Arguably one of the most talked about Korean dramas of December 2017 and 2018 so far, tvN’s fantasy romance “Hwayugi” is an interesting reinterpretation of the classic Chinese novel “Journey to the West.”
Instead of doing a traditional recap and review (ain’t nobody got time for that), I decided to sum up everything I saw in episode 1, 2, 3, and 4 in an article, I will talk about what I liked and what I hated about the drama.
The drama has been in the spotlight for a while now, but not for all the right reasons, it is Lee Seung Gi’s comeback drama following his military discharge, and its also written by the Hong sisters. The two sister have previously worked with Lee Seung Gi on “My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho,” and have also penned many other popular dramas such as “Master’s Sun.”
Let’s talk about all the things I liked about “Hwayugi” so far.
The promising plot
The plot is far from being perfect and there some clichés here and there but the base of the drama is rather interesting, its a reinterpretation of the classic Chinese novel “Journey to the West.”
Its about two men, Son O Gong and Mawang, they’re both in a conflict, they try to find the light in a world filled with darkness.
The fantasy part of the drama is very interesting. Its filled with spectacular elements and its never boring, at times it can be confusing but its very interesting.
The characters are also pretty interesting, although we have your classical tormented female lead who has special power/ability, the rest of the gang is rather interesting.
There is still a lot more to learn about each character, and since we’ve only seen four episodes so far, it leaves room for suspense and hopefully, the Hong sisters refine the characters well. So far it’s a great start.
Son O Gong
Son O Gong is my favorite part about this entire drama. The main lead isn’t bad but isn’t good either. He is very charismatic and cool, I couldn’t have imagined any other Korean actor playing that character and pulling it off perfectly like Lee Seung Gi.
I must admit, I am not the biggest Lee Seung Gi fans, but after watching four episodes of the drama, I have been converted into a dedicated fan.
The Hong sisters did well with the character, he is overflowing with charisma, he spouts the most arrogant non-sense but still manages to appear cool.
His not-so-serious image is what makes him entertaining and in my opinion, he’s the drama funniest character. He is unapologetically sassy and childish, I love that about him so much.
There is something about him that draws me and many other fans in. I saw almost all of his dramas, but this is by far my favorite role of Lee Seung Gi.
I also have to add that I am in love with his over-the-top winter coats that probably cost 10s of thousands of dollars, he rocks the coats.
Spell bound love
Another interesting element in the drama has to be the sudden shackling of Son O Gong.
Jin Sun Mi had to use a special bracelet to force Son O Gong to protect her. She is desperate and now that more people know of her identity (Sam Jang) and how precious her blood is, she’s in huge danger, at any given time, a ghost or a black soul could be lingering in the shadows trying to eat her.
She resorts to the extreme, she trusts Mawang who hands her a bracelet that confines O Gong and makes him fall in love with her so much he could never say no to her, of course protecting her comes with the territory.
Its an interesting approach to a romantic relationship. Although, we are yet to see where that leads them, but the way Son O Gong speaks and treats her is rather hilarious and entertaining.
Its so funny and slightly heartbreaking for both of them. He is now bound to her by a love spell when all he wants to do is eat her, while she’s stuck with no other options because she knows she will die without his help. She knows he doesn’t like her and wants her dead but she needs his help.
It’s a very interesting approach. Rather than the good old boring CEO who hates the girl for no reason then ends up falling in love with her, we have a monkey whose spell bound to a human, he can’t escape the bracelet, he’s forced to love her.
I also love the way he acts around her, the way he speaks to her. How he can say the most awful things to her while still looking like he’s showering her with compliments.
Mawang and Son O Gong bickering
A magical powerful monkey and a cow bickering endlessly while trapped together in the same house… what could possibly go wrong?
The indifferent Son O Gong and the meticulous Mawang fit so well together.
The reason for their conflict hasn’t been fully explored yet, and since we’re four episodes in, there is still a lot to talk about and a lot to explore.
I am interested in finding out why the two have such a rocky relationship, where did that relationship go wrong?
It’ll be interesting to see.
This isn’t Lee Seung Gi and Cha Seung Won first time working together. They’ve previously worked together in “You’re all Surrounded” back in 2014.
Its clear that the two have good synergy together. They compliment each other and I like that, it’s really fun to see them bicker and fight each other over ridiculous trivial and also serious matters.
Now onto the things I hated about the drama
Mawang over-the-top acting
I guess I am not alone in this, but I also know that a lot of people will bash me for saying this.
I hate comical acting with every bit of me. I hate it when someone so purposefully tries to evoke laughter.
Of course, I am well aware that actor Cha Seung Won is an amazing gem, he is not being used properly in the drama.
When he’s serious, he is the best. When he’s joking around and making stupid sounds, it makes me want to punch him and punch the screen and everyone who clapped while he was making those sounds during shooting.
I don’t understand why the writers wanted him to act like that. I believe he’s not purposefully trying to make these crazy sounds and noises. He is very annoying and difficult to like whenever he does that.
The character of Son O Gong doesn’t appear to be trying so hard to be funny or entertaining yet he’s the funniest most entertaining character, he is not a serious character by all means but he’s not behaving silly like Mawang.
