If you’re searching for a generic vampire love story, look elsewhere! Trading in capes and fangs for designer brands and sparkling smiles, the vampires of “I Cannot Hug You” are anything but generic.
Based on the popular Korean webtoon “Untouchable,” “I Cannot Hug You” weaves an uncommon tale of romance and rivalry in a world where some pretty unconventional vampires live among humans.
Forced to feed on people through physical contact rather than sucking their blood, these vampires know how to play humans in order to get their next meal. All does not go to plan, however, when our female lead zeros in on a certain germaphobic human who refuses to touch anyone.
Keep reading for my top five reasons to watch “I Cannot Hug You”!
1. Unique spin on vampires
I enjoy the good-ole Count Dracula image of vampires as much as the next person, but my interest was piqued when “I Cannot Hug You” began challenging my pre-existing views of vampires. And I was pleasantly surprised at the unique spin our drama gives them.
As mentioned above, these vampires don’t feed on humans by sucking their blood. Nor do they have adverse reactions to the sun. They’re also not immortal. Basically, these guys are different from most other versions of vampires that we see in literature or media.
Why are they so different? The drama gives a simple and reasonable explanation: evolution. Through the evolution of their race, vampires adapted to living among humans inconspicuously.
…For the most part.
You see, while the creative take on vampires is fascinating in and of itself, the humor derived from it is highly entertaining. Especially in moments when our leading lady (who is a vampire) gets a little overeager for a meal, because if you remember how they feed — well, you can imagine how that looks to a human. Needless to say, this causes more than one comically uncomfortable moment between the two leads.
Whether you prefer the traditional concept of vampires, or are in the mood for something fresh and new, I guarantee you’ll find this aspect of “I Cannot Hug You” to be intriguing. With so many vampire stories out there, it’s tough to stand out, but this drama does.
2. The selfless nature of the lead couple’s relationship
Any romantic couple in a drama will have their strengths and weaknessess, and this couple is no exception. Our female lead, Li Shiya (Zhang Yu Xi), desires to feed off of her germaphobic neighbor, Jiang Zhihao (Xing Zhao Lin), whom she affectionately refers to as “Fried Chicken.” Her initial motives for beginning a relationship with him are completely selfish, as she basically just wants to eat him.
But as the drama (and their relationship) progresses, Li Shiya finds herself falling for Zhihao. When she learns the tragic reason behind his obsessive compulsive tendencies, she is determined to help him overcome his issues. Pushing aside her own desires, she chooses numerous times to put Zhihao’s needs first.
From taking him to the zoo for some exposure therapy (probably better left to the professionals, Shiya),
to giving him a goldfish as a companion to mend his loneliness–
to suppressing her urge to feed on him when he is unconscious–
Li Shiya tries her best to help her friend out, all the while inwardly wrestling with the fact that she cares deeply for her food. In the back of her mind, she knows that if his germaphobia is cured, she can feed on him freely. But her genuine desire to help overshadows her instinct to eat him.
Similarly, but in his own special way, Zhihao also displays selfless love towards Shiya. One such moment is when he decides to accompany her to the fairgrounds, something that she is super excited for. This, of course, is uncomfortable for him, but he pushes through to make her happy.
Another example is when he announces to Shiya that he has decided to begin seeing a therapist to help him work through his issues. Even though he knows it will mean facing things he would rather leave alone, Zhihao chooses to take the first steps to healing himself so that he can be there for Shiya, physically as well as emotionally.
The give and take in their relationship is beautiful to watch unfold. It’s inspiring to see two different beings caring for each other with such genuine love. If you need some refreshing romance, this right here is reason alone to watch “I Cannot Hug You.” And if affairs of the heart aren’t really your thing, hang in there! Because I have three more reasons you’ll love this drama.
3. Role reversal
This is one of my personal favorites, mostly because it’s just really entertaining to see tiny Li Shiya putting the moves on Zhihao, who is adamantly having none of it.
