Telemad

Babysitting spy and Transformers-like dragons

His name is Bon, Kim Bon.

In television and film, South Korean actor So Ji-sub has often played the alpha male. He was an imperious chief executive in the horror romantic comedy Master's Sun (2013) and a good-hearted gangster in the war epic The Battleship Island (2017).

In Terius Behind Me, he plays a spy, codenamed Terius, hiding from the National Intelligence Service after a botched mission involving a North Korean nuclear physicist. Only agent Yoo (Im Se-mi from Shopaholic Louis, 2016) believes he is not a mole.

This could have made for a thrilling drama, but writer Oh Ji-young and director Park Sang-hun (A Mere Life, 2012) have a lot more up their sleeves.

Terius' next-door neighbour is Go Ae-rin (Jung In-sun from Circle, 2017), a woman sometimes overwhelmed by trying to balance parenting six-year-old twins with making ends meet.

When the different worlds collide, the results are most entertaining.

 Hisone & Masotan.
So Ji-sub (above) stars as a spy who also babysits for his neighbour in Terius Behind Me, while dragons exist and are deployed by the Japan Air Self-Defence Force in anime series Dragon Pilot: Hisone & Masotan. PHOTO: VIU

Making small talk in a lift, Ae-rin remarks that Terius does not normally emerge during the day and that he buys only sliced bread. Immediately, his paranoia kicks in and he wonders how she managed to figure out his movements and learn so much about him.

  • VIEW IT /TERIUS BEHIND ME

  • Viu, new episodes every Thursday and Friday

    3.5 stars


    DRAGON PILOT: HISONE & MASOTAN

    Netflix

    3 stars

And when he later offers to be a sitter for her children, the energetic moppets wear down the legendary black-ops agent at the playground.

Meanwhile, Ae-rin lands a ridiculously well-paying job as a secretary to Jin Young-tae (singer-actor Son Ho-jun from Reply 1994, 2013), not realising that he is involved in some very shady business.

The first few episodes pretty much set the scene for what is to come and, hopefully, things won't fizzle out as the series progresses.

From the fantastical premise of "my next-door neighbour is a secret agent", we move to outright fantasy in the anime series Dragon Pilot: Hisone & Masotan.

Dragons exist and are deployed as Organic Transformed Flyers by the Japan Air Self-Defence Force.

Of course, these creatures can't simply be flying all over the place, so they are camouflaged as various air vehicles when they are up in the sky, in a Transformers-like manoeuvre.

They can be piloted by humans - but of their own choosing. And their favourite thing to eat is mobile flip phones.

The viewers' introduction to this outlandish set-up is through rookie pilot Hisone Amakasu (voiced by Misaki Kuno), who discovers the secret of flying dragons when she is picked by one to be its pilot. She is reluctant at first, not surprisingly, considering the process involves being swallowed by the creature and - after a flight - getting spat out covered in slime.

The animation by anime studio Bones (Fullmetal Alchemist, 2003 to 2004) feels a little dated as it is relatively simple, though that also gives it a certain low-key charm. In particular, Masotan the dragon's bemused look when faced with a frustrated Hisone is priceless.

 Hisone & Masotan.
So Ji-sub stars as a spy who also babysits for his neighbour in Terius Behind Me, while dragons exist and are deployed by the Japan Air Self-Defence Force (above) in anime series Dragon Pilot: Hisone & Masotan. PHOTO: NETFLIX

A smart decision was to ground the story in realism.

Viewers would quickly take to the forthright Hisone as she navigates a brave new world while dealing with boorish male pilots and a jealous fellow female trainee, Nao Kaizaki (voiced by Tomoyo Kurosawa), and wrestling with self-doubt. But slowly, the socially awkward young woman starts to bloom as she revels in female camaraderie with the other dragon pilots and takes pride in a task that only she can do.

Despite the fantasy element, Dragon Pilot turns out to be a relatable workplace comedy drama.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2018, with the headline 'Babysitting spy and Transformers-like dragons'. Print Edition | Subscribe