Hmm, this one is an interesting one.
Now that I’m (sort of) back in the swing of K-dramaland again, the next drama I decided to give a try was ‘Alchemy of Souls’ starring Lee Jae-wook and Jung So-min. Another interesting fact about the drama is that it was written by the Hong Sisters, who you might know from their popular works such as ‘Hotel del Luna’, ‘The Master’s Sun’, and ‘My Girlfriend is a Gumiho.’ The Hong Sisters have been quite the interesting pair the past couple of years. As with many other writers, their works are either really loved and enjoyed by viewers or not so loved and appreciated. I admit that I have enjoyed dramas like ‘The Master’s Sun’ and ‘Hotel del Luna’, but there were also misses on their list of work such as ‘Big’ that I don’t feel so fondly about. Regardless, ‘Alchemy of Souls’ is the Hong Sisters’ comeback drama after 3 years with their last project having been ‘Hotel del Luna’ (has it already been 3 years since that drama aired?! Time flies by so fast).
I initially didn’t have any high expectations going into this drama, but I can’t help but confess that those expectations changed slightly after learning that ‘Alchemy of Souls’ was written by the Hong Sisters. And maybe that just speaks highly of the sisters and their reputation for having written dramas in the past that were pretty great and enjoyable to watch. With ‘Alchemy of Souls’, they aim for a fantasy-romance story between Jang Wook (Lee Jae-wook) and Mu-deok (Jung So-min) whose paths cross after learning that the only people who can help them fulfill their personal destinies is each other.
As much as I wanted to, I can’t say that I fully enjoy this drama as much as I did with the first two episodes of ‘Jinxed at First.’ And I get that the drama are completely different with different storylines, timelines, characters, sub-plots, etc. But there’s just something about ‘Alchemy of Souls’ that hasn’t clicked for me just yet and I think it might have to do with the universe that the drama is centered around. There’s a lot going on in this universe of soul-shifting and soul-searching and so many rules and side characters to take into account. There’s also not enough information or context to fully understand and comprehend what exactly is going on so things can get a bit confusing sometimes. Combine these two issues and you get two episodes that feel a bit rushed: the need to progress the storyline as fast as possible by giving you some information and then sprinkling in more situations and issues that don’t have a whole lot of context and background behind it.
In all honesty, I can care less about the side characters outside of the ‘4 Seasons’ (the 4 magicians from the 4 noble families in the location that the drama takes place) and Mu-deok. And I get that Mu-deok and Jang Wook’s relationship somehow ties into the overall story with everyone else, but I’m also invested in just their story. He needs her to learn the skills and magic he was fated to have as the son of a noble family while she needs him and his energy in order to break free. What lengths will they go to to protect each other for their own personal benefits and will these boundaries get fuzzy after a certain amount of time? Will they be able to focus on their mission or will they get distracted by maybe say something like romantic feelings and sacrifice a few things along the way? Either way, Mu-deok and Jang Wook’s relationship is already shaping up to be an interesting and fascinating one and I’m excited to see where their story goes.
Something that I’ve always enjoyed about the Hong Sisters’ projects are the comedy highlights and the comedic scenes and ‘Alchemy of Souls’ is no different. It’s specifically in the way that they’re already using comedy as a way to highlight and build Mu-deok and Jang Wook’s relationship that I really like. It helps balance with the dark and serious tone from the remainder of the drama. Another thing about this drama that I liked so far and especially noticed in the third act of the second episode was the cinematography. While the fighting scenes seems a little bit too much for me with the choppy editing and not so pretty CGI (sometimes), the cinematography captured my attention and there were a few times that I couldn’t help but just watch in awe at how beautiful some of the shots were. While I’m still trying to gauge how I feel about the directing overall, some of the shots and scenes in the drama are breathtaking.
One other comment that I’d like to make about the drama is the casting and who was selected to star in the drama. I have some residual love for Lee Jae-wook after watching him in ‘Memories of the Alhambra’ so I think I will always somewhat have a soft spot for him because of that. I’m really enjoying him in the drama so far and the small details that he gives away with his face expressions. It’s the little things that count and he is so good in expressing those details with his face and his eyes.
Though not the biggest fan of Jung So-min, I generally have a positive attitude and feeling towards her and I have enjoyed her in projects such as ‘Because This is My First Life.’ I know she can act and I know she got the acting chops, but I’m still trying to gain a feel for what type of character Mu-deok is supposed to be. It’s a little bit more complicated for Jung So-min because she’s portraying a character whose body is dead but whose soul has shifted into another body so she has a little bit more to work with and her character is a little bit more complex. I think that’s why I haven’t fully gotten around to comprehending Mu-deok just yet as a character and Jung So-min’s portrayal and delivery of Mu-deok. Lee Jae-wook’s portrayal of Jang Wook is a little bit more clear and straight-forward where as Mu-deok still got some soul-searching (literally) to do. Regardless, I like both actors individually and I think their relationship is hilarious with the comedic highlights and fascinating with their set-up.
I’m gonna watch the next two episodes of ‘Alchemy of Souls’ to gain a better understanding of how I feel about the drama. While I wasn’t the most positive and confident with the first two episodes, I still do think there is lots of potential to get better given that the story takes place within a universe that holds so much history and background. Jang Wook and Mu-deok hold the keys to fulfilling their own destinies and it is only through each other that they can achieve that. What will come of their relationship and their futures? What challenges and bumps will they face along the way? What more will they learn about each other in the process of learning about themselves and finding out who they are?