“The Witch’s Diner” is the newest TVING drama that focuses on a witch that grants people’s wishes at a price. It is led by Song Ji Hyo, Nam Ji Hyun and Chae Jong Hyeop.
Today, I am here to discuss my thoughts on the drama. This will be a spoiler review but if you want the non-spoiler version, hop to the final part in the table of contents to find out whether it’s for you or not.
Note: this will be a spoiler review. This is a subjective review.
“The Witch’s Diner” is based on the novel “Manyeosikdangeuro Oseyo” that was published in 2016. Heads up, I did not read the novel so I will be judging the drama as a standalone project.
Some of you saw the title and might have been immediately triggered to type an angry comment but here is where I explain my choice of words.
“The Witch’s Diner” is very typical plot-wise, aside from the slight plot twist in its finale, it really is like every other Korean fantasy drama. There is almost nothing that could set it apart among the sea of the content we’re blessed with aside from the minor plot twist in the finale and its short episode count, and those in my opinion are not landmarks for what makes a good drama.
Watching this drama, I felt like I was having flashbacks to other kdramas with similar premises. “The Witch’s Diner” doesn’t attempt to stir anything or challenge any concept, it exists, it’s a cute drama, that’s for sure, but it feels very superficial in the way it handles its topics.
While it attempts to tackle various societal issues, not once whilst watching did I feel a sense of sympathy to any of the supporting characters. Upon contemplation and completing the drama, I could finally put it into words. The way it tackles those sensitive issues is very basic and as predictable as you’d ever expected from a drama that will try to discuss those topics.
I personally couldn’t get invested in those stories because the setup to each one felt very basic and lacking in character. It ends up feeling rather hollow.
“The Witch’s Diner” is based on a novel, novels usually run at 60,000 to 90,000 words so that’s usually a lot of content that could be difficult to adapt to a drama. Especially in the case of “The Witch’s Diner,” which chose only 8 episodes, I like that its short but it also felt almost missing something up until the finale where the screenwriter hurriedly attempts to connect the dots, provide context for characters motivations and wrap up everything.
“The Witch’s Diner” ending was what made me like this drama despite my issues with it. If you watch as many dramas as I do then you probably already know that many kdrama endings usually end up infuriating the community. “The Witch’s Diner” screenwriter did a phenomenal job tying almost all loose ends by the end, it felt very calculated as if she was crossing a checklist but it was welcomed. I’d rather have a screenwriter that knows what they need to address and clarify rather than a screenwriter who’d abandon most of the points they made.
I had at least 6 questions for the finale and 5 were answered so I couldn’t even be mad. How each question was answered wasn’t what I’d expected but at least, we got answers.
Motivations of characters- a look at the characters
“The Witch’s Diner” begins by trying to paint the witch in a bad light by literally making her kill someone for defrauding her daughter. The screenwriter attempts her best to make us scared of her but in the finale, it takes an 180 turn and they start to claim that witches somehow are there to protect and serve humans, the issue is…. It makes no sense considering how they help those people.
This is what I meant by getting unexpected answers to my questions. It felt slightly odd how they tried to wrap up everything nicely despite what has been done up until episode 7.
The witches grant wishes but take away something very precious in return. Those who come looking for help are usually the disadvantageous and the struggling members of society, so it feels counter-intuitive to help them out by stripping them from something they dearly care for or need.
If I were the screenwriter I wouldn’t have tried to paint the witches in a good light, I’d say they’re beings that might help out; but; at a heavy price.
This character is my favorite but also the one that makes no sense to me in the grand scheme of things.
For starters, the screenwriter says he’s a high school student, but he falls for a 28-year-old woman. The way he sticks by her side is very creepy because you know he likes her, aside from being problematic as a concept, it is also illegal and immoral for Jung Jin to begin a romantic relationship with him.
I know you’ll say it didn’t happen, my issue is, the insinuation of the possibility and how the screenwriter attempts to make us root for their possible romance.
The screenwriter then attempts to make it okay by saying the character is 20, but he’s in high school and we get no explanation whatsoever as to why he’s older than the other kids. This is a crucial point because the entire arc of Gil Yong’s character is based on being in love with a woman 10 years older than him and making life-altering decisions to be by her side.
It felt wrong to even ship them together which is why I guess the screenwriter said his character was 20. I felt a bit more comfortable rooting for them when it was explained but I wished we had gotten to know his character more in this drama.
This is what I meant by superficial, the screenwriter only scratches the basics of every concept, only the most basic needed to advance the plot which is why it feels hollow at times.
I still don’t quite understand how one or two simple encounters with Jin could’ve made him like her so much so that he would make a wish knowing it would alter his life forever, then he wants to become a supporter to stick by her side. I found it difficult to take him seriously because he’s still a child in my eyes and it felt unrealistic to see someone his age commit to a woman that doesn’t even begin to show interest in him romantically. I get they make it look pure but if we look beyond the surface, it feels so odd and creepy the more you stop to think of it.
The editing and CGI
“The Witch’s Diner” production team deserves a raise, its a small point but its important to mention it. The graphics were a lot better than what I’d expected from a drama. You can tell they used expensive tools to make the vision come to life.
I guess, CJ ENM is truly putting a lot of effort and money to make TVING work which leads to my next point
“The Witch’s Diner” and TVING’s fight to dominate the OTT market
CJ ENM is keen on dominating the online streaming market. This is possibly my first ever TVING drama. Kdramas used to air simultaneously on a network and on TVING but this is probably the first one I saw that exclusively airs on TVING.
TVING wants to take a good portion of the online streaming market and are directly competing with Netflix, so far, they’re doing ok. I’d say “The Witch’s Diner” is a step in the right direction. There is not as much pressure to put out 16 episodes dramas and that in turn saves screenwriters. “The Witch’s Diner” would’ve suffered tremendously had it been 16 episodes long. I’ve been preaching about this approach for a while now, I am glad Korean production companies are reducing episodes count across the board.
“The Witch’s Diner” cast did amazingly well. Song Ji Hyo was a treat, this is my favorite performance and drama of her in recent memory. Song Ji Hyo is adorable and fun to watch but her drama choices usually don’t pique my interest.
Nam Ji Hyun is, again, fabulous. I am loving her choices. You can tell she’s trying out different approaches and I like it.
Chae Jong Hyeop is a such a cutie, his smile is so contagious, you can’t help but fall for him. I think he did a good job with a questionable character. I can’t wait to see his next project.
Should I watch this drama
“The Witch’s Diner” might not be the most special fantasy kdrama out there but it is still fun to watch. If you like the actors of this project, then its a must-watch for you. If you enjoy fantasy kdramas, you’ll probably like this one too.
What makes “The Witch’s Diner” work is the fact that it’s short, only 8 episodes and some aren’t even 40 minutes, so it doesn’t feel like a massive waste of time by the time you complete it. The ending won’t disappoint you most likely.
I’d probably recommend this drama to most people unless they’re very picky. It is still a fun watch and has a super talented cast.
So these are my thoughts on “The Witch’s Diner”, so what about you guys? did you like the episodes? let me know what you thought in the comment section below.