Title: This is My First Life (이번 생은 처음이라 or Ibeon Saengeun Cheoeumira) (2017)
Also Known As: Because This is My First Life or This Life is Our First
Created by: Studio Dragon
Written by: Yoon Nan-Joong
Starring: Lee Min-Ki, Jung So-Min, Esom, Park Byung-Eun, Kim Ga-Eun, Kim Min-Seok, Kim Eung-Soo, Moon Hee-Kyung, Kim Byeong-Ok, Kim Sun-Young, Noh Jong-Hyun, Jeon Hye-Won, Kim Min-Kyu, Lee Chung-Ah, Yoon Bo-Mi, and Hwang Seok-Jeong
Country of Origin: South Korea
Original Language(s): Korean
No. of Series: 1
No. of Episodes: 16
Genres: Romantic Comedy
Running Time: 60-80 minutes
Original Network: tvN
Nam Se-Hee (Lee Min-Ki) is a single man in his early 30’s. He has chosen to not marry. He owns his home, but he owes a lot on his mortgage.
Yoon Ji-Ho (Jung So-Min) is a single woman in her early 30’s. She does not own a home and envies those that do. She has given up on dating due to her financial struggles.
Yoon Ji-Ho begins to live at Nam Se-Hee’s house. They become housemates.
This is My First Life is another Korean drama where we must not judge a drama by its ratings. Sometimes, even the low ratings didn’t guarantee that the drama has a bad storyline. I’ve learnt that much after watching Hello Monster (2015), and now This is My First Life gave me another insight of the terms. I’ve heard a few things—a few good things—about this drama and therefore decided to watch it. And although the ratings of This is My First Life is pretty low compared to Reply 1988 (2015-2016) or Goblin: The Lonely and Great God (2016-2017), which basically aired on the same TV network, This is My First Life still a drama that worth to watch. It tells about a story from different point of view of careers, marriages, relationships, and basically about life. By the second week, the ratings were already doubling up. They’re not considered as high—or at least, from my perspective—but it did show how much the story of this drama interested many viewers.
Lee Min-Ki is basically not a new actor but this is the first time I’ve heard of him and the first time I saw him. Lee Min-Ki’s role in This is My First Life is his first leading role in 10 years. Well, it’s not surprising because, in 10 years, he only played roles in films rather than TV series. He did star as a guest role for two episodes in Shut Up Flower Boy Band (2012), but that’s it. So I’m guessing he’s not exactly well-known to Korean drama lovers. However, with all of his experience in many films, he has proven that his acting skill no need to be second-guessed.
In This is My First Life, Lee Min-Ki played the role of Nam Se-Hee. Basically, Nam Se-Hee doesn’t seem to show many emotions. His facial expressions were rather blank. That’s why his colleagues always say that he has no emotion or whatsoever. His character is such an enigma. However, I don’t think it’s entirely true because we can actually see his expressions and emotion from his eyes. I think it’s because Lee Min-Ki delivered a great performance in portraying Nam Se-Hee. The way his eyes blinked or the flicker in his gaze or the twitch on his lip, everything was executed wonderfully by Lee Min-Ki. Nam Se-Hee is not a likeable person at first, but as you know him more, you will gradually like him. He has rules and very strict about it, but he is also very kind. He is very thoughtful and full of compassion. He showed his emotions in his own ways. He is considerate of others in a way that not everyone understands. To sum up, he’s unique and quirky.
If Lee Min-Ki can’t play the character well, you won’t be able to see the difference between Nam Se-Hee’s variety of emotions. But thankfully, Lee Min-Ki’s performance is outstanding and therefore brought the character came alive. It seemed rather easy to play a character with micro expressions but actually, it’s not that easy. In fact, it’s far from easy. It means you have to show the emotions in another way and the other ways must be able to make the viewers differentiate the emotions of the characters. It’s not an easy task yet Lee Min-Ki did it flawlessly. Even with just his gaze, we would know whether he’s jealous or worried or angry or sad or happy. Because Nam Se-Hee showed very minimum facial expressions, it’s always very sweet when he actually smiled. And when he showed his emotion, like when he was sad and heartbroken, my heart did ache too. It’s so sad and strikes to the heart that I can’t help myself not to cry along. Somehow, with his minimum facial expressions, he can still look ridiculous and make us laugh.
