Misaeng (An Incomplete Life) Review: Dreary Office Life Never Hurt so Good.

Well that was a beautifully crafted nightmare (and I wouldn’t have it any other way).  Seriously though, I’m so glad they didn’t “K-dramatize” this web-toon adaptation.  I was worried from the light n’ frothy faux-angst the previews made the show out to be.  Don’t get me wrong, such shows are certainly in my wheelhouse, but if TV shows were a meal then I shan’t be only consuming sweets and soju for all my nourishment needs. Diabetes runs in my family y’all*

diabeat this


Instead this show represents a lovely steak.  One that is so rich you must chew carefully and fully embrace the textured flavors….(Sorry not sorry to all those vegetarians out there). Okay enough food metaphors (especially since I literally had almonds mixed with yogurt for for dinner).

Let’s get down and dirty into the life of a newbie corporate drone!

Misaeng octopus geu-rae

I was pretty much instantly taken with Geu Rae (Im Shi-wan), his plight, and the path in which he will grow (hopefully). Perhaps this was because I had already watched the prequel short starring Shi-Wan (which surely helped him snag the role), and something about his portrayal (the earnest sad-sack) I instantly connected with.

im shiwan misaeng episode 1

Not to be outdone Kang So-Ra’s Young Yi was a much welcome and needed K-Drama heroine.  Self-assured, intelligent, and employed?!? I dig it. Besides the previously stated adjectives she also seems a fascinating complex character in a drama chalk full of them.

Kang So-Ra Young Yi misaeng

I feel I just barely scratched the surfaced as to why I think this drama is so special and has the potential to be one of the greats this year.  Besides the acting, this slice-of-life drama strives for realism in way that can be painful for the audience.  I feel this may turn some people off, but just caused me to be subconsciously nodding my head with how much truth and relatability the aspects of office life seemed.

Screenshot 2014-10-19 15.40.31

From the mise en scene within each frame to the grey palette and office politics, this universe is simultaneously buzzing, stressful, and a little sad.

im shi-wan office

Much of this should be attributed to the direction, where in the hands of a typical drama director, would just not have stuck the appropriate tone for me.  Throughout the first two episodes (and especially during the 90 minute pilot) I had to remind myself I wasn’t watching an independent film.  I could blather on about the show’s use of space within a scene or it’s minimalistic use of background music but me thinks I’ll save that for future show discussions.

Geu rie im shi wan alone

Quick Hits:

– I knew I was all in for this show when it literally became a movie length episode, but I never noticed as time apparently became a flat circle upon watching.

-Forgot to mention my favorite ahjussi Lee Sung Min, whom I’ve loved in everything from workplace drama Pasta to his lovely turn as King of Korea in King 2 Hearts.  Episode 2 of this drama just proved my love for him and that his character will pay off major dividends.

Screenshot 2014-10-19 15.42.02

-Also this show has to be in a top 5 list somewhere for most competent use of foreign languages.  Especially So-Ah, who nailed not only the English but the acting whilst speaking English (which is hard to do even if you are fluent in English speak.  Just watch Jung Ryeo Won in Sam-Soon.)  As someone who hate watched around 5 episodes of Doctor Stranger, I’m glad she’s given a more substantive and sane role that should match her star making turn in Sunny.

-The beginning bit in Jordan was epic, and severely reminded me of a similar chase scene (though it took place in Tangier) from The Bourne Ultimatum. Can’t wait to find out how timid Geu-Rie turns into Jason Bourne.

jason bourne bourneultimatumcap3

Misaeng27 MS01-00019

-Lest I forget all the Baduk which first percolated my interest in the drama way back in the Spring. Like the sprinkling of it during VO’s and flashbacks.  Hope it only becomes more integrated into his thought process in future episodes.

Screenshot 2014-10-19 15.39.05

-Any question as to who the “bad guys” are in 21st century pop culture? Always look for the one with the death sticks cigarettes in hand.  Notice in this scene they never actually show Baek-Ki (Kang Haneul) smoking, though he is certainly about to light up.  Interrrresting.

SMoking misaeng and incomplete life

-Thanks for sticking with this review, which was a lot more drab and plain than is per usual.(Hmmm seems familiar)  Because of my crazy hours I’ve stepped back from the blog for a while, but through my own office job have been writing more then ever.  Please excuse the lack of creativity as I adjust writing styles.  But fear not! I shall hopefully regain my weird-ass approach to reviews in no-time, and as always will edit as little as possible because I am lazy like that. *Begins to think I’m not working hard enough* Oye. Well thanks show for now causing me to question everything work related. See you all after my next existential crisis!

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