Was Bulgasal worth watching?

I have finally finished watching Bulgasal, the South Korean drama about a 600-year-old monster. It was 16 episodes long, which sometimes felt like too many. But was it worth sitting through?

Bulgasal stars Lee Jin-wook as Dan Hwal, the monster of the title. With his strong jaw and highly symmetrical face he must be one of the handsomest men in television. The costume designers, makeup artists and camera people did a fine job creating numerous stunning images of Dan Hwal.

The bulgasal story stretches over a thousand years but with most of the action taking place in the modern day. The first episode is set entirely in the 15th century and there are also scenes from the 10th. I think everyone responsible for Dan Hwal’s look did their very best work in the 10th-century scenes.

To me at times, Bulgasal felt like it should’ve had fewer episodes. Much of the story focused on the conflict between Dan Hwal, Ok Eul-tae and Min Sang-woon. I found it interesting enough but not massively compelling. The true nature of their relationship isn’t revealed until the final episodes. I thought the writers did a good job with the twists and the turns but stretched it out far too long.

If you like dramas about people who become like family to each other, you’ll like Bulgasal. A big part of the show’s emotional appeal is how the characters form a family unit. Be warned, however. As much as Bulgasal is sentimental it’s also brutal. Korean TV writers never hesitate about killing off young or beloved characters.

Fans of urban fantasy drama will probably appreciate Bulgasal for offering something different to the usual western TV fare of vampires and werewolves. The two big features of Bulgasal’s fantasy world are that everyone reincarnates and that old Korea had evil monsters living in its forest-covered mountains.

Is it worth sitting through all 16 episodes of Bulgasal? I don’t think you’ll want to binge watch it, but it’s good enough to watch over several weeks.

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