KOREAN DRAMA REVIEW:
This drama (2012) is a bit of a funny one for me, as looking back on it now I find myself all excitable and filled with love and fond memories, whilst at the actual time of watching my thoughts towards it were a bit more lukewarm.
This was a drama that I expected to love. It is a Sageuk which delves deeply into fantasy, the costumes and scenery are truly beautiful and it also stars Shin Mina. She is by no means my absolute favorite actress but I do enjoy watching her and thought her being cast as a fiery young ghost was a pretty exciting concept.
Weirdly though, I was slow getting into this story and although I thought the character of Arang was really interesting (she was capable as well which is always awesome with a heroine) it unfortunately took me a lot longer to care about her leading man, Eun Oh, aka the Magistrate.
Eun Oh's early narritive character traits really put me off in the beginning, being the cold, rude and nasty nobleman type, but he grew on me a little more each episode as the character warmed up. By the time he donned the red and black Magistrates outfit I was fully invested in him, the story and also the mysterious world the drama was creating.
By the halfway point Eun Oh even became a bit of a revelation of a character for me, actually straight out confessing his love to Arang in a refreshingly uncomplicated manner that had my heart pounding. A male lead who is capable of making an honest attempt for his love interest's heart without playing endless games? One who is also then able to accept her rebuttal without trying to push her to react the way he wants, no matter how raw or heartbroken he is? A man who doesn't immediately try backtracking out of his confession, attempting to deny the feelings he has just laid bare? .....Whoah.
I absolutely loved this character development for Eun Oh, but must admit it only made it sadder to then watch his continued heartbreak throughout the next few episodes as he tried to help Arang towards her final goal.
And poor Arang. I can understand her reasons behind not wanting to accept him, but how could she possibly hold out against such an awesome and lovelorn hero? The answer obviously is that she couldn't. She was pretending and she knew it, so I thankfully didn't have to wait overly long after the confession before she finally admits her own feeling towards Eun Oh.
What follows then are some truly touching scenes as they slowly realise the full gravity of what they have done, having fallen in love when there is no escape from a future of death and separation. It is so sad when Arang finally admits to Eun Oh that she doesn't want to die, something that she has quietly accepted throughout the drama as her unavoidable fate. She cries and cries and there is nothing he can do.
One scene that really worked at sucking me into this drama and now sticks in my mind as a standout, was the journey to the underworld, delving into this drama's dark version of folklore and the underworld by using some truly beautiful visuals. I re-watched this particular scene multiple times, and I think the imagery really creates an unsettling atmosphere.
It starts as Arang follows the reaper through the woods, her hands bound in red string as she begins her journey to the underworld. They wait by a river covered in green moss (pond muck? Algae? tiny tiny lily pads....I don't know?) and a boat arrives that brings them deep into the river until they are just a dot surrounded by a green sea. It is so beautiful to watch and conjures such a haunting image, a young girl with no idea of what is to come, her fear palpable, and yet she sits tall and faces her future with dignity.
After the waterfall, the next scene that really got to me was the part where Arang walks deeper into a cave and finds a terrifying figure waiting there. It is such a surreal creature, leaping through the darkness towards her, and it made me so curious that I could have done with a whole extra side story just to fully explain this being and its dark brooding presence in that cave at the end of the world.
The whole drama was a pretty visual experience really, something I find to be a common occurrence for Sagueks and one of the reasons I enjoy them so much. I admit the plot got a little rushed towards the end and I suppose overall this drama could have been better, but for what it did right, it did really really right.
It was fresh and romantic, with an unexpected plot and a fantasy world that was fun to delve into. So to finish up my random review, I am basically just going to go back and re-watch this one now!