“The Sound of Magic” is described as a musical fantasy drama but happens to have none of those. It is the story of a disillusioned teenager who is going through some tough times when she meets a magician who brings, yes, “magic” into her life and a lot of laughter and happiness. It’s not a bad idea for a series, even though it’s been done to death before. Because whenever we tune into a Korean drama, we legitimately expect to see something new done with the old, whether it be a different format, a new twist to an old joke, or at least some unexplored emotion or a sub-plot we will get attached to as much as the main storyline.
We were of the belief that the curse of “too much content” had somehow escaped the k-drama world, that this was the one thing that was still capable of entertaining us without making us roll our eyes at the half-baked storylines put together just for the sake of producing something. But alas, “The Sound of Magic” proves that even Korean entertainment is not immune.
The story starts with a teenage girl, Ah Yi, who is going through hard times as her dad is escaping loan sharks, and she is left behind to take care of herself and her younger sister. Life is hard for her, and she has to juggle school with part-time jobs, and even then, she barely makes enough to pay rent. She is a good student, however, and while she feels that she won’t be able to go to college, she at least wants to finish her high school diploma with good grades. That’s when she catches the eye of the school’s top student, Il Deong, who develops a crush on her. While he tops all the subjects, maths is the only place where she gets better grades than him. Also, the class bully, Ha Na, gets interested in making fun of Ah Yi for her poverty. In between all of this, she meets the magician in an abandoned theme park. He is rumored to be insane but handsome, and it is said that his magic is not a sleight of hand but actually real. This magician takes an interest in Ah Yi and seems to always be there to help her out of any trouble she might find herself in. And as she spends time with him, she finds herself smiling more and more, and her problems start looking better than they were before. But soon enough, reality starts to become clearer as the magician is suspected of being involved in the disappearance of a young girl, along with a number of other crimes. But magic solves everything, and the ending is happy and very sunshine and roses.
It sounds unconvincing, doesn’t it? That’s how it feels as well. Before getting to why “The Sound of Magic” fails to make us feel anything, we would like to say that one fatal flaw of the drama was that it tried to do too much. Along with the main storyline of Ah Yi’s troubles, we also saw Il Deong’s home situation as well as the whole murder mystery. It was a cocktail of plotlines that just did not mesh well. Maybe if the series was given more episodes?
Also, not to sound unsympathetic, but the ‘poor girl struggling to make ends meet is an overdone concept. Il Deong’s storyline was far more interesting, as was his character. While Hwang In Yeop seems destined to play the high school student, again and again, we cannot deny that his presence lit up the screen and was one of the few things that we looked forward to in the drama. Ji Chang Wook, who plays the magician Ri Eul, has been a favorite of ours for years, and while he does justice to the material he was given, we can’t help but think that he wasn’t given enough. A magician is supposed to be charming and likeable, and if it is a fantasy drama, maybe a tad bit dangerous when the script requires it. The script never required it, and that was a mistake. Also, where was the comedy? Magic is attractive because it creates a comedy of deception, and that was missing from the entirety of the 6 episodes. There was not a single moment that at least made us chuckle.
And when it comes to the music, we can’t help but wonder why it was attempted at all. The songs were forcefully fit into the narrative, just to justify calling it a “musical drama.” It would have been a lot less exhausting if they had just been done away with completely. And finally, the “murder mystery” plotline was just so shoddily done. It was not well thought out, and we are not fans of how they decided to solve it all in the last ten minutes with an answer that was not convincing enough. Another misfit in the narrative. We understand that the writers wanted to show the tragic backstory of the magician, but it was poorly executed. And badly explained. His past was that ‘one day, he suddenly changed.’ Does it make sense? The reason is simple—they got the presentation of the scene right with emotional music, a flashback, great actors, and the “good turning bad” narrative, but they got a very weak script that could not sell it.
“The Sound of Magic” starts with a group of girls talking about the insane but handsome magician at the abandoned theme park and immediately switches to the whole school breaking out into a dance number. We were okay with that, and also Il Deong’s storyline. We have a feeling that a different writer wrote it, considering how well-thought-out it was in comparison to the rest of the series.
When we saw that ‘The Sound of Magic’ Season 1 had only six episodes, we were happy, considering how traditional Korean dramas can stretch out a lot. But we understand that they couldn’t adapt to the format well and tried to fit a 20-episode narrative into the 6 episodes. They should have just stuck to Ah Yi’s story arc and done it well, or maybe Il Deong’s, considering how that was so much better.
People watch stories about fantasy and magic because it feels good to see at least somebody’s problems getting solved in a world where things seem to be always falling apart. But “The Sound of Magic” did not understand the assignment, and that has genuinely disappointed us. To be fair, the accurate assessment would be that we were not bored, but we did not care either. I never thought we would say that about a K-drama considering some of the recent content that has come out of the country. “The Sound of Magic” not only lacked the magic it promised, but it was way below ordinary. That is exactly what disappointed us. It is high time that creators understand that if they are unwilling to give us new content, the least they need to learn to do is adapt it to the new formats. Given that, they would still be able to retain the charm they are so well-known for.
Note: The Review is based on the Screener provided by Netflix.