“The Sound of Magic” was a Korean drama series we looked forward to, because it can never be a bad idea to see Ji Chang Wook and Hwang In Yeop on screen together. Or so we thought. While the latter still managed to light up the screen with his presence, it is mind-boggling how a K-drama, of all things, managed to go so wrong with such a stellar cast and the possibility of a fantastic storyline. The world must really be ending. Let’s start by first understanding how the story goes.
Major Spoilers Ahead
‘The Sound of Magic’ Plot Summary: What is the series about?
The first episode of “The Sound of Magic” Season 1 starts with a group of girls talking about an abandoned theme park, which is where an insane but very handsome magician lives. It is said that when he does the trick of sawing a person in half, that is not just a sleight of hand. Before starting, he looks into a person’s eyes and asks them, “Do you believe in magic?” As the girls are talking, blue butterflies start fluttering across the classroom. We have understood at this point that on the silver screen, a blue butterfly has to mean magic. Immediately, the children start dancing and singing as if someone is physically orchestrating it all. This is the first of many musical numbers featured in the series. It is a scene of happiness and a promise of the beginning of magic. The chorus of the song is “It’s not a dream but your imagination,” which in hindsight is the basis of the entire “The Sound of Magic” Season 1.
The scene then cuts to our protagonist, Yooh Ah Yi, being late to class along with the top student, Na Il Deong. He gets the highest grades in every subject except math, which is the only place where Ah Yi gets better grades than he. She constantly texts her mother, telling her about her day, though she never seems to get a reply. She is obviously going through hard times and is struggling to make ends meet, as she goes to school wearing tights with holes in them, even though they cost very little. This catches the attention of two girls—Ha Na and So Hee—who decide to have some fun at her expense.
That day, at her part-time job, she earns 50,000 won, which means that she now has enough money to buy food for the week. As she is walking back, the note flies out of her hand and right into the theme park. She follows it, and when she picks it up, sees the magician standing over her. He asks her—”Do you believe in magic? ‘ Ah Yi is scared and runs away screaming from there, leaving behind her money. As she reaches home, she realizes that there is no way for her to buy food for her and her younger sister, Yoo Yi. Her sister, however, tells her that she ate a lot for lunch, and since two meals together must be the same number of calories as lunch and dinner separately, she is not hungry anymore. Ah Yi smiles when she finds an invitation in her pocket. It just has the word ‘Invitation’ on it and is presumably left by the magician.
The next day at school, Ha Na and So Hee play a rather cruel prank on Ah Yi. She finds a 50,000 won note in front of her seat in an empty classroom, and very hesitantly, she pockets it. Just then, Il Deong enters and sits next to her. He doesn’t see her taking the note. Ha Na and So Hee enter the classroom, and the former starts looking for something. Upon asking, she says that she is looking for a 50,000 won note that she has dropped somewhere. She asks Il Deong and Ah Yi if they have seen it anywhere, and the latter looks visibly uncomfortable, which Il Deong notices. Ha Na smiles and says that she will assume she gave it to charity. She tells So Hee that Ah Yi must be pretty shameless, but she has recorded her picking up the note on camera.
Ah Yi thinks that it is not the money but her that is dirty and decides to go back to the theme park. She meets the magician again, and this time she is braver. She asks him for the money, but he shows her a few magic tricks. Ah Yi, however, is not impressed and just takes her money and leaves.
The next day, Il Deong takes the chance to talk to Ah Yi. He asks her how she is better at maths than him and tells her that she should help him once in a while. That day, at her part-time job, Ah Yi asks her store manager for an advance on her wages so that she has enough to pay her rent. The store owner tells her that he should help her as an adult and gives her the money. Ah Yi is very happy, but then, he suddenly tries to feel her up by running his hands up and down her arms and pulling her close. Ah Yi is uncomfortable and tries to push him away, but he is too strong. She desperately thinks that she needs some help when the magician shows up. He tells her that he will help her and, with a flick of his robe, makes the store owner disappear. Ah Yi is shocked and asks what happened to him. He tells her that the owner wouldn’t be gone if he knew where he was, hinting that what he had done was real magic. Ah yi also finds out that the store owner is not coming to work and nobody knows where he is, making her slowly start to believe that the magic could be real.
The next day, as she is leaving the theme park after meeting the magician, Ha Na catches her on camera as she is herself there to shoot something for her YouTube channel. This causes her to be suspicious as to how Ah Yi is involved with the magician.
