Alchemy of Souls (환혼) is an epic adventure of friendship, self-discovery, magic, and love. This high fantasy TV drama recently concluded its first season and dropped a very enticing season two plot.
Season 01 started and ended strong. Alchemy of Souls (환혼) was a story about two very powerful mages who can make or break the world. Two souls who tried to run away from their fate only for destiny to catch up with them. The first season was not only about magic and dark sorcery, it is a love story. A love story about ourselves, the people we care about, self-discovery, life, and yes, people we want to spend the rest of our lives with.
What is Alchemy of Souls (환혼)
Alchemy of Souls (환혼) is a Korean pantasya (ᜉᜈ᜔ᜆᜐ᜔ᜌ) about magic, love, politics, and martial arts. It was penned by the popular duo, the Hong (홍) sisters. It tells the story about two souls who were wronged in their childhood and is looking for justice and revenge. Yet there are forces greater than them that may spell doom to the nation of Dae Ho (대호), and possibly the magic users and magic itself.
Mu Deok is played by Jung So Min (정소민), a personal maid of Jang Uk. She is actually Nak Su, the most feared mage assassin and who is seeking revenge for the murder of her clan. However, after performing the alchemy of souls, she inadvertedly taken over the body of Mu Deok, who is weak and seemingly have no pathways to magic.
Meanwhile her master, Jang Uk (played by Lee Jae Wook (이재욱)) is the son of the most powerful mage in Dae Ho (대호). His magic was sealed by his father for his lineage has a dark secret. He is training under his personal maid Mu Deok—whose soul is Nak Su the assassin.
Season 01 details
- Native title: 환혼
- English title: Alchemy of Souls
- Episodes: 20
- Length: 80 min. per episode
- Network: tvN and Netflix
- Screenwriters: Hong (홍) sisters
- Director: Park Joon Hwa (박준화)
The story of Alchemy of Souls (환혼) was well written and thought of. The world was also well crafted including the rules behind the magic in this universe. From a worldbuilding and writing perspective, Alchemy of Souls (환혼) is a very good setting for Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game sessions.
I only have two feedback:
- It took long to address the missing daughter sub-plot;
- It does not make sense for Nak Su to have not figured out who Jin Bu Yeon is or was. Is Nak Su cold-hearted? She certainly does not lack analytical skills as she has shown throughout season 01.
Overall I am impressed with the flow of the story. They jumped right into the story while they carefully introduced the characters and the world of Alchemy of Souls (환혼). Each episode was packed with important key details about the story which made audiences wanting more. Speculations and theories were written and majority, if not all, were proven incorrect by the show itself.
They all did well in their performances, however, there are four actors who deserve recognition for bringing their characters to life.
Jung So Min (정소민) as Mu Deok (무덕). Jung So Min (정소민)’s role in the show was unique, she not only had to play as Mu Deok (무덕) but also as Jin Bu Yeon (진부연) and Nak Su (낙수).
As Jin Bu Yeon (진부연), Jung So Min (정소민) had to change forget everything about being Mu Deok (무덕). These two characters are total opposites. Jin Bu Yeon (진부연) was a blind priestess and heir to the Jin clan. She is stiff, wise beyond her years, and meant business.
As Nak Su (낙수), Jung So Min (정소민) had to show fierceness. An female assassin who would kill anyone she was ordered to. The most powerful and feared mage. A living weapon.
But as Mu Deok (무덕), Jung So Min (정소민) had to bring to life a female assassin who was absorbed into the physically weak body of Jin Bu Yeon (진부연) which also sealed her magic as Nak Su (낙수). She had to live as a servant while keeping her dangerous secret. She also had to show the changing nature of Mu Deok (무덕) as she discovers herself and the wonderful people and world she shunned.
These three contrasting characters, and one going through self-discovery and building social connections she never had, is no easy task to take on. A good actor internalizes their character, and shifting to two other different characters when needed during filming can be a challenge. Yet actress Jung So Min (정소민) superbly played all three characters. She turned into a totally different character without any hint that her main character was Mu Deok (무덕).
Jung So Min (정소민) deserves a major award for her roles and for the amazing sword fight scenes in the season finale.
- Hwang Min Hyun (황민현) as Seo Yul (서율). Actor Hwang Min Hyun (황민현) brought to life a character whose role is a handsome, genius mage, who is clueless about the little things yet have a very caring and pure heart. His acting gave his character, Seo Yul (서율), the look of someone who always analyze the situation around him. Always in deep thought yet laughs with his childhood friends.
- Yoo Joon Sang (유준상) as Park Jin (박진). Park Jin (박진)! The most hilarious character in this drama! Right in the early episodes of Alchemy of Souls (환혼), Yoo Joon Sang (유준상) already made his character unique and standout. Only a veteran actor can mix together begins serious, dumbfounded, a romantic fool, and comedic, into one. In one episode, I can not tell if he actually slipped while walking, it was so natural yet he never broke being in-character. I would not be surprised if he developed his character himself as being slow, clueless, and a romantic fool. He added that needed break from the deep seriousness of the drama at the right moment.
- Oh Na Ra (오나라) as Kim Do Ju (김도주). Then we have veteran actress Oh Na Ra (오나라) whose character is the love interest of clueless and romantic fool Park Jin (박진). While her role as Kim Do Ju (김도주) was a support character (even though she was listed as a main character) she was still an integral part of the story as she is the person who gives balance to Park Jin (박진) and Jang Uk (장욱). She was the only mother figure in the life of Jang Uk (장욱) and the lady of the Jang clan. the character of Oh Na Ra (오나라) made the audiences feel happy and sad for her. Oh Na Ra (오나라) embodied the nature of her character and gave us a way to feel what it is like to live in their world.
The best way to explain this is: Alchemy of Souls (환혼) is the Lord of the Rings of Korea. The locations were beautiful and if those are real, I want to visit it and feel what it is like to live in the universe of Alchemy of Souls (환혼). They did not hold back spending on the special effects, they paid attention to the differences between magic and sorcery instead of simply creating generic or one-size-fits-all special effects.
Each scene in the entire drama were perfect, there were no exaggerations yet were not lacking. The focus of the audience stays with the characters and the unfolding story instead of being distracted by the background. It was like watching a Christopher Nolan film.
Season 01 Verdict
Alchemy of Souls (환혼) is hands-down 10 out of 10 stars. No. I am giving it 20 out of 10 stars. It is a TV drama that any fantasy genre fan must watch at least once in their life. Not much to say, it was that awesome!