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Series / Arang and the Magistrate

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The original poster

Arang and the Magistrate (아랑사또전, Arangsattojeon) is a 2012 fusion saeguk that aired on South Korea's MBC network.

Kim Euh-oh is the son of a nobleman and a slave, with the ability to see and speak with ghosts, but prefers to ignore any and all people, corporeal or ghostly, in his quest to find his missing mother. He travels to the town of Miryang, following up on the last place she was rumored to be. On the way, he bumps into Arang, a feisty female ghost. They join forces to discover what happened to Arang during her human life, and discover that her life and the life of his mother are inextricably intertwined with the village, it's corrupt leader, and demonic machinations. He assumes the mantle of magistrate in order to facilitate his investigation, never realizing that the fate of the couple and the people they love are part of a game set up by King Yeomra and the Jade Emperor in Heaven.

The series provides examples of:

  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Lord Choi has no redeeming features whatsoever. Averted by Eun-oh's father Lord Kim, who seems to have been The Good Chancellor.
  • Beta Couple: Dol-swe and Bang-wool, who provide a comedic, laid-back contrast to the high drama of the main couple.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Lord Kim arrives at the last moment to stop Eun-oh's and Dol-swe's execution, bearing a royal decree which acquits them completely.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Eun-oh, at the beginning of the story.
  • But I Read a Book About It: Bang-wool gets most of her know-how from books written by a succession of female ancestors, who were considerably better shamans than her.
  • Cessation of Existence: What supposedly happens to supernatural beings, such as Grim Reapers, if they die. This is the ultimate fate of Mu-yeon, but the Jade Emperor takes pity on Mu-young and allows him to reincarnate... as a heavenly goat.
  • Character Development: Eun-oh goes from completely selfish to caring about the town and its ghosts.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Eun-oh is seen walking around with a fan from the first episode, but only halfway through the series the fan is revealed to be an evil-spirit-slaying instrument given to him by the Jade Emperor himself.
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: Joo-wal takes a header off a cliff in the final episodes.
  • Clear My Name: Eun-oh and Dol-swe get accused of high treason by Lord Choi and the Governor.
  • Cosmic Chess Game: Yeomra and the Jade Emperor play badook; their play affects the humans on Earth.
  • Cute Ghost Girl: Arang.
  • Darkest Hour: Eun-oh is forced to kill his mother in order to release her soul.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Implied. The reincarnated Eun-oh has the same name and is strongly hinted to be Dol-swe and Bang-wool's son, so he was probably named after the departed master.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Eun-oh and Arang frequently interact with ghosts, which also includes fighting them.
  • Deal with the Devil: Mu-yeon's "hunters" supply her with victims in exchange for money and power. The position was previously occupied by Lord Choi, who was replaced with Joo-wal.
  • Death-Activated Superpower: Eun-oh's ability to see ghosts turns out to be the result of briefly dying as a child and being resurrected by the Jade Emperor.
  • Demonic Possession: Mu-yeon changes human hosts every few years in a process that works like that. The host needs to be willing (at least initially).
  • The Dog Bites Back: While they're both on their way to being tried for their crimes, Lord Choi still finds time to mock Geo-deol and blame him for the situation. Geo-deol has had enough and dispatches him with one of guards' sword.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: Ghosts fear the Grim Reapers, but ultimately they are agents of Heaven who are just doing their jobs in maintaining the order of the world. Yeomra, while a bit grumpy and strict, is also on the side of good.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Joo-wal takes a dive off the same cliff where he disposed of Lee Seo-rim's body.
    • After finally killing Mu-yeon, Mu-young turns the dagger on himself.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Wow, what the main couple has to do to stay together.
  • Exact Words: The "Mother's Heart Hairpin" was supposed to win the heart of Eun-oh's mother, but ends up inside her heart.
  • Fluffy Cloud Heaven: The gods hang out on a floating garden with beautiful women as their assistants.
