Episode 1 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 9 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 10 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 11 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 12 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 13 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 14 – | Review Score – 5/5
Episode 15 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 16 – | Review Score – 5/5
Hotel Del Luna is one of those rare Korean dramas that strikes at just the right time and leaves an emotional crater in its wake. With 16 episodes expertly blending romance, drama and horror, Hotel Del Luna twists and turns through its dual-narratives, split between past and present, before converging into a concise, well written and satisfying finale that ends things on the perfect note. Combining the talents of both IU and Jin-Goo, Hotel Del Luna successfully delivers one of the best K-dramas of the year and does so in style.
Although the plot twists and turns around various different subplots throughout the series, at the heart of this one lies the tortured soul of Man-Wol. Forced to become the owner of a hotel for the dead, a gateway between the living and spiritual realms, her world is turned upside down when hotelier Chan Sung arrives to become the new manager. As he learns more about the hotel, and its charismatic staff Hyun Joong, Mr Kim and Ms. Choi, what follows is an unlikely love story woven around elements of horror and supernatural drama.
What’s particularly impressive here though is the way Hotel Del Luna handles its various different genres. Effortlessly changing on the fly, it’s not uncommon to find episodes split between tense horror and supernatural frights over to genuine laugh out loud comedy in the next scene, without it ever feeling contrived or forced. It’s partly testament to the excellent script writing but also thanks to IU, who absolutely steals the show here. Putting in an award-winning performance, her portrayal of Man-Wol is masterful, and given Jin-Goo’s performance in The Crowned Clown earlier this year, it’s impressive that he doesn’t share more of the spotlight thanks to IU’s performance.
With each episode clocking in at around 70 minutes, there’s a consistency to Hotel Del Luna that allows each episode to weave an individual tale whilst progressing the main narrative, especially midway through the series when more of these stand-alone segments come to the foreground. The exploration of Man Wol’s tortured past is nicely implemented and adds an injection of mystery to proceedings, helping to keep the show consistently unpredictable throughout. As more of this narrative is drip-fed through the episodes, the dramatic crux comes toward the back end of the series, as greater clarity is given over just why Man Wol is so reserved and bitter.
Adding to Man Wol’s progressive character arc over the weeks (depicted through the slowly blossoming Moon Tree which she remains tied to) are the various other character who are all given their own arcs. If I’m honest, Chan Sung is probably the weakest out of all the characters here, having not really grown that much over the weeks despite growing fonder of Man Wol. By comparison, seeing the different hotel guests fulfilling their desires or getting over their fears makes for a really satisfying watch. It’s particularly impressive when you consider the secondary and background characters, like the Father and Son involved in a hit and run, given enough attention to have a satisfying send-off too.
Aesthetically, Hotel Del Luna looks fantastic too and the visual cues in the series, with its use of neon colours and interesting scene composition, make this Korean drama as visually pleasing as it is dramatic to watch. Complementing this happens to be one of the best K-Pop soundtracks of the year, combining with the visuals to make Hotel Del Luna a powerhouse series, one that’s going to be hard to beat this year.
Hotel Del Luna is the perfect advertisement for Korean drama and a must-watch for anyone who enjoys a romantic or comedic drama. The series consistently surprises and has enough twists and turns along the way to keep you coming back for more. With each episode clocking in at 75 minutes, there’s enough time to allow the characters to grow and the impressive aesthetic style glows through every episode. Although a few of the subplots drag on a tad too long, including the Ji-Won ghost angle, for the most part Hotel Del Luna can do no wrong, bowing out as one of the best dramas of the year.