“Alchemy Of Souls” has made its premiere this weekend. After months of teasing, the Hong sisters are back with a star-studded cast and a very promising saga. Lets talk about it.
I was very excited to see “Alchemy Of Souls” and had very high expectations that I think were met at some level, let me explain.
Note: this article is a first-impression review, it doesn’t mean this is the writer’s final thoughts on the drama. This is a spoiler review.
The script- writing
The Hong sisters have had their fair share of hit dramas. Personally speaking, I feel they have ambitious ideas but lack the funding and the capacity to make them come true, they also have the habit of making their own scripts convoluted and they usually become messy with their execution as time goes by.
“Hotel Del Luna” was personally my fav project of them in recent memory and I think its because they had enough time to think through their ideas. I say this because I feel like “Alchemy Of Souls” can become convoluted rather easily.
For an idea, “Alchemy Of Souls” is so unique and so like the Hong sisters. They have a distinct style that you can recognize as soon as you see a scene from their dramas. Combining historical and fantasy elements to make a fun watching experience. They have the ability to combine so many genres in one project and they execute it rather well most of the times.
For a premiere, “Alchemy Of Souls” was a combination of being interesting and confusing at the same time, so much is happening and we get introduced to at least 15 characters, all of them matter on a different level. The premise and the backdrop need a lot of explanation and I think we’ll need more time to understand properly what the Hong sisters aim to bring with this one. The world-building needed for this one is probably their most extensive and ambitious idea yet.
With that, at times, “Alchemy Of Souls” felt all over the place, the execution for the premiere felt a bit dizzying at times, in the sense that it was trying to get you to be interested in the theme of the drama while at the same time introducing all the key elements that will matter in the future. It felt like information overload. I think the Hong sisters wanted to intrigue us as much as they could with the limited screen time they had.
For such an ambitious idea, I don’t think the premiere was bad at all, I quite liked it to be honest. It might be messy and confusing, but it could turn out to be one of the most epic kdramas of 2022.
Characters and performances….
I loved how Lee Jae Wook’s character is portrayed as weak and in need of help and how his savior comes in a woman who has a small figure and used to be blind. A very interesting combination. He might be lacking in the physical department due to circumstances beyond his control but he’s so smart and fun to watch. [also, I hate his dad]
I also liked how Mu Deok nipped it in the bud as soon as she realized she needed him. Such a boss move, she literally was able to accomplish what the dude has been begging for all of his life in like 6 hours.
While the Hong sisters dramas do have idol actors, I’d say for the most part, they usually cast good idol-actors. As someone who isn’t into kpop or aware of idols culture that much anymore, I was surprised by the faces I saw, I actively avoid idol dramas for a reason as well.
There is an idol named Minhyun in the drama, he was a part of a group called NU’EST…. He is good. His appearance was short but left a nice impression on me thus far. Let us see how he does in the future. His character seems promising too.
There is also another one, she’s named Arin from a group called ‘Oh My Girl,’ [side note, who names those groups?]. First, omg, she’s so pretty, this is my first time finding out who she is and she’s so prettyyy, whoever styled her for this drama deserves a raise too.
This drama marks her debut project and it looks like it. I could sense her nervousness as soon as she entered the frame, and I could also sense she didn’t fully embody her character- yet. Luckily, this is only her debut project. I hope she improves in the near future especially if the writers plan on inserting a love triangle both ways. She’s surrounded by some immensely talented actors, if she has emotional scenes in the future opposite either So Min or Jae Wook, its gonna be a problem with what I’ve seen thus far.
Our Yoo In Soo is fun as usual, its nice to see him play an upbeat character, it suits him so well. Yu Jun-Sang is back and stronger than ever. Amazing performance as per usual. And my girl Oh Na Ra is always a treat to watch.
Jung So Min is, again, a gem, a god send, an amazing talent. How can someone appear so threatening but cute at the same time? Also, how is she 33 years old? Sis looks like she’s 24.
Our Jae Wook is back as well and I think we can all agree when we I say we missed him dearly. He’s amazing here as per usual. I also liked his chemistry with So Min more than I had expected. They have a 9-year age gap but it doesn’t look like it. I think its also because Jae Wook has a mature face despite his young age. In short, they’re both amazing and their scenes were my favorite.
CGI, episodes count and a potential 2nd season
“Alchemy Of Souls” is slated to be 20 episodes long and according to the director, they’re already working on a second part, he said,
“I thought 20 episodes would not be enough to really show the strengths of the scriptwriters who create very entertaining and comical stories.
The scriptwriters are currently working on part two as well. Hopefully, we will have more time to explore each individual character in detail.”
Now this is…. I don’t know how to feel about this specifically.
In a way, it reminded me of “Arthdal Chronicles,” in the sense that it was trying to be an epic seasonal drama mirroring “Game Of Thrones” in terms of execution and effect. We all know how that ended.
While the creators don’t specifically state that, its clear to me they’re trying to create something similar. A set was also built specifically for the filming of the drama so you know they’re in it for the long run.
With all of this in mind, the CGI in “Alchemy Of Souls” was at times, very distracting. I know dramas don’t have the same budget or funding as movies but… its always been the case with the Hong sisters dramas that they need bigger budgets to execute their visions. I think this would have worked much better if it was picked up by Netflix as an original project.
I can tell the editing team was trying their best, some scenes are better than others, and the difference can be so glaringly obvious to the point it feels comical. You can see them already being limited in what and how they can execute certain visions the Hong sisters have in mind. Some scenes were so badly edited, it felt cartoonish and it took me out of the experience.
For the most part, I’d say the CGI really needs more work. I don’t mind green screens and what not, but there so many key scenes in the premiere episodes of “Alchemy Of Souls” that looked like they needed wayyyyyyyy more work in terms of editing.
Added to that, we have 18 more episodes to go. This is a point of concern to me especially since I know how imaginative the Hong sisters are. This won’t be a one-time thing.
Having said all of that, “Alchemy Of Souls” premiere left me with a positive after-thought, a hope that this can become something epic. I remain cautiously optimistic and look forward to next week’s episodes.
So these were my thoughts on the drama’s premiere, what did you guys think of the premiere?