“Are You Human Too?” is a sci-fi romantic drama. Laura Oh is a world renowned scientist specialized in robotics. She is married to the son of PK Group’s Chairman. The two live separately, because her father-in-law wishes his son would succeed him and thinks Laura is holding him back. Somehow her husband dies and her father-in-law takes her son (Nam Sin) away from her to educate him into becoming the next heir.
Heartbroken and with no way of getting her son back, Laura Oh leaves for Czech Republic and takes on a massive project aimed at building a next generation android. Over the years she gives the robot (called Nam Sin 3) the physical appearance and the “personality” traits of her son. Missing him, Laura Oh spends her time perfecting Nam Sin 3, whom she treats as her own son.
The Premise of the Story
Twenty years have passed since Nam Sin got separated from his mother. As a sign of rebellion towards his grandfather, he pretends to be reckless and a person of loose morals. With the help of his secretary and trusted friend, Ji Young-Hoon, Nam Sin is able to leave South Korea and goes to Czech Republic to find his mother.
In the meantime, one of the directors of PK Group (Seo Jeong-Gil), who has been eyeing the chairman position for many years, decides this is the perfect timing to send an assassin after Nam Sin.
Nam Sin and Nam Sin 3 cross paths on the streets of Prague while enjoying the view. The two (unaware of each other’s existence) get a glimpse of one another, moments before a truck hits Nam Sin, leaving him unconscious.
Uncertain when her son will wake up from the coma, Laura decides to do anything to secure her son’s position and not let their enemy win. She asks the robot Nam Sin 3 to go to South Korea and take Nam Sin’s identity, until he recovers.
Nam Sin 3 agrees with her request, but soon his identity is discovered by his female bodyguard, Kang So-Bong who used to despise her former boss (Nam Sin).
Nam Sin: orphaned from both his parents, Nam Sin grows up hating his grandfather and secretly wishes to destroy his company the moment he inherits it. He has a strong demeanor, but he is fragile inside. He tries to hide his insecurities with a reckless behavior.
Nam Sin 3: Nam Sin 1 and 2 were the earlier versions of the projects. He was built by Laura to resemble the most beautiful traits of humanity she imagined her son had. He is “programmed” to be truthful, selfless and caring. Nam Sin 3 has the appearance of an adult, the behavior of a hero and the innocence of a child. He will try to conceal is “personality” in front of others so he won’t raise suspicions.
Kang So-Bong is a former professional MMA fighter. During a match she got a serious leg injury leaving her incapable to ever participating in a fight. She works as Nam Sin bodyguard and is the first to notice something different about her new boss.
Ji Young-Hoon is an orphan. He grew up in the Nam family who paid for his education. He was entrusted with Nam Sin. His role was to keep him company and offer him guidance. He is Nam Sin only friend.
Although it was one of the most anticipated dramas of the first half of 2018, “Are You Human Too?” did not break the records everyone expected because its airing was interrupted by the World Cup transmissions. This eventually lead to a gradual loss in viewership. Despite all this, this drama is bound to remain one of the most successful series of 2018.
The drama touches sensitive issues such as freedom and lack of control of ones actions, hatred and self-improvement, greed and the destructive power of ambition. I do not believe that the director had any intention of making a political or ethical statement related to questions such as: what can be considered “sentient” or can machine have souls? Rather, Nam Sin 3 is a metaphor. He reminds the viewers (and the other characters in the drama) what it means to be human. Nam Sin 3 is the embodiment of the best qualities humans were gifted with: sincerity, kindness, selflessness up to self-sacrifice.
Despite the fact that he witnesses time after time the wickedness of some humans, Nam Sin 3 strives to become more human-like as he keeps getting “reprogrammed” by the genuine interaction he has with Kang So-Bong.
Contrary to what the premise would have you anticipate, “Are You Human Too?” is not primarily a sci-fi, but a romance drama with elements of sci-fi. The main focus is not the wonders of what technology can achieve, but the beauty that resides deep within the human nature. Nam Sin is the mirror humans look into and are reminded of what it truly means to be “human”.
Cast and Acting
This is the first time we see Seo Kang-Joon in a lead role. His performance as supporting actor in “Cheese in the Trap” convinced every one of his talent, if there was still any doubt. However, taking on a double role project would be considered risky even for more experienced actors. He proved he was a very good choice for this role. However, I would not say that he portrayed a convincing robot, because the writer’s intention was not to present us with a true “robot”. In this light, Seo Kang-Joon performed outstandingly as the reckless Nam Sin and the more-human-than-most-humans, Nam Sin 3.
Gong Seung-Yeon (“Six Flying Dragons”, Circle”) is a rising star in the Korean Entertainment industry, although she never really got my full attention until this drama. Her portrayal of Kang Bong-Soo had a rocky start because of bad writing. In the beginning, her character was despicable for no excusable reason. She was ready to sell out anyone for money and even willing to betray her savior. All for the feeble reason that she lost trust in humanity. She is redeemed by a simple yet meaningful gesture of sincerity from Nam Sin 3’s part. This was less than convincing, however, I would not put this aspect on Gong Seung-Yeon’s account, but on an isolated case of poor writing.
Overall the casting was excellent. The leads are somewhat new to the drama-world. But they are matched with veteran supporting actors, who acted as the pillars of the drama, ensuring its credibility. For example, Yu Oh-Seong in the role of the villain (began acting in 1991) played as the antagonist Ki-Chiul in “Faith” while Park Yeong-gyu, who plays the role of the grandfather, has won several awards since 1993.
A special mention goes to outstanding performance of Lee Joon-Hyuk (“City Hunter”, Stranger”) in the role of Nam Shin’s childhood friend.
The soundtrack of the series does not stand out to me, except for the Celtic-vibe theme “The Longing Dance” by Lim Ji Eun. You could listen to it here.
This drama is one of the highest budget dramas in recent history. The producers did not spare money on anything. From special effects, stunt scenes, props and venues: everything looks expensive. Moreover, some of the action shots were nothing short of spectacular.
“Are you Human Too?” is an excellent drama that forces you to hold it at a high standard; perhaps that is why some of its shortcomings are so noticeable.
There were some “glitches” in the initial writing of Kang So-Bong’s character, as mentioned above.
There are some “algorithmic” plotholes. How come Laura shows no interest in the identity of her investors and is not concerned with their intentions? How is it that she has complete freedom to add, remove and change “protocols” on this revolutionary project based on her maternal instincts and emotions, without giving account to anyone who invested in the project? And the list could go on.
The ending was satisfying but it felt rushed.
This is a great drama to watch on your own or with a loved one. You will find yourself cheering, frowning upon, sitting on the edge of your seat at times. It will prompt you to make assessments of your own “number one rule” and “protocols”. “Are You Human Too?” is not a drama that promises you a roller-coaster of emotions, but will make you reflect on yourself and those around you. Great cast, amazing acting, expensive sets and outstanding directing. I would dare say, confidently, that it will probably remain in the top best dramas of 2018.