Like Lee Min-Ki, I’ve never seen any Jung So-Min’s dramas before so I don’t know what to expect from her. However, I am glad to say that I am very satisfied with her performance as Yoon Ji-Ho. Ji-Ho is warm, innocent, rather naïve, yet strong and like Se-Hee, she has her own principles. And like Se-Hee, Ji-Ho is also very quirky and compassionate. Jung So-Min did a very good job of portraying her character. Her facial expressions were spot on. Yoon Ji-Ho is as interesting and as unique as Nam Se-Hee. Her character is not the usual character you would meet in other Korean dramas yet somehow her character seemed rather realistic. There are so many times that made me admire Yoon Ji-Ho. Her principle was something that can be sampled. She seemed to be innocent and naïve but she was brave. Jung So-Min embodied all these personalities and made the character Yoon Ji-Ho seemed real. Not to mention Jung So-Min managed to show her character’s naiveness and innocent look from her facial expressions. She really has done great in portraying Yoon Ji-Ho.
With both characters have a unique personality, one will and must be wondering how they made good chemistry. Surprisingly, they do not only have good chemistry but a great one indeed. Their facial expressions can say that much. Even with their small gestures, both of them can show us how much they care for each other. Especially when we are talking about Nam Se-Hee. Don’t judge him with his lack of facial expression because his small gestures speak a lot of how much he cares for Ji-Ho.
I used to say that Hong Ji-Hong and Yoo Hye-Jung in Doctors (2016) and Jang Jae-Yeol and Ji Hae-Soo in It’s Okay That’s Love (2014) were the couples that unlike other couples. It’s true—until I watch This is My First Life. Nam Se-Hee and Yoon Ji-Ho are a very unique couple—perhaps eccentric is more like it. Both characters were rather weird if I can put it that way, but somehow they worked together really well and connected perfectly. Their principles made them so unique yet so compatible with each other. Nam Se-Hee and Yoon Ji-Ho didn’t have romantic moments like other couples, but I assure they showed it in their own way. They are very sweet in their own ways. Their romantic relationship would stir your heart and bother your thoughts. Nam Se-Hee’s and Yoon Ji-Ho’s love story is definitely unlike any other love story that I’ve seen or read before. Sure, contract marriage and housemates are cliché stories. We know that the couple will eventually fall for each other. However, it’s how the writers made the process of Nam Se-Hee and Yoon Ji-Ho fall in love with each that made their love story unique and unusual. Their oddity is what made the viewers love about this couple. Not to mention their love for Arsenal Football Club is kind of cute too.
Aside from the love story of Nam Se-Hee and Yoon Ji-Ho, This is My First Life also gave us other love stories as well. At first, I didn’t think I would wait for other love stories. Or should I say, I didn’t really care. However, as the drama went on, the other love stories were also interesting enough to be followed. Ji-Ho has two closest friends, Woo Soo-Ji played by Esom and Yang Ho-Rang played by Kim Ga-Eun. Soo-Ji never wanted to marry. She dated a lot of guys but never intended to stay long, let alone getting married. She looked tough from the outside but apparently, she has a soft side on the inside that rarely seen by others. She then met Ma Sang-Goo, played by Park Byung-Eun, who was Nam Se-Hee’s boss and long-time best friend. Sang-Goo is totally different from Soo-Ji. He is funny yet caring. No matter how many times Soo-Ji tried to intimidate him, he never gave up. He really wanted to be something more to Soo-Ji—not just some guy she slept with. The chemistry between Soo-Ji and Sang-Goo is very fun and funny. It’s a good chemistry.
Meanwhile, Yang Ho-Rang has dated Sim Won-Seok, played by Kim Min-Suk, for seven years now and they have their own problems in terms of marriage. One party wanted it so much, while the other party didn’t. With this sort of long-term relationship, they must face hurdles like never before. Their roller-coaster relationship was put on a challenge once more. Both Kim Ga-Eun and Kim Min-Suk portrayed their characters really well. However, after seeing Nam Se-Hee with Yoon Ji-Ho and Soo-Ji with Sang-Goo, the love story between Ho-Rang and Won-Seok seemed a little bit ordinary. Yes, their love story is more realistic and more possibly happening in real world. But that’s just it. That’s what made their love story kind of ordinary. However, you still felt sorry for both sides. You would understand the problem from Won-Seok’s point of view yet at the same time, you would understand Hong-Rang’s problem as well. Still, when their relationship was facing climax problem, it still felt sad and ached your heart. Kim Ga-Eun and Kim Min-Suk really deepened their characters well and therefore, the pain felt real too to the viewers. Nonetheless, my favourite love story is still between Nam Se-Hee and Yoon Ji-Ho.
“Most of us misunderstand others. We shouldn’t say ‘I know how you feel’. The reason I’m hopeful is because I know people have their limits. And unless we try hard, we can’t understand each other. Love exists in this kind of world. And as long as you love someone, we need to try hard. Because trying hard for other person makes life something worth trying.” – Yoon Ji-Ho
I like the friendship between Ji-Ho, Soo-Ji, and Ho-Rang too. Although the drama didn’t really highlight their friendship, we can still see how strong their friendship is, including the friendship between Se-Hee and Sang-Goo, and the friendship between Sang-Goo and Won-Seok. Later on, Se-Hee and Won-Seok also developed a unique friendship that quite adorable, in my opinion.
