Chapter 1 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Chapter 2 – | Review Score – 3/5
Chapter 3 – | Review Score – 3.2/5
Chapter 4 – | Review Score – 3.3/5
Chapter 5 – | Review Score – 3.3/5
Chapter 6 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Chapter 7 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Chapter 8 – | Review Score – 3.8/5
Chapter 9 – | Review Score – 3.8/5
Chapter 10 – | Review Score – 3.8/5
Chapter 11 – | Review Score – 4/5
Chapter 12 – | Review Score – 3.8/5
Chapter 13 – | Review Score – 3.8/5
Chapter 14 – | Review Score – 4/5
Chapter 15 – | Review Score – 4.3/5
Chapter 16 – | Review Score – 4.3/5
Chapter 17 – | Review Score – 4/5
Chapter 18 – | Review Score – 4/5
Chapter 19 – | Review Score – 4/5
Chapter 20 – | Review Score – 2/5
The Devil Punisher is a 2020/2021 Taiwanese series, stretched out across 20 episodes. It’s called everything from a romance to a supernatural time-travel drama. It also introduces some of China’s historic and religious beliefs wrapped in a story about Gods and Humans, relationships and revenge.
Shown over TTV and SET Metro in Taiwan and on Netflix worldwide, it stars a whole range of actors including Mike He (Chung Kuei), Ivy Shao (Hsin-Yu), Amanda Chou (Queen Chin-Kuang), Johnny Yang (Cheng Huang), Anson Chen (Lu Po Ya), Jane Cheng (En-Hsi) and Roy Chang (Ouyang Kai).
The story here revolves around The Exorcism Lord, Chung Keui, who’s also known as the ‘Devil Punisher’. He comes to Earth to put malicious spirits back in their box before they affect humans.
He’s also on a mission to find Lady Meng 1087, who’s kidnapped and brought to Earth. As a result, she loses her memory of her work in the Underworld and Chung. With a sizeable, time-sensitive job, he’s also keen to win the heart of Hsin-Yu, as she’s known on Earth.
Mike He, who plays Chung Kuei, can be seen most recently in the 2018 drama Tree in the River and film Come On Teacher. Ivy Shao is Lady Meng/Hsin-Yu appearing in romance dramas The Perfect Match and Back to 1989, both available on Netflix. Lu Po Ya is portrayed by Anson Chen, also seen in The Missing Half and Temptation of Plastic Surgery and soon to be hitting Hollywood according to news reports.
Known for his intelligence, Chung Kuei is the warden of hell’s prison. Folklore, which dates back to the 700’s, notes his role is to rid the Chinese empire of evil. As a result, he’s often invoked at Chinese New Year to protect in the year ahead. Each episode closes with a message attributed to Chung Kuei, imbuing his responsibility as defender and vanquisher.
Among the array of deities represented is Cheng Huang, whose historic role is to protect a city’s defences as guardian. As Chung’s friend and supporter, he also delivers many of the lighter moments, teasing Chung about his love life and supplying lessons in tactical dating.
One of the more gratifying pieces is the 1000-year romance between Chung and Hsin-Yu. It shifts charmingly from ‘That guy must be in a triad, let’s call the police,’ to fighting side-by-side.
Generous 65-70 min instalments give the creators plenty of time to dig into the narrative, sharing historic and cultural detail. The first several of which ease you into the story and the characters. It doesn’t get going until Episode 6 which takes a little too long but does connect the dots from there onward, effectively raising the tension from Episode 9.
The mysterious origin of the malevolent ghosts and their uncanny power unfolds cleverly, offering opportunities to speculate. Yet while some reveals are done well, others slip in randomly where you could miss it if you’re distracted.
Directors Zhang Jinrong and Chen Jingwen are supported by a team of four writers pulling together multiple plot points. Perhaps that’s a few too many cooks in the kitchen, as the storyline does seem to scatter here and there. Occasionally too drawn out with more ghost side stories than necessary, some chapters felt tedious while others zipped by.
Whilst the backstory is enjoyable to discover, it could have been more cohesive, explaining some pieces sooner. At times it seemed like a mess of unconnected information, presuming a level of understanding that’s probably true to audiences in Taiwan and China but a bit confusing for those watching from other Netflix markets.
Sets are a complementary mix of modern and historic, Earthly, Heavenly and Underworld-bound with concepts based on tales of The Bridge of Helplessness and the sky-high office of the Director of Destinies.
While special effects are appealing for the most part, occasionally you’ve got to wonder about the choices, particularly considering the production scale.
The blue-painted ghosts, for example, that are only translucent when someone is passing through them. Otherwise, they’re just blue people. And toward the end there’s one effect that stands out as ‘really?’ But in the spirit of spoiler alerts, I’ll leave that for you to discover.
‘Last Look’ is the catchy opening song and a tough one to find, which feels like a miss. It’s track 1 on the Original Soundtrack (OST) and one of the few places to hear the whole thing, rather than the shorter on-air cut. Another worth pointing out, noted by fellow viewer, Kave is pretty duet ‘If You Turn Around,’ sung by chanteuse Amanda Wang and Anson Chen (Lu Po Ya), number 3 on the OST.
There are some translation issues that plague the Netflix version of this drama too. The character names have quite different spellings to the series notes on Netflix and other sites, adding a layer of unnecessary confusion. Therefore, to make it easier to follow on The Review Geek, we aligned the names with the embedded subtitles. In addition to the translation muddle is the multitude of names for each character, including nicknames, titles, names from a past life, etc. You’ll need to focus to keep up.
Like Jamie commented on the finale, I was disappointed with the conclusion. It’s not that it wasn’t satisfying – they do tie up loose ends and relationships – but more that the crescendo was lackluster after many hours of build-up. Additionally, they seemed to have dropped the ball on the ‘how’ of the power behind the malicious spirits and their leader.
What The Devil Punisher presents then is a dive into culture and a fanciful spin out into the modern world. It’s an interesting perspective on the processes and administration of the afterlife, to be sure. Interestingly, although reviews were mixed, it maintains a number one rating in market and strong following on The Review Geek.
Action-packed and filled with interesting concepts, the build up to the Nine Star Alignment gave promise. We spent a lot of time with this show – over 1500 minutes believe it or not – and may have been willing to forgive some of the previous mismatch. But ultimately, the resolution was anticlimactic.
Was The Devil Punisher a must-watch for you? Let us know your thoughts below.
Verdict - 6/10