Do you like stories full of magic, dragons, and demons? If you said “yes” you’re going to love the Hong sisters’ newest fantasy romance, Hwayugi (aka A Korean Odyssey). This show is amazing! The drama is all about some demons who try to help a young woman stop the end of the world from taking place.
Ever since she was very small Jin Seon-Mi has had the ability to see ghosts. For protection she is never without her yellow umbrella, complete with talisman. One day she meets Woo Ma-Wang who saves her from an evil spirit. Thinking he is a fairy, she agrees to do him a favor by retrieving a fan in a strange house. However, in trying to fulfill her promise she accidentally comes across Son Oh-Gong who tricks her into setting him free from his prison in Five Elements Mountain. He promises to always come to her aid whenever she calls for him but ends up steeling her memory of his name so that would never happen. Years later she meets both Ma-Wang and Oh-Gong again and comes to find out their meeting so many years ago wasn’t just a coincidence. The heavens have a job for her to do but before that happens along the way she befriends several demons, helps them rid the world of some evil spirits, and falls in love with Oh-Gong.
Woo Ma-Wang is a bull who has been trying to ease the suffering and pain of the woman he loves for over 1,000 years. He wants to end her Heavenly punishment by racking up enough points to become a deity in order to stop the agony of her horribly, sad reincarnations. Humans know him as Woo Hwi, CEO of Lucifer Entertainment and one of the judges in a highly rated TV talent show. He reluctantly allows Son Oh-Gong to live with him even though his roommate drives him crazy. Because of an underhanded trick Oh-Gong played on him, Ma-Wang carries a drop of Sam Jang’s blood inside him.
“I am the Great Sage, the equal of heaven, Son Oh-Gong.” That’s how the demon Oh-Gong introduces himself, humility definitely lacking in his character makeup. He is a monkey, born from a volcano and one of his greatest joys is bothering Ma-Wang. He moved into Ma-Wang’s tremendous house, uninvited, and delights in using Ma-Wang’s beloved bull statue as a coat rack. He has his own place, complete with a huge garden, but only goes there now and then, the entrance of which is via a college entrance exam poster in an elevator. Because of some past sin he committed, Son Oh-Gong has been bared from consuming any kind of alcoholic beverage so to console himself he collects various kinds so he’ll have them once the Heavens lift the ban.
Jin Seon-Mi is known to the demons as Sam Jang. “Sam Jang is a human with noble blood who has received the royal vocation of Heaven.” She has had the ability to see spirits since she was a small girl which made her an outcast and the object of teasing and ridicule. Her parents passed away when she was born and her loving grandmother raised her until she, too, passed away. Now, Jin Seon-Mi is a successful real estate agent who owns her own business. She and her faithful assistant buy cheep, haunted property – she gets rid of the ghosts, and then sells the place for a hefty profit. Because of her supernatural ability, she has lived her life alone, isolated from family, friends, and lovers and longs to have a normal life.
Those are the three main characters but there are many more that bring their own wonderful flavor to the story…
Jeo Pal-Gye is known in the human world as P.K. He is Lucifer Entertainment’s top star and the main gatherer of human energy. His animal form is a boar.
Jin Bu-Ja is a zombie brought to life through the power of Sam Jang’s blood. She’s hoping to find out who she was before she died but there isn’t much time before she rots away.
The Winter General owns an ice cream shop while his sister, the Summer Fairy, owns a night club. They share the same body – he uses it during the day and she has it at night.
Ma Ji-Young is Ma-Wang’s secretary and right-hand woman. Maybe her loyalty to him comes easily because her animal form is a dog.
Ah Sa-Nyeo is a priestess with a grudge. She wants to possess Seon-Mi’s body and marry Son Oh-Gong, but ends up taking over Bu-Ja’s body instead.
Lee Han-Joo is the only employee Seon-Mi has at her real estate company. He thinks highly of her but finds her a little strange.
Kang Dae-Sung is a professor/politician with an intense desire to rule the world and he’ll do anything to see that goal achieved.