There’s one particular character that I was interested. He was Yeon Bok-Nam who was portrayed by Kim Min-Kyu. The first time he showed up, I thought it would make things more interesting between Nam Se-Hee and Yoon Ji-Ho. It did actually, though only for a couple of episodes. Kim Min-Kyu played his character really well. His sweet smile and suspicious gaze made his character looked mysterious. I was hoping he took a more major role in Se-Hee’s and Ji-Ho’s life but I do understand that there were more other stories to tell about these two characters than just about Bok-Nam. Still, Bok-Nam’s character did make things more interesting in our two main characters’ lives.
But of course, the scene-stealer is actually the cat. The white furry cat owned by Nam Se-Hee is super adorable. I know that her purring voice was set up to adjust the scene, but I don’t mind it at all. At any rate, it made the cat—named Kitty, later on, Woori—cuter than ever. I never fancy a cat before. If I have to choose between a dog or a cat as my pet, I would always choose dog. However, if I ever get a cat as cute as Kitty and as obedient as her, I won’t mind getting a cat myself. I don’t know what type of cat breed Kitty is since I’m not an expert in that field. But, from what I’ve looked into, I think Kitty is either Neva Masquerade or Birman. If you do know about it, please let me know! Anyway, Kitty never failed to be a scene-stealer each time she showed up on screen because the writers, the director, and the characters really care about her. She is super cute! Like, seriously.
“It’s not like you know all about today just because you lived yesterday.” – Yoon Ji-Ho
In terms of story, This is My First Life has a very attracted one. It’s kind of cliché and not uncommon but somehow it works well and packed uniquely and beautifully. I’ve mentioned it before that the love story begins with housemates and contract marriage. Two things that weren’t uncommon in drama world to start a love story. However, the development of the two main characters is what made This is My First Life unique yet beautiful. There are so many love and life lessons that were given in the drama. I believe, those lessons somewhat close to the heart because people did experience those experiences. Those lessons can relate to the viewers and therefore, it’s not surprising if anyone who watched this drama will end up loving it. This is My First Life gave us how people see and think about marriage from many different angles. This drama has taught us that not everything in life is perfect and we still have to live our life to the fullest. If you do that, you will find your happiness. Seriously, each episode gives us many insights and moral lessons. It’s just amazing.
At first, This is My First Life is about two people tried to cohabitant to make their life easier and convenient. Things got evolved from there and many past began to unfold, especially about Nam Se-Hee who is somewhat a mystery himself. I mean, Yoon Ji-Ho is quite an open book herself yet you can’t really guess what’s on Nam Se-Hee’s mind especially when he only showed minimum expressions. His relationship with his parents was rather curious as well. But not to worry, everything will be unfolded in good time.
This is My First Life is a romantic-comedy drama, so I expect a good laugh from it. With the character of Nam Se-Hee that so stiff and Yoo Ji-Ho that kind of innocent and naïve, this drama has succeeded in giving me some laughs. I did think how someone like Se-Hee could do soma romantic things or gesture. Then again, never judge people by their looks because Se-Hee did pull off so many romantic gestures. Of course he did in his own ways yet those gestures were still very sweet. Other characters also helped to make the story fresh, fun, and funny.
I don’t think I have to discuss the setting or the costume because they were all beautifully set by the production team. Even the hairstylists and makeup artists have done their parts really well. I should say that I love the soundtracks. I’ve counted at least there are four songs that I love. I like the fact how the songs perfectly synced with the scenes, making each scene more alive and touchy and even fun.
Like every drama that I’ve seen, there’s always some drawback. There’s always something that I end up not liking it. I know we can never please everyone but I believe the writers did the very best. However, there are some things that quite not made sense to me. Like the last two episodes. Even though Lee Min-Ki gave his best performance with his heart-aching expressions, the story made no sense to me. I kept wondering how the story got there. Everything became so sudden. When things got better between Nam Se-Hee and Yoon Ji-Ho, all of sudden, everything went apart. Ji-Ho’s character seemed to be out of character, not because Jung So-Min’s acting skill was falling apart but rather because the writers seemed to make Ji-Ho out of her real quirky character. I can’t say much about it because it will spoil the story but to me, it just didn’t make sense and very much confusing. Nevertheless, I wish the writers didn’t make it that way. At any rate, the ending is pretty much satisfying with all the happy endings for everyone. This is My First Life is still a wonderful drama that worth to watch. It is even a must-watch drama. It’s nearly perfect if not because the last two episodes, but regardless, I will still think This is My First Life a perfect drama with a total-packaged story. It’s quirky, it’s weird, yet it’s very beautifully told.
I give This is My First Life 9.5 out of 10 stars.