Thursday 13 May 2021

The Untamed

Behold, the Tortoise of Slaughter!

I am totally and completely smitten by this. I've taken a detour away from Korean films and found my way to C-drama. The Untamed is basically what would happen if Hogwarts, Game of Thrones and live-action Spirited Away collided - in Chinese. It's flipping fabulous. The costumes, the characters, an epic musical score, and the hair - oh, the hair!

Ziyi Meng as Lady Wen

There's also a small splash of Jim Hensonesque puppetry going on. It's a bit mad in that respect. Korean dramas are smooth as they come, all super-slick CGI, but this one flicks between CGI and the occasional random giant puppet wolf or Tortoise of Slaughter. It's quite fascinating and absolutely adorable. And I don't mean that in a disparaging way - it really is utterly charming. It's like a hybrid between 21st century and 1980's FX. I completely love it. You feel there was probably more planning, skill and effort involved in the puppet characters than the computer stuff. 

I have to admit, I didn't really understand what was going on until the middle of episode three, when they arrive at Cloud Recesses. Give it until at least then. I also know I spoke before about how Korean soaps are epic in length compared to British ones, either in the number of episodes or in the length of the episodes, which regularly run to one-and-a-half hours. The Untamed also adheres to this trend. The episodes are only an hour long, but there's fifty of them. I know that sounds a lot, but I'm already past halfway and rationing my daily allowance because I don't want it to end. I watched a Neil Gaiman interview recently in which he talked about the way people are starting to 'treat television novelistically,' where we're consuming visual stories like we would the chapters of a book. I think this is a prime example. Each episode is like a chapter in an epic fantasy story. It's so much fun.

I'm watching it on Netflix, but someone's also put the whole thing on YouTube, here with English captions. I have to say, I do wish Netflix would rework the timing of their subtitles. I find that the subtitling on many of their Asian series go by way too fast in places, but it's worth the slight inconvenience of sitting with your finger on the pause button.

It's just wonderful, and surprising, and full of glowy goodness, mythology and tears. 

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