Edited by Hong Hyun Jung
Translated by Kim Hoyeun
Heroes are always loved in pop culture. The sight of them punishing and eradicating evil gives you a thrilling pleasure and vicarious satisfaction. Special powers and extraordinary belief in justice are the typical charms of our favorite heroes. Popularly known Marvel and DC heroes as well as various forms of heroes in various works have always provided us with exhilarating pleasure, and recently, friendly and humane heroes have landed on the small screen.
The Uncanny Counter, which is recording OCN’s all-time ratings along with favorable reviews as a well-made webtoon-adapted drama and, is the one. It’s making remarkable history with its relatable and realistic storytelling of demon hunters called Counters coming to earth under the guise of being employees at a noodle restaurant in order to capture evil spirits.
The drama tries to differentiate itself from the familiar heroes’ story by adding Korean sentiments. The employees of the Eonni’s Noodles look just like ordinary people on the outside, but they are actually demon hunters that gained superhuman strength after partnering with Yung (the boundary between the afterlife and the world of the living) and bore the arduous task of banishing evil spirits that escaped from the afterlife to gain immortality. These evil spirits possess human hosts with twisted minds, and the more they hurt people, the stronger they become. The Uncanny Counter begins when one of the Counters is killed while battling a powerful evil spirit, and his Yung partner finds a high school boy as her new Counter.
If the unique worldview evokes your interests, then these “humane” Counters grab your attention. So Moon, Ga Mo Tak, Do Hana, Choo Mae Ok do not turn a blind eye to injustice and represent the weak eliminated from the mainstream. So Mon defends his friend who is being bullied in school, and while knowing that they are not supposed to intervene with the human world, Hana, Mae Ok and Mo Tak still help him out. Choi Jang Mul also steps up at the moment of crisis and takes a parting shot at the parents and teachers trying to protect the bullies. The sight of them teaming up so So Moon doesn’t have to endure the lonely fight coincides with the absurd reality, providing a thrilling catharsis. Not only does the drama highlight their extraordinary abilities such as superpowers, psychometry, and healing power, it also strengthens the Counters’ humane charms, raising expectations for their future performances.
With hero fantasy as its roots, the drama provides a rich gratification as a complex genre that crosses teen, action, thriller, and comedy. So Moon, the centerpiece of the play, is the typical character that represents “growth.” He sometimes brings about trouble as he still has difficulty controlling his emotions, but he tries to shoulder the responsibility for his actions and takes a step forward through his mistake. In the beginning, The Uncanny Counter mainly focuses on the growth of So Moon, who has newly joined the Counters, and cements the basic plot, but from the middle, it raises tension by surfacing the incident from 7 years ago that killed So Moon’s parents and almost brought Ga Mo Tak to his death. Though they are not blood-related, but how the Counters share family-like affection with each other provides us with warmth, while various attractions such as rooftop chase scenes and first-person action scenes are arranged to provide a thrilling excitement that suits the hero’s epic.
The actors’ enthusiastic performances as if they have become the real characters are also impressive. Jo Byung Gyu, who took on his first-ever lead role, delicately depicts how naive So Moon changes after gaining infinite potential. He gives off a jaunty vibe with his playfulness, gives us room for empathy when he is engulfed by anger and sadness, and shows off his “real friend” chemistry with Lee Ji Won and Kim Eun Soo, who appear as his best friends. Kim Se Jung also showcases smart performances that make you forget that she is actually an idol-turned-actress. Se Jung enriched Hana’s charm with her three-dimensional acting by adding consideration to the character that seems indifferent and cold at first glance, not to mention her flawless action sequences. Yoo Jun Sang and Yeom Hye Ran centers the play with their reliable performances. Yoo Jun Sang doubles the pleasure with his unique deft charm, while Yeom Hye Ran adds more reality with her warm charisma. Lee Hong Nae and Ok Ja Yeon, who play the evil spirits, create suspenseful tension in their confrontation with the Counters with their chilling and gruesome appearance.
Above all else, the fact that The Uncanny Counter never goes overboard is eye-catching. It never drags out each characters’ story and shows a smart choice of inserting cartoon-like setting and action scenes at a moment when the emotions escalate or intensify. Thanks to its adequate balance, the drama solidifies a high level of immersion despite the fact that it’s heading towards a more dark and heavy topic. How will the Counters that have become a rock for each other as they continue their mighty acts solve the mysteries of the tragedy and wipe out evil spirits?
Verdict: A perfect example of hero fantasy drama (9/10)