That night, the magician comes to Ah Yi’s house to meet her when he sees some of the loan sharks that come there looking for her father. To protect her, he offers to pay them back, and with one of his tricks, he makes money rain from the sky. But it just leads to more trouble when the people see that it is fake money and beat him up. But as per Ah Yi’s wishes, the magician has made them leave. Ah Yi has had enough at this point, and she tells him that she does not believe in magic and doesn’t want to see him again. However, out of nowhere, the magician makes the whole place light up, and it looks like a magic show in the theme park where they have magically landed. This considerably lightens up Ah Yi’s mood.
The next day, Il Deong and Ah Yi study together in the library, and he shares his EarPods with her, imagining that he is singing for her. When they are both leaving, Il Deong asks her if she would like to start dating. Ah Yi is hesitant, considering their different economic backgrounds, and is about to tell him that when Il Deong, sensing her hesitancy, says that he was joking. He gives her his umbrella and runs to his waiting car to go home.
On the other hand, Ha Na and So Hee have landed at the theme park, and they are looking for the magician. They see his pet parrot, “Bella,” who alerts him to the presence of people in his study. When the magician arrives, Ha Na asks him straight up if his magic is real. He tells her that whether she believes it or not is more important than if it is real or not. She asks him to show her a few of his magic tricks and tells him that a schoolgirl named Seo Ha Yeon is missing. She questions whether he had anything to do with that.
Furthermore, she also asks how he is related to Ah Yi. He doesn’t say anything but tells her to inform Ah Yi that he is waiting for her. In a later scene, we come to know that Il Deong is the son of the Chief Justice, Na Ik Deong, and he is preparing to study law just like his father.
At school, Ha Na tells Il Deong about her encounter and wonders if the magician could be Ah Yi’s sugar daddy. The latter tells her not to spread baseless rumors. She informs Ah Yi of what the magician has said, who then goes to confront him about it. Unknown to her, Il Deong has followed her there and is listening to their conversation. He hears the magician tell her that he likes her. Without hearing her response, he leaves. But on this side of the curtain, Ah Yi is surprised and shocked when the magician tells her that he knows about the text messages she sends to her mother. He tells her that he can make sure that she sees them. Ah Yi can’t believe her ears and takes out her phone to see that all the messages have actually been delivered. She is shocked and screams at him to stop with his tricks as her mother is dead. However, we come to know later on that her mother is not actually dead but has left their family and run away with another man. Telling herself that her mother was dead was easier than facing reality.
At school the other day, Il Deong made a deal with Ah Yi. He tells her that she needs to score less than him in the maths test, and he will pay her for it. Ah Yi is shocked and hesitant, but when she sees that her younger sister is not going on the class trip to save money, she gives in and agrees to the deal. She is unaware of the fact that Il Deong is doing this to prevent her from getting involved with the magician, as he believes that he may take advantage of her.
One day, when he is giving her money, people think they are holding hands and assume that they are dating. Throughout the whole thing and Ah Yi’s interactions with the magician, we understand that the words “Annara Sumannara” are akin to some version of “All is well.” That you say them and everything becomes alright. However, Il Deong follows her again, and this time, he confronts her about seeing the magician. She asks him why she has to stop seeing him, but Il Deong is not able to answer this. He sees the magician perform his tricks and is impressed, though he doesn’t express it. He also has an encounter with him where the magician makes him realize that the path Il Deong is on in his life is not something he wants to do.
That day, both the high school kids see a pregnant woman come to meet the magician, whose name is Ri Eul, as we come to know after 3 episodes. They wonder if he is married. In another scene, the police are investigating a person who is going around destroying banners of a missing person while wearing a magician’s robe. Meanwhile, Ha Na sneakily places a hidden camera in Ri Eul’s belongings to see what he is up to.
At Il Deong’s house, his mother checks his belongings and sees that he has a lot of stuff related to learning magic. This surprises her and, upon a little investigation, she comes to know that he has withdrawn a lot of money from his account. At school the next day, Ah Yi is called by the Dean as they have found a picture of her receiving money from Il Deong and connected it to his mother’s concerns about his behavior. Ah Yi tells them the entire story and promises to try and pay him back. That day, she collects the money she has saved from Il Deong and decides that she will give it back and what she has already spent, she will return it eventually. But unfortunately for her, that is the day her dad comes to visit, and he absconds again with the money. At the school assembly, the Dean announces an award for Il Deong for his acts of compassion towards his peers, specifically Ah Yi, effectively covering up the fact that he paid her to do his assignments and score less than him. Seeing this, Ah Yi has an epiphany that she wants to grow up fast to be able to take back control of her life from adults who couldn’t care less. When Il Deong confronts her as to why she is not just yelling at him, she says that she did take the money, so she is equally responsible. Not just that, she can’t afford pride as she has no way of being able to take care of herself if she gets expelled.
