I loved everything about Imaginary Cat (2015-2016), until the very end, which is sad. (I usually don't reveal end spoilers but here I think a warning is in order). I wasn't prepared for a sad ending while watching this web drama; I wanted a nice, sweet Disney style ending, with the cat, the boy and the girl strolling together off into the sunset at some park or something. They tried to tack on a smile at the end with a cute bicycle scene, but it didn't work for me after the tragedy. So this sweet show went from an A category to B category in my estimation. Such a shame, too, because for a web drama it was fun and well done until the upsetting climax.
Actor Seung Ho Yoo (Remember, I Miss You, Operation Proposal), just out of the military, did an excellent job acting, as always, (I read he is a cat lover in real life and owns four!), my only beef was with the writer. I haven't read the web toon it was based on by Kim Gyung, so I don't know if that had the same ending as the web drama, and maybe the production team was stuck with that ending for legal reasons, but if so there should have been some publicity about it, to warn folks ahead of time. I am not exaggerating: I was REALLY upset by that ending! We see enough sad endings in K-dramas, sometimes we just want a happy one, with a pink ribbon tied at the top for emphasis.
The Story: Web toon writer Hyun Jong Hyun (Seung Ho Yoo), at the beginning of his career as an artist-writer, finds an abandoned orange tabby kitten hiding in a box to escape the rain. He brings her home and adopts her (actress Han Ye Ri does the adorable voice-over work for the cat) and he names her Bok Gil. She is his one constant companion, since he recently broke up with his girlfriend Dok Go Soon (Lee El). The cat brings him out of himself so he is not so lonely.
How can anyone who loves cats resist this cuteness?
Jong Hyun also works part-time in a bookstore to make ends meet, having to put up with his moody boss Team Leader Ma (Park Chul Min from Beethoven Virus). He has one close male friend from his high school years named Yook Hae Gong (Kim Min Suk from Descendants of the Sun). Even after several years he's still plugging away at his web toon writing, with only a modicum of success, and of course a big story topic he loves to cover in his work is the life and thought processes of his cat. However, there is a lot of competition for success in the web toon world; only the most talented professionals make it big financially.
Jong Hyun keeps accidentally running into this young girl in his neighborhood who is crazy about cats, named Oh Na Woo (Cho Hye Jung from Because It's The First Time), who takes a big interest in his cat Bok Gil. At first he finds her annoying, but slowly begins caring about her, and caring what she thinks about him. She has a sad side to her, she was a little girl who never got over the loss of her pet cat who disappeared one day and was never recovered.
While Jong Hyun is working at his desk one day, the gas meter reader visits and then inadvertently leaves the door to his small apartment open. Bok Gil slips out and gets lost, and Oh Na Woo helps Jong Hyun look for her for an entire day and evening, before they find her on the roof -- Bok Gil had climbed UP the stairs of the apartment complex, and not DOWN the stairs, as they had assumed.
Ultimately both Jong Hyun and Oh Na Woo finally realize that Bok Gil is actually the same cat that used to belong to Na Woo when she was a child. DNA tests prove it. At first Na Woo emotionally demands the cat back and then later reconsiders more thoughtfully: Jong Hyun had raised the cat all these years, she really belongs to him now more than she belongs to her, and of course the cat doesn't even have any memories of Na Woo, too much time has passed by. Na Woo tries to get closer to Bok Gil, buying her presents, and it does work a little bit: Bok Gil seems to finally warm to her at last, whereas before she only bonded with Jong Hyun.
But then tragedy strikes: Bok Gil becomes sick, and when Jong Hyun rushes her to the kindly neighborhood vet named Lee Wan (actor Choi Tae Hwan who totally bowled me over in Ballerino) he informs him that Bok Gil is quickly becoming paralyzed. In just a few days her body will break down completely and she'll be gone.
All this comes at a time when Jong Hyun is finally making a name for himself professionally and will receive a salary from an employer who will syndicate his web toons. Success in his professional area of life, met with tragedy in a personal area of his life. Why is life so cruel like that? The vet says there is a small chance she might survive awhile longer if he does a risky surgery on Bok Gil: at first Jong Hyun pushes for it, but in the operating room he changes his mind. He will take Bok Gil home and let her die in peace in his arms.
Jong Hyun lovingly prepares for Bok Gil's demise. He buys a small tent they can use to snuggle together and where he can keep a watchful eye over her. He talks to her in his normal voice and strokes her. Eventually he falls asleep .... and Bok Gil creeps out of the tent and goes off to die alone. Apparently cats like to be alone when they die, but the way it was written in this show made me angry because it didn't make sense. The writer was trying to say that a paralyzed cat could crawl out of the tent by herself, open a closed closet door, walk in, and close the door behind her. SAY WHAT? How would a paralyzed cat be able to do all that, just to die alone?
Morning comes, Jong Hyun wakes up and runs around calling for Bok Gil but can't find her --- then he opens his closet door and sees her dead body inside and is traumatized. Argh! I couldn't stand it! Even if they had to have the cat die couldn't the cat have just passed on in the tent with her beloved owner? I think the writer could have made the cat's death more spiritual, and less ludicrous. That really hurt.
If you've recently lost a pet yourself this drama might be cathartic for you, or it could traumatize you even more. It's your judgment call. If I was ever going to watch this drama again I'd watch up to episode 7 and forget about last episode 8, when the bad stuff happens. In any case, if you're a Seung Ho Yoo fan you'll probably want to watch it anyway because he's such a wonderful actor, but on the writing front this show cannot compare to his heavy hitter post-military drama Remember. I'd watch that first if I were you!
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