I was enjoying my two-month hiatus from work when Arang and the Magistrate first aired on GMA-7. I am not the type to watch dubbed K-dramas on local television since I prefer to watch dramas online. When I first saw the teaser for AATM, I know that I would totally be hooked with this drama. Before I knew it, AATM has become my 5:30 habit (note: AATM’s airtime on GMA-7).
I never got the chance to finish this drama since my contract was renewed and I got busy with other priorities. New dramas, movies, and animes also piled up to my ‘MUST WATCH LIST’ so AATM was pushed further away and I’ve completely forgotten that this drama even exist. While waiting for the next episode of Naruto Shippuden, I suddenly remembered this drama so I decided to have a two-day marathon of AATM.
Plot. Death is just the beginning. The story revolves around Arang’s search of her memories and the truth behind her death with the help of the newly appointed Magistrate, who can see and communicate with supernatural beings.
Aside from the visually perfect leads (emphasis on this please, *giggles*), the plot is stunningly intriguing. As a viewer, you can’t help but feel the same frustration about the mystery that lingers around Arang’s death. Politics is one of the apparent themes of this drama, which is to be expected in most sageuks. Personally, I find the political aspect of AATM less annoying than the other similar dramas I’ve seen. Why? Because the issue with Lord Choi was settled smoothly and the three bangs played a huge part in it.
No more comment with the other genres: romance, mystery, fantasy, and action. All were properly executed.
Cast and characters
Lee Joon-gi as Kim Eun-oh. I can’t think of any other actor who can perfectly play the role of the Magistrate other than Lee Joon-gi. I first saw him on the 2005 hit drama My Girl which made me forever brand him as a ‘pretty boy’. But after watching AATM, I realized that he is one of the perfect example of evolution: from pretty boy to a mature, perfectly chiseled hunk. ♥
I have to say that there is much development in the character of Kim Eun-oh. From being a person who doesn’t care about his surroundings and injustice, he has become a reliable magistrate who the people of Miryang can depend on after meeting Arang.
Shin Min-ah as Arang/Lee Seo-rim. At the beginning of the series, Arang can be described as a blabbermouth, strong, and a fearless ghost. She possessed a very strong personality in order to survive the afterlife. As she discovers more about herself, she starts to become more ladylike and sophisticated just like the old Lee Seo-rim. *** SPOILER ALERT*** In the end, she starts to become a blabbermouth again, just like how Arang used to be, when she scolds Eun-ho for drinking from the well of forgetfulness. ***END OF SPOILER***
I like how Shin Min-ah portrayed the characters of Arang and Lee Seo-rim. Even if Arang and Lee Seo-rim are the same person, she was able to perfectly execute the difference between the two: Arang is Arang, Lee Seo-rim is Lee Seo-rim. It may sound confusing but you’ll get what I mean if you watch the drama.
I also have to give a double thumbs up to the chemistry between Lee Joon-gi and Shin Min-ah. I seriously don’t know what to write to describe the chemistry between the two. Asdfghjkl!!! ♥♥♥
Yeon Woo-jin as Choi Joo-wal. I consider Joo-wal as the character with the biggest development throughout the story, He started as a homeless orphan and became the young master of the Choi household in exchange of serving the “fairy” Moo-yeon. Due to his humble background, he thought that wealth and prestige are everything in life. He regained his lost humanity when he met Arang.
Aside from AATM, I’ve only seen Yeon Woo-jin on his cameo role in My Love From Another Star so I don’t have any reference with regards to his acting skills. But I do have to say that he did a pretty good job in portraying an emotionless, cold-hearted, and a confused guy.
Han Jung-soo as Moo-young. He is the head grim reaper and the older brother of Moo-yeon. In the story, grim reapers should not feel any human emotions such as sadness and of course, love. At the later part of the story, he showed such emotions when he learns about Moo-yeon. I think it was made that way since his affection for his sister motivated him to kill her in order to save her.
Yoo Seung-ho as Jade Emperor and Pak Jun-gyu as Yeom-Ra. The gods of heaven and hell. These two showed the perfect chemistry of bond and conflict. The character of the Jade Emperor is quite mysterious and it shows that he has a lot of things on his mind. He is calm and may seem carefree, but he has all his plans laid down.
Yeom Ra, unlike the Jade Emperor, has a predictable personality. He might give you an aloof feeling given the fact that he is the God of the Underworld and his strong desire for Arang to go to hell. Despite his strong contradiction to the Jade Emperor’s request to give Arang a chance, he still supported him anyway.
Supporting cast and characters
Kwon Oh-joong as Dol-swe. This guy entertained me a lot. I like how he showed his love and loyalty to Eun-ho even if it might end up being in bad terms with him (his issue with Arang). He is strong and manly, and he provided the best support to the magistrate. I love the idea of him being not too dependent on Eun-ho unlike the other slaves of their masters from other dramas.
His love story with Bang-wool is also cute.
Hwang Bo-ra as Bang-wool. Although Arang kept on pestering her throughout the series, I believe Bang-wool’s involvement in unveiling the truth behind Arang’s death became her stepping stone to hone her abilities as a shaman. Giving fake fortunetelling services and frequent prayers to her ancestors are evidence of her vague spiritual abilities. However, as time goes by, she was able to execute rituals and provide vital information to help Arang and Eun-ho in solving the case.
The “three bangs”. Lee bang, Hyung bang, and Ye bang. I’ve seen a lot of dramas with political themes and I want to commend these three for giving the perfect example of how “balingbing” a person can be. The word “loyalty” do not exist in their vocabulary and they will stick to whoever they can gain the most benefit from. To be honest, I didn’t really plan to give them a special mention to this review but I think the character that they have will always be present no matter which era you are in.
*** SPOILER ALERT*** I really appreciate what they did when Eun-oh and Dol-swe were arrested. They were quick to think of a solution to save the magistrate even if no one ordered them to do so. ***END OF SPOILER***
Overall Production. Setting– Joseon. The Joseon era will always be one of my favorite settings on Korean dramas. The woods, perfect for that creepy feels. The Afterlife, hmm… it was obviously digitized but nonetheless, it was okay.
Cinematography— Good cinematography and good sfx,
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m a huuge fan of sageuk. And also for the record, I’m a big fan of mythology. The combination of these two gave me the satisfaction that I expected when I started to watch this drama.
Before I say goodbye, I would like to give a piece of advice to my fellow agassis out there: date a guy who can draw a portrait of you. Cheret. Hahaha
Final verdict: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♡ [4/5]