This is the part of my review where I usually give you a little information about the main stars of the show but because I’ve written extensively about the three main actors/actress in this drama before, and in order to avoid repetition, I’m choosing to send you to two other reviews for information on Lee Seung-Gi, who plays the monkey Son Oh-Gong, Cha Seon-Won who is the bull Woo Ma-Wang (You’re All Surrounded), and Oh Yeon-Seo whose character is Jin Seon-Mi / Sam Jang (My Sassy Girl).
Maybe Hwayugi flows so well because so many of the actors and crew members had worked together before. The Hong sisters wrote The Greatest Love which Cha Seon-Won starred in, My Girlfriend Is a Nine-Tailed Fox staring Lee Seung-Gi, and You’re Beautiful in which Lee Hong-Gi had a co-starring role. Park Hong-Kyun, one of the three directors, had previously worked with the Hong sisters on Jeju Island Gatsby and The Greatest Love. Also, Lee Seung-Gi and Cha Seon-Won had starred opposite each other in You’re All Surrounded.
This drama is loosely based on the Chinese classic novel Journey to the West, and has a great message tucked inside it’s wonderfully entertaining story. The main plot is about Sam Jang and her special Heavenly summons, of course, but along the way she hunts for evil spirits with her demon friends. They encounter “gluttons” who literally feed off people’s desire to be thin, a monster who uses social network to demean people and ruin their lives, a spirit who kidnaps the souls of children who are being abused by their earthly guardians… One of the Elders of Heaven explains, “The humans’ negative feelings keep creating evil spirits. I worry that those feelings will actually make this world into a real hell.” Wow! Something for us all to ponder and internalize.
Don’t let the fact that there are demons and evil spirits in this show stop you from turning it on. I know it’s going to sound difficult to believe but Hwayugi has tons of comedic moments, mostly thanks to Cha Seon-Won. He’s just as silly in this as he is in The Greatest Love. The audience isn’t frightened of the zombie, dragon, and black evil spirits because we’re too busy smiling at the funny lines and reactions of the actors.
The special effects in Hwayugi are nothing short of spectacular. Demons disappear in swirls of electricity (that’s the best way I can explain it), evil spirits appear and disappear in waving, black smoke, demons make and hold fire, a dragon flies through the sky… the CGI work is all so wonderfully magical. Ten points for the special effects folks.
Although the drama is over in 20 episodes, it takes longer than 20 hours to get through it. Each episode is about 90 minutes in length so you’re looking at around 30 hours from start to finish. It’s worth it, though. Every minute is extremely entertaining.
I read where in the process of filming Hwayugi an accident occurred when a crew member fell about ten feet while hanging a chandelier. Sadly, the person was sent to the hospital where he was diagnosed with “paralysis of his lower body”. I wish him well.
If anyone knows how I can get a job as an editor of English words/sentences in Korean songs, please e-mail me. Seriously. Bumkey sings the song When I Saw You and it’s absolutely excellent, one of my favorite songs on any 2018 Kdrama soundtrack. However, it falls short of perfection because of one little word – of. Part of the chorus is sung in English and some of the words go, “Always behind of you.” Behind OF you? Ahhhhh! No, no, no! You can say always in back OF you but behind doesn’t need the word OF. Ever. That one tiny word bothered me so much. If Korean songs are going to have English words in them then someone needs to make sure they are grammatically correct. Okay, enough ranting for now. Another excellent song in this drama is Let Me Out, performed by the group NU’EST. The song is fast paced and you can just feel it begging you to dance. There’s even a bit of rapping in it. All nine of the songs on the album are extremely good.
Hwayugi is pleasing to the eye, and I’m not surprised since the drama sported three “creative directors”. Ma-Wang’s office and home are humongous and elaborately decorated with the finest furniture. Winter General’s ice cream shop is inviting; even during the cold winter months it entices you to come in and feast on its frozen treats. The bar/club Summer Fairy owns has a calm atmosphere, dimly lit and quite classy. There is a place at the end of the drama where all hell is trying to break loose and the view is stunningly beautiful, with high rocked walls and a large blue lake. This drama must have spent a fortune on its aesthetics alone.
As an amateur Korean drama reviewer, please allow me to suggest the minute you finish Black Knight: The Man Who Guards Me, start on Hwayugi.
Actors / acting
Nothing comes to mind