WARNING: MILD SPOILERS for characters and some scenes.
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The Uncanny Counter is a 2020 Kdrama based on the 2018 webtoon 경이로운 소문 (Eng: "Amazing So Moon") by Jang Yi (장이).
Genres: Action, Mystery, Drama, Supernatural.
Episodes: 16. Duration: 1h 10 min
Aired: Nov 28, 2020 - Jan 24, 2021
MDL rating: 8.8
Where to watch with English sub: Netflix
Watch the English subbed official trailer
Listen to the Original Sound Track
When I first heard The Uncanny Counter was going to be released, automatically I added the drama into my PTW list as I love almost all Kdramas with ghost-sighting and ghost-fighting characters in them. When I got a chance to binge-watch it, I was surprised at the high MDL rating and wondered if it was overrated like some reviewers wrote. However, as I watched this, I got an idea why the audience loved it so much. Unlike many superheroes we know in the fiction world, who seem to get their superpower just by ingesting some kind of potion and manifest their superhuman capabilities after changing into costumes, our guys here are characters that we, as flesh-and-blood humans, can relate to. They are called the Counters and they are on the move catching evil spirits. So let me introduce who they are, and find out why this lovely bunch are not just superheroes.
So Moon explains to his besties about the comic hero he creates: comes from a poor family and has to borrow money to make his hero costume, lol. This scene very early in the first episode perfectly overshadows what kind of superhumans we will meet later, ones with normal human characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses.
MEET THE COUNTERS
A high school student and the youngest member of Counters. His special ability is his physical strength. Although he is disabled due to a car accident that also killed his parents, he remains cheerful and kindhearted.
Ga Mo Tak
A former police officer. His special ability is his physical strength. He had an accident 7 years ago which caused him to lose his memory. Although he seems blunt and straightforward, he is a righteous person.
Do Ha Na
She seems indifferent and tactless, but in reality, she can sense and identify evil spirits from hundreds of kilometers away. Moreover, when she touches someone, she can read their long term memories.
Chu Mae Ok or Ms. Chu
She is a chef in the noodle restaurant and the oldest member of Counters. With motherly affection and wise wisdom, she becomes the anchor of the group and is the only member with healing power.
Choi Jang Mool
He is the first Counter of Korea, and now a CEO of a successful business group. Although he is retired from active participation in ghost-fighting, he is still in charge of managing finances for the Counters and helps them indirectly.
Our main characters are superheroes but they are not without flaws. It's not like they become powerful overnight, you watch their power grow. You watch them exercise their strength. You watch them strive to control themselves and their power. You watch them fail and fall into despair. Each has their own current struggles they have to overcome and past wounds to heal. You grow to love them.
WHAT DO THEY DO?
The line above basically summarizes what the Counters do. The evil spirit hunt is concealed from the human world. Therefore, when not getting down and dirty fighting evil spirits, they pose as food workers in Eonni Noodle Restaurant. This tiny, humble eatery is real, though, and the noodles are yummy! Though there is no need for any ads nor social media posts, Eonni Noodle is very famous in the city. There are long lines everyday with people standing patiently, waiting to taste their delicious homemade noodles, cooked by famous chef Ms. Chu with her assistant Mo Tak as the kitchen helper. Meanwhile, their one and only server, Ha Na, is busy running around taking and serving orders. The Counter youngster, So Moon, is still in high school and also helps as a part time server. But as a typical teenager, he likes to hang out with his long-time besties Woong Min (Kim Eun Soo) and Joo Yeon (Lee Ji Won).
HOW POWERFUL ARE THEY?
Now, the real deal begins when Ha Na senses an evil spirit. She can guess what level and what kind of human it possesses. The evil spirit levels from 1 to 4. Level 1 is usually easy peasy, one Counter can overcome it. An evil spirit possesses a human host who has committed murder or has a strong desire to kill. The person becomes the spirit's killing machine. The evil spirit then consumes the spirits of the murder victims. With each consumption, it eventually levels up and becomes more powerful. The human hosts they possess are also more scheming. Evil spirits level 2 and above require more than one Counter to fight them.
Once they are dispatched on a mission, the Counters literally drop everything. When the duty call happens during the restaurant opening hours, they close the restaurant abruptly. The regulars seem to already know about this odd practice. The ones who are already served can keep eating and leave when they're done. The ones who are waiting have to leave on empty stomachs. The Counters rush to change their clothes: from food worker aprons to red track suits. It depends on the location of the evil spirit. The Counters either run to find it if close by (they can run super fast and jump over buildings), or drive there if it's hundreds of kilometers away.
Once the Counters are in the vicinity of where the evil spirit is, they will see that the Yung territory is activated. It looks like colorful pillars of light. Yung is the realm between the residing and the dead. There are inhibiting deceased spirits working in Yung. Some of them work with the active Counters, helping them fight the evil spirits. Each Counter has his/her own Yung partner: So Moon with Wi Gen (Moon Sook), Mo Tak with Gi Ran (Kim So Ra), Ha Na with Woo Shik (Eun Ye Jun), and Ms. Chu with Soo Ho (Lee Chan Hyung).
