The Oxford Dictionary defines the word supernatural as a manifestation or event attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature. I define it as daebak. -Lore
I love me some fantasy storytelling. I grew up on a steady diet of the X-files, Buffy, and Star Trek with a heavy splattering of Lord of the Rings and Dungeons and Dragons thrown in for good measure. Yeah, I earned my nerd badge and I am proud of it. So when it comes to Korean Drama I often geek out over the supernaturally fantastic storylines that continuously pop up in the fusion saguek/modern genres.
Marathon after marathon there are certain supernatural shows that stand up to the test of time- for their detailed fantasy worlds, their unique use of fantasy elements, or their ingenious melding of the fantastic and realistic. Henceforth are five supernatural dramas I would recommend above all others- and let’s face it, 2013 has given us a whole lot of the out of this world to chose from. Cheers!
Secret Investigation Record
Watch it for: A trifecta of writing, directing, and acting. Beautifully executed, even if the story is densely woven and your head feels like it wants to explode after watching the show (insert the words mind f**k here)
The best of the best- Secret Investigation Record is a trifecta of nearly perfect directing, acting, and writing. Which is more impressive given the unbelievable-ness of the plot- a Joseon era X-files. I often think back to how well this drama was shot, and appreciate the fact that it knew exactly how to get its point across while always leaving a heavy aura of mystery and the unknown.
Focusing on the fodder for conspiracy theorists of all eras, this show had enormous potential to fumble given its historical setting. The reason that this drama is the top of the tops on my supernatural drama list relies on the fact this show knew how to play up the out of this world while never leaving behind the element of historical realism. Daebak.
Arang and the Magistrate
Watch it for: The rich fantasy world this drama presents. After a couple of episodes it feels like the world of Arang could have, in a twilight zone kind of way, existed.
Shin Min Ah is born to play a quirky creature of legend. Seriously. My Girlfriend is a Gumiho laid the foundation, Arang and the Magistrate proved that the foundation is ten stories tall. Aside from the acting, the story was rich and well played (I felt like I was forever on the edge of my seat watching this one).
I loved this story for a whole lot of reasons, but my main fan-girling is focused on the fantasy world that was so richly fleshed out during the series. Fantasy is a difficult genre for a reason- the real world is often times hard enough to buy into without added fantastic and extraordinary elements. Once you start introducing myth as fact and the impossible as possible a writer shakily stands on the ground of the possibility of creative awfulness. When fantasy is done right, when fantasy worlds are done right, there is little else to do but cheer. Because escapism is awesome. And that is why I love this show. And still look under my porch for the porch ghost.
I Hear your Voice
Watch it for: A look at how the supernatural can become a compliment to a rom-com and not the focus. Interesting use of a fantastical element.
This drama was less supernatural than the other shows on my list, even though the hero of the story could read other peoples thoughts. Soo Ha, as artfully portrayed by Lee Jong Suk, gained the ability to read minds after a traumatizing experience that took the life of his father. Yet this mind reading ability was never central to IHYV’s plot, but instead a strange supernatural enhancement. I loved the way this show gave us a supernatural element without making it the focus, instead letting it slip into another character trait to pay attention to.
Watch it for: An example of how the out-of-this-world can bring people down to solid ground. Not heavy on explanations, but full of heart, fun, and romance.
Monja Wa Shong! Hyun Bin and Ha Ji Won play a body swapping case of opposites attract, complete with the best ringtone ever. Secret Garden may not have had the strongest and most consistent plot among supernatural dramas but it was extremely watchable and endearing. This show did not rack up the points for bothering to explain the rules around the out of this world premise (those pesky details!) but came out a champion for its heart, humor, and fun characters.
Nine: Nine Time Travels
Watch it for: The giant mind f**k, in case you have been in withdrawal since Secret Investigation Record.
Time travel and Korean Dramas have become BFFs over the last couple of years- in fact they made a super confusing jumbled quilt involving a horrible image of a gummy brain tumor thingy (after braiding each other’s hair and adopting a kitten). While not making a quilt the pair sat down and created the masterpiece Nine. The story of a broadcaster dying of cancer and the discovery of magical time traveling incense, Nine is a suspenseful look at what it means to live and what it means to die. Relationships are the core of this story, and the supernatural element of time travel is what surrounds, changes, and destroys the bonds that the ordinary humans of this story make. I still miss this show, because it was a thrilling and engaging watch.
