Man To Man aka ManxMan
JTBC (2017) 16 Episodes
Espionage, Melodrama, Grade: B
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA

I watched this series solely for actor Park Hae Jin (My Love From Another Star, Doctor Stranger, Cheese In The Trap) because I am a huge fan of this actor. I don't usually gravitate to espionage tales like this one, though, for instance I was always pretty bored by James Bond films while growing up, feeling they were written more for men than women, and this series Man To Man didn't do anything to change my mind on that score. I had to laugh reading reviews from people who watched this as their first Korean drama and were blown away by it, giving it 5 stars out of 5. I couldn't help but feel sorry for anyone seeing THIS as their first Korean drama when there have been so many other K-dramas made than this one that were pure masterpieces. This show barely fits into the passable category, despite my love for Park Hae Jin. Sure, it had some American money attached to it, so it had slick production values and cool location shots, but it lacked heart. Sophistication without heart just leaves the quality long term K-drama viewer with an empty heart by the end. I certainly would never watch this one again.

It also didn't help matters that the most beautiful woman in the cast, actress
Chae Jung An (Coffee Prince, The Prime Minister and I), was second female lead, again; it seems to be the bane of her existence and I just don't get it. She is an excellent actress and she's gorgeous, and needs to be the leading lady in some show before she's out of her 30's, for heaven's sake! Instead, the first female lead was the mousy looking, saucer-eyed Kim Min Jung who is definitely an acquired taste in both the looks and acting department. I guess they were going for quirky instead of gorgeous but it simply fell flat for me. Sorry, Park Hae Jin deserved better. When he hugged her it looked like he was going through the motions, like hugging a sister.

Heartthrob Park Hae Jin as a
James Bond type of Special Agent

I also had to laugh at the comments from first time K-drama viewers of this show saying "I didn't know any of the other cast members". ROAR! I knew each and every single one of them by name because I've seen hundreds and hundreds of K-dramas and seen each of these actors in other dramas that were much finer than this one. To be sure, I was happy to see some old favorites, like Yeon Jung Hun (Sad Love Story, Mask), and Park Sung Woong (Baker King Kim Tak Goo, Remember), and Chae Jung An (Coffee Prince, The Prime Minister and I), and Lee Si Un (Hyde, Jekyll and I, Remember, King 2 Hearts), and Jung Man Sik (King 2 Hearts, Me Too Flower!), and Jang Hyun Sung (Dear My Friends, 3 Days), and Kang Shin Il (Descendants of the Sun, I Hear Your Voice), as well as many others; in one production, it felt like Old Home Week, but still, if the story isn't romantic or compelling I simply won't be that drawn to it, or leave it with any real regret.

This series DID provide a glimpse of sexy actor Nam Goong Min (villain in
Remember) who had a cameo in episode 10 playing a sleazeball actor (what else?) who put the moves on the leading female character (did he need stronger glasses?), and also I smiled when I saw scenes with the American actor who played the dastardly Argus in Descendants of the Sun named David McInnis. Still, all the extra perks didn't make me jump up and down and cry, "This is the best show I've ever seen!" I guess, when all is said and done, that Number One Honor still goes to my very top favorite, Chuno

The Story: Events begin in England where a terrorist has taken over a children's school bus and threatens to blow it up, with himself and the kids inside. A huge SWAT team is placed all around the bus, on the ground and on rooftops of nearby city buildings, including one "ghost agent" named Seol Woo Kim (Park Hae Jin) also known as Agent K. The orders are not to shoot until the command is given but Seol Woo becomes impatient, thinks he can kill the terrorist before he can light the bomb inside the bus, takes aim and against orders shoots the terrorist in the brain. The children are freed and smile at Seol Woo, who smiles back, but he is then arrested for going against orders.


Eventually he is let go and is on the prowl again waiting for his next job, meanwhile it's made obvious in the script that he's a ladies' man, beds them, gets what he can out of them before he decides he's had enough and takes off, one time even staging his own death so he can convince a Mafia boss' daughter he died. Black ops live in the shadows sometimes out of necessity rather than choice. At this point I knew what was coming next, and I was right: a light "romance" with a kooky girl he ordinarily wouldn't look at twice. K-dramas do this all the time to male characters who have hints of shadiness: they start to humanize them by making them fall in love with a gamin type of female whom people can relate to.

A new kind of Korean facial mask? LOL!

He then is hired as a bodyguard to a famous Hallyu Wave actor named Yeo Woon Gwang (Park Sung Woong) who is typecast as villains in K-dramas and films (think Shin Sung Rok). At first they butt heads a lot but eventually their relationship mellows and even becomes a humorous 'bromance'. Then Seol Woo comes into contact with his female fan club director named Cha Do Ha (Kim Min Jung) and they too at first don't get along either but then Seol Woo begins to appreciate her frank, blunt ways and succumbs to her charms (if you can believe that I have some great oceanfront property to sell you in Colorado real cheap!). 
Then secret agent K gets involved in uncovering criminal activity orchestrated by a politician named Mo Seung Jae (Yeon Jung Hun) who has a secret family, a wife named Song Mi Eun (Chae Jung Ah) and a little son whom he rarely sees but seems to truly love, in his own way. An elaborate plan is orchestrated by Seol Woo to bring this guy down, and on national television during an interview, to boot! Others who were ordering him to complete illegal activities, like Im Suk Hoon (Kang Shin Il), are trapped and brought down, too.

So Seol Woo basically uncovers all the bad guys because of his superior intellect and special investigative skills, not to mention his savvy understanding of technology. Then he has to decide if he will live a normal life and be happy with the kooky Do Ha, or go on the road again throughout the world tracking down criminals and ensuring peace in political worlds snared by corruption. Which do you think he choses? Is his love for the mouse THAT strong? ;)

Yeon Jung Hun & Park Hae Jin

Again, this is an okay show if you love its star Park Hae Jin, but if you've watched a lot of espionage films and shows over time there really isn't anything new or exciting here that makes this one unique and special. Except him. :)