Sensory Couple- for the little to no amount of sex, language, and skin shown, I’d give this a solid G. For violence, it’s a strong PG13- it’s not that there’s a lot of graphic violence you actually have to see, but it’s kind of impossible to have a serial killer known for leaving a strange barcode on his victim’s arms (carved, not stamped) without being dark and creepy. The adorable romance part of this is ridiculously adorable and charming and very sweet, innocent, and effervescent. The serial killer is cold, disturbing, and creepy.
The title is a weird name and in English doesn’t really communicate what it is supposed to. This is a really adorably romantic comedy, believe it or not, combined with some very chilling mysteries, and a deeply disturbed and frightening psychopath. It’s a weird mix, but for me, it worked.
These two character introductions have some basic spoilers, but they are all things revealed in the first episode, or even in the show write-ups and descriptions, so nothing major.
Choi Mu Gak is a doting older brother and the guardian of his younger sister. She’s brutally murdered by a serial killer, and he basically loses most of his sensory abilities. He can’t taste, smell, or sense pain. He leaves the aquarium job he loves and becomes a cop so he can track down the serial killer who murdered his beloved little sister and last surviving family member. Fortunately, he is very smart, although his one-track mind and stolid inability to smile or show that he feels anything at all cause most of those around him to mistake him for an idiot at first.
This character is played by Park YooChun (formerly Micky YooChun), who also was the lead in Rooftop Prince and who is one of the popular members of the popular band JYJ (formerly he was in the band TVXQ). He’s also been in in the dramas Sungkyunkwan Scandal (I loved this, and he was outstanding), Miss Ripley, Missing You, Three Days (none of which I’ve watched). I like his acting very much.
Choi Eun Seol shares the same name as Mu Gak’s dongsaeng, and something else as well. She is the beloved only child of a fisher couple. They are also murdered by this same serial killer- only, he meant to kill the whole family. Eun Seol gets away, only to be hit by a car in her desperate fight to flee. She goes into a coma for a couple of years. When she finally awakes, she has lost her memory completely, one of her eyes changes colour, and she can actually see smells. This sounds flaky and dumb, but it actually works. I really got a kick out of how they handled this in the show. One of the chief police officers in her case ends up leaving the force, adopting her and taking care of her while he waits for her to regain her memories. He gives her his dead child’s name, Oh Choi Rim. This is actually not creepy, it’s very charming and sweet. He wants to protect her most of all and while he wants her memories to return so they can identify and catch the serial killer, he doesn’t want to damage her emotionally fragile state in the process. She’s played by Shin SeKyung. She’s been in a lot of projects, but I’ve only seen her in Blade-Man. Both here and in Blade-Man she was absolutely an adorable confection of sweetness, a bit of pathos, and charm. I liked her character entirely, and she plays her very well. Not having seen her other projects, I have no idea what else she can do, but I am happy with this.
The first episode throws them together in the usual way where the lead couple start by being annoyed with each other. However, it’s fairly lukewarm hostility- they are both just frustrated by the circumstances. She helps him out of a bind she accidentally contributes to, and he agrees to help her out of a bind he’s accidentally contributed to, and he learns about her smelling ability and finds it useful for police work. She is willing to help him out from time to time because she likes what the police do, since her dad is a retired police officer.
Then the bar-cold killer starts killing again (that’s the name of the serial killer who murdered the parents the lead girl doesn’t remember, as well as the younger sister the lead male cannot forget).
There are delightful and occasionally annoying side kick cops and at least two contenders for the identity of the bar-code killer, both worrisome and scary, a sweet and doting daddy, whom we don’t get enough of, and the comedy troop that Oh Choi Rim wants to join, plus, you know, crimes to solve, romances to begin, and so on. Somehow, it really does all work together for the most part. There are a couple of instances where I thought the police were shown to be unbelievably incompetent and dumb, and OCR did not use that smell detector of hers when she should have, but over all, I liked this a lot and I thought the couple were adorable and the killer really, really creepy, just as he should be.
