Drama

Currently Watching: Tomorrow (Not Your Usual Fantasy Kdrama)

WARNING! Light spoiler in First Impressions section.
No spoilers on the cases and the main plot. Episodes covered: 1 to 6.

What do you expect from your new job?

Friendly colleagues? Best working environment? Impressive staff? A good boss? 
Or a new look?

INTRODUCTION

I was super excited when I heard about Tomorrow when it was first announced. Urban fantasy is my favorite subgenre of fantasy dramas, including uncanny business in Kdramas which I watched almost all of them. If you don’t know what uncanny business is, you can read Uncanny Business – A New Sub-Genre of K-dramas written by goxia. This drama has a similar setup to other uncanny business urban fantasy Kdramas already aired: Mystic Pop-Up Bar (2020) and The Uncanny Counter (2020). However, after watching the first six episodes I noticed that Tomorrow is different from other urban fantasy Kdramas (hence the article’s title). So, let’s check out why this drama is unique and worth checking out!

As a disclaimer, my article is based on what is presented in the drama. I’m aware that there are differences between the webtoon and the drama. Although I did not read the original work, I browsed through it. I will include some interesting information from the webtoon in this article.

T O M O R R O W

Native Title: 내일 (Naeil)

Genres: Action, Drama, Fantasy

Episode: 16  |  Duration: 60 min

Schedule: 1-4-22 to 21-5-22 

every Friday and Saturday

Where to watch: 

Trailer: Netflix    |   Drama: Netflix

Adapted from Webtoon “Tomorrow” (내일) by Llama (라마) – right picture


SYNOPSIS

Choi Joon Woong seeks a job, but it’s hard for him to get hired. One night, he witnesses a man trying to end his life and decides to stop him. He gets acquainted with grim reapers Goo Ryun and Im Ryung Goo, who belong to the Risk Management Team of Jumadeung, an exclusive afterlife franchise. The team’s purpose is to prevent people from committing suicide. After Joon Woong ends up in a coma and becomes half-human and half-spirit, he gets his first job as the newest member of the team (modified synopsis from MyDramaList).

What does the drama title ‘Tomorrow’ mean?

Tomorrow is a bold choice. Suicide is…


Below I will introduce you to our four main characters and some supporting characters. For the main characters, I only put their ages and their position in Jumadeung. More about them in the First Impressions section. On every drama’s main characters I also included their webtoon’s character images. Did you notice the similarities and differences between their drama’s versus webtoon’s images?

MAIN CHARACTERS

Kim Hee Sun as Goo Ryun

Rowoon  as Choi Joon Woong

Risk Management (RM) Team Manager
Age: 420 
New Recruit, RM Team
Age: 29

Yun Ji On as Im Ryung Goo

Lee Soo Hyuk as Park Joong Gil

RM Team Assistant Manager
Age: 154
Escort Team Manager
Age: Unknown

SUPPORTING CHARACTERS

The charismatic Jade Hwang (Kim Hae Sook), the Jumadeung chairwoman.

The loyal assistants. Left: Jang Jae Hee (Kim Nu Ri) and right: Jeon Soo In (Moon Seo Youn), both are Escort Team members.

The supportive family. From left to right: Joon Woong’s mother (Yoon Yoo Sun), Joon Woong’s younger sister Choi Min Young (Kim Seo Yeon), and  Joon Woong’s best friend Namgoong Jae Soo (Ryu Sung Rok).

The First Impressions below contain light spoilers. I put key points under each sub-header. If you don’t want to be spoiled, you can skim through the key points. The Technicalities do not contain spoilers.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

THEME: SUICIDE AWARENESS

Key points:  • warning and trigger tags • national issue  mix of seriousness and humor

The core difference between this drama and other fantasy dramas is the theme of suicide. At the beginning of the episode, Netflix put out the warning above. If you’re struggling with the issue, please visit wannatalkaboutit.com, the website on the warning message provided by Netflix, or contact your local suicide prevention agencies and mental health professionals. Do not watch the drama merely because your favorite actors are in it. 

The suicide issues presented in this drama are case-by-case. Every episode begins with the title representing the case. One suicide case with its trigger(s) may be different from the others. Please skip a certain case if it makes you feel uncomfortable or upset, because it’s about a sensitive or very personal subject. On its site, Netflix summarizes each episode under its title. You can figure out what the case and its cause are about. I won’t reveal each case in the article. Let me know in the comment below if you want to know the specific issue of each title/case.

