First Impressions: “Arang and the Magistrate”
I finally got a chance to watch the first two episodes of Arang and the Magistrate, and what can I say? I adore it. It’s a wonderful combination of comedy and mystery, and the drama speeds along, not wasting a single scene.
Lee Junki and Shin Mina are perfect for their roles of Eun-oh and Arang, respectively. Eun-oh is a surly, selfish yangban who wears a mask of disinterest to protect himself from a world, and the other-world, that wants too much from him. Arang is a rambunctious, tough, amnesiac ghost who is searching for her identity. Lee Junki and Shin Mina’s chemistry sparkles as they bicker and fight, and sizzles when they get physically close together. I know I am going to be weeping buckets later on in the drama when the angst hits this couple. She’s dead and he’s alive. Can there be a happy conclusion for our dear OTP?
A&M is funny when it wants to be funny and scary when it wants to be scary. The only miss is when it does angst. I laughed when Lee Junki screamed for his mother in the flashback scene. The acting was a little over-the-top there and I think the role of his mother was a miscast. Truth be told, I have some lingering feelings for that actress after watching her play the horrible mother in Can You Hear My Heart? It’s hard to get over a character that you hated so much. Thus, in A&M, I don’t have any sympathy for her plight, and I don’t care very much for the plot of her disappearance.
I really love this other-world that A&M has built with ghosts, Reapers, and divine beings. The ghosts of A&M are molded from real Korean beliefs and experiences with ghosts, making the world of A&M relatable and believable. Koreans believe that ghosts can sit on people when they sleep so I loved it when Arang sat on Dol-swe in the little shelter in episode one. I also loved seeing Arang and the other ghost fighting each other for food given out to spirits during ancestor rites. I can imagine that as really happening in my world.
My favorite aspect of this drama is actually the soundtrack. It is so well utilized to enhance the mood of a scene, raising the degree of hilarity or eeriness.
Kudos to the costume designers of this drama. I especially love the look of the Reapers with their all black hanboks, with red edges underneath. They look both stately and wild, command respect as well as fear.
I am really surprised by how interesting the Joo-Wal character is. He wears this mask of pleasantness and beauty but we see hints of how truly ugly he is inside. He is a scary to other people but he himself seems to have something he fears. We don’t know if there is something supernatural to that fear yet but the way he keeps worrying about the moon- I want to call him “Wolf Boy.”
It tickles me to the bone that the Jade Emperor and the King of the Underworld are twin brothers, who differ so much in personality and looks. I hope they feature more prominently in the drama later on.
A&M reminds me of Sungkyunkwan Scandal in terms of tone and storytelling. A&M is a drama that is easy to love and digest. The energy of the drama is high and the story is kept close to the center. Both give off trendy-drama vibes; can we dub them the “trendy-sageuks”?
I don’t easily fall in love so I won’t declare love for this drama yet. But it’s taking me there and I have a feeling when that when it does, I’m going to fall hard.