Honorable Mention (because it is still airing I have no idea how it will rate as a whole):
Watch it for: Scary ghosts, a Gothic feel, and plenty of Hong Sisters brand comedy.
I really need to go back and watch Secret Investigation Record. I remember being more than impressed with the detail to its worldview (while explaining almost none of it). For some reason, I ended it with a bad taste in my mouth – but somehow even then I knew I should go back and watch it. Some nice cozy day I’ll marathon it again.
Nine’s next on my list to tackle. Just haven’t found the time for it yet. xD
wow you guys are right..”secret investigation record” is amazing, best directing, acting, sript, etc. does this drama win any award? coz it should..
I too am an X-Phile and a Scobby Gang aficionado and have big love for the supernatural or fantasy elements when they show up in k dramas.
SIR-I have tried multiple times to watch this and i cannot get past the first episode. I hear such good things about it, but I just get sleepy.
AATM-Quirky characters are more fun then the drama over all. Very pretty to look at. It lost me midway with the dire drama trauma and Silly but Scary Ahjumma. I completely disliked the second lead. I always like looking at Lee Jun Ki more than I ever enjoy his roles or dramas. I finished it but I never really loved it. It was a much better quality effort than Faith, but I LOVED the characters in Faith, so I was much more invested in Faith, despite it’s many many problems. For AATM, The Jade Emperor and Hades were worth the watch.
IHYV-This is really minimally supernatural, but a great drama. Still basking in the after glow, too soon for me to be objective. Great characters and all around acting. Serious legalese issues and some plot holes. Awesome female lead character, best Mom ever, and Scary Ahjussi. Su-ha’s shoulders and the k drama “rule” breaking in this drama did are so worth the watch all on their own! IHYV will probably be in my top five 2013 dramas, I will put in my favs list, best drama list, and recommend it to others.
SG-Hyun Bin was incredible. The lead actress was no match for HB in acting chops for the body switching. Oska was fun. Lots of great characters. Completely off the wall no sense at all supernatural element.
Nine- I tried. No go. I got about four epis and was done. I pretty much wanted to stab the female lead, and stab the male lead when he was with the female lead. So annoying.
MS-WAY too early to make a definitive statement for me. I am having a hard time even caring about the characters.
I would recommend Padam Padam even though the supernatural element is left up to interpretation. It is an over all excellent drama despite it being a dose of melodrama. Queen inhyun’s Man would also go on my list for time travel that didn’t make you go WTH, and for one of the best male lead characters ever. The drama over all is not as great as people make it out to be, I was extreme bored with the politics in the Joseon timeline. But Boong-do, ah, smart is so freaking awesome. Rooftop Prince, I’d recommend it to watch the antics of the Joseon Power Rangers, and the lead couple were quite good, and that got lost in all the crazy sister and cousin drama and it was WAY too long. 49 Days-Uneven, but a lot of heart, and well, Jung Il Woo. Vampire Prosecutor has some flashly fun, but do not marathon, especially the first season, because marathoning reveals how similar each episode is- it becomes glaringly obvious that it is a procedural crime drama disguised as a paranormal.
We still have a few months left of 2013, and I am hoping that we get one more really good, if not great drama out of the year, and if it has a supernatural element, even better! We can hope, right?
Oh Padam Padam, that’s a good one! It’s a solid drama with the lightest touch of the supernatural. And InHyun’s Man I completely adored.
I loved Queen In Hyun’s Man! Rooftop Prince less so. QIHM had a killer romance that made up for the entire ending, which was squee worthy but still full of plot holes. Rooftop Prince, on the other hand, well that was fun and lighthearted at times… and pretty ridiculous and blah at other times. I have stayed away from Vampire Prosecutor (watched a few episodes but was never drawn in), but I love me some 49 Days. I just did not love it as much as the other titles on my list 🙂
I am really hoping for a good sup drama in the next few months. Master’s Sun has been a refreshing breath of air for me- even if it is just figuring itself out. I am not sure how I will feel about the show as a whole (the writers have a whole lot of time to still screw this one up *ahem* Big) but I have high hopes nonetheless. Oh, and I will have to check Padam Padam out!
I’ve never managed to finish SIR, and I keep meaning to get back to it! Arang has been on my list for awhile too. This list might give me the push I need to finish both these dramas, so thanks. 😉
Kang Chi, Vampire Prosecutor Season 2 (Sorry, I just love anything about Vamps :D) and Arang are my top list for Supernatural dramas 🙂