The Counters have to work within the Yung territory and the limited time it appears. Their power will be multiplied greatly. After overcoming the human host who is possessed by the evil spirit, they summon the spirit out and send it to Yung to be punished. If any human dies, the Counters serve as grim reapers to bring the dead spirit to Yung for further judgement. If any human stays alive, the Counters erase their memories. The bad guys will be sent to the police station. The wounded victims will be healed by Ms. Chu.
Now that we know the remarkable things they do while in an evil spirit catching business and the magnificent power they hold, how are they relatable to us mere humans?
SUPERHEROES WE CAN RELATE TO
They need to exercise
Once they become Counters, their strength multiplies by three times, but they still have to maintain their health and increase their fitness physically through regular exercise.
They still age
They are not immortal and there is no magical potion to delay aging. With all the dangerous work, they can get hurt easily and shorten their life span.
They can die on-the-job
"So I could die while doing this work?"
Although their physical strength multiplies and they are shielded by the Yung territory while on a mission, for some reasons I cannot spoil for you, they can still die on the job.
They may get into car accidents
The Counters can get into car accidents, too, despite how careful they drive. The difference between them and us? Since they are in Korea, they are more likely get hit by the White Truck of Doom!!!
They have suffered in the past
Because of the nature of how they become Counters, they all suffered in the past.
They hold secrets they don't want others to know
The Counters can read memories (psychometric). If anyone touches her, even her fellow Counters, Ha Na kicks them away, since she doesn't want them to know her bad memories.
They hate it when they forget things
Mo Tak, on the other hand, has amnesia. No Counter knows his memory since he has none. He keeps searching for his past.
They get nervous
Although they can sense evil spirits' level and its human host, they still feel nervous to a certain degree while doing a mission, since any bad thing can happen.
They are traumatized
The gruesome possibility of seeing an act of murder being conducted by a human host may traumatize the Counters.
They feel angry
They may also get angry when recognizing recidivists walk in and out the police station 'as if they own it'. The cunning evil spirits that reside inside these recurring criminals can get them out-of-jail-free cards.
They get depressed
Psychometry power is not always fun to have, since seeing their past can cause them to feel depressed or guilty. So Moon gets a chance to see his childhood memory, and the sight of the past car accident involving his parents greatly disturbs him.
They mourn for lost ones
Sometimes they deal with victims they know, and losing them causes sorrow. Her,e Mo Tak breaks down upon seeing a deceased spirit of someone he knows.
They are overwhelmed
The stress felt throughout overwhelming missions can cause burn-out that the Counters need to take a break from.
They need to relax between working in the restaurant and fighting evil spirits
They are ridiculed, harrassed, or bullied
The fact that they have to appear normal means they can be ridiculed, harassed, or even bullied by both evil spirits and humans. Here, Mo Tak is called 'old fart' and Ms. Chu 'grandma' by high school kids.
They have to control themselves"If you call me a b*** again, I will kill you!"
...and irritable Ha Na has to hold her fist when a bunch of bullies catcall her.
They may lose control of themselvesMeanwhile, the youngest and newest Counter member still struggles with controlling himself. He is bullied in school, too.
They have to hide their identities
Disguising as restaurant workers probably is easier for Ms. Chu, Mo Tak, and Ha Na. But for So Moon, who is recruited while still in school, it's hard as he has to hide his other identity to people who have known him before.
They want to avoid dealing with people's issues
Although evil spirits possess and attack humans, Counters do not want to bother with the life issues of the people affected by evil spirits.
They still have to deal with annoying people
However, for some reasons, Counters still have to deal with annoying humans, especially in dealing with high level evil spirits that possess humans with high social status.
They use human ways to investigate
Higher level evil spirits deviously hide inside human hosts unknown to Counters. They have to do their own detective work, or even contact sources who can investigate for them.
They argue with each other
In some cases, an individual Counter's emotions and intentions do not sync with the rest of the group. Sometimes they argue for their own cause.
They argue with Yung to defend their cases
Having work partners in Yung realm doesn't mean their collaboration is always harmonious.
Just as a bonus, we know that the Counters are just like us since there are skilled stunt actors/actresses to do the dangerous scenes, lol. I found the pictures of the main actors/actresses posing with their doubles in the ending credits of the final episode. I included them here as I think it's a nice tribute to the stunt works.
The Uncanny Counter is a superhero drama full of action, humor, touching moments, and colorful characters; fighting evil spirits that possess murderers. The crew not only have to deal spiritually with the evil spirits, but also mentally and physically with the human hosts. Our Counters are still human beings with strengths and weaknesses that affect them in dealing with their villains. That's what makes this drama remarkably different from other ghost-fighting dramas!
I am looking forward to the second season The Uncanny Counter 2 in 2022.
What about you?
THANK YOU FOR READING!
Credits: I do not own any of the images used. Credits go to the respective owners. Images are from the official posters and screenshots. The GIF animations are self made taken from the drama scenes, Daum Webtoon, and Netflix The Swoon clips.