This drama is also different from the other urban fantasy Kdramas for its social commentary on the suicide issue. In episode 1, during the board meeting, Jade Hwang spills the statistic in the country: in Korea (I assume she means South Korea) an average of 40 people kill themselves every day, totaling to 15.000 people annually. According to the drama, the country’s suicide rate is the number one in the world. 

The drama also covers misconceptions about people who commit suicide and the mishandling of suicide prevention. I will talk about the misconceptions and mishandling issues in the later subsections.

Even if we don’t live in South Korea nor struggle with the suicide issue, by watching the drama, we become aware that:

  • Even if everything looks fine in someone’s life and the person doesn’t seem suicidal, doesn’t mean the person is not struggling with the issue.
  • Someone you know well may contemplate to commit suicide. Even if you think that the person is strong mentally.
  • Pay special attention to those who have lost their loved ones and haven’t been able to move on.
  • We need to speak uplifting words to people more, who knows, we may be the last ones whom they talk to.

Although the issue is sensitive, it doesn’t mean that this drama is only about gloom and doom. It balances with the thrill of action to accomplish each mission, plenty of humor, and supernatural solutions that remind us that this drama’s genre is fantasy not psychology, thus not applicable in real life.

Uplifting Epilogues

Another way this drama tries to balance between two suicide cases is through light-hearted or uplifting epilogues in every episode. These epilogues look like deleted scenes or fillers, but purposely put in the end of each episode to alleviate the heavy feeling and change our tears to smile or laughter. Below is my favorite epilogue:

How to be a good boss the cheap way

Continuing from the first GIF, after giving a new body, 
the boss gifted her new employee a new hoodie.
Aguccim (아구찜 ) is a Korean spicy braised monkfish dish.

JUMADEUNG: THE MISCONCEPTION ON SUICIDE

Key points:  • business-oriented • misconception on suicide  the elite Escort Team

Jumadeung is an exclusive afterlife franchise operating in South Korea. Jumadeung (주마등) means kaleidoscope (on the webtoon is translated as Flashback). Employees who work here are dead souls. The work benefit is a guarantee for a better next life. It’s hard to get a job in Jumadeung because of high competition. Therefore, the dead who are accepted work hard like crazy while waiting to be reincarnated. It makes Jumadeung a business-oriented corporation. Even deaths and suicides are just numbers for them.

The drama believes that it takes a long time to be reincarnated. Many Jumadeung employees have died for a long time, even hundreds of years. They have lost touch with humanity. They look down to suicidal humans and souls who killed themselves. The drama believes people that took their own lives go straight to hell. The misconception of suicide is shown along with statements from employees other than the RM Team.

There are six teams operating in Jumadeung, each is led by team managers as shown in the above image. We won’t see much of the other team’s activities, only the RM Team and the Escort Team. The Escort Team is the elite team in Jumadeung. They are the true grim reapers who escort newly dead souls to their designated destination. Many employees want to be transferred to that team. Of course, when you have a team manager as exquisite as Lee Soo Hyuk, uhm, I meant Park Joong Gil. However, he strongly opposes the RM Team, since he despises suicide and suicidal people. The RM Team often clashes with the Escort Team. 


THE RISK MANAGEMENT TEAM: THE MISHANDLING OF SUICIDE

Key points:  • the underdogs • mishandling of cases • understaffed and overworked 

During the board member meeting, Jade Hwang doesn’t only inform about the statistics of the suicide numbers, but also that South Korea has the lowest number of birth rate in the world. With the highest suicide rate and the lowest birth rate, it means doom for the country’s existence and Jumadeung will go out of business. Besides, the hell is overcrowded.

The Risk Management (RM) Team’s establishment is Jade Hwang’s idea. She even chose Goo Ryun, who used to work for the Escort Team, to be the team leader. But the other managers don’t like Goo Ryun, because she comes from hell! Before accepting her into Jumadeung, Jade Hwang and Goo Ryun made an agreement that was not revealed yet.

When she worked for the Escort Team, Goo Ryun picked dead souls who are bad people, so she could beat them up before escorting them to hell. But she has compassion and understanding towards people who killed themselves. It doesn’t mean that she knows how to handle the cases, though. Goo Ryun drives her clients towards the edge, pushes them off the building, and challenges them to do what they want to do. Sometimes these methods work, but most of the time they don’t. The team is known to have a high failure rate of their missions. It means their client successfully killed themselves, and the team becomes the target of mockery by the Escort Team that comes to pick up the dead souls later.

