South Korea can’t stop delivering content to the different streaming services and just by the end of the year, they debuted another Web series. One that will tap into the fever of those who want something a bit more magical and action-packed out of their Korean dramas. Island is a new fantasy series that will come to this side of the world at the hands of Amazon Prime Video. This is a show that will make for a cool New Year’s Eve watch if you are into demons and demon hunters battling it out.
The series is developed by TVING, and it is based on the webtoon of the same name, written and illustrated by Yoon In-wan, and Yang Kyung-il. The series stars Kim Nam-gil, Lee Da-hee, Cha Eun-woo, and Sung Joon. Island tells the story of Won Mi-ho, a woman, and heir to a big corporation, who travels to Jeju Island, only to find herself being pursued by strange demons. However, she will also meet Ban, a powerful warrior who is able to vanquish the demons from the earthy realm.
Island is truly a great production; you can see it in the quality of the actors and in the way, the action sequences are shot and presented to the viewer. Asian TV series and movies still have a hard time coming up with solid visual effects. Island is no different; there are a couple of spots here and there that look unfinished or not very well-made. But overall, the visual effects of the series are way above average, and they really manage to sell the fantastic elements of the series.
For those who have read or seen Hellsing, Island feels very much in line with that other story. We have secret organizations that battle these demons using living weapons. We also have cool priests ready to perform their duty no matter what, and of course, a villain that works from the shadows and whose motivations will be revealed to us in due time. There is nothing particularly original about the story here, nor the setup, but if it worked for Hellsing, there shouldn’t have any problem working here as well.
However, while the setup is cool, the characters do feel a bit thin in their execution. The actors are all fine; their performances are as solid as they can be, taking into account the material that has been provided to them. However, the characters themselves, in the way they are written, lean too much on the cool factor, and not much more. The result is characters that look cool, and do cool things, but are hard to describe when you ask questions about them. This is fine when we are talking about supporting characters, but when the main characters feel the same way, something might be lacking.
Fantasy stories can be some of the most entertaining and immersive, especially if the writers and filmmakers take the time to establish the world, its rules, and how these rules apply to characters living in this world. At least so far, Island hasn’t done this, and because of it, its fantasy world feels a bit more generic than it has to. The show really needs to go into details in a more aggressive way. Shallowness can be cool sometimes, not everything has to be as deep as The Lord of the Rings or similar stories, but the foundation should be solid enough so that the world can sustain the stories in it.
Island has the possibility of becoming a series with such a foundation. The story sometimes goes back in time to explore bits and pieces of a character’s past. It also takes the chance to use these moments to explore some magic concepts, but these moments are too brief. It is a shame because these moments are some of the most interesting when it comes to worldbuilding. The potential is there, and we can only hope that the creators will jump into it and go all in.
Nevertheless, the series is just fun to watch. It isn’t precisely a comedy, though. Actually, there are very few moments of comedy or any sort of levity in the story. The ones that appear throughout the story stand out for being rare, but the show knows they are necessary to fight the sensation of being stale. The series mostly goes for the cool factor and does a good job at that. Ban’s magic abilities, for example, are quite amazing to see, and the battles have this effect that makes them seem like real battles between two entities that are beyond what humans can do.
In the end, Island feels like a nice attempt at executing some fun and cool fantasy storytelling. However, the characters are a bit thin, and the story doesn’t take full advantage of the world it is being set in. This is still a very fun series to watch and see how far visual effects have come along in the Asian TV industry. This might not end up being memorable, but it will be a fun experience as you watch it.