“Bulgasal” First Half Review: Stellar Ideas Intertwined With Choppy And Dizzying Execution

Published Categorized as Reviews and Recaps

“Bulgasal” is one of those dramas that I am really on the fence about, and I am here to discuss why.

“Bulgasal” is led by Lee Jin Wook, Nara, Lee Joon and more, it is a fantasy drama about a woman who gets reincarnated and a bulgasal, a mythical creature that feeds on human blood. The bulgasal has been alive for over 600 years as he hunts her down, she recalls all of her past lives and is chased by him.

Note: this will be a spoiler review of the said episodes in the title. This is a subjective review.

The writing

“Bulgasal” is a dizzying drama at times and I will discuss the directing in details in the next section but the writing is also flawed and at certain places done so badly it almost made me quit.

“Bulgasal” is one of those dramas that I know have a good idea but the execution is so terrible that I am struggling to watch it, I want to enjoy it more and to cheer on my favorite actors but darn it, there are many details here and there that make it so difficult for me to do that.

First things first, “Bulgasal” dwells on itself wayyyy too much, the premiere episodes were especially difficult to get through. There was a better way to go about this, make it so we start with the present time while sprinkling details about their past lives.

The premiere episodes are so stuffed they feel like a lecture and not an entertaining one, like it’s being told by a very boring teacher despite the fact that the subject itself is super interesting.

But the boring parts don’t stop here, there are still many other parts that are equally frustrating and boring at the same time, how could the screenwriters achieve that? Seriously….. I facepalmed many times watching the drama.

It takes forever to get to the point and I can’t help but think the reason is the 16-episode format, if I were to go back again and watch, I’d be able to deduct about 2.5 hours worth of content from the drama and it wouldn’t have made any noticeable difference.

“Bulgasal” screenwriters have amazing ideas, which makes the entire thing even more frustrating, they take forever to get to the points they want to make. The ideas they have are woven together well [eventually] but by the time we arrive at that conclusion, most of the people have already stopped watching because the way they go about it is so frustrating. They did the same thing with “The Guest” and they repeat it here, they seriously need someone to proofread their scripts in its entirety ahead of production, that would save a lot of people a headache.

When you break down their scripts, you realize how hard they’ve worked to craft the ‘tiny’ details but they go about it in such an uninteresting way that turns off a lot of people, you need to be especially patient to be able to see the big picture but the script is stuffed with so much filler and boring content that it is a difficult thing to go through. Accompanied with the choppy directing and you get what “Bulgasal” turned out to be.

Also, I’ve seen this in “The Guest” a lot but in this drama its dialed up to 100, the characters make such dumb reactions to their situations, its so frustrating to watch. Its as if the screenwriters can’t just think of a better way to enact a plot idea without placing the lead characters in immense danger only for them to be saved by Hwal. This has happened at least 10 times already with at least 4 different characters.

It feels as if Hwal is running a daycare and has to look after children who can’t comprehend sh*t for themselves. Above all else, its lazy writing. Additionally, the characters aren’t presented as dumb at all and considering some of the stuff many of them went through, it makes no sense how they’d just jump into danger like that. You’re dealing with scary creatures and for someone who is trying to uncover the truth, its a miracle they weren’t killed sooner.

This issue is magnified with Sang Un despite knowing well how dangerous her situation is, she jumps into dangerous situations like a freaking child, and its so annoying and difficult to comprehend.

The directing- why?

Aside from “Bulgasal” screenwriters making it difficult to enjoy this drama, with a better director, we could’ve gotten a better final product. I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of weeks and I’ve come to the conclusion that the director isn’t doing this drama a favor.

They say an actor is only as good as the director is at their job, and to a certain degree, I agree with this statement.

Before you begin your rant, let us look through the dictionary definition of what a director is supposed to do.

According to screenskills, a director is the creative lead of the project, they work with the producers and casting directors along with the director of photography to develop the filming style, including notes about camera shots and script changes. They ‘block’ the performance with the actors before filming begins, meaning they choreograph where actors are positioned, where they will move to over the course of a shot and how they will deliver their dialogue.  

Now, let us tie the above to why “Bulgasal” turned out the way it did. Specifically, the issue is with Lee Jin Wook and Jung Jin-Young’s performances. Now, from past projects, I am well aware that Lee Jin Wook is a great actor, however, here…. His performance is very….. stiff, but the problem doesn’t end here, he feels lost at times and as if he’s being restricted or not completely in tune with the character, its a shame because he fits the character description to a tee, they did a good job casting him but the director isn’t doing the best job directing him.

I don’t recall him being like that, then I remembered, he’s working with the director to craft the scenes and when I took a step back, I began to understand the issue.

Veteran actor Jung Jin-Young who plays the detective also suffers from the same issue. They also feel incredibly awkward and wooden when acting opposite Nara, the issue appears to be magnified with them but the rest are doing okay, why?

I honestly don’t know the answer to that, but its frustrating.

Lee Jin Wook scenes with Nara are especially jarring. Their scenes feel like they’ve been stitched a lot. The way the scenes are cut together and their tense confrontations feel so awkward, forced and are difficult to watch, they take me out of the entire watching experience. Adding Jung Jin-Young to the mix makes it worse when he’s also around because of the issue I discussed above.

When I say awkward, not in awkward as in there is a lack of chemistry, thats on surface level, its not that, its deeper than that, there is something wrong with Lee Jin Wook’s scenes with Nara, the way their scenes are filmed, the way he holds her hands when confronting her, the awkward way he struggles when delivering his lines opposite her… this is what I am talking about.