The team has an old and dilapidated office left over from the Escort Team. Since other employees don’t like the RM Team, it’s understandable that it is understaffed. Nobody wants to join the team because they think it’s depressing. Only Im Ryung Goo joined Goo Ryun, so he became her assistant manager. Probably, because she lets him work only 8 hours. Since the RM Team deals with living humans, they have to have human bodies and execute their mission with a lot of physical work, as seen in the GIF below. Watch the drama also to find out what new face Ryung Goo gave Joon Woong, when Joon Woong goes on a mission where his face can be recognized.


JOON WOONG: THE UNDERSTANDING OF SUICIDE

Key points:  • different from the webtoon human touch • a newbie learning the ropes

After 6 episodes, Joon Woong becomes my favorite drama character. Not only because of Rowoon, in fact, this is the first time I watched the actor. But the drama makes Joon Woong a sweetheart and a comedic relief. First of all, the production team changed his background. In the webtoon, Joon Woong comes from a rich family and graduated from a prestigious university. In the drama, Joon Woong comes from a working class family. His father died when he was little, and his mother raised him and his younger sister by running a little restaurant. Joon Woong is 29 years old, but he’s never had a real job before. Since he’s never worked part-time, I can assume he finished his university in four years straight at age 22. Can you believe seven years looking for a job? Not that he never tried though, he also took many attempts to make him marketable in job search. Eventually, he mostly stayed home. He’s probably depressed to a certain degree, as seen in the GIF below.

Having had hard life being unemployed, Joon Woong can easily empathize with the RM’s clients. He is a grim reaper with a warm human touch. Joon Woong is called ‘half-n-half’, although it’s a derogatory nickname by the Jumadeung worker because he’s half dead half alive.  He is also a very compassionate character, often helping people although causes himself trouble!

GIF made from JRuost YouTube

A lot of viewers don’t like his character, though. He is said to be childish, interferes with the RM’s mission, and does things against his boss’ order, causes Goo Ryun trouble, and even almost loses his life. However, we need to understand being the RM Team new member is his first-time job ever. Becoming a grim reaper is an odd job, anyway. He still has to learn the ropes, and as a rookie, it’s normal he makes a lot of mistakes. For example, during a rescue mission that takes him 20 years past, he takes a detour to meet his whole family. He even carries his little self and complains that he needs to lose weight, lol! He almost makes Goo Ryun and himself too late to go back to the recent time!


TECHNICALITIES

Any drama recap is not complete without giving you the technicalities of the drama. However, I will not spend too much time explaining it, since the suicide theme is what makes this drama unique. 

Acting. Fantastic acting of the lead actors. The acting of the supporting characters is okay, but I want to applaud the guest actors, especially the ones who become the mission target. Ranging from newbies to veteran actors, every actor acted superbly, bringing the depth of their respective character’s life issues and the desperation that lead them to suicide attempts. I cannot spoil you who they are, but you will know them yourself when you watch the drama!

If you know your end is near, you see simple things differently

The characters sitting on a torn down porch watching the sunset 
symbolizing waiting for the end of a crumbled life.

Cinematography. The cinematography in Tomorrow is just stunning. Although some are simple but meaningful. One example is as shown in the picture above.

Costume/Makeup. How can the grim reapers be so stylish? See them by yourself, in suits and different costumes to match the era! And our Female Lead, Goo Ryun, rocks with high boots, flashy jacket, pink hair and makeup, and spunky attitude!

Setting. Besides the real life and Jumadeung modern setting, there is also the 90s era (South Korea during the IMF crisis), the Korean War, and of course our beloved Joseon era. Above is the Korean War setting, complete with the noir feeling of black and white cinematography, and our grim reapers wearing fedora hats and black trench coats costume befitting the era.

Special effects. Since this is an urban fantasy drama with grim reapers having special powers, the special effects heavily used CGI to show the defying gravity, time, and space. You can watch the trailers to see glimpses of great special effects.

Original Sound Tracks. So far there are four songs used up to episode 6. I will specifically talk about “Red Light”, a song used as the closing theme in the early episodes, in the pink box below. Below are the MVs, all credited to J. Ruost from YouTube.

  • Ahn Da Eun “Don’t Leave Me, My Love” 내 곁에서 떠나가지 말아요
  • Shin Su Ran “My Loneliness Calls You” 나의 외로움이 널 부를 때
  • Kang Seung Yoon “Summer Flower” 여름꽃

Singer actor Kang Seung Yoon appeared as a guest role, as seen in the right image. If you haven’t watched the drama, click on “Summer Flower” above to listen to the song. Even without understanding the lyrics, you can feel the melancholy in his poignant voice. Once you watch the episode where he sang this song, you will be in tears!

