THEn Italy, once upon a time, they were called swashbuckling dramas, in South Korea they are called sageuk. Alchemy of Soulsthe “K-drama” recently started on Netflix, is the newest part of this adventurous and romantic genre, with the addition of a touch of magic.
At home is the summer series: in Asia and in most Western countries, the paid streaming platform that created the award-winning Korean production Squid Game (but also the oriental remake of The paper house) released the period drama weekly from June with English subtitles.
Every Saturday also in Italy
We arrived later, to allow us to insert the Italian translation, and we were able to start following the first episodes (of twenty, lasting about seventy minutes), full of twists and mysteries, only at the end of July. Caution: they activate two new ones on the channel every Saturday.
The plot of Alchemy of Souls
Naksu is a young assassin animated by an implacable thirst for vengeance towards wizards, an elite of warriors able to exploit the elements of water, air, earth and fire to their liking to create spells. To save his life after a fatal confrontation, he hides near Songrim, the abode of the most powerful sorcerer of the kingdom, Park Jin.
With the name of Mu-deok and the connivance of the wizard’s protege, Jang Uk, she passes herself off as her personal maid as he tries to regain his strength. Thanks to the forced stay in Songrim, the swordswoman realizes that the opponents so hated are not the cruel men she believed.
Knows this way the proud Prince Won, the mature and stern wizard Jin, the old and good-natured sorcerer Yeom as and their young heirs, nicknamed. I am the calm and talented Yul, the extravagant and outgoing Dang-gu, the capricious Cho-yeon and Uk, the only one unable to use magic due to a “block” imposed on him by his father.
It will be Mu-deok, in secret, to take him as a disciple with the intent of transforming him into a powerful magician, ending up involved in infighting between his new allies and a sorcerer plotting to take over the kingdom.
The actors, including veterans and K-pop idols
Who is passionate about it either Squid Game that The paper house: Koreaor ventured into watching other Korean series Pachinko And Our Blueswill have understood that the national production of “k-drama” is impressive – more than a hundred shows a year – and expanding thanks to international streaming giants such as Netflix, Apple TV + and Disney +, interested in monetizing the extraordinary success of the so-called Hallyu, the Korean nouvelle vague.
However, these channels rely on authors and actors already famous in their homeland and much of the popularity of a show is, as in Italy, determined by recognizable faces. In the case of Alchemy of Souls, much of the cast is known to Netflix subscribers. The role of the protagonist was entrusted to the 33-year-old Jung So-min, launched by the soap Bad Guy about ten years ago and known for the intimist M. of Netflix. The 24 year old Lee Jae-wook (UK) debuted with one of the first successful k-dramas on the platform, the sci-fi Memories of Alhambra, while the 53 year old Yu Jung-sang (Jin) was one of the protagonists of the supernatural The Uncanny Counter.
The former idol (aka the member of a pop music band) also stands out in the cast Minhyun of Nu’Est and Arin, part of a female band, the “Oh My Girl”, both in their first experience as actors. Everyone manages to carve out a significant role in this ensemble show that has more than eighty recurring characters.
The origins of the genre
Alchemy of Souls harks back to the most popular genre of Chinese neighbors: the Xiānxiáfantasy centered on humans or gods capable of practicing magic and martial arts, often mottled with romance. A lot of them are produced in China, often accompanied by cheap special effects.
Frequently they are the springboard and real stars of the show like the Chen Chang of Dunes (and one of Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai’s favorite actors). In South Korea the genre is much less practiced and often with more care and attention, e in the case of Alchemy of Souls, it is partially reinvented and elaborated by the authors, the Hong sisters.
Jung-Eun and Mi-ran are among the elite of Korean series writers. Powerful and ubiquitous, this clan of TV writers equals the most hired American screenwriters and producers in the US like the Shonda Rhimes of Inventing Anna And Bridgerton or the Ryan Murphy of Hollywood And Feud.
The Hong have signed – ranging between genres but preferring plots that rework Asian folklore and culture – some of the greatest hits of the last twenty years such as the supernatural The Master’s Sun and the mythological Korean Odyssey.
Why watch Alchemy of Souls
Alchemy of Souls has a more adult target than Chinese swashbuckling dramas. The fantasy element is limitedAnd the narrative favors a realistic register in search of verisimilitude even in situations that involve the use of magic.
Set in a kingdom halfway between China and Korea in the Joseon era (actually a rather large period between the 15th and 19th centuries) boasts an impeccable packaging compared to other similar historical productions, starting with elaborate costumes and spectacular special effects.
As often happens in time series produced in this country, too Alchemy of Souls relies on a register “Shakespearean“Which combines dramatic moments with other comedians, giving the narration a tone between serious and humorous and evoking works such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Philosophic in his reflections and political in bringing back the intrigues of power inherent in court life, romantic but without being mischievous or sugar (but you will end up cheering on the middle-aged couple formed by Jin and the nurse Do-joo), he is the ideal summer entertainment.
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