Most of the people at dramabeans are unhappy because we don’t get a lot of backstory on the serial killer and why he does what he does.
I agree that there were plot-holes, and I wanted to know more about some of the backstories, mainly Lt. Yeom, but not so much the killer’s.
I appreciated the subtle story-telling I thought I saw displayed here. We do know why he does what he does, it’s just that nobody sits down and explains it as though reading a textbook to the viewers.
I thought we got the answer to why he decided to kill OCR’s parents (and anybody else), in the brief but very chilling moment when he was chatting with her and suddenly looked at her with new interest and said something like “Suddenly I’m very interested in getting to know you better and hearing more about your story.” I felt it was very clear that at that moment, he’d decided she would be his next victim, and we also were told why. The reason the victims were seemingly so random is simply because they were people who for random reasons interested him and made him curious about their lives.
From the trauma of being adopted and taken to a new culture, to the trauma of abuse in that disorienting culture, abuse so serious that he lost the ability to distinguish human faces, this villain lost the ability to really connect with other human beings at all. He has no back story of his own since he doesn’t know who he was before adoption and the trauma of the post adoption abuse has disconnected him from other human beings. He doesn’t distinguish them as individuals at all, until he learns enough about them and something simply catches his curiosity. Being a psychopath control-freak with no story of his own, when they catch his interest, he wants to know their story- to own it, and in the manner of collectors, to be the only one who does own it. Not even they can be permitted to own those stories once he’s gotten all he wants out of them, and they definitely could not be permitted to continue their stories- because their life stories are now his. So he ends them and keeps the book to peruse when he wants to. This tunnel vision and essential selfishness is also why this bright psychopath was too dumb to have ever even considered the idea that maybe some of his victims hadn’t told him the truth about their stories at all.
And as interesting as his own story is, I think I also appreciate the point I hope the writers were making- he’s a killer, a horrible human being. He is not more interesting or worthy of attention than the decent people around him. Bad things happened to them, too. They are orphans with murdered family members, Choi Rim survived a murderous attack not just once, and the same is true of Mu Gak and Lt. Yeom, and while it’s true that the trauma and abuse endured by a child at the hands of people who are supposed to love him the most are incredibly damaging and long-lasting, sympathy and interest shouldn’t blind us to the fact that he chose the dark, and for the people on the side of light, the choices they made are love and affirmation and they deserve more of our attention.
Additional Spoiler: much is made of the fact that he killed his girlfriend Ma Ri. No, he didn’t kill his girlfriend. He killed Ma Ri, but there’s only his word for it that they were a couple. Mu Gak ponders early on as to why nobody knew Ma Ri had a boyfriend. That’s one of the reasons he had to have her diaries- there would be no mention of them having that kind of a relationship in them. The second would be that he has this psychopathic need to own his victim’s lives and stories, so of course, he’d need to be the only who who has their diaries. A possible alternative second theory is that he was grooming Ma Ri to be his next victim- after all, I think he chose his victims based on the fact that they interested him for some reason, so they were people he has some at least slight acquaintance with.
Dramas I’ve completed, recommend, and reviewed: see here.
K-Dramas I almost liked- most of these are darker than I usually prefer. Some are also-rans- I thought I was going to like them, which is why I started reviewing, but they there were just too flawed.
Things to know when watching a K-drama
More Things To Know
Addiction, and why I like K-dramas
You might be watching a K-Drama if….
Where to get your fix: Sites where you can find subtitled K-dramas (and dramas from other countries, as well. I’ve watched a handful of J-dramas (Japanese) and TW (Taiwanese) dramas, but I vastly prefer the K-dramas, even though I know more Japanese – I got an A in my Japanese 101 class back in the day, when we actually lived in Japan and once I even knew both hiragana and katakana- but still K-dramas interest me vastly more).
Need to read still more about K-dramas?
Dramabeans- must reading, as long as you can filter out the point that they see misogyny everywhere, but never met a scene with a girl kicking a boy in the crotch for no good reason that doesn’t make them chortle with glee.
Noonas Over Forks
Learn more background stuff about Korean culture from askakorean