stress into a vault of bombs. He also loves and protects Yumi in his own way. But he needs to be managed and someone special does the job. 

Will the author Lee Dong-geun make a cameo when he runs into Yumi and breaks her old phone, forcing her to get the eponymous latest from Samsung? 

Froggy comes to the rescue! We’ll also meet King Pouty– he’s the cell Yumi repeatedly conquers. And Shower Cell might make her debut here during the CO2 zone scene andI’malreadydyingfromthecuteness.