Yumi’s Cells: Episode 1
Arguably one of the most popular webtoons on the market is Yumi’s Cells, and the highly anticipated drama adaptation is finally here. Adorably animated brain cells influence our heroine’s every thought and action as they navigate through life together.
Note: This is a first episode recap only. Coverage will continue with weecaps.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
Part 1: Assistant Manager Kim Yumi
KIM YUMI (Kim Go-eun) wakes up surprised to see her hoobae from work, CHAE WOO-KI (Min-ho), shirtless in bed with her. He leans over for a kiss but unfortunately, the sound of an alarm snaps Yumi back to reality. She’s disappointed to wake up alone, but the dream kiss puts a pep in her step.
As she goes through her morning routine, we’re introduced to the single 32-year-old whose last date was three years ago. One rainy night, a man ended things with Yumi “for the sake of her happiness.” Perplexed, Yumi argued that she was perfectly happy. He ran away dramatically so she chased after him, unwilling to accept his unilateral decision.
A narrator lists off the pros to Yumi’s single life: she saves money by not purchasing new clothes, doesn’t have to clean every day (in anticipation of a guy coming over), and doesn’t have much on her mind. Getting to focus on work led her to a promotion at Daehan Noodles last month.
When Yumi is asked to send a file to Woo-ki from the sales team, she makes an excuse to walk over with a printed copy rather than sending an email. However, she’s intercepted by her young and peppy colleague RUBY (Lee Yubi), who is on her way to a meeting with Sales.
Yumi returns to her desk feeling glum while the narrator explains that “they” have all adapted to her single life now. The problem is Woo-ki. Yumi barely keeps her cool when he stops by to chat and her mind starts spinning after he asks where she lives.
The narrator calls out, “Yumi! You need to work. You’re busy right now! Concentrate!” To her credit, she does try, but soon another voice chimes in and Yumi decides that she should ask Woo-ki why he asked.
Section Chief NAM JOO-HYUK (Jung Soon-won) reminds her that their deadline is today and she should focus on work. However, the voices in her head battle it out and Yumi entertains the idea that Woo-ki was flirting with her.
The voices belong to Rational Cell and Emotional Cell, cells who live in a village inside Yumi’s brain. Emotional has a feeling that Woo-ki is interested in Yumi and believes they should go and find out.
Yumi decisively pulls Woo-ki aside to chat before his meeting, but Anxiety Cell chimes in to take Rational’s side, worried that rumors will spread. Suddenly aware of her colleagues staring (or in Ruby’s case, glaring) at her, Yumi aborts the mission. It’s a strange interaction, but Woo-ki chuckles at her antics.
Emotional Cell is angry at Rational Cell for ruining their chances, fuming that this is why they’ll die alone.
At the end of the work day, Yumi’s stuck on a calculation. Three brain cells work hard at pushing the pole that activates her brain power, but they’re stuck. Rational asks Emotional to help out, but she’s still mad at him. Using Yumi’s brain is Rational’s job, so why should she step in?
Knowing how to appeal to her emotions, Rational reminds Emotional that she can only see the sunset that she loves if they wrap up and head home early. Imagining the beautiful orange sky is all the motivation Emotional needs to rally up the cells nearby. With extra hands on deck, Yumi finally solves her problem — yay!
However, something all too familiar happens once she’s on a roll…hunger strikes. Literally. Hunger Cell (adorably outfitted with a tteokbokki antenna) crushes the brain power pole and chases the other cells around, crying that he’s hungry. Yumi can’t concentrate and ends up leaving to grab food even though she’d have to stay back later.
She runs into Woo-ki outside the office. He has a handful of drinks and offers Yumi a coffee. She accepts the kind gesture, but nearly drops the coffee. Woo-ki reacts quickly to catch the drink, and Yumi’s whole world turns still when their hands touch.
PFFT, flower petals begin to fall, and all the cells in the village dance in excitement when Woo-ki opens the door and makes contact with Yumi’s hand again.
Woo-ki asks if Yumi’s almost done for the day. Rational Cell knows it’ll only take about thirty minutes to wrap up, but Detective Cell interrupts with a deduction. Judging by the number of drinks Woo-ki is holding, his team must be working late. Woo-ki asked Yumi where she lived this morning, which can only mean that after staying late, Woo-ki will give her a ride home and perhaps it’ll be a night they’ll always remember.
The others are so sucked into this story (Emotional and Naughty Cell especially, heh), that Yumi doesn’t hesitate to lie that she has soooo much work left and will have to finish late.
Unfortunately, Detective Cell couldn’t have been more wrong — Woo-ki isn’t working overtime, and wanted to give Yumi a ride because he had plans in Ilsan, where she lives. LOL, the zoom-in on Yumi’s deadpan expression is priceless.
This mishap earns Detective Cell a beating and Yumi sighs that she lost her touch and is lonely. Rational Cell explains that the reason for this is because there’s no Love Cell. Three years ago when Yumi chased her ex through the rain, she watched him hop into another woman’s car happily.