Closing Theme: “Red Light” by Lee Seung Hyub 이승협 /(J. DON) 

The closing theme of this drama has become my favorite recently. This upbeat rap song is sung by the singer actor Lee Seung Hyub (left picture), who also acted as a supporting actor in the newly airing drama Sh**ting Stars. The title Red Light in the drama refers to the app used by the Risk Management Team to receive messages about anyone they need to save. The title Red Light in the song refers to ‘stop and give others a warning/ask for help’. Below is my modification of several translated versions:

When a simple hug feels warmer than words
The pressure of life in a fast moving world, any slight mistake made may cause big risk. You’re stressed and afraid of everything. Nobody cares for you, you feel empty. Keep fighting until you win. Take a deep breath and face tomorrow. Your path may be difficult but don’t stay still. There is no simple answer to an ending. Ask for help, even though the solution is only short-lived, keep asking. If one issue follows another, keep standing. When you press on, once you look back, your issue seems passing by and disappearing. When I’m in my 20s, my strong belief starts to break. Some issues already reach the bottom. In that case, a simple hug feels warmer than words. The day keeps moving. My youth is going away with uncertainties. I keep crying on each new day. Ask for help, don’t fight by yourself. Let others know what’s in your heart so they can understand. Let’s go!

MY FORETHOUGHT

After watching the first six episodes, there are still questions and anticipation for the next ten episodes. These are not spoilers, only somewhat I/we hope or don’t want to see:

Main plot: Aah, it’s cooking now. Secrets are gradually revealed. Hints are spilled here and there already from Episode 1 to 6. I’m excited to see the personal stories of our main characters will be revealed in the upcoming episodes!

Subplots: When I watched the first four episodes, I thought that the cases and how they handle them would be similar. I was wrong. The rest of the cases so far differ from the previous one. So, it depends on your liking, you may prefer one than the others. You can skip it, but you miss the hints of the main plot and what happens to the main characters.

Scriptwriting: Some viewers already complained about some disjoints in the story. As the suicide issues are tackled case by case, it seems each case is written by different scriptwriters. There are three script writers whose previous works are unknown. The webtoon author, although aware of the changes, is not involved in the script writing. The cases in the drama seem to be presented differently than in the webtoon that needs synchronization by the three writers and the story from the webtoon. Let’s hope these scriptwriters create a seamless plot.

Character development: If you don’t like the harsh Goo Ryun or the childish Joon Woong in the earlier episodes, don’t worry, there is growth in our main characters. They might dislike each other in the beginning, but they will eventually form a strong bond. 

The last time I saw them, Goo Ryun and Lim Ryung Goo already act 
like a big sister (noona) and a big brother (hyung) towards Joon Woong:

Noona: “Did you get into a fight?” Hyung: “Did you not fight back?”

Park Joon Gil: Many viewers, especially Lee Soo Hyuk’s fans, wonder why so far his character doesn’t show up as many as the other three main characters do. I have a hunch Park Joong Gil will play a more significant role in the future episode and we will see more of him!

Ending: As the webtoon is not completed yet, everyone, do you think they will make an open ending with a possibility of season 2? Damn it, I only hope that the ending of this drama will be satisfying enough, that if they never make a sequel, we’ll be at ease.

Choi Joon Woong: And what will happen to our maknae Joon Woong when he wakes up from coma? Maknae in Korean means ‘little one’, the youngest one in the group. Goo Ryun starts calling Joon Woong maknae as the term of endearment. What will happen to the bond of our trio at the end of the drama?

MAGNIFICENT SEOUL AT NIGHT

“Don’t you want to spend your last day in a meaningful way?” 

(Goo Ryun, Episode 6)

CONCLUSION

That’s all, everyone, my attempt trying to feature the uniqueness of that this newest urban fantasy Kdrama. You probably feel that this article is chaotic with both lighthearted and melancholic topics. What I wrote expresses the what exactly shown in Tomorrow, suicide cases with delicate matters, mix with humor and mystery. We face the roller coaster of emotions. Oh yeah, don’t forget to prepare a box of tissue, because sooner or later you will cry!

Lastly, similar with the light-hearted epilogues at the end of the episodes, below is a lighthearted image to end my article!

Thank you for reading and let’s go watching! Saranghae… ❤️


AcknowledgementsThank you to the editors who edited this article. Credits:  The images and GIFs are linked to their sources; otherwise they are taken from the drama page on MDL, screenshots, koreanwebtoons fandom, and MBCSelf-made GIFs are taken from the drama scenes. Feature image is modified  from the official poster.

Edited by: devitto (1st editor)

lee soo hyuk
kim hee sun
rowoon
tomorrow
yun ji on
grim reaper
after life
suicide awareness

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