Yoo Seung Ho and adorable cats meet in Imaginary Cat, a lovable little web drama about a man with crumbling dreams who learns to rely on the people, and pets, around him to find success. There’s a lot of cute to be had in this drama and love triangle featuring a cat to boot, but it still retains its serious message about the moments to treasure in life and the ability to persevere against discouraging odds.
Main Cast: Yoo Seung Ho as Hyun Jong Hyun, Biteuli as Bok Gil, Han Ye Ri as Boggil’s voice, Cho Hye Jung as Oh Na Woo, Park Chul Min as Team Leader Na, Lee El as Dokgo Soon, Kim Min Suk as Yook Hae Gong, Solar as Jung Soo In, Kim Hyun Joon as Park Jin Sung
Running Time: 8 episodes; approximately 30 minutes per episode
Summary: Hyun Jong Hyun is a struggling webtoon artist who is attempting to get his work published after being betrayed by one of his friends who rose to fame as an artist after taking credit for a project that was in part Jong Hyun’s work. Jong Hyun is given the opportunity to compete with his former friend, Park Jin Sung, by submitting a proposal in hopes of his idea being selected by the publishing company for production, even against poor odds. However, in order to support himself, he works part-time at a bookstore under the command of his finicky boss, Team Leader Na.
Jong Hyun himself is rather cold and stubborn, except when dealing with his cat Bok Gil, his sole companion in his home who he rescued many years ago as a kitten. Jong Hyun soon meets a cheerful girl named Oh Na Woo who loves cats just as much as himself and has a surprising past connection to Bok Gil and an interest in Jong Hyun. But the memory of the death of Jong Hyun’s first love holds him back and he must learn to move forward in his life despite past regrets and loss.
Review: Imaginary Cat was originally a webcomic but because I have not read it, my opinions will solely be based on the storyline of the drama and performances of the actors. That being said, I am a little surprised that Yoo Seung Ho took this web drama as his first project after enlistment given the relatively small scale of the drama. I will admit at some points in the drama, the difference in performance level of Yoo Seung Ho and his costars was quite jarring and he was not able to shine in a ways he has in past projects due to this strange dynamic. He is a seasoned actor for someone so young and a stronger cast may have provided this drama with a greater impact.
His chemistry with the female lead was lacking, which made it a bit difficult to become invested in the romantic aspect of the plot line in the story. While this may have been due in small part to their performances, the characters of Jong Hyun and Na Woo were not particularly likable themselves. Jong Hyun was often rude to the point that it was frustrating as an audience member to watch Na Woo return to him despite his clear annoyance with her at times. Na Woo herself was also an inconsistent character in that she would make one decision only to later completely have a change of heart that was so sudden it made me think the writers included the first event for shock value alone. Though she was nice to a fault, Na Woo was also somewhat clingy in her attachment to both Jong Hyun and Bok Gil, which may be off-putting to some and sweet to others.
However, one of the best things about this drama is the dual perspective seen from both Jong Hyun’s and Bog Gil’s eyes. It made it easier to make to the connection to Bok Gil as a character, rather than an animal, when she was given a voice in the drama, even if that voice was only heard by the audience. In fact, to me she was the star of the show with just enough sass to be spunky but a concern for Jong Hyun (her “human” as she calls him) that made her lovable. It isn’t common to see Korean dramas focus on or even feature pet-owner relationships, which are often as deep as family bonds, so the plot was refreshing in this aspect. I admit I was much more invested in the relationship between Bok Gil and Jong Hyun than the primary couple of interest, Jong Hyun and Na Woo. It was sweet to see Bok Gil transition from being initially jealous of Na Woo but eventually accept her when she acknowledged Na Woo’s caring personality.
I’ll admit I did not take this drama too seriously until the ending because the struggles either seemed fairly superficial or the stakes weren’t high enough. Problems were often resolved quickly, which was perhaps necessitated by the drama’s short runtime, but not in the most believable manner. However, the last episodes really showed the heart this drama had and it was empowering, and heartbreaking, to see Jong Hyun grow as a friend, man, and pet owner when he learned to let go of the past that hindered him and start to live for the future. Upon the drama’s finale a much happier Jong Hyun could be seen that had faced both triumph and loss. And it was uplifting to see this changed man who had a new mindset and hope for a better future.
Conclusion: Imaginary Cat is quick, rather light watch that I would recommend to cat lovers and entrepreneurs struggling from lack of motivation and self-doubt. While the romance fell a bit flat and the characters themselves are not the most relatable, the themes discussed in this drama will strike the right chord with not just pet lovers, but anyone trying to find strength or lacking a support system. Imaginary Cat is really a story about moving forward in life despite hardships and losses, and this message is something many struggling to imagine a brighter future may find beneficial.