Poor Yumi’s tears caused a flood within the brain cell village, and Love Cell was swept away by the current. It’s rumored that Love is dead, but she’s actually in a coma and being looked after by White Blood Cell. Since then, Yumi has lost both her hunches and her desire to date.
Just as Rational wonders if they’ll grow old alone, Woo-ki calls. His plans got delayed, so he’s back in the office. Woo-ki shows up in person and says, “Let’s go together. I’ll take you home.” He’s even prepared to wait for Yumi to finish, and it’s at this exact moment that Yumi’s heart skips a beat. Love Cell opens her eyes for the first time in three years.
Part 2: Yumi vs. Ruby
Yumi’s brain works in overdrive, the brain power pole spinning on its own at a speed so fast that all the cells are in awe. They adorably cheer Yumi on as she wraps up her report and hands it in to Chief Nam, then practically runs out of the office. She acts calm and collected even though she’s totally ecstatic about this turn of events.
Fireworks set off in the village and the cells dance in celebration of their first date in three years. However, the mood shatters quickly once Yumi enters the car and realizes that Ruby is sitting in the back seat. Speaking in third person, Ruby explains that she’s tagging along because she has plans in Ilsan, too.
Ruby is definitely doing this on purpose. She acts like she’s close with Woo-ki and calls him oppa, although he seems uncomfortable with it. Yumi looks on expressionlessly as Ruby fills the silence with incessant chatter. At some point, Ruby gasps that Yumi’s five years older than Woo-ki.
Once in Ilsan, it becomes a battle between the two women “courteously” letting the other be dropped off first. Yumi loses this one, as Ruby’s plans happen to be in the same place as Woo-ki’s. As Yumi heads home dejectedly, Rational tries to comfort Emotional Cell. She mopes that it’s not Ruby’s fault — it’s because Love Cell’s no longer here.
Yumi is in her feels that night because of Emotional Cell and turns to journaling as an outlet. She has no ambitions, and isn’t enjoying life at all. Lullaby Cell groans that they should’ve put Yumi to sleep earlier, as Emotional Cell explodes between 1AM – 3AM.
When Emotional Cell begins to question the meaning of life, Rational Cell takes matters into his own hands and knocks her out cold, pfft. Lullaby sings Yumi to sleep but she suddenly becomes pissed at Ruby for mentioning her age. The culprit is Revenge Cell who’s still up and raging about their colleague. Rational hits Revenge with a flying kick, so Yumi shakes the thoughts away and tucks into bed.
Rational also has to take care of Anxiety Cell who worries that they didn’t turn the stove off, but Hunger Cell remembers the leftover dumplings in the freezer and Yumi ends up making a late night snack. She scrolls through social media and sees that Ruby posted a photo of her and Woo-ki. Their plans fell through, so they’re still having chicken and beer at 2AM.
Cue Detective Cell who begins to spin a story based on hints in the photo, but Rational Cell knocks him out with a frying pan, too. The next morning, clothes are strewn across the floor and Woo-ki shares a romantic morning in bed with Ruby. It’s just another Yumi dream though, and this time she wakes up pissed.
Part 3: Prime Cell
Rational explains that every person has a prime cell. It’s the most powerful cell with a superior ability, representing that person. Some are ruled by Hunger, Gossip, Ambition (or in Chief Nam’s case it’s unknown, lol), but Yumi’s prime cell is the missing Love Cell.
Yumi’s quite the grump this morning at work and overhears Ruby conversing with their co-worker Yi-da. With a prime Nosy Cell, Yi-da comments that Ruby looks tired and asks why she didn’t get any sleep last night. Ruby just sing-songs that it’s a secret, further annoying Yumi.
Rational explains that Love Cell was the only one who could control Hunger. We see Yumi in past relationships, feeling warm on cold nights (is that you with the red scarf, Eun-tak?) and even paying for everything with an ex. Love transformed every crappy situation into a happy memory. Rational Cell misses her and sighs. How do you start a relationship?
Ruby joins Yumi in the break room and chirps that she went home at 4AM. Her plans fell through and Woo-ki’s friend was running late, so they drank while waiting for him. In the end, the friend showed up at 3AM (lol I would’ve just gone home instead of waiting). Ruby says that it was fun, and that Woo-ki oppa is very funny.
Trying not to show that she’s annoyed, Yumi merely comments that they have good stamina. Ruby says it would’ve been nice if Yumi were there, but thought that she’d be tired. Her words sound nice, but seem like subtle jabs at Yumi.
The cells work hard to keep the Facial Control Lever in place at a smile, but the more Ruby drones on about Woo-ki, the harder it gets. The cells eventually lose the fight and the lever shifts down a notch, leaving Yumi with a blank expression. Ruby even points out that she looks quite mean.
