Thanks for enjoying my episode 1 notes on Yumi’s Cells 2 and A Dream Of Splendor [China]! Today, I thought I’d share my episode 1 notes on Alchemy Of Souls, because I’m very pleasantly surprised by how well I’m enjoying it, and I was wondering if you’d like to join me? 🤗
These are my episode 1 notes, exactly as they appear on Patreon, ie, without screenshots (I’m saving those for the actual review).
I hope you all enjoy, and I hope you’ll consider joining us over on Patreon, for the rest of the discussions! ❤️
E1. I’d be the first to tell you that I’d originally had very little intention of checking out this show.
The reasons for that are:
1. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve managed to truly enjoy a Hong sisters drama, and I’d honestly begun to think that perhaps my taste in dramas, and their style of dramas, just don’t match anymore.
2. The last time I’d ventured into a magic-heavy kdrama was with Lovers Of The Red Sky, and that hadn’t worked out very well at all. I’d tried hard to like that show, but ended up dropping out, long before I got to the finish line.
3. The trailers that I saw gave me pretty strong C-drama xianxia vibes, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, since
(a) I’m not typically into xianxia dramas, unless it’s Ten Miles Of Peach Blossoms, and
(b) I’m not keen on the idea of being so heavily inspired by another country’s dramas, that there are likely to be rumbles about copying.
Putting all that together, you could say that I just instinctively felt wary about approaching this one.
But, since I’ve decided to drop Love All Play, and this show’s been getting pretty good audience response right out of the gate, I thought I’d give it a try, just to see.
And whaddya know – I actually enjoyed this first episode.
What a surprise!
For a start, even though Show literally throws us into the thick of a very different fantastical world, it does a pretty good job of educating us, in broad strokes, about this drama world, and the main big idea, of shifting souls.
I found that just by rolling with what Show served up, I felt like I had a pretty decent grasp of this drama world, by the end of the episode. Considering how there’s A LOT that goes on in episode 1, I’d say Show does a pretty effective and efficient job.
Also, the CGI seems very solid so far, to my uneducated eyes, and I feel sufficiently sucked into this world where magic seems to be a highly sought-after skill, and the use of it seems to be very much a norm.
As for my earlier xianxia-related concerns, I’m pretty happy with it, so far.
As far as I can tell, this show is inspired by xianxia norms, but isn’t strictly following them (say I, a person who actually hasn’t had that much exposure to the xianxia genre, ha).
From what I can tell, this drama world is a mishmash of inspirations from all over, including xianxia, as well as the Korean sageuks – never mind which dynasty. Because, in this drama world, it seems that anything goes, pretty much.
There’s no real norm in terms of hairstyle, and quite a few of our male characters have short hair, like that’s perfectly normal.
I actually rather like this “anything goes” sort of approach, because it feels quite refreshing, and it also makes it feel like it opens up a lot of narrative possibilities.
Because, if anything goes in terms of the costume and styling, then perhaps anything goes too, in terms of how our story is allowed to develop?
In terms of our characters, I am pretty stoked that this seems to be a pretty great role for Jung So Min.
I find that this taps into many of her strengths as an actor.
When she’s in Naksu mode, she channels that piercing fierceness really well. And then, when she’s just Mu Deok, she’s the complete opposite, all soft and helpless.
On top of that, there’s a nice amount of comedic touches about Naksu-as-Mu Deok, and Jung So Min delivers those funny moments really well too.
The way she leans so fully into the physical comedy, like when Naksu-as-Mu Deok hangs from that bridge, suddenly realizing that this body has no strength to pull itself up, is quite funny.
Also, the way she keeps deadpanning those voiceovers, where she decides that she will kill this person and that person, once she’s regained her strength, leans comical too.
I think it lands comically, because she’s so obviously hapless and at the mercy of others; the only thing she can do to console herself, is make all these empty-sounding promises to herself, that she will kill these useless people, the moment she regains her strength.
When Show introduces Naksu’s character, I have to admit, I thought that Naksu was the child that the King had fathered, while in the body of his mage.
