An introduction to Magic

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If you’re not heard of the 2004 SBS drama Magic, you’re not alone.  It’s rarely discussed in online forums because so few people have watched it.  Which is a pity, actually, because it has a compelling story and pretty good acting. 

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Okay, I confess.  The reason I bought this drama was because of Kang Dong-won.  And he’s indeed excellent here in a very dark and complex role.  As the events in the drama take their toll on his character, you can literally see the actor himself look more careworn and haggard in the later episodes.  This is one of my favorite Kang Dong-won roles for sure.

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The drama is not without its warts, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it when it was over.  In fact, the day after I finished the last episode, I was so absorbed in my thoughts about it that I took a wrong exit while driving and ended up miles away from my destination. 

Without further ado, here’s a look at the main characters in Magic:

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Cha Kang-jae (Kang Dong-won)
“My talent is indifference.  I’m not interested in anyone except myself.”

Abandoned by his mother and raised by an irresponsible and often absent gambler father, Kang-jae grows up learning to fend for himself.  Charming yet seemingly callous, he views life and events like a disinterested spectator. 

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One day, while trying to protect his father, he is assaulted by the latter’s creditors.  To his bewilderment, his father runs off and leaves him to be beaten.  That selfish act will forever be seared on Kang-jae’s mind and harden him even further. 

The injured Kang-jae is saved by the magician Lee Da-hae.  An instant bond forms between the two and Lee asks Kang-jae to be his assistant.  Eager to escape his wretched life with his father, Kang-jae happily accepts the magician’s offer.

 
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Yoon Dan-young (Kim Hyo-jin)
“Dad, my birthday wish is to see my brother.”

The second daughter of a wealthy businessman, Dan-young is a happy-go-lucky high school student.  Confident and optimistic, she is adored by her father and older sister but merely tolerated by the woman she calls “Mom.”  Dan-young does not mind her mother’s cold treatment; she accepts it as cheerfully as the knowledge that she is adopted. 

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Separated from her brother Do-young at the age of 5, she awaits the day when she can see him again.  However, on the day of her birthday when they are supposed to be reunited, he fails to turn up. 

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She instead bumps into a young man who gives her a teddy bear and invites himself audaciously to her family’s hotel suite. As if they had always known each other, the two strangers hit it off immediately in a comfy sort of way.  Years later, she will bump into him again and find out his name is Cha Kang-jae.

 

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Lee Sun-mo (Yang Jin-woo)
“Don’t talk about Mom.  It pisses me off when you mention her.”

To fulfil his mother’s dying wish, Sun-mo goes to live with the father that he has always despised.  He is accompanied by his good friend, Do-young.  Father and son have not seen each other since the former left the family to pursue his dreams of a career in magic. 

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In Sun-mo’s eyes, his father is an irresponsible and unworthy man who promised his wife and young son that he would return but never did.  Despite his bitterness, Sun-mo is unhappy to see the warmth that his father displays towards the injured stranger who  stumbles into their lives one day.  Unlike the gentle and kindly Do-young, Sun-mo views Kang-jae with distaste and the two have an uneasy relationship that will worsen years later.

 

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Ha Yeon-jin (Eom Ji-won)
“I don’t want to be the princess who helps a fool to get to the top.”

Through her mother’s 2nd marriage, Yeon-jin becomes the heiress to her stepfather’s business and riches.  Quiet and sickly, she comes out of her shell only when she’s around her immediate family.  Although she and Dan-young have no blood ties, she dotes on her younger sister who in turn adores her. 

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After she returns from her studies in America, Yeon-jin starts work at her father’s company.  A confident young man, Kang-jae, comes abruptly into her life and announces his intention to be her suitor and protector.  His forwardness both frightens and flatters her.

 Comments [SPOILERISH for Episodes 1-4]

~ I have chills watching Kang-jae at his most charming with Yeon-jin.  He is so suave and convincing it is scary.  He has no qualms, absolutely none, about his deception.  No wonder I read countless stories of people who get conned into parting with their money or bodies or affection.  What do you do when you meet someone like Kang-jae who is smart, handsome, caring and hardworking, and who sweeps you off your feet with his every look and gesture?  Yet it’s all just a carefully constructed facade.  FRIGHTENING.

~ It hurts to see Kang-jae hurting because of the magician.  Their relationship is one of the main reasons I love Magic.  It’s refreshing to see a drama where the father-son relationship is explored in depth and Magic does this excellently.

~ The first four episodes reveal the many layers in the characters.  Kang-jae is dishonest certainly but so is Sun-mo.  Kang-jae’s dad is despicable, but Sun-mo’s dad is just as irresponsible.  And Yeon-jin’s mom… It’s unbelievable how she can discard Dan-young so easily. After all, she raised her for at least 10 years!  Watching Magic the first round, I kept thinking all these questions: “Is blood really thicker than water?”  “Does Kang-jae really hate his dad?”  “What are the magician’s true feelings for Kang-jae?” “Can a 3rd party really drive apart two sisters who love each other so deeply?”

