Soap Report: “Arang and the Magistrate”

Arang and the Magistrate is an off-beat 2011 Korean historical fantasy fusion drama. It’s kind of like Ghost? You know, if Ghost took place in old timey Korea and Whoopi Goldberg and Patrick Swayze fell in love. So… nothing like Ghost, really.

Arang and the magistrate

Look, she is a ghost and he has peacock
feathers in his hat. What more do you want?

What’s it about? Arang is an amnesiac ghost with three months to solve the mystery of her death before she gets sentenced to hell. Eun-oh is a reluctant magistrate with the ability to see ghosts and a mystery of his own: his missing mother, whose hairpin just happens to have been in Arang’s possession when she died.

There’s also some business with the Jade Emperor, heavenly fairies, and grim reapers. The combination of mythology, mystery and standard romance works pretty well, and there were even some genuinely creepy moments, which I was not expecting from a KDrama.

Grim reapers

Grim reaper chic.

Tell me about the romance. Arang and Eun-oh are a classic bickering couple; they each have strong personalities, a lot of pride, and their own agendas. Eun-oh is initially emotionally closed off and lacks empathy for others due to some traumatic childhood manpain issues. He’s not cruel or a jerk hero; he just doesn’t have a lot of time for other people’s issues. But as he comes to care more and more for Arang, he opens his eyes to plight of everyone else around him and matures into a truly good magistrate and a more caring person overall.

Arang was really interesting to me — her memory loss and death have kind of freed her off from normal societal concerns. This means she’s able to speak her mind do whatever she wants without fear of the consequences, which is refreshing. It also means she starts off as a fairly self-involved character. But over the course of the story and through her relationship with Eun-oh, she ends up reconnecting to both her humanity and the world around her.

Arang saves Eun-oh

Basically, both of them end up transforming from selfish people to being willing to sacrifice everything for others. Character growth for the win!

Without giving too much away, I will warn that although there is a relatively happy ending, I found it to be a bit of an emotionally unsatisfying cop out. But mileage may vary on that score. It’s certainly not enough to ruin the rest of the drama for me.

Yes, but did you need them to bang like a hurricane? Well. Sort of? I didn’t not want them to get it on? The leads have chemistry and a nice, partners-in-crime slow-burn relationship. It didn’t set my world on fire or hit every single one of my bullet proof kinks, but I was into it.

Eun-oh saves Arang

(Also, Eun-oh is a martial arts master with a magical demon-killing fan. Because of course he is.)

Anything else? The secondary romance pairing consists of Eun-oh’s loyal servant and the bumbling local shaman who becomes Arang’s reluctant ally. They’re cute enough, but like most comic relief characters in KDramas, a little goes a reaaaaaaaaally long way for me. They do get a nice side-plot involving Eun-oh’s bucking of class hierarchies to promote his servant based on merit, though.

Special shout outs to: The Big Bad’s majestic up-dos, which were a work of art. I can only assume she spent most of her time working on her hair when not busy summoning demons or sucking out people’s souls. Which is a solid life choice.

Madam Evil

Work that immortal, undead hotness, girl.

So should I watch this? Listen, did you read Christopher Pike’s Remember Me at an impressionable age and sometimes fantasize about being an awesome ghost girl who solved her own murder? Then yes, you should watch this. (Also, go reread Remember Me! It actually holds up really well!)

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3 thoughts on “Soap Report: “Arang and the Magistrate”

  1. This is totally on my list for next to watch. I don’t normally like historical dramas, but I really like the main actress. She was amazing in My Girlfriend is a Nine-Tailed Fox, which I recommend if you haven’t seen it. Super cute.

      • I know, right? Some of the English translations from Korean drama titles are super-duper weird to me. The King 2 Hearts, The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince, Scent of a Woman, Boys over Flowers…..definitely not normal. lol.

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