Inquirer Super

Ji Chang-wook plays a dubious magician in ‘The Sound of Magic’

By: Ruth L. Navarra

Ji Chang-wook plays the character of Ri-eul. And before the magician Ri-eul casts his spell, he asks “Do you believe in magic?” People hold their breath, think hard, before they give an answer. Yes or no, it doesn’t matter. Fantasy and reality blur together once you get an invitation into his world.

Ji Chang-wook plays the magician Ri-eul who lives in an abandoned amusement park in “The Sound of Magic.” Ji describes his character as mysterious and dubious. Ri-eul has a reputation of performing real magic on people. It’s been said that he really cuts people in half and makes people disappear.

He sends one of his invitations to Ah-yi (Choi Sung-eun). A student abandoned by her parents and left with almost nothing. He encourages her to believe that things will get better by learning how to do magic.

Her classmate, Il-deung (Hwang In-yeop), accidentally discovers Ri-eul when he follows her one time. Il-deung was initially antagonistic towards Ri-eul. He slowly softens to him when the magician reaches out to him and invites him to get out of the “cold asphalt road” that he’s walking on.

“The Sound of Magic” tries to accomplish a lot of things in six episodes. It’s a fantasy, it’s a musical, it’s a coming-of-age drama. Yet, it works. The approach of the show appeals to the child within. Starting the drama is like entering a circus tent. It’s exciting, it’s visually stimulating and very entertaining.

Webtoon love

It stayed faithful as much as it could to the webtoon “Annarasumanara” by Ha Il-kwon from which it is based. Director Kim Seong-yoon said that he fell in love with the webtoon when it first came out 11 years ago. He worked hard to procure the rights to produce the show and he waited for the perfect cast to make it. The filming took two years to finish.

“It touched me in a different way. Ah-yi is in a tough financial situation. She can’t even afford to eat. I began to think how this was going to resonate with the people of today. A child who lost her dream, literally, because of poverty. For Il-deung, he asks himself if he really needs to have a dream,” Kim said during the press conference for international journalists. The show opens with the song “Magic in you” wherein the singers—which includes Ji—convinces the audience that what they are experiencing is not a dream, but a part of the imagination.

Ji Chang-wook said, “It’s a completely different process from being on stage for a musical. The props, dance number and the post production makes it completely different.

“I would be lying if I said it wasn’t burdensome to some extent, but I had such wonderful help from the music team. And when I was on set, I felt like the pressure was a little lighter.”The opening number song is stuck in the actor’s current earworm, but he liked every song he sang in the show. His co-star Choi named “Do you believe in Magic?” performed by Ji as her favorite song from the original sound track.

She said, “I keep coming back to the songs, but I like the number in the merry-go-round scene because it makes me feel joyful. Even after I was done filming, I would listen to this song.”Choi’s favorite song that she performed was “My Dream Family” because it was a song that touched her heart.

“I wish I could see the love that I’ve been dreaming of/ That I have been so desperately searching for/ without having to fall asleep/ We will be together/ Every single day.”Hwang likes the song “I mean it” from the soundtrack. The song is used by his character to confess his feelings to Ah-yi. Il-deung is torpe. He acts awkwardly and coldly around Ah-yi because he can’t express his feelings.

“There’s a scene where I play the guitar and sing a song and confess my love to Ah-yi. I love that song and I think it is an adorable song. When people listen to that number, maybe they can listen to it when they drive or anytime and it will cheer them up,” said Hwang.

Blue butterflies

He gets his chance when he shares his books with her. Il-deung also shares his ear pod with her and they are magically transported to an open grassy field. He plays the guitar as she listens to him, blushing.

He sings to her, “It’s a good time/ To be together side by side/ Not too fast/ Not too hasty/ and you’re a good person/ Even though you I don’t know you very well/ You’re a good person to me/ I want to know more about you.”To some extent, “Sound of Magic” is like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Except that Ji was deliberately chosen for the role because weird Ri-eul had to be played by an attractive actor. It has the same vibe, it takes you to a glass elevator and sees the world from an extraordinary vantage point. The show pushes the boundary between fact and fiction. Ri-eul lures you to a universe wherein you can see blue butterflies gently guiding you to where you should go. It’s a nice show to spend six hours on to forget heartaches and disappointments.

The cast and director talk more about the show.

Ji Chang-wook, where did you focus on when you were acting out your character?

Ji: I’m a grown-up myself. I had these dreams as a child, but I think I’ve lost them. And I wanted that process of re-finding those dreams, and re-finding my childlike wonder. And when acting out Ri-eul, that was what was most important for me. I wanted to make a great chemistry among the cast, I think that was also a very important part to me.

Sung-eun, how has this show given you the opportunity to expand your horizon as an actress?

Choi: The more I read the script, the more I felt these nudges in my heart. It was so comforting. That’s how I’m going to always remember “The Sound of Magic.” I am able to challenge myself through acting. I tried my best to make sure that Ah-yi’s emotions are played in a way that’s relatable and understandable.

In-yeop, you played the role of a student many times like in “True Beauty” and “18 Again.” Fans have fallen in love with you a lot of times. Now, what other qualities does Il-deung have that differs from the other roles?

Hwang: Il-deung is very cute. He doesn’t really know how to express his emotions but he tries his best. He can seem rough but through him, people are going to be consoled and comforted, and I think that is definitely going to be possible.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you want the audience to have from this show?

Ji: Sometimes, we lose track of our childhood innocence and wonder. And there are dreams that we had as a child. I think the show will let you think about those past dreams that you had as a child. It’s like a fairytale for grown-ups.

Choi: Some people might wonder if they are able to dream again. This show can give you that courage and it roots for all of you to give it another try.
Hwang: The show is going to provide you with warm comfort.

Kim: People are grow up. They don’t believe in Santa Claus anymore, but they can watch the show together with their kids and their children and have a chance to believe in miracles and believe in magic and talk amongst themselves.

“The Sound of Magic” starring Ji Chang-wook, Hwang In-yeop and Choi Sung-eun is available on Netflix.

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