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.