I love that — without crossing any lines — “I Cannot Hug You” takes some pretty common male-pursuing-female moves we have all seen in other dramas, and switches it up, with Shiya starting us off as the aggressive pursuer. Because let’s face it, hunger can be a strong motivator. The fact that she is so petite and Zhihao is so tall just makes it better.
(Before continuing, I want to quickly mention that our male lead is not in any way a passive one — don’t you worry! He has plenty of squeal-worthy romantic and heroic moments, but the initial instigator of their relationship is definitely Shiya.)
Below we have exhibit A: the classic arm-against-the-wall maneuver, blocking any possible escape from the conversation.
And exhibit B: getting way too close to the other person’s face.
Although there are more, I will end with this last example, exhibit C: the we-are-watching-a-movie-but-I-am-not-focused-on-the-movie couch moment.
While moments such as these are enjoyable and entertaining, what kind of drama doesn’t have…well, drama? We’ve seen the intriguing, romantic, and humorous aspects of “I Cannot Hug You”; now let’s take a look at what is one of my favorite drama tropes of all time.
4. Simba’s jealousy
You guessed it — the love triangle! Because if there’s anything more marvelously dramatic than a love triangle, it’s a love triangle with a vampire or two thrown in.
Simba (Dai Jing Yao), Shiya’s best friend from childhood and fellow vampire, has a major crush on her, which he has successfully kept secret…until Zhihao enters the picture. Needless to say, the boys don’t get along.
And let me tell you, second male lead syndrome is strong with this drama. To be completely honest, I was not expecting to like Simba as much as I do. Not for any particular reason, I just like Zhihao that much. But whether or not you like the character, the way Simba fights back for the woman he loves — all the while sporting a devil-may-care attitude — is undeniably charming.
The viewer is first introduced to Simba’s carefree and playful side; he’s a popular idol of the boy group, Holiday, and is adored by all who encounter him. His charisma erupts onscreen, making him a very likable rival male suitor of Shiya.
However, as the drama unfolds, we see the darker side of Simba’s nature begin to emerge. Emotionally scarred from childhood, Simba hides his hurt and insecurity underneath his dimpled smile and wide-eyed boyish charm. But vicious jealousy rears its head when one of the only people (er, vampires) Simba has ever truly trusted and cared about leaves him for another — and a human at that.
From underhanded foul play to several menacing encounters, Simba allows his jealousy to rule his actions, bringing about an added layer of tension that is both enticing and heartbreaking to watch.
Observing Simba throughout the drama proves that a character who appears harmless and maybe even slightly insignificant at first is not necessarily that way at all.
5. Shiya’s older sister
Speaking of characters I initially thought were not going to be super important, Li Shiya’s older sister, Li Lanxi (Wang Ruo Xue), totally took me by surprise. She is as fierce as they come, and absolutely vital to the plot of the drama. She’s a gifted psychologist (in fact, she’s the one Zhihao begins seeing after Shiya introduces them), who also doubles as the vampire sheriff — which is an especially tough job at the moment because a mysterious someone is abducting vampires in their area.
Without spoiling anything, it will suffice to say that this invisible threat to her race’s safety has Li Lanxi constantly vigilant. Utilizing her skills as a vampire huntress, she uses quick thinking, undaunted courage, and sharp intellect to protect her people, while doing her job as a psychologist and being a supportive big sister.
And she does it all in heels.
Basically, she’s one of the coolest supporting female characters ever. You’ll find yourself cheering for her as she takes on the bad guys solo, without batting an eye.
What do you think about “I Cannot Hug You” so far? Let me know in the comments below!
If you haven’t started it yet and would like to, click below to begin episode 1!
actualeleven is an Asian drama enthusiast, who loves a good cup of coffee almost as much as she loves KARD, Infinite, and Monsta X. She hopes to spread her passion for Asian dramas to her readers!