A Rooftop Brawl With The Level 3 Spirit
We begin episode 1 The Uncanny Counter in the past, as rain lashes down on a car driven by a couple listening to the results of the Mayoral election on the radio. It’s a close race but candidate Shin Myeong-Hwi has just won by a mere 358 votes.
As the family listen intently, little So Moon draws a picture of his grandparents and agrees to draw his parents as part of his picture. They’re quite the family unit, singing together and generally getting along like a house on fire.
Only a phone call from Detective Ga throws him completely off-guard. “Gwon you better be careful too,” A bloodstained man from the rooftop tells him, “Make sure you stay alive.”
When he hangs up, Ga is surrounded by a group of thugs who push him off the roof, causing him to fall to his doom. He’s not alone either. A truck ploughs into the side of Gwon’s car down below, as his Mother and Father die right there in the upturned car.
So Moon happens to be the sole survivor though and as a masked figure approaches, we cut forward in time (7 years to be precise) with a lovely time-lapse shot of skyscrapers being built.
So Moon is grown now and after topping his class in martial arts and finding a real passion for comic books, this teen lives with his Grandma and Grandpa. While getting ready for school, he uncovers his old sketchbook from before and remembers moments from that fateful night.
So Moon is not a loner at school like one may expect. Despite sporting a pretty gnarly injury on his leg, Moon hangs out with two of his friends who give him some tips on how to develop his comic book hero and how to craft their antagonists and backstory.
It’s a nice segment that not only gets us accustomed to the urban layout of Korea, it also shows a sketch of this hero bouncing around the screen.
On the way, the trio come across a woman handing out flyers for a missing person. A missing person that’s been gone for a year.
On the way they stop by Eonni’s Noodles, a real hidden gem that doesn’t show up on any of the social media platforms. Exposition fills us in on how strange this family are, before cutting to the kitchen to see them first-hand in action.
One of the workers, Ha-Na, can sense evil spirits from hundreds of kilometers away. While moving heavy boxes, she suddenly doubles over and senses what she calls a “Level 3 spirit”. Rushing in to tell the others, they burst into action and prepare to strike. Before they go, Mae-Ok asks when Cheol-Jung is going to show.
Mid-service, the place is completely shut up as the staff rush out and leave a hungry So-Moon and his friends confused and dazed. As for the noodle staff, they begin to close in on the strange man wearing a black hoodie with a tiger print on the back.
Ha-Na is first on the scene but her cover is blown, prompting an all-out chase across the rooftops in a scene that looks like a combination of The Matrix and James Bond. It’s a really slick segment and one that’s ended with this spirit getting the better of them both and managing to evade capture after using psychokinesis.
Thankfully he’s cornered in the abandoned Jungjin Station but it’s no good, this spirit is far too powerful. It eventually manages to kill Cheol-Jung by impaling him through the chest. Spewing blood, he collapses to the ground as the spirit sucks in his spirit to feat – giggling how delicious it is, this spirit suddenly stops when a strange, magical ball of energy floats away outside. Watching it leave, this spirit suddenly turns and runs away.
With their territory lost, this strange ball of white light whizzes through the air, desperate to find someone in a coma to latch onto. Instead, it charges head-first into So Moon who collapses on the ground in a heap after absorbing this spirit
Back home, Moon’s grandparents celebrate the teen’s birthday but later that evening he notices strange markings across his fingers. They don’t seem to be disappearing either and no matter how hard he scrubs, these marks are not fading. Even worse, everything he touches seems to break in his fingers.
Realizing this may lead back to him hit by the lightning, he passes out that evening and has a strange vision of being in his bed on a beach. When he awakens, Moon is greeted by a strange spirit known as Wi-Gen. Only, as soon as she holds her hand out, Moon wakes up.
Elsewhere, the death of Cheol-Jung brings the Chairman, Jang-Mool, out to pay his respects. Not long after he briefs the noodle team about the level 3 spirit and what that means for them.
As they’re soon told, this white orb of essence transported inside a kid (So Moon) and he could well be the new Counter to fight alongside them. For now though, the team remain fixated on finding him.
At school the next day, Moon talks to Joo-Yeon about his dream but after some teasing, overhears one of his friends, Ung-Min, being bullied and heads over to help. Unfortunately that gets him into trouble with these bullies, who tell him they’ll be seeing him soon.
Later on, Ung-Min catches up with Moon and tells him he’s scared of being beaten up and this abuse has been going on for a while. When Moon leaves, hje runs straight into the bullies who begin teasing him and throwing his Walkman around.
Thankfully, Ha-Na shares and manages to thwart the threat without breaking a sweat. She collects up So-Moon and leaves with him.
In a taxi, she talks about “the dream” and how the woman’s name is Wigen. It turns out Ha-Na has matching points on her hands and brings him to the Noodle Bar to greet the team.
There, Mae-Ok helps him get settled in and explains that they work in the “business of the after life”. She invites him in but Mo-Tak is not so enthusiastic as the others.
Still, they begin the training and Moon is encouraged to close his eyes and visit the afterlife. If he does, then they’ll help fix up his leg.
He’s properly introduced to Wigen, who walks with him through this realm between the living and dead called Yung. It looks a lot like Earth though but it turns out to be a place hidden deep within your subconscious – like a very vivid dream.
The one big difference here though comes from the way this realm handles its inhabitants. Basically it’s a glorified realm of karma with good people being treated well and the opposite for bad people. Anyway, Moon takes the opportunity to ask about his parents but Wigen refuses.
Instead, she silently manifests a white door and walks through, where she briefs him on the mission at hand. It turns out evil spirits live among the living and feed on the essence of its host. This spirit is attracted to people with bad tempers and violence and usually become more volatile through the form of murder.
When this occurs, they suck up their life force and essentially makes the spirit stronger. Eventually it takes over the entire body and once it’s done that – it’ll kill at will.
On the back of this, Wigen warns that this work is dangerous and Moon could die. After all, Cheol-Jung died and she’s in no position to force him into this line of work.
As he’s given a choice over whether to take this up or not, So-Moon eventually chooses not to proceed. The main drive comes from his grandparents, whom he refuses to give up on and potentially die before them. That’s one thing he’s not willing to do. As he looks set to leave, So Moon is given a week to think this over.
When Moon steps outside, he receives a call from the bullies telling him to head to the gym immediately. It turns out they’ve got Ung-Min captive and vow to beat him until he’s unrecognizable. Moon’s also told to “bring that brat” (Ha-Na) with him but refuses to do so. Instead, he shows up alone and apologizes to the bullies for what happened.
The leader of the pack, Hyeok-Woo, is having none of it though and continues to beat Moon. He wants to know who Ha-Na is but eventually Moon snaps and grabs the boy’s fist at the last second, calling him a son of a bitch and finally starting to use his powers.
The Episode Review
Well that was an absolute blast! With a distinct comic book feel, The Uncanny Counter gets this webtoon adaptation off to a great start.
OCN always deliver some great concept sci-fi and fantasy series and 2020 has been a real doozy for them so far. From Search and Missing: The Other Side all the way back to Train, the concepts are always solid even if the execution isn’t always there.
Here though, The Uncanny Counter channels those comic book vibes beautifully and backs it up with some well-shot action and a nice call-to-action plot line.
There’s just enough action, drama and humour to carry the episode and it all builds up to a nicely orchestrated cliffhanger ending that’ll have you anxiously waiting for the next episode.
Until then though, The Uncanny Counter may just be another underrated gem from OCN!