Since I haven’t read the classical Chinese novel, it could be that the Hong sisters adapted that part of the character to the drama script. I am still baffled they took this silly approach to his character, he’s such a vital element to the drama, but they’re making it very difficult for me to like him.
His acting is similar to adults acting in kids show or movie, it feels like he’s trying to appeal to kids with his overreacting. I wish somebody hears my prayers and make him stop.
Whenever he does those weird sounds and acts silly, I feel like I want to quit watching the show entirely.
Some might find it funny, it might be because I am not a 15-year-old, but I find it very irritating.
The production crew and the accident
I hate hate the production company behind the entire disaster that happened in late December 2017.
Long story short. A producer requested a staff member to hand chandelier, as he was trying to do so, he fell 10 meters to the ground, the accident happened on the 23rd of December, the day the drama aired its first episode.
Of course, no one issued a statement talking about the accident at first. On December 24, episode 2 aired with various embarrassing mistakes that were never heard of in Korean TV history.
On December 25, tvN and the production crew released a statement (they didn’t say anything about the accident) they blamed the CGI effects and said they were running low on time.
To everyone’s surprise a day later, news broke out and it was revealed that the staff member has been injured very badly and is now paralyzed from the waist down.
tvN and the production company handled the situation very poorly. We all know what happened then, if you don’t, I recommend you read this and this.
Their hectic schedule ruined a man’s life as well as his family. He can no longer use his legs, all of that because a damn producer asked him to hang a chandelier without proper precautions on set.
I like the actors, I can never blame them for what happened, but after reading about the entire issue, it made me rethink the drama. Since I loved the actors and the writers (Hong sisters) I decided to keep watching.
But I can’t help but hate tvN and the production company for keeping silent about the entire issue, all of that could’ve been easily avoided, on the topic of that lets talk about the worst issue of this drama, and what the production crew could have done to prevent that accident from happening.
The dreadful CGI
When you watch Hollywood movies you’re amazed by the CGI, especially if the movie depends on it, yet in some cases, even the best CGI can hinder the project. This is the case with “Hwayugi.”
Anyone with his right mind, anyone who uses his brain should have NEVER accepted that “Hwayugi” air while filming.
The answer to that is simple, it’s a fantasy drama that relies heavily on CGI, you need time to perfect each scene, this isn’t possible when you’re shooting the drama as you’re airing it.
In case you didn’t know, with most kdramas, they start shooting a month or two earlier to get ahead of the schedule, they shoot episodes as they air episodes, this means, on average the cast and the production team works 15-20 hours to get things done.
“Hwayugi” is a fantasy drama that could become one of the best kdramas. The crappy CGI affects it badly and makes the entire production team look bad.
The entire drama should have been shot completely, and the post-production work should’ve taken turn after. That dreadful accident wouldn’t have happened because they wouldn’t have rushed everyone to get things done.
This is merely the opinion of a rational person who has little experience and knowledge with CGI work, anyone with a mind should have easily thought to themselves that the drama would be perfect and a lot better if they shot it completely before airing it.
I feel like greed was the biggest factor here, there could be other reasons, but fans of Lee Seung Gi could’ve waited longer for a better drama.
The CGI is that of a 20-year-old college student experimenting with video-editing, its so bad and laughable, it takes you out of the entire experience.
At times, it almost feels as if they’re deliberately making the CGI so bad. Heavy video editing takes time and patience (I know that well), its sad because the cast and the script is so promising.
Things I don’t know how I should be feeling about.
Another segment about things I am not sure whether I like or hate, lets talk about it.
The long episodes
Each episode is around 1 hour and 20 minutes, if not more.
Sometimes, it really feels like there is no need for the episodes to feel long, at other times I find it entertaining.
I don’t understand why each episode is so long, this reminds me of “Black,” but with that OCN amazing drama it was needed, I don’t know whether its needed in this case or not.
Its still too long in my opinion, but it really depends on my mood as well. Sometimes, I am in a hurry and I feel like there are useless scenes, other times I feel like I could watch 2 hours straight without complaining.
What the hell is going on y’all? Why is no one talking about this?
The Summer Fairy (aka. Frosty younger sister) is played by the same man… why?
The two characters are played by the same actor Sung Hyuk; who by the way is hella handsome; But why?
Maybe its something that has to do with the novel itself, but I found it odd and creepy/hilarious. Gotta admit, the makeup suits him well.
I don’t know how to feel about this. I really think they could’ve just cast another female in the drama, why did they have to make him play two drastically different roles?
He does play them amazingly. I wish he would get more screen time, he is a mysterious character, I love him already.
This is the end of my small review of episode 1, 2, 3 and 4. There is a possibility that I will recap and review the drama, but I am not sure about that yet.
The problem is that the translation takes so damn long, I also don’t have access to Viki, the team subbing for the drama. I appreciate their hard work, but its frustrating to wait so long, after watching, I usually become so busy with other things. It takes around 17-20 hours to translate, which is unusual for a drama in high demand. Thanks for the sub team, they’re doing a great job.
What did you guys think about the drama? Did you like it? What were the things you liked and disliked about the drama?
Let discuss in the comment section below!