My advice to you is – plan to watch Memories of the Alhambra marathon style because you won’t want to turn it off until the show is over. I was already in love with this fantastically written fantasy well before I discovered it was penned by Song Jae-Jung, the same person who wrote W- Two Worlds (on my perfect score list), Nine: Nine Times Time Travel, and Queen In-Hyun’s Man (both on my favorite dramas list). This screenwriter’s imagination knows no bounds!
While on business in Spain, Yoo Jin-Woo, the CEO of J One Holdings, is awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call from a stranger who asks if he knows a Mr. Cha Hyung-Seok. When he affirms that he does know the man the voice proceeds to tell him he had met with Mr. Cha and had been offered ten billion won but he won’t take the offer because Mr. Cha “is a really bad guy.” When Jin-Woo asks what the call is in reference to the person tells him, “I read an article about you coming to Barcelona. I sent you an email. Could you please read it? I’d hate to sell it to that guy, but I have to decide by tomorrow. Let’s meet in Granada. Please wait for me at Hostel Bonita. I stay there occasionally.” Then, without a farewell, the voice on the phone vanishes. Jin-Woo is ready to dismiss the call until he remembers the stranger claimed an offer had also been made to Cha Hyung-Seo, his rival in business and life. Curious, he goes through his e-mail and finds one entitled “Memories of the Alhambra.” After checking it out he immediately travels to Granada and books a room at the Hostel Bonita to await the mysterious stranger who made the call only hours ago. While waiting, Jin-Woo gets a call, from an employee he had just contacted before leaving Barcelona, telling him “it is ready” so he heads to the famous castle Alhambra in the middle of the night to try out the Memories of the Alhambra AR game and is stunned at how real it all seems. The next day, Jin-Woo discovers Hyung-Seok is also playing the game and the man informs him he intends to be the one to own the rights to it. It is then Jin-Woo realizes he is in for the battle of his life if he wants to beat Hyung-Seok to the punch and secure the rights to the game for himself. While Jin-Woo is waiting for the programmer to show up he finds out the young man is just 17 years old and the patent for the game is held by Hostel Bonita. Not wanting to wait any longer, Jin-Woo realizes the deal he’ll need to make for the game will have to be done with the owner of the hostel, the programmer’s older sister Jung Hee-Joo, but without her knowing what it is all about. Before Jin-Woo leaves Granada he decides to play one more round of Memories of the Alhambra in an effort to defeat his enemy and discovers, hours later, the augmented reality in this game might be a little more real than he expected.
Yoo Jin-Woo has a doctorate degree in electronic engineering from Hangul University and is the CEO of the IT company called J One Holdings. He was married to Lee Soo-Jin, a pediatrician, but their marriage ended when she had an affair with his friend and business partner Cha Hyung-Seok. He is married to actress Go Yoo-Ra but that marriage failed after just one year and they are currently going through a divorce. His first impression of Hee-Joo is that of a lazy young woman but when he begins to see she is kind and sincere, nothing like the selfish, betraying women he had been married to, his heart begins to soften towards her.
Jung Hee-Joo is the owner of Hostel Bonita. Her family moved to Spain when she was still young so she could receive training in classical guitar. However, her mother passed away and her father died shortly thereafter leaving her to quit school in order to earn enough money to take care of her grandmother and two younger siblings. She works as a translator, a tour guide, a server in a cafe, and a guitar crafter, as well as running the hostel. At first she dislikes Jin-Woo, seeing him as pretentious and rude, but soon comes to respect and even like the handsome businessman.
Cha Hyung-Seok who, along side Yoo Jin-Woo was a co-founder of the IT company J One Holdings, eventually went his own way after the two men began locking horns over the company’s management rights in 2014. As a result, he founded New World Soft. Since then, he’s focused on developing AR content and aggressively growing the company. He had an affair with Jin-Woo’s wife, marrying her shortly after their divorce was final, and will soon become a father.
I’ve got to be honest, the only reason I was anxious to see this show is because it stars Hyun Bin (Yoo Jin-Woo). In my opinion he is one of the most talented actors in the business. The last time he was in a Kdrama was in 2015 when he played a man suffering from D.I.D. in the mystery romance Hyde, Jekyll, Me so I was thrilled when I read he was scheduled to be in Memories of the Alhambra and waited on pins and needles for the whole thing to be out in its entirety. Here is some information about this amazing actor… Hyun Bin is only a stage name which he chose to replace his real one – Kim Tae-Pyung. In 2004 he graduated from Chung-Ang University where he majored in Theater Studies and enrolled once again at the same school in 2009 in order to obtain a Master’s degree. He volunteered to spend his mandatory military assignment serving in the Marine Corps and received a citation for being an exemplary soldier when he was discharged. In 2016 he was part of an awareness campaign against animal cruelty and as part of the campaign his own company, entitled VAST Entertainment, released pictures he had taken with a retired search and rescue dog named Vision. It’s been rumored he is currently in a relationship with his co-star of The Negotiation, Son Ye-Bin, but both deny the speculation. I first saw Hyun Bin in My Lovely Sam Soon, which is the show that first garnered him notoriety, and thought he was wonderful. I cried my guts out watching him in The Snow Queen and he secured a place in my heart forever with his portrayal of gazillionaire Kim Joo-Wan in Secret Garden, one of the best Kdramas ever made!
