Sunday, February 19, 2023

Genre Defying

Contrary to belief, I do watch other things other than just The X-Files on constant loop. As I mentioned before on this blog, I've been having difficulty focussing and concentrating on TV, books, etc. Probably a side effect of the lack of sleep I've been getting, combined with the usual stress and anxiety.

To combat the lack of concentration I've been watching a lot of import series on Netflix, so that I have to rely on the subtitles to understand what is going on. If I have to read subtitles, I can't get distracted with my phone, or something.

Last night we finished watching the South Korean series "Bad and Crazy", and much like other K-dramas I've watched recently it has been a complete revelation.

Promotional image of 'Bad and Crazy'

No spoilers, but Bad and Crazy tells the story of Ryu Su-yeol (played by Lee Dong-Wook) - a pretty corrupt cop in the 'Anti-Corruption' unit. He's not a good guy, but recently, when he tries to do something corrupt or selfish, the mysterious K (played by Wi Ha-Joon) shows up and beats the crap out of him. Sure, it's a bit violent, but K is played as a mischievous rogue fighting for justice and what's right. They get caught up in a case of a missing mother, a corrupt politician, a couple of drug gangs, more murder, and psychological manipulation.

As the story progresses, Ryu becomes less and less corrupt, fighting for the good guys, and K helps whenever he's in a sticky situation. 

[Minor spoiler for very early episodes]

When you discover that K is actually another personality in Ryu's head, and it's just Ryu doing everything all along in true Tyler Durden fashion, it's not a surprise, but perfectly executed. The trauma that caused K's existence is utterly heartbreaking, but not as heartbreaking as the depiction of his adoptive family, with a 'brother' who means well but can be a bit useless, and Ryu's adoptive mother suffering from early stages of dementia.

This all sounds really grim and depressing doesn't it? 

Wrong. It's action packed, with romance, fights, and some utterly hilarious moments that are so brilliantly executed it just got me thinking.

When we watch a series in the West, there's usually a genre attached. Heck, pull up Netflix or Disney+ and you get "Action series", "Comedy series", "Drama", "Horror", etc. Yet this is another series I've watched that basically asks the question - 'Why can't it be all?'

It was dark, with some seriously messed up themes in there, but retained its humour without compromising the subject matter. Absolutely brilliant.

Thinking about how the genres were completely thrown out of the window reminded me of Alchemy of Souls, another amazing K-Drama that blew me away.

Alchemy of Souls promo image (season 1)

Alchemy of Souls is like magic wielding Game of Thrones. Four powerful families, a strange fictional land, and one of the most complicated stories for a couple of lead characters you could imagine. Cutting it down to basics, Jang Uk (played by Lee Jae-wook) is lazy and spoiled, but his father was one of the most powerful mages. Jang Uk has had his power restricted for fear of him becoming too powerful and overthrowing the king. He meets Mu-Deok (played by Jung So-min), who physically may be the missing daughter of one of the powerful families, but her body is inhabited by Nak-su, one of the most deadly assassins who has vowed to destroy the mages after she uses the forbidden 'Alchemy of Souls' - magic that allows people to swap souls into different bodies, but they run the risk of 'going wild' and feeding off of the lifeforce of others.

The whole series is simply beautiful to look at, and at its heart is a powerful love story between the two leads. If Nak-su is revealed, she'll be killed by the mages, and Jang Uk eventually trains to become a mage. The action is fantastic, there is intrigue, manipulation, subterfuge and deception on a Game of Thrones level, and yet it is filled with beauty, romance, and above all, moments of complete hilarity. It's really funny in places, and some of the side characters are just adorable. 

Yet again, it may be a fantasy series, but it's got action, horror, humour, romance... all perfectly balanced.

Next post, I'll rant about how brilliant Sell Your Haunted House is, and how the ending to Alice in Borderland did what Lost couldn't do. 

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