That night, as she is walking around, she meets the magician and just cries her heart out. He asks her what she would like to tell her old self if she got the chance. As if by magic, he takes her to her past and allows her to spend a day with her childhood self. Elsewhere, Ha Na goes back to the magician’s room, where she tries to retrieve the camera but is caught by him. He sees the camera but makes no move to take it from her. But Ha Na takes it a step further and taunts him that his magic might not be real after all. This brings about a violent side of him, and he tries to strangle her, accidentally knocking down Bella’s cage in the process. This brings him back to reality, and he rushes to take care of her while Ha Na escapes.
At Il Deong’s house, he confronts his parents as to why he must do what they want. What are they trying to get out of raising him? As he says this, he is slapped by his father, ending the conversation. The next day, the police start investigating Ri Eul as he is suspected of killing Ha Yeon. He was the only magician around and was caught on camera in suspicion of tearing the banners. Added to that, Ha Na’s secret camera also gives them damning evidence. Things are not looking good for him as the store owner who he previously disappeared returns and says that Ri Eul pushed him over the railing, which Ah Yi had assumed was him disappearing. However, Il Deong and Ah Yi do not believe that he is guilty. Ah Yi goes as far as to say that he is a real magician.
‘The Sound Of Magic’ Season 1: Ending Explained- Does Ri Eul Prove His Innocence? What Happens To Ah Yi After He Disappears?
Ah Yi meets up with the pregnant woman and asks her about Ri Eul. She tells her that Ri Eul, whose real name is Ryu Min Hyuk, was her classmate and a brilliant student who came from an illustrious family. But towards the last year of high school, he suddenly changed and tried to jump off the school roof. It was since then that he broke contact with everyone and decided to follow his own path.
As both Il Deong and Ah Yi understand his past, they rush to the theme park to meet him before he is arrested. Il Deong goes to the school first to get his backpack, where he overhears two of his classmates talking about how they got some magicians’ robes over the internet and then used them to rob people. Il Deong is furious and gets into a fight with them, though he is beaten up. Elsewhere, the police have come to arrest Ri Eul, but he refuses to get down from the stage and stop performing magic. Ah Yi goes up on stage, and under the pretext of getting him to turn himself in, she performs a magic trick herself, making him disappear. Things take a turn when the police find new evidence from one of the CCTV cameras at the amusement park. It shows the store owner killing Ha Yeon and it is evidence enough to clear Ri Eul of all charges.
After the entire ordeal, Il Deong has decided to drop out of law and make his own path doing what he loves. The storyline jumps two years, and we see that Ah Yi is doing better in life. She is going to college, though she has a lot of part-time jobs, one of them being her performing magic tricks for children. She looks happy and content with her life now. Nobody knows where Ri Eul is, but she keeps sending messages to him through the letterbox that he once told her was magical. She believes he reads all of them, though she never hears back from him.
Honestly, this Korean drama came with a fair share of plot holes. Why did the police not find Ri Eul when they were already aware of the trap door? We would have also liked to see how Il Deong fared in the real world. After all, it was his story arc that was the most interesting. Not to mention how under-explored the relationship between Ah Yi and her father was and how she forgave him when he literally abandoned her and stole her money. Ah Yi was a teenager who needed therapy and care, not a magician with a very unconvincing backstory. And it looked like he had some mental health issues of his own that he never really came out of, which was left for the viewers to interpret instead of getting a clear answer.
Other than these plot holes, the most important element that was missing from ‘The Sound of Magic’ was the magic itself. The characters were underwritten and one-dimensional, as were the plotlines. None of them saw a clear conclusion, and it makes us angry for the very half-baked emotions it made us feel. And another very important thing that the show got wrong was the music- it just did not fit and was not even remotely catchy. Korean dramas are something to look forward to because of the well-thought-out storylines and how they address all the emotions in a scene with so much nuance. ‘The Sound of Magic’ failed to do that. It could have been so much better if it had just stuck to one storyline instead of mixing together so many and not doing justice to any one. ‘The Sound of Magic’ would have been a good series if only it had kept it simple. But alas, it’s overambition ruined it.
‘The Sound of Magic’ is a 2022 Korean Drama Musical series streaming on Netflix.