Hello everyone! I am back with a couple of posts lined up, starting off with this one. There has been a number of dramas that I’ve been curious to check out and start off the year with, and this one has definitely been on my radar for a while. There is only really two reasons for this. Number one: It is Seung Gi’s comeback drama (god how I’ve missed him!) and so I’ve been meaning to see if he’s still got it (which he has most definitely not failed to do). And number two: the drama is based off a classic story that I’ve grown up watching and reading for as long as I could remember. Journey to the West has been something that every Chinese kid has grown up with, simply because it’s just been around for that long, and the story always gets a remake every couple of years. Some have been fantastic, while others most definitely fall short. And so, when I heard that this drama would be based loosely on the classic, just set in a more modern setting suited for our time, I was most definitely curious to see how this would go. Also, it doesn’t hurt that this drama is a Hong Sister’s creation xD
And here, I will share with you my thoughts on how this drama has been going for me, and what I plan to do next. So…let’s get on with it.
Title: A Korean Odyssey/Hwayugi (화유기)
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Horror, Fantasy
Estimated Number of Episodes: 20
Air Time: Saturday and Sunday at 9pm KST
Here’s an overview of the original tale, just for those who need a refresher of the tale, or for those who aren’t as familiar with the story.
The story is based around a Buddhist monk named Xian Zang (or as I knew it growing up Tang San Zang) who must embark on a journey to the West (of Asia) in order to obtain the sacred scripts and texts of Buddhism. Being allocated such a task by Buddha himself, he was also given 3 protectors who in return for protecting Xuan Zang will receive atonement for their past sins. These 3 protectors are named Sun Wu Kong (the Monkey King), Zhu Ba Jie (Piggy) and Sha Wu Jing (Sandy).
Synopsis (borrowed from Dramapanda who sums it up super well):
[This drama is] About a woman with the ability to see demons and ghosts, Jin Sun Mi (Oh Yeon Seo) learns to deal with her demons with the help of a talisman (a yellow umbrella). Her blood is also something precious, with the scent of a lotus flower, overwhelming and drawing demons towards her. As a girl, Jin Sun Mi encounters both the Bull Demon, Woo Hwi Chul (Cha Seung Won) and the Monkey King, Son Oh Gong (Lee Seung Gi). Her encounter with them is significant, as she frees Son Oh Gong from his imprisonment and makes a pact with him that binds the two.
First Impression of Episode 1 & 2:
The first two episodes of the drama definitely sets the scene and the mood of the drama very well. You get the taste of horror, comedy and attachment to certain characters. In particular, the first episode really set it well, and gave us a really good idea of what’s to come with this drama. I personally found it adorable in some aspects on what they did to twist the original tale, particularly with the characterisation of Oh Gong and Hwi Chul [which correlate to the characters 孙悟空 (Sun Wu Kong) and 牛魔王 (Niu Mo Wang)]. In the original tale, these two characters are rivals over who is the more powerful mythical god, who later on become very close friends. I was super elated to see that they didn’t remove the fun bickering these two characters had, and in fact made it more funny and enjoyable to watch.
Which is one thing that I most definitely want to comment on. The relationship between Oh Gong and Ma Wang are definitely a huge positive for me with this drama. I absolutely adore the continuous banter between the two, and the little moments where they reconcile and actually have a proper conversation with each other as the longtime companions they’ve been for the last couple hundred of years. Aside from just. How the characters themselves have been presented, the chemistry between Seung Gi and Seung Won is really fantastic, and an absolute joy to watch.
The other characters have been a joy to see and have. Yeon Seo’s character is slightly sub-par compared to our lovely Seung Gi, but she’s trying her best. I feel it’s more because how the character has been written, who is really naive and innocent, instead of her acting. With her character, it’s definitely a love-hate relationship for me, simply because I like how pure she is, but likewise I can’t fathom how she doesn’t know anything. True, for a good chunk of her life she hasn’t had any family or friends, but how could she not know about everything? A lot of questions could be easily answered by a Google search ahaha. Aside from that though, everyone else is really great to watch, and it’s always fun to watch their interactions.
Story-wise though is really the big letdown that I noticed by the second episode, and a recurring aspect throughout the drama so far. The story has been at quite a standstill, despite the drama already being halfway. Although the original story wasn’t extremely multi-faceted itself, it had the advantage of just following the story straight: encountering multiple demons, while experiencing great character growth from when they begin their journey till the end. As a drama that is running shorter and is only using the original as inspiration, it had the opportunity to really transform and change the original to make it it’s own. Sadly though, it lacks in this, and just becomes a situation where the story tries to push the characters forward, but not much is happening at all. This entire beginning half of the drama has been heavily focused on driving the romantic relationship of Sun Mi and Oh Gong, while everything else has been greatly neglected, reiterating to us again and again how forbidden this relationship, but that none of them are in control of their fate. Considering that I know how the original goes, it’s sad to know that they didn’t choose to draw on the other important themes of the story and made it their own, only to end up relying on the story of romance to shape and push the drama forward.
Will I be continuing with this drama or not?
Ah, the moment of truth. Despite the issues the drama experienced from the getgo with their poor editing to the unfortunate staff incident (Soompi article here for those curious) causing the delay of released episodes, as well as my comments above, I’m still curious as to how the drama will end. I’ve kinda invested myself into the romantic relationship between Oh Gong and Seon Mi, and I do hope they have a happy ending. Stating that they can’t be together by this point in the drama would be absolutely devastating, regardless of whether his feelings for her are fake or not.
I’m also curious as to how they will proceed with the approach of the drama comparatively to the original tale. I always loved the original growing up, not just because it was funny, but because the tale covered morals and really demonstrated character development and growth that even a 5 year old can understand and recognise. It taught and showed how one can forgive. Finally, the 4 who journeyed across the West, despite their differences, truly became a family who looked out for each other, and loved each other dearly like brothers. There was so much more that they had taught us through the various problems and incidents they overcame together, but the true message they sent was that through working together, could you truly conquer everything and anything.
So, I will say this now, this may not be everyone’s cup of tea for sure. If you’re someone who can’t stand the push and pulls within a relationship, or is turned off by horror and slightly creepy themes, then there’s no use trying to convince you to try and hold onto this one. However, if you’re into dramas that are based around fantasy, is a fan of Hong Sister’s works, contains quirky and funny characters that will leave you in stitches (god I thank you for your existence Ma Wang) and are indeed in their own original category, then go and check out this out!
Thanks for the continuous support you lovelies! I will be back quite soon (hopefully) with a review of a drama I’m still following. There’s been a couple that I’ve been trying to finish in order to continue a watching challenge that I’ve decided to participate in. If you’re interested, feel free to join along, especially if you want to step your Asian drama/movie watching game this year. I’ve made the commitment (even me guys, come one xD) so I’m sure you all won’t have any trouble as well.
Take care everyone, and I’ll be back soon, promise!