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‘Yumi’s Cells’: Versatile multimedia content that keeps on taking new forms

A poster for the Naver webtoon series “Yumi’s Cells,” written and illustrated by Lee Dong-geun (Naver Webtoon)
A poster for the Naver webtoon series “Yumi’s Cells,” written and illustrated by Lee Dong-geun (Naver Webtoon)

The Naver webtoon series “Yumi’s Cells” may be the perfect example of versatile multimedia content, with plans for it to be adapted as an animation and a musical.

The animation version of the webtoon for cinematic release will be co-produced by a Naver subsidiary, Studio N, and by local animation production company Locus, which created the 2019 hit “Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs. The company is aiming to release the animation in cinemas in the first half of 2023, according to Naver.

The musical adaptation is currently being co-developed by Studio N and local entertainment firm Sem Company.

Established in 2018, Studio N is a Naver unit engaged primarily in developing and releasing films and TV dramas based on the IT giant’s popular webtoons.

“We plan to contribute to the revitalization of the webtoon IP industry by producing different kinds of content based on Naver Webtoon IP,” Studio N CEO Kwon Mi-kyung said in a statement, referring to intellectual property.

The webtoon “Yumi’s Cells,” written and illustrated by Lee Dong-geun, first appeared on Naver’s platform in 2015. Since then it has been serialized into 512 episodes, and the final episode came out Nov. 7 last year.

Lee’s webtoon series depicts an ordinary working woman named Yumi making everyday decisions at work and in relationships. Before she reacts or makes any choices, 200 cells in her brain take on human form and interact with each other to influence Yumi. As the webtoon deals with day-to-day problems that many people can relate to, the series became a big hit with over 3.2 billion total views and more than 5 million comments.

Like many other popular South Korean webtoons, it was adapted into a drama series, the first season of which recently ended on tvN. The drama format was new to many K-drama fans as the show used animated characters to represent Yumi’s brain cells. There were also scenes where animated characters interacted with Yumi, played by Kim Go-eun.

A sequel is currently in production, with the date of its release yet to be confirmed.

Even before the webtoon was adapted for drama, the content had been used in many different formats, such as mobile games and offline exhibitions.

In August, a mobile puzzle game based on Lee’s webtoon series was created by game company Skywalk and then launched globally, according to Naver. The game features popular characters in the webtoon -- including Yumi, her boyfriend, Woong, and 60 brain cells.

Also, a special exhibition featuring characters from “Yumi’s Cells” was held at Groundseesaw Seochon in Seoul from July 15, 2020, to March 14. A similar exhibition is due to open in Busan in December.

By Song Seung-hyun (