Park Shin-Hye (Jung Hee-Joo) graduated from Youngpa Girls’ High School and went on to attend Chung-Ang University earning a degree in Theater. People first began to take notice of her when she played the young version of Choi Ji-Woo’s character in Stairway to Heaven. Then, in 2006 she starred in the Korean-Japanese melodrama Tree of Heaven (not a great show) which gave her career more exposure abroad. She has been in many beloved Kdramas (such as You’re Beautiful and The Heirs) and some high-grossing movies (such as Miracle in Cell No. 7). In 2014 she placed 33rd on Forbes Korea’s Korea Power Celebrity list and she was given the nickname Nation’s Little Sister by MBC’s Selection TV Entertainment Relay. She is greatly sought after as one of the most in demanded endorsers in Korea. She also endorses several international brands, being the first Korean star to be chosen as a model for Visa and the Austrian jewelry brand Swarovski. She participates in many charitable causes and set up her own in 2011 – the “Starlight Angel Project” which helps children all over the world. She even has a sponsored child named Abanne. On a romantic note, it has been confirmed she has been in a relationship with actor Choi Tae-Joon since the latter part of 2017.
Who wouldn’t want to play a game where you can fight swordsmen, archers, and even zombies from 1492 on the streets of a foreign town? There’s so much to love about this drama. The computer graphics are excellent, the scenery is new and beautiful, Yoo Jin-Woo goes through tremendous character growth, there are many surprising elements… the list just goes on and on.
Happily, I only found two “oops.” The first is in episode one and show’s Jin-Woo holding a sword over his shoulder, then it pans out to a wider shot which reveals the tip of the sword is resting on the ground, but just before he wields it, it’s on his shoulder again. The second has to do with a kiss. Jin-Woo and Hee-Joo kiss in the rain and, after she drops her umbrella, a close-up shows their faces aren’t wet. I also have a small complaint about the kisses in the show. If you’ve ever seen the movie Late Autumn you know what an amazing kisser Hyun Bin is. The kiss scene at the end of the film lasts a good two minutes (I timed it). The difference between his Late Autumn kiss and his Memories of the Alhambra kisses is his partner and the director. Park Shin-Hye hardly moves her mouth at all. It’s too bad she, and the director, didn’t allow Hyun Bin to use his talented lips to their full potential.
Memories of the Alhambra is a Netflix original which undoubtedly means there’s more money involved in its creation. The drama took seven months to film which Hyun Bin said was the longest project he’s ever been a part of. However, I wasn’t thrilled with the fact that Emma (Park Shin-Hye) didn’t even look remotely like she was really playing the guitar. I guess that’s okay though because, after all, she is just a make-believe character in a video game.
The ending is 100% perfect. There are different ways the writer could have taken it but what we get is definitely the best. I did, however, say “But what about…?” Maybe screenwriter Song wants audience members to have a question or two floating around in their heads when the final credits begin to roll. Could there be a sequel in mind? All in all, I won’t forget this drama any time soon.
Memories of the Alhambra is South Korea’s first augmented reality-gaming drama which was said to have been inspired by Tec mogul Elon Musk and the Pokémon Go game. The drama has garnered praise and attention for its use of “high-end computer graphics, cinematography, and fast-paced storytelling.” In fact, critic Jeon Seok-Hee said the drama had a mysterious and captivating plot which held the viewers’ attention to the very end and stated it “has the potential to become one of the very best TV dramas we have seen in years,” and I agree 100%. I think everyone who sees it will find this show fascinating.
Are you wondering how well this drama did in the ratings? Well, there was a preview screening held at CGV theaters before the first episode was aired so that gave it some serious attention before it even began. It aired on cable TV which always has less viewers because people have to pay to watch it but every single one of its 16 episodes consistently topped the cable viewership ratings in its time slot. Beginning its run at 7.507%, the ratings got as high as 10.025% nationwide, making Memories of the Alhambra one of the highest rated dramas in the history of Korean cable television! Sadly, because people need to find fault with things the show received some criticism for its “excessive product placement.” Okay, yes there was product placement but the writer wrote it into the show giving it reason and making sense. In the show, brands can buy into the game so their product can be used as “items.” It all made sense and was pretty clever – brands buying ads in the game. In the story it served the same purpose as a brand buying ads on Facebook in real life. So I didn’t see any reason for people to boo-hiss the drama’s product placement because it was actually part of the story.
How’s the music? Well, I’m just going to say one thing – the next time I’m in a thunderstorm I’m going to be listening for classical guitar music, that’s for sure!
This drama is a visual feast with incredible cinematography. Shot on location throughout Spain, Hungary, Slovenia, and South Korea the show gives us a smorgasbord of beautiful backdrops – from the quaint little town Hostel Bonita is located in to the modern architecture in Seoul and everything in between.
If you’re ready for a fast-paced drama with a unique storyline Memories of the Alhambra is your best bet. It’s a superb way to kick off the 2019 Kdrama line up!
Note: In order for me to put Memories of the Alhambra on my top 20 favorite Kdramas list I chose to remove Sensory Couple.
Completely unique storyline
High-end computer graphics
Top stars Hyun Bin and Park Shin-Hye
All around WOW
Two small “oops”
Kisses could be better