“Alchemy Of Souls” has aired its 10th episode recently, and its now time for a first-half review.
Here are my thoughts on the drama thus far!
Note: this will be a spoiler review of the said episodes in the title. This is a subjective review.
The script and CGI
The Hong sisters have a very distinct writing style and ‘feel’ that you can easily identify when watching their dramas. Again, they bring their A-game on integrating many genres into one gripping tale almost flawlessly.
When I watch “Alchemy Of Souls,” I am constantly reminded of why this drama is doing so well with fans, it has a very nice balance of fantasy, melo, and comedy.
Having said this, thus far, I’d say The Hong Sisters are still struggling with presenting information in this drama, I say this because the scenes filled with exposition are not only very boring but sometimes difficult to understand.
I know they’re trying their best, but with each episode, they not only introduce new information but also repeat the old information and it all feels like its a mess inside my mind. I could be just dumb and its possibly a different case for many of you, but I still don’t quite understand everything there is. I do understand the basics but I feel conflicted on my level of understanding for the more difficult/recent additions. The sisters keep introducing new stuff that you master or do as a mage too.
Whenever an exposition scene is presented, I find it rather jarring and poorly integrated into the story. I’d say the writing mixes genres well but when its going heavy on exposition, its pretty heavy. Good examples of those would be the scenes including the queen and Jin Mu.
Like I said in my review of the premiere, this is probably their most ambitious script yet in terms of world-building. They introduce their own vocabulary too and its easy to get lost unless you’re paying very close attention to the exposition scenes, which could be like I said, difficult to swallow because they generally lack the appeal of the scenes with the main characters have.
Since “Alchemy Of Souls” part two is being reportedly filmed right now, I suspect its about to get even crazier on the whole world-building part. Because we have at least 20 more episodes to go if we take the report made about this second part of this drama seriously. The report says the second part will be 10 episodes long.
And like I said in the premiere review, even with this entire situation and world-building going on, I still struggle to see how they’ll be able to have enough material to fill 10 more episodes not even counting the second part.
Episodes 9 and 10 were some of the slowest for the drama thus far, you can tell they’re more or less filled with filler content. I understand the writing decisions but I feel those two episodes could have been easily condensed to one if not less. I also suspect this will be the first of many slower episodes for this drama.
The good thing is, the Hong sisters have done a good job with establishing the main characters enough that we care about them and feel attached to them so much so that its not a bad idea to just watch filler episodes.
I remain cautiously optimistic about the second half and the potential second season. I think this drama could easily go down in history as one of the best most-ambitious kdramas ever made. If someone can do it, then its the Hong sisters.
In terms of CGI, it is used a bit less in newer episodes but its still lacking whenever its used. When we head towards the inevitable grand battle in the drama, I am afraid it will be more of the same thing. I just hope they have saved the budget for the important scenes so they don’t end up looking rather cartoonish or just plain bad.
I really like the way the characters have been written and expanded on. Since we have 20 episodes, you can tell the screenwriters have went above and beyond to make sure they make you care about not only the main couple but also the side characters. They introduce many potential love triangles or squares in many directions. I thought this was done rather well.
The Hong sisters used cliché kdrama plot points well, it feels familiar but they do a good job making you care even though you know the likely outcome. It doesn’t feel too cliché, its the right balance, I think it also has to do with how well each actor plays their character.
I think they will expand even more on supporting characters later in the drama. I hope they focus more on Dang-Gu, Sang-Ho, Park Jin and Kim Do-Joo.
Also, can I just say this? I really like Heo Yeom, he’s such a cute grandpa character, he’s so much fun to watch. Whenever he’s on screen I can’t help but smile. I absolutely adore this character.
The performances and chemistry
If there is something where “Alchemy Of Souls” stands out in, its definitely the chemistry between its cast. It feels like they’re not only on the same page but also get along well together.
Beginning with the obvious, So Min and Jae Wook are freaking AMAZING together. I could write three more pages focusing on them alone, to be honest with you. Not to bore you but they share great chemistry. Generally speaking, I found that both actors had developed good chemistry with their other co-stars too. It also helps that Jae Wook has a mature look despite being 9 years younger than So Min, the age gap doesn’t feel that big. So Min also looks like she’s about his age or slightly older and that also helps.
Both actors not only converse so well together but it feels like they’ve known each other for ages. Their bickering feels so real and is so entertaining to watch. The way they develop a close relationship that isn’t quite romantic but also isn’t a friendship is a very difficult thing to achieve but they managed to do it.
So Min also shares equally good chemistry with Minhyun and Shin Seung Ho which makes me feel so bad for both of them because they’re soooo cute.
Everyone gives a good performance, Shin Seung Ho definitely stands out despite his character not having that much screen time, he’s there enough to make an impact without it feeling like he’s overstaying his welcome.
I really enjoy Minhyun’s performance too. He’s a good idol-turned-actor. If you didn’t tell me he was an idol, I wouldn’t have thought of it. I am surprised he hasn’t been pushed by his agency that much before. I’d assume someone this handsome and talented could have been everywhere. I googled it and found out his agency is PLEDIS and it all made sense.
Ko Yoon-Jung is amazing here. She’s one of the most underrated rising actresses and I think she’ll get her big break with this one. Oh Na-Ra’s performance is always great and she has good chemistry with Yu Jun-Sang who is absolutely adorable. Damn it, whoever cast him alone deserves a raise.
The casting for this drama was done so well. I am enjoying everyone’s performance. Jo Jae-Yun gives a serious performance here which is unlike him because he usually plays silly characters. He does well for the most part but in some places, his character comes off rather cartoonish, especially in the scenes where he converses with the queen and unloads a tone of exposition.
Conclusion and expectations for the second half
Like I said, I am cautiously optimistic this time. I wouldn’t say we’re out of the woods on what could become a rather inflated script- yet either, but there is also great potential here. Regardless of my opinion, I know this drama is already a massive success among fans and it managed to get a lot of people attached. This will help it considerably IF it becomes a bit convoluted down the road.
I do feel the CGI is obviously lacking and the world-building is still rocky but despite that, I have enjoyed my time thus far. Isn’t that whats most important?
I am so excited for part two.
Thanks for your review, always spot on. I al watching the drama and enjoying so far but there are things which unfortunately I find irritating.
I usually a fan of Jung So Min, but not this time around. Her character was supposed to be a teacher but she is not given any either action or CGI, so very often she is just standing and looking. So not very interesting. I don’t understand why Ko Yoon-Jung can do fights but not So Min – is she too precious to learn how to swing the sward a little? Also, she adopted to play with a stern face here, looking angry most of the time, or not approachable. Maybe because they do not want them to get romantic? Is it because she is supposed to be older and hence being nice or cute is not in the cards otherwise it would be like seducing him? I mean – in this case why did the writers decide to create much older female lead? But the real turn off is that « dialect » she speaks with. Was it the writers idea for her character to show that she is a low class maid? The way she speaks with others and the King is really off-putting, not very elegant to say the least. It really annoys me, I don’t believe it was necessary.
Other than that – I like them all, pity that the King is not getting more airtime, he is amazing and with 20 episodes you would think they can find time for everyone. The triangle Mastermaid Kim/Head of Songrim/Master Lee is hilarious. I also like that they keep the genre the fantasy, but much lighter than let’s say The King, Goblin or The Tail of Nine Tailed and with more fantasy, it’s fun to watch.