As I wish to continue to expand my blog, I have always felt the need to categorize the posts on my blog as special features that I would love to maintain on the blog. As Anniversary special, I have started and will continue Anniversary special-The Bangtan Universe. Other than that I have also done Double Movie/Drama features, a section dedicated to classics called ‘Old is Gold’, a separate section for Anime called ‘Animezone’, and ‘The Book Club’ for all my favorite books.
As the posts on the blog increases, I notice that Korean movies, dramas and music have a very strong footing in it. If you still haven’t tried one you should, unique concepts, excellent making and a whole packaged form of entertainment is the South Korean entertainment industry. Therefore, it’s not a big surprise that I have started a special section just for it right? Hallyu refers to everything that comes under this booming industry. Hallyu has been spreading a lot past many years and it is referred to as the Hallyu Wave.
Without much further ado, I will be heading into a review of a K-drama.
Also known as: The Tale of Arang
Country of origin: South Korea
Written by: Jung Yoon Jung
Directed by: Kim Sang Ho and Jung Dae Yoon
Starring: Lee Joon Gi, Shin Min Ah, Yeon Woo Jin
Number of seasons: 1
Number of episodes: 20
Original Broadcasting Network: MBC
Aired: August 15-October 18, 2012
Genre: Historical, Fantasy, Horror, Romance
The story starts with Kim Eun Ho who is on a journey in search of his mother. His father is a nobleman while his mother is of a lower class. His mother made several sacrifices so that he can be brought up like the other children of the noblemen. His mother and her entire family were also unjustly branded as traitors. Eventually his mother ran away and he is desperately searching for her.
Apart from that Eun Ho also has a special ability. He can see, hear and communicate with ghostly beings. He tries to avoid communicating with them as much as possible as they would ask him too many favors which is bothersome for him.
He hears a new that his mother has been spotted in a town called Miryang and travels there. This is when he meets Arang, a lonely ghost who is constantly evading the grim reapers who want to send her to the heavens. She however does not remember anything about her life on earth, how she died or even her own name.
It is at that time that she meets with Eun Ho as requests him for help. He initially refuses, but then agrees to help her as he sees in her possession a very distinct hair pin that belonged to her mother.
Eun Ho then gets appointed as the Magistrate (kind of like a mayor) and investigates Arang’s death and finds his mother. During that journey, they meet Joo Wal and his father, who is the Lord of Miryang and has an aura of mystery surrounding them. Arang also has to constantly evade the grim reapers and the Jade Emperor and Yeom Ra (kind of like the keepers of heaven and hell respectively).
This was a very different and fresh take on the ghost and historical theme. The story had freshness and it took us to an angle we didn’t think would occur in the story. There were many unexpected twists and turns that made it a pleasure to watch. I for one, at least did not expect it will go that way.
The village of Mirang and its setting were also quite apt to the entire story line that followed. Being a ghost story, rather than the typical elements we see in s historical drama they were required to show many more things from how it was in those days. Things such as, people who give fortunes or speak to ghosts, the kind of beliefs and assumptions people had about the afterlife and the very concept of the afterlife and its journey. That too was depicted very well.
The main leads, Shin Min Ah and Lee Joon Gi did a fantastic job. Starting with Lee Joon Gi, I have always felt that he is one of those characters that can depict period drama characters very well. His mannerisms, his acting and expressions everything matched the very composed and smart Eun Ho. Coming to Shin Min Ah, she was energetic as the role of Arang. The behavior and mannerisms of Arang before and after her death were strikingly different, and Shin Min Ah managed it perfectly. I liked the fact that they did not for a damsel in distress kind of role.
The chemistry between both of them were very strong and was a definite highlight from beginning to end. The supporting characters also did very well.
Some things however remained a confusion even after the show ended. The first being, is she a ghost? Human? Or something in between? The show makers could have provided a clarification for that. The modern take to the music and certain aspects were really great in some places but in others, not so much.
The fact that there were 20 episodes for a plot that didn’t carry enough substance for 20 hours is a fact. It was a drag here and there while it accelerated in other parts. There was a confusion in the the timeline of the events depicted in the story as well, especially with the heavens getting involved and all. It could have wrapped up in the 16th episode and been as good as it was after 20 episodes.
The character build around the villains seemed more concrete than the main leads at certain portions. The portions with the Emperors of Heaven and Underworld and the rules of the heaven may confuse a beginner into historical K-dramas as well.
But despite that I would not ask you to push this off your lists as this was entertaining, funny and had a very fresh concept as well. There are ample amounts of twist in plot with a dash of horror that still makes it worth a watch!
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