First Impression: Bulgasal: Immortal Souls

Drama Profile

Title: Bulgasal: Immortal Souls (English title) / Immortality (literal title)
Main Cast: Lee Jin-wook, Kwon Na-ra, Lee Joon, Gong Seung-yeon
Writer: Kwon So-ra, Seo Jae-won (The Guest, Entourage)
PD: Jang Young-woo (Entourage)
Timeslot: Saturday and Sunday 21:00H
Network: tvN, Netflix
Episodes: 16
Genre: Historical, Fantasy, Gore

Plot Synopsis:

Cursed since birth and exempt from death, a revenge-driven immortal sets out on a quest to reclaim his soul and end a 600-year-old vendetta. (Netflix)

Major Tropes: Reincarnation, Curses, Revenge

Grumpy’s First Impression

It’s a world of monsters and mythical figures for this latest tvN offering. The pilot week introduced us to the hero and heroine in a world built in elaborate fashion and bloody folklore.

The first episode gave us a peek of the ancient Goguryeo, the largest of ancient Korea’s three kingdoms, where peasants and scavengers are heavily into shamanism. Monsters are part of the mortal world. Our hero (Lee Jin-wook), born of extreme poverty, is believed to be cursed at birth by a bulgasal, a soulless immortal being who prey on humans. Because of his curse, his mother took her own life, and her father abandoned him in exchange for alcohol. The poor boy had a tough childhood. He is blamed by the village people every time someone dies or something bad happens. When the community was determined to kill him, he was saved by an anonymous, beautiful young woman (Kwon Na-ra) who bravely offered her life. Fortunately, the King’s men witnessed this spine-chilling sight, which prompted the General to adopt the young boy. From then on, we know him as Dan Hwal.

Hwal became a very competent soldier who joined his adoptive father in eliminating the monsters in the kingdom. He married the general’s daughter (Gong Seung-yeon), but their children are both carrying his curse – his son is blind while his daughter died at birth. Determined to break the curse, Hwal took his wife and son and chased after the bulgasal to kill it. Unbeknownst to everyone, the bulgasal is the young woman who saved him as a child, and its end goal was to steal his soul. It was pure gore and not for the faint of heart, but I liked the twist that the bulgasal is now a human, and Hwal is now the bulgasal who has to live in immortality.

If the drama’s intricate first conflict didn’t interest you yet, let me proceed with the second part. The first bulgasal’s curse for stealing Hwal’s soul is remembering all her past lives and a vindictive Hwal is keen on killing her in every reincarnation! What a storyline! I was already rooting for Hwal, but now I was honestly taken aback by the sudden twist of fate in the second episode! We are now entering the 21st century Korea – Hwal is still living the same old life for 600 years as an immortal soul.

We meet our heroine as Min Sang-eun (Kwon Nara), which is probably my favorite twist in the series for now. The first bulgasal’s latest reincarnation is a twin! Min Sang-yeon remembers everything about her past life and who Hwal is in her life. Because she doesn’t have the same memories as her sister, Sang-eun is clueless about the extent of danger that she faces. Long story short, Hwal was able to kill Sang-yeon but hardly missed Sang-eun! The story follows Hwal’s hunt for her and the complex plot of reincarnations and curses.

I know we have yet to meet the other supporting characters in the next episodes, and I can’t wait to see how everything plays out. For sure, Gong Seung-yeon will be reincarnated too, but will she also pose a threat to Hwal?

To be honest, as interesting as the story goes, I don’t know who to root for in the drama. We have an immortal bloodthirsty anti-hero for a male lead, and an oblivious human for a female lead. When will Hwal ever get his soul back? And what will be Sang-eun’s role in this scenario?

Bulgasal: Immortal Souls is a gripping tale with rich worldbuilding and enough mystery that promises adventure to the audience. I sincerely hope it sustains the interesting plot because I can’t wait to unravel the complex relationships in the next episodes!

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