Edited by Seo Hae Lan
Translated Kim Hoyeun
Writers Hong Jung Eun and Hong Mi Ran, who had tasted the possibility of a fantasy genre with the drama Hotel Del Luna, returned to the small screen with a full-fledged fantasy drama. Alchemy of Souls was a hot topic in many ways even before it aired. The fact that it’ll be released as a 2-season drama was unusual, and moreover, the lead actress was replaced after the first shoot. Amid many rumors surrounding the show, Alchemy of Souls premiered and caught the viewers’ attention with its captivating storytelling.
Alchemy of Souls is set in a magical land called Daeho because of the enormous lake it has. All living things in this world have energy, and those with the ability to control them are called mages. One of the spells that these mages perform is called “soul shifting,” but it’s banned due to its risk, and anyone who performs it is punished duly. Naksu (Go Youn Jung), the greatest assassin in Daeho, gets seriously injured during a battle and runs away. Squeezing out her last energy, she shifts her soul and enters the body of blind girl Mu Deok (Jung So Min). Mu Deok runs into Jang Wook (Lee Jae Wook) from the Jang family, one of the Four Seasons in Daeho, at a brothel. He recognizes Naksu’s soul is in Mu Deok at once and hides her in exchange for becoming his master. In order to survive, she accepts Jangwook’s proposal and helps him grow as a mage.
Alchemy of Souls lays out the settings that you’ve seen in numerous martial art novels, movies, and dramas, and words you’ve never heard before, such as soul shifting and Tansu. The clothes are based on the old hanbok, but the hairstyle and make-up are modern, and the tone and lines from both historical and modern dramas appear simultaneously. The relationships between the many characters are complicated, so it takes time to figure out who’s who. It’s a fantasy drama set in a fictional country, but K-pop re-arranged in the style of traditional music appears from time to time, giving a big laugh. But once you get used to the terms, devices, and visual effects that make this drama unfamiliar, you can see the narratives and emotions intertwined together.
The relationships that continued from the past to the present are intricately intertwined, but the core of the drama centers around Jang Wook and Mu Deok. Jang Wook was born as the son of Jang Kang (Joo Sang Wook), the greatest mage in the entire Daeho, but his father blocked his ability to learn magic since he was born, and no mages wanted to make Jang Kang their foe by releasing the seal. Because he was never given a chance to prove his worth, Jang Wook is desperate enough to even take a killer as his master to become a mage. His desperation moves Naksu, who is now Mu Deok, and she uses her wits to revive Jang Wook’s sealed abilities and teach him the basics of a mage. On the other hand, the story of Naksu/Mu Deok is a journey of someone who has already achieved some level of achievement in finding the truth. Naksu has vowed revenge all her life against the Four family (Jin, Park, Seo, and Jang) that joined forces to kill her father, but after shifting her soul, she finds herself in a world of confusion after learning the truth she had never known. Also, another mystery surfaces – Mu Deok is actually Bo Yeon, the missing heir of the Jin family, so why is she living as a servant from a rural village? The story of these two girls seems different, but they’re the same in that they’re in the process of discovering their own “destiny.”
With such complicated histories, Jang Wook and Mu Deok form a relationship where they can take full advantage of each other. However, as they venture through many life-threatening moments together, the two go beyond the master-apprentice relationship. They stick together so Naksu won’t be discovered of her real identity and so Jang Wook can learn how to become a mage, and for each other, they risk their own lives. Even with characters who complicate the romance – Seo Yul (Hwang Minhyun), who knows Naksu; Go Won (Shin Seung Ho), who worries about Mu Deok; and Heo Yoon Ok (Hong Seo Hee), who fell in love with Jang Wook – Jang Wook and Mu Deok solely focus on each other. And as the story goes back and forth between seriousness and comedy, the relationship and the emotions the two have are slowly but firmly solidified.
Alchemy of Souls, which reached its turning point in episode 10 last week, showed Jang Wook and Mu Deok once again crossing their limits to stay next to each other and confirming their feelings for one another, indeed, love. Since the two first intended on just using each other and saying goodbye when they’re done, this emotion will for sure confuse them. Therefore, Jang Wook and Mu Deok’s romance will get even more riveting. Mu Deok has Naksu’s soul, while Mu Deok’s history still remains a mystery. And we know that answers to these questions will affect Jang Wook and Mu Deok. So, where is the story heading? Will Alchemy of Souls be able to keep up its concentration till the end? I look forward to seeing the coming episodes with anticipations. (7/10)
Editor Seo Hae Lan: I’m not picky and like all genres. I am in constant search of a balance between criticism and a fan’s heart.