When Woo-ki joins them in the break room, Rational Cell tries his best and successfully pushes a smile back onto Yumi’s face. Phew. Ruby subtly shows off, asking Woo-ki if they can go to the Ilsan flower festival on Sunday rather than tomorrow like they’d originally planned. He agrees and she forces a high five on him, which Yumi can’t stand, ha.
To Ruby’s disappointment, Woo-ki extends the invitation to Yumi since she lives in that neighborhood. At first, Yumi declines, but when Ruby chimes in and tells her to join them, the cells wonder if they misunderstood her. Maybe she’s just cheerful and clueless? So, Yumi agrees.
Ruby celebrates, but grabs Chief Nam and invites him to join as well. Rational Cell holds an emergency meeting and points out that this is Ruby’s grand plan to set Yumi up with Chief Nam so that she can have Woo-ki to herself.
There are a few problems: Woo-ki and Chief Nam are very close. If Chief Nam shows any sign of interest, the loyal Woo-ki is likely to give up pursuing Yumi. Dropping out isn’t an option either, because Chief Nam will likely decide not to butt in either and Ruby will get a solo date with Woo-ki. They’re trapped.
Rational doesn’t know what to do, but Emotional Cell knows they need to take action. How much longer is she going to live this lonely life with no plans on the weekends? She’s sick of it, and rallies up the rest of the cells to fight back and win against Ruby.
Chief Nam suddenly remembers that they have a work deadline on Sunday, so he and Yumi would have to come into the office. He suggests going tomorrow but Ruby isn’t free, and the flower festival is over next weekend.
Fishing Cell takes this opportunity to create a bait, mixing jokes with sincerity. “I guess the three of us should go without Ruby tomorrow,” Yumi says, throwing the bait. She plays it off as a joke, but now the idea lingers in the air. Woo-ki wants Chief Nam and Yumi there, so Ruby concedes and says they should go without her, then.
Yumi waits for someone to take the bait. As they confirm their plan to go to the festival tomorrow, Chief Nam backs out at the last minute, leaving Yumi and Woo-ki to go alone. Fishing Cell successfully caught a date!
Ruby jeopardizes everything, telling Woo-ki that Yumi would be uncomfortable going with him alone since they practically forced her to come. Yumi doesn’t show it, but all her cells are booing and raging at Ruby, ha.
Emotional Cell wants Yumi to deny Ruby’s claims, but Anxiety worries that it’ll spark a rumor about her. Rational has a hard time controlling the upset cells when suddenly, Love Cell arrives to save the day. She flicks a lighter and the others understand what’s about to happen — they warn her not to do it.
Love counters that there’s no better time than now to show their true feelings. “How can you love without showing your sincerity?” Love Cell lights up Rampage Cell, who’s a bomb, and he runs towards a bolted up hole in the ground labeled “Deep Within My Heart.” Inner Feelings Cell emerges.
When Ruby says, “Woo-ki oppa, let’s not make unni uncomfortable” and tries to reschedule their hangout, Yumi cuts in and asks, “Why would I be uncomfortable?” She says she doesn’t mind going with just Woo-ki, and that she’d actually prefer it. Smiling, she looks straight at him and says, “Let’s go together, Woo-ki.”
This is so fun! As a long-time fan of the webtoon, I’m quite pleased with how the adaptation turned out so far. It’s staying pretty close to the source material with this first episode, and the transition between the animated world of the cells and Yumi’s real life is pretty smooth. The biggest concern was whether this new hybrid format would work, and I’m so happy that it does! Yumi’s Cells is my all-time favorite webtoon, and it really felt like the pages came to life here with this first episode. Kim Go-eun is actually a pretty good Yumi, despite my original hesitations about her in this role. I can’t wait to see Ahn Bo-hyun in episode two because visually, he’s killing it as his character Woong.
The heart and soul of Yumi’s Cells is, of course, her cells. Seeing certain functions personified is really interesting, and is very reminiscent of Pixar’s Inside Out, which more people are familiar with. It’s such a refreshing way to dive into our heroine’s mind, and I find it hilarious whenever Yumi zones out because her cells are doing all the thinking. It’s the little details like Emotional Cell being sentimental in the wee hours of the night or the Face Control Lever to help us get through difficult conversations that really make this show special. It’s a cute way to think about why we do the things we do.
Yumi’s a pretty relatable character. She finds Ruby ridiculous at times, mirroring the viewer’s feelings with her hilarious facial expressions, but the rational and anxious parts of her mind kick in to remind her that she’s in a public setting. She acts according to societal norms because of this, but sometimes, she can’t beat how she’s feeling in the moment. Love Cell’s appearance makes things interesting because she’s so unpredictable, and is willing to do anything for love. For a large part of this episode, Yumi hides her feelings. It’ll be fun to see how she and her cells navigate love and life — I’m excited to see her grow! If this first episode is any indication, this is going to be a great webtoon-to-drama adaptation.