  • Foil: Joo-wal to Eun-oh. Both are handsome young noblemen with secrets related to their birth, who carry a torch for the same woman. Eun-oh is an Anti-Hero who becomes a straight hero during the course of the plot; Joo-wal is a Tragic Villain who comes to see that his evil deeds weren't worth it after all.
  • Forced to Watch: It is later revealed that Lord Choi forced Eun-oh's mother to watch her family members brutally tortured and killed; hence, driving Eun-oh's mother to near insanity and bent on getting revenge on Lord Choi.
  • Forgotten First Meeting: Joo-wal doesn't remember the first time he met Arang/Lee Seo-rim.
  • Friend on the Force: The Bangs help the magistrate with the townspeople.
  • Ghostly Advisor: The magistrate "hires" several ghosts as lookouts, promising to correct their wrongs so they can eventually go to the afterlife.
  • Ghost Amnesia: Arang has no recollection of her human life or how she died.
  • The Glomp: When Dol-swe is released from jail, he is tackled and hugged by a crying happy Bang-wool.
    • As opposed to the Security Cling that Arang gives Eun-oh in the same scene; intense emotion but much quieter.
  • God Was My Copilot: The Jade Emperor was Eun Oh's old martial arts master.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: The series is set during the Joseon Dynasty, with lots of colorful clothing, especially the magistrate's official outfit and hat.
  • Grandpa God: Yeomra is portrayed as a white-haired bearded man in black.
  • The Grim Reaper: These are warriors dressed in black who destroy ghosts that seek to harm humans.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Hyungbang goes over to the Magistrate's side when reminded that Good Feels Good. The other two Bangs are eventually dragged along.
  • Hell of a Heaven: Mu-yeon's Start of Darkness. After many lifetimes as a mortal, she was reincarnated as a divine spirit. However, she found life in Heaven - where there is no emotion or desire - excruciatingly boring, and decided she wants to go back to life as a human.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Attempted multiple times by the lead couple, but in the end the winner is Eun-oh, who throws himself into a portal to Hell to prevent Arang from being sucked in.
  • Hot God: The Jade Emperor.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The evil spirit in the cave, who seems distressingly interested in Arang's liver.
  • I See Dead People: Eun-oh and Arang see ghosts from the start; Bang-wool eventually gets this ability.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: Arang spends her three years as a ghost wearing the same hanbok that she died in. Eun-oh figures out how to give her new clothes, though.
  • Manipulative Bastard: The Jade Emperor.
  • Missing Mom: Literally, as Eun-oh becomes the magistrate while on a quest to look for his mother.
  • One-Man Army: Dol-swe, who holds off soldiers with a grass mat.
  • Parental Abandonment: Eun-oh was turned away by his mom and forced to live with his father.
  • Phony Psychic: Bang-wool isn't completely phony, but her unreliable shamanistic powers force her to embellish things up a bit (without much success). Her abilities vastly improve later.
  • Press-Ganged: How Eun-oh becomes magistrate, as the three Bangs are desperate to fill the position as quickly as possible.
  • The Promise: Euh-oh to Arang: "I will take you to Heaven!"
  • Reincarnation Romance: At the end Eun-oh and Arang both decide to reincarnate back on earth instead of staying in Heaven.
  • Resurrective Immortality: Arang is brought back to life in a body that can't be killed. When she is hurt or dies, the damage just heals. This makes her a particularly attractive bait for the Big Bad.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Yeomra and the Jade Emperor, more or less literally.
  • Smug Snake: Lord Choi's servant, Geo-deol.
  • Socially Awkward Hero: Dol-swe in his clumsy attempt to woo Bang-wool.
  • Soul Eating: Mu-yeon sustains herself on the pure souls of murdered girls.
  • Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: Arang experiments with this look, but after the first magistrate she tries approaching dies of fright, she decides to stick with a more orderly style.
  • Time Skip: Events in Arang's human life pop back in flashbacks as the story progresses.
    • Also, the ending scene.
  • Trademark Favorite Food:
    • After coming back in a human body, Arang is obsessed with peaches, which she couldn't touch as a ghost.
    • Bang-wool has a thing with pork (which is apparently hereditary, since the ghost of her mother also wants some when she appears).
  • Unfinished Business: The ghosts stay on earth to take care of something.