Generally speaking, I don’t discuss directing in my reviews because many of the directors do a good job but this is one of the few times I believe the directing is adding to the issues the drama is suffering from.

The performances- what makes it bearable

The cast is trying their best with the material they’ve been given and some of them are putting out amazing performances.

When Lee Jin Wook is on the screen alone, he puts out an amazing performance, he feels like he is hwal but his scenes with the others… oh god..

Lee Joon is the star of the show, easily. Whenever he’s on-screen, he overshadows everyone, he’s so captivating and engaging, he lures you in and doesn’t let go until his scenes are done, his scenes are some of the best of the drama thus far.

It could be because he’s not required to carry good chemistry with the cast since he’s the villain, but he has a much better energy and approach to his character. I plan on writing an entire article dedicated to Lee Joon’s performance, but the dude is seriously saving this drama.

When Lee Joon plays the villain he’s at his best.

Nara is as beautiful as ever and she’s doing a good job, but again, her scenes with Lee Jin Wook are not easy to watch. I’ve been watching her for sometime, and this is the first time I’ve seen her share such terrible chemistry with a co-star.

There is a cutie newcomer named Kim Woo Seok. After searching his name, turns out he’s an idol and a part of a group called Up10tion. Can I just say, his debut performance is one of the best I’ve seen from an idol transitioning into acting? Last time I was this impressed with an idol performance was in 2014 with Kyungsoo. The cutie isn’t awkward at all, he’s immersed in his role, he’s not stiff and he knows his stuff. If I didn’t search his name and you told me he is an idol, I would’ve called you a liar.

As someone who is sometimes forced to see terrible idols performances [because they starr in big dramas with some of my favs], it was nice for a change, to see an idol who can act, he’s going places.

Closing remarks

What frustrates me with “Bulgasal” is the fact that the casting is amazing and the actors are obviously working so hard, but somehow they don’t mesh well together.

The directing remains my biggest issue with the drama, director Jang Young-Woo doesn’t have many credits to his name and his last project was in 2016. I can see why he hasn’t had more opportunities.

The screenwriters behind this drama have great ideas, but, they circle around forever to make their point and bore/frustrate me with their approach. The drama has similar vibes to Goblin but can easily stand out on its own, which makes the entire situation a shame, really.

I want to like “Bulgasal” so bad, whats sad is the fact that in the hands of a better director, this would’ve easily gone viral overseas. The drama has a following but it would’ve been 100 times more than that if they’d played their cards right.

So these are my thoughts on “Bulgasal”, so what about you guys? did you like the episodes? let me know what you thought in the comment section below.

By Jass K

Hi, I am Jass k. the founder of Jazminemedia, in this site, I share my thoughts on the stories me and my team cover. I also review and recap kdramas, all the reviews and recaps in this blog are written by me. I've been a fan of kdramas since 2012 and counting~ Join me as I discuss some of the hottest currently airing kdramas, and if you have any requests for a kdrama review, please let me know in the comment section of any article.

4 comments

  1. I felt your frustrations, Jass. I continued watching Bulgasal because of my questions about their pasts/their present connections but im on the verge of letting it go, i just dont know why what’s the exact reason i will let it go.. It turns out i agree with the directing. I cant identify the specifics but i knew deep down that i felt Jinwook’s stiffness and i realized it’s a problem w/ directing..
    It’s sad because i was eager to watch it via Netflix even though it’s ongoing but i’m very frustrated with how it’s turning out.
    I just hope they can do something about it on the 2nd half.. Maybe someone was able to do something until the end but i highly doubt since i believe they are done filming

  2. Hola, para mi es una buena serie. La química se est dando con los protagonistas… como podría ser desde el principio, si él piensa q ella mató a su familia , lo maldijo y le quitó el alma y lleva en eso 600 años ? . A mi me gusta bastante, y pienso que va muy bien.
    No todos los kdramas son una obra de arte. Pero eso no les quita que sean buenos, claro q si hay unos muy malos.

  3. I did not see Lee Jin Wook in “Sweet Home” (should watch this one), but I saw him recently in the movie “The Year-end Medley” and he gives the same impression – a little detached, distanced sort of. When you try to look closely when he is in the scenes with others actors, it does give you an impression that he is not listening to them, but is only concentrated on what he is saying. I think great actors do not only think about how they look onscreen but also give the others enough space to bring the best in them. So the scene turns out great. The best example is Gong Yoo – whoever is playing opposite him will always look good, because Gong Yoo, being so experienced and generous actor knows how to draw out the right reaction and response from your partner. In short – actors should be team players.
    Another thing is that this is a fantasy, everything should be a bit, you know, exaggerated, theatrical, including how you deliver your lines. Unfortunately Jinwook here is not acting as a mystical creature, but like a police officer – somebody very down to earth, real. He is speaking style is very “as a matter of fact”, too realistic…And it does not match the spirit of the drama. In my view.
    As far as the directing is concerned, I am not a specialist, but the directors are like the managers in any company. And actors are like employees in any company and some employees prefer to receive a lot of instructions and to be micromanaged and others prefer to be autonomous and act ad-lib. But the role of the director is to find that right approach to each of the actors in order to bring out the best in them. Or if the director has its own, well knows style – then the actors should adjust to it or they can’t do their job. I read once…I do not remember well who it was, Cate Blanchett or Sally Hawkins after the Blue Jasmine, but she said that Woody Allen never gives any instructions, the camera just rolls and you act as how you see it and he does not stop you. But it is very difficult for the actors and only the great can pull it off.
    Last, but not least – Lee Joon is good as usual. He was great in the Silent Sea, I like his style, he is always interesting to watch. Especially as a villain, agree ))

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