But, Show clears that up later in the episode, when we see that it is in fact Lee Jae Wook’s character, Uk, who’s the secret child of the King.
And how interesting, that Uk’s official father, Jang Gang the mage (I thought Joo Sang Wook did really well, with the little that we see of him, this episode) seems to have cast a spell on him that prevents him from practicing magic.
I do wonder what drove that decision. Was it because Uk is the King’s son, and Jang Gang did that as an act of rebellion, because the King had claimed Do Hwa (who appears to have been Jang Gang’s wife) as his own?
That seems like a pretty reasonable guess?
Now that we know Uk’s birth secret, that begs the question of who Naksu really is.
Who is she, really, and why has she been groomed as an assassin?
We do see that Naksu had had a childhood connection of sorts, with Seo Yul, where he’d given her that bird whistle. I wonder what that’s about, and how and why they’d appeared to lose touch, afterwards.
I’m also curious to know why, in the soul shifting, Mu Deok doesn’t have that blue “bruise,” and instead, shows it through her eyes, as we see later in the episode.
Is it because Mu Deok is a special recipient? Or did something actually go awry in the soul shifting?
How interesting, that Uk, the one who supposedly has no magic powers, is the only one who actually notices the unique shine in Mu Deok’s eyes.
Hmm. That makes me wonder if the reason that Jang Gang had forbidden him from learning magic, has something to do with an inherent talent or power that he has, that would become too powerful and dangerous, if combined with actual magic spells..?
We end the episode with Uk breathlessly pronouncing that Mu Deok is the master whom he’s looking for, and I’m pretty pumped to see how this unfolds, in our next episode.
After how Uk’s tormented Mu Deok this episode, I’m pretty sure Mu Deok, who’s already displayed a grudge-holding petty streak, isn’t going to let this go easily, once he acknowledges her as his master. 😁
*This show is being covered on the Ultimate Early Access (US$25) Tier on Patreon*
To view episode 1 notes in Patreon, along with everyone’s comments, you can go here!
You can find my Patreon page here, where episodes 1 through 4 notes are already available. Just look for the tag “Alchemy Of Souls” or click here.
Episode 5 notes will be out on Sunday, 10 July 2022! I hope you’ll consider joining us!
It’ll be a way to have fun, and support me at the same time? ❤️
PS: For more information on what the Patreon experience is like, you might like to check out my Patreon update post for July, which you can find here!
I don’t think AoS is anything at all relevant to xianxia genre though, if anything it resembles a xuanhuan. Definitions here: https://immortalmountain.wordpress.com/glossary/wuxia-xianxia-xuanhuan-terms
Even then, unless the showmakers explicitly said so, I don’t think the show is in particular paying homage to a Chinese genre.
Alot of countries have their own historical-inspired-but-not-really-imaginary-alternate-universe-fantasy stories and. In fact, SK had been *lacking* in this genre except Arthdal.
I’d say this is one of Korea’s entrees to this genre and that it doesn’t have anything to do with specific Chinese genres that are defined by *Chinese* cultural elements.
You should realize that although Daeho is an imaginary country, the old Joseon, even before it was called as such, was heavily influenced by Chinese culture. Take the KDrama Hwarang, for example. Hwarang was set in the Silla Period. The architectural designs, clothing, and way of life of the people during that time were influenced by Chinese culture. Hence, even if AoS had that xianxia element, I still looked at it as an alternate time period during the Korean history even if this is just fictional.
Alchemy is well and truly worth a look. As Snowflower says, show successfully brings the different source material together. So much so, we are taken on a delightful, mythical journey.
Classic old-fashioned Hero’s journey! This is the fantasy drama I did not know I needed right now. I hope it stays good.
I was reluctant to start this drama, but did it anyway because I could not say no to long-haired sword-wielding Lee Jae Wook. What a pleasant surprise! I have been rather neutral toward Jung So Min, but she is doing an excellent job as Mu Deok/Naksu. I even detect her change of accent and I don’t know any Korean.
The story seems to find inspiration from many different sources, but all elements blend together well.