Manhole is about a man (Jaejoong) who discovers a way to time travel to the past by way of a manhole, and he tries to prevent the wedding that is about to happen of his long time friend (Uee) who he has feelings for.
I’m a huge lover of time travel dramas. And I especially love it when the story involves changing one thing in the past and having to deal with the unforeseen consequences of the butterfly effect in the present.
Manhole takes on this concept by allowing our leading man Bong Pil to go back in time, change something, and then return to the future and deal with the aftermath. Then it’s back to the past again for a do over and the cycle repeats.
Jaejoong plays Bong Pil. Pil is pretty much a bum who is jobless and loafs around a lot. Really, he’s a complete mess! He’s also been in love with Soo Jin for 20 years but just can’t seem to confess to her. He goes on quite the journey of growth because of his travels through time. I really enjoyed watching his character develop.
Jaejoong also really got into this role and delivered a very fun and heartfelt performance. Pil is a very energetic and off the wall sort of character. I was amazed at just how much time he spent frantically running around from one place to another throughout the drama. Jaejoong must have been so tired!
We then have Uee as Soo Jin, the woman of Pil’s affections. She’s been close to Pil since they were kids, but nothing more ever came of it. So much to Pil’s dismay, she’s now set to marry someone else while Pil is left on his own.
And Soo Jin’s fiancé would be Jae Hyun (Jang Mi Kwan). He seems like a generally all around nice guy who gets along with everyone. But Pil certainly doesn’t care for him. Is there more to him than meets the eye?
We then have Pil and Soo Jin’s other close friends. Jin Suk (Jung Hye Sung) is the kind hearted but tell it like is friend. Seok Tae (Baro) is the awkward friend who sort of fluctuates between being selfish and caring. They are certainly an interesting couple of characters!
We have three main supporting characters who are also in Pil’s group of friends that includes Jung Ae (Seo Min Ji), Dal Soo (Lee Sang Yi), and Goo Gil (Kang Hong Suk). They have their own little love triangle going on throughout the drama.
I fluctuated between finding their storyline a bit meh at times while other times it was quite cute. But mostly I liked that this drama added in this separate side story that was still very much incorporated within the main story.
The drama initially takes a couple episodes to really settle in, but then it develops a nice pattern for itself. Some episodes are very humorous while others end up being quite serious. The drama is pretty wacky in the beginning with an off the wall sense of humor. But this lessons as the characters and story are more fleshed out. This leaves us with a fairly nice romantic comedy with a fun story and heartwarming elements.
I really enjoyed all of the different timelines that Pil finds himself. The past was always interesting, but I especially liked how things would change in the present. Pil and everyone around him changes when he returns.
And some of the different stories are pretty crazy and certainly made it fun. We get to see the many different faces of Pil as his life changes in drastic ways. We just never knew what we were going to get. And I liked that!
Something potential watchers of this drama should be aware of is the way the love story is handled. This is one of those dramas where the leading man has pretty much every opportunity to confess his love to his lady but he either chickens out or something prevents it every single time.
Of course, this shouldn’t come as a surprise since the story structure of the drama is set up for this. The reason he repeatedly goes back in time is in order to set things right. But something has to keep messing it up or the story would be over. So if you find it very bothersome when the couple just won’t admit to their feelings, I would avoid this one. It’s a huge part of the story.
Another thing to point out is that the drama does have a very different tone in the last third or so. It’s a bit heavier and some of the plot twists get a bit crazy. There’s also plenty of opportunities for the characters to make nonsensical and stupid decisions. Be forewarned.
But mostly I would just recommend taking this drama for what it is…a fun and somewhat zany drama with a hefty dose of drama and feels. It’s the kind of drama you shouldn’t think to hard about and just sit back, go along for the ride, and enjoy it for what it is.
Something I should address though is that Manhole has a unique distinction among dramas, although not one to be particularly proud of. It happens to be the lowest rated drama from the big 3 networks ever in the history of the current ratings system in Korea. Many of its episodes clocked in at the pretty much unheard of range of 1%. It was pretty sombering to watch Manhole struggle in numbers so badly each week.
Although I do regularly follow drama ratings and always wish for a drama’s success, I’ve long known that the ratings in Korea are frequently not an indicator of quality or potential enjoyment possibilities. Plenty of dramas get terrible ratings but are amazing dramas. Other times, dramas do well that just aren’t that great. It usually just comes down to taste.
So why did Manhole get ratings that were so terrible compared to everything else out there? I really don’t have a good answer. Manhole started with terrible ratings and they just got worse and stayed worse throughout its run. Why? Was Pil’s character to unappealing in the beginning? The story and humor presented in to wacky of a way? Not big enough star power to draw attention to it? I’m just not sure.
In terms of quality, the drama is perfectly decent. Yeah, it has plenty of plot holes and inconsistencies, but there are plenty of other positive aspects to make up for it. And we know how many other dramas have this problem too, and it doesn’t usually effect the ratings to this extent. The drama doesn’t do anything spectacular, but it doesn’t do anything that terrible either. It’s mostly just an average drama with a person’s enjoyment of it just depending on their tastes. I guess it’s just one of life’s mysteries as to why this particular drama suffered from such a bad fate.
For the most part, I enjoyed Manhole. It was fun with moments of warmth and romance. The time travel element was certainly to my tastes, and I found that aspect very enjoyable. The characters all grew on me and were portrayed well by the actors. While it certainly won’t be to everyone’s tastes, I thankfully found it to be pretty enjoyable ride and had plenty of fun watching it.
My Rating: 7/10
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