OCN’s The Uncanny Counter (경이로운 소문/Amazing Rumor) is an exciting and heartfelt series. A stellar cast is the perfect match for a story that is an effortless blend of character-based drama, comedy, action and fantasy.
The series follows a group of four Counters, demon hunters who track evil spirits that possess humans who murder or have murderous intent all in an effort to gain immortality. Counters are humans who had fallen into a coma but are given new life by spirits from the Yung, the space between the living and the afterlife. The partnership between the Counters and the Yung spirits, who also possess them, give them the supernatural strength and abilities that help in their mission.
When Counters Mo Tak, Ha Na and Mae Ok (Yu Jun Sang, Kim Se Jeong, Yum Hye Ran) lose their comrade, his Yung partner Wi Gen (Moon Sook) possesses high school student So Mun (Jo Byung Gyu). Despite being disabled after a car accident that killed his parents when he was child, he is an otherwise healthy young man. And he becomes a perfect replacement as the fourth Counter in the group. Joining the other Counters at their homebase of Eonni’s Noodles shop, So Mun is able to uncover hidden truths about his past while battling evil, both human and otherworldly.
The Uncanny Counter‘s biggest strength and appeal is its characters. The focus on the relationships between the Counters and their relationships with others provide the series’ most affecting moments and story. Most especially with Mun and his grandparents who raise him after the death of his parents.
It is through these relationships that the show is able to dive into the more fantastical elements of the story in a way that allows for those stories to still feel grounded. The personal foundation for each of the characters, including Ji Chung Sin (Lee Hong Nae), a human possessed by a powerful Level 3 spirit, build a strong foundation that helps give an effective amount of weight to the proceedings.
No question there is plenty of thrilling, fun action. The series’ fantasy side is done very well. And when matched with familiar mystery themes, there’s a full package that again is supported by the strong characters.
The cast is a major reason the show works so well. The experience of Yu Jun Sang and Yum Hye Ran is on full display as they effortlessly shift between broad comedic moments and heavier, more dramatic moments. Their relative stature compared to their younger co-stars give a sort of welcome gravitas, especially in the show’s more emotional moments.
Kim Se Jeong made a strong impression with her debut in School 2017. And she is able to make big strides here in a character that is different from her debut lead role as well as her role in the 2019 KBS drama I Wanna Hear Your Song. Ha Na is a strong, badass character and is a more mature role for Kim Se Jeong. But she does so well like she too has years of experience behind her.
Lee Hong Nae, meanwhile, deserves a special mention. As the possessed Ji Cheong Sin, he must play a character who does some brutal and violent things throughout the course of the series. Yet (without spoiling anything), he is able to make the character more than just a simple antagonist. And quite surprisingly, he is able to provide some of the show’s most emotional moments as well. He deserved an even greater role in the story. But for the story he is a part of, he delivers an excellently affecting performance.
The heart of the series, however, is Jo Byung Gyu as So Mun. Funny and charming when he needs to be, strong and powerful when he needs to be; Jo Byung Gyu delivers a powerful performance. There are several scenes that are so piercing and heartbreaking and it’s thanks to that performance. Yet there are also other moments where he is as bright as can be. That balance of charm and charisma is a special talent. And Jo Byung Gyu’s performance is so impactful.
Perhaps one criticism would be that the series could have done more with the procedural aspect of the story. Having the Counters perhaps help wayward Spirts of the Week cross over to the afterlife or help bring justice to the dead and/or their living loved ones. That’s of course alongside the series’ overarching plot threads. With potential for a second season and beyond, perhaps that’s something they can consider.
But as it is, The Uncanny Counter tells a complete and always thrilling story. A tight blending of different genres and themes make for a fun ride. But it’s the characters and the actors that bring them to life who drive home the fulfilling experience.