Hwayugi (also known as A Korean Odyssey) is a fantasy romantic comedy loosely based on the Chinese novel Journey to the West. The drama moves the story to the modern day where the trouble making Monkey King (Lee Seung Gi) is exiled to the human world because of his corruption. He seeks to restore his status by devouring a special woman (Oh Yeon Seo) who can see spirits. But a curse gets in the way, and the two end up working together to battle evil spirits as they face death and fall in love.
Lee Seung Gi is back and better than ever! I’ve waited such a long time for him to return to my screen, and he did not disappoint in Hwayugi. He plays our trouble making monkey king Son Oh Gong. He’s mischievous and self serving.
And it takes someone like Lee Seung Gi to play a character like this in a way that makes him fun and charming. It was impossible not to like him and root for him despite his not so good qualities and the fact that he wanted to eat our leading lady for his own gain. What can I say, his appeal overrides all of that, hehe. So thrilled to see this wonderful performance by Lee Seung Gi!
Oh Yeon Seo plays Jin Seon Mi. She’s had to deal with having the ability to see spirits her whole life. This has made her into a feisty and independent woman. But after encountering Son Oh Gong as a child, she has always hoped he would come back and protect her.
Though after years of waiting, she is not so thrilled when she finally meets him again. I greatly enjoyed Oh Yeon Seo in this role as she has that fun spark and lively spirit that she brings to her characters.
Then there’s Cha Seung Won as Woo Ma Wang, the Bull Demon King. He’s on a personal mission which is why he stays in the human world and also has a rivalry with Son Oh Gong. Ma Wang is incredibly quirky yet very strong and firm.
And oh my does Cha Seung Won bring him to life! It’s one of those times where you have a hard time picturing someone else in the role. He completely throws himself into the character and is absolutely hilarious! He made me laugh so many times, and I just never knew what to expect from him.
And the drama is jam packed with fun and interesting characters of all sorts. We have our Pig Demon PK (Lee Hong Ki) who is a pop star at Ma Jong’s entertainment company. He’s a lively character that is plenty of fun. Then there’s Ma Jong’s secretary Ji Young (Lee El) ready to jump at his every command, especially if it involves killing someone (which ironically, it never does, lol).
We have the Winter General and Summer Fairy (dual roles by Sung Hyuk) who offer guidance to our group. Then there’s our beautiful zombie Bu Ja (Lee Se Young). She’s a humorous one with her awkward zombie reactions and decomposing body giving her issues. Of course, there are lots more. They are all just a fun group for sure!
Hwayugi definitely fits the bill of being a romantic comedy with horror elements. It’s heavy on the fantasy with it’s demons, ghosts, magic, and curses. A lot of special effects are used in the drama which I greatly enjoyed. It really gave it that fantasy feel in a strong way. Some of the ghosts are pretty creepy too.
The cinematography as a whole was wonderful! This is one gorgeous drama to look at and included some beautiful sets. And as to be expected from pretty much any Hong sisters drama, there is a great soundtrack with some very catchy songs that were well utilized.
Hwayugi has an overarching story, but it progresses slowly without a very strong narrative. But it does get stronger towards the end. It then follows mini ghost stories as the characters jump in to solve the mysteries and get rid of evil spirits.
This is something I wouldn’t always enjoy, but Hwayugi created such an entertaining world that it didn’t matter. All of the individual stories and elements were interesting and engaging. I just loved the characters and the fantasy world, and I was pretty happy just spending time in it.
Hwayugi really is an enjoyable drama on many levels. There’s a lot of fun to be had when there are various magical demon creatures that want to eat Seon Mi but can’t because of different reasons. It certainly makes for some humorous scenarios!
And that includes our monkey king Oh Gong where the fun mixes with the serious. He wants to eat her, but a curse causes him to unwillingly fall in love with her. That means he can’t eat her and doesn’t want to cause her pain. But things aren’t so simple when it comes to this relationship. He loves her, but he knows it’s fake and he hates that. So while he loves her, he wishes she would disappear.
And things are complicated for Seon Mi too. As she gets to know him and he protects her and constantly proclaims his love for her, she too begins to unwillingly fall for him. The problem is that her feelings are real, and she knows his are fake. Talk about torture! It’s certainly an interesting dynamic at play.
Oh Gong and Seon Mi’s relationship is a bit of a slow burn. On one hand, he starts professing his love for her early on, but it’s because of the curse. So there’s a lot of confusion as to just how much of his feelings are real.
But the relationship intensifies throughout the drama with some pretty intense moments in the latter third. They develop some nice chemistry at this point, and I could really feel the high stakes and their growing feelings for each other.
And everything really builds up nicely for the end. The overarching story as well as the character’s individual stories and relationships all come to a head to make for an all around exciting and impactful journey.
So all in all, I was quite pleased with Hwayugi. I waited a long time for it, and it didn’t disappoint. The fantasy world it created was rich and full, and it populated it’s world with some fantastic and interesting characters. The entire cast was absolutely fantastic on so many levels. It was a fun ride that I’m sad to see end. I really enjoyed myself and will miss these characters and this crazy magical world.
My Rating: 8/10
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