~ I love watching Kang Dong-won’s expressions. Like that slight quizzical raise in his eyebrow.  Or his wink.  The way he bites his lips. The gangly way he runs.  He can look so fierce, too.  The way he controls the steering wheel with his open palm.  Oops, I’m paying too much attention to the little details, ain’t I?  I’ve always liked him, but Magic is rekindling my Kang Dong-won crush more than I expected.  It helps of course that his acting is really good here and he’s such a central character so he’s in most scenes.

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12 thoughts on “An introduction to Magic

  1. I looked information about this drama as I adored Kang Dong Won, but I couldn’t find any about it, so little… I saw your pix with English subtitle… Do you know where could I download this drama with English subtitle???
    Thanks a lot…

    • Hi trangpear

      I’m sorry, but I do not know where this drama can be downloaded with English subs. The screencaps that I took are from my set which I bought from Yesasia (I just checked and it’s still available). This is the official set from SBS and it’s English-subbed. It comes packaged with the OST. Like you, I looked for this drama for a long time and was so happy when it was released with subs. It’s a dark and rather depressing drama, but I love it for the story and especially for KDW’s acting.

      If I find out how this can be downloaded with English subs, I’ll definitely post the info here.

  2. I FOUND IT!
    If you go to d-addicts there is a batch torrent file of this show with eng subs that is still being seeded. It says the subs are good though missing some dialogue so I’m *crossing my fingers* that they are decent (unlike the Successful Story of a Bright Girl subs which were missing like 20mins of subbed dialogue on some episodes!).

    I plan on possibly watching it this weekend so we shall see!

  3. Oh Kristal, that is fabulous news! Thanks for letting us know. *muah* Please tell me what you think of the drama. Happy watching!!

  4. I’m only like 5eps in and so far it’s just kinda ok for me. However, I think a large part of that has to do with the subs which sadly leave a lot to be desired. I’m thinking whoever did the subs available on d-addicts must not speak English all that well…
    Still I have seen worse subs and much much worse dramas so I will continue on and hope that the evil adoptive mom eventually gets what’s coming to her! 😉

  5. I love this drama. It’s my only favorite angsty drama. The plot is better suited for a 24 episode drama hence the abrupt ending. Kang Dong Won is really a treasure of an actor. I wish he’d go back to making dramas. I find Korean movies to be incomplete, like bits and pieces of epiodes. I prefer their dramas. The gargantuan Korean emotion, the in your face here-is-my-heart dialogues can’t be scaled down to 75 minutes.

  6. omg. i am on episode 8 right now and goshhh, KangJae is sooo mean.
    so… i’m confused, does he really “love” YeonJin or
    is he really just trying to get her for the money?
    i feel so bad for DanYoung. :(((
    this drama is getting sooo intense! and i am soo confused.
    but i’m also enjoying it. ^___^ can’t wait for the ending!

  7. Ps. i also have a love / hate feeling towards KangJae’s character as well.
    he can be soo selfish and mean, but there’s a reason for him being that way as well.
    something that i admire about his character is that he’s loyal. 🙂

  8. Never mind, I’m on episode 10 now and I’m starting to understand KangJae’s character and why he does what he does. Good thing. I was starting to dislike him cause he was confusing me soo much! lol. =)

  9. Uhmm, I apologize for commenting sooo much. lol. But I have one last thing to add.
    [ warning: may contain spoiler. ]
    On episode 10, i was at ease and happy that he finally said
    “I just want to say this once. Myself pretending to ignore my heart.”
    It made me happy to see that line.
    He finally says something true to himself. =)

    • Oh Shoo, I love reading your comments. Post more! There’s hardly anyone that I can discuss Magic with, so it’s awesome that you are watching the drama.

      Kang-jae’s character is fascinating, isn’t it? You will sympathize more and more with him as the drama progresses. Conversely, you may dislike Yeon-jin more. But then again, who made her that way? I love that every character in the drama, with the possible exception of Dan-young, is flawed and battling inner demons.

  10. eekk, I’m up to 10 and I’m getting nervous.. will this drama take a dark turn? I have such mixed feelings for Kang-jae, so cold and self-assured, but unexpectedly boyish cute at times. Sometimes I wanna hug him, sometimes I find him detestable; he doesn’t deserve both girls!

    For the first time I whole heartedly like Yun-jin when she decided to break it off, but of course drama wouldn’t let it finish at that; 6 eps to go anyway. Argh! Hence my nervousness. Will Dark Yun-jin show herself any time soon?

    Anyway, thundie, you did a great job revealing this hidden gem of a drama to the masses 🙂

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