Do you… believe in magic?
Episode 1 of The Sound of Magic begins with girls discussing rumours about a magical theme park. Apparently, a good looking magician stays there but he’s completely insane. Rumour has it he also does real magic too.
Just like clockwork, that magic manifests itself in the school, as students go whizzing through the corridors, inexplicably dancing and bursting into song.
This slick, well-choreographed opener eventually paves way for the actual story to begin. Ah-Yi is late to class, and bangs her knee up pretty badly on the stairs too. Unfortunately, with the Dean now their homeroom teacher, it doesn’t look good for her. Another latecomer is Il-Deung, the top student in school.
Ah-Yi is a bit of a loner and she’s also poor too, typified by her picking up food from the school cafeteria and putting it in a Tupperware box for home. Despite her circumstances, she’s doing well in math, so good in fact that top student Il-Deung is convinced that she’s going to an academy. That’s not true though, as Ah-Yi is actually studying at the same time as working.
Despite collecting 50,000 won for her day, heading home her note flies out of her hand and down the street. Ah-Yi follows, desperate to get it back.
Slick visuals manifest into Ah-Yi running across a bank note before eventually finding herself at an abandoned theme park. That bank note? Well, it ends up in the hands of the magician. “Do you believe in magiic?” He asks. Ah-Yi’s reply? To rush home screaming without looking back.
Ah-Yi stays with her little sister but things are rough for them. Ah-Yi hasn’t been paying her rent and the landord is not happy. If she doesn’t pay the rent by the end of the week, then she’s out. In the middle of all this commotion, Ah-Yi checks in her pocket and notices a strange invitation.
At school the next day, Ah-Yi shows up with her ripped tights and cut knee. Unfortunately, several of the girls decide to tease her and that comes from dropping a 50,000 won note on the floor in front of Ah-Yi after lunch. Ah-Yi picks it up and puts it in her pocket but unfortunately, she’s filmed while doing so. Ah-Yi stays silent but she feels humiliated when Ha-Na comes asking about the note.
With her sister tucked up in bed that night, curiosity gets the better of Ah-Yi and she heads off to the theme park to find the 50,000 won bill.
The magician arrives and thanks Ah-Yi for arriving and promises to give her the best magic show she’s ever seen. He believes it’s all about the magic but in reality, Ah-Yi just wants her money. He doubles the money for her, producing two 50,000 won bills. Morally though, Ah-Yi can only bring herself to take one.
This is an important moment and one that really shows Ah-Yi’s character. Despite being incredibly poor, she still remains true to her morals. As a sort of reward for this, the magician throws a special bubble show just for her.
At school, Il-Deung and Ah-Yi get talking about their work. Specifically, why Ah-Yi likes math. According to her, she likes math because there is a definitive answer, which you can find by working at it. “There are so many questions that don’t have answers.” She replies.
Those answers stem from her family life, and, in particular, how her father has abandoned her and her sister. He’s running from creditors and that means Ah-Yi and he sister are alone.
Ah-Yi speaks to her boss that night, who agrees to loan her 300,000 won to pay the rent. She’s shocked and promises to work hard from now on. The thing is, he has other things on his mind and begins to touch her inappropriately. She pushes him off her when he tries to get close.
After calling her a beggar, the man grabs her by the scruff of the neck and promises that she’ll go to jail.
Thankfully the magician shows up and saves Ah-Yi’s life. He repeats that familiar mantra again “Do you believe in magic?” before quite literally making him disappear.
This magician is called Ri-Eul, as we soon learn. Ah-Yi suggests he head off and get a job, believing him to waste away his life on “foolish, childish things” because he doesn’t have a care in the world.
Ah-Yi has heard enough and after telling him she doesn’t believe in magic, starts to walk away. However, in doing so a whole flock of butterflies arrive and turn on all the lights in the theme park.
After a dazzling, beautiful performance just for Ah-Yi, she slowly starts to realize that this could actually be magic after all.
The Episode Review
The Sound of Magic has been a long-awaited Netflix K-Drama and judging by this first episode, it doesn’t disappoint. The visuals are stunning, the cinematography really impressive and the musical numbers work so well to give this a unique edge and something that feels like a magical fairy-tale.
We’ve seen other K-dramas dabble in fairy tales and Grimm fables but this one feels pretty unique in then way it presents its ideas.
There’s a great amount of character work done with Ah-Yi too, who – despite being poor and desperate for money -wants to earn money properly and with a sense of pride. She doesn’t want to take hand-outs. Only taking one of the 50,000 won bills in the magician’s hand works wonders to show her character and what she stands for.
There’s also the usual societal messages in here about bullying and how poor people are viewed, while the general set-up and mystery surrounding the story has been masterfully crafted so far to take full advantage of pushing these characters in interesting directions.
Hopefully this is a sign of things to come as based on this episode, The Sound of Magic could well be quite the special K-drama this year.